With a minimum of seven pay-per-view events likely for the second half of 2011, one question is obviously going to be asked by fans—which fights are going to take place at these events? This slideshow will detail which fights the UFC should be looking to make happen before the end of the year and why they should happen. Enjoy and feel free to comment!
George Sotiropoulos was on track to challenge for the UFC lightweight title before his upset loss to Dennis Siver in front of his home crowd at UFC 127, whilst Evan Dunham was moving steadily up the rankings before a questionable split decision loss to Sean Sherk and a knockout loss to Melvin Guillard.
Both men are Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belts and have more wins by submission than any other method. The winner of this bout would have their title aspirations back on track, whilst the loser would face a long journey back to contender status, which makes this a compelling matchup. With neither fighter having an upcoming bout in the works, a late-to mid-2011 matchup could be on the cards.
Nate Marquardt has been as close as you can get to a title shot more than once recently, but hasn’t been able to book himself a rematch with pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva. A difficult but lower ranked opponent may be a more appropriate test for Nate the Great, which is exactly what he would get from the wild brawling style of Chris “The Crippler” Leben.
Leben, who is coming off a brutal TKO loss against Brian Stann, may find himself making a significant step up in the middleweight rankings if he could defeat Marquardt. This fight will probably only be made if Marquardt loses his upcoming bout with Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC 128, but should be a great contest nonetheless.
Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve is quite possibly the most promising young heavyweight in the UFC. He has compiled an impressive 21-4 record (5-2 in the UFC) despite being just 23 years of age and is considered by many to be a future heavyweight champion. Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic is at the opposite end of his career. The Pride superstar and MMA legend's performances in the Octagon have been below expectations in his two stints in the UFC, leaving him with a 4-4 record when many expected him to push for a title shot.
This fight could be career defining for both fighters, as a win to Struve would give him the credibility required to start climbing the rankings, whilst Cro Cop would need to win this fight to keep his slim title hopes alive. A loss for Cro Cop would all but end his chances of being a UFC champion, but would only be a minor setback in the context of Struve’s career.
This fight would also be tactically interesting, with the 6’11” Struve being tall enough to make it difficult for Cro Cop to unleash his legendary head kick. It should be noted that this fight should only be made if both fighters win their upcoming matches.
After Michael Bisping's TKO victory over Jorge Rivera, Vitor Belfort used his twitter account to declare his desire to fight Bisping in May. Whether this fight happens at UFC 130 (the UFC’s only May event) or not, it should happen sometime this year. Bisping needs to be fighting higher ranked fighters in order to see if he has what it takes to earn his shot at the middleweight belt and Belfort is a good opponent to test him out.
The Phenom is eager to line up another fight and has expressed interest in Bisping as an opponent, so there is no reason for the UFC to not make this fight happen. A win for either fighter will likely move them significantly closer to a title shot and this would be a popular fight with fans.
Both of these talented welterweights will be vying for a spot in the title picture should GSP vacate the belt to fight for the middleweight belt. Carlos Condit is a talented up-and-comer, who has only gone the distance in one of his 26 career wins and has never been knocked out, whilst Alves will want a credible opponent in order to enhance his own credentials (assuming he gets through Rick Story in June).
Alves will be looking for another chance to fight for the welterweight title and a victory over Condit will bring him closer to this goal. Both of these fighters are known for trying to finish their opponents and putting on great fights for the fans, so this fight should be both entertaining and have meaningful title implications.
Kenny Florian has been a top contender in the lightweight division for years without ever getting his hands on the title. It seems that KenFlo has done everything but win the belt in his UFC career, but if he can get past Diego Nunes at UFC 131 then he should get a shot at featherweight champ Jose Aldo. Florian has proven time and time again that he is a high quality mixed martial artist and would be a worthy contender for the featherweight crown.
Florian would start underdog in this fight, but would probably be the best challenge for Aldo at featherweight. Obviously for this fight to happen, Aldo will have to successfully defend his title against Mark Hominick at UFC 129 in April.
Two former light heavyweight champions. Two fighters who have drifted out of the title frame. Two proud warriors who are looking for another run at UFC gold. Forrest Griffin and Lyoto Machida two fighters who are capable of winning the light heavyweight championship again, but need wins over credible opposition to get that opportunity.
A fight between these two would give one of them the opportunity to move closer to another shot at UFC gold and would be an interesting matchup stylistically. Machida’s unusual karate technique against the freestyle fighting of Griffin should make for an explosive and entertaining affair. Assuming Machida gets past Randy Couture at UFC 129, this fight would be a great co-main event for any pay per view card.
After the controversial majority draw these two fought to in Sydney at UFC 127, it is necessary for the rematch to happen sooner rather than later. The welterweight division needs a number one contender, even though it is likely that Georges St. Pierre will vacate his title if he successfully defends it against Jake Shields in April. Notwithstanding the fact that this fight was to determine the number one contender in the welterweight division, the controversy surrounding the decision means that the rematch is necessary and should happen as soon as possible.
Fans will be eager to see what Penn’s game plan for countering Fitch’s grinding style will be as many (including Penn himself) feel that Fitch should have got the decision. If GSP vacates the title as expected then the vacant title should be contested by Shields and the winner of this rematch.
There isn’t much that can be said about this fight that hasn’t been said already. The undisputed two best pound for pound fighters on the planet look set to showdown late this year with not only Anderson Silva’s middleweight belt on the line, but also the right to call themselves the best fighter in mixed martial arts today. Given that both have cleaned out their respective divisions it seems that the only test for these fighters lies outside the weight classes where they built their legacies.
With GSP riding an 8 fight win streak since his last defeat and “The Spider” compiling an unprecedented 13-0 record inside the Octagon, this is easily the biggest fight the UFC can put together and quite possibly the most anticipated in the organisations 18 year history. Of the fights in this list, this is the one most likely to be made by the UFC before the end of the year.