Editorial: A Tale Of Two Challengers

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Scott Murrary will be the newest contributer to the MMANew.com. This is his first editorial with the site:

A TALE OF TWO CHALLENGERS

The similarities between the two upcoming UFC Lightweight and Heavyweight title bouts are scary. Both defending champions are relatively young, are amazing Brazilian Jiu Jitsu practitioners and both look like they could dominate their respective divisions for years to come. However it is the similarities and differences between the two challengers that are interesting. Both Sean Sherk and Frank Mir are former UFC champions who, for one reason or another, have been stripped of their titles.

After dropping down from the Welterweight division to the 155lbs Lightweight division at UFC 64 Sherk has looked dominant. It’s not all been plain sailing for Sherk though, during his Lightweight title bout with Kenny Florian Sherk suffered a large cut on his forehead, however the “Muscle Shark” battled on and secured a unanimous decision to lift the vacant Lightweight strap. After recovering from a torn rotator cuff suffered at UFC 64 Sherk faced off against the talented Brazilian Hermes Franca at UFC 73 in his first title defence. In a five round war Sherk took the best Franca had to offer- including some hard knees which would undoubtedly knocked lesser opponents out – and again came away with a unanimous decision victory.

The aftermath of UFC 73 was far more controversial that the event itself as both Franca and Sherk failed post fight drug tests. The pair could not have reacted more differently to the results. Franca openly admitted his guilt before paying his fine and moving on with his career. Sherk however has constantly denied the charge since it was levelled against him. If Sherk is guilty or not is near impossible to tell, facts published by the Californian State Athletic Commission (results of the test itself) say he is guilty, facts published by Sherk (a passed polygraph test) say the opposite.

On May 24 Sherk faces off with current Lightweight champion BJ Penn for the chance to regain “his” title. However former Heavyweight champion Frank Mir has a much longer road to walk before he has the chance to fight for the title.

Recently confirmed as the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter 8 it seems inevitable that Mir will face off with current UFC (Interim) Heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. Both men have exceptional Brazilian Jiu Jitsu with Nogueira having the advantage in the stand up, however a man who has faced as much adversity as Mir will not be daunted by the task facing him.

Mir won the UFC Heavyweight title at UFC 48 after he broke the arm of then champion Tim Sylvia. I the aftermath of the bout all talk surrounded a fight between Mir and the Belarusian Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski, however the fans were robbed of the fight due to a motorcycle accident involving Mir. The accident forced UFC President Dana White to announce that Mir had been stripped of his title. The road back to the title has been difficult for the talented 29 year old, he has went 3-2 since the accident defeating Dan Christianson via unanimous decision in a lack lustre performance. Mir has also stopped Dutch kick boxer Antoni Hardonk and the highly touted Brock Lesnar with first round submissions. His 2 defeats were at the hands of Marcio Cruz at UFC 57 and Brandon Vera at UFC 65 – both fights ended in first round TKO’s for Las Vegas native.

The truth is that both men lost there titles in controversial circumstances, however Sherk’s constant pleas of innocence in the face of some damning evidence and his claims being unfairly stripped of his title when there was a clear precedent for it (Tim Sylvia lost his title due to a failed steroid test) does not endear him to the UFC fans worldwide. Contrasted with Mir’s admirable attitude, he has never complained about losing his title and his likeable persona, Mir has always appeared polite and respectful to the fans, has made him a firm favourite among casual and hardcore fans across the world. The similarities between the upcoming title challengers may appear scary, however they are actually completely different.

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