UFC 166 was an unsettling affair
October 1, 1975. Considering all the circumstances surrounding the fight, it would be my pick for the greatest fight of all time. Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, the Thrilla in Manilla, nothing can be said about this fight that hasn’t already been said. There is one person that I didn’t mention and that’s Eddie Futch, Joe Frazier’s trainer made one of the most controversial decisions in sports history to stop the fight after the 14th round. Joe Frazier who was blind in one eye, had his good eye closed up, essentially left him without sight in the ring. Joe Frazier was furious with Eddie Futch and as a fan, I’m happy he was. I want a fighter who will be willing to die in the ring, at the same time, I want that fighter to be trained by someone who truly loves him and will protect him. Which is something that I feel we don’t have in the world of MMA yet.
UFC 166 was one of the best cards in recent memory, but after watching it, I had a sour taste in my mouth, not because of the quality of the fights, because of the safety of the fighters. Listening to Diego Sanchez speak after the fight, having trouble to put together a coherent sentence, stumbling to find words that had any meaning, was hard to stomach. As someone who’s been in a lot of really tough fights, at the age of 31, should he hang it up? I’m in no position to tell him what to do, but I think it’s something that is worth considering.
Then the main event happened, which has another troubling affair with Junior Dos Santos getting mauled for 25 minutes. There were many moments that I found hard to watch, they go as followed. First, Herb Dean not stopping the fight in the 3rd round, I understand that being a ref is a hard job, you have to make split second decisions, but that fight should’ve been stopped. People will point to that JDS did continue on, but that doesn’t necessarily mean that was a good decision to keep the fight going. With news coming out today that JDS thought he was stopped in the 2nd round, it really makes you wonder. Secondly, the doctors showed an absolute incompetence at doing their job, if all you’re going to do is ask a fighter “are you okay?” then step out of the cage, literally any person with the basic understanding of the English language could do your job. Thirdly and the most concerning to me is the fact that JDS’ corner didn’t stop the fight, not only that but they didn’t even seem to discuss it. He was nearly finished in the 3rd round and he was showing little to zero offense while stumbling around the cage and eating everything Cain had to give him. This is the point where a corner needs to step in and protect their fighter if the ref isn’t going to. I understand the fact that this is the third fight in the trilogy and if he loses this fight he probably won’t get a title shot again, but you have to draw the line somewhere and protect your fighter. This fight became hard to watch and for the first time in a long time I turned away because it was too brutal. I couldn’t believe that this was still going on, it was obvious to me and everyone else watching that JDS had zero shot at mounting a comeback and even if he did, so what? I love watching a surreal comeback, but I also would like to see these guys enjoy their life after sports.
That very same night we saw Ruslan Provodnikov battle Mike Alvarado, it was a fairly close affair, but as the fight went on Provodnikov started to get the better of Alvarado, knocking him down twice in the 8th round. At the end of the 10th round, with Alvarado clearly not putting anything together and just getting tagged, Tony Weeks stopped the fight, in a move that saved Alvarado unneeded punishment.
I’m not sure exactly why refs stopping the fights between rounds or why corners stopping fights is so rare in MMA, maybe it’s because most fights are only three rounds, maybe I’m overreacting completely to an outlier. At the end of the day, I should’ve enjoyed UFC 166 and at the end of the day, I ended up being unsettled by it.