UFC president Dana White has been openly talking about an explosive 2013 for the UFC, and if that happening comes down to the fights confirmed for the year, he looks likely to make good on his word. As the end of the year approaches, GRACIEMAG.com has put together a list of the 10 match-ups promising to rattle the foundations of MMA.
1. Lyoto Machida vs. Dan Henderson – UFC 156
A former champion of the light heavyweight division, Brazilian karate stylist Lyoto Machida will have his hands full come February 2, when he takes on tough-as-nails Dan Henderson. Lyoto is coming off a concussive knockout victory over Ryan Bader. The winner of this fight will go on to face the divisional champion, Jon Jones—or Chael Sonnen, should the underdog manage to outdo the favorite in the TUF finale. Hendo is riding five back-to-back wins, though he hasn’t fought since November 2011, when he faced Mauricio Shogun in one of the greatest fights of his career.
2. José Aldo vs. Frankie Edgar – UFC 156
The match-up scheduled for February was going to happen at the UFC’s third visit to Rio de Janeiro; however, champion José Aldo fell off his motorbike and couldn’t make it because of an injured foot. The featherweight from the Brazilian State of Amazonas will put his belt up for grabs for a fourth time, now against former lightweight top dog Frankie Edgar. For both athletes being of the most explosive of varieties, Aldo-Edgar promises fireworks in the octagon. The Brazilian hasn’t tasted defeat in 14 fights. Now, Edgar dropped to featherweight just because he’s small, having only lost to the lightweight champion Ben Henderson (on two occasions). Guaranteed war!
3. Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping – UFC São Paulo
After moving up a weight class and facing Jon Jones, Vitor Belfort returns to the middleweight division he came from, to face Michael Bisping on January 19, in São Paulo, Brazil. The winner likely will take on Chris Weidman to determine who gets the next crack at Anderson Silva, since the champ has decided to take some R & R and only return at the end of 2013. In other words, the champ will be watching who qualifies as his challenger from box seats. Can Belfort manage his rematch?
4. Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen – TUF 17 Finale
Jon Jones the phenom doesn’t know what it really is to lose, having dispatched all his opponents without much difficulty. Jones is now having to go through what Anderson Silva put up with, having Chael Sonnen and his tongue as an opponent. The two are on coaching duty for TUF 17, and will face off at the April 27 grand finale of the reality show, with the light heavyweight belt on the line. Will Sonnen be able to make his encounter with Jones last? Could he have what it takes to take the champion down? We’ll just have to wait to find out.
5. Glover Teixeira vs. Quinton Jackson – UFC on Fox 6
Chael Sonnen has been saying that Ronda Rousey can take out Rampage. Now Glover knows it won’t be quite so easy. The fight, set for January 26 in Chicago, is a promising one. Glover, Chuck Liddell’s main sparring partner when he was still a fighter, only has two losses on his ledger, and has a game as well-rounded as it is dangerous. The American star is coming off back-to-back losses.
6. Rogério Minotouro vs. Rashad Evans – UFC 156
After a slow 2012, Rogério Minotouro has a date set for his return to the cage. The light heavyweight will take on Rashad Evans on February 2, 2013, in Las Vegas. Minotouro feels this will be his greatest test in the UFC. The Brazilian hasn’t fought since knocking out the now retired Tito Ortiz. Rashad, who has been training with Vitor Belfort, is running on all cylinders. Who takes it?
7. Rodrigo Minotauro vs. Fabricio Werdum – TUF Brazil 2
The two heavyweight stars have faced off once before but under a different banner: at Pride FC. The rematch is set for the TUF Brazil 2 final, to be held at a city yet to be named. Minotauro managed to rediscover his submission game at UFC Rio, while Werdum is riding back-to-back wins and has shown major evolution in the standup department. Jiu-Jitsu fans won’t want to miss this one!
8. Demetrius Johnson vs. John Dodson – UFC on Fox 6
The flyweight showdown will be the marquee fight next January in Chicago. Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson will defend his belt for the first time since outpointing Joseph Benavidez at UFC 152 last September. The game John Dodson, who took out Brazil’ Jussier Formiga in earning his challenger status, is gunning for the title.
9. Clay Guida vs. Hatsu Hioki – UFC on Fox 6
Clay Guida lost his last two outings, but he’s looking to make a new start in a new division in 2013. His opponent, Hioki, once held as the second-best featherweight on the planet, is coming off a loss and wants to show his stuff. The fight is guaranteed excitement.
10. Ronda Rousey’s debut
Ronda Rousey (6w, 0l) will make her promotional debut in 2013, but the date and opponent have yet to be confirmed. Some of her main rivals and colleagues at Strikeforce should also be absorbed by the UFC, it is expected. Such is the case with, for example, her bantamweight rival Miesha Tate, who herself broke the news via her Twitter account. Miesha is the second female fighter confirmed to join the UFC’s ranks. The same may also go for Brazilian knockout artist Cris Cyborg. Will we be seeing this war come through the works?
What do you say, gentle reader? Which will be the best UFC fight in 2013? Did we forget to mention one?