Mixed martial arts fans have been accustomed to seeing remarkably repetitive contests over the past several years, particularly in the UFC it seems. The “major leagues of MMA” are where all up-and-coming fighters aspire to compete one day, where their dreams of reaching a national audience, seeing bigger paydays and attaining championship gold can all come true.
That is, if they can make it past the stalwarts of their respective divisions.
Since beginning his ascent to UFC gold with a demolition over seasoned veteran Chris Leben in 2006, Anderson Silva has looked all but unstoppable in not one, but two divisions. Though at times he’ll make a cameo at 205 pounds, and dominate those who at first glance look like they could physically bully “The Spider”, Silva has been remarkable in his reign as the UFC’s Middleweight Champion.
Dethroning Rich Franklin in 2006 was merely a preview of what was to come for Silva, as he steamrolled opponents such as Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt Travis Lutter and Olympic wrestler and former two-time Pride champion Dan Henderson. It wasn’t until 2010 when he first faced Chael Sonnen that Silva’s reign at the top was truly challenged; yet despite a rib injury heading into the bout he still managed to pull off a triumphant fifth-round submission victory by triangle choke.
Since Georges St. Pierre reclaimed the UFC Welterweight title from Matt Serra in his home country back in 2008, the man they call “Rush” has been in anything but one to relinquish his stranglehold on the 170-pound division. Despite facing strong opposition from the likes of Thiago Alves, Josh Koscheck, Jake Shields, Carlos Condit and most recently Nick Diaz, no one has yet to solve the GSP puzzle.
While many of St. Pierre’s critics (which include his opponents) say that he can’t finish fights anymore, or has no punching power, the fact remains that St. Pierre is one of, if not the most well-rounded fighter in mixed martial arts today. With no amateur wrestling background, St. Pierre has become one of the sport’s most dangerous wrestlers while polishing his boxing game alongside famed trainer Freddie Roach. As a black belt in both karate and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu compliment his wrestling skills, St. Pierre’s arsenal is deep. The question is, who (if anyone) can stop him?
As Silva and St. Pierre continue their reigns on what should be the tail-end of both of their careers, young champions Ben Henderson and Cain Velasquez have shown that they may indeed be next-in-line for extended title reigns at lightweight and heavyweight, respectively. Jon “Bones” Jones has already been given what many see as “Superman” status at light heavyweight in knocking out Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and choking out both Lyoto Machida and Quinton “Rampage” Jackson.
Henderson, Jones and Velasquez, much like Silva and St. Pierre are all extremely well-rounded fighters, which is why they have risen to prominence in the UFC. But the dominance of such fighters prompts a question: is it good or bad for the sport?
While all of the aforementioned athletes have proven they can handle themselves both on their feet and on the ground, with some being more exciting than others, the fact remains that having a “king” of a division could potentially dissolve interest in watching their fights. Despite match-ups that may seem enticing, the general consensus among many seems to be, “It’s going to be just like any other [insert name] fight; he’s going to win.” Of course, this is not always the case, but if history has told us anything, it’s that when a special fighter wins a title, they keep it.
Even Ronda Rousey, the UFC’s first women’s bantamweight champion, who has risen to massive popularity since her first title bout in Strikeforce, could potentially dominate her division for years to come. Though it seems unlikely that fans will tire of seeing her metaphorically take home the arms of her opponents, it is possible.
This is where you come in, Penn Nation: What do you think? Is the future of MMA already mapped-out with champions like Jones and Henderson? Are we ever going to see anyone dethrone Anderson Silva, perhaps the greatest mixed martial artist of all time? Does GSP’s dominance of the welterweight division make for less interesting fights despite his immense popularity?
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