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First Blood

by admin February 16, 2010

First Blood

by admin February 9, 2010

First Blood

by admin February 2, 2010

Over the weekend, it was reported that Vitor Belfort has pulled out of his middleweight championship bout with current UFC champion Anderson Silva. The fight, scheduled for UFC 112: Invincible, was set to take place in Abu Dhabi at an outdoor arena. Since the news broke, UFC president Dana White and matchmaker Joe Silva have been scrambling to find a legitimate contender. With all the contenders either tied up in other matches or injured, the UFC has chosen Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu ace Demian Maia as the best possible replacement, though the decision has raised some eyebrows.

Before Maia’s last win, a unanimous decision over Dan Miller, Maia dropped his first fight ever in a bout with Nate Marquardt that lasted only 21 seconds and acted to quell the hype surrounding Maia and his apparently unstoppable ground game &- he had, until then, ended every bout in the UFC via a choke, with four of the five earning submission of the night honours. The loss seemed to send Maia down the middleweight ladder, but taking a closer look at the UFC’s top middleweights it appears Maia is in like company.
When Belfort first withdrew from the title fight the obvious choice was Chael Sonnen, who won top contender status with a dominant victory over previous number one contender Marquardt. Yet as everyone was surprised to learn in the post-fight interview, Sonnen was in deeper trouble than it appeared and claims he was merely holding onto to his consciousness for a good portion of the fight. Needless to say both Marquardt and Sonnen were beat up bad, and both have received medical suspensions beyond UFC 112’s scheduled date.

Yet Sonnen’s number one status is not an unattainable feat for Maia.
When Sonnen rejoined the UFC middleweight stable after a victory over the final WEC middleweight champion Paulo Filho, he was first welcomed by none other than Maia, who managed to take advantage of Sonnen’s wrestling base, submitting him with perhaps the most technically sound triangle choke ever seen in the UFC.
What this recent action in the division is describing is an extreme diversity in style: Sonnen is a world-class Greco-Roman wrestler and was once an Olympic alternate for the United States team, Maia is a highly decorated Brazilian Jiu-jitsu practitioner who has seven world titles under his belt, and Marquardt is considered one of the most well-rounded fighters in the sport. Amongst these three is of course the king pin, Silva, who rivals Maia in technical mastery, though as a striker.
While Maia may no longer have a perfect record, he is still a formidable opponent for the champ. As their records indicate, all of the top contenders have kinks in their armour and each bring something different to the table. If past performances indicate anything, Silva, though a black belt himself, appears to have the most trouble with other Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioners. Against wrestlers, Silva has proven dominant &- just look at his second round rear-naked choke of Dan Henderson, and for well-rounded fighters just look at Marquardt’s last encounter with Silva, where Marquardt was dispatched at exactly the same time one round earlier.

Silva has found himself in deep water only once, against Travis Lutter. Lutter managed to control Silva with his ground game and was even ahead on the scorecards before succumbing to a triangle choke. And as noted by UFC heavyweight Frank Mir, on replays of the event, Lutter had Silva in very threatening positions on the ground but failed to capitalize on Silva’s mistakes. Furthermore, Silva has only been stopped twice, both times by submission – including Ryo Chonan’s highlight reel scissor kick-to-heel hook.
So to all the naysayers out there, I say reserve your judgement until after and keep in mind that according to Sherdog.com, Sonnen, Marquardt and Maia are all ahead of Belfort in the middleweight world rankings. As the only one healthy enough to take on the challenge, Maia should be getting more respect and well-wishes than criticism as he has less than two months to train for the most important fight of his life.

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With reports that Brock Lesnar is recovering from his near career-ending battle with mononucleosis and diverticulitis, UFC president Dana White has stated that Brock will be back in the octagon some time this summer. Whether or not Lesnar’s attitude has changed because of his big dose of reality is to be determined.

When Lesnar first began in the UFC, sporting a 1-0 record, he was welcomed with open arms by MMA critics. Exhibiting the showmanship and tomfoolery from his days with the WWE, such as treating Heath Herring like a calf he’d lassoed, interacting and calling to the crowd, he began to damage the reputation of the UFC. Questions were raised regarding the legitimacy of the sport &- doesn’t marketing such a character as a poster boy for the sport reveal a motivation to be less of a sport than a spectacle?
All of this crept into the shadows when it was reported that, pending the follow-up from his surgery, Lesnar’s future as an athlete was endangered. But when a man who is marketed as being a unique specimen of size, strength, conditioning and health is given even a one per cent chance of recovery, to write him off would be more foolish than his antics.

With an extended time off to reflect and realize that he would be leaving MMA as the sport’s bad boy who would be remembered more as a blemish on the sport’s growth than a revered champion, perhaps Lesnar will be taking things more seriously.
One can assume a serious illness that forced Lesnar to confront his own mortality was a humbling experience, and as the saying goes: you don’t know what you’ve got till it’s gone.

Without a doubt, Lesnar has glimpsed the error of his ways and hopefully now realizes the gravity of his position and his potential as a top-five heavyweight. Only time will tell whether or not these experiences will affect his character inside the octagon.
While Antônio Rodrigo Nogueira and Cain Velasquez are set to square off next month in Sydney, Australia to determine a number one contender. Frank Mir and Shane Carwin will be battling for the interim heavyweight title at the next pay-per-view event, UFC 111.
Presumably, Lesnar will wait until this de facto four-man tournament is over to unify the title. Though another bout with Mir would seem redundant, it would be an interesting marker for Lesnar’s growth and maturation as an MMA fighter to see if he shows any respect to Mir, or insults the sponsors.

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MMA’s main critics seem to have a short list of arguments against fighting, namely that it is a blood sport amounting to no more than a spectacle. Retorts from the MMA community only seem to reinforce the erroneous claims of critics; some opinions in favour even try to work with the critics and simply say: “it’s gruesome and I like it, so what?” Instead, what should be said is: “it’s gruesome but I like it.”

The blood sport accusation has some merit; the appeal of MMA is certainly founded in aesthetics. Yet what is visually stimulating is not profuse bloodletting, but the the rhythm of the fight. Though the practise of martial arts involves the acquisition of combative skills, there is nonetheless a dance performed in a fight. In fact, in Muay Thai – one of the main martial arts utilized by MMA fighters – before every match there is Wai khru ram muay, a dance performed out of respect to the audience and the fighters’ trainers (their khrus). This dance also serves to offset the violence and remind the audience of the visual and artistic side of the fighting. And Muay Thai is not the only martial art which emphasizes the beauty and fluidity of the movements and techniques of martial arts. Perhaps the epitome of such a style is Capoeira, a Brazilian art form that incorporates martial arts into a dance.

With the visual aesthetics of MMA in mind, one can still see a spectacle. Such occurrences generally take place between two stylistically mismatched fighters, like the typical “striker vs. grappler” situation &- like when Nate Marquardt needed only 21 seconds to knock Damien Maia unconscious. Maia, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion, met Marquardt’s right hand with grappling on the mind.
The problem is this: spectacles occur in every sport. Fights break out in the NBA, NFL and MLB alike, and some fans are simply drawn to a sporting event when a player gets seriously injured. Bloodthirsty fans are not limited to MMA.

As for the connections made to link MMA to pro wrestling (and more specifically the UFC to the WWE), there are some trivial similarities.
With the epic introduction music of UFC pay-per-view events, the lights, screaming fans and shiny, gold championship belts, one can’t help but get swept away in the pageantry of it all. If the WWE and the UFC look similar to you, you should pat yourself back for recognizing a simple truth; the WWE is an athletic soap opera which tries to stay true to the formatting of actual combat sport events. The antics and action outside of the cage can once again be seen as harking back to MMA’s predecessors. In Muay Thai, fighters enter the ring wearing a Mong Kon, a colourful head piece that is worn as a testament to one’s training, and for superstition

So when you see John Cena running into the camera frame with his high tops, corny sport cap and denim shorts, he is harking back to ancient martial art traditions, albeit in a non-spiritual way.
In the end, MMA is more than a live action version of Jean-Claude Van Damme’s 1988 hit film Bloodsport. One simply needs to look at it’s roots to find meaning in some of the customs and rituals performed in and around the cage, and stop to take a closer look at the waltz that is occurring simultaneously with the want to draw first blood.

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