In MMA, we’re constantly being reminded that one of the many things that makes our sport great is the mutual respect and admiration between the athletes. As fans, there’s something inspiring about seeing two guys pound each other for 15 minutes and then smile and shake hands afterward. It’s also fun to see guys fight when it seems like they’re really enjoying themselves. The sportsmanship, the camaraderie, the brotherhood; that stuff is great. But last night at UFC 115, all the smoking-and-joking and gripping-and-grinning might well have cost Pat Barry a win.
Let’s make no mistake in recognizing that Barry is one of the more likable guys in all of MMA. He’s smart, has a great attitude and possesses a real knack for dropping sweet quotes in otherwise dull press conference situations. In the days leading up to the UFC 115 co-main event – Attn: UFC. Not every show has or needs a “co-main event.” – Barry made no bones about the fact that his battle with Mirko CroCop was a dream come true. He and CroCop, in fact, were chiefly responsible for entertaining the collected media during fight week. But inside the cage on Saturday night it appeared that Barry might’ve let all that mirth cloud his killer instinct.
The New Orleans native certainly got the better of the early striking exchanges. Twice during the first round he dropped CroCop with right hands, but both times allowed his opponent to regain his feet without pressing the action. The first time, perhaps this was a smart move. As we found out later in the fight, Barry doesn’t have great ground skills so maybe letting CroCop stand up was a calculated bit of strategy.
The second time however, when Barry tagged CroCop so hard it caused ringside physician Dr. Joe Rogan to let fly with one of his trademark, on-the-spot diagnoses of a broken bone, Barry should’ve capitalized. Even if he wanted to avoid a grappling battle, it’s seems likely Barry could’ve finished the stunned Pride veteran with strikes from the top had he pushed forward.
Instead, Barry again let CroCop stand-up and we all know how that decision turned out. In between all the hugging and fist-bumping over the next 12-minutes or so, Barry began to tire. During the latter stages of the final round, it was CroCop’s turn to land some devastating punches. The only difference was, when CroCop got the upper hand, he didn’t hesitate to impose his will on the mat.
Once the fight hit the ground, it suddenly looked like Barry wasn’t having much fun anymore. CroCop was able to jockey for position and lock in one of the lesser-seen submissions in MMA: The no-hooks rear naked choke. Barry, who might’ve wormed out of it if he were fresher and hadn’t just been punched in the face a bunch of times, tapped quickly.
As Dana White intoned during the earlier video post, in retrospect we could probably argue all day about whether Barry gave CroCop too much respect, or not enough. Perhaps he believed he had a significant advantage on the feet. Perhaps he didn’t want to test CroCop on the mat. Perhaps he was just having so much fun that he didn’t want it to end in the first round.
Whatever the case, when you talk a lot before the fight about how you’d like to get your opponent’s autograph once it’s all over, it looks a lot better for you if you win.