March 2011 has become an historic month for MMA.
Between the exciting championship fights, the premiere of TUF Lesnar vs. dos Santos, the debut of Bellator Fighting Championship on MTV 2, and the shocking news of Strikeforce being purchased by Zuffa, March has been a busy month for MMA.
There have been other events that have made the month memorable as well, including the rise of a light heavyweight not named Jon Jones and the fall of an MMA legend.
The month has been action-packed and newsworthy, and will end with the return of The Ultimate Fighter.
Bellator Fighting Championships has always been looked at as third-best in American MMA.
Its “season” format and tournament layout have made the company unique.
And while it’s featured top fighters like Hector Lombard and Eddie Alvarez, the company hasn’t been able to hold a strong deal for TV or PPV.
Things changed when Bellator signed a deal with MTV 2 for three years.
While the deal may not bring Bellator to the top of the MMA game, it does give them more exposure to a wider audience.
Now instead of watching it at 2 in the morning on Fox Sports Net, fans can tune in at the same stable time on Saturday nights.
The same night Bellator debuted on MTV 2, Strikeforce featured two title fights on Showtime.
The first was between Strikeforce women’s welterweight champion Marloes Coenen and an inexperienced Liz Carmouche.
While Carmouche was only 5-0 in her career and took the fight on short notice, she proved that you can’t take anyone lightly in a fight.
While Carmouche dominated much of the fight, Coenen was able to sink in a triangle choke in the fourth round and pull out the win.
The next bout featured veteran Dan Henderson taking on Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champ Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante.
While Hendo was rocked in the first round, he was able to regain his composure and took the fight to the third round.
There Henderson showed why his dangerous right hand can always end a fight. Henderson caught Feijao with it, and after a few more punches, he was crowned the new Strikeforce Light Heavyweight champ.
Henderson proved that at age 40, he’s still a threat for anyone.
Just one short week after Strikeforce crowned a new Light Heavyweight champion, Dana White had some shocking news for the world.
Strikeforce was being bought out by Zuffa LLC, the parent company of their main rival, the UFC.
Instantly, talks of super fights have been brought up between the two companies, but Dana White has stated both companies will operate separately.
If the past is any indication of how the future will look, it won’t be long before Strikeforce ends up like PRIDE FC and WEC, merging with the UFC.
If Strikeforce does continue to run separately, the deal could bring the company more exposure (Daley vs. Diaz was promoted during UFC 128). It could also be good for MMA as a whole; as the UFC would not have a complete monopoly over MMA.
But it could be a sign that it’s only a matter of time before the two companies join together.
While UFC 128 may be remembered as the start of Jon Jones' championship run, it may also be remembered as the end of Mirko Cro Cop’s career.
Cro Cop faced TUF season 10 runner up Brendan Schaub.
While Cro Cop came in at great shape, and looked determined during his walk in, there was an eerie feeling about him.
Even his entrance music, which is usually the upbeat Duran Duran’s "Wild Boys," was the cowboy-themed "The Ecstasy of Gold" from “The Good, The Bad, and the Ugly.”
It’s an epic song, but it’s also one that made me think Cro Cop knew this would be his last rodeo.
While Cro Cop threw a few leg kicks to the head, and was able to get his shots in on Schaub, the Hybrid’s take downs and ground work proved too much for Cro Cop.
The fight looked like it would go to decision until right when Schaub landed a strong counter punch that sent Cro Cop to the ground late in the third round.
This fight reminded many of Chuck Liddell’s final fight. He came in with great shape, but was caught out of nowhere.
Mirko is an MMA legend. No one can take that away. He would be doing everyone a service if he hung up the gloves now, with his health still intact.
Another reason this card will be remembered is because of Urijah Faber’s debut.
Faber was known as the face of the WEC and still may be the face of the lighter weight classes.
Besides possibly Jose Aldo, Faber’s debut was the most anticipated of the WEC fighters. Faber did not have an easy fight, as he faced former WEC Bantamweight Champion, Eddie Wineland.
Wineland proved to be tough, stopping Faber from having much offense in the first round.
Faber was able to pull it together in the second and third with good take downs and ground and pound.
He earned the unanimous decision win, as well as a shot at Dominick Cruz for the UFC Bantamweight Championship at UFC 132.
The biggest reason people will remember UFC 128 is because Jon Jones was crowned the new UFC Light Heavyweight champion.
A lot of people had Jones winning, but his sheer dominance of Shogun Rua surprised many. Even Rua’s brother said the fight was over in the first.
Many consider Jones the future of MMA, and for good reason.
Jones has great wrestling, good submissions, hard unorthodox strikes, an 84-inch reach, and he makes guys look very small in the cage.
That being said, you're never truly champion until you defend your title. Jones will get that chance when he faces former teammate Rashad Evans.
If Jones beats Evans in the same fashion that he’s beaten other opponents, then I think it’s safe to say that the future of MMA has arrived.
Leonard Garcia and Chan Sung Jung had the huge test of making their second fight as memorable as their first.
While they didn’t trade blows as often or hard as their first fight, The Korean Zombie did leave us with something that was memorable.
Right at the closing seconds of round, Jung put Garcia in a move that I don’t think has ever been seen in the UFC.
The move, known as a twister according to Joe Rogan, was a spine crank that looked very painful.
Garcia was forced to tap just as the round was about to end.
The night's main event featured Antônio Rogério Nogueira taking on late replacement Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis.
While Lil Nog was looking to stand and bang, Davis was looking to use his wrestling to overpower Nogueira.
The first round proved to be one of Davis' toughest tests as he wasn't able to get a take down. Nogueira showed good defense as well good boxing, catching Davis a few times.
Davis continued to go for take downs, finally getting a single leg midway through the second. Davis, hesitant at first, used ground and pound to take advantage of Nogueira.
It was a close fight, but Davis got the upper hand in the third, taking home the unanimous-decision win.
It may not have been pretty or wonderful, but Davis got past his first major test.
Davis does have some work to do, though. A more precise stand-up game could help him in the takedown department.
Davis also has some sick submissions, but Nogueira had great wrist control off his back. Because of this, we weren't able to see the usual flash that Davis possesses.
This season of TUF may become one of the most watched seasons ever.
While Junior Dos Santos is a great heavyweight, and the rightful No. 1 contender for the title, Lesnar’s name alone will bring many to the show.
It will be interesting to see what Lesnar we’ll see. Will he be cool, calm, and collected? Or will the former Heavyweight champ get pissed and snap?
News of Lesnar becoming a coach was a surprise to many, as his dedication to MMA as a whole was in question.
Lesnar, who’s usually reclusive, took the coaching stint as it would lead to a quicker road to a title.
Dos Santos has agreed to a fight with Lesnar instead of waiting to Cain Velasquez to return from injury.
To add to the two Heavyweights, this season will feature up and coming welterweights looking to earn UFC contracts.