Lightweight Kamal Shalorus (6-0-2) is possibly one of the best wrestlers to ever enter into Mixed Martial Arts. Not that you would have known it during the three round battle he endured to a draw with Jamie Varner at Sunday night’s WEC 49: Varner vs. Shalorus. The odd judging and reffing could have been a non-factor had Shalorus imposed his greatest strength, his wrestling. But he chose to take Varner down only once, even while being easily out-pointed on the feet. Are fighters delusional, thinking their striking game has evolved faster than it has? Or are they risking their victories to entertain the masses?
The answer is a little of both, but I have no qualms blaming the fans first. Before you jump to hand some blame to promoters remember they are businesses, run by viewership. Regardless of how you feel about organizations encouraging fighters to “stand and bang”, they encourage that to keep you, the viewer, watching. This translates to promotions offering fight night bonuses, encouraging finishes, which in theory, makes for exciting fights for the fans.
Varner vs. Shalorus was a very entertaining fight, but I couldn’t help but feel that we are losing the Mixed in our Martial Arts. I was entertaining my dad, who knows nothing of MMA, with the Father’s Day card. I explained to my dad that Shalorus would have a distinct ground advantage. To my dismay, Shalorus attempted nothing more than looping punches and heavy leg kicks.
My dad winced at the abhorrent amount of low blows and was curious as to why this so called Olympic wrestler was just standing there, happy to take shots. Remember my dad comes from the boxing era. The striking isn’t that impressive to him compared to the golden era of boxing. So he was looking to me asking what kind of sport this was… kickboxing?
And I do have to wonder at times, is this becoming kickboxing? What set MMA apart from the very beginning was that it offered something different, more dynamic. How much more amazing would it have been to see Varner’s clear striking advantage take on Shalorus’ relentless wrestling? You know… because this is MMA? I can hear the responses immediately “nobody wants to see three rounds of Shalorus humping Varner.” My answer: tough.
It’s this derogatory attitude towards grappling that is starting to ruin what made this sport better than the rest. After every boxing event these days it’s the same story: pretty technical, but MMA is better, MMA is the future. Well, why is that? Because MMA is versatile; in MMA anything can happen. Chuck Liddell made a career of giving grappler’s fits. So don’t worry that wrestling will bog down the sport. Fighters will find a way.
Fighters aren’t to blame. They want to give fans the best fights possible. You can’t blame Shalorus for standing and trading with Varner. He felt confident, and he wanted to make an impression, but ultimately, it may have cost him a chance to advance to a title shot. That in turn costs possible sponsorships and pay raises etc. – all for our entertainment. It’s either admirable or foolish. On Father’s Day, Dad will tell you showing off when it doesn’t pay off, is foolish.
Fighters please ignore us fans, ignore the Internet, the booing crowds and get the win. At the end of the day pleasing us doesn’t pay your bills. And it doesn’t impress Dad.