I’m worse than a TUF noob. That’s not a subjective judgment, either. As any "true" MMA fan will tell you, the quality and worth of your fanaticism about the sport is directly correlated with the age of said fanaticism. TUF noobs – the sad sack, reality TV connoisseurs that propelled The Ultimate Fighter to 18 (and counting) seasons while saving Zuffa from financial ruin – have YEARS on me in this most important of categories. I readily concede their advantage. Few that have visited the threads below MMA posts across the Internet – keeping in mind that these fans represent a pitifully small percentage of all self-proclaimed fans – would argue the cleft between the "hardcore" fans and their less seasoned brethren. Matchmaking, specifically for champions, is one of the contentious issues that divides message boards and forums, from the lowly Sherdog to the… also lowly Bloody Elbow.
PRIDE fans, in particular, don’t mind a little wackiness with who their champions fight. Being surprised would be silly – much as a strict diet of baby food will eventually lead to atrophy in adults, a fan base that was routinely fed Fedor v. Baby Zulu, Fedor v. Hong Man Choi, Wanderlei Silva v. (insert random victim), Cro Cop v. (masked!) Alberto del Rio and others (do we have comments here? We should have comments here. Put your favorite in the comments!) is not only used to, but OK with the best fighters in the world fighting anything but. That type of cavalier matchmaking during the prime of an elite fighter’s career has, mercifully, not infected the UFC.
For fans like me – and, I like to imagine, others – the purpose of MMA is a little different. It’s to find out who the best fighter in the world is. On a more clinical level – the one I enjoy and that first intrigued me – it’s to determine what the best fighting style in the world is. That’s the biggest benefit of a unified talent roster. Instead of Roger Federer and Rafael Nadal on different courts, or Phil Mickelson and Tiger Woods trying to avoid each other in tournaments, most other individual sports – even those scourged by self-interested, criminal promoters like boxing – have realized the basic truth of just putting the best against the best and seeing what happens. That way, when an athlete truly transcends his peers as the aforementioned have, it’s real, as opposed to promotional protection.
That is but part of why I would like to see Junior dos Santos and Cain Velasquez fight as many times as possible, as long as both continue to prove they are above and beyond the rest of the heavyweight division.
Please come on over to MMAOwl.com (my home as well as former BE writer Mike Fagan's) to read the rest!