With 2011 now behind all of us, we have the optimism of a new year ahead of us. In the MMA community we have a major fight card virtually every week in the next several months.
2011 was a year of progression for myself, breaking the stories of Chael Sonnen and Mark Munoz’s number one contender shot, and he dual injuries of Edgar and Maynard this Summer. More goodies like that can be found by following me on twitter (www.twitter.com/SeanRossSappMMA)
With that wonderful bit of ego stroking and self-promotion out of the way, I’ll give you ten of my MMA predictions.
1) Jon Fitch will not get a title shot.
Jon Fitch, The poor guy can’t catch a break. Posting one of the most impressive records in combat sports history means nothing when Georges St Pierre is in your way. Just as GSP gets injured, and the division opens up, Fitch is knocked out cold in his December 30th bout. Had he won that fight, It would have been difficult to justify not giving Fitch an interim title shot against the winner of Carlos Condit vs. Nick Diaz. Back of the line, Jonny Boy.
2) Gerald Harris will win the DREAM Middleweight Title
Making this a personal New Year’s Resolution, Gerald Harris is already at the top of the pack in a thin DREAM Middleweight division. However in signing “The Hurricane”, DREAM showed a commitment to improve. In defeating Nakamura, Harris has already solidified himself as the alpha male within the company’s division. I’d look for DREAM to run a Middleweight tournament, or to give Harris, and another worthy contender an outright title shot.
3) Anthony “Rumble” Johnson will become a top 10 Middleweight.
The move to 185 pounds was long overdue for Anthony “Rumble” Johnson. The weight cut he had to go through to make Welterweight was excruciating, and despite his dominance (when he didn’t get poked in the eye, see Johnson vs. Burns I, or his bout with Koscheck), everyone knew he’d wind up at middleweight. Now slated to face former UFC champion Vitor Belfort, I fully expect Rumble Johnson to fight three or four times in 2012, winning the majority, and ending up in the top ten.
4) Jon Jones will beat Rashad Evans and Dan Henderson
A pretty specific claim, Rashad and Dan Henderson are the clear #2 and #3 in the division, although it’s unclear which is which. Rashad still has to get by an unbeaten Phil Davis, which would throw a wrench in this prediction. However, I don’t foresee the now two time defending champion Jon Jones to run into any problems with either of these two.
Several fans seem to think Dan Henderson’s right hand, that couldn’t put out Jake Shields, is the answer to the iron grip in which Jones has on the division. Rashad Evans would likely have a difficult time closing the distance against Jones’ extended range, making it difficult to utilize any of his tools.
5) Ben Askren will lose his Bellator Welterweight title.
Jay Hieron exposed Ben Askren recently. I most definitely expect Askren to lose his Welterweight title, that is, if it is defended more than once in 2012.
6) GSP will not fight in 2012
A torn ACL is no easy injury to recover from, and the UFC knows this, instituting an Interim welterweight title, since St-Pierre already hasn’t fought since last April. I believe GSP will take his time in returning from this injury to ensure it doesn’t become a weakness. If he does fight, I think it will be in December, as I don’t see him rushing back.
7) Anderson Silva will fight for the last time in 2012
The most successful fighter in the sport is already out until summer, with an injury that is more serious than originally anticipated. He will fight the winner of Mark Munoz vs. Chael Sonnen, and win, lose, or draw, will compete in a super fight at the end of the year or early 2013.
Gegard Mousasi, King Mo, and Gil Melendez will remain in Strikeforce
While the UFC pillaged Strikeforce early after the sale, taking Dan Henderson, Alistair Overeem, and Nick Diaz, Strikeforce will be holding on to their three remaining male superstars. King Mo is the likeliest to end up in the UFC early, as his contract expires in February, but I’d look for him to be enticed by a title shot if he beats Lorenz Larkin this weekend. All three have expressed their desire to be in the UFC, but being under the same banner will benefit them regardless.
9) UFC will incorporate several fighters into Strikeforce
To make up for the aforementioned pillaging, look for familiar names to appear in Strikeforce, as somewhat of a talent exchange. Dan Hardy, BJ Penn (he won’t stay retired long), Stephan Bonnar (who hasn’t been beaten in two years now), and established names can be added to Strikeforce cards this year to increase viewers. Strikeforce plans to do 8 fight cards this year, so this is a great way to spark interest.
10) The UFC will be JUST FINE!
GSP and Anderson Silva injured? Randy Couture, BJ Penn, Brock Lesnar, and maybe Matt Hughes retired? MMA is great at creating stars. With the addition of the lighter weight divisions, more title fights can be promoted and more excitement can be generated. Just as in pro wrestling, no one person is bigger than the sport. It survived without Chuck Liddell, it can survive without these fellas.