UFC: Is The Greg Jackson Criticism Warranted?
Greg Jackson's camp has been criticized numerous times in the past year, but is the never-ending criticism fair?
When you are king of the mountain, people will always look to knock you off the top. Coaching wise, Greg Jackson is at the summit in MMA. Jackson's name is almost bigger than that of his fighters. He has transcended the boundary of being just an MMA coach. He has become a mainstay in MMA, a leading figure. Fighters want him to mold them and sharpen their tools.
They relocate to Albuquerque, New Mexico with the expectancy that Jackson's coaching and strategies will ensure a win in their next fight, once they repay him with blood, sweat and tears during a rigorous camp.
In MMA, Jackson has equaled the legendary status that is usually associated with iconic boxing trainer Freddie Roach, a trainer of champions, challengers and legends.
But with great power comes great responsibility and when Jackson's fighters do not measure up to the high standards set by their predecessors in the past, detractors are only too happy to snipe and vilify Team Jackson.
For the most part, the majority of negative comments that were speared towards Jackson's camp were normally just drops in the ocean. Small, diminutive jabs that were easily discarded by Team Jackson. However, when Dana White landed a verbal left hook, loaded with venom on the chin of Nate Marquardt and Team Jackson post UFC-122, the MMA world stood back and watched in awe.
Everyone knows that once you enter the Octagon, you do not cross the boss, but despite this unwritten rule, fighters still manage to agitate White, which prompts blazing and frenzied outbursts from the UFC President.
After the Nate Marquardt – Yushin Okami main event at UFC 122, Dana White launched an outburst, placing the blame directly at Jackson's feet for Nate 'The Greats' loss.
"Marquardt is such a talented guy, and what I'm seeing is stuff from the Greg Jackson camp," the UFC President said. "This camp continuously – when these guys fight, their corner is either telling them they're ahead or they're winning.
"I mean, Nate Marquardt sat here tonight and said that he thought he won the fight. Where the [expletive] is his corner? You go into the last round and a wrestler is out striking you, and you think you won the fight? And this is consistent with the Greg Jackson camp."
So, were White's comments unnecessary or were they the words of a casual fight fan?
It is certainly not a surprise when White lashes out at a fighter following a lethargic and crowd-displeasing performance in the Octagon. It's not good business for the UFC when such an event occurs.
Criticism has been hurled at Jackson following Marquardt's restrained outing against Okami. Questions were raised about Shane Carwin's cardio after he gassed against Brock Lesnar at UFC 116. When Welterweight Champion George St-Pierre dominated Dan Hardy on the ground, fans bemoaned the lack of action. Rashad Evans' has changed his technique after getting knocked out by Lyoto Machida, another decision lamented by fans when he faced Thiago Silva and Quinton 'Rampage' Jackson.
As casual fans stake their claim in the UFC's continually growing audience, fights that are predominantly fought on the floor, where fighters look to continue passing the guard and maintaining their position will be labeled as 'boring'.
But should the blame come down to Jackson, or should the fighters shoulder the responsibility?
In this day and age, where people are being cut from the organization for one loss, i.e. Gerald Harris, then the 'W' is the most important thing in the world. To achieve it sometimes means entertainment is put to one side. Evans did it against 'Rampage' Jackson and Pierre did it against Hardy and also when he tangled with Thiago Alves at UFC 100.
Columnists, commentators and experts will describe it as strategy, whereas the casual fan will throw no caution to the wind and tar it with the boring brush.
But as Jackson's fighters reach the pinnacle of weight divisions in the most competitive MMA organization in the world, then strategies become even more complex, more intricate. One mistake could be the difference between a win and a loss, something that fighters are all too aware of. The fear of losing is bigger than the ecstasy of winning.
That is where Jackson comes into play as he meticulously lays out a plan for the fighter to follow. Some of it may not be top-class entertainment, but in a fighters mind, it's the win he craves and Jackson's plan normally guarantees it, as his 81% winning record as a coach shows.
St Pierre and Evans come in for the brunt of the scorn that is vented by MMA fans towards arguably, MMA's most impressive team. But before the Machida fight, Evans was a knock-out machine, compiling highlight reel one after the other. Just ask Forrest Griffin or Chuck Liddell about Evans' punching power or his ability to finish fights. St-Pierre was the same before Matt Serra shocked the world, a fight that changed the complexion of GSP's fighting strategy forever.
Following losses, they went to Jackson and re-evaluated their game plans so that they would never experience a defeat again. So far, for both men, the plan is working as St-Pierre is on a seven fight win streak and Evans has rebounded from his loss to Machida by winning decision victories over Thiago Silva and Rampage Jackson.
When you look further down into the Jackson Camp's list of fighters, you find Jon 'Bones' Jones, who is anything but boring. Jones has one of the most sinister ground games in the industry and his unorthodox striking technique has fans vying for more. Has Jackson stripped him of entertainment value with uninspired tactics? No.
The same can be said of Clay 'The Carpenter' Guida, a fan favorite of the UFC for his constant forward movement during fights, movement that is backed up by aggression and tenacity. Guida may not have the greatest win loss record in the UFC, 7-5, but his excitement value is never questioned. He is a fighter who could have pulled Jackson aside and asked him for a safer, less-risky strategy, but it is not his way. Guida only knows one style and that is the fast-faced, swinging for the fences technique that has got him to where he is.
Jackson also coaches Shane Carwin, a man who never saw the second round until Brock Lesnar pulled off a miracle and never surrendered under a flurry of punches at UFC 116. Nobody can question Carwin's drawing power due to the explosiveness in his fists. Never going to a decision win, Carwin looks to finish, based on the strengths he possesses and the strength of Jackson's plan.
The list goes on and on as Jackson's camp includes the likes of exciting fighters such as Carlos Condit and Kenny Florian, fighters who try to finish fights.
It's impossible for every Jackson fighter to have the capability that Jones possesses to electrify the crowd and finish fights at every opportunity. It's also impossible for Jackson to coach his fighters to a win every time and it's impossible for him to please fight fans all the time with his strategies.
In this day and age, where one loss could lead to your exit from the organization, perhaps more and more Jackson fighters will strategize their way to wins.
It's called playing it safe and that's the way some fighters do things. For instance, when Jon Jones wins a fight, nobody credits Jackson for the win, but when St-Pierre wins, fight fans are only too eager to criticize the camp for the Welterweight Champion's dominant, but sometimes uninspiring showing in the Octagon.
A balance will never be struck and the debates will continue. But for every uninspiring performance like Marquardt's, we will see something devastating from Jones or Condit. Surely that's enough to keep the detractors away.