UFC 2013: The end of a golden era

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    Another year down, and as the UFC marks time for 2013 it closes the book on a golden era of MMA with the reigns of George ‘Rush’ St-Pierre and Anderson ‘The Spider’ Silva coming to an end.

    The combination of Silva’s agonising injury departure from the main event of UFC 168 and GSP’s decision earlier this month to go on hiatus and vacate the welterweight belt, means that as the UFC enters 2014 it will be without its two most decorated fighters for the first time in eight years.

    The end of 2013 marks the end of the era of the UFC’s two most dominant champions, two icons of the sport.

    When future generations look back at the sport’s history in the early decades of the 21st century, the careers of these two legends will be what stands out above all else.

    At welterweight stood the dynamic talent and ring intelligence of GSP, in my mind the smartest fighter the UFC has seen.

    And at middleweight lurked the deadly beauty of The Spider, the fighter who ‘floated like a butterfly and stung like a bee’ like no one since Ali.

    Both rose to prominence through the early 2000s, gained their titles in the mid 00s and defended them until 2013.

    Throughout they were consistently head, shoulders and chest above their closest challengers.

    At one point GSP had fought over 30 rounds without losing a single frame and Silva, who won 16 fights in a row, got to the point where he had to move up to light-heavyweight for a challenge.

    Legendary names like Matt Hughes, BJ Penn, Dan Henderson and Vitor Belfort could not stand up to them, while countless others fell by the wayside, as these two all conquering generals ran roughshod over their divisions.

    They began their runs before Barack Obama was president, before Twitter was a thing and outlasted the ALP government in Australia so it stands to reason if it feels like they have been around forever.

    At the height of their powers arguably the only competitive match for either of them was to face each other, a super-fight which sadly never eventuated.

    While completely unplanned, it is fitting that these two icons of the sport have finished their record breaking title runs within months of each other and now leave the pinnacle of the sport for others to try and summit.

    It is impossible to fathom how much we will miss these two.

    And yet, as one era closes, a new one has already begun: the introduction of women to the UFC during 2013 has allowed Ronda Rousey to join light-heavyweight champion and legend in the making Jon Jones at top of the UFC.

    These two are already crossing over into the mainstream media landscape and are more than ready to take the helm of the sport and company.

    2014 also marks the beginning of a new era in the welterweight and middleweight divisions.

    The divisions have now caught up with the once untouchable champs and an exciting period awaits as fighters scramble in the vacuum left behind by the two kings.

    While GSP and Silva may one day return, it is hard to imagine either will be able to reclaim their thrones with any kind of ease.

    Yet while the field has caught up with them, both fighters have left a mark on the sport that will not be forgotten.

    So while the show will inevitably go on in 2014, now it is time to pause and be thankful that one day we will be able to tell future generations we were lucky enough to see the golden era of GSP and The Spider.

    Thanks for the memories.

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