I constantly feel this way about the climate in MMA in 2012, a time when so many fights happen in such a minute period of time that they become not only difficult to promote, but even harder to properly digest.
Even fights that could objectively be described as “blockbusters” (like, say, the Silva-Sonnen rematch) come and go with great vigor. I mean, one night I watched the biggest rematch in MMA history, and 4 days later I was watching Bruce Leroy attempt his 2,304th submission that didn’t earn a tap (before improbably getting one as I ate a handful of crow). Why did I watch, you ask? It’s a fair question. The answer is that I can’t help it. I’m a sap for MMA. That’s a simplistic answer, but not really a revealing one.
Then, it all made sense. Why? Because I realized that I don’t watch nearly enough old fights anymore. My halcyon days of MMA watching were littered with multiple viewings of classic fights. Rewatching fights is a great way to cut the fat off of whatever opinion you might have had after seeing them once.
And that brings me to December 8th, 2007, a night that saw wild and wooly brawler Roger Huerta take on Clay Guida. This is one of those fights that is a classic largely because large portions of it are technically atrocious. When you’re in a fight that is devoid of technique, I always admire any ability to make that fight entertaining to watch. And this was entertaining as hell. Let’s take a closer look.
(Quick disclaimer: I’m doing the timestamps in relation to when the fight starts, not when the video starts.)
0:08: Huerta throws the first of a never-ending string of left high licks that, if nothing else, really sting Clay’s arms and shoulders. That guy is just a swinger: no calculation of distance, no feints, no footwork. Just swangin’.
0:58: Huerta’s been taken down twice already. After Guida completed that one, Roger got a look on his face like he just dinged up a rental car and realized he didn’t buy the insurance package.
1:36: Rogan asks guest commentator Kenny Florian “How big a deal is it to be here fighting in the main event for the first time?” Like he’s going to say “Joe, it’s exactly like being the first amateur fight at a Gladiator Challenge card. There is not one shadow of a difference.” Kenny’s answer was just as vanilla as you’d expect. This sequence proves that, as an announcer, just because you aren’t talking 100% of the time, doesn’t mean you aren’t doing your job.
2:30: As the two trade knees, John McCarthy stops the fight to warn Guida after a knee lands on Huerta’s face when his leg was on the ground. I’m wracking my brain trying to think of a dumber rule. If the idea of mixed martial arts is to create the most realistic form of skilled combat in a controlled setting, then how can you outlaw knees to the head on the ground? I wonder just how bad that cut was on Brad Gabriel’s cheek for Larry Hazzard to go “This Ultimate fighting stuff is all well and good, but if I allow those knees on the ground, then that’s a slippery slope to decapitation!” How asinine.
5:23: After a 10-9 Guida round, we see a shot of Forrest Griffin in the crowd. He’s dressed like a gay limo driver. I say this only because he would definitely have something mean to say about me if our roles were reversed.
5:44: One two one two one two takedown. It feels strange to type, but rewatching this, it’s startling how aggressive Clay is. I know that used to be his M.O. What has Greg Jackson done? Anyway, Clay is clearly the superior wrestler here.
7:02: Just noticed something: Roger Huerta seemed to glance up at the Jumbotron frequently. He famously did this in his bout with Alberto Crane, to see where Crane’s head was; a nice move to avoid punching air. Here, he ended up on his back after making the “Who is that handsome man on the big screen?” face.
7:11: Nice uppercut by Roger from one knee. There’s literally too much action in this fight to even call it properly. What a torrid pace. Imagine typing out the play-by-play for this one. You’d definitely need a smoke break after this round.
10:33: After taking several above average punches without even attempting to defend them, Roger sprawls, and as he starts to try to get up, Guida floors him with a right hook that causes him to go limp for a second. That was probably the single most powerful strike of Clay’s career. Guida completely donkey kong’s Roger until the end of the round, but looks to tire towards the end as my wife adds, “He bobs his hair around like a ponytailed chick in a fitness video. Overall, I think he does it for attention. He does it to be flashy. He thinks his hair is all that and a bag of chips. He’s an idiot. It makes him look stupid. I’m surprised more guys don’t think he’s a douche.”
Hey, I didn’t say it.
11:33: Huerta’s still there. And that’s saying something.
11:50: Seconds before the start of the third and final round, Clay’s still got the alpha dog look on his face, while Roger adopts a look that is truly unique. It reminds me a little bit of Raging Bull, when Sugar Ray Robinson beats the stuffing out of Jake LaMotta but can’t seem to find a way to finish him. LaMotta quips “You didn’t knock me down, Ray. You didn’t knock me down.” This look is somewhere between that and “I just decided that there’s no effing way I’m losing this fight. Thanks for playing, Clay.”
12:07: Roger lands two knees on the button. Rome is burning.
12:20: After Guida whiffs on a takedown, Roger lands a big uppercut that sends Guida reeling into his final takedown attempt. He fails, and Roger spins out. Now he’s on Guida’s back. Red alert!
I became enamored with Roger Huerta after this performance. Even though he was clearly still raw, how could such a fierce heart and fighting spirit not carry him to bigger and better things? Little did I know that this became the pinnacle of Huerta’s career, as countless future opponents used superior technical striking and better wrestling to pick him apart. He’s gone an unfortunate 1-6 since this fight, culminating in June of this year when Zorobabel Moreira nearly soccer kicked his face off as ref Yuji Shimada seemed apathetic.
On the other hand, Guida incrementally cleaned up his technique, became less aggressive, and won enough fights against solid guys to become a fringe contender, even adding a nice submission game to his arsenal along the way.
Huerta was on the fast track to UFC stardom, and Guida was an overly aggressive bruiser that walked into punches and submissions. Oh, how things change. When Roger looks back on his career, though, he’ll always have this moment, a moment that he took away from Clay Guida.
I won’t forget.