Posted by Clyde Barretto on February 27th, 2011
Pictured: BJ Penn ground and pounded by Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia. photo by Daniel Herbertson, FanHouse
Jon Fitch at UFC 127 in Sydney, Australia drew with MMA’s great BJ Penn last night. A fight in which I think he won. But more importantly, it’s a fight in which he does not get his due respect.
Jon Fitch has a style that people like to call a grinding style. He uses his superior wrestling base, unlimited cardio and progressing stand up to impose his will. A wrestler who has come out of Purdue and part of the American Kickboxing Academy camp that has other great wrestlers has led him to have that natural instinct to get in the clinch, dirty box for a short spurt and eventually take his opponent down. From there, his opponents are most of the time left defenseless. His pawing shots and elbows lead his opponent to hope that the bell will ring soon so that they can restart the fight. Otherwise, like Penn they’ll be marked up with a bruised face and two black eyes. I am quite sure a “lay and pray” style would not have done that to Penn’s face causing him to wear sunglasses during the post-fight conference and two weeks after.
MMA audiences miss out on the other aspects of the fight game. Unlike Fitch’s opponent last night, he treats his job like a full-time job. He is in the gym day in and day out. He trains all year round and his healthy all year long. He sticks to his game plans and like last night also proved that he could adjust to Penn’s surprising takedown tactic. His limitless cardio also proves that he, unlike Penn could have kept fighting. If it was a five round championship fight or heck, let’s even say it was Pride rules; Fitch would have clearly won last night’s fight.
Fans want fights to end with knockouts and or submissions. (To be honest, even the submissions seem boring to the common fan as most are uneducated when it comes to the ground game) But even with bruising and blackening of BJ Penn’s eyes they aren’t satisfied. Fitch dominated a fighter who has only been taken out twice in his career. And those two loses weren’t even KO’s or submissions. One was due to him losing his cardio in the third round (and or having a rib injury) against Matt Hughes and the other being completely drained of his gas tank against Georges St. Pierre the current UFC welterweight champion. And if we were to look at Jon Fitch’s last seven opponents, they have a combined 194 fights. between those fights there have been only 19 times finishes. This isn’t only a detriment due to Fitch’s style, but also the evolving sport of MMA.
Eventually finishes will become harder to come by once the upper echelon of fighters become even more well-rounded. Eventually, it won’t only be the Top 5 that can strike, wrestle, grapple and have endless cardio. That will soon expand to the Top 10, then Top 15 and so on. As the fighters become more and more athletic we will see fighters with a work ethic like Jon Fitch.
Now, this isn’t to say that Fitch has set a blue print for his “grinding style” to be copied. But it’s left a blue print for fighters making the sport of MMA a full-time job. No long breaks and vacations on the beach. And just like the fighters, fans should be able to appreciate the kind of work that Jon Fitch has put in. Fans should learn that it’s much harder than they think it is to “finish” a great fighter like BJ Penn. How much more fighters that are closer to his size and strength?
I wouldn’t call Jon Fitch a “boring” fighter. I would say that he is a fighter that trains hard and fights to his capabilities to win fights. He fights hard and he wins. And just like any sport, winning is what matters. This is an individual sport where fighters should fight for themselves.