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A Look At The World of MMA in 2008

Seven months into 2008 and the sport of Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) has seen more than one explosion.  Fueled by the ascension of UFC into the current pantheon of major American sports, the entire field has expanded.  The shuttering of Pride FC last year led many to believe that UFC had firmly established itself as the only real game in town, but the predictions of a monopoly were premature.  As with its champions, UFC is going to have to fight to maintain its reputation as top dog.

MMA landed on network television for the first time this May with the debut of EliteXC: Primetime on CBS.  The telecast was the most-watched MMA event in television history with a peak of 6.51 millions viewers who didn’t want to wait for the next major Pay-Per-View event in order to get their fight fix.  Much of this success was due to public curiosity regarding former street brawler and Internet sensation Kimbo Slice, who won in a controversial decision against James Thompson.  While many claim the match was not a great display of technical prowess on Slice’s part, it nonetheless announced EliteXC as the new kid in town looking to make a name for itself.  It also served as a wake-up call to UFC that there are new, legitimate contenders gunning for its crown.

The two fiercest bouts of the year fluctuated between surprising and expected results.  Forrest Griffin stunned many when he took down Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, one of the most feared strikers in UFC and pound-for-pound one of the strongest opponents most fighters have ever faced.  By keeping his distance from Rampage’s near-lethal fists, Griffin was able to focus on leg strikes and win by decision. 

Next up was Fedor Emilanenko, arguably the best fighter in the world, going heads-up with the highly talented Tim Sylvia for the World Alliance of Mixed Martial Arts (WAMMA) heavyweight title, another sign of the emerging MMA organizations making their move into UFC territory.  At 6-8, 260 pounds, Sylvia had a significant advantage in size over the 6-0, 235 pound Emilianenko, but Fedor was unfazed.  With a flurry of his highly accurate punches that resulted in Sylvia tapping out due to a rear choke, Emilianenko has proven himself to be the man to beat, leaving many hoping that this amazing 2008 can end with a bang – the long-awaited battle between Fedor and the legendary Randy Couture.

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