UFC: Looking Ahead at the Events to Close out the Year
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Having had almost a month go by between UFC events it seems that July has turned into the promotion’s unofficial offseason by default. And although this is rare and a total drag, it gives us a chance to take a breath and look forward to the big upcoming fights that we will be watching the rest of the year. Because there is no arguing that the events that are planned are going to be a treat.
So without further ado, here we go...
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The next pay-per-view card, UFC 133, takes place this weekend in Philadelphia and has a main fight that has seemed to be cursed from the start. This was originally supposed to be the date where Jon Jones was to have his first shot at defending his belt against his one-time friend and training partner Rashad Evans.
But to put it mildly, a bunch of “weird” stuff happened, and Jones was forced to back out of the fight. He was then replaced with Phil Davis, who then proceeded to pull out due to an injury, which finally left us with the one and only Tito Ortiz.
Considering Ortiz is the second alternate for this fight, it should still be a pretty interesting showdown. Not only is it a rematch of the first time these two met in the octagon at UFC 73, which ended in a draw, but this may very well be a No. 1 contender fight, depending on how things shake out in the division.
UFC Live 5
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The next free event put on by the UFC will be “UFC Live 5 on Versus” on August 14th. It has a main event of one-time welterweight title challenger Dan Hardy taking on fan favorite Chris Lytle.
Additionally, there is a bout scheduled between lightweights Jim Miller and Ben Henderson, which is a matchup that has big lightweight title challenger implications for both fighters. A win for either of these two will be a big step forward to perhaps getting a shot at the title or at the very least, a huge step forward to placing themselves in the cluster at the top of the lightweight division.
This card may not have the biggest names in the promotion appearing, but its implications will be felt in the title picture and should make for some interesting bouts.
Middleweight Champ Anderson "The Spider" Silva
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UFC 134, which takes the promotion back to Brazil for the first time since 1998, has about as good a top half of a card as you can ask for. The main event of the evening has middleweight kingpin, Anderson Silva, taking on the last man to beat him (although by disqualification), Yushin Okami. It is sometimes hard to believe that a fighter who generally puts on such good bouts has become such a lightning rod within the sport, but that is exactly what Silva has become.
A win over Okami in his home country would mean that Silva has essentially cleaned out the division and every major contender it has to offer. This happening would leave many to cross their fingers for a certain highly talked about super-fight down the road, while also intensifying the argument of whether Silva is the best the sport has ever seen. So in other words, there is a lot on the line. And I didn’t even mention that rival Chael Sonnen, Brazil’s public enemy No. 1, will be in Okami’s corner for this fight.
The co-main event involves a rematch of two former light-heavyweight champions, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Forrest Griffin. Both fighters have had similar fortunes by winning then quickly handing over their belts in their first title defense. With these being two of the more popular and exciting fighters in the promotion, it is destined to be a good watch as Rua tries to get revenge on Griffin, who beat him via rear naked choke way at UFC 76.
UFC Fight Night
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September 17th is the date set for UFC Fight Night, where Jake Shields is pitted against Jake Ellenberger in a battle to see who gets to keep their first name. No, that’s not true, and yes, that was a bad joke, but this is still a big fight for both fighters.
This is Shields’ first fight back since his disappointing showing in his highly anticipated matchup with GSP a few months back. Even though Shields is still the third-ranked welterweight according to many sources, he needs to put together a good showing to get over his rocky start in the UFC.
He needs to show why he was the Strikeforce champion, and that he rattled off 15 straight wins prior coming to the UFC not because of weaker competition, but because he earned it.
For Ellenberger, this is a once-in-a-career chance for him to make a splash in the division. Since his split-decision loss to Carlos Condit back in 2009, he has rattled of four straight wins, three of which he has ended. A win over Shields could vault him right back up the rankings in the division and prime him for a top five opponent in the coming future.
Lightheavyweight Champ Jon "Bones" Jones
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UFC 135 takes place in the Mile High City and is the place where new light heavyweight champ Jon “Bones” Jones makes his first title defense against Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. The anticipation for this bout has already been bumped up a notch following the events that took place at the press conference, where Jackson openly mocked and talked a bit of trash to the champ.
With Jackson, it is important to remember that if you forget about Lyoto Machida and his extremely questionable victory over Shogun in their first fight, he is the last light heavyweight champion to successfully defend the light heavyweight title. Jackson is not ready to just lay down for Jones and thinks there are plenty of holes in the champion’s game.
But that is yet to be seen, considering Jones has yet to be in trouble inside the octagon. Many are already proclaiming him to be an unbeatable force. With about two months until this fight actually takes place, the anticipation is only going to grow as Jackson tries to snatch his belt back from the young buck.
UFC Bantomweight Champion Dominick Cruz
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In October, Versus 6 is shaping up to be about as good of a free card as you can ask for as a fan. It was recently announced that Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz will be putting his title on the line against Demetrious Johnson. This will be the first time a belt has been on the line at a free event since September 2007.
This is a great move by the UFC in promoting their sport. Cruz has not lost since early 2008 (and recently avenged that loss, which is also the only one of his career). Whether you like it or not, he is becoming the face of the weight class. So in order to get him and the other fighters from the class exposure, they are being allowed to showcase themselves for anyone and everyone to see. Johnson is a fighter who has shot up the rankings to get this fight, and these two little guys will make for what should be an entertaining fight—at the very least.
UFC Lightweight Champ Frankie Edgar
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On paper, UFC 136 is perhaps the best card put together since UFC 100. This event will feature two championship bouts, with Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard’s rematch for Edgar’s lightweight belt and Jose Aldo taking on Kenny Florian getting co-main event honors.
Edgar and Maynard are coming off a draw in January in which it looked as if Maynard was going to end the fight in the first round before Edgar made his now-historic comeback to force a majority draw and this subsequent rematch. This was one of the better fights of the year, and the rematch is something fans have been looking forward to.
Meanwhile, Aldo will be defending his title against featherweight newcomer Florian, who is coming off of an impressive victory over Diego Nunes where the dramatic weight cut he made seemed to have no effect on his game at all. Hopefully this fight will showcase the exciting style Aldo usually exhibits after what many considered a lackluster UFC debut against Mike Hominick at UFC 129.
This card has several more interesting plot lines to go along with the main events, with a fight between Chael Sonnen and Brian Stann that will mark Sonnen’s first fight back in the octagon in over a year. This card will take a big step in clearing up the twisted lightweight picture with bouts between Melvin Guillard and Joe Lauzon and former WEC Champ Anthony Pettis facing off against Jeremy Stephens. Hopefully these fights, along with the main event of Edgar-Maynard, can help create some clarity in this top-heavy division.
Welterweight challenger and former Strikeforce champion Nick DIaz
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UFC 137 will finally bring the promotion back to its home base in Las Vegas. This card features what may be the most talked about fight of the year, with Georges St. Pierre taking on former Strikeforce Champion Nick Diaz for the UFC Welterweight title.
This marks the first crossover fight between a fighter from Strikeforce, the promotion bought by UFC’s parent company Zuffa, and one from the UFC. This could very well turn into the most interesting fight of the year, considering many look at Diaz as having the best shot at taking down the long-time champion because of the unique skill set he possesses and the mentality he brings to the octagon.
With two fighters having just about as opposite of personalities as humanly possible, the build up for this event may be as good as any we have ever seen. The co-main event of the evening involves MMA legend B.J. Penn taking on up-and-comer Carlos Condit in a welterweight battle that could be for the No. 1 contender spot or a possible matchup with currently injured John Fitch. This card is also littered with interesting bouts, including Dennis Siver taking on Sam Stout and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic facing Roy “Big Country” Nelson in what could very well be Cro Cop’s last MMA bout.