MMA: The Best Era from Each Weight Division

Kyle SymesCorrespondent IIINovember 1, 2012

MMA: The Best Era from Each Weight Division

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    How many times have your parents or grandparents told you the world today just isn't the same as it once was? Well that may be the case for a number of weight divisions in MMA.

    The landscape of weight divisions change over the years with numerous ups and downs that resemble a roller coaster. Some have seen dominant champions while others have seen titles change hands like it was a game of hot potato.

    We may be seeing the best of the best over the course of history in certain weight classes but in other circumstances we may have already witnessed the "golden years." So do we have a bright future ahead of us or have we already enjoyed what is likely to be the best era from each weight division?

Women's MMA: The Future

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    Women's MMA is enjoying a boom in popularity due to fighters like Gina Carano, Cristiane "Cyborg" Santos, and now Ronda Rousey. The division will likely be introduced to the UFC within the next two years and Rousey will undoubtedly be the star of the show.

    She's looked extremely impressive thus far in her brief MMA career and has gained world wide fame. Carano gained fame and attention for the division due to her looks and celebrity status as well, but it's clear Rousey is on a different level in terms of fighting.

    The division also has the possibility of a "Mayweather-Pacquiao" type of fight if Rousey and "Cyborg" can ever agree to fight one another. The mega fight would be the biggest since "Cyborg" fought Carano and could be the fight to boost the division to mainstream status.

    Even if the UFC takes its time introducing the ladies to the promotion, Invicta FC will serve as the spot for women to compete. They've had some of the best WMMA fighters outside of Strikeforce compete on their shows and as an added bonus for fans, stream all their cards for free via their website.

Flyweight: Now

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    There's no better time than right now to be a flyweight competitor. The division has been around for a while, but is just now getting recognition as the UFC has added the division to its ranks.

    Demetrious Johnson is the current UFC Flyweight champion and will see a number of quality contenders come flocking his way. Ian McCall had two hard fought battles against Johnson earlier this year while Ultimate Fighter winner John Dodson will get the next crack at the title.

    Other top competitors include Jospeh Benavidez, Jussier da Silva, Joshua Sampo, and Darren Uyenoyama.

Bantamweight: The Future

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    I know this isn't the answer many of you are probably looking for, but you have to say that the best era for the bantamweight will be in the future. The division has enjoyed two very dominant champions in recent years in Miguel Angel Torres and Dominick Cruz.

    Torres had one of the best runs ever in MMA, which may be duplicated by the current champion Cruz. However, Renan Barao may be ready to throw a monkey wrench into Cruz's plans. Barao took out Urijah Faber at UFC 149 to take the interim UFC Bantamweight title.

    Barao, emerging as a true threat to Cruz's title reign, brings promise that the division may be in store for a shakeup in the rankings. We saw Torres dominate the top, but more recently we've seen Cruz and Faber take control. If Barao can dethrone Cruz, the division could enter a state of flux.

Featherweight: The Later WEC Years

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    The WEC was one of the more fun promotions to watch. They didn't have the big names to make a ton of money, but they put on some exciting fights. The featherweight was arguably the promotion's marquee division led by the future hall of famer, Urijah Faber.

    Faber won the WEC title back in 2006 and successfully defended it until a "fluke" punch from Mike Brown ended the streak. Faber would lose the rematch with Brown but not after putting up a valiant effort following a broken hand and dislocated finger.

    Brown would go on to lose the title to Jose Aldo but not before Aldo put on some awesome displays of dominance in the WEC cage. Aldo's double-flying knee KO of Cub Swanson was one of the all-time top "Oh s***!" moments in recent MMA history.

    Aldo would go on to dominate with the title until the WEC closed its doors. Watching him compete always felt like we were on the verge of seeing something special happening.

Lightweight: The BJ Penn Era

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    Some fans may not like it when a champion is dominant over the entire division but, outside of perhaps Anderson Silva, no other fighter was quite as fun to watch dominate than BJ Penn.

    Even if you don't like Penn's personality (and a lot of people don't), it's hard to not like a Penn fight in the lightweight division. He became one of the most dominant champions in MMA history with his combination of crisp boxing and some of the best BJJ in all of MMA.

    While Penn was dominating the Octagon, fans could watch "The Fireball Kid" Takanori Gomi compete in Japan. Gomi was considered a top lightweight while competing in Pride and was one of the most exciting fighters to watch. His career fell apart after coming to North America but that doesn't take away from the many great battles Gomi had in the Pride ring.

    The UFC also enjoyed a boom in the lightweight division following The Ultimate Fighter 4 in which Jens Pulver and Penn were opposing coaches to a new crop of 155-pounders.

Welterweight: Now

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    If you check the welterweight rankings you may see something a little strange; Georges St-Pierre's name isn't at the top any more. The Canadian hasn't competed since UFC 129 due to an ACL tear which has allowed Carlos Condit to become the interim UFC champion.

    The two will clash at UFC 154 to settle who is the top dog in the division, but they won't have much time to enjoy their success. The division is full of new title contenders along with some old ones. Martin Kampmann has been a mainstay in the UFC for years but seems to have finally turned the corner in his career.

    He'll meet the surging Johny Hendricks at UFC 154 to decide the next title challenger at 170 pounds. Outside those men you also have guys like Jake Ellenberger, Jon Fitch, Demian Maia, and the blue chip prospect Erik Silva who could all make a run at the title in the near future.

    Don't forget about the polarizing Nick Diaz either.

Middleweight: Anderson Silva's Reign of Terror

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    Very few fighters can win 17 professional MMA fights in a row. Only Anderson Silva can do it while in the UFC.

    Winning streaks are so hard to maintain in MMA, especially in the UFC where parity is at every turn. Silva entered the UFC with a display of dominance and has left a path of destruction in his wake ever since. He's fought some of the best in the world and made them look like amateurs in the process.

    Even though Silva has dominated the landscape of 185 pounds for years he's done so in a special manner. Silva has that aura of a once in a lifetime type fighter, that kind of talent displayed by former boxers like Muhammed Ali and Mike Tyson.

    Whether it be the astonishing agility display against Forrest Griffin to the "Come at me bro!" technique used against Stephan Bonnar, Silva brings something special to each of his fights.

    Outside the UFC, MMA fans enjoyed another dominant champion displaying his talents as Hector Lombard made a mockery of every opponent who stepped up to face him.

Light Heavyweight: The Hot Potato Era

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    This is the punch that changed the landscape of the UFC Light Heavyweight title division. Chuck Liddell had been so dominant while on top, perfecting the "sprawl and brawl" style of fighting.

    Quinton "Rampage" Jackson ended the Liddell-era with a single punch that brought about numerous changes. "The Iceman" was never the same after this fight and older mainstays like Randy Couture and Tito Ortiz also began their steady decline in the division.

    Jackson was able to unify the UFC and Pride titles in an instant classic against Dan Henderson, but no fighter would be able to defend the UFC Light Heavyweight title more than once until Lyoto Machida defeated Mauricio Rua at UFC 104. That fight was heavily criticized for the judging and Rua was able to take the title in the rematch.

    The division is in the midst of another reign of dominance run as Jon Jones has become the most dominant champion since "The Iceman." Jones seems intent on leaving the division after taking out Chael Sonnen and Dan Henderson which opened the doors for a number of potential title challengers.

Heavyweight: The Pride Era

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    The heavyweight division enjoyed it's golden years while Pride sported the division's best fighters. It also featured one of the best fighters in MMA history, Fedor Emelianenko.

    It wasn't just that Emelianenko was winning fights, it was how he did it. He survived in the guard of a dangerous jiu-jitsu master and controlled the striking exchanges with some of the best stand-up guys in the division.

    His battles with Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira were legendary and Emelianenko's fight with Mirko "Cro Cop" Filopovic remains one of the most heralded heavyweight fights in MMA history.

    In the UFC the heavyweight rankings were slim at best. Tim Sylvia was able to control the division by utilizing his immense size and other than his rivalry with Andrei Arlovski, the UFC heavyweight division was very irrelevant.