Wednesday, January 5, 2011

UFC Eulogy: 125 - Frankie Edgar v Gray Maynard

It may have seemed tough for a PPV to follow UFC 124 and still be considered a great one, but UFC 125, opened the new year with a bang, managing to deliver plenty of excitement itself. When writing about 124 I mentioned the UFC’s inventory of fighters generating a name for themselves by becoming more of a character in the eyes of the viewers. Well once you have great characters you can develop some great stories. I have a friend who has tried, on numerous occasions, to get me into Pro Wrestling. He explained that besides the fake fakey fakeness, the wrestlers were telling a story with their fight. Well it seems the UFC has become somewhat of life imitating art in this respect.

Beyond the crushing KOs, and cringe-worthy submissions, 125 had some international flavours, big name comebacks, budding superstars and of course the rematch of the undefeated challenger aiming to take the belt off the champion whose only loss is against none other than the challenger! So just as a good documentary can induce tears better than the most tragically scripted drama, UFC 125 had that uncanny knack to tell a tale or two that noone could predict.

The first fight of the main card had Clay Guida. Who doesn’t love Guida? He is a buzzing, bouncing ball of excitement with a humble drifter’s edge. He is complex down to the tips of his hair (hair which itself is complex enough to make my super powerful Xbox lag). The fight was a classic tale with the perpetual motion of Guida circling the heavy striking Takanori Gomi as he hel the middleof the Octagon. There was always the threat of Gomi’s hands but Guida eventually baited him well outside of his comfort zone and after 9 minutes of patience and chipping away, the Japanese fighter lashed out and landed himself in some impressive Ju Jitsu; choked out in a guillotine.

Brandon Vera and Thiago Silva were both coming off long stints out of the Octagon due to injury. In the fast moving world of UFC the last thing anybody wants is to get left behind, but that was the danger facing whoever lost this bout. They both came out swinging and when you get into the top two weight divisions, aggressive striking like this is edge of the seat stuff. Vera perhaps faired a little better standing but Silva had a trump card by taking the fight to the ground. He dominated The Truth like he was fighting one of the ex-WEC bantam weighters. He put the pound into ground and pound, at times laying double hammer fist onto his helpless opponent. There was simply no escape for Vera; the decision was easy for the judges. Even without watching the fight, one glance at the remaining half of Vera’s nose would tell you who won.

Chris Leben had arguably fight of the year last year and earned himself a “co-main event” for it. Nicknamed the Crippler (though I think Chris Zombie Leben has a ring to it) he was full of confidence; an impressive win streak and a reckless attitude in the Octagon has made him an excitement machine. Like a champion who is looking eager to prove himself with a maiden title defence, Leben was defending his new standing as a PPV seller. Brian Stann however, had his own point to prove. He risked a lot by standing with Leben, but to beat someone at their strengths is the kind of thing that makes a great competitor. He landed some crushing blows, but The Zombie was able to rise from the dead inan effort that might have given Franki Edgar ideas. Stann continued to land, though and it was back to the drawing board as Leben’s win streak came to an end.

But this was all fun and games compared to the main event. Fight of the Night and early contender for fight of the year, the title bout between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard will be debated and remembered for a long time. But it could have ended quite quickly indeed. Graynard landed some consistently heavy strikes but Edgar refused to give in. It seemed like he was risking brain damage as he stood, wobbling and glassy eyed and boxing on mere instinct. Miraculously he survived for another two or three minutes and made it to the break.

I joked as the round ended that all he would hear from his corner staff was muffled voices in the distance, drowned out by a constant high pitched buzz. You could almost see the birds flying around his head. But te again Graynard came ou with a mouse under his eye and looked a little gassed. And, performing his second miracle, Frankie took the second easily. It appeared as though we were in for a great fight. The third was a little close but I felt sure it went to Graynard and the fight went back and forth like a football match that goes goal for goal. Frankie kept the pattern going in the fourth and the fifth became the decider. Both fighters were gassed and shooting for takedown points in vain. It was a very close round, the kind that gives strong validation to a half point scoring system. The fifth probably went to Frankie, but only because it had to go somewhere and just like a football match, there was that feeling that a draw was very likely.

48-46 Graynard...48-46 Edgar...47-47...

The fight was a draw and though it is an annoying result, I scored it 47-47 myself and would have felt bad for either fighter being handed a loss. It’s further bitter sweet in that we get a rematch but stil have to wait longer to see Anthony Pettis fight in the UFC. I guess in the end we can be grateful for being spoilt by all the great little sub plots we saw plus the mouth watering cliffhanger from the epic story that was UFC 125.

- Eden

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