2013 was probably the greatest year of fights we've ever seen, and with one big rematch coming up in Silva vs Weidman II, I started thinking about what other rematches I want to see in 2014. As much as I would love to see Lyoto Machida vs BJ Penn II, or Overeem-Lesnar II, I decided to limit my list to fights that are potentially possible in 2014; guys who are at least capable of fighting in the same weight class, and are in the same organization at the moment is the criteria I decided to set myself. Here's what I came up with:
Jones vs Gustafsson II
This is probably the most obvious choice on the list. The first fight is an extremely strong 'Fight Of The Year candidate, and assuming ‘The Mauler’ and ‘Bones’ get past their next opponents, it’s one we should get to see sometime next spring or summer.
The big risk with rematches is how difficult it is to catch lightning in a bottle twice. Some great fights are only great because of one moment changing the landscape of a fight and letting an overmatched fighter stage a comeback, for instance.
Jones vs Gustafsson was great for a different reason. It was great because both guys matched up so perfectly with each other. It showed Jon Jones against someone with the same physical advantages he had, and skills comparable with his own. Gustafsson’s boxing versus Jones unorthodox kickboxing. Jones trips against Gustafsson’s much-improved wrestling. For that reason, I have high hopes for this rematch.
Condit vs Hendricks II
The first fight was incredible. How incredible? Tim Burke explains how incredible here, and you should absolutely read that right now. Read it? Good. I want more of that. Much more.
I want to see Hendricks looking for his huge overhand fight finishers. I want to see Condit landing strikes from odd angles. I want to see Hendricks’ grinding determination against Condit's limitless gas tank. I want to see two of the best welterweights in the world running at each other swinging leather for 25 minutes this time. The best part? With GSP’s semi-retirement, there’s a great chance we see this exact fight for a title at some point in 2014.
Shogun vs Henderson II
Why hasn’t this happened again yet? OK, so it might be one of the fights most likely to fall into the lightning in a bottle category, either guy could have gone to sleep several times in that fight but for a few milliseconds or millimeters each direction. Chances are if they fought again, someone would, but oh man, the action until that point would just be the best.
For as great as the recent Hunt vs Silva bout was, Henderson vs Shogun was THE definitive brawl to end them all. Two guys with one punch KO power taking turns to whack each other in the face as hard as they can. Technique went out the window about ten minutes in, and honestly, that just made it even better. There's something primal about two of the toughest guys in the world just refusing to quit long after their contemporaries would have. It transcends the sporting element of MMA and becomes something so much more, and I want to see it again.
Alvarez vs. Chandler III
Not only the best fight Bellator can put on, not only the best non-UFC rematch, but quite possibly the best fight any organization outside of the UFC can put on right now.
The first fight was an award winning classic, and the second fight seemed to view that as a challenge. You could watch the first two fights back to back, and it plays as if both guys went and took a couple of days to recharge their batteries and came back for rounds six through ten. Some of the most well-rounded, technical violence I’ve ever had to pleasure of seeing took place in the original two fights.
Chandler vs. Alvarez II, and the possibility of a rubber match, almost makes me glad Alvarez didn’t sign with the UFC. Almost.
Cung Le vs Wanderlei Silva II
This was one of my favorite fights of 2011, and I honestly don’t believe it gets the respect it deserves. Cung Le spent the entire time trying to use Wanderlei as an unwilling participant in his spinning Sanshou technique video, and Wanderlei tried to find out how many knees it takes to get to the center of Cung Le’s skull.
Both guys are in a similar position in the division. They’re probably not going to get a title shot any time soon, they’ve more or less alternated wins and losses for the past couple of years, and they’re both incredibly exciting strikers guaranteed to put on a great fight.
A Cung Le vs Wanderlei Silva rematch in one of the UFC’s developing Asian markets strikes me as a great way to ensure the new audience is introduced to some of the most exciting MMA possible, and seeing a guy like Cung Le spin his way across the octagon into the brutal violence of an axe murderer like Wanderlei might be the best possible way to contrast traditional martial arts with the gritty reality of most fights.