Huge upcoming fights

Buckle up, Fight Fans!

The UFC is set to embark on a 15-week sprint to the end of 2013

filled with 11 events, at least 6 championship bouts, and some of

the biggest fights and most intriguing match-ups to hit the Octagon

in years.

Rivalries will be renewed. Legacies will be defined. Dominant

champions will be put to the test.

The next four months are going to be electric, and to get you

primed for what’s in store, here’s a look at the 10

best fights on the calendar between now and New Year’s

Day.

Daniel Cormier (12-0) vs. Roy Nelson (19-8)

UFC 166 – Saturday, October 19

Normally you wouldn’t expect to find a bout between an

unbeaten rising star and a veteran coming off a one-sided loss on a

list like this, but the tension between these two heavyweights and

the potential impact the outcome will have in 2014 make its

inclusion a must.

First and foremost, these two are eagerly counting down the days

until they get to punch each other in the face. Nelson asked for

this fight from the time Cormier arrived in the UFC, and despite

being battered in his last outing, he gets his wish to face the

unbeaten former Olympian.

The usually laissez-faire Louisiana native Cormier has taken

exception to Nelson’s insistence that he (Cormier) turned

down an early offer to fight him (Nelson), and is fixing to make a

statement against “Big Country” in this one.

As much as a win for Cormier should position the undefeated

standout at the head of the list to challenge for the heavyweight

title, that might not be the case, depending on how things play out

in the contest that follows this fight both on the UFC 166 fight

card and on this list.

Should friend and teammate (and UFC heavyweight champion) Cain

Velasquez retain his title, Cormier has expressed a desire to drop

down in weight and compete in the light heavyweight division, where

he would become an instant title contender, and a very intriguing

addition to a weight class that is currently in a state of flux as

far as contenders go.

For Nelson, this is the ultimate “Nothing to Lose”

opportunity – a high profile fight against an unbeaten

opponent that, if he wins, quickly returns him to the thick of the

title chase. If he loses, he was “supposed” to lose,

and it’s business as usual going forward for the man with the

grizzly beard/mullet combo.

Cain Velasquez (12-1) vs. Junior dos Santos (16-2)

UFC 166

A third meeting for the heavyweight strap in a little more than

two years for the top two fighters in the division – it

doesn’t get better than that.

With their personal series even at one win apiece, Velasquez and

dos Santos will meet for a third time in the UFC 166 main event,

making it just the third championship trilogy bout in UFC

history.

 

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But this is about more than just the gold belt that will be

awarded to the victor, as the winner of this contest will have

every opportunity to establish himself as the greatest heavyweight

champion in UFC history.

To date, no one has been able to successfully defend the title

more than twice – a mark shared by Randy Couture, Tim Sylvia,

and Brock Lesnar – but with these two having decimated

everyone they’ve faced to date, including each other once,

the door to a dominant reign will be wide open, and their greatest

potential threat will have been set aside for an extended period of

time.

And if you want to get really stripped down and basic, this is

two big, strong, athletic human beings poised to punch each other

in the face – repeatedly – and that is always exciting.

Michael Bisping (24-5) vs. Mark Munoz (13-3)

UFC Fight Night 30 – Saturday, October 26

Like it or not, Bisping is perpetually within arm’s reach

of a title shot in the UFC middleweight division, and this showdown

with “The Filipino Wrecking Machine” when the

organization makes their return to Manchester could determine who

is next in line to challenge for the strap in the 185-pound

ranks.

After rebounding from his January loss to Vitor Belfort with a

crisp, technical winning effort against Alan Belcher in April,

“The Count” gets a homecoming meeting with another Top

10 contender in hopes of securing that ever-elusive title shot that

has forever escaped his grasp. This will mark the first time since

his victory over Denis Kang (UFC 105) that Bisping has fought in

his hometown, and the first time he’s been back in the

Octagon on British soil since his win over Yoshihiro Akiyama at UFC

120.

Munoz will be looking to ruin Bisping’s return and build

off what was arguably the best performance of his career at UFC

162, where he rag-dolled Tim Boetsch en route to a unanimous

decision win. It was the culmination of a long year for Munoz, who

battled depression after being sidelined by injuries following his

July 2012 loss to Chris Weidman.

At the very least, the winner of this contest should move into a

title eliminator fight with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

early in the New Year. With that kind of opportunity hanging in the

balance – and Bisping presumably backed by a partisan British

crowd – you can be sure these two polar opposite

personalities will enter the cage with the same intensity and focus

come fight night.

And here’s the thing: at some point, Bisping is going to

run out of chances. He’s failed to clear the final hurdle to

earn a title shot three times in the past, and a loss here could

dash those championship dreams permanently.

That certainly ratchets up the intrigue surrounding this fight a

couple notches.

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Lyoto Machida (19-4) vs. Tim Kennedy (16-4)

UFC Fight for the Troops 3 – Wednesday, November

6

This one marks the start of “The Machida Era” at

middleweight, as the former light heavyweight champion makes the

move down the scale to square off with United States Army Ranger

Tim Kennedy in the main event of the third UFC Fight for the Troops

event.

Machida’s arrival in the division has the potential to

shake up the middleweight landscape in 2014. While the Top 10 is

full of established names and emerging contenders, “The

Dragon” is a fresh name to add to the fray, and a nightmare

match-up for anyone with championship aspirations in the 185-pound

weight class. After a couple years of pondering a potential switch,

this move could give the 35-year-old Brazilian a fresh start and a

shorter path to fighting for championship gold.

Welcoming Machida to the middleweight division is a tremendous

opportunity for the talented, but still somewhat unknown Kennedy,

who defeated Roger Gracie by unanimous decision in his UFC debut

back in July. He’s talked repeatedly about wanting to stay

active and challenge himself against the best the weight class has

to offer, and now he’s getting the chance to do both, and he

needs to make the most of it.

A dominant performance from either man will put them on the

short list of potential title challengers heading into 2014.

Vitor Belfort (23-10) vs. Dan Henderson (29-10)

UFC Fight Night 32 – Saturday, November 9

Seven years and change after their first meeting at Pride 32,

these two veterans of the sport will renew acquaintances in Brazil

this winter with plenty at stake for both men.

Henderson is looking to avoid the first three-fight losing

streak of his illustrious (and under-appreciated) career, and prove

that he still has what it takes to compete with the best in the

business on the biggest stage in the sport. But Father Time is

closing in on him, and he faded down the stretch of each of his

three fights since returning to the UFC, becoming increasingly

one-dimensional in his attack.

If he’s unable to defeat Belfort and get back into the win

column, this could be the end of the line for one of the greatest

fighters in the history of the sport.

TRT controversy and accusations aside, Belfort has looked

sensational in earning a pair of first-round knockout finishes

already in 2013, most recently turning Luke Rockhold’s UFC

debut into a nightmare moment the former Strikeforce champion will

never be able to erase from his memory.

Outside of his championship loss to Anderson Silva at UFC 126,

“The Phenom” has looked phenomenal fighting at

185-pounds, and with Chris Weidman currently standing atop the

division, his chances of securing another shot at the championship

strap have improved.

The problem for Belfort – and what ups the interest in

this fight – is that you can’t just set aside his TRT

usage and the swirling cloud of mystery and uncertainty that comes

with it. Fair or not, he has become the poster child for the

treatment in the UFC, and the intense debate about

testosterone-replacement therapy isn’t going to die down any

time soon.

While another thrilling victory will bring him one step close to

once again fighting for the middleweight title, it would also bring

increased scrutiny and discussion of TRT, and as much as that is

something beneficial to the sport as a whole, being the one under

the microscope is an uncomfortable position to be in for anyone,

Belfort included.

Georges St-Pierre (24-2) vs. Johny Hendricks (15-1)

UFC 167 – Saturday, November 16

GSP is undeniably the greatest welterweight in the history of

the sport, and one of the top competitors to ever grace the cage,

but the firmness of his footing in the pantheon of all-time greats

could get shakier should the heavy-handed challenger come away as

the new UFC welterweight champion.

This fight has the potential to have a significant impact on

St-Pierre’s legacy… or no impact at all should he

dispatch Hendricks the same way he’s turned back the last 11

fighters to stand across from him inside the Octagon.

And just like the other championship contests before it on this

list, this is a ridiculously close fight on paper, with Hendricks

posing the most significant threat to the French-Canadian champion

in the last five years.

The bearded country boy with the big left hand has quite

literally punched his ticket to this fight by winning six-straight,

including first-round knockout wins over Jon Fitch and Martin

Kampmann.

A four-time All-American and two-time National Champion wrestler

at Oklahoma State University, Hendricks should –

theoretically – have the ability to keep this fight standing,

something many of St-Pierre’s opponents have been unable to

do in the past.

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While the champion is a flawless technician on the feet, he is a

volume striker, inflicting damage over time behind arguably the

best jab in MMA. Hendircks, on the other hand, the kind of

one-punch power that can turn a fight on its ear in a flash, and

therein lies the captivating beauty of this match-up.

Can the challenger land the shot that turns him into the

champion? Will the champion turn back yet another “toughest

test to date” to retain his title? Thankfully we don’t

have to wait too long to get answers to these questions.

Ronda Rousey (7-0) vs. Miesha Tate (13-4)

UFC 168 – Saturday, December 28

Interest in this fight is only going to continue to escalate as

these two bitter rivals get after each other week in and week out

as opposing coaches on The Ultimate Fighter.

Simply put, Rousey has the potential to be the biggest star the

UFC has ever produced. She’s gone from Olympic bronze

medalist and MMA neophyte to UFC champion and mainstream attraction

in the span of two years, with film roles and offers rolling in,

and speculation about when she’ll exit the sport already

begun.

For now, she’s a fighter, and a damn good one at that.

Unbeaten and continuing to show improvements each time we see her

in the cage, Rousey has the skills and mental make-up to be one of

the most dominant forces this sport has ever seen, should she

decide to stick around.

Tate is no slouch either, having entered her first encounter

with Rousey as the reigning Strikeforce women’s bantamweight

champion. She’s the first fighter to get a second chance to

share the cage with the UFC women’s champion, and that could

be something that works in her favor.

Even without their involvement with TUF 18, this was a must-see

rematch that fans longed to see. Now that we’re getting to

see the tension and animosity between the two play out every

Wednesday night on Fox Sports 1, the anticipation for this

championship showdown is only going to continue to escalate.

Chris Weidman (10-0) vs. Anderson Silva (33-5)

UFC 168

What a fitting way to end the year.

Back in July, Weidman did what no UFC opponent before him could

do, defeating Silva to claim the middleweight title, and set up

what is arguably the most anticipated rematch in UFC history.

Despite earning a knockout victory at UFC 162, questions

continue to surround this match-up, as Silva’s hubris –

and a left hook from Weidman – brought his lengthy reign to

an end in a fashion that left many wondering if it was a fluke or

the start of a new era in the 185-pound ranks?

Not only is the UFC middleweight title on the line here, but

legacies are at stake as well.

Until July, no one in the UFC had beaten Silva, a man

universally recognized as the greatest of all-time. With a win

here, Weidman could accomplish the feat twice in six months; not a

bad way to start a championship reign.

While Silva’s place amongst the legends remains intact, a

second consecutive defeat would raise questions about his future in

the sport, questions that until July seemed pointless to ask.

And if the title were to switch hands again, we’d head

into 2014 looking forward to a tremendous trilogy bout between

these two elite competitors.

There is a lot at stake over the next four months, and there is

no better way to end 2013 in the UFC than with the biggest fight of

the year.