Saturday was a great day for MMA...or at least it was SUPPOSED to be a great day for MMA. First, there was the long-awaited debut of the new Affliction organization - featuring a card that was being billed as the "greatest" heavyweight line up ever assembled. Well...the greatest heavyweight was certainly there - just ask Tim Sylvia, if he can speak coherently by now. It was a long time since Fedor Emelianenko had fought, and there were some who were concerned that he might be rusty. But he turned out to be as rusty as a 2009 Camaro. For those with short memory spans, the Affliction fight card was all it was expected to be. But for those who remember the slew of washed up, overweight, and uninspiring heavyweights that came before the Fedor fight...well, it was a different story entirely.
To combat the hype behind the Affliction fight, UFC President Dana White rolled out a free event on Spike featuring Anderson "Spider" Silva - probably the only fighter in the world in any weight class that can rival Emelianenko's explosive dominance (my apologies George St. Pierre and B.J. Penn). Again, the undercard was dominated by utterly forgettable match ups - including a horrendous ending to the one fight all night that was actually worth watching - Kevin Burns and Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. But, by the time Anderson - now fighting up an entire weight class - entered the ring against James "Sandman" Irvin, nothing earlier really mattered all that much. In what seemed like a matter of miliseconds, Silva caught a kick attempt from Irvin in mid-air, held the leg, and dropped a bomb on Irvin's face that ended the fight - and any chance he had of ever making the cover of GQ Magazine.
So...the two megastars held up their ends of their respective bargains, but the overall impact of the night fell well short of expectations. Fedor now awaits a fight with Randy Couture that might never happen with the current contract dispute between "The Natural" and the UFC. And Silva awaits any opponent who might actually stand a chance against him in the Octagon - which might actually be less likely to happen than Fedor-Couture. Silva is taking dominance to a new level in the UFC, and he is doing it with a level of class and showmanship that makes him one of the single most exciting athletes in all of sports right now - as well as one of the easiest to root for.
Saturday didn't take MMA to any new levels, that much is certain. But the good news is that MMA is going strong enough that it will still prosper in spite of what failed to materialize on Saturday. Especially the more we see of Fedor and Spider Silva.