COMMENTARY | Only a few weeks are left in 2013 but the world of combat sports has had a very interesting 12 months of action. During the last 365 days title changes, controversial victories and major news stories have rocked the world of mixed martial arts. Looking back over the year these are the most captivating stories that developed in 2013:
Five: Eddie Alvarez takes back Bellator title
Eddie Alvarez had long been considered one of the top lightweights in MMA. Some even thought he was the best to fight outside of the Octagon. When the opportunity came for him to prove that he could hang with the competitors in the UFC he was blocked by legal action from the Bellator promotion. After a heated battle he ended up returning to the circle cage at Bellator 106 in November. With his back against the cage in a "must win" situation, he became the first man to defeat Michael Chandler and take back the belt that he long held. In doing so he not only secured himself another massive paycheck but launched himself back into consideration as a top ten fighter at 155 pounds.
Four: UFC includes women on "The Ultimate Fighter"
On the heels of the success of UFC 157, UFC President Dana White made a startling announcement that the 18th season of their reality show, "The Ultimate Fighter," would include female athletes. Women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey was expected to coach against Cat Zingano but an injury forced Cat off of the show. Rousey's greatest rival, Miesha Tate, was inserted as the opposing coach in hopes of building their feud in a way that would improve ratings for the series. While the season may not have been a complete success, it did generate a lot of buzz for the upcoming UFC 168 card where Tate and Rousey will face off for the second time.
Three: Controversial title fights
2013 may be known as the year that offered some of the best mixed martial arts action. Multiple champions were pushed to the brink and forced to work harder than before to defend their titles. Jon Jones and Georges St. Pierre where involved in two of the closest and most controversial victories of their career during the latter part of 2013.
After steam rolling many of the opponents that he faced, experts expected Jones to walk through Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. The exact opposite occurred as the Swedish fighter controlled much of the fight and nearly snatched the title away from Jones. While many believed Alexander did win the contest, Jones earned a unanimous decision victory from the judges and the right to hold onto his title for a little while longer.
St. Pierre had held an iron grip on the welterweight division since 2007. Johny Hendricks came into their UFC 167 fight with a tide of momentum which he used to nearly defeat "Rush" after five rounds of action. Hendricks had the champion hurt many times in the fight but was unable to do more than a split decision defeat. As rumors surround St. Pierre's return, it is clear that Hendricks gave the champion his toughest fight in recent memory.
Two: Ronda Rousey headlines a UFC 157
UFC President Dana White had once stated that he doubted female mixed martial artists would ever compete in the Octagon. At the same time, Ronda Rousey was becoming a major star for the Strikeforce promotion. When the UFC would purchase their competitor in 2011 the immediate rumors were that the UFC was interested in bringing Rousey onto their grand stage. "Rowdy" would make her first appearance at UFC 157 against Liz Carmouche when they would become the first two women to ever compete in the Octagon; a scene that wasn't expected to occur just years before.
Not only was this fight groundbreaking for women's MMA, it also helped solidify Rousey as a star in the sport. The card earned a live gate of $1.4 million dollars with 15,525 in attendance. The event was reported to have drawn in approximately 500,000 pay per view buys, which is one of the highest rated events of the year. The effect would go on to have further ramifications in the UFC and MMA as a whole as the UFC would begin to include more women on its roster by the end of the year.
One: Chris Weidman knocks out Anderson Silva
UFC 162 was potentially the most anticipated event of the year. With a little more than four years of professional experience, Chris Weidman would step into the Octagon to challenge Anderson Silva. Silva was riding a wave of wins and title defenses that stretched longer than Weidman's whole career. However, many were picking Chris as the fighter that had the complete skill set to defeat one of the best MMA athletes of all time. Still, the way it occurred shocked those that were watching live and on television around the world.
Seventy-eight seconds into the second round Weidman would land a combination that would drop the champion, allowing him to follow up with a thudding blow to his grounded opponent. Much of the MMA community were so shocked with the outcome that many shouted the fix was in. Regardless of their feelings, Chris Weidman would become the first man not named Anderson Silva to hold the UFC's middleweight title since 2006.
With two weeks of fights still scheduled to occur in 2013 there's a chance that another big story could occur before the giant ball drops in New York City. The world of combat sports has been greatly changed this year which will only create enhanced anticipation for what 2014 will bring.
Raphael Garcia lives in Washington, DC and has worked as a sports journalist since 2006. His work has contributed to outlets that includes multiple newspapers, websites and ESPN.
- Sports & Recreation
- Mixed Martial Arts
- Ronda Rousey
- Eddie Alvarez
- mixed martial arts