CagePotato Roundtable is our new recurring column in which the CP writing staff and some of our friends all get together to debate an MMA-related topic. Joining us this week is former CagePotato staff writer Chad Dundas, who now writes for an up-and-coming blog called ESPN. If you have a suggestion for a future Roundtable column, send it to firstname.lastname@example.org.
CagePotato reader Alexander W. writes: “The Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall fight inspired my suggestion: Greatest robberies in MMA history. I’d be curious to hear the variety of opinions out there. Surely that fight was a top ten.”
There are a lot of things about Pride Total Elimination 2003 that don’t make sense when viewed with modern MMA sensibilities. How to even comprehend a world where a skinny, haired-up, suit jacket-wearing Dana White could bet Pride bigwigs $250,000 that Chuck Liddell was going to win that company’s 2003 middleweight grand prix? Or comprehend that a bizarrely dangerous and clearly-enunciating Liddell showed up in the first round of said tournament and KTFOed an impossibly svelte Alistair Overeem? Or that Overeem had an old dude in a robe and shriners hat accompany him to the ring while carrying a big foam hammer? Or that on this night somebody got tapped out with a sleeve choke? Or that Wanderlei Silva fought Kazushi Sakuraba and it didn’t just make everybody feel sad and empty?
No sense at all.
What does still sort of make sense is this: After watching Liddell sleep Overeem, there was no way on God’s green Earth that Pride judges were going to let another UFC emissary walk out of Saitama Super Arena with a win*, so they conspired to pull off one of the greatest screwjobs in MMA history when they awarded Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira a unanimous decision over Ricco Rodriguez. The indisputable fact is, Ricco whipped Big Nog good that night, taking him down, brutalizing him, shaking off his feeble submission attempts and controlling pretty much the whole affair. At least, that’s how I remember it. Unfortunately, due to Zuffa’s ongoing war on Internet piracy it seems their bout will only be remembered by history and by the creepy old man who answers the queries you submit to the Sherdog Fight Finder.
What stings the worst about the whole thing is that it’s easy to imagine an alternate universe where that decision went the other way. In that universe, maybe Rodriguez goes on to become one of the sport’s most beloved and respected figures, ascending to full-on legendary status and winning gold in both Pride and the UFC, before having his arm snapped by Frank Mir at UFC 140 without so much as changing the expression on his beautiful, leathery face. And instead it’s Big Nog who slips unceremoniously into obscurity, slumming it on Celebrity Rehab and fighting out his days at events like Israel FC, Cage Thug MMA, and Armageddon Fighting Championships.
If that universe is out there somewhere, I hope we all find it someday.
(*Yeah, I’m just guessing about all this, but it feels true in spirit.)
Doug “ReX CaiolaBatata” Richardson
Look, everyone knows that a robbery in PRIDE means nothing because the whole thing was fake anyway. At least in those cases, you knew that the judges had their reasons. Here in America, we have robberies based off of pure, home-grown stupid. We produced the master karate sensai judge that thinks leg kicks are pointless. Out on the regional scene, in places like Texas, Ohio, Florida, and Arizona, we’ve seen decisions passed down that were mind-gobblingly incompetent. Try to forget that those same states are players in national politics.
So let me tell you bastards about Zoila Frausto. Frausto was fighting at bantamweight and walking around at 150 pounds before Bellator announced its only tournament for women in 2010 — at 115. It was a brutal weight cut, but Frausto made it. Throughout the tournament, her most impressive victories were over the scales. A bland weight-loss diet left her unable to train intensely, and her performances in the cage were every bit as anemic as you’d expect. She out-muscled a visibly smaller boxer in Jessica Pene in the quarter-finals, earning an uncontroversial, but uninspiring win.
Her opponent in the semis at Bellator 31 was Jessica Aguilar, a fantastically well-rounded fighter out of American Top Team. The Warrior Princess spent most of the fight backpedaling, and her face told a bruising tale after fifteen minutes. Aguilar didn’t have a scratch, but Frausto got a split decision — one of the judges gave her all three rounds. I honestly thought the judges were confused about the fighters’ identities — the decision was that bad. So Frausto advanced to the finals.
Here, at least, justice would be done. Frausto’s opponent was Megumi Fujii, the undefeated, best female fighter on the planet (she’s not a can crusher ben dammit icanthearyou lalalalalalalalalalala). Fujii had outclassed both her opponents in the tournament, and she’d have her way with this interloper and claim an American title.
Except she wouldn’t. Fujii, like some kind of insane Sakuraba with a vagina, elected to stand and box with the one-dimensional striker. Frausto does her best Leonard Garcia impression [Ed. note: Hold on, I'm getting to that. -BG], putting on an impressive show of offense without actually managing to do anything or even land most of her attacks. Fujii out-lands her, out-maneuvers her, and out-works her. But those big arm movements must be impressive from a distance. Despite Frausto’s swollen face and rapidly closing eye, one Florida judge scores it four rounds to one for her, another sees it a bit closer, one judge has a brain in his head but he’s outvoted and boom: Frausto catches another gift decision and claims the Bellator Straw-weight Championship.
Rematches with both Aguilar and Fujii have been pursued, but neither have ever materialized. To this day, the women’s rankings are skewed and Frausto retains the belt. She’s hasn’t fought at 115 since October 2010.
Greatest robbery in MMA history? Lee Murray vs. Securitas, no comparison. The dude masterminds an elaborate kidnapping/cash depot heist, and walks off with over $86 million before going on the lam in Morocco. That’s even more impressive than beating Tito Ortiz’s ass in an alley.
If you need a “real” answer, then fine: Leonard Garcia vs. Chan Sung Jung at WEC 48, which is the robbery by which all modern robberies are judged. It’s the LeBron James of robberies. Judges love Leonard Garcia because he grunts like a female tennis player when he throws punches, and that irrational love helped Garcia take a similar decision against Nam Phan in December 2010, and previously hypnotized one judge into scoring it Garcia’s way when he got blown out in all three rounds against Mark Hominick at WEC 51. But Garcia/Jung 1 has to be the worst of the lot — or anybody’s lot — because it added a foul aftertaste to the greatest MMA brawl since Griffin vs. Bonnar at the TUF 1 Finale. It’s the proverbial poop-pie at the end of a great southern meal.
According to FightMetric, Garcia shouldn’t have won any rounds of that fight, let alone two. Here’s how Bad Boy clinched the split-decision, despite being outstruck 106-71 — he scored two takedowns, and he was the aggressor for much of the fight, meaning that the faces he made while audibly whiffing his hooks were much scarier than his opponent’s, as the Korean Zombie was tagging Leonard at will. Obviously it wasn’t a career-ender for Jung, who got his revenge 11 months later. But it was such a perfect representation of what’s wrong with modern MMA judging: Striking totals don’t matter, each takedown counts for a billion points, and “Octagon Control” can always be used to justify scoring it for the guy you like better. Ugh. Terrible.
Jefferey “Karmaatemycat” Watts
Whenever I think of a robbery, normally Matt Hamill and Michael Bisping immediately come to mind. But a fight that tops even that is Machida/Rua 1 at UFC 104. That fight was incredibly hyped because of “The Machida Era.” Everyone was so entranced by the Elusive one. The Dragon had us eating out of the palm of his hand. Besides, nobody really knew which Mauricio “Shogun” Rua would show up for the fight and to be honest, who could blame them? After multiple knee surgeries, a broken arm, and some seriously lackluster performances not many people saw this as anything but an uphill battle for Rua. Machida was even favored in the odds by over 4-1, and for good reason.
However, right from the start, Shogun took to the center of the Octagon and kept cutting angles on Machida. That set the stage for some dirty boxing but more importantly some incredibly vicious leg kicks. It was evident before the end of the first round that Shogun was landing the more damaging shots. Machida started off in southpaw, but as I said, those leg kicks quickly changed all of that, seeing as Machida needed to change stances during round three.
It became apparent in round four and five that Machida had slowed down considerably. Meanwhile, Rua kept pushing forward, landing harder strikes, cutting Machida off with angles, and pushing him against the cage. It seemed like Rua had it all in the bag. It isn’t often you find yourself agreeing with Mike Goldberg but this seemed like one of those times, a clear-cut unanimous decision for the challenger, right? Wrong.
Judges Cecil Peoples, Nelson Hamilton, and Marcos Rosales scored the bout 48-47 for Machida. Rosales and Peoples both scored the first three rounds in favor of the champion, while Hamilton gave Machida rounds two, three, and four. After the fight, Cecil Peoples stated that leg kicks don’t win fights, and further explained that he thought Machida was landing the cleaner, more efficient shots during the entirety of the fight. FightMetric, however, disagreed claiming Shogun outstruck Machida in round one (19 to 11), round two (21 to 7), round three (19 to 14), round four (10 to 4), and round five (13-6). I don’t know what three of MMA’s most experienced judges were smoking the night of UFC 104, but I would wager it smelled of shenanigans.
Luckily for MMA fans and Shogun Rua, the Baldfather saw the fight a bit differently than the judges. He granted Shogun an immediate rematch. Rua won the rematch in such devastating fashion that Machida’s own father called for his son’s retirement.
Remember that scene from The Hurricane, where the black Rubin Carter beats the hell out of the white Joey Giardello, yet loses on the scorecards of the blatantly racist white judges? Yeah, it turns out that the real fight was nothing like that. At all. Not that that should surprise you. That scene displayed such over-the-top biases that I’d assume something like that could never happen in real life if I wasn’t familiar with Mariusz Pudzianowksi vs. James Thompson II.
It’s not that I want to believe that the outcome was predetermined; it’s just that literally everything about the completely unnecessary rematch leads me to that conclusion. The rematch was booked for KSW 17: Revenge — an event named by the least subtle person to ever work for the Polish MMA promotion. While Mariusz Pudzianowski was unsurprisingly the overwhelming fan favorite, his only significant offensive output was a jab he landed early in the second round. Meanwhile, Thompson landed numerous takedowns and punches from the mount and side control throughout the fight. Thompson dominated, yet Pudzianowski was still declared the winner by majority decision. While a terrible decision shouldn’t always lead one to believe the bout was a work, it doesn’t help that one of the judges’ scorecards looked like this. The hometown hero had earned his revenge — on paper, at least.
The fight has since been declared a no-contest due to miscommunication between the judges, who declared the bout a draw which should have warranted a sudden-death round, and the referee. Not that it matters. Even if the miscommunication never occurred, the sudden-death round was completely unnecessary. Thompson won easily and has nothing but a no-contest on his record to show for it. Fauh-king joooooooooke, indeed.
Marcos Galvao may be the most cursed man in the history of decisions. For every gift Leonard Garcia is undeservedly given, three Christmas presents are stolen from beneath Galvao’s children in their sleep, metaphorically speaking. I would quote something about the yin and yang of life, but being that I was recently ostracized from my tree dwelling commune for urinating on one too many stray animals, I will save the liberal hippie analogy for another day.
The point is, Galvao’s fight with Joe Warren at Bellator 41 was the first time in recent memory that I actually believed the judges were paid off. Fresh off his damn-near-heroic comeback victory over Joe Soto, in which he snagged the Bellator Featherweight championship, self-proclaimed (aren’t they always?) “Baddest Man on the Planet” Joe Warren decided to make a run at the Bantamweight crown. Why he was set on trying to capture two titles before defending one is beyond me, but Warren figured he’d test the waters against journeyman Marcos Galvao in a 137-pound catchweight fight back at Bellator 41. Galvao, who was riding a three-fight win streak over mediocre competition, seemed like a perfect matchup for both Warren and Bellator to display the champ’s dominance. This idea has backfired on Bellator before, and it should have backfired on them on that cool April night.
The first round was close, but clearly Galvao’s, as Warren’s main offensive output consisted of attempting wild takedowns that succeeded in getting him mounted on more than one occasion. Perhaps that was the goal, but I can guaran-damn-tee his goal in the second round wasn’t to eat as many flying knees as humanly possibly, and yet that’s how it went down. The third was clearly Warren’s, but was nowhere near the 10-8 round he would have needed to walk away with a lucky draw. Despite all this, Warren would claim victory, and Galvao’s children would go hungry for another night, because the world can be a cold, unforgiving place. Though Warren would meet his maker in Alexis Vila shortly thereafter, Galvao would wind up on the wrong end of another bullshit decision against, you guessed it, Alexis Vila. Yin and Yang, folks.
Go ahead, TRY and throw some Fightmetric stats at me for the Warren/Galvao fight; it will be as pointless an argument as the one that tree-hugging tyrant Raiyne Thomas-Kirkpatrick-Gilligan and I had before I was kicked out of Serenity Gardens. Neither of us are going to change our ways, so we’d best just move along.
Did we leave out any good MMA robberies? Let us know *your* #1 pick in the comments section.