New Year! New Fights! Here’s hoping 2015 becomes a more productive and prosperous year for the UFC champions. 2014 wasn’t so kind. 7 of the 9 champions suffered injuries. Cain Velasquez, Jon Jones, Chris Weidman and Jose Aldo all had to withdraw from main events and altered at least four UFC PPVs. Cain did not fight at all in 2014 and NO UFC Champion fought more than twice (not counting Dillashaw who fought three times but only twice as champion).
The following is a Wishlist for the 10 UFC Champions for the New Year! Happy 2015 everyone.
The Rematch with Alexander Gustafsson
Whether or not Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson win their respective matches, this is a rematch that needs to happen soon. The first fight was decidedly close with many seeing Jones as the loser. Like Lawler, Jones can settle the score and put closure on an opponent that gave him the toughest fight of his career. Hopefully the fight with Daniel Cormier in a few nights goes without controversy to further sully what could be the most impressive resume all time.
The Female Joe Frazier
Ten wins and three years into her young MMA career and Ronda Rousey still has yet to face a fighter remotely close to her caliber. At 27, Rousey is in her athletic prime but destroying opponents gets old fast and the travesty of the world’s greatest female mixed martial artist never truly testing her skills against an equal will continue to live. Whether it’s Holly Holm, Bethe Correia or a shrunken Cyborg, Rousey needs a foil, an arch nemesis – a “Joe Frazier to her Muhammad Ali”.
Outside Jon Jones, Jose Aldo may be the P4P greatest fighter alive today. The last remaining Brazilian champion is unbeaten in eight years and has cleaned out the division but has seemingly been as uncharismatic as Demetrious Johnson. High off of a Fight of the Year rematch with Chad Mendes, Aldo can continue to elevate his status when he welcomes a certain brash Irishman in what could be the biggest and most profitable fight of his career.
ANTHONY PETTIS, CHRIS WEIDMAN and CAIN VELASQUEZ
A Healthy Year!
There are a lot of things to wish for these great champions individually. Anthony Pettis definitely can hope to continue winning in spectacular fashion. Chris Weidman can collect a highlight reel finish of Vitor Belfort and continue to build his legacy and Cain Velasquez can stomp Fabricios Werdum and unite the titles as the sole champion. But in order to do all these, all three have to be healthy! All three have combined for a total of TWO fights in 2014. Neil Magny fought nearly twice as much. Here’s hoping 2015 is easier on the champs’ bodies.
A Definite Conclusion to Johny Hendricks Trilogy
Fresh off his controversial win over Johny Hendricks, Dana White informed incumbent contender Rory Macdonald he would NOT be getting a title shot. This would’ve been an amazing fight but now Lawler assumingly gets a chance to put a stamp on his victory over Hendricks with the immediate conclusion to their epic trilogy. Lawler narrowly edged Hendricks with many scoring it the other way. Lawler can erase all doubts with a more definitive win.
More Promotional Involvement
Top contender Ian McCall didn’t mince words when he said Demetrious Johnson had “the personality of a coffee mug”. The criticism isn’t unfounded as the champion—despite his sheer dominance and exciting ability as a fighter—has failed to set himself apart and connect with the fanbase as evidenced by his tepid PPV sales. It may be outside his character as a person, but would it hurt Johnson to at least be a bit more involved in the marketing and promotions of his fight?
The Speedy Recovery of Dominick Cruz
Cruz’s return to the injury list hurt everyone including the current champ. Cruz’s dominant beatdown of Takeya Mizugaki had whet the appetites of the fanbase and set up what could’ve been the biggest showdown in Bantamweight history. A looming rematch with Renan Barao will still sell but the real money maker lies with Cruz’s knees. T.J. Dillashaw vs Dominick Cruz needs to happen at some point.
Highlight Reel Finishes
It is too early to assess the UFC’s newest and smallest champion’s real needs. Esparza has the makings of becoming a solid champion with her tough wrestling base and improving striking game but was seemingly out-shown by the flashier Rose Namajunas during TUF20. A few highlight reel finishes would help coax more casual fans to her cause.