Yakkin' About Mixed Martial Arts: UFC 156

Groundbreaking MMA metrics, mourning the loss of a favorite, and why Tomas Rios may marry the 125-lb. champion
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Tim Marchman: So UFC ran a card this weekend that looked in theory to be one of the best they've ever put on, and then it... actually delivered. I'm not used to this sort of thing.

Tomas Rios: I think the most amazing aspect of this is that Evans-Nogueira delivered. Sure, it was boring, but at least it was boring in a genuinely bizarre sorta way! That's a major improvement for the UFC of recent memory.

Tim Marchman: Before we get to anything else I want to gloat over walking Rob Liefeld sketch Alistair Overeem getting knocked out in incredibly embarrassing fashion. I once wrote a piece in which I noted that the guy was a total fraud and got literally hundreds of incredibly angry emails, most of which accused me of not actually watching fights, along with a personal ethering from “Bloodstain Lane” via Youtube.

Tomas Rios: To be fair, none of us actually watch the fights. I mean, it's a bit gay and all.

Tim Marchman: That like 95% of people genuinely thought a guy who barely managed to outbox Fabricio Werdum was going to go full on ape rage against Bigfoot Silva was really funny to me and I am glad I was vindicated.

Tomas Rios: We can talk about how Silva KO'ing Overeem looked like a scene out of The Hills Have Eyes in a moment, but I think the man needs more dap for rope-a-doping Overeem. He all but let himself go down 0-2 on the cards and never wavered from his plan to exhaust Overeem's cardio and pounce. And holy shit did he pounce.

Tim Marchman: I loved it, because this being fighting, how often do you see the screamingly obvious strategy applied? "This man can go for about five minutes before needing a lung transplant. I will therefore allow him to exhaust himself by doing stuff like breathing.”

Tomas Rios: Screamingly obvious strategies are often avoided for a reason. Overeem is so anabolic he makes Silva, a dude who had an actual pituitary gland condition, look small by comparison. Also, world champion kickboxers with legit MMA skills tend not to be easiest marks.

Bureau of Obvious Points is also demanding I note that Overeem looked far less... juicy than usual.

Tim Marchman: Kickboxer-with-sprawl who made a rep smashing tiny dudes in Japan fights under commission testing, grows love handles and loses to decent but unremarkable Brazilian heavyweight? Hmm...

Tomas Rios: Calling Overeem "kickboxer-with-sprawl" is like calling Jon Fitch "wrestler-that-got-totally-sonned-by-jiu-jitsu-dude." Preparing myself for a tear-soaked reply from MMA media's number one Fitch fan.

Tim Marchman: If Fitch had to lose, at least he lost via Fitching.

Tomas Rios: Bad Fitch contest, you in first place.

Tim Marchman: I will admit that this fight showed the potential downside of having an offensive strategy largely consisting of trying to get your opponent to gas himself through choking you so that you can throttle him.

Tomas Rios: Three fights in and Demian Maia is making a case for smartest division change ever. It seems to me losing the 15 pounds has gifted him a physical supremacy he enjoys maximizing. In other words, Jesus fuck that dude is just styling on people. Based on available data, you have to categorize him as at least a vague threat to GSP.

Tim Marchman: I can see him beating St-Pierre.

Tomas Rios: I can see any number of people beating GSP. And they've all lost to him. Maia is 35 and has only one way of beating anyone even vaguely good. Also, his face is weird-looking and I still believe phrenology has a lot to say about predicting MMA fights.

Tim Marchman: I predict that Ian McCall will lose his next fight (against John Dodson?) as part of what will eventually be like a ten-fight losing streak in which he never looks more than fractionally worse than his opponent.

Tomas Rios: He may be the only elite fighter I've ever seen who seems to conscientiously ignore obvious pathways to victory. It does not take a fancy scientician to recognize that McCall was winning whenever he used lateral movement. Unfortunately, most of McCall's brain power is dedicated to being MMA's answer to Zooey Deschanel.

Tim Marchman: Standing square against Demetrious Johnson and Joseph Benavidez is the vague flyweight equivalent of dropping your hands against Anderson Silva, but considering this is a man who not only fights with a handlebar mustache but goes out of his way to clip one of the handlebars to produce an unsettling effect you can't really be all that surprised.

Tomas Rios: Did you know McCall has two chihuahuas that he had certified as therapy dogs? Did you know McCall only cooks Ethiopia food? Did you know McCall is obsessed with Romeo & Juliet, the Baz Luhrmann film? Did you know only one of those statements is untrue? This is not the psychological profile of someone who will take the two seconds necessary to realize that moving sideways against a dude who can't keep up with your footwork is a hella good idea.

Anyway, this fight cemented why neither of these guys will ever beat Demetrious Johnson. McCall is too much of a loon and Benavidez's all power everything style is ill-suited to the subtle dynamism Johnson brings. LONG LIVE THE KING.

Tim Marchman: I think you may like Johnson more than I like Fitch.

Tomas Rios: You have to understand, Timothy. Johnson is my ray of hope. I've been watching MMA for way too long to even pretend to be anything less than a huge nerd and Johnson is the first elite fighter I've ever seen who actually takes strategy seriously. Guys like GSP and Jones do train with specific strategies in mind, but they're flat-out better than everyone else so their fights really boil down to that unavoidable reality.

Johnson is really good, but he could lose to Dodson, Benavidez or McCall quite easily. Yet he likely never will and it's because strategy, not skills, is first and foremost in his mind. Give this dude five rounds and he'll figure out how to beat any 125 lb. human being you could conceive of. So yes, when I grow up I want to marry Demetrious Johnson.

The wedding will be small and tasteful with a modern rustic theme. Drinks served in mason jars, centerpieces handmade by local artisans and a band that knows both Jamiroquai and James Brown. It'll be lovely. You should try to make it out, Timothy.

Tim Marchman: McCall produced a nice article for the Annals of the What Is This Guy Doing Society.

Rashad Evans wrote a multi-volume book. It's really not often you see a guy demonstrate so clearly that he is the patently better fighter and yet lose like that. An impressive performance.

Tomas Rios: I noted during the fight that it seemed to me Evans wanted to find out what was the minimum amount of effort he could put into the fight while still having a chance of winning.

Tim Marchman: He just looked like he either had a plane to catch or had made some kind of bet that he could win on the cards through shrugging.

Tomas Rios: Evans is definitely emblematic of my point about elite fighters and strategy. Here you have a good wrestler with quick hands, knockout power and reasonable durability. There is literally no reason why Evans should ever stand four feet away from anyone and engage in an extended game of patty cake. But that's 90% of his cage time in the UFC. There is zero strategic value to his fighting style and he never ever deviates from it. If it wasn't so dumb it would be kinda impressive.

Tim Marchman: How a guy who is not just for-a-fighter smart, but smart, and spent years working with Greg Jackson and Mike Winkeljohn, fights the way he does is a minor mystery.

Tomas Rios: This is the same dude who made a Sandusky pedophilia joke. Let's be real about his intelligence. As for working with Jackson and Winkeljohn, they're pretty straight-up about their operation. They'll offer all the next-level strategy you want, but they're not going to yell and scream if you want to act like a donk and lose winnable fights. It's why Jackson has thus far not murdered Donald Cerrone in his sleep.

Tim Marchman: He loves Donald Cerrone.

Tomas Rios: Donald Cerrone is basically a hillbilly version of Balki Bartokimous. It's hard not to love him.

Tim Marchman: It's hard not to love the fact that all of UFC's high level matchmaking just went up in smoke this weekend.

Tomas Rios: You know Joe Silva loved it.

Tim Marchman: With Overeem's manhood having been taken, you've got, uh... Josh Barnett? as the only viable heavyweight contender.

Tomas Rios: Actually, it's Daniel Cormier. Who has gone on record repeatedly to dismiss any hope of him ever fighting teammate Cain Velasquez.

Tim Marchman: Thus Barnett as the only viable heavyweight contender.

Tomas Rios: Hey, there's always Stefan Struve. I feel like that should be the catchphrase of the UFC HW division. "Hey, there's always Stefan Struve." People want to see what it would look like if Manute Bol was in MMA and was horrifyingly pale, right? Right?

Tim Marchman: Middleweight is so bad off with the Evans loss that Chris Weidman might get his shot after all. Always a good thing to toss a prospect in with Anderson Silva years before he's ready to compete at that level, especially if he's coming off a pretty serious injury. At flyweight you're down to Demetrious Johnson shadowboxing himself for the title, which to be fair would be interesting. And finally you have Frank Edgar.

Tomas Rios: Edgar's career is turning into the director's cut version of the Rudy narrative. There was a terrifying Brazilian dude in Rudy, right? Here's the fight in a nutshell: the most impressive thing Edgar did was alter his footwork in a way that kept Aldo from chopping his leg off.

Seriously, it was very impressive that Edgar left the cage standing upright. Which is becoming the moral of every Edgar fight.

Tim Marchman: UFC seems to be puzzled over why no one cares about Frankie Edgar. Maybe it's because he’s won once in his last five fights?

Tomas Rios: Have I told you about my groundbreaking MMA metric? It's called WTF? It stands for Won The Fight? Edgar's WTF? is quite low. It seems to have a direct relationship to fan interest, but it'll take a few years of research to be sure. I assume this is how the UFC feels about it.

Tim Marchman: So coming out of this show, I expect to see Chael Sonnen angling for a fight with Cain Velasquez, Frankie Edgar dropping to bantamweight to fight the winner of Barao-McDonald, and Demian Maia becoming an object lesson in how little the new Official UFC Rankings matter.

Tomas Rios: I expect Sonnen to run for Congress again on a deport Velasquez angle, Edgar to skip bantamweight so he can wait out the UFC's 115 lb. division and the new UFC rankings to be the dumbest thing ever.

Tim Marchman: They are claiming that they will poll 90 writers for this. Are there nine fight writers with credible opinions?

Tomas Rios: It's a dozen at most and I'm dead serious about that. I mean, can you imagine Franklin McNeil weighing John Moraga's recent dominance against Formiga's history of success outside the UFC?

Dude can't even make it to a show on time. I'd sooner trust the rankings to a Shiba Inu. At least Shiba Inus are smart.

Tim Marchman: I don't know, I think the explanations will be pretty funny, especially as the votes will be made public.

"Why did you rate Chael Sonnen #2 at light heavyweight when he hasn't fought there in six years?"

"Well, he's fighting for the title, right? He's #2."

Tomas Rios: "Also, I like feetball. Sprots is my favoritest."

Tim Marchman: The other thing I like about this is that it will annoy people who root for high ppv sales rather than good fights.

Tomas Rios: I take an interest in the business of MMA because duh, but it's bizarre how invested fans and media are in things going as the UFC wants them to. I think it's an echo of MMA nearly dying on the vine not that long ago and, of course, Dana's hyperbolic insanity and resulting cult of personality.

Dear Leader says Overeem must fight Velasquez.

Dear Leader says Jon Jones is uppity.

Tim Marchman:I think it's the result of selling a sport as a sport for people who don’t like sports.

Tomas Rios:I think the rankings will irritate me as someone with an actual opinion on who the 9th best UFC flyweight is. And I think I've made it clear that, when it comes to MMA, I only care about myself and what I want.

Tim Marchman: I want Frankie Edgar to get armbarred by Ronda Rousey.


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