“O brave new world
That has such people in’t"
No doubt, when Shakespeare wrote those fateful words, since made famous by Aldous Huxley, he never meant them to apply to a 270-plus, lightning quick, physical freak such as Brock Lesnar. However, at no time in the history of the UFC has Miranda’s speech in the Tempest so aptly applied to the landscape of MMA.
We’ve reached a new era in the UFC. A champion, who combines unique physical gifts with strong technique and undeniable ability, reigns in every weight class.
Look into a crystal ball. Twenty-four months from now, doesn’t it still make sense that B.J. Penn, Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, and Brock Lesnar would still be on top? Has that ever happened?
Besides Lesnar, who is learning on the job, and Penn, whose preparation has been questioned from time to time, St-Pierre, Silva, and Machida are unique in that they have punctuated their title reigns with matches in which they inflict maximum damage upon their opponents while receiving little to none.
Here’s a quick look at the champions that will dominate the UFC for the foreseeable future.
The first American to win a World Jiu-Jitsu Championship in the black belt category, Penn has rededicated himself to the sport since his defeats at the hands of Georges St-Pierre and Matt Hughes in the welterweight division in 2006.
Now fighting at his more natural 155 pounds, Penn does not give up any strength or conditioning to bigger opponents. As such, he can control fights on the ground, as he did against Joe Stevenson at UFC 80, or end them on the feet a la his three-round TKO of Sean Sherk five months later at UFC 84.
Penn combines undeniable technique and skill with obscene flexibility and dexterity. Heavyweight wrestlers such as Randy Couture struggle keeping him on the ground in training.
Though he takes more damage than some of the others on this list, Penn will rest comfortably atop the lightweight division, assuming he avoids the educated elbows of Kenny Florian Saturday at UFC 101.
Is it necessary to extol the virtues of GSP after his immaculate performance UFC 100 against Thiago Alves? Alves is an animal that his trainers shaved and tanned and threw into the welterweight division. He packs dynamite in his fists and is built like a full back. He decimated welterweight legend Matt Hughes.
Yet, St-Pierre dominated Alves, taking him down and landing his jab at will. In a sport where most don’t peak until they have years of experience under their belts, at 28-years old St-Pierre has cleared out the welterweight division.
His incredible wrestling, strong ground game, and frightening striking ensure St-Pierre’s future as a reigning champion.
Considered by many to be frustratingly inconsistent, Silva is a counter fighter. He waits out his opponent, looking for the exact and most precise moment to strike. When he does, though, the fight ends. Quickly.
While his style and pace can be maddening, because he has the skills and technique to dance around the octagon while avoiding any damage. Silva has emptied the middleweight division, and even continued his dominance at 205 pounds.
Ask Rich Franklin about Silva’s striking. Check in with Dan Henderson regarding his ground game. Then question James Irvin about the Spider’s speed and ferociousness.
The best pound for pound fighter in the world, it’s going to be awhile before someone takes the belt from around the waist of Anderson Silva.
There’s good, there’s really good, then there’s Lyoto Machida good. Before they realized that they bore witness to a new form of dominance, many considered “The Dragon” a boring fighter.
With only the slightest of movements, Machida darts away from opponents’ attacks to deliver crippling and unavoidable blows of his own. As if in direct response to his critics, Machida delivered three straight fan-favorite bouts, dismantling Tito Ortiz, knocking out Thiago Silva, and putting Rashad Evans to sleep.
Machida has combined master-level karate with a well-rounded MMA game to create a seemingly unbeatable fighting style. Plus, he drinks his own urine “every morning like a natural medicine.”
So, he’s got that going for him.
Five fights into his MMA career, Lesnar stands atop the heavyweight division. A genetic freak that walks around at close to three-bills, but moves with the speed and agility of a much smaller man, Lesnar knocked out UFC legend Randy Couture and rearranged Frank Mir’s face on his way to the top.
Though Lesnar’s inexperience makes him the most vulnerable champion on this list, his physical gifts cover up many of his technical weaknesses. He’s also learning on the job, which means the Brock Lesnar we see today is probably the weakest Brock Lesnar that will ever step into the octagon.
That’s a scary proposition.
Through Lesnar’s next few fights, we’ll observe many heavyweights attempt a simple often-unused ground tactic. It’s called the fetal position.