Olympic Silver Medallist. Member of Team Quest. One in a long line of successful wrestling-MMA converts. Matt Lindland has a 11-3-0 record that includes wins over former MW and WW champ Pat Miletich, Phil Baroni, Travis Fulton and Tony Frykland.
Why does Matt “The Law” Lindland get so much flak from both MMA fans and sports writers alike?
Employing a take-em-down-grind-out a-decision strategy many find uninspiring, he is consistently accused of being boring, yet he shares tactics with two of the most popular wrestlers in MMA, teammates Randy Couture and Dan Henderson. His fight record has encounters with some of the top fighters in his division, and a higher percentage of wins than losses.
So what is the real problem with Matt Lindland?
Lindland has had some to fight some very public battles in recent months. Addressing in open letters certain persons within the MMA media, he has vehemently challenged the decidedly biased views of sports writers who claim he should have no place in the UFC. With an acid pen and an eloquent style of writing, Matt Lindland similtaneously entertained us and made us appreciate his efforts in the cage.
Many of his critics simply argue these letters validate their claims, that Lindland’s style is so lacklustre whilst in the cage, he has to make up for it by attracting media attention outside of it.
Yet no one can say Lindland doesn’t try. Tainted with the nickname Woogie (bestowed on him by former opponent Phil Baroni), Lindland does not have much going for him in the looks department. With a full beard and heavily balding at 34 years of age he looks like your uncle, or worse, your dad. His physique isn’t that of many of the blown-up young guys in his division.
Almost in answer, but most likely after consultation with the guys behind the scenes at the UFC, it seems Lindland went out and got himself a makeover. First of all, it was a makeover in fighting style. After his disastrous self-knockout vs Falaniko Vitale (something that gave great delight to his detractors), he came back in the rematch throwing high kicks, passing guard, and attempting submissions. Not your typical ground’n'pounder, by any means.
In his latest UFC showing, I was suprised to see Lindland had actually gone out and had a physical makeover. Gone was the full beard, replaced by a quirky handlebar moustache. His head was totally shaved, giving no clue to his lack of follicles, and perched upon it was a cowboy hat (not, to my knowledge, standard dress in Eagle Creek, Oregon).
But still, opinions on his physical appearance should not taint his actions in the cage, for as we well know style never makes up for substance. Followers of MMA may be fickle, but none are so shallow as to think bulging biceps are an indication of fighting ability.
So where does Lindland find himself now? He changes his fighting style and easily dominates Vitale to a submission win, yet still receives no credit. He earns a hard won decision over Frykland, yet no-one seems to bat an eyelid. He goes one step further by completely changing his appearance and suffers a loss that didn’t even give him a chance to dispel any of his doubters.
Does Matt Lindland even have a future with the UFC after his loss to David Terrell? Or is he destined to be the Gary Goodridge of the MW fighters, keeping the gates of the UFCs 185lb division free those who hype and bluff their way to prominence?
In all truthfullness, the gatekeeper role may well suit him. Not many will argue that he deserves another chance at the MW crown, certainly not on the basis of his recent opposition.
Lindland is only 34, a prime age for many fighters. He seems to be physically hardy and doesn’t carry injuries the way many men his age do. His background in wrestling and MMA speaks volumes of his abilities, but right now there is a glut of talented young fighters coming through the ranks.
The threat of young bucks and a group of hostile voices within the MMA sportswriters fraternity pose a big threat to Lindlands future. He has stated more than once his livelihood depends on professional fighting, so for him to leave would be disastrous to his career and his family.
Is it time to give Matt Lindland a break?