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.

  

Injuries becoming a real problem for UFC

We just can’t have nice things.

There is a serious issue going on with the UFC as of late – injuries.

This past week, the scheduled super-fight between Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis for later this summer was scrapped when it was discovered that Pettis injured his knee.

I can’t tell you how disappointing it was to hear this news. I was looking forward to this fight as much as I have any other fight, ever.

The styles of both men would have made for a tremendous chess match and exciting battle.

But, alas, it is not to be.

I can’t say that I didn’t see it coming. There has been a rash of injuries that have cancelled fights in recent years for the UFC.

Even yesterday’s UFC had to go with a replacement main event when interim bantamweight champion Renan Barao had to back out of his title fight with Eddie Wineland due to an injury.

Prior to that, UFC 160 had its co-main event change to Junior dos Santos vs. Mark Hunter after Alistair Overeem was injured.

It seems like every announced PPV card ultimately gets changed due to injuries.

The UFC implemented an insurance plan for its fighters that cover training injuries a few years back. The plan is a great idea and something the organization needed to do. But, since that plan came into place, more injuries seem to be taking place in training.

I am guessing the amount of injuries isn’t increasing in training, simply the fighters are more willing to pull out of a fight because their medical care will be covered. Prior to that, a fighter needed to compete in order to receive that medical coverage. So, if a fighter was hurt in training, he needed to grit it out and fight in order to get his injury repaired after his bout.

The coverage plan can’t change, but the intensity of training can. Fighters need to be smarter in how they prepare. Their grappling and wrestling practices are causing too many injuries. Fighters need to do what they can to be ready for a fight, but they can’t do it at a risk of injuring themselves and having a fight be cancelled.

There are plenty of exciting fights that could take place in the UFC, including a super-fight like Anderson Silva vs. Jon Jones. But, what are the odds we will ever see it take place where both men will stay injury free in order to fight?

  

The UFC Lightweight Grand Prix

nullThe Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has made some waves with MMA fans everywhere.

Considering the log jam that is the UFC lightweight division, I thought it might be a good idea for the UFC to consider a lightweight grand prix to crown an undisputed champion. Before I unveil my quarterfinal matchups, consider that I kept any fights that are already in the works and am using just UFC fighters, not Strikeforce.

So, without further ado, here are my quarterfinals:

Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard – I would have all the fights in the tournament be five round contests, so it wouldn’t take away from this planned trilogy bout. While many might think this could be the finals, why not just let these two settle the score.

Jim Miller vs. Benson Henderson – Again, these two are already signed up to fight. Miller is the expected No. 1 contender in waiting while Henderson is right on the border of being a top-5 lightweight in the UFC. This should be a great grappling contest.

Anthony Pettis vs. Melvin Guillard – Who wouldn’t want to watch these two trade blows? Despite both being strikers, each has very different styles. There will be a lot of fireworks and probably a KO of some sort.

Clay Guida vs. Dennis Siver – Guida and Siver have both established their cases to move up the contender ladder. Guida may have the wrestling to neutralize Siver, while Siver has the striking ability to best Guida. It would be a great contest between two legit lightweight contenders.

  

Top 10 Lightweight Rankings

nullThe lightweight division is as impressive a group as any in MMA.

The top 10 list features a number of different styles and contenders, but each fighter could arguably beat everyone else on the list.

Still, here are my updated top 10 lightweight rankings.

1. Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) – Edgar holds on to the top spot as he still is the UFC champion. An injury kept him from facing Gray Maynard in their long-awaited trilogy fight, but those two should collide soon and be able to settle the score as to who deserves to be the champion.

2. Gray Maynard (10-0-1) – Maynard is still unbeaten but missed out on his opportunity to win the championship when he had Edgar beaten at UFC 125. Now, he will have to wait for a third shot at Edgar this fall where he can perhaps prove to the world that he is the top lightweight in the world.

3. Gilbert Melendez (19-2) – Melendez could legitimately compete for the UFC title, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to do so. Now that the UFC is tapping into Strikeforce, perhaps a champion vs. champion bout is in the near future. Until then, Melendez looks as if he will continue to tear up Strikeforce competition.

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UFC Ultimate Fighter Finale Recap: 2011 hates Anthony Pettis

nullIf 2010 was the year of Anthony Pettis, 2011 is certainly doing all it can to be the opposite.

It all started with the end of 2010 where Pettis won the WEC lightweight championship over Ben Henderson and was told he would be the No. 1 contender for the UFC belt.

Well, on the very first day of 2011, Pettis watched Gray Maynard and Frankie Edgar fight to a draw and his title shot was pushed back.

Then, even though Dana White said Pettis would still be next in line for a title shot after Edgar-Maynard III, both fighters got injured for a planned title fight and Pettis was then told he would have to win twice in the UFC to get the title shot.

Then, Saturday happened.

Pettis made his UFC debut against Clay Guida and Guida was able to use his wrestling to keep Pettis on his back for most of the fight, giving Guida the unanimous decision victory.

Pettis showed some solid strikes and an active guard, but he couldn’t lock in a submission or hit a big strike to end the fight.

The loss certainly set Pettis back and he will now need a strong run to ever earn a title shot. Guida will now move into the top 5 discussion for UFC contenders.

The other featured bout of the night was the championship of The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 where Tony Ferguson defeated Ramsey Nijem by knockout in the first round.

Ferguson showed strong wrestling and absorbed a few flurries from Nijem before landing a big left hand that put out the lights of Nijem.

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