Editorial Column by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Well its been a while, and plenty has happened since the last time I had 5 topics to talk about, but now there is a lot going on and a lot more soon to happen, so lets get into it!
1. Upset City Baby!
Okay, you have to say that title in your best Dick Vitale voice for it to really take the meaning, but I think you all get the point. The world of MMA has literally been turned on its proverbial head as of late with fighters like Gabriel Gonzaga, Matt Serra, and Randy Couture all pulling off big-time upsets, proving that MMA is a truly unpredictable sport where a fighter with the right training or a good punch can make every one stand up and pay attention.
Just about everyone was saying that Matt Serra didn’t deserve a title shot after winning the Ultimate Fighter Season 4 and I’ll be the first to admit I’m on that list. Randy Couture retired after back-to-back knockout losses to Chuck Liddell at light heavyweight, returned and dominated former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia. Are the favorites not training the way they should? Are they taking their opponents lightly and getting caught off guard by the hungrier fighter looking to prove themselves?
I think the answer comes in many forms. First off, I think that many of the incumbent champions and fighters are taking their opponents for granted, believing they can sleepwalk their way to victory and it’s just not happening. Georges St. Pierre has now gone on record saying that he didn’t prepare as much as needed for the fight with Matt Serra and it showed when he got finished in the first round.
Upsets are a part of any sport and they will always happen. The fight between Buster Douglas and Mike Tyson will always be talked about. My hometown Cincinnati Reds sweeping the seemingly unbeatable Oakland A’s in 1990 remains one of my favorite upsets of all time. I just hope the current wave of upsets will make some of the huge favorites in our sport take notice and realize that nothing is a sure thing in MMA… no one is unbeatable… and the underdog can still take a bite!
2. Have the untouchable Pride heavyweights been exposed?
After just about every fan and writer in this sport held the Pride heavyweights up in such high regard for so long, we are seeing that maybe we jumped the gun on disrespecting the UFC heavyweight division.
First we saw Jake O’Brien take down and win a unanimous decision over the very experienced Heath Herring. Then Andrei Arlovski defeated Fabricio Werdum. While it wasn’t a very exciting fight, the proof was there that if Arlovski had shown a little more killer instinct he likely could have finished the former top Pride prospect. Then of course watching Gabriel Gonzaga head kick Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic out of his shoes just about sealed the deal.
This once again goes back to the original topic where I discussed upsets and maybe many of the Pride fighters truly believe they were just a step ahead of many of the UFC heavyweights, but it simply isn’t true anymore. Next up is Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, and while it seems like the UFC will probably give him an easy fight first out of the chute, it’s obvious that nothing is guaranteed and if he fights a wrestler who can take him down and avoid submissions (much like his fight with Ricco Rodriguez in Pride a few years ago) the U.S. judges will likely give the decision towards the fighter getting the takedowns, unlike the judges in Japan who saw it the other way.
I guess we’ll just have to wait to see how CroCop comes back after his devastating knockout loss and what happens with the proposed Pride/UFC super show that has been mentioned for later this year to truly determine if the UFC heavyweights have earned the dominant spot in the big man’s division.
3. Rashad Evans vs. Tito Ortiz = Real Main Event for UFC 73
And I’m saying that with no intended disrespect for the title fights between Anderson Silva and Nathan Marquardt and Sean Sherk versus Hermes Franca. The hype growing between Evans and Ortiz is reaching a fevered pitch and we’re still more than 2 months away from the event.
As soon as the fight was announced, we had Rashad Evans on MMAWeekly Radio and he was quoted as saying that he believed Tito didn’t even really want to fight anymore and that he definitely didn’t want this fight against Evans. Then the two had an altercation at UFC 69, which resulted in Ortiz shoving Evans and they had to be separated by fellow fighters. Tito soon responded on the forums calling Evans a “nappy headed ho” a comment referencing Don Imus’ very ill-timed name calling of the Rutgers women’s basketball team (a comment that got Imus fired from his popular morning radio show). Evans then responded through the UFC website and on MMAWeekly Radio by saying that he knows Tito has nightmares about him and knows he can’t beat the former Michigan State wrestling stand-out.
And let me stress again that we are still 2 months away from this fight!
When its all said and done and July 7th hits, despite two title fights on the card, Rashad Evans and Tito Ortiz will square off in the most anticipated bouts for the night. These two fighters are building a rivalry from no previous ill will or knowledge of each other, as far as I know, and this is the type of hype that always gets even the most casual of fans interested in the fight.
I’m excited to see Anderson Silva defend his title against Nate Marquardt. I can’t wait to see Sean Sherk get in there and mix it up with a very talented Hermes Franca. But the moment I’m waiting for is to see the staredown between Evans and Ortiz in what should be a great fight between two fighters who don’t seem to like each other very much.
4. The UFC needs a documentary like 24/7: De La Hoya vs. Mayweather
I’ve been talking about this documentary non-stop on MMAWeekly Radio for the past couple of weeks. I’ll keep it going here because I have nothing but great things to say about this show and what it has done to hype up this boxing match for a fan who hasn’t paid much attention to boxing in years. I used to be a moderate boxing fan, but lately the sport just doesn’t keep me interested with the revolving door of champions and no undisputed king in any weight class it seems. I’m hyped to watch De La Hoya and Mayweather go at it and I attribute the biggest part of that to the HBO series “24/7″
The show has gone in depth to show the fighters training, their home life, their personalities, the families, and going into the background of every aspect of this fight. Each show is only 30 minutes long, but it’s great insight into every facet of this bout and come May 5th I’ll definitely be watching these two pugilists go at it.
Now the reason I’m talking about this so vehemently is because I believe if the UFC (now involved with HBO) wants to build up a great fight, they could use this exact formula to get the casual fan involved in the hype around a fight. While the television shows the UFC has produced as of late are great products, I think the brain trust at Zuffa needs to sit down with the production team at HBO and ask how they could produce a new 24/7 series revolving around a match-up like the afore mentioned Rashad Evans/Tito Ortiz fight. Or maybe use the obvious dislike between Matt Serra and Matt Hughes to build up a huge PPV buy. Using a lead-in like The Sopranos and Entourage doesn’t hurt I’m sure, but HBO could surely help to produce the series and if it’s done right, I think this could be a huge step for building up a great showdown in MMA like the rivalry between Mayweather and De La Hoya has done for boxing.
5. Chuck Liddell on Entourage
Okay, so now I’m showing bias to one of my favorite shows on television, but seeing Chuck Liddell on the HBO series Entourage was like a dream come true. I mean, we talked to Chuck on MMAWeekly Radio last year and he told us about his appearance on the show, so I knew it was coming, but to see what a focal point they gave him as part of the show was great for everyone involved. The show gave plenty of airtime to Chuck, the UFC and they played it very well for the sport of MMA.
If you’ve ever watched Entourage previously, they’ve had tons of UFC fights playing in the background of various scenes and Ari Emanual, who the show bases uber agent Ari Gold after, has said he is a huge fan of MMA and supports the UFC at every opportunity. This is just the first of many shows I’m sure that will feature more and more UFC superstars over time and this is just another great sign that our sport is growing into the mainstream more and more each day.
I loved the show and, trust me, the next time I see Chuck Liddell, I’ll be yelling, “You got got!” (Watch the show and that will make more sense to you.)