This has been slowly happening for years now, but last night's episode of TUF made it especially present in my mind. We have finally reached the point in MMA as a sport, where trying hard isn't good enough any more. Every few events Goldie or Rogan (usually Goldie) like to trot out the "Hard work beats talent, when talent doesn't work hard." line like a show pony to remind us how unpredictable MMA is, but increasingly this isn't the case.
MMA has become legitimately athletic. Occasionally fighters buck the trend (see Silva, Antonio & Noguiera, Lil'), especially at LHW and HW where power is entirely disproportionate to chin or cardio, but these instances are becoming increasingly rare. Cerrone vs. Pettis, Volkman vs. Green, and Jordan vs. Russow are all instances of fights that looked close on paper but were decided by huge disparities in raw athletic talent.
Today everyone works hard, and if you're not the most gifted athlete in the world, then you 'd better specialize because being the "toughest dog in the fight," as Forrest Griffin once famously put it, just isn't good enough anymore. It's interesting to see how the sport has morphed and will continue to do so as a result of this.
One of the most notable results may be a resurgence of BJJ experts, as it is the fight system most associated with neutralizing athleticism. But, as Urijah Hall showed, the biggest change so far has been an increase in the variety of finishes. Fighters are stronger and faster than ever before, but they're not harder to knock out. As they become more dynamic finishes become more surprising and entertaining.
There has always been something endearing to me about the average joe fighters, guys who weren't the best athletes but made up for it with their grit and determination. But as a whole its a chapter that I'm more than happy to leave behind.