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By Alvin Benjamin Carter III, MMA Torch Specialist
#9 – Lyoto Machida is officially dethroned by Shogun
It was great to see Mauricio "Shogun" Rua one-up his previous performance against Lyoto Machida and win the Light Heavyweight title at UFC 113. Many people thought Shogun won in the first battle, and this fight turned Shogun from the people's champ into the LHW champ.
#8 – We Confirmed That Chael Sonnen is Crazy
There is really not a lot to say. Correction, there is too much to say about this. Chael Sonnen displayed fluctuating levels of sanity that could cause you to question your own. His "thoughts" that he did or did not share about Lance Armstrong are a bit comical after Sonnen himself tested positive for performance enhancing drugs after insufficiently disclosing his use of them. Now he is in even more trouble as the new year starts and he has some money laundering issues to take on. I hope he does not make my list for 2011 for the same reasons.
#7 – Jon Jones should get Brandon Vera’s Nickname
Jon "Bones" Jones is one of the brightest prospects in the UFC’s LHW division. He literally smashed Brandon Vera as he successfully rebounded from his first lost, which was a DQ against Matt Hamill. Many do not count the loss against Jones as he was destroying Hamill until the illegal elbows lead to the lost.
Jones took it to Vera in such aggressive fashion that he handed Vera a broken orbital. The very next fight for Vera saw his nose get smashed by Thiago Silva on New Years day 2011 at UFC 125. It is safe to say that Jon Jones is "The Truth," and I think it would be great to see Jones fight Thiago Silva in the New Year.
#6 – Chuck Liddell is KO’ed Into Retirement
A broken Rich Franklin at UFC 115 put down the "Iceman" Chuck Liddell. It is no surprise that Liddell has since retired and taken a corporate post in the Zuffa/UFC fold. While Liddell has been on the decline for a couple of years, it was still disappointing as a fan to see an era officially end.
On the other hand, I am glad to see the UFC take care of someone who helped MMA and the UFC become one of the largest, if not the largest, combat sports in the world. Having a star like Liddell working on the business side of things could prove to be a plus in certain business situations.
It was an awesome fight career, and at least he made it long enough to get on the cover of UFC Magazine and secure second career.
#5 – Strikeforce Cannot Control Smaller Entities In Co-Promotion
I know the brawl in Nashville was a big deal, but I think it is just a symptom of something that often plagues the number two promotion. Strikeforce lacks true control. The problem is bigger than an ignorant altercation between athletes who know better. (That can, and does, happen in any sport). The problem is how negotiations with M-1 Global were nothing but an aggravating roller coaster. Getting Fedor in the cage seemed as difficult as passing the health care bill. (Sorry Mr. Volkmann).
After every star was lined up and all of the "t's" were crossed and eyes rolled, Fedor stepped into the cage to suffer his first legitimate defeat at the hands of Fabricio Werdum. (See #2) There also was the Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez back and forth that did not show Strikeforce to have a strong hand either.
#4 – Frankie Edgar Arrives... and gets a belt
I was lucky enough to attend my first ever UFC event in 2010. At UFC 118 I was able to see Frankie Edgar confirm his legitimacy as the 155-pound king. He was the answer to "who is better than B.J. Penn at 155 right now?" He actually answered that question twice last year.
After Edgar's draw against Gray Maynard at UFC 125, I look forward to the rubber match and to see who gets Anthony Pettis, providing Pettis is still the number one contender at that time.
#3 – UFC - WEC Merger
The UFC merging with sister company WEC was a spectacular move for Zuffa. They are now the most complete MMA promotion in the world as far as competitive weight classes are concerned. While I applaud the move, there still are some downsides.
There are some awesome match-ups that might be put on unaired preliminary cards, for one. The merger also makes every fight more important as fighters are being cut for less and less each day. Every fighter it seems is only one or two fights away from calling Scott Coker or entering a Bellator tournament (not saying that it is a bad thing). The trick is for these released fighters to take bouts with promotions that will have doctors present and pay them. ("Stay away from the fights on islands" is something we also learned this year).
#2 – Fedor is Human (But I Still Cannot Tell If He Is Smiling or Frowning?)
As mentioned in number 5, Fedor Emelianenko finally got in the cage in 2010 in June, and he lost. Fedor had so much hype behind him it was unreal, and the key word is unreal. I am still a huge fan of Fedor, but I think the MMA world put too much stock in an unbeaten streak and took too much joy in his loss. Holding Fedor's entire reputation to an unrealistic rubric is a bit much. One loss in ten years does not mean Mr. Emelianenko cannot fight anymore.
The fact of the matter is Fedor is still a great fighter. Hopefully this loss adjusts M-1’s bargaining options so Fedor fights twice this year.
#1 – The UFC’s 10 Year Expansion Plan - Aggressive International Expansion
The UFC has dominated the MMA world in quality and production for a while now, but that is not enough. UFC President Dana White said that by 2020 the UFC would be the biggest sport in the world. Well, this past year showed their aggressive expansion to international markets, and it was nothing short of impressive.
The UFC, for the first time under Zuffa, allowed for partners other than White and Fertitta brothers. It was announced only two weeks into 2010 that UAE based Flash Entertainment became a ten percent shareholder of the promotion and assisted with the UFC 112 event in Abu Dhabi. The UFC also made moves in China by launching a Chinese version of the UFC website and opening an office in the nation.
Closer to home, the UFC opened an office in Toronto, Canada. It was a great year for Canadian fans as UFC 113 and UFC 124 saw changes in champions at the Bell Center in Montreal, and fans in Vancouver saw Chuck Liddell’s last fight.
Overall this is an exciting time for the sport and I see 2010 as a pivotal building year for the promotion. While some promotions seem to plateau at a certain point of success, the UFC finds a new ring to grasp.
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