What to expect in MMA for 2010

By Todd Jackson, Inside Fights

Throughout 2009, MMA fans were taken on a roller-coaster

ride.

Tito Ortiz returned to the octagon after mending what seemed

to be bridges charred beyond repair after a lengthy dispute with

UFC president Dana White.

B.J. Penn rebounded as one of the most dominant fighters in

the world after a devastating loss to UFC welterweight champion

Georges St-Pierre in January.

Fedor Emelianenko showed the world that the beat of his own

drum truly guided his legacy as he turned his back on the UFC and

signed with rival promoter Strikeforce. Fedor made his prime time

network television debut  in 2009, knocking out Brett Rogers

in the second round of the main event.

These events were just a small sample of an unpredictable

year. Now looking forward to 2010, fight fans can really see a

world of potential.

Fighter to watch — Jose Aldo

With fighters like Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

commanding attention at his Strikeforce debut, or Dan Hardy

positioning himself for a fight with GSP, it is obvious that there

are many fighters deservedly demanding time in the spotlight.

One man who really stood out is WEC featherweight champion

Jose Aldo. He defeated then-champ Mike Brown at WEC 44, pummeling

his way to the 145-pound title. Aldo showed the world of MMA what

it is constantly craving, a finisher with tools to stop any

fighter, no matter how game he is.

Aldo has ended his last six fights early. With Urijah Faber

dead set on becoming champion again, and  Brown obviously

still very much in the mix, Aldo should have his hands full in

2010.

The sky is the limit for Aldo. Do not blink when this man

takes the stage.

Feud to watch — B.J. Penn vs. Georges St-Pierre

Bad blood is always something fan should keep their eyes on.

The running feuds and dilemmas in the sport are many, but few have

the heat to really turn MMA on its head and divide a community like

one certain duo.

A year ago, chat rooms were riddled with the lunacy and

tantrums of those anticipating a coming match between two of MMA’s

greatest.

When Penn gets to butting heads with St-Pierre, people get

interested. Regardless of which side a fight fan is on, nothing

could be better for the sport. In January, St-Pierre made a

statement at Penn’s expense one again in a dominant victory

at UFC 94, after  beating him three years earlier.

In the subsequent months, Penn has re-established quickly

himself as a top pound-for-pound fighter, he and his camp are

nudging St-Pierre for another bout.

Neither man can seem to find a worthy challenger as it is,

and the love is already lost. How long will it take before they

find each other locked in a cage together yet again?

Story to Watch — Strikeforce looks to contend with

UFC

Of all the potential story lines over the next year, the most

compelling one is that of a fight promoter who finds itself

standing alone with the 800-pound gorilla in the room. The UFC has

always been the brand, the name of the sport. It is that gorilla.

The cold scared shivering little chihuahua in the corner is a

promoter that refuses to lay down.

Strikeforce is that chihuahua. The thing about these

chihuahuas is they don’t seem to know how small they are, and

they bare their teeth regardless. With Emelianenko on board,

Strikeforce had a puncher’s chance to make a true name in

this sport. It had a chance to hang on by the fingertips and hope

he would carry them to the next level. That recipe has been proven

ill fated, see Affliction.

Now, with signing fighters like Dan Henderson, and even the

highly recognizable Bobby Lashley, Strikeforce is making a

statement. They intend to contend. Its network TV deal is something

the UFC has proven incapable of negotiating thus far.

That ability to become the readily available provider of MMA

to a community of enthusiasts that won’t shell out $45 every month

to support the sport may be its ace in the hole.

Strikeforce is positioned quite nicely. It has some

old-school world class fighters in Emelianenko and Henderson. It

has some extremely compelling up and comers like Souza and Gegard

Mousasi.

It may have had a puncher’s chance with Fedor alone,

but now it might be able to go the distance and leave it in the

judges’ hands, i.e. the fans.

This past year was a great one in the world of mixed martial

arts. How could we forget all that MMA did for us as fans? That

being said, 2010 brings with it a wealth of potential to be a very

exciting year, on many fronts, in many ways.