Hello everyone! Sorry I was super lazy during the whole fall/winter thing, But I figured now would be a good time to give you guys a little idea of what’s to come in 2013 in the UFC. I think that these are the big talking points of the sport for the first half of the year.
Let’s get to it.
1) The Little Guys
Over the last two years the UFC has created 3 new divisions—Featherweight, Bantamweight, and Flyweight (145, 135, and 125 lbs respectively). These divisions are actually very interesting to watch; the fighters in these lighter weight classes tend to display a lot more technique and technical skill in their boxing and ground games since they don’t have the raw power of the larger weight classes. They also have SO much energy and movement.
Unfortunately these weight classes have had a little trouble gaining popularity. The UFC is making big strides towards giving them exposure; the Flyweight title fight will be the main event of UFC on FOX 6, which is getting promoted on Fox’s coverage of the NFL playoffs. And the 145 lb division is getting a big jolt of talent with notable lightweights Dennis Siver, Clay Guida, and Frankie Edgar all joining the division. Edgar, who enjoyed a 2-year reign as the Lightweight champ, will face dominant Featherweight Jose Aldo in the main event of the UFC 156, the Super Bowl card.
If the lighter weight classes are going to gain any momentum this year, it will be in the beginning of the year when the guys in charge are giving them a ton of promotion.
2) Women’s MMA
UFC 157 at the end of February will be the first time you will ever see women fight inside the Octagon.
And make no mistake, there is one and one reason only for that: Ronda Rousey.
Ronda Rousey is without a doubt the most exciting woman fighter ever. Although she’s relatively new to the game (only 6-0, with 4 of those wins coming from her time in Strikeforce), ALL of her wins have come in the first roubd due to armbar.
Let’s think about that a minute. All wins in the first round. All wins via armbar. THE SAME SUBMISSION. And yet she keeps winning, with two of those wins coming against the very best that exists in women’s MMA (in her weight class anyway).
Rousey also has the combination of a winning personality and good looks to make her particularly marketable (perhaps it’s a shame that looks are important for a women’s sport, but that’s a talk for another time. Suffice to say that it simply matters at this time, and she’s got it).
There was a time when UFC president Dana White told us that there wouldn’t be women fighting in the Octagon. Now there are. Women’s MMA has a LONG way to go before it’s a big part of the UFC, especially since right now the only two women fighters on the UFC’s roster are Rousey and her opponent Liz Carmouche, who is not only one of the first two women fighters in the UFC but also the first openly gay one. Lots of progress in the Zuffa family this year.
3) Jones vs. Sonnen
Chael Sonnen is a mastermind. The man went from losing his second bid for the Middleweight title against Anderson Silva (a division where he really was the 2nd best guy in the division) and transitioned to an immediate title shot at 205 lbs, where he hasn’t fought since the Bush Administration. Put simply, Chael Sonnen is the best self-promoter in the game (with the exception of maybe Ms. Rousey, who is having an entire division built around her).
This winter/spring, Sonnen and Jon Jones, the most dominant Light-Heavyweight we’ve seen, will be the coaches on The Ultimate Fighter and will square off in April for the Light Heavyweight Title. If Chael wins, play the lottery. There will be luck in the air. But regardless, the buildup, the promotion, the shit-talk will all make for good television and will make TUF more watchable than it has been since Rashad and Rampage.
4) The Welterweights
The top of the heap at 170 lbs is quite the logjam. We have GSP in the driver’s seat, and two rock-solid contenders.
On the one hand we have Nick Diaz, the fan favorite. One of the most talented fighters on the roster; Diaz is one of those people put on this earth to fight others in a cage. But if you’re a fight fan, I dare you to watch one of his fights and NOT come away a fan of Nick Diaz. He also talks a lot of shit towards GSP and has apparently angered him more than any of his other opponents (which is a lot considering he’s fought Dan Hardy and Josh Koscheck). He’s now off suspension for smoking weed before his fight.
ASIDE: I think it is absolutely ridiculous that weed is considered a PED by most athletic commissions. Pretty sure you’re not gonna be more alert or energized if you’re baked. But whatever, rules are rules I guess.
On the other hand, we have Johnny Hendricks. A once-despised collegiate wrestler, Hendricks is a terror in the cage. Stifling wrestling combined with knockout power, his last three victims—Martin Kampmann, Josh Koscheck, and Jon Fitch—are a who’s who of the welterweight elite. Hendricks pretty much definitely deserves his shot.
But at the end of the day, it’s not purely about who fights the best. The people want to see Diaz, and so in March they’ll get to see GSP vs. Nick Diaz in Canada. GSP has got a lot of props for recovering so resiliently from his torn ACL in 2011, but 2013 will have quite a few challenges in store for him. I know I’m excited.
We have a lot of fighters coming in from Strikeforce, and I’m very interested to see how they end up fitting in. All those times where you thought to yourself “How would Daniel Cormier do against top-tier UFC talent? Ben Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez? Jacare against Yushin Okami?”
Hopefully you enjoyed some of these thoughts, and I’ll be back to give you previews and/or post-shows of the big events!