Luke Thomas and I had the distinct honor of submitting a piece on the biggest fights of the last year for inclusion in USA TODAY's big MMA pull out this week. It's a follow-up to the series we did on the Top 50 Fights in MMA History series last year.
Here's the criteria we used last year in selecting the fights: Some of the fights we'll list aren't necessarily the best MMA bouts, but all of them are milestones for one reason or another, for better or for worse. The idea is to show how the sport has evolved. These are the fights that made the sport what it is today.
Here's the list we came up with for the last year using the same standard and some excerpts:
- Brock Lesnar vs. Frank Mir UFC 100 (July 11, 2009)
The UFC did it up right for its 100th numbered event. Stacking the card with two title fights, the event broke records with more than 1.5 million pay-per-view orders. That large audience saw Lesnar emerge as the UFC's unquestioned top heavyweight and biggest star. Mir entered the fight as the UFC interim heavyweight champion. More important, he held a victory against Lesnar. Lesnar wore the UFC belt he took from Randy Couture at UFC 91 and was eager to unify the titles. It took him less than two rounds to do it, taking down Mir and brutalizing him on the ground. Lesnar's postfight rampage - he insulted his beaten opponent, spit at a cameraman and disparaged UFC sponsor Bud Light - was almost as newsworthy as the fight itself. Lesnar was struck down by illness before he could make his first defense. After a lengthy layoff, he will return Saturday at UFC 116 against another interim champion, Shane Carwin.
- Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber WEC 48 (April 24, 2010)
- Mauricio "Shogun" Rua vs. Lyoto Machida UFC 113 (May 8, 2010)
- Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Rashad Evans UFC 114 (May 29, 2010)
- Fedor Emelianenko vs. Fabricio Werdum Strikeforce (June 26, 2010)
- Honorable Mention: Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia/B.J. Penn vs. Frank Edgar, UFC 112, April 10, 2010; Dan Henderson vs. Jake Shields/Shinya Aoki vs. Gilbert Melendez, Strikeforce: Nashville, April 17, 2010.
The most obvious thing looking at the list is that 4/5 of the list were put on by Zuffa, only one by Strikeforce and NONE of the fights took place in Japan or anywhere but North America.
Here's the blurb for the honorable mentions that they didn't have room for in USAT:
- Anderson Silva vs. Demian Maia/B.J. Penn vs. Frank Edgar, UFC 112, April 10, 2010
The UFC's Abu Dhabi debut started out promising but turned into a debacle of historic proportions as MMA legends Matt Hughes and Renzo Gracie put on a snoozer of an old-timer's bout, reminding everyone why we don't have a seniors division in MMA. Then reigning lightweight champ B.J. Penn put in a lackluster performance against the unheralded Frankie Edgar. The judges added insult to injury when they somehow gave Edgar the nod and the title for bobbing and weaving despite being outstruck by Penn. Then Anderson Silva came on and put on one of the most bizarre performances in MMA history, spending the first three rounds mocking and humiliating his outmatched opponent Demian Maia, then apparently gassing out and getting on his bicycle and getting outstruck by the ground specialist on the feet. This card just shows the unpredictability of MMA and the challenges facing Dana White and company as they strive to put their best foot forward in new markets.
- Dan Henderson vs. Jake Shields/Shinya Aoki vs. Gilbert Melendez, Strikeforce: Nashville, April 17, 2010.
Speaking of debacles, Strikeforce seized the chance to put on a second prime time show on CBS by booking three back to back title fights featuring fighters known for going to decisions. This ensured the card went over time and bored casual fans who can hardly tolerate grappling if it's fast paced and decisive, much less grinding and incremental. The ratings were terrible and got worse as the night went on and worst of all, Strikeforce's big free agent signing Dan Henderson came in and lost to
Dana Whitetheir soon to be leaving middleweight champ Jake Shields. Also, Shinya Aoki, the self-appointed representative of Japanese MMA looked utterly impotent against Gilbert Melendez. Starting a trend of Japanese champs coming to the States and getting drubbed. A few more nights like this and MMA will be out of business in the U.S. for a generation. Notice I said MMA, not UFC.