(Well, that explains it.)
When message board commenters gush about how much better The Ultimate Fighter alumni are than the rest of the fighters in their respective division, we typically just give the little TUF noobs a proverbial pinch on the cheek and dismiss their uninformed opinions as being asinine as a result of the impeccable job the UFC and SPIKE did convincing them its true.
But when a so-called MMA expert like Franklin McNeil continually gives the edge to fighters who have appeared on the reality show in bouts against fighters who are widely considered more skilled and are thus ranked accordingly, it makes us shake our heads in disbelief that ESPN, the leader in sports coverage, gives this guy a forum to spew his skewed view of the sport under the guise of journalism. We may print a ton of opinion pieces here, but CagePotato isn’t proclaiming to be the CNN of MMA coverage and we’re clear in stating that editorials contain (sometimes cynically humorous) bias and are not to be taken as fact or even seriously in some cases. ESPN, however, is a different animal than CP.
Josh Gross, you have our sympathy.
In his latest pro-TUF puff piece, boxing-writer-turned-MMA-Analyst McNeil statesmatter-of-factly that Keith Jardine is likely to beat Gegard Mousasi at this weekend’s Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley event because he’s simply a better fighter. The problem isn’t his opinion that Jardine is a better fighter, it’s the fact that McNeil actually tried to justify it by pointing out irrelevant points like, “Jardine has faced stiffer competition than Mousasi,” and “He’s more motivated because he wants to go back to the UFC.”
Why not add in there that he does a better TechnoViking imitation and grows a better goatee for good measure?
“Looking strictly at Keith Jardine’s past four UFC bouts — all losses — it is easy to dismiss him Saturday night against Gegard Mousasi. To do so, however, would be a big mistake — both for fans and foe. “The Dean of Mean” has found the old spring in his step and, more importantly, a fresh mental outlook at the future. After his release from UFC, Jardine fought three times. He lost the first, but fine-tuned his stand-up game and rebounded with two wins in a row. It wasn’t the wins that breathed new life into Jardine, however, but an unrelenting desire to get back in UFC. He just needed to get the attention of UFC’s decision-makers. His break came a few days ago when UFC matchmaker Joe Silva offered him a chance to fight Mousasi on the Strikeforce main card. The timing and matchup couldn’t have been better; Mousasi’s fighting style is tailor-made for Jardine,” McNeil wrote.
Besides, there is nothing Mousasi will show Jardine that he hasn’t already seen in the cage. Jardine has faced more-skilled fighters than Mousasi.”
Sure Jardine may have faced better competition than Gegard, but he hasn’t beaten anyone better than he is. The same can’t be said for Mousasi.
Jardine has two wins in his past seven fights over the past two years. His biggest wins came against Wilson Gouveia (unanimous decision), Forrest Griffin (TKO), Chuck Liddell (split decision) and Brandon Vera (split decision). Mousasi has only lost once in the past three years and has beaten Denis Kang (submission), Hector Lombard (decision), Evangelista Santos (TKO), Melvin Manhoef (submission), Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza (KO), Renato “Babalu” Sobral (KO), and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (TKO).
And to say that Jardine’s herky-jerky style of stand-up is tailor made to beat Mousasi — a well-rounded fighter with no particular weaknesses besides being able to get out from underneath a bigger wrestler — is somewhat of a stretch, considering the fact that Gegard has beaten much more technical strikers in the past.
The OJ glove of McNeil’s non-sensical case he put together for a Jardine is his argument that because Keith was working on cutting weight to compete at middleweight he will not need to cut weight for the bout.
“Two more things favor Jardine: motivation and weight. Jardine was eager to accept this fight on short notice because making the 205-pound limit is a nonissue. He will make weight easily for Saturday night’s bout, and it could likely be his last at 205. Jardine has not been this excited about a fight in years. He’s driven to not squander this opportunity to get back under the Zuffa banner and bank account. Don’t be surprised Saturday night to see the Keith Jardine who took UFC by storm in 2005-06.
So being smaller than Mousasi is an advantage for Jardine? Interesting concept.
If beating Kerry Schall, Mike Whitehead, Forrest Griffin and Wilson Gouveia is what constitutes taking the UFC by storm, then I guess it wouldn’t be a stretch to say that we’re the darlings of the MMA world.
At least McNeil’s fellow ESPN columnist, Brent Okamoto has a grasp of reality.
“Coming off back-to-back wins for the first time since 2006, Jardine has managed to fight his way back into mixed martial arts relevance — but only by a thread. He’s light years away from the “Dean of Mean” who started off 4-1 in the UFC, which included a first-round finish of Forrest Griffin.
Effort and dedication aren’t the problems for Jardine. Even at 35, coach Greg Jackson says he’s still developing, and he’s certainly staying active. Saturday’s Strikeforce bout with Gegard Mousasi will mark his fourth in just seven months.
The problem is that Jardine has lost what initially made him very successful in this sport — the element of surprise. Although he was never a marvel to watch from a technical standpoint, his unorthodox stand-up made him a nightmare to prepare for.
But at some point — around 2007 — people figured out how to fight him. Unorthodox can be a good thing, but it can also include a few bad habits — habits that can be exploited by somebody who’s well prepared.”