Thoughts From Across The Pond 11.01.13: Hits Like A Girl
Posted by Alex Watt on 11.01.2013
On the preliminary card of UFC Fight Night in Manchester, Jessica Andrade dished out a beating to Rosi Sexton. In the aftermath, there has been a lot of discussion regarding whether the fight should have been stopped. Is this a case of fighter safety or a perceived view of gender inequality? 411s Alex Watt weighs in with his view on the issue
For those who were expecting to see my review of The Ultimate Fighter, episode 8, fear not! My latest TUF 18 review will be available to read on 411 MMA on Tuesday.
In the meantime, I felt I should weigh in on an issue which emerged from UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Munoz, which I was lucky enough to attend in person on Saturday night.
Safety First or Gender Inequality?
@RosiSexton shouldn't have to justify her toughness because of people's insecurities. Did guys make same comments about JDS vs. Cain? #UFC
On the preliminary portion of Saturday's UFC Fight Night card, Jessica Andrade dominated Rosi Sexton in a striking contest which was shockingly one-sided. The Brazilian fighter tagged her foe with a variety of strikes, often at will. Sexton ate a tremendous number of punches, uppercuts and knees while she had her back against the cage. The judges' scorecards of 30-26, 30-27, 30-26 said it all.
In the aftermath of the fight, a good number of viewers were in uproar and Joe Rogan appeared to share their view during his commentary of the fight that the fight should have been stopped and Sexton should not have been allowed to be subjected to such abuse.
I was covering the Sexton-Andrade fight live in the arena for 411mania and, as you can see from my report of the fight, I never once truly feared for Rosi's safety. She took a heck of a beating, sure, but with my opinion not being coloured by Rogan's commentary agenda, I was simply enjoying an exciting if rather one-sided fight.
From my vantage point, Sexton only once looked wobbly, was consistently fighting back with punches of her own, and even secured a takedown on her Brazilian foe at the end of the second round.
Even so, sometimes a fighter needs to be saved from themselves. 411's own Samer Kadi wrote a typically brilliant piece on this issue last week, in reference to Velasquez vs. dos Santos. The points he raised in that article are salient and key in nicely to any discussion surrounding the Andrade-Sexton bout.
There are certainly similarities between this women's bantamweight bout and the heavyweight title tussle from the week prior. In both instances, the fighter on the receiving end of the majority of the punishment simply refused to back down or hit the floor, their durability and desire keeping them in the fight in the face of seemingly insurmountable odds. At that stage, some have argued, should the referee not step in and stop the punishment?
The issue becomes clouded, however, when you consider that Sexton, despite eating a terrifying number of strikes and her face showing the superficial damage they had inflicted, rarely looked on wobbly legs and, on the contrary, kept moving, fighting back and demonstrating that she still had her wits about her. Whether Sexton was truly "intelligently defending herself" is perhaps up for debate but one cannot dispute that she kept moving and, in doing so, let the referee know that she was in control of her faculties and was still very much in the fight.
This puts the referee in a difficult position; one of "damned if you do, damned if you don't". You only need to look at people's reactions to the stoppage in the Josh Barnett vs. Frank Mir (Dana White's Twitter rant, especially) to see that the officials are in a difficult position. Stop a fight too early and they are crucified, stop a fight too late and they are lambasted.
One can't help but wonder whether the opinion of many people has been coloured by the aforementioned Velasquez vs. dos Santos fight. Would there have been the same level of uproar following Andrade vs. Sexton had JDS not taken such a nasty beating just seven days prior?
In addition, one cannot help but ask whether the level of outcry might have something to do with the gender of the two fighters in the Octagon. That is not to say there isn't an argument that the Sexton-Andrade fight should have been stopped by the referee or doctor; there absolutely is. However, such a discussion needs to be fair and unbiased. One cannot allow the fact that the contest was between two female athletes cloud their judgement. Dana White, Joe Rogan and Jon Anik all failed to do this.
You could have given me an IQ test as I walked out of the cage; I'd still have scored higher than @joerogan ;-)
As a writer who has had the pleasure of interviewing Rosi and who respects her greatly for everything she's done for the sport, I find some of the abuse directed towards her on Twitter for a harmless joke quite disgraceful. Of course, on social media, what else is new?
Putting aside that particular issue for another day (seriously, I could devote an entirely different 2,000 word column to morons on social media), the big discussion point here was whether Rogan's commentary may have coloured certain viewers' opinions towards the fight potentially being stopped.
Rogan's justification for his commentary was that he was simply speaking "out of concern" for Sexton's safety. I have no doubt that he was. However, his opinion was clearly altered by the fact that, in this instance, it was a female fighter on the receiving end of the beating and, like many other viewers, this made him feel uncomfortable. Compare his commentary on this bout to his enthusiastic cries on the thriller between Gilbert Melendez and Diego Sanchez a week prior; in that instance, Rogan wasn't calling for the contest to be stopped even though Sanchez was taking a hammering, primarily because he, like everyone else, was caught up in the drama of the fight and of Sanchez's stubborn refusal to back down.
Dana White also seemed uncomfortable with how long the Andrade vs. Sexton bout was permitted to continue. "I agree 100 percent that fight should have been stopped. It's a fight like that that made me not like women's MMA, actually. I saw a very one-sided, mismatched fight," said the UFC President at the post-fight press conference.
Although it should be noted that White seemed similarly uncomfortable with how long Velasquez vs. dos Santos was permitted to continue (a fight in which the male JDS took a far worse beating than the female Sexton did this weekend), I don't remember him using that fight as an example of why men's MMA could be considered a bad thing. Conversely, Joe Rogan displayed nowhere near the same level of concern for JDS (or indeed Diego Sanchez) as he did while commentating on the UFC Fight Night women's bout.
Consider this, my colleague Jon Butterfield and I were in agreement that Andrade and Sexton were likely to walk away with the official Fight of the Night honours. One-sided though it may have been, Rosi's heart and toughness meant that the fight ended up being an extremely exciting and dramatic one. Instead, Luke Barnatt and Andrew Craig walked away with the FOTN bonus money. Although Barnatt and Craig had a similarly exciting bout, it was also rather one sided, yet I heard no complaints from White about it being a "mismatch" at the press conference. One has to wonder whether his view was coloured by the fact that one was a male contest and one a female bout.
Later in the same conference White made a quip about how "nobody knocks Roy Nelson out". How many times have we seen "Big Country" take an inhuman amount of punches from a heavyweight foe and keep on fighting? In those instances, people praise Nelson for his iron chin and iron will, yet such fights cannot be healthy for him down the line. I welcome discussions of concussions in Mixed Martial Arts, however such discussions have to be fair. One cannot praise Nelson for his "warrior spirit" and then condemn Sexton, her corner team and the referee in the same breath.
The women's bantamweight division has the issue of being the only UFC weight class available to female fighters at present. It means that legends like Rosi Sexton will fight far above their natural weight (Sexton is a flyweight by trade and probably a small 125-er even then) and others of a higher weight will cut tremendous amounts in order to make bantamweight (such as the massive Peggy Morgan on TUF 18, for instance). That means that, unfortunately, until the UFC introduce new female weight classes something that is unlikely to happen anytime soon as the company is struggling to accommodate all nine of its current divisions mismatches may continue to be made.
Nevertheless, this isn't the fault of the female fighters, who obviously will take any chance they can get to fight on the big show. I have yet to see a women's fight in the UFC that I would term dull. Women's MMA has more than earned its right to be in the Octagon and it is not fair to judge any one-sided fight which may occur on the basis of gender; it has a lot more to do with the limited number of fighters available to the UFC at present.
When discussing the issue of one-sided beatings and stoppages (or lack thereof), it's as simple as this; the issue is one of safety, not gender. Ask yourself this question; if a male fighter turned in the same sort of performance as Rosi Sexton did in Manchester would you have the same concerns?
Women in the UFC are on equal footing with the men, as well they should be. If Roy Nelson, Junior dos Santos, BJ Penn, Donald Cerrone, Diego Sanchez and others are considered tough enough to stay in there for three or five rounds while taking significant damage, then the same goes for female fighters. Leave your prejudices and insecurities at the door please; otherwise perhaps Mixed Martial Arts isn't the sport for you.
And that's all for this week. Remember to check out my review of The Ultimate Fighter 18, episode 8 on Tuesday.
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Thanks for reading and if you have any comments or feedback please leave them below or message me on twitter. Cheers.