The UFC since Fitchgate

It seems like every comment section these days is full of people talking about how the UFC is favouring fighters who stand and bang.

In fact, in the short time since the notorious cuts (February 19th) the effect of this favouritism has already resulted in the UFC becoming nothing more than brawl after brawl, with no technique being displayed whatsoever. When Brian Stann and Wanderlei pulled out a fight of the year candiate, it exemplified this change. Because apparently stand up wars are way out of character for Brian Stann, and him entering into one demonstrates that he has been poisoned by the stand and bang favouritism, and in turn chose to forego his normal, safe, grappling heavy strategy (obviously considering 9/12 of his victories have come by way of KO/TKO and he only 3 decisions either way in 18 fights).

At least that's what we've been led to believe by many of the "hardcore" fans. But is this actually the case, or are some in the MMA community overreacting?

Since the notorious 15 cuts (16 with Matt Riddle, although two failed drug tests is what I would call just cause) on February 19th, there have been two UFC events. UFC 157: Rousey vs Carmouche and UFC on FUEL TV: Silva vs Stann.

UFC 157: Rousey vs Carmouche

12 fights, 7 decisions, 4 subs, and 1 TKO/KO. So that stats definitely don't demonstrate an increase in "stand and bang" or "brawl" type fights. Sure, Bermudez vs Grice was a decision, and it most certainly was a brawl, but on the other hand, the only TKO/KO (Koscheck vs Lawler) really didn't occur in one of those type of fights either. Other than Bermudez vs Grice, no fight on the card really fits the "brawl" definition.

On the other hand, Schuab vs Johnson was a boring show of one guy dominating with his wrestling and top control, while really not doing anything to finish, and Lyoto vs Hendo was nothing if not a very technical display by Machida. Certainly the farthest things from brawls. The other fights really don't fall into either or, they were exciting, technical, lots of subs, great fights.

UFC on FUEL TV: SIlva vs Stann

11 fights, 8 decisions, 3 TKO/KO. So again, I'm not seeing it in the raw stats. Obviously Silva vs Stann was a brawl, but that's kind of Silva and Stann's MO, nothing new there. Stefan Struve got his jaw broke, that was pretty exciting, not exactly a brawl so to speak, but sure, why not include it. Again though, not really out of character for Stefan Struve (see vs Big Country, Travis Browne, and JDS), or Mark Hunt (see vs Cheick Kongo, Chris Tuchscherer). Marcello vs Tokudome and Fukuda vs Tavares had exciting moments and lots of action although I wouldn't call them brawls necessarily.

So there's some brawls there, although I wouldn't say that it's out of the ordinary or surprising that Wanderlei and Stann went to war, or that Stefan Stuve got knocked out by Mark Hunt. But on the other hand there Mizuto Hirota vs Roni Yahya, which was grappling match. Dong Hyun Kim vs Siyar Bahadurzada, which was a very technical display of grappling dominance by Stun Gun. Okami vs Hector, which was much the same (maybe the Asian fighters didn't get the memo?) until Okami almost had a not again moment in the third. Even Diego Sanchez vs Takanori Gomi was mostly a point fighting contest. Best of all, we have Miesha Tate telling Bryan Caraway he's up two rounds and he can coast in the third, only to lose a split decision.

Where are we really?

It's clear if you watch the fights that this 'the sky is falling' idea that the UFC is devolving into some sort of street fighter thing (or worse the WWE, although I've never really understood that angle because the whole being fake thing seems like a deal breaker when comparing the two) just doesn't hold up. Moreover, where are these cuts? Where is every single wrestler in the UFC getting his walking papers? It's been a month since FItchgate, and it seems to be business as usual. Plus, we've got Nick Diaz is ranting about the UFC's rules favouring wrestlers like GSP, basically the exact opposite of what the Fitchgate chicken littles would have us think. And at both of these events since the cuts there have been boos flowing during a lot of these grappling and top control or point fighting showcases.

Dana White and co have always been more lenient and supportive to the guys who come out and put on a show and get the fans on their feet. They've never hidden this, in fact they have been very clear about it. They owe their success to Bonnar and Griffin getting in to a brawl, and Chuck Liddell and his 7 straight knockouts from UFC 47 to UFC 66 (plus getting knocked out by Rampage at UFC 71). Those fights are what made the UFC big, those fights are what brought the fans to the UFC. Those types of fighters deserve a little bit of leniency.

The fact is the assessment of some; that the UFC's cutting of Jon Fitch and to a lesser extent Jacob Volkmann (nobody ever mentions Che "can't wrestle his way out of a paper bag" Mills getting cut for some reason, or all the guys who were riding two fight or longer loss streaks) signals some shift in policy, or that it has led to radical changes in the product that we receive is demonstrably untrue.

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