At the beginning of every year there are always nuggets of conventional wisdom that seem absolutely unassailable in January and are laughable by December. This has always been the case, and not just in the world of MMA. For instance, in January of 1941 Pearl Harbor was a nice, calm, wonderfully exotic place for U.S. servicemen to be stationed. By December it was fodder for a horrible Michael Bay movie. Just goes to show that we never know as much as we think we do, though it doesn’t stop us from making definitive statements that will later seem totally ridiculous. Here now are some of the MMA truths that became lies in 2009…
Lyoto Machida is the most boring fighter in the UFC
At the start of 2009 Machida had finished just two of his last seven fights (one of them a TKO due to exhaustion), and had cemented his reputation as the fighter who was too "elusive" to be interesting. The UFC seemed intent on keeping him away from a title shot, but inked him for a showdown of undefeated Brazilians against Thiago Silva at UFC 94. That’s when "The Dragon" showed his fangs or claws or whatever it is that dragons have, and after knocking out Rashad Evans to claim the light heavyweight title in similarly ferocious fashion a few months later, we were forced to abandon our belief that Machida would forever be MMA’s version of Ambien. Too bad that our revised position didn’t fare much better…
Lyoto Machida is damn near unbeatable
The “Machida Era” was supposed to be a reign as dominant and prolific as that of middleweight champ Anderson Silva, which left many of us scratching our heads when “Shogun” Rua got the nod as his first challenger. Rua was 2-1 in the UFC at that point and he hadn’t beaten anyone even near their prime since leaving Pride. Despite coming in as a heavy underdog, Rua gave Machida all he could handle for five rounds and seemed to be on his way to a decision victory before the judges decided to discount leg kicks altogether. Machida survived with the belt, but not with his aura of invincibility.
If it wasn’t for bad cardio, B.J. Penn would have no cardio at all
“The Prodigy” got off to a rough start in ’09. After UFC Primetime made him look like a rich kid slacker he got pounded into an exhausted mass of blood and pulp by GSP at UFC 94, thus proving once and for all that he doesn’t have the gas tank to be a truly dominant champion. That all changed when Penn rededicated himself to the 155-pound division and got with Marv Marinovich for his training camps. He rounded out the year with one-sided victories over Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez, both of which required him to go into the late rounds, making us think that maybe Penn isn’t the best worst conditioned fighter in MMA after all.
Strikeforce will never be more than a local mom-and-pop operation
Scott Coker’s San Jose-based MMA promotion had done well for itself while flying mostly under the UFC’s radar up through the end of 2008. They had a late-night offering on NBC, drew strong local crowds in the Bay Area, but seemed content with being a minor leaguer while letting the EliteXCs and Afflictions of the world fight it out with the UFC. That all changed in 2009 when Strikeforce bought the contracts of Pro Elite’s top talent, landed live TV deals with CBS/Showtime, and signed the world’s best heavyweight (courtesy of co-promotion with M-1 Global). Just like that, the organization went from small time to primetime. Not coincidentally, Dana White went from praising them to vaguely threatening to destroy them.
Gina Carano is women’s MMA
If you only knew one female fighter at the start of 2009, chances are that fighter was Gina Carano. A girl-next-door smile and a body that could bring men out of comas made her the jewel of the MMA world, and the thinking went that as her career went, so went MMA. Then she got her pretty faced pounded by “Cyborg” Santos and decided to take a break from the sport to film movies and not get punched for a little while, and lo and behold women’s MMA still hasn’t fallen apart completely. Could it be that the female division is, like the men’s, bigger than any one person?
Tito Ortiz will never fight for the UFC again
Perhaps no two people in MMA seemed as hopelessly separated by irreconcilable differences as Dana White and the HBBB. Any time you so much as mentioned one to the other it was guaranteed to provoke a torrent of semi-coherent expletives. Ortiz badmouthed DW to ESPN and sputtered nonsense as an Affliction commentator, either of which would have been more than enough to get most people banned for life. And yet, like two lovers who hate each other too much to stay separated and let the other person have a shot at happiness, they wound up back together before the year was out. Ain’t life beautiful and strange, especially when money is involved?
Kimbo Slice is done with this MMA nonsense
After Ferg’s loss to Seth Petruzelli in the fall of 2008, rumors swirled that Slice would leave MMA for a career in boxing. This seemed reasonable enough. A guy who can’t handle Thai-style leg kicks or weak jabs doesn’t have a future in this sport, and it’s not like he would realistically consider taking Dana White up on his offer to earn a spot in the UFC on “The Ultimate Fighter.” Imagine, Kimbo going to live with a bunch of meatheads for weeks just to get beat up by actual fighters. Absurd. Right? Guys?
Josh Barnett is America’s most beloved heavyweight
Between his general love for nerd culture and his propensity to argue it out on MMA message boards with the commoners, Barnett had built up a lot of capital with U.S. fans. The consensus belief was that eventually he’d square off with his buddy Fedor and it would be the heavyweight clash of the year. That never happened, and it was entirely Barnett’s fault. A third positive steroid test derailed the fight, destroyed Affliction’s MMA promotion, and saw Barnett go from hero to villain in the span of a week. Enjoy your Japanese pro wrestling career, Baby Face.
Randy and Kim Couture is a forever kind of love
Naw, we’re just kidding. Of course that wasn’t going to last. What, you thought Randy meant it when he said ‘till death do us part’? We’re surprised he can even say it with a straight face anymore.