When the UFC started, who would have thought it would reach #100? Not just because of the controversies, the John McCains, and the banishment from pay-per-view that almost killed the sport. I'm talking about the fact that the events used to be held once every three or four months. Even without any do-gooders trying to ban the sport, back then I wouldn't have expected UFC 100 until around 2025!
Everyone made weight for Saturday night's event, so here is a rundown of the action:
#12 Frank Mir (#5 HW) vs. #23 Brock Lesnar (#7 HW): The UFC heavyweight title fight is the headlining fight, a rematch of the earlier Mir win. But these fighters rank only fifth and seventh in the SportsRatings Heavyweight rankings by weight class. Still, the winner can lay claim to being possibly the 2nd best in the weight division, and maybe the best non-Affliction-affiliated heavy.
Personally I hope Mir wins the rematch, too. Having a pro wrestler as heavyweight champ blurs the line between WWE and UFC. And although steroids are clearly rampant throughout the UFC, it's nothing like it is in pro wrestling, and Lesnar is (in my opinion) such a poster boy for steroid use that I don't want to see him representing the premier spot on their ticket over the years. There's also the small fact that he didn't have to do much to get a shot at the title.
But he won. Clearly he's a talented wrestler, and has a killer punch if it connects—just ask Randy Couture. If he remains champion, one can only hope Fedor eventually makes it over to the UFC. Having Lesnar reign as champ brings back bad memories of Tony Mandarich, another monster-sized athlete who was unfairly dogged by steroid accusations.
#2 Georges St. Pierre (#1 WW) vs. #11 Thiago Alves (#2 WW): This Welterweight fight should feature more technique than the headliner. These guys are the #1 and #2 Welterweights in the game today. Alves is on a seven match win streak, actually two fights longer than St. Pierre, who is up to #3 on the All-Time rankings. Both beat Matt Hughes and Josh Koscheck along the way.
This should be a classic striker vs. grappler match, with St. Pierre wanting to get the fight on the ground where he'll have a major advantage, and avoid getting clocked while on his feet which seems to be the only conceivable way he can lose a fight. Alves takedown defense will be critical and he needs to make sure he isn't so concerned about it that he doesn't use his opportunities, or defend against St. Pierre's strikes, too. And while St. Pierre isn't lost when on his feet, neither is Alves on the ground, so it will be interesting to see how these fighters have improved their lesser-known abilities for this match. Should be a good one, from the best two fighters of the evening.
#41 Jon Fitch (#6 WW) vs. #95 Paulo Thiago: Thiago is undefeated at 11-0, but his only real accomplishment is his defeat of #91 Josh Koscheck, during which he was in deep trouble before hitting Koscheck with a stunning combination that knocked him out cold. Fitch on the other hand has been fighting at the UFC level for years, and that experience should give him the edge. He also knows what not to do against Thiago: think you've got it won and get careless.
Despite the high-profile KO, Thiago is a more known for his submission work and has clearly got a strong chin, so Fitch will have his hands full. Though not ranked highly yet, Thiago is undefeated so it's hard to tell just how good he is. Fitch—whose only loss in the last seven years is to George St. Pierre—will provide another solid test to prove he's for real.
#16 Dan Henderson (#2 MW) vs. #78 Michael Bisping: Henderson and Bisping bring their "Ultimate Fighter" coaching battle to UFC 100. Henderson was #2 in the world in early 2000 and is approaching 40 years of age. How much longer will he stay among the elite? Bisping has been beaten only once in his career (by Rashad Evans) but his important wins are far fewer.
There's no reason Henderson can't win this fight. He has more power, and far more experience. But it's possible we could see the passing of the torch Saturday night.
#78 Yoshihiro Akiyama vs. #119 Alan Belcher: This isn't a great light heavyweight contest on paper, in terms of how (un)impressive the fighters' résumés are. Akiyama hasn't had a fight against a good opponent since his loss (ruled a NC) against Kazuo Misaki in late 2007. And the last good opponent he beat was Denis Kang two months before that.
So we have one fighter who beat Kang 20 months ago against another who beat Kang six months ago. Belcher is 5-3 in the last three years, while Akiyama is 6-0 with 2 no contests. Akiyama's poor recent opposition would come back to haunt him against anyone but Belcher, who only has UFC experience on his side as this is Akiyama's league debut.
#90 Mark Coleman vs. #223 Stephan Bonnar: Mark Coleman, one of UFC's all-time greats, returns to the Octagon again after his loss to Mauricio Rua in UFC 93. This time his competition isn't quite the same level, the stakes aren't as high, and he's not even on the main card. Most are pegging Coleman to lose, as he's pushing 45 these days, but Bonnar is no exceptional talent, and Coleman is still one of the best wrestlers in the game. He just has to be able to finish with something other than his now-illegal headbutts that served him so well in his heyday, and not run out of gas. Coleman's last hurrah, or final ignominious defeat in the Octagon?