Under-the-Radar UFC Bouts with Big Implications
Jones vs. Gustafsson, GSP vs. Hendricks, Velasquez vs. Dos Santos, Silva vs. Weidman again—the UFC has giant title fights slated to close out 2013 in style.
But there are even more non-title fights with huge implications.
While Jose Aldo will be defending his title against "The Korean Zombie" at UFC 163, Jake Ellenberger will settle his public spat with Rory MacDonald, with the winner most likely earning the next shot at the welterweight title.
Daniel Cormier's feud with Roy Nelson has also been in the news lately and a contract has even been signed for a match between the two heavyweights. However, the implications of this fight are minuscule.
With so many title matches on the horizon for the remainder of this year's events, there are many fights that are flying under the radar.
Here's a look at a few fights that fans, and champions, should be keeping an eye on.
Joseph Benavidez vs. Jussier Da Silva
Although a matchup on the UFC Fight Night 28 card, the flyweight fight between Benavidez and "Formiga" is not garnering the attention it deserves.
With the UFC Flyweight Title being put on the line this Saturday, the winner of "Mighty Mouse" and Moraga will need a new challenger very soon. And this matchup may very well give the champion just that.
Benavidez has been ranked as the No. 2 flyweight in the world ever since his split decision loss to Demetrious Johnson in the inaugural flyweight championship matchup. Since then, Benavidez is 2-0 with wins over No. 4-ranked Ian McCall and Darren Uyenoyama.
Jussier "Formiga" da Silva is currently ranked No. 6 in the division and a win over Benavidez would at least give him some serious consideration for the next shot. Formiga is 1-1 in the UFC, with his loss coming to former No. 1 contender John Dodson.
Benavidez is a fast-paced fighter who is constantly looking for a finish no matter how he can get it, while Formiga is a submission fighter, though he has one less submission victory than Benavidez.
With Dodson losing his last fight against Mighty Mouse, it would only be right that the winner of this fight get the next crack at the title, especially if Benavidez comes out on top. The contrasting styles should make for much excitement if nothing else.
Glover Teixeira vs. Ryan Bader
Another marquee matchup on the UFC Fight Night 28 card is the main event between Glover Teixeira and Ryan Bader.
This matchup between top-10 light heavyweights has been pegged for a while to have serious title implications, but hasn't really been in the news the way it should. Teixeira is 4-0 in the UFC thus far while Bader is 3-2 in his last five fights inside of the Octagon.
Teixeira has flashed crisp boxing and excellent ground work in his short time in the UFC, while Bader has made a living grounding and pounding his opponents with his solid wrestling technique. Both men have victories over long-time contender Rampage Jackson, and look to match up pretty evenly.
Both men sit in the top 10 in the division, Teixeira at No. 6 and Bader at No. 8, and a highlight-reel win could potentially lift one of them into a No. 1 contender fight.
Teixeira would benefit more from a victory being on the up-and-up so far in his UFC career, but a victory for either catapults them into the top of the title hunt.
Alistair Overeem vs. Travis Browne
UFC Fight Night 26 will feature a pair of fights with fighters who believe in their skill a little too much. Chael Sonnen will take his verbal mastery against Shogun Rua in the main event, but the fight that has big implications is the battle between Travis Browne and the ever-arrogant Alistair Overeem.
Overeem is coming off of what can only be called an embarrassing knockout loss to Antonio Silva. Everyone knows Overeem is a former K-1 Champion who believes his striking is superior to any other fighter on the planet, and it showed when he left his hands down and let Big Foot put him to sleep.
Despite that setback, Overeem still sits at No. 5 in the division and will welcome No. 9-ranked Browne into the upper echelon of the division when the two meet.
Browne is 14-1-1 in his career with his only loss coming to Big Foot after injuring his knee in the opening minutes of the fight. He rebounded with a spectacular knockout of Gabriel Gonzaga and will look to dispatch Overeem in similar fashion.
If Overeem can keep his ego in check, he definitely has the upper hand in this fight with 15 knockouts and 19 submission victories to his credit, but Browne can do some damage to The Reem by keeping his distance and using his 6'7" frame to his advantage.
The winner of this fight will move to the top of the heap, with a showdown against Fabricio Werdum as the most likely result. This will be a slobber-knocker that has knockout of the night written all over it.
Jacre Souza vs. Yushin Okami
The middleweight title picture is as clouded as ever at the moment, with an historic rematch between Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman set to close out the year.
While guys like Vitor Belfort and Michael Bisping will likely see the next shot at the title following the rematch, another match from the Teixeira card featuring Jacare and Yushin Okami is poised to challenge the notion.
Sitting at No. 4 in the middleweight rankings, Jacare Souza is a fighter who is "that close" to getting a title shot. Although he only has one UFC fight to his credit, Jacare can prove that his 18-3 record is legit.
Yushin Okami has been a perennial contender in the division for many years and is currently ranked No. 9 in the division while riding a three-fight win streak.
Jacare is one of the best, if not the best, jiu-jitsu practitioners in all of MMA, with 14 of his 18 victories coming by submission. Not to mention, his striking is getting better each time out.
Okami is 29-7 in his career but is susceptible to damage from guys with clean and fast striking. This fight will likely hit the ground early and you have to think Jacare has the advantage.
A victory for Jacare, in my opinion, should earn Jacare a No. 1 contender matchup with No. 2-ranked Vitor Belfort, who is still looking for a fight. Either way, the winner will stake their claim as a viable contender.
Lyoto Machida vs. Phil Davis
Who can beat Jon Jones?
While Alexander Gustafsson will get the next chance to prove that it is him at UFC 165, a slew of other fighters are looking to stake their claim as contenders.
Teixeira has already been discussed as a possible contender if he can get past Ryan Bader, but the matchup between No. 2-ranked Lyoto Machida and No. 7-ranked Phil Davis at UFC 163 is right up there in that regard.
Machida, who lost to Jones by second-round submission back in December of 2011, is riding a two-fight win streak with victories over Bader and Dan Henderson. Davis is 3-1 in his last four fights with the only loss, and only loss of his 12-fight career, coming to No. 4-ranked Rashad Evans.
Machida gave Jones a lot of trouble in their fight, using his speed and stick-and-move tactics to tag Jones and avoid trouble before eventually being enveloped by Jones' strength. Davis is a wrestler whose standup is coming along gradually, as he tries to match his excellent athleticism.
If Machida wins this fight, a title shot wouldn't surprise me especially if Daniel Cormier can't make his weight cut by then. A win by Davis would likely earn him a bout with the winner of Teixeira and Bader in what I would call a title eliminator.
Davis will look to take Machida to the ground while Machida will pick his strikes and try to outsmart the athletic gifts of Davis. The winner of this fight has to be guaranteed at least a No. 1 contender fight.