Now that 2014 has officially begun, our eyes look forward with no small amount of anticipation to the future and the fights that could continue the pace that the tail end of 2013 provided.
Jon Jones had his excellent fight with Alexander Gustafsson, Diego Sanchez had his brawl with Gilbert Melendez and Antonio “Big Foot” Silva went toe-to-toe for five hard rounds with Mark Hunt; all excellent scraps that brought 2013 to a close in the best possible way.
Even though Georges St-Pierre was taken an indefinite leave of absence and Anderson Silva and Cain Velasquez are one the sidelines with injuries, 2014 can still be a noteworthy year. Often times, great fights can come where we least expect it, and that is why we watch the sport, after all.
Of course, if seeing a great fight realized was as easy as most matchmakers-from-the-sofa pretend, they would all be great fights; but that does not prevent us from pondering the possibilities, nor should it.
Imagination and anticipation are guilty pleasures for all fight fans, and in that spirit I offer 10 fights we would love to see in 2014.
Even though Anthony Pettis is recovering from an injury (it seems like nearly everyone is), one cannot help but hope that if he makes a successful title defense, we may see him square off against pound-for-pound great Jose Aldo.
It would be a thrilling bout for all the right reasons: Both men are dynamic, dangerous strikers who are in their primes and both possess a dangerous ground game.
If there is any fight that has the potential to be the MMA equivalent to Marco Antonio Barrera versus Erik Morales, it’s Pettis-Aldo. Trying to predict who would win is a tough proposition, but if push comes to shove, I would have to say Aldo would edge him out, but just barely.
And if it is as great as we imagine, it could be the start of an excellent trilogy.
During the finale of the second season of The Ultimate Fighter, Diego Sanchez had a hell of a fight against the older brother of Nate Diaz, Nick.
If lightning struck once before, why can’t it happen again, this time at 155?
Sanchez is at a point in his career where he just wants bloody, violent fights; if there is any other fighter out there that seems born to accommodate him, it’s Nate.
Sanchez would love to be able to say he beat both of the Diaz brothers, and Nate would love to be able to say he avenged his big brother.
Now, imagine all the hard talk leading into the fight, and the stare down.
Yeah, I thought so, too.
After his fight with Frankie Edgar, if BJ Penn still has the desire to keep fighting, it would be incredible to see him face Donald Cerrone.
Both men are game and dangerous, and it would be an incredible fight if Cerrone had the courage of his convictions and came out looking to make a violent statement.
Penn isn’t getting any younger, but he has shown a change in attitude; he’s going to be training with Jose Aldo’s camp in preparation for his bout with Edgar, and since he’ll be fighting at the lower weights, we might get to see the best Penn available (finally!).
Should Penn come out like he used to, Cerrone could end up getting blown out of the water. Then again, Cerrone has a style that utilizes all eight points of contact and he will have a reach advantage. When added to the fact that he will probably be coming in as an underdog, all the pressure will be on Penn.
And as Randy Couture showed us, time and again, the position of underdog isn’t a bad place to be.
Since it doesn’t seem like Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino will be facing Ronda Rousey anytime soon, why not put her in against another excellent striker like Holly Holm?
This is a fight that would test both women and is apt to be far tougher for Cyborg than most care to admit.
Holm has fought knockout artists before; in her time in the boxing ring, she squared off against Anne Sophie Mathis in an incredible fight that saw Holm finally stopped via KO in Round 7.
Since then, Holm has learned much and a bout against Cyborg wouldn’t see her entering into unknown territory. In fact, if anyone has the skills to pick Cyborg apart, it’s Holm.
This would be a stand-up battle that would see both women hurt, but in the end, I think Holm has the poise and the boxing skill to take it to Cyborg and win via KO/TKO late in the bout.
While it seems that Nick Diaz is content to sit on the sidelines, waiting for a big-name fight or a title shot, I cannot help but hope he decides to get back into the cage, and it would be fantastic if Matt Brown was waiting to welcome him back.
It’s an excellent clash of styles; both men love to throw punches, and while Diaz attacks with volume, Brown is the man that possess one-punch KO power. Given that neither man likes to really back up an inch, the action figures to be high and constant, for as long as it lasts.
If the fight hits the ground, Diaz will probably end matters quickly with a submission, but if it stays standing, who knows?
I for one would love to find out.
Given that Robbie Lawler will be fighting Johny Hendricks for the vacant UFC welterweight title, a scrap between Lawler and former interim champion Carlos Condit would be compelling, no matter if Lawler has the strap or not.
Both men love to get after it, and Lawler has the power and experience to hang with the well-rounded and dangerous Condit. I really can’t see either man shying away from the other, no matter how bloody and deep the fight gets.
And that just seems like a recipe for a barnburner. I think Lawler takes a razor-close split-decision, but really, who can say?
Obviously, Georges St-Pierre will probably not step foot into the Octagon in 2014, but if he does, I would love to see him at middleweight, squaring off against Chael Sonnen.
Both men are great wrestlers in MMA, but who has the overall better package if they fight at 185?
That is the question that begs an answer, and given Sonnen’s ability to talk a fight up into the stratosphere, it would be a main event affair. And honestly, I think it could be glorious.
I think GSP would win this bout via decision, but against a true grinder like Sonnen, fighting in his best weight class, who really knows for sure?
Heavy hands and rock-solid chins make this a must-see fight if Hunt can keep Nelson from dragging him to the floor.
It could be every bit as good as Hunt-Silva, or it could fall flat on its face; how many more fights like the Silva bout can Hunt take? How many more times can Nelson and his porous defense handle heavy leather from a superior striker?
There is only one way to find out, and I would watch this fight with a don’t-blink appreciation for violent endings. I expect that Hunt would win via TKO (doctors stoppage due to cuts), but if Nelson can get the fight to the mat, I think he wins via submission.
If Johny Hendricks were to face Hector Lombard, we would get to see Judo versus wrestling and heavy hands versus heavy hands, and what’s not to like about that?
We’ve seen Hendricks rise to the occasion more than once, but how is he going to handle a fighter as physically powerful and aggressive as Lombard?
Styles make fights and for some reason, I cannot shake the idea of Lombard putting Hendricks on his heels and ending the fight via KO/TKO.
But then again, I thought BJ Penn was going to give Rory MacDonald all he could handle, so…
Although the fight has been scheduled for UFC 170, many is the slip between a schedule and a reality. Here’s to hoping that neither woman suffers an injury in training.
A fight between Rousey and McMann is really top shelf; it’s Olympian versus Olympian, Judo versus Freestyle wrestling and with neither woman having tasted defeat in MMA competition, it is significant.
Rousey won the bronze in 2008 and McMann won a silver medal in 2004. Rousey is younger and has all the confidence in the world, while McMann comes from that wrestling background and possess some serious physical power.
Both ladies are excellent grapplers; honestly, the only peer either woman has in their division when it comes to the mat is each other, and that says a lot about McMann—she really is that good.
Although I would probably end up predicting Rousey, it wouldn’t be for conventional reasons. I think McMann would give Rousey all she could handle on the floor, and maybe more. But Rousey is younger and I think she would wear McMann out and eventually win the fight by decision.
But we honestly won’t know until UFC 170 is in the books, and I cannot wait.