Michael Farrow's sports blog

A collection of new and old writings

…with thoughts on UFC 73

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Rashad grew in confidence the longer the fight went on

Two of the three main bouts are looked at and the ramifications for the short-term title pictures at middleweight and lightweight.
Rashad vs. Tito… again

Let’s face it, you knew there wasn’t going to be a winner once the match finished. Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz fought to a 28-28 decision at UFC 73 and settled nothing. Ortiz promised no excuse, yet gave an excuse of a bad back for his losing the third round. Despite most people thinking him lucky to get a draw, Rashad just wouldn’t stop talking smack.

As much as Rashad doesn’t seem to lack confidence outside the cage, he seemed too easily thrown by a slight change in tactics from Tito. A couple of kicks are a couple of kicks; Tito is still coming like a train to take you down. As a result of this tentative mindset, Rashad never seemed to find his rhythm. Gone was the smooth boxing and in its place came a frenetic style, full of urgency but lacking any accuracy. For the first time ever, I felt that Rashad was neither fighting to the level of his opponent nor fighting to his own level but fighting within himself. He didn’t really bring it the way he did against Jason Lambert.

However, Rashad kept his wits about him, fought smart on the ground and successfully stopped Tito from establishing his game. I have said before that Tito is so conventional in his attack that you have to be unconventional and fight counter-intuitively to stop his ground and pound. Rashad did not try to pull guard, instead putting his back against the cage and taking a leaf out of Chuck Liddell’s playbook. People have tried the closed guard and the active guard against Tito and neither of them worked. The best way to stop Tito from keeping you down is to not even pull guard at all!

It is easy to say that Tito’s repeated grabbing of the cage cost him the match. However, it could well have saved his bacon, as succumbing to a takedown in the second round would have lost him the round and the fight. As we have seen, fighting is so much about momentum and it is possible that had Rashad managed to take Tito down in the second, he could have could have gained the belief to really turn the heat up. Tito made an excuse about a back injury but Rashad finally got into gear in the last round and started to show some fight.

The preparations for the rematch are already in swing. Tito looks unlikely to ascend back to the top of the light heavyweight heap and he needs feuds to give people a reason to keep watching. In that respect, the draw was the perfect result for all concerned.

Sean Sherk and Hermes Franca

When he was laying on his back, getting thoroughly exposed in front of the whole world, I couldn’t help but feel for Hermes Franca. He had opportunities; he knocked Sherk silly with one knee strike and had a deep-looking guillotine but couldn’t finish the fight on either occasion. “The Carnoustie effect” is a phrase used to mean the degree of trauma experienced when what is undertaken in confident spirit founders on unforeseen difficulties. I would expect that Franca is feeling the Carnoustie effect now. It seems so possible. Here we have Sean Sherk; a fighter who struggles to finish fights, who doesn’t seem to have much of submission game and who is all about wrestling. He would seem to have exploitable weaknesses. However, he is so strong and so fast, both mentally and physically, that adding his technical abilities makes him a formidable fighter. Maybe his fights are very similar and each round is like Groundhog Day but he is very effective. He is by no means unbeatable and he may have looked more formidable than he is due to Franca letting Sherk pass continually, rather than hold a futile half guard which restricted his movement. Sherk is beatable, this is MMA after all, but provided he doesn’t come up against somebody who can match his speed and power, you can’t help but think these things will get him through. Maybe BJ Penn is the man to do it.

Overtraining: A question for the smart ones amongst you

After a UFC All Access special showing Sean Sherk climbing up steep slopes to train, how can people still talk above overtraining? This guy clearly trains like a maniac but there is never ever question that he is overtraining. However, Randy Couture openly speculated during the Tito/Rashad fight that Evans may have overtrained. Is there such a thing as overtraining or is it some bogus excuse that fighters formulate to excuse a terrible performance? Is it a case that fighters aren’t eating correctly and so their body becomes fatigued? I am asking these questions because I don’t know but I want to know.

UFC titles; where do we go and where will we go?

Anderson Silva and Sean Sherk have their next opponents lined up. Anderson heads for a rematch with Rich Franklin and Sean Sherk fights BJ Penn. The matches themselves offer many questions as does the possibility that the dominant champions roll through their opponents.

Some argue that Rich Franklin is out of his depth if he stands with Anderson Silva and needs to take the fight to the ground. However, greater grapplers have tried and greater grapplers have failed in this regard. If Franklin is to get anything out of the fight, it is likely to come from the feet. It has become quite apparent in the last two fights that Silva didn’t get his Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt from a mail order correspondence course, he earned it with his level of skill on the mat. Marquardt and Lutter are far more decorated grapplers than Franklin, who is certainly no slouch. Franklin still looks head and shoulders about the rest at 185 lbs and the fear would be what happens if Silva rearranges Franklin’s face for a second time. Silva has handled the guy previously considered the best striker in his weight class and handed two top wrestler-grapplers crushing losses so who else is on the horizon. Any time a guy builds momentum, he is cut down to size by one of the higher-ups in the division so, right now, the only guy with any title credentials is Rich Franklin. In terms of future star ability, they need Silva to lose.

Sean Sherk was always described as a mini Matt Hughes and, in BJ Penn, he comes up against the only guy who ever really troubled Hughes on the mat. Sherk has good wrestling but BJ is a difficult all-round package. Get ready for unconventional jiu-jitsu and difficult striking. Look for somebody who will take your wrestling prowess and desire to get to the ground and use it against you. BJ’s a tricky customer and Sherk will need all of his physical and technical capabilities to beat a guy who Hughes could only beat with a debilitating in-match injury.

Should Sherk win, the lightweight production line will spew out another victim, likely the winner of Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Stevenson. Alternatively, if Penn wins, we would see our first big lightweight title match; BJ Penn, lightweight champ, against Sean Sherk, former lightweight champ.


Written by Michael Farrow

July 10, 2007 at 3:45 pm

Posted in MMA

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