The UFC ended 2008 and entered 2009 with a ton of hot fights on the horizon. The UFC really hit its stride in the spring and summer featuring one super fight after another. Unfortunately, injuries and illness bit the UFC hard and the biggest company in MMA is struggling to close out the year. However, the UFC has announced several big fights and returns for early 2010 over the last few weeks that should get all MMA fans excited for 2010.
Lost in all of the news over the last several weeks had been the UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre. Mysterious injuries and illnesses to other UFC champions have put St. Pierre in the back of the minds of most fans. Finally, it looks like the UFC has a return date in mind for GSP. FanHouse.com is reporting that GSP will defend the UFC middleweight title against Dan Hardy at UFC 111 in March 2010.
[adinserter block=”1″]It seems like it was just yesterday that GSP was walking into the octagon to fight Thiago Alves at UFC 100. The fight was yet another dominant performance by arguably the most underrated MMA fighter of the decade. Yet, the memorable moment of the fight came between rounds. In between rounds, GSP told his corner that he thought he tore his groin. He was right, yet he continued the fight and continued to dominate Alves with a torn groin. The guy is a warrior and I am very excited for his return to the octagon.
Also this past week, UFC 110 got a huge boost. Antonio Rodridgo Nogueira vs. Cain Velasquez is back on after being canceled due to an illness to Nogueira. MMAJunkie.com is reporting that these two heavyweights will meet at UFC 110 in Australia to determine the top contender to the Lesnar vs. Carwin winner. Nogueira is a legend from the Pride FC era, and has been hampered by staph infections during his tenure in the UFC. Nogueira rebounded from a bad loss to Frank Mir with an impressive win over Randy Couture back in August and looked back to form. MMA fans are excited to see more of the Minotauro who dominated Pride FC for several years.
I think the bigger news from this report is what isn’t being said. Nobody is reporting that this would be a match for the UFC heavyweight title. What this tells me is that Brock Lesnar is expected to make a full recovery. By using GSP as an example, Dana White let GSP sit out 10 months and did not strip him of the UFC welterweight title. I am going to assume that Dana White would show Brock Lesnar the same courtesy. Unless something is said over the next few weeks, I am going to hope for the better and assume that Brock Lesnar vs. Shane Carwin will be back on in either March or April depending upon his recovery.
Wanderlei Silva will make his long awaited return to the octagon in 2010. Silva will meet polarizing UFC star, Michael Bisping at UFC 110 in Australia. It is amazing as to how many international fights Bisping gets isn’t it? Combined with Nogueira-Velasquez, this is shaping up to be the first super-show of 2010. While Silva has had a disappointing record since entering the UFC, his fights have been anything but disappointing. Bisping will need this win to earn back a lot of the credibility that he lost after being embarrassed by Dan Henderson at UFC 100.
The UFC didn’t want to waste any time with a Lyoto Machida-Shogun Rua rematch. Dana White tried to line it up for New Year’s weekend. Unfortunately, an injury to Machida required surgery and the fight has been put on hold. The good news is that all reports indicate that Machida will be ready to fight sometime in the first quarter of 2010. As of this writing, this will be the first mega super-fight I expect that will come out of the UFC in 2010. While it has taken years to see some rematches in the UFC, it is nice to know that this one is still coming in the near future.
Finally, a huge story that got buried in the Ortiz-Griffin fallout is the impending return of former UFC champion, Rampage Jackson. Jackson agreed to fight Rashad Evans in December as part of the deal for participating in The Ultimate Fighter. Rampage crushed those plans when he abruptly announced his retirement from MMA and his new career in the movies. While most journalists speculated that Jackson would come back, it was looking less likely the more he blogged and talked trash on the UFC and Dana White. Well, Dana White dropped an interesting tidbit at a UFC 106 press conference.
White talked a bit about an upcoming bout between current TUF coach Rashad Evans and Thiago Alves in January. “Rashad has a fight with Thiago Silva in January,” White said. “If Rashad is able to get out that with a win he’ll fight Rampage next.” So apparently, Dana White is expecting Rampage Jackson to return. I have no idea why Evans would need to beat Alves to get the match, and quite frankly I don’t think he will have to when it’s all said and done. The idea of finally getting that Rampage-Rashad grudge match already has me excited. Regardless of what you think of Rampage as a coach on TUF, he has done a better job of anyone other than Ken Shamrock of selling his fight on the show. The fight has the potential to shatter records previously set at UFC 100.
[adinserter block=”2″]So, as we wind down 2009, the UFC won’t be going out with the usual year-end bangs that fans have been used to watching. But the good news is that we won’t have to wait long to see the UFC start churning out some big fights and some big stars. It looks like things will start to come full circle in the UFC starting in mid-February. The impending returns of GSP, Minotauro, Rampage Jackson, Wanderlei Silva, and possibly Brock Lesnar is enough to make any MMA fan forget about the slow close to 2009 for the UFC.
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