Notes on Greg Jackson: Is Anyone Paying Attention?

Greg Jackson’s gameplans are going to ruin this sport. He turns fights into point battles. There’s like this “avoid the fight because we think we’re winning thing” with that camp. Greg Jackson’s camp is overrated. Greg Jackson is ruining MMA.

[caption id="attachment_238" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="MMA coach Greg Jackson. Photo via"][/caption]

The preceding statements are all quotes: from fans, professional fighters, and even the UFC President himself. Don’t bother matching them up; they all paint the same picture. A picture where MMA coach Greg Jackson is associated with passive strategies and “safety-first” gameplans. In other words, his fighters are boring.

Type in “Greg Jackson is” into Google and see what the first few responses are. It’s clear that the majority of mixed martial arts fans are in agreement on this topic. If you look at the data, though, it’s also pretty clear that the majority of MMA fans aren’t paying attention.

The old “Greg Jackson sucks” mill started churning again after his fighter, Clay Guida,  suffered a split decision loss to Gray Maynard at UFC on FX 4. Guida employed a “stick-and-move” strategy that was much more "move" than "stick" in the fight; the fourth and fifth rounds featured so much backpedaling and circling from "The Carpenter" that Maynard literally walked forward with his hands down with no fear of retaliation.

Of course, the Internet exploded with threads condemning Guida and the Jackson camp for their gameplans afterward. It was par for the course, people said. Greg Jackson responded to after the fight.

“I wanted Clay to, after he drew Gray out, to engage a little bit more, but I think Clay was waiting for him to open up a little bit.”

But Guida is always exciting, right? Color commentator Mike Goldberg will surely credit Guida’s six “Fight of the Night” bonuses before his next match, but what he won’t mention is that five of those fights were losses. They were exciting, yes, but you can credit the skills of Guida’s opponents and Clay's “never say die” nature for most of that. Guida’s lone FOTN-inspiring win was a split decision nod over Nate Diaz at UFC 94, which wasn’t particularly thrilling in comparison.

Guida has had some exciting wins, sure, such as his guillotine choke victory over Takanori Gomi at UFC 125, but what you saw at UFC on FX 4 was Clay Guida, just an exaggerated version of him. Jackson alluded to it in his Sherdog interview.

“In a lot of [Guida’s] fun, exciting fights, he ended up on the wrong side of those,” said Jackson. “He would get dropped or he’d get choked out a lot of times. You have to be able to fight the guy that’s in front of you, and Gray is an incredible fighter.”

Don’t blame the coach for giving his fighter, a 4:1 underdog, a smart gameplan. It almost got him the victory after all. Blame the fighter for not executing it properly.

Taking The Good With The Bad

Another frustrating point to come out of UFC on FX 4 was the MMA community’s selective memory. That very night, just two fights earlier, Cub Swanson put on a striking clinic and finished Ross Pearson in a “Knockout of the Night” performance. Cub Swanson is a Greg Jackson student, but of course Jackson’s camp only produces boring fighters.

[caption id="attachment_237" align="aligncenter" width="300" caption="Jackson with UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones"][/caption]

What about UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones? The man has finished seven out of his ten wins since he joined Jackson’s MMA in August 2009, and has left four former UFC champions in his wake since. Donald Cerrone has bashed his way to four post-fight bonuses since his first UFC fight in February 2011, and nobody could call him boring with a straight face. How about TUF 14 winner Diego Brandao, who has only gone to decision three times in 22 fights? Ever seen a boring Shane Carwin fight? How about Leonard Garcia, Brian Stann, or Diego Sanchez? They all train under the same roof.

The most criticized members of the Jackson camp are Guida, Georges St. Pierre, and recently, Carlos Condit. Mind you, before his “controversial” decision win over Nick Diaz at UFC 143, Condit had a staggering 96% finishing rate in his victories, only going to the judges once in his UFC debut. Now, he sits at a measly 92%. By the way, after Condit began training with Jackson in October 2009, he knocked out his next three opponents in a row.

As for Georges St. Pierre, his criticism is a perhaps more valid, as he has not finished a fight since 2009. But he is just one fighter in a gym full of bonus collectors, and remember that he's consistently fighting the top five in his division over and over again. Not exactly the easiest guys to finish.

Broad accusations like “Greg Jackson only produces boring fighters” are simply ridiculous generalities when you look at the numbers. In fact, when it comes to finishes and bonuses, his gym is on par, if not above any other major facility in MMA. But these statistics become invisible only when it’s convenient. Praise fighters like Jon Jones for his creativity and strategy one second, but slam his coach and mentor for preaching hesitance in the cage the next? It doesn’t work that way. It just doesn’t.

Pay attention, people.

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