Wednesday, May 31, 2006

OUT WITH THE OLD ?


How does the old cliché go? “Out with the old, in with the new.” Yes, it’s something like that, and after watching UFC 60 Saturday night, there truly isn’t another snazzy catchphrase in the English language that encapsulates what took place in Los Angeles. What’s out? The old school fighters of yesteryear. What’s in? Well-versed killing machines such as Matt Hughes (Pictures). Royce Gracie (Pictures), a living legend within the mixed martial arts realm in America, was soundly beaten by the younger, stronger and certainly more well rounded Hughes. The way Hughes, the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s welterweight champion, handled Gracie was akin to how his Brazilian foe handled karate masters and one-gloved boxers in his heyday. Boy, when times change they are not easy on the pioneers, are they? Most so-called mixed martial arts “experts” figured that Hughes would impose his will against Gracie, utilize his immense strength and gradually ground-and-pound his opponent until the referee stopped it. Most everybody who predicted a Hughes triumph was accurate — he just did it much sooner than most expected. As it stood, Gracie was out-gunned, out-classed and simply overwhelmed. Hughes’ domination of Gracie, which finally came to a screeching halt at the 4:39 mark of the first round, symbolized what hardcore fans of the sport have gradually learned: that one must be a well-versed master of fighting in order to live among the elite of mixed martial arts. Being a master at one solitary form of fighting may be effective against lesser-known or nondescript opposition (or when teaching novices at one’s academy), but when it comes down to locking horns with the crème de le crème, honing multiple talents is not merely a plus, it’s an absolute must. Gracie’s choice to maintain almost a strictly jiu-jitsu fighting style has garnered him troves of fans and a plethora of notoriety as well as deep pockets. But in this day and age of the Ultimate Fighting Championship, his absolute mastery of the martial art that essentially created the sport in America wasn’t enough. Hell, he was almost submitted moments after the fight hit the canvas. If that doesn’t spell out that MMA has passed Royce up, nothing does. But that’s not to say that Royce Gracie (Pictures)’s legendary status is in question, nor is it right to question the man. Gracie is a UFC Hall of Famer and his loss to Hughes does nothing to take away from his legacy. Even if Royce fights on and continues to lose, that still will not diminish what he’s done for the UFC over the years and it certainly won’t take away anything from Brazilian jiu-jitsu. Royce is a legend and a man that I, and I hope everyone at Sherdog.com, will always cherish and respect. It was tough to see him rescued by “Big” John McCarthy and to witness the typically insouciant Brazilian warrior saunter despondently back to his locker room, his battered face a swollen microcosm of what he endured for nary a round, was disheartening. Royce said he’d be back and in all actuality, it would be a wise move on both his and Zuffa’s part to fight on, provided he tangles with someone more or less in his league. Someone like Ken Shamrock (Pictures), provided Shamrock is unsuccessful against Tito Ortiz (Pictures) in their rematch in July. Or Pat Miletich (Pictures), the living legend himself has been pondering coming back for one more fight before officially calling it a day. A fight like that would be enormous. But whatever Gracie opts to do from here on out, he’ll always have me on his side rooting for him. The guard has been officially passed, so to say, and the sport has been traveling in the direction of multiplicity among its fighters’ skill sets. If Saturday night wasn’t a boldface example of it, then nothing is.
by Mike Sloan (msloan@sherdog.com)
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