Honouring “The Greatest” in Inglewood

ufc-199It seems only appropriate that on the day after a legendary fighter passed away that trash talk was on the bill in the UFC.

There is no doubt from anyone who follows combat sports that Muhammad Ali took trash talking to an entirely new level.

He had some of the best lines ever in building fights and for it, he became one of the most popular athletes in the world.

Since Ali, fighters have been using the same strategies to rise to the same level as the man simply known as “The Greatest,” a title that he gave himself and has endured.

That strategy is not lost on any combat fighters including in MMA where fighters have been selling fights with trash talk, although none as creative as Ali.

In the UFC trash talk has taken hold over the last few years with more fighters receiving a brighter spotlight and talking a bigger game.

For many they attribute this to Conor McGregor who has certainly taken it to a new level in the UFC but did not start it in the UFC.

Trash talk may have taken more notice from McGregor but trash talk has been flying long before McGregor ever stepped into the octagon.

At UFC 199 two examples of the lengthy history of trash talk took centre stage to be named the best in their division with two titles on the line.

First up was a long-time rivalry that has been played out in front of the cameras for years as Dominick Cruz defended his bantamweight title against Urijah Faber.

It all started when Cruz got a title shot early in his career against Faber in the WEC and when Faber beat the young Cruz to retain his title.

The talk never stopped between the two since then as Crus rose to be a UFC champions and Faber has yet to reach that goal although he has won titles everywhere else.

Both believe they are one of, if not the best in the world and they have the confidence to tell everyone that they are the best.

That confidence drives this rivalry and the talk came to a head when they faced off at UFC 132 in 2011 when the roles were reversed and Faber was coming after Cruz’s belt.

The results were reversed too as Cruz showed his development into one of the best fighters in the world and defended his title keeping Faber at arm’s length of that title.

That second fight only heated up this rivalry though as both have been talking about each other since and finally they got the chance to settle things at UFC 199.ufc-199ii

Cruz was returning from an almost four-year layoff where he only fought once in between knee surgeries but also after he came back to beat T.J. Dillashaw to earn a belt that he technically never lost.

Faber got his chance to finally get that elusive UFC belt after spending a career fighting the who’s who of the MMA world and earning plenty of gold everywhere else.

As with every bantamweight fight involving Cruz, the pace was quick and the champion was hard to hit.

Cruz’s awkward style kept Faber on his heels the entire fight as Faber simply couldn’t find a time to throw big punches.

Meanwhile, Cruz landed a number of good shots hurting Faber more than once in the fight and showing why he is considered a dominant champion.

Cruz took the unanimous decision win and remained the champion as the rivalry continued with Cruz taking 2-of-3 in what could be the last time these two fight.

In the main event, the talk may not have been as obvious for a long time but it was there for a while as Michael Bisping and Luke Rockhold got to settle their beef.

For most this rivalry started around 2014 when Rockhold and Bisping continued to mention each other in octagon interviews.

The talk had stretched beyond that though as Bisping and Rockhold had both sparred and according to Bisping, Rockhold lost the sparring match when they faced off.

That is what set off this rivalry as Rockhold took exception to Bisping telling people he had beat him in sparring and began calling the British fighter out.

That led to their first fight where Rockhold took a commanding submission win in the second round of the fight.

At UFC 199 both fighters were looking to put their stamp on the night and the division.

Rockhold looked to prove that he belonged at the top of the division and that he is the true champion by defending his belt for the first time.

Bisping wanted to take advantage of the chance of his lifetime after missing out on title shots time and time again throughout his career.

mma-sidebar.fwAfter putting together a great career it was time for Bisping to step up and get his belt but a very tough opponent stood in his way along with his two weeks of preparation after taking the fight on short notice.

The fight started as most do with both fighters feeling each other out and making sure they didn’t fall into anything.

Bisping looked to counter a longer Rockhold as he attempted to avoid the big kicks and use his great boxing along with his renewed movement.

Rockhold launched a big right hand that tagged Bisping but the Brit followed his plan and launched a counter combination that rocked the champion and then followed it up with another.

Before anyone knew it the middleweight division had a new champion as he became the first British fighter to win a title in the UFC and the third Ultimate Fighter winner to take home a title.

On a night where combat sports was without its biggest star of all time four fighters showed what has become of the world of combat sports since a young man named Cassius Clay claimed that he was “The Greatest.”

In the end, two fighters did what Ali did best throughout his legendary career they followed up their trash talk and took home a belt as a champion in the stadium where Ali took home his second NABF heavyweight championship.

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