As with Lyndall & Lof, I'd had a very good fight camp & was feeling on top of the world. At 45 I am fitter & stronger than I've ever been. My speed & reactions haven't diminished much, if at all. This game is however as most would have it 80% mental. This was the 3rd time in my life where I entered a fight with self-preservation rather than my opponents destruction in mind & it stands as my 3rd (even if it's questionable) loss.
In '92 in the Africa Cup I faced a much larger, more experienced (world champ) opponent in the heavyweight final. I was soundly beaten & looked very amateurish due to my fear. In 2014 I fought Block & again due to the circumstances (15 years since my last fight in '99, our 1st outing as a gym & the earlier losses) I chose to fight cautiously. My hesitancy saw me being taken down twice & I eventually had to retire with a dislocated elbow (a pre-existing injury that hadn't healed properly).
I cannot help but wonder about the role my frame of mind played in this loss. Until just before the fight I hadn't paid too much attention to what Patra brought to the table. I know what I can do & I know I can adapt to & overcome whatever an opponent throws at me. In the last days / hours before the fight a number of coaches who's opinions I value warned me about his punching power & aggression (something I've always taken for granted in an opponent, that & brilliant grappling with awesome submissions). For whatever reason I ended up thinking about the possibility of me being dropped. I again decided on a defensive game plan & was literally thinking about not getting clipped when I was...
Mec Crain vs Patra Ngandu (MMA – Welterweight – Pro-Am)
The fight started without incident. Where was the barrage? I'd been warned about Patra's aggressive start & heavy hands. I was expecting to weather a storm. I'd visualised every scenario, but this. He was keeping his distance & even retreated as I approached. I tested my range with a front kick, which he blocked with his forearm just before it was due to meet his chin. A bit more positioning & I was able to land a nice low round. There was no way I could use my hands, short of risking rushing in, as he stayed well out of range. After the leg kick he stayed further.
I tried a few more kicks, largely because that's the only range I had to work with & also in the hope of drawing him out. After one of my early missed kicks he did rush as I spun, however I was able to turn & land jab (pictured above). He didn't rush in again on my spins.
The drought was ended when he 'finally' started attacking. I was able to see his punches well enough & avoided them. He rushed hard as we approached my corner & I was able to slip inside & take an underhook & turned him into the corner relatively easily. It was at this point that I decided to change to plan B, take him down & finish it by ground & pound or a submission if it was offered. Plan A had been to keep it standing. In MMA you want to fight where you have the greatest differential relative to your opponent. Usually striking for me. The ease with which I had clinched & manipulated him indicated that I in fact had an even higher differential while grappling & since we were in a ring (eliminating effective clinch work), the ground made sense.
I landed a few nice body shots (I could hear him groan as they landed), a couple of knees & a few headshots before he turned me. He stepped back & unloaded with the previously anticipated barrage. My mind was still trying to figure out how he turned me (never look in the rearview mirror when fighting, or playing any other sport etc...). Instead of dropping below the assault & taking him down as per the revised strategy I defaulted to my base art, boxing (more on the danger's of base arts soon). I started to bob & weave avoiding his punches with relative ease until I slipped & got caught with an uppercut (it grazed my right eye). I went down hard, but immediately blocked a punch & grabbed an ankle as Patra stepped in to finish it. I was already on my knees, Patra's ankle in hand looking for the takedown when the ref called it. My immediate "WTF?" to Lyndall, Lof & Hamsta in the corner I think showed my surprise.
From a fighter's perspective: I'm very frustrated, I know I was fine & was ready to fight on. Having looked at the video (to be uploaded soon) I'm convinced it was more of a slip & I was definitely still fighting. From the ref's perspective: the way I fell must have looked like a knock-out. The ref did the right thing by stopping the fight based on what he had seen. Remember the ref bases his decision on the seconds before while we have the luxury of judging the seconds after... Rather an early stoppage than a late one.