Top 10 Can't-Miss UFC Fights in January
There will be no shortage of UFC cards in 2012, and to begin the year with a bang, the UFC is hosting three events, including two free cards in the first month.
The first event will be UFC 142, which will be available on pay-per-view and feature UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo putting his title on the line against former NCAA Division I wrestler Chad Mendes. It will be the UFC's third trip to Brazil and second since last August.
The two free events will be broadcast live on FX and Fox with the first being headlined by lightweights Melvin Guillard and Jim Miller.
UFC on Fox 2 will be the best yet and showcase three fights, including a couple top contender matchups in three divisions.
These are the top 10 can't miss fights of the month.
No. 10: Duane Ludwig vs. Josh Neer
Duane "Bang" Ludwig (21-11) and Josh "The Dentist" Neer (32-10-1) will meet in a welterweight fight at Ultimate Fight Night 26, and both are coming off impressive and entertaining victories.
Ludwig defeated Amir Sadollah and Nick Osipczak to earn back-to-back wins inside the Octagon while Neer extended his five-fight win streak with a comeback fight victory versus Keith Wisniewski.
Both of these fighters are finishers, and they have 44 between them, including 28 by knockout.
No. 9: Pat Barry vs. Christian Morecraft
Also on the UFN 26 card is a heavyweight bout between Pat "HD" Barry (10-4) and Christian "World of" Morecraft (7-2).
Barry is coming off consecutive losses versus Stefan Struve and Cheick Kongo and will be looking to get back on the winning track. His exciting style and outgoing personality makes him one of the more fan-friendly fighters in the sport.
Morecraft is a massive heavyweight and at 6' 6", will have a height, weight and reach advantage over his opponent. He currently sits at 1-2 in the UFC with his lone win coming against Sean McCorkle.
No. 8: Mike Massenzio vs. Rousimar Palhares
Rousimar "Toquinho" Palhares (13-3) hopes to give his home country of Brazil a victory when he takes on Mike Massenzio (13-5) in a middleweight bout at UFC 142.
Palhares enters the bout as one of the more dangerous submission artists in the division and he has the record to back it up. Of his six wins in the UFC, four have come by submission, including three by heel-hook or kneebar. His wins include those over Dan Miller, Dave Branch, Jeremy Horn and Ivan Salaverry.
Massenzio proved his toughness in his last bout versus Steve Cantwell. The Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt had to overcome a shaky first round to win a unanimous decision. It was a return bout to the 185 pound division.
No. 7: Melvin Guillard vs. Jim Miller
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The headliner at UFN 26 will feature Melvin Guillard (29-9-2) going up against Jim Miller (20-3) in the lightweight division.
Both are coming off losses that broke extensive win-streaks. Guillard had a five-fight win streak snapped in just 47 seconds by Joe Lauzon while Miller dropped a unanimous decision to Benson Henderson in August.
This is an important fight for both, and neither can afford to have another setback after being so close to a title shot in their last fights. Besides their losses, both have shown dominance over most opponents, and it will be a battle to the finish when they finally meet.
No. 6: Vitor Belfort vs. Anthony Johnson
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MMA fans will be looking towards a war when Vitor Belfort (20-9) and Anthony Johnson (11-3) meet in the co-main event at UFC 142.
Both bring knockout power and dynamic striking, but it will be interesting to see if Johnson implements a game plan of using his wrestling and top-control to stifle Belfort in front of his hometown crowd.
If Johnson wins his middleweight debut, he will be on the fast-track to meeting up with the UFC middleweight champion or a top contender in the division.
If Belfort wins, he will have satisfied a lot of Brazilian fans and will have won two in a row since losing to Silva.
No. 5: Edson Barboza vs. Terry Etim
Edson Barboza (9-0) and Terry Etim (15-3) are two of the more exciting lightweights in the UFC, and they will put their stand-up skills to the test when they meet at UFC 142 in Brazil.
Barboza is undefeated and 3-0 in the UFC. His last two fights both earned fight of the night bonuses, and both were fiercely fought against Ross Pearson and Anthony Njokuani.
Etim returned from an extensive break of mending injuries to defeat Edward Faaloloto at UFC 138. He is 5-1 in his last six bouts, four of which came by submission or knockout.
No. 4: Michael Bisping vs. Demian Maia
Middleweight contenders Michael Bisping (22-3) and Demian Maia (15-3) would both like a shot at the UFC middleweight champion, and they will have to go through each other to determine who gets to jump forward in line at UFC on Fox 2.
Bisping is coming off a dominant and one-sided performance over Jason Miller. He went in as the underdog but emerged the victor by TKO in the third round. It was his fourth victory since losing to Wanderlei Silva in 2010.
Maia, a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, is 3-1 in his last four with victories over Jorge Santiago, Kendall Grove and Mario Miranda. Fans are hoping to see flashes of his submission skills in this bout. The last time Maia submitted an opponent was at UFC 95 against Chael Sonnen.
No. 3: Mark Munoz vs. Chael Sonnen
Chael Sonnen (27-11-1) returns for the second time since being submitted by Anderson Silva to take on Mark Munoz (12-2), who was last seen stopping Chris Leben to extend his win-streak to four.
Both are experienced and accomplished wrestlers, and it will likely be a battle of who can impose their will. Munoz is one of the biggest punchers in the division, and his ground-and-pound usually has devastating results.
Sonnen is also known for his active top-control, and he will need to find a way to get Munoz down to secure a win and move on to fight for the middleweight championship.
No. 2: Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo (20-1) is one of the more dominant fighters in the sport, and he will face his toughest test to date when he takes on undefeated fighter Chad Mendes (11-0) at UFC 142.
Mendes is arguably the best wrestler in the division, and it has led him to defeating all of his opponents, including Rani Yahya, Michihiro Omigawa and Javier Vazquez. This will not only be his first main-event fight but his first main-card fight in the UFC.
Aldo is coming off back-to-back wins in the UFC and defeated Kenny Florian and Mark Hominick, both by unanimous decision over five rounds. This could be his last fight in the featherweight division, and he will want to leave on a win if he has plans of fighting the very best at lightweight.
No. 1: Phil Davis vs. Rashad Evans
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UFC on Fox 2 will feature former UFC light-heavyweight champion Rashad Evans (16-1-1) taking on Phil Davis (9-0) for a chance to fight reigning champion and former teammate Jon Jones.
Many consider Davis to be a younger version of Evans, and his fighting style proves it. His wrestling ability has been his main key to victory so far in his career, and wins over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Tim Boetsch and Alexander Gustafsson have made him one of the UFC's best prospects at the age of 27.
Evans has only fought once since his victory over Quinton Jackson early in 2010, and he picked up a victory over Tito Ortiz in a rematch. This will be the most important fight in his comeback since losing the title to Lyoto Machida almost three years ago, and it will all go down free on Fox.