Ranking the UFC title fights to end 2013

The UFC has made a lot of noise about its schedule to end 2013.

I can’t argue with the organization, because the year is ending (barring injuries) with a tremendous series of title fights. Here is how I rank which title fights I am most looking forward to:

7. Renan Barao vs. Eddie Wineland at UFC 165 (for UFC Interim Bantamweight title) – Barao is really a fighter that deserves more pound-for-pound credit. The guy has been a wrecking machine for quite some time. No disrespect to Eddie Wineland, who is a gritty fighter, but I don’t think he is in the same class as the champion. Wineland has a puncher’s chance, but this should be an easy defense for Barao.

6. Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate at UFC 168 (for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title) – I have a great deal of respect for Rousey and her skills. She has already established herself as a dominant champion in this division. I just don’t see Tate being able to win this fight. Rousey made quick work of her the first time and I don’t think that will change the second time. Tate would have to overpower Rousey with striking, and that is not her game. I think a fight with Cat Zingano would have been much more entertaining and had a greater possibility for an upset.

5. Cain Velasquez vs. Junior dos Santos at UFC 166 (for the UFC Heavyweight title) – This is the trilogy fight for these two, but both fights have been decisive loses for each man. I think the second fight told more about the matchup than the first. Velasquez was able to tire dos Santos in the first round with his aggressive pace. As long as Velasquez can avoid the big punch from the challenger, he should be able to dominate this fight again with his wrestling and ground control.

4. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165 (for the UFC Light Heavyweight title) – Jones has been absolutely dominant in this division, but Gustafsson appears to be a new challenge for Jones. Like the champion, Gustaffson has the ability to use his length to gain a striking advantage. The length edge that Jones always has on his opponents won’t quite be as much of an advantage in this bout. The question coming into this fight is can the challenger handle Jones’ wrestling, and can he go 25 minutes if need be?

3. Georges St. Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks at UFC 167 (for the UFC Welterweight title) – GSP has been the kingpin of this division for a long time, but Hendricks seems to have the right style to finally dethrone the champion. Hendricks has the wrestling background to contend with St. Pierre, but has the powerful hands to knock him out. The question will be if Hendricks can deal with St. Pierre’s jab and technical striking, and if he can go 25 minutes. If the fight ends quickly, Hendricks will be the champ. If the fight goes into the later rounds, you would have to think GSP will retain his title.

2. Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva at UFC 168 (for the UFC Middleweight title) – Was it a fluke when Weidman beat Silva? I think so, but the champion will have a chance to prove me wrong at UFC 168. I am looking forward to see how Silva approaches this fight. I truly believe if he is focused on winning and not putting on a show, he can’t be beat. I feel he could have beaten Weidman whenever he wanted to in the first fight, but was trying to embarrass the opponent instead, and got caught. This time around, will Silva take the fight seriously? Will he try to prove a point again? Weidman will probably have to have the fight of his life to win.

1. Ben Henderson vs. Anthony Pettis at UFC 164 (for the UFC Lightweight title) – Of them all, this fight has me the most excited. The first fight between these two was tremendous and non-stop action. Now, both fighters are greatly improved. Henderson has evolved as a powerful striker with great wrestling and scrambling ability. Pettis is one of the most skilled and dynamic strikers in all of MMA and he is tremendous at fighting off his back. Both men can go 25 minutes and have plenty of motivation to win this fight. I expect this fight to live up to the hype.

  

Gegard Mousasi wins in a no-win situation

nullGegard Mousasi faced the most dangerous situation he has faced in his MMA career on Saturday afternoon.

He faced an unknown opponent if his UFC debut and was expected to run right through him.

After preparing for months to face top UFC light heavyweight contender, Alexander Gustafsson, Mousasi would instead be forced to face Ilir Latifi after Gustafsson wasn’t cleared to fight after suffering a cut earlier in the week.

Latifi, a native of Sweden, where the fight was taking place, was making his UFC debut and trains with Gustafsson. So, Latifi had some insight on what to expect of his opponent, while Mousasi knew nothing of the man he was to face.

I give credit to Mousasi for taking the fight on such short notice, because he really had nothing to gain. Everyone expected him to win. A loss would have set his career back a great deal, especially in a crowded light heavyweight division.

Mousasi didn’t look overly impressive in a decision win over Latifi, which was to be expected, but he did escape a dangerous situation with a victory.

The win doesn’t propel the former Strikeforce champion into title contention in the UFC, but it at least gives him some experience and he can now focus on bigger things, perhaps a fight with Gustafsson.

  

Matt Hamill retires from MMA

nullIf you thought Matt Hamill’s heart might not have been into his UFC 133 fight with Alexander Gustafsson, you might be right.

On Monday, Hamill announced through his website, that he is retiring from competition.

Today is a sad day for me. After six years and 13 fights in the UFC I’m ready to hang up my gloves and retire from this amazing sport.

The UFC has been extremely good to me and given me an opportunity to make a great living. That exposure has allowed me options outside the Octagon as well. I just don’t have it in me to fight anymore and my last two performances have shown that.

I was ready to make this decision after UFC 130 but my friends, family coaches and most importantly my daughter encouraged me to give it one last chance. My career has been plagued by injuries starting with The Ultimate Fighter and disrupted my training ever since.

There hasn’t been even one training camp where I’ve been able to train without training around an injury. I have not been kind to my body and it has nothing left after 28 years of non stop competition. It’s time to finally give it a rest.

I can’t continue to fight without having the hunger and desire to do so. I can’t let my performances reflect on my coaches who are the best in the world and the reason I’ve made it this far.

I have fallen in love with the sport of Mixed Martial Arts and I will continue to coach at our gym Mohawk Valley MMA along side my teammates and help the next generation of fighters make it to the UFC. I also look forward to continuing my business ventures outside the UFC including “Hamill” the movie based on my life story set to be released this fall.

I want to thank Dana White, Joe Silva Lorenzo Fertitta and everyone at the UFC for the opportunity to make something special out of my life.

Thank you to Duff, Holmes, Bruno Tostes, Dave Kingwater, Renzo Gracie, Tim Greene, Daniel Gracie, Pat Popolizio, Ron Gross, Doug Blubaugh and Mark Dellagrotte.

Thank you to all my training partners who have shared their blood sweat and tears with me along the way. Thank you to all my friends and family for their unconditional support and most of all thank you to my fans! It’s the fans that have made this the truly special experience it has been.

The UFC has become family to me and I hope to be involved with the number one mixed martial arts organization in the world as a coach, ambassador and fan for a long time to come.

It’s unfortunate that Hamill is ending his career abruptly. Hopefully he will find success in whatever he does.