Divisional Dominance: Good or Bad for the UFC?

By E. Spencer Kyte (

With a win Saturday night, Lightweight champ B.J. Penn pushed his undefeated streak at 155 pounds closer to eight years.

Since reclaiming the gold at 170, champion Georges St-Pierre has destroyed all challengers, including Penn.

Anderson Silva has cleaned out the Middleweight division and begins a second tour through the ranks against Dan Henderson next time out.

While Lyoto Machida has yet to defend his Light Heavyweight belt, he’s also never lost a round. That’s 17 straight rounds for Machida over the likes of Sokoudjou, Tito Ortiz, Thiago Silva and Rashad Evans.

And though Brock Lesnar lost his first UFC fight, the dominance he’s shown in winning and unifying the Heavyweight title has caused many in the online community to call for a new division to be created so smaller heavyweights won’t have to deal with the genetic freak of nature.

Five divisions, five dominant champions and one interesting question:

Is having seemingly unbeatable champions atop each division good for the UFC?

First things first: last night’s WEC Bantamweight title fight proved that even the seemingly unbeatable can be beaten; all it takes is a short right hook and a follow-up flurry to crown a new champion.

In fact, Brian Bowles’ upset of Miguel Torres was eerily reminiscent of another piece of WEC evidence supporting the old MMA axiom that “Anything Can Happen,” Mike Brown’s upset of Featherweight champion Urijah Faber.

And lest we forget, the aforementioned Welterweight kingpin took one on the chin from ultimate underdog Matt Serra not all that long ago.

But that was then and this is now, and in each of these five champions latest performances, they looked like fighters without suitable challengers.

Penn’s most likely next opponent is Diego Sanchez and his two wins at 155. While “The Nightmare” was of the belief that he would handle Florian in similar fashion to their battle on TUF 1, I don’t see it that way and think Penn will dispatch Sanchez even quicker than he disposed of Florian should they meet in the cage.

After that, there is talent, but are they really talents that you can see stopping BJ Penn?

UFC 103 will determine who is next in line to face Georges St-Pierre, but after watching the way GSP has handled Jon Fitch, BJ Penn and Thiago Alves in succession, does anyone outside of the Swick and Kampmann families truly believe either stands a chance?

Anderson Silva is kicking ass and taking names at 205, which shows you the state he’s left the Middleweight division in. Has Dan Henderson somehow improved enough over the last 18 months to be able to stop “The Spider” in their second encounter?

Light Heavyweight champ Lyoto Machida might be the most likely to lose his belt, simply because the talent pool at 205 is deeper than any other division. But can you honestly say you expect to see a guy who hasn’t lost a round, yet alone a single fight through 15 career bouts suddenly drop his title? Me neither.

Which brings us to Brock Lesnar.

The reason many fans of the sport have been openly lobbying for the creation of an additional heavyweight division spanning 206-240 or so is because they can’t see anyone in that range stopping Brock Lesnar, and neither can I.

Shane Carwin looks to me to be the closest thing to a legitimate challenger for Lesnar in terms of size, strength and abilities in the cage, but he was staggered by Gabriel Gonzaga when they met and I would bet dollars to donuts that Brock Lesnar hits harder than the man known as “Napao” does.

If you think otherwise, call Heath Herring. Ask him how his face feels.

So, with the potential challengers covered and the path to greatness for each champion has a rudimentary outline, the question remains: is this good for the UFC?

For me, the answer is a resounding yes on many different levels.

From a marketing standpoint, having a champion who remains at the top of their division is a godsend. It gives you a name and a face to promote and showcase over an extended period of time, rather than having to introduce a new #1 every few events.

The only way people get to know a fighter is by hearing their name and seeing their faces time and again, and the only way you can achieve that is by having a long-standing champion.

As a writer, having an “unbeatable figure” at the top of each division offers the always interesting, always enjoyable underdog angle each time the champion steps into the ring.

What made last night’s Torres – Bowles tilt such a major story today was that the unexpected happened and the seemingly unbeatable champion was left looking up at the lights. Having a revolving door atop a division doesn’t offer those kind of possibilities.

The same angle applies when looking at the situation from a fan standpoint as well.

While coin-flip fights are fun, we always remember the “shock the world” moments when David beats Goliath.

Epic wars between two evenly matched opponents fade from our memories, but Matt Serra dropping Georges St-Pierre has a nice cozy seat in our all-time database, right next to the first first girl you kissed and where you were on 9/11. Kelly LeClair and interviewing for a job in Barrie, for the record.

Seeing the invincible proven to be mortal is always better entertainment and a better story than determining which of the two solid fighters is better on that particular night.

The draw of Mike Tyson was his indestructible aura, which is why we all remember James “Buster” Douglas nearly 20 years later, even though Lennox Lewis, Danny Williams, and Kevin McBride all beat him too.

So did Holyfield, but you remember that for different reasons.

The same applies to Mixed Martial Arts.

Give me the dominant champions and their extend reigns of power, if only because the eventual fall from the top is far more memorable.

But that’s just me … what do you think?

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