Fighting will always be on the outside looking in when it comes to popular professional sports. That's just how it goes. But on a very basic, fundamental level, the simplicity of eating punches for a living is something much more relatable than the skillsets required by most athletic competitions, which also makes it much more personal. There are no superfluous equipment, rules, or motivations. Just two men, two pairs of gloves, and one arena to call home for 15 to 25 minutes.
It's why, more so than any other sport, champion prize fighters are easy to lionize as something more than human. Back in the day, Batman and Superman didn't score goals or shoot threes. They fought. That's how they plied their trade, that's how we identified with them, and really, that's why we were in awe of them. They were superheros because of their unrivaled ability to best any man thrown their way, often with little resistance. Whether we'd like to admit it or not, that mindset probably translates over to adulthood more than it should.
We've seen Benson Henderson fall. We've seen Georges St-Pierre give up and we've even seen Jon Jones wander his way into trouble. Their sense of invincibility has already been shattered. But Junior dos Santos? The affable Brazilian giant had performed like a near superhuman over the course of five years. Nine times he entered the Octagon, and nine times he showed us how untouchable he really was.
So it was almost impossible not to gawk at the sight of him being pummeled past the point of recognition on Saturday and how utterly bizarre it felt. It wasn't possible, even if we all knew it actually was; even if we all knew Cain Velasuez was a monster capable of anything. The performance was so dominant, according to FightMetric, Velasquez actually registered the first triple-double in UFC history, scoring 111 significant strikes and 11 takedowns. All of this against a man who had defeated him in 64 seconds.
Once again, it just goes to show that no one in this sport is unconquerable. Even the greatest champions are human, despite the mythology we create around them. And like always, relearning that lesson can be a stark, sometimes beautiful, and sometimes grotesquely violent process.
6 MUST-READ STORIES
Velasquez retakes title. In an utterly dominant performance, Cain Velasquez reclaimed his UFC heavyweight title, dismantling Junior dos Santos over the course of five rounds in UFC 155's main event. For more, check out a massive collection of reactions from the pros.
Silva close to 10-fight deal. According to UFC President Dana White, middleweight champ Anderson Silva is on the cusp of signing a new 10-fight deal that would make him the highest paid fighter under the Zuffa banner.
Miller outlasts Lauzon. Lightweight contender Jim Miller outlasted Joe Lauzon to take a unanimous decision victory in UFC 155's electrifying, 'Fight of the Year' candidate of a co-main event. Both Miller and Lauzon earned an additional $65,000 in 'Fight of the Night' bonuses for their work.
Philippou emerges as contender. Upstart middleweight Costa Philippou stretched his surprising run of victories to five straight, derailing Tim Boetsch via third-round TKO. Afterward, Philippou requested another top-10 opponent, though he shot down the idea of fighting his teammate Chris Weidman.
Bisping title shot confirmed. After a pair of middleweight contenders -- Alan Belcher and Tim Boetsch -- fell short at UFC 155, UFC President Dana White confirmed that Michael Bisping will receive the next title shot against Anderson Silva if he can defeat Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 7.
White not worried about Diaz. While Dana White admitted he had yet to speak to Nick Diaz (because apparently Diaz doesn't answer his phone calls or texts), White would be blown away if Diaz didn't pull his weight in the promotional lead-up to UFC 158: "Listen, the thing about Nick Diaz, Nick Diaz shows up for fights. Nick Diaz shows up and fights his ass off. He's not a big fan of the pre-fight promotion, but you have to do it. You have to do it. Whether you're Nick Diaz or Anderson Silva, Whoever you are, it's in your contract. You actually can be cut."
Whether you missed out Saturday night or you just want to relive the savagery, feel free to take a look back at the first five-round UFC heavyweight title fight since Couture-Sylvia.
I'm just going to say that I was both disgusted and embarrassed to be associated with MMA at this moment. The guy withstands 25 minutes of otherworldly punishment in a tremendous display of heart and passion, and you're going to boo him? Really?
One of the sneaky interesting subplots of UFC 155. Most certainly won't be the last time Daniel Cormier will have to answer this question.
On that same note, check out one of the more notable parts of Saturday's post-fight scrum: 13:35, when Daniel Cormier ambles over to shake Dana White's hand, they joke about his standing in the UFC, and White concludes that Cormier could in fact be next for Jon Jones.
And now for something completely (and wonderfully) different.
Nothing to see here. Just another good samaritan MMA fighter.
MEET THE NEW CHAMP, SAME AS THE OLD CHAMP
JDS looks really pretty lol— Alistair Overeem (@Alistairovereem) December 30, 2012
Hell yes. So proud of @cainmma much respect for JDS for being so tough.— Jon Fitch (@jonfitchdotnet) December 30, 2012
Cain has all my respect!!!! Wow. The mexiCan champ is back. #UFC155— Tito Ortiz (@titoortiz) December 30, 2012
Viva Mexico! Campeon del mundo @cainmma !— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) December 30, 2012
Thorough. Ass. Whoopin. #UFC155— Jason High (@KCBanditMMA) December 30, 2012
@junior_cigano: Thank you all for your support but this time I lost but i promise that i tried mybest— juniorcigano (@junior_cigano) December 30, 2012
BEFORE, DURING, AFTER
Holy shit! instagr.am/p/T2hGwEoxk8/— Lex McMahon (@lexmcmahonMMA) December 30, 2012
EVERYONE'S A CRITIC
You can't count JDS out, Cain is stupid for not taking the RNC when it was there, JDS could def still KO him he's still got that pop— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) December 30, 2012
Cain PLEASE OPEN YOUR EYEBALLS!!! The RNC is there for Dayzzz!— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) December 30, 2012
Don't pass on an opportunity to Finish a fight period, I've seen horrible decisions & comeback KO's so regardless Cain shoulda went 4 choke— Miesha Tate (@MieshaTate) December 30, 2012
YOU LIKE BLOOD, DON'T YOU?
The octagon looks like a crime scene right now!— Bas Rutten (@BasRuttenMMA) December 30, 2012
I love both these men. Never met either one. Don't care. Blood blood blood! WAAAARRRRRRR!!! @ufc— Julie Kedzie (@julesk_fighter) December 30, 2012
I wanna see another round!!! Fight of the century!!!— Anthony Pettis (@Showtimepettis) December 30, 2012
I got a boner. That was awesome. #UFC155— Jason High (@KCBanditMMA) December 30, 2012
They know me now.— Costas Philippou (@Philippou185UFC) December 30, 2012
This is what u get for not executing the game plan! twitter.com/TimBoetsch/sta…— Tim Boetsch (@TimBoetsch) December 30, 2012
. @cripplerufc I've looked up to you for so long and you're a scary fighter . Thanks for the opportunity . Im honored . I wish you the best— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunsonMMA) December 30, 2012
I don't care what people say . I know most wanted to see Leben knock my head off . But 8 days notice I did all I could . Better next time !— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunsonMMA) December 30, 2012
PAT 'N' MIKE
@hypeordie lol c'mon Pat those dudes can't make 205lbs— Mike Ricci (@MikeyRicci) December 30, 2012
@mikeyricci MAAAAAAAANN, IM DROPPING TO 105 AND COMING AFTER YOU!!— Pat Barry (@HypeOrDie) December 30, 2012
@hypeordie lol only way I'll train with you is if you grow a comb over hahah— Mike Ricci (@MikeyRicci) December 30, 2012
TELL US HOW YOU REALLY FEEL
Okami looks good plus Belcher has that LAME Askren in his corner so I hope Okami wins:-)— War Machine (@WarMachine170) December 30, 2012
@benaskren you fight like a bitch and got no balls, ratherbe an idiot any day.— War Machine (@WarMachine170) December 30, 2012
@danawhite Don't be scared homie— Nick Newell (@NotoriousNewell) December 29, 2012
Heard a great rumor today...— chael sonnen (@sonnench) December 30, 2012
A guy on the ROSTER is DUCKING FIGHTS until his contract expires!For legal reasons,I can't say his name, but it rhymes with JENTON QUACKSON!— chael sonnen (@sonnench) December 30, 2012
Announced over the weekend (Friday, December 28, 2012 - Sunday, December 30, 2012):
- UFC 157: Neil Magny (7-1) vs. Jon Manley (7-1)
- Invicta 4: Claudia Gadelha (9-0) out with injury, Bec Hyatt (4-1) in against Carla Esparza (8-2) for strawweight title
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Daycomes courtesy of MikeWellman88, who writes: A Rallying Cry For Better Judging
The Melvin Guilard vs Jaime Varner fight at 155 is the perfect fight to use as an example when trying to address the judging problems facing the UFC. For a second, disregard any of the actual goings on of the fight itself, and just look at the judges scorecards. Two judges (Mark Smith and Cecil Peoples) gave every round to Varner, while one judge (Adalaide Byrd) gave all three rounds to Guillard. This means that one judge thought the exact opposite of the majority, in every single frame. Scoring fights is tough, and tricky. Judges come from different walks of life, and have backgrounds in different areas. They aren't there to judge what their background is, however. A boxing judge isn't cageside to ignore all techniques aside from boxing, or to place a lower value on techniques they aren't familiar with.
The first piece of the puzzle is accountability. We need to hold these people's feet to the fire on this. If one judge decides that the other two, who agreed completely, are entirely wrong in their decision, in every round of the fight, then that judge should have a responsibility to articulate why they came to their conclusion, and why they disagreed with the other two. When a fighter goes into a UFC fight on a two fight losing streak for example, that will have an impact on how that fighter performs. Their back will be against the wall. Plenty lose, and get cut, but at least when they go in there and ply their craft, they have an understanding of A) what the consequences could be, and B) why they were in that spot to begin with.
Imagine a judge, coming off of two fights where their judging was deemed sub-par, about to judge a championship UFC fight. There's a case to be made that said judge may have their eyes open slightly wider, and be ever more aware of the action. I'm going to touch on the 'how's' and the 'who's', and the logistics of all this a little further into the column, so bare with me if you are already asking questions.
Here is my proposal. Peer review. Plain and simple. When a decision is questioned, or challenged, by a promotion, a fighter, a fighter's corner, or any other body deemed to have a reasonable interest in the outcome(again, details of such would need to be heavily hammered out), there should be a review system in place. In the case of the Guillard/Varner fight, it was a majority decision, so there isn't any impact to the result of the fight, but this can be either a coaching opportunity for Adailade Byrd, or an opportunity for the NSAC to impose some type of infraction. Or it could be the opposite. Upon review, if it was deemed that the other two judges made the bad decisions, the reverse can also be implemented.
One option would be to have other judges, a certain amount, watch the fight afterwards and score it. Maybe you get 10 judges to score it, and you look at the results. If all 10 scored it the same way Peoples and Smith had, well then the consensus would imply that Byrd didn't score the fight accurately. And there of course can be some type of appeal process, as maybe Adailade Byrd has a solid and articulate point to make about why Melvin should have won. There needs to be room to hear that argument as well. This is why this particular fight is a good example, it's very cut and dry. Now, if you have a five round back-and-forth war with a few 10-8 rounds, maybe for both fighters, then it gets complicated. All three judges could have come up with a different score per fighter for every single round. But if there was sufficient merit for a challenge of the decision, it should be held to the same review standards. Also, what if the judges reviewing the fight all see the outcome differently? These are questions that barely scratch the surface of complications that would arise, but in practice, with constant refinement, a review process of fights that went to a decision is completely possible. Even if the decision remains exactly the same, and exactly as unjust as it was on fight night, there is a value add in having judges question themselves, and each other.
So now we can talk about criteria. Most of us are aware of the all the rules and judging criteria in mixed martial arts. That much has already been defined. Most of us also have heard the idea of 'home-cooked' scorecard, where the fighter who has the hometown crowd behind him may win the fight, deservingly or otherwise. The prevailing theory behind this is that the crowd would cheer and roar more so when the hometown fighter lands strikes, scores takedowns, or attempts submissions, causing the judges, sitting cageside, to incorporate the crowd reaction into their decisions. Now, if those judges were aware of this pitfall, and maybe were required to view some type of Powerpoint slideshow pre-fight, which addressed potential pitfalls and things to be conscious of during the fight, this might not occur. Just like a fighter needs to gain a working knowledge of his opponents skill sets, and needs to form a gameplan, judges also should be required to have a working knowledge about the fights they have been assigned, and mma in general.
Dana White and Joe Rogan, during FX prelims, loudly yell at the television audience minutes before every PPV starts. The goal being to make the fans aware of the action in store, and to provide a few quick bullet points about the fighter's, their win/loss streaks, style match-ups, and of course, to sway people to buy the ppv. Sadly, I feel that the causal fan watching FX who sees these pre-fight hype rants has a better idea of the night's fights than the judges who are responsible for their outcomes. Dana has said that he doesn't have the solution to the judging problem, and couldn't implement it if he did. That's probably true, and Dana is a very vital cog in the mma machine, but he isn't the only thing keeping this thing moving. The phrase 'don't leave it in the hands of the judges' needs to become obsolete. Hopefully this column has planted a few seeds in the ground, and we can come up with a way to greatly improve judging in mma. This problem isn't unsolvable. It's going to take work, and perseverance.
MMA has come a long way from the dark ages of NHB fighting being banned from television and almost every state. Now we are on the precipice of stadium shows and superfights. If two fighters can produce a multi-million dollar live gate and several hundred thousand PPV buys, and are fighting for a paycheck that usually doubles if they win, then they deserve that same caliber of judging.
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in Wednesday's column.