Thursday, June 21, 2007

Intro to MMA: The Welterweights

Jonathan is the one who first got me into MMA. I had just graduated the day before and was procrastinating driving home when he showed me a bunch of fights from his DVD collection. I was clearly hooked. I've run my MMA Intro posts past him and he was interested in doing a writeup for one of the weightclasses. The following was written by him(although links are courtesy of me).....

The current relevant fighters at 170 lbs

This column is an incredibly difficult one to write, especially in a sport as dynamic as mixed martial arts. First and foremost, it’s difficult to have weighed in at 225lb this morning and still write about a division of guys so small I should eat them for breakfast instead of cheering for them as fighters. Today’s top ten could easily be infiltrated by a fighter who is yet to come onto the map, making this column irrelevant and dated in a matter of a couple months. That said, this list should be taken with a grain of salt, noting the date when it is reviewed and revered as a historical text years down the line. Furthermore, please do not construe this list as some sort of ranking, necessarily meaning that the first fighter is the best and the last listed is the least competitive.

  1. Matt Serra: This fireplug has been fighting in the UFC since 2001, when he debuted in the 155 lb. class. As one of the first Americans to attain a black belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu under Renzo Gracie, Serra’s grappling credentials are unimpeachable. He runs the most popular BJJ gym on Long Island, and holds grappling wins over the likes of Takanori Gomi, arguably the world’s best lightweight fighter. Out of the game for some time, Serra came back into the UFC picture by winning The Ultimate Fighter 4 reality show tournament, earning himself a title shot at then champion Georges St. Pierre. A 6-1 underdog going into the fight, Serra surprised everyone except himself, scoring a TKO victory that demonstrated patience only such a seasoned veteran could possess. His first title defense is scheduled for December against Matt Hughes. Serra’s greatest asset is his submission prowess, which is likely unmatched in the division. His greatest shortcoming, unfortunately, is his physical size; Serra isn’t exactly a towering figure at 5’6” in shoes. On a sidenote, Serra is the only fighter in this division I have a personal connection to – one of my BJJ training partners from college spent a summer at Serra BJJ.

  2. Matt Hughes: Matt easily possesses the biggest stones in the sport. I say this because in two of his title fights, Matt has taken ball kicks that would have hospitalized me and continued fighting, admittedly with mixed success. In his second fight with Frank Trigg, Hughes took a shot in the balls that the ref failed to recognize that led to a solid minute of GnP under one of the NCAA’s best wrestlers. Hughes not only survived the barrage and subsequent choke attempt, but was able to physically carry Trigg the length of the octagon, slam him, pound him, and choke him with much greater efficacy. In his second fight with Georges St. Pierre, Hughes lost the title, but survived two direct soccer kicks to the cup. With a record of 41-5, Hughes is easily one of the most prolific fighters to still maintain relevance. Among those 41 wins are two title wins and 7 seven title defenses within the UFC alone. Hughes’ strengths are his physical size and his ungodly strength. He vies for the title of biggest man in the division against Georges St. Pierre, and is literally a corn-fed Iowa farm boy that could probably win a tractor pull without a vehicle. Hughes’ biggest weakness is in line with those of classical heroes. His hubris has kept him from training as he should for fights he didn’t expect to be as tough as they were.

  3. Georges St. Pierre rounds out the current top three in the 170lb. division. This French Canadian undermines all preconceptions Americans have about the French and our neighbors from the north. Additionally, he’s the most polite individual to ever beat asses professionally. This man is the total package, demonstrating some of the best striking in the 170lb. division, as well as near perfect takedown defense, and GnP that is responsible for numerous of broken noses and beef jerky faces. His shin is responsible for one of Matt Hughes’ only losses, and once he finally attained the UFC belt, he was hailed as the next big, undefeatable thing in the division. Matt Serra undercut that expectation, but St. Pierre is only 26 years old. In this sport, he has an entire career ahead of him. St. Pierre’s is strong in every aspect of the game. He is a huge, powerful, technical individual. His weaknesses may run in the same vein as Hughes, as he has admitted underestimating and under training for his bout with Serra. I remain faithful that this young buck will run the division in the years to come.

  4. Josh Koscheck: Josh Koscheck is an NCAA All-American wrestler, and another product of the reality show. Since his TUF appearances, he has developed a better all around game, thanks to the good men at the American Kickboxing Academy. His strengths lie in his developing striking and his world-class wrestling. At this point, Koscheck’s weaknesses are still his questionable submission game and submission defense. He’s a tough man but he can still be caught.

  5. Karo Parysian: This Armenian fireball is the most effective judoka in the game – the last of a dying breed. While he seldom finishes a fight, Karo guarantees fans at least one “Oh Shit!” moment as he drops the other fighter on his head in a seemingly physics defying throw. Once he’s gotten his opponent on the ground, his unorthodox submission game is always dangerous. His striking is improving, and he’s never been KOed, but the standup is where this tough young man has the greatest chance of getting caught. Karo holds a win over current welterweight champ Matt Serra on his decorated record.

  6. Diego Sanchez: Another competitive submission grappler and product of the reality show, Sanchez picked up his first loss ever against his fellow TUFer Josh Koscheck only a few short weeks ago. With a solid grappling game, improving striking, and a bottomless gas tank on top of his youth, Sanchez will be a factor in the division for years to come.

  7. Jon Fitch: I have a soft spot for anyone who defies convention and spells Jon correctly, like myself. This man is undefeated in the UFC and is a former captain of the Purdue wrestling team. His most recent win over Roan Carneiro showed that his submission defense and submission games are not to be trifled with. Unfortunately, I’ve not seen nearly enough of this young man to provide a more informed opinion than that he is dangerous. I cannot wait for him to move up in competition level and step onto a pay-per-view card. Fitch is aching to be tested and I’m aching to see it.

At this point, I would like to thank my sponsors, Sam and Matt for making my appearance on this blog possible, as well as my addictive personality for providing me with a silly amount of MMA knowledge.

Thank you and good night.

-Jon E.

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