This past week the UFC brass announced that “submission of the night” and “knockout of the night” bonuses were going the way of the dodo bird, replaced by “performance of the night” bonuses. Then came last night’s UFC Fight Night 36, which had so many bouts end in decision, it was as if the fighters had interpreted the removal of the SOTN and KOTN awards to mean that the organization no longer wanted bouts to end either by tapout or KO. Of the dozen bouts on the card, a whopping ten went to decision, with each bout on the prelims going to the judges and everyone wondering when the main card rolled around if Dana White was going to kill himself before the night was through. There was of course some worthwhile action – the main event between Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi was an ultra-technical stand-up battle between veteran gunslingers, and Erick Silva made short, brutal work of his opponent. But if Saturday night is going to be spent in front of the TV watching scantily-clad men beat each other up, we’re going to need finishes to break the monotony. And for whatever reason, the finishing well has run dry.
An Undercard Uninspired
On paper, there should have been enough mismatches to ensure some sudden and abrupt endings. After all, Wilson Reis has got about 100,000 hard miles on his odometer, Jesse Ronson is destined for a Bellator undercard, and Cristiano Marcello’s best days were back when he was sparring hard in the Chute Boxe gym.
But it seemed all the badasses were having an “off” night while the underdogs were operating at peak performance, so what we got was a Reis who was seriously taking it to Iuri Alcantara, a Ronson who was giving Francisco Trinaldo fits, and a Marcello who was hanging tough with Joe Proctor. Alcantara, Trinaldo and Proctor all took the decisions, but on paper those particular match-ups should not have been so close.
Featherweight Felipe Arantes and Maximo Blanco did have an exciting throwdown, heavy on smoking hot jiu-jitsu transitions and sweet damage inflicted, but when the dust settled on that one, it was the judges who had to declare the winner (they chose Arantes).
The Lone Finishes
There was a time when the moniker “King of Pancrase” meant something. Unfortunately for Takenori Sato, that age has past, a distant memory in a world where Japanese MMA is a shadow of its former self. As such, when the Kazushi Sakuraba-trained fighter came out Erick Silva at UFC Fight Night 36, the Brazilian utterly smashed him, wailing away at Sato like a line cook pounding a cutlet of veal that had dared shoot a single-leg takedown on him. Fifty-two seconds was all it took for the finish, and it was most welcome on a card such as this.
Charles Oliveira and Andy Ogle almost went the distance, despite Oliveira’s lightning-quick and aggressive sub game. Ogle, it seems, had done his homework, and for all of the first and second rounds, he gamely wiggled out of every hairy situation the Brazilian thrust him in.
That only lasted for so long though, and midway through the third round Oliveira slipped on the sneaky triangle choke and got the quick tap – the first finish of the night.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Machida both made their cases for shots at the middleweight belt, and while they were convincing and dominant, neither really showed that they’d make their title bids all that exciting.
For Jacare, it was all about playing the role of “backpack” to Francis Carmont’s attempted spoiler role. Carmont dodged all sorts of trouble, and made a lot of angry noises when he tried to keep the Brazilian at the end of his punches. But Jacare’s jiu-jitsu kept him attached to the Frenchman’s back throughout, and the decision was a “no brainer” when time ran out.
“The Dragon” and Gegard Mousasi had a tense, fun-to-watch battle of wills and skills that went all five rounds. The former Strikeforce champ showcased sufficient kicking ability, boxing offense and defense, and enough striking savvy to remind us that he’s an elite fighter. However, the former UFC light-heavyweight champ was too crafty, too creative, and too fast, and two out of three judges saw him taking every round.
Will either Jacare or Machida be the one to dethrone Chris Weidman (or Vitor Belfort, if Belfort miraculously defeats Weidman at UFC 173 AND passes a postfight drug test)? No way. Not based on their performances at UFC Fight Night 36. But they’re top fighters. Their dominant decisions showed us that much at least.
When UFC 169 gave us ten decisions and only two finishes, we shook our heads and soldiered on, operating under the assumption that a night so sorely lacking in submissions or knockouts was a statistical aberration. And yet the next UFC event replicated the very same decision-heavy feat. What’s going on here?