This is the time of the year when “quarterly” comes up, often as it will three more times before we hit 2016. Looking back at the first three months of 2015 we hear about quarterly reports from companies affecting the stock market; for some it is paying their quarterly taxes in addition to filing their tax returns from 2014. We also hear about the biggest trends, stories, and people of interest at this time of the year in newspapers and on the news and entertainment shows.
The end of the first quarter looms large in sports, it signifies the start of the NBA and NHL playoffs and the beginning of the baseball season.
In the MMA world here is a quarterly report on the things and the personalities who have had an impact of note so far. Everything following is qualified as such, meaning this is the bar that is there to be challenged the rest of the way.
STORY OF THE YEAR: New York, New York. That coveted real estate that is the only piece of property eluding the UFC reach. In a March interview with the man most associated with the powerhouse organization, Dana White told me on Inside MMA that they have a date in Madison Square Garden for December. The UFC is hedging its bet that this summer (at long last) there will not be the usual blockade keeping a bill to legalize MMA from going to a full vote in the New York State Assembly where it appears, and is certainly the hope of fans as well, that there is enough support for it to pass. This would be the icing on the proverbial cake that has been in the oven too long. Yes, that is a pun at the heretofore culinary union lobby against Zuffa that has been the primary reason for the Empire State being the last holdout.
SHOWDOWN POSSIBILITY: UFC 187 is less than a month away and already the card to top with two titles being defended. Light heavyweight champ Jon Jones takes on Anthony Johnson and middleweight title holder Chris Weidman finally faces off against Vitor Belfort. Weidman told Inside MMA‘s Ron Kruck he is very interested in an eventual super fight with fellow New Yorker Jones. For now this is only talk, but it would be at last, a true super fight to stir the masses, even those who only casually follow the sport, after such potential showdowns as Georges St. Pierre versus Anderson Silva never materialized. If both men are successful at 187 the talk will grow in anticipation.
ENTICING STATEMENT: Hall of Fame boxing trainer Freddie Roach is one of the most candid people I’ve ever met in any walk of life. He told me during an Inside MMA interview that he feels St. Pierre is getting the “itch” to return to action and that he has been working out at Roach’s Wild Card Gym in Hollywood. Even leaving behind his gloves, which Freddie takes as an omen he wants to come back not just to the gym. And should GSP un-retire, Freddie says he’ll be in his corner, that in itself is a powerhouse tandem that will again crossover to the fans of boxing and other sports.
UPSET: At UFC 185 in March, Rafael dos Anjos dominated Anthony Pettis through five rounds for an uncontested unanimous decision victory taking the lightweight belt. Not the biggest surprise ever, but ranks in the top 10 or better against a now ex-champ who appeared settled in for a long run.
FIGHT: At the WSOF 19 in Phoenix in March, lightweight champ Justin Gaethje and challenger Luis Palomino stood toe-to-toe through two plus rounds exchanging at will, with Gaethje finally prevailing with a third round TKO win. What it lacked in style points, it was the typical straight ahead style of the champ that made it entertaining throughout, seemingly thriving on Palomino’s ability to hit back. For strictly fun and excitement, this will be hard to top.
OUTSTANDING PERFORMER: Ronda Rousey per usual. The best female fighter on the planet, and arguably the face of the UFC, outdid herself in title bout record time with a 14 second armbar finish over Cat Zingano. Raising the bar for herself and raising the question of: who can seriously challenge her?
CLUTCH PERFORMER: Luke Rockhold’s second round win over Lyoto Machida last week was deserving of the hype. With the impressive win, the former Srikeforce champ, solidified himself as the likely next contender for the UFC middleweight belt. Also in February at UFC 184, Jake Ellenberger sent a strong message he wasn’t finished in the welterweight ranks with a second round submission of veteran Josh Koscheck, stopping a three fight (granted all top level opponents) losing streak. Both had to win for varying reasons and Rockhold and Ellenberger were clutch.
INTRIGUING EVENT ANNNOUNCEMENT: On May 8 in Tunica, Mississippi AXSTV Fights presents a never before event at this level. RFA versus Legacy or Legacy versus RFA. It is a matchup of some of the champs from each organization. Both have an established reputation of sending fighters on the to UFC and it is a credit to Legacy’s Mick Maynard and RFA’s Ed Soares that they thrive on their guys moving on up. It speaks highly of their ability to spot young talent and help nurture the fighters to be their best. It isn’t the first time of match ups between competitors, but not with the status these organizations have earned.
And there’s plenty more ahead.
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