Things Are Heating Up: 10 Fights to Look Forward to over the Next Few Months
UFC 129 is now officially in the books and although the main event was less than stellar, the card as a whole has to be considered a dynamic success.
The UFC did an outstanding job getting The Rogers Centre in Toronto ready for 55,000 screaming, rabid fans who were able to enjoy some memorable bouts and the end of an era with the retirement of Randy Couture.
As we move into the warmer months of the spring and summer, the weather isn't the only thing that will be heating up. The next few months are littered with title bouts, rematches and fights that will eventually have title implications behind them.
There are fighters returning from injury as well as fighters returning to the UFC after fighting elsewhere.
Speaking of returns, the UFC will make its way back to Brazil for the first time in over a decade when they invade the HSBC Arena in August for UFC: Rio also known as UFC 134. In what promises to be an explosive event, the organization is pulling out all stops to ensure that the Brazilian fans go home happy.
Strikeforce also has some important bouts coming up, the rumored Dan Henderson-Fedor Emelianenko match-up has yet to be signed nor has a weight been determined, but it is drawing a lot of attention.
UFC owner Lorenzo Fertitta has become personally involved in the negotiations, so that should tell you the company views the potential fight as an important one.
Let us take a look at a month-by-month breakdown of the most important fights scheduled over the next couple of months. I would love to go over every single match-up, but there just isn't enough time in the day. I am sure we can come up with enough high-profile bouts to keep us talking for quite some time.
For the time, being I am going to end this article with the July 2 UFC 132 event. Next week I will go over UFC 133, 134, UFC on Versus 5 and Strikeforce in July.
To read the second part of this story click here.
UFC 130: Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard III for the UFC Lightweight Title
The last time these two met was on New Year's Day in Las Vegas at UFC 125, They were meeting for the second time as Edgar looked to avenge his only career loss and Maynard looked to capitalize on his long-awaited shot at the UFC Lightweight Championship.
The match-up was hardly one that had fans salivating, but it would prove to be much more exciting than anyone ever thought it could be.
The action was hot and heavy from Round 1 until the end of Round 5. Mix in a ton of climatic spots and you have the makings of a potential Fight of the Year from two men no one considered worthy of main eventing a pay-per-view.
Both men are incredible fighters in their own right, but Maynard tends to have a boring style and Edgar had proven to be very elusive in his two fights with B.J. Penn.
Round 1 saw Edgar get crushed by early on by Maynard and it was amazing that he was able to survive the initial onslaught as well as the pounding that Maynard handed him throughout the entire first round.
Edgar came back to win Round 2 and from there on it was back and forth until the final buzzer sounded. While the fight was unbelievably exciting, the resulting draw left way too much to be desired.
That is why we are awaiting the trilogy which will take place once again in Las Vegas at UFC 130 on May 28.
WEC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis was supposed to face the winner, but he was pushed to the back burner so these two could once and for all settle the score and we can determine who the legitimate UFC Lightweight Champion is.
Honorable mentions include Quinton "Rampage" Jackson vs. Matt Hamill, if Jackson wins we can expect to see him get a shot at the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship by the end of the year.
UFC 130 also marks the return of Jorge Santiago to the UFC. The former Sengoku Middleweight Champion was last seen inside the Octagon back in December 2006 as he lost to Alan Belcher, since that time he has won 11 of his last 12 fights.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 13: Clay Guida vs. Anthony Pettis
As I mentioned in the prior post, Pettis was all set to face the winner of the Edgar-Maynard bout at UFC 125 on Jan. 1, but a funny thing happened on his way towards unifying the UFC and WEC Lightweight titles; Edgar and Maynard fought to a draw and the UFC decided that an immediate rematch was necessary.
Pettis could have waited for his turn and taken on the winner, but he chose to fight. Not only did he risk his title shot, he signed on to meet Clay Guida, a man who may be in line for a title shot of his own should he defeat Pettis in June.
Guida has really turned his career around since he began training with Greg Jackson. He has won his last three fights in a row, all by way of submission. During that time he has collected bonuses for his submission wins over Shannon Gugerty and Takanori Gomi.
This is the type of fight that you don't want to blink because you may miss something completely off the wall, such as The Matrix Kick that Pettis landed on Ben Henderson at WEC 53 in December.
Guida is a ball of energy who has learned to harness his aggression and use his complete set of skills. This has potential Fight of the Year written all over it.
UFC 131: Brock Lesnar vs. Junior Dos Santos
These two heavyweights were pegged as opposing coaches on the latest installment of The Ultimate Fighter.
The UFC was hoping that Lesnar would breathe some much needed life into the fledgling reality show, but the ratings haven't been anything to write home about and the two men seem content on avoiding one another or being civil when they are in close proximity.
Dos Santos earned a shot at The UFC Heavyweight Championship, currently held by an injured Cain Velasquez, by defeating Roy Nelson at UFC 117 this past August.
Rather than wait what could potentially be a year or longer for Velasquez to heal, Dos Santos chose to fight Lesnar and risk his No. 1 contender status. The two will meet on June 11 at UFC 131 in Vancouver.
Dos Santos' strength is his striking and power which coincidentally has been Lesnar's glaring weakness. We have yet to see any semblance of a ground game from Dos Santos and God knows that is where Lesnar makes his money.
Who will impose his will when these two meet? Time will only tell, one thing is for sure, the reward for victory is steep, as Velasquez will be hungrier than ever after sitting on the shelf.
UFC 131: Shane Carwin vs. Jon Olav Einemo
This is a very important bout for Carwin and the UFC's heavyweight division as a whole. What, if any, long term affects will Carwin's physical injury have on the rest of his career and has he gotten over the pain of losing to Brock Lesnar at UFC 116 in July of last year?
Can he recover mentally from being so close to capturing the championship only to have his body give out on him and costing him the title?
Some fighters never get over their first loss, hopefully Carwin is healed all the way through and we can see him make some serious noise in the heavyweight division.
There are a lot of interesting match-ups for Carwin should he prove capable of bouncing back and regaining the form that made him popular with the fans as well as a serious contender for the heavyweight belt.
There's a bout with Cain Velasquez, the current heavyweight champion, how about Carwin vs. Dos Santos in a pairing of the divisions two hardest hitters?
Then there is always a rematch with Lesnar, an opportunity for Carwin to prove his is the better man and if given the opportunity he will not let it slip through his fingers this time.
No disrespect to Einemo, who may be a fine fighter in his own right, but in my opinion the real opponent for Carwin is how he has recovered physically and how he holds up mentally.
UFC 131: Kenny Florian vs. Diego Nunes
UFC 131 is an extremely important event despite the fact that it doesn't have one championship bout on the card. Here we have perennial UFC Lightweight contender Kenny Florian facing Diego Nunes in his featherweight debut.
Florian is doing double duty here as he not only takes on the ever improving Nunes, but he will have to battle an even bigger weight cut that he is accustomed to.
With Florian's popularity and the fact that he has already been in a number of high profile bouts, it's not inconceivable that he gets a crack at the UFC Featherweight Championship should he defeat Nunes in Vancouver.
Don't count Nunes out of the equation either as a win over Florian would be his biggest victory to date and would be his fourth win in a row. One of those wins came against former Featherweight Champion Mike Brown at UFC 125.
Jose Aldo just defended his title against Mark Hominick this past Saturday at UFC 129 and is scheduled to face Chad Mendes at UFC 133 in August. The winner of this bout would be right in line for a shot at whomever the champion is, and either man would be more than deserving.
Strikeforce: Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum
These two will meet in Dallas on June 18 to determine who will move on in the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand-Prix. This won't be the first time that the current Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion has faced Werdum. Back in May 2006, Werdum defeated Overeem by Kimura at PRIDE Total Elimination Absolute.
A lot has happened since then and neither man is the same fighter. Werdum is coming off a submission victory over Fedor Emelianenko this past June. He became the first fighter to defeat the Russian in over 10 years.
He also became the first man to legitimately beat Fedor, as "The Last Emperor's" only other loss was due to a cut he sustained against Tsuyoshi Kohsaka at a Rings event.
Overeem has been on some tear over the past year. He ended 2010 as the Strikeforce and Dream heavyweight Champion and captured the K-1 Grand Prix when he defeated Tyrone Spong, Gokhan Saki and Peter Aerts on the same night in December. He became the first man to hold three titles in three different combat organizations at once.
The winner of this contest will move on to the semi-finals and face Antonio Silva later this year.
Strikeforce: Brett Rogers vs. Josh Barnett
With Zuffa's recent acquisition of Strikeforce, many fighters who may have had a contentious relationship with Dana White have become worried that they will find themselves unemployed at some point in the near future.
Barnett is near or on top of that list due to a falling out with White and his penchant for failing steroid tests.
If Barnett can prove to still be a legitimate mixed martial artist and he can stay clean, will the UFC hang on to him or would they rather just cut ties with him and avoid any further potential public relations fiascoes? His bout against Brett Rogers in June may go a long way in determining the answer to that very question.
It has been over three years since Barnett has fought a legitimate opponent and even then he took on a much smaller Jeff Monson.
Before that, he faced and lost to Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at PRIDE Shockwave 2006. Not that Rogers is a world beater, but he does have one-punch knockout power and he will be looking to impress his new bosses.
This bout in and of itself isn't all that important, but it will show whether the UFC has any serious interest in keeping Barnett around.
UFC on Versus 4: Nate Marquardt vs. Anthony Johnson
Again this is a match-up that doesn't hold any real significance in the realm of the UFC welterweight standings just yet. It will serve as a very important test as Marquardt will attempt to drop from the middleweight division he has been fighting in for years down to the UFC welterweight division. After failing time and time again to earn another shot at the middleweight crown, Marquardt will try his hand at 170.
The move has been questioned and rightfully so. Marquardt is a stocky, well put together middleweight with very little if any body fat. If he is successful at making the cut, then the UFC's welterweight division becomes that much stronger.
Speaking of weight cuts, Johnson has always had issues of his own in that regard. He returned to the Octagon for the first time on over two year against Dan Hardy. He not only made weight, he went back to his roots and used his wrestling to frustrate Hardy and go home with a unanimous decision win.
Can Johnson become a factor in the welterweight division? A win over Marquardt would do wonders for him. Remember that there aren't that many contenders left to face Georges St. Pierre who haven't already lost to him. All it takes it one big win before they can get themselves in a top contender's bout.
UFC 132: Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber
The UFC has chosen Faber and Cruz to be the first lower weight division fighters to headline a pay-per-view since merging the WEC & the UFC. Faber has long been the poster-boy of the WEC and Cruz has really grown and become a formidable champion over the past year.
These two are no strangers to one another as they faced off back in 2007. The roles were reversed then as Faber was the defending featherweight champion and Cruz the challenger.
This go around they will be fighting for Cruz's bantamweight championship in what promises to be a fast paced, exciting fight. There is no love loss here either as they really don't care for one another.
The importance of this bout goes way beyond who walks away with the belt. How will pay-per-view sales do on a card headlined by the little guys?
The other bouts on the card are solid, especially the middleweight clash between Wanderlei Silva and Chris Leben, but at the end of the day, it will be Cruz vs. Faber that determines how successful this card turns out to be.
UFC 132: Carlos Condit vs. Dong Hyun Kim
This is a contest that very well may determine GSP's next opponent. Kim is undefeated with an overall record of 14-0. Five of those victories have come in the UFC.
Condit has been on a tear himself, as he has defeated Jake Ellenberger, Rory MacDonald and Dan Hardy in his last three bouts. His lone UFC loss was against Martin Kampmann via split decision in a bout that very well could have gone his way.
The last reigning WEC Welterweight Champion is very versatile. He can beat his opponents standing or on the ground. He has 26 career wins, 12 have come by way of knockout, while 13 have come by way of submission.
Kim on the other hand has proven to be very predictable, yet very effective. He likes to wear his opponents out on the ground. It hasn't been pretty, but it is has worked.
With the options for GSP dwindling every time he fights, these are two fighters who have yet to face St. Pierre.