The year is just winding down.
As the holiday season approaches it's exit, we'll rejoice in the year-long festival of giving (and taking) -- Mixed Martial Arts!
MMA doesn’t work too hard to delineate itself as anything more than what it is: People paying a company that (under) pays athletes to beat the snot out of one another. The only sovereign entity for UFC fans might be Joe Silva. He doesn’t demand praise (just the usual $69.99), or exact his wrath against the defiant. The UFC's mixed bag of exciting fights and mismatches goes on perpetually -- even if they aren't always as envisioned by the man who arranged them.
For Johnny Hendricks-Robbie Lawler, he gave us our communion wafers. Their first bout trails only Matt Brown-Erick Silva for Fight of the Year honors, in my eyes.
When Joe Soto stepped in to challenge TJ Dillashaw -- or Patrick Cummins used his uncanny tongue to get the last-minute call up against Daniel Cormier...
Why, Joe Silva, why? It's all part of the game.
Spare that talk, this has actually been a good year for MMA. The globalization of the sport has continued, Women’s MMA has grown further respected behind Ronda Rousey, and numerous second-tier promoters have daringly emerged with serious ambition. What’s not to like?
With that said, UFC pay-per-view buys have stumbled in 2014. The answer is quite clear, to me.
The decline of Anderson Silva, Georges St-Pierre, and even “Rampage” Jackson has sparked a recession in Pay-Per-View buys. UFC 174 reportedly hit under 100,000 buys, while not a single Pay-Per-View managed to hit the 700,000 mark. The downfall of UFC’s biggest draws is to blame, and to rebuild marketable talent won’t be difficult, but certainly takes time. The illusion of invincibility that surrounds the best champions, well, just isn't there right now. This is good for MMA fans -- competition -- but not the average buyer.
There are plenty of fighters to work off, and plenty of fights to make. It will take time, but the likes of Chris Weidman, Robbie Lawler, TJ Dillashaw, Cain Velasquez, and Ronda Rousey -- all current champions -- could spearhead the movement into a new generation of elite-level MMA.
Here are five fights to help get the ball rolling, and offer all fans excitement, in 2015. Forward this to Joe Silva, please.
Chris Weidman-Vitor Belfort winner (C) Vs. Jacare Souza (#2)
Middleweights: Weidman and Belfort make up one of the best fights in the first-quarter of next year. Whoever comes out on top of the heap has Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza awaiting him, and that’s not an easy night.
Rafael Dos Anjos (#2) Vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov (#1)
Lightweights: It’s the battle for the top, and a shot at Lightweight champ Anthony Pettis. Allow Pettis to rest up while these lions duke it out for their chance to challenge the champion! Sure Khabib got the better of dos Anjos during their first tilt, but did you see the beating Rafael put on Nate Diaz? Damn those kicks were nasty.
Dominick Cruz (#2) Vs. Renan Barao (#1)
Bantamweights: Two explosive former UFC champions go head-to-head for their right to challenge Dillashaw in an appealing fight. Dillashaw, meanwhile, has unfinished business with Raphael Assuncao.
Frankie Edgar (#2) Vs. Conor McGregor (#5)
Featherweights: Audacious Irishman Conor McGregor is a big hitter, while Frankie Edgar can take any man’s punch and battle onward. Who will be forced to budge?
Robbie Lawler (C) Vs. Johnny Hendricks (#1) III
Welterweights: It’s bound it happen. It needs to happen. Hendricks and Lawler may choose to stay busy in the interim, but I am without doubt these two warriors will face off again in 2015. And it will be spectacular.
(Bonus) The five best fights that are already made: Chris Weidman-Vitor Belfort (2/28/15), Jon Jones-Daniel Cormier (1/3/15), Ronda Rousey-Cat Zingano (2/28/15), Alexander Gustafsson-Anthony Johnson (1/24/15), Donald Cerrone-Myles Jury (1/3/15).