The UFC is ending the year with one of the biggest matchups imaginable: Chris Weidman vs. Anderson Silva II. It’s a dream match that no one ever thought would have been so big, because no one predicted that Weidman would knock Silva out in July.
On the same undercard of UFC 168 on Dec. 27, UFC bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey will fight Miesha Tate, in what could be one of the best women’s fights of all-time.
Even though the UFC’s ratings and Pay-Per-View buys have declined, the UFC is still one of the fastest-growing sports in the world. If the company is to continue its growth, it will need to put on some big shows in 2014. Here’s a look at some big fights the UFC should make happen in 2014.
5. Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks
St-Pierre can’t retire until he settles the score with Hendricks. The first fight ended in a super-close decision, with GSP on top, but most observers believe Hendricks won. GSP has a lot to prove. He hasn’t finished a fight in a years. His opponents are landing more punches on him with every match. St-Pierre needs to show the world that he is still a great fighter and beating Hendricks is the fastest route toward that goal. This is a match that everyone wants to see happen.
4. Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier
Like St-Pierre, Jones’ domination of the UFC light heavyweight division appears to be easing up. Jones has been in trouble in two out of his last three fights, against Vitor Belfort and Alexander Gustafsson. Many observers believe Gustafsson defeated Jones, but Jones won a five-round decision. Jones isn’t getting any better inside the cage, and injuries have nagged him. Cormier has heavyweight knockout power, a tremendous wrestling base, and a chin of steel. There’s no doubt that he would present a major challenge to Jones’ light heavyweight championship. On top of all that, these two guys don’t like each other. Jones has implied that Cormier is fat and doesn’t work hard. These two squaring off inside the cage would be an old-fashioned feud between two guys who can’t stand each other.
3. Robbie Lawler vs. Johny Hendricks
So Lawler is a big star now after defeating three UFC fighters, including rising star Rory MacDonald. Hendricks too rose to fame for his heavy hands and wicked punching power. What’s going to happen when you put these two guys inside the cage? There will be blood. Hendricks is a better wrestler than Lawler, but Lawler might be a harder punch. Depending on what happens with the St-Pierre vs. Hendricks fight, a Lawler vs. Hendricks bout might be a title match. In true Mike Tyson vs. Lennox Lewis fashion, Lawler and Hendricks would tear the house down with big swings and heavy punches and one of the heavy hitters will likely fall from the other guy’s knockout power.
2. Gilbert Melendez vs. Josh Thomson
These two warriors have already fought three times, with Melendez winning two out of the three fights. Thomson won the first fight, in what was a match-of-the-year quality battle, and Melendez returned the favor to win his Strikeforce lightweight title back. Many believe Thomson won the third fight, but the Strikeforce judges scored it for Melendez. One thing is certain when these two fighters enter the cage. It’s always a good fight, and both fighters bring out the best in one another. Thomson is enjoying a career boost after knocking out Nate Diaz. He was headed toward a title shot, but Anthony Pettis got injured. Whether it’s for a title or not, Thomson vs. Melendez needs to happen for the fourth time in the UFC so the UFC audience can see these guys wage an epic war.
1. Ronda Rousey vs. Cris Cyborg
Let’s assume Ronda Rousey taps out Miesha Tate in the first round in their rematch. Who does she fight then? Rousey may be a one-trick pony, but it may be enough for her to enjoy a great career in the UFC. She’s already beaten Tate once. If she gets by her again there’s only one fight that she needs before she decides to step into Hollywood permanently. Rousey needs to fight Cyborg in a catch-weight fight to determine who the best female fighter in the world is. Cyborg signed with Tito Ortiz’s management company, so pulling off the fight could be an ordeal. Money talks, however, and the UFC should figure out a way to throw big money at Cyborg and Rousey to make the fight happen. Cyborg may be the only one capable of beating the arm-bar submission master. The UFC missed out on its dream fight of Silva vs. St-Pierre, but this fight may be the next best thing.