UFC 94 Winners and Losers

The Winners

By Luke Thomas Feb 3, 2009
The epic and historically significant UFC 94 was witness to true elite ascendency for the reigning welterweight king, as well as (forced) recognition of fallibility for the lightweight champion. And between the two, there were others who won and lost. Let’s unpack what happened.

The Winners

MMA journalism

One of the more welcome developments in MMA is coverage from mainstream traditional media outlets. While the coverage can leave much to be desired in terms of analysts’ erudition about the sport or even skills in writing and broadcasting, ESPN is actually getting matters right. Honing their craft and finding best practices as they go, they’ve finally found a format that no one else offers; namely, using professional and active fighters at the highest level for on-air extended analysis.

There are numerous capable analysts in MMA, but unlike other sports that get significant media treatment, MMA fighters have heretofore not adopted such a prominent role in offering insight from the inside. And between the experiences of Frank Mir and Kenny Florian, the ability to cover a wide swath of topics with expertise is there. There is very likely a ceiling on the number of fighters available to do this sort of work at the level Florian and Mir deftly do it, but that ESPN is finding some real value-added content is encouraging nevertheless.

Lightweight and welterweight divisions

As Jon Fitch pointed out before UFC 94 went into the history books, had Penn defeated St. Pierre, the title picture for two weight classes would’ve become quite the conundrum. To say nothing of how arduous it would’ve been to appropriately time fights to give Penn the ability to defend both crowns regularly, what would’ve happened if, say, Penn tore his ACL in training?

Not one but two divisions -- two of the most dynamic in MMA -- would’ve either had to wait for Penn to heal or encumber matters by holding fights for the “interim” championship. With St. Pierre reaffirmed as the welterweight king and Penn back to his natural division, the UFC can take a big sigh of relief that title fights won’t be that hard to come by.

Photo by Sherdog.com

Did Lyoto Machida
secure a title shot?
Georges St. Pierre

It’s almost impossible to understate St. Pierre’s performance Saturday. Virtually every conceivable dimension of fight preparation and planning was incorporated into an exhaustive game plan. And that game plan happened to be superbly executed by St. Pierre, a MMA virtuoso of seemingly limitless potential.

There are a number of methods to evaluate his accomplishment, but his repeated and diverse passing of Penn’s elite guard combined with his ability to control and damage from side mount was simply otherworldly and illustrative of the entire affair. Aside from solidifying St. Pierre as an all-time great, the methodical dismantling of Penn raises the ceiling on what one MMA fighter is capable of working effectively in competition.

If there was a prognosticator who believed St. Pierre would effortlessly pass Penn’s guard, he was well hidden the last two weeks. St. Pierre exceeded what even his most ardent supporters thought possible and let the MMA community know he had skills he has yet to master. The one arena that Penn could safely retreat to if matters got difficult -- that is, jiu-jitsu -- was gone as St. Pierre used a variety of passes to stuff the point home on who the better fighter was. That is both amazing and utterly frightening.

Lyoto Machida

The victory over Thiago Silva will not likely net “The Dragon” a title shot against Rashad Evans, but it will help to improve one severely lacking commodity most fighters covet: an image as exciting and compelling. In a card uncharacteristically stacked with decisions, the one fighter often derided for using an offensive style lacking in violent reciprocity managed to dispatch a capable challenger in convincing and exciting fashion.

Moreover, while speaking the native language of the country in which you fight is by no means a requirement, those fighters who look to nurture fanfare and become prominent champions should disavow the notion that speaking their native language is good enough to get by. The selfish impulse of fans to have athletes perform and act on their behalf can be overwhelming, but the task of speaking English and working diligently to finish opponents is not. Machida’s proactive gesture to use the native language to address fans will, over time, go a long way toward building interest in a fighter some suggest could be wearing the UFC light heavyweight strap by 2010.
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