Some have exulted the first month of 2015 as the best in UFC history.
A chapter in MMA history was opened and shut, featuring the likes of Anderson Silva and Jon Jones adding to their legacies (and infamy) while others, such as Anthony "Rumble" Johnson and Conor McGregor, continued their burst onto the scene.
Not to mention, Donald Cerrone earned the countenance of being a "throwback" fighter with two victories in three weeks. Dan Henderson's perpetual legacy remained intact, although Gegard Mousasi stopped him in one round of a fight that was hard for each and every one of us to endure. Thiago Alves scored a comeback-of-the-year caliber knockout over top prospect Jordan Mein; while the likes of Ryan Bader and Sam Sicilia scored career-resuscitating victories in Sweden.
It was a month of heroics, and one that will remain present in the mind of every MMA fan heading into another month packed-full of elite MMA fighters in action.
Before we get ahead of ourselves, here are the five milestones, pitfalls, and acmes that we will remember for years to come. My five reflections from January in the UFC:
5. Being a fighter and being a role model are two entirely different tasks to undertake
...and just as many cannot handle the later as they can the former. You couldn't maul a 220lb man with your firsts, Mother Teresa. Gandhi would break his limbs trying to perform Jon Jones' training regiment. So how is it that a fighter is expected to be the exemplar for mankind?
Quite simply, Jon Jones' actions are his and his only. He is a fighter first and foremost and until he fails to offer you entertainment value for your dime, I suggest you squander your gripes elsewhere. He did his job -- beat Daniel Cormier. What he does elsewhere -- so long as it doesn't inhibit his performance in the cage -- is immaterial. His habits are his to deal with. Not yours, not your family's, and not your children's. He only needs to be held accountable by those who consume his product (his fights) on the basis of that very same product. He services you with entertainment for the cost of your ringside seat or PPV ticket. It's not his job to refrain from any action you hadn't approve of.
Considering that, in my eye, it's been a terrific month for that fighter named Jon "Bones" Jones! The person, Jon Jones, is none of my business and nor is it yours.
4. Having a storybook ending and great legacy and two entirely different feats
Dan Henderson bulldozed through the very pinnacle of MMA for about ten years, and remained competitive in the sport's premier promotion for about four more. He's 44 now, and in that stretch from November 2011 to February 2013 -- between that unforgettable war with Shogun Rua and a close loss to Lyoto Machida -- he showed the earliest signs of physical deterioration. He was slower and much less prone to "push the pace" in the fights to come. He distanced himself from the all-out approach that carried him in his early years. For a fighter like Dan Henderson, that pretty much stamps that the end is near.
Over his last two fights, he's shown the next, much more detrimental signs. He's seen not only a loss of cognition, reflexes, reaction time, but a loss of punch resistance and an inability to respond when hurt. He looks 44 years old. Now is the time to end this before, at 46-47, he begins to mold into a much more gruesome image of man, and laughable image of fighter. His legacy is immortalized. He isn't.
3. Everything doesn't have to go as planned for a great night of MMA
Local boys Alexander Gustafsson, "Nico" Musoke, and Akira Corassani suffered the most brutal defeats of either man's career, yet, the Swedish mixed martial arts fans were treated to an excellent helping of MMA.
The night harrowed of the last UFC show in Sweden, in which the Swedes went 0-3 on the main card alone, and Iceland's Gunnar Nelson (who had a large fanbase in Sweden), fell to Rick Story in the main event.
On paper, these were bad nights for Swedish MMA, but no fan could say they didn't get their money's worth on either occasion. The local MMA fans were supportive of their guys, but didn't lose their cool when their foreign foes took to the mic for interviews. It was a pleasant sight to see. It was a great night for MMA and the sport's continued globalization.
2. Anderson Silva has his options
Anderson Silva's win over Nick Diaz was about as good as it could get for the 39-year-old MMA star.
It was the perfect performance, with every element in exception of a stoppage finish.
That is why now may just be the right time for Anderson Silva to retire.
A title shot would be in vain -- Weidman proved himself to be the better man on both occasions these two fought. Vitor Belfort and Lyoto Machida are both closer to the stature of their youth, but those opponents may be more worthwhile and realistic than Weidman. Jacare Souza, in short, would be a high-risk, low-reward fight. In boxing, that is the antidote to good matchmaking, and the abrogation to history-making. In MMA, it's far more likely that we will see a veteran like Silva in a sensible match-up of sorts; even if their is limited gain for him in such a fight.
That would be great, but it might just be greater to see "The Spider" close on this high-note. It would be a resounding sight to those, like myself, who cannot bare seeing another MMA legend walk the path of Dan Henderson or, say, BJ Penn. With that said, he still has options; and plenty of them.
1. Gladiators still exist in the sport of MMA
Donald Cerrone handled Myles Jury with such ease on January 3rd; he could probably go another three rounds directly after!
He had the opportunity to do just that.
Cerrone filled in for Eddie Alvarez at UFC Fight Night 59, just fifteen days after his unanimous decision victory over Jury. He would fight former UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson. He would upset Henderson in a close, scrappy fight, becoming the first fighter to win on such a quick rebound.
Speaking of throwback fighters, Gleison Tibau earned win number sixteen under the UFC banner on this same bill, outworking Irishman Norman Parke over three rounds.
This bout held itself to a standard equal to that of most Tibau fights. The veteran was never afraid to push the action and apply pressure to his younger foe. At 31 years of age, the Brazilian has plenty of fights left in him, and is only three fights shy of equally GSP's record nineteen UFC wins. I have a feeling he will do just that before he eventually retires.
Finally, Thiago Alves' performance last weekend fit the billing unequivocally. After one round of MMA, the thirty-fight vet was all-but-defeated. He was beaten senselessly, and nearly stopped on multiple occasions, but remained pragmatic and was making the most of his chances on this night.
What happened thirty seconds into round two earned him his thirtieth -- perhaps most sought-after -- victory. While on the attack, Alves landed a crisp body kick, and sent the 25-year-old Jordan Mein to the floor with his first career defeat. One well-placed shot did the job, and that was history.
If nothing else, these men made January 2015 their month. They were at some disadvantage. They had to dig deep. They did it, though, by any means necessary.
Nothing else can be expected from a fighter; in the truest of ways. Nothing better could have happened to open the new year, than for us to see these men make dreams happen in the cage. Through all of the impediment in their lives, and controversy in the sport; they did it. They made this the month that it was.
The fact that this could happen, in a sport where the biggest headline was about a fighter using cocaine in the lead-up to a fight, says something about the real state of the game.