2010 was a big year for the sport, the UFC grew bigger and better, WEC merged with the UFC, Fedor Emelianenko lost his first fight in almost a decade, Bellator continued to rise in popularity and that's just the tip of the ice berg.
With MMA showing no signs of slowing down, 2011 should be another exciting ride packed with twists and turns along the way -- So I wanted to know what people wanted to see in the new year, so I put the question out to every keyboard warrior and media aficionado I knew, "What fights do you want to see in 2011?"
The response I got was overwhelming, hundreds of fans submitted which fights they'd love to see in the new year, some are simply wet dreams for the fight community while others we are likely to see in 2011.
10. Jason Miller vs. Nick Diaz
This past June, Strikeforce made their return to CBS with an event headlined by UFC & Pride veteran, Dan Henderson challenging Jake Shields for the Middleweight Championship he won months prior.
On that night, Shields shocked the world when he controlled the NCAA Division I wrestler for 25 minutes to retain his Championship he would later vacate.
Post-fight, while Shields was conducting an interview Jason “Mayhem” Miller of MTV fame interrupted requesting a title shot – The Diaz brothers along with Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez didn’t take too kindly to Miller interrupting a big moment for their friend and training partner.
A brawl broke out between the Ceaser Gracie camp and Miller which aired live on national television for the world to see.
Several months later, following Nick Diaz’ 25 minute destruction of K.J Noons an altercation between the two broke out again.
A source who witnessed the scene, Diaz and Miller locked eyes while passing each other in the hallway between the dressing rooms and the pressroom as the post-event press conference took place. Words were exchanged, and Diaz allegedly threw a water bottle at Miller. The two were immediately broken up by members of their respective camps and Showtime officials.
Since then, Miller has made it his personal mission to get a bout with the Stockton native – even going as far as setting up a website designed to taunt him.
The obvious problem with this bout going forward is the weight issue, although Diaz has fought at a catch-weight of 180 lbs when he faced Frank Shamrock he is reportedly unwilling to move up in weight.
Also, Miller is not willing to make the cut down to 170 lbs after being disgraced by George St-Pierre at welterweight 5 years prior.
The likelyhood of this bout going ahead is getting slimmer and slimmer by the day, especially with Diaz rumoured to face UFC cast-off Paul Daley next and Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker seemingly un-willing to use Miller after the brawl incident.
9. Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez
“I know I can beat him” were the words uttered by the Strikeforce Lightweight kingpin that sparked an inter-promotional war of words.
Melendez said in numerous interviews that he believes that he is the best 155 lbs fighter in the world and that he would love to prove it by beating Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez.
Alvarez fired back on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Weekly radio show when Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker was a guest when he joined the show to discuss facing his Champion – Alvarez was notably annoyed and requested a co-promotion super fight to settle their differences or for Melendez to quit calling him out.
Since then Bellator founder & CEO Bjorn Rebney has been pursuing this bout and for Strikeforce & Bellator to join forces for one night going as far as calling him out on radio interviews as well as releasing text messages he sent to the Strikeforce founder which were un-answered.
Both men are riding impressive win streaks, both men can seriously stake a claim as one of the best lightweight combatants in the world so why not pair them up to settle the score and see who is the best at 155 lbs outside of the UFC? The balls in your court Scott.
8. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen II
Heading into the UFC 117 Middleweight title clash between Anderson Silva & Chael Sonnen, it was clear that Sonnen could talk the talk but could he walk the walk?
For 23 minutes, the brash and cocky Sonnen dominated Silva, using his superior wrestling to control the tempo of the bout and keep it where he wanted it then he rested for one moment too long before Silva threw up a hail mary of triangle arm bar which won him the bout and marked his 7th consecutive title defense.
Immediately following the event, UFC President Dana White announced that due to his near defeat of the dominate ruler of the 185 lbs division Sonnen would receive an instant rematch.
However, 1 month later this would all change when Sonnen would test positive for Performance Enhancing Drugs (PED) and receive a one year suspension from competing.
Recently, Sonnen appealed this sentence and his suspension was reduced to 6 months when his defense team argued that Sonnen previously disclosed that he was taking shots to treat an unusually low level of testosterone.
After he returns from his suspension, Sonnen will look to return to the top of the heap in the middleweight division but before Silva can worry about rematching Sonnen he must first get past UFC pioneer Vitor Belfort on Feb. 5 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada.
7. Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez
In the past 2 years, there have been 2 up and coming heavyweight prospects that the UFC has kept their eye on – they are Junior Dos Santos & Cain Velasquez.
Both men entered the UFC at similar times and since then neither man has suffered a defeat.
Between them they have only had 2 fights go the distance inside the octagon with most of their victories coming by way of knockout.
Following his 15 minute domination of The Ultimate Fighter winner Roy Nelson, Dos Santos was promised a title shot between the winner of Cain Velasquez & Brock Lesnar at UFC 121.
Velasquez would enter his fight with the former professional wrestling star a heavy underdog despite impressive wins over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira & Ben Rothwell.
On that night, Velasquez would defeat Lesnar with seconds remaining in the opening round to capture the UFC Heavyweight Championship and the title of the No. 1 heavyweight combatant in the world.
So the stage is set, 2 heavyweight freight trains are set to collide and only one man can leave with an unblemished octagon record – These 2 are scheduled to face off in the new year but a date and venue is yet to be determined.
6. Urijah Faber vs. Dominick Cruz II
In March of 2007, Dominick Cruz challenged then WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber for his ten pounds of gold – On that night, Faber was the better man disposing of the San Diego native in a little over a minute.
3 years later, both men have found a home in the bantamweight division only this time it’s Cruz that stands atop the rest of the division.
Since his loss to ‘The California Kid’ Cruz has yet to suffer a defeat, having defeated the likes of Joseph Benavidez & Brian Bowles while capturing the WEC Bantamweight Championship along the way.
Faber continued to fight at featherweight having memorable battles with Jens Pulver & Mike Thomas Brown before opting to try his luck at bantamweight.
This past November, Faber made his debut at 135 lbs against Japanese slugger Takeya Mizugaki – Merely seconds before the end of the opening round Faber secured a vicious gilloutine choke to put the former title challenger to sleep.
Faber & Cruz have had a notable history of disliking one another – Faber is one of the most polite people you will find despite the fact that he batters people in a cage for a living but he’s always spoken out about Cruz.
"There aren't many people I don't like out there," Faber said "For lack of a better way to describe him, he just seems like kind of a dope."
If Dominick Cruz can get past Faber’s training partner Scott Jorgensen, this is the logical next step for the UFC bantamweight division.
5. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Cain Velasquez
In life there are many fantasy fights that will keep people guessing and spark debates for hours on end “Who would win, Superman or Batman?” or “Do you think Chuck Norris could beat Mr.T?”
But in the fight community, there’s other questions that we ask to occupy our time – Like what would happen if the current ruler of the heavyweight landscape took on the man who ruled the division for almost a decade.
Cain Velasquez is a rare specimen, he’s only 4 years and 9 fights into his career and he’s already accomplished more than most will achieve in a life time.
Fedor Emelianenko on the other hand, was someone that most of the fight community didn’t believe was human – For years we watched as this humble Russian got beaten up and dumped on his head but when all the smoke had cleared, it was him getting his hand raised.
That all changed in 69 seconds when Fabricio Werdum caught the Sambo Champion in a triangle arm bar which signaled his first defeat since December of 2000.
Was this all a fluke? Or is The Last Emperor’ nearing the end of his long reign? This is the fight to answer all those questions.
Although this bout will likely never come to fruition, this would be a fight to satisfy all fans, young and old.
4. Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo
In a day and age where the question “Who’s the best pound-for-pound fighter?” is debated amongst keyboard warriors on a daily basis, there are 2 Champions close together in weight who could help us out.
Both men have been competing in 2 organizations, in 2 separate weight classes and both have been making waves – Aldo burst on to the featherweight scene in 2008 and hasn’t shown a sign of weakness yet squashing the likes of Mike Thomas Brown, Manny Gamburyan, & Urijah Faber.
While Edgar flew under the lightweight radar for a lot of his career, never really being taken seriously as a top contender for the title before he defeated B.J Penn twice to prove that he’s the best lightweight in the UFC.
For a lot of his career, it was believed that Edgar was too small to compete at 155 lbs and that it was the logical move for him to drop down in weight.
In addition, Aldo was rumoured to step up to lightweight after seemingly cleaning out his division to face Kenny Florian early in 2011.
But all that talk stopped when UFC President Dana White announced that WEC would be folded into the UFC – In simple terms, UFC would adapt the featherweight & bantamweight divisions while merging both the lightweight divisions.
This opens the door for many of the smaller 155 lbs combatants to drop down to featherweight without having to take a pay cut like they would have in the past.
If Edgar ever loses his UFC Lightweight Championship, you can probably bet he will be considering the move down in weight so Aldo better be ready and waiting.
3. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Fabricio Werdum II
Heading into Strikeforce’s June event headlined by Fedor Emelianenko & Fabricio Werdum from the HP Pavillion Centre in San Jose, California not too many people liked the chances of Werdum against the long standing ruler of the heavyweight division.
Werdum had recently tried his luck in the UFC heavyweight division but was seen as a second tier heavyweight following losses to Andrei Arlovski & Junior Dos Santos while Emelianenko was riding a 29 fight undefeated streak with victories over the biggest names in the industry.
Needless to say, Emelianenko was the clear favourite but that all changed when the Russian carelessly tried to knock out the Brazilian and got caught in a triangle arm bar.
The fight world stood still, how could this happen? This seemingly unstoppable Russian had finally had a blemish against his record.
According to Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker, Emelianenko’s M-1 Global management, which co-promote select events with Strikeforce have requested the rematch with Werdum “right away”.
Werdum on the other hand, is looking to fight overseas before commiting to a bout in Strikeforce against Emelianenko or heavyweight title holder Alistair Overeem.
“I don’t have an exclusive contract with Strikeforce, only for the U.S and I got a nice proposal in Abu Dhabi and another one in Japan. My arm is 100 percent now and I feel that by February, I'll be ready to fight in Abu Dhabi or Japan." said the Brazilian.
Whether or not this was just a mistake on part of Emelianenko or if he is over the hill is what this bout would determine, whether or not it goes ahead is uncertain at this point but one thing’s for sure – the fans want to see it.
2. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Alistair Overeem
“I am the man to knock out Fedor, it is my destiny” said the dutch kick boxer following his impressive defeat of Brett Rogers.
Emelianenko was widely considered to be the best heavyweight combatant on the planet with nearly a decade of victories which include Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Andrei Arlovski, Mark Coleman & Tim Sylvia just to name a few.
Then this past June, Emelianenko came up against Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Fabricio Werdum who submitted him merely seconds into the opening round.
Since then, Emelianenko has yet to take a bout with any organization – Strikeforce CEO Scott Coker has been in negotiations with his M-1 Global Management however a deal has not been inked yet.
Overeem on the other hand, became the first ever Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion in 2007 however has only had 1 title defense since then.
‘The Demolition Man’ opted to compete in Japan for most of his career which raised many eyebrows when he seemingly doubled in size.
Recently, Overeem tested his luck in FEG’s K-1 World Grand Prix tournament – This year marked his 2nd time entering the tournament, in the finals he defeated Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki and finally K-1 veteran Peter Earts to become the K-1 Champion.
When Overeem chooses to return to the United States to defend his Championship, waiting for him is a cue of challengers including Fedor Emelianenko.
1. Anderson Silva vs. George St-Pierre
Both are respective kings of their weight class, both have taken on all comers and both can make a serious claim to being the pound for pound best fighter on the planet.
Ramblings of a possible clash between George St-Pierre & Anderson Silva began around 2009, Anderson Silva had widely been considered the best fighter the world has to offer but following a string of disappointing performances against Partick Cote and Thales Leites the fight community began to question whether he was the rightful man to wear that crown.
A new challenger had emerged -- following his first unsuccessful UFC Welterweight title defense against Matt Serra, George St-Pierre went on to avenge his loss before cleaning out the 170 lbs division and looking close to flawless while doing so.
Message boards erupted with debates over who would win this epic battle, fans broke down every aspect of the fight and who would win in each scenario until talk was enough, they wanted the real thing.
The manager of the UFC Middleweight kingpin, Ed Soares has been quick to put down the idea of his man stepping down in weight to meet St-Pierre but is open to a bout with the welterweight king if he can make 185 lbs.
I think it’s much easier and more likely that Georges goes up to 185.” Soares said “Tell GSP to make weight, we’ll be waiting,”
Following his 25 minute domination of top contender Josh Koscheck, Goerge St-Pierre was posed with the question of a super-fight with Silva in the coming year.
“This question is a little bit complicated. Because if I go up in a weight class, I’m going to have to put muscle on my body because I’m going to be too small for 185,” said St-Pierre. “If I put muscle on my body and I go up to 185, I’m going to have to stay at 185. I don’t want to go up and down because when you go up and down, you see what happened to Roy Jones Jr. it messes up your reaction time”
Maybe this is just a fantasy, but this is the fight fans want over any fight that any organization can put forward so if the UFC and Dana White really are all about the fans and not just interested in the dollars we fork out twice a month then this is the fight for them to promote.