Mixed martial arts (MMA) has risen to become one of the most popular sports in the world as of late, showing no signs of slowing down anytime soon. Ultimate Fighting (UFC) matches have become the pinnacle of the sport, and UFC fights have grown to become daylong events much in the way football and baseball. As the UFC season winds into autumn, there are a number of fighters to keep your eye on.
Just 25 years old, Jones is the youngest UFC title holder in the sports history, and is currently the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion. According to ESPN, he is the second-best pound-for-pound fighter in the world. Given his steep ascent to the top of the fighting world, it's no surprise that he's earned his fair share of fierce rivals, and everyone in UFC is dying for the chance to unseat Jones.
The next chance comes on September 22, when Jones takes on Vitor Belfort in UFC 152. The matchup is an interesting one for a couple reasons. For starters, Belfort is one of the most decorated fighters in mixed martial arts history, but he has to move up a weight class to fight Jones, so he enters as an underdog. Additionally, Jones has already thrown down the gauntlet, claiming his record is more impressive than Belfort's despite being less experienced.
Aldo, the current UFC Featherweight champion, is also among the most feared pound-for-pound fighters in the world. Much like Jones, he is one of the best upcoming young talents in the MMA world at just 26 years old. Most people became familiar with Aldo when he was named the 2009 Fighter of the Year.
Though he has been dominant as of late, Aldo's Featherweight championship title may challenged when he takes on Frankie Edgar on October 13 in Rio de Janeiro. Edgar, who comes in as an underdog given Aldo's 21-1-0 record, is no slouch either. The 30-year-old is a former Lightweight champion and brings his own 14-3-1 record to the table.
* In a sport as contact heavy as MMA, injuries are bound to happen. Aldo injured his foot and has currently pulled out of the much anticipated fight. Currently there is no word on if the Edgar vs. Aldo match will be rescheduled.
Weidman, a former collegiate wrestler, is an interesting story. A former collegiate wrestler, he made his UFC debut in 2011 and has been a perfect 9-0 ever since. However, that unblemished record will be put to the test later this year when he and Tim Boetsch square off on December 29.
The matchup could prove to be crucial in the hunt for the Middleweight crown, as both have looked like contenders in recent bouts.
Professional athletes are undoubtedly very knowledgeable about their respective games. Would anyone question that Michael Jordan knows almost everything there is to know about basketball? Or if Joe Montana is familiar with the ins and outs of football? That being said, living and breathing the game doesn't necessarily mean they'd be good at coaching. However, there have been many big-name players who have made the successful transition to coaching.
Robin Ventura - Chicago White Sox
Though nobody would place Robin Ventura in the all-time greats, he was among the most productive players of the last couple decades (not to mention he got in a legendary fight with Nolan Ryan). He played most of his career with the White Sox before finishing it off with stints with the Mets, Yankees and Dodgers. After retiring, he was quickly hired by the Sox to manage his former team.
In 2012, just his first year at the helm, Ventura has made the White Sox one of the best teams in the American League. Many baseball insiders expected the Detroit Tigers to run away with the American League Central, but Ventura's leadership has brought the Sox into a fierce divisional battle.
Jim Harbaugh - San Francisco 49ers
Over the last 10 years, few teams have been as continually disappointing as the 49ers. The team was a revolving door of coaches, players and inconsistent results. That all changed in 2011, when ownership brought in former NFL quarterback Jim Harbaugh to turn things around. With a 13-3 record and a berth in the NFC Championship game, it's clear he did just that.
Harbaugh's success at the professional level mirrors his work in the college game. As coach at Stanford, he turned a former Pac-10 also ran into a national title contender, and helped tutor eventual number one draft pick (and current Indianapolis Colts QB) Andrew Luck.
Doc Rivers - Boston Celtics
Perhaps no player was better suited for coaching than Doc Rivers. The Celtics coach played for 13 years as point guard for the Atlanta Hawks, Los Angeles Clippers, New York Knicks and San Antonio Spurs. His experience as a point guard made him adept at leading a team and his in-game strategy is among the best in the NBA.
He got his start coaching with the Orlando Magic, but his work with the Celtics has been truly remarkable. He helped turn a struggling team into a title contender in just one year, bringing a championship back to Boston in 2008. Since then, the C's have been among the best teams in the league, and they have Doc to thank.
When 23-year-old golfing phenom Rory McIlroy won the U.S. Open in dominant fashion last year, some wondered whether the Northern Irishman would be a flash-in-the-pan or if he could challenge Jack Nicklaus and Tiger Woods on the all-time majors list. After his performance at the PGA Championship, it looks like many people have found their answer.
McIlroy won the fourth and final major of the year by an impressive eight strokes, capping off his sterling final round with a length birdie putt to finish at 13-under par. David Lynn was second at 5-under, while Justin Rose, Keegan Bradley, Ian Poulter and Karl Pettersson were all tied for a distant third at 4-under.
Watching McIlroy dominate the ocean course at Kiawah Island Resort was truly a thing of beauty. His final round 66 featured six birdies and no bogeys, and despite entering the final round with a lead he did not let the mounting pressure get to him, even when Poulter charged hard out of the gate. He striped drive after drive down the fairway, making birdie putts when he could and saving par when he had to.
Aside from allowing McIlroy to reclaim the number one spot in the world rankings, his victory at the PGA is important for a number of reasons. Chiefly, it may be indicative of a changing of the guard atop the golf world. Many fans have been looking for someone to serve as the heir apparent to Woods now that the 14-time major winner continues to struggle, and McIlroy seems to be the guy. McIlroy, at 23, is younger than Tiger was when he won his second major and is clearly not intimated by him.
On the flip side, what could this mean for Tiger? While he has certainly made strides in his game, entering into the weekend of the 2012 PGA Championship with the lead (the second time in a major for this year), it was once again the weekend that hurt his chances as he finished 11th. He struggled to sink easily makeable birdie putts on Saturday and Sunday of the championship, and by the time he teed off for his final round, he would have needed a miracle to catch McIlroy.
Now, with the final major out of the way, the golf season moves forward with its sights set on the 2012 Ryder Cup, which is set for September 28 through 30 at Medinah Country Club in Illinois.