Sunday, June 10, 2018

It can be tough sometimes to know what to remark on, highlight, or critique. Even legitimate gripes may soon end up seeming less significant as time passes and events unfold.

Take, for instance, Phil “CM Punk” Brooks fighting in the UFC. Surely the inclusion of a novice competitive athlete like the former WWE star in the big leagues of MMA degraded the UFC.

After watching Brooks gamely take two beatings in the cage, after years of consistent and, by all accounts, very hard work at the world-class Roufusport gym, and after specifically watching him absorb hellacious punches to the chin from Mike Jackson Saturday at UFC 225 and still keep marching and punching forward, it seems pointless to belabor the obvious earlier point.

No one should begrudge Brooks for taking opportunities that are presented to him, but we should admire him for putting honest and gutsy effort behind it. The guy is almost 40, he’s likely sustained dozens of concussions in pro-wrestling, and probably a few more so far in his UFC career.

As we’re sitting here in the United Center arena, we’re told that he’s in a hospital. Brooks is taking his lumps and putting in work.

I wish him all the best in recovery and moving forward with whatever is next for him in life.

We’re also told that both Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero are being transported to receive medical care at a hospital. What a strange, thrilling and relentless main event those two warriors delivered. Romero looked every bit the man who was near death a day ago after failing to make weight Friday, in the opening rounds of his rematch against Whittaker.

The champion simply outclassed Romero in the first two rounds, and looked to be on his way to doing more of the same in the third. Then, Romero’s single-strike power showed itself and he badly hurt Whittaker, who managed to survive.

Then, Romero did it again in the fourth round. And again, in the fifth round.

All of the sudden, fans and judges were put in a position to figure out who won a fight where Whittaker was alternately dominating then fighting for consciousness and survival. In the end, Whittaker certainly looked to be the more well-rounded fighter and likely won more minutes of the bout than his opponent.

Still, how can anyone argue that Romero didn’t win the ‘fight of fights’, as BJ Penn used to call it, after he nearly finished Whittaker at least one time each in the final three rounds? Well, two out of three judges in Illinois did, tonight, and though I disagree, there’s no denying that the fight was a tricky one to score precisely because both fighters were each so damned impressive in their own ways.

About the author:
Elias Cepeda is a host of Sports Illustrated’s Extra Rounds Podcast, a staff writer at FloCombat, and has a regular column for The UG Blog.

elias cepeda