Sunday, December 23, 2007

Top Five UFC fights of '07

I remember renting the first Ultimate Fighting Championship when I was in my early teens. If my mom knew I was watching human cock fighting she would have probably preferred I rented Big Trouble Little China for the umpteenth time. The sport couldn't and wouldn't survive in its raw form, but no one could deny the appeal. Take two guys with distinctive fighting techniques and let them go at it. The Modern version of MMA is the same premise, but with rules that prevent paralysis and death. The sport has gained legitimacy to the point that it hasn't only pushed boxing to the back burner, but is in the same conversation as NASCAR and MLB. Before I start my list, I must admit that I pretty much only watch UFC. Not that I don't enjoy PRIDE, WEC and Strike Force, but UFC has the best fighters, and more often than not, the best fights. So without further ado, here are my favorite fights from 2007.

5. Serra vs. St. Pierre:
Even in the battle of the nice guys someone has to get punched. After winning the Ultimate Fighter: The Comeback, Matt Serra was thought to be poised to be a speed bump for George St. Pierre who had just claimed the welterweight title by showing long time champion Matt Hughes that striking can indeed beat wrestling. To say Serra was an underdog is an understatement. However, the small ball of BJJ excellence unleashed the gates of Hades upon a bewildered George St. Pierre. Muhammad Ali couldn't shock the world as well as Serra did that night. Serra isn't known for his striking, but ask St. Pierre he will verify the guy can throw his hands. The Terror from New York is no slouch, but this fight should serve as a reminder that fights are fought in the ring/cage and not on paper.

"Every man has to figure to get beat sometime"- Joe Louis.

4. Cro Cop vs Gonzaga:
The root of any good sports story is upset. Rocky, the '04 Red Sox and VCU vs Duke in the 2007 NCAA basketball tournament (had to sneak that in) all were great upset stories. The UFC desperately needed more depth in the heavyweight division and signed PRIDE fighter Mirco Cro Cop. "Left leg hospital, Right Leg cemetery" was Cro Cop's catch phrase going into the fight as a heavy favorite. Gonzaga would not feel the wrath of Cro Cop's kicks however...I'll let the video explain the rest. Well what the video was trying to say is that Gonzaga nearly decapitated Cro Cop.

3. Rampage vs. Hendo
Allow me to break down some science behind the idea of title unification. UFC fighter Quinton Rampage Jackson defeated Chuck Lidell to win the light heavyweight title, but was then quickly signed to another super fight with PRIDE light heavyweight and middle weight champion Dan Henderson. The idea behind unifying the titles wasn't as spectacular as much as it was common sense. Zuffa owns both UFC and Pride, so they were in a win/win situation no matter the outcome of the fight. The fight it self was a test of endurance, that challenged both fighters mentally and physically. The rule of thumb in MMA is not to let the fight go the distance and leave it in the hands of the judges. Despite their best efforts the former sparring partners could not out do the other man. Hendo utilized his superior wrestling to take Rampage down in earlier rounds, but Jackson displayed his mastering of the art of putting his fist into people's faces and mid sections. The closest fight I've ever seen came down to a decision and with Hendo not clearly dominating the fight, Jackson won by decision. This fight also yielded the best MMA quote of the year: "I was thinking I better do something or Dan is gonna whup my ass"- Quinton Jackson

2. Couture vs. Sylvia:
Randy Couture is to MMA as Brett Favre is to the NFL. Both are great champions who are loved by opponents and fans alike. With two unspectacular fights against my homey Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia was on top of the heavyweight division without a clear contender for the title. Enter Randy Couture, who came out of retirement to help the UFC when there was a giant with odd facial hair holding the title. This was a classic student versus teacher fight with Couture manning the overhead projector. Sylvia was out classed in all respects. Randy worked his combination of leg kicks to right crosses perfectly and kept the giant off balance for all five rounds. Couture used his head...literally and legally. By keeping his head moving he never allowed Sylvia to land a clear shot and thereby opened several opportunity to counter attack. Its going to be difficult for the UFC to reinvigorate the heavyweight division with the lose of Randy, but they have the talent to produce a great 2008 in the weight class.

1. Guida vs Huerta:
There is one more UFC event left in the year, but I doubt the super fight between Lidell and Silva can beat the excitement of Guida vs Huerta. The main event of the Ultimate Fighter Finale looked attractive at first and was well marketed, especially towards the latin public after Mexican fighter Roger Huerta made the cover of Sports Illustrated. His opponent Clay Guida is often regarded as one of the most intense fighters in the lightweight division. I was watching the fight with my friends and MMA spectator partners Ashton and Chuck. We were expecting a good fight, but received nothing short of a fireworks display. These guys went at it like their lives were on the line. Huerta being the favorite had to endure a pounding in the first two rounds, although Guida did not have an easy time dealing with Huerta striking and ground defense. Coming out in the third round Guida looked like the grunge rock version of Bruce Banner during one of his temper tantrums. The 155 lbs Incredible Hulk was on a mission, but no one told Huerta who caught Guida with a devastating blow, putting him on his knees. Guida tried for the take down, but was just too dazed. Huerta quickly sunk in a rear naked choke and that was it. Fight of the year by far and once again the UFC gives it away for free.

Top five fighters of 2007:
5. Dan Henderson
4. Matt Serra
3. Anderson Silva
2. Randy Couture
1. Quinton Jackson


Corrections and Apologies 12/30/07: "There is one more UFC event left in the year, but I doubt the super fight between Lidell and Silva can beat the excitement of Guida vs Huerta" . Okay, I hereby revoke my MMA nerd membership pass for making that ludicrous statement above. Lidell vs. Silva was hyped beyond belief and managed to exceed the hype en route to becoming a runner-up for fight of the year. After the first 2 minutes of feeling out their opponent the bombs started to drop. How neither of these two guys got knocked out baffles the mind. One of the best MMA fights I've ever had the chance to witness. Lidell proved to be a little too cage savy for Silva who did nothing to lose the fight, but by far took the most damage during combat. Lidell got the decision, but it's difficult to say that anyone lost that fight. My guess is within 2 years we see a rematch and I'll be waiting.


Ollie said...

What about the first Anderson Silva vs. Rich Franklin? That was an awesome fight. The knees. The blood! And poor Franklin's broken nose!

Hotnewton said...

Good posting my friend... sorry for taking so long to get back to you I sort of abandoned my blog for about a month...

Enjoyed your list as well... UFC 2008 has been a blast so far, it's gonna make picking fights of the year even tougher at the end.

I shall check back periodically, I like what you are doing here.