After Andrei Arlovski's victory over Fabricio Werdum at UFC 70, he apologized to the crowd in his post-fight interview for not winning the fight in a more exciting fashion. This was a fight that Arlovski clearly dominated in the rare exchanges that took place, but neither fighter pushed the pace in the later rounds and the crowd booed the general lack of aggression.

Arlovski established a lead early on in the scorecards and his corner saw no reason to jeopardize the lead and instructed him to keep the fight standing and trade conservatively from the outside. To Werdum and his corner's discredit, despite obviously being behind on the scorecards, they saw no urgency to take the fight to Arlovski or perhaps Werdum was physically unable to do so due to injury or damage. The result was a boring technical fight that saw more dancing than punches or kicks.

The question is should Arlovski have jeopardized his sure-fire victory by recklessly attacking or should we, as spectators, appreciate what he did to achieve victory rather than boo his efforts?

If you consider MMA to be an athletic competition, then you have to accept that coaches, trainers, and fighters do not strategize and plan on how to "beat the crap out of someone" or "take his head off." They strategize on how to achieve victory and, unfortunately, those goals don't always include knocking someone out or even finishing the fight. This may be in direct contrast to what spectators want to see in terms of violence and excitement, but the reality is that victory can often be boring.

After Heath Herring's debut lose to Jake O'Brien on an Ultimate Fight Night, I was astounded by his post-fight interview where he said he wasn't accustomed to the style of fighting in the UFC, as if to imply that fighters in Japan don't strategize and simply stand in front of one another, throwing bombs till someone drops. For anyone who's seen the much-publicized Pride fight between Don Frye and Yoshihiro Takayama, who repeatedly and simultaneously bludgeoned each in the face, this shouldn't be a surprise. In Japan, MMA is more akin to pro-wrestling (which seeks to thrill) than sport (which seeks to compete). Putting on a "show" is clearly prioritized over legitimacy and competition. Hence the continued presence of freakish sumo-sized combatants and fighters with embarrassingly poor losing records in all the top promotions in Japan.

But isn't the importance and legitimacy of victory what separates a true sport from pro-wrestling? If the UFC prioritized entertainment over wins, doesn't that make it no different than the WWE?

This dilemma has no easy answers and could even be considered paradoxical. If you ask a promoter what's most important in a fight, they'll usually say being exciting. Ask fighters the same question and they'll usually say winning is more important. Excitement is what spectators want to see, but if the fights aren't legitimately real, people wouldn't be interested to begin with.

Boring fights are tough to stomach, but if you consider MMA to be a competitive sport to legitimately test one's skill and determine the superior fighter, then you have accept that boring fights are a part of the game.

Chi Kong Lui

Chi Kong Lui

In the 1980s, Chi grew up in small town on the outskirts of New York City called Jackson Heights. Latino actor, John Leguizamo referred to the town as the "melting pot of the world," and while living there, Chi was exposed to many diverse cultures, as well as a bevy of arcade classics such as Pac-Man, Space Ace, Space Harrier and Double Dragon. Chi's love of videogames only seemed to grow as his parents finally caved and bought him an 8-bit Nintendo Entertainment System (after being the only kid in the block without one). In the 1990s, Chi finagled his way into the prestigious Fiorello H. LaGuardia High School for the Performing Arts.

Somewhere between all the gaming, Chi some how managed to finish high school and get into the New York Institute of Technology. At the same time, Chi also interned at Virtual Frontiers, an Internet software consultancy where he learned the ways of HTML. Soon after acquiring his BFA, Chi went on to become the lead Web designer of the Anti-Defamation League. During his tenure there, Chi was instrumental in redesigning and relaunching the non-profit organization's Web site.

Today, Chi is the webmaster of the American Red Cross in Greater New York and somehow managed to work through the tragic events of September 11th without losing his sanity. Chi considers GameCritics.com his life's work and continues to be amazed that the web site is still standing after the recent dotcom fallout. It is his dream that GameCritics.com will accomplish two things: 1) Redefine the grammar of videogames much the same way French film critic Andre Bazin did for the art of cinema and 2) bring game criticism to the forefront of mainstream culture much the same way Siskel & Ebert did for film criticism.
Chi Kong Lui
Subscribe
Notify of
guest
5 Comments
Newest
Oldest
Inline Feedbacks
View all comments
Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
13 years ago

Season 5 TUFer, Joe Lauzon said something interesting on his journal: I think my fight was kind of a tipping point on everything with Wang. We had two guys that should have won their fights — one didn’t listen and he lost his fight, while the other listened and won convincingly. I think my fight showed BJ what Wang’s fight could have been, and it was salt in the wound to sit there and watch Wang talk about his fight and how good it was. There was nothing good about it … he lost. Winning is all that matters, and… Read more »

reassembler.com
reassembler.com
13 years ago

Boring fights are part of the game, that’s probably true. On the other hand… fighters by now must surely know that exciting fights increase their market value. Nick Diaz lost a few fights in UFC, but if he’s on PPV, I’m more likely to buy. Karo Parisian lost to Diaz, but he’s incredibly fun to watch. Arona may have a great W/L record, but there’s a significant portion of the potential viewership who regards him as a “lay n pray” fighter who isn’t that interesting to watch. So while boring fights are part of the game, some other fighters are… Read more »

Mike Hunter
Mike Hunter
13 years ago

I agree. If boring fights are a problem then modify the rules to penalize boring fighters. One idea the previous poster touched upon is including financial penalties and rewards for desired behavior. Such as slashing the purse for tactics such as stalling or lack of aggressiveness and giving bonuses for knockouts or impressive submissions.

Chi Kong Lui
Chi Kong Lui
13 years ago

I don’t believe the Pride judging criteria for finishing the fight is what causes Pride fighters to “swing for the fences” when they fight. Two things to consider… 1) While I couldn’t find the judging criteria clearly defined anywhere on the Net (as you said this is a problem in of itself), before each PPV, Goldie does mention agression and octagon generalship as judging criteria. Agression is pretty much the same as finishing the fight and I think UFC fighters know that finishing the fight looks good to the judges. 2) In Pride, both fighters can choose to be strategic… Read more »

superhaloman
superhaloman
13 years ago

“In Japan, MMA is more akin to pro-wrestling (which seeks to thrill) than sport (which seeks to compete). Putting on a “show” is clearly prioritized over legitimacy and competition. Hence the continued presence of freakish sumo-sized combatants and fighters with embarrassingly poor losing records in all the top promotions in Japan.” You have a point here, but it should also be pointed out that the judging criteria in Pride stipulated that effort to finish was the supreme arbiter when judging a fight. This means that fights like Arlovski-Werdum would have been judged incredibly even under Pride rules since no one… Read more »