2012 will go down as a mixed year in the UFC. Unable to deliver the big super fights, the UFC will attempt to rebound in 2013 with several highly anticipated fights both scheduled and in planning.
If there was one disappointment with the UFC in 2012 it was the inability to pull off big fights. Even realistic super fights in division like Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz failed to materialize for a variety of reasons. With an all-star roster on deck featuring new fighters from Strikeforce, the UFC has the potential to blow away 2012 with several big fights this year. Now whether the UFC can pull these off or not is another story altogether.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz UFC 158 - This one is signed but is far away from being sealed, and further away from being delivered. Diaz is still unlicensed so until he appears before the NSAC to get reinstated, this fight is far from a lock. However, if everything comes together as planned this is undoubtedly the biggest fight on the docket in 2013 now and for the rest of the year. Grudge fights sell in the UFC and I can’t think of a bigger grudge that will be settled in 2013 than this one.
Chael Sonnen vs. Jon Jones UFC 159 - If you are a hardcore fan and have followed Sonnen and Jones over the last few months, you are probably less excited about this fight than you were when it was announced. If you are a casual fan who peeks in and out, well then you are probably just as amped. So far the “grudge” between these two has turned into a bit of a love affair. I have to think that as the fight grows closer that Sonnen will go into his usual bag of promotional tricks and start talking. Regardless you have a fight between two stars with a title on the line. That will always draw to an extent.
Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping/Chris Weidman TBD - Anderson’s next move is as much of a mystery as anything else in the UFC. Dana White has said that Silva would fight Bisping if he wins his next fight but when is the last time Bisping hasn’t choked in this scenario? If it isn’t Bisping than Chris Weidman looks to be the next man up for the Spider. Regardless of the opponent, Anderson will always be a draw on pay per view. Unfortunately it isn’t likely to be the two opponents that would draw him the most money in either GSP or Bones Jones.
Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo UFC 156 - I am probably one of the few MMA fans incredibly psyched for this fight. I am a big fan of both and I think that this one has enormous potential to be fight of the year. Unfortunately neither are a draw on pay per view, yet I think the weak schedule puts this one at least in consideration for top 10 anticipated fights.
Cain Velasquez vs. Alistair Overeem TBD - Now is where we start diving into hypothetical fights. Have you seen Bigfoot Silva fight elite competition? He doesn’t fare so well. So I am going to presume that Overeem beats him. This one has the makings of a classic. Overeem has something that nobody else in the heavyweight division has had since Brock Lesnar left…charisma. That charisma equals money and that charisma matched up with Velasquez’s mystique will draw mega money here.
Ronda Rousey vs. Cristiane Cyborg Santos TBD - Rousey and White can scream all that they want about Cyborg having to make 135 but at the end of the day I am still of the belief that this fight happens. Dave Meltzer recently reported that negotiations are very close to making this fight happen at 135. I think you have the makings of what could be the third or fourth biggest fight of 2013 in the UFC. I hate to say it but the fate of the women’s division rests on this fight.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks TBD - This one could come sooner than you think if Diaz can’t play ball in time for UFC 158. Hendricks is on an impressive winning streak in the division and by rights, should be the number one contender. Hendricks has one more hurdle to jump and I can’t imagine him stumbling at this point. Another Hendricks KO will bring some big money to this welterweight title fight. The KO artist vs. the supreme athlete is gold. Hendricks is already running his mouth about GSP. By the time this fight happens you’ll have yourself a nice grudge match. I smell a lot of green here.
Jon Jones vs. Dan Henderson TBD - I’ll continue with the hypothetical fights here and go back to the light heavyweight division. Dana White has talked about Daniel Cormier getting the next title shot but I think a Hendo win over Machida seals the deal. Henderson continues to talk trash about Jones and as fickle as Jones is, I can see him demanding a fight to shut him up. Ticket sales weren’t strong for their first scheduled fight but I think this one is different. Henderson’s streak and list of victims will be a who’s who in the division and will make him a believable contender against Jones. This division desperately needs a credible contender. Continuing the circus with Cormier will do nobody any favors. I think Henderson gets the next shot and these guys do some better than expected business.
Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez TBD – There are grumblings that this first time battle of Strikeforce vs. UFC champions will take place at the UFC on FOX 7 broadcast, although those are just rumors right now. One thing is confirmed and that is that the UFC is working hard to make this fight happen. I think Henderson has now solidified himself as one of the faces of the UFC and the idea of someone with Melendez’s pedigree and winning streak coming in to challenge him is money. Additionally, there is always added intrigue when you have a battle of champions. I know this division has struggled for attention since BJ Penn lost the title but I think Henderson brings it back to relevance in 2013.