Andrei Arlovski’s first defeat in two years was not without controversy. | Photo: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com
As I watched the opening round of the World Series of Fighting 2 main event between Anthony Johnson and Andrei Arlovski wind down, it seemed as though an eternity passed between when the 10-second notice was given and when the frame actually ended.
It was only a brief flash of skepticism on my part, however. The final moments of the stanza only seemed to last forever because Johnson had Arlovski in such dire straits, or so I told myself then. The human mind has a way of stretching time in such situations. I went on with my night and did not give the [extended] period a second thought. It did not seem unreasonable to believe the New Jersey State Athletic Control Board could handle a simple issue such as time keeping.
History has taught us time and time again that athletic commissions are far from infallible. As first pointed out by Arlovski’s team at Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts on its Facebook page last week, round one of Johnson-Arlovski was eight seconds too long:
The NJ athletic commission was worried about the World Series of Fighting getting a new canvas and new corner pads for the cage they almost canceled the fight Saturday night. Unfortunately they forgot to get a time keeper that was trained properly. 1st round 5min 8 sec in the Andrei fight. A devastating blow was landed after the 5min mark. It's amazing how so much time is spent with over regulating but the simple things can cost dearly.
This is not your usual post-fight sour grapes from a losing camp. Anyone with a stopwatch and access to the fight can review the action and see the claim made by Jackson’s MMA is true. Although Arlovski appeared to be saved by the horn at the time, the momentum of the fight clearly changed due to Johnson’s eight-second salvo, and “Rumble” went on to claim a unanimous decision triumph. Take away that one furious barrage of offense from the former welterweight, and the bout becomes that much closer.
Would the outcome have been different had the first round been timed properly? It is unfair to Johnson to say the results would have changed. As good mixed martial artists are taught to do, both men fought until the horn sounded. Arlovski had the same opportunity as Johnson to inflict damage. It just turned out that “Rumble” was the one who landed the blows of significance during the extra time.
So far, the NJACB has been mum on the subject. An admittance of error would be small consolation to Arlovski. Overturning the decision would spark outcry from Johnson’s side. Getting it right the first time would have been ideal, but in MMA, we often do not get the ideal.
If you will recall, UFC 158 on March 16 featured an unofficial 170-pound mini-tournament. The original blueprint for the event featured three key matchups: Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz, Johny Hendricks vs. Jake Ellenberger and Carlos Condit vs. Rory MacDonald. When MacDonald suffered a neck injury and had to withdraw from his fight, the UFC simply moved Hendricks opposite Condit and called upon Nate Marquardt to face Ellenberger. Bracket intact; problem solved. Considering the myriad number of injuries that have plagued the company in recent months, it was a nifty bit of maneuvering to keep the main selling point of the card intact.
Looking ahead to July, it appears that the UFC has similar plans for the featherweights, as three significant bouts will be featured at UFC 162: Chan Sung Jung vs. Ricardo Lamas, Frankie Edgar vs. Charles Oliveira and Cub Swanson vs. Dennis Siver. Outside of Edgar, none of the above is a household name, which is probably why the promotion has gone outside of the division to procure more buzzworthy challengers for reigning champion Jose Aldo recently -- Edgar in February and assuming it holds up, former World Extreme Cagefighting 155-pound titlist Anthony Pettis in August.
However, sharing a pay-per-view with the incomparable Anderson Silva, who meets Chris Weidman in the UFC 162 main event, can only serve to raise one’s profile with the proper performance. The added exposure will benefit the show’s biggest winner, whether it turns out to be Swanson, Siver, Lamas or Jung, and should position one man nicely for a shot at Aldo-Pettis winner.
As far Edgar is concerned, there seems to be some outcry as to why he has been downgraded from three consecutive title shots to a matchup with Oliveira, a fighter who is 2-2 in his last four outings. For one, after immediately challenging for the belt in his first 145-pound appearance, “The Answer” needs to earn his place in the division before he rockets right back into title contention. If Edgar were to face and beat any of the other featherweights on the UFC 162 lineup, he would arguably be right back at the front of the contender’s line, and we can all agree that Edgar probably needs to win more than one fight before he is back in that discussion again.
The thinking here is that Edgar will probably challenge for the 145-pound gold again at some point, and if an injury or two occurs between now and UFC 162, the Toms River, N.J., native makes for a pretty nice fill-in option for the other two 145-pound bouts on the card. For now, however, expect someone out of the Siver-Jung-Lamas-Swanson group to receive the next title shot. As nice as it is to have “The Answer,” it is even better to have options.
Not So Happy Homecoming
There is no place like home, unless you’re a mixed martial artist, generally one of the most nomadic breeds around.
Professional fighters are a notoriously restless bunch, moving from one camp to another in hopes of learning new skills and sharpening others. The approach makes sense: in an ever-evolving sport, stagnation could easily lead to a shortened career for the close-minded. Then again, there are others who are steadfastly loyal to their teams, and that devotion has been rewarded by an extended run of success. “If it ain’t broke, don’t fix it,” the old adage goes.
However, if one does elect to expand his horizons in the MMA world, it is best not to burn bridges in the process. Recently, UFC lightweight Melvin Guillard, after a largely unsuccessful stint with the Blackzilians, announced his return to his previous camp, Jackson’s MMA, via Twitter.
“I’m no longer a Blackzilian. I went back to where I belong [at] Jackson’s,” Guillard wrote, ending the tweet with a series of smiley face emoticons.
Of course, “The Young Assassin” was not welcomed back with open arms, and you can pick your reason why: a somewhat contentious exit from the team, a logjam of 155-pound talent in the gym, an assault charge in New Mexico, or all of the above. The bottom line is Guillard did not make it easy to return to the place where he once won five consecutive bouts from February 2010 to July 2011.
By making a premature declaration on Twitter, perhaps Guillard felt he would be able to pressure the gym into opening its doors for him once again. After all, several media outlets ran with the story shortly after Guillard used social media as his platform. In the long run, none of that was able to change the mind of Guillard’s former training home.
The lesson learned from this brief saga is a simple one. Even in a day and age where social media breaks news on a regular basis, do not believe everything you read on Twitter, especially when a so-called major announcement is followed by a series of smiley faces.
Here’s to hoping that Guillard -- who has always been a candid interview subject and still possesses a considerable wealth of talent -- can turn things around, wherever his training destination might be.