Best-of-the-best ... so far
It's hard to believe we're more than halfway through 2008. In what has been a roller-coaster year of action in cages and rings around the world, mixed martial artists have never before enjoyed more prominent venues to showcase their skills.
Though we've got a long way to go before the year's end, so much has happened that it's worth reflecting upon the best in four mid-year categories.
In front of an appreciative crowd in Sacramento, Calif., the 135-pounders went to war for three rounds before doctors stopped the contest because Maeda's right eye had swelled shut. While the entire fight offered quality action, it was the
Defending his World Extreme Cagefighting bantamweight belt against the Pancrase champion, Torres met resistance each time he attacked -- and he attacked a lot. Maeda refused to be pushed out of the way by the dangerous champion, making a competitive round incredibly exciting as 10,000-plus fans inside Arco Arena went wild when the two exchanged leg locks.
Each fighter took hard shots. Each recovered. In many ways, the second was a perfect round, having displayed the skill and will that only the best fighters carry into the cage.
There was no backing down in this EliteXC middleweight title fight. Lawler and Smith
With both men fighting in their hometown of San Jose, Calif., the crowd was electric as Shamrock and Le made their way into the
The notion of finishing a fight via gogoplata -- a choke submission applied using leverage and a shinbone -- was virtually unheard of in MMA until Aoki pulled the funky move from the guard against
Submissions can come out of nowhere, even with the most dynamic fighters. Hazelett's
Like Aoki's mounted gogoplata, the
It wasn't the cleanest knockout of the first half of '08, but Silva's destruction of Jardine was by far the most vicious.
The Brazilian former Pride champion found Jardine's chin early. With Jardine down, Silva, his aggression on high, unloaded a series of shots that had the former bounty hunter sprawled on the octagon canvas unconscious. This was vintage "Axe Murderer" -- an encouraging sign for Silva's long-time followers who felt he might've lost a step in recent years.
A fight 99 percent of you probably haven't seen ...
Torres-Maeda had everything you want in a fight: skill, heart, emotion, fortitude, aggression, submission and striking. Add in the facts that it was being contested for a major title in one of the sport's most exciting divisions and that, as mentioned earlier, the second round of the five-period clash was hands down the best round of the year, and it shouldn't be a surprise it tops this list.
Within the next six months, it will take a tremendous effort on the part of two fighters in a meaningful bout to remove this fight from the top of the best bouts of 2008.
Still fresh in our minds, Griffin-Jackson was the best UFC-promoted bout of the year so far. Forget the controversy surrounding the judges' scores. Griffin and Jackson went toe-to-toe over five rounds to determine which light heavyweight would stand atop the UFC's deepest and most important division. Griffin won out, though he almost immediately acknowledged a rematch would be necessary -- a prospect many fight fans were quite pleased to hear.