I think UFC 107 emphasized a number of bloggers point recently, the champions are the by far the best fighters at their weight. The champions only have to defend their titles not win them, Anderson Silva proves my point, at middleweight he has destroyed everyone bar Thietes Lietes who only wanted a ground ju jitsu fight. When he steps up to light heavyweight he puts on a banger show and sends shockwaves through the light heavyweight division!
Champions like GSP and BJ Penn in the past have gone after their challenger to batter and win, this in my opinion allows the challenger chance to turn defense into attack and allows the challenger a better chance at beating the champion.
BJ Penn demonstrated at UFC 107 he is by the best fighter at 155 and has to go down in history as the best at 155. What interested me more is how many challengers suggest they can put BJ away and have the skills to do so. BJ has fought up welterweight and won fights, he has battled legends such as Matt Hughes and GSP for titles, he has also previously fought current light heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida when pushing over 205 catchweight. Remember BJ Penn has been champion at both welterweight (champion at UFC 46 and stripped when he signed for K-1) and lightweight defended since UFC 80, he has beaten Joe Stevenson, Sean Sherk, Kenny Florian and most recently Diego Sanchez at UFC 107.
It also goes for GSP, he has defended his title 3 times, every challenger suggests they will beat GSP, again his skills, determination and champion mentality ensures he wins the fight before he enters the octagon. GSP has been champion since UFC 83, he has defended against Jon Fitch at UFC 87, BJ Penn aka “greasegate” at UFC 94 and Thiago Alves at UFC 100.
If you go up to middleweight, what can you say about Anderson Silva? The Brazilian has beaten every challenger in front of him for years, he has gone up to light heavyweight and beaten a former champion in Forest Griffin and dangerous striker James Irwin. There are many calls for Anderson to step up and fight training partner and current champ Lyoto Machida but refuses do to being friends. Very noble but ultimately he has the skills to beat the dragon. For me Anderson Silva is the best pound for pound fighter in MMA and only has been challenged once in his UFC career. He hasn’t lost in 3 years which was a DQ. His last actual lost was back in 2004 when Pride was in its hayday. Anderson has defended against Nate Marquardt at UFC 73, Rich Franklin at UFC 77, Dan Henderson at UFC 82, Patrick Côté at UFC 90, Thales Leites at UFC 97.
The only question in this argument is if Lyoto Machida and Brock Lesnar are good enough to be long term champions at their respective weights. Lyoto has only defended his title once, which had the whole world question the result against fellow Brazilan Shogun Rua. The rematch is due for March 2010. Then you have former WWE champ who has been a revelation in his 4 fights in the UFC, he has beaten legend Randy Couture, Frank Mir at their rematch and Heath Hearing. His downfall maybe when he fights tactical and very technical fighters as his raw power and shear size will scare 90% of heavyweights. Brock appears to be getting over the worst of his injuries and has been penciled in to fight in June against number one contender Shane Carwin. For me both have the ability to be champion for many fights but doubt they will for the shear fact the quality of contenders in both weights.
Light heavyweight has a number of potential title contenders currently –
Shogun Rua, current number one contender and recently lost to Machida at UFC 104. The rematch is penciled in for UFC 113. Rua has not shown his best since joining the UFC but Dana White and Joe Silva see him as the number one. There are three fighters who definitely would give Shogun issues if he wins the title.
Anderson Silva, current UFC middleweight champ has fought twice at the heavier weight and destroyed both former champ Forrest Griffin and James Irwin within the first rounds. He does not struggle with the heavier fighters and personally speaking I believe he could trouble anyone. He has stated he would never fight stable mate Lyoto Machida.
Rashad Evans, former champ and recovering from his lose to Machida at UFC 98. He was due to fight fellow top 5 contender Rampage Jackson but acting commitments have stumped those plans. Evans has lost only lost one fight and looks to take another step to the top by fighting Thiago Silva at UFC 108 as the main event for the first UFC event in 2010. I think given the opportunity Rashad could beat 95% of fighters.
Randy Couture, the former light heavyweight and heavyweight champ has recently taken the step down to light heavyweight since his back to back loses at 206. Randy won a dodgy judging decision over Brandon Vera at UFC 105 in Manchester. Couture even at 46 is a real threat at light heavyweight and will be a huge 205, he showed his power against Vera and could challenge any of the big punches like Evans, Jackson or Machida. It’s suggested that Couture with a win over fellow 40+ ex champ Mark Coleman at UFC 109 relentless, would get a shot at the title. To me a bit too soon but is a true legend of the UFC but after another win would entitle him to another crack at the title.
Quinton Rampage Jackson, what else do you need to say about Rampage, he clearly has the talent but does he have the love for fighting anymore. He has smashed Chuck Liddell, revenged his double loss to Wanderlai Silva but then lose to Forrest Griffin on his first title defense. Rampage will have to fight two fights to get to the title and recent beef with Dana White won’t get him a quick title shot, he will have to beat Rashad Evans I would imagine to get to fight for number contender’s title. I would imagine he may get to a title fight end of 2010 if he beats the two in front of him. Rampage for me is the man to beat still and would send nightmares to everyone in the light heavyweight division.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, new comer to the UFC maybe, new comer to MMA no, former Pride champ demonstrated his ability against Luiz Arthur Cane at UFC 106 and appears to be fighting fellow top light heavyweight Brandon Vera. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira sent shockwaves through light heavyweight division with his debut win over Cane who was considered to be top 3 fighters at 205. I’d like to see him avenge his loss to Shogun from the Pride days, so he could be another with two wins away from a title shot.
Lastly Brandon Vera, my outside choice for title contender, his “loss” to Couture was strange, he has beaten two other light heavyweight’s including out classing Krzysztof Soszynski and has big victories in the UFC over former heavyweight champion Frank Mir. Vera has two core skills which sets him apart from most other challengers, his Muay Thai is on another level and his Greco Roman Wrestling provides a real strong base and compliments his Muay Thai. He is also now settled at 205 and looks like he could be a serious contender.
Then we have the heavyweight division, there are four to five real title contenders. Firstly Frank Mir has beaten Lesnar with a heal lock but this was in Lesnar’s debut. There is mma legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira who seems to be getting back to his best since his infection, Nogueira could put real pressure on the bigger Lesnar with his BJJ skills and with a black belt in Judo he will offer a completely different fight to any others.
Now to the new breed of fighters –
Cain Velasquez, currently with 6 wins in the UFC and no losses. Cain will fight Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 110 and determines who will be the next number 1 contender. Junior dos Santos is 4 and 0 in the UFC, Dos Santos has made the world pay attention to him with impressive wins over Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve both by explosive knock outs and most recently a TKO win over Mirko Cro Cop FilipoviÄ? at UFC 103. dos Santos fights Dutch Gilbert Yvel at UFC 108 and with a win I would say puts him in the second bracket of fighters in the heavyweight division.
Lastly the number contender Shane Carwin. Carwin has 3 wins in the UFC and overall record is 11 wins and no loses. Carwin is booked in to fight Lesnar for the title but due to illness and injury it may be on hold until June. It has been suggested Mir may get a fight against Carwin if Lesnar does not get back to full training shortly. Personally think this may have to wait.