WORCESTER, Mass. -- Mariusz Pudzianowski
has always had the same philosophy: whatever is in front of you, pick it up and get it out of the way. He's never gone around, he's never gone through, he simply moves obstacles aside.
He's made a career of picking up things that didn't want to be picked up, but even the World's Strongest Man is eventually going to come across his immovable object, and for Pudzianowski, it was Tim Sylvia
The bigger question is, What does it mean for his MMA career?
Pudzianowski is no fool. He knew from the beginning that he was taking a gamble by facing a two-time former UFC champion in only his third match, and after only less than a year of MMA training. He knew it was a risk, but at 33 years old, he felt it was one worth taking.
Pudzianowski's goal -- like many others -- is to fight for a major promotion, but major promotions are rarely on the lookout for 33-year-olds with only a few months of MMA experience, so despite his popularity and ridiculous physique, he knew he needed to bring something else to the table, something like a notable win over a former UFC champ.
Few people get to take the Brock Lesnar
express lane into the UFC or into major MMA, but Pudzianowski had his EZ Pass in hand.
It was not to be for the Polish powerhouse, who only had a few good moments in a fight that lasted just 1:43 into the second round
"The difference was obvious," he said. "I've been training for seven months, he's been training for 13 years. The difference was very visible. It's just a stepping stone. I have to learn new things."
Everything was set up to make a homefield advantage for the Pudzianowski. The area surrounding Worcester has a huge Polish population, and they came out in force to root on a national hero.
They serenaded him with chants. They waved flags. They greeted his arrival with a standing ovation and sung the Polish national anthem. It was like a World Cup soccer match broke out during the Moosin
event at the DCU Center.
But once the fight started, there was little to cheer. Apart from a brief Pudzianowski takedown in the early part of the first round, it was all Sylvia, who chopped Pudzianowski down with leg kicks, punished him from the clinch and scored with straight rights.
"His longer reach was difficult," Pudzianowski said. "Obviously I wasn't able to exchange punches with him. It was really tough, almost impossible to put him down."
On the ground, the experience gap was vast. Sylvia earned a dominant position into side control simply by pushing his legs aside. It was guard-passing 101. He moved to north-south and then switched for side control on the opposite side, so he could throw right hands instead of lefts. Within seconds, he locked Pudzianowski in the crucifix, and seconds later, it was over.
Pudzianowski tapped to the strikes, then walked dejectedly out of the cage and to the back.
"It was a great atmosphere," he said later. "I want to thank the Polish fans. They were absolutely great. I want to tell them and you guys, you're going to hear about me for sure. I've never given up at anything, and I won't give up here."
So what's next for Pudzianowski? First things first, he said he'd be taking a two-week vacation. Despite the loss, he'll still be in demand as a fighter based on his name alone. Moosin co-promoter Eric "Butterbean" Esch (yes, that Butterbean - is there any other?) told MMA Fighting that the promotion would love to bring him back for another fight
. Pudzianowski fought each of his first two fights in Poland's KSW promotion, and he can certainly return there and make some decent paydays. Frankly, it's where he belongs at this stage of his career. He's not ready for bigtime talent. Not yet.
The fact of the matter is that while Pudzianowski did not embarrass himself against Sylvia, he showed plenty of holes in his game. He has no super skill to fall back on, no wrestling credentials, boxing prowess or jiu-jitsu mastery. In the end, he's just a big, strong guy trying to figure it all out as he goes along. It's difficult to see a major organization beating down his door for anything aside from his name value, and with less than a year of MMA training, that shouldn't come as a surprise.
Pudzianowski has nothing to be ashamed of. He's chasing his newest passion, and he simply tried to skip a few steps in the logical progression. He has the heart, the drive and the desire to get where he wants to go, but the skills are just too raw and the holes are too many.
It just goes to show: Even when you're the World's Strongest Man, there are some things in life you can't power your way through.