Sunday, September 20, 2009

He Ain't Heavy, He's My Brother (An MMA Post)

This past week saw both the start of the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter, Heavyweights, and UFC 103: Franklin vs. Belfort. Both of these events should shed some light on the scary condition of the UFC's heavyweight division.

The only heavyweight fight at UFC 103 featured Croatian kickboxer Mirko Filipović (25-7-2, 1 No Contest; 2-3 in the UFC) and Brazilian Junior dos Santos (9-1; 3-0 in the UFC), with dos Santos winning the entirely stand-up fight after Filipović verbally submitted because he couldn't see due to repeated knees. That Mirko again seemed somewhat disinterested in the fight shows the lack of intensity in the division, dominated by Brock "PR Nightmare" Lesnar. Filipović is a legend in his own right, but it's his prowess in Pride and his devastating kicks that brought him that fame - his skills don't seem to have transferred over to the UFC. There has been talk that perhaps Filipović should drop weight to fight in the light heavyweight division, as he often takes on fighters much physically larger than himself, but he has often said he wants to compete against heavyweights.

Compounding the problems in the division is UFC President Dana White's somewhat satisfying1 inability to sign Fedor Emilianenko, meaning the world's top MMA league is left without, arguably, the world's best pound-for-pound fighter2. Brock Lesnar really doesn't have a realistic challenger - Minotauro Nogueira, Cheick Kongo or a third fight with Frank Mir are really the best options - as Shane Carwin, despite being undefeated, only really holds one particularly notable win (over Gabriel Gonzaga), and, come his matchup with Lesnar, will only have fought twice in the previous 13 months.

That brings us to The Ultimate Fighter 10: Heavyweights. It seems this season is designed to generate some interest and some instantly recognizable competition in the 206+ division, and as an exposé for one fighter.

The big draw for this season is Kevin "Kimbo Slice" Ferguson, a web superstar brawler that's mostly a throwback to a different era of the sport. This presents an interesting conundrum for me - Dana White has publicly doubted Ferguson's skills, so seeing him succeed would be more sweet justice. However, I want badly to see Ferguson put in his place.3 It's a difficult situation to be sure. It's made easier, however, by the fact that he was drafted onto Team Rampage, and I also badly want Rampage to lose to Rashad Evans.

While the UFC and mixed martial arts offers a wide variety of talents at many weight classes - Machido vs. Rua should be a fantastic fight, Anderson Silva still runs middleweight, and Georges St. Pierre can't be touched at welterweight - it would be nice to see more competition from some of the heavy hitters. Plus, Brock Lesnar's act is going to get very tired very soon.

1 - It's always quite satisfying when someone as smug as White doesn't get what he wants
2 - Next to GSP, of course
3 - Which is probably what will happen.

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