If you can believe it, we're almost one week away from the UFC's Fight For The Troops 2, almost two weeks away from Strikeforce's very first 2011 card -- headlined by Nick Diaz and Evangelista "Cyborg" Santos, and we're almost three weeks away from UFC 126: Silva vs. Belfort.
Needless to say, the rest of the month has its share of fights, and while some are more exciting than others, they all in some way are anticipated by a percentage of the MMA World.
Featured here will be ten of those fights, highlighted not by their venue, date and company, but by the way I feel these are going to end.
Just to forewarn you, my predictions for UFC 126 and Strikeforce: Fedor vs. Silva are NOT a part of this piece -- I'll handle those separately.
I believe we might be in for quite the surprise in some of these fights.
It's amazing how two fights led Roger Gracie to Kevin Randleman, of all people, and equally amazing is how impressive Gracie was against the former UFC Heavyweight Champion.
Then again, Randleman hasn't looked himself since PRIDE, in the minds of many pundits and spectators in our little sport.
The fact is this: Gracie is unsurprisingly an expert in the submission aspect of MMA and his overall game will be tested by current Shark Fights Light Heavyweight Champion Trevor Prangley, who can challenge most opponents on the feet and on the ground but will himself be tested by the 2nd-degree Black Belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu.
Prangley will give up three inches to Gracie in this fight and I see Gracie being tough to take down.
Once Prangley finds himself unable to apply his wrestling expertise against Gracie, the 6'4 Jiu-Jitsu master will be the one that takes the fight to the ground and ends the bout in his most dominant realm.
If Prangley goes in for a takedown, it's likely that he could be making a mistake leaving his neck out for Gracie to sink in either a guillotine, a D'Arce, or an Anaconda.
If Prangley is the one that gets taken down, he's giving Gracie quite the inventory of options to choose from--everything from leg locks to kimuras, arm bars, chokes, and anything in between.
Either way, Prangley's only option here is to keep the fight standing or show some sick submission defense.
If he can't take the fight into a realm in which Gracie is likely at his least dominant, or if he can't defend the attempts Gracie will almost-certainly make to submit him, Prangley is as good as beaten.
Mike Thomas Brown is a former WEC Featherweight Champion -- best remembered for two moments:
1. Dethroning Urijah Faber and releasing the WEC Featherweight Belt from the grip Faber had on it for three years.
2. Being known as the man that Jose Aldo beat for the WEC Featherweight Title.
Since then, Brown has been on a rollercoaster ride -- beating Cole Province and Anthony Morrison while being defeated by Manny Gamburyan and Diego Nunes.
Now he faces Rani Yahya, who is probably best remembered by longtime WEC fans for his brutal five round battle with one Chase Beebe at WEC 30.
I hate to see a longtime WEC veteran and accomplished veteran grappler like Yahya be put in a position where he's either likely to get cut or likely to need his need fight just to keep from getting cut, but then again, it takes evolution to make it in the big leagues of MMA, and especially the UFC.
As Chris Leben said, "You have to be good at everything".
The fact is, Brown is a Wrestler, but he's one that has made the majority of his opponents tap out, and he's one that's knocked out a few good people.
Yahya's name will be added to that list in Fort Hood, and don''t act shocked if it happens early.
If there's a chord you have to strike with hardcore MMA fans before anyone starts blowing the horn for a crack at any belts, Herschel Walker hasn't struck that chord yet.
He defeated a practical newcomer in Greg Nagy in his last MMA fight, but was forced off of the Henderson-Babalu II card last month after an injury.
The bout he was supposed to have with Scott Carson in St. Louis will happen in San Jose on the last MMA card of this month, and of course, people are still asking "Who the hell is Scott Carson and why should I give a rat's ass about him?"
Here's a reason why you should give a rat's ass: because people asked the exact same question about Chad Griggs before he faced Bobby Lashley in Houston, and now do you know where Griggs is?
He's fighting at the Fedor vs. Silva card in an Alternate bout of Strikeforce's big Heavyweight Tournament, meaning that if anyone gets injured, Griggs could somehow find himself facing the biggest challenge of his life -- a bout with the Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion Alistair Overeem.
Lashley has been MIA since, and the only bout that's been talked about with the former WWE United States Champion is a bout welcoming David Bautista Jr. into MMA.
Scott Carson is the man I see coming out on the losing end of this bout on January 29th in San Jose, but that doesn't necessarily mean he's going to lose.
Then again, no matter what type of performance Walker has this time, is anyone going to really say anything about it other than "Herschel Walker fought", and the result of the fight?
Just throwing it out there... Wiman and Miller have ended fights by way of submission in the past -- and regardless of whether you agreed with Yves Lavigne's call or not, the technical submission over Mac Danzig still counts as a win over Mac Danzig.
Unike the Danzig fight, though, this one's not ending early by a questionable call on the submission, though someone is tapping out.
I see the fight being about even in the first round, with someone getting dropped in the first round and the first five minutes being spent on the ground.
The second round of the fight will see the same in the beginning, but after a while, one man will find his opportunity to end the fight with a strong submission hold.
Will it be Miller or will it be Wiman?
Let's just say someone with two arms, two legs, and a face recognized in Mixed Martial Arts.
The word "hell" comes out quite a bunch on a plethora of my pieces, but in the case of what Pat Barry's leg kicks feel like, I feel the dreaded "H" word is heavily appropriate in emphasizing how deadly they are.
Joey Beltran better take wind of this and he better be stepping up his Wrestling game, because if he tries to stand with Barry, his Roufusport-affiliated adversary will do what he does best:
Pat Bary will physically take Beltran's legs out from under him and score yet another TKO win, but an old friend of his named Chico Camus told me not to be surprised if Barry shows some takedowns and a pretty good ground game.
Considering that Barry has trained with Brock Lesnar before, I don't think it should surprise any of us.
Same goes for if he finishes Beltran in Fort Hood.
We all have heard it before: "Jose Aldo's next challenger", "Mark Hominick title shot in the distance", all of the above and other.
Alright y'all, I'll say that Hominick is a fighter that I enjoy seeing in the cage, I like watching him fight, and he's been impressive, but Jose Aldo's next opponent won't be Mark Hominick -- at least not yet,
It's not to say he'll lose against George Roop because a win over Hominick won't make Roop a title threat either, but the fact is that a plethora of Featherweights are set to fight once the month of January comes to a close, and it'll be tough to say that Hominick will deserve the shot more than all of the other Featherweight fighters,
A win over Roop keeps Hominick in the right direction towards Aldo, but anticipate him getting one more fight before we start talking about a fight with Aldo.
After Dan Hardy-Mike Swick, I'm a bit picky about the type of fighters that people should be facing before they start rambling on about title shots and I make no exceptions -- not even with the Featherweights.
Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza will put his new Strikeforce Middleweight belt up for grabs against Ruthless Robbie Lawler, who has ended quite a few of his most recent outings by knockout.
While Jacare is one of the best fighters in the world on the ground, itll be a feat and a half to get Lawler on the ground for him to work any of his BJJ.
The fight is one that will stay standing all throughout, and it won't last long, as Lawler will knock Jacare out -- taking the title in the process.
Very few people have given Matt Mitrione much of a chance to be a legitimate threat in the UFC Heavyweight division, even after beating a guy like Joey Beltran who is no easy task for anybody.
He's beaten a guy that was not a freak show fighter in Beltran, he trains in Milwaukee with Duke Roufus, Pat Barry, Anthony Pettis, and Alan Belcher, among others, and the guy is undefeated in the UFC coming into this, his first ever co-main event fight in the UFC.
What will it take before people call Mitrione legit?
I say a win over an upper echelon fighter, but he's not getting that until he gets past Tim Hague first.
I say if he beats Hague, Mitrione could find himself closer to finally being considered an elite 265er.
Call me crazy, but with Jason Miller tentatively booked to face Tim Kennedy at Strikeforce: Columbus on March 5th, that leaves Evangelista Santos, Paul Daley, and a more-full-than-you-think pool of Welterweight fighters that are all gunning to take the Strikeforce Welterweight belt from Nick Diaz.
Quite honestly, aside from Daley, Santos could prove to be the toughest foe Diaz has had, and I believe that Diaz will have a tough time getting much off on Santos.
Expect this one to go at least four rounds before Diaz finally lands a shot that drops Santos and sets up the TKO win.
Cyborg may not have been anyone's first choice for a fight that could happen with Diaz, but he still has as good a shot as anyone to give Diaz a run for his money.
Melvin Guillard is one of the UFC's most exciting Lightweights without much question, but he has a few notable flaws in his game, the two most commonly recognized of which have been a lack of any solid submission defense and a questionable gas tank which has stopped him from landing effective shots in the later rounds of a few of his fights,
Dunham has so far not come across that problem as much but he'll need to make sure he's primed to go fifteen minutes with Guillard because no matter what his gas tank's gauge reads, Guillard is going to come out swinging against Dunham -- who should know what it is to go to Hell and back with a fighter that wants to become the best at his expense, as Sean Sherk aimed to do jut that at UFC 119.
I wouldn't be surprised for a lot of things to happen in MMA, but the least surprising thing that could happen at Fight For The Troops 2 is Melvin Guillard gassing out before round three (likely in round two) and getting taken to the ground by Dunham, who then takes his choice at how he wants to finish Guillard.