Monday, June 2, 2008

Grand Prix

I had some spare time tonight so I thought I'd talk about an issue that is important to me in regards to modern day MMA: the lack of the tournament. Now I'm not talking about the 1 night tournaments that used to be the staple of the UFC and MMA in general (which was recently brought back by Yamma Pit Fighting, which was an absolute travishamockery of an event). I'm talking about the tournament in a Grand Prix style a la PRIDE back in its heyday. However, due to the overwhelming concern in America over the violence of this sport (which if you ask me is actually safer than boxing, football, and possibly even hockey) I'm not even recommending more than one fight in a night like PRIDE did with the semi finals and finals or quarterfinals and semi finals. I'm talking about an 8 man tournament once a year, twice at most. You'd only have to plan 3 cards around it and the second and third card would mostly be a normal card because you'd only feature 2 fights and 1 fight respectively (unless you featured two weight classes which has been done but I'm not recommending) . Having championship belts are great because it makes every fight count. However, adding a yearly tournament would add a certain luster that the sport has lost since it moved away completely from the tournament format. Everyone loves a tournament in America. Every sport here has a playoff (except college football) and the biggest sporting event in the country outside of the Super Bowl is the NCAA basketball tournament every March. I think adding a Grand Prix would liven up the sport and give people something to look forward to besides the regular championship bouts that just rotate card after card. People would see the bracket and immediately you would get a wave of predictions and dream match ups. I think if the UFC (since they have accumulated the most talent under one roof) were to do something like this it would be a huge boost for the company, the sport, and the fans. Also, as long as fights were broken up between different cards I can't see how the fighters would have any objection to this either. No title is on the line or if you really wanted to make it interesting, make the tournament really mean something and make it determine a number one contender for a title sort of the way TUF: The Comeback did a couple years ago. With all that said, just for fun, I'd like to throw out my picks for some great Grand Prix lineups irregardless of promotion affiliation. In other words, I'm going to match up my top 8 in each division to see who really is the best in the world at each weight (unfortunately this means some 2 weight stars will have to choose one so I'll put them in their more natural weight class). I won't make any fake predictions because this is all fantasy anyway but these are the 8 fighters in each division I think should get a shot to prove they're the best in the world. Please keep in mind there is no ranking (i.e. 1 v. 8) it's who I think makes for the best match ups. After each round fights would be set up according to match up again with no specific "seeding" involved:

Heavyweights (UFC fighter replacement for "UFC only" Grand Prix):
Fedor Emelianenko (Brandon Vera) v. Fabricio Werdum
Antonio Rodrigo Minotauro Nogeuira v. Gabriel Gonzaga
Randy Couture (Frank Mir) vs. Josh Barnett (Shane Carwin)
Tim Sylvia (Cheick Kongo) v. Andrei Arlovski (Heath Herring)

Light Heavyweights:
Quinton Jackson v. Forrest Griffin
Lyoto Machida v. Wanderlei Silva
Chuck Liddell vs. Mauricio Shogun Rua
Thiago Silva v. Rashad Evans

Anderson Silva v. Robbie Lawler (Nate Quarry)
Paulo Filho (Thales Leites) v. Yushin Okami
Rich Franklin v. Matt Lindland (Michael Bisping)
Dan Henderson v. Nate Marquardt

Georges Saint Pierre v. Carlos Condit (Karo Parysian)
Jon Fitch v. Josh Koscheck
Matt Hughes v. Matt Serra
Thiago Alves v. Jake Shields (Diego Sanchez)

BJ Penn v. Gilbert Melendez (Kenny Florian)
Takanori Gomi (Roger Huerta) v. Mitsuhiro Ishida (Gray Maynard)
Shinya Aoki (Tyson Griffin) v. Sean Sherk
JZ Cavalcante (Joe Stevenson) v. Tatsuya Kawajiri (Clay Guida)

There you have it folks, my picks for the 5 Grand Prixs I'd love to see happen. While the heavyweight and lightweight tournaments would almost be impossible to put together in the UFC the light heavyweight tournament is set to go and as the most popular division in the UFC, I think you have a ready made super show on your hands. Imagine a night where the 8 best light heavyweights in the world fight and throw a title fight on top of it? It would be absolutely nuts! The middleweight and welterweight tournaments are only a couple fighters removed from having those ready to go as well. And since I'm only suggesting 1-2 of these a year max. there would be time for ebb and flow in terms of talent. That's what makes this sport great. Yes you have your superstars like the Anderson Silvas and GSPs but there's more up and coming fighters than ever who are hungry for a chance at the top. Unfortunately it takes fighters a long time to reach a title shot in the current format. However, in this format, even though no title is on the line, it would give some lesser known, but very talented fighters, the chance to prove they can hang with the big boys. And as anyone who watched the first GSP v. Matt Serra fight knows, anything can happen inside the cage on any given night. Why the UFC doesn't do this (and doesn't even appear to be thinking about this) I'm not sure but personally, I would love to see something like this happen in the not so distant future. It's a win - win for everyone involved!

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