The year 2012 isn't quite over, but I want to take a look into the future.
Granted, my crystal ball isn't the best. Making predictions on future UFC events is a total crapshoot, especially given the injury crisis currently plaguing the sport. In a perfect world, we'd get to see every fight booked actually come to fruition, but we all know that isn't the case.
But we're going to do this anyway. In the following slides, I've listed 13 different fighters who I believe will fight for UFC championship gold in 2013. Some may surprise you. Some probably won't.
Let's take a look.
We all know Cormier is going to get his crack at the gold, provided he beats Frank Mir in their October Strikeforce swan song.
What we don't know is which weight class Cormier will eventually pick to call his home. If Cain Velasquez faces and beats Junior dos Santos, Cormier will move to light heavyweight. Actually, I wouldn't be all that surprised to see Cormier make the immediate move to 205 after the Mir fight.
It's a more natural weight class for him. And those of you who bring up his failed Olympic weight-cutting bid should remember that Cormier himself has noted that he simply attempted to cut too much weight. Cormier told me that if he decides to make a run at 205, he'll diet down the proper way and make an easy cut the rest of the way instead of trying to shed all of those pounds at the last second.
Either way, Cormier is fighting for a title in 2013. Bank on it.
There's a possibility Overeem fights for the championship belt this December. After all, he's doing his level best to anger heavyweight champ Junior dos Santos, and it's working. Dos Santos recently said that he now wants to face Overeem before defending against top contender Cain Velasquez, and all because he wants to knock him out and shut him up.
That's one way to go about getting the title shot. Unfortunately, Overeem isn't scheduled to receive his license from the Nevada commission until Dec. 27. That's two days before the UFC's year-end show takes place on Dec. 29, and a bit close for comfort. I see the UFC giving Velasquez his scheduled shot, then rotating Overeem into the mix in early Spring.
Everybody wants this guy to get a crack at the title. Like, right now. But he's just not well-known enough to throw into a pay per view main event, even if the champ across the cage is one of the most polarizing stars in the UFC.
By 2013, that will change. I expect Gustafsson to receive a high-profile opponent in his next bout, which should take place by the end of the year. If he beats that unnamed opponent—and I believe it will ultimately be Mauricio "Shogun" Rua—Gustafsson will have the credibility he needs to get the title shot. He'll get the first crack at the light heavyweight belt in 2013.
A new weight class can work wonders for a man's career, and that's exactly what it'll do for Sonnen.
With no clear path for Sonnen back to a third beating from Anderson Silva, he'll look for greener pastures. Which, in this case, means adding on 15-20 pounds of muscle and making the jump up to face bigger competition.
Sonnen is a big enough star that it will only take one or two big wins at light heavyweight before he's put into a title situation. I'm not sure I like his chances against Jon Jones — not even a little bit, in fact — but if Jones has vacated the division by that point, Sonnen may be able to use his wrestling to bring home that championship he promised his father so long ago.
Like Sonnen, Evans will receive a career refresher courtesy of a change in weight class. I fully expect him to move down to middleweight later this year, perhaps in a number-one contender's fight. If he wins that fight — and there's no reason to expect that he won't be able to beat most of the top contenders at middleweight — Evans will get his first crack at 185-pound gold in 2013.
Much like Cormier, we all know Weidman is going to contend for a title at some point.
We also know that the champ is a little hesitant to face him, which means "some point" likely extends into the future for Weidman. Silva is concerned that Weidman doesn't have a big enough name and that promoting him would be difficult. It's okay for Silva to be concerned about that kind of thing these days, mostly because his paycheck is dependent on it.
But there's going to come a time when Weidman cannot be denied, and that time is coming sooner than Silva or his management would probably like.
You just KNOW the UFC still, at their core, wants so very badly to promote Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz. Which is why they'll do everything they possibly can to ensure that it happens once Diaz is back from his drug failure suspension in early 2013.
There's almost zero chance that Diaz won't be in title contention next year. This is a no-brainer.
2013 will be the year when Erick Silva transmogrifies from super-prospect into legitimate welterweight contender.
He has all the tools: a nasty striking game, fantastic movement, great takedown defense and submissions. He's the prototype for the next generation of fighter, and he'll find himself in the title picture by the end of next year, if not much sooner.
The frigid relationship between Zuffa and Showtime will likely come to an end in April of 2013. And once it does, Melendez—provided he beats Pat Healy in September, of course—will finally make the jump to the UFC's lightweight division. If he's still the Strikeforce champion when that happens, he'll get an immediate title shot, and we'll finally be able to find out who the true best lightweight in the world is.
Cerrone has star power, and that's something missing from most of the lightweight division. That alone is enough to keep him near contention, but he also has outstanding skills and the desire to fight every three or four weeks.
Cerrone faces Melvin Guillard on Saturday night at UFC 150. After that? If Cerrone wins, I fully expect him to face Anthony Pettis in November or December, with the winner earning a title shot.
Sure, Edgar's fighting for a belt on Saturday night. But he'll be doing the same thing in 2013, perhaps even in the early portions of the year. But it won't be the lightweight belt.
I don't think Edgar's going to beat Benson Henderson on Saturday night, which means a move to featherweight will almost surely follow. And, given that Edgar is a bigger star than anyone at 145 pounds—the champion included—it will only take one win for him to get that long-anticipated fight with Aldo.
Death, taxes and Urijah Faber title shots.
Faber just lost his latest attempt to capture UFC gold, but if you think that's going to deter Joe Silva from putting Faber in the cage with Dominick Cruz in 2013, you're out of your mind. The UFC spent four months of live television building up a fight between the two arch-rivals, and they're not going to let it go this easily.
Faber just needs one or two wins, and he'll be right back in the cage vying for gold. That's what happens when you're the most marketable lower-weight star on the roster.
Dodson has a tough bout against top flyweight Jussier Formiga this fall, but if he wins that fight—and I think he will—Dodson will be the guy who meets the winner of the Joseph Benavidez/Demetrious Johnson bout that will determine the first-ever UFC flyweight champion.