Going back in time: How the UFC has changed in 6 years

nullThe UFC, and MMA in general, has evolved a great deal in a short amount of time.

If you need any proof of that, just take a short trip back to 2005.

Six years ago today, the UFC was one week removed from UFC 52: Couture vs. Liddell II. It was a milestone event for the organization as it was the first PPV event following the debut season of the Ultimate Fighter.

The card featured some of the best fighters in the UFC at the time, but when looking back, it represents just how much the sport has changed since then.

Here is a look at all the champions as of six years ago today, and how their stock has dropped since then.

Heavyweight Champion: Andrei Arlovski – Arlovski had won the interim heavyweight title from Tim Sylvia at UFC 51 and was eventually stripped of the interim label when then-champion Frank Mir couldn’t compete after a motorcycle accident. Arlovski had a dominant run, winning three-straight title fights in the first round. But, “The Pitbull” then suffered back-to-back losses to Sylvia and was never quite the same. At one time he was the most feared fighter in the UFC, but he now is currently on a four-fight losing streak, with three coming by first round knock out. Arlovski’s hands have gotten slower, his chin has gotten weaker, and he never evolved his grappling. That combo caused him to become nearly irrelevant in the MMA. In today’s world, Arlovski would get decimated by current champ, Cain Velasquez.

Light Heavyweight Champion: Chuck Liddell – Liddell was on top of the world at this time six years ago. He just knocked out Randy Couture in 2:06 to win his first UFC Championship. Liddell followed that up with four successful title defenses, all by KO. He was considered an unbeatable champion for two years, but then ran into the powerful hand of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, who took the title from Liddell in May of 2007. That loss started the complete downfall of Liddell’s career. He would go on to lose five of his next six, four by KO, which forced his retirement. Liddell’s hands were great, but his style never evolved, and became too predictable. With that, his chin got weaker and he was an easy target for other light heavyweights. It is hard to imagine a scenario where Liddell would be able to contend with today’s champ, Jon Jones.

Middleweight Champion: Evan Tanner – Evan Tanner was always an interesting character. His win over David Terrell at UFC 51 to win the UFC title was the highlight of his career. The joy was short-lived though, as Tanner lost the title to Rich Franklin later that year and would lose four of his next five bouts before passing away in 2008. Tanner was a solid grappler and boxer, but never could excel at either. He struggled to deal with the strength and hand speed of younger fighters and was never quite as good as he hoped to be. A match between Tanner and Anderson Silva would have ended just as badly as Franklin’s bouts with Silva.

Welterweight Champion: Matt Hughes – Matt Hughes had just choked out Frank Trigg for the second time in his career and was working his way to the label of “Greatest Welterweight Champion Of All Time.” Hughes won three more times before having his title reign ended by current champion, Georges St. Pierre. The arrival of GSP exploited Hughes as nothing more than an extraordinary wrestler. His striking was always a clear weakness throughout his career, but Hughes had the benefit of not facing a lot of strikers with grappling skills in his career. Hughes has still found a way to be relevant even now, but it is clear that he is far from a contender and his skills at their peak were far from the skills of GSP’s today.

To make a further point about how far the UFC has come, there were no lightweight, featherweight, or bantamweight champions in the organization at this time. There had been previous lightweight champions, but the organization didn’t have enough legitimate contenders to establish a champion. Today, the smaller weight classes often provide the best fights and one could argue that champions Frankie Edgar, Jose Aldo, and Dominick Cruz are among the top fighters in any weight class.

Will the sport continue to evolve at the rate it has over the last six years? It is hard to imagine that. But, it won’t surprise me if we are talking about GSP, Anderson Silva, and Jon Jones in the same fashion I am talking about former greats like Liddell and Hughes today.

  

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