CAIN VELASQUEZ’S DOMINANT victory over Junior dos Santos in Las Vegas last weekend seemed a fitting way to end a tough year for the UFC.
The rematch proved to be the polar opposite of their first fight as Velasquez surprisingly beat up dos Santos for five rounds on his way to regaining the heavyweight title belt.
This highlighted the fact that no two fights are ever the same in the UFC and this is the allure and a big part of what makes the sport so popular at the minute.
So as 2012, with all its injuries and phantom events, has been consigned to the record books, what can we expect in this upcoming year?
The fighting Irish
In 2013 we can look forward to seeing some local talent on show in the UFC as County Antrim’s Norman Parke gears up for his fully fledged UFC debut sometime this year.
While the London card in February has come too soon for the Bushmills native that may prove to be a blessing in disguise for the Northern Irishman as he won’t have the added pressure of fighting in front of a large home crowd to contend with.
With the local MMA scene thriving at the minute, Parke’s involvement in the UFC could prove to be the catalyst for a number of Irish looking to make the big step-up.
Conor McGregor made history in the Cage Warriors’ New Year’s Eve show by becoming a two-weight champion, a feat that didn’t go unnoticed with legendary UFC commentator Joe Rogan tweeting him congratulations. Things are starting to look up for Irish MMA.
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Tough at the top
It is notoriously difficult for UFC champions to hold onto their belts for long periods of time (just ask Junior dos Santos) but this year could be the year when all that changes.
In the heavyweight division, Cain Velasquez has re-inherited Brock Lesnar’s former “Freak of Nature” tag as he looked better than ever in his demolition of JDS.
Dos Santos may get another shot but on his last showing will stand little chance of getting the belt back. Alistair Overeem seems to be past his peak while Roy Nelson is not in Velasquez’s class so Cain could realistically hold the belt for another year.
Jon Jones has every chance of remaining unbeaten again in the light heavyweight division if he overcomes Chael Sonnen with Alexander Gustafsson the only realistic threat to his dominance.
Michael Bisping has been promised a shot at Anderson Silva if he beats Vitor Belfort in a couple of weeks’ time, but that will hardly strike fear into “The Spider’s” heart as he will look to end his UFC career with an unblemished record.
The same can be said for Georges St. Pierre, who is picking and choosing his opponents wisely in order to protect his legacy, meanwhile, Ben Henderson has already cleaned out the lightweight division, beating most of the top contenders en route to becoming champion.
Jose Aldo faces a real threat to his throne as Frankie Edgar drops down to face him this year while the bantamweight division is still in a state of limbo waiting for Dominick Cruz to return which is unlikely to be this year.
Here come the girls
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The newest division in the UFC is one we didn’t see coming last year. The emergence of Ronda Rousey as a global MMA star has led Dana White into making a woman’s division, something he once said he would never do.
Having pinned all his hopes on Rousey, Dana White is taking a gamble with this division and will have plenty of head scratching to do if Rousey fails to win her first UFC fight.
With all the media attention and hype already surrounding the UFC’s first ladies main event in February, the expectation is that this will be the first of many women’s fights in 2013 with the likes of Miesha Tate and “Cris Cyborg” rumoured to be in line for a fight.