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Bleacher Report lead mixed martial arts writers Jonathan Snowden and Jeremy Botter have decided to band together—much like The Avengers or the Mega Powers, except better looking and with no tights—and tackle important questions facing the MMA world. Welcome to The Question

First up: Can Daniel Cormier shock the world and end the reign of the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world?

Jonathan: I've been on the Jon Jones bandwagon since it first started taking passengers. To the chagrin of many, I called him the best fighter the sport had ever seen. Not controversial at all today. Groundbreaking in 2011—and he's only gotten better.

Jones is a five-tool fighter. He has the wrestling prowess, sturdy ground game, striking from distance and clinch work to compete with the world's best in each category. Add a legitimate mean streak and an unquenchable will to win and you're left with an athlete seemingly destined to lord over the sport for years to come.

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These are the times we should all hold dear.

Six months from now, if things go south again and 2015 turns into a repeat of this year's drudgery, MMA fans will look back in awe at Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier.

The extended lead-up to Saturday night's UFC 182 main event has been pure pleasure, with Jones and Cormier establishing themselves as one of the greatest pairings in our sport's short history.

At this point, their actual fight will merely be the icing on the cake.

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LAS VEGAS — In the basement of the Ultimate Fighting Championship office on Sahara Avenue is a gym. It is filled to overflowing with weights and mirrors, but there is also a boxing ring, speed bags and other various fight gear.

The gym is ostensibly designed for employee use, but what you'll often find in the gym are fighters who come to town for media engagements and need a place to work out. A select few—the Conor McGregors of the world, for example—are allowed to work out in Lorenzo Fertitta's private gym at the Red Rock casino. The rest are consigned to the basement.

The basement is where I find Myles Jury, a UFC lightweight tasked with the biggest opportunity of his career when he faces the popular Donald Cerrone in the co-main event of UFC 182 this weekend. Jury has just finished an intensive workout. He is bright red, and he is sweating everywhere. He asks if he can have a few minutes to take a shower before our scheduled appointment, and I tell him yes, this is a good idea.

Thirty minutes later, Jury joins me upstairs in a UFC conference room. I tell him that I won't spend very much time asking him about the fight with Cerrone, and he laughs. In the years since I began covering mixed martial arts, I have discovered that it is mostly a terrible idea to ask fighters how their camp is going, or how they plan on beating their upcoming opponent, or how their weight cut is going. They've repeated the answers to these questions so many times that they are automatic. They are not answers. They are reactions. They are instinct.

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There is a short list of athletes who can step away from the fight game and instantly become the hottest topic of discussion when there's a mere mention of them possibly, maybe, perhaps making a return.

Fedor Emelianenko, the great Russian heavyweight. Gina Carano, the first female mixed martial arts star. 

Never mind the fact that they've been out of action for years. Forget about the notion that the sport may have passed them by. People still love to talk about them, and any publication that likes money is in the business of giving readers the things they like to talk about.

And then there's Brock Lesnar. You know the guy. He was the pro wrestler who enraged hardcore MMA fans by having the gumption to jump into mixed martial arts with very little experience (this sounds familiar, does it not?) and then proceeded to anger them even further by winning the UFC Heavyweight Championship.

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If you work in a particularly horrid office environment, you may be familiar with the "White Elephant Christmas" tradition. The basics are simple—everyone brings gifts and puts them in a giant pile. You draw a number and pick in order.

Everyone brings something. Everyone leaves with something.

Simple, right? Nice even.

But there's a twist. There's always a twist.

Those who follow you in line get the chance to "steal" your gift rather than pick their own. This leads, inevitably, to people stealing the one thing that isn't disposable crap over and over again, hurting feelings and morale in the process.

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2014 will not go down as an easy year in MMA history.

At the risk of sounding hyperbolic, it’s difficult to remember another calendar turn when there was such a range of bad news. Cash flow was down, injuries were up, and high-profile arrests seemed weirdly plentiful.

As we thunder toward the home stretch, however, hopes remain high for 2015. Still, choosing a single storyline that “defined” this difficult and occasionally painful year proved a tough task indeed.

Frankly, there were too many headlines to choose from, so please forgive us if your year-defining story of choice didn't make our final list. Here, Bleacher Report MMA writers Jeremy Botter, Chad Dundas (that’s me), Scott Harris and Jonathan Snowden pick their own little darlings and then struggle to come to a consensus.

MMA in 2014: Fight of the Year

By on December 23, 2014

18,782 reads


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2014 was a down year in terms of business for mixed martial arts.

But the action in the cage was better than ever, for the most part. There were classic fights from the championship level on down to the lowest of preliminary bouts. We even got the MMA version of a unicorn—and entire Ultimate Fighting Championship card filled with nothing but finishes.

Whittling all of that action down to a single award for Fight of the Year was a nearly impossible task. Our three Bleacher Report lead writers cursed and called one another names. We threatened to quit on several occasions.

But at the end of the day, we were able to figure out a consensus. On Monday, we gave you our Fighter of the Year. On Tuesday, we hand out our prestigious award for the best fight of 2014.

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Perhaps there was a time when Quinton “Rampage” Jackson was worth the hassle.

Maybe back in 2007—when he entered the UFC with three straight victories and won the light heavyweight championship from Chuck Liddell—it was possible to block out all his background noise.

But those days are long gone now.

Considering his advanced age and considerable baggage (Warning: link contains NSFW language), picking a fight over the 2015 version of Rampage Jackson just feels like a lot of trouble the embattled UFC doesn’t need at the moment.

It certainly struck a very weird note on Saturday when the organization breathlessly announced Jackson’s return. It was less than two years ago, after all, that the notoriously disgruntled fighter left the UFC amid scorched earth (more NSFW language) and hard feelings, and, as of right now, we don’t even know if he’s legally allowed to come back.

MMA in 2014: Fighter of the Year

By on December 22, 2014

50,497 reads


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2014 was a rocky year for high-level mixed martial arts. While there were spots of excitement and transcendent glory, for the most part, it was a year marked by loss.

First came the disappearance of the UFC's two biggest stars, Anderson Silva and Georges St-Pierre, victims of injury and ennui, respectively. Then its two remaining brightest lights, Jon Jones and Cain Velasquez, were also lost for months to injury. 

What remained were a collection of fights, some great and some forgettable, spread thin over dozens of cards. It was an environment, frankly, that made it hard for individual fighters to stand out. By the time their fight was over, all too often, there was barely time to move on to the next fight, let alone to reflect on what we'd just seen.

Despite this, the three candidates for Fighter of the Year were able to overcome their surroundings, making their mark, not just on the year, but on the sport. Lead writers Jeremy Botter and Chad Dundas join me to run down the contenders and, ultimately, pick a winner.

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If you want to get technical about it, Lyoto Machida actually threw two kicks Saturday during his main event bout against CB Dollaway.

Really, though, all he needed was the one.

That crushing left to the body—that’s all it took for Machida to dispatch the overmatched Dollaway just one minute and two seconds into the first round at UFC Fight Night 58 and prove he’s still among the best fighters in whichever weight class he chooses to compete.

“CB is a very tough fighter,” the soft-spoken karate master told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik in the cage after it was over. “But the kick landed, and I saw that he felt it, and I went in for the finish.”

After a bounce-back 2014 for Machida, you could categorize that assessment as one of the year’s biggest understatements.