Monday, February 25, 2013

A brief treatise on: Fighting position

During and following the conclusion of the fight at UFC 157 between Lyoto Machida and Dan Henderson, a vocal contingent sprung up that feels that Machida should have been more engaging and initiated striking exchanges instead of actively avoiding them. The problem with this line of thought is twofold. One, it ignores Lyoto Machida's entire fighting history of staying on the outside and waiting to counter foolhardy opponents that rush in, not standing flat-footed in the pocket swinging wildly. Secondly, it ignores the sickening power Dan Henderson possesses.

I've seen people argue that Dan was trying to fight, but Lyoto was running away. This is also incorrect. Again, Lyoto's style is predicated on avoiding exchanges and instead countering impatient fighters (His knockout against Ryan Bader is a prime example). Both men were implementing their typical methods, Lyoto's circling and keeping distance and Dan's stalking, right hand cocked back, ready to unleash once he got within range, but Lyoto just performed his style better than Dan in the judges' eyes. Dan could have used angles to cut off Lyoto's avenues of movement, since before the fight it was expected that Henderson couldn't match Machida's speed. Additionally, had Machida traded with Henderson and been knocked out, there would be an even larger group clamoring that Lyoto was dumb, because of course that's what happens when people stand and bang with Dan.

Also, let it be known that I am saying all of this as a fan of Henderson, and I wanted him to win, hopefully with a big knockout. Unfortunately, he didn't do that, but it doesn't mean he fought a more "real" fight than Machida. To venture away from that specific contest, let me use a fight from UFC 157's preliminaries as another example. In the Brendan Schaub versus Lavar Johnson fight, everyone knew that Johnson had tremendous punching power, but limited grappling skills, so his preferred area would of course be standing. Schaub decided to implement a wrestling gameplan, and it worked, to the tune of a decision victory. Both fighters had different preferences on what kind of fight would provide the best avenue for victory, and only Schaub was able to see his to fruition. It doesn't mean that Johnson is a "real" fighter because he wanted to stand and bang and Schaub isn't because he used grappling.

A fighter should employ any and every technique within the rules that gives the best possible chance for victory since combat sports aren't like regular sports. Once knockouts enter the equation, the onus is for a fighter to only win, entertainment shouldn't factor into fighting style at all.

Of course, you don't have to take my word for it, you can also see what Pat "HD" Barry thinks on the situation.