We’re almost a week removed from the magnificent beatdown that Junior dos Santos laid on Shane Carwin, and it’s probably safe to assume that all of the post-fight articles have been written about the main event at UFC 131. Well, all but one.
This article is not specifically about UFC 131 or Shane Carwin — it’s about a certain phrase that has been tied to Carwin’s performance following his three-round beating, and that phrase is “He showed a lot of heart.”
Do a Google search on MMA “showed heart” and look at the names associated with the term: Shane Carwin, Paul Daley, Roy Nelson, and Andrei Arlovski, just to name a few. Any fighter that stood in there and took a beating, yup, he “showed a lot of heart.”
It’s time to retire that phrase, and here’s why…
It’s lazy. I’ve been guilty of using the phrase myself, but I will no longer use it and I encourage anyone covering MMA to do the same. We see a fighter get beaten bloody, but he doesn’t tap, he doesn’t get KO’d and he doesn’t quit, so we attribute his performance to this mythical thing called “heart.” It’s an easy way out, and too often replaces actual analysis of the losing fighter’s performance.
It’s essentially meaningless. How do you measure heart, guts, and chutzpah? You can’t; it’s all perception. One man’s version of heart is another man’s version of sheer stupidity. Not to pick on Carwin – God knows he was beaten enough on Saturday night — but did he hang in there out of “heart” or out of the never-quit attitude that is pounded into wrestlers and other combat sport participants from a very young age? Do these fighters show this “heart” out of fear of looking soft? (As BJ Penn once said, “You tap from strikes, you’re a little bitch, that’s what I think.”) Besides, these are professional fighters we’re talking about. We don’t really expect them to run out of the cage screaming when things get tough.
It masks the truth. If I were going to write a story about UFC 131 using simple, everyday language and avoid any type of euphemism, the lede would read something like this: “On Saturday, Shane Carwin took a 15 minute beating at the hands of Junior dos Santos. At the end of the fight Carwin’s face was bloody and swollen, he was cut under both eyes and appeared to have a broken nose. Carwin was ineffective during the fight, landing 22 strikes compared to dos Santos’ 104. Carwin was never in the fight, but he showed that he can stand in there and take a beating.” No mention of heart, and you know why? Because it doesn’t exist, outside of the realm of metaphor. The truth is that Carwin can take a punch and he elected to take many of them over the course of the fight. That’s more a deficiency of strategy than anything else.
It leads to things like this. Carwin’s trainer, Trevor Wittman, who by all accounts is one of the best in the business, had the following to say to MMAMania after the fight, “To me, that was like watching a Rocky Balboa movie. Movies are made about stuff like that. As a trainer, I felt we won. We didn’t win the fight but we won as a person and as a team. He did not get beat mentally.”
I understand where Wittman is coming from in this – he has to take something positive away from the loss for his fighter – but to state that Carwin’s beating is the stuff “movies are made about.” Well, that’s a stretch. To say he won as a person and a team? How is that the case? Your fighter gets a loss on his record and he also received a trip to the ER. That’s a loss. The “moral victory,” like heart, is just a weak consolation. While Carwin may not have been beaten mentally he sure as hell was beaten physically and in a sport where you are judged with a W or an L, that’s what counts. There are no asterisks after a loss that say, “He showed a lot of heart.”
So please, let’s do away with “heart.” It was a lame power to have on Captain Planet, and has even less relevance in the real world.