The Age of Young Champs

The UFC just announced that Max Holloway will face Frankie Edgar in his first UFC featherweight title defense since dethroning Jose Aldo at UFC 212. Holloway is one of the recent trend of young fighters capturing UFC gold in rather impressive fashion.

Look no further than this past weekend’s stud, Robert Whittaker, who while only sporting the interim UFC middleweight title, did get past Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza and Yoel “Soldier of God” Romero following a vicious knock out of Derek Brunson in the span of nine months. The Australian born scrapper is only 26-years-old and manage to erase the top two contenders to Bisping’s title and he did it with no controversy and no doubt. His next move is against another older fighter as he looks to prove that there is a new generation of fighter that knows no bounds and will force the opposition to fight his fight. And so far, that’s not a fight you’ll win against “Bobby Knuckles.”

If you take a look at Cody Garbrandt’s performance against Dominick Cruz last December, you’ll notice that Cruz could not implement his game plan like he usually does. Sure, maybe he couldn’t help but be lured into a brawl against the younger foe, but it was Garbrandt who was comfortable and even having so much fun that he broke out some dance moves mid fight. The wiser and verbally superior Cruz was overcome with the power, speed and defense that “No Love” presented and in the end he found himself in unfamiliar territory as his arm was not raised by the referee for the first time since 2007.

Max Holloway is the perfect example of the belief that youngsters with extensive skill and knowledge in all facets of mixed martial arts will eventually set a new standard. We’ve seen guys like Rory MacDonald achieve a ton of success in UFC and now in Bellator, but Holloway managed to pull off a finish of Jose Aldo after two rounds of back-and-forth action. One could even argue that Holloway already cleaned out most of the featherweight division prior to earning his title shot earlier this year. The sky is the limit for the 25-year-old who is slowly building his legacy as one of the best to step into the octagon.

Conor McGregor may have his focus on boxing Floyd Mayweather in August, but his success in the octagon is what got him in that position. His ability to generate hype and break his opponents mentally even before the fight commences should not be overlooked. McGregor is only 28-years-old and he proved that his complimenting powerful left hand and fighting ability is capable of overwhelming opposition. Jose Aldo and Eddie Alvarez are no slouches, but you wouldn’t believe that to be true when you see how McGregor was able to dethrone each one in impressive fashion. He made the spotlight his with his promotional tactics and his skills shined brightest when the world tuned in. McGregor has yet to defend either title, but he’s managed to take the MMA world by storm by proving that when you step into the octagon, he will lure you into a fist fight you never planned on engaging in. That is a battle only Nate Diaz has been able to win thus far in McGregor’s UFC run.

Other divisions that feature young champions are Joanna jedrzejczyk, Jon Jones, Demetrious Johnson and Amanda Nunes, and while Rose Namajunas, Ray Borg, and Valentina Shevchenko make up the opposition likely to get a crack at the champs, there’s something missing. Borg’s first fight before “Mighty Mouse” will be his weight cut, Namajunas could pull off a shocking win, but the champ has the upper hand in striking and wrestling defense. Shevchenko could pull off the win over Nunes, but the record books do state that she lost to her in their first contest. Jones will be facing a much older opponent in Daniel Cormier.  He’s been dominating opposition since he was 23 and proved to be the current MMA age’s Michael Jordan as long as he can stay out of trouble.  These storylines are not as intriguing as the three mentioned above, but that doesn’t mean we won’t be in store for more new champions by the end of the year. Anything can happen in MMA.



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