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Dolan: February’s Winners and Losers

Despite having only 28 days, February was an action packed month for MMA. The UFC featured two fight cards broadcast on Spike while we also saw a great deal of action from a business perspective.

Not only did a company finally complete a transaction for ProElite’s assets, but the two biggest states in the Northeastern corridor of the United States were involved in major moves regarding the regulation of MMA.

Without further ado, here are my top winners and losers for the month that was.

Losers -

– Josh Koscheck: Everything went downhill for him in a split second. He was dominating Paulo Thiago until he was caught with an uppercut and a left hook that set him into la-la-land. Sure Koscheck argued that the fight was stopped early but he was out there’s no doubt about it. But what is wrong with Koscheck? He once seemed destined to make a serious run at the welterweight title but the past four months have been up and down. He lost to Thiago Alves in a fight he took and short notice in October, then he nearly knocked Yoshiyuki Yoshida head off in December, and now this loss has put Koscheck behind the eight-ball in the title shot scene. It looks like he will return at UFC 99 but he better come in determined to win, otherwise he might need to take an extended break away from the octagon.

– Chael Sonnen: There is nothing better than a second chance, and Sonnen missed a chance to capitalize on his. Had he been able to defeat Demian Maia he might have really made a case to earn title shot vs. Anderson Silva. But following his first round submission loss you have to wonder what UFC matchmaker Joe Silva will do with Sonnen when the promotion is looking to trim its currently bloated roster.

Brian Bowles: He was supposed to face Miguel Angel Torres at WEC 40 for the bantamweight title, but a back injury has forced him out of the fight. Despite being a huge underdog in the fight it would have been interesting to see how he would have fought one of the best fighters in the world. Hopefully the injury doesn’t push him to the back of the contender pack when he’s ready to return.

Joe Lauzon: After his win over Jeremy Stephens, Lauzon was about to find himself on the winners list as he improved his UFC record to 5-1. But news of an ACL injury that will require surgery will land him on the shelf for 12-14 months. Lauzon is a star on the rise, but hopefully his knees won’t keep him from reaching his true potential.

Joe Stevenson: Following his loss to Kenny Florian at UFC 91, Stevenson needed to rebound nicely in his next fight out. Unfortunately he drew Diego Sanchez in that fight. Losing wouldn’t have been as big of a deal had he fought a solid fight. Unable to take control of the fight on his feet Stevenson needed to take the fight to the ground, where he thrives, but he never even attempted a takedown. This allowed Sanchez to sit back and avoid his strikes not fearing the takedown. The loss made him seem like an inferior fighter and could cost him dearly in his quest for the lightweight title.

The State of New York: Dana White wants the state to sanction MMA more than anything. He knows what a huge fight card at Madison Square Garden would be for both the UFC and New York City. It would be like the Super Bowl of the fighting world. But every time it seems to be brought up State Assemblyman Bob Reilly (D) rears his head to derail the attempt. If the state allows boxing matches, MMA should be allowed as well. It’s been proven to be just as safe, if not safer, for the fighter’s well-being than boxing. And in a struggling economy it would pump millions of dollars into NYC each time the UFC arrives. Also don’t doubt the fact that other promotions like Affliction or Strikeforce might also want to take their crack at the Big Apple. For those who compare MMA to human cockfighting, please educate yourself about what you’re talking about before you speak out against it.

Winners -

Diego Sanchez: Dropping down to 155 was a gamble for a man who walks around on a daily basis at about 190 pounds. But his first crack at lightweight was an overwhelming success. At no point did his cardio come into play in his impressive victory over Joe Stevenson. Some still might question how he might react to a fight that’s not one dimensional at 155, but he shouldn’t encounter too many problems. A fight with Sean Sherk or Clay Guida could be an intriguing match up for his next fight. If everything goes to plan for Sanchez in 2009 it could be a huge year for the Nightmare.

Demian Maia and Nate Marquardt: Both men had impressive victories at UFC 95 over Chael Sonnen and Wilson Gouveia respectively. Both men could be in line for a title shot at middleweight but would need to wait to face the winner of Anderson Silva and Thales Leites at UFC 97. One would have to wonder what life would be like for these two men in a world without Silva.

The State of Pennsylvania: Congratulations to the state for getting it right. They’ve passed legislation to allow MMA to take place in The Keystone State. Cities like Philadelphia and Pittsburgh can now be huge draws for promoters to hold cards at. Philly in particular is a potential gold-mine. Just a short drive form NYC, they’ll attract the tri-state area fans that will pump money into the city.

Strikeforce: They made the biggest splash this month when they acquired a large portion of the assets from ProElite. Now the San Jose based promotion has the rights to such fighters as Jake Shields, Nick Diaz, and Frank Shamrock on top of the fighters they already have, which gives them a huge talent pool. Add in the fact theyalso have a television contract with Showtime and CBS they really posses all the assets to make a real run at the UFC. They’ve been handed all the tools to succeed, but as we have seen to many times in the past, let’s see how they use them. All it takes is a few missteps and all of their aspirations are wasted. Good luck Strikeforce.

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