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Wrestling and MMA, some more thoughts

UFC 100 went off last night at Mandalay Bay in Las Vegas, and like millions of other fight fans, I ponied up the $45 and sat back in my recliner, laptop sitting on my lap (how appropriate) and sipped on an Arnold Palmer beverage.

Much of the buzz surrounded the rise of Brock Lesnar up the UFC ladder and his rematch with Frank Mir. The two met last year in a bout which saw Lesnar’s raw power trounce Mir in the early going, before the BJJ specialist made the lesser experienced Lesnar tap out.

Here’s where I started getting into things.

As a wrestling writer, I’ve covered the sport and all its nuances for over a decade. College, high school, middle school and youth wrestling events, and I have a vested interest in the sport of wrestling. It is my livelihood.

So that being said, I tend to root for wrestlers, and last night, there were A LOT of wrestlers on the card. I was participating in Maggie Hendricks’ Yahoo MMA live chat/blog, watching the fights and using twitter. I never felt the need to tweet much of anything, especially where everyone and their mother is tweeting from the UFC fight.

So here’s a few ideas.

Twittering from Tommy Rowlands on GSP
Tommy Rowlands was a two-time NCAA wrestling champion at Ohio State. He’s managing the Regional Training Center in Columbus, Ohio, a site where wrestlers have been training in freestyle for places on the U.S. National teams training for world and Olympic titles. Well, Tommy was seeing his first UFC fight and was “tweeting” from the event. One such tweet I found particularly interesting was about Georges St-Pierre.

Simply put: “GSP is the best wrestler to never wrestle.”

That’s what Tommy said and I can’t agree more. What I’ve seen from GSP over the last two years, maybe longer, has been his fantastic takedown and wrestling ability. Considering he never wrestled growing up, GSP has been able to neutralize MMA’s top wrestlers. I was first impressed with his ability to takedown former NCAA champion and four-time All-American Josh Koscheck. Last night against Thiago Alves, GSP neutralized his opponents deadly leg kicks and snatched them up and countered with 10 takedowns. I noted on the Yahoo! live blog that his takedowns were textbook. Snatching up the leg, driving in and doubling off at the waist and finishing with control. I sat in my chair thinking “TWO!” nearly every time GSP took Alves down to the cage floor.

GSP was amazing, and I never realized I was older than he was. He just has a sense about him of maturity and dominance unmatched. He gives Quebecers a sports hero to be proud of.

Even though GSP never wrestled, his mat skills make wrestlers tend to gravitate towards the guy.

Dan Henderson
The knockout of the night. Dan Henderson, a 1992 Greco-Roman Olympian, wasn’t part of the main event, but UFC 100 was solid enough that this bout could have headlined any other UFC event I’ve watched over the past decade.

He KO’ed Ultimate Fighter alum Michael Bisping and then after the fact, landed a hard shot to the face of Bisping as he laid flat on the ground. Henderson was quoted in Dan Doyle’s story eloquently.

“I don’t know if he’ll ever shut his mouth,” said Henderson (25-7) in his postfight octagon interview. “I think that last [forearm] was just to shut him up.”

The UFC has come under fire for promoting a trash-talking element to it and getting away from the sporting aspect. Well, at least that’s the case in the eyes of some combat sports writers and MMA purists. Personally, I like how this can be somewhat “real” in terms of these people just don’t like each other and it’s not scripted like the wonderful world of the WWE.

Hendo gave wrestling fans another reason to cheer last night.

Speaking of the WWE
I get a bit annoyed when fans will immediately associated Brock Lesnar and Bobby Lashley with the WWE. It’s unfortunate for both of them they will be viewed as the “fake” wrestlers before their stellar amateur/college wrestling careers are mentioned.

Here’s where I have an issue.

Neither Lesnar or new-on-the-scene Lashley use anything they did in the WWE to develop their fighting skills when entering MMA. Lesnar’s attitude drew the ire of MMA fans and media, and Lashley isn’t even in the UFC (yet), but WWE fans are quick to point out those two are “from” the WWE.

No, they are not FROM the WWE. They’re from wrestling, real wrestling. Lesnar was an NCAA wrestling champion at Minnnesota, while Lashley was a solid two-time NAIA champ at Missouri Valley. They got their mat skills from wrestling. It’s like saying a sportswriter learned how to hit the keys because he was a bricklayer previously.

I’m indifferent on Lesnar’s post-fight antics. He was fired up. People might say it was an act and his WWE persona, but hell, he didn’t act classy in victory, but who cares? Didn’t he give us what we wanted to see? He pounded Frank Mir’s face into hamburger. He was fired up and then fired off some shots at Mir, the sponsors, etc.

I like how regal and appreciative and sportsmanlike guys like GSP are in victory and in defeat (although GSP’s defeats are few and far between), but Lesnar was a brash and took all the credit. I loved it. I don’t like showboats or taunts in college wrestling. I appreciate personality and a fiery disposition. I guess I’m watching the UFC, I don’t want to see two guys beat the crap out of each other and then hug when there’s obviously no respect there.

When there’s respect, there’s sportsmanship. When there’s no respect, you see fire. There’s room for both. But in terms of sales, Lesnar did what people might have wanted him, or expected him, to do … taunt and get brash. I don’t have too much of a problem with it.

But back to the point here … Lashley and Lesnar aren’t “FROM” the WWE. They spent time in the sports entertainment world, but their talents in fighting, grappling and wrestling didn’t come from the WWE and I want to make that point, even if it falls on deaf ears.

They’re REAL wrestlers and they were REAL wrestlers first.

Written by Jason Bryant

July 12, 2009 at 1:23 pm

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