Join Date: May 2006
Location: New York City, New York
I think this is largely an illusion of an upcoming title fight between Edgar and Maynard.
The UFC welterweight division is heavily wrestler-centric, but that's the only serious division that's dominated by wrestlers, and a quick meta-analysis of the top ten heavyweights in the top five divisions (that's fifty fighters) will yield you this:
17 "wrestlers" (I'm being hugely generous with this number, by the way; if you count only NCAA DI wrestlers, you end up with 11 and lose Shane Carwin and Jon Jones)
20 BJJ blackbelts
The numbers for strikers are trickier, because its hard to qualify what, exactly, qualifies someone as a "striker." Is Nogueira a striker? He has a high caliber boxing background. Is Junior Dos Santos a striker? He doesn't have many accomplishments in striking competitions, but is an incredibly accomplished striker in terms of MMA.
So that whole thing is tricky.
But I think it has a lot to do with a shift in the particular title holders.
Division by division, look at it this way.
The UFC heavyweight division has always fluctuated between being dominated by strikers and being dominated by wrestlers. Up until 2002, it was controlled by wrestlers, with the exception of Pete Williams and Bas Rutten holding the title once apiece. Then we had the period of Sylvia and Arlovski, with the Frank Mir interlude and the Nogueira and Mir transition (very briefly, in the large scheme) to Brock Lesnar, which takes us back into a wrestling period.
The lightheavyweight division has actually gotten less wrestler-centric as the years have gone on. From 2000-2007, the title was held by a wrestler (if you want to count Ortiz, who doesn't have an DI background) with the exception of Belfort's one win over Couture before losing the belt again. Rampage Jackson is the first non-wrestler to hold the belt, and since he took it, we've had one wrestler win a title fight, to four different strikers (of five title defenses).
The middleweight belt has been held by a striker since Rich Franklin won the belt in 2005. Of course, this is largely due to the fact that Anderson Silva has been the champion for a long damn time. Just for a quick meta-analysis of top contenders against Rich and Anderson: two wrestlers, three BJJ blackbelts and six strikers (four if you exclude Rich and Anderson themselves, who each fought the other for the belt as a challenger once).
The welterweight division really has two eras, with some upsets built in. You have the pre-Matt Hughes era, which is all about Pat Miletich (who I'd count as a striker, but it also a BJJ blackbelt) and then you have a division dominated by wrestlers from Hughes through St. Pierre; though it's hard to say that St. Pierre was a wrestler when he initially won the belt. So that division has pretty much always been run by a wrestler, at least since 2001. Of the challengers faced by Hughes: two wrestlers (only counting Trigg once), three strikers, one BJJ blackbelt. Of the challengers faced by St. Pierre: two BJJ blackbelts, two strikers and a wrestler. I'm setting aside the three Hughes vs. St. Pierre belts, but you can do the math.
The lightweight division has gone through all three. You have Pulver in the beginning, then the removal of the belt. You have Sherk, then him being stripped of the belt. And then Penn. Even with Edgar vs. Maynard coming up, its a wide open division. Two of the next serious contenders are BJJ blackbelts, Sotiropoulos and Dunham. So it's an open game.
By the way, my favorite statistic about the lightweight division: Until Frankie Edgar upset B.J. Penn in Abu Dhabi, an incumbent UFC lightweight champion had never lost his belt.
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