(There may be only one man on earth who can make the Santa hat look cool.)
I don’t want much this holiday season. Well, besides that Red Ryder BB Gun I ask for every year. And a pony. But there are some fights I’d like to see in 2009, and while I don’t think that mall Santa I tried to talk to is going to be any help (let’s just say it got heated and we both said some things we didn’t really mean), I’m holding out hope that the powers that be will hear my pleas and make some of these happen.
Here’s my wish list of ten fights for 2009. Some are very likely. Some are just barely feasible. But I tried to stay away from the downright impossible, hence the absence of Fedor vs. The Highlander. Feel free to let me know all about what’s on your list in the comments section:
1. Anderson Silva vs. Georges St. Pierre: Whether GSP beats Penn or not (magic eight ball says, “all signs point to yes,”) this has the potential to be the UFC’s biggest superfight ever. They have precious few opportunities to settle pound-for-pound debates, but this is their best shot. If MMA becomes legal in New York this year, as it probably will, this fight could do a Jay-Z and sell out the Garden in a day.
2. B.J. Penn vs. Kenny Florian: Perhaps no fighter in the UFC has improved so much by sheer force of will as KenFlo. Penn is the lightweight champ, and he deserves to be, which is why I really wish he’d stop chasing fights in other weight classes and set his sights on defending that title. Winning a belt is great, but defending it is how you cement your status as a dominant champ. Penn probably beats Florian in a tough fight, but there’s only one way to find out.
3. Fedor Emelianenko vs. Josh Barnett: If he beats Arlovski, this is the only realistically possible bout for Fedor that would still be compelling. I know they’re friends and all, but Affliction is starting to feel like a narrowing path leading only to this fight. Hopefully all parties concerned – Affliction, Barnett, Fedor, Fedor’s management team – can hold it together long enough to make it happen.
4. Miguel Torres vs. Urijah Faber: The Faber-Pulver rematch seems fun, but a little pointless to me. I think he’ll eventually get his WEC belt back when Mike Brown is healthy, then I’d love to see this clash between the two best fighters in the organization.
5. Brock Lesnar vs. Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira: Chances of this happening are very good. I think Big Nog rolls through Frank Mir, and then we should see this fight some time in the late spring or summer. I like it because it’s an entirely new and interesting test of how good Lesnar really is. From what we’ve seen so far, to beat Lesnar you need submission skills and the ability to withstand power shots from those cartoon-sized mallets he calls hands. Who does that sound like to you?
6. Anderson Silva vs. whoever’s the 205-pound champ: Demolishing James Irvin proved that going up in weight is not, in itself, a significant challenge for Silva. He needs to go up in weight against someone who matters – and not just someone who used to matter, either. If he wins, there’s that familiar problem of one man holding two titles again. But it would be a great excuse for him to vacate the middleweight belt, allowing that division to become competitive again.
7. Chuck Liddell vs. Wanderlei Silva (yes, again): The first fight was epic, so why not run it back? You don’t need a reason. You can do it whether Wandy wins or loses against Rampage, and it might be interesting to see if things turn out any differently now that “The Axe Murderer” has had a chance to acclimate himself to the UFC.
8. Gina Carano vs. “Cyborg” Santos: Can we please just do this thing and find out how good “Crush” really is? It’s the only women’s MMA fight that has real drawing power, but that won’t last forever. It needs to happen sooner rather than later, and if it delivers it has the potential of really pushing the women’s fight game forward.
9. Shinya Aoki vs. Yoshihiro Akiyama: Hope for this one is fading fast, but damn if I don’t want to see it. I may be alone in loving everything about Aoki, from his tights to his positively ridiculous submissions, but I don’t care. I also love the semi-formal feud between these two, and regardless of how Aoki does against Eddie Alvarez on NYE, I still have to admit to myself that this is a fight I really want to see.
10. Matt Hughes vs. Matt Serra: All right, so I’m a sucker for a grudge match, especially when it seems genuine. I also love the contrast between the gun-loving, Bible-thumping farmboy Hughes, and the pasta-loving, big-talking, Long Island little man Serra. They’re both obnoxious in completely different ways, and I never get tired of it. You add this to my dream Silva-GSP card at MSG and every fake-tanned mook in the five burroughs will be there, covered in his finest Axe Body Spray. I can almost smell it now…