Fox_5962_original_crop_north
Carlos Condit working mitts with Jackson's MMA striking coach Brandon Gibson.
Will Fox/TheFoxIdentity Instagram

"The Road" is a concept that has fascinated American writers for more than a century. 

Where western expansion—and later the railways—captivated great minds long before asphalt came into existence, the idea of following the winding ribbon to unknown destinations is a theme which has created some of the most remarkable work in American literature. While the motivations have varied from scribe to scribe, the tie that binds them all is the quest for some greater understanding of themselves and the world that moves swiftly around them.

Cormac McCarthy used such a theme to craft a Pulitzer Prize winning work of the same name in 2007 as he used the road to address the complexities of the relationship between a father and son as they attempted to survive in a post-apocalyptic world. 

Robert Pirsig tapped the muse of the road in his philosophical gem Zen and the Art of Motorcycle Maintenance where he addressed the ability to increase the quality of life by adapting to the circumstances which are presented. The road is an ever-changing environment and the vehicle that carries us along the path has to be catered to. The intricacies of this process provides a constant education as we become better equipped to understand and deal with the world around us. There are numerous other themes in this particular work, but the journey ties them all together.

460212029sa039_ufc_fight_ni_crop_north
Suhaimi Abdullah/Getty Images

After the run the UFC just came off in the previous year, there is going to have to be a lot of work put in to raise the bar higher in 2014.

Following a campaign where there was no shortage of "Fight of the Year" candidates, highlight-reel knockouts and unforgettable tilts is going to be no small task, but the UFC made its first steps of the new year on Saturday morning at Fight Night 34 at the Marina Bay Sands in Singapore.

The card was also the debut event held on the UFC's newly launched digital network Fight Pass, the place where the organization intends to hold a handful of their global efforts going forward. While there are many reasons the UFC will be airing certain cards on their new on-line outlet, one of more poignant causes has to do with airing live events from countries on the other side of the globe.

The first preliminary fight on Saturday's card kicked off at 6:30 a.m. EST stateside and that is certainly an awkward viewing time slot for the American audience. In addition to the early start time, the card was light on names that would ring familiar with the fan base, which put the majority of the focus on the welterweight tilt in the main event between Tarec Saffiedine and Lim Hyun Gyu.

Usatsi_7639345_______crop_north
USA Today/Jayne Kamin-Oncea

By any metric, 2013 was a weird year in mixed martial arts.

After years of setting our watches by the UFC's welterweight and middleweight champions, both Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre disembarked for the great unknown. The world’s largest MMA provider continued to pack its schedule with more and more fight-related goodness, and its relationship with its biggest competitor (BellatorMMA) hit an all-time low.

New champions were crowned (Chis Weidman, Anthony Pettis), while some familiar faces (Robbie Lawler, Matt Brown, Vitor Belfort) reinserted themselves into the conversation. There were bad beats and drug cheats, as well as copious examples of bald men shouting at us from our TV screens, imploring us to open our wallets to purchase their wares.

Perhaps most importantly, women finally came to the UFC. Ronda Rousey was crowned bantamweight champion, and late in 2013 we got word that strawweights are on deck. They’ll be featured in an upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.

Hi-res-7376756_crop_north
Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports

There is an art to matchmaking in combat sports.

While some fights come together with natural ease, most bouts are formed through a hectic process of evaluation. Several aspects need to be graded on each side of the table before committing to the matchup.

Whether or not a fight makes sense in the divisional scheme, timing and making sure both fighters stand to gain similar rewards are the most pressing issues that come to mind. Then, of course, there is the most important aspect of a potential fight: Will both competitors be willing to mix it up and put on a show?

The unfortunate part of the process comes when all of these criteria are met and the fight fails to deliver. That said, the UFC showcases far more exciting tilts than flat fights these days, which goes to show just how good Joe Silva and Sean Shelby are at their jobs.

Hi-res-6264486_crop_north
Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports

Despite getting off to a great start, 2013 wasn't the year that Isaac "Ike" Vallie-Flagg hoped it would be, but he has to chance to start 2014 off with a win at UFC Fight Night 35 on Jan. 15.

In February 2013, the Jackson's MMA fighter made a successful promotional debut by edging out storied veteran Yves Edwards by split decision at UFC 156 in a three-round battle that pushed both men to their limits. The Ann Arbor native had long envisioned getting his hand raised inside the Octagon, and his performance set bigger things in motion for the hard-charging lightweight.

While his profile had run under the radar for years, his victory at UFC 156 was a step in the right direction for him to gain more recognition. And it was well-deserved at that.

Over a five-year span that stretched back to the regional MMA scene, Vallie-Flagg had put together an 11-fight winning streak, with two of those victories coming under the Strikeforce banner. While those wins carried him to the biggest promotion in mixed martial arts, the Albuquerque transplant had every intention of carving out a place in the UFC's lightweight division in 2013.

Hi-res-8042152_crop_north
Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

For a man who has made a career out of crafting spectacular highlight-reel knockouts and unforgettable moments inside the cage, any time Anderson Silva fights, something about it is worth remembering. 

Neither the viewing public nor the former middleweight champion himself will be able to forget the nature of how his highly anticipated rematch with Chris Weidman came to an end last Saturday night at UFC 168. It was an abrupt, unfortunate and ultimately painful end to the fight for the man regarded as the greatest fighter of all time.

The 38-year-old pound-for-pound great threw a left leg kick early in the second round that resulted in a severe break in his lower leg upon being checked by the undefeated champion. The fight was immediately waved off, and Silva was tended to inside the Octagon—which included his broken tibia and fibula being set on site by the cage-side physician.

He was then rushed to University Medical Center in Las Vegas, where he underwent corrective surgery for the injury.

Ufc162mma_crop_north
AP Images


In the end, it was fitting that Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre left the party together.

The Octagon’s two biggest stars began their respective title reigns a little more than a month apart in 2006 and, though St-Pierre’s was briefly interrupted by Matt Serra, they’ll likely always be linked in our minds.

But if 2013 is remembered as the year that UFC lost both of its most bankable champions at consecutive pay-per-view events, then 2014 shapes up as a serious rebuilding year for the fight company.

Silva and St-Pierre leave behind a fairly massive hole, not only in the fabric of the sport but also in the UFC’s bottom line.

Usatsi_7639397_crop_north
Jayne Kamin-Oncea/USA Today

Miesha Tate was smiling as the bell rang to begin the second round. Her face was already swelling and red, the blood that had dotted it carefully wiped away in her corner. None of that mattered. Tate couldn't help but celebrate a little bit.

And who could blame her?

Sure, Ronda Rousey had thoroughly dominated her in the opening stanza, bloodying her face and landing a staggering 63 of 78 strikes, according to Fight Metric. And yes, Rousey had tossed her several times like a sack of potatoes. But Tate had survived—and that was enough.

"You're doing great," cornerman and boyfriend Bryan Caraway said. "You got out of the first round."

A moral victory of sorts, sure, but one putting her in rarefied air. No one else had ever managed even that much. In her eighth professional fight, Rousey would go into the second round for the first time.

Screenshot2013-12-29at7
AP Images

First, there was the sound.

If I am somehow lucky enough to live to a ripe and forgetful old age—and even if that old age is filled with joy and laughter—I do not imagine a time will come when I forget the sound that forced the conclusion of UFC 168.  It was nothing and yet it was everything, at once confusing and horrifying and shocking and depressing.

I have lived some days, and I have seen some things. As a combat medic deployed to Iraq in 2003, I saw plenty of the stuff I'd like to forget. I guess I'll spend the rest of my days trying to forget them, just like I know I'll spend the rest of my days (and especially the next two days) trying to forget the sound that likely ended the career of the greatest pound for pound fighter of my generation. 

If you have never heard a leg broken in person—and this is not something I recommend you seek out, for it is not one of life's great pleasures—then you may count yourself as one of the lucky ones. It is the visuals that often stick with us.

And make no mistake about it; when the realization of what happened hit me, and when I saw the first of what would be many gruesome slow motion replays, I looked down at the table sitting in front of me and the computer resting there. I packed my things, never again looking up to see the awful thing that elicited oohs and aahs and perhaps a few upset stomachs among the fans in attendance at the MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Usatsi_7639321_crop_north
USA Today

The first time Chris Weidman fought Anderson Silva, it ended in controversy, public bickering and demands for an immediate rematch.

The second time there was merely sadness, and that queasy feeling in the pit of our stomachs that comes when very bad things happen to good people.

Weidman retained his middleweight title on Saturday at UFC 168, but only after his hotly anticipated rematch with Silva ended in a gruesome leg injury that may well close the greatest career in MMA history.

The finish came one minute and 16 seconds into the second round, when Weidman checked one of Silva’s whipping low kicks and the former champion suffered a badly broken left leg. Silva crumpled instantly to the mat, where UFC cameras lingered on cageside doctors attending him as he writhed and screamed in pain.