In 2012, the UFC planned to host 32 events that spanned five continents and broke into new markets all over the globe. It's no wonder why we, as fight fans, are always looking ahead to the next card.
Dana White's mission statement includes an infinite desire to expand. In fact, the 2013 calendar has six events booked between January 19 and March 3.
Next month will be one of the most active that the sport has seen, as the UFC will be hosting four events, including two within a 24 hour period. The schedule is as follows:
December 8: UFC on FOX 5
December 14: UFC on FX 6
December 15: Ultimate Fighter Finale
December 29: UFC 155
This is a look at the biggest fights from those events, including early betting odds and predictions for each.
Current Odds: Rory MacDonald (-283) over BJ Penn (+252) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Rory MacDonald defeats BJ Penn via TKO in Round 3
Do you guys remember the last time that Rory MacDonald squared off with an undersized lightweight who was masquerading as a welterweight? It was at UFC 129, and the man standing across the cage was none other than upcoming title challenger, Nate Diaz.
The size and strength of MacDonald was undeniable, as he ragdolled the durable Diaz for three full rounds. It was a one-sided affair that saw Diaz losing 30-26 on two of the three scorecards.
Considering that Diaz and B.J. Penn have similar styles (high-volume boxing and elite grappling) and will suffer the same physical disadvantages, it's easy to compare the two matchups.
The difference between Diaz and Penn lies in their proximity to physical prime at the time of the fight. Diaz was had just turned 26 at the time of his bout, while Penn turns 34 just days after UFC on Fox. This puts "The Prodigy" much closer to the end of his bell curve.
Unless Penn can put away the youngster in the first round, I expect that he will fade fast after about seven minutes of competition.
Current Odds: Alexander Gustafsson (-205) over Shogun Rua (+180) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Shogun Rua defeats Alexander Gustafsson via TKO in Round 3
I'm probably going to catch some flack for predicting Rua to shut down Alexander Gustafsson's indisputable momentum. After nearly being finished by both Brandon Vera and Dan Henderson, the current status of Rua's skill set is being questioned by many.
Fear is a major motivator, and the bout with Vera is actually what leads me to believe that the Rua who shows up in December is going to be in prime condition.
After nearly being finished by "The Truth," it's undeniable that Shogun is aware that both his hopes for another title shot and a guaranteed spot in the hall of fame nearly slipped through his fingers.
That fear, added with the fact that he is facing another dangerous prospect will ensure that Rua takes this fight seriously in terms of training and game planning.
I see this fight going to the ground with Shogun on top. Between his dangerous grappling and his powerful hammerfists, I don't think that The Mauler is going to be able to handle his first fight against a former world champion.
Current Odds: Benson Henderson (-152) over Nate Diaz (+138) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Benson Henderson defeats Nate Diaz via decision.
Of every fight happening in December, this is the hardest of them all to predict.
Diaz has incredible boxing, which may be nullified by Henderson's black belt in Taekwondo. And while the second strongest weapon in the Diaz bag of tricks is his submission game, Ben Henderson has some of the best submission defense in the history of the lightweight division.
Both men have epic cardio, and each is as well-rounded as they come. Neither man has ever been knocked out, nor have they been submitted in the past five years. So, how do you determine a winner in such a tightly matched contest?
You have to look at judging criteria and the way that the scorecards seem to sway. The wrestling of Henderson ensures that Diaz will be on his back at several points of this fight.
Even if Nate can neutralize the damage that Bendo will look to drop down on him from above, the simple fact that he is the man on bottom will lead the judges in Henderson's direction.
I have absolutely no confidence in this prediction, and wouldn't dream of putting money on this fight. This is the definition of a toss up.
Current Odds: Hector Lombard (-224) over Rousimar Palhares (+196) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Hector Lombard defeats Rousimar Palhares via decision
In the co-main event of UFC on FX 6, middleweights Hector Lombard and Rousimar Palhares will look to get back on track after suffering stifling setbacks.
Lombard made his highly-anticipated debut at UFC 149, after a successful run as Bellator's middleweight champion. The matchup saw him lose a split decision that came after an anemic performance from both men.
Palhares is a leglock specialist who looked to be on his way to a quick submission against Alan Belcher back in May before his opponent escaped and finished the fight with ground and pound.
Lombard has never been submitted, and no one has ever knocked out Toquinho in stand-up exchanges. This will likely go to the scorecards, and I see it going in favor of "Shango."
Current Odds: George Sotiropoulos (-132) over Ross Pearson (+118) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: George Sotiropoulos defeats Ross Pearson via submission in Round 3
Later in the evening, coaches of The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes will go toe to toe in an exciting affair.
This fight marks the return of Pearson to the lightweight division after a disappointing run at 145. He hasn't competed in the division since the Summer of 2011.
George Sotiropoulos hasn't competed at all during the same period of time. After winning seven consecutive bouts with the UFC, he dropped fights to Dennis Siver and Rafael dos Anjos. He was expected to meet Takanori Gomi earlier this year, but was forced out of the bout due to an injury.
Highlighted by a submission win over Joe Lauzon, Aussie George has displayed stellar grappling abilities during his UFC tenure. He would hold a distinct advantage over Pearson in that department, although Pearson has better striking, but by a lesser margin.
Pearson's only submission loss in the UFC was when he met Cole Miller, who possesses a similar skill set to Sotiropoulos. The fight-ending choke came after Miller rocked the Brit with strikes.
Sotiropoulos should be able to get this fight to the ground and secure a finish before the final horn.
Current Odds: Shane Carwin (-181) over Roy Nelson (+164) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Roy Nelson defeats Shane Carwin via decision
No offense to Shane Carwin, but when he steps into the cage with Roy Nelson, he will be weeks away from his 38th birthday and will be coming off of an 18-month layoff following back surgery. In addition, "The Engineer" has never been one to display a solid gas tank, and his next fight is a five-round encounter due to its main event status.
All of these signs point to an upset for the Ultimate Fighter champion.
Nelson has gone into the third round in five of his last eight contests, while Carwin has only done it once in his career. That sole occurrence took place in his last fight, where he was outclassed and exhausted by an encounter against Junior dos Santos.
My thoughts on this fight are that unless Carwin finishes fast, he will succumb to exhaustion before the end of the second round. Given that Nelson has a legendary chin, I think that "Big Country" stands a better chance than people are giving him credit for.
Current Odds: Chris Weidman (-389) over Tim Boetsch (+336) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Chris Weidman defeats Tim Boetsch via submission in Round 2
The Cinderella story of Tim Boetsch has been one to watch. After a forgettable run at light heavyweight, he has been flawless in four appearances at middleweight.
Let me rephrase that. Boetsch hasn't lost in his four appearances at middleweight, flaws and all. The flaws in question have come in his most recent appearances.
Against Yushin Okami, Boetsch was dominated for the first two rounds of action. A flurry in the third caught Okami off guard and put Boetsch on the map as a contender at 185 pounds.
In his next fight, he was given an opportunity against highly regarded Hector Lombard. Lombard was lossless in his last 25 fights, but entered the contest with injuries that left him tentative and flat-footed.
Boetsch put on an equally atrocious performance in the fight, and was graciously awarded a split-decision in a fight where neither man earned the right to call himself a winner.
At UFC 155, Boetsch faces a legitimate Top Three fighter in Chris Weidman, who will likely take him to the canvas and pound on "The Barbarian" until he gives up a submission or until the referee mercifully stops it.
This fight is one of the most anticipated mismatches left on the 2012 fight calendar, and I don't see Boetsch coming out victorious without a miraculous punch that lands perfectly.
Current Odds: No websites are currently offering a line on this fight as of the date of publication.
Prediction: Phil Davis defeats Forrest Griffin via decision
Due to the relatively recent nature of booking replacement bout Forrest Griffin vs Phil Davis, there are no active lines on this fight. However, given the unimpressive nature of Griffin's win against Tito Ortiz, and his quick knockout loss to Shogun Rua last year, I'd suggest that the original Ultimate Fighter winner will open as a 2-1 underdog.
Along with Jon Jones, Ryan Bader and Alexander Gustafsson, wrestler Phil Davis is a representative of the youthful elite that has made their mark in the light heavyweight division. The NCAA standout has lost only once in eight UFC appearances, and has recorded victories against Gustafsson and PRIDE standout Antonio "Minotoro" Nogueira.
Davis has a slight reach advantage, but his biggest display of superiority will come in the wrestling department.
Griffin is a former world champion, but his heart has been questioned in recent appearances. Is he just sticking around for a paycheck these days? Or has the MMA world surpassed him in skill over the last few years?
Expect Davis to utilize his takedowns and smothering top game in this contest, although it's unlikely that he will submit his foe. Griffin is a BJJ black belt under Robert Drysdale and has never been submitted in his career.
Unfortunately for Griffin, he is unlikely to outwork the youthful wrestler who is still trying to shake off the cobwebs after a loss to Rashad Evans in January.
Current Odds: Junior dos Santos (-137) over Cain Velasquez (+123) at Sportbet.com
Prediction: Cain Velasquez defeats Junior dos Santos by TKO in Round 2
Cain Velasquez is an overachiever who simply refuses to accept the notion that he isn't the best heavyweight on the planet. After losing his first fight (and the UFC heavyweight championship in the process), Velasquez returned to the UFC looking to make a major statement.
Unfortunately for Bigfoot Silva, he happened to be standing across the cage from the Brown Pride superstar when that statement was made. Velasquez made short, but bloody work of the giant, and did so in such a manner that it earned him a rematch for his championship at UFC 155.
The man holding the belt is the same man to take it from Velasquez, Junior dos Santos. "Cigano" has the best boxing in the heavyweight division, and quite possibly in all of mixed martial arts. Those hands have earned the Brazilian seven KO or TKO wins since signing his contract with Zuffa.
Despite being a veteran of nine UFC contests, dos Santos has yet to show us how he will react once put on his back. Considering that Velasquez was quickly knocked out in their first meeting, expect the AKA stud to get this fight down in a hurry the second time around.
If Velasquez gets on top, I don't think dos Santos will be able to handle the disgusting ground and pound that will rain from above. Although the line on this fight is essentially a pick'em, I'm predicting the slight underdog to come out victorious this time around.