By Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
First off, a couple of things before I get into the actual article…I want to say a sincere thank you to all the fans that tune in every night to listen to MMAWeekly Radio. I truly believe we have the best fans in the world and words cannot express how much it means to me that you have all given me a shot to take over what can only be described as a legendary show.

I knew going in that I had no intention of ever trying to imitate, duplicate or replace what my good friend Ryan Bennett started when he hosted the show with Frank Trigg, but if I can in some way honor his memory by carrying on the program that he started then I will always work my hardest to put on the best show possible.

1. The Welterweight Division Gets New Life

When Georges St. Pierre defeated Matt Hughes at UFC 65, he may have single handedly rejuvenated a weight class that was becoming dangerously close to having no top contenders that the champion hadn’t already gone through.

The argument could have easily been made for a BJ Penn/Matt Hughes trilogy because while BJ will never make excuses, he was dominating the 2nd fight before his rib was injured. You could also easily argue for Diego Sanchez to be the #1 contender and while people can give him a hard time for being the poster boy of the Ultimate Fighter, the fact is he’s still undefeated, he’s a cardio machine, and every single time someone says he should lose, he simply continues to prove people wrong.

That said, with St. Pierre’s win, the match-ups become ever exciting and now we get to see if Matt Hughes can return to his old form after simply being dominated in his fight with the new champion. BJ Penn is still in the mix because he lost a painfully close split decision to St. Pierre some months ago, and if Diego Sanchez defeats Joe Riggs on December 13th, there is no reason to argue that he doesn’t deserve a title shot.

Let’s not forget Karo Parisyan, who did lose to St. Pierre but also put up one hell of an effort against the new king of the 170lbers. And of course it looks like Matt Serra will get the first shot against the new champion early next year. Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck could also soon enter the mix as possible contenders. Matt Hughes will always be remembered as the most dominant champion in UFC history but now Georges St. Pierre gets his chance to run the table on the welterweight division.

2. UFC Heavyweight Division Struggling

I know this is just harping on a subject that just about everyone already talks about on a daily basis but after watching the heavyweight title fight at UFC 65, this division is in serious need of some new talent.

Now, I will say that I fully support Tim Sylvia as champion because he is a phenomenal talent with well rounded skills and his next opponent, Brandon Vera deserves a lot of respect for being as dominating as a heavyweight has been in the UFC since Andrei Arlovski was tearing through people on his way to becoming champion. Outside of that, please tell me one legitimate contender that the UFC has in the heavyweight division? I’ll give you the answer…no one!

For as much as I respect Jeff Monson as a fighter, he should not have been in there in a championship situation after being back for only 3 fights in the UFC…one a win over Brandon Lee Hinkle (nowhere near top 10), a split decision over Marcio Cruz (2 whole MMA bouts going into their fight) and a TKO over Anthony Perosh (who?). The fact is the UFC didn’t have any other possible contender for Tim Sylvia to face…thus why this fight was the undercard bout to the St. Pierre/Hughes main event.

Remember the days of the heavyweight title fight always being the main event? Frank Mir is a memory at this point. Ricco Rodriguez has disappeared off the map. If the UFC is smart they will go out and put some money down on the table to sign someone like Aleksander Emelianenko who has expressed obvious interest in fighting for the UFC. Put some money down and sign Heath Herring…he doesn’t have anything going on…at least not on December 7th that is anyways. And while the new fans of the UFC may not know these names, they are talented fighters who would create new and exciting match-ups that we haven’t seen before. Then maybe after Sylvia and Vera slug it out we’ll have a legit contender for the next title fight.

3. TUF 5 Needs To Be The Real Comeback

The Ultimate Fighter has become the flagship for what the UFC is trying to create with their fighters becoming household names, while having enough drama that the casual fan will still tune in from week to week. The last season of the Ultimate Fighter was painful to watch at best sometimes.

Long gone are the days of the Chris Leben spritz or the Bobby Southworth parental bashing. Now the drama consists mostly of the fighters complaining constantly that they have to be stuck in a house together for 6 weeks.

Here’s a solution as given to me by a frequent caller into the radio show…let these guys loose on Las Vegas. I mean can you imagine the UFC fighters in the casinos, or the bars, or the strip clubs? Something interesting is bound to happen! I know people will complain that the fighters are there to focus and win a contract but if they can train and live their lives in their own hometowns, why not make them responsible for their own well being while in Las Vegas?

Plus, with this season being all lightweights, I’ll take a suggestion from an e-mail sent by a fan named Justin Grimes who sent this idea to me recently…bring in Chris Brennan. That’s guaranteed fireworks between him and UFC president Dana White. They really don’t seem to like each other and that’s just good television waiting to happen. Whatever the solution is, they need to improve and create a more exciting product because the same old, same old is not cutting it anymore.

4. Why Does Losing Mean A Fighter Automatically Sucks?

I don’t mean to be so blunt but I get emails constantly about this very subject and I’ve never understood why just because a fighter loses a fight, they suddenly become the most overrated and horrible fighter in the history of the world? It’s a knee jerk reaction that people seem to constantly have after a fighter loses in dominant fashion.

The most recent case in point is, of course, former UFC middleweight champion Rich Franklin. Yes, he lost in convincing fashion to Anderson Silva who was simply the better fighter that night. Yes, he has to go back to the drawing board and figure out how to get his game back on track. But does that mean the fighter who was just recently widely considered the #1 middleweight in the world is now overrated and simply terrible? You’ve got to be kidding me.

What this loss means is simply that…it’s a loss. Every fighter goes through it, even if they get a win, they may still feel the sting of defeat after a poor performance. I can pretty much guarantee you that Franklin will be back with a whole new fire, ready to tear through the UFC 185lb division.

Everybody has a defeat at some point. The difference is, how do they recover and return afterwards? Look at fighters like Chuck Liddell and Matt Hughes who lost, came back, and both won world titles. Instead of calling a fighter overrated, how about saying that you’re overreacting?

5. Steroids Policy: 2 Strikes And You’re Out

I went off about this a week or so ago on the radio show and I will stand by my comments that if a fighter tests positive for banned substances more than once they should automatically be banned from the sport for life.

Now, this may seem somewhat harsh compared to the rules instituted by many of the other professional sports organizations, but under the World Anti-Doping Agency and U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the automatic punishment is a two-year suspension for a first offense and a lifetime ban for a second offense.

Plus, the fact is that MMA already faces an uphill battle from the mainstream media who don’t want to cover the sport or from the television journalists who can’t admit that MMA is a far superior product to what boxing is putting out there today. Steroids are nothing but an unnecessary black eye that the fledgling sport of MMA simply does not need and cannot afford if that is what people start picking on next as a reason why the sport is bad.

I have sympathy for a fighter who can come out and simply say he made a mistake. I can even give a pass to a fighter who tests positive once because he didn’t know what substances they were putting into their body, even though I still don’t completely buy that excuse either.

As of yet, we really haven’t seen anyone outside of Kimo Leopoldo test positive for a second time, but the fact is that the window of opportunity in this sport should be pretty short for a fighter who tests positive once and then gets hit one more time. There should be a lifetime ban from any legitimate organization putting on a MMA show if you test positive twice. That’s my call and I’m sticking to it.