Seven months, three falls of dominant UFC champions. Kamaru Usman, Israel Adesanya and Valentina Shevchenko no longer hold their titles. Does that indicate anything? According to experts in MMA, a new era is dawning where seven years of dominance will no longer be practically unrepeatable, as was the case with the legendary Anderson Silva. Why?
MMA is still a new sport. It’s still evolving, still moving forward and still surprising. The quality is growing, the competition is growing, new methods are being developed, and in addition to the fighters, the coaches and analysts who are tasked with reading the opponents are also making progress.
And this is probably exactly why we are seeing more and more results that we would not expect. Examples? In December 2021, no one expected Amanda Nunes to lose to Juliana Peña, yet it happened. Even though the Brazilian won the rematch, she lost her reputation for being unbeatable.
In August 2022, long-time dominant welterweight king Kamaru Usman fell for a change. He was shut out in the fifth round by Leon Edwards. The Jamaican native then dominated the March 2023 rematch as well, even winning on points. Right.
Then in November 2022, Israel Adesanya also fell. Until then, the virtually untouchable middleweight champion. Alex Pereira, the man who had beaten him twice before in kickboxing, found the recipe for him again. Now they’re going to have a rematch.
And to make matters worse, the dominant queen Valentina Shevchenko also fell in early March this year. She was defeated by Alexa Grasso. A sensation few expected. But it happened.
It seems the long-time champions are on the decline. In the welterweight division, the champions have been changing like clockwork since Jon Jones left. Not counting the inactive women’s featherweight, the longest reigning king of his weight class is Alexander Volkanovski. He has held the featherweight belt since 2019 and has had four successful defenses.
MMA is changing. Longtime champions an endangered species?
The UFC is the absolute pinnacle of MMA. That there are dominant champions to a greater extent elsewhere doesn’t necessarily mean anything. In fact, the entire MMA world will likely follow the UFC in the trend of disappearing longtime champions.
At least that’s what MMA experts and coaches agree. There are several reasons for this. First and foremost is the growing popularity of the sport. Secondly, its evolution. Especially in terms of tactics and video discussions.
According to Xtreme Couture trainer Eric Nicksick, for example, Francis Ngannou spent hours watching footage of their first mutual duel and his trilogy with Daniel Cormier before his rematch with Stipe Miocic.
Nicksick particularly singled out former champion, Olympic champion and UFC fighter Henry Cejudo again, with whom many fighters or fighters train and discuss tactics. Jiří Procházka also tasted his methods.
“Cejudo does a fantastic job in his breakdowns on his YouTube channel. The best fighters look for the slightest loopholes in their opponent. It’s the same as in football. When you find a hole in your opponent’s defense, you try to exploit it over and over again with your best player,” Nicksick told ESPN.
Champions at a disadvantage?
But the big problem for champions like Usman, Adesanya and Shevchenko is that they are also under a huge microscope. Their every move is being watched. Everyone sees their fights, it’s easy to get to them.
Plus, they have a big disadvantage in that they never really know who they’re going to fight. Basically, they have less time to prepare. In fact, potential challengers prepare for long-time champions long before they even get to fight them.
They simply have a target on their backs. Belal Muhammad, for example, confirmed this with his words, “I always watch the champions’ matches. I always watch and see what I have to do to adjust and to beat him. That’s what most fighters do. Especially when Usman was that champion, I wanted to be the one to dethrone him.”
However, MMA is more competitive now than it has ever been. “It’s even three times more competitive than it was three years ago. It’s fair to say that. With the global expansion, more events are being held all the time, new gams are being created and new fighters are growing in numbers,” says Fortis MMA coach Sayif Saud.
So it seems that the era when Georges St. Pierre or Anderson Silva, for example, ruled their divisions for many years is slowly coming to an end. While it was a wonderful era, the quality of MMA will go up thanks to the great competition, which is only good.
Source: ESPN, UFC
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