TITO ORTIZ vs. WANDERLEI SILVA
When it happened: 4/14/00, at UFC 25
When it should have happened: Spring 2003
Why: Ortiz vs. Silva was an entertaining scrap between two young contenders for the UFC’s vacant “middleweight” belt. If they met three years later, it would have been a superfight. By the end of 2002, Ortiz had defended his title five times — he’d lose it in September 2003 to Randy Couture — while Silva was PRIDE’s middleweight ruler, owning a 12-0-1 record in the promotion and two successful title defenses. With Ortiz at the end of his reign and Wandy near the middle of his, it would have been an ideal moment to establish bragging rights for one of MMA’s two leading organizations.
Prediction: Depends on where the fight was held. If Ortiz had home-field advantage, he’d probably still be able to grind out a decision win. In Japan, it would be Wanderlei via soccer-kick death.
DIEGO SANCHEZ vs. KENNY FLORIAN
When it happened: 4/9/05, at the Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale
When it should have happened: Sometime next year.
Why: Kenny Florian had enough talent and heart to make it to the finals of TUF 1 as a 185-pounder, but it was only a matter of time before he was squashed by another talented fighter who was more experienced and better suited to the weight; Diego Sanchez just happened to be that dude. This year, there was talk — hope, even — that Florian could upset BJ Penn at UFC 101, then have a high-stakes rematch against his old nemesis, who had followed him down to lightweight after an impressive run at 170. Unfortunately, Florian succumbed to Penn’s trademark mata leon, and Sanchez was booked to challenge Penn for the title in December. Still, as long as Florian keeps winning, he’ll claw his way back to the Nightmare — and this time, they’ll face each other as two of the best lightweights in the world.
Prediction: Sanchez outstrikes Florian to a decision in a far more competitive match than their first meeting.