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The Nine Most Intriguing Fights left in 2008

I don’t know about the rest of you, but having our sport’s popularity in the mainstream hinge on a 34-year old street fighter is downright depressing. And the fact that I have gone from people asking if I do that “ultimate fighting” stuff to people asking how fast Kimbo Slice could knock out Mike Tyson is enough to make me want to vomit on my Tapout bed sheets.

In an effort to cheer myself up I started to remind myself of all the awesome MMA in the coming months, with multiple fights having massive implications on the landscape of their respective divisions. The divisional rankings have the potential to be dramatically different between now and the beginning of 2009. Here are nine fights that in my opinion are “must-see” to the die-hard MMA fan. In no particular order……

Tyson Griffin vs. Sean Sherk (155lbs) – UFC 90 Silva vs. Cote
October 25 2008 – Rosemont Illinois

I haven’t been this excited for a lightweight battle in the UFC for a very long time. This is a battle between the two best conditioned athletes in the division. It will look like two Tasmanian devils on triple-shot café mochas. The entertainment value of this fight is already through the roof with just the talent level alone, but add in title shot implications and it just raised to drama level to Defcon 1 (which, means we actually had to lower the Defcon level as the drama level rose). This fight is an advertisement for the lightweight division as a whole, and if you are not a fan of the little guys yet, you will be after this one.

Thiago Alves vs. Diego Sanchez (170lbs) – UFC 90 Silva vs. Cote
October 25 2008 – Rosemont Illinois

Many people will argue that the welterweight division is the most talented in the world (in my opinion it’s the light heavyweight division, but no one ever asks me) and the UFC has a monopoly on it. This fight features two of the best with the winner getting a title shot and free denture work courtesy of the UFC champion Georges St Pierre. The most overused saying in all of MMA sadly applies here, as this is a classic matchup of striker versus grappler. Alves has evolved into a devastating striker and Sanchez seems to have found his ground-n-pound mojo again, making for an electric clash of styles. It is going to be a doozy!

Thales Leites vs. Goran Reljic (185lbs) – UFC 90 Silva vs. Cote
October 25 2008 – Rosemont Illinois

As with most athletic sports in the world, I believe there are levels of skill that separate one athlete from another. And there is nothing more enjoyable than watching new talent evolve and jump levels right before your eyes. This fight is a perfect example of two extremely talented fighters who are learning to put all aspects of their fight game together and jump to that next level. Leites has world class grappling while Reljic has shown CroCop-like striking which should combine for a fantastic ride. Both have championship caliber upside and with a win here are ready for a showdown with the elite of the middleweight division. Its going to be an interesting tug of war and I can’t wait to watch!

Luiz Cane vs. Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (205lbs)– UFC 89 Bisping vs. Leben
October 18 2008 – Birmingham England

Just as with the fight above, this is a matchup of two talented guys with immense potential who are trying to learn how to put a complete performance together. Cane and Soku are both incredible strikers with knockout power so this promises to turn into a quick match. I doubt either of thses guys will see the third round of this fight, and I wouldn’t have it any other way!

Leonard Garcia vs. Jens Pulver (145lbs) – WEC 36 – Faber vs Brown
November 5 2008 – Hollywood, Florida

The WEC has turned into my guilty pleasure in life. I love to watch the smaller guys show off their skills on free TV. While Uriah Faber has proven to be the best in the world at 145lbs (Sorry Kid) the WEC has done a wonderful job of bringing in the best competition around to challenge him. These are two of the best. Pulver versus Garcia pits the two best brawlers at this weight in the same cage together, and fireworks will ensue. Garcia is an energizer bunny with incredible conditioning but has never faced knockout power like Pulver packs in his left hand. Should be an interesting matchup and one I am not going to miss!

Eddie Alvarez vs. Nick Diaz (160lbs) – EliteXC on Showtime
November 8 2008 – Reno, Nevada

The new kid on the block versus the volatile veteran in a battle for the lightweight title will make for a whirlwind battle. Alvarez is coming off of his fantastic Japanese run in the Dream tournament and Diaz is rolling by winning seven out of his last eight fights if you include his win over Takanori Gomi (and I do). Diaz likes to bang on the feet but Alvarez may prove to be too much for him. If Diaz can take this to the ground he way finally have that belt he so desperately desires. But Alvarez is on an unbelievable roll, and his wrestling might be just enough to steal another decision away from Diaz. Should be a good one!

Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar (265lbs) – Couture vs. Lesnar UFC 91
November 15 2008 Las Vegas, Nevada

The only main event on my list for obvious reasons. So many sub-plots running here that it will be hard to keep up with everything. Is it too soon for Brock to have this fight? Is the big layoff from action to much for Randy? How will Brock handle actually being punched in the face? Will Brock’s size be too much for Randy to control? These and many more questions will be answered that night. The winner gets a shot at Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira or Frank Mir and the undisputed title. I think its safe to say this is the biggest fight of the year hands down.

Quinton Jackson vs. Wanderlei Silva (205lbs) – UFC 92
December 27 2008

Are you kidding me?? Do I need to even tell you why this is a huge fight?? This could be Wanderlei Silva versus Rampage Jackson 27 and I would be the first one there popcorn in hand. This fight is going to be all over the cage and non-stop action. This fight series may down as the greatest trilogy ever, even though it is one-sided so far. This is a must-see for everyone who loves this sport like I do!