UFC

MMA: The 5 Biggest Surprises of 2014 so Far

Matthew RyderFeatured ColumnistJuly 3, 2014

MMA: The 5 Biggest Surprises of 2014 so Far

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    Ethan Miller/Getty Images

    MMA is a pretty surprising business. Go ahead, try and argue it isn't.

    How many times have you seen a guy, on the fringes of his own consciousness and easy pickings for an opponent, come back and knock that opponent out with a Hail Mary shot out of nowhere?

    How many times have you gone to bed with things being pretty normal only to wake up eight hours later and see that the whole sport has been turned on its ear?

    How many times have you said "There's no way the UFC is getting me to pay $60 for that" only to surprise yourself by willingly dropping dough on a "Mighty Mouse" main event come Saturday night?

    OK, well maybe not that last one. But you get the point.

    Anyway, here are the five biggest surprises to happen in MMA so far in 2014.

Gina Carano Considers a Return to MMA

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    Eric Jamison/Associated Press

    If someone sat you down at the start of the year and said there was a serious chance you'd see Gina Carano leave action movies for a chance to throw leather for real again, would you have bought it?

    The stunning star has been out of the game since 2009, when she suffered the first loss of her career in violent fashion to Cyborg Justino (Santos, at the time). There was no particular thought that she'd be back to MMA at all, much less in 2014, considering she's doing well in Hollywood and literally dating Superman.

    Needless to say, when the idea that she could return this year to fight Ronda Rousey started to float about, it was somewhat surprising.

    Dana White refused to dismiss it when media pushed him on it though, and though talks have apparently slowed a little, the fact that this has been a story at all is one of the more shocking things in MMA at the halfway point of the calendar.

Bellator PPV Actually Happens and Is Relatively Successful

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Bellator has been the second banana of the MMA bunch for a while now, and many expressed skepticism when it targeted a pay-per-view date in November with Bellator 106. When it fell apart, that skepticism was proved just.

    The fact that Bellator was willing to try again in May and stick to its guns even when the original main event was scrapped due to injury was surprising in its own right; the fact it was a success by almost any measure one could impose was even more surprising.

    The night was full of bizarre twists, upsets and general mayhem, the type that reminded many why they loved MMA so much in the first place. It sold far more units than anyone would have predicted and gave Bjorn Rebney a true feather in his cap before he was ousted.

Bjorn Rebney Ousted from Bellator, Replaced by Scott Coker

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Speaking of which: Who foresaw Bjorn Rebney being ousted from his own creation?

    The Bellator headman, who spent five years building his vision into a commodity worthy of attention from media giant Viacom, got a swift boot in the rear for his troubles only a few short weeks ago. He was replaced by everyone's favorite cool uncle in the MMA world, Scott Coker, who was last seen playing classical violin on the sinking Titanic that was Strikeforce.

    There's no telling where things will go from here for Bellator, but that Rebney got kicked to the curb immediately following a decently received pay-per-view debut was pretty surprising. That Coker came in to replace him was that much more surprising.

    This probably would have been at the top of the list if not for two other MMA stunners this year.

The Sonnen-Silva-Belfort PED Triangle

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    Andre Penner/Associated Press

    Sometimes weird is a type of surprising. Sometimes MMA is weird. That makes it surprising, too.

    Now, perhaps the fact that the likes of Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort were entangled in a PED scandal isn't surprising in itself, as they've long been two of the most known faces of testosterone use in MMA.

    How the scandal played out, though? That was full of odd twists and turns right out of a Hitchcock movie.

    With Sonnen ready to fight Wanderlei Silva as a conclusion to their season of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil, Silva was pulled from the bout after "literally [running] from a drug test"—his first fairly surprising contribution to all of this.

    Then, Belfort chimed in with a willingness to fight Sonnen on a card that featured the replacement bout he'd been pulled from for failing a drug test. Obviously, that couldn't happen, even though it was booked and announced before the commission had taken its pound of flesh.

    To top it all off? Sonnen was popped not once but twice for a cocktail of PEDs that caused him to outright retire from the sport instead of stick around to face commission punishment. Any incarnation of Sonnen vs. Silva vs. Belfort was then officially called off altogether, even after a brief push from Silva to replace Sonnen against Belfort, who was initially replacing him against Sonnen in the first place.

    Got all that?

    In terms of surprises, this saga probably could have accounted for this entire list if it had been broken down into its parts, but for the sake of the collective sanity of the readership, we'll lump it together.

TRT Is Banned by Nevada Athletic Commission

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    Gregory Payan/Associated Press

    And all of that Sonnen/Silva/Belfort drama? It all came indirectly from the biggest surprise of the 2014 so far: the Nevada Athletic Commission banning testosterone replacement therapy.

    One random night in February, America's foremost overseer of combat sports decided that enough was enough, and the biggest sham in MMA was done away with. Nevada decided to stop allowing fighter exemptions for testosterone use, probably because it more or less amounted to legalized performance enhancement through use of an illegal (or at least highly suspicious) substance.

    No one would have predicted that would happen, given the muddy waters surrounding the controversial therapy and the number of fighters who claimed to rely on it. And yet there it was, plain as day: No more TRT in Nevada, and Nevada thinks your athletic commission should be doing the same.

    It was a crazy, landmark decision in a sport that fights PED stigma almost constantly and by far the biggest surprise in the MMA world so far this year.

     

    Follow me on Twitter @matthewjryder!

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