Reflecting on the evolution of mixed martial arts floods the fight fan with many fond memories regarding the history of the sport. Remembering the days of Gracie domination, Don Frye, Severn and Pride, there are many elements of MMA past that fight fans cherish as fight game lore.
Tournaments have always had a special place in the heart of the hardcore scrap enthusiast. Along with tournaments, the idea of open weight fights also brings amazing memories back. It is with that in mind that even today, as the sport skyrockets towards heights untold and has evolved a thousand fold from where it once came, that many MMA fans still clamor for one representation of greatness from the sport's top fighters.
That representation of greatness is the ability to transcend weight categories. Today, in the world of MMA that currently perpetuates the sport, simply cleaning out a division is simply no longer enough.
In some cases, a fighter may not even have to clean out the division before fans begin to buzz: How would he do if he moved up or down in weight? Could he hang with heavier fighters; would he decimate lighter fighters?
The question burns, and few fighters across the history of the sport have been able to douse the flame without falter. Only a few names in modern MMA have really held the ability to cross over and excel outside their comfort zone.
Anderson Silva, for example, has shown flashes of ability to step up from middleweight and remain the same destroyer he is famous for being. Baby J, B.J. Penn is one of only two men to carry UFC titles in two separate divisions. The other, of course, is the highly celebrated Randy Couture.
A few other notable MMA greats who proved weight could not prove the difference between failure and success would include Fedor Emelianenko, Don Frye and Dan Henderson just to name a few.
One thing all these men share in common is simple. While the feelings fights fans have for them may vary due to the different flavors of MMA they represent, any true fight fan could never look you in the eye with a straight face with any real conviction and try to convince you any of them are less than historically superior mixed martial artists.
So with that in mind, right here today, and in tomorrow's world of mixed martial arts, it would appear that greatness may be earned in many ways. But one clear cut benchmark of a fighter's all time place in the pecking order of greatness can be achieved through the ability to step outside their natural weight category.
This is a compelling angle when looking at the super seven currently adorned in UFC gold. Looking at all seven UFC champions, the question begs to be asked, how could they be mixed and matched to test themselves and one another to really raise the bar?
This is not a theory intended to disrespect prospective opponents within any division. But while No. 1 challengers are clearly chasing their own dreams, nothing really sounds quite as good as champion vs. champion.
Looking at the UFC's super seven, there really is just one man who really can't adjust to a new weight category, and that is heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez. Other than the big guy, every single other UFC champ could quite feasibly bulk up or cut back to make his presence felt outside his current home.
The topic is not a new one by any means. If you haven't heard the discussions regarding Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva yet, welcome back from your coma; we hope your recovery is going well.
But even more so lately, the new hot topics include the possibility of Jon Jones meeting Cain at heavyweight. How about Silva making the jump back to light heavyweight to face Jones? Or just as recently as last weekend, the MMA community found itself salivating over the idea of Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo.
Jose Aldo is also a very real possible target for Dominick Cruz. The one this writer would fall over for is actually a featherweight bout between "The Answer" and "The Dominator." Those two represent the sickest footwork this sport may have ever seen, with blinding speed and all the tools to put on an epic clash.
Mix and match as you like, but the facts are as such: Cruz can and has competed and done well at 145, Aldo could without a doubt move up to 155, Edgar probably belongs ideally at 145 but don't tell him that as he is doing just fine at lightweight, St. Pierre is sizable at 170, and with his talent, could put in work at middleweight. Anderson Silva is massive at 185 and walks around over 205, and Jon Jones is on a path that will eventually require he transfer to heavyweight.
The possibilities to move these chess pieces are countless. Problem is, they are all kings. That is a recipe for some amazing potential match ups. The unique aspect to this theory is there have always been champions. But it has been extremely rare to find so many champions under the UFC banner who realistically could fit the mold beyond their current weight.
Many of these champions may fall; then again, most of them are on quite a roll, so if they continue that trend, it may just be a matter of time before Dana White and the UFC brass decide to start spinning up the blender and give both today's fans and the history of the sport some historical match ups that may define the future legacies of many of these fighters, and the legacy of MMA itself.
Remember, no one knew the legend Don Frye would eventually become for smashing guys regardless of what the scales said. No one knew that a little tiny Brazilian with a heart and fight the size of his native country would destroy the mold with regard to simplified misconceptions that it was the size of the dog in the fight.
Those men are revered by the history of this sport as all time greats, and their legends can only grow. We are standing within the confines of an era in MMA that may prove that the theories remain, but that just like the sport, the evolution of those theories can once again take this thing up a notch.
That is extremely compelling to consider if you're a true fan of the finer points of this game.
This article originally featured at Hurtsbad MMA.
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