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Why are you a mixed martial arts fan? Is it the athleticism of the fighters? Does the sight of two humans locked in a cage bring back deep seeded primal instincts? Do you just like violence? Whatever first attracted MMA fans to the action, the sheer unpredictability of cage fighting may fall into many people's top five.

In 2010, the MMA world watched many storylines and predictions play out that not many fans could have foreseen prior to the first of the year. From the immortal Fedor Emelianenko (31-2) tapping out to a Fabricio Werdum (14-4-1) triangle armbar in June to the WEC's Anthony Pettis (13-1) jump kicking his way to within one fight of being called the best 155 pound fighter on the planet, 2010 in MMA if nothing else was unpredictable.

10 storylines shaped the MMA landscape in 2010, these same 10 plot twists also could be considered bold predictions if they were made on New Year's Eve 2009.

Dated December 31, 2009: 10 predictions for 2010

1. Frankie Edgar beats BJ Penn not once but twice.

Prior to Frankie Edgar's (13-1) UFC 112 title bout with B.J Penn (16-7-1), critics were quick to give the New Jersey native unsolicited advice that his ideal fighting weight was actually 145 pounds. At an outdoor venue in Abu Dhabi Edgar defeated perhaps the best 155 pounder in MMA history with a five round decision over Penn.

If one upset win wasn't enough, Edgar entered the main event of UFC 118 in August as both champion and underdog to Penn. Edgar would once again take a unanimous decision over Penn in their lightweight title rematch. With a gameplan crafted to keep Penn off balance for the entire 25 minutes, Edgar cruised to victory and left no room for judging controversy.

2. Strikeforce only gets one shot on CBS.

Strikeforce closed out 2009 with a successful CBS card that brought in TV ratings and featured a main event that delivered for the fans. In April 2010, Strikeforce got their second chance at to bring the sport of MMA to network TV. On paper the card featured not one but three title fights. In reality all three fights in the cage failed to deliver and the poor ratings for Strikeforce's Saturday Night fights put the likelihood of another MMA card on CBS in a holding pattern for the remainder of 2010.

Ultimately though Strikeforce's second go-around on CBS will be best remembered for the post fight brawl between middleweight champion Jake Shields' (26-4-1) camp and Jason "Mayhem" Miller (24-7). The highlight clip of Miller invading Shields' post fight interview in street clothes and the subsequent mugging by members of Team Cesar Gracie that followed will forever live in MMA infamy.

3. The WEC holds a pay per view than merges with the UFC?

In retrospect the WEC's first and only pay per view production booked for April 2010 may have been a Hail Mary pass by Zuffa to see if the sister promotion of the UFC could stand on its own two feet. The verdict was in, though the estimated pay per view buy rates of anywhere between 150-200 K exceeded expectations the result was nowhere near the par previous UFC events had already set.

Six month later Zuffa announced that the WEC and all three of its weight classes would be folded into the UFC by the first of the year. The news was met with widespread MMA industry praise as the best 135 and 145 pound fighters in the world would both get to compete on the UFC stage and get paid like they were the best in their profession.

4. Kimbo Slice fights once in 2010 and is cut from the UFC.

Backyard brawler turned internet celebrity Kimbo Slice (4-2) is one of the biggest personalities in the history of MMA. Whether you believe Slice's MMA endeavor was more farce than sport it is hard to argue the buzz the ex-Miami streetfighter brings with him into the cage.

In 2009, the UFC invested heavily in Slice making him the star of their highest rate Ultimate Fighter season in years on Spike TV. With a UFC marketing push behind Slice heading into his UFC 113 heavyweight bout with Matt Mitrione (3-0), 2010 was poised to be a big year for Team Kimbo. After an embarrassing loss to the equally inexperienced Mitrione, Slice was cut from the UFC and made no noise for the remainder of the year in MMA circles.

5. Fedor will tap out in round one

Maybe we should have seen this one coming. Fedor Emelianenko briefly struggled with Brett Rogers (11-2) in November 2009 before flooring the big man with a trademark punching flurry in round two. On June 26, 2010 inside the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California Emelianenko tapped to a beautifully executed Fabricio Werdum triangle armbar.

It was Emelianenko's first loss in 10 years and it came just 69 seconds after the bell for round one sounded. Neither Werdum or Emelianenko fought for the remainder of the year, but when the Brazilian locked up the "submission heard around the world" the MMA world and in particular the heavyweight division was put on his heels for the first time in over a decade.

6. Chael Sonnen beats up Anderson Silva for four rounds than is submitted in the fifth.

Another wrestler out of Team Quest with strong takedowns, but with suspect submission defense was Chael Sonnen's (25-11-1) ho-hum one line scouting report from 2002-2009. Even among MMA fan's hardcore online contingent Sonnen's name held little cache prior to 2010.

Than in a fight buried deep on the untelevised undercard Sonnen upset top middleweight contender Yushin Okami (26-5) at UFC 104 in October 2009, than toppled ex contender Nate Marquardt (30-10-2) in a title eliminator in January 2010. For the next several months Sonnen broke out of his shell and became MMA star mainly due to the unprecedented amount of trash talk he flung at middleweight champ Anderson Silva (27-4) prior to their scheduled August 2010 title fight.

In what became the story of 2010 Sonnen bloodied and battered the MMA pound for pound king Silva for four plus rounds. With two minutes left in the fifth and final round Silva trapped Sonnen in a triangle armbar submission that forced the underdog to tap. If that was not enough drama Sonnen failed his post-fight drug test and was handed down a yearlong suspension by the California State Athletic Commission.

A hearing in December 2010 reduced Sonnen's suspension to six months but the damage to his reputation was already done.

7. Brock Lesnar ends the year 1-1, nearly goes 0-2 in 2010.

The biggest box office draw in MMA fought not once but twice in 2010. Brock Lesnar's life took a wild ride in the last half of 2009 into the first half of 2010. A near death experience from a case of diverticulitis put Lesnar on the shelf for 12 months. The UFC heavyweight champion returned to the Octagon in July 2010 to face Shane Carwin (12-1).

Carwin beatdown Lesnar for five minutes straight, but was not able to finish off the ex-WWE star. Lesnar would come back to submit Carwin in dramatic fashion in the second round. The holes that Carwin exposed in Lesnar's stand-up were again on display in the champ's second title defense of the year. Cain Velasquez (9-0) plowed through Lesnar on his way to a first round TKO title win.

8. Boxer James Toney will be the co-main event of a UFC event

Call it a spectacle; call it a freak show but somehow someway 42 year old professional boxer James Toney (0-1) earned a co-main event slot at UFC 118 in August 2010. With a 72-6-3 boxing record Toney is a first ballot hall of famer in his sport. Past his prime, Toney sought out the UFC after being unable secure any meaningful boxing bouts in recent years.

In March the UFC announced they had signed Toney to a multi fight deal. Toney's first opponent would be UFC Hall of Famer Randy Couture (19-10). The three minute fight was a laughable display with Toney unable to get off a single punch. On the ground Couture submitted a lost and out of shape Toney. Toney was released by the UFC a few weeks later.

9. Anthony Pettis will get a crack at the UFC lightweight title

WEC lightweight Anthony Pettis (13-1) entered 2010 on a one fight losing skid and was not considered a contender in the WEC's 155 pound weight division. His first fight of 2010 produced a highlight reel knockout of Danny Castillo (10-3) on the untelevised undercard of WEC 47. Nine months and three more wins later Pettis was named the UFC's number one contender in the lightweight division.

Back to back wins over Alex Karalexis (10-5) and Shane Roller (9-3) earned Pettis a crack at the WEC lightweight gold. The fight was announced in August, but the stakes of Pettis's fight with champ Ben Henderson (12-2) were raised when the UFC announced that the winner would be named the UFC's number one contender as part of the two Zuffa promotions merging. The Pettis vs. Henderson championship bout became one of the top five fights of 2010 and Pettis's jump off the cage wall "Showtime kick" in the fifth round will go down as one of the best strikes in MMA history.

10. MMA will not be legalized in New York, but major shows will be held in Virginia, UAE, Vancouver, Michigan, Australia, Arizona and Massachusetts.

Hopes were high heading into 2010 that MMA would finally be legalized in New York. Despite political pushes from the UFC, legalizing MMA in New York got pushed to the backburner behind state financial concerns and reelections campaigns. In June, the sport was pulled from the state's budget bill despite support from Governor David Paterson.

The sport of MMA did continue to expand to other national and international markets in 2010. Along the east coast Virginia and Massachusetts both got their first taste of live UFC events. The Zuffa owned UFC also made inroads into Vancouver, British Columbia as well as in Australia for major company pay per view events.

 

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