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Defending Lay and Pray

on Friday, 20 January 2012. Posted in MMA

Ultimate Hugging Championship

Defending Lay and Pray
You’ve been an MMA fan for a while now, but it’s a fairly new sport.  Most people you know refer to the sport as UFC. Whenever someone mentions MMA, you can’t help joining the conversation, hoping it might go somewhere.  It never does though. You feel yourself immediately take over the conversation with your vast knowledge and know you’ve ruined a discussion you weren’t supposed to be a part of.  After all, it’s only 2007 and the sport is young.  Jon Fitch finished four out of his last five opponents and is on a 14 fight win streak and the brink of a title shot.  Matt Serra just shocked the world and knocked out the elusive and dominant Canadian welterweight champion.
A year passes and Jon Fitch has his 8th consecutive victory inside the Octagon.  He’s tied the legendary Royce Gracie for consecutive victories under the UFC banner and earned the respect of Dana White.  Fitch would fight the winner in the rematch between Matt Serra and Georges St. Pierre for the title.  We know the outcome of these matches and this is where our story begins.  At some point during his fight with GSP, maybe it was during the 25 minutes of lying on his back and watching fists rain down over him. Maybe his moment of realization came like in the movies where he’s sitting in the corner and his coaches are screaming at him, but he could only hear his thoughts. Or perhaps it was watching someone else get a title belt strapped around his waist in the same cage that Jon Fitch had an epiphany.  It was the same revelation GSP had experienced coming into consciousness seeing Matt Serra cartwheeling on the massive Xyience advertisement.  The sting of losing was far worse a feeling than the triumph of victory.

You want all of your friends to enjoy this sport as much as you do and so you invite them all out for a night at the bar to watch your best kept secret: MMA.  You hyped the fights to a level that pay-per-views lived up to in those days.  As you all enter the bar, you see Jon Fitch walking to the Octagon, mean mugging and punching himself in the face, on his way to Akihiro Gono.  Surely your mates are going to love this bout.  The fight hasn’t even made it a full round and you hear, “Why is he hugging him?” and “Didn’t you say this was the Ultimate Fighting Championship?”  You have no answer for either of these questions.  It begins to feel like you’re watching a bit of male on male porn.  No matter, the next fight is Clay Guida vs. Nate Diaz.  This will show your friends that it is fighting you watch and not The Ultimate Foreplay Championship as they’ve so cleverly renamed it.  You look on in horror as Nate Diaz tries his hardest to fight, but Clay Guida is content with jumping back and forth before he grips tightly to Diaz and waits for the bell.  Your friends are yawning and disinterested and your night is ruined.

You put all your money on this one night.  You gambled and came away like anyone who bet on Buffalo in one of their early-90s Super Bowl appearances.  Some of your best friends stuck around, but the main event featured the new and safe Georges St. Pierre.  Somewhere in the night, maybe at the bottom of a shot, eating a chicken wing, or while watching Jon Fitch get his hand raised you too had an epiphany:  never use Jon Fitch to advertise MMA to potential fans.

This new style of fighting would catch fire and bring with it a whole new breed of fighter.  The wrestler brought with him the ability to divide the entirety of MMA fans into two categories: those that hate lay and pray and those that defend it. Any way you debate it, fighters continue to utilize this technique and let the judges do the work for them.  Lay and pray is one of those things in life that you just blindly hate without any real rhyme or reason.  It’s akin to Justin Bieber in that when you try to explain your feelings on the matter you can only convey the emotion of sheer anger without any real words exiting your mouth.  Regardless, the game’s rules allow it and so the players are able to exploit it.

Fast forward to the here and now.  Mixed Martial Artists are using wrestling and subsequent lay and pray as a game-plan. Some are ashamed of this technique and promise a knockout before unveiling their blanket-like abilities like Rashad Evans or the recently cut Anthony Johnson.  Other fighters are extremely proud of their skill set.  They enjoy the grinding style.
Coaches like Greg Jackson teach a basic statistical gambling technique.  There are two games of chance in front of you.  Game A’s odds are unknown.  In this game, it is possible to have an extreme increase in payout or a striking cut in funds.  Game B’s odds are fixed and favorable to the player.  In this game, you have a strong chance to triple your payout each time you play.  
I should also add that playing Game A instead of Game B comes with a much greater chance of bones breaking, ligaments tearing, or abrupt narcolepsy coupled with Joe Rogan screams.  Game B comes with a smattering of boos and judges’ scorecards.  
Since GSP’s loss to Serra and Fitch’s loss to GSP, both have been playing Game B.  

To understand their decision, you must understand the UFC’s pay structure.  They pay you a base salary.  For a new fighter, that salary is generally between $4,000 and $6,000.  If you win, they automatically double that amount. So, if you win, you double your money, right?  Wrong.  Zuffa is known for cutting people after losses.  For a veteran, it takes a few losses to find yourself unemployed.  But, a new fighter?  Lose and it’s back to less money, lesser competition, and an even greater uphill battle.  But, win and they’ll give you another fight.  If you win, you triple your money.  Take Mendes's first fight under Zuffa.  He was offered $4,000 just to walk into the cage wearing gloves and shorts.  However, once he won, he was given a total of $8,000 and the guarantee of another fight.  He was guaranteed at the very least another $4,000.  Essentially, he walked away from his first fight under Zuffa with $12,000 when he was only offered $4,000. Chad Mendes used his wrestling base to continue to compound on that initial $4,000 offer to making $9,500 to show and a title shot.  All he had to do was show up to work five times, hold five different people down for five minute intervals, and he had increased his initial salary by $5,500 and his potential salary by $11,000.  Why wouldn’t he continue to do that?

Common logic among competition also follows the UFC’s structure.  If you win, you get to fight higher level opponents.  This means you’ll be fighting on the main card and taking in more of a cut.  Continue to win and you could be the main event making a cut of the pay per view figures.  However, if you lose, back to the prelims and lesser competition.  This limits your funds and begins to hurt your wallet, career, and ultimately your family.

This all comes back to the gambling technique.  You can come to the cage and gamble with your consciousness, wallet, and career playing Game A.  Sure, you might win a fight of the night bonus, but you might be on the business side of a knockout of the night.  Or you can enter the Octagon ready to play Game B.  Take your opponent down, hold him there, listen to some boos and triple your paycheck.  You’ll continue to heighten your career and pad the W column. And while you might rack up the wins, Jon Fitch can tell you that does not directly translate to a title shot.  The UFC brass keeps fighters cognizant of their inability to finish.  Fight fans won’t let up either.  GSP and Fitch promise to finish the next opponent, but continually hear Buffer announce the unanimous decision in their favor.  You might get nicknamed “Smoke Break” or “Beer Run” because you’re a guaranteed fifteen to 25 minute hug-fest.  Dana White might publicly humiliate you, but his bosses will keep signing your check.

Of course it’s boring to watch.  No, we do not have to like it.  Until fighters learn solid takedown defense, prepare to watch a fighter helpless on the ground with that ‘please stand us up’ look on his face at least once a card. You know it’s cheap.  You know it’s cheesy.  But, don’t hate the player, hate Game B.  Because, honestly, why wouldn’t you play that game if you could?
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