UPDATE: I went back and watched the full fight with no distractions and I have to retract everything. It’s clear that Lei-MacFarlane dragged an injured leg into the bout, could barely fight on it and did her best to put up a respectable scrap against her teammate.
Unfortunately, what happened instead is her teammate started targeting the injured leg and methodically hacked away at it until Lei-MacFarlane could take no more. Ouch. MMA — it’s always even worse than you expect.
Sorry for jumping to conclusions, I was watching too many fights on Saturday and none of them closely enough.
Liz Carmouche finishes Ilima Lei-Macfarlane at Bellator MMA 300
Liz Carmouche retained her flyweight Bellator MMA championship against Ilima-Lei MacFarlane at Bellator 300 on Saturday. For the fifth consecutive time, the ‘Girl-Rilla‘ finished her opponent. However, this time, it felt a little different, especially if you listened to the call of the finish.
Ben “The Bane” Davis first brought the lack of emotion in the fight call to my attention with his tweet saying, “I really try not to be critical because it’s a small world and I do have a lot of respect for everyone – but my god what a deflated call of a championship finish. Come on. Regional scene dudes who do this part-time have more energy for low-level ammy finishes.”
Seeing the ending on Twitter got my attention so I went an watched the end of the fight and that raised some suspicions (see below for my final thoughts).
And before I start this let me just say, I’ve got major respect for anyone willing to get into the cage and risk life, limb and reputation for the entertainment of people like me who are risking nothing behind a keyboard.
But having watched this sport for more than 25 years, certain patterns make me wonder.
Maybe the announcing was flat because this title fight between teammates and training partners felt a little bit like a sparring match? I hate to say this but was Ilima Lei-MacFarlane looking for a way out of the bout?
I’m sure there’s another explanation — perhaps Lei-MacFarlane was hurt going into the bout? Her pre-fight weigh-in failure points in that direction.
Ilima Lei-MacFarlane’s failure to make weight
It’s always disappointing when a professional fighter fails to make weight and it’s especially a let down when it happens in a title fight. Making weight is one of the most important tasks a pro fighter has to accomplish in MMA. For whatever reason Lei-MacFarlane failed to meet that basic professional obligation.
If indeed Lei-MacFarlane sought an early way out of the bout with her friend and teammate (and I’m not saying she did), the most likely explanation would be that she was hurt or ill in training, failed to make weight and saw no reason to risk injuring herself or her teammate in a non-title bout any more than necessary.
It’s also entirely possible that if there was an injury Lei-MacFarlane brought with her into the cage it was affecting her left leg. Her scream upon contact strongly points in that direction.
Why old school MMA fans are always leery of teammate vs teammate bouts
Like I said, I have no reason to believe Lei-MacFarlane did anything wrong or unethical, I’m just saying the circumstances are such that it might make some cynics ask questions.
But, here’s an example of the kind of bitter experience that might make some old school fans question an intra-team bout with a sudden and seemingly less than spectacular finish: Don Frye vs. Mark Hall 2 (full fight video) in the UFC’s 1996 Ultimate Ultimate tournament.
Almost 10 years ago, Bloody Elbow named Frye-Hall 2 of the worst MMA matches in history, here’s what we said at the time:
“One of the few fixed fights in the early days of the UFC, Frye and his people made an agreement with Hall backstage before their fight. The story goes that both Hall and Frye had the same managers, and Frye wanted an easy way into the finals of the tournament against Tank Abbott at the Ultimate Ultimate 1996 tournament. Since Frye had already beaten Hall before, they arranged that Hall would be paid a sum to take a dive.
“The fight lasted 20 seconds, with Frye easily overpowering Hall and catching him a weak-looking achilles tendon hold that caused Hall to tap in visible pain. Even the commentators noticed something was funny with this one, but comparatively speaking, at least this nominee had an actual submission hold being used.”
For his part, Don Frye denies it was a work.
The Carmouche-MacFarlane friendship explained
MMA is a lot like politics in that if you want to make a friend, get a dog. One-time friends and training partners often become bitter enemies. Rashad Evans and Jon Jones come to mind.
Prior to their fight, Liz Carmouche and Ilima Lei-MacFarlane discussed how the friendship that formed when they were training together at 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu was never in jeopardy of fizzling out. The secret? Preparation.
“This is a day that we knew, just coming up and training together all the time, was inevitable,“ said Carmouche to CBS Sports‘ Shakiel Mahjouri. “It would be upon as at some point. I feel like part of the reason why Bellator signed me is the storyline, the idea. So we certainly knew it was going to happen. I like the idea of I just submit her gently and put her to sleep — no harm, no foul — we can both smile after rather than coming out battered and beaten. But knowing the two of us, we’re going to come out battered and beaten.“
“Feeling Liz’s power in practice all those years, it sucks but I know what to expect,” said MacFarlane to CBS Sports’ Shakiel Mahjouri. “That takes away that element of uncertainty. I’m just super excited.”
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