(Photo via Piper Sports Photography)
The bell ringing didn’t change that. I walked out to the cage with Audioslave’s “Doesn’t Remind Me,” playing, got in and waited for Devon to arrive. He walked in second and I stared at him across the mat while they introduced use. I was booed, he was cheered.
Unfortunately, I continued to wait for Devon after the bell had rung. Then I got my bell rung. I moved to the center of the ring but let him get off first, with a stiff jab. It thudded against the top of my head. It was a glancing blow but I could already see how he’d knocked out a recent opponent in just eight seconds. The kid had heavy hands. I shot in weakly on Smith and he defended. At some point I ended up in my half guard after he had stuffed my shot. He felt heavier than I had expected and before I could rock him back and forth or start to dislodge him from top position, he began raining down shots.
In practice punches to the head can hurt. Devon hit me harder than I had been hit at any point in the past couple weeks of training, but I didn’t feel pain. I did, however, see a flash of white after getting hit by one of his punches while on my back. I don’t remember how, exactly, but I got to my knees, grabbed his left leg and tried to put him on his back. I did everything wrong — didn’t use my head correctly, didn’t suck in his hips, didn’t use my legs or raise my own hips higher than his — and he freed himself and began to unload on my head as I lay turtled up on my elbows and knees.
Instead of trying to stand up or roll out, I remember thinking about what I had planned for the rest of my trip. I didn’t mean to and to this day, I’m mad at my psyche for thinking about that while fighting, for thinking at all. I had interviews scheduled with Steve Mazzagatti and Randy Couture in Vegas. I had plans to see friends and enjoy the ocean with a chick in Los Angeles.
These pleasant thoughts are not what you need going on in your head while you fight. You need to embrace the darkness of fighting another man while you’re doing it to have a chance. You also need to just go and react, not think. I was out of the fight. In fact, from the right before the opening bell I felt like I was looking down at myself, like I wasn’t really present. Before I could refocus the referee had stepped in and called a stop to the fight.
My loss was as one sided as my win in May was. In a silly demonstration, I got up and kicked the cage in anger. I should have kicked my opponent. I threw my mouthpiece out of the ring. A fan threw it back into the cage. Like baseball fans throwing back a ball hit by the opposing team, these Prince Albert people get into the fights and they know where their loyalties lay.
After seeing white while being hit I waited all night and the next day for the headache to come. It didn’t. I guess I could take a licking — something I wasn’t sure of in my first two fights — next I needed to learn to take one and then return fire. Showing up was no longer good enough. In terms of my focus, maybe the travel got to me. Maybe the cameras did. In terms of skill set, a guy like Devon was simply a tough fight for me and deserves credit for being the better fighter, plain and simple. I had a lot to work on. I had a lot to ask Randy Couture, who I would meet in Vegas in about a week’s time, as well as Antoni Hardonk and Rickson Gracie black belt Henry Akins, who I had plans to train with in LA.
If friendly thoughts contributed in any way to my poor showing, they sure helped me start to get over it. I had a day of flights ahead of me, then a drive through a desert to mull over my failure. After that, I’d try to wash it away in the Pacific.