Saturday, November 19, 2011

Who's the best?

One of the great things about sports is that it never fails to foster discussion and passionate debate. Perhaps the best topic of discussion is ranking which team is the best in their respective sport. College football does this better than anyone, with its multitude of rankings. But Bleacher Report, a nationwide sports website, recently put out a list of the best mixed martial arts fighters in each state, and in Maryland they decided Mike "The Hulk" Easton was the Free State's best.

Easton appeared to state his case as the best in Maryland in his last fight, which was his UFC debut at a live event in Washington, D.C. last month. Easton knocked out his opponent in the second round, much to the delight of those in attendance, which included his teammates from Team Lloyd Irvin in Camp Springs.

But is Easton, a bantamweight, really the best fighter in all of Maryland? I am in no way disparaging his skills as a fighter. So far he is undefeated and had about as good a UFC debut as a new prospect can hope for. But since MMA has several different weight classes, I've always felt it's somewhat difficult to determine who the best pound-for-pound fighter in the world is. Even though almost everyone agrees that when it comes to the best in the world, UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva and UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre are 1-2, respectively.

But when it comes to Maryland, there are so many gyms that produce fighters. From Lloyd Irvin to Evolve Academy in Gaithersburg to Team Ground Control in Baltimore, my home state has no shortage of fighters coming out of the woodwork.

While I have not been to every MMA event in Maryland and have not personally visited every single MMA gym in the state, I have been to a few MMA events in Maryland and I think I have developed at least a slight idea as to the talent level in this state. There are fighters like Easton at Lloyd Irvin and fighters like Dan Root, Ryan Mackin and Dave Daniecki at Team Ground Control. There is also Jacob Kirwan, who fights with Clinch Academy in Frederick and has fought for organizations like Bellator Fighting Championship.

If Easton can build on his momentum of his UFC debut victory, he very well can stake further claim as to being the best fighter in all of Maryland. Much like college football rankings, the debate over who's the best in MMA doesn't appear to be ending anytime soon.

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