The UFC has already unveiled its initial 2015 schedule and it is indeed one to watch out for. However, with the full year’s schedule not even half-filled, there are still marquee match-ups that the world is asking for. Here is our wish list for the UFC’s Top 5 Fights to make in 2015:
Lyoto Machida vs Luke Rockhold
Joe Rogan correctly called it when he said that the time is perfect to make this fight. Lyoto Machida ended the UFC season with a 62 second destruction of C.B. Dollaway at UFC Fight Night 58 last December 20 and in doing so, redeemed himself from a sorry Fight of the Year candidate loss to Chris Weidman at UFC 175. On the other hand, Luke Rockhold has erased the stigma of his 2013 spinning wheel kick knockout loss to Vitor Belfort with three consecutive stoppage victories.
Machida and Rockhold are two of the sport’s best strikers and submission artists. Whether this one stays up or ends up on the ground, the match looks to be just as exciting. Rockhold deserves a crack at Chris Weidman’s belt, but with the champion booked to fight Vitor Belfort in February, Weidman (or Belfort) would be available in the second half of the year. Rockhold can’t stay idle that long and what better way to stay busy than solidifying his claim as the top contender in the division against Machida.
Conor McGregor vs Frankie Edgar
As reported, there is no doubt that Conor McGregor is the fastest rising star in the UFC. But with Dustin Poirier as the biggest named victim in his resume, he might have gotten a lift from his gift of glib to rise to the top of the rankings. On the other side of the fence, Frankie Edgar has fought the who’s who of both the lightweight and featherweight division. The “Answer” fought seven consecutive title bouts from April 2010 to February 2013 and has been involved in eight five rounders during his last 10 bouts. Like McGregor, Edgar went 2-0 in 2014 and both men have earned three post fight bonuses in their last four outings.
McGregor is slated to fight Denis Siver at UFC Fight Night 59 on January 18 but he is expected to breeze past Siver and fight for the featherweight title in his next fight. But Edgar too deserves another shot at the title after beating Cub Swanson last November. So wouldn’t it be better if they square off first to see who truly deserves the title shot? If McGregor beats Edgar, he’d be a bigger star when he finally faces Jose Aldo in the Octagon.
Renan Barao vs T.J. Dillashaw 2
T.J. Dillashaw promised to shock the world at UFC 173 and came up with the Upset of the Year. Dillashaw didn’t only beat Renan Barao, he stripped him of his aura of invincibility. Prior to their fight at UFC 173, Barao went unbeaten in a span of 9 years that included 33 fights and 32 wins. He was literally untouchable in his weight class until Dillashaw unmasked him at UFC 173. Despite losing, Barao was given an immediate rematch at UFC 177. But Barao was hospitalized on the day of the weigh-in as a result of his weight cut and was dropped from the card. Dillashaw went on to defend the title against replacement Joe Soto to end 2014 as the UFC bantamweight champion.
Barao finally made a successful comeback at UFC Fight Night 58 where he submitted Mitch Gagnon in the third round. Dillashaw was expected to face former champion Dominick Cruz early next year, but the Dominator suffered another ACL tear which should sideline him for the entire 2015. On the other hand, Barao was expected to face Raphael Assuncao, but Assuncao too got injured with a broken ankle, leaving the door wide open for a rematch between Dillashaw and Barao. Both have unfinished business with each other in the Octagon with Barao looking for redemption and Dillashaw seeking affirmation, hence this fight is a must-make in 2015.
Robbie Lawler vs Johny Hendricks 3
Trilogies make fighting more than a sport. They define legacies and create legends. When Georges St. Pierre decided to walk away from the UFC, everyone though that he would be leaving a huge void in the welterweight division. But that has not been the case in 2014 where the world witnessed two epic battles between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler.
Both men first met at UFC 171 when they disputed the title which GSP vacated. It was a back and forth battle that looked every inch even after four rounds. But Hendricks dug deeper in Round 5 to beat Lawler by the thinnest of margins. However, Lawler would earn a rematch at UFC 181 and the two battled neck and neck once again. This time around, it was Lawler who came out firing during the final minute of the bout to score the win and take the belt away from Hendricks. UFC President Dana White has promised Rory MacDonald a title shot which the Canadian phenom rightfully deserves. But White didn’t say when, so that leaves us a window of opportunity to insert a grudge match between Hendricks and Lawler before MacDonald gets his shot in the latter part of 2015. Fair enough? Fair to all three, and well-deserved for the fans.
Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson 2
The greatest light heavyweight title bout of all-time deserves a rematch especially since it was won by the closest of margins. Jon Jones was next to unbeatable when he faced Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 165. However, the Swedish Mauler took everything Jones threw at him and gave the champ more in return, giving Jones the fight of his life. The fight was so close and could have gone either way, although it appeared that Jones pulled it out with a monumental effort in round five.
Their rematch at UFC 178 was shelved after Gustafsson would suffer an injury while training. Daniel Cormier replaced Gustafsson but then Bones would also be later injured in training, causing further delay to the champ’s defense. Finally, Jones and Cormier will settle their “bad blood” on January 3, 2015 at UFC 182 while Gustafsson battles Anthony “Rumble” Johnson on January 24, 2015 at UFC on Fox. Both Jones and Gustafsson have their work cut out for them against very tough opponents and it’s not even sure if both will come up victorious. But regardless of what happens in their next respective fights, the world deserves to see a rematch, with or without a championship belt.