25 Must-See UFC Fights Still to Come in 2011

Andrew Barr@@andrewbarr8Correspondent IAugust 30, 2011

25 Must-See UFC Fights Still to Come in 2011

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    There's a lot of advantages to having 90% —at least— of mixed martial art's top talent fighting in your promotion. Perhaps the most significant of which is that there are always a ton of interesting fights on the horizon.

    If you're a fan of MMA, there are few things as exciting as taking a look at the UFC's upcoming events and knowing that you have months upon months of awesome fights ahead.

    So, for all you MMA enthusiasts out there, in order to bring some excitement into your day, let's take a look at the 25 most interesting fights on the UFC's horizon...

    Fights on this list are in no particular order.

Matt Wiman vs Mac Danzig 2

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    Mac Danzig and Matt Wiman are scheduled to face off at UFC Live: Cruz vs. Johnson, but that won't be the first time these two have met in the Octagon.

    The two combatants fought first at UFC 115, in a fight that ended in great controversy.

    Early in the first round, Wiman caught Danzig in a guillotine choke and despite Mac having not tapped out, still being conscious and trying to defend the choke, referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight.

    These two are both exciting welterweight fighters on the cusp of being real contenders in their division and we never really got to see who was the better man.

    At UFC Live: Cruz vs Johnson, we'll finally find out who should have won the first fight.

Anthony Johnson vs Charlie Brenneman

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    The most intriguing aspect of this match up is it will let us know if Charlie Brenneman really has a place among the UFC's top level welterweights.

    At UFC Live: Kongo vs. Barry, Brenneman served as a last minute replacement for Nate Marquardt, taking on Rick Story.

    Going into this fight, Rick was coming off an impressive win over Thiago Alves and many believed he could be the next big thing in the welterweight division.

    Charlie was a huge underdog heading into the fight, but he put on a gutsy performance and managed to talk away with the decision victory.

    When he meets Johnson in the Octagon, we'll find out once and for all if Brenneman just had a really good performance against Story, or if he is a legitimate force at 170lbs.

Jonathan Brookins vs Erik Koch

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    This is a good fight to pay attention to because it's the first time TUF winner Jonathan Brookins will compete in the UFC since winning the The Ultimate Fighter 12 some ten months ago.

    Brookins looked excellent during his time on the show and many believed that he had the most potential out recent TUF winner.

    It should be interesting to see Brookins back in the cage and see what he has been working during his time off and how much better he's gotten.

Pat Barry vs Stefan Struve

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    Not hard to figure out why people are looking forward to this one.

    Pat Barry and Stefan Struve are two of the most exciting fighters in the heavyweight division and neither are opposed to going toe-to-toe.

    They're both coming off of big losses and are going to be looking to put on an impressive performance in this one.

    Expect this one to be either Fight of the Night or Knockout of the Night, maybe even Submission of the Night.

Paul Taylor vs Anthony Njokuani

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    A lot of the casual fan base probably doesn't care much about this fight, but anyone who knows these both fighters, knows that this has the potential to be an incredible fight.

    Paul Taylor has had only moderate success within the UFC, mostly because he's not a very well rounded fighter, but he does have good, technical kickboxing. Taylor was actually a kickboxer before he entered MMA and managed to become a WPKC world kickboxing champion

    Anthony Njokuani is also a very technical striker, but utilizes a different discipline, Muay Thai. In his most recent fight, Njokuani took on Andre Winner and won the fight decisively, in that Joe Rogan called, his best performance yet.

    If this fight stays on the feet it has the potential to be one of the best fights between two technical strikers that we've seen in some time.

Dennis Siver vs Donald Cerrone

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    Dennis Siver and Donald Cerrone are two fast-rising lightweights who are always looking to put on a good show for the fans.

    If Cerrone can get this fight to the ground, his victory is almost guaranteed. He has 12 submission wins to his name and four of Siver's seven losses have come by submission.

    Getting Siver to the ground could be a tall order, however, given that the German fighter has good takedown defense.

    If the fight is contested on the feet, the results are a bit more unpredictable, but do favor Siver, who is known for his kickboxing.

    Cerrone is not to be counted out on the feet, though. His striking looked impressive in his most recent fight against Charles Oliveira, which he won by first-round TKO.

Anthony Pettis vs Jeremy Stephens

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    This is an important fight for both these men, but for different reasons.

    Anthony Pettis needs this win in order to remain relevant amongst the lightweight division's top talent.

    Stephens needs this win to finally move himself into the upper echelon of the division.

    Both these guys put on great fights anytime they compete and with each of them extra motivated and looking to make a statement, this fight's potential is almost unlimited.

Jason MacDonald vs Alan Belcher

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    Jason MacDonald and Alan Belcher are two of the most exciting fighters in the UFC's middleweight division.

    While neither fighter is strictly relevant, they still fight their hearts out every time you seem them in the cage, and their tendency to fight hard has earned them some extra cash; both fighters have four fight bonuses to their names.

    I think, standing, this will be a scrappy fight and if it hits the ground, we'll see a more technical showing.

    No matter where the fight goes, both men will push a furious pace and do everything they can to talk out of the Octagon with a win.

Chris Leben vs Mark Munoz

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    Chris Leben vs Mark Munoz is set to be the main event of UFC 138. The event is expected to air for free on SpikeTV.

    In the last year, Munoz has established himself a force in the middleweight division by going on a three fight win-streak. His most recent win was a split-decision victory over former title-challenger Demian Maia.

    Leben, for several years now, has been transitioning back and forth between being a real contender at middleweight and being the division's gatekeeper. It seems like every time he's on the fringe of earning a title shot, something goes wrong.

    This fight is stylistically interesting because both men have knockout power in their hands and Munoz has great wrestling, but Chris is crafty off his back. Wherever the fight goes, both men have a chance of victory.

    The winner will likely be next in line for a title shot after the winner of Chael Sonnen vs Brian Stann.

Damacio Page vs Norifumi Yamamoto

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    If I'm being honest, I don't believe this fight holds much relevance to the bantamweight division because I don't believe either of these fighters has what it takes to be champion.

    That said, this should be an awesome fight; these guys are two of the most fun-to-watch 135ers out there and that's saying a lot, given how many exciting fighters there are in the weight class.

    If this one goes three rounds, I think it has Fight of the Year potential.

Demian Maia vs Jorge Santiago

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    Simply put, Demian Maia vs Jorge Santiago as a battle of submission specialists.

    Both men are skilled Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners and the majority of their wins have come by submission.

    If this fight hits the mat, it could lead to one of the most exciting grappling matches in UFC history.

Cheick Kongo vs Matt Mitrione

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    This fight is super important because we'll find out whether Matt Mitrione has what takes to compete in the upper echelon of the heavyweight division and a win would put him probably one fight away from title contention.

    If they heavyweight division needs one thing, it's more title contenders.

    Cheick Kongo has long been considered the heavyweight division's gatekeeper and he does a pretty good job of it. The only two fighters to decisively beat him the UFC, Frank Mir and Cain Velasquez, have both held the UFC Heavyweight Championship.

    Apart from it's relevancy and importance to the heavyweight rankings, this also has the potential to be an awesome fight.

    Both men love to stand and bang and are known for knocking guys out.

Jake Shields vs Jake Ellenberger

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    The welterweight division is in need of new title contenders and Jake Shields vs. Jake Ellenberger has the potential to give the division just that.

    Shields just fought for the UFC Welterweight Championship and the reigning champ Georges St-Pierre was unable to finish the fight, so if Ellenberger can take Shields out, he'll put himself right in line for a title shot.

    On the other side of the coin, it should be interesting to see if Jake Shields can finally look as impressive in the UFC as he did in Strikeforce.

    For years, Shields was considered one of the best pound for pound fighters on the planet while he was fighting outside the UFC, but since entering the promotion he has looked rather unimpressive.

Martin Kampmann vs Rick Story

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    This fight is a battle for relevancy in the welterweight division between two of the division's grittiest competitors.

    Rick Story and Martin Kampmann are both fighters who bring it every time they step into the Octagon and always try to put on a good show for the fans.

    They are essentially polar opposites in terms of their styles.

    Kampmann is a striker who has developed some solid grappling skills and Story is a grappler who has developed some solid striking skills.

    I believe that Kampmann is the more well-rounded fighter and certainly the more experienced, but Story is younger and I feel like he might be the more determined of the two.

    Regardless of who comes out on top, this fight is guaranteed to be a real barn burner and has a good chance of earning Fight of the Night honors.

Demetrious Johnson vs Dominick Cruz

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    Stylistically, this isn't the most intriguing fight out there, but a UFC championship on the line makes any fight worth looking forward to.

    The reason I'm not as interested in this fight as any of the other title fights is it seems obvious how this one will unfold.

    Demetrious Johnson has been doing pretty well for himself in the bantamweight division, but his biggest win is over Miguel Torres.

    Torres is a great fighter, but he's not even top 5 in the division right now, and I don't think a win over him is enough to prepare Johnson for Dominick Cruz.

    I think Cruz' in and out style of boxing will allow him to avoid Johnson's takedowns and this fight will end up being five rounds of Johnson missing takedowns while Cruz lands punches almost at will.

    That said, this is an MMA fight; anything could happen and less deserving title challengers have walked out of the Octagon with UFC gold around their waists.

Nate Diaz vs Takanori Gomi

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    After going 2-2 in the welterweight division, Nate Diaz has made the move back down to the lightweight divsion —an advisable decision.

    His first opponent will be MMA legend Takanori Gomi.

    Both men are in dire need of a win and so we'll likely see both of them come into this fight fired up and ready to go.

    Diaz will have the reach advantage and probably has the technically superior striking, but Gomi has one-punch knockout power that Diaz will need to be wary of.

    If this fight stays on the feet, it has big potential for Fight of the Night.

Brian Bowles vs Urijah Faber

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    There are probably only three fighters on this planet who stand a chance of beating Dominick Cruz, inside the UFC's bantamweight division.

    Those fighters are: Brian Bowles, Urijah Faber and Joseph Benavidez.

    At UFC 139, two of these men will meet inside the Octagon, in a match to determine the next challenger for Cruz' bantamweight belt.

    Urijah is the only man to ever defeat Dominick. Bowles hasn't defeated Cruz, but didn't really lose to him legitimately. Brian broke his hand when he fought Dominick and, as a result, was forced to forfeit the fight.

    As long as one fighter wins the match up, it'll set up a fight that the fans want to see again.

    Not to mention, both men are almost always in exciting fights, so this should be one hell of a scrap.

Jose Aldo vs Kenny Florian

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    At UFC 136, Kenny Florian will get his third shot at UFC gold.

    Florian has already had two title shots, against Sean Sherk and BJ Penn, and both times he has come up short.

    Will the third time be the charm when he faces Jose Aldo at UFC 136?

    Probably not.

    But it will be fun to see him try.

    As small as Florian's chances of winning this fight are, you kind of have to root for the guy, just because of how long he has been around the sport and how hard he has worked to earn a UFC championship.

    Maybe we'll finally get to see that dream come to fruition.

    More likely, we'll see Aldo add another highlight reel knockout to his resume.

Michael Bisping vs Jason Miller

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    Michael Bisping and Jason Miller are coaching opposite each other in the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter, so one this is for sure: These two will hate each other by the time they fight.

    There's few things more entertaining than watching two fighters who really don't like each other go at it and I suspect that's what this fight will be like.

    It will also be neat to see if Miller has what it takes to be a relevant force in the UFC's middleweight division.

Chael Sonnen vs Brian Stann

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    This is a classic striker vs wrestler match up, which is always fun to watch, but the main reason to check out this fight is the return of Chael Sonnen.

    This will be Sonnen first fight in the UFC since almost beating Anderson Silva back at UFC 117 and fans are stoked to see him get back in the cage.

    Sonnen has mastered the art of hyping a fight, so any time this guy gets in the Octagon, people are going to be looking forward to it.

    This fight will also show us whether or not Brian Stann is the real deal.

    Stann has fought three times in the middleweight division, winning all his fights decisively, but he has yet to face any of the division's top talent.

    A win over Sonnen would prove that Stann deserves to be in the title hunt at 185lbs.

Jon Jones vs Quinton Jackson

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    At UFC 135, Jon Jones will defend his UFC Light Heayvweight Champion for the first time against former champion Quinton Jackson.

    It should be interesting to see whether the brash youngster tries to play Jackson's game and stands and trades with him, or whether he'll play to his strengths and try to take the fight to ground.

    Jackson has become a very predictable fighter, so we can likely assume that he is going to try and keep this fight standing and get the knockout.

    However, Jackson has seemed particularly motivated for this bout, so maybe he'll try and add a few new weapons to his arsenal.

    Jones has only fought one elite opponent so far, Mauricio Rua, and Rua was coming off surgery and a long lay off.

    It'll be curious to see how Jones deals with an elite opponent who is fresh and coming off a recent victory.

Georges St-Pierre vs Nick Diaz

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    Even the most optimistic person would probably have a tough time envisioning a scenario in which Nick Diaz actually beats Georges St-Pierre.

    St-Pierre is the No. 2 pound for pound fighter on the planet and Nick Diaz has never even defeated a top ten welterweight in his entire career.

    What's worse is that Diaz has a terrible track record with wrestlers and he will be fighting one of the greatest adapted MMA wrestlers of all-time.

    What makes this fight intriguing is Diaz' personality and mental toughness.

    Most of GSP's recent opponents have been bewildered by him and, by the end of the fight, they seemed like they have accepted defeat.

    I don't see things going down that way with Diaz.

    He might not have the skills or athletic ability to outmatch GSP, but we can definitely count on Diaz to stay in the fight and try to find a win to win until the final bell rings.

Carlos Condit vs BJ Penn

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    Carlos Condit vs BJ Penn is a fight to determine the No. 1 contender in the UFC's welterweight division and both fighters seem fired up for this one.

    Apart from the fact that these two match up beautifully and have the potential to put on an incredible fight, this is a fight to see because of all the important questions it will answer.

    Can Carlos Condit defeat a truly elite opponent?

    Is BJ Penn once again the fighter we saw dominate the lightweight division?

    Who will Georges St-Pierre —or maybe Nick Diaz, I guess— defend his welterweight championship against next?

    Penn and Condit are two of the most skilled and exciting strikers at 170lbs, so if this fight stays standing, it could end up being a spectacle that fans will remember for years to come.

Cain Velasquez vs Junior Dos Santos

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    This fight is an unstoppable force meeting an immovable object; no one knows what the hell is going to happen.

    UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos have both been tearing through the UFC's heavyweight division and neither man has been defeated since entering the UFC.

    Velasquez vs. Dos Santos is considered by many to be the most important and looked-forward-to heavyweight bout in UFC history.

    Both men have been so dominant that it's hard to picture either of them losing at this point.

    One thing is certain, a victory for either man will do much for their legacy and absolutely cement their place as the No. 1 heavyweight in the world.

Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard 3

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    Remember when these two fought at UFC 125, in what was one of the most incredible back and forth battles in UFC history?

    Well, it's happening again at UFC 136.

    If you're a fan of MMA, you can not miss this fight.

    Andrew Barr is a Featured Columnist for Bleacherreport.com. For updates on what's happening in the world of MMA, follow him on Twitter http://twitter.com/#!/AndrewBarr8