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By: Chris Park, MMATorch UK Specialist
While the early part of 2011 is already stacked with top names and fights, the UFC has already ordered its first rematch after Lightweight Champion Frankie "The Answer" Edgar and Gray "The Bully" Maynard battled things out to a split-draw on January 1.
With the rematch in place and the remaining UFC champions all set to defend their respective titles, it seems appropriate to look at some of the other fights that could hit the Octagon in 2011.
Frankie Edgar vs. Anthony Pettis – Lightweight
With that recent draw between Edgar and Maynard, and the subsequent rematch between those two, the Lightweight Title picture has taken a twist that will deprive Anthony "Showtime" Pettis of an instant crack at Edgar and the proposed WEC/UFC unification bout.
While still young in his career, Pettis had an impressive 2010 that was capped off with his Championship winning victory over Ben Henderson. Pettis delivered the most outstanding ninja-like kick ever seen in MMA during the fifth round that made "Showtime" an instant star.
While Pettis will look to debut against a top contender, with Clay Guida one of the names to be rumoured, the unification bout is something UFC fans can hope to see in the later months of 2011.
Should Edgar retain his title and Pettis get through his UFC debut, then two of this new-look 155 lb. division's youngest stars can do battle to finally unify the UFC and WEC's Lightweight Titles.
Cain Velasquez vs. Junior Dos Santos – Heavyweight
The head coaches for the thirteenth instalment of The Ultimate Fighter were announced this week with a pairing that will have serious implications on the Heavyweight Title picture.
Former champion Brock Lesnar and current No.1 contender Junior Dos Santos will coach, and then do battle to solidify who will be the guest of honour in Cain Velasquez's first title defence.
Velasquez was tentatively scheduled to face Dos Santos for the title this spring before a shoulder injury ruled out the new champion for up to eight months. Despite huge expectation for what potentially could have been one of the greatest heavyweight fights in history, Dos Santos made his feelings clear that he could not afford to spend an entire year away from the Octagon - both competitively and financially.
The fight between Velasquez and Dos Santos would pit two of the most ferocious Heavyweights to ever pull on a pair of gloves. Dos Santos' striking is arguably the best in the division, where as Velasquez has shown phenomenal all round ability, particularly in capturing the title from Brock Lesnar.
The wrestling of Velasquez was key in setting up that victory as both his defensive and offensive game exposed Lesnar and set up the onslaught that followed. While Lesnar was fearful of being struck by the champion, nothing would please Dos Santos more than to stand and trade with the first Mexican Heavyweight to ever hold a world title.
Mauricio Rua vs. Jon Jones – Light-Heavyweight
Jon Jones had an incredible 2010, destroying both Brandon Vera and Vladimir Matyushenko as Bones headlined both of the "UFC On Versus" shows.
It was an even more impressive year for Mauricio Rua who, at a still young age of 29, is now emulating the "Shogun" of old that PRIDE fans enjoyed for so long. With huge victories over the likes of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Alistair Overeem as well as Quinton "Rampage" Jackson in his early career, a slump in form led to many believing Shogun's best days were behind him.
Rua worked his way back to the top of the pile throughout 2009 and handed Lyoto Machida his first career loss last May, knocking out the Karate master to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in one of the finest performances of his entire career.
With Rua holding the belt, a title fight against Jones could be more than just a fantasy fight should both men win their next bouts. While Jones will face the undefeated Ryan Bader at UFC 126, Rua will return from injury to face Rashad Evans in his first title defence at UFC 128.
Shogun Rua vs. Jon Jones has the potential to be one of the most explosive and dynamic stand up battles in recent times. Both men possess tremendous Muay Thai skills meaning no matter which of them should come out on top, the real winners would be the fans if this one comes to fruition.
Urijah Faber vs. Miguel Torres – Bantamweight
The dominance of one Jose Aldo at 145 lbs has led to arguably the most famous American fighter to never compete in the UFC, Urijah Faber, shedding pounds once more to join the UFC as a king-pin of the all-new bantamweight division.
With this move south for The California Kid the UFC already has options for a number of mega-fights in their new division. With reigning 135 lb. champion Dominick Cruz, whose sole career loss was against Faber, out injured for an estimated six months, another Bantamweight super-fight is a very real possibility.
Urijah Faber vs. Miguel Torres is the type of bout that WEC fans would have given their eyes and teeth for a few years ago. With both fighters now on the UFC roster, this fight would receive maximum publicity as the two former champions would undoubtedly put on the performance of their lives now that they are both in the biggest show in the world.
Pitting these two as opposing coaches on a season of TUF would give the more casual fan a better introduction to both men, as well as shining the spotlight a little brighter on these new divisions.
The winner would then be perfectly positioned to face the highly impressive Dominick Cruz as the first 135 lb. UFC Champion returns to make his first defence.
Georges St. Pierre vs. Anderson Silva – Pound for Pound
The fight the whole world wants to see is between Welterweight Champion Georges "Rush" St. Pierre and Middleweight king Anderson "The Spider" Silva. This fight would decide once and for all which of these dominating champions is truly pound-for-pound the greatest fighter on the planet.
With rumours that some of the UFC big-wigs, as well as almost the entire MMA community, are desperate for this bout, one would be forgiven for thinking that it is just a matter of time before we see these two share the Octagon.
With both men particularly big for their weight classes, and in order to level the playing field down to a war of skill-sets; the bout would ideally take place somewhere in the region of 175-180 lbs.
That, or a second weigh-in on the day of the fight would keep things within the spirit of the occasion and give the UFC what would be the most anticipated bout in MMA history. This would pit two men that absolutely personify Mixed Martial Arts in an historic occasion, and it's the fight I'd love to see most in 2011.
Chris Park is the MMATorch UK Specialist and guest columnist at ESPN.co.uk. Please email any comments or questions to Chris at; email@example.com or look us up at http://www.facebook.com/mmatorchuk2 our new MMATorch Facebook home for UK Fans!
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