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Friday, 04/20/2012, 09:06 am

Stop Fitching and Fitchery in MMA Now!


By Lewis Mckeever:
This is not an article set out to condemn UFC welterweight grinder Jon Fitch, but rather, a tool to vent my growing frustration and concerns with Fitch’s widespread smothering fighting style, otherwise known as “Fitching”.

Jon Fitch is renowned for his grapple heavy, “take no risks” approach to mixed martial arts. Jon strives to take his opponents down as quickly as possible and to pin them to the ground for as long as possible, with no real emphasis or sense of urgency on working for a stoppage. Fitch has been using his suffocating style to clock up most of his UFC career victories, with a whopping nine of thirteen wins spanning the three round duration. This has netted Jon quite the reputation amongst the MMA community. With his signature style spreading like wildfire across the MMA landscape, the term “Fitching” was coined.

My problem doesn’t lie with grappling or wrestling, I have an admiration for a plethora of wrestlers and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu specialists in mixed martial arts, my gripe is with those who specifically use their grappling prowess to stall and merely run down the clock. Initiate take down attempt, successfully complete take down, remain in opponents guard with head buried firmly into chest and hands clasped around waist, fend off opponents submission attempts and engage with pitter patter hammer fists every so often to give the illusion of activity. Follow said instructions for fifteen/twenty five minutes of bout duration. Congratulations, you have successfully managed to “Fitch” your way to victory.

“Fitching” isn’t just an art tied in exclusively to the ground game however, oh no, it can also serve as a great tool for pinning opponents up against the cage for large chunks of time. Take note of the contest between Nik Lentz and Andre Winner at UFC 118, as Lentz demonstrated a mesmerizing display of “Fitchery” for a solid fifteen minutes. If you prefer to see fighters “Fitched” into oblivion on the ground however, Josh Thomson vs. KJ Noons at the recent “Strikeforce: Tate vs Rousey” event may be your cup of tea.

The largest criticism I and many other fans have with stalling in MMA, is that it simply results in incredibly dull and lacklustre affairs. Not only is it mind numbingly boring to watch, but there is very little technique on display to applaud and approve of. As mentioned earlier, there are various grapplers competing in mixed martial arts that I have an enormous amount of respect for. Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez, Shinya Aoki, BJ Penn, Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz in their hay days, Mark Coleman, the Diaz brothers….The list goes on. These are all primary examples of fighters who employ their grappling skills in an aggressive manner in an effort to finish the fight and make a real statement.

I’ve lost count of the casual MMA friends I have lost over the years due to “lay and pray” performances plaguing live UFC events. I’m an incredibly passionate MMA fan, but I can’t simply ignore the negative effects stalling inflicts upon the casual fan base. The fact of the matter is, it’s bad for business and with the increasing number fighters all employing similar risk free game plans, I believe a drastic plan of action ought to be enforced in the near future.

The fault isn’t necessarily down to the fighters, but rather, the current judging criteria, overwhelming emphasis on take downs and the rules. Now, I am somewhat of a Pride fan boy, but it’s incredibly difficult to deny the level of excitement generated throughout most of Pride’s history. There was little stalling on display, as fighters were cautioned with yellow cards which resulted in a 10 per cent deduction of their earnings for the night. Knees to the head of grounded opponents and soccer kicks and stomps were also permitted, which ultimately led to more knock outs and finishes. Fights were also not judged per individual round, but rather, victors were decided on their performance throughout the entire fight. It’s also important to note that Pride utilised a traditional ring as opposed to a cage, which greatly reduced the amount of stalling up against the ropes.

I’m not suggesting that the UFC or other American MMA organisations should simply swallow up the Pride rule set and look to incorporate changes immediately, but to really evaluate the contrasting rule set and judging criteria in correlation with the current influx of stalling and “Fitchery” present in MMA.

If changes are not progressively made in the future, then we may all be as good as “Fitched”.

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