twitter google

The Future Of The Sport

5 oz*Editors Note – Right off the bat I’d like to wish all of you a very Happy Thanksgiving from all of the FiveOuncesofPain crew. On a personal note, I am thankful today for all of you readers that continue to support 5 Oz. by making the choice to visit Five Ounces on an hourly, daily, or even weekly basis. It’s all of your support , combined with a somewhat unhealthy passion for the sport, that gives us the fuel to continue to provide all of you with the quality content you have come to expect from us on a daily basis. I’d also like to thank all of the 5 Oz. staff that makes 5 Oz. tick. So a big thanks first of all to the creator of the brand, without which none of this would have been possible, Sam Caplan, along with David Andrest, Brendhan Conlan, Jason Polley, Adam Tool, Barrett Hooper, Caleb Newby, Dustin James, and of course our friendly and outspoken TUF 10 blogger, Mike Wessel.

One thing I am particularly grateful for on this day of thanks is without a doubt the rapid and continuous evolution of this great sport we have all come to understand and love: Mixed Martial Arts; The rawest and purest from of athletic competetion on the face of the earth.

It seems like just yesterday that I was rolling around with a bunch of sweaty savages in an offensive scented dojo on the wrong side of the tracks that Spike TV and the UFC announced plans of a new series titled “The Ultimate Fighter”.

The premise of the show was to enlighten the large majority of the viewing public to the fact that these fighters are athletes of the highest caliber. Nothing could be further from the bar-room brawler stereotype that many fans associated with fighters like Tank Abbott and Harold Howard in the earliest days of the UFC.

Obviously the show that is now scheduled for it’s eleventh season was a tremendous success in every way imagined possible, and the boom of the sport has been almost unprecedented in the five years since it’s inception.

Gone are the days of UFC’s not being broadcast on Pay-Per-View altogether. The days of leapfrogging from venue to venue in less than ideal locations like Augusta, Georgia; Dothan, Alabama; and Mobile, Alabama.

No, today are the days of all the mixed martial arts you could handle, and more. A virtual all-you-can-eat buffet of fighting is available to both the avid and casual fan at any given time. These are the days of the UFC being broadcast for free in the UK and Pay-Per-Views being offered up on a more than regular basis. These are the days of the UFC on Spike TV on a weekly basis. The days of Strikeforce on Showtime and CBS; WEC is on the Versus Network; and even MTV has caught on to the MMA revolution, throwing their hat in the mix with “Bully Beatdown” featuring Jason “Mayhem” Miller.

With the rapid growth of this phenomenal sport that dates back to the days of the Ancient Romans, you can already see the changing of the tide with some of the game’s rising talent that has been exposed to MMA at a younger age than any generation before them.

As shocking as it is to someone just entering his “new twenties”, many of the game’s fastest rising superstars missed the original Star Wars boat altogether.These are kids much more familiar with Darth Maul than the menacing and mechanical breathing Darth Vader. Fighters that have never traded a Garbage Pail Kid and would look at you with a blank expression on their face if you dared to make a He-Man, Voltron, or Snarf  Snarf reference.

The No Fear frown logo’s that populated human chests and automotive window decals have been replaced by the TapouT logo that has invaded a high school near you like a zombie plague. A zombie plague that the MMA community could be nothing short of thankful for.

There are seven year old children playing UFC Undisputed right now that would completely pwn you if you dared to challenge them in an online duel. The Bruce Lee posters of the eighties have been replaced by “Iceman” posters today.

MMA schools all around the world are profitting from children’s classes that often exceed the attendance levels of the adult classes. While Little League Baseball and Pop Warner Football hasn’t taken a significant hit in the last several years, the rapidly increasing levels of young children focusing their energy and focus on Jiu-Jitsu, Boxing, Muay Thai, and Mixed Martial Arts training is impossible to ignore.

You can look directly at the newly crowned WEC featherweight champion Jose Aldo as a living, breathing example of where the sport is heading in the coming years. A twenty-three year old prodigy with all of the early signs of a champion that will reign as long as he feels fit. But who knows when the next Aldo will come along.

The bottom line is that “The California Kid” is no longer a child, and there will also come a day sometime soon when “The Brazilian Kid” is no longer a kid either.

I wanted to take a closer look at many of the sport’s fighters that promise to become the future of the sport in the coming years. Whether they’re on top of their respective division currently or not; There’s no reason for any of these guys listed to be going anywhere in the coming decade. Many of the superstars of tomorrow are undoubtedly still in grade school, and many haven’t even given competing in MMA any serious thought; but journey along with me as I take a look at many of the game’s top athletes you’re going to have to get used to seeing for quite some time to come.

The Heavyweights

Alistair Overeem – 29: It’s hard to imagine that this veteran of over forty professional mixed martial arts bouts could still be in his twenties; but he is. “The Demolition Boy” began throwing down at just 19 years old in the Netherlands, winning by submission before hopping in a plane: destination Japan, to pick up the first loss of his career via majority decision just FOUR days later. Overeem literally graduated from the school of hard knocks. Already with victories over fighters such as Vitor Belfort and Sergei Kharitonov, Overeem has the potential to take over the heavyweight division in the next couple of years .

Cain Velasquez – 27: With just seven professional fights to his credit and his most recent victories coming over the likes of Ben Rothwell and Cheick Kongo, the sky seems to be the limit for Velasquez right now. Cain shows visible and impressive improvements in his game every time out of the gate, and it’s that kind of dedication and will to learn that will take the gifted wrestler as far as he chooses to go when it’s all said and done.

Todd Duffee – 23: How could you not get amped about a twenty-three year old that comes into the UFC in just his fifth professional fight and shatters the Octagon record for the fastest knockout in the promotion’s history? Training out of the American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, the 6’3″, 250 pound Duffee is a work in progress with all the potential to hurt some serious feelings in the upper ranks of the heavyweight division for many years to come.

Brett Rogers – 28: Rogers has fallen under criticism in the past for being a bit on the raw side, but there’s no denying his natural talent for smashing heads. The thing people need to remember with “Grim” is that not only is he just twenty-eight years of age, but the guy has been training in MMA for about four years now. That’s eight years less that Fedor Emelianenko for those of you keeping track. They say the last thing to go on a fighter is the power of their punch; Expect for Rogers to remain a threat to knock ANYONE out for at least the next ten years.

Junior dos Santos – 25: A brown belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with a penchant for knocking his opponents out that trains alongside fighters like Anderson Silva and the Nogueira brothers, Junior has already notched wins over respected heavyweights such as Fabricio Werdum, Stefan Struve, and most recently, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.

Dave Herman – 25: The scariest thing about the future of this 6’5″, 240 pound “Pee-Wee” is the fact that he really only started getting serious about his training for mixed martial arts about six months ago. The naturally gifted Herman has done pretty well considering, notching wins over fighters such as Ron Waterman, Don Frye and Jim York during his still developing career. It’s also worth mentioning that not a single one of Herman’s fourteen scraps have gone to the judges.

The Light Heavyweights

Gegard Mousasi – 24: They don’t come any more naturally talented than Gegard. The guy is barely twenty-four years of age and has been throwing down professionally for over six and a half years for a total of thirty bouts; twenty-seven of which he has won. Mousasi is currently riding a fourteen fight win streak with victories over fighters like Denis Kang, Melvin Manhoef, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Renato “Babalu” Sobral and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou along the way.

Mauricio “Shogun” Rua – 28: Shogun is the definition of the new breed of mixed martial artists. Surrounded by the fighting everywhere he looked in his birth town of Curitiba, Brazil, Rua began training in Muay-Thai at just fifteen years of age before beginning his Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu training at seventeen. At just twenty-four years old Shogun beat Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem and Ricardo Arona in succession (the latter of the two on the same evening) to capture the PRIDE Middleweight Grand Prix Championship and was widely considered to be the best 205 pound fighter in the world. Now, some five years later, it has become apparent that Rua will not be going anywhere in the near future.

As a side note, would like to wish Mauricio a Happy Birthday, as one of the best fighters on the planet was brought into this earth twenty-eight years ago yesterday.

Thiago Silva – 27: There’s nothing scarier than a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with a nasty reputation for knocking his opponents motionless, and Thiago fits the bill to a tee. The American Top Team trained fighter confirmed that he will be a force to reckon with for quite some time at light heavyweight in his last bout where he left the highly respected Keith Jardine in a heap.

Jon Jones – 22: One of the most promising young fighters on this list, “Bones” has had quite a knack for making what works for him, work in the UFC. I’ll point directly at Jones equally unorthodox and effective fighting style as an example of where the sport will be heading in the coming years. It’s fighters like Jones that come along and let you know that there is still so much left to be learned about this still growing sport of ours.

Ryan Bader – 26: It’s guys like “Darth” Bader that let you know how crucial a strong wrestling base will be in the evolution of the game. Bader was a two-time state champ in high school on the mat before he transferred over to ASU where he wrestled alongside fellow UFC athletes CB Dollaway and Cain Velasquez, becoming a three-tme Pac 10 champion and a two-time Division I All-American in the process. Bader’s ability to take the fight wherever he pleases makes him a threat to anyone he faces from this point forward in his fighting career.

Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal – 28: Mo is a rare animal. A unique, naturally gifted athlete that would likely find success in any sport he chose to compete in. The amount of success Lawal obtained on the wrestling mat after getting a late start in high school is nearly unparalleled. You’re just not supposed to become an Olympic caliber athlete without training in the sport for your entire life. There’s no reason for Muhammed not to be able to go as far as he chooses in the sport with the proper development.

The Middleweights

Nick Diaz – 26: It’s hard to believe that a fighter as respected and tested as Nick Diaz is only twenty-six years old when his breakthrough TKO over Robbie Lawler was well over five years ago. Nick made his professional fighting debut immediately following his eighteenth birhday and hasn’t taken a back step ever since. One little known fact about Diaz is that he pulled out a decision victory over Chris “Lights Out” Lytle in just his second pro bout.

Alan Belcher – 25: Dubbed as “The Talent” for good reason, Belcher is a brown belt in BJJ with a stand up game that is as lethal as they come. Alan got his start in the sport at twenty years of age and five years later he is among the most respected middleweights in the UFC with victories over the like of Jorge Santiago, Ed Herman and Denis Kang.

Kendall Grove – 27: A high school wrestler out of Maui, Hawaii, Grove is one Ultimate Fighter that we will likely see in the UFC for many years to follow. During his stint in the Octagon, Grove has compiled wins over names such as Ed Herman, Alan Belcher, the late Evan Tanner, and most recently, Jake Rosholt during UFC 106.

Robbie Lawler – 27: Another fighter who’s age is deceiving based on his accomplishments in the sport, Lawler had thrown down three times as a professional before his nineteenth birthday and wound up in the UFC at just twenty years old. A former Icon Sport and EliteXC champion, Lawler has notched wins over Chris Lytle, Joey Villesanor, Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Frank Trigg and Scott Smith during his career up to this point.

Luke Rockhold – 24: If you haven’t already taken note of this fast rising middleweight prospect fighting out of Strikeforce; Make sure to do so now. Training full time out of the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, California, Luke has gone undefeated in his five fights under the Strikeforce banner, with his previous victories being first round blow outs over Cory Devela and Jesse Taylor.

Jason “Mayhem” Miller – 28: Miller’s another one of those guys that has been fighting since he was legally permitted to, skipping out on his senior prom to compete in his first professional fight, and taking his would-be date along with him. It’s apparent that Mayhem made the choice as he is now widely regarded as one of the best middleweights in the business and a long career in hurting people ahead of him.

CB Dollaway – 26: Arizona Combat Sports has a history of developing athletic talent into fighting superstars and Dollaway is a prime example of this. Much like his good friend Ryan Bader, Dollaway is a decorated alumni for the ASU wrestling program that has made quite a niche for himself in mixed martial arts in a short amount of time. Dollaway’s still growing in this game, but at just twenty-six years old his potential should have no boundaries in due time.

The Welterweights

Georges St. Pierre – 28: Already one of the undisputed best fighters in the sport, the fact that GSP is still two years shy of his thirtieth birthday is a frightening prospect for the men choosing to earn their money in the UFC’s welterweight division; Many of who St. Pierre has already set examples of in the not so distant past.

Thiago Alves – 26: With an early training background to mirror Maurico “Shogun” Rua’s, Thiago got his start in Muay Thai at just fifteen years old before beginning full on mixed martial arts training at seventeen. At just eighteen years old Alves got his jump in the sport only to suffer defeat in his first two bouts. Now viewed as one of the most dangerous 170 pound fighters in the game, it’s a good thing for Thiago and his fans he didn’t allow initial failure in something he desired to knock him off course from what he knew in his heart he could achieve.

Dan Hardy – 27: A black belt in Tae Kwan Do and a purple belt in BJJ, Hardy made his jump into martial arts training at just six years of age. Whether he ends up on the winning side of things in his anticipated title clash with GSP or not, there’s no denying that Hardy will be around for some time to come.

Ben Saunders – 26: While Saunders likely looked up to Bruce Lee as a youngster when he got an early start training Jeet Kune Do, it will be tomorrow’s generation of fighters that grew up idolizing and studying the art of combat athletes such as Anderson Silva, Georges St. Pierre and Fedor Emelianenko. A lifelong martial artist, Saunders has shown one of the nastiest clinch games in the sport while recently notching wins over Brandon Wolff and Marcus Davis in the UFC.

Dustin Hazelett – 23: Dustin got his start in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at just sixteen years of age and quickly earned a black belt in the fighting art under Jorge Gurgel. At just twenty-three years of age “McLovin” is considered to be one of the most dangerous submission specialists in the sport with highlight reel tapouts over fighters such as Jonathan Goulet, Tamden McCrory and Josh Burkman during his time spent with the UFC.

Paul Daley- 26: Nicknamed “Semtex” for good reason, Daley got his jump in martial arts studying Karate at just seven years old. Currently considered to be among the top strikers in the business, Daley recently made his presence known in the UFC when he made beating down the highly respected Martin Kampann look easy during UFC 103.

Lyman Good- 24: Make sure to etch this name down in your brain because Lyman Good is very likely the best welterweight that many fans have never heard of. The current Bellator welterweight champion fighting out of New York, Good is poised to make a serious impact on the weight class in the years to come.

Karo Parisyan – 27: While Parisyan is undoubtedly on shaky ground following his recent removal from the UFC, it’s definitely worth noting that “The Heat” is just twenty-seven year of age and has plenty of time to sort things out. Lets not forget this is the same naturally gifted Karo that holds notable wins over guys like Nick Diaz, Chris Lytle, Matt Serra and Ryo Chonan.

Anthony Johnson – 25:
At twenty-five years old, losing to Josh Koscheck in his last outing may have been the best thing that could have happened to Johnson at this point in his constantly developing career. The scariest thing about Johnson and his potential at the division is the fact that his base is in wrestling; The guy didn’t really begin to take his striking seriously until just a few years ago. Now if he could apply that type of dedication to his submission game Anthony would be nearly impossible to beat.

Carlos Condit – 25: Getting his start in mixed martial arts at just eighteen years old, “The Natural Born Killer” has exhibited the type of unlimitless potential in his development as a fighter that future champions are made of. Equally as dangerous on the ground as he is standing, Condit shows considerable and noticeable improvements in his game every time he steps foot in the cage.

Tyron Woodley – 27: Although he got his start in MMA just a year ago, at just twenty-seven years of age and an athletic wrestling based background of the highest caliber, Woodley is being considered by many as one of the up and comers with the potential to be considered among the best in his weight class in the not so distant future. In 2009 alone Tyron has notched five victories all coming by way of submission, with only one of his victims managing to escape the first round.

The Lightweights

Shinya Aoki – 26: Aoki is easily one of the most lethal ground fighters in the sport, along with arguably being one of the very best lightweights the division has to offer. With a submission game currently rivaled in MMA, Shinya has put together impressive submission victories over highly regarded fighters such as Joachim Hansen and Eddie Alvarez.

Joe Stevenson – 27: Talk about hitting the gate running; Stevenson had four fights as a professional, one of which was against Jens Pulver, before the kid had even had a chance to graduate high school. It’s amazing that Joe has been able to compile more than forty bouts as a professional at just twenty-seven years old.

Eddie Alvarez – 25: Alvarez transitioned his skill at cracking heads in the often brutal streets of Kensington, Pennsylvaina to becoming one of the most highly regarded lightweights in the business starting at just nineteen years of age. Since that time the heavy handed Alvarez has put together wins over Joachim Hansen, Tatsuya Kawajiri and earned himself the Bellator lightweight title along the way.

Diego Sanchez – 27: A high school wrestler out of Albuquerque, New Mexico, Sanchez first began training alongside Greg Jackson while working for UPS in 2002. In the seven years since getting his jump in the sport Diego has quickly established himself as one of the superstars of today, and more importantly, of tomorrow while earning wins over the likes of Kenny Florian, Nick Diaz, Karo Parisyan, Joe Stevenson and Clay Guida during his time spent with the UFC.

Tyson Griffin – 25: A stand out wrestler in high school, Griffin made his mind up that he wanted to fight for a living after his first training session with David Terrell where the UFC veteran split Tyson open, creating gashes that required stitches. With wins over Urijah Faber, Clay Guida and Hermes Franca, Tyson has an extremely bright future ahead of him in the sport.

Jamie Varner – 25: A wrestler out of Pima Community College in Tucson, Arizona, Varner got his start in MMA at eighteen years old. Currently training and teaching out of Arizona Combat Sports, the WEC lightweight champion has plenty of years ahead of him in the sport competing at the highest level possible.

Joe Lauzon – 25: Spending a good chunk of his childhood stuck on a small farm, Lauzon developed a penchant for taking computers apart and putting them back together at an early age before graduating Wentworth Institute of Technology with a degree in computer networking. Fate has a strange way of working itself out, particularly in Lauzon’s case where this computer techie destined for a life in front of a keyboard found his true calling inside of the steel fencing of the Octagon cage.

Benson Henderson – 26: Henderson got his start in the sport immediately after obtaining a double major in criminal justice and sociology in college and has quickly established himself as one of the premier lightweights over the last three years he has spent competing in the sport. A former wrestler in both high school and college, Benson will be a force to reckon with for some time to come a 155 pounds.

Roger Huerta – 26: Getting his start in combat sports on the wrestling mat following a troubled childhood, Huerta has show the type of natural talent and promise in mixed martial arts that is hard to come by in the sport. Already with over twenty bouts as a professional to his credit, Roger has put together an impressive record of 6-2 during his time spent with the UFC.

Nathan Diaz – 24: The younger brother to the equally talented Nick Diaz, Nate has earned a reputation as one of the nastiest lightweight fighters in the game in a short span of time. With wins over the likes of Kurt Pellegrino Josh Neer and most recently, Melvin Guillard, Diaz promises to get better and better in the years to come.

Clay Guida – 27: Deceptively young due to the massive mane of hair that has him resembling one of the Geico cavemen, Guida is really just getting started in MMA at just twenty-seven years of age. With wins over fighters such as Josh Thomson, Nate Diaz, Mac Danzig, and a break-neck pace unrivaled in the sport, Clay will be a force at lightweight for the next decade.

Jeremy Stephens – 23: It’s remarkable that at just twenty-three years of age Stephens has somehow manged to put together over twenty fights as a professional. Jeremy has a natural gift for knocking his opponents senseless and wins over guys like Cole Miller, Rafael dos Anjos and Justin Bucholz during his time in the Octagon.

Donald Cerrone – 26:
A former professional kickboxer with close to thirty bouts to his credit, Cerrone has shown all of the early signs of a future champion during his recent scraps with Jamie Varner and Benson Henderson. Anytime a guy is known for one thing (striking) and finishes the majority of his fights with the other (submissions), it’s cause for alarm.

Efrain Escudero – 23: A former All-American wrestler and the lightweight winner of the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter, Escudero shows all the promise one could expect from a fighter his age. His recent demolition of the more seasoned Cole Miller left little doubt to the potential of this lightweight to keep a close eye on in the coming months and years.

The Featherweights

Jose Aldo – 23: The perfect example of the evolution of the sport, Aldo is known for his explosive stand-up game , yet holds a black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and is widely rumored to be better on the ground than he is standing. Jose’s recent running through of Mike Brown for the WEC featherweight crown has left many wondering if there is any end in sight to the title reign of Aldo that has yet to begin.

Joe Soto – 22: One of the fastest rising featherweight’s in mixed martial arts, Soto has been described as a “Urijah Faber with knockout power”. Joe is the reigning Bellator featherweight champion where he racked up wins over highly respected fighters such as Wilson Reis, Yahir Reyes and Mike Christensen.

Josh Grispi – 21: With a reputation for being extremely shy and withdrawn, Grispi does his talking with his fists inside of the cage. Barely twenty-one years old, Grispi has already put together wins over Mark Hominick, Micah Miler, and a former UFC champion in Jens Pulver. In fourteen bouts as a professional, only one of them have made it to the judges scorecards for “The Fluke”.

Follow 5OZ