Sometimes It Just Takes One Mistake

Monday, October 25th, 2010

Eric Falkenstein notes that sometimes it just takes one mistake:

Sports are so compelling because they embody the essence of life: meaningless at some level, but the competition, excellence, and courage are as good a collection of virtues one can observe. The key is that the excellence is refined, a mastery that takes skill and practice at something many others appreciate. I used to wrestle and keep up with college wrestling, but I really like the mixed martial arts as practiced in the UFC. This weekend’s UFC had another classic bout, with the huge Brock Lesnar looking invincible, just like Fedor Emelianenko. He’s just freaky strong, country strong. Once in a college wrestling match he broke his opponent’s pelvic bone in a cradle.

But Cain Velasquez is really talented too, and highlights that in this sport no one is that much better than everyone else. To look at him next to Lesnar, you think, this guy’s in trouble, but MMA fighting takes a lot more than strength and speed (though those are necessary and sometimes sufficient). Velasquez withstood Lesnar’s initial assault, and then actually took Lesnar down with a nifty high crotch, in a move that didn’t seem too flashy. That is, he made it look more like a slip than an actual offensive move. Then, coming from a wrestling background, Lesnar instinctively took a wrestler defense by getting to his base, a big mistake in mixed martial arts where striking and joint locks are in play. This opened him up to devastating strikes to the head that left him dazed. By the time Lesnar stood up he was dizzy, and Velasquez seized on this opportunity and finished him with strikes and a nice knee. Another very strategic match, where a small mistake leads to catastrophic failure.


  1. Ross says:

    From a colleague, who in turn has very close affiliations to MMA/UFC:

    That was not a mistake. Brock Lesnar is a big BS talker and Cain shut him down. Shane Carwin should have shut him down last fight and almost did.

    Brock is just a big vanilla gorilla, his girth is biggest strength. Is a great wrestler but you need to be well rounded. And his cardio sucks, and when you are that big you really get gassed very fast.

    He came into UFC like he was still with WWE. Different game dude; he started trash talking and being disrespectful immediately.

  2. Isegoria says:

    I don’t think it was a fluke that Cain won, but I do think Falkenstein’s point stands: in MMA one mistake can cascade into a terrible loss. The sport isn’t terribly predictable. For instance, if Brock’s flying knee had landed flush and knocked Cain out, we’d all be talking about how unstoppable Brock is and how no one can challenge him. Or, in the other direction, if Shane Carwin had in fact finished Brock off, we would have heard the current litany of complaints about Brock’s lack of skill and cardio then. The fans are too sure of what they know from what they’ve seen.

    And it’s wrong to claim that you need to be well rounded. As a big vanilla gorilla, Brock beat Heath Herring, Randy Couture, Frank Mir, and Shane Carwin. He obviously knew that he should improve his striking and submission-grappling skills — and his cardio, I’m sure, but that wasn’t an issue this time — but he didn’t have years to train for Cain. I don’t think there’s much evidence that he blew off non-wrestling skills at his training camp.

    And of course Brock is talking lots of trash. (My fave: “After I beat Cain Velasquez, I’m going to celebrate his Mexican heritage by drinking a Corona and eating a burrito.”) He’s not a natural extrovert, but he knows how to play the “heel” to generate enough “heat” to make his matches into enormous draws. It’s worth a tremendous amount of money to him — and to the UFC — to talk like that. And he only acted that way going into the show; he was quite gracious in defeat.

  3. ICR says:

    Trash talking goes back to — at the very least — wrestler Gorgeous George in the Fifties. Ali-Clay said he got the idea for his shtick watching George.

  4. Isegoria says:

    Gorgeous George certainly took pro wrestling’s theatrics to the next level, and Cassius Clay took boxing’s loud-mouthed self-promotion to the next level, but audiences only chuckle at that kind of thing once it becomes normal and expected. It still rankles MMA fans, who want to see their fighters as genuine and authentic — which, of course, is why it draws so much heat.

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