by Damon Martin – MMAWeekly.com
Do You Believe In Miracles? With all of the recent upsets, is the playing field leveling out in MMA?

By Damon Martin, MMAWeekly

With March Madness about to start, sports fans are always anticipating the next great Cinderella story. Lately the world of mixed martial arts has had its own run of underdogs taking out the heavy favorites, and it begs the question, are the favorites getting sloppy or has the new breed caught up?

Going into UFC 58, Yves Edwards was making his return to the octagon as the already uncrowned lightweight champion. He was considered the number one fighter in the 155lb weight class prior to stepping in against a virtual unknown named Mark Hominick. While having mixed success in Japan, Edwards did manage to show well in all of his fights and a chance to return to the UFC and the newly reformed lightweight division had to excite him but unfortunately the excitement was short lived.

After enduring some good stand-up by Hominick, Edwards found himself on the short end of a triangle choke. Once on the ground, despite a valiant effort, Edwards had no choice but to tap out and Hominick earned the biggest win of his career. Coming into the fight, Hominick was seen by both critics and fans as a stepping stone for Edwards to get his championship but the young Canadian had other ideas and earned a hard fought victory over one of the best in the game.

Another fighter that has struggled as of late and that was recently dismantled despite being the favorite going into the fight was former UFC heavyweight contender, Pedro Rizzo. While the Brazilian heavy hitter has definitely lost a step or two over the last couple of years, his skill and experience cannot be denied. His loss to Roman Zentsov at Pride 31 by knockout at only :25 seconds of the very first round was still shocking to many, including the fans that remember that it was only a few years ago that Rizzo was knocking out fighters like Andrei Arlovski and Josh Barnett.

Josh Thomson took on Clay Guida recently as an undercard fight to the Frank Shamrock/Cesar Gracie showdown, and while just about everyone thought that Thomson would walk through Guida, the result was much, much different. While the fight did go to a decision and Thomson had some very good submission attempts throughout, it was Guida who pounded and punished Thomson for all five rounds, earning the victory and leaving his opponent a broken and bloody mess afterwards.

The common factor in all of these fights obviously is that the underdog won and it left the favorites to wonder what they could have done differently to change the outcome. Upsets are a natural part of any sport but recently mixed martial arts has had a string of unlikely winners topple the heavy favorites. While injuries occur all the time, watching Mark Coleman, who most had pre-determined to lose when he fought Grand Prix champion, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, walk out victorious stunned more than just a fair share of fans.

Walking into a fighter’s hometown as an underdog and not only winning but putting on one of the most impressive performances of the entire show is next to impossible. But that’s exactly what New Mexico fighter Carlos Condit did when he stepped into Renato “Charuto” Verrissimo’s backyard in Hawaii and knocked him out in the first round at Rumble on the Rock in January.

While Ricco Rodriguez is not quite the same fighter, size or otherwise, as he was when he was UFC heavyweight champion, his recent loss at Rage in the Cage to little known fighter Robert Beraun was nothing short of shocking.

Training centers for martial arts have been open all over the world for what seems like forever but with the recent growth of MMA, many of these places are starting to train their students for full contact combat. The days of there only being Team Quest, Miletich Fighting Systems and Team Punishment are well since past. Now with the influx of more and more teams and training systems, fighters from all over are starting to become complete mixed martial artists, never focusing on one area and becoming true fighters.

Greg Jackson has started to churn out top level fighters at breakneck speed as of late. City Boxing in California has a few champions just waiting to be crowned. And Rich Franklin’s training techniques along with his friends Billy Rush and Jorge Gurgel are attracting fighters from all over the nation to take the trip to Cincinnati to see what all the fuss is about.

The fact is the playing field is starting to level out a bit and the veterans will have to step it up or the new breed of fighter will be forcing them to step out. No fighter is safe from the hungry new comer who listened to Dana White’s verbal curse ridden tirade asking if they want to be a *expletive deleted* fighter and got a fire to compete and make it all the way to the top of the ranks. The Ultimate Fighter is built on the hype of showing new talent and making the dream of some young fighter come true with their chance to compete in the legendary octagon.

In the next few days another team will be crowned the Cinderella of the NCAA tournament…but who will be the next upset victim in MMA? Time will only tell but in all likelihood, the wait won’t be for very long.