Friday, December 23, 2011

Alistair Overeem Brings the Lineal MMA Heavyweight Title Back to the UFC

In exactly one week, K-1 World GP Champion Alistair Overeem will lock horns with former UFC Heavyweight Champ Brock Lesnar. Besides the public frenzy that this match has created, there's a rather unique dealing that has not received much attention -- the lineal MMA heavyweight title.

Now, there are no official MMA titles (although I passionately believe there should be one; peep my article from January 2011), but for those who do show an interest, you might note that the lineal MMA heavyweight title will return to the Octagon

The idea of a lineal title is a concept not widely publicized within the mixed martial arts community. In boxing however, lineal titleholders are recognized through Ring Magazine's titles.

I found a really good article at Bleacher Report (by Joe Lanza) that does an excellent job of introducing the lineal title concept. So, I'm gonna take the lazy route here, and give way to a snippet from Mr. Lanza's article...

Due to the influx of alphabet soup sanctioning bodies in the 1980’s, lineal champions have been a staple of the boxing world for decades. Frustrated by a bevy of “champions” in an ever growing number of weight classes, boxing aficionados concocted a method of determining the “real” singular champion of each weight class by using the simplified method of “the man who beat the man”. Ignoring the politically crowned champions of the promotional bodies, when the current recognized “man” would lose, despite whether a tangible title belt was on the line or not, the man who beat him would assume the lineal championship of that weight class. This practice of lineal champions was taken a step further when Ring magazine, who arguably had been tracking lineal champions longer than anyone, actually created title belts and crowned their own champions based on the lineal premise.

In the relatively young sport of mixed martial arts, there hasn’t been much of a need for lineal champions. In the early days, you had one major promotional body in the Unites States, the UFC. Japan had groups like Pancrase and Shooto, and later PRIDE Fighting Championships. There wasn’t much dispute over the “real” world champions in each weight class, as a majority of the world’s best fighters were fighting for a small handful of promotional entities.

And today, there still isn't a huge "dispute" over the "real" world champions. For the most part, the UFC's champions are regularly accepted as the de facto world titleholders. But tracing MMA's titles from the early days of the UFC forward tells a different story. An article by Dave Meltzer at Yahoo Sports, titled "Few easy paths to linear titles" tracks the lineage of the "lineal" titles in the lightweight through heavyweight divisions.

As for, Alistair Overeem's linear heavyweight title, 'Reem acquired the title when he defeated Fabricio Werdum in the quarterfinal of Strikeforce HW Tournament back in June. Werdum secured the title when he upset Fedor Emelianenko last year (and well, I could continue backtracking, but for the full story of the HW lineal title, just reference Meltzer's above linked article).

This whole "lineal" title thing, makes the Brock-Overeem fight so much more interesting. You have a fighter in Alistair Overeem who is not only outgoing Dream Interim and Strikeforce heavyweight champion, but is also the owner of the 'spiritual' lineal title. It also an opportunity for Brock Lesnar to own the lineal title.

But will it mean anything? Probably not. So, was writing this piece in vain? Well, that's up to you, the fan. I still think lineal titles in MMA is a subject that deserves more attention -- belts dedicated to the fans who care. Do you?

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