Signal to Noise: RFA 4's upside, WSOF's future and the MMA weekend's best and worst

Lucas Noonan, WSOF

It was the best of MMA weekends, it was the worst of MMA weekends. From the irrational decision to not make the RFA 4 preliminary fights available somewhere to the incredible knockout win by Anthony Johnson, there was much to like as well as dislike.

As with every event or weekend, there was good and bad. There were as winners as well as losers. Let's recap all of the best and worst from what was the past few days into the signal and the noise.

Worst Decision About Showcasing Preliminary Card Fights: RFA 4

Seriously, it's just indefensible to either not broadcast your preliminary card fights or at least record them and post them later. Yet, that's exactly what AXSTV Fights and Resurrection Fighting Alliance did this past weekend. On a Friday night that featured a very intriguing preliminary card that included the professional MMA debut of 2008 U.S. Olympian Steve Mocco, AXSTV seemingly couldn't find a way to let anyone more than the dozens of fans in attendance see it.

This is 2012. How is this even possible? How long is it going to take for promotions to realize taking small and manageable steps like this are a) easy to do and b) serve important roles in promoting brands, fighters or events? People, the quality of the recording doesn't even have to be that great, include commentary or multiple cameras. Bells and whistles are sufficient conditions, but not necessary. It just needs to exist. Translation: anything - literally, anything - is better than nothing.

Maybe there are highlights on Inside MMA, but that's not the answer. In fact, I never received an answer despite asking RFA and AXSTV for one.

I get the 'leave them wanting more' mantra is compelling, but it's not applicable here. Granted, it's the most important decision anyone at either organization will make, but it's also one with basically no costs. So why not do it? No one knows, especially since the relevant parties choose to stay quiet. What a terrible, nonsensical decision.

Best Knockout: Anthony Johnson over D.J. Linderman

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Need I say more? Anthony Johnson is rolling at light heavyweight. Linderman isn't a world beater, but he isn't a complete scrub either. Johnson blasted him with a blistering right hand as Linderman essentially walked right into him. The prostrate gentleman you see here is Linderman and no, this is not how he relaxes between rounds.

What I love about what Johnson is doing is he's a) taking advantage of this sudden surge in the existence of a fighter's market for non-UFC talent and b) fighting the right kind and amont of tune-up fights necessary to get used to light heavyweight. At this pace, he'll need better competition soon or he'll plateau. For now, though, he's in the rebuilding phase and looking extremely sharp the entire way as he settles into his new space. I don't know how far he can go at light heavyweight, but it's rare you see someone correct for so many wrongs outside of the UFC sufficient to building new interest in their future.

Most Deflating Loss: Miguel Torres defeated by Marlon Moraes

I didn't see this coming. I doubt many of you did. I didn't think Torres was going to walk over Moraes and said as much, but I ultimately thought he'd prevail.

There's a belief in fight sports that a terrible and prolonged beating can forever change a fighter. David Loiseau, essentially beaten from pillar to post when fighting for the UFC middleweight title from Rich Franklin at UFC 58, absorbed a hellacious, temporary face-altering shellacking. Maybe there's historical revisionism at play, but 'The Crow' and his vicious elbows or risk-taking kicks never seemed to return afterwards. At least not the way they existed before. He appeared fundamentally different after the Franklin bout and not for the better.

Torres never lost in that sort of bruising way, but he essentially cruised in his career until he was knocked out cold by Brian Bowles. That loss was followed up with a brutal and gross submission loss to Joseph Benavidez. He had some rebound efforts, but they either weren't that great or weren't against good competition. Then came the Michael McDonald bout where, again, Torres was rendered unconcious.

Now Torres is losing to guys he shouldn't be giving more than a round of smashing to. He's beaten better fighters than them and done so rather handily. Fair or not, it appears after the Bowles loss, Torres couldn't regain his footing. Fighters live and die in their own minds and once the seal was broken on his idea of superiority, he hasn't been able to reclaim it.

And the most chilling thought of all? I don't know if this is even the bottom.

Best Use of Rising Russian Talent: Bellator

It remains to be seen what sort of force Russia and its fighters will be in mixed martial arts, but someone has to notice Bellator is trying harder than most to find out. Seemingly week after week Russian fighters of respectable ability do well in advancing through their various tournaments. Again, absent UFC measuring sticks, it's hard to be certain about their upside. But on the surface, there's a lot to like here. For such a huge country with a strong tradition in combat sports, one would hope some of that would bleed over into MMA. Outside of Fedor Emelianenko, it really hasn't. Maybe now that dynamic is changing.

Most Indefensible Way to End a Career: Stephan Bonnar

Maybe he couldn't say no to the opportunity and knew he couldn't make weight without the help of a drug. That's not defensible, but that's at least partly rational. Either way, it's rare to see a fighter trash their own reputation in such a needless way as Bonnar did by testing positive for drostanalone when tested at UFC 153. What could the upside possibly be? If you lose, you add insult to injury. Even if you miraculously win, you debase the value of the victory and likely have it overturned. I suppose there's some value in being a footnote in Anderson Silva's history, but now Bonnar achieved that and for all the wrong reasons.

It's true you can win and not get caught. Maybe that's worth the risk, especially if you ultimately believe cheating is a part of the process. But if your goal is to make weight on such short notice, doing that by taking drostanolone as well trying to mask the effects might be too much pre-test planning to get right. That means getting caught becomes a given and something about this situation seems to trend in that direction.

Had Bonnar missed weight, it's still highly likely Silva would've taken the fight anyway. I guess this way Bonnar won't have to forfeit any of his purse money, since retirement shields him from paying any other fine. But in trying to hold on to his cash, he sacrificed a measure of the MMA community's adoration. That may be nothing to guys who've won big titles, but that's not what Bonnar did in the sport. Adoration was the capital Bonnar accrued in the sport more than anything else. That implies he had capital to spend, but on that kind of investment? If you're going to trade in the one commodity most central to your identity, you better have a very good reason. Trying to see if a little PED help can make the fight with Silva more competitive does not qualify.

Best Submission Resembling Effects of a Terrible Car Crash: Gesias Cavalcante

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If you briefly glanced at this heel hook/knee bar top side crank-submission, it almost resembles a M.C. Escher drawing. It's as if you can't tell where it begins and ends. I wasn't in Las Vegas for this win by JZ on Saturday night in Las Vegas, but one has to wonder if the jaws of life were required to get T.J. O'Brien out of the cage.

Cavalcante has fallen on hard times, at least relative to the esteemed perch he once held in MMA. I don't know if he'll ever reclaim it. Wins like this, though, make you almost nostalgic about when he reigned. If nothing else, that's an accomplishment in and of itself.

Best Stuff of Everything Else You Missed in Combat Sports

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There wasn't just plenty of mixed martial arts over the weekend. There was also kickboxing featuring arguably the sport's best technician. There was even a wrestling match between the two pound-for-pound best college wrestlers in America. Be sure to catch up on both.

Most Depressing MMA News: Kayla Harrison's judo plans

MMA fans watched the Olympics this past summer in part just to see the games, but also to scout potential crossover talent from related combat sports. Arguably the two top figures were gold medalist Jordan Burroughs and Kayla Harrison. Burroughs, the gold medal winner for the U.S. at 74kg on the men's freestyle wrestling team, has flirted with the idea of trying MMA, but now seems focused on at least another Olympic cycle. Kayla Harrison, the first U.S. women to ever win a gold medal in judo, also flirted with the idea of crossing over into MMA. She's even managed by Dominance MMA. Burroughs, too, has a sponsorship from CageFighter.

Alas, Harrison told the Boston Herald it won't be happening anytime soon. At 22, she's opted herself to give it at least one more Olympic cycle before considering women's MMA. Her challenges are legitimate: there's just not enough there for her to fight yet, particularly at her weight (165lbs). No one can be mad at her, yet the selfish MMA fan can't help but be a tough let down, too. The more those kinds of athletes crossover, the better the sport becomes, the more it's taken seriously and often, a better the quality of fighter emerges.

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