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?

UFC pound-for-pound rankings

Image ALT text goes here.It has been a while since a pound-for-pound rankings has been done on this site, but there is no time like the present. Here we go:

1. Anderson Silva (33-4) – Silva is still the pound-for-pound king due to his dominance in the middleweight division and his ability to finish his opponents.

2. Jon Jones (18-1) – I put Jones ahead of GSP because Jones really hasn’t lost yet. His one loss was a DQ where he essentially finished his opponent. Jones has shown well-rounded skills, winning with strikers, submissions and wrestling. He has truly dominated a division that was stacked a few years ago, the 205-pound division.

3. Georges St. Pierre (24-2) – St. Pierre has been on top of the 170-pound division for five years now, but his inability to finish opponents has gotten tiresome. St. Pierre has great wrestling and striking, but he doesn’t have the finishing ability of the top two on this list.

4. Jose Aldo (22-1) – Aldo can start making an argument to move up this list if he beats Anthony Pettis later this year. A win there may earn him a lightweight title fight. Aldo has tremendous striking, but he has shown the ability to fatigue over 25 minutes. That could be a problem as he starts fighting elite-level fighters.

5. Cain Velasquez (11-1) – The heavyweight champion is very light on his feet and he pushes a pace that can’t be matched in the division. He may not be the top striker, but that didn’t matter against Junior Dos Santos, as he constantly forced JDS to use energy. Velasquez never tired, but JDS did quickly.

6. Benson Henderson (19-2) – Henderson has some great skills, but he also isn’t overwhelmingly winning his recent fights. He isn’t losing them either, but his razor-thin decisions hurt his ranking on this list.

7. Renan Barao (30-1) – Barao doesn’t get a lot of credit for being as impressive as he has been. He is arguably the bantamweight champion, since Dominick Cruz has been out for so long. Sure the 135-pound division isn’t filled with a lot of big-name talent, but Barao has dominated all of the would-be contenders, including Urijah Faber. Barao hasn’t lost since 2005 and has 20 finishes since that time.

8. Demetrious Johnson (17-2-1) – Johnson is the fastest fighter in the UFC and he has great wrestling and conditioning. The 125-pound division doesn’t have a lot of superstars yet, but Johnson is the king of that hill and has looked impressive on top.

9. Gilbert Melendez (21-3) – Melendez gave a good accounting for himself in his UFC debut, nearly beating Henderson for the lightweight title. After a lengthy run as champion in Strikeforce’s lightweight division, Melendez looks to be a real force in the UFC’s 155-pound division.

10. Johny Hendricks (15-1) – Hendricks doesn’t have the look of a dominant MMA star, but he keeps beating the big names that get thrown before him. A great wrestler already, Hendricks has developed the most powerful hands in the welterweight division and he has now cleared out the division, leaving himself and St. Pierre on top. The two will meet later this year and that should be an epic fight.

UFC 149 Results & Recap: Barao outclasses Faber

nullUFC 149 saw a new champion crowned, an interim champ that is.

Renan Barao pushed his winning streak to 29 fights by beating Urijah Faber via unanimous decision to win the UFC Interim Bantamweight Championship on Saturday night.

Barao made not have gotten the finish, but he decisively beat Faber thanks to his reach and his kicks. Each round he managed to out-point Faber and stay out of danger, leaving “The California Kid” puzzled throughout.

Barao certainly beat Faber in easier fashion than the actual champ, Dominick Cruz. It will be interesting to see if Cruz can find a way to stop the runaway train that is Barao. Barao may very well be the best 135-pounder in the world.

Faber has now lost his last five championship bouts, dating back to his time as a featherweight in the WEC. Though he is still highly competitive, he will likely not get another title fight anytime soon.

In the co-main event, Hector Lombard had a very unimpressive UFC debut.

The man considered to be a potential threat to Anderson Silva proved to be more of a threat to himself, as he was very tentative against Tim Boetsch. Neither man did much to impress, but two of the three judges believed that Boetsch did a little bit more, which earned him a split decision.

The poor showing from both men may open the door for Chris Weidman to earn the next middleweight title shot following his brutal KO win over Mark Munoz last week.

For complete results from UFC 149, check out the jump.

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The UFC Dark Horses

nullEveryone knows who the champions are in the UFC.

But, to really know MMA is to know which fighters are the future of the sport.

I don’t pretend to be a psychic, but I do think I know a talented fighter when I see them. So, here is a list of one fighter in each division that is somewhat under the radar. Each of these guys has the raw ability to someday get to the UFC title, if they continue to evolve and strengthen their weaknesses.

Heavyweight – Travis Browne (10-0-1) – Browne is coming off a draw with Cheick Kongo at UFC 120, but that isn’t a terrible showing for just his second fight in the UFC. It was the first time Browne hadn’t won and he has knockout wins over Abe Wagner and James McSweeney to his credit. He also has five knockout wins that have come in under 60 seconds. If Browne can develop his grappling skills to match his punching power, he will become a very dangerous opponent in the heavyweight division. Browne will be showcased on UFC 130 as he takes on Stefan Struve.

Light Heavyweight – Matt Hamill (10-2) – In a stacked light heavyweight division, many are forgetting about Matt Hamill. Winner of five straight, Hamill has wins over Tito Ortiz and Keith Jardine, and technically is the lone black mark on Jon Jones’ career, though it was by disqualification. Still, Hamill has some of the best wrestling in the division and his boxing is getting better. He has also shown the ability to take a punch, which will come in handy at UFC 130, when he takes on Quinton “Rampage” Jackson. A win for Hamill has to put him in the top five for title contenders.

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