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A reminder after UFC Jacksonville: Throwing in the towel is not an act of weakness - MMA Fighting
Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira seemed evenly matched over the first two rounds of Wednesday night’s UFC Jacksonville main event. Smith got off to a great start, snapping out an accurate jab and...
Anthony Smith and Glover Teixeira seemed evenly matched over the first two rounds of Wednesday nights UFC Jacksonville main event. Smith got off to a great start, snapping out an accurate jab and powering a thudding right behind it. Teixeira absorbed what Smith had to offer and found an inside range more to his liking. After those opening minutes, it seemed like the kind of ebb and flow that makes for a scintillating headliner, even in an arena with no fans. Little did we know at the time that the momentum shift would be permanent. Teixeira built on his success and pulverized Smith until the bout was mercifully waved off in the fifth. It got so bad that Teixeira actually apologized to Smith for brutalizing him. During the fight. Sorry, Anthony, he said from a dominant position on Smiths back, in a rare moment when Smith temporarily stopped Teixeiras arm from throwing one of the many, many punches he would land in the fourth round. What? Smith replied, probably unsure of what he was saying. Sorry, he repeated. Part of the job. Yeah, Smith said. It is what it is. That brief moment of civility notwithstanding, it was the kind of beating that left many fans grimacing at what had occurred. Thats partially because it wasnt even the most surreal reminder of its brutality. Video cameras also caught Smith handing referee Jason Herzog what appeared to be teeth (Smiths coach later told ESPN that they could have been veneers) that had been smashed out of his mouth, all while Teixeira hung on his back deciding whether to continue his pummeling or to sink in a choke. This, again, was after minutes and minutes of a hellacious beating, and past the point when the fight was competitive. To be sure, Smith lived up to his Lionheart nickname. He refused to surrender and competed ferociously to the bitter end, which came 64 seconds into the fifth round. But it didnt have to end that way, it didnt have to end so late. At some point before that, most of us watching had seen enough. Maybe it was after the third round, which according to UFC statistics, saw Teixeira out-land Smith by the staggering total of 76-1. Maybe it was after doing more of the same in the fourth. Maybe it was at the point where we realized that Smith was exhausted, and that there was no coming back from that. Watching it, there was no way to ignore the lopsidedness of the beating, or the toll it was taking on Smith. Yes, he was responding to referee Herzogs instructions to move, and yes, he showed a will to be there. But at some point, there has to be a willingness to step in and save a fighter from his own toughness. There were several points when Herzog seemed to flirt with the idea of a stoppage before finally calling an end to the bout in the fifth. There were multiple times he stepped in closer to the action and told Smith he needed to defend himself or improve his position to stay in the fight. Ultimately, he decided Smith showed enough defensive presence to continue on. Herzogs decision let the fight continue long past the point of competition, but he is not the only one who played a role in its uncomfortable length. Smiths cornermen James Krause and Marc Montoya also had moments of contemplation they may regret. This is not to say its an easy call to ask the referee to stop a fight. Most cornermen are incredibly reluctant to do it. They dont want to take away a chance at a victory, at a win bonus, at a career-defining comeback, at a chance to vault toward a title match. Most trainers preach to their fighters about battling through adversity, and see it as hypocritical to be the ones to decide the athletes fate from the corner. For his part, Smith told ESPN that he was content with the calls made by the referee and his corner. I come out of battle with my shield or I come out on it. Thats my rule. Period. We heard the same thing Saturday night, when two-time UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz bemoaned referee Keith Petersons stoppage as a premature, saying that before the fight he asked Peterson to let the fight go until I was out. Cruz is one of the more cerebral fighters in the game and even he cant admit that this is not how things work. The referee is there for a specific reason, and the goalpost does not change from match to match. The corner people are, too. They are there to provide advice and support, but when all goes wrong, they are also there to protect. Shifting from one responsibility to another in real time may be the most difficult thing that trainers and coaches do, but it is something that demands preparation, same as a game plan. Throwing in the towel may be an act of last resort, but its no act of weakness to save your fighter from needless damage. Its an act of humanity.