UFC 114 was interesting to me from a sports psychology perspective.
The pay-per-view kicked off with the weirdness of watching Diego Sanchez play counter fighter for 3 rounds. Remember what he looked like as he prepared to begin the 5th round against BJ Penn? His face was busted and he’d been thoroughly destroyed for the previous twenty minutes. And yet his posture and expression seemed to scream I can do this. Five minutes left. Miraculous come from behind victory. This is mine. I marveled at his mental toughness. Even after losing and while recuperating from surgery he seemed in good spirits. This guy can’t be broken, I thought. Amazing. But something in his mind must have shifted somewhere along the line because the brazen, confident, courageous zeal that typifies his fighting style was nowhere to be seen on May 29th.
Like many others, not Dana White, but many others, I was moved by Dan Miller’s plight. The mere facts of his personal life circumstance brought me to root for him hoping against hope that he wouldn’t be cut from the UFC. But what intrigued me come fight time was that he chose to stand with Bisping for the majority of the three round bout. It must have felt really good to tag Bisping, whom Miller had been told repeatedly was the stronger striker. And then in front of everyone to nail him, to hurt him with a punch, must have been exhilarating even if it came after getting clipped with 4 or 5 himself. I’m assuming that high must have been irresistible, otherwise why was he seduced into chasing a knock out instead of working the strongest side of his game in a fight that he had to win?
I’d heard people commenting that they thought Evans looked scared going into Saturday’s fight. But maybe what we took to be timid behavior was actually just Rashad’s typical relaxed demeanor. Clearly the man had a game plan that he believed in (for good reason, as it turned out). In the meantime, Rampage, who had amused us all with his cocky confidence, seemed to have messed up his own mental game in a vain attempt to get inside Rashad’s head. It appears that all the pressure he put on himself to win, prove that he’s still a relevant force against the UFC’s new breed, back up the trash talk, and return victorious after the controversial Hollywood layover, was too much. We’ve seen Rampage crack before so I suppose it shouldn’t have been a surprise that he scared himself frozen and sat back in the fight. But it was.
And Brilz? Everyone was so surprised by how well he took the judges decision but I think he was too busy feeling humbled by his success in rolling with Nog to be self-righteous. And Duffee? What does a young developing guy tell himself when he does everything right but loses in dramatic fashion anyway? Did Lauzon lose because his brother didn’t hug him enough as a child or because he is a lazy? And how great is Stun Gun? Ok, that broke with my theme but still: pretty great.