Our friends at Cage Potato have had a long history of hilarious and fantastic MMA roundtables. Now that several of the people who wrote for CP now submit fight picks on a quasi-regular basis here at Uproxx Sports, we thought it was the right time to resurrect that wonderful tradition, featuring our Cage Potato friends, and some new people, too!
When considering a topic for the inaugural Uproxx MMA Roundtable, all previous Cage Potato roundtable topics had to be dismissed, because no MMA site ever got anywhere by simply rehashing what has already been done before. There was some thought put into the first topic, and I’m sure some of the ideas that didn’t make the cut this time will crop up again later. However, for our very first MMA Roundtable, the question is:
Which fighter’s single in-cage performance has shaped the way you view them forever?
I went back and forth, whether to talk about a good performance that makes me think higher of someone, despite evidence of them not quite being that good, or go in the opposite direction. On one hand, I held on to Ryan LaFlare’s omoplata sweep for years, but I knew in my heart that wouldn’t be the correct answer.
The reality is that Ryan Bader losing to Tito Ortiz in 2011 has completely influenced how low I regard “Darth.” He’s currently on a four-fight winning streak and has been trying to worm his way into a title shot against Daniel Cormier, but the only thing that flashes into my head is, “Dude, you got tapped by Tito Ortiz.” That was Tito’s only win from 2006 through 2012. Bader is the first one in 1-7-1, which was Ortiz’ record over that stretch. Bader could knock out Cormier, Rumble, Jon Jones, and Cain Velasquez, all in a row, all in a four week span, and I’d still think he’s terrible.
I watched TUF: Live and thought Justin Lawrence would do well in UFC. TKO James Krause, KO Cristiano Marcello, I was online to buy a ticket for the hype train. He stumbled against Chiesa, but even that went to a sudden death round. Then, Lawrence made his debut at UFC 150 against someone I’d never heard of: Max Holloway.
I got brought back to Earth right quick. Holloway not only put Lawrence down, but he did it with a body shot in 2012, before it became the fashionable TKO it is today. Ever since then, I’ve kept an eye out for every Holloway fight, and he’s put together a great run over the past three years.
I even started a large scale piece about the Lawrence fight, which, three years later, sits unfinished. Sorry, Blessed.
The one that comes to mind first is McGregor vs. Poirier. Conor is one of those dudes like Chael Sonnen where people have such strong opinions about him as a person that they find it hard to look at his fighting skills objectively. Plus, there’s no denying that UFC has been hyping him hard, which also makes MMA fans have the knee-jerk reaction of, “Oh, it’s all hype,” but it’s not so much who he’s beaten, but the ease with which he’s beaten them. McGregor hits hard, and his counter punching is amongst the best in all of MMA, past and present.
But it wasn’t until the Poirier fight that I believed the hype. Poirier is a top fighter, extremely well-rounded and shouldn’t be an easy fight for anyone. Yet, McGregor dispatched him in under two minutes with surgical precision. The only fight where he had any difficulty was Max Holloway, but Holloway is a great fighter, and Conor fought with a jacked up knee and still was able to cruise to a unanimous decision. A lot of the McGregor naysayers are throwing out the same arguments that I heard about Jon Jones before he became champ. “His chin hasn’t been tested,” “He hasn’t fought a top wrestler/jiu-jitsu guy/etc.”
It’s simply that people don’t like the guy, or they resent the hype surrounding him. And you can certainly make a solid argument that Conor has fought tougher guys than Jones did before he got his title shot. “Aldo is no Dennis Siver,” I hear some of you say. True, but Ryan Bader was no Shogun Rua, either. Again, it’s not just who he’s beaten, but the way he’s beaten them, and the fact that going against tough competitors, he’s never been hurt or in any real danger of being stopped. In all his UFC fights, it’s been just a matter of time until he found that opening and threw that deadly accurate counter punch that signaled the beginning of the end. The Poirier fight showed that it held just as true, even against a legit striker in his own right.
I believed Conor was a guy to watch out for, and likely a future champ, but the Poirier fight showed me the future is closer than I thought, and if he doesn’t beat Aldo and get that belt in July, he will get it next time he fights for it, which will probably be easily within a year. Just ask Conor… or “Uncle Frank.”
So, this is the topic that brings me out of my retirement from writing about MMA, eh? Huh, how about that? Don’t get me wrong, it’s good to be back and all. I guess I just assumed something different would have ended my sabbatical. Dusty Rhodes dies? I stay retired. Ken Shamrock emerges from the trailer he’s been living in to take a dive against Kimbo Slice? I stay retired. An Uproxx roundtable? DUST OFF THE OL’ LAPTOP, DAMMIT! How long have I officially been gone, anyway? Six months? Damn, that’s twice as long as most combat sports-related retirements last. In the time that I’ve been dragging out this intro paragraph, Terry Funk has retired and come out of retirement twice.
And it looks like I’m not a moment too soon. I mean, how could all of you miss out on the performance that forever altered the world’s perception of a once-competent UFC middleweight’s career? Aren’t some of y’all real writers with real college degrees?
On April 19, 2008, Kalib Starnes ran a goddamn marathon against Nate Quarry, and literally anything that he’s done before and everything he’s done since has been made completely irrelevant by this. Don’t believe me? Then tell me, did you know that he actually beat Chris Leben back when that meant something? Or that he’d go on to win multiple regional MMA titles? If you knew either of those things, then please know that I lost all respect for you after your “fight” against Quarry, Mr. Starnes. You can beat up all the UFC vets and vaguely imposing jobbers that Canada has to offer, but you’ll always be “that guy who ran away from Nate Quarry for 15 minutes” to me.
I was already a Chris Weidman fan before he did the unthinkable and defeated Anderson Silva twice. However, part of me chalked those wins up to a “right time, right place… you know, if Anderson wasn’t acting like a douche compadre and then cracked his leg like a coconut” factor, and I was really concerned that the champ’s reign would be a short one, as Vitor Belfort would chop him down with all of his artificial fury. Basically, I kind of agreed with Michael Bisping’s theory on Weidman’s success, but I don’t want to admit that I’d agree with Bisping on anything.
Naturally, I picked Weidman to win at UFC 187, but when I’d talk to my friends about that fight, I couldn’t have been more hesitant about my prediction. Everything was like, “Weidman’s the real deal, you guys… except Belfort could roll right through him,” and when Belfort got that flurry in early on, I was like, “Well crapballs, here comes the end of Weidman’s run.” Thankfully, Weidman flipped the script and did my favorite thing in any huge fight — the LOL F*CK YOUR FACE bounce. That’s when the dude knows he has the fight in the bag and tenderizes his opponent’s face with all the glee of a child on a seesaw. Once Weidman did that, and followed it up with some trash-talking to the haters, I sat back in my chair and smiled because the champ is indeed the real deal, and now I’m a hell of a lot more confident in the immediate future of the middleweight division.
Although, it would be nice if Chris Weinke’s name didn’t come up first in Google search when you’re typing in his name.
On June 4, 2005 at the aptly-named UFC 53: Heavy Hitters, the realest, most hardcore motherf*cker to ever step foot into the octagon… stepped foot into the octagon. Though not of incredible size or stature, this man entered the world’s premiere fighting organization with a mission of triumphant defiance in his mind’s eye; one that, if successful, would send shockwaves throughout the entire MMAsphere. This was a man making his UFC debut in front of the biggest audience he ever competed before, fueled by an ironclad belief that his downright suicidal strategy would see him to victory. That man was Koji Oishi, and that mission was to block his opponent’s punches, with punches.
That Oishi had chosen to vet this game plan against Nick Diaz, a combination boxer with skills evolved beyond 95 percent of his mixed martial arts cohorts (and the *second* realest mofo to ever step foot in the cage), was a testament to Oishi’s bravery. Or maybe his stupidity. In either case, Oishi surrendered himself completely to his coach’s… um… unique strategy, a fact that Joe Rogan noticed during Oishi’s warm-ups and immediately pointed out once the fight had begun.
And when that fight began, hoooo boy. It was like watching a mouse fight a polar bear, only the mouse had been struck blind, deaf, and dumb backstage, and the polar bear had been given an AK-47 and rocket skates. It was like watching what a modern day Steven Seagal movie fight would look like without a team of editors. For 84 agonizing seconds, a jam packed Boardwalk Hall watched in awe as a man without foresight attempted to predict the future, only to have punch after punch after pitter-patter punch knock him back down to Earth, one ladder rung at a time.
The fight-ending combo from Diaz was academic, as was the UFC’s decision to no longer pursue a business relationship with Koji Oishi: Punchpuncher. But perhaps the craziest element of the entire story is this: Koji Oishi is not a terrible fighter. At 25-10-10, he’s not a world-beater by any means, but Oishi followed up his embarrassing showing against the eldest Diaz by topping the younger Diaz at Pancrase 2005. From there, he’s gone something like 14-5 against mixed competition, but to mirror how Jessica feels about Ryan Bader, I will say that Oishi could one-punch KO Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo AT THE SAME TIME, and I still wouldn’t be able to picture him as anything but the guy with the worst game plan in UFC history. Outside of Ranger Stott, of course.
Those are the picks from an expert panel of fight-watchers. Head to the comments to let us know what performances, good or bad, have made the biggest impression on you!