What a year has 2010 been in MMA all around the world, but specially for the UFC.
Icons have fallen, new blood has risen to the occasion. Many undefeated got their first blemish on their records, heavyweight, light heavyweight, and lightweight titles changed hands, but not the UFC middleweight title.
The year 2010 presented itself as the year of controversy for the most competitive middleweight division in MMA today. Everyone in the blogosphere (and Dana White) has taken a crack at someone in the division, and the division champion has been no exception.
Take a look at some of the most "memorable" controversies in the UFC middleweight division in 2010.
The Trials and Tribulations of a Michael "The Count" Bisping
And so the first controversial decision of 2010 is down (as if a controversial decision was something rare in a UFC fight), but controversial in the mind of middleweight Michael Bisping.
After winning the third season of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, Bisping quickly rose to fame as the poster boy for British MMA. Bisping is one of those cases where you might like him or not, but whether you love him or hate him, you know who he is.
In February 2010, at UFC 110, Michael Bisping is set to face a fighter whom he himself has described as one of his heroes, "The Axe Murderer" Wanderlei Silva. After three rounds of a not-exactly eventful fight (except for the third round) Wanderlei Silva walks out with a unanimous decision, and so (from Bisping's point of view) the first middleweight controversy ensues.
This is what Bisping had to say:
"It was a close fight," Personally, I think I won rounds one and two. Congratulations to him. Full credit to him on winning the fight. Personally, apart from the guillotine, and I got dropped in the third round, but apart from the guillotine attempt off the takedown in the second round, as far as round two, I really didn't have any offense come my way. I felt I clearly won those two rounds.
I'm a little annoyed, you know? I don't come here to put on a good performance. I come here to win. Winning is what's important. We don't put all this effort in to lose to a good fight or a good performance. Yes, Wanderlei is a legend, and I was very proud to be in there with him, but I'm a little disappointed right now. I lost tonight. I'm pissed off about that. I don't train this hard to get losses. But I want to get back in there ASAP and fight another good name and get back to my winning ways."
Funny, Michael didn't feel that way when defeating Matt Hamill, a fight many say Matt won.
Bisping was actually quite content with his "good performance win" over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 120, a fight many categorize as "lackluster" at best.
The UFC 112 Talent Show
The first quarter of 2010 closed with one of the most controversial and criticized performances ever experienced in MMA--UFC 112's Silva vs Maia.
Silva came under heavy fire from UFC president Dana White for his performance in that fight. White went as far as saying "he had never been more embarrassed and that he didn't care if Anderson was considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, if he ever did something like that again, he would cut him."
MMA fans were outraged about the champion's performance, jokes about Silva's dancing flew up an down, but also many fans clamored for his head. Dana White neglected to put the belt around Silva's waist that night and a promise for punishment was made, but so far, nothing to show for it, thus contributing to the controversy.
Sonnen goes to war!
After defeating Nate Marquardt at UFC 109 in late 2009, Team Quest's Chael Sonnen, the "world's best trash-talker" as appointed by Joe Rogan, took the responsibility of promoting the fight versus Anderson Silva in his own hands.
MMA had yet seen a more crude display of sheer, unaltered, smack-talk. Not even by the likes of Tito Ortiz, known until then as the official trash-talker of all MMA.
His comments about other fighters (not only Anderson), about his fighting skills, and about Ed Soares, made him an instant hit.
Many more fans were annoyed by Sonnen's antics than there were amused fans. Polls in many MMA news sites had fans favoring Anderson by huge margins, and even claiming for Sonnen's head. His unapologetic rants and opinions (some say delusional madness) did the trick of getting him noticed.
Amazingly, this part of the story continues a little further ahead.
Hanging by the edge of the seat watching UFC 117
Today considered the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world, Anderson "The Spider" Silva has held the division hostage, with a perfect record inside the Octagon of 12 consecutive wins (including two at 205) and seven title defences.
Silva, who at one point had an aura of invincibility to him, was put to the test at UFC 117 when a very vocal Chael Sonnen, not only campaigned against him, but also delivered the beating no one had ever seen Silva undergo in all of his amazing MMA career.
The months leading up to UFC 117 were brutal on the champion. First, dragging the burden of the UFC 112 disaster, and then, the constant attacks and "call-outs" by the challenger Chael Sonnen that were making headlines on a daily basis.
No one on Silva's engaged in he battle of words, the champion didn't even engage in the square-off after the weigh-ins. Soon after that, fight night was uppon them.
That fight was five rounds of complete and total domination (and sometimes humiliation) by the challenger who, in awe and desperation of millions of Silva fans watching, almost finishes he champion. No one had ever out-stricken Slilva. No one had ever been so effective in taking the champ down and keeping him there.
Only a minute left and nothing had changed. The faithful fan, waiting for the miracle KO had lost all hopes, after all, it's hard to KO someone when you are laying on your back and being pumelled. Every Silva fan was feeling lost, every Sonnen fan was waiting for the bell to blow up in celebration, until...
The curse of the million triangle cokes--Sonnen gets caught with a lightning fast triangle choke thirty-some seconds before the fifth round ended. Talk about not having to deal with Sonnen's gloating had he won the fight, right?
Did he tap? Did the referee stop it? What happened?
Yes! He tapped. Oh you can go on and on about you not tapping Mr. Sonnen but we saw it, once again, the Brazilian tap (as some of the Gracie brothers call it) didn't work. You tapped.
Following the fight, it came to light that Silva had a broken rib. That wouldn't be rare after a beating like that, but no, Silva's version was that "he was already hurt". Even his doctor had advised against fighting. According to the champion, dropping out of the fight was not an option.
First, because of all the time he invested away from his family while training, second and foremost, after all Sonnen said it wasn't easy to back away from the fight.
The claims of a prior injury threw more gas and a match on the Silva-Sonnen feud, but my friends, that story still continues a little further ahead.
Protect Yourself at All Times or Another Greasegate
I'm sure you've all heard the saying "you don't bring a knife to a gun fight", well in MMA you never stop protecting yourself because, it's the same as bringing knife to a gun fight.
In September 15, 2010, the UFC bring us Fight Night 22: Marquardt vs Palhares. At 3:28 of the first round, Nate "The Great" Marquardt is victorious by way of TKO. Marquardt pounces on Rousimar Palhares after a scramble in which Palhares goes for a leg lock but Marquardt "slips" out.
Palhares is laying on his back signaling to referee Herb Dean in apparent protest and absolute disregard for his opponent who lost no time in smashing his face in for the win.
Rousimar Palhares accused Nate Marquardt of being all greased up but soon after the ref and officials from the athletic cleared Marquardt of the accusations and Palhares went home with a L on his record and the phrase "protect yourself at al times" echoing inside his head.
Busted! Or Should We Say... Busted?
I told you this story would continue a little later on didn't I? All MMA fans woke up to astonishing report--Chael Sonnen, known as the guy who came closest to dethroning Anderson Silva, had the help of performance-enhancing drugs that night, according to the California State Athletic Commission.
"Executive Officer George Dodd, Chael Sonnen has been notified that he failed post-fight drug screening following his loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 117, which was held Aug. 7 at the Oracle Arena in Oakland, California."
And the MMA blogosphere went all "mad-cow" about the news. "No wonder he almost beats Silva" said the die-hard Silva fans. "I'm sure it was cold medicine" or "i'm sure it's a natural steroid" said a couple of unashamed Sonnen fans.
Truth is, it was all anyone who follows MMA talked about for weeks. Although Sonnen was suspended for a year (at least until Dec. 2, 2010 when he will appear in front of the CSAC to appeal), and stripped of the chance for an immediate rematch with Silva, people are still asking for his head on a plate.
Apparently, PED usage in MMA is not something MMA fans are prepared to tolerate.
One of Sonnen's favorite targets in his campaign against the Silva camp, Silva's trainer Ed Soares had some comments on the matter.
"If it’s true, I feel really bad for him," said Soares. "I know he did it to himself but it is really sad, he put on such a great performance that night. It is just a shame it will be tarnished."- Ed Soares.
But if you thought that wasn’t enough, you are absolutely right. UFC president Dana White’s posture about the subject unsettled a big part of the MMA community.
Dana White: “When one of them fails a test, the government is going to fine them and suspend them and tell them they can’t make a living for a year. So should I come in after they’ve already lost the ability to make a living for a year and been fined all this money and, in the worst economic disaster in the history of the world, fine them another huge amount and take away their ability to make a living even longer?
“These are guys with homes and families and personal lives and bills and debts and obligations, just like me and you,” White said. “After they lost all this money already, money that, A, they’ve probably already spent and B, which they owe taxes, do I fine them another huge amount? What else do you do to a human being?”
Some say that doesn’t apply if you are Vinicius Quieroz who got canned after failing a random drug test following his loss at UFC 120.
Another Lackluster Middleweight Fight
In what some people were calling a “not-so-hot” card, we actually got to see some great fights, but to stick with the theme, it was not a night for middleweight fights (except Noke vs Kimmons).
First, reports break out of Alessio Sakara dropping out of his fight with Jorge “El Conquistador” Rivera due to illness. Sakara’s camp stated he had been fighting the symptoms for a week. Funny, he seemed alright at the pre fight presser and the weigh-ins. Didn’t he actually make good weight? Guess it was nothing in the stomach.
On comes the “main event”. Needless to say, not a lot of people were impressed with this fight, especially Dana White.
Dana White: "He [Nate Marquardt] is a choker, he choked tonight. Marquardt is such a talented guy, and what I'm seeing is stuff from the Greg Jackson camp," This camp continuously – when these guys fight, their corner is either telling them they're ahead or they're winning. I mean, Nate Marquardt sat here tonight and said that he thought he won the fight. Where the [expletive] is his corner? You go into the last round and you're getting out-struck by a wrestler, and you think you won the fight? And this is consistent with the Greg Jackson camp."
I’m sure expressions about this last bit of information are soon to hit the blogs.
Yushin Okami squeezes out a unanimous decision against Nate Marquardt, who sees his chances for another shot at the belt melt away, yet again.
I guess the year in turmoil for the UFC middleweight division is not over, especially not before the Chael Sonnen situation is concluded.
What’s next or, like my wise grandma’ would say, “what else can happen?”
Well, we will just have to wait and see, but we will be there…
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