Some are booked, some are rumored, and some are just wishful thinking—but here are the 12 fights we want to see in 2012.
12. Vitor Belfort vs. Brian Stann
Stann may still be limited when it comes to elite MMA grappling, but, on paper, Belfort poses no such threat, which means we could expect a smorgasbord of stand-up. In addition to the fireworks of fists, if these two collide in 2012, a middleweight title shot may be hanging in the balance.
11. Rory MacDonald vs. Josh Koscheck
MacDonald may be primed to have a 2012 that mirrors Jon Jones’ 2011. The 22-yearold possesses uber-potential, but from here on out there are no gimmes. Koscheck’s wrestling would present a big challenge for the Canadian—and you know Kos doesn’t like Canadians.
If Jackson MMA teammate red tape doesn’t tie things up, this is the type of bout that has Fight of the Year written all over it. Cerrone already has a date with Nate Diaz at UFC 141, but with the ever-changing scenarios of the lightweight division, these two could cross paths sooner than later.
9. Hector Lombard vs. Ben Askren
Since the Bellator Middleweight Champion and Welterweight Champion have done a good job of cleaning out their respective divisions, it may be time for the Bellator brass to schedule a catch-weight fight and let these two former Olympians duke it out.
8. Shogun Rua vs. Rampage Jackson
During their Pride fight in 2005, Shogun did his best Pele impression as he soccer kicked Jackson’s head into la-la land. Revenge is the name of this game. Rampage has already avenged his Pride loss to Wanderlei Silva—a fight against Rua may be the cold dish that Rampage craves.
7. Joseph Benavidez vs. Demetrious Johnson
While Benavidez and Johnson may not be able to knock UFC Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz off his pedestal, both fighters could make 125 pounds and fight for the inaugural UFC Flyweight Championship should the UFC unleash the division in 2012.
6. Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes
Aldo has been teetering in that rare GSP/Anderson Silva pound-for-pound territory.Mendes hopes to disrupt that course when they meet at UFC 142 on January 14 in Brazil. Mendes, armed with his elite wrestling, will try to be the first man to beat the 25-year-old since 2005.
5. Frankie Edgar vs. Gilbert Melendez
Despite the bottleneck of contenders in the UFC, Strikeforce Lightweight Champion Gilbert Melendez could pose the biggest threat to Edgar’s UFC belt. Now that Zuffa owns Strikeforce, there’s no reason to bypass this showdown to create an undisputed champion.
4. Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem
Overeem and dos Santos have some of the most dangerous mitts on the planet, so it’s only natural that these behemoths tee off on each other for a few rounds. The chances of this fight being settled on the ground are slim and none, and slim just got knocked out.
3. Jon Jones vs. Rashad Evans
The former friends and training partners have walked down the aisle three times, only to leave fight fans at the altar. Since Evans is uniquely familiar with the champion, he could prove to be the stumbling block for the man who has yet to show any weaknesses—unless you consider dropping vicious, illegal 12-to-6 elbows a weakness.
2. Anderson Silva vs. Chael Sonnen
Sonnen’s smack talk is sure to crescendo in the build-up to one of the most anticipated rematches in UFC history. We’ll finally get to see if Sonnen’s performance against the Middleweight Champ at UFC 117 was an anomaly or the normality.
1. Georges St-Pierre vs. Nick Diaz
A hero vs. villain script could not have been crafted any better. After Diaz’s destruction of B.J. Penn and subsequent shout-out to GSP, the paths of the two welterweights are destined to clash in February. In the meantime, let’s hope Diaz appears at the necessary press conferences.