Well, fight fans, 2009 was an interesting year, to say the least. Affliction crumbled as a promotion, Strikeforce has emerged as a legitimate competitor to the UFC, and the Japanese continue to mix in great fights with ridiculous freak show attractions.
All the while, the UFC has been able to remain the leading force in MMA, and considering the recent string of injuries that has hit the promotion it will be interesting to see how they can continue to build in 2010.
With the recent news of Dan Henderson officially signing with Strikeforce, the MMA community has been buzzing with potential matchups for the former Pride and UFC standout.
While it will be interesting to see who Strikeforce throws at Henderson to begin with, there are some more intriguing matchups that may exist that fans should be hoping to see in 2010.
10. Junior Dos Santos vs. Pat Barry
At first glance, this matchup may not seem that enticing but you can be assured that these two young strikers would step into the cage ready to trade with bad intentions.
Dos Santos is the much better prospect and he trains under the tutelage of one of the greatest heavyweight fighters of all time, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueria. But, don’t sleep on Barry’s ability; he is a K-1 level striker with a strong background in sanshou.
This matchup has the potential to be an epic standup war, but sadly, if this fight were to hit the ground, Dos Santos is far too advanced for Barry to handle.
9. Diego Sanchez vs. Kenny Florian II
Regardless of whether or not Sanchez is able to steal the title away from B.J. Penn, this is a fight we will see in 2010.
Sanchez is a high motor guy with relentless takedowns and ground and pound, but he has not really evolved since his time on TUF . That is not to say he has not improved as a fighter, because he has, but he is still the same fighter that won the show.
On the other hand, Kenny Florian has, perhaps, evolved more than anyone coming from TUF. Not only has he become a better striker, but he has developed a killer instinct.
It would be interesting to see how Sanchez could handle this new and improved Ken-Flo.
8. Anthony Johnson vs. Ben Saunders
One performance that really turned some heads this year was Ben Saunders absolute domination of Marcus Davis at UFC 106. Saunders didn’t just KO Davis for the first time in his career, he ran through him as if he were a beginner.
At UFC 106 Johnson was defeated by top contender Josh Koscheck. That fight basically proved that while Johnson is a great prospect he is not quite ready for the big time. Johnson is still very raw and with a few more fights under his belt he will be ready to test the deep end of the welterweight pool once more.
The dynamic striking ability of both fighters would prove to be an entertaining show.
7. Jon Jones vs. Brandon Vera
Jon Jones may technically be coming off of a loss to Matt Hamill, but the performance that he put forth was impressive nonetheless. Jones dominated every aspect of the fight and had it not been for the use and an illegal elbow, Jones was well on his way to an impressive stoppage victory.
Jones is a young explosive striker with dominating wrestling ability. His ability alone would be more than enough to catapult him into the top half of the division but it is his decision to join Greg Jackson’s camp that will lead him to become a champion. Under the direction and tutelage of Jackson, Jones’ development will be greatly accelerated.
There are plenty of quality opponents for Jones in the light-heavyweight division and the name that has to be jumping of the page has to be Brandon Vera.
Vera basically was where Jones is now three years ago. Vera was once a rising star in the UFC heavyweight division with a world of potential. Since then, Vera has been exposed as someone with great talent but who is inconsistent. Who better to test Jon Jones than a mirror image of himself?
Vera is a brutal Muay Thai striker with a solid wrestling past of his own and his combination of skill would be the perfect test to see whether or not Jones is truly ready to take that next step up in competition.
6. Alistair Overeem vs. Fedor Emelinenko
Can Alistair Overeem still even be considered the Strikeforce heavyweight champion, considering has not even fought for the organization in over two years?
The fact is Overeem has yet to be stripped of his title and sooner or later he is going to be called upon to get beat down by Fedor. If Strikeforce is ever going to become a real competitor to the UFC they are going to need champions who defend their titles. This is just another reason why the UFC wants no part of co-promotion or non-exclusive contracts.
The most interesting component to this matchup will be whether or not it is contested in the US, and if it is if Overeem can somehow pass a drug test.
Eventually, someone with dethrone Fedor but it is doubtful that it will happen against a walking freak show like Overeem.
5. Gegard Mousasi vs. Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal
Arguably, the two brightest young stars in the Strikeforce ranks right now both call the light-heavyweight division home, Gegard Mousasi and "King Mo." Mousasi has already captured Strikeforce gold and although he is the younger of the two he is far more developed in his MMA career.
King Mo is a world-class wrestler and with his natural athletic ability and power he is a matchup nightmare for anyone. With a couple more fights under his belt, he could be ready to challenge Mousasi for the title.
4. Cain Velasquez vs. Shane Carwin
There is no question that the UFC heavyweight division is currently in a state of flux due to Brock Lesnar’s health issues, and the longer that division is forced to move forward without a title in play, the more the division loses its relevance.
If Lesnar is only going to be sidelined for six-months to a year there is no reason to have an interim belt but if that timeline is any longer than one year something needs to be done.
Carwin and Velasquez are both highly touted and undefeated heavyweight contenders and both are pretty marketable; Cain more so than Carwin because of his heritage and the UFC is looking to make a big push into the Latin American market.
An interim title bout between the two would not only be an epic battle it would be a huge draw; something that the UFC is in dire need of now because of the recent string of injuries.
3. Jose Aldo vs. Urijah Faber
To many casual MMA fans, the WEC means very little, but to those in the know the WEC is the home to many of the best fights every year. The WEC focuses on the lighter weights and what these fighters like in size they more than make up for in skill, heart, and explosiveness.
Aldo recently became the WEC featherweight champion with his destruction of former champion Mike Brown. Aldo is currently riding a nine-fight win streak with the last six coming by way of TKO.
Faber is the former featherweight champion and he is hungry to regain his title. Faber is a fighter who relies greatly on his athleticism and wrestling inside the cage. Even though he is not currently the champ Faber is still the biggest name on the WEC roster and with his skills and resume he will likely only need one win before he is given a shot at the young champion.
A fight between Aldo and Faber could easily be the fight that the WEC uses as their first PPV event.
2. Shogun Rua vs. Thiago Silva
It took some time to get over injuries and get acclimated to the cage but the Shogun has finally arrived in the UFC. He may have not been able to take the title away from Machida the first time but was able to dispel the belief that the current champion was invincible.
Rua and Silva are very similar fighters and with the skills and excitement they bring to the table it is only a matter of time before their paths cross. If Silva can get past Rashad Evans in January, a chance to bang with fellow Chute Box alum becomes likely.
1. Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre
No two champions in UFC history have cleaned out their respective divisions they way these two have. With only a few more fights left on Anderson Silva’s contract it is important that the UFC uses them wisely.
Looking across the divisions for both men, this is the best possible matchup available, not only for the fighter but for the UFC as well. A fight of this magnitude would go a long way towards erasing the injury-plagued end of 2009 from the memory of fans.
Don’t sleep on St. Pierre’s chances in this potential super fight either. With his exceptional striking and world-class takedowns St. Pierre could prove to be Silva’s stiffest test to date inside the octagon.
Silva has been shown to be susceptible to being taken down and that just happens to be GSP’s specialty.
What are the matchups you want you see in 2010?