By In Mixed Martial Arts

Just A Moment

MMA is a sport of moments. Each one is permeated with a unique blend of emotions, a mixture of excitement, nervousness, anticipation and surprise. The moment a bout gets announced. The moment fighters stare each other down for the first time. The lightless silence right before the walkout music starts blaring. The moment the cage door closes. The moment you became a fan.

Or as Chan Sung Jung reminded us, the moment in a fight where everything can instantly change. Against Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 139 on Saturday in Denver, “The Korean Zombie” won more moments than he lost. At the end of four frames, two judges had given him three rounds, while the other had the fight tied at two rounds apiece. The final round was more of the same, which is to say action-packed back-and-forth brawling that could have gone either way. Jung was a lock to notch, at the very least, a split decision win. He was only moments away. That’s the thing about MMA, though. Moments matter…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Eighty Pounds of Thinness

“My name is Anthony Smith, and I want a title shot.”

Thus spoke the unlikeliest of light heavyweight contenders, exhausted and battered, after the biggest win of his career at UFC Fight Night 138 on Saturday in Moncton, New Brunswick. After more than 10 years fighting professionally, including stints in Strikeforce and Bellator MMA on top of a respectable 7-3 record in the Ultimate Fighting Championship, “Lionheart” took the opportunity to call for a title shot and remind viewers what to call him.

If you didn’t know his name before, well, there’s a chance you still might not know it now. Despite a gutsy win over the UFC’s second-ranked light heavyweight in Volkan Oezdemir, there’s a reason why Smith had to clarify who he was: To most audiences, he’s still a faceless UFC fighter. In fairness, having a name as aggressively generic as “Anthony Smith” doesn’t help much, either. At least “Jon Jones” has the mnemonic touch of the double-J sound to distinguish itself, if his fighting alone hadn’t already stood out enough…

 

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Heavy Truths

Days before the back-to-back Bellator MMA bonanza went down, Matt Matrione said that if the heavyweight grand prix final ended up being between Ryan Bader and Chael Sonnen — neither of whom competed at heavyweight a single time before this tournament — it would discredit the promotion’s heavyweight division. Sonnen had some choice thoughts on the state of the heavyweights:

“Yeah, I think that’s right. I think it discredits all the heavyweights completely. The best thing to do with heavyweights is to keep them the hell away from any other weight class. They’re the worst athletes in the room, they’re the slowest guys in the room, they’re the laziest guys in the room, which is why they weigh so goddamn much, and if you want to keep the mystique going on to the public that size matters and the big guys are better just because they’re bigger, if you want to keep that false narrative out there, keep us real athletes away from the heavyweights. I think it was a risky move. They tried it on the other side of the tracks, and a light heavyweight now has that strap, too. Heavyweights suck. Mitrione is right.”

Let’s investigate the veracity of that statement, as much as it’s possible to objectively assess whether or not something “sucks…”

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

We Are Who You Thought We Were

So a fight broke out at a fight, huh? Who could have seen that coming?

Even though a number of people could give the rest of us the I-told-you-so treatment, it was still a genuine shock when Khabib Nurmagomedov leaped out of the cage and jump-attacked Conor McGregor’s cornermen at UFC 229 on Saturday in Las Vegas. Why would he do such a thing after winning the biggest fight of his life, in dominant, legacy-defining fashion, no less? Didn’t he get ample revenge in the cage? Apparently, he didn’t…

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By In Mixed Martial Arts

Don’t Forget About Bellator

There is no escaping the shadow of UFC 229. The MMA return of Conor McGregor against anyone would be a huge deal, but against Khabib Nurmagomedov, it almost justifies its Rogan-esque hyperbole as “the biggest fight in UFC history.” With a press conference scheduled this week that, unlike their first one, will be open to fanfare and all its attendant chaos, there is no doubt that all eyes will be turned toward Las Vegas.

While I wouldn’t blame anyone for forgetting about Bellator MMA, I would pity them. The sport’s perennial second banana has been quietly making strides to secure its spot through creative and intriguing matchmaking. In doing so, fans, fighters and the sport itself have benefitted.

Let’s get this out of the way: Bellator is not — and almost certainly will never be — a comparable competitor to the Ultimate Fighting Championship. The kneejerk criticisms that it is a home for second-rate talent, an island getaway for unsatisfied UFC castoffs and a retirement plan for stars of yesteryear are all basically accurate. Yet positioning itself as a UFC foil is not Bellator’s role, and it’s becoming increasingly evident that it really doesn’t need to be. The main card of Bellator 206 on Saturday proved as much…

 

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