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Posts Tagged ‘Greatest’

Rory MacDonald hits Robbie Lawler in their welterweight title mixed martial arts bout at UFC 189 on Saturday, July 11, 2015, in Las Vegas. (AP Photo/John Locher)

Robbie Lawler’s epic tilt with Rory MacDonald could have a lasting impact on the welterweight division.

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UFC 189 was touted as the biggest card in the history of the UFC by President Dana White. It was one that was resting on the intense, brash shoulders of Conor McGregor, who not only drew droves of crowds and viewers but also the intrigue of hardcore and casual MMA fans alike.

When it was all said and done Saturday night and the dust settled, UFC 189 went down as the greatest main card of all time in the company’s history.

This is a big assertion, but consider everything that went down pre-fight and when the combatants actually mixed it up. Everything went right, leading to an excess of fun and suspense.

There was a ton of intrigue when the card was first announced. Two title fights headlined the proceedings, with the top billing going to the ultimate grudge match between UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo and popular challenger Conor McGregor.

The UFC built the fight up and invested money into it that it really hadn’t ever done before. This was done with Aldo, who has not been the biggest box-office success as UFC champion, and McGregor, a rapidly rising star who had begun to build a following with his finishing ability and memorable trash talk.

Anticipation built, and fans eagerly awaited the card. The problem? Aldo dropped out with an injury, seemingly killing all the steam the UFC had built up for the event.

Enter Chad Mendes.

The biggest question mark on McGregor was his wrestling ability, and many fans were quick to assert that the UFC was protecting the Irishman from the many wrestlers in the featherweight division. They would finally get their wish when White announced Mendes as McGregor’s new opponent in the main event.

Basically, the show must go on. It did, and boy, are we lucky that UFC 189 stayed the course, because it became the best main card ever done by the UFC.

Things started off rocky in terms of excitement on the undercard. Every prelim, minus Matt Brown vs. Tim Means, went to decisions, and most of the fights were not exactly barnburners.

For example, Cathal Pendred vs. John Howard made a Ben Askren Bellator performance look like Dan Henderson vs. Mauricio Rua I.

It just seemed like a bad way to build momentum toward the main card. Luckily, Brown vs. Means was the final undercard bout, and it was exciting, featured a finish and brought back steam going into the main card.

So what did the main card feature? Well, it boasted a Knockout of the Year, two Fight of the Year candidates and the coronation of a new champion.

The card kicked off with Thomas Almeida vs. Brad Pickett. It represented the young blood vs. the old guard, and it was a slobberknocker all the way till the finish.

Pickett wrecked Almeida early, and the Brazilian wrecked the Brit in response. The second round was young in this fun bout when Almeida scored a possible Knockout of the Year, landing one of the cleanest flying-knee knockouts in the history of MMA.

That was a great start for the main card.

Continuing the trend of finishes, two welterweights with bright futures looked to steal some spotlight for themselves, and when it was all said and done, Gunnar Nelson took back a ton of the hype he had lost.

Considered the lesser of the two strikers against Brandon Thatch, Nelson dropped his opponent with a two-punch combination and slickly made short work of Thatch on the ground, choking him out in quick fashion.

Continuing on, the featherweights fought, and although it was at a catchweight because Jeremy Stephens failed to hit his mark on the scale against Dennis Bermudez, it didn’t affect the quality of the fight.

It was a back-and-forth slugfest. Bermudez hammered Stephens and looked to secure takedowns. Stephens defended those shots well and tapped Bermudez’s chin with extreme prejudice.

It was on its way to being Fight of the Year and was capped off with a brutal knockout. Stephens landed a flush flying knee and finished Bermudez on the mat with punches in an intense finish.

It was Fight of the Year for all of one fight, though, because Rory MacDonald and Robbie Lawler stole the show.

After a lackluster first round, these two warriors fought four rounds of raucous, violent, bloody combat that had fans in awe and most of them at the edge of their seats. Both men almost finished each other multiple times and likely took years off their careers in an attempt to be considered the best welterweight in the world.

Then the main course came around. The production value was amazing, with live performances by Sinead O’Connor and Aaron Lewis, as well as insane graphics and wild fans cheering their hero and booing his counterpart.

The cage door closed, and it was on. McGregor tagged Mendes early. Money responded with powerful takedowns.

For a while, it appeared the American wrestler would expose the UFC’s cash cow, who was repeatedly taken down.

That changed with a scramble, some fatigue and some pinpoint strikes that beat the buzzer.

McGregor proved too much for Mendes on the feet, and at the end of Round 2, the Irishman got off his back and finished Mendes before the bell.

One of the top stars in the UFC had proved himself and silenced detractors who believed he couldn’t hang with a wrestler. It was truly the best way to cap off the best, most exciting main card in UFC history. It will bring in more money for the company, which can now book the anticipated McGregor-Aldo matchup.

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10 Greatest Ever MMA Films
What are the best MMA movies? Well, thanks to most films getting it wrong, it really depends on what criteria you're judging by. Best action sequences? Actually using some prominent mixed martial artists? Having a script that's actually about the sport

and more »

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B.J. Penn says his greatest career moment didn't come in MMA
MMA Fighting
Penn made the transition to MMA soon after in 2001, winning his first three UFC fights via violent knockouts despite his jiu-jitsu pedigree. Penn (16-10-2) would go on to earn wins over Matt Hughes (twice), Jens Pulver, Renzo Gracie, Diego Sanchez

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UFC 188 brought a strange sort of clarity to the grand scheme of the heavyweight division. 

Showcasing two of the finest heavyweights competing today—Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez—the UFC’s latest event proved the more things change, the more things stay the same in the big boys’ division. 

Prior to his latest fight in Mexico City, many fans and critics felt Velasquez could be the greatest heavyweight of all time. The past king, Russian MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko, rode a 28-fight undefeated streak from April 2001 to November 2009, but he lost three in a row from June 2010 to July 2011, putting his status as the greatest of all time (GOAT) in jeopardy. 

Shortly after Emelianenko‘s fall from grace, Velasquez took over the UFC’s heavyweight class, going 4-0 from May 2012 to October 2013 and outright obliterating his opposition in the process. Velasquez’s college wrestling background instilled in him the work ethic to succeed, and succeed he did. 

His top-level training camp at American Kickboxing Academy developed his hands, Brazilian jiu-jitsu, cardio and grappling to a point never before seen by a heavyweight fighter. Velasquez could not get tired, and he was powerful, fast, explosive—an impossible blend of skills for a man his size. 

With images of Emelianenko getting flattened by Dan Henderson and pounded into the canvas by Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva fresh in our minds, it was easy to kick the aging Russian off the throne in favor of the new kid in town. 

But as UFC 188 showed us, we made a serious error in judgment. 

Over the course of two and a half rounds, Werdum battered Velasquez, scoring with punches, kicks and knees at will, outpacing and outworking Cardio Cain.

Velasquez, for the first time in his career, looked tired. He looked deflated. 

By the end of Round 2, he was done. 

Midway through the next frame, Velasquez’s fate was sealed when he shot for a takedown, ensnaring himself in an angular web of limbs known as the guillotine choke. Werdum shocked the world with a submission, an all-too-familiar story for fans across the globe. 

It was, of course, Werdum who first nudged Emelianenko down the slippery slope toward retirement. The Brazilian fighter ended Emelianenko‘s miraculous run atop the heavyweight class with a triangle choke at Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Werdum, and the division has not seen a definitive ruler since. 

By default, we’d have to give the title to Emelianenko. Calling Velasquez the greatest heavyweight of all time was partly based on what he had already accomplished and what he was destined to achieve, but Werdum suffocated that notion in Mexico City Saturday evening. 

Interestingly enough, Werdum is now the leading candidate to dethrone Emelianenko in the discussion. The current UFC heavyweight champ owns submission victories over both Emelianenko and Velasquez, and his career resurgence is remarkable. 

Where Emelianenko grew old and fell off the earth, Werdum grew stronger and rose to the top of the sport. Maybe he’s a late bloomer or maybe the game just makes more sense to him now—whatever it is, Werdum looks as good right now as any heavyweight ever has in the sport’s history. 

But “right now” doesn’t lend itself to GOAT status. 

We just learned that fact with Velasquez, so why fall into the same realm of fallacious logic with Werdum? 

At 20-5-1, Werdum’s resume is sensational. He lost to Sergei Kharitonov, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski, Junior dos Santos and Alistair Overeem, with his draw coming in his second professional fight against James Zikic

Of Werdum’s losses, he’s already avenged one, submitting Nogueira at UFC on Fuel TV 10 in June 2013. Three of the other four—dos Santos, Overeem and Arlovski—are currently Top 10 UFC heavyweights who could challenge for the throne in short order. 

Looking at the current state of affairs, Werdum will almost certainly face at least two of those fighters—and perhaps all three—by the end of 2016. 

If those bouts materialize as title defenses and Werdum’s holding the strap throughout, it’d be hard not to recognize what he accomplished and deem him the GOAT in the heavyweight division. 

That’s a whole lot of “ifs” and “buts,” though, my friends. 

I want to witness history as much as the next guy, and I want to see fighters continually outwork past generations, upping the limits of what is possible in the sport of MMA. 

Werdum has the chance to do that, but he’s not there yet. 

If you need a GOAT, choose Emelianenko. He’s the most logical choice right now. 

But if you want to take your logic a step further, say “I don’t know yet,” sit back and watch the cards fall. 

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Fabricio Werdum was in a jovial mood following his victory over Cain Velasquez in the UFC 188 headliner on Saturday night.

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Cain Velasquez [R] may be the UFC's next big star. (Getty)

The 32-year-old has established himself as a brilliant heavyweight, when he’s healthy, and that’s the problem.

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New documentary on Bellator 138's Ken Shamrock reveals greatest foe: Himself
Longtime fans of mixed martial arts (MMA) will have seen or know the name Ken Shamrock, a pioneer of the sport and one of the original fighters in Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC). But a new documentary aims to shed a little more light on "The
Win The Trip to St. Louis and Watch Bellator MMA: Kimbo vs. ShamrockMMA Corner
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all 11 news articles »

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Numbers be damned, Chris Weidman is approaching legendary status in the UFC’s middleweight division.

The 30-year-old Serra-Longo product faces Vitor “The Phenom” Belfort on Saturday, May 23 at UFC 187 in Las Vegas, where he’ll attempt to defend his middleweight title for the third time.

Before there were talks of UFC title defenses for the Long Island native, however, there was an obsession with one man: UFC legend Anderson “The Spider” Silva.

Silva was not only the king in Weidman‘s weight class, he was widely regarded as the greatest fighter to ever compete in the sport. He was, as they say, the G.O.A.T. (greatest of all time).

Weidman knew Silva had something special—and he was determined to take it from him.

“Every time I trained for a fight, I didn’t train to beat the guy I was fighting,” Weidman wrote for the Players’ Tribune. “I trained to beat Anderson Silva.”

After nine straight wins, Weidman got his chance against The Spider at UFC 162, famously knocking out the longtime king and ushering in a new era in the UFC’s middleweight division. For Weidman, this was a defining win, a grand payoff for all the years of studying, training and grinding toward Silva’s title.

Weidman has since added two additional title defenses to his legacy—one more over Silva and one over Lyoto “The Dragon” Machida—and he’ll look to extend his run against Belfort on Saturday evening in what may prove to be his toughest test to date.

Should Weidman do what he does inside the cage and snag another title defense on Saturday evening, it will be time to have a little talk about the greatest middleweight in history.

And this talk will feel a lot like a debate.

Silva’s run as the UFC middleweight champion was magical. He was hands down the most dominant fighter I’ve ever watched go to work, toying, dancing and playing with grown men before sending them into another dimension with his pinpoint strikes.

His 10 consecutive title defenses are the most in the promotion’s history. His 14 finishes? Also tops.

He had the kind of run at 185 pounds that felt like it would never face a legitimate challenge. He was the division’s Cy Young, and everybody else was playing an impossible game of catch-up.

But if Weidman gets past Belfort at UFC 187, we’ll need to have a discussion. A one-two-three run over Silva, Machida and Belfort would look a lot like the beginning stages of Jon “Bones” Jones’ run at light heavyweight when he assumed the throne in March 2011.

Jones demolished legends and former champs, and he was widely considered the best light heavyweight of all time even before he matched Tito Ortiz’s then-record of five consecutive title defenses.

Weidman can do the same.

The quantity of wins and accolades is not there for him just yet, and he may never match Silva fight-for-fight. Consider this: Silva had already notched four UFC title defenses by the time Weidman made his pro MMA debut.

Weidman may never be able to close this gap in terms of sheer quantity, but man, oh man, is he making up for it with quality.

Like Jones, Weidman seized control of his division and rattled off victories over some of the best fighters the sport has ever seen.

He needed just 12-and-a-half minutes to slay the G.O.A.T. twice. No big deal, but none of Silva’s 15 other UFC opponents could do it even once. Some of them even had a second chance at him and still couldn’t seal the deal.

If sending The Spider packing wasn’t dramatic enough, Weidman then bested Machida at his own game, out-striking the karate expert over five rounds in a Fight of the Night performance at UFC 175. Again, no big deal, but the lifelong wrestler and grappling specialist just stood toe-to-toe with an expert striker and won.

Compared to Silva’s resume, well, there’s no comparison.

This is like having two Lamborghinis and a Ferrari in your garage and comparing it to a garage with four Mustangs, a Camaro and five souped-up Civics.

Sure, Silva has more pink slips, but put any of his 10 cars against Weidman‘s Ferrari, and it’ll end poorly for the former champ.

Making matters worse for The Spider’s case, Weidman‘s garage has some bays just begging to be filled by more supercars.

Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza await after Belfort, and either fighter would stand among or above the best on Silva’s hit list. Silva’s garage is locked. Weidman is building an addition.

On Saturday, Weidman has the opportunity to begin this construction by adding another victory over a former UFC champ to his record. Beating Belfort is arguably the best win of Silva’s title reign, so this fight can give us a better understanding of how Weidman and Silva match up against common opponents as well.

Don’t expect Weidman to front-kick Belfort‘s face into the second row like Silva did, but don’t be shocked if the American is able to thoroughly dismantle the aging Phenom any way he sees fit.

If he does, he’ll take one more leap toward snatching Silva’s claim as the greatest middleweight in the sport’s history.

The game of catch-up Weidman signed up for when he entered the middleweight division as a pro fighter in 2009 was supposed to be impossible, but so was beating Silva in the first place.

It seems Weidman has a different perspective on what’s possible, and he’s blazing a trail to show us things his way. Pretty soon, we’ll have to open our eyes and accept him for what he’s becoming: the greatest middleweight of all time.

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Revisit the matchups that made highlight reels — and history — as the Ultimate Fighting Championship counts down the five best bouts of all time. Check out the collection here: http://www.ufc.tv/category/ufcs-top-5-greatest-fights

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