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November 12, 2011

Griffin-Bonnar was most thrilling battle

David Estrada column for Sun Nov 13, 2011

PORT ARTHUR — The results of Saturday night's UFC on Fox event were not available as of the time of this writing. It will be covered in a future column. Today's column will focus on another milestone-making UFC event from last weekend.

UFC 138: Leben vs. Munoz held in Birmingham, England marked a couple of important changes for the UFC as it continues to evolve. The event marked the end of an era for UFC broadcasting. UFC 138 was the last major (numbered) UFC event to be aired on the cable network Spike TV. The perfect pairing between the young male focused network and sport lasted seven years, starting with the original Ultimate Fighter reality show. The alliance created a synergy that brought both to new heights.

The UFC on Spike also provided the seminal moment in UFC history. Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar duked it out for the championship of The Ultimate Fighter show in one of the most thrilling battles in combat sports ever.

At one point during the bout, which was the first MMA bout ever televised on live cable TV, 10  million viewers tuned into Spike. Legions of fans were hooked and as the years have passed the UFC wildfire has made its imprint on the landscape of sport.

UFC 138 also introduced something new for the UFC – the five round non-championship main event. In the past, all non-title bouts were three rounds, regardless if it was on the undercard or the main event. Starting with the Chris Leben vs. Mark Munoz non-title bout to cap off UFC 138 last weekend, all final main event fights will now go five rounds.

One can say this was a shrewd move by the UFC. With so many UFC events being held today and only seven belts to go around, more and more shows are void of championship main events. This change affords viewers the five round climax, characteristic of a title fight.     

In addition to effecting change, UFC 138 also delivered as an exciting event. Mark "The Filipino Wrecking Machine" Munoz showed the extra rounds were not necessary, as he only needed two rounds to blast away Chris Leben to win by TKO.

In last week's column, an argument was presented that the anticipated Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen rematch should not occur because Sonnen has falsely been put up on a pedestal with his cheating. Munoz strengthens the argument by providing a justifiable alternative to face Silva.      

The middleweight from Vallejo, Calif., buzz-sawed through the WEC and has gone 7-2 in the UFC, including a four fight winning streak with his dismantling of Leben.

 A person to watch out for also rose from the event. Terry Etim, a lightweight from Liverpool, England, electrified his countrymen with his quick work of Edward Faaloloto.

The Brit landed a spinning back kick to the face of his opponent, making him look like a Picasso portrait for a split second. The beautifully placed kick discombobulated Faaloloto enough for Etim to sink in a guillotine choke for the victory within 17 seconds of the opening bell.

The emphatic win from a fighter with a highlight reel of them marked Etim's return to the UFC after a year and a half off due to knee injury.

Over a year ago, I mentioned another overseas fighter, Australian George Sotiropoulos, as the next up-and-comer to watch for in the UFC lightweight division. After a phenomenal unbeaten streak, Sotiropoulos was finally taken out this year by another up-and-comer, German Dennis Siver.      

Siver was in turn defeated handily by another powerhouse in Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone at UFC 137 last month.     

This sequence of events demonstrates the depth of talent in the UFC lightweight division and the globalization of the sport. Terry Etim has the potential to be the next big thing at lightweight, but with so many ladder rungs to climb up, it's unlikely he'll ever get to the top.

With this depth of competition, perhaps the UFC should split the lightweight division similarly to what Texas did for high school football. Perhaps one day Terry Etim will hold the 3A Division II belt proudly.

David Estrada Jr. is a Mixed Martial Arts columnist for the Port Arthur News. E-mail  DavidEstrada@DavidEstrada.com

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