This calender year, there have been several ground shaking things that have kept the mixed martial arts world on its toes. The meat of this article will discuss just what those items were, but first and foremost, let's figure out just what era in our violent little sport has ended.
What came before the MMA era that will be recapped right now? The Injured Expansion time period, I think would be an excellent descriptor. The story of 2012 was the UFC expanding into new markets, and the injuries and fight cancellations that crippled cards, cancelled events, and made the already awful Strikeforce demise that much harder to watch. Certainly, there were other story lines running through 2012, but the overriding feeling of MMA in 2012 was the plague of injuries, and the increasing globalization of the UFC.
The era we just left was the one ruled by the MMA "baby boom" generation. People who rose to popularity about the same time the first seasons of the Ultimate Fighter were put out on Spike TV, the Forrest Griffin's, Kenny Florian's, Stephan Bonnar's, and so on. With so many of those iconic figures off to the greener pastures of retirement, it only feels fair to say that was their era, where they were at the height of their popularity and physical ability.
Now, turning to the era just passed, I feel it appropriate to point out the key things that have happened to signify the end.
Thing that changed the MMA community #1:
Anderson Silva lost. Let's face it, nobody saw it coming. As great a fighter as Chris Weidman is, people just never thought they'd see the end of the greatest fight of all time, the G.O.A.T, Anderson Silva. He's made a career of making the greatest in the world look second rate. He schooled sixteen opponents in a row, and come to the brink of defeat once, only to rally and submit his opponent. UFC records were set, and probably will stay there long after he retires (which will hopefully be a few years from now).
But he did lose. Anderson Silva not only lost, but lost via knockout due to an errant left hook that landed squarely on the jaw. Ground and pound? Certainly not. The fight was standing. Anderson Silva, arguably the crispest striker in the UFC's roster, got knocked out on the feet. It just goes to show that anything, anything at all, can happen in the sport of mixed martial arts.
Thing that changed the MMA community #2:
Women's Mixed Martial Arts is more than just a sideshow.
First, let me say the WMMA is nowhere near being a force on the fight scene. The internet pay-per-views and television pay-per-view have done well, but the money just isn't there at the moment. Many fight wear companies don't yet have female gear available for purchase. It's only thanks to a handful of dedicated fans that the promotion took off as well as it did.
But it is more than just a gimmick. It's more than that cute girl (Gina Carano) fighting that chick who looks like (and ended up being) on steroids ("Cyborg" Santos). It's more than George Lucas's daughter fighting in Japan. The word is spreading that female fighters bring it with an intensity that more often than not is greater than that of their male counterparts.
It still has a way to go, but with Invicta FC as a stable, reliable place for WMMA, the UFC going all in on "The Ronda Rousey Show," and the handful of Japanese WMMA promotions, female mixed martial arts is looking to be a great new realm for fight fans to explore.
Thing that changed the MMA community #3:
Nate Diaz got knocked out.
The Diaz brothers have a legendary status in regards to granite that their chins are chiseled from. Nick Diaz has only been stopped via punches once, and that was in his fifth ever pro fight. His younger brother Nate had never been knocked out. Until this year.
Nate Diaz was facing UFC alum and former Strikeforce champion Josh Thompson. Thompson looked rejuvenated in his striking and footwork, battering Diaz with kicks. Finally, in the latter half of round two, Thompson connected with a massive head kick to Diaz and dropped the Stockton native. He swarmed him with punches, forcing older brother Nick Diaz to toss in the towel, and the referee to call the fight. The Punk had finished a nearly unfinishable fighter, and skyrocketed his stock.
For Diaz, it marked his second straight loss, and the first ever knockout of his career. The chin of legend had been bested.
Thing that changed the MMA community #4:
For a while there, the Ultimate Fighter reality show had gotten stale, incredibly formulaic and predictable. Show contestants enter house with an impressive highlight reel of entry round fights, cut some drama and drunken arguments into the post production, and have two really mid level guys fight for a title that had become more or less meaningless. Pretty blase.
However, there has been a turnaround in two of the last three seasons (at least stateside, that is). The Ultimate Fighter: Live was an interesting way to test the new partnership with FOX, and showed some innovation with a system that had minimal tinkering since it's inception in 2005. And for the most part, the contestants on that show were memorable, and better fighters than had been found.
After that, a return to the way things had been brought about "I just want to bang bro," and a season of absolutely terrible fights. Seeing the error of their ways, the UFC focused on the presentation of athletes rather than drunken douchbags with the latest season of the Ultimate Fighter. The production was far better than it ever had been and the caliber of the fighters brought in was greater than it had been for seasons. At the finale, there was a palpable excitement, that the person who won this title would mean something in the long run. TUF had turned around.
Looking into the next season, you have a vicious, legitimate rivalry between Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate, and you get the first ever season of female competitors, alongside their male contemporaries. Indeed, life has been injected into The Ultimate Fighter.
Those are just four of the ways you know another MMA era has passed us by.