UFC: Breaking Down a Modern Day Openweight UFC Tournament
Just picture it.
GSP vs. Silva.
Stefan Struve vs. Urijah Faber.
As crazy as it sounds now, these matchups were possible when the UFC began and utilized an openweight tournament format.
So what if things were still run this way?
The tournament's format at UFC 1 started with eight fighters and, conveniently, we have eight divisions in the modern day UFC.
Here is what would happen if the current champion of each division was thrown into an openweight tournament.
The quarterfinals to the modern day openweight tournament would yield some explosive matchups that fight fans have wanted for years. Let's have a look.
NOTE: While there is officially no flyweight champion yet, I am using Joseph Benavidez as the flyweight division's representative.
In order, here are the fights:
Joseph Benavidez (flyweight) vs. Dominick Cruz (bantamweight champion)
Jose Aldo (featherweight champion) vs. Benson Henderson (lightweight champion)
Matchup Three (are you salivating yet?):
Georges St. Pierre (welterweight champion) vs. Anderson Silva (middleweight champion)
Jon Jones (light-heavyweight champion) vs. Junior dos Santos (heavyweight champion)
Let's break 'em down!
Matchup 1: Benavidez vs. Cruz
Well, this is a familiar matchup.
Dominick Cruz and Joseph Benavidez have already fought twice at bantamweight, but now Benavidez has the luxury of fighting at his more natural weight of 125 lbs.
The two fought to a decision in each of their earlier encounters, but in this openweight tournament format, there are no rounds and the fight must end by TKO/KO, submission or throwing in the towel to declare a winner.
That said, I still think Cruz utilizes his superior striking and incredible cardio to wear out Benavidez and eventually secure a submission victory after a long, tiresome contest.
Dominick Cruz via submission (will face winner of Aldo/Henderson in semifinals).
Matchup 2: Jose Aldo vs. Benson Henderson
Now this is a matchup I think we can all sink our teeth into.
Aldo's phenomenal power and explosive striking vs. Henderson's relentless attack from all angles...Oh boy!
Henderson would have a significant size advantage (he would probably come in closer to 165 pounds without a weight limit) and would look to control Aldo on the mat and secure a ground-and-pound TKO victory.
That said, Aldo is quick, and he's very capable of putting the lightweight champion away on the feet. To go along with this, he's no slouch off his back, but Henderson has proved to be the toughest fighter to submit in UFC history.
So what happens?
I think Henderson controls Aldo on the mat early but slips up and allows the Brazilian to get back to his feet.
Once there, Aldo times a perfect flying knee as Henderson shoots for another takedown, ending the fight and Henderson's hopes at tournament gold.
Jose Aldo via KO (will face Dominick Cruz in semifinals).
Matchup 3: Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva
And here we have it, the fight fans have wanted for years, and the fight that has eluded us for oh so long.
The two most dominant current champions, Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva, are finally squaring off.
So much has already been said about this matchup, that I fear the actual fight would turn out to be a little underwhelming.
Anderson Silva has a huge size advantage and the perfect style to foil GSP's run of invincibility.
"The Spider's" striking is world-class and he's also extremely dangerous off his back (where GSP will look to put him).
All things considered, I think this is a bad night for the Canadian sensation.
GSP will land a takedown early, but he can't grind out a decision victory under this format.
Forced to go for a finish, GSP leaves an opening for Anderson to get back to his feet, and the Brazilian pulls out an old trick:
GSP is out cold and Silva is moving on.
Hey, when you fantasize, you don't think about Rosie O'Donnell do you?
Anderson Silva via KO (will face winner of Jones-Dos Santos in semifinals).
Matchup 4: Jon Jones vs. Junior Dos Santos
Oh, the money I would pay to see this fight.
Jon Jones is a mesmerizing striker, but dos Santos has arguably the best boxing in the game.
Jon Jones is a fantastic wrestler, but dos Santos has dispatched of two of the heavyweight division's best wrestlers, Velasquez and Carwin, with ease.
Truly, this is an awesome matchup. Jones hasn't faced anybody with dos Santos' size (obviously) or power, and that could be the one thing to bring the young phenom back to earth.
It could be.
And it will be.
After a long feeling out process, Jones gets confident and lunges at dos Santos with a spinning back elbow, but dos Santos is ready.
As Jones spins, dos Santos times a perfect hook to catch "Bones" on the jaw and send him to the canvas in a heap.
You only need one shot, and that's good enough to send dos Santos to the semifinals.
Junior dos Santos via KO (will face Anderson Silva in the semifinals).
Semi-Final Matchup 1: Dominick Cruz vs. Jose Aldo
Dominick Cruz has finally met his match.
Cruz has made a name for himself by being faster, stronger and more technical than his fellow bantamweights, but these advantages go out the window against Jose Aldo.
Aldo and Cruz will exchange a flurry of punches to start out the matchup, but the Brazilian will soon settle down and start chopping away at Cruz's legs.
Unable to dart in and out as he is accustomed, Cruz slowly but surely becomes a human punching bag for Aldo, and when a finish is near, Aldo isn't shy about taking it.
Aldo pounces on a limping Cruz in a Tekken-like barrage of combinations to earn a TKO victory and advance to the tournament finals.
Jose Aldo via TKO (will face winner of Anderson Silva vs. Junior dos Santos).
Semi-Final Matchup 2: Anderson Silva vs. Junior Dos Santos
Do you see how jubilant Junior dos Santos is in victory?
Take a good look, because he won't be happy after this matchup.
In many ways, Anderson Silva is like Jon Jones. He's fast, he's technical, and he has the ability to finish with a variety of strikes.
One thing Silva is not, however, is overly-confident. Whereas Jones got antsy against dos Santos and threw a wild spinning elbow, Silva has the presence of mind to wait his turn and feel out the perfect opening.
When it presents itself, Silva attacks with precision and power, just like he has done over and over during his run as middleweight king.
Dos Santos eats a hard head kick that puts him on wobbly legs and Silva secures a Thai clinch.
As we've seen before, this isn't where you want to be, and dos Santos goes the way of many before him, knocked out by "The Spider's" knees.
Anderson Silva via KO (knees).
And now, the finale!
Final Matchup: Anderson Silva vs. Jose Aldo
The openweight tournament has made one thing clear: a devastating striker with a strong bottom ground game can go a long way.
To the finals, for instance.
This fight is a matchup between two men who are almost mirror images of one another.
Aldo has been dubbed the featherweight version of Anderson Silva, so it would only be fitting to see if he can use his speed and quickness to defeat "The Spider."
Spoiler alert: he can't.
While Aldo puts up a valiant fight and does a good job early of darting in and out with quick strikes a la Dominick Cruz, Silva seizes an opportunity to clinch the smaller fighter, and the fight is written from there.
Caught in the web of Silva's Muay Thai clinch, Aldo is simply too undersized to escape, and Silva finishes him just like he did dos Santos.
If there is one thing Silva can do, it is play to his strengths, and that is exactly what he would do to capture the UFC openweight tournament crown.
Anderson Silva via KO (knees).
With the win, Silva cements his legacy and spot atop the pound for pound best in the world list.
The Spider is just too good to be denied anything less.