Blame The Corner?

UFC 261: Usman v Masvidal 2
Photo by Mike Roach/Zuffa LLC

With the single exception of Carla Esparza and her team, UFC 274’s co-main event Strawweight title fight was a miserable experience for everyone involved. Fans were doing the wave, UFC President Dana White was zoned out and watching Canelo vs. Bivol, and Rose Namajunas was convinced that she was winning only to be shocked at the outcome.

Who’s to blame for this disastrous fight? Obviously, both of the athletes in the cage shoulder a lion’s share of the responsibility, but mixed martial arts (MMA) legend John McCarthy also points to Namajunas’ corner team of her husband Pat Barry and head coach Trevor Wittman. In McCarthy’s view, they were not being honest about just close the round were, leading to Namajunas’ surprise when she lost the title.

“One of the things that happened multiple times last night as I was watching… Cornermen need to stop telling their fighters they’re winning the rounds when you don’t know if it’s a close round,” McCarthy said on the Weighing In podcast (via Sportskeeda). “You gotta say, ‘Hey, no idea whose round that is.’ Or, ‘We’re gonna have to say that we lost that because we don’t know the way the judges are gonna go.’ You can’t sit there and fall in love with what your fighter is doing based upon, ‘Damn, they look good.’ Rose Namajunas looked fantastic in her movement, her footwork was beautiful, she was in control of the cage as far as… She was comfortable.”

Maybe this could all be solved with open scoring?

Beyond the problem McCarthy points to, there also seemed to be conflicting messages in the “Thug Rose” corner. Barry was quite encouraging and seemed to be pleased with Namajunas’ application of the strategy, whereas Wittman was the one pressing Namajunas to get more active and start really taking control of the rounds.

In this case, Wittman’s advice proved the better of the pair. Regardless of that, however, it’s vital that corner teams comes to a consensus before they start pouring information on their athlete, who isn’t going to absorb conflicting messages all that well in the midst of a scrap. Before fully throwing the corner under the bus, however, it’s also important to remember that despite an off-night for his athletes (Wittman was in the corner of Justin Gaethje as well), the Coloradan coach was almost unanimously regarded as the best coach of 2021.

Perhaps lessons were learned at UFC 274?

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Author: Andrew Richardson
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