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.