17 of the Biggest "What If's" in MMA History

Jason Schielke@jasonschielkeCorrespondent ISeptember 8, 2011

17 of the Biggest "What If's" in MMA History

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    Have you ever just been thinking and been like "What if (insert whatever tickles your fancy here)?" If you said no, I know you are lying. And remember—every time you lie, Chuck Norris roundhouse kicks a puppy. 

    You don't want any puppy blood on your hands, do you? I didn't think so. So just 'fess up to it. 

    In this crazy sport that we call mixed martial arts, there have been countless moments and situations where one can't help but to wonder "What if...?" If you are like me, you could be watching two amateur fighters duke it out at a local bar and come up with 17 "what ifs" during their two-minute brawl.

    But we're not talking bar-room stuff here; we're talking about the big leagues. I could write a novel about how things could have been had they gone a little differently, but you will just have to settle for this small offering. 

What If...

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    Royce Gracie never won UFC 1 and 2?

    The Gracie family, namely Royce, put what we now know as MMA on the map back in the early 90's. At UFC 1, Royce beat up three guys in one night to win the first ever UFC tournament. A few months later, he beat up four hapless foes to take the second tournament crown. 

    The little skinny guy in the gi beating up guys who looked like comic book characters captured the imaginations of everyone who watched. had he not won those first two tournaments in such dominant fashion, would have the sport hit the ground running like it did?

What If...

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    Spike TV didn't like the concept of The Ultimate Fighter?

    The finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, highlighted by the epic war between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, put more eyes on the UFC than any other event in the company's history up until that point.

    This latch ditch effort by Dana White and company saved the UFC from being sold after losing more than $20 million since they acquired the promotion from SEG. If Spike TV didn't give the UFC their first chance to showcase their product, would it still be here today?

What If...

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    Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva fought in their primes?

    When Chuck Liddell and Wanderlei Silva finally met at UFC 79, it was a match that happened a few years too late.

    By the time they met each other, they were both no longer in their primes. However, they still delivered one of the best matches in MMA history.

    As great as the fight was, how good could it have been had they met in 2003?

What If...

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    Ken Shamrock never went to the WWE?

    Some of you are too young to remember, but Ken Shamrock was a bad, bad man back in the day. If you have any doubts, just check out some of his fights on Pancrase.

    In 1996, Shamrock left MMA for the pot of gold what was the World Wrestling Federation. Since coming back in 2000, Shamrock has been a shell of his former self, and his record proves it.

    Had he not gone for the money in professional wrestling, would his charisma and in cage abilities pushed MMA to the forefront sooner?

What If...

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    Keith Hackney hit Joe Son in the balls even more than he did?

    At UFC 4, Hackney put a serious hurting on Joe Son's "special area". We all know what deplorable acts Son committed since his manhood (or lack thereof) took a beating.

    Had Hackney pounded away even more, would Son still have been able to perform the horrible acts that he did?

What If...

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    Fedor signed with the UFC?

    Once upon a time, Dana White was obsessed with signing Fedor. But he could never come to terms with M-1, Fedor's management company. After his release from the now Zuffa owned Strikeforce promotion, it seems very unlikely that Fedor will never fight under the Zuffa banner again.

    It goes without saying that Fedor could have cemented his legacy had he performed well in the UFC, but would he been able to be the dominant force that he was in Pride?

What If...

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    Chael Sonnen didn't get caught in the triangle choke?

    At UFC 117, Chael Sonnen was about 30 seconds away from becoming the first fighter in the UFC to defeat reigning middleweight champion Anderson Silva. But with the final round about to come to an end, Sonnen's lack of submission defense came in to play when he was caught in a triangle/armbar.

    Had Sonnen not been submitted, would the masses be calling him the best pound-for-pound fighter in the sport?

What If...

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    The WEC wasn't folded into the UFC?

    Since the merger of the WEC in to the UFC, the little guys have put on show after show for the fans. The "pocket rockets" always seem to deliver and steal the show.

    If the WEC fighters had not been added to the UFC roster, would the bantamweights and featherweights have ever received the exposure they rightly deserve?

What If...

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    Rashad Evans didn't get injured and fought Shogun?

    Jon Jones got the chance of a lifetime when Rashad Evans was forced to pull out of his title fight against Shogun Rua back at UFC 128.

    Jones used his opportunity, on just three weeks notice, to take Rua to school for two and a half rounds before scoring a TKO victory.

    Had Evans not been injured, and would have put down a beating on Rua like Jones did, would we be talking about Evans in the same way people are talking about Jones right now?

What If...

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    Bas Rutten didn't have bum knees?

    Bas Rutten is one of the best mixed martial artists ever to compete. Period. Even in his early days as a straight kickboxer, he was still able to become the King of Pancrase. He had two fights in the UFC, and won the UFC heavyweight title at UFC 20 when he defeated Kevin Randleman by decision.

    After that fight, Rutten retired from the sport. Had injuries not have gotten in the way, and he would have fought the best fighters at the time, how beastly of a champion could he have been?

What If...

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    Brock Lesnar went straight to MMA after college?

    Brock Lesnar catches a lot of heat, but there is no denying the fact that he has achieved more in 7 fights than many professional fighters will ever achieve in their entire careers.

    If he had not got the WWE and professional football route, and opted to go straight into MMA, he could already be one of the best ever.

    Or is he already?

    Or will he never be?

What If...

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    Josh Barnett didn't get popped for steroids post-UFC 36?

    Circa 2002, Josh Barnett was the best heavyweight in the United States. His UFC career came to an apex when he scored a fourth-round TKO victory over Randy Couture at UFC 36.

    But his title reign was short-lived, as he was stripped of the title after testing positive for steroids. Also, the positive test ended his UFC career.

    Barnett would go on to have success in Japan, but never could compete with the best heavyweights they had to offer.

    If Barnett had not tested positive, and could have continued fighting in the UFC, would he have been able to defend the title against the likes of Tim Sylvia, Andrei Arlovski and Frank Mir?

What If...

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    Chael Sonnen wasn't a great trash talker?

    Oh, Mr. Sonnen, you entertain us all. Seriously, you really do.

    As good as Sonnen is inside the Octagon, he's even better at running his mouth. But with his often boring fighting style, and complete lack of submission defense, would he have ever become the star he is if weren't for his rants and raves about anyone and everything?

    Photo by MMAJunkie.com

What If...

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    Rickson Gracie actually fought someone who mattered?

    Then we may actually believe that over-inflated 300-0 record that gets thrown around.

    Actually, probably not.

What If...

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    Vitor Belfort was able to be consistent?

    If I had a dollar for every "old Vitor or "new Vitor" reference I have heard, I would have a boatload of dollars.

    Belfort has all the talent in the world, but can never seem to put it together for any sustained period of time. Isn't it scary to think what Belfort would have been able to do if he had any consistency whatsoever?

What If...

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    Mark Kerr had won his battle against painkillers?

    In the late 90's, Mark Kerr was so good that it was scary. If you don't believe me, go watch WVC 3. Kerr's second opponent fled the ring and refused to go back in.

    If you have seen The Smashing Machine, you know all about Kerr's long battle with pain killers. If you haven't seen it, go get it and watch it right now. Or add it to your Netflix instant queue and move it to the top.

    After his loss to Fujita in the Pride 2000 open weight Grand Prix, Kerr was a different fighter. All the desire and fire he had was gone. I have always truly wondered how much Kerr could have changed the game if he could have just stayed clean.

What If...

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    Pride was still around today?

    The world would be a better place.