We now live in a world where information is around every corner and available at the tip of a finger. This vast amount of data has somewhat evolved the manner of media and press across the globe- as what used to take a month, then a week, then a day, and in the advent of TV news at least a few hours is available a few moments after actually occurring.
This availability has somewhat skewed the role of media, which now must keep up with the demand of the public and almost create storylines to maximum content. And what separates MMA from other sports in respect of this phenomenon is the lack of offseasons- yes, fighters can often go the length of an offseason between fights, but the sport itself does not have an offseason.
Despite how you feel about Dana White, I think that the lack of an offseason and the amount of time he spends relating to fans and making himself avaibable to the media really speaks to how much he genuinely cares about MMA.
I'd like say a big thank you to Chad Ochocinco, for smack talking Tito Ortiz via Twitter. I'm a huge fan of 85 because I love guys who have big personalities but are seemingly good people- it's easy to hate on Chad and others like Terrell Owens, but these guys are both really hard working athletes that have big personalities and the platform to pontificate upon. I think that Ochocinco carries a large following of fans, and his admiration for the sport and bringing of MMA into his personal plotline has to have a positive effect for the nascent sport.
I know Georges St-Pierre versus Nick Diaz is still months away now, but I have great expectations for it. These guys are about as well-rounded of mixed martial artists in their own distinct brand that sometimes, we have to put aside how we imagine they match up and just identify the sort of modern day gladiator vibe we get from this sort of matchup. In their own respective manners, these two athletes are the best in the world and that really gives fantastic meaning to the outcome.
Derek Suboticki wrote this week about leaving Wanderlei Silva alone, and I completely agree. I've watched the ending of that fight several times and each time I see a punch that was completely reminiscent of Rich Franklin versus Vitor Belfort- Silva got tagged behind his ear, disabling his equilibrium. He staggered for the clinch, but was too hurt to bring Leben to him. Leben threw some massive uppercuts in his zombie mode and was able to put the legend away. It was in no way a sign that Wanderlei should retire- after a significant surgery and layoff, he got TKOed by an athlete who has a habit for brawling and knocking out people who brawl with him off. If Wanderlei got finished in that manner by Demian Maia, Rousimar Palhares, or someone that rarely gets the TKO finish, it would be one thing. But if you leave yourself open to Chris Leben putting a clean punch on your chin, you run the risk of getting knocked out- and leaving himself open is something Silva has always done, so how is this fight different? Let's not forget the manner that Wanderlei dominated the fighter who had only lost to Dan Henderson and Rashad Evan (on scorecards, at least)- Michael Bisping is an unbelievable talent and a top middleweight, and "the Axe Murderer" handled him soundly. Silva is still a few years and a significant amount of proven deterioration away from retirement, and I personally don't see title contention that far outside his grasp.
If you told me one month ago the circumstances of Nate Marquardt's dismissal from the UFC and all the subsequent details, I would have been moderately surprised- I've never thought of Nate as the shy and serene character that had been portrayed- I'd seen him piledrive his opponents in the Octagon and knew that he had previously tested positive for performance enhancers. What has me somewhat puzzled is that Nate apparently didn't even try. Really Nate, you didn't even APPLY for the TUE (Therapeutic Use Exception) from the Pennsylvania State Athletic Commission? There is officially no doubt that he is a cheater in that sense of the word, and I think they should declare his bout with Dan Miller ruled a No Contest if significant evidence is found.
On the Testosterone Replacement Therapy subject, Chael Sonnen is set to face off against Brian Stann at UFC 136, and I personally hope that fight will propel Brian Stann to a title fight. Let's not fool ourselves though- no middleweight in the world can stave off the Oregon Ducks' product's takedowns. In his absence, he's no doubt been training like a madman- including sharpening his submission defense at Cesar Gracie's, home of Jake Shields and the Diaz brothers. It's likely that him rolling with fighters possessing great guard skills helped shore up his weaknesses as much as it aided their preparation for great top control fighters. Brian Stann is amazing, and has carried an aura with him since his days as champion of the WEC's 205 pound division. He has above average wrestling and scrambling skills, and a moderately active guard that has no doubt been progressing under Greg Jackson's watchful eye- combine that with a natural propensity for knocking people silly and a heroic background and you have an incredible fighter that is awesome to root for and be a fan of. Not only is Stann a great role model, but he has an aggressive mentality in the cage to contrast a respectful demeanor that identifies as a great representative of the USA to the worldwide audience of MMA. He the type of universally identifiable personality that offsets the voice of Chael Sonnen resonating throughout international media outlets, and that makes this fight great to sell in not only North America, but beyond the United States' borders.
Diego Sanchez and Matt Hughes are official for UFC 135, and this is fight that has me drooling. I think that Hughes is the type of fighter that will bring out the best in Sanchez, who is already a walking Fight of the Night bonus waiting to happen. Matt Hughes should start planning what he wants to do with the bonus check, because that 60K is all but guaranteed when you're standing across from Diego. Sanchez's story reflects his real struggle to make it down to 155 pounds, and I think that his case makes a real argument against top fighters cutting massive amounts of weight when they're already competitive in a division, just to try to outsize fighters a weight class below. I hope that "the Dream" comes out in fantastic shape and ready to go 15 hard minutes, because I know that Matt Hughes will. Most people see Matt in the twilight of his career after a sudden knockout loss to BJ Penn- what I see is a fierce competitor that now fights for legacy and pride, and has the skills to battle anyone put in front of them. Like the gladiator vibe I get from GSP and Nick Diaz, I feel a similar way about the legendary Hughes vs. a personal favorite in Diego, in a fight that has massive implications for the title picture at welterweight.
I think the current quagmire that has been created at the top of the lightweight division is due to the need for overtime rounds in title fights. A title fight should just not end with a draw- while it is somewhat of a unique occurrence, it really inhibits growth at the top of the division and stalls the ascension of fighters like Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller. These two athletes have proven at this point that they are ready to compete in the most significant fight of their career, but both have to wait for months because of three people's interpretation of a 25 minute epic mêlée that could have at least went to 3 minute overtime rounds. While a 5 minute round would allow a standard period for judging, a round limited to 3 minutes would add to the urgency of the situation and could enhance the probability of "sudden-death" finishes. That, or epic lay and prays. Either way, a situation with this many variables isn't created, and doesn't stall the fate of athletes who have reached the summit of the proverbial mountain.
On a topic I'm sure many people are sure to disagree with- Maiquel Falcao won his most recently fight after being fired from the UFC, but I for one don't think he should be allowed to compete in this type of combat sport or even receive the training that goes into high level MMA competition. I think that there should be a process to review circumstances, but in situations where someone is imprisoned for or convicted of serious violent crimes I think they should at least receive a temporary restriction from even training for this kind of sport- we cannot let trained and experienced practitioners give the tools for further physical violence to someone that has demonstrated an inability to control their physical and mental composure against other people in a non competitive situation, never mind a sport where serious implications result from people with lack of self control.
I wrote a short time ago about my own views on Dan Henderson's legacy in the sport, but I think his current run goes even beyond that- Despite his losses, if Dan manages to defeat Fedor Emelianenko I see him being considered as a pound for pound great in the sport. I think that fighters who demonstrate a sustained winning rate throughout their career, especially in multiple weight divisions, should sit at the top of the pound for pound considerations unless they have an exceptional career drop off.
Any manic musings of your own or topic suggestions? Drop me a line at Austin.Martin.MMA@gmail.com.