BOSTON - AUGUST 27: UFC Heavyweight fighter James Toney weighs in at 237 lbs at the UFC 118 weigh-in at the TD Garden on August 27 2010 in Boston Massachusetts. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

The MMA Year In Review - A Look Back At A Great Year Of Action

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The MMA Year In Review - Part 4: Lesnar Survives Carwin, Schaub Arrives

Brock Lesnar Survives Shane Carwin


UFC 116 had the mega-main event of Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin. The fight was Lesnar's first fight back since diverticulitis forced him out of action and almost ended his career. While Brock was on the sidelines recovering, Carwin was knocking Frank Mir out cold to capture the interim heavyweight title. At 116 the two giant men would meet to unify Carwin's interim title and Lesnar's heavyweight crown.

Carwin had compiled a 12-0 career record heading into the night, never once having an opponent last past the first round. There were so many questions heading into the fight. Could Lesnar handle Carwin's power? Could Carwin deal with the better wrestling of Lesnar? And what would happen if Brock could drag Shane past the first five minutes?

Shane had no intention of letting things go past the first round as he hurt Lesnar standing early and started to rain down heavy blows from the top. Lesnar responded with defensive posturing every time the referee threatened to stand the fight up and did manage to survive, and even get back to his feet, until the bell rang. Between rounds it was clear that Carwin was gassing badly and Brock looked surprisingly fresh.

In the second round Lesnar quickly took Carwin to the floor and locked in an arm triangle choke that forced Shane to submit. It was a dramatic moment that proved that Lesnar was a legitimate heavyweight. It also set Lesnar up to face another undefeated heavyweight in Cain Velasquez later in the year, but that's a story for another time.

Brendan Schaub Builds His Resume - Brendan Schaub's 2009 ended on a down note as he was knocked out by Roy Nelson in December after making it to the finale of The Ultimate Fighter. His 2010 would prove to be much better.

In March Schaub stepped back into the Octagon against Chase Gormley. Gormley had built up a decent record before his UFC debut but lost to Stefan Struve by triangle choke. Schaub ran through Gormley in under a minute to get his career back on track. Brock Lesnar's training partner Chris Tuchscherer was next up for Schaub. Tuchscherer did would do better than Gormley but not much. After slightly over a minute Schaub stopped him with strikes. In October Schaub was given the test that most heavyweights have had to go through to break through to "the next level" in the UFC's heavyweight division, Gabriel Gonzaga. Gonzaga was a former title challenger who had fallen on some harder times but still represented a stiff test for Brendan. It wouldn't be a first round KO but Schaub earned his way to a three round decision and bounced Gonzaga from the UFC.

With his stellar 2010 Schaub has now earned a shot at Frank Mir in March of 2011.

Update: It now appears that Mir is out and Schaub will be fighting Stefan Struve at UFC on Versus 3.


The MMA Year In Review - Part 3: The Iceman Sleeps, A Brawl In Nashville And Jose Aldo Becomes The Man

Chuck Liddell Sleeps Again - Chuck Liddell was the man in the UFC's 205 pound division for the better part of six years. In May of 2001 he put former UFC heavyweight champion Kevin Randleman out with a punch and then went over to Japan and knocked out the very tough Guy Mezger 23 days later. From then on it was almost nothing but success for "The Iceman."

In 2007 the decline started. Quinton Jackson knocked out Liddell which was the end of Chuck's long title reign. Fast forward to UFC 115 in June of this year and Liddell was 1-4 in his last five trips to the Octagon. More disturbingly, three of those loses came by clean knockout. Liddell would be facing former middleweight champion Rich Franklin in a bout that was once a dream match but now was more of a last chance at relevance for both men.

Liddell looked better than he had in recent action for the first round, but just before the bell to signal the break Franklin landed a left hand counter and, once again, The Iceman slept.

It's certainly time for Liddell to step away from the sport. Four knockouts in three years is not good for an athlete's brain and Liddell competing against the lower end of the light heavyweight division is just not something that fans want to see.

Strikeforce Bombs In Nashville - Strikeforce: Nashville was always going to be a risky event for the promotion. They were returning to CBS with very limited star power and putting three title fights on the televised card. Everything rode on the new acquisition of Dan Henderson being able to pull in a good audience. Oh, and giving that audience something to remember.

The event started out slowly as "King Mo" Lawal took the Strikeforce light heavyweight crown from Gegard Mousasi. Mousasi attempted to engage in the striking department but was repeatedly taken down where Lawal did little damage. Lawal clearly won and his wrestling game was impressive to watch, but that's not the kind of thing that usually entertains the casual fans.

From there we saw Gilbert Melendez defend his lightweight championship against Japanese superstar Shinya Aoki. Melendez was able to avoid going to the ground with Aoki and won every round. Unfortunately, this fight also fell into the trap of being relatively boring to a casual viewer. Aoki couldn't hang on the feet but Melendez was mainly just popping Aoki without really putting him in deep trouble.

The night ended with Dan Henderson's Strikeforce debut as he took on middleweight champion Jake Shields. Henderson rocked Shields early but when he couldn't close the deal it was Shields that took over the rest of the fight with his wrestling and top game. Again, it wasn't an amazingly interesting fight to people who aren't in love with everything about the sport.

After the fight Jake Shields was doing his post-fight interview when Jason Miller came into the cage. Miller's goal was to challenge Shields to a rematch but the Cesar Gracie camp saw this as disrespectful to Shields. A shoving match broke out and the Gracie camp jumped Miller including a horrible moment where Miller was stomped while being held on the ground. No major injuries came out of the event but it was a huge black eye for the sport. Gus Johnson announcing that "sometimes these things happen in MMA" didn't make things better.

This was the last time that Strikeforce was on CBS and that is, no doubt, due to a combination of the lackluster fights, poor ratings and awful end to the night.


Photo by Tracy Lee via Cage Writer

Jose Aldo Cements Himself As A Pound-For-Pound Contender - Jose Aldo had ran through everyone the WEC had put in front of him. There was no doubt that he was the clear top gun in the featherweight division. Still, he had not yet beat longtime champion Urijah Faber and had to do so to clearly establish himself as a top fighter in any division. So when Aldo and Faber met at WEC 48 there was more to be gained for Jose than simply another title defense.

Aldo brutalized Faber with leg kicks throughout the bout and was so clearly on another level that it cemented him as a top contender in the pound-for-pound rankings. Several days later Faber's leg was making it clear that leg kicks are no joke:



The MMA Year In Review - Part 2: Cain Velasquez And Maruricio Rua Become Champs, Kimbo Slice Goes Away

Cain Velasquez Arrives - UFC 110 saw the undefeated mega-prospect Cain Velasquez take on his biggest test in former PRIDE champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Nogueira's stock was down since being stopped for the first time by Frank Mir, but he was still a tough customer and someone that was likely to push Cain more than we'd seen before. Instead, after a touch longer than two minutes Velasquez crushed Nogueira and announced his arrival as one of the top heavyweights in the world.

Velasquez would have his chance to prove that he was more than just one of the top heavyweights and go after the biggest game when he took on Brock Lesnar at UFC 121. Fans and media were close to evenly split on who the winner of the fight would be. Velasquez took a little over four minutes to end the Lesnar reign.

In only 6:32 of in-ring work, Cain Velasquez went from a highly regarded prospect to the #1 ranked heavyweight in the world. Not a bad year.

Mauricio Rua Gets His Revenge - UFC 113 featured the rematch betwen Mauricio Rua and Lyoto Machida. The two met at UFC 104 in a bout won by Machida by very controversial decision. An injury to Machida pushed the rematch back enough that it lost some of its freshness, but it was still one of the most highly anticipated fights all year for the hardcore MMA fanbase.

"Shogun" Rua made sure that this time it didn't go to the judges. Hell, he made sure that this time the fighters didn't even go back to the stools between rounds. In only 3:34 Shogun cracked Machida, put him down and pounded him out. Rua had avenged what many felt to be a bad decision and took the championship home with him.

Shogun hasn't fought since that May night due to a knee surgery which will likely keep him out of action until March of 2011. But this is one time where it only takes one fight in a year for it to be a very good one for a fighter.

Kimbo Slice Gets Bounced - On the same UFC 113 card that saw Shogun become the new "man" at 205 pounds, a heavyweight street fighter named Kevin Ferguson also lost what was left of his mystique. The world knows Ferguson much better by the name Kimbo Slice. Kimbo had gotten famous via a series of YouTube videos which showed him slugging it out in streetfights with scrubs. Little known by most was his background as a former University of Miami football player.

From the streets and YouTube fame Slice signed with the EliteXC MMA promotion. EliteXC had a network television deal with CBS and they were extremely careful in bringing Slice along. They fed him Bo Cantrell who folded and tapped out without being truly hit. From there he went on to fight UFC legend Tank Abbott. Tank quickly went down to strikes from Slice and it appeared that maybe EXC and CBS had a product they could promote, assuming they handled him correctly. Unfortunately Slice ran into some tough competition in James Thompson. Thompson had been KO'ed four times in his last seven fights, making him seem like a good opponent for Slice. Instead Thompson worked from the top and seemed to be landing enough unanswered shots to warrant a stoppage. Instead Slice was allowed to survive and as he landed a few shots standing and staggered Thompson the fight was immediately stopped.

That was fishy enough and brought Slice's legitimacy into question. He was next matched up with Ken Shamrock but a bizarre series of events led to an almost literal last minute change of opponents to a light heavyweight named Seth Petruzelli. In just 14 seconds the myth of Slice was eliminated as he was knocked out by a man much smaller with a backpedaling jab.

UFC president Dana White had made it clear that the only way a guy like Kimbo could end up in the UFC was if he were willing to compete on The Ultimate Fighter. After EliteXC folded, that left Slice in a position where TUF looked like the only route back to MMA relevance. So that's exactly what he did. Kimbo found no easy work on the show where he was matched up in his first fight with Roy Nelson. Nelson controlled Slice and worked his way to a second round stoppage. Dana White said that Kimbo's willingness to go through TUF was enough for him to earn a spot in the promotion and he did pick up a win in an ugly, ugly bout with Houston Alexander.

Kimbo would see his last UFC action when he was matched up with TUF castmate Matt Mitrione. Mitrione had only been in a single professional bout. Mitrione absolutely battered Slice during the fight and at one point Kimbo looked to be attempting to gouge Mitrione's eyes to get out of trouble. The combination of dirty tactics and the fact that the company couldn't promote Slice on the main card but it was a waste to put him on the undercard meant it was time for Slice to be let go from his UFC deal.

The mystique is gone and Slice retains a very high price. His "business partner" Gary Shaw has said that Kimbo would move on to pro boxing. A prospect that is not too promising given his being 36, with shot knees and starting from scratch.

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