Rooting vs. Analyzing

When I post things on this site, I do so with the conceit that what I’m writing is as objective as possible. And, more often than not, it is. For example, when I write a breakdown of what I think will happen at any upcoming event, I break the matchups down in my brain from a style standpoint only, and I pick my winners based on who I think will actually emerge victorious, not simply who I WANT to emerge victorious.

I’m going to be real here, though. When I sit down and actually watch the fights, I become a raging hypocrite. I immediately start rooting for “my guy”. Sometimes, I don’t know who “my guy” is until the fight actually starts, but it’s rare that I’m 2 minutes into a fight thinking nothing more than “these two gentlemen are engaging in fisticuffs, and I consider myself both delighted and fortunate to be a spectator of this athletic endeavor.”

Perfect example: the Brendan Schaub-Ben Rothwell fight at UFC 145. Going in, I expected Schaub to stick and move and outpoint Big Ben pretty easily with his fists. In the back of my mind, I was keenly aware that this was Brendan Schaub, a man that could accidentally hit his head on an awning and instantly be unconscious. Still, this seemed like a perfect comeback fight for him. Move around, avoid takedowns, and get in and out with your combinations. 30-27 Schaub.

But … no. Right away, it was clear that Schaub had a speed advantage, but Rothwell was firing back ably. I immediately lost my mind. “Come on Ben, throw hands! You might be slow, but you’re tough! If he’s stupid enough to stand in front of you and throw, you’re seasoned enough to drop him!! GO BEN! C’MON BEN!!” No more than 20 seconds later, Schaub forced a wild punching exchange, and Rothwell dropped him with a right uppercut-left hook combo, and that was all she wrote. I just sat there making the Macauley Caulkin “Home Alone” face, and in that moment, I was an MMA fan, not an MMA scribe.

Rothwell pulled off a shocker against Schaub.

I want to focus on that moment. What if all of my “objective” pieces are just window dressing? What if I’m a hypocrite of the highest order? I want to write about MMA for a living someday, but what if I can’t, because I’m too much of a fanboy? I always wonder about MMA media guys like Jordan Breen and Josh Gross, dudes that always seem to remain objective. Do they ever ROOT for anyone? Do they ever scream at their televisions, “Jesus Christ, Miguel Torres, you’re swinging wild again! Stop! You’re going to get knocked out, dummy!” This must happen sometimes, right? After all, at the very least, Breen is a degenerate gambler. He must root for guys, if for no other reason than to fatten his wallet.

However, the likely answer to my “Do they openly root for anyone?” question is probably “not very often.” But I do. So here are my “real” thoughts on many different fighters. Quick note to all the fighters mentioned here: I have no idea if you are really like the way I perceive you. I offer you a sincere apology if I misrepresent you in any way. But reality doesn’t matter as much as the perception of reality. Bingo bango.

“Get that knee up, Cheick!”

- I dislike Cheick Kongo. He’s a good striker, but he’s not fun to watch. He’s a decent wrestler, but he rarely uses wrestling. He’s one of the dirtiest fighters that’s ever walked the earth; he’ll grab shorts, “accidentally” knee dudes in the nuts (only it seems to happen in every fight), get that one extra shot in, all of it. He’s the guy that goes shopping for clothes, spends $5,000, and stares longingly at himself in the mirror naked with regularity. He also looks like every bad guy from every bad action movie from 1992-1995.

- I dislike Karo Parisyan. After his recent mind-numbing victory over Thomas Denny, someone stuck a microphone in his face and asked the perfectly appropriate question “Karo, you haven’t won a fight in three years. How does it feel to finally get your hand raised?”

Instead of acknowledging all the problems he’s had with panic attacks, addiction to painkillers, and falling down the ranks of a welterweight division that he was once a staple of, he just stared back at her and condescendingly quipped “Wow, you’re putting me on the spot here, sweetheart.”

Yes, Karo. It was warranted. I also love (translation: strongly dislike) the addition of the word “sweetheart”, which, had a microphone not been present, I suspect would have been promptly replaced with a word that rhymes with “bitch.”

Karo Parisyan never met a legitimate stoppage he couldn’t whine about.

He’s also someone who could have his left leg amputated by a kneebar, Faces of Death style, and still claim that the stoppage was early.

Karo Parisyan. Do you know who he is, bro?

- I dislike Alistair Overeem, but not because of his various and frequent debacles in all kinds of avenues of life. I dislike him simply because he comes off in interviews like a man that’s trying to seem gregarious, but has that look on his face like “Listen, little man … we’re cool right now, but you ask me one question I don’t like, and I’m going to come out of this fleece jacket and curb stomp you.” He also likes to go too hard in sparring, beat up bystanders on camera, and stand behind the name of Dr. Hector Oscar Molina. I also used to love his PRIDE days where he’d smirk at whoever he was fighting in the staredown, only to be pummeled 4 minutes later. I think that face made dudes mad, and they definitely took it out on him. Always struck me as funny.

There’s broken noses, and then there’s what Thiago Silva did to Brandon Vera.

- I dislike Brandon Vera. A man who beat Fabiano Scherner and the late Justin Eilers and proclaimed that he would hold both the HW and LHW belt. A man who had an absurdly long holdout period considering what he’d actually accomplished (I mean, talk about a sense of entitlement. Who did he think he was, Terrell Owens?), only to come back and be dominated. A man who, after being dominated, moved to light heavyweight, only to turn in an absolute snoozer of a fight with Reese Andy. A man who was used as a bongo drum by Thiago Silva. A man who has an absurd post-fight dance routine. A man who absolutely, positively cannot (and will not) pull the trigger. A man who should have had a draw with Elliot Marshall because he was absolutely shellacked in the 3rd stanza of their tilt, but ended up with a victory because judges are morons. A man who is a mortal lock to get seriously hurt in almost any fight. A man who should be fighting for Mark Pavelich.

- I like Mark Hunt. He’s got the disposition of a stoner that happens to be able to fight, with the way he stares dully into the distance during interviews. He’s overweight, but he’s no longer out of shape, and he can kickbox with the best of them. There’s also an excellent chance that he didn’t know who Junior dos Santos was until #Rally4MarkHunt got started. He’s a man that’s into training, being Mark Hunt, and porn.

- I like Michael McDonald. I like the way he smiles at guys during weigh ins. I don’t even think he’s being smug. He just seems like a guy that’s happy to be where he is, and he’s not going to let some stereotypical mean mugging rattle him. He’s a truly special prospect with speed and technical acumen anywhere his fights go, but especially in his boxing. He has a cool nickname, as well as the same Christian name as the man who once gave us “Yah Mo B There” and “On My Own.” There’s just alot to like about Mayday. Barao-McDonald in a title eliminator, yes?

Sometimes, smiling is more intimidating than mean mugging.

- I like Patrick Cote. Everything about him, really. How he trusts his hands because they’re full of C4. How he lost his first 4 UFC bouts, only to unexpectedly win his way to a title shot. How he hung in tougher than most vs. the Spider himself. His completely incomprehensible color commentary. His candid quotes (Example: after blowing Drew McFedries out of the water, he quipped “He thought I didn’t hit hard enough.”). His accent. His tweet about Tim Sylvia. Everything. Hope to see him back in the UFC soon. You’re telling me you aren’t there for Cote-Sakara or Cote-Carmont matchups? I don’t want to know who you are.

- I like James Thompson enough that I actually linked his blog on the side of my homepage. I find it fascinating that the Colossus chooses to candidly blog about his career and his opinions on the world of mixed martial arts. I mean, why not write a book? Why not try to capitalize on who you are? I also love how he’s this British brute who you would think is a dullard and a moron, but is actually a thoughtful, polite, and interesting guy.

As a fighter, he obviously leaves much to be desired. He did improve enough to earn a few quality wins with his wrestling, though. Don Frye, Hidehiko Yoshida, Mariusz Pudzianowski, Kimbo Slice …

(Real quick: I count this as a win. We know what it looks like when James Thompson gets knocked out. He falls like an ACME anvil in a Warner Brothers cartoon, and he stops moving. So … this was and is a ridiculous stoppage, even if the fight itself was a gong show. I expected nothing less from you, Dan Miragliotta.)

… okay, fine, you got me. These aren’t quality wins. But all four were fights I could easily see James Thompson losing, because he’s James Thompson. I like him. I’d better just move on.

- I like Josh Koscheck. He has a great personality, and has shown throughout his career that he’s a true team player that is the furthest thing I can think of from a petulant prima donna.

(Just kidding. Making sure you were still paying attention.)

Even after cobbling together this collection of my personal likes and dislikes, all of the guys I dislike could get on my good side simply by doing something unexpected, just like Ben Rothwell did. I’m not a hater. But they’d only be on my good side while I was watching them do something unexpected. Then I’d go back to despising them. The epitome of what I’m describing? Tito Ortiz vs. Ryan Bader. It goes back to the Rothwell-Schaub dynamic: “Wait … so-and-so can’t actually WIN this, can he?” And when they do, the shock and excitement I feel for them usually manifests itself in the form of pure, unadulterated fanboy-ism.The craziest part is that this is only due to the consumption of alcoholic beverages roughly 57.3% of the time.

I suppose I root for crazy things to happen more so than individual fighters, although I definitely have guys I like to watch. Because when unexpected things happen, that’s a better opportunity for me to write about how unexpected they were, as opposed to “Danny Castillo turned in yet another workmanlike performance. I hope you’re sitting down when I tell you this, but he scored lots of takedowns and didn’t do too much else.”

People might like snark from time to time, but I prefer to be genuine. Unless we’re referring to this article.

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