2013 has been one of the best years in MMA’s storied history. Next weekend, UFC 168 will cap off an incredible year for the UFC with the biggest rematch in the sport’s history. Today, I give you a quick look at the big MMA events occurring in the beginning of 2014.
1. UFC Fight Night 34: Tarec Saffiedine vs Hyun Gyu Lim
What to watch for: This is the first big MMA event of 2014, headlined by the UFC debut of the former StrikeForce Welterweight champion, Tarec Saffiedine. Tarec was originally slated to fight Jake Ellenberger in the main event, but an injury forced him off the card. He was replaced by Lim, who is 2-0 in the UFC.
2. UFC Fight Night 35: Luke Rockhold vs Costa Philippou
What to watch for: Former StrikeForce Middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold, looks for his first UFC victory against powerful striker Costa Philippou. Other exciting matchups include TJ Dillashaw vs Mike Easton, and Brad Tavares vs Lorenz Larkin.
3. World Series of Fighting 8: Justin Gaethje vs Lewis Gonzales
What to watch for: Justin Gaethje and Lewis Gonzales will battle for the inaugural WSOF Lightweight Championship in the main event of the evening. Former UFC fighter, Anthony Johnson, fights former StrikeForce fighter, Mike Kyle, in a fight that is sure to bring fireworks. #1 Strawweight in the world, Jessica Aguilar, will fight against Alida Gray to determine WSOF’s inaugural Women’s Strawweight Champion.
4. UFC on FOX 10: Benson Henderson vs Josh Thomson
What to watch for: This card is absolutely stacked with top-flight UFC talent. Former Lightweight champion, Benson Henderson, battles former StrikeForce Lightweight champion, Josh Thomson, in the main event of the evening. Donald Cerrone, Stipe Miocic, Eddie Wineland, Gabriel Gonzaga, and more big name fighters fight that night as well.
1. UFC 169: Dominick Cruz vs Renan Barao
What to watch for: The UFC’s Super Bowl card is always stacked, and this year is no different. Two title fights share the main and co-main event slots, in what is sure to be an early pick for card of the year. Dominick Cruz makes his long awaited return from injury to face his toughest opponent to date, interim Bantamweight champion, Renan Barao. Jose Aldo also fights Ricardo Lamas in the co-main event for the Featherweight title.
2. UFC Fight Night 36: Gegard Mousasi vs Lyoto Machida
What to watch for: Lyoto Machida’s move down to Middleweight paid dividends in his first bout against Mark Munoz. Machida walked away with a head kick KO in the first round, establishing himself as a contender. He will battle MMA veteran Gegard Mousasi in the main event of the evening, in a fight that should not be missed.
3. UFC 170: Rashad Evans vs Daniel Cormier
What to watch for: Daniel Cormier makes his long awaited Light Heavyweight debut against former champion, Rashad Evans, in the main event of the evening. The main event is the reason to watch this event.
1. UFC Fight Night 37: Alexander Gustafsson vs Jimi Manuwa
What to watch for: Alexander Gustafsson is coming off a razor close decision loss to Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, in a fight that no one gave him a chance. The fight turned out to be one the greatest title fights in UFC history, leaving fight fans everywhere clamoring for a rematch. He will lock horns with one of the few remaining Light Heavyweight prospects the UFC has to offer, Jimi Manuwa. This fight has a lot on the line, and should be exciting.
2. UFC 171: Johny Hendricks vs Robbie Lawler
What to watch for: A lot of people contend that Johny Hendricks defeated GSP at UFC 167. After GSP’s announcement that he will be vacating the title, Dana White announced Hendricks would get a shot at the vacated title. His opponent? None other that the ‘Ruthless’ one, Robbie Lawler. Incredibly, Lawler is 3-0 inside the UFC since his return, and could possibly be a champion come 2014. In the co-main event of the evening Carlos Condit fights Tyron Woodley in what has to be a #1 contender’s bout. Anytime Condit fights, you should not miss it.
The next few months are stacked with fantastic events, fights, and drama. All the coverage you need will be right here on Fansided for every single one of the events posted above. If you would like to see other events covered, or noticed an event I left out, let me know in the comments below, or on Twitter @SchlinskMMA