Man, UFC 166 really was kind of a whirlwind, so much so that everyone is still talking about it and that everyone is kind of forgetting that Lyoto Machida vs. Mark Munoz goes down this weekend. Oh well, that is alright, because a night of truly great fights is a somewhat rarity right now and something that we should absolutely be reflecting upon. To go along with a night of good fights there is always a lot of hyperbole, which can be a bit frustrating or tough to crack through. The specific hyperbole for UFC 166 seems to be centered around Gilbert Melendez vs. Diego Sanchez.
Gil vs. Diego was absolutely a fun scrap where Diego Sanchez fought with a lot of heart and was swinging for the fences in just about all three rounds. It was quite a spectacle to witness him withstand so much punishment only to keep coming back for more and still be swinging with bad intentions, of course, the only problem was that the only thing he was punching was the air. Lots of air, at that.
Joe Rogan was immediately entranced by the whole ordeal, quick to label it not only the fight of the night or even fight of the year, but one of the best fights in history. While it was an entertaining fight, I think that it lacked some of the parts that make up some of the best fights in history. In fact, it lacks what made Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson such a great fight, which was the high drama with even higher stakes.
In Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson the most basic fact is that the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship was on the line, which in and of itself assigned more value to the fight. To compound it, Jon Jones has been pretty much unbeatable throughout his UFC career, with his lone win coming from a strange disqualification from him throwing illegal elbow strikes. So when Alexander Gustafsson was stuffing takedowns, avoiding Jones’ strikes and landing both takedowns and strikes of his own it was a momentous occasion.
The fight was close, incredibly close, so much so that there was tension when they were reading the scorecards; who would walk away as the champion? It was one of those fights that kept you on your toes and wondering what would happen next. Did Jon Jones do enough to secure his title with his comeback near the end? Did Gustafsson do enough to “beat the champ” in the judges eyes? It was incredibly dramatic.
It was exactly these qualities that Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez didn’t have. While it was undoubtedly an important fight for both men, neither man’s life was going to change from the outcome of the fight all that drastically. Then to top it off, while Diego was swinging wildly, Gilbert was controlling the entire fight, landing the cleaner shots and dictating where the fight took place. Diego was just coming forward and swinging wildly.
Diego was fighting a fight that most of us would say resembled a Leonard Garcia fight, as Garcia is known for taking epic beatings while swinging wildly and scoring confusing wins on judges’ score cards for just that. Diego did have some luck in dropping Gilbert in the third round, as well as taking his back for a brief moment, but outside of that he was never in control of the fight and Gilbert was never in any danger.
I think that it should be at this point where we make the important distinction between enjoying something and between assessing the quality of it. Enjoying something and having your own taste is not only a good thing, but should be encouraged. It doesn’t matter if it is “good” or “bad,” it just matters that you enjoy it. With that being said, there should still be a disconnect where you can take a critical look at it and see it for what it really is. Diego Sanchez vs. Gilbert Melendez was an incredibly fun fight to watch but was not particularly close or dramatic in any way. It is hard for me to consider it a great fight or even one of the better fights of the event, never mind the year.