Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Champions Beware

GSP after his fight with Condit.
The road to a title shot is not an easy one.  You have to work hard in training, take out multiple top fighters who possess different skill sets, and sometimes even talk a little smack.  Marketability can help a fighter get a title shot a little bit faster than a guy nobody knows too much about.  However, even an unknown fighter can get a title shot if he wins enough.  An example of this is that Nick Diaz is getting a shot at GSP over Johny Hendricks due to his marketability and rivalry with GSP.  Meanwhile, virtually unknown John Moraga was slated to fight for the flyweight title prior to Johnson's injury.

It is this drive to get the belt that allows contenders to improve so much.  They have to fight a few top guys to earn their shot.  In these contests they face guys with different specialties.  Wrestlers, strikers, BJJ blackbelts, and well rounded fighters all give top contenders different challenges.  It is these challenges that prepare top contenders for battle and allows them to grow into potential champions.  Fighters like GSP, Jon Jones, Jose Aldo, and Anderson Silva have looked nearly untouchable over their title reigns.  However, champions have faced some serious competition as of late.  It is no longer simply the champion putting on a clinic and showcasing their talents, but also the challenger really giving them a test.

Although champions are 4 for 4 in defending their belts so far in 2013, it has not been a walk in the park.  Dodson really rocked Johnson twice in the second round of their title fight, but DJ ultimately escaped Dodson with a close decision win.  Jose Aldo looked good early but lost the last 2 rounds to Edgar whose wrestling was too much for Jose to handle.  Renan Barao took a serious barrage of heavy punches from Michael McDonald before sinking in the 4th round arm triangle choke.  Ronda Rousey gave up her back and almost was finished by a rear-naked choke/neck crank before she shook off Carmouche and won with her signature armbar.  These were not easy wins for the champions which shows that the top contenders are getting better.  At the same time, these fights show why the champions are the best in the world.

Even going back to last year, JDS lost the belt in horrible fashion to a man he knocked out in under 2 minutes the first time they fought.  GSP was rocked by a head kick by Carlos Condit that almost saw him lose his welterweight belt.  And who can forget Vitor Belfort almost finishing Jon Jones with an armbar at UFC 152?  It is not the same easy road for champions in the UFC anymore.  People like BJ Penn used to be champions who relied on talent and not hard work.  BJ Penn is outclassed by the modern day fighters who are constantly in the gym working hard on every area of mixed martial arts.  There is no easy road into being a top fighter in the UFC, and every champion better be on his heels because a list of top contenders is knocking down the door at every weight class.

GSP against Nick Diaz is the next title fight the UFC is going to put on.  This is a relative joke of a title fight because Hendricks is dominating the ranks of the welterweight division while Diaz is coming off a drug suspension and a loss to the man GSP had just finished beating.  However Georges still needs to be on his A game to stay the king.  Following this is Strikeforce Champion Gilbert Melendez taking on UFC Champion Benson Henderson.  This is a tough fight for both guys, and it should be something Ben Henderson should be weary of.  Melendez in his own backyard in San Jose should be a serious threat to the lightweight belt.  Chael vs Jones is the fight following the lightweight one.  Chael is not being taken seriously, but again he is not a guy you should sleep on.  Throw in an improved Bigfoot in a rematch with Velasquez and a battle between top lightweight Anthony Pettis against Jose Aldo and you have an action packed year of title fights.

There are no guys in the UFC that are bad at fighting.  Some are better than others, but anybody who underestimates their opponent is asking to get clocked on the side of the head.  Anderson Silva can lose any given day despite his "invincibility" so far in the octagon.  Anyone who is a champion in the UFC has to keep working hard.  There are too many scary dudes (and some ladies) looking to dethrone a championship today in the UFC.  Champions should beware of the rush of contenders on the way, for being on top cannot last forever.

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