When I first got into MMA, the “PRIDE vs. UFC” debate, in my mind, wasn’t even a debate. The UFC had like 4 guys that were interesting. Their fighters came out to trashy metal like Stemm and Limp Bizkit. They seldom had more than 8 fights on a card, and they seldom traveled outside seedy safe havens like Las Vegas and Atlantic City. In short, they were an American promotion, one that seemed to showcase the most embarrassing and obvious failures within our culture.
PRIDE was a Japanese promotion, but it’s cards were so diverse that it could have been based anywhere. That being said, there was definitely a Japanese flair to their production, and it was fantastic. Whether it was Nobuhiko Takada beating on a drum wearing nothing but a diaper, that ancient ring announcer screaming fighters names (not the chick, not Kei Grant, but the other guy), the live orchestra playing the theme during fighter intros … I mean, PRIDE did it big. I was once admittedly biased in favor of foreign entities, and MMA was no different. But they did it big.
But, as we all know, it eventually fizzled, and then disappeared completely. Upstarts like DREAM and Sengoku fell by the wayside as well, and all of sudden, the term “Asian MMA” was relegated to smaller shows like Shooto, DEEP, and our article topic today, One FC, which is based in the Phillipines.
As I studied the matchups on this card, one question loomed over everything else: Do any of these fights matter? They do, in my mind. Whether it’s a fight that might see someone end up in the Octagon sometime soon (Enomoto vs. Folayang), a “These guys might be washed up, but they have history, and they still don’t like each other!” fight (Arlovski vs. Sylvia), guys trying to hold on for one more shot at relevance (Jens Pulver), or just guys fighting for an easy paycheck (every Gracie on the card), this seemed like something worth catching. Of course, I had to actually watch the fights. Here are my thoughts on the ones of interest.
Jens Pulver lost, but unlike the past few years, he didn’t lose in epic fail fashion. He just ran out of gas. Eric Kelly didn’t show him much respect, as he rushed him with big punches from the beginning. Pulver fired back and landed some nice ones of his own, but you could tell at the beginning of the second that it was only a matter of time before Pulver took one too many blows, which is a sad thing to think about one of MMA’s all time notables of the lighter weights. I mean, Eric Kelly is a submission guy, for Gods sake.
Sylvia-Arlovski 4 was … absurd. Entertaining, sloppy, enthralling, back-and-forth, and ultimately … absurd. This one definitely makes it onto my list of all time head scratchers, and the reasons why will make your head spin. You might want to take a shot of whiskey before reading the next section.
Do you all want to know why Yuji Shimada called timeout after Arlovski squashed Timmy with punches and then proceeded to kick him in the head while he was on all fours? Get this: I HAVE NO FUCKING IDEA. After hearing the announcers prattle on about the “fact” that the ref had to give some sort of signal in order for a four-point attack to be allowed, I decided to do some investigating. I sensed that something was afoot, especially since the most memorable moment in ONE FC history to this point occurred on June 23rd, when Zorobabel Moreira kicked a hole through Roger Huerta’s head as A) Yuji Shimada stood idle until a good 2 seconds after the soccer kick before declaring Zoro the victor and B) made no signal whatsoever.
ONE FC’s website doesn’t say anything about this. All it states is that “ONE Fighting Championship uses a combination rule set of global MMA best practices, blending Asian and non-Asian rules.” Okay … so what “Asian rules” are they using? The one where they hire refs from pro wrestling who have no idea what they’re doing and make them the judge, jury and executioner of back-and-forth, exciting fights? Is that the one? You got me.
Let there be no doubt: Andrei Arlovski had this fight won. He showed a newfound aggression, blistering Sylvia with one-twos and kicks throughout the contest as he even withstood several Sylvia flurries from the clinch as well as against the cage, which is a “hold your breath” moment for any Arlovski fan. This fight saw some nice moments for both men and was far, far more entertaining than it looked on paper. It’s sad, but we might actually see these two fight a fifth time. What’s sadder is that I’d be right there watching it.
Update: After this controversy, ONE FC has decided to go with “full PRIDE rules” for their October 6th event. Does this mean we can look forward to Yuji Shimada screaming “Arnold give up? Arnold give up? Give up? Give up?” 3 minutes into his fight with Shinya Aoki? Only time will tell.
Bibiano Fernandes easily outpointed Gustavo Falciroli in the main event, but I spent the entire fight thinking “This guy blew it with the UFC. This guy blew it with the UFC. This guy freaking BLEW IT with the UFC.” Have fun beating up these sorts of guys instead of working your way up the UFC ladder, Bibiano. Have even more fun pretending that it doesn’t bother you at all.
The final fight I’d like to touch on is Eduard Folayang’s elementary out striking of Felipe Enomoto. This was a fun fight, and I came away from it thinking that Folayang was good enough to be in the UFC, and that that’s where he should end up. Then, I doubled back and realized that, in 2012, this is what the UFC has done to us as MMA fans. We can no longer watch a fighter perform well in a smaller promotion without wondering why he isn’t on the UFC’s roster. This seems strange. Eduard Folayang is exactly the kind of guy that ONE FC wants to promote. He’s young, he’s exciting, he’s a good puncher, and he’s from the Phillipines. What’s wrong with carving a niche in his own backyard? Maybe he’ll end up in the UFC, and maybe he wont, but the days of promotions having their staple guys under contract without fear of them bolting to bigger and better things are over. Even though he’s probably good enough to be in the UFC, the idea of Folayang sticking around and fighting in his home country makes me feel downright nostalgic. Do your thing, Eduard.