Sunday 4 December 2016

The curious case of Cathal Pendred - Unbeaten Dublin fighter can't catch a break

Published 16/06/2015 | 17:41

UFC star Cathal Pendred
UFC star Cathal Pendred

This week’s MMA column reviews the UFC 188 heavyweight title fight, Cathal Pendred’s curious career progression and gives a round-up of some Irish MMA news stories.

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The Curious Case of Cathal Pendred

Despite being an undefeated 4-0 since debuting with the UFC, it seems Cathal Pendred can’t catch a break.

While media outlets this side of the Atlantic reported another win for the Dubliner at the weekend, the US MMA media were using words like "boring" and "snoozer" when describing his fight without Augusto Montano at UFC 188.

The plan for Pendred was to be the first person to stop Montano and then request a fifth fight in the next month to become the first person to go 5-0 in their first 12 months with the UFC.

But the way the fight played out Pendred neither felt it appropriate or was afforded the opportunity of a post-fight interview with Joe Rogan.

Since his come from behind victory at UFC Dublin against Mike King at middleweight, the wins have kept coming but you get the sense its hasn’t really progressed his career much as he had hoped.

His second fight against Gasan Umalatov at UFC Fight Night: Nelson vs. Story last October was similar to what went transpired at the weekend.

Montano, like Umalatov before him, spent much of the three round affair going backwards.

At various stages during the fight Pendred stood in the centre of the Octagon with his hands outstretched wondering what the hell was going on.

UFC flyweight Neil Seery tweeted after the fight, "You can’t fight what’s not in front to you", and that was certainly the case.

The only time it looked like a fight was when Pendred managed to get his hands on Montano long enough to drag him to the mat. This was the Irish fighter trying to make the best of a bad lot, conversely though the US media seem to have interpreted it as a boring lay and pray wrestling strategy.

Sandwiched between the Umalatov and Montano non-fights is the contentious decision win over Sean Spencer. Many felt Pendred lost and even if you felt Spencer should have got his hand raised the outcome is hardly his fault.

UFC star Cathal Pendred
UFC star Cathal Pendred

Somehow the misdeeds of three judges, Umalatov and Montano have circled back to bite Pendred squarely in the backside and the Dubliner is starting to feel it.

Read more: Video: Cathal Pendred 'bitterly disappointed' despite unanimous points victory at UFC 188

In his back stage post-fight interview he admitted he now believes maybe something isn't quite right.

“There’s something I’m missing. There’s something I really need to bring my game forward, which I need to do before I start climbing the ranks,” he said.

His next step is crucial. A natural born competitor, there is no way Pendred will take consolation from losses that made him popular with the fans and media.

Whether it’s refining his ground and pound or his submission game to coax more finishes from opponents, it sounds like Pendred 2.0 will be coming sooner rather than later.

And the NEW…

Fabricio Werdum’s win against Cain Velasquez on Saturday night at UFC 188 was a thing of beauty. Though the bookmakers pegged him as the underdog against Cain Velasquez, you would not have guessed it from his performance.

By adding the real championship belt to the interim title he won last November, the Brazilian is truly the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world.

Werdum claimed the title seven years after he was dropped by the UFC due to a knockout loss to Junior Dos Santos. Since returning, Werdum has looked close to being the complete heavyweight fighter. On Saturday night he may just have proved that he is.

There were three main reasons Werdum took title at UFC 188

1) His evolution as a fighter

In his early career, thanks to his multiple gold medals at the BJJ World and Pan American Championships, Werdum was known as being one of the most dangerous submission fighter’s in MMA.

His striking abilities were adequate, but nothing to be scared of. In recent years he’s teamed up with Rafael Cordeiro and his striking is now nothing short of fearsome.

His destruction of hard hitters like Roy Nelson and Travis Browne in recent fights proved just how much his striking has progressed. The KO victory over Mark Hunt in November, himself a decorated kick boxer, just underlined how good his stand-up has gotten.

2. Preparation

Werdum spent 34 days training in Mexico at an elevation of almost 3,000 metres. The only way you can prepare for altitude is by spending time at altitude.

By training at an elevation higher than Mexico City’s 2,200 metres meant his body would feel better when he dropped down from his training camp to compete.

Velasquez, by contrast, spent just two weeks in Mexico City. Known for having strong stamina, Velasquez looked exhausted by the end of the first round. Though Werdum was no doubt tired, he still had energy enough to be able to conduct his post-fight interview in Spanish, Portuguese and English after his victory.

3. Tactics

Werdum and his camp totally out-thought Velasquez and his.

Even little things like the pace he fought at seemed to be more considered. The best route to success at altitude is with a slow and steady pace. While Velasquez looked to out muscle Werdum with bursts of action, the Brazilian weathered the storm knowing it would tire out his opponent eventually.

This gave him opportunities to land combinations on the more tired fighter.

By pulling your opponent into a Thai clinch you give yourself the opportunity to land strikes but he must work harder than you to free himself. By consistently pulling Cain into the clinch, Fabricio wore down Cain in rounds one and two.

Cain usually has great success taking opponents down and beating them up. The idea of taking down an elite level submission artist is not smart and therefore took a huge weapon from the former champion’s arsenal. Anytime the Werdum dropped to the mat Velasquez was happy to let him stand back up.

All the gains Werdum has made in his stand-up and the extra conditioning work at altitude meant he completely dominated as long as the fight was on its feet. By the end of round one Velasquez was bloodied up from a series of cuts around his eyes.

By the end of round two Cain’s corner urged their man to take Werdum down, knowing he was losing the shoot-out on the feet. This was the beginning of the end.

For anyone who’s ever been on the end of a choke, you know within a second or two if the choke is deep. A deep choke will render you unconscious in less than five seconds. The choice is to tap out or go to sleep. The speed at which Werdum coaxed the tap from Cain suggests that the choke was indeed very deep very early.

With the air already thin at altitude Velasquez knew he was going to sleep quickly if he didn’t tap.

In his post-fight interview the new undisputed heavyweight champion admitted he had worked hard on hitting the winning guillotine choke from a takedown attempt. A decorated collegiate wrestler, coming into the fight Velasquez had landed every other takedown he’d attempted. Werdum knew the takedown was coming and had prepared the perfect response.

And just like the welterweight, middleweight and light heavyweight divisions (each for very different reasons), life has been breathed back into the heavyweight division after the dominant champion has fallen.

Given the manner of the victory a straight-away rematch is unlikely. Either Stipe Miocic or Andrei Arlovski are most likely to be the early challengers. But even Junior Dos Santos is back in the title mix having lost to Cain twice in brutal fashion.

Irish MMA Round-Up

BAMMA

UK MMA promotion BAMMA are making a play to fill the void created by the absence of Cage Warriors. The promotion has held 21 events in the UK since starting in June 2009. It announced last week that their first overseas event will be held in September in the 3Arena in Dublin.

The card is undoubtedly going to be filled out with Irish professionals to give BAMMA some hope of filling the 3Arena. It will be a good litmus test for how popular MMA is in Ireland.

Ryan Curtis

Flyweight prospect Ryan Curtis got a first round TKO victory in his professional debut in Manchester on Saturday. Training out of Primal MMA in Finglas, Curtis is coached by Owen Roddy who will be in Conor McGregor’s corner in Las Vegas at UFC 189.

BattleZone

BattleZone Fighting Championship held their 13th event on June 6th with a mix of amateur and professional fights. Team Ryano’s Karl Roche captured the heavyweight title from SBG’s Johnny Dargan in the main event.

Other title winners on the night included Rhys McKee, Dylan Tuke, Fabio Vitti and Darren O’Gorman. McKee trains with Norman Parke in Next Generation Northern Ireland and is certainly a name to look out for in the future.

Darren O’Gorman’s flying triangle finish has been picked up by some of the larger MMA websites and the video below has been seen around the world by more than 20,000 people.

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