Posted 01/10/2014 by Mike Fagan in Untethered MMA

The Top Ten MMA Moments of 2013, No. 6-10

10. (TIE) Shane del Rosario and Leandro Souza pass away.

We tend to avoid death. It makes us uncomfortable and anxious and, holy cow, I’m almost thirty and I’m writing about a sport where death is a very real possibility, what the hell am I doing with myself?

MMA has largely spared its fans from having to deal. The sports old stars are still a couple decades away from dying en masse, and the few in-ring/in-cage deaths have been scattered throughout regional or international shows.

This year, though, two fighters died that had some lasting impact. Shane del Rosario was 30 years old. Once a promising heavyweight prospect, his career derailed following an accident with a drunk driver. Then, shortly after pulling out of a fight with a rib injury, del Rosario suffered two heart attacks. He died two weeks later.

Leandro Souza took a fight for Shooto Brazil on short notice. He attempted to cut 33 pounds in a week…to reach the flyweight limit. Assuming a one-pound allowance, Souza was trying to cut 20% of his bodyweight in seven days. While cutting the last two pounds before weigh-in, Souza suffered a stroke and passed away. He was 26 years old.

9. Tito Ortiz steps into TNA Wrestling.

On July 31st, Bellator announced Quinton “Rampage” Jackson and Tito Ortiz would headline a pay-per-view on November 2nd. A day later, Ortiz stepped foot into TNA Wrestling. He stood there and stood there and stared and crossed his arms and the cameras cut to the wrestlers who all looked very surprised for some reason and he stood and stared some more and more shock from the wrestlers while the audience reacted like they saw a guy walk down a street.

Ortiz, shocking no one, pulled out a week before the fight with an injury. Bellator removed the card from pay-per-view, choosing instead to air it on Spike TV with Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez in the main event. Jackson would later knock out Joey Beltran two weeks later.

8. Ben Askren signs with ONE FC.

On July 31st, Ben Askren defended his Bellator Welterweight Championship for a fourth time, defeating Andrey Koreshkov by TKO. The bout fulfilled his contract with the promotion. Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney announced they would waive their matching rights if the UFC gave Askren an immediate title shot. The UFC called their bluff, and Bellator gave Askren his unconditional release on November 14th.

It should have been a slam dunk signing for the UFC. Conservatively, Askren would have fit near the tail end of the UFC’s top ten welterweights alongside names like Jake Shields, Matt Brown, and Martin Kampmann. Instead, the UFC passed, suggesting Askren pick up wins in World Series of Fighting. Askren rebuffed their advice, choosing instead to sign a two-year/six-fight deal with Singapore-based ONE FC.

7. Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta announce UFC Fight Pass.

Hours before the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman, the UFC announced details of their new digital subscription network. UFC Fight Pass would bring fans live fights! The entire Zuffa library! Exclusive content! It’s Netflix for the fight fan! And that’s not all! The UFC would provide a free two-month trial subscription!

So far, the trial subscription feels more like a glorified beta test. Several key features are missing: playlists, comprehensive search, a fucking time counter on the video player. The library is far from complete. Page organization is non-intuitive. UFC Fight Pass feels incomplete.

The service will also exclusively house the former Facebook/Youtube prelims, taking a product the UFC gave away for free (and 99% of fans don’t care about) and putting it behind a pay wall. So, that’s great. And if you want to cancel, good luck. There’s no option on the website. A user has to email support. In 2014.

On the plus side, the UFC Singapore stream seemed to work for 99% of people. By this time next year, the UFC should have most of the kinks worked out, and the product will end up closer to what they promised it would be. But with the WWE announcing their own, far-more-impressive digital network, fight fans may be in for a long wait.

6. Jimmy Lennon Jr. announces Tarec Saffiedine as new and final Strikeforce Welterweight Champion.

Scott Coker’s baby only survived seven years in the MMA business. Birthed into the arms Frank Shamrock and Cesar Gracie, Strikeforce’s journey began in the friendly confines of San Jose’s HP Pavilion before branching out north and east. When former partner EliteXC folded, Strikeforce stepped into their Showtime deal, and eventually landed a spot on CBS after going further east into Russia to sign former no. 1 heavyweight Fedor Emelianenko.

While Strikeforce’s growth provided a (and perhaps the last) legitimate number 2 alternative to the UFC, it also may have contributed to its downfall. Coker’s business partners grew uneasy with the costs of running a true national promotion before ultimately selling out to the UFC itself.

Zuffa heads Dana White and Lorenzo Fertitta announced they would continue running the organization. And they did. Sort of. They purged talent. The scheduled slowed. Strikeforce put on 16 events in 2011. They scheduled 8 between 2012 and 2013, running only 6 of them. The writing was on the wall, and on December 20, 2012, Coker announced that their January 12 show would be their last.

The last event resembled very little of what made the promotion what it was. Four of the five main card bouts were one-sided squash matches. The faces that built the organization – Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Nick Diaz, Frank Shamrock – weren’t scheduled to fight. (Shamrock was on broadcasting duties.) But the show ended on a somewhat satisfying moment: Strikeforce prospect Tarec Saffiedine defeated UFC castoff Nate Marquardt to become the last Strikeforce welterweight champion.

Mike Fagan