Look, we’ve been over this plenty of times, so I’ll spare you the pointless hyperbolizing and get right down to brass tacks: 2012 was a very unlucky year for the UFC.
With the exception of Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen 2, just about every big fight that was made last year ended up getting scrapped due to an injury. We had UFC 151 the event that shall not be named get cancelled entirely, a first for the UFC under Zuffa’s management.
Champions like GSP, Jose Aldo, and Dominick Cruz spent most of the year on the shelf. And non-champions (but still big names) like Vitor Belfort, Dan Henderson, and Michael Bisping all saw fights get cancelled this past year due to injury.
It was bad. Very bad. Like so bad, I honestly started wondering if this is what the Mayans were talking about with that whole “2012 Apocalypse” thing. And yes, ancient Mayans were huge MMA fans. Their favorite fighter was CB Dollaway, however, which is probably why they aren’t around anymore.
But that’s the past. With 2012 behind us, it’s time to look ahead to the year to come. You’ve already heard my wax hypothetical about what fights might be coming this year – now, let’s talk about what fights are definitely headed our way, and soon.
The UFC is putting its best foot forward in 2013, with one outstanding main event after another to kick the year off. And yes, that sound you hear is me knocking on wood with every fiber of my being – after all, we’ve been here before, haven’t we Injury Gods?
UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping (January 19th)
I realize the UFC on FX cards are sometimes seen as the ugly stepchildren of the larger UFC on FOX cards. I mean after all, you get the premium presentation, marquee fights, and full promotional push on those big-time FOX cards (not to mention PPV).
On FX, you’re left listening to the dulcet tones of Jon Anik and Kenny Florian (who’s going to tell me which snack product is “corn to the core”? Who? WHO!?) as they call the main event of “guy I’ve never heard of vs. guy I no longer care about”.
Well it’s time to put that unfortunate stereotype to bed, because the first FX card of the year gives us a PPV quality main-event in Mike Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort. A mid-2012, injury ravaged, last-minute fill-in main event, sure – but a main event none the less.
But Belfort vs. Bisping is a big fight, with the winner (almost) certain to get the next crack at Anderson Silva. Belfort is coming off a very impressive performance against light-heavyweight champ Jon Jones, while Bisping is 5-1 in his last six and is knocking on the door of the UFC title fight that has eluded him his whole career.
Plus this fight is in Brazil, so you’re guaranteed a balls-to-the-wall crazy crowd at the very least.
UFC on FOX: Johnson vs. Dodson (January 26th)
The very next weekend, the UFC is back on FOX. And they’ve brought another world title fight that should be all-out action for 25 straight minutes.
At least, that’s the plan. The last time the UFC headlined a card with a flyweight title fight, resounding boos and disinterest were the crowd’s only response. And that crowd was in the “Mecca of MMA”, my hometown of Toronto, Canada, which makes it even worse.
Worse, because that fight was a fun, exciting back-and-forth battle that should have satisfied true fans and casual viewers alike. Well, the Air Canada Centre was full of both that night, and they let the boos rain down on the 125’ers that night. I’ve never been more embarrassed to be from Toronto – and our hockey team is the Maple Leafs, for pete’s sake.
Hopefully, the UFC’s second attempt at a flyweight title fight gets a better reception, because the athletes are certainly deserving and even though they are tiny men, they put on one heck of a fight. But if that’s not your thing, remember that this card also features Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Anthony “Showtime” Pettis, and Erik Koch.
And it’s all free. Sounds like a bargain to me.
UFC 156: Aldo vs. Edgar (February 2nd)
We’re all the way into February before you have to pull any money out of your wallet – assuming, of course, that you already had a subscription to FX. Judging by the numbers on some of those FX shows, that’s not exactly a stone cold guarantee.
But pull money out you should, because this card (and the main event) are almost guaranteed to be awesome.
Now I know Frankie Edgar has never been anyone’s definition of a “star”. Despite his last 4 fights being contenders for “Fight of the Year” (no, really) Frankie has just never broken through with casual fans. Maybe it’s his quiet, under spoken attitude. Maybe it’s his penchant for hair-splitting decisions instead of decisive finishes (Gray Maynard aside). Maybe it’s because he’s been in nothing but rematches since the beginning of 2010.
But luckily, that final trend is over, and Edgar is in a fight that should grab everyone’s attention. Moving down for lightweight – where many believe he should have been awarded one decision over reigning champ Ben Henderson, if not two – Edgar will now challenge Jose Aldo for the UFC featherweight championship.
When have you ever seen either of these men in a boring fight? Like, ever? There’s more video evidence of the existence of Sasquatch than the existence of a boring fight featuring Frankie Edgar or Jose Aldo.
And on top of that, we’ve got a card featuring Rashad Evans vs. Little Nogueira, Alistair Overeem vs. Antonio Silva (a true battle of the Bond villains), and the suddently exciting Jon Fitch taking on Demian Maia.
That’s a stacked card, folks.
On the horizon:
So that’s three stacked cards in the space of a month – but there’s even more to be excited about in the coming months.
UFC on Fuel TV: Barao vs. MacDonald: Yeah, this is a UFC on Fuel TV event, meaning even the FX cards get to look down their noses in contempt for this lowly card, on this fringe television station. But what the heck? It’s free, it’s happening in England, and the main event should answer a lot of questions about the future of the Bantamweight division.
UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche: The Ronda Rousey train is pulling into the station shortly, and fans are advised to jump on now before space becomes limited. Yes, Ronda’s UFC debut should be huge for the UFC for a number of reasons, not the least of which is their decision to finally feature women’s bouts inside the Octagon. That fight should be a promotional bonanza – but it also happens to be headlining a card featuring Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida, Urijah Faber, and Josh Koscheck. Should be a fun one.
UFC on Fuel TV: Silva vs. Stann: If this isn’t the fight to make you reconsider not subscribing to Fuel TV, I don’t know what is. Wanderlei Silva vs. Brian Stann is as close to a guaranteed KO as you can get in this sport. Plus, it’s the ultimate clash of fighters fans just go bonkers for, as former U.S. Marine and all-round badass Brian Stann and PRIDE hero and MMA legend Wanderlei Silva are about as popular as it gets in MMA unless you look like GSP (or Ronda Rousey, for that matter).
UFC 158: St. Pierre vs. Diaz: Speaking of GSP, he’s back in action this March, against the guy fans have wanted to see him fight for years. GSP vs. Diaz is a promotional dream, the ultimate clash not only of styles, but of personalities. The polite, handsome, well-spoken Canadian with a conservative, controlling style against the brash, pot-smoking, middle finger giving West Coaster who fights like a barbarian on meth. I can’t wait.
The Ultimate Fighter: And finally, let’s not forget that the UFC’s flagship reality TV show is coming back once again! Now in the last couple of years this news has been met with as many eye rolls as rounds of applause, but this season should manage to re-ignite interest in the show once again. That’s because the two most polarizing figures in MMA – light-heavyweight champion Jon Jones, and trash-talking champion Chael Sonnen – will be coaching against one another. It should make for good TV.
Oh, and they’re going to fight at the end of it all, marking another “big” fight on most fan’s radar screens. Barring any unfortunate injuries (you hear me, Fight Gods!) 2013 is already shaping to be a banner year for fans of the fight game.