This weekend, MMA in 2013 will close out with a bang as Middleweight champion, Chris Weidman, rematches the greatest to ever step foot inside the Octagon, Anderson Silva. In the co-main event of the evening, heated rivals, Miesha Tate and Ronda Rousey, will battle for the UFC Women’s Bantamweight title.
Today, I look forward to MMA in 2014, and pick one matchup from each weight division that I want to see the most. As a rule, I will not include any bouts that are already scheduled to occur.
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt vs Travis Browne
This fight would be an absolute barnburner between two of the best strikers in the Heavyweight division. Hunt’s last few fight have been absolutely stellar. His most recent fight with Antonio Silva is arguably the greatest Heavyweight fight in the history of the UFC. Travis Browne’s biggest fight of his career is coming this Saturday night against former UFC Heavyweight champion, Josh Barnett. If Browne wins he could be fighting for the title in 2014. If he loses, I think a matchup against Hunt would be the best for both men’s careers.
Light Heavyweight: Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson
This one is a no-brainer. Anyone who watched their first fight at UFC 165 wants more of the same. The fight was incredible, extremely close, and controversial all at the same time. If Gustafsson gets past Jimi Manuwa in March, and Jones defeats Glover Teixeira in April, expect the rematch next summer.
Middleweight: Vitor Belfort vs Jacare Souza
Both men are on an absolute tear in the UFC right now. Belfort is on a three fight winning streak, all by head kick KO. Jacare, the former StrikeForce Middleweight champion, is on a five fight winning streak, including two wins inside the UFC. Belfort will be fighting for the title in 2014, but Souza may be right behind him with one more victory. Could these two men meet for the title late in 2014?
Welterweight: Nick Diaz vs Robbie Lawler
This fight could also be Nick Diaz vs anyone, and I would be excited. Diaz’s retirement has always been in question, but he has continually turned down fights from the UFC. After UFC on FOX 9, Dana White said that Diaz may return in May. If that is indeed true, a rematch with Robbie Lawler would be fantastic. Lawler will have his hands full in March, when he takes on Johny Hendricks for the vacant Welterweight championship.
Lightweight: Anthony Pettis vs TJ Grant
Lightweight champion, Anthony Pettis, is on the shelf healing a PCL injury. When he returns, a fight with TJ Grant would be a great option. In Pettis’ first UFC fight, he lost to Clay Guida in a fight where he was dominated on the mat. Since that night, Pettis has not fought a powerful wrestler that could give him trouble. Grant is not only a great wrestler, but he has power at Lightweight. Grant has won 5 straight, but injuries have kept him out of the Octagon since May. Will he get the title shot he was granted when he returns?
Featherweight: Anthony Pettis vs Jose Aldo
Of all the fights that were scrapped this year, Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis’s Featherweight title bout may have been the hardest to swallow. I mean who wouldn’t want to see two of the best strikers in all of MMA go toe to toe? Pettis is now the Lightweight champion, so it is unlikely we will see the two men fight in 2014, unless Aldo goes up to Lightweight. Will 2014 be the year of the ‘Superfight’?
Bantamweight: Dominick Cruz vs Urijah Faber
Who doesn’t want to see these two fight again? They have one of the best rivalries in MMA that dates back to the WEC days. If Cruz can get past Barao in February, which is certainly no easy task, expect to see Faber and Cruz battle for the title around May 2014.
Flyweight: John Dodson vs Joseph Benavidez
The two most powerful fighters in the division should absolutely fight in 2014. At this point, it simply makes sense. Both men have lossed to Demetrious Johnson, and need marquee wins to put themselves back in title contention. These two would put on a great show, and could be a co-main event for a UFC on FOX.
Women’s Bantamweight: Ronda Rousey vs Cat Zingano
Zingano’s demolition of Tate earlier this year had many salivating at the idea that Cat would get a crack at Rousey. Unfortunately, Zingano’s knee injury has placed her on the sidelines not only in reality, but metaphorically as well. A lot of casual fans have forgotten who Zingano is leading up to the UFC 168 event, because the UFC is promoting Miesha Tate. The fact is, Tate was TKO’ed by Zingano in her last fight, and Zingano deserves to fight Rousey in 2014.
Women’s Strawweight: Tecia Torres vs Carla Esparza
The UFC will be adding this division when TUF 20 begins in the summer. My early pick for the fight I want to see has to be Tecia Torres vs Carla Esparza. Torres looked fantastic in her last bout against Felice Herrig. Torres dominated the stand up with beautiful kicks and stinging punches. Esparza, the Invicta Strawweight champion, will definitely have a target on her back come TUF 20, and it should be a great show to watch. I think a fight between the two would be non-stop action.
Is there any fights on the list you like, disagree with, or see missing? Let me know in the comments below or tell me what fight you are looking forward to on Twitter @SchlinskMMA.