This weekend saw a number of interesting fights for fans of combat sports. Between Bellator, UFC on Fox 3, and boxing, there was no shortage of exciting action. Heading into the weekend, Floyd Mayweather vs. Miguel Cotto was clearly THE big fight, but it was also presumed to be one of the more one-sided fights, with Mayweather once again riding to an easy victory.
But that's not what happened. Instead, Cotto proved to be a real challenge for Money Mayweather, pushing the pound for pound great in ways few pundits anticipated. At the end of the day, it was a terrific and surprisingly competitive fight, and though the outcome was as predicted (a Mayweather win), the path to that outcome was a pleasant surprise.
It's also the best thing that could have happened to Mayweather.
For quite some time now, Floyd has looked unstoppably dominant in all of his fights. He's too fast, too skilled, and the only man who could seemingly challenge him looks destined to never actually cross his path. That sense of complete dominance is impressive, but it can also become boring. As fans, many of us love to see the best athletes exhibit their craft. But we also want to get caught up in the drama of the moment. And when you have a completely dominating champion, some of that drama fades. When you don't see any possible way a Mayweather can lose, why tune in?
The Cotto fight changed that. Now, Mayweather looks vulnerable. And now, when he next fights, people will be asking what that next challenger can learn from this weekend in order to topple the giant.
In MMA, we're seeing the same thing in the lead-in to this summer's biggest fight. For years, Anderson Silva has been that dominant, unstoppable force, defeating every challenger with ease. Then he ran into Chael Sonnen, who, like Cotto, showed that Silva was human and could feasibly lose.
Now, as Sonnen and Silva prepare for their rematch, the drama is there. This is not just a fight built around being the Anderson Silva Show as we saw against Okami, Maia, Leites, or, for that matter, Sonnen. Instead, this is a competitive fight, and one where, for the first time since he faced Dan Henderson, you have to really ask yourself if Silva will successfully defend his UFC Middleweight title. By pushing Silva, Sonnen made him an even more exciting champion.
Contrast that with another dominant UFC champion - Georges St. Pierre. A polar opposite from Mayweather in personality, GSP is actually rather like the boxing great once the fight starts. Both are brilliant tacticians who defeat their opponents without ever finding themselves in trouble. And both can get a little boring. This is why fans clamored for GSP vs. Nick Diaz, because they saw in Diaz a fighter who could play the role that Sonnen and Cotto did - a fighter who could prove that GSP is vulnerable and make us care.
Ironically, that fight did not happen, but St. Pierre has been proven as vulnerable regardless, as his knee injury and long lay-off will open the door for a Carlos Condit upset in the eyes of some. But if GSP comes in and dominates as he always has, it won't be long before MMA fans are looking for their Cotto again. And he exists. The only question is - will he come out of retirement to play that role and be the man to finally push the champion? For the good of Georges St. Pierre, I hope he does.