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Five Fighters Who Are Looking To Contend in 2012

By Chris DeFilippo, Senior Writer

March 16, 2012

Mixed Martial Arts is filled with as much uncertainty virtually every other sport. One day you are challenging for a belt, the next day you find yourself out of action for a calendar year.

In the next two months, UFC fans will see three championship belts on the line, and a number of new contenders will likely be in line for title shots.

I have comprised a list of five of the top fighters in the UFC’s various weight classes who have either challenged for one or numerous titles in the past. The other thing these fighters have in common is they have been out of action for a considerable amount of time and could be ready for a comeback or possibly a title shot. Let’s take a look at these five main event caliber fighters and who they could be squaring off against in the near future.

Shane Carwin: The only fight Shane Carwin has had in the past eight months has been with a host of devastating back injuries that have kept him inactive. The former interim heavyweight champ has had only two fights in the past 19 months, the most recent being a loss to current champ Junior Dos Santos. The heavyweight picture has changed dramatically since Carwin was last in the octagon. Cain Velasquez suffered his first defeat, Brock Lesnar retired from the sport, former stars Frank Mir and Fabricio Verdum have been resurgent, and Alistair Overeem made a successful debut in the UFC and is a challenger to the title. Carwin is expected to be ready by mid to late spring 2012, but his options may be slim as Mir and Velasquez are scheduled to fight for number one contender ship. The UFC can throw him any number of tune up fights, possibly with Pat Barry, or Carwin can opt for a bigger name opponent such as Daniel Cormier, if he so chooses to take his talents to the UFC.

Possible opponents: Pat Barry, Matt Mitrione, Cheick Kongo, Daniel Cormier, Dave Herman, and Josh Barnett

Maurico “Shogun” Rua: Shogun did everything but win at UFC 139. The five round war with Dan Henderson will go down as one of the greatest fights in UFC history, but both fighters paid the price in terms of injuries, especially Shogun. Facial lacerations and a fracture of the skull have kept Shogun out of action since November, but he is back in training and presumably ready to fight. He has been linked to a possible rematch with Quentin Jackson, however Jackson will be out for a considerable amount of time after a double knee surgery. Shoguns timing however could be in his favor. Ryan Bader is coming off a win over Jackson and could be ready as Shogun resumes training. Another option could be Rogerio Nogueira, who recently pulled out of a bout with Alexander Gustafson due to injury. A rematch with Nogueira would draw a lot of interest; however either would go a long way towards separating the contenders from the pretenders in the light heavyweight division.

Possible opponents: Ryan Bader, Rogerio Nogueira, Phil Davis

Dan Henderson: His bout with Shogun was absolutely epic, but that win put Henderson in a bit of a precarious situation. Henderson can challenge Anderson Silva at 185 or even Jon Jones at 205, however they both have fights scheduled to take place this year. Jon Jones will be facing Rashad Evans at UFC 145 and Anderson Silva isn’t expected to resume his title defense until at least summer. Even Dana white has publicly stated he does not know what to do with Henderson. I don’t think anyone expects Henderson to remain inactive; however he could risk his title shot if he takes a fight and loses.  Fortunately for Henderson, he has two weight classes to play around with. And who’s to say he won’t bulk up to 223 again and take on Shane Carwin. Hmmmm….

Possible opponents: Jon Jones, Anderson Silva, Lyoto Machida, Phil Davis, Ryan Bader, Rogerio Nogueira, and Mark Munoz

Jon Fitch: Often people are defined by “moments”. Fighters are no different. Jon Fitch had been as solid as any UFC fighter since he entered the octagon in 2005. The only blemish on his record was a loss to welterweight champ Georges St Pierre at UFC 87. Since then he had won six fights and earned a majority draw against BJ Penn. Then he got caught up in one of those “moments.” It took only nine seconds for Johnny Hendricks to knock out Fitch at UFC 135 and put an unfortunate spin on Fitch’s career. Yes he had won six straight, but without finishing an opponent in more five years. Furthermore he puts on boring performances and is not a “main eventer”, according to Dana White. Finally, he has refused to fight teammate Josh Koscheck while they were both top contenders. That being said, he is still one of the best fighters in the division. I think a perfect fight for Fitch would be Strikeforce welterweight contender Tyron Woodley. He is young, athletic, and implements a similar game as Fitch. If the UFC wishes to stay in house a matchup with Jake Shields, who is coming off a win, would clarify the welterweight scenario.

Possible opponents: Jake Shields, Tyron Woodley, and Rick Story

Gray Maynard: The former title challenger has been on the shelf since October after suffering his first professional loss to Frankie Edgar. Since that time Edgar fought and lost his title to Ben Henderson. It looks like Edgar is in line for a rematch and Anthony Pettis could be the odd man out of the title picture. Pettis would be perfect match for Maynard, who is just waiting on an opponent. It is unlikely that Pettis will sit around waiting for a title shot because he could be waiting for the majority of 2012. If not Pettis, Maynard could fight any of the following opponents, trimming the fat at 155.

Possible opponents: Anthony Pettis, Clay Guida, Melvin Guillard, Joe Lauzon, Takanori Gomi

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