Wednesday, June 3, 2009

The Evolutionary Dead End

Those whose best interests clash with yours will whack you.
from Casino

Music : "House of the Rising Sun" by The Animals

Different people have different styles. Different people come from different backgrounds. And different people have different interests and are placed in different circumstances.

Sometimes, different people co-exist. Other times, there must be a clash of civilizations - like when you put two gladiators inside a cage.

The intrigue behind this Saturday's (June 6) Strikeforce event (10 PM ET, Showtime) is the clash for the survival of the interests of the fighters and camps in the top 3 fights on the card :

1. Gracie Jiu-Jitsu via Jake Shields : When Royce Gracie first appeared on the MMA scene, he confounded fighters and fans alike with his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. It worked for a while, but MMA has evolved to the point where being a one-dimensional submission specialist gets you knocked out. Hell, you even see BJJ experts like Jorge Gurgel choosing to slug it out rather than take the fight to the ground.

Jake Shields represents a highly evolved form in the continuum of the Gracie school of fighting, having a rudimentary striking but one of the most advanced grappling arsenals in MMA. His "strikes" are nothing but paws to feel out the distance between himself and his opponent and set up his takedowns.

Shields' takedowns happen in the blink of an eye, and once he gets his opponents down, he passes guard and mounts like he's teaching white belts. He pounds from up top, but again, these punches are nothing more than setups to his submissions.

He may not be well-rounded, but Jake Shields has shown more than enough ability to take care of himself with grappling/wrestling alone, like he did against Paul Daley.

To the hardcore MMA fan, Shields is beautiful to watch, but I have a feeling that Robbie Lawler will use the coming opportunity to show that Jake Shields' method of fighting is merely an advanced form of an evolutionary dead end.

Lawler has great takedown defense and wrestling, and if Shields continues to fail to take him to the ground, Shields will have less and less endurance to counter Lawler's powerful strikes and deftness in the clinch.

The experience was mesmerizing while it lasted, but I think the legend of Gracie Jiu-Jitsu ends when Jake Shields gets knocked out by Robbie Lawler in Round 3 of their Strikeforce bout.

2. Andrei Arlovski : If Arlovski loses, this is pretty much the end of the road for him, as a knockout by Rogers will be the nail in the coffin of his glass chin.

Luckily for The Pitbull, he hits hard himself, and has improved his boxing tremendously since he started training with Freddie Roach. Having had more time to work with Roach - and preparing himself for his professional boxing debut in the process - he can probably take care of the one-dimensional Rogers with his hands and footwork alone.

Brett Rogers has knockout power but no technique; Andrei Arlovski - who gave Fedor Emelianenko quite a challenge before launching an inexplicable flying knee - is way above Rogers' head in just about every important MMA element (boxing, kickboxing, overall MMA skill, conditioning).

I expect Arlovski to get a feel for Rogers in the first round, then get a TKO victory over Rogers by the end of the second after taking him to school. He will save his career and buy himself time until his boxing skill develops enough to cover for his weak chin.

3. Scott Smith : Win or lose, Smith entertains. Unfortunately, he brawls and takes tremendous punishment even if he wins, like he did the last time against Benji Radach.

Fortunately, Scott Smith's fight against Nick Diaz will give him a break. Although only 30, Smith's days as a fighter are already numbered. He won't beat Nick Diaz either, but getting outboxed and then submitted in the second round by the light-punching jiu-jitsu expert will extend will restore about two fights to the career that was shortened by the wars with Lawler and Radach.

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