With 2008 now officially the past, it would be fitting to look forward and see if maybe my crystal ball is any better than anyone else’s and look at the fights that should take place this year. Some of these are obvious, some have already been talked about, but some haven’t and really should be for their own reasons.
Fedor Emelianenko Vs. Josh Barnett
For MMA fans this is probably the biggest dream match there is for the heavyweight division, but for the general public that would be Mir/Lesnar and that fight is happening. This fight has been stalled on at least one occasion with both camps unable to find a date and both fighters tentative about locking horns. However, wins for both at Day of Reckoning does mean they have to face off this year as there would be no better time for this one to happen. And if Affliction wants to keep going, this is their money heavyweight fight as they won’t get a bigger one out of their current talent pool or lack of shows and exposure compared to UFC.
Joachim Hansen Vs. Eddie Alvarez
While it won’t help DREAM’s drawing problems, this fight should happen because of the circumstances surrounding Hansen’s tournament and title win this past summer. Yes Alvarez lost quick to Aoki and Hansen’s fight with JZ Cavalcante was cancelled due to an apparent head injury; all of that is irrelevant to the story these two have already gift wrapped. Hansen’s fight with JZ was going to be non-title anyway and thus a rematch could happen NYE next year (should they even run one next year). Despite logical reasons to the contrary, I do believe this fight needs to happen first.
Urijah Faber Vs. Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto
Any political problems concerning titles now taken care of, this fight should happen in 2009. The main reason is that whomever ends up with it could run the same build-up story that worked for Liddell/Silva masking the fact that both were on losing streaks: a dream match that has to happen to redeem both. The catch here is that I say it has to happen in Japan. First off, they at least know about Faber in Japan whereas I doubt Yamamoto’s drawing power in America despite his style and personality being what American fans do look for; in this case size and foreign career build a big wall to climb over. However with DREAM’s problems and Yamamoto being more useful to them in dream matches so if this fight happens it’ll more than likely be on Versus on Wednesday Night.
Frank Shamrock Vs. Tito Ortiz
With both fighters still technically active on the tenth anniversary of their famous fight, why shouldn’t this one happen? Both men are still in good physical shape and the only reason this couldn’t happen until after March is due to a broken arm Frank suffered at the end of his great fight against Cung Le last year. Ortiz is free of his UFC contract as evident by him being in the booth for Affliction in a few weeks. And with Frank’s ties to Strikeforce I think these two should promote the fight themselves. I know Ken/Frank was going to be a Shamrock production, but this fight is still legit and not the sideshow those brothers fighting each other would be (note: I would still watch it though). Promoting it themselves would have its own hurdles with UFC’s monopoly and Strikeforce marking their territory in San Jose and most of California. I hope it happens and it should, but unless Strikeforce does a primetime special or Affliction signs Frank, this one probably won’t happen.
Anderson Silva Vs. Georges St. Pierre
If both win their next title defenses this would be the under-heavyweight version of Mir/Lesnar, money in the bank in other words. Silva’s never been a huge draw, but fans do love watching him fight and he is still truly dominant. And that’s what makes this fight: the battle for number one pound-for-pound. Should both win their next respective title defenses, that debate would take on a whole new life. This is the fight in this article most likely to happen that hasn’t already been rumored about because Dana won’t pass up a chance to make this fight happen if both are still winning and still invincible.
Mirko Cro Cop Vs. Alistair Overeem II
Unfinished business is unfinished business no matter how you look at it. With both getting big wins at K-1’s Dynamite!! show with Overeem’s being a complete shell shock to the kickboxing world, this fight is one DREAM could still use for a nice Saitama attendance (it did work last year with only their trash talking fueling the fire). Ironically, there should be closure because of all the trash talking due to Overeem dominating the fight, but Cro Cop not completely out.
Hidehiko Yoshida Vs. Roger Gracie
As far as WVR and the Japan/Gracie rivalry go, this is as good as it’s going to get. With Royce saying he’ll fight in DREAM and never mentioning WVR and Rickson pretty much officially retired despite anything he might say about coming back and Roger in WVR with some momentum to start his career, it’s a must. While the No Ran may have done a decent attendance, WVR doesn’t have a whole lot in the tank if they wanted to run Saitama again, something they very likely will with their affiliation with Fuji TV. The other thing that WVR needs to understand is that Japan/Brazil will always sell in Japan and will sell better than others if it’s marquee and there’s little doubt at the moment that Roger is the heir to the throne in the Gracie family as far as MMA goes with few other Gracie’s even active these days. With Yoshida’s loss January 4, his drawing power is now on the downswing and this one needs to happen soon if it’s going to happen at all. With the vast experience difference, the Japan/Brazil feud, the Japan/Gracie feud, it would be a good one for T.V. and by the way is a perfect fight for both fighters. Just think of it as the Japan version of Couture/Lesnar.
Randy Couture Vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira
With Mir/Lesnar now the biggest fight UFC has, they have two aging legends who form a dream match when put together, so it was no surprise to anyone when there was talk that this one could happen in ’09 and be a de facto number one contender fight. Most MMA fans thought that this was going to be the unification fight for UFC’s heavyweight title, but just because it isn’t doesn’t mean it shouldn’t happen and thankfully that logic seems to be in use.
Royce Gracie Vs. Kiyoshi Tamura
I did throw this one out there for NYE a few months back and I’m going to throw this one out there for this year. If Gracie is ever going to fight again, you’ve got to think that ’09 is the time and Tamura doesn’t have anything on his plate with the Sakuraba fight having taken place, so if both want to retire, fine. I do believe that this could be the last possible Gracie/Japan superfight and that fact alone could persuade DREAM to make it happen with the possible big rating Royce’s return/possible retirement could draw with his opponent being a Japanese fighter with legend status amongst hardcore fans. I’m just saying, it could still be interesting.
Tags: Eddie Alvarez, Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Shamrock, Joachim Hansen, Josh Barnett, Tito Ortiz