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Boston Idol
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#1 Posted on 22.2.05 0551.29
Reposted on: 22.2.12 0555.32
This week's episode of "The Ultimate
Fighter" was built around the match to
settle a grudge between Josh Koscheck
and Chris Leben from last week's show.
Some were hailing this bout as a historic
match that would help UFC expand their
audience, but instead this match was a
historic throwback to the early days of
UFC when limited fighters sometimes
engaged in dull, anticlimactic battles.

This episode opened with Dana White
calling all the fighters together to inform
them of the fallout from the dispute on
the previous episode that led to Chris
punching out two defenseless doors.
There would be no more alcohol in the
house, if anyone got into a fight in the
house, they would both be kicked off
the show, and the guys would have to
pay for the damage they did to the house.

These "new rules" seemed so obvious
that one wondered why Dana White or
the producer or the two captains hadn't
thought of them when the show was in
the planning stages, unless they were
hoping to create a situation like this.
Why provide alcohol to fighters who
are supposedly in rigorous training?
Why ban television and newspapers
other than to create artificial stress?
Why ban all contact with women, unless
one believes that "women weaken legs?"

Randy Couture then gave his surmon.
"You guys were all brought here to
be ambassadors for this sport, to send
a message to this entire country about
who we are, what we stand for, the kind
of people that come into this sport and
fight in that cage."

Setting aside that Couture gave Leben
a free pass on urinating on the bed of
another fighter in an earlier episode,
shouldn't Grandpa Grappler remember
Tank Abbott? Wasn't Tank the kind
of people that came into this sport and
fought inside that cage. When did the
sport of MMA or UFC start caring
about the class of their athletes?

Bobby Southworth complained about
he and Josh having to help pay for the
damage that Chris did. Maybe they
had to pay for the stuff they dumped
in the pool. Apparently Southworth
forgot all about that incident.

Josh and one of many uncharismatic
fighters lounged around complaining
about Couture's speech. In an insert
from an interview, Josh mockingly
called Couture "Captain America"
while outlining Couture's hypocrisy.

Chris Leben unwrapped his scraped
knuckle and uttered a long stream of
obscenities that were bleeped out.
Koscheck, still lounging around in
the other room, called Chris "white
trash" under his breath and said that
he would be ashamed to be seen with
Chris in public. In an insert from an
interview, Chris fantasized about
injuring Josh by breaking his jaw
and knocking out all of his teeth.
So much for Couture's big surmon.

Dana White aired clips from famous
UFC matches and said "some of the
best fights in UFC have been between
guys who don't like each other." He
added "Chris Leben Josh Koscheck
has all the makings of one of those
fights." Apparently White, like many
analysts touting this fight, forgot the
importance of booking skilled fighters.

Chris Leben continued to cut the sort
of arrogant promos that have fooled
analysts into making him the favorite,
but his endless bragging started to
sound like whistling in the dark, or
a fanboy trying to cut a pro wrestling
promo by swaggering and swearing and
talking about the gruesome things he
would do to his opponent.

Training clips aired of both fighters.
Unlike last week when training was
superficial background for a music
segment, this week they discussed
tactics and aired some telling footage.

Leben worked on punching and trying
to avoid takedowns against Couture
and another sparring partner. Leben
avoided some takedowns, but when
he was taken down, he appeared to
have no reply, even in a sparring bout.
Chris said that the only way Koscheck
could win would be by laying on him.

Koscheck worked on shooting in and
getting takedowns on a pair of sparring
partners who focused on punching.
The sparring partners rotated and it
wasn't clear how much sparring took
place, but Koscheck blew up and did
not look good, creating some doubt
prior to the big fight.

More footage aired of fighters laying
around the house bored out of their
skulls. Again one wonders why TV,
music, and other entertainment were
banned while alcohol was allowed.
One also wonders why the producer
chose to feature so many unflattering
shots of fighters laying around rather
than selecting more athletic clips.

Koscheck was shown cutting weight
by riding a stationary bike inside a
sauna. Koscheck mocked Southworth
cutting weight in an earlier episode as
Lidell laughed and Southworth watched.
Leben cut more weight and cut more
promos. Leben sounded like someone
trying to convince himself of something,
saying "It's my calling to win", but
Dana White was apparently convinced
as he picked Leben to win the fight.

The producers suddenly decided to
give an update on Nathan Quarry's
ankle injury, which wasn't discussed
much the previous week when it was
overshadowed by juvenile hijinks.
The prognosis was not encouraging
and for the first time the possibility
was raised that Nathan would be cut.

More footage aired of various fighters
lounging around the house analyzing
the fight. Their analysis was deeper
than White's analysis. They sounded
like fighters, though all of them laying
around was still an unflattering visual.

The producer definitely needs to give
the fighters more to do if they decide
to shoot another UFC series. The near
constant laying around doesn't just make
the fighters look bad, it kills any attempt
at pacing and makes the show look dull.

Leben got taped up for the fight. The
tape man asked how Leben scraped off
his knuckle. Leben said he punched a
window. The tape man asked Leben
if the window had pissed him off, an
obvious question that White, Couture,
and UFC's answer to Kip Allen Frey
failed to ask the previous week. What
was Leben's excuse for punching out
the defenseless window anyway?

Finally the fighters met in the Octagon.
Chris Leben jumped around and yelled
like a baboon. Koscheck confirmed
himself as the Muraco of MMA by
coolly blowing Leben a kiss before
the match started.

Both fighters were tentative at the outset
and it took almost forty five seconds for
them to have any meaningful contact.
Koscheck went for a dive and barely
avoided getting hammered by a knee.
Koscheck was more hesitant after that,
but he finally caught Leben lunging
toward him when Leben thought he
had him trapped against the cage and
he quickly took Leben down.

Leben had some rudimentary defensive
skills on the mat, but seemed no threat
to counter with a submission or escape.
Koscheck wasn't adept at pounding and
he couldn't get through Leben's guard
to try any submission holds. This was
a painful reminder that both of these
fighters were still very green and that
however entertaining a feud between
them might have seemed, they lacked
the broader variety of skills needed
to produce a classic MMA match.

Eventually the referee called for a break
and made them restart. Koscheck again
took Leben down with ease and then
neither was able to do very much. Both
coaches told their fighter that he had
won the first round. Perhaps Couture
was trying to instill confidence, but he
lied to his fighter when he probably
should have pushed for more urgency.

The second round started much faster
with Koscheck looking more confident.
Leben looked totally lost, rarely even
throwing a punch and trying a few kicks.
Koscheck eventually charged in, ducked
two halfhearted punches, and took Leben
down easily. While obviously a strong
wrestler, Koscheck was unable to set up
any submission attempts and actually
left himself open several times, once
allowing Leben to grab an arm bar
which he was unable to lock solidly.

The referee called for another break,
but Koscheck quickly took Leben down
again. Leben grabbed his own foot and
appeared to be trying to build a counter
hold, but he didn't appear to have much
offensive ability with his back on the mat.
Finally the round ended and it was up to
the judges to determine the outcome or
to send the bout into an overtime round.

No overtime was needed however as the
judges gave a unanimous decision to Josh
Koscheck. Chris Leben bitched about the
decision. So much for his babyface turn.
Koscheck responded "take your bus ticket
and go home", once again showing up the
"mouth that roared" with his quicker wit.

The decision wasn't surprising. Leben
was a puncher who landed no punches
of note. Koscheck was a wrestler who
scored four takedowns and dominated
the action on top. Leben got a little
credit for a couple of attempted counter
strikes and the one arm bar attempt, but
he didn't do enough to win the fight.

Leben was inconsolible after the fight,
even blowing off the camp counselor.
"I guess that's the kind of fighter you
want in the UFC, one who lays on top
of you", whined Leben to Dana White.
White summed up Leben as "a tough,
ballsy kid... who is mentally very weak."

It will be interesting to see if this show
garnered a much larger audience as
predicted by several optomistic pundits,
but it will be even more interesting to
see if it can hold an audience after a
fight that could only be described as
disappointing given the long buildup
and the pre-fight comparisons to some
of the greatest bouts in UFC history.

In the end this was a throwback to
superfights like Severn vs Shamrock
where the limitations of each fighter
were exposed by the matchup and by
their ability to nullify each other's
main strengths. This was a return to
the "age old question" of the wrestler
versus the boxer with neither man able
to give a good account of his discipline.

It's possible that Josh Koscheck and
Chris Leben will go on to become
legendary UFC fighters, but this dull
bout showed the pitfalls of pushing
inexperienced performers too hard
too soon. Those who criticized the
WWE for failing to capitalize on a
fluke between Kurt Angle and Daniel
Puder should take note of this match
and the fallout from it and reconsider
whether pushing raw talent in a high
profile match is a smart business move.

Whatever extra interest in UFC was
created by the hype from last week
was probably offset by disappointment
over the bout this week. Chris Leben
versus Josh Koscheck was not a good
showcase for UFC or MMA after all.

Frank

"I think you might be letting your
preferences on who was in the right
color your perceptions of what will
happen in that fight. Leben has a
much more extensive fighting resume,
although Josh is an accomplished
wrestler. Also, I got the distinct
impression Leben was a lot more eager
for that fight than Koshcheck was.
Josh looked and sounded like a guy
trying to convince an audience and
himself that he wasn't scared, and
to me, that means he's half-beaten
before the thing starts. Feel free
to rub this in my face next week if
I'm wrong, but I think Leben is going
to clean his clock."
- Scott E. Williams, WCMB

(edited by Boston Idol on 22.2.05 0914)
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fuelinjected
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#2 Posted on 22.2.05 1337.48
Reposted on: 22.2.12 1340.58
The problem with all of this is that even skilled fighters have clunkers. Also, Leben's had some very exciting fights in his young career against some skilled fighters.
Boston Idol
Blutwurst
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#3 Posted on 22.2.05 1420.32
Reposted on: 22.2.12 1427.16
:: The problem with all of this is that even skilled fighters have clunkers.

Absolutely. The problem here was that the clunkiness exposed the lack of skill. Leben had openings and was unable to capitalize. His punches looked desperately wild because he couldn't close the gap without being taken down. Leben needed to win this on the mat by counter wrestling. He had a huge advantage in experience, but couldn't make it count for anything. In fact, Koscheck's knee to the ribs before the first takedown of the second round might have been the best strike of the whole match.

:: Also, Leben's had some very exciting fights in his young career against some skilled fighters.

"Exciting" as in "he hit them real hard?" No doubt Leben could do some damage if he connected. Clearly he was afraid of Koscheck's takedown skills and therefore could not rely on bullying and brawling. Really sad, considering how little MMA experience Koscheck had. Any midcarder would have made Koscheck tap with all the openings he left. Where did Leben get his gaudy won-loss record? Is there a backyard version of UFC somewhere?

Frank
fuelinjected
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#4 Posted on 22.2.05 1438.46
Reposted on: 22.2.12 1438.51
There are many other fight organizations then UFC in North America. These guys just don't walk out of a gym and into the UFC. Here's his record off his site: http://www.chrisleben.com/bio.html

It's not unreasonable to think that he was just off his game, especially considering all his emotion going in.

(edited by fuelinjected on 22.2.05 1240)
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