Editorial by Will Hayes for MMAWeekly.com
In the realm of the fastest growing sport in the world, one fact is ringing louder and louder with every passing major event. It rings from inside the hearts and minds of every athlete involved in the painstaking process of relentless training and dedication. It is ringing from inside the hearts and minds of the countless fans that only continue growing in number. Here in the world of mixed martial arts, this one fact continues to carve itself deeper and deeper into stone: Anything can happen.
UFC 69 brought this fact to absolution for me. I spend hundreds of dollars every month to my cable company. I order almost any major MMA event they have to offer. It helps that I pay an extra $10 a month for a digital video recorder. This way I can review the fights as many times as I’d like to. However, for UFC 69 I wrote off the idea of paying $40 for an event that I thought for sure was already in the books, fight for fight. Boy, did I shuffle myself into the dummy file on that one. I wish I wasn’t so overzealous in my predictions. I’d sure like to be able to watch Matt Serra TKO the Number 1 Welterweight in the world again today. And although the fight was deemed by many to be really boring, I’d like to watch again as Josh Koscheck handed Diego Sanchez his first MMA loss. However, I’d ignored the signs: Anything can happen.
We all know what an amazing athlete and true champion that Randy Couture is. But who in their mind would have seen a man well into his forties come out of retirement, move up in weight and win a belt? Not to mention that the man he fought, Tim Sylvia was 12 years younger, a half a foot taller and nearly 50 pounds heavier. Also, do not forget we watched Couture frustrate the giant Sylvia and beat him at his own game, namely striking. Couture was never very well recognized for his stand-up game. Yet, he sure came out and surprised us all by dropping the “Maine-iac” with a huge right hand within the first 10 seconds of the first round. How did that happen? What is that? I’ll tell you. It’s what makes this sport the newest, greatest, and most substantial competition on the face of this planet. ANYTHING CAN HAPPEN.
As much could be said of UFC 70. Sure, any MMA buff could tell you that Gabriel Gonzaga definitely had a pretty decent chance to secure a win against Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic. However, most would have probably told you his best chance of winning would have been to take the Croatian to the mat and apply a submission. I guarantee no one guessed he would be prescribing Cro Cop a taste of his own medicine. Quite frankly, I’d say this ending ranks up there with one of the most devastating head kicks I’ve ever seen. It was just as good, if not better than any one that Mirko has ever dealt out himself.
Let’s jump back now and take a closer look at Matt Serra next. This is a fighter who has only one other actual finish in his UFC career and only three others in his total MMA career. Every single finish he ever captured before UFC 69 was by submission. Yet, he came out on April 7th and finished the fight very early in the first round by way of striking. I guarantee NO ONE outside of his camp ever even gave a fleeting thought to the idea that he would finish with a TKO in the first round. Whoever bet on Matt Serra to win this fight won a really nice purse just based on the odds.
One more recent fight I’d like to mention within the same propensity is Henderson vs. Silva at Pride 33. Everyone knows the extreme level of talent harnessed by both of these fighters. However, I will say that very few believed that Henderson would win by way of knockout. This was an amazing fight, but in the end it only highlights the carving in the stone of this sport: Anything can happen. Period.
Now, let’s ask ourselves a good question. Where are all these fighters going next? Look at Koscheck and Sanchez. I’d say it’d be exciting to see one of them face Hughes or Penn. But, we can’t say Penn since he’s going to face Pulver at the end of this Ultimate Fighter season. So, where does it go from here? Who will be the next Welterweight contender to get a shot at the title? What happens to St. Pierre? Maybe, Koscheck should get a shot at him? According to Dana White’s announcement at UFC 69, Serra’s first title defense will be versus Matt Hughes. Perhaps another solid up and comer gets a shot at Sanchez? Where does the ‘demotion’ begin and end, as well as the ‘promotion’?
The heavyweight division amongst the UFC is ready to burst. Where does Cro Cop go after this weekend’s loss? Where will Arlovski end up after a mostly uneventful, but decisive victory against Fabricio Werdum? After each has sustained a recent loss, I say it would be interesting to see Cro Cop face Sylvia. And I believe Antonio Nogueira could perhaps face Arlovski. Or maybe Arlovski should face off against Cheick Kongo? With the recent drive to build up this heavyweight division there’s going to be a lot of questions now and in the near future of who should be facing off against whom. One thing is for sure, thinking about Couture’s amazing new fight character coupled with his library of experience, any of these other guys are going to have their work cut out for them.
Let’s jump to the middleweight division of the UFC for a minute. Obviously, all of us who keep up on ‘the rap’ know that Nathan Marquardt gets the next shot at this title. So then, logically he’s ‘leap-frogged’ Rich Franklin by defeating Dean Lister. And so, Franklin will be fighting up-and-comer Martin Kampmann next as the headline fight in the UFC’s debut in Northern Ireland. Which leaves one to wonder what is next for Yushin Okami, who just defeated Mike Swick in dominating fashion. Okami has just as many wins in a row as Marquardt, and has actually finished 4 of the 6 wins, where as Marquardt has only finished 2 of 6. The match-ups are puzzling, to say the least.
There are so many factors to consider in the construction of the fight cards. I will say as a true study and fan of the sport, I’d like to be clued in on the actual logistics of this fight building process. Many times I’m very thrown off and a lot of it seems more about “hype” than anything. For instance, why is Quinton Jackson fighting Chuck Liddell when he could be “built up” by facing Tito Ortiz first? Hmmmm… Is this ‘the hype’? I think maybe so.