Friday, May 07, 2010

Let's Have an Awkward MMA Discussion

In honor of ESPN debuting "MMA Live" on ESPN 2 (moving it from the internet) today (at least I think it was today), let's have an awkward mixed martial arts (MMA) discussion of our own...

For a little bit of background, in over 2000 posts in 5 1/2 years, I think this is the first MMA related post on the site. Ryan, I believe, wants nothing to do with it, but now that I live in a state (I won't say which one, because everyone hates it right now) loaded with guys that can't get enough of the UFC, I took an interest and starting following the UFC last August. I'm starting to enjoy watching it more and more, and actually feel confident enough to discuss it now here on this site. Here is what I find interesting about it:

1. It's very easy to follow, since there are probably less than 25 events a year if you add up the PPVs and live SpikeTV matches
2. There are only 5 weight classes in the UFC and 1 title for each class, unlike boxing, which has 17 weight classes and 5 titles for each (That's 85 championship belts floating around!!)
3. The actual fighting is much more exciting than boxing. The small gloves make it easier to knock someone out and the martial arts aspect adds all kinds of variety to the fights. You can watch 1 PPV and see 5 totally different style fights. The small gloves also lead to a lot of clean knockouts and a decent amount of blood spillage, which is always fun.
4. As mentioned above, the sport is still new enough that most guys have very different backgrounds. Some are martial artists of many different disciplines, while others have a strong boxing or wrestling background. Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu has kind of become the standard, but everyone uses it in their own way.
5. Even though it follows the pro wrestling business model rather than the boxing business model, the sport is way less shady. With Dana White, you have 1 promoter running the show making matches between a bunch of guys under contract. It just works better than trying to get 2 promoters representing a few guys to make a deal.
6. The four lower weight classes span from 146-205 lbs, which is the weight range of most average sized men. I think this helps to better relate to the fighters because they are mostly just averaged sized and in extremely good shape. I'm kind of a borderline welterweight/middleweight myself.
7. Most of the fighters seem like decent guys that respect the sport and aren't cutting pro-wrestling style interviews left and right. The ones that do are pretty much hated (Like former pro-wrestler and UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar), but they also make it more fun because it adds some personality.

I watched the MMA Live show on ESPN 2 and to me it just felt very awkward. Maybe its strange hearing ESPN people talking about the sport because since its not as popular out east and they pay a lot of people money to analyze the dying sport of boxing, they pretty much refuse to acknowledge how popular it has become over the past few years. Sure, they talked UFC 113 some, but the show had plenty of bizarre moments. They had a TMZ-style update saying that Tito Ortiz and Jenna Jameson have made up after fighting last week. They interviewed the guy that runs Strikeforce (UFC's temporary rival) about how UFC is stealing his guys and how they suck at making contracts. They interviewed a guy that is currently on The Ultimate Fighter reality show that is on SpikeTV. And.....GASP....They were forced to acknowledge that a channel called Versus exists, since an upcoming UFC event is called "UFC on Versus"

So it will be interesting to see if ESPN gives in and starts to cover mixed martial arts more (or even try to show some on their station?) or if it truly is a fad like the ESPN boxing weirdos like to say, it could fade away before ESPN is forced to cover it more. Personally, I think its here to stay and will replace boxing completely within 5-10 years. Here are my predictions for the big 3 UFC 113 matches:

Matt Mitrione over Kimbo Slice - This will be a stand-up fight between 2 very inexperienced heavy hitters. Kimbo is the bigger name but the Heavyweight division in the UFC has basically turned into the "whoever is bigger and can punch harder will win" division. The former Purdue football player Mitrione is bigger and we'll see if he can punch harder. If he wins, that might end the Kimbo Slice phenomenon before it even really started, but at least he'll always be extremely scary looking.

Paul Daley over Josh Koscheck
- Daley is pretty new to UFC while Koscheck is the seasoned veteran. It would be easy to tip this one in favor of experience, but to me, Koscheck seems to be pretty stationary in his spot as one of the better welterweights, while Daley is the unknown. This will be Daley's toughest fight yet, but I think he has the momentum to win this one and get a shot at GSP for the welterweight title

Light Heavyweight Champion Lyoto Machida over Mauricio Rua - This is a rematch of their epic title fight at UFC 104, which saw the undefeated Machida barely hang on to his title in a controversial decision. This time around, I think Machida will be better prepared and finish this fight before the 5 rounds are up.

So that does it. If UFC is something you would like to see us discuss more (or less) often, let us know in the comments.

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