11 Biggest Fights MMA Has to or Should Book to Close out 2014

Nathan McCarter@McCarterNFeatured ColumnistApril 28, 2014

11 Biggest Fights MMA Has to or Should Book to Close out 2014

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    Isaac Brekken

    The UFC is one-third of the way through 2014, and we have already been treated to a healthy dose of MMA. There are still eight months left on the calendar, and that gives the UFC plenty more big fights to deliver to our screens.

    The loss of GSP and Anderson Silva hurt the star power of the sport, but other figures are trying to fill the gaps. There was a small glimmer of hope that GSP would return by year's end, but another knee injury will keep him out of action indefinitely.

    There are still plenty of big fights to be had, and we take a look at 10 of those here. We tried to keep the matches realistic. Do not expect to see Brock Lesnar crack the list, although his return would be the biggest thing the UFC could hope for.

    Fighters outside of the organization, rankings, scheduling issues and injuries will keep some of the big matches off of the table until at least 2015.

    With a big roster full of talent, here are 11 of the biggest fights the UFC should make to end the year.

Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson II

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    David Banks-USA TODAY Sports

    Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson each have a fight to get through before this could become a 100 percent possibility, but if they both win then this is a big fight for the flyweight title.

    To date, Dodson has been Johnson's biggest competitor. Dodson nearly took the title in their first meeting, but faded in the championship rounds and allowed Johnson to win the decision.

    Dodson will have learned a lot from that fight, and both men have progressed since that time. Johnson has turned into one of the more exciting finishers on the roster. Would he be able to put Dodson away, or would Jackson's MMA product collect gold?

    If built correctly, this fight could headline a future PPV.

    Dodson vs. Johnson II is one of the best technically sound matchups possible in the UFC today.

Hector Lombard vs. Nick Diaz

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Nick Diaz showed up at UFC 171 to heckle Johny Hendricks. That is the biggest fight possible in the welterweight division today, but it is not realistic.

    The UFC is not going to give Diaz a title shot, and Diaz's next biggest foe—Carlos Condit—is injured. That leaves Hector Lombard.

    Lombard wants to fight Diaz, and it is a matchup that fans would love.

    There is little question that Diaz is one of the sport's biggest stars, and having him back is good for the sport. He is a polarizing figure. His fans love and support him, and those who are not his fans still pay to watch him get beat up. He draws interest.

    Lombard and Diaz would provide some of the best fight week entertainment of any two on the roster.

Ronda Rousey vs. Cat Zingano

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    Isaac Brekken

    Cat Zingano was slated to coach opposite Rousey on The Ultimate Fighter, but an injury forced her out. Since that time she has been working her way back, and she should be ready to return later this year.

    If—or perhaps rather when—Rousey defeats Alexis Davis this fight should be scheduled.

    Rousey's dominance has left many speculating that no one in the division can defeat her. It is hard to argue that point, but Zingano certainly has a chance. She is one of the few women in the division that brings top-tier athleticism into the cage with her.

    Zingano also has good power in her strikes and a solid Jiu-Jitsu game. She could be the foil that Rousey needs.

    The champion is one of the UFC's biggest stars, and any fight she is in will grab attention. Zingano is the biggest fight they can make that is currently on the roster.

Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez

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    Mike McGinnis/Getty Images

    Barring injury, this fight will happen.

    Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez are signed to coach on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter. Once that obligation is met, they'll walk into the cage themselves to battle for the lightweight championship.

    This is a fight that many UFC fans have been clamoring for, and they'll get it.

    Pettis and Melendez mark the apex of the 155-pound division. They are high-motor individuals who will electrify the fans. They both love to come forward and fight. They will showcase their skills against one another in what looks to be an instant classic.

Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Chris Weidman was scheduled to meet Vitor Belfort this summer, but following the UFC's ban on TRT, Belfort backed out.

    Now, Weidman takes on Lyoto Machida. While that fight is good on its own, it is still not the biggest middleweight bout that could happen. That matchup would be one between Belfort and Weidman.

    Belfort's resurgence has been something to see. TRT or no TRT, no one can deny his ability to give highlight reel performances. He is a longtime veteran of the sport who has a big fanbase, and he will bring that with him into the Weidman bout.

    Can Weidman avoid the Belfort KO? Will Belfort be able to stop Weidman's wrestling? Those questions and more will be laid to rest when the UFC signs this bout.

Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler II

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    Matt Strasen

    The biggest non-GSP fight in the welterweight division would be a rematch of an early bout from 2014.

    Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler went five rounds in a back-and-forth, action-packed bout in Texas. It was an amazing fight, and one that should be booked again for later this year if Lawler defeats Jake Ellenberger at UFC 173.

    Their styles clash perfectly for a fan-friendly, yet still elite-level fight.

    Their first encounter garnered significant interest, but it will draw even more in a rematch. The fans who missed out the first go-around will not want to miss out twice. That is why the UFC should have this rematch highlighted.

Anderson Silva vs. Michael Bisping

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    Felipe Dana

    After Anderson Silva's leg break in December, his future was up in the air. Would he ever return?

    That was quickly answered by Silva himself. He had the surgery and was quickly back in the gym. The next question was when would he return? Certainly not in 2014. Well, not so fast. UFC President Dana White thinks that Silva could be back in late 2014.

    Dana White believes Anderson Silva to come back by end of year or beginning of next.

    — UFCONFOX (@UFCONFOX) April 23, 2014

    It is a long shot, but if the greatest of all-time can return then the UFC should put him against Michael Bisping.

    It is a fight that many have wanted to see for years, and since Bisping is coming off a loss to Tim Kennedy it is a fight that also makes sense within the division. The fight would do very well with the two longtime UFC vets.

    If Silva is physically and mentally prepared for a return bout, he could do a lot worse than Bisping.

Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Fabricio Werdum earned his title shot with a win over Travis Browne, and he has a lot of skills that pose interesting matchups for champion Cain Velasquez. With that said, he will enter as a significant underdog in this fight.

    I, for one, do not believe he has much of a chance. So, why is this one of the biggest fights for the UFC? Mexico.

    The UFC will attempt to put this fight on in Mexico, and both men could possibly coach the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America.

    The heavyweight championship fight would be huge in Mexico and Latin America. It would be a vital fight in the struggle to deepen their connection to the Latin fans. It could be one of the pivotal fights to help shift the culture from boxing on to MMA.

    The fight itself isn't that compelling due to Velasquez's dominance, but where the fight takes place and its implications make this one of 2014's best.

Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier

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    USA TODAY Sports

    The potential bout between Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier has an outside chance of happening in 2014. The rematch between Jones and Alexander Gustafsson would have to be scheduled for the summer first, and both Jones and Cormier would need to win their fights prior to this proposed bout.

    If all of that happens, if the stars align just right, this could be a big winter fight.

    The two fighters have had words in the past. Now, it could be time to settle the score.

    I have been championing this matchup for nearly two years. Cormier poses the biggest threat to Jones' crown. He is an elite wrestler with heavy hands, and he could very well toss Jones around. It is an interesting proposition.

    This fight seems more in line with a 2015 date, but it is possible for this year. If it happens, there is no doubt it is one of the biggest fights available.

Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson II

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    USA TODAY Sports

    Of the fights that will happen in 2014, this is by far the biggest.

    Jon Jones is one of the few legitimate stars in the UFC today, and there is no bigger fight for him than the rematch with Alexander Gustafsson.

    Their first meeting was the greatest light heavyweight title fight, and a 2013 Fight of the Year contender. It had many calling for an immediate rematch, but that did not happen. Instead, Gustafsson had a date with Jimi Manuwa—a fight he easily won.

    Following UFC 172, Jones and Gustafsson are on a collision course.

    This will be the most hyped fight of the year, and for good reason. The light heavyweight championship rematch will have fans on their feet when it happens.

Ronda Rousey vs. Gina Carano

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    Giles Keyte

    There has been a lot of clamoring for a Ronda Rousey vs. Cyborg fight, but that is not going to happen. It just isn't. A superfight that could happen is Rousey vs. Gina Carano.

    No matter your opinion on the legitimacy of this fight, no one can deny that it is the biggest fight available to the UFC right now. Both Rousey and Carano have significant interest from the mainstream media, and with the UFC marketing machine behind the fight, it will do very big business.

    Carano and Rousey have crossed over to the mainstream. They have done big budget Hollywood features and continue to draw interest from outside of the sport.

    Don't think this fight will happen? Dana White has confirmed that he met with Carano and feels that they will come to an agreement on a contract soon.

    Title fight or no title fight, 135 or 145 pounds, this fight will be monstrous. Even if not from a media standpoint alone.

    Buckle up because it seems that Carano vs. Rousey is all but assured as we sit right now.