Ranking the UFC's 10 Best Remaining Events in 2012

Marcelo Villa@@_marcelovillaFeatured Columnist IIIMarch 21, 2012

Ranking the UFC's 10 Best Remaining Events in 2012

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    In the UFC there is no offseason. Fight fans can still get their fix in 2012 with some very exciting events remaining.

    2012 has been far from uneventful so far, as we've witnessed some big fights and even bigger changes in the UFC. Longtime champion Georges St-Pierre is no longer the sole welterweight belt holder after suffering a severe knee injury. No. 1 contender Carlos Condit is the interim champion after going to war with Nick Diaz in a five-round bout last February.

    Just as surprising this year was the changing of the tides in the lightweight division in February. Former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson took the belt from Frankie Edgar in a unanimous decision. So begins a new era.

    Expect even more action and changes to come with big cards left in 2012. Here are the year's 10 best remaining UFC events.

10. The Ultimate Fighter 15 Season Finale

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    We won't know who the finalists are for the season 15 finale of The Ultimate Fighter until the show comes to a close, but we do know that some of the UFC's most talented fighters have come out of the show in the past. Watching the future of the UFC mix it up in each finale acts as a sneak peek for fans.

    16 lightweights will attempt to make their dreams come true in the ultimate tournament reality show. Coaches Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber will push their teams extra hard with the added motivation to better one another.

9. UFC on FX 3

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    For UFC on FX 3, we have one major confirmed bout pitting flyweights Demetrious Johnson and Ian McCall against each other once again on June 8 to determine who will face Joseph Benavidez for the flyweight title.

    These two fought in March of this year, only to end with a majority draw. Finally setting up Benavidez with a competitor will shape up the new flyweight class and add depth to an extensive list of UFC champions.

    If both men managed a draw in their first fight, then it's safe to say they won't let their second meeting make it to a decision this time around.

8. UFC on FX 4

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    Only one bout has been confirmed for UFC on FX 4, which is scheduled to take place on June 22 in Atlantic City, New Jersey. That one fight is a lightweight battle between Gray Maynard and Clay Guida.

    Maynard may be 10-1-1, but three epic fights with then-champion Frankie Edgar took a lot out of the 32-year-old.

    Guida becomes his first opponent not named Frankie Edgar since August 2010. Bullying Guida in the cage is easier said than done, considering he has one of the toughest chins in the UFC and his intense cardio is tough to deal with. Guida has fought a who's who of top lightweight fighters and Maynard comes as no surprise for the veteran.

    Guida is always a favorite to have a fast-paced, exciting fight and the knockout power Maynard displayed in the Edgar saga is drawing interest from fans.

7. UFC on FUEL TV 3: Jung vs Poirier

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    "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung has finally earned a spot in the main event of a UFC card after a  memorable 2010 war with Leonard Garcia at WEC 48. Jung has had two fights in the UFC since then and claimed a perfect record with a revenge win over Garcia and a first-round KO of Mark Hominick.

    23-year-old Dustin Poirier is 12-1 in his young MMA career and a repertoire of submissions combined with underrated striking make him a threat to steal the show in the main event.

    This card is relatively quiet with big names, but a lot of younger fighters will be getting their shot to impress. The fight before the main event has some intriguing competitors, though.

    Jeremy Stephens vs. Donald Cerrone

    It's hard to believe Jeremy Stephens is still just 25 years old, despite making his debut back in 2007. Decision losses have really killed his title hopes. Stephens is coming off a split decision loss to Anthony Pettis in October and faces quite the challenge in taking on Muay Thai specialist Donald Cerrone.

    Both lightweights love the technical striking and go hard every fight till the bell. The best way to recover from a recent loss is to deliver a decisive win.

6. UFC on FUEL TV 2: Gustafsson vs Silva

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    The sequel to FUEL TV's first UFC promotion will take place April 14 in Stockholm, Sweden, with the main event featuring Swedish light heavyweight Alexander Gustafsson taking on Brazilian striker Thiago Silva.

    Gustafsson has been hot in the UFC, going 5-1 with his one loss coming at the hands of Phil Davis. Wins over Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko have Gustafsson entering deep waters with talented light heavyweights like Silva.

    Once considered among the cream of the crop in the light heavyweight division, Silva has disappeared from the spotlight and finds himself rebuilding his name in the division.

    This card has a few matchups in the lighter weight classes worth noting, but there's one particular middleweight bout that really stands out.

    Brian Stann vs. Alessio Sakara

    Brian Stann vs. Alessio Sakara is a knockout waiting to happen with two fighters that love to bang. Stann is a coming off a loss to Chael Sonnen last October and Sakara hasn't been healthy enough to revamp his career.

    Stann brings a fury with him to the Octagon that produces some pretty entertaining fights and with a guy like Sakara who goes for the knockout without self-regard, there's no way fans will want to miss this one.

5. UFC on FOX 3: Miller vs Diaz

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    UFC on FOX 3 doesn't feature some of the bigger names in the UFC similar to past UFC on FOX events, but Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller really shakes up the lightweight tree with new belt holder Ben Henderson sitting atop the throne.

    The winner of this lightweight bout could get their crack at Henderson a lot sooner than they think. Diaz has been knocking on the door for a title shot in the lightweight division for a long time and his most recent wins over Takanori Gomi and Donald Cerrone certainly got the wheels moving for a title run.

    Miller has almost always come out on top in the UFC; his record so far is 10-2, with losses against Gray Maynard and Henderson—both of which are some of the toughest competitors in the division. Miller lost by decision to both.

    It's obvious Miller can hang with the big boys, but is Diaz ready to earn his title shot once and for all? We'll see.

    If you're a fan of the most recent seasons of The Ultimate Fighter, then this card is for you as well, with several TUF alums bidding for a long-term deal with a strong performance.

    Other than the main event, there's one other fight that deserves a lot of hype.

    Josh Koscheck vs. Johny Hendricks

    Johny Hendricks has blown through UFC opponents since transitioning over from the WEC and his first-round knockout of Jon Fitch has fans wondering if he's the real deal in the welterweight division. Fighting Josh Koscheck should give us an answer to that question.

    We'll also find out if the 34-year-old Koscheck still wants to make another run at the belt. Georges St-Pierre has been like kryptonite in his career and I'm sure he'd love another shot at avenging those losses for his own sake.

    It's the up-and-comer against the aging star in this one.

4. UFC 147: Sao Paulo

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    As far as UFC 147 is concerned, we know two things: One, it's scheduled to take place June 29 in Sau Paulo, Brazil; two, Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen will face off in the long-awaited rematch every fight fan has been waiting for.

    In 2010, the first installment of Silva vs. Sonnen took place at UFC 117 in the Oracle Arena of Oakland, Calif. and it was without a doubt the best fight of the year and one of the greatest comebacks ever.

    After being pummeled by Sonnen for five straight rounds, the pound-for-pound king Silva latched on a triangle armbar with a little less than two minutes left in the fight. Watching Sonnen bully the greatest fighter in the world was a shock in itself, but Silva's last minute submission will go down in history.

    Sonnen hasn't stopped running his mouth about how much Silva disgusts him and now that the rematch has been set, June 29 couldn't come any quicker. Only two fights have been announced so far, but the main event alone makes UFC 147 an absolute must for fans.

    The second bout on the card isn't something you want to miss either.

    Vitor Belfort vs. Wanderlei Silva

    The second matchup features the coaches of The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil and two of Brazil's most legendary Octagon warriors in Vitor Belfort and Wanderlei Silva.

    Both Brazilians are aggressive strikers with knockout power. Fighting in their home country will give them extra motivation to lay their opponent out.

3. UFC 145: Jones vs Evans

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    Current UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones and former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans have been stirring up quite the grudge match leading up to their April 21st bout in Atlanta, Ga.

    Once sparring partners under the tutelage of renowned MMA trainer Greg Jackson in Albuquerque, N.M., Jones and Evans have already gotten an early start on the trash talk and they haven't been holding anything back.

    Bad blood in the main event makes this card a must-see in 2012, but that's not the only matchup that makes UFC 145 a top-10 event.

    Here are three key fights to keep an eye on in this card:

    Rory MacDonald vs. Che Mills

    Rory MacDonald and Che Mills are fairly new to the UFC, but both these welterweights have gotten off to hot starts in their MMA careers. MacDonald is just 22 years old and with four UFC fights under his belt and he's already mixed it up with some of the big dogs in the division.

    MacDonald holds wins over Michael Guymon, Nate Diaz and most recently Mike Pyle. A loss to current interim champ Carlos Condit is the only blemish on MacDonald's 12-1 record.

    Mills, on the other hand, has had just one UFC fight, but a 14-4 record in previous organizations makes him the more experienced fighter.

    Brendan Schaub vs. Ben Rothwell

    Brendan Schaub looked like he was on a one-way path to being the No. 1 contender in the heavyweight division, but a KO loss to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in August really slowed his momentum after coming off a four-fight win streak. No doubt he'll be looking to get back into a rhythm when he faces veteran Ben Rothwell in the main card.

    After the beating he took from Cain Velasquez in his UFC debut, Rothwell has looked nothing like the same fighter that dominated the IFL for so long. A recent loss to Mark Hunt September has his UFC career hanging by a thread.

    The 30-year-old vet could be facing release if he doesn't put up a strong showing against Schaub.

    Miguel Torres vs. Michael McDonald

    Upon his release from the UFC in December because of a controversial tweet, Miguel Torres didn't know if he would be making a return to the Octagon anytime soon, but UFC president Dana White said otherwise.

    Torres is scheduled to fight 21-year-old Michael McDonald in a bantamweight matchup during the preliminary card. At 40-4, Torres is still one of the best bantamweights in the world and it will be interesting to see his mindset in this fight after nearly being permanently let go.

    For the complete UFC 145 fight card, click here.

2. UFC 146: Dos Santos vs Overeem

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    Memorial Day weekend at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. couldn't get any bigger—literally.

    Of the previously announced bouts scheduled for UFC 146, five of them are heavyweight matchups, including a heavyweight title fight between newly crowned champion Junior Dos Santos and former Strikeforce champion Alistair Overeem.

    Since Dos Santos captured the title in November with a stunning 64-second KO of Cain Velasquez on UFC on FOX, the champion has been awaiting the announcement of his first title defense. Little did he know that he'd be defending his title against one of the sport's heavyweight legends.

    A world champion kickboxer and MMA vet who has fought in almost every big-name organization around the world, Overeem has reached the pinnacle of his career in the UFC. A TKO of former champ Brock Lesnar in his debut last December has fans drooling at this matchup.

    Both men are arguably the best strikers in the division and with the title on the line, this showdown has Fight of the Year written all over it.

    But before these two heavies duke it out in the main event, there are two more heavyweight battles worth watching.

    Cain Velasquez vs. Frank Mir

    How ironic that Cain Velasquez should make his return at UFC 146 on the same card as the man who knocked him senseless and took his heavyweight title several months ago.

    A decisive victory over Frank Mir is the first step to getting his rematch with Dos Santos. Brutal losses to Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin really shook Mir's confidence, but the 32-year-old has fought his way back up the ranks riding a three-fight win streak with finishes of Mirko Filipovic and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira.

    The winner of this bout could easily be knocking on the door for a title shot.

    Antonio Silva vs. Roy Nelson

    This is a collision of MMA veterans with more than 15 years of experience between them. The fact that they're both heavyweights makes for something more than your typical big man brawl in the cage.

    Silva makes his UFC debut after enjoying a somewhat successful career in which he defeated Fedor Emelianenko, who was once considered the best heavyweight in the world.

    Nelson is a former IFL champ and winner of season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter who enjoyed a hot start to his UFC career, but bumps along the road have him sporting a 3-3 record in the Octagon.

    Both men are well rounded with plenty to prove in the latter half of their careers, which should make for an entertaining fight.

1. UFC 148: Cruz vs Faber 3

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    Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber absolutely despise one another. That alone should be reason enough to watch their rubber match, scheduled for July 7 at the MGM Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nev. as the main event of UFC 148.

    In their first meeting in 2007 at WEC 26, Faber locked up his signature guillotine choke on the less-experienced Cruz and finished the fight in the very first round to win the featherweight title.

    Four years later, the two met at UFC 132 for the bantamweight title and Cruz showed he was a completely different fighter than in 2007 with a unanimous decision victory.

    Now more than a year later from their second fight, Cruz and Faber will finally settle the score. Coaching The Ultimate Fighter: Live together will only fuel their hatred and add to the anticipation surrounding their fight.

    As if this card couldn't get any better, there's still three big fights leading up to the main event. One of them is another UFC rubber match.

    Tim Boetsch vs. Michael Bisping

    Making the move to middleweight was probably one of the best decisions Tim Boetsch made and it certainly paid off when he earned a TKO victory over former No. 1 contender Yushin Okami in February. The impressive win propelled Boetsch into the mix of top middleweights and a fight with Michael Bisping will be the ultimate test.

    Bisping has been on the prowl for a shot at middleweight king Anderson Silva for some time now, but losses against top-flight opponents have cut his title runs short. A loss to Chael Sonnen in January stopped his run once again and now Bisping must work his way back to the top.

    Forrest Griffin vs. Tito Ortiz

    The fans wanted it and now they have it. The Forrest Griffin and Tito Ortiz trilogy will finally come to an end and two of the era's greatest light heavyweights will clash in what could be one of the last remaining fights in their careers.

    Ortiz has already publicly acknowledged that this will be the last fight of his career, while Griffin returns to the Octagon after a long layoff to ponder his future.

    Fans who witnessed the first two fights know this could go down as yet another epic fight in UFC history. How could you turn down the opportunity to watch two future Hall of Famers in what could be one of their last hurrah? 

    Rich Franklin vs. Cung Le

    It's been more than a year since former middleweight champion Rich Franklin stepped in the Octagon after a loss to Forrest Griffin at light heavyweight. After bouncing between two different weight classes, he finally returns to face Cung Le at middleweight.

    Despite an almost perfect career in Strikeforce, Le didn't receive a warm welcome from Wanderlei Silva in his UFC debut. Le was battered and bloodied by the "Axe Murderer" before surrendering to TKO in the second round last November.

    Franklin is less of a wild man than Silva, which should bode well for Le, who has yet to really show off his striking in the UFC. As both men approach the ripe age of 40, this could be another sparks-filled bout between two veterans.