Thursday, December 1, 2011

MMANEWS.COM: 10 Things To Be Thankful For In 2011

MMANEWS.COM Staff Writer</B><BR><BR>

It?s been one hell of a year for the sport. New stars have risen to prominence; legends have exited the game, fledgling promotions have continued consistent expansion; it?s been a terrific year to put it mildly. In fact, so fruitful has been the sport in 2011, that it was challenging compiling a list of only 10 things for which I?m thankful!<BR><BR>

<B>#10. Nick Diaz Returns to the UFC:</B><BR><BR>

While early everyone loves watching Nick Diaz fight, I think the vast majority of MMA followers had begun to lose patience watching Diaz pummel under-qualified opponents under the Strikeforce banner. This is a kid who possesses the tools and potential to compete with the absolute best of the best, so when it was announced that Diaz would be returning to the promotion in which he made his name, you can bet there was a collective cheer from longtime fans. After seeing him pummel BJ Penn like none has before at UFC 137, the hype has been justified. Diaz belongs in the UFC, battling the best in the world: thank God he?s back!<BR><BR>

<B>#09. Bellator Slowly Gaining Steam:</B><BR><BR>

Bellator isn?t known for putting up insanely impressive numbers in terms of television stats, but they are putting on superb shows, showcasing excellent talent and every now and then, drawing respectable cable figures. As the tournament format continues to catch on with fans, and Bellator?s roster continues to grow, so does the promotions visibility. With changes in store for 2012, things are only looking brighter. Thank the high heavens this promotion didn?t dwindle with the speed of the IFL or Bodog.<BR><BR>

<B>#08. Chris Lytle Hangs ?Em Up:</B><BR><BR>

What? You say! I know, this shouldn?t seem like something to rejoice over, but dammit, Chris Lytle put his time in, gave crowds everything they could ask for from an aesthetic stance, and remained classy the entire time. The latter portions of Chris? career saw him engage in brutally violent wars, and the effects did slowly begin to sneak through. Lytle?s speech is a little slurred now, and while still a sharp fellow, you can see him often really searching for answers when proposed questions. These are the sure signs of a punch drunk fighter, and I for one, don?t want to see Lytle exit the game a vegetable. He departed at the perfect time: during the height of his popularity, and on the heels of an electrifying victory. Lytle is a legend, and I for one am happy he knew when to climb off the bus.<BR><BR>

<B>#07. The Ultimate Fighter Season 14:</B><BR><BR>

It feels as though it?s been about 9 seasons set Spike?s popular reality show really produced any high quality fighters? wait, it has! With very, very few exceptions the TUF format has been losing its appeal and forcing fans to view mediocre fighters fight it out for a chance to pop up in the promotion a few times before getting the boot. Season five produced some top notch talent, and now, nine seasons later, we?re witnessing something special again. The talent this season is downright shocking, as there are at least a half dozen participants likely to secure a slot on the roster, and a few of these fellows look like they could develop into something truly special. Toss in some entertaining pranks from Michael Bisping and Mayhem Miller and you?ve got yourself one of the finest seasons of TUF yet!<BR><BR>

<B>#06. The Hope of a Dominant Heavyweight Champion:</B><BR><BR>

Let?s be real honest with ourselves, Junior dos Santos is the greatest hope we have of seeing a long reigning champion at heavyweight. The man has mowed through everyone placed in front of him, and after dispatching top ten ranked foes, Fabricio Werdum, Shane Carwin and Cain Velasquez few questions of his skill set should remain. He?s handled everything thrown his way and handled each hurdle with composure and near perfect execution. Not since the prime days of Fedor Emelianenko and Mirko Filipovic has the division been this exciting, and Junior dos Santos is a major factor in making that possible.<BR><BR><!--more-break-->

<B>#05. An Ego Was Tamed:</B><BR><BR>

One of the few negatives of watching Bellator, is having to hear Joe Warren project his arrogance upon viewers. The featherweight title holder makes frequent commentary appearances (a sure sign of the attempt at developing a super star), and he rarely shows even the hint of humility. Hearing the man announce how terrific he is has begun to wear thin, so when he entered the bantamweight tournament this year in the hopes of claiming titles in two divisions, all I could imagine was the endless banter and extra TV time he?d receive after each bracket victory. Alexis Vila may be the man of the year, as he brought the hyperbole to a halt, and silenced Warren, literally, when he knocked him unconscious in the opening frame of the first round of the 135 pound tournament. Maybe we won?t have to hear so much narcissism from the little man anymore.<BR><BR>

<B>#04. The True Arrival of Jon Jones:</B><BR><BR>

We all knew Jones was something special when he made his UFC debut back at UFC 87. Jones met Andre Gusmao, and though still rough around the edges, he showed a promise that would eventually blossom into full blown boss status. 2011 has been the Team Jackson representative?s year. He kicked things off by easily dispatching fellow prospect, Ryan Bader, then completely destroyed Mauricio ?Shogun? Rua to earn the title, and most recently, became the first man to stop Quinton ?Rampage? Jackson inside the octagon. The kid has loads of room for improvement still, seems to be a marketable fighter (for the wrong reasons, according to some) and has already nearly cleaned out the upper half of the divisions elite.<BR><BR>

<B>#03. Non-Title 5 Rounders:</B><BR><BR>

Fans have been calling for this maneuver for years. Thanks to Dana White and some serious pull, all main events are now five rounds, be it a title fight or not. The two round extension will go a long way in separating the men from the boys, and will certainly force fighters to train harder. If all goes well, we could see a whole lot less controversial decisions as well.<BR><BR>

<B>#02. UFC Signs with FOX:</B><BR><BR>

Seven years baby. That?s the length of the UFC?s contract with major cable network FOX, which means the sport is about to experience a very significant surge in popularity. Fans across the globe can now tune in to live fights without having to fork out $120 a month for the appropriate cable package; that?s a relief to the man who struggles to keep up with the endless barrage of Pay-Per-View events aired each year. There are plenty of other bonuses to the deal, including exposure on other FOX owned networks, and a chance to finally be recognized as a legitimate sport.<BR><BR>

<B>#01. Dan Henderson and Mauricio Rua:</B><BR><BR>

There aren?t enough good things you can say about these two warriors. Both men have thrilled audiences for years, both are considered elite light heavyweights, and both put forth 200% at UFC 139 when they finally stepped into the cage to determine the better man. What ensued was 25 minutes of balls-to-the-wall action, with both men giving and receiving inhuman amounts of punishment. The blood flowed, the fists flew, and the judges were left with one hell of a challenging call to make. In the end, Dan Henderson got the narrow nod, though I doubttt a soul alive would protest a Rua victory, or even a draw for that matter. Hendo versus Shogun may be the greatest fight in the history of the sport, and for that, I?m overwhelmingly thankful!<BR><BR>

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Mark Hominick Choi Hong man Jeremy Horn Chris Horodecki Harold Howard Tom Howard Roger Huerta

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