UFC 193 will forever be remembered as the event where Holly Holm shocked the world by defeating Ronda Rousey. Her win over the biggest star in the sport changed the current MMA landscape.
Ronda Rousey’s run as women’s bantamweight champion was remarkable. Her level of performance so impressive that it had called into question the quality of opposition she was facing. The truth is that most of Rousey’s opponents are excellent fighters. Miesha Tate certainly is, just like Cat Zingano, Alexis Davis and Sara McMann are too.
Inside the octagon, Rousey did what great champions do. What they have always done. She made worthy challengers look out of their depth. She made good opponents look ordinary.
While Rousey’s ranking on a list of the top ten most dominant champions in UFC history would spark much debate, her inclusion somewhere on the list would be mandatory. Some have carved through their divisions before fading away after losing their titles. Others have come back from defeat to win gold again. There have even been those who did what Rousey had hoped to do herself, leaving as champion without ever losing a UFC fight.
Whether Rousey herself can wear UFC gold for a second time remains to be seen, but it seems certain that she will be back and will receive the opportunity she deserves. But the UFC has a long history of dominant champions, many of whom did not get to go out on their own terms, or ever work their way back to a second run with the title.
GRACIE JIU JITSU vs THE WORLD – THE WOW & SEG ERA
The history of dominant champions goes right back to the very first UFC event. On the surface, “The Ultimate Fighting Championship” was a tournament created in 1993 to determine which fighters, practicing which disciplines, would fare best when pitted against each other in no rules fights. The first tournament was made up of two kickboxers; one savate fighter; one karate expert; a shootfighter; a sumo wrestler; a boxer; and most importantly of all, one Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt named Royce Gracie.
Royce was the younger Brother of Rorion Gracie, one of the UFC’s co-founders. In reality, at least from the perspective of the Gracie family, the tournament was about showcasing the power of Gracie Jiu Jitsu. And boy, did it ever do that.
Royce Gracie faced three opponents through the course of one night, as he won the first UFC tournament. Art Jimmerson — a boxer with no understanding of grappling — was first to go. Ironically, Jimmerson lasted longer than both of Gracie’s other opponents that night combined. The image of him standing across the cage from Gracie, wearing only one boxing glove to ensure he had a free hand if the fight did go to the mat, is a lasting one. He really did have no idea what was about to happen.
Ken Shamrock, a professional wrestler and shootfighter who had been plying his trade in Japan, was submitted in under a minute in the semi-final. Shamrock himself would recover from the loss to achieve great notoriety in the UFC’s early years and reappear as a future Gracie opponent.
Gracie completed his first tournament win by submitting savate fighter Gerard Gordeau in a short final. Gracie’s win and the manner in which it was achieved, served as the pre-cursor for what has meant big business for the UFC ever since. Dominant champions doing extraordinary things, dispatching opponents quickly and efficiently.
There was no title belt at the time, but Royce Gracie was the Ultimate Fighting champion. His reward was a cheque for $50,000 and the chance to come back and do it all again.
Gracie returned four months later and did exactly that. And after winning four fights at UFC 2, he won one more at UFC 3 — pulling out of the tournament after defeating Kimo Leopoldo in the first round — and a further three at UFC 4. Across the first four UFC events, Gracie had won 11 straight fights and three one-night tournaments.
But the competition was getting more difficult. At UFC 4 he had faced Dan Severn in the tournament final. Severn was a storied amateur wrestler, who went to the 1984 Olympics as an alternate for the United States. He had quickly and powerfully overwhelmed both of his UFC 4 opponents — Anthony Macias and Marcus Bossett — and looked more impressive in reaching the final than Gracie had. Gracie had fought ten straight opponents in the UFC and beaten them all, but he had not faced anyone like Severn before.
For the best part of 15 minutes Gracie was pinned down by the 260 pound wrestler. After spending the entire contest trying to work from his guard, Gracie was eventually able to submit Severn with a triangle choke off his back. He had now been considered the best fighter in the world for over a year, but he would never win in the UFC again.
At UFC 5 in April 1995, Gracie fought Ken Shamrock. There would be no grueling tournament for the two men to work through, just one UFC Superfight Championship match. The winner would be the first official title holder in the UFC, but to those who had been watching, Gracie had been the champion since day one.
The fight would take place with a thirty minute time limit, and many believed Shamrock would be the man to hand Gracie his first ever UFC loss. Since losing to Gracie at UFC 1, Shamrock had won both of his fights at UFC 3 before pulling out of the tournament due to injury. He had also become the King of Pancrase in Japan, and had recently defended that title against future UFC hall of famer Bas Rutten. Simply, the Ken Shamrock that Gracie would be stepping into the cage with at UFC 5 was a superior fighter to the one he had submitted at UFC 1, and that would be apparent on the night.
After more than thirty minutes in the cage together, the pair could not be separated and unlike the fights of today there were no judges on hand to render a decision. Instead a decision was made to restart the match for a five minute overtime. The two fought for more than thirty six minutes that night only to go to a draw and no new champion was crowned.
With 11 wins from 12 fights, and an unrivaled undefeated record in what many people were yet to see as a sport, Gracie left the company as not only the first real champion the UFC had known, but its most dominant for many years to come.
THE LIGHT-HEAVYWEIGHTS – UFC’S MARQUEE DIVISION
When the first light-heavyweight champion — then referred to as middleweight — was crowned back in 1997, nobody could predict that the division would become the most popular and most significant in the company. On December 21, 1997 Frank Shamrock submitted Olympic and World Championship gold medal winning wrestler Kevin Jackson in only 16 seconds to become the first.
Shamrock’s reign was spectacular, and he was a fighter well ahead of his time. He had three years experience fighting in Japan behind him, trading wins and losses with the likes of Masakatsu Funaki and Bas Rutten in the Pancrase organization. Shamrock was also a true mixed martial artist, famously trading skills and knowledge with Maurice Smith and Tsuyoshi Kohsaka as the three began training together.
Shamrock would fight only five times in the UFC. All of them were title fights, and all of them ended the same way, with Shamrock’s arm being raised in victory. Every man he faced was supposed to be the one to dethrone him, from Extreme Fighting middleweight champion Igor Zinoviev, to John Lober who had defeated him previously in Honolulu, to Tito Ortiz who would go on to have his own dominant reign at the top. Shamrock sent them all packing, and then with his undefeated UFC record intact, he retired as champion.
Shamrock would come back to mixed martial arts, but never the UFC. He had been the perfect champion and even had a hand in improving the game of not only the division’s next dominant force, but the company’s most notable star to that point. After being beaten by Shamrock, Tito Ortiz adjusted his training, assumed the mantle and helped put the company on the map in the process.
Ortiz won the vacant title by beating Wanderlei Silva in April 2000. He held the belt for over three years, making five successful defenses during that time. Yuki Kondo, Evan Tanner, Elvis Sinosic and Vladimir Matyushenko were all defeated impressively, as Ortiz ran through the division.
That set up a bout with the returning Ken Shamrock at UFC 40 in 2002. Never before had the UFC received the sort of mainstream attention they would for this fight, and its pay-per-view buyrate was by far their biggest to date. Shamrock had taken such a beating that the bout was stopped at the end of the third round, marking Ortiz’ fifth successful defense.
Ortiz would go on to lose the title to Randy Couture in September 2003, and never reach the same heights again, but from his title win against Wanderlei Silva right through to his final defense against Shamrock, Tito Ortiz was not only promoted as an unstoppable one-man wrecking crew. He fought like one.
It was not until 2005 that the company would have its next dominant light-heavyweight champion, and he was a one-time training partner of Ortiz. Chuck Liddell won the title from Randy Couture at UFC 52 in a rematch from their first fight two years prior and began a run that felt like it would last even longer than it did.
Nicknamed “the Iceman”, Liddell was a murderous counter-puncher with great takedown defense and the killer instinct of a shark that smells blood. Liddell made four successful defenses of the title through 2005-06, finishing all of his opponents inside the distance. Couture, himself a multi-time, multi-division UFC champion was defeated again. As was the division’s last great champion Tito Ortiz.
Liddell’s run came to an end in May 2007 when he was matched up with Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. Rampage had defeated Liddell back in 2003 as part of the Pride Middleweight Grand Prix, and he would do so again, this time taking only one minute and 53 seconds to knock Liddell out and become champion.
Liddell was never the same fighter again. He would fight five more times inside the UFC’s octagon, winning just once. That was a 2007 fight of the year effort against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79 which many felt could kickstart his run back to the title. It was not to be as Liddell’s ability to take damage was called into question. Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Rick Franklin all forced his chin to take a test it couldn’t pass.
Shamrock, Ortiz and Liddell were all great champions who seemed unbeatable, right up to the point where they were beaten, but one man can trump all three when it comes to dominance and achievement in the light-heavyweight division.
Jon Jones won the light-heavyweight title when he was only 23-years-old, defeating Mauricio “Shogun” Rua at UFC 128. What followed was a fautless reign in the cage, that could only be ended by things that happened outside it.
Jones made eight defenses of the light-heavyweight title between 2011 and 2015 and proved to be not only the greatest champion in the history of the 205 pound division, but simply the greatest fighter to ever step into the UFC’s octagon.
During that time he defeated four former UFC champions, and one fighter who would go on to become champion in Jones’ absence. He cleared out a division that was packed with talent at the time he became king, and it says plenty that since he was indefinitely suspended earlier this year it has been those he defeated who have been scrapping for the light-heavyweight belt.
Unlike Ortiz and Liddell, Jones was never beaten for his title. After turning himself in to the Albuquerque Police Department following a hit-and-run incident, Jones was suspended indefinitely by the UFC and stripped of the title. Jones later pleaded guilty to the charges and was sentenced to 18 months of supervised probation.
Now we eagerly await Jones’ return to the cage and wonder what impact this has had. Many still consider him the real champion, especially as his last title defense was a successful one against the current champion Daniel Cormier. Regardless, win, lose or draw on his eventual return to the cage, Jones will remain the most dominant champion the division has ever known and by far its greatest fighter.
HUGHES & ST-PIERRE – THE RARE CASE OF THE DOMINANT TWO-TIME CHAMPS
The careers of former welterweight champions Matt Hughes and Georges St-Pierre are forever entwined. Both were considered to be the best fighter on the planet when they were at the peak of their powers. They fought each other on three separate occasions, and Hughes was at least partly responsible for helping St-Pierre become such a notable draw.
But the parallel as notable as any other is the way both fighters reacted to losing their world titles. Very few fighters come back to win it a second time. Both Hughes and St-Pierre did.
Matt Hughes won the UFC welterweight title by beating Carlos Newton at UFC 34 in November 2001. Over the next two years he made five successful defenses, defeating the likes of former Shooto welterweight champion Hayato Sakurai, future UFC lightweight champion Sean Sherk, and World Fighting Alliance welterweight champion Frank Trigg.
Then, just as Hughes looked completely unbeatable he faced B.J. Penn at UFC 46 in 2004. Hughes was a big favorite to retain his title once again, but was submitted by Penn in the first round. This was the point where many a fighter would have faded away, not least because the division was starting to fill out with a new breed of fighter. Fighters like Georges St-Pierre.
With B.J. Penn out of the picture after a contract dispute saw him stripped of the title, Hughes faced St-Pierre at UFC 50 in October 2004. With only one second left in the first round, Hughes submitted St-Pierre to become the two-time welterweight champion.
Hughes would make two more successful defenses of the belt, against Frank Trigg, and B.J. Penn, to take his tally to seven defenses across two title reigns. During that time Hughes also fought Royce Gracie in a non-title catchweight bout, submitting the iconic figure.
Hughes refusal to give up and give in to the new generation would last until November 2006 where he lost his title for the second time, and it was St-Pierre who would get the better of him to begin his own incredible run as champion.
So impressive was St-Pierre’s performance in dethroning future hall-of-famer Hughes, that nobody gave the challenger in St-Pierre’s first defense a chance. Matt Serra had been granted a title shot by way of winning season four of The Ultimate Fighter, and even the most astute fans only saw one winner when the two men met at UFC 69.
Still widely considered one of the greatest upsets in UFC championship fight history, Serra dealt St-Pierre a crushing defeat, rocking him in the first round and continuing to assault St-Pierre until the referee was forced to stop the fight. St-Pierre would never lose again.
Like Hughes before him, St-Pierre went to work on getting his title back. A win over Josh Koshcheck earned St-Pierre another fight with Matt Hughes for the interim title while Serra was out injured. The Canadian ended their fight trilogy with a win, setting up a rematch with Serra for the undisputed title.
St-Pierre would beat Serra at UFC 83 before racking up nine defenses of the belt over the next five years. His final defense against Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 in November 2013 pushed him one ahead of Hughes for total welterweight defenses and allowed him to give up the title on his own terms.
ALDO, JOHNSON &
ROUSEY – THE CURRENT GENERATION
While the bodies of championship work belonging to fighters like Frank Shamrock and Matt Hughes are full and complete, there are those that are not. The fighters who continue to call into question the strength of their divisions while they rack up the title defenses. Following Jon Jones’ title being stripped earlier in the year it was reduced to a group of three. Now following Holly Holm’s dismantling of Ronda Rousey in Melbourne, it is just a pair of current champions.
There are many who believe we will be left with only one after UFC 194 in December. There, featherweight king Jose Aldo defends his title against the interim champ Conor McGregor. Should Aldo lose it will crack an undefeated streak that dates back to 2005, and a run of nine world title defenses – WEC and UFC combined — that nobody else at 145 pounds has even had the chance to match.
The UFC have only ever known one featherweight champion, and he is a special fighter. Jose Aldo has beaten the best in the world at 145 pounds, and some of them from 155 pounds too. Urijah Faber, Chad Mendes and Frankie Edgar — all outstanding fighters in their own rights — were unable to defeat him. The only sadness comes from wondering how many more defenses we might have seen had he not so often succumbed to injury.
Along with Aldo, Demetrious Johnson carries the torch for the current generation, lauding over a flyweight division that is more talented then he would let you believe. Since winning a tournament in 2012 to become the UFC’s first ever flyweight champion, Johnson has made seven successful defenses and rarely been in any danger of losing his title.
Such has been Johnson’s dominance that he has found himself forced to defend against fighters fast-tracked into title contention with no major wins to their name, and retreads of previous fights that he had already won. At only 29-years-old and continuing to improve with each passing fight, who knows how much longer Johnson’s reign will last.
LONGEST TITLE REIGN IN UFC HISTORY ENDS IN A HURRY
From his middleweight title win in 2006, through to his eventual defeat in 2013, Anderson Silva racked up ten successful UFC title defenses. That is more than any other fighter in the company’s history, even when you include Jose Aldo and Ronda Rousey’s WEC and Strikeforce defenses on their counts.
During that run, Silva defeated two former UFC champions, and one former PRIDE champion. What is even more remarkable about his near seven year stay at the top, is that in between the title defenses he made four more UFC appearances in non-title fights. In total Silva won his first 16 fights in the octagon before things started to go wrong in 2013.
That is not to say there weren’t scrapes along the way before Silva lost the title. Well, in truth there was only one but it was a big one. Nobody else had come close to defeating Silva in the UFC when he defended his title against Chael Sonnen at UFC 117 in 2010. Despite Sonnen’s much improved form and confident trash-talking going into the bout, he was given little chance of defeating the champion. And he couldn’t, but he came mightily close, with Silva having to pull out a submission with less than two minutes left to avoid losing via decision.
By the time Silva stepped into the cage at UFC 162 to defend his title against Chris Weidman the odds were much closer. Very few fighters had ever been capable of getting in Silva’s face and pressuring him, but if his long run had taught us anything it was that when fighter’s were able to, it gave them half a chance of making the fight competitive.
Weidman was a strong wrestler with good grappling skills, and an in-your-face smash mouth boxing style that had many experts wondering if this was the fighter to beat him. You could even make comparisons to Silva’s last problematic opponent, and suggest that Weidman was a younger, better version of Chael Sonnen.
But this was still Anderson Silva, and we had seen him do incredible things inside the octagon before. He still closed at around a -250 favorite. After all, Weidman was only three years into his professional MMA career with a young 9-0 record.
It took little more than six minutes for the New York native to end the longest title run in UFC history. After using his wrestling to win the first round, Weidman caught Silva with a left hook early in the second and knocked him out. The manner of the finish created a false sense that this was a lucky punch, and Weidman’s victory might have been a fluke.
The two met in a rematch at UFC 168 five months later. The result was the same, even if the way in which it came was painfully different. This time it was a legkick, not a punch, that ended the fight in the second round. A legkick thrown by Silva. Weidman checked the kick, breaking Silva’s fibula and tibia and leaving the former champion on the ground in agony.
Anderson Silva, like Tito Ortiz and Chuck Liddell before him, had been unable to win back the world title after his dominant reign at the top of the division was over.
In fact, with Georges St-Pierre’s first title reign ending in his first title defense, Matt Hughes is the only dominant champion in UFC history to have his reign at the top end, and come back to win the title again.
The likelihood is that in 2016 Ronda Rousey will get that same opportunity to become the second. Gone is the chance to leave as champion like Royce Gracie and Frank Shamrock did. Now Rousey will try to do what Tito Ortiz, Chuck Liddell and Anderson Silva were unable to, and reclaim control of a division that has, for the moment at least, got away from her.
If Rousey is able to do that, it might just be her greatest achievement to date. History suggests that whether you go out on your own terms, or you have the title snatched away from you by an opponent, more often than not when your time with the belt is done, it’s done for good.
Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220
UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)
Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:
“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.
— UFC (@ufc) December 10, 2017
The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.
If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.
Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.
UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.
Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview
Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.
LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.
Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.
Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)
The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.
In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.
Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.
Mackenzie Dern victorious in Invicta debut
Late Friday night, Mackenzie Dern (5-0, 1-0 Invicta FC) won her co-main event booking, defeating Kaline Medieros (8-6, 2-2 Invicta FC), at Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzwiedz, via submission (armbar) with only fifteen seconds remaining in the fight.
Much of the fight was controlled by Dern. The heralded prospect displayed her power, visibly damaging her opponent with multiple overhand rights. Striking is an under-developed aspect of her attack, only when compared to the twenty-four-year-olds black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Above all, she showed a progression of her striking skills. Dern looked to be bigger and physically stronger than her veteran opponent. She utilized forward pressure and found the proper timing for her overhand right throughout.
— UFC Fight Pass (@UFCFightPass) December 9, 2017
The veteran Medeiros showed her toughness throughout the fight. She defended and scrambled out of some bad positions during the grappling exchanges. Ultimately, she tapped when caught in a deeply planted armbar. While Medeiros did earn a few hard trip takedowns, it factored minimally in the result as she refused to follow Dern to the mat. The Boston native suffered her second straight loss, Friday night. Her first was to, former Invicta strawweight champion, Angela Hill.
Dern made her professional debut in July of 2016 with Legacy Fighting Alliance (previously: Legacy Fighting Championship). In her debut, she defeated Kenia Rosas by unanimous decision. The Phoenix-born fighter won her next three bouts. Before her MMA career began, Dern won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) championship at 60 kg. She was the first American born female to become champion at the weight. Her grappling resume boasts many more incredible accomplishments. Justifiably, a growing spotlight now hangs over her, her skills, and potential in the sport of MMA.
Elsewhere on the Invicta 26 card, Jennifer Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedzweidz by unanimous decision. Maia retained her Invicta flyweight belt, defending it for the second time. Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzweidz, took place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.
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