Chris Weidman (Esther Lin/MMA Fighting)The MMA World Cup: Which Nation Will Claim Supremacy? Trey Downey June 19, 2014 Spotlight In most years, this week would have marked the beginning of the dog days of summer when it comes to sports. The NBA and Stanley Cup Finals both ended this past weekend, leaving a big void when it comes to sports. But another event began this past week that is taking the world by storm. That event is the World Cup, which kicked off last Thursday in Brazil. The World Cup only goes down once every four years, and it truly unites nations when it comes to sports. In Brazil, the day of the opening match was declared a national holiday and children were off from school so they could watch their national team take on Croatia. Soccer is usually pushed aside as one of the lesser sports here in the United States, but this year’s Cup has been hyped more than ever. Monday night’s win for the United States over Ghana garnered over 11 million viewers on ESPN, making it the most watched men’s soccer game in U.S. history. Over the next month, countries will wait with bated breath to see how their country does and to see if they will have bragging rights for the next four years. The main thing that makes this event so amazing is the global appeal. Soccer is undoubtedly the most popular sport in the world. Children everywhere play the beautiful game in hopes of one day reaching the biggest stage. Soccer also has some similarities with MMA, especially when it comes to global appeal. UFC President Dana White has called the sport the fastest growing in the world and promises that it will one day overtake soccer as the biggest and most popular sport. Although that might not ever happen, the pride in country is always there in MMA. Just look at the rabid crowds at every Brazilian or European event. White has hinted in the past at a World Cup of sorts for The Ultimate Fighter, but it hasn’t happened just yet. All of that got us here at The MMA Corner thinking. Who would win the World Cup of mixed martial arts? Well, we are going to use the fights for the remainder of 2014 to try to answer that question. Here’s how it is going to work: There are nine teams in The MMA Corner’s first-ever MMA World Cup: the United States, Brazil, Canada, Russia, the United Kingdom, Australia/New Zealand, Mexico, Asia and then a single team comprised of fighters from the rest of the world. Each team will be made up of five fighters. The fighters were selected based on current rankings and how many times they could be projected to fight for the rest of the year. Teams will earn points based on performance. A fighter will gain his team five points for every knockout, TKO or submission victory. Every decision victory will count for three points. Points will also be deducted—a fighter will lose two points for his team if he is finished in a fight and lose one point for a decision loss. There will be monthly updates here on The MMA Corner, and a champion will be crowned following the UFC’s year-end show. Now, on to the teams: The United States Captain: Chris Weidman There is no better captain for America than the UFC middleweight champion. One of the most famous photos in MMA history is Weidman with the American flag draped around him after he defeated Anderson Silva the first time. Weidman will look to get his team off to a big start against Lyoto Machida on Independence Day weekend. Team Members: Donald Cerrone, Jon Jones, Matt Brown, Chad Mendes Brazil Captain: Jose Aldo With the fall of Anderson Silva, Aldo has emerged as not only the best fighter coming out of Brazil, but possibly the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter on the planet. Who can forget Aldo running into the crowd and celebrating with his countrymen after his first victory over Chad Mendes. Aldo will look to get his country going at UFC 176, where he faces Mendes, a member of the U.S. team in this World Cup scenario. Team Members: Rafael dos Anjos, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, Demian Maia, John Lineker Canada Captain: Rory MacDonald MacDonald’s rise to stardom has been remarkable. He came into the UFC as a 20-year-old kid. Now, as a man, he has blossomed into one of the UFC’s best at welterweight. Many have been waiting for the torch of Canada’s favorite son to be passed from Georges St-Pierre to MacDonald. If this past weekend in Vancouver is any indication, MacDonald has arrived. Team Members: Mitch Clarke, Elias Theodorou, Patrick Cote, Ryan Jimmo Russia Captain: Alexander Shlemenko With the rise of Russian MMA, there were plenty of valid choices for the captain of this team. However, no one has embodied the Russian fighting spirit more than the Bellator middleweight champion. Shlemenko might have fallen to Tito Ortiz in his last fight, which took place at light heavyweight, but he is still dominant at 185 pounds. Team Members: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Andrey Koreshkov, Vitaly Minakov, Ali Bagautinov The United Kingdom Captain: Brad Pickett One might view this as an odd choice, but it is the right one. “One Punch” has found new life since dropping down to flyweight and could find himself in a title bout before year’s end. From the knockout power to the suspenders, Pickett is the perfect face of MMA in the United Kingdom. Team Members: Michael Bisping, Ross Pearson, Paul Daley, Robert Whiteford Australia/New Zealand Captain: Mark Hunt MMA has exploded in Australia and New Zealand, and Mark Hunt is one of the biggest reasons why. Hunt is one of the most unlikely success stories in MMA. New Zealand is also one of the most unlikely places that you would ever think the UFC would touch down in for an event. Yet, here we are, with the UFC just a week away from visiting Auckland for the first time and Hunt in the contender mix within the UFC’s heavyweight division. Hunt will look to bring his country big points when he faces Roy Nelson in September. Team Members: Robert Whittaker, James Te Huna, Soa Palelei, Richie Vaculik Mexico Captain: Cain Velasquez Could the captain of Team Mexico be anyone else other than the UFC heavyweight champion? We think not. The face of MMA in the country was the one man who the UFC said had to be on the card in the UFC’s maiden voyage to the country. It will all happen when Velasquez headlines UFC 180 against Fabricio Werdum in Mexico City. Team Members: Erik Perez, Robbie Peralta, Ray Borg, Tito Ortiz Asia Captain: Takeya Mizugaki Asia might just have the deepest squad in this entire competition, and Mizugaki might be the best fighter coming out of that continent right now. The guy continues to beat all the rising stars in the bantamweight division and finds himself closer to a title shot than ever before. Team Members: Yushin Okami, Dong Hyun Kim, Takanori Gomi, Kyoji Horiguchi Rest of The World Captain: Alexander Gustafsson You might as well call this team the “Super Friends.” Some countries weren’t deep enough to create an entire squad for the purposes of this scenario, but the best of those countries can be grouped together to take their shot at The MMA Corner’s World Cup crown. Gustafsson is on the cover of the new UFC video game, and he will challenge Jon Jones for the UFC light heavyweight title in September. He is the perfect choice to represent this global group. Team Members: Yoel Romero, Tarec Saffiedine, Gegard Mousasi, Conor McGregor There you have it. Get your red, white and blue or yellow, blue and green ready. Then, kick back and see who will take the claim as being the world’s best in MMA. Check back every month as we update each team’s progress on the road to The MMA Corner’s MMA World Cup.