UFC: 25 Burning Questions that Will be Answered by the End of 2010
It's fair to say that the UFC in 2010 got off to a slow start.
But ever since the summer months rolled around, MMA fans have been spoiled big time by the sports biggest promotion.
From their successful debut show in Vancouver, to the epic heavyweight clash between Brock Lesnar and Shane Carwin at UFC 116, the summer has been very good to fight fans.
That is set to continue with UFC 117, 118, 119, 121 all looking like unbelievably stacked cards which should deliver great fights.
With that in mind, I thought I'd look into my crystal ball to see what the burning questions are remaining this year and which ones should be answered by the end of 2010.
Just how good is Jon Jones?
Jon "Bones" Jones is widely regarded as one of, if not the best prospect in the UFC today.
Fighting in the ultra deep Light Heavyweight Division, Jones has rattled dominating wins over Stephan Bonnar, Brandon Vera, Jake O'Brien, Andre Gusmao and despite suffering a DQ loss to Matt Hamill, he was easily winning that fight as well.
Set to face Vladimir Matyushenko at the next Fight Night on Versus card, the veteran Belarusian will be another stern test for Jones.
Should he win again and do it in impressive fashion, then Jones will have to enter the title mix at 205lbs.
Who is the next top contender in the Heavyweight division?
With Brock Lesnar set to defend his Heavyweight Title against Cain Velasquez at UFC 121, UFC President Dana White has made the upcoming fight between Roy Nelson and Junior dos Santos a No.1 contender fight.
Junior dos Santos has been on absolute tear since he entered the UFC, firing off five wins over guys like Gabriel Gonzaga, Mirko Cro Cop and Gilbert Yvel.
Roy "Big Country" Nelson has won back to back fights by KO since he won season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter show.
So this fight should be an explosive fight that will crown a worthy new No.1 contender to whoever the winner may be.
Can Chael Sonnen back up the smack talk?
Chael Sonnen has delivered some classic smack talk in the build up to this fight, with my personal favorite being "If you bow in Brazil they'll hit you over the head and steal your wallet".
Of course with UFC 117 fast approaching time is running out for Sonnen to talk smack, and focus is beginning to switch to the actual fight.
Can Sonnen realistically test Anderson Silva? Can Sonnen get a takedown on the Champion? These and many other questions will be answered at UFC 117.
Is Johny Hendricks the best 170 pound prospect?
In a recent article I wrote, I placed Hendricks at No.1 in the most under-appreciated fighters in MMA.
Hendricks is 8-0 and has won three straight in the UFC. Facing Charlie Brenneman at UFC 117, Hendricks will be looking to continue his rise up the ladder in the Welterweight division.
Should he win in August, then he will confirm my opinion that he is the best prospect in the division.
Will Anderson Silva move up to 205lbs?
Anderson Silva moving up to 205lbs permanently has been discussed for a long time. Silva has of course ventured North to the Light Heavyweight division on a couple of occasions, to devastating effect.
For me, this scenario is very much dependent on the outcome of his fight with Chael Sonnen at UFC 117, and the nature of the fight.
Silva will fight at 205lbs again, I think that is without question. But could he realistically move up permanently?
Fighting in August, it is likely that Silva may fight again before years end, and what division that fight is in could be very revealing in regard to his future.
Will Chuck Liddell finally retire?
The UFC, fans, and Dana White are all still waiting on Chuck Liddell to make an official decision on his future in MMA.
The former Light Heavyweight Champion has not confirmed or denied his future after suffering another brutal KO loss at UFC 115 at the hands of Rich Franklin.
Liddell has gone 1-5 in his last six fights and suffered KO's in four of those fights. His future health now has to be under question and it is clear that Dana White has no interest in his friend fighting in the UFC again.
Liddell has nothing left to prove and I for one hope he does retire. Hopefully by the end of 2010, Chuck will make a decision.
Was Frankie Edgar's first win over B.J. Penn a fluke?
Frankie Edgar's upset victory over B.J. Penn at UFC 112 was easily one of the biggest shocks in MMA so far this year.
However, despite getting the victory and claiming the title, there was certainly a level of controversy around the decision win. Certainly enough for the UFC match makers to grant B.J. an immediate re-match at the upcoming UFC 118.
At that event in Boston, Edgar will have the chance to prove that his first win was no fluke and that he truly is the best fighter in the Lightweight division.
Can James Toney compete in MMA?
The age old Boxing vs MMA argument will finally be settled.
Couture is a big test for any fighter, let alone a fighter making his MMA debut.
Toney does bring legitimate boxing credentials to the fight, but if Couture takes him down he will surely be a fish out of water.
Whether this is a genuine switch to MMA, or just a one time bout for Toney to make some cash remains to be seen, but without question, Couture will help us all discover if Toney can compete as an MMA fighter.
Who is the 155lbs No.1 contender?
It's not official, but Kenny Florian vs Gray Maynard at UFC 118 is likely for the No.1 contender spot in the Lightweight Division.
Maynard is unbeaten and many feel that he should have gotten a title shot ahead of Frankie Edgar as he has a victory over the current Champion.
Florian has long been around the top of the division and were it not for B.J. Penn, he would have likely been a champion by now.
If Maynard wins this fight, he gets the next title shot no question. If Florian wins, he has to hope that Edgar can defend his title because another Penn vs Florian Title match may not be what the UFC wants to promote so soon after their last bout.
Either I expect the next title contender to come from this fight.
Can Nate Marquardt still be the future of the Middleweight division?
Before UFC 109, many were proclaiming Nate Marquardt as the future of the Middleweight Division and the best fighter to challenge or take over from Anderson Silva should he move up in weight.
Silva himself even called Marquardt the guy to take over his mantle.
However, someone didn't hand Chael Sonnen a copy of the script at UFC 109, as the fighting politician dominated Marquardt on route to an upset victory.
Now Marquardt needs to get back on the horse as he faces another tough ground expert in Rousimar Palhares at UFC 118.
UFC 118 will be a very good indication as to whether Marquardt learned any lessons from the Sonnen fight, and just how good he is.
Is Alan Belcher as good as he thinks he is?
Belcher is 7-4 in the UFC. However, his record could be viewed as a little misleading.
Belcher is 4-1 in his last five fights with the only loss being a razor thin decision loss to Akiyama at UFC 100. Belcher has recent wins over Patrick Cote and Wilson Gouveia, and is set to face Demian Maia on a UFC Fight Night card in September.
Maia is a big test for Belcher and a win over a guy who recently fought for the title will be big for him.
Should Belcher win that, then he will arguably be very close to the title shot he feels that he deserves.
Can Ross Pearson be considered a Title Contender at 155lbs?
The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 winner, Pearson has looked very impressive since he entered the UFC.
With wins over Andre Winner, Dennis Siver, and Aaron Riley, Pearson has slowly built momentum and looked better in every fight he has been in thus far.
Set to face Cole Miller on the Fight Night card in September, should Pearson win again he will move to a four fight win streak in the UFC and be right in the mix at 155lbs.
How good is Ryan Bader?
Jon Jones has garnered the majority of the attention as the big prospect at 205lbs. However, the TUF Champion Ryan Bader has quietly been building his own resume very nicely.
Now at 11-0 with recent wins over Keith Jardine and Eric Schafer, Bader is fulfilling his huge promise and creeping towards title contention.
Set to face Lil'Nog at UFC 119, Bader is easily only two fights away from a title shot. Should he get the win over Nogueira, then Bader would likely face someone like Machida, Rampage or Griffin for a future title shot.
By the end of 2010, we will have a much clearer idea of how good Ryan Bader is.
Was Frank Mir's first win over Big Nog due to staph?
Frank Mir's win over Antonio Nogueira at UFC 92 can be viewed in two ways.
Either it was the biggest and finest win of Mir's career, or it was a fluke, due to Nogueira not being 100% because of a staph infection.
Whatever your opinion, their upcoming re-match at UFC 119 will hopefully give closure on who is the better fighter and likely propel the winner back into the upper end of the division.
Is Evan Dunham a legit top contender at Lightweight?
At 11-0, with four wins in the UFC, you would think that Dunham would be right in the title mix of the Lightweight Division.
However, for whatever reason, Dunham seems to be over looked and still needing to get more wins to get more attention.
With a recent win over Tyson Griffin at UFC 115, Dunham is finally getting noticed and with another win over Sean Sherk at UFC 119, his claim to a title shot will be hard to ignore.
Dunham is one to watch for the remainder of 2010.
Is Matt Mitrione the best prospect in the Heavyweight division?
The Ultimate Fighter alum, Mitrione has looked great since he joined the UFC.
Displaying big power in his punches and a rapidly improving game, Mitrione has won both his fights over Kimbo Slice and Marcus Jones.
Set to face Joey Beltran at UFC 119, Mitrione has another chance to show is growing striking game under the tutelage of Duke Rufus.
Portrayed as the villain on TUF, Mitrione has shown good dedication to learning MMA ,and has all the potential to go far in the Heavyweight division.
What lessons did Dan Hardy learn against GSP?
Dan Hardy gained a lot of respect in his title fight loss to GSP at UFC 111.
However, it was clear from start to finish of the five round fight that Hardy was outclassed by the champion. Since the fight, Hardy has claimed that he learned a lot of lessons in his 25 minutes in the octagon with the best of the best.
At UFC 120, Hardy will get to prove it he faces the rising former WEC Champion Carlos Condit in the main event. Condit is well rounded and a durable fighter that will show just where Hardy sits in the Welterweight mix.
Can John Hathaway challenge for the title in 2011?
There is certainly a bold prediction and a long look into the future.
However, Hathaway is undefeated with 14 wins and four of those coming in the UFC. His last win over Diego Sanchez was a huge performance and announced Hathaway as a genuine contender in the division.
Set to face the always tough Mike Pyle at UFC 120, another win would move Hathaway closer to a title eliminator in early 2011. Win that and that would be a six fight win streak and the thought of Hathaway fighting for a title in late 2011 is very realistic.
Is Brock Lesnar truly the best Heavyweight in the world at the moment?
With his amazing come from behind win over Shane Carwin at UFC 116 and Fedor's shocking loss to Fabricio Werdum, many commentators of MMA are lining up to proclaim Lesnar as the best Heavyweight around today.
But, for Lesnar's detractors, there is the looming presence of a young Heavyweight named Velasquez who they view as a huge threat to Lesnar's status as top dog.
A win at UFC 121 and surely the arguments will but a lot harder to make against Lesnar being the best Heavyweight around today.
Has the Cain Velasquez hype train gone too fast or just right?
The Cain Velasquez hype train has been in full flow since the American Kickboxing Academy fighter entered the UFC.
Amassing an impressive 8-0 record with wins over Cheick Kongo, Ben Rothwell, and Antonio Nogueira, the young Heavyweight is now in line for a title shot at Brock Lesnar at UFC 121.
However, there are those that say Velasquez is undeserving, and that wins over Kongo, Rothwell, and a rapidly fading force in Nogueira is not that impressive.
Either way, one thing is for sure, Lesnar will be a severe test for Cain and will give everyone an answer as to how good Velasquez is.
Who is better, Teacher or Pupil?
UFC 121 will see a classic Teacher vs Pupil encounter as Tito Ortiz looks set to face Matt Hamill.
Hamill was trained by Ortiz on Season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter and has been a member of Team Punishment since.
On paper, this is a pretty even fight of two wrestling based fighters and with the added dynamic this could be a great fight.
Just how good is Jake Shields?
Just how good is Jake Shields has been a question asked by many MMA followers in recent years.
The former Strikeforce Middleweight Champion has amassed an impressive career record and for many people he has entered the P4P debate.
After defeating Dan Henderson in his last fight, the Cesar Gracie stand out has finally joined the UFC.
Set to face Martin Kampmann at UFC 121, followers of Shields will get a very quick indication of just how good he is, as Kampmann is a top 170lbs fighter.
Will Shields fall at the first hurdle or continue on what many see as an inevitable fight with GSP.
Will Big John McCarthy ever referee in the UFC again?
The Godfather of MMA officiating, Big John McCarthy, is easily one of the most well known officials ever in the sport and is still widely regarded along side Herb Dean as one of the best officials in the sport.
After a brief retirement and some less then kind words which had upset the UFC top brass, it seemed that Big John would never be seen in the Octagon again.
However, tensions seem to have eased and reports have surfaced that suggest McCarthy well be officiating at the upcoming Fight Night card on Versus this weekend.
Hopefully we get to see one of the best ever back in the big time.
What is the next new market the UFC will enter?
2010 has so far been a big year for the global expansion of the UFC.
A debut show in Australia and Abu Dhabi as well, as opening a permanent office in Canada has added to their global status.
With another trip to Germany and the UK set for later this year, where will the UFC go next?
Brazil, India, China, Japan or Korea? Who knows, but expect an announcement before years end.
Will Fedor ever sign with the UFC?
No man in MMA history has been the subject of so many threads, articles, and discussions. There is just something about the stoic Russian that drives people to want to talk about him.
One of the greatest Heavyweights ever in the sport, there are still many who doubt Fedor's career because he has never fought in the UFC.
Having suffered a recent shock defeat at the hands of Fabricio Werdum, Fedor has certainly lost some of his mystique and definitely some of his and M-1 Global's negotiating power over contracts.
With only one fight left on his current Strikeforce contract, could the end of 2010 be just the right time for Fedor to sign with the UFC?