Johny Hendricks is the heir to Chuck Liddell

In the current MMA landscape, being a brawler is a curse. As exemplified by the UFC’s insistence in employing fighters who do nothing but brawl relentlessly, there is no trait more employable. After all, MMA is, at its basic, just an organized, nuanced form of brawling. Unfortunately, brawlers also have two major deficiencies: wrestling and good sense. They either get put on their back or knocked silly as often as they knock others silly.

He may have come up short against Georges St. Pierre this weekend, but it was abundantly clear that Hendricks is the champions equal. Had luck been on his side or had he landed a few more decisive combinations at key stages of the fight, Hendricks would have gold around his waist. That does not change what Hendricks proved on Saturday: he is the next best welterweight in the UFC.

The FD has long hailed Junior Dos Santos as the next incarnation of the knockout artist in the MMA. Dos Santos, like Hendricks, has the power to knock out any fighter. Except Dos Santos fights in the same division as the living, breathing antidote for his style in the form of the relentless, physical cardio machine that is Cain Velasquez.

Hendricks, however, is different from JDS in that his power is genetically rare. Hendricks’ punch power is rumored to be in excess of many heavyweight fighters. He is the incarnation of Chuck Liddell in that in order to get close to him, you have to wade through knockout power in every throw. Even more dangerous than Liddell – who is considered the father of the sprawl-and-brawl style – Hendricks is among the top wrestlers in the sport. There were points at which GSP, who is the master of making half-chances into takedowns, couldn’t drop Hendricks with every advantage. In fact, at one point, GSP isolated Hendricks’ leg for nearly thirty seconds and dragged him across the octagon. There are few fighter capable of taking the fight to the ground against Hendricks.

Looking at the welterweight landscape, despite a flotilla of talented opponents, name one who is even in the vicinity of GSP in wrestling ability. Project that fighter against a wrestler the caliber of Hendricks. Good luck. Hendricks already tore through all the top competitors on his way to a title shot. Who is going to challenge him?

All that tells you that Hendricks will get another shot at gold. When it happens, someone is going to sleep.

 


Between St. Pierre and Hendricks, it all came down to one round

While most will tell you Hendricks won the fight, it’s hardly that definitive.

An extensive breakdown by Steven Rondina of Bleacher Report, details how the fight ultimately was far closer than many fans are willing to admit as the reaction was overwhelmingly pro-Hendricks.

GSP out-struck Hendricks only in one round, the third. If you were to look at that number, Hendricks controlled the fight on the feet. However, throughout the entire fight, GSP landed far more significant strikes – 101 to 85. In that sense, GSP controlled the fight on the feet. Cumulatively, then, the two fighters split the fight.

By virtue of out striking Hendricks in the third and taking him down twice in the fifth (while controlling those rounds in most facets), GSP won two rounds. Hendricks, meanwhile, out struck the champ in round two and round four which also included a controlling top game, which won him those rounds.

Based on scoring, ultimately it came down to the first round. Hendricks only landed one more strike (27 to 26) but one fewer significant strike (18 to 19). Each fighter scored a takedown. It appears, if we want to go by numbers, that the tipping point may have been GSP’s ever-so-brief guillotine attempt. By that distinction, two judges saw round one in favor of the champion.

Many fans will point to how much physically stronger Hendricks appeared at times. If we were to award a bout to the stronger guy every time what would be the point in having them fight? Because conversely GSP was far quicker in his movement. So why wouldn’t we as fans score it that way? The easy answer is because it doesn’t matter how athletic fighters appear during a fight.

Another talking point was the visible damage apparent on GSP’s face compared to Hendricks. Visible damage is misleading. Bruising and cuts differ from person to person. Some fighters eventually take so many hits to the face they develop scar tissue which causes cuts easier. GSP’s face has shown more bruising in his most previous fights as the years go by. Punishing a fighter in a fight for damage that is inasmuch caused by previous fights doesn’t make sense.

The scoring system is what it is. Hendricks did better in the rounds scored in his favor than GSP did in his. The issue is that Hendricks never did so well to earn a decisive 10-8 score, thus, the scoring system will show that each fighter is awarded two rounds by equal measure of 10-9. When dealing in black-and-white, it doesn’t matter if one competitor’s 10-9 is a superior 10-9 to the others’. They appear equal on a scorecard.It’s the opinion of The FD that like Ric Flair always said, if you want to be the man, you got to beat the man.

Yesterday night, Hendricks never proved that he was better than a fighter with the most wins in UFC history, title wins,  etc. While GSP’s history should not necessarily come into play, the fact is on fight night he was not out-fought, beat up, controlled, or any connotation that would point to him being thoroughly defeated. This was not Junior Dos Santos v. Cain Velasquez II, in which Velasquez did all the above from start to finish to retain his belt.


The tricks of training camp according to Chael Sonnen

The concept of ‘peaking’ is vital in sports. Learning how to train at what period of time is as important as the way an athlete trains.

In team sports, it’s often not the club that dominates the first part of the season or the middle stretches – but the club that heads into the post-season on a roll. Teams try to manufacture their training regime, their practice schedules, workouts etc. to ensure everyone is clicking physically and mentally.

Individual sports are no different. Chael Sonnen, in a wide-ranging interview with Jonathan Snowden of Bleacher Report mentions how his own training camps have often peaked too soon and left him frustrated heading into fights.

Sonnen used conversations he had after a training session with Georges St. Pierre to highlight this point, specifically in regard to GSP’s experiences with legendary boxing coach Freddie Roach. GSP told him that Roach noticed his prized pupil, Manny Pacquiao, was a fighter who trained everyday, so he was at his peak five or six weeks into an eight-week camp and then would decline. GSP altered his training camp as a result of his work with Roach.

Sonnen has not made the same adjustments yet – the conversation with GSP came during his current training camp for the Rashad Evans bout – but noticed he had similar problems as Pacquiao, in which he would peak too soon. In fact, Sonnen says it’s the reasons he often volunteers for short-notice fights.

“…when there is a short-notice fight, I always raise my hand. I always say, “I’ll do it.” And I always get all this credit. All this street cred for being such a tough guy who’s willing to fight at any time. But the reality is, I do it out of selfishness. I believe I’ll be better if I take it on short notice.”

Clearly, training regimes are different for everyone. Some fighters probably feel they do better with long camps while some prefer short. Some fighters want higher intesnity while others want less. Sonnen is one of the more cerebral fighters in the game and knows that the way one trains will always fluctuate and change.

“As soon as you think you’ve got it all figured out, it changes with age. You get a little bit older and that number of workouts, that number of days in training, changes. So there’s no perfect answer.”

 


Say it ain’t so – will St. Pierre walk away from the sport?

Start either holding your breath or begin reflecting: if you believe a man very close to Georges ‘Rush’ St. Pierre, we may very well be seeing the last of the great welterweight this Saturday.

Kristof Midoux, a man who mentored GSP at the age of 16 and remains close to the champion, believes there is a chance that GSP walks away from the sport on Saturday night. Midoux makes a convincing case and has told St. Pierre it’s a decision he supports.

The reasons he mentions GSP may retire are numerous, practical and logical.

Midoux says GSP wants to open a martial arts school. That move would be both a way for him to stay in the game and would likely be a lucrative venture as his reputation alone would attract aspiring fighters in droves.

As well, St. Piere is cognisant of friend and fellow Canadian Rory MacDonald’s rise in the ranks. He even tows the patriot line by saying, “Help Rory become a champion to show that Canadians dominate this weight class.” As anyone can attest, people have strong ties to their national heritage. In sports, pride in one’s country is common. The notable part of that is how he mentions that it would fall in line with St. Pierre’s character in that, “It would be generous and Georges is generous.”

Perhaps most convincingly, GSP wishes to have a family – while he’s young. Midoux says St. Pierre is very realistic when it comes to that fact. He knows that having a family is difficult to remain at the top of the game. But it’s the last bit of the quote that’s extremely intriguing:

“It’s not true that you can have a family and children and remain at the highest level of the sport. He took my advice.”

Nowhere in the interview does he provide context to what ‘advice’ he is speaking of. Has GSP taken his advice to start a family and is in the process? Has GSP taken all of his advice? If that’s true, we’re looking at a man who has taken action and not only spoken of it. Actions speak far louder than words.

In addition to this interview, the rumblings about St. Pierre’s retirement have been steady for some time. His coach has mentioned it and even he has mentioned it. Key factors have been that St. Pierre is financially secure and is a strong enough brand to remain as such even in retirement. In his last few fights, he has taken more punishment than he is accustomed to.

The sport is a dangerous and fickle one.Unlike other sports, where a competitor on top of his game generally degrades over time in front of our eyes, an MMA practitioner falls of in sudden drops – as in each fight we watch. All it would take is GSP to lose to Johny Hendricks and a subsequent loss in say, a super fight with Anderson Silva, and those who once hailed him will be burying his reign. All that could happen in less than a year.

It sounds like a man who has made up his mind that his career is ending and wishes to end it on the right note. Maybe we should appreciate what we have had while we have it. It could be the last time.

 

 


Snakebitten UFC on Fox 9

While the big heads at Zuffa likely don’t believe in curses, they have a pragmatic curse on their hands when it comes to UFC on Fox 9, set to air on December 14.

First came the injury to Ian McCall, dropping him out his fight with Scott Jorgensen (soon replaced by John Dodson). Then the big hit came when lightweight title holder Anthony Pettis bowed out of his headlining fight against Josh Thomson. The UFC did some nifty shuffling, weakening the TUF Finale card on November 30 by shifting it’s headliner – a title fight between Demetrious Johnson v. Joseph Benevidez – to replace Pettis v. Thomson.

Yesterday, the card got hit square in both jewels by the dual announcements by Kelvin Gastellum and Jamie Varner dropping out to injury.

Varner was set to fight Pat Healy on the undercard while Gastellum (the most recent TUF winner, defeating the over-hyped mental midget, Uriah Hall) was set to face Court McGee on the main card. They have been replaced by Bobby Green and Ryan LaFlare. Both of those fighters just competed on the most recent fight card by the promotion.

While the card remains strong from top to bottom – with notable bouts between Urijah Faber v. Michael McDonald, Carlos Condit v. Matt Brown, and Chad Mendes v. Nik Lentz  as well as the Dodson v. Jorgensen bout – it is never a good thing when injuries crop up.

 


Belfort can fight in the USA – if he jumps through some hoops

Because of his controversial TRT usage, the questions regarding Vitor Belfort’s eligibility to fight in the US have been raised. The issue is his history of drug abuse. After failing a test in 2006, Belfort did not comply with the NSAC’s nine-month suspension and fought in London the following April.

Can a fighter with failed tests and a history of defiance in his past find himself allowed to fight while on drugs in future?

MMAFighting spoke with Executive Director of the NSAC, Keith Kizer regarding the issue of Belfort’s eligibility for a Testosterone Use Exemption.

“Due to his past, Mr. Belfort would need to go before the Commission if he applies for a TRT TUE. This is not anything new. For example, I would not administratively grant Antonio Margarito a contestant’s license so he had to appear before the full Commission — likewise, Dave Herman.”

“The Commissioners could grant (with or without condition), deny, or take other action on any such application.”

There it is. Belfort would have to take the same steps as Josh Barnett to get his fight. Barnett’s history with drug abuse is more rampant, but he was able to play nice and answer all the NSAC’s questions to get himself a conditional application.

Will Belfort get licensed? It seems likely. However, depending on how his review goes, it very likely could be with conditions of pre-testing or more.


Matt Hughes believes loyalty pays off, disloyalty does not

Matt Hughes first fought in the UFC in 1999. Three years later he captured the welterweight belt and forged a Hall of Fame career. His years of service to the promotion has led him to a cushy second career as the Vice President of Athletic Development.

In the fight game, athletes are independent contractors. They are free to sign with any promotion they see fit once their contract is fulfilled. Hughes never signed elsewhere.

Other fighters of his era – fellow Hall of Famers, at that – Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture both spent parts of their career battling against the UFC.

Speaking with MMAInterviews Spencer Lazara, Hughes was asked if it saddens him that Ortiz and Couture were not part of the UFC anymore. Hughes doesn’t feel for them.

“The way I look at it, it was kind of their decision. Randy sued the UFC, he’s left the UFC, so he should know that there’s going to be a little bad blood there from what’s happened. Tito, the same way. I think he’s badmouthed the UFC a little bit. So I would say about the UFC, ‘if you’re good to them, they’re good to you.’ Those guys, there’s certain times in their careers, weren’t loyal to the UFC. So now they’re paying the price.”

Since his days in the octagon ended, Ortiz recently came out of retirement only to injure himself again. He works as a manager for other fighters, notably Cristiane Santos – considered by many to be the best female fighter on the planet (don’t tell Ronda Rousey I said that). Couture, meanwhile, has starred in a few actions flicks and otherwise contributes his time as a media personality.

While it isn’t for anyone to judge how someone makes their career or governs their life, it is easy to argue that Hughes has the more secure post-fight career of the three. Hughes sure thinks there is a reason for that.