Photo by Sherdog.com
Sherdog’s Beatdown(s) of the Year
By Jason Probst ([email protected])
What exactly defines a beatdown?
While the answer probably depends on whom one asks, the process of answering the question reveals what the person asked considers damaging, and that, in itself, can vary.
While your garden variety Beatdown 101 can be something as unambiguous as Phil Baroni blasting out Dave Menne with a torrent of spot-on bombs or Wanderlei Silva finishing Quinton “Rampage” Jackson with textbook knees from the plum clinch, the aftermath of the beatdown often raises bigger questions than the fight itself. In effect, competitors who issue a statement that resonates along with the performance distinguish themselves.
In the case of Brock Lesnar and Anderson Silva and their stoppages of Frank Mir and Forrest Griffin, respectively, those statements were indeed issued -- in big, bold print, to boot.
After extensive balloting, re-voting and enough back and forth debate to wear down the hardiest of C-SPAN junkies, Sherdog decided to go with co-winners for Beatdown of the Year for 2009. Perhaps it was because the savage degree of punishment Lesnar and Silva delivered was so effective, yet so different in its delivery.
Either way, being on the receiving end those two nights was an object lesson, something that should be shown to every would-be fighter as a cautionary tale of getting what you wish for. Sometimes, one gets hit with the kitchen sink, and the world will be there to see it.
Coming into his July 11 rematch with Mir at UFC 100, Lesnar had made admirable progress rebuilding his career momentum after tapping out to a kneebar from the submission ace 17 months earlier in his UFC debut. Rebounding with a dominant decision win over Heath Herring and an impressive stoppage over champion Randy Couture, the powerhouse wrestler faced an improving Mir, who had registered the first-ever stoppage of Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Using surprisingly sharp striking, Mir’s stand-up game was impressive and figured to be another weapon he would need against Lesnar.
While their first bout resembled a 90-second train wreck -- with Lesnar roughing up Mir before getting caught in a slick leg submission -- the common wisdom held that Lesnar would have to avoid Mir’s clever holds and find a way to be effective without offering the opening he did in their first scrap.
That he did, in such dominating fashion that it made one wonder if the massive wrestlers in the heavyweight division might completely take over the sport.
After circling and throwing a couple leg kicks, Lesnar immediately closed on and secured a takedown just 38 seconds in, settling into half-guard -- a position that set up virtually every punishing blow that followed. After nearly a full minute of punch-less action, Lesnar, his crushing base established, started hammering with his right hand, using his left to tie up Mir’s head and left arm. While Mir occasionally looked to his cornermen to reassure them he was OK, it became apparent that there was nothing he could do to dislodge the powerful monster on top of him who had clearly realized the value in short, punishing strikes from this stifling position. In the opening five minutes, Lesnar landed roughly 20 strikes to the head, with a series of body whacks, as well.
At round’s end, Mir’s face showed welts and marks indicative of a hard fight, and he seemed to know he had to change plans. Thirty-five seconds into the second round, Mir had his best sequence of the fight, as he landed an elbow and followed with two knees to the head. However, it only seemed to ignite Lesnar, as he took down his man, slid into half guard again and pushed Mir against the cage.
From there, the monstrous Minnesotan exploited the situation. After landing five short, smashing rights, Lesnar pinned his foe’s left arm behind his back and unloaded, hammering 16 rights as Mir’s head bobbled against cage, floor and fist before referee Herb Dean intervened.
Since the bout, Lesnar’s battle with diverticulitis postponed his November defense against Shane Carwin, and the champion’s health remains a sobering question mark. Whatever Lesnar does from here on out, his display of positioning, control and pure power was a chilling reminder of what today’s athletes can do given the smallest of openings. In a way, Lesnar smashing Mir was every bit the tactical paradigm shift as Mark Coleman’s salad days at UFC 10 and UFC 11, where his overwhelming wrestling and ground-and-pound forever changed assumptions of what was possible in the sport.
Facing Griffin at UFC 101, middleweight champion Silva was feeling the sting of back-to-back lackluster performances. Challengers Patrick Cote and Thales Leites did little to try and take his belts, and as a result, whispers were that “The Spider” was losing the aura of the feared assassin who burst on the UFC scene with seven straight stoppage wins en route to becoming champion.
Griffin figured to make a good fight. Known for his dogged style and overachieving approach, the former light heavyweight titleholder had an up-and-down 2008, as he decisioned the favored Rampage for the belt in an inspiring performance before he was knocked out by Rashad Evans in his first defense. A motivated Griffin figured to be exciting and, paired with a hungry Silva moving up a weight class, presented a solid matchup.
The conventional wisdom was correct, but in all the right ways for Silva, who demonstrated a shocking disparity in skills rarely seen at the world-class level.
The two opened the match circling and probing, with Griffin leading and throwing kicks that hit air, designed to test the range for a more committed strike. Silva, moving easefully, noted these with nary a flinch, as has become his custom. A minute in, Griffin offered up his first ante, a hard right kick to the thigh; Silva promptly trapped it and fired back a right hand-left sweep kick combination that sent Griffin to the canvas. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 1 winner smartly rolled away and popped back up.
Silva resumed his ballet on the canvas, looking like a man practicing his footwork alone. Griffin kept pushing, tentative but increasingly persistent.
With 3:05 left in the round, Silva struck again, slipping a jab to land a pinpoint hook that spilled Griffin on the canvas. Griffin sprang to his feet quickly, only to eat another hook. At this point, Silva became visibly energized and nodded at Griffin, throwing in some shake-and-bake head movement. Clearly enthused at the prospect of an exciting fight with a willing partner, Silva landed a fast straight left. Then, with 2:18 left, he masterfully slipped a three-punch combination and uncorked another left that dropped Griffin hard.
Silva landed a few glancing blows standing in Griffin’s guard but soon after decided his masterpiece would be best served from standing position. In a bit of noblesse oblige, he gestured for Griffin to rise, even touching hands with the Georgian as he returned to his feet. By then, Griffin had been down three times, but he soldiered on. Silva then slipped a one-two combination as Griffin lunged forward and closed the show with a fall-away right jab. As Griffin toppled to the canvas, Silva’s statement was complete.
In closing, Lesnar and Silva offered up distinctly different pictures of what defines a beatdown. In each case, however, the artist paints his picture with an impressive end product.