(unfortunately, Matt doesn’t get to bring that with him this Saturday)
One of the big questions on everyone’s minds coming into this weekend’s UFC 98 show is if Matt Hughes has slipped far enough that Matt Serra can beat him. He’s looked pretty goddamn terrible since Georges St Pierre knocked him off the top of the mountain back in 2006, going 1-3 with the only win coming over Chris Lytle, and Hughes ended up sitting on him and playing it safe for that fight. How bad of a sign is that?
Looking at this Sherdog article, I figured it might be fun to break down all the aspects of Hughes’ situation to see how he’s doing:
Training: Has been a giant question mark since Hughes left Pat Miletich’s camp to open his own gym. There are some guys out there who are just naturally awesome no matter how shitty their training partners on – BJ Penn and Fedor Emelianenko come to mind – but the jury is still out on how well Hughes can prepare out in Illonois without a bunch of other high level pros to push him.
Cardio: The good news is that Hughes didn’t spend his entire training camp at his own gym … he also spent some time down in Minnesota Martial Arts Academy doing all that retarded caveman shit with Sean Sherk and Brock Lesnar. Reports coming out said that Hughes kept up with Sherk, but what do you expect you’re going to hear? That Hughes gassed out and re-injured his knee flipping a tire? Shit like that happens all the time, but no one is about to tell you that. The standard fighter lie is that the current training camp is always the best training camp, even if it’s a total gong show.
Health: Back to that knee thing. Hughes blew out two of his four major knee ligaments in his fight against Thiago Silva and decided to let it heal naturally (trust in Jesus?) rather than have surgery to get it fixed. The knee has apparently survived 7 weeks of training camp, but if it unravels or kinks up during the Serra fight, you can kiss Hughes’ wrestling advantage goodbye. Ligaments popping off the bone and rolling up the leg like a cheap window blind are one of the most common injuries in the sport.
Motivation: Hughes already mentioned after the Alves fight that he had “one fight left”, and while I wouldn’t put it past him to come back for a few more single fights over the next few years, I think it’s pretty likely that this will be Hughes’ last fight in regular rotation – if he wins. There’s not a hell of a lot left for him to do after that … the current welterweight champ has whupped him twice and even if Thiago Alves managed to beat GSP, I doubt there’s going to be anyone clamoring for a Hughes / Alves rematch. Simply put, Hughes can kick Matt Serra’s ass and relax for a few years until another goofball wins the title by fluke (who was the last dude to do that again?), and then it’s time for another big money fight.
All that only works if Hughes manages to come in on Saturday and look more like the unstoppable pre-2006 fighter than the guy we’ve seen recently. If he was fighting another young killer like Alves, I might think he wasn’t up to the task. But even though the sport has basically passed him by, it passed Matt Serra by as well.