Signal to noise: MMA weekend's best and worst

Bruce Kluckhohn-US PRESSWIRE - Presswire

From UFC on FX 5 to a new women's atomweight champion being crowned in the Midwest to a professional wrestler making his professional debut, the weekend in mixed martial arts offered fans both signal and noise.

Whether it was kicks in places that shall not be named or women slowly but surely building the architecture of their side of the sport, the weekend in mixed martial arts was one not to forget. Here are the highlights and lowlights from everything that took place.

Most likely to induce cringing and naseau: the groin shots on Jens Pulver and Thiago Santos
This was painful to watch. Almost literally. In fact, this might be the worst weekend in mixed martial arts history for groin shots that actually affect the outcomes of professional contests. Both of those underscored here are arguably hall of fame worthy and rival Alessio Sakara dry heaving on the mat in his UFC debut after Ron Faircloth gave him an impromptu and makeshift vasectomy.

Here's just how bad it was: in the cases of Pulver and Santos, the fighters who were the victims of the wayward kicks, both had to be stretchered out of their respective cages to be more fully administered to by medical professionals. Both writhed in agony on ground beforehand, Pulver going as far as crying as he bit on a towel to in a desperate bid to manage what must have been unimaginable discomfort.

The only saving grace is that both Pulver and Santos won their fights. Pulver won a unanimous decision as the fight went to the judges scorecards when it was determined he couldn't continue. Santos won by disqualification of his opponent and moves on in the Bellator heavyweight tournament. One has to think after witnessing those unspeakable horrors, if given the option to win by nutshot or lose by KO, there aren't many fighters who'd live by the 'win at all costs' mantra.

Best fight: Zorobabel Moreira vs. Kotetsu Boku
My only hesitation in dubbing this the best fight is the rather questionable stoppage by Yuji Shimata. Short of that, there's little to dislike.

I'm personally annoyed how Moreira is both very good and still very overrated (the two aren't mutually exclusive). Nowhere were both assertions proven truer than in his Saturday bout with Boku. Moreira was rocked early, but essentially dominated the entire affair with a vastly more diverse offensive arsenal and plain old nutcase aggression. There was a moment in the second round where Boku was covering up on the ground to avoid being decapitated by Moreira's soccer kicks where I thought, "Alright, so Moreira isn't the merciful type." It was a beating and while Boku looked to be fading, one got the sense putting him away would not be a matter of routine.

Then, just as MMA has a way of doing, everything came undone. The experienced Boku looked walloped, but was able to pop the over eager Moreira with a crisp right hand that immediately had the Brazilian clumsily trying to find the floor beneath him as he stormed in. The almost breathless Boku followed up with a few more shots and that was all she wrote as the Brazilian clung to the fence to stay upright. It was a reminder that a talented prospect like Moreira still has some work to do, Boku is not to be trifled with and MMA's ability to have a fight turn on a dime is damn fun.

Worst fight: Dave Bautista vs. Vince Lucero
I don't say 'worst' to belittle Bautista, actually. It's just relative to the strong weekend in professional mixed martial arts, this bout as a main event wasn't really up to snuff.

It should be noted, however, that attacks on Bautista for what is perceived to be an underwhelming performance are largely baseless and even cruel. If anyone detests professional wrestling, it is yours truly. But I'd like to give Bautista his due. He is not interested in the Brock Lesnar path of trying to be the best in the world. In fact, the guy isn't even trying to get to the UFC. He's just a 43-year old former (and current) athlete who is fascinated and attracted to the world of prize fighting and would like to try his hand while the quickly closing window still exists. It's not as if Bautista is somehow in this endeavor for the totally awesome per diem. All of this is not categorically different than the ambitions of the 'aw shucks'-y Hershel Walker, save for his more palatable and athletically accomplished background.

Frankly, I find what Bautista is doing to be rather admirable. I'm not a fan or a critic either way. I'm also not particularly invested in his MMA endeavors. But if he's keeping expectations modest and competing as a function of self-improvement and the pursuit of personal goals, I fail to see the issue.

Most entertaining fight card: UFC on FX 5
There was much to like about nearly every fight card in whatever corner of the world they took place. If we're asking which one packed the most punch in terms of entertainment, UFC on FX 5 is your clear winner. Yes, UFC competes and operates from on an inherently superior position, so comparisons are often woefully misguided or plain unhelpful. But this wasn't the UFC's marquee card and many of the other organizations operating during the weekend were giving them a run for their money by showcasing their better stuff.

Still, UFC on FX 5's strong undercard with breakout performances (Diego Nunes), out of nowhere knockouts (Michael Johnson, Mike Pierce) and meaningful hierarchy being sorted (John Dodson becoming the number one contender), make the card particularly special. In a weekend where the MMA periphery had their chance to upstage UFC with clever matchmaking or just dumb luck, UFC's product nevertheless demonstrated its considerable breadth and depth.

Least prudent decision: trying to salvage Jeremy Stephens vs. Yves Edwards
I cannot possibly see the virtue in trying to whisk Stephens out of jail. I suppose I admire UFC President Dana White's willingness to back his fighters when faced with various legal difficulties, but it's more trouble than it's worth. I'm not here to suggest we should catapult rotten tomatoes and epithets at Stephens either, innocent until proven guilty and all that. What I care about is the logic used to free him. White remarked that Stephens' felony assault isn't tantamount to murder across state lines, so a felony assault shouldn't be grounds for imprisonment over his ability to promote a scheduled fight. Well, no, it's not interstate murder, but this is the moral baseline from which we are operating?

The fight should've been canceled either right away or when the first attempts to free him failed. This is not about playing a game of chicken with Polk County police or using considerable financial muscle to prove a point. The bout was hardly essential and despite statements to the contrary, no one has to actually fight in order to get paid. Just ask Dennis Hallman.

I wanted to see this fight as much as the next guy, but the rational thing to do is call it a day until the organization can gather facts about what the situation is and what the fighter is accused of by law enforcement officials. An innocent Stephens will certainly be inconvenienced by this ordeal, but engaging in a single UFC fight - one not required for financial compensation - solves for nothing. Extricating and allowing a potentially felonious assault artist to parade his skills of violence for personal glory or aggrandizement or to reap whatever benefits UFC imagines itself collecting is, at best, risky. The police is Iowa did everyone a favor.

Most significant event (not Zuffa-related): Jessica Penne wins atomweight title
Shannon Knapp, the promoter for Invicta FC, has publicly declared one of her organization's goals to be crystallizing firm, defined spaces - otherwise known as weight classes - where female fighters can reliably compete. That turns Invicta into something of both a for-profit entity promotion-cum-non-profit trade association. Establishing a full atomweight class with a champion at the top is on objective of the second half of Invicta's mission. Doing so is not a game-changing event, but not all building blocks are. My only question is whether the architecture development Invicta is focused on comes at the expense of perhaps the most essential and pressing element of their existence: whether or not they actually operate on any kind of for-profit basis.

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