Monday Morning Reverie: Who Woulda Thunk It?

Monday Morning Reverie

By Mike Sloan Jan 29, 2007
What a difference a week makes. This column was unfortunately absent last week due to the fact that nothing happened event-wise for me to write about.

Yes, the WEC came to my hometown and the IFL kicked off its season, but since I was unable to watch — let alone attend — either show, yours truly had zilch.

However, this past week was a treat for all mixed martial arts fans as Zuffa delivered a solid event for everybody’s viewing pleasure. Of the four UFC Fight Night bouts televised on Spike TV, three were stellar. Also, the added pizzazz of watching Randy Couture (Pictures) routinely dismantle a few regular dudes on Pros vs. Joes was just something else to pile onto my mostly weekly column.

Rashad Evans (Pictures): “Cro Cop” in disguise?

The first words that muttered out of my mouth were, “Oh! He’s done! Salmon’s out!” The next words were, “Wait … where did THAT come from? Since when does Rashad kick like ‘Cro Cop’!?” Then it was, “Man, Salmon is still down. I hope he’s OK.”

To say Rashad Evans (Pictures)’ out-of-nowhere kick to the head of Sean Salmon (Pictures) was impressive would be the understatement of an early 2007. I’ve sung the praises of Evans for quite some time now, but even after his sensational stoppage of Jason Lambert (Pictures) the jury was still out on the light heavyweight until Thursday night.

It’s funny how a few fights will do that for a fighter. One day he is a good fighter who bores the snakes out of Ireland. The next day he is clearly one of the best, most exciting fighters to ever step foot into the Octagon. Evans has morphed from totally geek to totally sheik in less than 25 official minutes.

Evans was once a fighter, according to many critics, who was pretty good but couldn’t close the show and stunk up the venue. Now, all of a sudden, all of these “experts” spew nonsense like: “I told you so! I knew Rashad was that good!”

Not to toot my own horn, but where were all of these Evans backers when he was winning dominant decisions? People can very easily go back and read my own articles and columns and they’ll see that what I wrote has thus far come true.

Evans always had the talent to make some noise in this sport and I knew that given the opportunity he’d become exceptionally hard to beat. He mopped the canvas with Stephan Bonnar (Pictures), creamed Lambert and now nearly decapitated Salmon.

Granted, those three opponents aren’t exactly a trifecta of Chuck Liddell (Pictures), Wanderlei Silva (Pictures) and Ricardo Arona (Pictures), but at least they had pulses and carried some sort of name recognition, save for Salmon. But whichever way you slice it, those three wins were emphatic enough to make people start talking about Evans’ potential and how far he’ll go.

Rashad is one fighter I consider to be “very good with the potential for greatness.” As long as the Greg Jackson-trained Evans keeps his head on straight (which, trust me, won’t be a problem) his name eventually be mentioned in the same breath as Liddell, Silva, Tito Ortiz (Pictures), etc.

Is Evans ready for the likes of Liddell or Silva just yet? Not quite, but he’s not far away from that time right now. If you ask me whom he’s ready for, I’ll quickly name drop some popular, great fighters like Ortiz, Quinton Jackson (Pictures) and Mauricio Rua (Pictures).

I feel more strongly about Evans’ potential than I do his teammate Keith Jardine (Pictures) — and everybody already knows how I feel about “The Dean of Mean.”

To be an elite fighter, one has to first be good. From there he must beat other good fighters and once his experience and talent make him great, he should steamroll all of the good fighters and either defeat or narrowly lose to fellow great fighters. Once said fighter starts toppling other great fighters, the only thing that can stop him from becoming elite is complacency, and that is a character trait I highly doubt Evans will acquire.

Hermes continues to roll

Hermes Franca (Pictures), the 2006 comeback fighter of the year, continued to impress virtually everybody, scoring a stellar second round stoppage over the gritty Spencer Fisher (Pictures). My pre-fight pick was Fisher by split decision and boy was I wrong.

The fight itself was a torrid battle with each man taking turns pummeling the other. Fisher was winning the fight on my scorecard until one of Franca’s wild and loopy right hands finally hit its target.

Fisher was able to take the punch somewhat well (meaning he wasn’t knocked out cold), but Franca hit him a bit too hard and Fisher was never able to recover. Sensing blood, Franca immediately swarmed his woozy foe and forced a referee stoppage.

The victory was a sensational one for Franca, who was granted a summer challenge against Sean Sherk (Pictures). Franca is one of those guys who you can’t help but cheer for, and after a dreadful 2005 it certainly is heart-warming to see him win his eighth consecutive fight while securing a title shot.

As for Fisher, the young and gutsy contender has nothing to be ashamed of. He’ll bounce back in no time and within a year or so, depending on whom he can triumph over in the coming months, will be back in the title hunt.

Stop complaining and start fighting, Heath

Nothing chaps my skin more than watching a talented fighter struggle against an opponent and then halfway through the contest, become visibly frustrated and basically give up.

When Heath Herring (Pictures) began complaining almost endlessly to the referee about how his adversary, Jake O’Brien, was doing nothing but laying on him, I lost my patience.

At what point in the fight was Herring going to stop bitching about losing badly and actually start to try and win? The answer was never. It was crystal clear that Herring took O’Brien lightly (his first mistake) and that the “Texas Crazy Horse” didn’t fully train. When a fighter complains and complains and complains while being taken down repeatedly, laying on his back repeatedly and giving up the mount repeatedly, it’s time to actually try something new.

Hey Heath: It’s not the ref’s job to make O’Brien stand to-to-toe with you. It’s your job to remain on your feet and fight your fight. And when you are on your back, why not try for some submissions or try to sweep him? Instead, you kept rolling your eyes, waving your arms and squawking to the referee. I’m starting to think that Herring got gassed at the end not because he spent so much energy fighting, but because of the complaining.

Or so it seemed.

The only other explanation as to why Heath looked like a relative novice against O’Brien could be traced to an injury. Provided that Herring entered the cage with a pre-existing injury, it would further demonstrate his lack of firepower and would aid in finding an answer as to why he didn’t look like the Herring we all have come to know.

It has been speculated that Herring actually entered the Octagon with an injured knee that he hurt a few weeks before the fight. If that’s true, then at least half of the gripes should be eradicated. It’s never a pleasantry for a fighter when he or she has to fight through a nagging injury, and like I said, if Herring did enter the bout already below 100 percent, then his performance should be somewhat excused.

Aside from the few losses he suffered early in his career and save for the ones against Ramazan Mezhidov (cuts) and Sam Greco (Pictures) (knee injury), Herring has only lost to the elite of the elite (Nogueira twice, Fedor, and “Cro Cop”).

Herring has, in my opinion, always been one of those fighters who was super talented but could never take that next step into greatness. Once he hit his stride and became a perennial Top 10 heavyweight, he was never able to score that ever-important win. On Thursday it appeared as though he didn’t train like he normally does and thought of O’Brien as a showcase fighter.

I can’t speak for everybody who loves the fight game but I have grown beyond nauseated by watching gifted fighters take opponents lightly, refuse to train fully and basically give up when they can’t figure out how to win unless, of course, an injury is already there. Herring is better than what was on display inside the Octagon on Thursday night and anybody who actually knows him knows that.

Here’s hoping he hasn’t blown his chances of making a ton of cash with the UFC because I can guarantee that the thousands of fans who saw him fight for the first time do not want to see him again. Whether Herring actually had an injured knee before he entered the Octagon still remains to be seen. If his knee was hurting, then much of the flack he’ll assuredly receive should be deflected and ignored. If there really is no injury, then shame on Herring and his camp for making up a convenient excuse for being soundly beaten.
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