UFC 125, Herschel Walker's Return Headlines January's MMA Calendar
Here's what we do know: 2010 was another strong year for the sport of MMA with more events than ever before and that lil' group in Vegas continuing to expand to new regions and promising even more ahead.
Based on advance planning, 2011 is going to be another hectic year for everyone in the business with close to 80 events expected from the Big One—the UFC—and the smaller two of Strikeforce and Bellator.
What we don't know is whether that many events will result in lower buyrates, less viewers and the slowing of the sport's mainstream growth.
Tired from the holidays? No break for you, pal. The answers to those questions and more begin to be answered on the very first day of the year.
Saturday, January 1
Las Vegas, NV— PPV
Blame it on the egg nog, but these first of the year UFC events are always bit to death by the injury bug and Saturday's UFC 125 is no different with Shane Carwin and Jose Aldo having to drop out because of various ailments.
However, the main event is still intact with UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar rematching with Gray Maynard in what promises to be a fun scrap. While likely floating in the lower end of the PPV pool in terms of buys, there is a who's who of the UFC middle class competing.
I'll give you 10 notable names: Chris Leben, Brian Stann, Nate Diaz, Clay Guida, Takanori Gomi, Marcus Davis, Phil Baroni, Mike Brown, Jeremy Stephens and Brandon Vera.
While not UFC royalty, the middle class will be heard this Saturday night in Vegas.
Friday, January 7
Strikeforce Challengers 13
Nashville, TN —Showtime
Do you like prospects? If so, you'll love Strikeforce's 2011 debut featuring both Tyron Woodley and Daniel Cormier at the top of the card.
In the main event, Woodley will look to stay undefeated at 7-0 and will have his toughest test to date in 10-2 Tarec Saffiedine, a Belgian who has won three in a row. If the two can put on the type of fight most expect, it's a win-win for Strikeforce.
Cormier (6-0) also wants to remain undefeated when he faces veteran Devin Cole (18-8-1) in his promotional debut. While Cormier has Olympic-level wrestling credentials, Cole was an All-American on the mat for Southern Oregon University.
Saturday, January 22
UFC Fight For The Troops 2
Fort Hood, TX —Spike
For the first time in over two years, the UFC brings back its fundraising/awareness event for the Intrepid Fallen Heroes Fund, headlined by Evan Dunham vs. Melvin Guillard. Dunham is coming off a loss to Sean Sherk (thanks to a bad judges decision), while Guillard's last action was a lackluster win over Jeremy Stephens on the same night.
Otherwise, there isn't a lot to write home about. Matt Mitrione fights Tim Hague, Pat Barry takes on Joey Beltran and Cole Miller and Matt Wiman go at it.
The most interesting name might be former welterweight contender Mike Swick, who returns after almost a year off and two straight losses. Swick finds himself on the undercard against David Mitchell. It's a long way from the top, but he's got to start somewhere.
Saturday, January 29
Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg
San Jose — Showtime
Strikeforce wraps up the month one week later with an event featuring Welterweight Champion Nick Diaz looking for his eighth straight win.
The only problem is that Diaz won't be fighting Jason "Mayhem" Miller as most hoped, but rather Evangelista Santos, aka, Mr. Cyborg. Santos has fought just once in the organization, beating Marius Zaromskis back in June. Worthy of a shot?
Robbie Lawler gets a crack at the 185-pound gold as he challenges Middleweight Champion Jacare Souza in Souza's first defense of the title. Both guys have been 'round the MMA block and this could end in either a quick KO or a 25-minute grindout.
Oh yeah, that Herschel Walker guy returns for his second pro fight against Scott Carson, a bout pushed from December due to a cut Walker suffered in training. Look for an interview with Carson from yours truly later this month.
Josh Nason is a New England-based freelance MMA journalist that covers live events, has written for FIGHT! Magazine and frequently does radio/podcast appearances. He asks for your "like" for ESPN Boston to cover MMA. Follow him on Twitter.
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