The UFC and MMA in general is the type of sport in which a team's cohesiveness has nothing to do with the outcome. The Seattle Seahawks got a full team effort in the Super Bowl but it still wasn't enough, and the 12th Man ended up a whining mess, with the bandwagon getting noticeably lighter. On the other hand, competitions like MMA are vastly more exciting for those who want to watch individuals brutalize other individuals (other than Team MMA, which is an awesome idea and small promotion in Europe).
While other individual sports can be exciting, none offer the same amount of variables that can make a mixed martial arts match amazing. Tennis, golf, boxing, and other games can be entertaining, but in essence, none are nearly as specialized as MMA. Sure, some tennis players are all about power, while others can finesse their way around the court. Sure there are boxers who just beat the snot out of their opponents and others who like to make fights last. But the UFC and similar promotions involve more variables and are infinitely more unpredictable that other competitions.
MMA fights come down not only to who can hit the hardest, but also who is best in the clinch, on the ground, and of course, who can keep up a solid level of fury for three to five rounds. Keeping this in mind, the UFC, the greatest of all MMA promotions, has put on some of the best fights the sport has ever seen. They have a history of matching up fighters who not only come from different types of training but also fostering some of the greatest rivalries in sport. With great matchups, title implications and rivalries in mind, here are some fights that we think need to happen in the not-too-distant future. While it would be easiest to just list off the next ten title fights, we included a few, but also focused also on potential rivalry fights and title eliminators that would be amazing.
Some are scheduled, others are speculated, while the rest are purely bouts that would make for good watching, enjoy, and throw your own favorites in the comments section along with some choice words for our writer.
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10 CM Punk VS ...Anyone
In terms of athletes who have crossed between MMA and pro wrestling, Brock Lesnar and Ken Shamrock are the two most prominent, with names such as Bob Sapp and Bobby Lashley being in there as well, but not quite as iconic. CM Punk, one of the most exciting WWE stars of the last several years, has now signed with the UFC.
As of right now, there is no set date for CM (Phil Brooks)'s first fight, but Dana White has indicated it will likely be in the summer of 2015. While he is 36, and unexperienced in mixed martial arts, his training intensity, cardio, and overall athleticism are all cards in his hand. It doesn't matter who he faces, as he will likely put on a great show.
9 Rockhold VS Machida
This Middleweight scrap is scheduled for April 18th, 2015, and essentially boils down to two top five contenders duking it out for a spot in a title eliminator. Lyoto Machida, a former Light Heavyweight champ who is 3-1 at Middleweight, with his only loss coming to champion Chris Weidman, will face former Strikeforce champion Luke Rockhold, who has gone 3-1 since joining the UFC. His UFC loss was also his first UFC fight against Vitor Belfort. He had not lost since 2007, and since that loss, he has convincingly beaten Costas Philippou via TKO, and Tim Boetsch and Michael Bisping with impressive submissions.
8 Rousey VS Tate 3
This may be jumping the gun, as Rousey is already slated to fight Cat Zingano at UFC 184. However, if she wins (she probably will), it will likely put Miesha Tate back into the picture as the number one contender. Since her loss to Rousey in 2013, Tate has gone 3-0, with Liz Carmouche and Sara McMann being among her victims.
These two have a vicious rivalry that more than lives up to what is expected of a mixed martial arts hatred. It is somewhat one-sided, as Tate generally calmly expresses her dislike for Ronda's attitude while Ronda describes violent disgust for her opponent, and a figurative longing to beat Miesha unconscious before barbecuing her (forgive the imagery).
7 Cormier VS Gustafsson
This is another one that may never happen, but it should. Alexander "Mauler" Gustafsson and Daniel Cormier are, despite recent losses, still two of the most exciting and talented Light Heavyweights in the world. They also share having gone five rounds against Jon Jones. "Bones" is the best fighter in the world, with striking power backed up by grappling ability and the cardio to brutalize people for 25 minutes. Any fighters who go five rounds with him should probably meet in the ring.
6 Cerrone VS Nurmagomedov
This fight is tentatively set for May 23rd, 2015, and while Rafael Dos Anjos is still the number one contender in the Lightweight division, Nurmagomedov beat him handily back in April 2014. Cerrone, who lost to champion Anthony Pettis back in early 2013, has been on the warpath since, winning seven straight including four in 2014 and two in January of 2015.
Russian born Nurmagomedov, who is one of the most well-rounded and trained fighters in the UFC today (not to mention never defeated), against the Cowboy, who has electrified audiences since 2011, will no doubt involve a few vicious exchanges. Furthermore, it will likely provide a next-in-line after the Lightweight championship fight in March between Dos Anjos and Pettis.
5 Anderson Silva VS Any Top 5 Brazilian Middleweight
This fight sadly may never happen. While the Spider has indicated that he would gladly go after the belt again, he indicated back in January that he did not wish to fight Brazilians for it. While he readily dominated Vitor Belfort, Demian Maia and Thales Leites during his years holding the Middleweight belt (all Brazilians), he claims that he no longer wants to place himself between his countrymen and UFC glory.
Sadly, "Jacare" Souza, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort are among the top five contenders for the belt. He indicated only, however, that he did not want to fight a Brazilian for the belt. What is unclear is whether he would feel the same way about a title eliminator. Even with this speculation, it is hard to determine whether or not Silva would fight any of these three if Dana White were to put his foot down and schedule the fight regardless.
4 Werdum VS Velasquez
The Heavyweight belt has not been unified for some time. Cain Velasquez has been dealing with injury problems and Fabricio Werdum has filled in as the interim champ since defeating Mark Hunt in November 2014. Werdum is a brilliant grappler and a sharp striker. Furthermore, he is noted as the first man to submit Fedor Emelianenko (my Russian former roommate was obsessed with him and argued that there was a conspiracy afoot when he lost three straight in 2010-2011).
Velasquez on the other hand, is possibly the most conditioned Heavyweight in the history of the sport, with the ability to knock an opponent out in seconds flat or gradually wear him down over five rounds. Their unification fight, tentatively scheduled for June, will be an amazing contest to watch.
3 Aldo VS McGregor
"An Irishman and a Brazilian walk into the octagon" sounds like the start of a joke, but the title fight between these two Featherweights is no laughing matter. Jose Aldo has held the belt since the UFC merged with WEC back in 2011, and nobody has come close to taking it. Unfortunately for him, McGregor is a great striker with a solid ground game who brings a 5-0 UFC record to the table in conjunction with a four inch reach advantage. Their fight is scheduled to take place in July of 2015. Both are serious knockout threats, as Aldo and McGregor have finished 14 and 15 of their respective fights by KO or TKO.
2 Johnson VS Jones
There is no date set for this one yet, but after Jones beat Cormier and Johnson quickly dismantled Gustafsson in January, they will meet at some point in 2015. During his first stint with the UFC, Anthony Johnson was good but not great, fighting at Welterweight and Middleweight; going 7-4. He moved to Light Heavyweight while fighting with Titan FC in 2012 and is 8-0 since, with three wins since his return to the UFC.
Jon Jones, on the other hand, is the most complete in the game. Between strikes and wrestling he is the real deal, and despite his "real" record, many consider him undefeated (the 12-6 elbow rule is questionable at best and Jones' DQ back in 2009 was a laughable call).
In short, Jones and Johnson have some distinct similarities. Johnson may be one of the few who can effectively trade strikes with "Bones," as long as he can get within his reach advantage. Jones will have the advantage on the ground, especially as three of Johnson's four losses have come via submission, and we all know Jones' submission game is as impressive as his knockout power.
1 Silva VS Weidman 3
Anderson Silva, already mentioned twice in this article, is the greatest of all time. He had the most complete game, had the most title defenses, highest striking accuracy and, of course, most knockouts of all time. I say "had" because he was out of the game for over a year and beating Nick Diaz doesn't indicate that he is the same fighter, it just means he's one of a select few who can beat Nick Diaz.
Chris Weidman beat Anderson Silva twice in 2013. Once was due to a knockout while Silva was caught mocking him, while the other was due to a freak leg snap when Weidman checked a kick. Since then Weidman has beaten Lyoto Machida. He is currently injured however, and thus unable to fight Vitor Belfort. Whether or not Weidman beats Belfort, a third match between himself and The Spider is more than necessary.
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