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By: Frank Hyden, MMATorch contributor
With a number of fights coming up to clear things up at the top of most divisions, today I'm taking a look at how each division's title picture looks into this next stretch of events.
Ricardo Lamas is slated to face Chan Sung Jung "The Korean Zombie" at UFC 162. The winner of this fight will get a featherweight title shot against the winner of UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo vs. Anthony Pettis, which takes place at UFC 163. I'm incredibly excited for both of these fights, and I'm very glad that Lamas and Zombie are getting the chance to earn a title shot. These guys are both two of the best featherweights in the world and it should be a great fight. Both guys are very tough and well-rounded, it's hard to say who will win. If pressed, though, I would give the slight edge to Zombie. I like Lamas as well, it's really close. I'm just excited to see these guys get their due.
Gray Maynard will fight T.J. Grant at UFC 160, with the winner receiving a title shot against UFC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson. It's somewhat difficult to imagine Maynard not grinding out the decision win over Grant here, especially considering that nine of Maynard's 11 wins have come by decision. He's not exactly known as The Closer, though his nickname is The Bully. That's what Maynard does, control you and try to grind you down. I'm not a huge fan of watching him fight, but he is pretty effective. Grant is a pretty good fighter, but I don't think he's got a answer for Maynard's wrestling.
Cain Velasquez will defend the UFC Heavyweight Title against Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva at UFC 160. I don't see a reason to believe that Velasquez won't walk through Bigfoot like he did the last time. I would imagine the fight would be a little closer this time, but it was a pretty big whipping last time so that's not saying much. Of course, Silva's got a chance but Velasquez would be laying a big egg if he lost.
On the same card Mark Hunt fights Junior dos Santos. There's a part of me rooting for Hunt to win just because of the wackiness of it. This is one of the most improbable title runs I've ever seen. JDS looked pretty bad against Cain in the rematch, but he's a really good fighter. Hunt beating him would be a pretty big upset. The fact that Hunt is this close to earning a title shot is crazy, but really cool. We all love underdog stories. Who wouldn't want to see Hunt win the UFC Heavyweight Title? Then, to top it off, Roy Nelson could earn himself a title shot and we'd see Hunt vs. Nelson for the belt. Talk about a surreal moment.
I think you'd have a better chance of getting Derrick Rose to grow a pair and get off the bench than seeing this happen, but it's a fun scenario to imagine. I think Junior dos Santos beats Hunt in a fun fight, but then the question becomes, who gets the next title shot? It would be hard to give it to JDS after the loss he suffered to Cain and he would only be one fight removed from that. There's a lot of scenarios at play here, and hopefully things sort themselves out soon.
Joseph Benavidez will likely get the next Flyweight Title shot after UFC Flyweight Champ Demetrious Johnson defends against John Moraga at UFC on FOX 8.
Renan Barao will defend his UFC Bantamweight Title against Eddie Wineland at UFC 161. I really don't expect Wineland to win, I think Barao is getting better and better all the time. He's already an impressive fighter so to see him get even better has got to be a scary thought for the other guys in the division. After that I guess Urijah Faber gets another shot at the title. I'm not really sure who else would get the shot, unless I'm forgetting someone.
Georges St. Pierre defends his UFC Welterweight Title against Johny Hendricks at an event to be named. There's a lot of be sorted out in this division as well before a contender can be named.
Anderson Silva will defend his UFC Middleweight Title against Chris Weidman at UFC 162. After that, it's another grab bag of contenders. It could be said that the fight between Luke Rockhold and Vitor Belfort at UFC on FX 8 could be for the title shot, but I think the winner will need to be very impressive in order to secure it.
Jon Jones is healing from his broken toe. There are a couple different contenders the UFC could go with, but none of them really stand out as being head and shoulders above the others. This is another division that needs to be sorted out some before deciding on a contender.
Ronda Rousey will defend her UFC Women's Bantamweight title against Cat Zingano after they coach against each other on The Ultimate Fighter 19. Hopefully the fight takes places sometime this year. There's so much time between now and when Rousey fights Zingano that it's pointless to discuss possible contenders as that will change several times before the title fight.
Comments and suggestions can be emailed to me at email@example.com or you can follow me on Twitter at @hydenfrank
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