March 22, 2016.
It is the day that will forever be a staple of the MMA history books. On this day, MMA finally became legal in the great state of New York. It was a win for the mixed martial arts community, fighters and fans alike.
However, with UFC 200 scheduled to take place only a few short months away, it begs a simple question: Will the highly touted UFC 200 card suffer due to the looming monumental New York breakthrough?
It’s entirely possible.
UFC 200 currently is rumored to feature Conor Mcgregor vs. Nate Diaz II as its main event, but nothing has been confirmed. Really, the entire card is still up in the air. But if the UFC plays its cards right, it could hand the fans exactly what they want and exactly when they want it.
Here are three fights that should be featured on the UFC 200 card:
- Dominick Cruz vs. Urijah Faber III: This fight is actually scheduled to occur at UFC 199, but the UFC should bump it back. These two men have such extensive history and each fighter has a win over the other. Faber has had his fair share of title shots without success, and Cruz just recently overcame his biggest adversary, his own body, and still has plenty left to offer the UFC’s bantamweight division. A lot of people — most notably, T.J. Dillashaw — aren’t really happy about this match-up to begin with, but it’s a fight that needs to happen to finally squash the animosity that exists between these two men and silence the doubters who claim Cruz got lucky against Dillashaw.
- Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman: This is a no-brainer. Rockhold has already publicly come out about not wanting to fight at UFC 199. This is his chance and the UFC’s chance to give him his wish and give Weidman his rematch in his home state. It’s a fight that is sure to attract plenty of the hometown crowd for the former champion and give him an opportunity to regain the title that was brutally taken from him.
- Robbie Lawler vs. Carlos Condit II: Tyron Woodley will not be happy with another article that overlooks him. However, while he is deserving of the next shot, the fireworks that would come from a second meeting between Lawler and Condit would make for an amazing main event or co-headliner. Forget the “tradition” that seems to no longer exist when Conor McGregor fights of higher weight classes taking top billing. Let these two have one more battle at UFC 200.
Obviously, there is a pattern emerging above. The UFC is more than likely going to save its moneymakers, for lack of a better term, such as McGregor, Ronda Rousey and Jon Jones for its first New York card. And don’t be surprised if McGregor fights at both UFC 200 and the UFC card in New York, regardless of the outcome of his fights. While there are still many who do not agree with how much the UFC has pushed the Irishman, he has put eyes on the sport that would have never given MMA a second look.
In addition, if Georges St-Pierre is really going to come out of retirement, then this is the time for it. Let him be on the first card in New York, win his fight and then walk away again, this time for good.
Here are three fights that the UFC’s flagship New York card should feature, including an alternate:
- Conor McGregor vs. Frankie Edgar: Seriously. This fight needs to happen. Edgar has put down every single opponent that he has faced in the featherweight division with the exception of José Aldo. Sure, many are clamoring for a McGregor-Aldo rematch for the title, given Aldo’s decade of dominance, but this is the fight to make right now. It’s been the fight to make for a long time, actually, and it’s the fight that furthers the division and the sport, regardless of who walks out the victor. Hanging in the balance will be Edgar finally getting the title shot that he has earned and McGregor getting the chance to prove that he is not “ducking” Edgar and that he truly is the champion. If the Irishman is victorious, don’t be surprised to see him challenge Rafael dos Anjos for the lightweight title next.
- Ronda Rousey vs. Miesha Tate III: It’s going to happen. It may not be what everyone feels should be the next step, but it will be. The UFC will be able to build a trilogy fight between these two. The company will be able to sell that, other than Holly Holm, Tate pushed Rousey more than she had ever been pushed before. The UFC will even be able to sell the fact that the first time these two met, Tate was the one wearing the belt, not Rousey. It’s perfect for a historic card such as this, and as much backlash as this is going to get, it should be the main event of UFC New York.
- Jon Jones vs. someone: Clearly lacking here is the specific opponent, because who knows what will happen at UFC 197 and in the time leading up to this event. But, in an ideal world, Jones will again be light heavyweight champion and will be moving up a weight class to take on the reigning heavyweight champion, whomever that may be. Jones, up until the arrivals of McGregor and Rousey, was easily the UFC’s most prized possession. His troubles outside of the cage slowed down his momentum and really opened the door for McGregor to take the top spot, though, so Jones has a lot to prove upon his return. A lot.
- Georges St-Pierre vs. Robbie Lawler (alternate fight option): This is the fight that fans need to have if, and only if, GSP ends his retirement and comes back one last time. It’s a chance for Lawler to prove that he is truly one of the best welterweights by beating the man who is considered the greatest UFC welterweight of all time. The UFC could be put in an odd predicament with this one, though, because if GSP is successful and had only planned on one last fight, then the belt becomes vacant once again and turmoil would ensue. On the other hand, Lawler could pick up easily the biggest win of his entire career and put the icing on the cake that is his meteoric rebirth.
2016 has the potential to be the UFC’s best year. It has the potential to break new ground, both figuratively and physically, with the cards sitting on the horizon. Toss in the added bonus of the chance that Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino could make her UFC debut this year and the UFC has really done everything, other than convince Brock Lesnar to come back and convince Fedor Emelianenko to sign. The potential the UFC has is almost limitless.
In conclusion, UFC 200 is going to suffer, but not in the traditional sense of the word. UFC 200 will get some amazing fights that feature some of the best fighters the UFC has offer. But in reality, the biggest and brightest stars on the UFC roster will be held out to bring an unforgettable card to the state of New York.