A Collection of Damp Feet

By Mike Sloan Apr 9, 2007
Nobody - and I mean nobody - picked Matt Serra (Pictures) to triumph in his quest for the UFC welterweight title. Not against the seemingly invincible Georges St. Pierre (Pictures).

Literally every single person I spoke to in my daily travels and literally every single e-mail/MySpace message I received pertaining to this match-up were all in favor of a GSP victory. More people had Randy Couture (Pictures) pulling off the upset over then-champ Tim Sylvia (Pictures) than there were people picking Serra to win.

And, boy, did Matt Serra (Pictures) win!

My pre-fight prediction was that St. Pierre would have some trouble with the bullish Serra but would wind up scoring a unanimous decision victory. I didn't foresee St. Pierre having too much trouble keeping Serra away with his smoother striking and several inch reach advantage. I didn't envision Serra submitting GSP, either. I also didn't concede that Serra would have enough air in his lungs to compete at the highest level of warfare for five full rounds.

I also didn't think that Serra would decimate St. Pierre in less than a round and walk out of the Octagon sporting the same belt that graced the waists of such legendary fighters as Matt Hughes (Pictures), Carlos Newton (Pictures), Pat Miletich (Pictures), B.J. Penn (Pictures) and St. Pierre.

It's not that I thought Serra was some sort of jackass off the street who didn't belong in the same Octagon as those mixed martial arts icons; it's just that I thought Serra's best days were behind him. He had come up short in the previous three biggest fights of his career (Karo Parisyan (Pictures), Din Thomas (Pictures) and Penn) and I still firmly believe that Chris Lytle (Pictures) deserved to win when they fought in the grand finale of TUF 4.

Most "experts" rolled their eyes at Serra landing a crack at St. Pierre's title, scoffing at the notion of him challenging for a championship when all he did was basically land the shot by default. He had won a game show, really, and what exactly had this Long Island lobster, who made a career on MMA's B List, done to even deserve a chance to become a fistic immortal?

Well, the answer to that series of questions was keep to himself, train his ass off and remain patient, that's all. Serra knew this had to be the last chance he'd ever get at becoming a legitimate champion and the New Yorker had never felt better in his entire life.

It was all or nothing and all the negativity and doubt that surround his once-delayed title shot only festered deeper within his soul. His conquest of St. Pierre was the ultimate result of years of dedication, falling short of achieving championship goals and having the opportunity to finally - finally - flip the bird at everybody who doubted him.

When Serra asked if there was some humble pie in the back room for everybody, I could tell that was probably more satisfying than stopping his opponent with a dizzying barrage of punches. I know as much as anybody that there is almost no greater feeling than proving someone wrong and Serra proved virtually every single person involved in MMA wrong. He made us all insert our stinky, damp, corn-covered feet into our collective mouths.

Congrats to Matt Serra (Pictures), the new UFC welterweight champion. It's times like these, when a massive underdog overcomes seemingly insurmountable odds and finally lands his hands on a world title belt, that make this sport so great. Nobody thought he'd win, especially in the manner that he did. That is what makes the fightsports the most entertaining sport on the planet and that is why I continue to come back to it no matter how corrupt it can be at times.

A nightmarish defeat

I have one question for both Diego Sanchez (Pictures) and the world: What on earth was "Nightmare" doing for 15 minutes? The answer is simple: he wasn't fighting. He allowed Josh Koscheck (Pictures) to handle him from start to finish and not once did he ever show any signs of desperation. What was he thinking?

Obviously it's much easier to say this when I'm the dope writing the column and not the one actually putting my life on the line, but how many times do I and others have to witness a talented fighter simply give a fight to his opponent? Time and time again I have to witness some brave warrior walk around the ring or cage round after round after round doing absolutely nothing in order to win.

I can sit here and rattle off three dozen boxing matches that have gone this way but this is an MMA column so I won't. But come on, Diego. You had to know by the middle of the second round that you were losing to a guy whom you despise. The capacity crowd was hissing and booing lustily towards the end of the first round and by the midway point of the third, the boos were so severe that it was actually difficult to hear Mike Goldberg agree with Joe Rogan.

Sanchez threw few punches, attempted a few paltry jump kicks and I honestly don't recall him ever shooting in for a takedown. By the start of the third round, Sanchez had to have known that he wasn't even coming close to winning the fight on the feet, yet he never shot. What boggles my mind is at the 3:00 mark (roughly) of the third round, Sanchez got close enough to Koscheck and actually grabbed him. Sanchez applied double under hooks and it looked like he was going to try and bring "Kos" down, but seconds later he let go of the under hooks, backed away from his foe and proceeded to do nothing.

I've said this countless times and I'll continue to say it, fighters need to understand that you have to try to win your fights. Don't sit back and do nothing. Greg Jackson, trainer extraordinaire, had to be coughing up bile watching his master student give the fight away. I don't know if Sanchez was injured, mentally distracted or just too damn stubborn to actually try Plan B but either way you slice it, he got tooled by Koscheck.

And Koscheck, even though he won hands down, shouldn't be jumping for joy too much. He played it too safe and lost a cargo ship's worth of potential fans. The crowd was angrily booing both fighters, not just Sanchez. Koscheck scored an almost too easy takedown in the first and never once tried it again.

Sure he was winning the fight clearly and it's usually wise to keep that up, but how much honor is in winning a fight when the crowd is on the verge of storming the cage because you play it way too safe while your opponent just follows you? And Tim Sylvia (Pictures) wonders why many fans don't like watching him.

Sokoudjou: The real thing?

OK, OK, who is this guy? I literally never heard of this cat named Sokoudjou before February 24, 2007 and now here he is the talk of the town. He appears out of nowhere as some unknown fighter brought in to be a bucket of chum for the awesome Antonio Rogerio "Minotoro" Nogueira and winds up sparking him out cold in 23 seconds.

So that was a fluke, right? Sokoudjou had just lost to a guy whose first name is Glover, as in Danny Glover from Lethal Weapon. He bombarded "Minotoro" so, OK, it was a mental lapse on the Brazilian's part. Sokoudjou is just another James "Buster" Douglas in disguise, right?

Then comes PRIDE 34 this past weekend and here is this same Sokoudjou guy obliterating an elite fighter by the name of Ricardo Arona (Pictures). Tell me, what in the world is happening here and how good is this Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (Pictures)? Entering the bout, Arona had beaten many of the best and had lost only to elite.

Guys like Wanderlei Silva (Pictures), Quinton Jackson (Pictures), Mauricio Rua (Pictures) and Fedor Emelianenko (Pictures) were the only men in MMA capable actually beating Arona. So here comes Sokoudjou and knocks him senseless with a brutal uppercut in under two minutes. I see a trend here and I am foaming at the mouth to see what this man does next.

How long ‘til the rematch?

If the fight between Roger Huerta (Pictures) and Leonard Garcia will not wind up being the fight of the year, then I will probably rob an adult bookstore just to witness whatever fight will top this classic. Even though Garcia clearly lost all three rounds, he made it the most exciting three-rounds-to-zip war I've ever seen.

Huerta is the type of fighter who will be sporting a spiffy gold-plated championship belt one of these days but that's not to discount Garcia at all. Yes, Huerta is the superior fighter and yes he dished out much more than he received but the heart, stamina and skill that Garcia displayed is what every aspiring fighter should look at for inspiration.

If these two tiny warriors never fight again, it will be one of the greatest travesties in the history of MMA. Without question this is the best fight of 2007 and clearly the best fight in MMA since the epic first encounter between Forrest Griffin (Pictures) and Stephan Bonner. I absolutely cannot wait until Huerta and Garcia go toe-to-toe again. Let's just hope it's for a title so the sadist in us all get two extra rounds.

How legit is Stevenson?

The answer is simple: he's extremely legit. I was a bit skeptical about Joe Stevenson (Pictures) when he fell flat on his face en route to dropping a depressing decision to Josh Neer (Pictures), but in the three ensuing fights, "Daddy" has shown everybody why he is as hyped as he is.

While Melvin Guillard (Pictures) isn't exactly B.J. Penn (Pictures) (when he actually trains for a fight), he is a formidable opponent with deadly striking. Any fighter who makes a mistake against Guillard will be splattered all across Queer Street, that's how dangerous he is. But Stevenson avoided the initial onslaught and wrapped up a textbook guillotine, forcing a tap in just 27 seconds.

I will put my reputation as an "expert" who has won more Great Sherdog Debates than anybody else and say this: Joe Stevenson (Pictures) will hold the UFC lightweight title before the end of 2008. Mark those words, kids. They are the gospel.

Misc. debris

UFC commentator Mike Goldberg is a funny man. I was laughing almost to the point of bladder eruption when, during the Josh Haynes (Pictures)-Luke Cummo fight, that he said something along the lines of if Haynes can't start landing his strikes, he'll definitely look to bring Cummo to the mat. Joe Rogan quickly inserted a correction and said that's not Haynes' style and he'll never bring the fight to ground, he only wants to throw bombs. Goldberg immediately said, "I agree with you 100 percent." Hilarity, indeed. …

A note for fighters who will lose in the future and I don't care who you are or what you've done: Act like Georges St. Pierre (Pictures) did on Saturday night. He made zero excuses and gave all the respect and credit in the world to Matt Serra (Pictures). Even though GSP is no longer the champion, his character remains on top of the world. …

Butterbean scored a keylock submission win over the blubbery Zulu in the last PRIDE. I realize that the Bean hasn't toppled anybody even remotely near the upper echelon of mixed martial arts and that Zulu isn't exactly a carbon copy of "Minotauro" Nogueira, but he has 10 wins already. Fat chance (pun heavily intended) of this actually happening but can you imagine if he was somehow pitted against someone the caliber of Fedor or "Cro Cop" and he landed one of those murderous bombs? …

This season's Ultimate Fighter appears to be an entertaining one. I, personally, have always preferred watching the smaller fighters over the bigger guys and this season is all lightweights. Coaches Jens Pulver (Pictures) and B.J. Penn (Pictures) clearly don't like each other and that should lead to some fireworks. Where does Dana White buy his shirts for crying out loud? …

In keeping with TUF 5, I honestly have absolutely no clue as to what happens throughout this season and I couldn't even begin to tell you who makes it to the finals. I didn't know the official final cast until the show aired on Thursday but my prediction on who will become the "champion" is Gabe Ruediger (Pictures). …

Don Frye (Pictures) is clearly one of the most exciting fighters to ever grace a cage or ring. There truly is no point in disputing that opinion but I believe it's time for "The Predator" to hang ‘em up. He's done enough to elicit smiles on everybody's face for over a decade and now he was just iced by James Thompson (Pictures), a man who had lost four of his last five bouts entering this past weekend's fight. …

After Kurt Pellegrino (Pictures) submitted Nate Mohr (Pictures) on Thursday's UFC Fight Night card, he expressed to everybody that his main goal is to have teammate Hermes Franca (Pictures) as the lightweight champion and he'll be the No. 1 contender. He said that's how he wants it to be forever. Does this mean that he never wants to become champion? …

Alan Belcher (Pictures) got caught in a beauty of a D'Arce choke from Kendall Grove (Pictures) on the UFC 69 card. That submission is a classic and I can't remember off the top of my head the last time that I saw one of those happen live. I usually call it a Shaolin choke, but it should be called a boa choke or python choke, since it closely resembles the anaconda choke. …

How hung over do you think Matt Serra (Pictures) is right this minute? …

Hit me up at www.myspace.com/sherdogsloan
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