UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones emerged from 2013 at the top of the MMA food chain (Photo by Dave Mandel, Sherdog.com).
Written by Chris Cox, Contributing MMA Writer
We are well into the first month of 2014, but, instead of taking the time to look forward to the future of the sport I love, I have still been dwelling on the past.
2013 was the first year that I had officially began writing about MMA, and that forced me to take a whole new look at it. I remember my first article that I wrote was set to hype up what I thought was going to be a year full of Super Fights. While we did not get quite the type of fights we expected to take us to that super level, it did become a special type of year.
2013 will be what sets the tone for a “Changing of The Guard.” This will be the second time in its history that I feel this has truly happened in the sport.
The fall of both Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva have been the main points that circle my mind. The controversy that has surrounded the long-time Welterweight Champion GSP after the Johny Hendricks fight has been a storm like no other. I have been an avid GSP fan since he arrived on the MMA scene, but I will be the first to tell you that I had Hendricks winning their fight.
GSP has now relinquished his belt due to personal issues, and, for the first time in years, his name will not be in the conversation when the welterweight title is on the line. With his absence, Hendricks and Robbie Lawler will now fight for the vacant crown. Despite the odd turn of events in the past few months, I do not feel anything that has happened to GSP will tarnish his legacy. He helped take the sport of MMA to a whole new level with his professionalism and dominance. I do hope that he finds his way back to the Octagon, but a division that he has owned for years has now just received its second wind.
While GSP was one of the biggest headlines of 2013 for the sport, none was bigger than the fall of Anderson Silva. Silva had been the most dominant force in any sport for the past seven years. He made the Miami Heat look like chumps when it came to big wins.
Now we must ask ourselves - have we seen the end of Silva as we previously knew him? I feel that we truly have. He met defeat in the worst way the first time he fought Chris Weidman, suffering a shocking knockout. I will never forget the silence that fell over the room when we watched this longtime champion fall to the ground unconsciously. Weidman served him another loss the second time around in an even more gruesome finish that some fans would still like to call a fluke. Obviously, that is a foolish claim to make seeing how it was textbook Muay Thai defense by Weidman that caused the vicious injury.
Silva ruled the middleweight division with an iron fist for many years, but the weight class now answers to a new man in Weidman. In the most unlikely fashion, I feel that it is one of the best things that could happen to the sport, similar to GSP stepping away.
The truth of the matter is that dominance can become stale. You need surprise, and you need shock to the system to keep things moving and changing. Jon Jones is now the closest thing to the type of dominance that GSP and Silva displayed in recent history, and he just barely escaped Alexander Gustafsson (which I truly believe was Fight of the Year). The lesson learned here is that no one is safe at the top of the ladder. Ever.
These type of events are things that we have seen in the past, similar to the fall of Matt Hughes, Rich Franklin, Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture. History says that the decline will not stop with Silva and GSP, and we are likely to see more stars who are also on the way down from the top of the mountain.
MMA has a very bright future ahead of it, and many organizations are taking the right steps. The UFC, Bellator MMA, World Series of Fighting and other promotions are well on their way to having banner years with brilliant additions and exciting fight cards. The UFC is working its way around the world and bringing the sport to its highest level in multiple ways. A new division of Women’s MMA is on its way to the UFC, and, if you have not been paying attention to the current division, you have already missed some of the best action of the year.
New champions are set to reign in 2014, along with another group sure to take a fall. The end may still not have been reached by our two fallen kings either. Rumors are still churning that Silva will find his way back after his brutal leg injury, and he still feels that he can redeem himself against Weidman in the Octagon. GSP still has the burn to fight in him, but he will certainly need to find it again. Ironically, the recent turn of events in 2013 could have actually brought us closer to the Super Fight we once thought was impossible. Even with no belts on the line, the thought of GSP vs. Silva still brings a smile to my face.
So the time has now come to say goodbye to 2013 and the changes that it has brought to the sport. Worry not, however. 2014 is already shaping up to be an outstanding year with a whole crop of fresh new blood leading the way.