UFC: How 100 Days Will Shape the Sport for the Next Decade

Christopher HuertaContributor IIIJuly 18, 2011

UFC: How 100 Days Will Shape the Sport for the Next Decade

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    Beginning August 9 in Philadelphia for UFC 133 and ending nine events, 103 days and 16,268 miles later November 19 in San Jose for UFC 139, the UFC will have helped decided the future of the sport.  As the leaders in the world of mixed martial arts, the UFC can swing public opinion and shape the sport like no other.  These 20 matchups are not only some of the best of the year, they could help give the UFC the boost it needs to expand their brand even more.

    With negotiations for a new TV/media deal in the works, the UFC could be greatly aided by high PPV sales and national buzz from a series of great fights while also being hurt by flops.  This is a slideshow giving you, in order, the most important 20 UFC related events over what could be the company and sport's most important 103 days for the next decade.

Honorable MENTIONS

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    Here is a list of five fights that, though they may not be as noteworthy, are ones that every fight fan will want to see.

    Matt Hamill vs. Alexander Gustafsson: August 8, UFC 133

    Charles Olivera vs. Donald Cerrone: August 14, UFC Live

    Charles Brenneman vs. Anthony "Rumble" Johnson: October 1, Versus 6

    Anthony Pettis vs. Jeremy Stephens: October 8, UFC 136

    Cheick Kongo vs. Matt Mitrione: October 29, UFC 137

20. UFC 135: Takanori Gomi vs. Nate Diaz, September 24

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    Summary: Let's begin the countdown with the semi-rematch of the one of the greatest fights of all-time.  In February of 2007, Nate's older brother Nick fought the then-legendary Gomi in a bloody, back and forth battle.  Gomi was eventually submitted by the BJJ black belt Diaz with the little-used and complicated Gogoplata after he nearly knocked him out twice.  Of course, the result was overturned to a No Contest when Nick failed a drug test from smoking enough weed to make the Cheech and Chong envious.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 1

    Reason: This fight, though it envokes excitement and great memories for the hardcore fans, is slated to be on the prelim portion of the card.  It is also a match-up of fighters with a combined 7-9 when you combine each of their last eight fights together

19. UFC Live: Dan Hardy vs. Chris Lytle, August 14

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    Summary: A battle of slugfest lovers, this has the potential to be a dynamic fight.  Despite both fighters coming off a loss, this should be a true stand-and-bang fight, as neither fighter seems to have the power to finish the fight standing.  Lytle's last KO came more than 40 months ago, while Hardy's only UFC KO caem 30 months ago

    Level of Impact on the Future: 4

    Reason: This marks the UFC's first trip into the sport-loving state of Wisconsin and has the potential to put the sport on the map in the state.  A back-and-forth main event with some big fists being thrown is enough to excite any crowd, especially the free TV audience.  If this fight can live up to its potential, it can certainly help raise the ratings and give the UFC some more leverage when it comes to their new media negotiations.

18. UFC 137: Mirko "Cro Cop" Filipovic vs. Roy "Big Country" Nelson

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    Summary: Next on the list, we have a match-up of two fighters on the downside of their career.  Another loss, especially a devastating knockout, on Cro Cop's record will usher the end of the Pride era.  On paper, this should be a battle against the cage, as Roy Nelson will most likely attempt to use the moon just above his belt to move Cro Cop into vulnerable positions.  However, an upset victory for Cro Cop could mean walking papers for Nelson, as he has earned several harsh words from UFC President Dana White after his past few fights.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 5

    Reason: This fight is significant, as Cro Cop still demands an audience, though most Pride fanboys dream of one last headkick, while Big Country's physic gives MMA a bad name.  If two of the last three Vegas third ranked fight is any indication (Jones-Bader, Ortiz-Bader), this should reward us with a memorable moment.

17. UFC 133: Vitor Belfort vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama, August 8

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    Summary: Japanese Judo gold medalist Yoshihiro Akiyama will look to end his two-fight slide against highly-skilled Brazilian Vitor Belfort.  Belfort will be looking to rebound from being on the wrong side of an Anderson Silva KO in February.  Expect a highly skilled tactical battle as Akiyama's judo and top control will be tested by Belfort's high-level BJJ, while Belfort's powerful hands will certainly test Akiyama's iron chin and elusive defenses.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 5

    Reason: Belfort is still held in high regard, evident by the amount of cheers before his last fight, by UFC fans from his early, teen prodigy days.  On the other hand, Akiyama is one of the most popular Japanese athletes in the world with a victory over Belfort elevating him back "into the mix" and exciting the country.  Either way, this has the interest of just able every fight fan there is.

16: UFC 136: Melvin Guillard vs. Joe Lauzon, October 8

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    Summary: Quickly improving Melvin Guillard will try to knockdown another wall on his way to a title shot, this time against fellow youngster Joe Lauzon.  Guillard has quickly become a fan favorite due to his knockout power, quick wit and rise to the top after hitting rock bottom.  Lauzon has fought his way from The Ultimate Fighter house into the hearts of UFC fans for his exciting style, having won a Fight of the Night bonus three times and a Submission of the Night four times. 

    Level of Impact on the Future: 5.5

    Reason: This is a fight that both have requested, and though I expect each to be respectful of each other, I also anticipate a high degree of trash-talking in the lead-up to the fight.  This has all the makings of the most memorable fight on the biggest card of the year, as neither is going to be looking to go home a loser.  Expect this fight to be quick and violent, with the knockout plastered on highlight reel for years to come.

15. UFC 134: Minutauro "Big Nog" Noguiera vs. Brendan Schaub, August 27

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    Summary: Fading legend of the sport Minutauro "Big Nog" Noguiera will look to keep the hopes of former Pride fans alive against hot heavyweight prospect Brendan Schaub.  Noguiera stands as the last of the great Pride Brazilians after the defeat of Wanderli Silva, and will be fighting in front of his home crowd.  Some will argue, including myself, that Big Nog is past his prime as his body continues to breakdown, limiting him to only three fights (1-2) in the last 42 months, while Schaub has fought all nine of his pro fights in the same time (8-1).

    Level of Impact on the Future: 5.5

    Reason: Schaub has been on the trail requesting this fight until it was finally booked, though he may have bite off more than he can chew.  Schaub is a finalist from one of the most watched TUF seasons ever and does possess some solid skills.  However, this is a perfect test to see if Nog still has it as it is a winnable fight for him, though I think Schaub will win a split decision. 

14. UFC 136: Jose Aldo vs. Kenny Florian, October 8

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    Summary: UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo will look to continue his destruction of the division against featherweight newcomer and UFC veteran Kenny Florian.  Aldo is arguably the most "untouchable" of the UFC champions, while Florian is arguably the fighter who has come up the smallest in big fights most often.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 6

    Reason: Despite this being a world title fight, it has garnered little buzz or interest.  Aldo is a quiet champion who can bore fans with his dominate style, though most fans enjoy seeing a world-class fighter at his best.  Florian did not appear to be worthy of a title shot in his only featherweight fight against Nunes, though that may be equated to a tough, first-time weight cut.  As a title fight and co-main event of the biggest card of the year, it has significant impact, but not as much as you'd expect.

13, Battle at the Bayou: Jake Shields vs Jake Ellenberger, September 17

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    Summary: In a battle of Jakes, former world champion Jake Shields will look to rebound from his defeat to GSP against small-named Jake Ellenberger.  Though Shields said he didn't know who Ellenberger was, I expect both fighter will be to know each other in a closely fought battle.  Shields still needs to prove he's a welterweight title contender, while Ellenberger is looking to make it five wins in a row after a tough loss to Carlos Condit in his UFC debut.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 6.5

    Reason: Location, location, location.  This is the UFC's first trip back into the Bayou since 2002, with New Orleans consistently watching more sports per capita than any other city.  Add in that both fighters will certainly be talking some trash, with Shield able to pull some one-liners from the Diaz brothers, and this has all the makings of a needle-moving fight.  Besides, how can you go wrong with the Diaz brothers on Bourbon Street?

12: UFC 135: Matt Hughes vs Diego Sanchez, September 24

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    Summary: Legacies are on the line, as former UFC Champion Matt Hughes will look to delay his trip "out to pasture" against Diego "Dream" Sanchez.  Hughes is coming off a crushing defeat at the hands of rival BJ Penn last November, yet still carries a huge fan base behind him because of his dominance in the sport. Both fighters have things to prove, as Sanchez needs to show he has the chops to be a welterweight contender, while Hughes wants to show that the sport has not passed him by yet.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 6.5

    Reason: This is a fight that will be a curtain call of sorts for the loser, with Hughes either kissing his career good bye or Sanchez losing his status as title contender.  I expect a good buildup for the fight, as both have huge fanbases and will bring in many eyes. 

11. UFC Live: Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson, August 14

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    Summary: New number one lightweight contender Jim Miller will look to put an end to disappointing contender performances when he fights former WEC Champion Ben Henderson.  The lightweight division is quickly becoming the division with the most exciting fights and interesting match-ups, as there is a plethora of great fighters in the division.  Henderson poses a legitimate test for Miller and will be looking to start his own title run.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 6.5

    Reason: As the next-in-line in the most exciting division in the UFC, Jim Miller has everything to lose in his next fight.  I fully expect a game Henderson to give Miller everything he wants and be the most memorable fight of the upcoming Versus card.  If Miller-Henderson can be exciting, it will bring more eyes to a another possible fan-pleasing fight in Hardy-Lytle.  The first step to more viewers and future earnings is a having an exciting lightweight scrap to draw the fans in.

10. UFC 134: Maurico "Shogun" Rua vs Forrest Griffin, August 27

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    Summary: This fight is a rematch of their UFC 76 contest in which Forrest Griffin defeated Shogun Rua in what is considered one of biggest upsets in MMA history.  The victory would repel Griffin to a title shot, one that he would win and become UFC Light Heavyweight Champion.  Shogun would continue to struggle with knee injuries until he found his stride in fights against Chuck Liddell and Lyoto Machida. The winner of this match-up will be one fight away from another shot at the belt

    Level of Impact on the Future: 7

    Reason: TUF star Griffin made a legit name for himself with a victory over Shogun and is looking to use him again as a stepping stone.  I expect an in-shape Shogun to give us a back-and-forth fight that will raise the level of MMA as neither fight is without a full tool belt at their disposal.  A win for either fighter propels them into headlining status again and gives the UFC yet another star to sell.  Even with a loss, both fighters will keep their name and continue to be a fighter that fans turn on their TVs to see.  This is matchmaking at its best.

9. UFC 137: BJ "The Prodigy" Penn vs Carlos Condit, October 29

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    Summary: Fan favorite and legend BJ Penn will take on the dangerous Carlos Condit in a match-up that has ever MMA fan salivating.  Both fighters possess all the tools needed to become champion and each has a ton to prove in what will likely be a candidate for fight of the year.  Penn needs to show he still has something left after years on top of the lightweight division, while Condit needs to show he can beat the best in the world.  Words cannot describe my excitement.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 7.5

    Reason: Joe Silva, you are my hero.  This is the definition of a can't-miss fight and one that fans will have their eyes glued to their TV set for.  Penn is one of the most popular fighters in the world, while Condit's fan base is growing quickly with each devastating finish.  Condit comes into the fight having lost only once in his last 13 fights, with his last two victories earning him KO of the Night.  With all the hype that is going to surround GSP-Diaz, this is the fight that will have Vegas buzzing in the days after the event.

8. UFC 134: Anderson "The Spider" Silva vs. Yushin Okami, August 27

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    Summary: UFC Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva is looking to avenge his last "loss" when he fights Japanese fighter Yushin Okami in front of all of Brazil.  Silva has showed a strong dislike for the way Okami handled himself after Silva was DQ'd and seems motivated to put Okami to sleep.  Okami has been training with Silva's last opponent, Chael Sonnen, and will bring a tool belt full of ways to win into the fight.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 7.5

    Reason: No sport can thrive when one of their best isn't performing their best.  This should be the last great hurrah for Silva, as age is beginning to creep into the picture.  A motivated Silva is possible the most dangerous man in the world, while Okami has been waiting for this fight for over six years.  Both Brazil and Japan will be watching the fight closely, and a win will propel that fighter into every household in their respective country.  Finally, a win by Silva could set-up the biggest money fight in the division, Silva-Sonnen II.

7. UFC 136: Chael Sonnen vs Brian Stann, October 8

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    Summary: Former US Marine Brian Stann will face the biggest test of his career in trash-talking legend Chael Sonnen.  This fight will answer many questions within the division, including Stann's wrestling defense and if Sonnen can rebound from his last second defeat to Anderson Silva.  I expect the arena to be humming with excitement, as this fight will appear on the huge UFC 136 card.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 8

    Reason: Though this fight has the makings to be a lopsided snoozefest, the appeal of both fighters spans to just about every MMA fan and even a large chunk of casual fans.  Sonnen will use his tongue to build-up the fight and bring in a few thousand extra viewers to an already stacked card.  If Sonnen and Stann can deliver extra fans in the build-up to their fight, it will help grow the UFC during their biggest event of the year.

6. The Ultimate Fighter, Season 14 Premiere, September 14

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    Summary: Reality staple The Ultimate Fighter will put on its next, and most likely last, season on Spike TV beginning September 14.  Fans of the show will be excited to see the premiere of the bantam and featherweight divisions on the show, while the two huge coach personalities will do battle for lens time.  I expect the highest level of trash-talking since the Rampage-Rashad season.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 8.25

    Reason: With reality TV as a large chunk of programing currently, the UFC will need to have a significant presence in the genre to be successful.  Mayhem will bring in his fans from his MTV show "Bully Beatdown," while Bisping has captured the hate of the American MMA fan.  I expect the most exciting season yet, as it has all the making of a great season, especially the most exciting weight classes in the world.  If the UFC's final TUF on Spike fails, the brand will be at a huge loss and one that will hurt for years to come.

5. UFC 133: Rashad Evans vs Tito Ortiz, August 8

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    Summary: Rashad Evans is used to change, as the former UFC Champion is now training for his fifth different opponent, this time fellow former UFC Champion Tito Ortiz.  Evans has been on the sideline since defeating Rampage Jackson for the No. 1 contender spot in May of 2010, while Tito fought this Fourth of July weekend.  This is a match-up of a July 2007 fight which came out as a draw when Ortiz was deducted a point for grabbing the fence as Evans was taking him down.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 8.5

    Reason: Two of the biggest names in the sport will be looking to impress the Philly crowd that is hungry for action.  Ortiz will be motivated to show that his defeat of Ryan Bader was not just dumb-luck, while Evans needs to knock the rust off and fight.  Both fighters are heavily motivated and can become huge selling points for the UFC when they enter negotiations, as both are savvy, social media aware fighters.  A win for Rashad put him in line to fight Jon Jones or Rampage for the title with either fight worthy of headlining major television program.

4. UFC 137: Georges St. Pierre vs Nick Diaz, October 29

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    Summary: A pair of Champions will do battle in Las Vegas, as UFC Welterweight Champ Georges St. Pierre will do battle with former Strikeforce Welterweight Champ Nick Diaz.  The elder Diaz has been calling out GSP for years and will look to avenge the loss of his teammate Jake Shields.  This will be GSP's first fight in Vegas since UFC 100, and the city seems to be craving a return of the champ.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 8.75

    Reason: GSP is one of the biggest stars in the MMA world and has begun to become a crossover athlete with several of his endorsement deals.  However, his last few fights have been so one-sided that it has turned some people off.  Nick Diaz, a fighter who has been highly-entertaining in his Strikeforce fights, will certainly bring the fight to GSP before and during the event.  Expect a strong push from the UFC for this fight, as this is the first "mega crossover" fight. Each was the champion in their organization.  No matter what, this will help build the Nick Diaz name and also Strikeforce, adding to any negotiation leverage.

3. UFC 136: Frankie Edgar vs Gray "The Bully" Maynard III, October 8

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    Summary: The final fight in this trilogy will happen as the main event for the UFC's most stacked card of the year.  The undefeated Gray Maynard will look to hand Frankie Edgar his second loss, while Edgar os looking to avenge his only career defeat.  Their first fight flew under the radar before they waged what is considered by some to be the fight of the year.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 9

    Reason: After their first fight, there is no need to hype this battle, as every fight fan is looking forward to their third war.  Add in that it is the final fight on what may be the most watched card of the year, this fight is certainly one of the most impactful.  The lightweight division is in its golden age, and this fight can certainly help propel the sport as much as it can hurt it.  A flop here, and the UFC's momentum may be slowed.

2. UFC 135: Jon "Bones" Jones vs. Quinton "Rampage" Jackson, September 24

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    Summary: Current UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jon Jones will defend his belt for the first time against former UFC Champion Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in the main event of UFC 135.  Jones is slowly turning from a fighter who fans have be praising his rise through the ranks to one whose attitude and actions make him appear to be a villian.  Rampage is huge name fighter who has crossover appeal because of all of his work out of the octagon while also being a well respected fighter inside the cage.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 9.5

    Reason: Both fighters have gotten huge promotional boosts from the UFC, with Jones currently as the fighter that is the apple of the UFC's eye.  Jones is a freak athlete that has yet to have his chin tested, while Rampage has the KO power that can turn the lights out of a 10-story building.  Expect a huge level of mainstream media interest and a huge push from the UFC, as both men have had strong words for each other already.  The possible bonus for this fight could be the post-fight face-off between Rashad Evans and the victor with Evans having legit beef with both fighters. 

1. UFC 138: Cain Velasquaz vs. Junior Dos Santos, November 11

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    Summary: The two top UFC Heavyweight fighters will square off for their long-awaited fight for the Heavyweight Title, as Champion Cain Velasquaz will defend his belt for the first time against the dangerous Junior Dos Santos.  Both fighters are among the most talented fighters in the entire sport, with both holding the keys to a long title reign.  Each fighter is on the right side of 30 and stylistically make for a wonderful fight, so this could be the makings of a great series of fights.

    Level of Impact on the Future: 10

    Reason: Nothing sells fighting better than heavyweights, and these two are arguably the best two heavyweight fighters in the world.  Each fighter has had a big push for the UFC promotion wise and will definitely sell a great deal of PPVs.  Mexican fans are notorious for being huge fight fans, and the Latino community was buzzing for a month when Velasquaz dethroned Brock Lesnar last year.  With the fight scheduled to be in mid-November, it gives the UFC a perfect final push in a new media deal that will propel them into the next decade to come.