Dr. Jim Afremow, a psychologist and writer for PsychologyToday, gave his thoughts on what a champion is in his post titled “What Is a Champion?”. He describes champion as someone who strives to see how great he or she can be, and loving the battle more than the victory. I’m sure many of us agree with these descriptions, but do the champions of today’s MMA world live up to those?
With the recent buzzing news about the cancellation of UFC 151, UFC Light-Heavyweight Champion, Jon Jones, has received an awful lot of hate as he as accused of “ducking” several other fighters who were wanting to step up to the plate. Former UFC champion and longtime UFC legend, Dan Henderson, was scheduled to take a shot at stealing the title from Jones September 1st, however a knee injury will be sidelining him for the time being. As Jones was without an opponent, former middleweight title challenger Chael Sonnen made an offer to fill the space. However, on 8-days notice, the champion declined the invitation. (An interesting note is that UFC middleweight contender Michael Bisping accepted a fight with Chael Sonnen on just 11 days notice). Also, middleweight stand out and current number one contender Chris Weidman made an offer as well, however nothing came about from that. Instead, the UFC champion will be facing Lyoto Machida, a fighter who he has beaten in the past and is 2-3 in his last 5 outings. (More on this topic can be found at MMALinker
Let’s move to another champion in another division; Georges St. Pierre. Georges has defended his welterweight championship 6 times and has not lost a fight since 2007. While this may seem impressive, he has also received several critiques over his fight style. While he may be on an impressive win streak, he has not finished his opponent since early 2009, and has only won 3 fight bonuses in 18 UFC fights. Georges in known to have some of the best wrestling in the entire sport, and possess one of the best takedowns in all of MMA. He takes his opponents down at will and controls them for 25 minutes like he did against Thiago Alves and Dan Hardy. If he doesn’t want to go to the ground, than he will keep out of range and land enough punches to win rounds like he did against Jake Shields and Josh Koscheck. His style is effective, safe, and gives him the victory time and time again and will probably continue to do so until someone can figure out how to stop him.
Anderson Silva. Probably the most well known name in the entire sport and has been credited as the greatest mixed martial-artist to have ever lived. However, greatness doesn’t come without controversy. Anderson is known for his elusive fighting techniques and his knowledge and effectiveness in the stand up department. He has vicious KO power in ever limb of his body, and has the movement speed to dodge bullets. With all of this wrapped into a 185lb package, what is stopping Anderson to becoming the most liked and beloved MMA fighter? Well first of all, his tendency to push to pace of the fight and to “bring” the fight to his opponents seems to be very inconsistent. Take his fights against Patrick Cote, Thales Leites, and Demian Maia all for example. These fighters wanted to fight a smart fight and take things cautiously and try to catch Silva off guard. While this may have been a very smart game plan, Anderson Silva doesn’t adjust for anybody. Leites, Maia, and Cote all stood in front of Silva, waiting for him to make a move while Silva stood there and did the same thing back. Whether it was dodging Cote’s punches, stuffing Leites’ takedown attempts, or taunting Maia with his hands by his side, Anderson Silva has the potential to be one of the most boring UFC champions to date.
By far one of the biggest reliefs of his this year came when Ben Henderson beat Frankie Edgar for the second time in a row. Edgar was on a streak of nothing but rematches leading into his second fight with Henderson. While the first fight was close, the second fight was even closer. Henderson was awarded the winner, and Edgar was left disappointed after fighting his third straight rematch. Henderson has won a lot of fans since showcasing dominant performances against Jim Miller and Clay Guida, but has he taken the “champion mind set” too early? His only two fights while being a champion were 25 minutes decisions against Frankie Edgar, fights where neither fighter looked to do much damage unless it came by unexpected up kicks, glancing right hands, leg kicks, and abandoned guillotine attempts. The two fighters kept the same pace throughout their 50 minutes of battle against eachother and both times left it in the hands of the judges. I was relieved that Edgar in fact did not get the decision, as we wanted anything but to see a possible third fight between the two. After the decision was announced, Henderson went on to say that he was out there “looking to finish fights”. I guess he hasn’t taken a recent look at his record because according to it, he has not finished an opponent in 7 fights.
These champions of the UFC may have impressive records and win streaks, but they lack in the area that defines them as battle-hungry competitors. Sometimes it seems like these guys are out there looking to survive and take a close decision rather than trying to hurt their opponent and make a statement to the rest of the athletes in their division. Sure, they are the “true” champions of the sport and have shown champion-like qualities before, but what makes them memorable is their consistency to show everyone what real champions look like and set the tone for the champions of the future.