(“I said, I DON’T DANCE!” / Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com)
We know — these things are just popularity contests. But as we look ahead following this weekend’s mind-blowing UFC 162 card, we decided to take a yearbook approach and predict which fighters will go on to even greater success, and which ones will be pumping our gas someday.
Most likely to make well over $24,000 to show in his next fight: Chris Weidman
Perhaps this is jab towards the fighter pay issues that have risen as of late but Chris Weidman established himself as a future star, no matter how differently the fight would have been had Anderson Silva taken it seriously. Yes, Weidman officially made just $48,000, but by dethroning Anderson Silva, he earned a lot more than just money — Weidman became world famous overnight ending up on sites like TMZ and every major newspaper in the country, and he was the man responsible for one of the most historic moments in UFC history. Weidman’s ability to have a similar legacy in the middleweight division is now in question, especially when you consider that an immediate rematch with Silva is still the most likely scenario. Say what you will about Weidman and the fact that eighteen fighters were not enough to convince you otherwise — he knocked out Anderson Silva. That’s all you need to know.
Least predictable future: Anderson Silva
Rematch…retirement….Roy Jones….Stephan Bonnar II…who knows what the future really has in store for the former middleweight kingpin? And with the reiteration that his participation in superfights is off, it becomes more bleak. It really all depends on how Silva would like to go out: On his shield, or dancing the night away worse than J-Lo. Without discrediting Weidman, it was not what we expected or wanted from the supposed best fighter who has ever lived. When some unknown jackass gets KO’d while taunting his opponent, we applaud and move on with our lives, but let’s face it, the best fighters in the world usually don’t put themselves in such vulnerable positions. However it’s impossible to say that it was not a deserving loss for Silva and we’ve never seen him do that before; you live by the gun, you die by the gun.
Most likely to be allowed to date your sister: Frankie Edgar
Not only does he have the best entrance music this side of Big Nog, there is never a dull moment when the real Jersey Shore darling fights and quite frankly (no pun intended… or pun intended, thank you) we all wish we could fight our battles like he does. This was the first time in eight fights that Edgar did not compete for the title, and he still won Fight of the Night honors. Edgar will never be in a boring fight considering his fighting style and his ability to match his opponent’s pace; his cardio suggests he could have probably won fights against light-heavyweights in PRIDE with their opening ten minute round. Frankie becomes bloodied more frequently than Dustin Rhodes in the early ’90s no matter how lopsided or even his fights are. With the marketability of a prime Stallone and the heart of a prime Jake Lamotta, Edgar could skip the waiting line and get another crack at the featherweight title — and some of us wouldn’t have a problem with it.
Least likely to get another co-main event slot (even if he deserves one): Charles Oliveira
When this fight was announced, to say Oliveira was not being fed to the wolves was like saying you knew this guy wasn’t dead all along. Oliveira did more than just keep up with Edgar the whole fight — he had him in a bit of a knot at the end of the first round and tagged the former champion more than once with some solid shots. At the tender age of 23, it’s unclear what Oliveira’s future has in store, and if he is the budding prospect he is advertised to be (even if we get the feeling that everyone in the UFC is a “prospect” until they turn 32) or if he will be lost in the shuffle. Edgar’s star power to the habitual fan helped this fight get a co-main event slot but this was not the mismatch many, including this scribbler, thought it was going to be. Oliveira stand-up has improved drastically and we all know his submission game is gross in a good way. He should definitely be included in headlining plans again, even if it seems far away for now.
Least likely to be acknowledged while continuing to do his job efficiently: Mike Pierce
Mike Pierce isn’t going to be the annoying Spring Break emcee you would love to drown any time soon, but he doesn’t really get credited for even being at the festivities. The tough-as-nails wrestler has only lost three since 2009 (Fitch, Hendricks and Koscheck – all fellow wrestlers, all highly regarded) and that last one was debatable. Pierce’s four-fight win streak includes two stoppages by strikes, but Pierce can’t find a way out of the prelims. What is even odder is that Pierce opened the show on Facebook underneath a guy he beat in his last fight: Seth Baczynski. Maybe the brass thinks he isn’t exciting enough but with all due respect, we could name about fifty fighters we’d rather never see again and instead, watch a vintage Spike TV: Mike Pierce marathon. Come on, it’s main card time.
Most likely to be signed by Bellator, then lose in the opening round of their next heavyweight tournament: Dave Herman
We figured that coming out in a pink scarf at a press conference would have immediately cemented Dave Herman’s demise in Zuffa, but somehow, “Pee Wee” was able to survive two years of consistent failure during his UFC stint. After winning his first fight against Jon Olav-Einemo in June 2011, Herman failed a pre-fight drug test for marijuana, got his ass kicked by Stefan Struve, got his ass kicked by Roy Nelson, got his ass kicked by Big Nog, then failed a post-fight drug test for marijuana. Herman getting another fight at UFC 162 was an undeserved gift — not that he did much with it. Following his 17-second smashing at the hands of Gabriel Gonzaga, it’s safe to say the number two, three, four or whatever-they-call-themselves promotion in the world could easily secure the services of Herman, if they want to roll the dice on an underperforming pothead. And don’t act like Bellator is above that sort of thing, either. (See: Q. Jackson, W. Machine).
Finally, there is a fighter in Greg Jackson’s stable we can finally relate to. Swanson’s revival in the featherweight division could be the most impressive career-comeback currently happening in all seven divisions. He’s on a five-fight win streak with wins over Dustin Poirier, Ross Pearson and George Roop, and his lone Octagon loss was nearly two years ago at the hands of Ricardo Lamas (another future title-threat at 145 pounds). Although he may have to do a little extra to get a rematch with Aldo for fan-convincing purposes, Swanson’s exciting striking game and pure fighting spirit is something slobs like us dream of when we’re on our 34th chicken wing.