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By: Chris Park, MMATorch UK Specialist
The verbal war between UFC President Dana White and leading MMA trainer Greg Jackson continues, as both questions and answers were presented regarding the fight philosophy of the Jackson camp.
Since Nate Marquart dropped a unanimous decision to Yushin Okami in their middleweight No.1 contender bout at UFC 122 last month, White has expressed his belief that Jackson installs a "safety first" mentality into his athlete's fight preparations.
With a mixed bag of results for the camp in 2010, there is evidence both for and against the argument presented by the UFC President. With that in mind it seems relevant to look at some of the biggest names within the camp and to take a closer look at their recent performances.
Shane Carwin began 2010 the exact same way as he ended 2009, with another first round knockout. This time - at UFC 111 in March - it was Frank Mir who was on the receiving end of Carwin's ferocious ground and pound. The win saw Carwin claim the Interim Heavyweight Championship, in the absence of reigning undisputed Champion Brock Lesnar, as well as being awarded his first UFC "Knockout of the Night" honour.
Despite coming up short against returning champion Brock Lesnar, Carwin was within touching distance of being crowned the Undisputed Champion himself before eventually being submitted in the second round.
Despite the loss, it was a typically savage first round on the part of Carwin as he went at Brock Lesnar with the same bulldozing aggression that had seen all twelve of his previous opponents fail to even survive a round with the hardest hitter in MMA.
On that very same evening of his knockout win at UFC 111, Carwin's stable-mate Georges St. Pierre was masterful in his five round controlling of British star Dan Hardy when the two clashed for the Canadian's Welterweight Title. While St. Pierre received criticism from some corners for not finishing the bout, credit has to be given to Hardy for surviving a number of eye watering, bone-bending scenarios to see the fight through to the judge's decision.
Hardy's next opponent would be another member of Jackson's camp, as he took on Carlos "The Natural Born Killer" Condit in what was the American's second performance under Jackson's tutelage. After an inconsistent start to his UFC career, Condit made the switch to Jackson in a bid to resurrect the dominant champion he once was during his WEC days.
The first bout under Jackson saw Condit come back from two rounds down to hand Rory MacDonald one of the biggest and longest-lasting beatings in UFC history. That third round was easily looking to be a 10-8 score, but with eight seconds to spare the referee decided MacDonald had taken enough and called a halt to proceedings.
The win saw both men awarded "Fight Of The Night" honours and would then set up an autumn showdown between Condit and the aforementioned Dan Hardy in the English capital. With barely 30 seconds remaining in the first round, Condit silenced the 20,000 strong pro-Hardy crowd as he landed a vicious left hook to drop Hardy to the floor. A follow up assault left the London O2 Arena stunned as the widely regarded granite-chinned Hardy lay unconscious, being stopped for the first time in his career.
The win saw Condit claim his second straight Fight Night honour while being thrust into the welterweight title picture for the first time. Condit, who admitted that Hardy was his biggest scalp, went on record to confirm that he would be willing to face team-mate St. Pierre for the title should that eventuality present itself.
Nate "The Great" Marquart has had an inconsistent year to say the least. Despite being 4-2 in his last six fights, and with all four wins coming via stoppage, Marquart has come in for some criticism upon reflection of his two recent losses.
On two occasions in 2010 Marquart found himself one fight away from realising his dream of re-matching Anderson Silva for the Middleweight title; and on both occasion Marquart appeared gun-shy as he was out wrestled and out maneuvered by Chael Sonnen, and more recently, Yushin Okami.
It was the Okami loss that sparked this recent debate with Dana White hitting out at the corner of Marquart for not pushing their man to go for the kill. Known for his ability to finish fights quickly, Marquart adopted a more reserved approach to Okami, which didn't really see him get out of first gear, with little encouragement from his corner to kick things up a notch.
While 2010 has been an unfortunate year for Marquardt, Jon Jones has risen from the undercards to shoot up the 205 lb. ladder at a ferocious pace. Despite his clash with Matt Hamill technically being recognised as his sole career loss, albeit by disqualification, Jones has since defeated Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko in style.
Jones blasted the experienced duo out of the water in devastating fashion notching up back to back first round stoppage victories to cement himself as a genuine threat to the light heavy-weight throne.
Kenny Florian fought twice in 2010 with his first bout resulting in a highly impressive "Submission of the Night" victory over debuting Japanese star Takanori Gomi. The win saw Florian notch up back to back submission victories, having previously despatched Clay Guida, to propel himself into a No. 1 contender eliminator with TUF 5 lightweight Gray Maynard.
The bout took place at UFC 118 where Kenny Florian returned "home" as the UFC hit Boston for the first time. The homecoming didn't quite go to plan as "The Bully" dominated Florian throughout the fight taking him down at will en route to a unanimous decision victory which secured a second showdown with Frankie Edgar, only this time the 155 lb. crown will be on the line.
A number of fighters have turned to Jackson in recent times, with the likes of Yoshihiro Akiyama and Melvin Guillard joining the team. Diego Sanchez re-joined Jackson as he aimed to prevent a three fight slide when he took on Paulo Thiago at UFC 121.
With many predicting a Thiago win, "The Nightmare" of old seemed to be making a return as this "Fight of the Night" saw Sanchez back into the win column.
With Rashad Evans awaiting a date to face Shogun Rua for the 205 lb. title, Jackson could soon have a number of title holders fighting out of his gym. In all reality, Shane Carwin is one or two wins away from a second title shot while Jon Jones will likely have his chance within the year as well.
It is fair to say that, with the exception of Nate Marquart and Kenny Florian struggling with the game-plans of Chael Sonnen, Yushin Okami and Gray Maynard, respectively, Greg Jackson’s camp go about their business in a positively aggressive manner.
It is frustrating to see top tier fighters such as Marquart and Florian wilt when a shot at gold is on the line, but sometimes fights don't go the way they do in practice. One of the best things about MMA is that a fighter does not usually have to wait too long for another chance to prove himself and, as it is said so often, the sign of a great champion is not just how he wins but also how he bounces back from defeat.
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