THE ROLLER COASTER RIDE OF MMA 2012
Dramamine should have been the main sponsor for fights in 2012. Up and down, maybe, maybe not and twists and turns galore. It was tantamount to riding one of those old, rickety, wooden roller coasters that have survived amidst the vortex machines that are sleeker, offer more flips and spins yet somehow seem safer. You know there is a rhythm to them.
The antiquated type offer excitement as well, but you get the feeling they could derail. All the creaks and crackles as if the wheels and the tracks are still getting acquainted. Whiplash and nausea sneak in alongside the thrills.
It’s the uncertainty of it all that exceeds the danger. This year, outside more than inside the cage there were throwbacks that convoluted fans. The anticipations dashed because of cancellations or drugs, most prevalent steroids or some derivative of them. It was tough to keep holding on at times.
That the UFC had to cancel a show was the topper of this crazy ride, or the low of how uncertain it all was in 2012. That plunge through the tunnel into the corkscrew turn that brings the stomach up to the throat when they had to announce because of Dan Henderson’s injury no one was available to fight Jon Jones the light heavyweight champion therefore no interest in pay-per-view buys, no walk up ticket buys, no event.
That’s exactly what they were saying without exactly saying it that way. And there was a lot of that in 2012, to the point if White House press guy Jay Carney had popped up to spin something at the pre or post fight media deals, it wouldn’t have been surprising.
But it all stemmed from what was the biggest story, technically a gathering of stories into one big explanation of how 2012 was dictated—injuries. Henderson’s injury was paramount in this picture. It started the snowball of a series of potential challengers turning down the opportunity for the title shot against Jones and the result was the historic first of a canceled UFC event. Proving there are only so many real draws in MMA just like boxing.
A domino effect of injuries also canceled two Strikeforce cards, creating wide spread speculation their upcoming event on Showtime could well be the swan song of the once viable organization that has undergone significant changes since being bought out by the UFC in 2011. Again revealing the like it or not limit of top flight fighters who guarantee TV as well as on site attendees.
Drug testing added to the flips and slings of the ride last year. Steroid use was more evident and several time after fights the question either verbally or mentally construed were about who was clean as much as who won. Adding to the ambiguity was the okay from state commissions for TRT use prior to the fight, the grayest of areas for what is a performance enhancer. It is an issue that is expected to be even more provocative in 2013 and eventually there will likely be some constraints on TRT usage or the worst scenario, a wide acceptance to where fighters who normally wouldn’t consider it will just to feel they have a competitive balance.
Still there was many peaks for every valley along the way. Ronda Rousey might have been the individual of the year. She shattered the glass ceiling of the UFC with a multi-fight deal and garnered acclaim from media beyond the usual MMA stories. Georges St. Pierre made a triumphant return from a year and a half absence with a major knee injury requiring surgery to successfully defend his title. Anderson Silva showed he could be the best ever with an undisputed championship performance, again. Benson Henderson and Frankie Edgar turned in one of the best fights of the year and Henderson won the Bazzie as “Fighter of the Year,” by winning a title and successfully defending it twice in 2012.
2011 produced such memorable moments, a true watershed year for the sport, that 2012 had a tough encore. It did deliver moments but almost as much controversy and indecisiveness to prevent any real flow through the calendar.
Now is the New Year and renewed hope that drug testing enforcement in the past will be a wake up call, a resounding one finally. And TRT’s will become AWOL from the sport. Injuries can never be predicted and in combative sport is always a threat to stifle an event or at least change the anticipation dramatically. It does make one wonder if the insurance policy the UFC so rightfully introduced had an effect on fighters who wouldn’t take the chances they had in the past of continuing on with an injury. That’s still a very maybe-maybe not scenario that will be watched closely.
There are title fights ahead and contenders to step up and pretenders to go away, it is the ride every fan wants. Just a little less bumpy this time.
Watch Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten LIVE every Monday night on Inside MMA, and check out Kenny’s new book “Not Hit Yet” an insider look at the MMA world in 2012, available at Amazon now
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