Brooding, fierce Kevin Ferguson advanced upon the center of the cage at the sound of the timekeeper's bell and adopted his attitude in front of Dhafir Harris. A lock-kneed stance from which he loosely bobbled his head: the familiar posture of a boxer whose knees have long since atrophied but whose creditors still need placating. The rotund Harris flicked out a pair of linear, low-line kicks with his lead foot as if to tell the world that he had in fact been learning and growing with each day since the bout had been agreed. Each missed. On the second, Ferguson leered at Harris who took this as the go ahead for the bum's rush he had been wagering his chances on. The giant's hands flailed wild as he charged Ferguson to the fence, but Ferg was quick to duck in and snatch up his hips. Unceremoniously Harris was dumped on his back and those in attendance felt a change of dynamic. No, there would be no minute long barnburner here today. Instead we were to witness a grinding war of attrition across every phase of our great sport's play.
Joking aside, there is no good way to spin Bellator 149. In fact, we were damn close to a point where poking fun at it would have been in poor taste. This was because it came to light shortly after the event that Dhafir Harris—Dada 5000 if you must—succumbed not to Kevin 'Kimbo Slice' Ferguson's punching power but to heart failure in the cage. Apparently being forced to drop forty pounds in the weeks up to the fight in order to even make weight for the heavyweight contest almost cost Harris his life. If you don't want to read any more about this abortion of a fight, scroll down to 'The Good Stuff' and we'll cover some of the beautiful, technical stuff that happened in the wonderful world of MMA this weekend.
If you hadn't worked out why I and so many others in MMA are so opposed to these 'fun' freak show fights, this might come as a nasty wake up call. There is more to being a professional athlete in a grueling combat and endurance sport than simply being a marketable name who is willing to get in there and 'have a bash at it'. To the promoters of the world I would say this: if you want to see someone killed on a televised MMA card, keep booking events between men who have zero experience or who are clearly twenty years past the days when they could compete effectively, we'll get there soon enough.
Returning to the worst fight that I have ever seen, Ferguson moved quickly to mount on Harris after the fence saved him from being swept by a butterfly sweep sans butterfly hook.
When he got to mount, he did the skydiver—put in the grapevines and spread his weight. Harris went for the unorthodox head and arm clinch to keep Ferguson tight to him, unorthodox because it completely exposes the elbow to being walked up into an arm triangle choke or to set up attacks from a high mount. Whatever Harris was doing obviously worked, because Ferguson managed to gas himself out while in mount and doing nothing. Then Ferguson attempted to stand up from mount and fell over himself.
Harris clearly has instincts for grappling, even if his technique isn't quite there yet. This snapdown from the second round reminded me of a young Dave Schultz.
We laughed last week about the obviously corrupt referee standing Dada 5000 up from the bottom of mount in his MMA debut, but Kevin Ferguson did so little that Big John McCarthy, the best ref in the game, actually took him out of the mount to make something happen.
I suppose this fight makes an excellent case for the newly announced Bellator Kickboxing, because Kevin Ferguson was never going to just stand and bang with Dhafir Harris like anyone who could ever be excited for this fight would have hoped. This guy might be an awful fighter, but he's trained for months between Bas Rutten and at American Top Team. It is amazing that someone can have access to all of that knowledge and all the training opportunities in the world and still look this bad against a fighter who clearly has no idea about any of the basic elements of MMA.
At any rate, Harris' heart gave out and Kevin Ferguson was declared 'King of the Streets'. But if that is anything like the hardcore title in the era of the 24/7 rule, he should cross his fingers and hope that Demian Maia and Ben Askren don't get bored waiting for a chance at the UFC title and decide they want to be 'King of the Streets' as well.
In the main event Ken Shamrock tentatively circled the significantly smaller Royce Gracie—a man who hasn't fought in ten years and whose only submission victory since 1994 came over Akebono. When they finally engaged, Gracie wound up kneeing Shamrock square in the junk and the referee didn't notice—allowing Gracie to follow Shamrock to the ground and hit him with inconsequential blows to the face as Shamrock clutched his cup, this earned Gracie the TKO. You have to Gracie Filter this one pretty hard to find a win for anyone.
The Good Stuff
So shame on Scott Coker and shame on us all for watching because viewers who tune in to watch a train wreck show up in the ratings exactly the same. This could turn out to be Bellator's most successful event and that is a sad thought. But is the Coker plan working? Are the people tuning in for the freakshows and being exposed to the top quality fighters lower down the card? Put it this way, no one is talking about Linton Vassell picking up the biggest win of his career over Emanuel Newton, or Derek Campos' phenomenal knockout of Melvin Guillard—great performances from great fighters—and that's a damn shame.
So here's some eye bleach to ease your mind about the state of MMA. Jamie Yager came back from a three year lay off to fight at World Series of Fighting. Pushed the fence in the opening seconds he utilized the classic pairing of the guillotine and the half-stockade or what Eddie Bravo terms the “100%”. Though a powerful neck crank if the opponent can be pinned in position, this is usually used to force the opponent to change position. Yager followed his man to the mat and applied an armbar with his legs from the scarf hold.
Undefeated Angela Lee picked up another submission with the aid of brilliant use of the front headlock and Peruvian necktie. With the legality of knees to the head of a downed opponent, the front headlock and the various head and arm chokes and guillotines which sprout off of it gain much more importance. Under the unified rules of MMA the front headlock and its sister grips have been neutered somewhat so it's always nice to see someone making the most of it over in ONE FC.
Marlon Moraes defended his WSOF bantamweight title by first round knockout against Joseph Barajas. It is important to remember in this era of traditional martial arts kicks and side on stances coming to the fore that the fighters who have success with them do so by mitigating the existing flaws in those methods. If you come out side on against you are putting yourself at a disadvantage for checking low kicks. If you're really good and you know what you're doing with distancing and side kicks, you can mitigate that threat. If you can't, you're just a sitting duck.
And last but by no means least the aforementioned Derek Campos did a spectacular job of beating up Melvin Guillard. With a drunk (but still surprisingly insightful) Mike Tyson on commentary, Campos found tremendous effect with the same method that Evander Holyfield used to punish Tyson's rushes—he dropped his head underneath Guillard's, looked down, and Guillard ran onto it. The infamous 'nodder'. Guillard was visibly stunned and Campos quickly knocked him down with further blows.
While a dirty tactic, it might well have happened by accident. Though Evander Holyfield's repeated use of this “he ran onto me” method in professional boxing was a real practiced skill. Holyfield always made sure that the hard top of his skull was coming in from underneath the opponent, into the soft skin of their face.
The finish came in the second round as Campos pressured Guillard to the fence. Campos launched a poorly thought out right low kick as Guillard circled away from it, but immediately capitalized with a tight left hook which caught Guillard circling into it. Campos followed with a flurry of blows which saw Guillard seemingly go in and out of focus several times before slumping to the canvas.
Plenty of other great fights happened on ONE FC and World Series of Fighting this weekend and it really hammered home that we are in the middle of an era wherein top notch talent and prospects can be found all over the place simply due to the number of athletes now competing in mixed martial arts. If Bellator keeps burying its talent in favor of freak fights, we will never be short of excellent fights elsewhere in the world to cover.
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