Some are calling the rematch between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen in UFC 148 not only the biggest fight of the year, but perhaps the most anticipated event in the history of the sport.  Just ten years ago, the Ultimate Fighting Championship barely had a history to speak of, much less the ability to gain national media attention and millions of viewers.

Here we are in 2012 where the public has demanded to go backwards from the evolved technology of helmets and pads in violent sports to a more primal, bare bones form of combat between two nearly-nude dudes in front of the entire village.

Sure, UFC isn’t as barbaric as medieval times, nor is it comprised of freestyle playground fight moves.  Dana White and the rest of the UFC gang have hit the jackpot in terms of balancing a sense of primitive fighting with the technique of mixed martial arts.  The rise of the UFC has proven the public’s appetite for dirty, yet sophisticated fighting. 

The popularity of the UFC was certainly aided by “right place, right time” circumstances as boxing, which was a top sport worldwide for decades, started a swift decline.  Sports fans still wanted a primal and violent sport, but few quality fighters existed in boxing, thus, it was time to look elsewhere. 

Individual martial art disciplines weren’t easy enough to follow for a casual fan, as sports like Muay Thai and Jiu Jitsu lacked the accessibility of mainstream boxing in the United States.  Why not combine the most entertaining (and violent) techniques and throw them together in the same Octagon?

Stroke of genius. 

Mixed martial arts grew in popularity by way of small-town showcases, the way boxing had been prevalent in cities big and small over the years.  Anybody could “claim” to be a fighter and get in the ring.  Does it mean they were skilled or talented?  Hell no, but it connected your average Joe to the emerging sport.

After its inception in the 1990s, the rise of the UFC in the 21st century coincided with the popularity of cable television, a consumer demand for sport like never before, and of course, social media. 

White and the UFC have been masterful at cultivating physical talents with a knack for hype and self promotion.  As boxing dwindled, struggling to harvest young, marketable talent (minus a select few like Floyd Mayweather and Manny Pacquiao, obviously), UFC was promoting the hell out of its product, getting its fighters as much exposure as possible.

The sport gained worldwide popularity, in part, due to the international influence intrinsic to the various fighting styles. 

When a sport has a villain who is despised by an entire country (I’m looking at you Sonnen), I hate to say it, but in this day and age, that isn’t a bad thing.  These fighters talk trash and truly sell a bitter, hated rivalry that may or may not exist when the cameras aren’t rolling.  The point is that human beings find conflict fascinating as it draws us like moths to a flame.

The UFC has taken nearly two decades to build, and Saturday’s rematch between Silva and Sonnen might just take the sport to its highest peak yet. 

The most entertaining part of the first half of the SEC Championship Game between Georgia and LSU didn’t involve wasn’t the Honey Badger’s non-touchdown touchdown, but instead, a yucky “cry-face” on live television. 

The culprit?  Ivon Rodriguez-Padilla, winner of the Dr. Pepper Tuition Throw challenge during halftime of a 10-7 game led by UGA at the Georgia Dome.

Rodriguez-Padilla threw for significantly more yards than LSU in the first half as she and Katelyn Watson battled for $100,000 towards college tuition by throwing footballs five yards into specially made Dr. Pepper cans placed in the endzone. 

Padilla-Rodriguez, a freshman at the University of Nevada, Reno threw 13 balls into the cans in 30 seconds while Watson came up short with 10. 

As soon as the buzzer sounded and Padilla-Rodriguez, from Las Vegas, realized she had won the competition, she burst into the crazy cry-face above and the waterworks were at flood level!  It was AMAZING.

You would think that blubbering all over national TV would be embarrassing enough, but Rodriguez-Padilla outdid herself with her response to CBS reporter Tracy Wolfson’s question, asking her how much the money meant to her.  Rodriguez-Padilla replied, while still sobbing, “this is so important to me [puts hand over mouth]… Dr Pepper is seriously the best thing that has ever happened to me!!!”

This moment was an all-time classic.  I bet Saturday Night Live will spoof it.  I think it rivals Janet Jackson’s wardrobe malfunction.  Yes Rodriguez-Padilla’s wild reaction was funny, sending my twitter timeline into a tizzy, but in reality, that young lady had every reason to cry tears of joy.

Between the black hole that is the U.S. economy and the way student loans are absolutely decimating peoples’ finances after college, winning this money probably IS the best thing that has ever happened to Rodriguez-Padilla.  Without knowing what her financial situation is, the money must mean a lot as she took the opportunity seriously. 

"Well I practiced just about every day at Mackay Stadium which is my university stadium with a bunch of stacked trash cans and I had our starting quarterback Cody Fajardo help me out," Rodriguez-Padilla told Wolfson before the contest started.  "And i had a friend who is an aspiring engineer come up with  my technique."

How cool is that?  The Wolf Pack quarterback helped this girl train for the contest.  Love it.

According to an article on the University of Nevada, Reno website, the 18-year-old feels that Wolf Pack athletics brings the school community together and helps to relieve stress among students.  Rodriguez-Padilla said she was honored to have the chance to lessen her family’s financial burden by participating in the promotion.

On the school’s website, UNR student Tiffany Moore wrote that Rodriguez-Padilla hopes to use the money to, “pursue her majors in English and history, as well as her minor in the philosophy of law, ethics and politics. After graduation, she wants to attend law school and become a lawyer.  ‘One day, I hope to become a federal judge and ultimately, a Supreme Court Justice,’ she said.”

Rodriguez-Padilla sounds like a very motivated young lady, and good for her for working hard for that money.  Don’t feel too bad for the runner up as Watson took home $23k for finishing second. 

I give Rodriguez-Padilla’s enthusiasm and overall awesomeness credit for turning the SEC Championship game around.  That halftime spot really got the ball rolling and she might just be the Tigers’ new good luck charm.  I think LSU should offer Rodriguez-Padilla a sideline pass for the BCS Championship game.  If they did, one can only imagine what her reaction would be. 

To watch how the Dr. Pepper Tuition Throw went down, click here for the video: