December 30, 2016

The BJB Breakdown: Edmond Tarverdyan: The Good, The Bad, and The Ugly (Part Two: The Bad & The Ugly)

By Schwan Humes

In Part One we opened the discussion regarding Edmond Tarverdyan, focusing on the good that he has done for Ronda Rousey and for himself, as it pertains to their careers as coach and fighter. In Part Two, we take a look at the things that Tarverdyan has done -- or in some cases hasn't done -- that have hurt his standing as a coach, and as a result hurt the development and performance of his charge; I refer to this as the bad and the ugly.

The Bad

As a head coach, Tarverdyan did very well in assessing, managing, and maximizing talent, as well as placing the talent in the position to succeed. However, that is only some of the job. When you're a head coach, you oversee things. You make sure all areas and aspects of your preferred sport are consistently and efficiently addressed to ensure that the athlete develops properly. In football, defensive and offensive coaches still have coordinators, not because they lack the knowledge to perform the duties, but because the head coach is held responsible for everything. Regardless of their work ethic, intelligence, experience, and level of success, a coach needs guys on his staff that he trusts to help impart his system, cover things he is unfamiliar with, and make sure the athlete isn't unprepared or stagnating. In college football, defensive guru Nick Saban has a coordinator in charge of installing and implementing his system, as well as developing guys in his system. Is it because Saban is lazy or incompetent? No, it’s because a head coach has so many responsibilities that he needs help. He needs help in his area of specialty and in areas he doesn't have expertise. The value of a trusted and proven guy is even more important (which is why he had Lane Kiffin running offense).

But Tarverdyan didn't do those things. He didn't do the same things that EVERY high level coach does, distribute responsibilities for the benefit of the fighter. How do I know he didn't do these things? I watched Ronda Rousey fight her entire pro career, and in many areas she didn't develop. The same approach that allowed her to maximize her talents and be very effective in a short period of time, eventually hindered her long-term because she only flirted with certain aspects of MMA and completely ignored other aspects. That doesn't happen (for the most part), at Jackson-Wink, TriStar, or AMC Pankration, because those head coaches, much like Nick Saban, know that when you're the head of multiple fighters, in a sport with multiple facets, you have to have guys who can fill in where you're lacking, or who can spend the time you can't because of other responsibilities. Who was Rousey's wrestling coach, who was her striking coach, who was her grappling coach? Who was making sure that she developed more than a functional base of skill in each of those areas? That was Tarverdyan’s responsibility. He wasn't just a striking coach; Tarverdyan was/is the head coach, and in regards to the aforementioned things, he did a very poor job.

The Ugly

As much credit as I gave Tarverdyan for how swiftly and effectively he developed a robust set of striking skills within Rousey, I still have to admit that he only developed marginal skill and awareness of striking. Her striking game leaned solely on her dominance as a judoka/transitional grappler. While that is effective in regards to winning and doing so handily, what it didn't do was develop the sense and comfort necessary for her to win when she wasn't able to completely dominate pace and place of combat.

Tarverdyan did not teach Rousey how to box. He taught her a system of boxing that was built around her athleticism, as well as the threat of her clinches and series of trips, throws, and armbar submissions. That created opportunities for Ronda to showcase new wrinkles in her standup. Opponents were so fearful that they gave her opportunities to get set up offensively, forcing her way into grappling exchanges or forcing opponents to be overly aggressive. This allowed her to counter their attacks and create grappling exchanges. And given Ronda's physicality, size, speed, power, and aggression, it was a smart plan, one built to maximize what she could do while limiting opportunities for her to be in positions where the limitations of her game would be exposed. It worked, until it didn't, and the coach Rousey had placed all her faith in had no answers and no adjustments. Rousey continued to do the same thing and paid an increasingly high price for this single-minded and simplistic approach. Her coach, when she needed him most, was unable to offer her anything resembling help.

The signs had been there in previous fights; against Sara McMann she was walking right into a series of ones and twos before getting a clinch and finishing McMann. Against Bethe Correia, she was whiffing on punches and getting countered by a slower, less agile, and less experienced fighter before landing the fight-ending punches. For those who look at what happens in a fight, and not just how it ends, those were obvious signals that maybe the attention to detail and balance in her striking weren't there. Then, when she faced Holly Holm, all the concerns and questions were answered, and those answers showed us that Ronda wasn't the striker he told us she was, and Tarverdyan wasn't the coach her dominance implied he was.

As long as Ronda Rousey was winning, Edmond Tarverdyan was bulletproof; however, once the curtain got pulled back on Ronda, the ugly part of was exposed. Edmond sold himself as something he wasn't, he did this to gather favor in MMA circles and make himself a small fortune. He did all this at the cost of Ronda's development as a fighter, which in the coaching world is unacceptable and unforgivable. This Friday night at UFC 207, Tarverdyan has a chance to either re-establish himself as a legitimate coach, or to put the final touches on one of the greatest falls from grace in coaching history.

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