The New Wave Continues

ufc-fn128It is always interesting when looking at the UFC to see how much the game has evolved over the last 25 years.

Compared to the other major sports around the world, mixed martial arts is a pretty young sport with the UFC celebrating 25 years this year.

The UFC is not the start of the sport and is not the only player in the sports but they are the biggest promotion in the world.

When they began their rise 25 years ago they took the sport to new levels and brought it as close to mainstream as the sport has ever been.

In 25 years things have massively changed though and fighters are consistently changing the way everything has to be done.

When MMA began it was essentially a tough man competition where martial artists from all ends of the earth came to see what style was the greatest.

Then came Royce Gracie at UFC 1 bringing with him a martial art that not many knew about in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.

He dominated taking down fighters bigger than him with a strange new fighting style that had nothing to do with being the strongest or the hardest puncher.

That began the evolution of the sport as BJJ became a staple and was followed closely by wrestling and boxing.

The sport continued to evolve at a rapid pace with fighters that used to be all about one aspect training in multiple disciplines.

Fighters needed to at least know how to defend against other disciplines in order to get to their comfort zone.

That evolution has continued to more recently when specializing in one aspect of the game was no longer good enough as more fighters needed to know it all to be great.

As the fighters get better and more well-rounded in the octagon the next evolution seems to be taking place outside.

Most of the new evolution began with fighters like Chael Sonnen but really took off with Conor McGregor.

He was a good striker and an awkward fighter that continued to win but that is never what made him the superstar he is today.

It was his ability to sell himself outside of the octagon and create news, both negative and positive, that made him a star.

As McGregor’s name grew more fighters began taking a page from his playbook to be the loudest fighter in the game.

It hasn’t always worked and for a while, it was really anybody and everybody trying to talk their way into matchups.

That hasn’t been the best as certain fighters are just not built to be the loud ones but through a lot of trial and error, the fact is that fans love when fighters are authentic.

McGregor truly believes that he is the greatest in the world and makes no bones about him selling fights.

When fighters can be authentic fans react and heading into 2018 those fighters are beginning to emerge.

One of those fighters was Kevin Lee who made a great run towards the lightweight title in 2017 and did a lot of it through his ability to talk.

Like McGregor, Lee truly believes he is the greatest but unlike McGregor, he has been humbled by his most recent experiences.

After winning five straight he got a shot against Tony Ferguson for the interim title but took the loss.

After that fight, Lee went through the ringer losing his longtime trainer and then went through a divorce.

It seemed to give him some perspective but certainly didn’t quiet him as he still truly believes that he can be the best in the world.mma-sidebar.fw

He had a chance to prove that going through all of that has made him better as he was set to face Edson Barboza in his attempt to get back into a crowded lightweight title conversation.

Missing weight was not a great way to do that as Lee weighed in at 157 lbs but Barboza still took the fight.

That weight issue could hurt his progression but an impressive performance might have just overshadowed that issue.

That is exactly what Lee did as he put on a dominant performance for everyone to see with only a brief issue.

From the start, he took the fight to the ground and beat up on Barboza who showed his weak ground game for the second fight in a row.

The only time that Barboza looked like he could win was when he caught Lee with a big head kick in the third round that put Lee on wobbly legs.

That was the only time though as the rest of the fight saw Lee on top of Barboza landed big shots and forcing the doctor to stop the fight in the fifth round.

It was impressive and it puts Lee in the conversation as his dominance against Barboza reminded people of the dominance that Khabib Nurmagomedov showed against Barboza.

Lee is a great fighter with the ability to sell fights along with the best of them and in this era, he will be a guy that the UFC wants to see succeed.

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