Mixed Martial Arts: An OverviewMixed martial arts (MMA) is a combat sport that combines stand-up fighting (e.g., kickboxing), takedowns and ground fighting (e.g., Brazilian jiu-jitsu). Fighters can win matches in a number of ways: by knockout, a variety of submission holds or judges' decision.
In the United States, the Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is the main MMA outlet. The UFC has five weight divisions (Lightweight: 146-155 pounds; Welterweight: 156-170 pounds; Middleweight: 171-185 pounds; Light Heavyweight: 186-205 pounds; Heavyweight: 206-265 pounds) with a champion in each division and pay-per-view events held about once per month. The UFC's main overseas competitor is the PRIDE Fighting Championships (PRIDE FC), a Japan-based organization. The UFC and PRIDE FC share many of the same rules, but there are differences between the two circuits.
Over the last few years, the UFC has evolved and incorporated a strict code of combat, establishing new rules governing the sport. This evolution has allowed the "new" UFC to gain sanctioning in a number of states, including initially Nevada and New Jersey in 2001.
The sport has also been aided by television deals which brought MMA to more mainstream audiences, such as the UFC's arrangement with Spike TV. In March, the two companies announced a two-year extension of their strategic partnership, including four new seasons of The Ultimate Fighter reality show, in addition to televised bouts and additional programming.
My interest in MMA goes back 10 years when I first watched tapes of Royce Gracie using Brazilian jiu-jitsu to defeat larger opponents in some of the earliest UFC bouts. I attended my first and only UFC event many years later when I saw Chuck Liddell defeat Randy Couture at UFC 52 last year in Las Vegas. I also recently began taking MMA classes at the Baltimore Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu academy in Parkville.
UFC 65: "Bad Intensions"Tonight's UFC pay-per-view event, UFC 65:"Bad Intentions," will kick off at 10 p.m. at the Arco Arena in Sacramento, Calif. The main card is jam-packed with big-name UFC talent and includes two title fights.
The co-main events are a heavyweight title clash between champion Tim Sylvia (262.5 pounds) and challenger Jeff Monson (237.5 pounds) and the welterweight title fight between champion Matt Hughes (170 pounds) and challenger Georges St. Pierre (169 pounds). In addition to the title bouts, fans will be treated to a third top-flight bout in the heavyweight division between Brandon Vera (230.5 pounds) and former title holder Frank Mir (254 pounds), a fight which on any other card might be a co-main event.
Welterweight title: Matt Hughes vs. Georges St. PierreThe welterweight title fight is the marquee matchup of UFC 65, a rematch of the October 2004 meeting between Hughes -- known for his grappling and wrestling -- and St. Pierre -- known for being a well-rounded athlete. That match ended when Hughes used an armbar to win by submission with one second remaining in the first round.
St. Pierre has admitted that he grew up idolizing Hughes and feels that he wasn't mentally prepared and didn't take advantage of some early opportunities in the fight. As reported in the Los Angeles Times, earlier this week St. Pierre said of Hughes, "I don't like to give excuses, but I didn't lose that fight to a better fighter. I lost because I was fighting my idol."
Since then, St. Pierre has been chomping at the bit for a rematch and he earned that right in March with a controversial split decision victory over B.J. Penn in UFC 58. St. Pierre was originally scheduled to fight Hughes in UFC 63 in September, but he suffered a groin injury during training and was forced to withdraw.
Hughes instead defended his title against Penn and defeated him with a third-round technical knockout (referee stoppage), setting up tonight's match against St. Pierre. There appears to be some bad blood between Hughes and St. Pierre, exacerbated when St. Pierre stepped into the Octagan after the UFC 63 bout and said he "wasn't impressed" with Hughes' win.
Whether the animosity is genuine or not, fight fans should see an action-packed match between two well-conditioned athletes.
Heavyweight title: Tim Sylvia vs. Jeff MonsonThe heavyweight title fight is a study in contrasts. The 6-foot-8 champion Sylvia prefers to fight standing up, finishing off opponents with punches or kicks. Sylvia is coming off two straight victories over former heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski. The challenger Monson, a former Abu Dhabi world submission grappling champion best known for his ground game and wrestling ability, is almost a full foot shorter at 5-foot-9. The fighter who can assert his style in the Octagon should win this matchup.
The Mir-Vera bout features two fighters whose UFC careers appear to be headed in opposite directions. Mir won the UFC heavyweight championship with a first-round TKO of Sylvia in UFC 48, but then broke his femur in a motorcycle accident. Fourteen months after the accident, Mir was forced to relinquish the championship to Arlovski when he could not defend his title.