(Meanwhile, Alex’s friends were parked outside with a giant magnet. / Photo via Getty)
By Nasir Jabbar
With Georges St-Pierre, Anderson Silva, and Cain Velasquez all currently out of action due to injuries or bitter hiatuses, UFC executives will be scratching their heads trying to come up with marquee fights in 2014. But amidst this gloom, there are a few massive fights that could still happen. Some are more realistic than others, but if the stars align, these matchups would no doubt fill the void. Let’s run them down in order of probability…
Major fights within reach
Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson 2 or Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier: Very few gave Gustafsson the chance to last twenty-five minutes with the champ, let alone nearly dethrone him. The two engaged in a thrilling yet technical battle at UFC 165, which was as entertaining as it was controversial — making a rematch very interesting and potentially lucrative for the UFC. Prior to his first meeting with the Mauler, Jones had dominated every one of his opponents, which led to the New Yorker searching for his “Frazier”, the worthy rival who would define his legacy. Gustafsson could very much play that role as they look to meet again.
On the other hand, Daniel Cormier could play that role just as well. Unlike Gustafsson, Cormier has a genuine dislike towards Jones which would only add hype towards the fight. But, of course, the two potential challengers would have to get by Jimi Manuwa and Rashad Evans, respectively, to get their title shots. And of course there’s a hard-hitting Brazilian named Glover Teixeira who might derail these plans altogether.
Jose Aldo vs. BJ Penn: Incredibly, Penn is looking to become a three-weight world champion as he embarks on his unexpected new life as a featherweight. Before his year-long break from the sport, Penn had been fighting at welterweight without much success. (He hasn’t won a match since his quick knockout of Matt Hughes back in November 2010.) Penn will make his 145-pound debut against old rival Frankie Edgar as he looks to avenge, not one, but two defeats. Even though there is a connection between Penn and Aldo’s head coach Andre Pederneiras, the Prodigy would surely jump at the chance to compete for a belt.