MMA writing: 2008-2015

Selected pieces on mixed martial arts — all USA TODAY except as noted:


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UFC 126 on three days’ reflection

What we learned and what happens next after UFC 126:

– Former WEC fighters looked great. Chad Mendes and Demetrious Johnson plowed through Japanese stars Michihiro Omigawa and Kid Yamamoto. Donald Cerrone’s maturation process continued in a clinical but thrilling win against Paul Kelly. Miguel Torres left Antonio Banuelos punching at shadows.

– Jon Jones hasn’t been fast-tracked quite as quickly as Brock Lesnar, but his rise is similar. Even his one loss, he looked dominant. Ryan Bader was supposed to challenge him with superior wrestling and dangerous stand-up, but it never materialized. He has cleared out the second tier of light heavyweight challengers, and once the new rankings come out, he’ll be the highest-ranked 205er who has not yet held the 205 belt. Given that, his title shot against Shogun Rua seems early, but not too early.

– Worst corner chatter of the card: Rich Franklin’s corner saying he won round 2. He didn’t, and he didn’t seem to realize he needed to finish Forrest Griffin to beat him. Easier said than done, of course. Hard to tell where Franklin goes next, but he’s still a viable veteran who could give an up-and-comer a good test.

– The 205 title picture is as murky as ever. If Jones wins, Rashad Evans says he’ll change weight classes — perhaps back up to heavyweight, where he won The Ultimate Fighter — rather than face his friend and teammate. Maybe Griffin gets the next shot to reclaim his title?

– Let’s quit pretending Anderson Silva is going to wipe people out from the first second. Unless someone steps forward and presses him, as Forrest Griffin did, Silva is going to go through a feeling-out process with everyone he faces. Most fighters are going to be cautious against him, so you’re going to see a minute or two of circling before something happens. But when he catches you, good night.

– The first karate technique I ever saw was demonstrated by a middle-school classmate. He leaped with his left knee up as if to kick with his left, then slammed his right foot upward. (Fortunately, he was demonstrating on air, not a classmate.) I’ve often wondered if that would work in MMA. Silva’s knockout of Vitor Belfort makes me think it might. It helps, of course, to be as quick as Silva.

– So now the biggest potential fight in UFC history — Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre — hinges on whether GSP can beat Jake Shields. No pressure.

– The brilliance of the UFC at this point is that we talk about what happens next. In boxing, on the rare occasions in which two interesting fighters face off, the next superfight is always too far away to discuss. We’d talk about Pacquiao-Mayweather, but with all the stakeholders involved, we know it’s likely never to happen. Silva-GSP, on the other hand, is basically one fight away.