Monday, April 9, 2007

Mike Sloan is good at his job

A Collection of Damp Feet
By Mike Sloan

[4/9/2007] Nobody - and I mean nobody - picked Matt Serra (Pictures) to triumph in his quest for the UFC welterweight title. Not against the seemingly invincible Georges St. Pierre (Pictures).

Literally every single person I spoke to in my daily travels and literally every single e-mail/MySpace message I received pertaining to this match-up were all in favor of a GSP victory. More people had Randy Couture (Pictures) pulling off the upset over then-champ Tim Sylvia (Pictures) than there were people picking Serra to win.

And, boy, did Matt Serra (Pictures) win!

My pre-fight prediction was that St. Pierre would have some trouble with the bullish Serra but would wind up scoring a unanimous decision victory. I didn't foresee St. Pierre having too much trouble keeping Serra away with his smoother striking and several inch reach advantage. I didn't envision Serra submitting GSP, either. I also didn't concede that Serra would have enough air in his lungs to compete at the highest level of warfare for five full rounds.

I also didn't think that Serra would decimate St. Pierre in less than a round and walk out of the Octagon sporting the same belt that graced the waists of such legendary fighters as Matt Hughes (Pictures), Carlos Newton (Pictures), Pat Miletich (Pictures), B.J. Penn (Pictures) and St. Pierre.

It's not that I thought Serra was some sort of jackass off the street who didn't belong in the same Octagon as those mixed martial arts icons; it's just that I thought Serra's best days were behind him. He had come up short in the previous three biggest fights of his career (Karo Parisyan (Pictures), Din Thomas (Pictures) and Penn) and I still firmly believe that Chris Lytle (Pictures) deserved to win when they fought in the grand finale of TUF 4.

Most "experts" rolled their eyes at Serra landing a crack at St. Pierre's title, scoffing at the notion of him challenging for a championship when all he did was basically land the shot by default. He had won a game show, really, and what exactly had this Long Island lobster, who made a career on MMA's B List, done to even deserve a chance to become a fistic immortal?

Well, the answer to that series of questions was keep to himself, train his ass off and remain patient, that's all. Serra knew this had to be the last chance he'd ever get at becoming a legitimate champion and the New Yorker had never felt better in his entire life.

It was all or nothing and all the negativity and doubt that surround his once-delayed title shot only festered deeper within his soul. His conquest of St. Pierre was the ultimate result of years of dedication, falling short of achieving championship goals and having the opportunity to finally - finally - flip the bird at everybody who doubted him.

When Serra asked if there was some humble pie in the back room for everybody, I could tell that was probably more satisfying than stopping his opponent with a dizzying barrage of punches. I know as much as anybody that there is almost no greater feeling than proving someone wrong and Serra proved virtually every single person involved in MMA wrong. He made us all insert our stinky, damp, corn-covered feet into our collective mouths.

Congrats to Matt Serra (Pictures), the new UFC welterweight champion. It's times like these, when a massive underdog overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds and finally lands his hands on a world title belt, that make this sport so great. Nobody thought he'd win, especially in the manner that he did. That is what makes the fightsports the most entertaining sport on the planet and that is why I continue to come back to it no matter how corrupt it can be at times.

A nightmarish defeat.

I have one question for both Diego Sanchez (Pictures) and the world: What on earth was "Nightmare" doing for 15 minutes? The answer is simple: he wasn't fighting. He allowed Josh Koscheck (Pictures) to handle him from start to finish and not once did he ever show any signs of desperation. What was he thinking?

Obviously it's much easier to say this when I'm the dope writing the column and not the one actually putting my life on the line, but how many times do I and others have to witness a talented fighter simply give a fight to his opponent? Time and time again I have to witness some brave warrior walk around the ring or cage round after round after round doing absolutely nothing in order to win.

I can sit here and rattle off three dozen boxing matches that have gone this way but this is an MMA column so I won't. But come on, Diego. You had to know by the middle of the second round that you were losing to a guy whom you despise. The capacity crowd was hissing and booing lustily towards the end of the first round and by the midway point of the third, the boos were so severe that it was actually difficult to hear Mike Goldberg agree with Joe Rogan.

Sanchez threw few punches, attempted a few paltry jump kicks and I honestly don't recall him ever shooting in for a takedown. By the start of the third round, Sanchez had to have known that he wasn't even coming close to winning the fight on the feet, yet he never shot. What boggles my mind is at the 3:00 mark (roughly) of the third round, Sanchez got close enough to Koscheck and actually grabbed him. Sanchez applied double under hooks and it looked like he was going to try and bring "Kos" down, but seconds later he let go of the under hooks, backed away from his foe and proceeded to do nothing.

I've said this countless times and I'll continue to say it, fighters need to understand that you have to try to win your fights. Don't sit back and do nothing. Greg Jackson, trainer extraordinaire, had to be coughing up bile watching his master student give the fight away. I don't know if Sanchez was injured, mentally distracted or just too damn stubborn to actually try Plan B but either way you slice it, he got tooled by Koscheck.

And Koscheck, even though he won hands down, shouldn't be jumping for joy too much. He played it too safe and lost a cargo ship's worth of potential fans. The crowd was angrily booing both fighters, not just Sanchez. Koscheck scored an almost too easy takedown in the first and never once tried it again.

Sure he was winning the fight clearly and it's usually wise to keep that up, but how much honor is in winning a fight when the crowd is on the verge of storming the cage because you play it way too safe while your opponent just follows you? And Tim Sylvia (Pictures) wonders why many fans don't like watching him.

View the entire article on by Mike Sloan by clicking here.

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