August 18, 2012; San Diego, CA, USA; Ronda Rousey during the post fight press conference after defeating Sarah Kaufman (not pictured) in their Strikeforce MMA women

The 5 Most Anticipated Fights of 2013

The holidays are a special time for many folks – a time of family, of eating, of giving, of eating more, of sacred traditions, and did I mention eating?

Unfortunately, the holidays are now over, meaning most folks have moved on to self-loathing over how much weight all that eating caused them to gain, resolutions to lose said weight, and lots of grumbling about going back to work.

And we hear you. But alas, we here at FanSided don’t want to dampen your spirits any further. So rather the reflect on the past, let’s look ahead to the future. Football season is winding down, hockey season is back (talk about a late Christmas miracle), basketball season is in full swing, and winter is…well, winter’s not going anywhere for a while.

Dang it, there I go getting all depressing again. Luckily, one sport that doesn’t have a season is MMA, and 2013 is shaping up to be quite a year for the combat sports world. It almost has to be, seeing as how 2012 was perhaps the unluckiest year in MMA history as far as injuries getting in the way of highly anticipated fights. If you were an MMA fan, it was kind of like watching RG3 injure his knee and blow a 14 point lead…month after month after month.

So here’s hoping all the bad karma got used up in 2012, and there’s nothing but smooth sailing on the horizon for 2013. Let’s take a look at the five most anticipated fights of the new year, starting with…

Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg

In a few weeks, Rousey-mania will finally arrive in the UFC. And though she may be making her UFC debut at the end of February, the biggest deal in women’s MMA will not be taking part in the biggest fight in women’s MMA.

That’s because her opponent that night is Liz Carmouche, not Cris “Cyborg” Santos.

Now I’m not trying to be disrespectful to Ms. Carmouche in any way here. She is a former U.S Marine, an openly gay fighter in a sport not exactly know for being friendly to homosexuality, and by all accounts a badass. Hell, she proved that by stepping forward to face Rousey when, at least by Dana White’s account, many of her contemporaries passed.

But let’s be honest here: this is not the fight most fans were hoping for. We’ve seen that reflected in the slow rate of ticket sales the Rousey/Carmouche-headlined UFC 157 has done so far, relative to other events the UFC has held at the Honda Center. It’s surprising because Rousey is a legitimate MMA superstar, taking part in the first ever women’s bout in UFC history. This fight should, by all rights, be a very big deal.

But it’s not, because most fans know exactly how this one’s going to end: with Rousey taking home Carmouche’s arm, in about the time it took you to read this sentence.

The real uber-fight featuring Rousey would put her against Strikeforce juggernaut (and I mean that in the nicest way) Cris “Cyborg” Santos. Sure, “Cyborg” fights a weight class above Rousey, and has that whole cloud of a positive steroid test hanging over her head. But so what? So do lot’s of folks who will be appearing on this list, and that won’t stop us fans from plunking down our $49.99.

In many ways, Rousey is comparable to Anderson Silva in this department, in that fans will only shell out the big bucks when they think he’ll be in a competitive fight. Luckily, money talks, and I’d wager that with the help of some careful dieting (and, you know, no more failed drug tests) we see Rousey vs. Santos before the year is through.

Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen

Speaking of guys who have failed drug tests only to bounce back stronger than ever, I give you Mr. Chael P. Sonnen. Oh, and his esteemed opponent, who is no stranger to overcoming substance-related adversity either.

When this fight was announced in the wake of the catastrophe that was UFC 151, fans largely groaned. After all, Chael Sonnen is coming off a loss (and a decisive one at that) to the champion of a lighter weight class. The last time he fought at light-heavyweight, George W. Bush was in the oval office. Yet here he is, cutting in line in front of guys like teammate Dan Henderson and Lyoto Machida. How can the UFC possibly claim this is a serious, legitimate fight for the promotion’s marquee title?

That’s a good question.

Luckily for Dana White and the Fertitta brothers, it doesn’t matter one bit.

Admit it: you’ll watch this fight. And before that, you’ll watch the Sonnen/Jones season of “The Ultimate Fighter”, even if the show’s format has long since grown stale. You’ll still watch, because these may be the two most polarizing men in the fight game today, with a list of fans equal to their list of haters. You’ll watch, and no matter how cheesy it is, no matter how “fake” Jones may act or how much Sonnen’s routine may be “worked”, you’ll likely be entertained.

Jon Jones may be the best fighter in all of MMA when it comes to accidentally getting under fan’s skins. And Chael Sonnen may be the best at purposely doing the same thing. The combination of the two equals dollar signs, no matter how silly the match up appears on paper. You know that, I know that, and Dana White knows that, too.

And besides, it’s not like this fight is seriously hurting the credibility of the light-heavyweight title. Jone Jones has already defeated all the top contenders at 205 lbs. Hell, his last title defense was against Vitor Belfort, another middleweight who hadn’t fought at light-heavyweight in ages. Like it or not, we’ve left “legitimacy” behind a long time ago.

So enjoy it, I say. Yes, this fight will likely be a blowout for Jones, who’s size, speed, and overall MMA game may be too much for anyone to overcome – let alone Chael Sonnen coming off a loss. But if this really is the Oregon Gangster’s last hurrah, you can be sure it will be damn entertaining. Or irritating. When it comes to Sonnen (or Jones) there really is no middle ground.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Nick Diaz

The good news is we won’t have to wait long to see this fight, nor is it as hypothetical as the other fights on this list.

That’s a fancy way of saying that GSP vs. Nick Diaz is actually happening, and soon at that – the two men are set to square off this March in St. Pierre’s hometown of Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Apparently, GSP is only going to fight in Canada from now on (which is just fine with me).

Of course, the second I say this fight is a sure thing, I remember that it features Nick Diaz. Remember that this fight was one a “sure thing” back in October of 2011, before Diaz decided to no-show a couple of press conferences for what we later learned was no good reason whatsoever. White ended up pulling Diaz from the fight as a punishment, before GSP’s knee injury made the whole thing moot.

But White gave Diaz a second chance, and the Stockton kid got an interim title fight against Carlos Condit. A fight which he lost in a very disputed decision, before failing his post fight drug test for (what else) marijuana. One year on the shelf later, and Dana White is once again taking a chance on a Nick Diaz-headlined card.

I really, really hope Diaz doesn’t pull a Diaz and screw this fight up (again), because seeing him face GSP is a true battle of complete and total opposites. The polite Canuck against the brash Stockton-ite. The consummate, polished athlete, facing off against the man who flips more birds than Stone Cold Steve Austin. A fighter with a conservative stand-up game and dominating wrestling, against a dude who brawls like his life is on the line and has some of the best BJJ in the division.

Here’s hoping we save the drama for inside the cage this time.

Cain Velasquez vs. Alistair Overeem

Ever since Brock Lesnar became champion, the UFC has gotten into the habit of calling whoever wears the heavyweight title the “Baddest Man on the Planet”. It’s an obvious attempt to recapture some of the Mike Tyson-eque mystique that used to surround boxing’s heavyweight division, but hasn’t in years.

It hasn’t exactly worked out for the UFC for a number of reasons, most of them well beyond their control. Lesnar, the first “Baddest Man”, spent most of his reign sidelined by a life-threatening bout with diverticulitis. Once he returned, he was promptly dispatched by Cain Velasquez, the second “Baddest Man”. Cain then injured his shoulder and spent the better part of a year on the shelf himself.

When he returned, he was promptly dispatched by Junior Dos Santos on network TV, who became the third “Baddest Man on the Planet”. To his credit, Junior managed to defend his title once, before losing the belt (and “Baddest Man” designation) back to Cain once more – making him, technically, the fourth “Baddest Man on the Planet”.

Yeesh. I feel like I just recapped a season of “Doctor Who”.

The good news for the UFC is that they have a (potential) fight on the horizon that would give their attemtp to create some heavyweight hype a serious shot in the arm. Alistair Overeem both looks and fights like a modern day Mike Tyson – in that he’s a brick sh*thouse who hits like a Mac truck moving at Mach 1. To finally see him contend for the heavyweight title – especially against a monster like Cain, who finally seems to be living up to his full potential – is an absolute dream fight.

Of course, there’s the slight problem of Overeem’s failed steroid test (there it is again!). But once more – who cares? As history has shown us time and time again, fans are willing to forgive and forget when it comes to big-money fights. That’s doubly true for a guy like the ‘Reem, who most fans suspected was on ‘roids anyways. As long as he’s clean for this fight (and he’s passed many tests, and fought many times, in the U.S. before he failed post-Lesnar), it should hopefully be a non-issue.

Of everyone in MMA, the two guys you would want to least back into in a dark alley could very well be these two men. In all likelihood, we’ll see them square off in 2013.

Anderson Silva vs…someone outside his division

Finally, I include this last mention because any list of anticipated fights without the greatest name in the sport on it just isn’t legitimate in my eyes.

Sure, at the moment Anderson doesn’t have any big-time fights lined up. Okay, that’s not true – he may defend his title against Michael Bisping in the not-so-distant future. And before you roll your eyes, consider how big this fight would be in the U.K. And really, is there anyone else at middleweight who fans would consider a big deal for Silva to fight?

The answer is no, which means Silva will have to look outside his division to find a super fight, which is already clearly his intention. There was plenty of talk of a possible Silva/GSP fight being next for “The Spider”, before St. Pierre opted to face Nick Diaz next (can you really blame him?). There’s been lots of talk of a Silva/Jon Jones fight, as well, and both guys seem (slightly) warmer to the idea now then they were previously.

Really, it doesn’t matter who Silva faces of these men, or any other – so long as he gets a divisional super-fight in 2013, I’ll be happy. Silve is in his late 30′s, and doesn’t have much time left to continue fighting at his peak. Hell, he may already be out of his “prime”, but can compensate by virtue of the fact that he’s Anderson freakin’ Silva.

Regardless, an Anderson Silva inter-divisional clash would be one of the hottest fights of 2013.



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