What will 2014 have in store for MMA?
2013 will be remembered as a banner year for mixed martial arts. The UFC’s relationship with the FOX network was taken to higher level with the inception of Fox Sports 1, women finally made their way into the UFC and took the company and its fans by storm, and the champions of the sport fought their way through some of their toughest opponents in memorable 5 round battles.
What will 2014 have in store for the MMA enthusiast and casual observer?
Here are three of the storylines to look forward to as we enter the New Year:
Will Anderson Silva Fight Again?
The image of Anderson Silva’s broken leg is etched in the memory of anyone that has seen it. Never has a checked leg kick been such an offensive move. Recent reports have Silva’s recovery timeline being somewhere in the neighborhood of 6 months. That’s simply remarkable considering the horrific image we were left with at the end of the pay per view. One has to assume that the legendary fighter doesn’t want the image of him writhing on the ground in pain, as his last. Silva has nothing left to prove; he will always be looked at as one the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, but for a fighter, ending their career on their terms is a vital part of their legacy.
Prediction: Anderson Silva fights on the December 2014 year end card.
Can Jon Jones carry the UFC on his shoulders?
2013 saw the semi-retirement of Georges St. Pierre and a potentially career ending injury to Anderson Silva, two of the UFC’s biggest stars and pay per view draws. Plus, injuries expect to keep the UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez out for the better part of the year. This leaves Jon “Bones” Jones as one of the few cross over stars the UFC has left. His upcoming title defense against Glover Teixeira is the first marquee fight of the new year and will set the tone for what to expect from the champion. A win, surely leads to a rematch with Alexander Gustaffsson (should he win his fight with Jimi Manuwa) in what was one of the best fights of 2013. Jones, himself, has also spoken about wanting to make the move to heavyweight at some point in his career. Could 2014 be the year we see Jones make that jump?
Prediction: Jon Jones retains the light heavyweight title throughout 2014 leading to a move to heavyweight in 2015.
Will we see the continued progression of women’s MMA?
Ronda Rousey and the women of the UFC took the mixed martial arts world by storm in 2013. For the UFC to continue its upward progression in the sports world, female fighters need to take an even larger role in the sport. There is simply no other mainstream sport that features the talents of female athletes like mixed martial arts does. The Rousey/Tate fight, the success of the women fights on the Ultimate Fighter and an all women season of the next Ultimate Fighter will ensure that female fights aren’t going anywhere. There are countless fighter, and industry insiders who will proclaim that if there is a woman’s fight on a card, you don’t miss that fight. We will find out how much gas there is in the tank of women’s MMA – and moreover, find out if we are dealing with a fad, or an integral part of the sport. I believe a big part of this question will be answered with the upcoming Ronda Rousey/Sara McMann title fight. Rousey is perhaps the sport’s biggest star, and a loss to the relatively unknown Olympic wrestler will test the popularity of the division.
Prediction: Whether she’s the champion or not, Ronda Rousey will continue to be the UFC’s most valuable asset.