Saturday, June 15, 2013

The Fall of Fitch

Unconscious Jon Fitch has reached
an all time low in his fighting career.
Fighting is a very delicate sport where careers can be made or destroyed in a single instant.  Rashad Evans is an example of a fighter who was the champion that finds himself on the hot seat just a few years later.  Others, like Forrest Griffin and Dominick Cruz see injuries potentially shatter their dreams of competing on a high level.  As for Jon Fitch, it is an entirely different story.  Jon Fitch is probably one of the top 5 welterweights in MMA history.  He has impressive win streaks, incredible wrestling, cardio, and tremendous submission skills.  He has been in the Octagon with GSP, Demian Maia, BJ Penn, Erick Silva and Paulo Thiago and they could not submit him.  On June 14th from Las Vegas, Jon Fitch has been submitted by Josh Burkman.  I literally laughed when Burkman dropped into half guard to finish the choke because Fitch is known for giving up an arm or his neck as bait so his opponent wears out his arms or gives up a dominant position.  Fitch is a jiu jitsu black belt under Dave Camarillo and was just destroyed by Burkman.  Here is my take on the downfall of one of my favorite fighters.

Now first, some of you are immediately confused by my last statement.  Yes, Jon Fitch is one of my favorite fighters.  He gets heat for being a "boring" fighter, but I find his matches incredibly entertaining.  I think it is truly amazing how every guy he fights almost gets a claustrophobic feeling when they fight him.  Fitch makes it so you can't breathe, you can't move, and you can't win.  He smothers opponents and outworks them bell to bell.  Yeah he may not knock you out silly, but he makes you know you've been in a fight.  Throw in Rusty Cage by Johnny Cash as his walkout song and you have me won over.

As for his downfall, it is a sad one for me to watch.  Things have never been easy for Fitch.  The Purdue Boilermaker was a walk on to the Purdue wrestling team, only to graduate as team captain and oh yeah, a national champion.  He actually had one of the longer winning streaks in MMA and UFC history, yet he did not get a title shot for the longest time.  It amazes me how he won 8 straight UFC fights and 16 straight including other promotions before he finally fought GSP.  Even though it was a route, Fitch and GSP took home Fight of the Night bonuses after the match.  He then went on to win 5 straight without getting a rematch.  A tie to BJ Penn and of course the shocking knockout by Johny Hendricks ended his aspirations
of getting that rematch.  That KO may have done more damage than we thought.  A ridiculous KO like that can do a lot of things to a man.  Fitch may not be alone in this downfall.  My other examples:
  • Rashad Evans: Since the Lyoto Machida knockout, he has not been the same.  TBD on if Rashad can bounce back.  But his fights against Jones and Little Nog did not turn out so well.
  • Mark Hominick: He was a top contender and still to date the toughest fight of Jose Aldo's career.  Following a valiant effort against Aldo, he was knocked senseless by Jung.  Since then, he has lost two decisions and retired.
  • Joe Stevenson: Most of you probably forgot this guy was even alive.  He once fought BJ Penn for the Lightweight Championship.  He lost a few submissions and decisions, but since being knocked out by Mac Danzig, he has done nothing but lose.  Even in the RFA Stevenson came up short against Dakota Cochrane and has lost his last 5 fights.  This is closest to Fitch.  Not only was he a former contender, but he could not even win in his new promotion.
  • Miguel Torres: Last but not least, Miguel Torres was not only a top contender but also a champion.  He started his career 37-1 and won the WEC belt.  He defended the belt a few times before Brian Bowles knocked him out.  He has gone 3-5 since then and also lost in the WSOF after being released from the UFC.
So as you can see, the Hendricks KO may have had long lasting effects on the mind of Jon Fitch.  It is not easy to simply be knocked out cold, then decide to go right back into the cage and be the same guy.  Not everyone is Forrest Griffin.  Even Gray Maynard could be a guy that never returns to prominence since being knocked out by Edgar and now Grant.  This is a tough sport and it is not easy to come back from such adversity.

Why am I making such a big deal about Jon Fitch then?  This has less to do with my personal fanfare of Fitch, and more to do with the fall from grace with Dana White and the UFC.  Recently, Fitch released his finances and talked about how the UFC was a hostile work environment.  How fighters are underpaid and Dana White is the bad guy.  Fitch has been a huge center of focus in the MMA world since being released.  Fighters around the world almost have to be rattled that he was defeated so soundly because they needed him to make Dana look stupid.  They had a better chance of starting a fighter union and getting more money before Fitch became an afterthought.  Even though the WSOF is going to keep Fitch as a premier guy going forward, his days as a relevant fighter in mixed martial arts are gone.  It is unfortunate but a reality that the top level talent eventually falls into mediocrity.  Mediocrity is not even the case for Fitch.  He is gone, maybe forever, maybe not.  The man who received praise by many in his last UFC fight for not being finished by Maia (arguably the best submission artist in MMA), was just choked out in under a minute by a relative nobody.  Fitch is also known for his resiliency, but if he comes back from this and rises to the top, it would be a miracle.

I do have to give credit to Dana White for being a big man about this, at least for now.  I am sure he will have plenty of smart remarks about Fitch during UFC 161 press conferences, but on Twitter Dana focused completely on his hatred for ref Steve Mazzagatti rather than berate Fitch through social media.  Good for you Dana.  Oh and really Steve Mazzagatti?  You weren't even in the general vicinity of the two fighters!  I know Fitch is hard to choke out and I couldn't believe he actually was out, but it is your job to be there checking on that.  Class act by Burkman to call his own fight over.

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