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The Thin Line Between “Elusive” And Boring


In case you missed it somehow on Saturday night, Joe Rogan wants you to know that Lyoto Machida is elusive. And because he doesn’t trust your ability to pick up on this right away, he relies on repetition to get the point across. Conveniently, this viewpoint — the one that deems Machida elusive and Tito Ortiz hopelessly confounded by that elusiveness — is right in line with the plans of the UFC brass. Funny how that works, isn’t it?

I’m not saying that Rogan doesn’t truly feel this way about Machida. For all I know, he does. But the mere fact that the UFC was looking toward a future with one of the fighters in the Ortiz-Machida bout and probably not counting on any such future with the other really makes it difficult to take what we hear at face value.

If it had been Ortiz circling cautiously away for most of the fight, relying on a few sporadic fits of action to win a decision, would Rogan have praised him for being so elusive? Or would he have suggested, in some roundabout way, that Ortiz was avoiding the fight?

The point is, we don’t know. We can’t know. But what we do know, what we’ve learned over the years, is the UFC does not cast off talent lightly. They have a way of shoving it out the door, and that alone gives us reason to wonder if what we’re hearing on a broadcast is a genuine perspective from Rogan or whether it’s the company line. Like it or not, that’s a problem.

To his credit, Rogan seems like an honest man who prizes his autonomy on some level. Mike Goldberg, on the other hand, seems like he’d say anything the UFC asked him to without even thinking about it long enough to understand what the words mean. But the fact that we have cause to ask these questions at all is troubling.

How you feel about Machida’s fighting style seems to be a personality test of some sort. Does his strategy of avoiding the action until he can engage on his terms make him boring, or does it make him tactical? Has he figured out a style that takes a lot of the risk out of MMA, or has he merely figured out a way of not fighting and still winning?

You could make an argument for both perspectives, so it’s not as if we can accuse Rogan of trying to put over an undeserving fighter with pro wrestling-style hyperbole. At the same time, this is something that’s fairly unique to MMA right now. The NFL doesn’t get to choose the broadcasters for its games, and while you may get a healthy dose of bias watching your local baseball team on TV, it’s so overdone and understood that it doesn’t have much impact.

Fighting is a different sport that way. The commentary, particularly in a fight that goes to a decision, can shape the way we view it. It’s a lot like watching a “Rocky” movie with the sound off — suddenly you become acutely aware of just how fake it is.

Imagine the effect that a glowing commentary can have on fans who are newer to the sport, who aren’t sure whether what they’re seeing is good or bad. A close decision can easily be made to seem more lopsided. A boring fighter might even seem a little more exciting. So much can be changed by having someone in your ear telling you what to make of it.

I’m not sure what the answer is for this problem. Part of Rogan’s job is to express an informed opinion, so on some level we’re either willing to trust that he’s being forthright with it or we aren’t. Maybe the solution is for the UFC to work on a more even-handed approach with their fighters, even the ones they want to get rid of. There’s no need to make it personal. If they don’t want someone on their roster, it’s fine to let them go. They don’t have to discredit them or make them look bad to justify the decision.

Hopefully the UFC learns this soon, and then we can go back to assuming that opinions expressed by Joe Rogan are his alone, even if we disagree.

(-Ben Fowlkes)


Cagepotato Comments

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trey_trey- May 30, 2008 at 4:11 am
spot puff, your an idiot too! tito put his hands down twice and both times he got nailed! i have watch the fight 4 times and i KNOW what happened. get your facts in order fool!
trey_trey- May 30, 2008 at 4:08 am
tito could have cut him off if he really wanted to engage him. it is boxing 101! he moves to his right... you move to your left! your in his face! tito did'nt want to engage him (you saw what happened each time they did). tito wanted it to APPEAR that he was chasing him. it was the perfect gameplan for machida! tito knew that if he could not get him on the ground and lay on him for three rounds that he would lose! think about it... p.s. c-bus...your an idiot!
Spotpuff- May 28, 2008 at 1:11 pm
Totally agree with C-Bus regarding the judges' evaluations. Tito controlled the Octagon and was far more aggressive. It was aggravating to see a guy backing up the whole fight and picking and choosing when to engage. He should have lost based on timidity. Tito even put his hands down and said "Come on, throw a shot" at one point and Machida stayed put.


Khalib Machida ftl.
ThePeniX- May 27, 2008 at 3:51 pm
I love Machida's salty nuts and how they roll all over my tongue....
Daniel- May 27, 2008 at 1:35 pm
Not the most exciting fight to watch. Hard to judge whether Machida has the ability to go toe to toe with anyone of consequence. Respect his ability to "win" even if he is not trying to finish his oponents.
Zombie Rock- May 27, 2008 at 5:39 am
Interesting debate and I can appreciate both sides, kind of. The way I see it, a fighter can play the points game and strategically win, or he can go in there and actually show people something exciting. Machida is clearly there to win by any means necessary and I can respect that. I'm just wondering why he didn't just snipe Tito from a six story building in the parking lot on the way to the fight and not have to risk getting hit at all. Winning is cool and all but excitement is what puts asses in the seats. A Machida vs. Machida match would put a motherfucker in a coma from boredom.
krakavelli- May 27, 2008 at 3:59 am
OK - Tito is not the Tito of the past - he's bang'n Jenna J and has all the money he could want - the motivation is gone and there's nothing to prove. There was an obvious lack of will to pound Machida like he is so capable of doing. That being said, it's sad that a fighter like Machida w/ all this hype around him didn't do more to pull a real (W) - instead he danced his way to a decision (maybe he's better suited for dancing w/ the stars??)- look folks I want to like this guy but if this is his style I'll go back to watching boxing (zzzzzzzzzz) .... and for the records this guy should not even be mentioned in the same sentence as GS*.....or Anders..... let me stop there - NOT EVEN MENTIONED.
Phantom151- May 27, 2008 at 2:25 am
I am a former hardcore Tito fan and this fight was a snore fest... his last few have been for me, I like the old school bird flippin tell ya all off and ground and pound everyone to ownage Tito, then to gay it all up on his exit instead of a big pound sand UFC/Dana White just spoiled it all for me. What Happened to the former 5 time Champ???
James- May 26, 2008 at 11:12 pm
And no Machida does not do it all. Stand up he couldn't handle Sokoudjou. On the ground he nearly got submitted by Tito of all people.

What he is good at is running away. He runs the whole fight until the other guy gets bored and then comes in and does his cheap shin kicks.
James- May 26, 2008 at 11:09 pm
So true, he is a point collector.
Sam- May 26, 2008 at 10:55 pm
Machida isn't a fighter the whole 3 rounds he did nothing but cheap little shin kicks and managed 1 takedown on tito. When they did end up on the ground he nearly got submitted.

Machida is a point collector not a fighter.
tully- May 26, 2008 at 10:19 pm
i think joe is definitely a good announcer. most of the time he is right on and has insightful things to say about the fight. but there have been times were i have been watching and it almost seems as if he is on one fighters side and he isnt really calling correctly he is just explaining why what one fighter is doing is good and doing the opposite for the other fighter. so maybe there is someone in his ear a little bit, but you cant blame him for taking orders hes got one of the coolest jobs ever.
Anonymous- May 26, 2008 at 9:10 pm
Lyoto Machida = Kalib Starnes
John- May 26, 2008 at 8:15 pm
I watched the fights with 2 friends. One of them hated the fight and thought it was completely boring. One of them was indifferent, just happy to see Tito lose. And I loved the fight. I'm a big time Machida fan and I respect his technique. It might not be as bloody as other fighters, but that doesn't make him boring. I agree that technique and strategy are what seperate MMA from a back alley brawl. I'm glad to see some of it taking place in the Octogon.

Also, just as a side note, my friend who hated the fight was also the one who knew the least about MMA. He just wanted to see blood and people smashing each other in the face.
Dota- May 26, 2008 at 8:01 pm
Machida doesn't seem like he ever wants to finish a fight he just wants to win a decsion and go home. To me that is boring. I would rather watch Ricco Rodriguez eat an entire cow than watch Machida "fight."

The UFC needs something other than ten point must. Why not have the Pride rules. The winner tried to finish the fight or got the closest to finishing it. That should be enough to provoke someone to at least try to finish.
Patrick- May 26, 2008 at 7:53 pm
This is coming from a website that is actively involved in a promotional circle jerk with Kimbo Slice. Way to stick it to the man, Mr. Integrity!

I geniunely enjoy and appreciate Machida's skills, so naturally I think it's hogshit that you're passive aggressively calling out Rogan as some kind of corporate talkbox because he understands the talent that Machida possesses.
sol- May 26, 2008 at 7:37 pm
if you check out some of Machida's other fights you can see he doesn't like to start off the action and chooses to react, when he does react he does it with style, see round 1 upper body takedown of Tito (that was some crazy power) and round 3 with the hit to the stomach.

Im not saying it was the most fun fight to watch, Machida relied on Ortiz's mistakes, but Ortiz made few of those. Stick Machida with forrest, rampage,wanderlei,shogun,tiago,chuck and things will be different (personally i think he can finish most of those guys) but it wont be boring.
TheFeniX- May 26, 2008 at 7:33 pm
@ Kissenger

"TheFeniX - you, sir, are clearly an idiot. No one says that Tito pioneered GnP - people say that about Coleman."

I said he pioneered it when?

What I said: "They don’t call him a pioneer of ground and pound because he lays on people for a decision."

Read. Comprehend. Post.

You don't have to "invent" something to be a pioneer with it.

If you don't like ground and pound fighters or don't find them "exciting," whatever. I personally don't give a shit. But down-playing the skills of a fighter just because you don't like how they fight is retarded.

And don't even put Machida in the same circle as someone like GSP. GSP takes fighters into their own world and demolishes them. He beats guys like Koshcheck at their own game (wrestling and take-downs). He gets himself into a position where (on paper) he should be at a disadvantage, and then proceeds to dominate. The rest of the fighters on your list do it all and casual and hard-core fans actual care to remember their names. Why is that?

How about because Silva can and will knock your ass flat with pin-point punches while back-pedaling. How about because Penn might on paper be better suited to submit a guy, but he's also more than willing to knock their teeth out. Just because you can coast to a decision victory doesn't mean you should. Many top level fighters live by that, Lyoto doesn't. That's why he's not as popular as the others on your list. That was the whole point of my post which flew over your head.

Lyoto constantly keeps the fight in his world, working where he has the advantage. And I've yet to see any fighter give him a real go at taking him out of his comfort zone. That shows a lot of talent on his part, but also a lot of weakness in the fighters he faces.

When he finally gets that fight in the UFC (or where ever) when his back is against the wall (not just figuratively) and he's pressured relentlessly and he comes out on top, then he'll deserve to be listed in the same league as guys like GSP and Silva.
mmafan- May 26, 2008 at 7:03 pm
Watching Machida fight is like watching paint dry. If this is the way MMA is heading then it will join boxing as a no one watches.
Kissenger- May 26, 2008 at 6:49 pm
Well said, Trippin Ninja.

TheFeniX - you, sir, are clearly an idiot. No one says that Tito pioneered GnP - people say that about Coleman.

Tito has finished a lot of fights in his time, but that doesn't make him an exciting fighter. Here is a run down of a typical Tito victory: charge opponent, take down, hit with elbow, repeat same move for 3 rounds, put on stupid t-shirt.

He is the very definition of one-sided. Machida and others (Silva, GSP, Penn) can do it all, and that's what makes them exciting, because you never know what is coming next.
jakey- May 26, 2008 at 6:37 pm
Thought the fight was great best of the night. I know the double switchkicks might not have done any damage but that was some Bruce Lee shit going on there and I was like "Wow" when I saw them! I think Lyoto's great - if anyones boring in their career it's guys like Ortiz and Sherk ; and it was a great night for the sport I think because they both got beat
Mr.Whitefoks- May 26, 2008 at 6:34 pm
The dawm thing was a dance recital, Machado had the hand but for the most part Tito MCed the fight(Mastered the Cage) if he losted it should of been by close
split decision.
veikkaus- May 26, 2008 at 6:24 pm
I've got to say, I too love watching guys trying to punch each others head of the shoulders. But I still got to admit that Machida was a genius on saturday. Who would want to go toe to toe against Ortiz, who weren't invited into Dana's afterparty. I don't think Machida was afraid connecting with Tito, he was just smart. And that is the thing that differs mma into a sport from bar brawls.

And you got to admit that the feint kick into Tito's face was pure art.
Vrax- May 26, 2008 at 6:19 pm
Strangely it was actually Mike Goldberg who was more complimentary towards Ortiz, remarking "Tito is still one of the strongest Light Heavyweights out there" and both Rogan and Goldie touted Tito's conditioning, and "expertise" in cutting weight.

As far as coloring this fight int he eyes of the fan, to me, their worst offense was saying that Tito has blocked the headkick. That'd be the same headkick that split his eye open. Which he didn't block.

Or maybe it was when they said he was close to the triangle. He simply wasn't. Now, before you bash my inability to watch fights, I ask that you check out a replay of that scene in slow-mo. What you'll see is that the moment Tito figure-fours his legs, Machida bends his right arm and draws his shoulder down to create space and prevent the triangle from choking him.

That is why Tito went to the Armbar. The armbar was close until Machida rolled, landing with his arm safely elbow-down, removing the fulcrum from the lock. And winding up countering the position in the same way that Rich Franklin did against Travis Lutter. When Franklin did it? He was hailed for his brilliance, Machida on the other hand is being called lucky.

I don't think we have much to worry about with regards to Rogan's honesty, if there was I doubt he'd be directly contradicting Goldberg when Goldie said that Sherk was "in the pocket". That said, it's always good to let em know we're watching.

Also, dear fans, learn some fucking JiuJitsu so you know when someone is in trouble or not. Or don't, whatever.
Jeff- May 26, 2008 at 6:15 pm
I think Machida attacked JUST enough to hide the fact his game plan was to run away all night. It looked like there was no power in his strikes, like they were only thrown to look good for the judges. Machida did really well and I think he won 10/9, 10/9, 9/10, but he took NO CHANCES at all the entire fight. He showed all brains and no brawn.

Machida had an opportunity to become a beloved fighter, he blew it with a boring cowardly performance.