Fantasy Fights

Intelligent, unique MMA analysis

Roger Bowling and the Concept of Efficiency

I remember hearing a ton about Roger Bowling in 2009. As a fighter who had, at the time, never competed in anything resembling a major promotion, this struck me as odd. And yet, Bowling was getting coverage from guys like Kevin Iole, Leland Roling, and John Morgan. As somebody whose knowledge base on MMA wasn’t what it is now, I deferred to the wisdom of the aforementioned gentlemen, and when Bowling was signed by Strikeforce, waited for his seemingly inevitable rise to title contention.

But it didn’t happen. Instead, Bowling lost to Bobby Voelker by TKO twice, losses which deflated the tires of the Bowling bandwagon. Now, Bowling will be taking on Tarec Saffiedine, and to read the hype from 2009, it seems that Bowling should be a heavy favorite. Instead, it’s Saffiedine who’s considered the heavy favorite to win – a 3:1 favorite according to the current lines listed at Best Fight Odds.

What happened? As far as I see it, two things. One is that Bowling was considered a great prospect for the wrong reasons. Namely, Bowling had three very quick TKO wins early in his career – against Shamar Bailey, Seth Baczynski, and Devon Plaisance. Bailey and Baczynski are known fighters, and beating them in a combined 37 seconds is certainly not something to sneeze at. At the same time, a lightning-fast win is not the best indicator of future greatness for a fighter. I’d much rather see a comprehensive domination over a period of time than a win in the lightning-quick variety. Case in point:

Sokoudjou rocketed into the top 10 of a lot of rankings based on that win and a follow-up victory at the final PRIDE event against Ricardo Arona. In later fights, when Sokoudjou didn’t get the early KO, he was exposed to have insufficient conditioning, and is now an afterthought in the light-heavyweight division.

I feel the story of Roger Bowling is very similar. Check out his second fight against Bobby Voelker, from Strikeforce Challengers 11:

In the first minute of this fight, three thoughts popped into my head. One was that Bowling was throwing strikes with a lot of power, and it’s easy to see how he has seven TKO wins and a submission due to strikes in 13 fights. The second was that Bowling’s striking defense, particularly his hand placement, could be exploited by a skilled striker. The third, and the most important, was that Bowling was going to gas out if he continued to fight at his early pace. Surely enough, Bowling faded badly in the second round, in which he was defeated by TKO, which I believe was primarily due to exhaustion.

Fighters like Bowling are inefficient. Bowling’s offense largely consists of strikes thrown with a lot of power and effort, along with takedowns which also require a lot of effort. Sure, the possibility of winning by quick KO is always present, but that’s difficult to achieve against the skilled strikers which populate the upper levels of MMA. And if Bowling doesn’t get the knockout early, it’s very hard to see him winning. In both his losses to Bobby Voelker, my takeaway was not that Voelker had defeated Bowling, but that Bowling had defeated himself.


Tarec Saffiedine is a heavy favorite to win because he has exactly the abilities required to beat a fighter like Bowling. In particular, Saffiedine has good defensive striking, which should minimize his risk of being knocked out, and good conditioning, which will enable him to capitalize on the opportunity to finish Bowling later in the fight. I can see why Bowling was so hyped just a few years ago – if all you see on tape is a fighter destroying his competition, it’s easy to get sucked in. But unless Bowling showcases a more efficient means of scoring points and generating offense, he’s going to lose to Tarec Saffiedine.


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