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MMA Fastball: The changing of the guard in MMA

Things certainly are changing.

Anyone else noticing the changing of the guard going on in MMA?: Generally speaking, when Chuck "The Iceman" Liddell had taken on a man with a primarily grappling background the end result has tended toward a resounding lights out for the wrestler. Tito Ortiz, Randy Couture (save their first fight), Kevin Randleman, and Renato "Babalu" Sobral were just some of the fights where Liddell proved this. So when he took on Rashad Evans, a former Michigan State Division 1 wrestler, most believed that the same would happen.

But that's not what happened at UFC 88: Breakthrough. Instead, Chuck Liddell lost his third fight in his last four attempts and his second by way of a rather devastating knockout. There was a time when to consider that such a thing might happen was blasphemy.

A changing of the guard?

Then there's Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic. Many believed that Cro Cop's poor performance in the UFC was based on fighting circumstances (the Octagon) and rules (elbows) rather than anything else. So when he came back to Japan to fight for DREAM, there was a feeling that he would get back on track. Against Tatsuyo Mizuno, he did. Not so against Alistair Overeem. Before the match was ruled a 'no contest' Overeem was winning decisively, which lends to an interesting point.

At the end of 2006, there were very few people that believed Alistair Overeem would've even had the most remote chance of defeating Cro Cop.

Throw in Tito Ortiz's recent loss to Lyoto Machida, Matt Hughes's fall against Thiago Alves, and Forrest Griffin's victory over Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, and a pattern can be seen.

The new guard (youth) is beginning to overtake the old guard. For those of us that have been watching MMA for awhile, to be honest, it's almost kind of sad. To believe that the aforementioned fighters that have fallen on rougher times are incapable of making a comeback would be somewhat foolhardy.

By the same token, nothing lasts forever, and recent matches are proving that in a large way.

Speaking of Cro Cop- Overeem: Overeem did a decent amount of talking before his fight with Cro Cop. For the most part, he backed it up. Talking before a fight can serve a purpose, even if some of us don't like it. It can get an opponent angry, for example, and that's a good way to get them to make a mistake. But after you knee someone in the groin on multiple occasions, well, the talking should stop.

Overeem was clearly winning, so a rematch is certainly in order considering the outcome. But there's no reason for him to say that Cro Cop faked the pain because he didn't want to fight. The man was obviously hit in the groin on more than one occasion. Overeem was winning; everyone knows it. Saying he was sorry for the blows and that he would like a rematch to prove that he was going to stop Cro Cop would've been fine.

But to keep saying that Cro Cop just didn't want to fight anymore is something that none of us really know. It's not needed. After all, we weren't hit with the illegal blows.

One more time on Cro Cop- Overeem: Now on the flip side, there was something that seemed rather unfair in this bout that went against Overeem, and it wasn't that the fight was stopped because he hit home with multiple groin shots.

What was all of that wiping the blood off of Cro Cop's face about? Cro Cop got more than one extended break with that. First, it got the blood out of Cro Cop's face, which is a luxury that other fighters wouldn't have gotten. Second, it gave the Croatian fighter time to recuperate.

Kind of unfair to Overeem, no?

Rich Franklin is still the man: After watching Franklin's UFC 88 TKO victory over Matt Hamill, you have to say this about him.

If a fighter by the name of Anderson Silva hadn't shown up, Franklin would probably still be an undefeated UFC Middleweight Champion. He has it all, but just doesn't have more of it than The Spider.

So the move to the light heavyweight division was the right one. It leaves us with all kinds of possibilities.

Nathan Marquardt is a powerhouse: In his last two fights, one a TKO victory over Martin Kampmann, the other a decision loss to Thiago Tavares based on illegal strikes, Marquardt has proved his worth. In sum, he has looked like on powerful athlete out there.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Roy Nelson could steal the show: There is no doubt that Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice are big time MMA draws. Still, the fact that EliteXC was able to work with Affliction to book this fight is huge. Arlovski is an awesome athlete and striker with power to go around. Nelson is a powerhouse and a solid wrestler.

Somebody is getting knocked out here. In fact, from an experience and resume perspective (not ticket sales) this one should be the main event.

The WEC made the right move: It's official. The WEC has ridded itself of their 185 and 205 pound weight classes. The WEC is all about the lower weight classes, and if WEC fighters in the middleweight and light heavyweight division really want to make waves they need to enter the UFC.

So this was the right move.

Paulo Filho vs. Anderson Silva: Unfortunately, the WEC's decision to drop a couple of weight classes probably won't end up giving us this match. Filho trains with Silva and both have stated that they won't fight each other.

In other words, this doesn't appear to be a Tito Ortiz- Chuck Liddell thing.

Diego Sanchez vs. Thiago Alves at UFC 90: I'm counting the minutes until this one. Two guys with different styles that need this win bad. Guess is, it's going to be non- stop action.

Here's hoping that Strikeforce is able to ink Mitsuhiro Ishida to one or two more fights in the organization: If they're able to pull it off, two great fights might be on the horizon. Josh Thomson vs. Mitsuhiro Ishida would be excellent and would give the winner even more credibility than they already possess; whereas a rematch between Gilbert Melendez and the fighter from Japan would also be huge.