10 Fighters to Watch in 2010

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10 Fighters to Watch in 2010

2009 was a huge year for the sport of MMA. Strikeforce emerged as the first organization capable of challenging the UFC, while fighters like Jose Aldo and Dan Hardy burst on to the scene.

Some of the sport’s best further proved their greatness with Fedor Emelianenko , Anderson Silva, and Georges St. Pierre all making cases to be considered the best pound for pound fighter in the world.

As the sport continues to grow, 2010 should be filled with plenty of great story lines of its own. These ten fighters should play a prominent role in this year’s headlines.

1. Jon Jones-UFC Light Heavyweight

Along with having one of the best nicknames in the sport, Jon “Bones” Jones also had one of the most impressive 2009′s. Jones picked up wins over Stephan Bonnar and Jake O’Brien in ’09 and was dominating Matt Hamil in a December fight before being disqualified for throwing several illegal elbows.

He is one of the most promising 205 pounders in the world and will face his toughest test to date when he takes on Brandon Vera in March.

2. Junior Dos Santos-UFC Heavyweight

Dos Santos already has one win under his belt in 2010 and his last two victories over Pride legends Gilbert Yvel and Mirko Filipovic have shown that he is the real deal. The 25 year old will take on fellow Brazilian Gabriel Gonzaga in March and could be just one or two wins away from title contention.

At some point though, Dos Santos will need to prove that he is more than just a striker, the skill he has relied on heavily thus far.

3. Bobby Lashley-Strikeforce Heavyweight

Lashley, like  Brock Lesnar, is a former WWE superstar who unlike Lesnar has eased his way into his professional fighting career. The American Top Team fighter is 4-0 with all four of his wins coming in different organizations.

In 2010 he will look to find stability fighting for Strikeforce. Lashley was scheduled to make his promotional debut later this month but the bout now appears to be in jeopardy as the organization has struggled to settle on an opponent for the massive heavyweight.

4. Gegard Mousasi-Strikeforce Light Heavyweight

Despite being only 24 years old, Mousasi has accumulated 28 career victories including an impressive 15 in a row. It has been nearly two years since an opponent has so much as taken “The Dreamcatcher” to a decision and the biggest question for him, is whether or not Strikeforce’s Light Heavyweight Division has enough quality foes to offer him.

A possible matchup with recently acquired Dan Henderson could be interesting, but he is already slated to face Jake Shields when he makes his debut in April.

5. Paul Daley-UFC Welterweight

The British knockout artist has been very impressive in his first two UFC appearances, making short work of Martin Kampmann and Dustin Hazelett.

After his last win, “Semtex” called out proven welterweights Thiago Alves and Josh Koscheck. He will likely get the chance to back up his words when he faces off against Koscheck at UFC 113 in Montreal this May.

6. Ben Henderson-WEC Lightweight

With B.J. Penn having such a stranglehold on MMA’s lightweight division, it is hard to find another 155 pound fighter worth paying attention to. The WEC has been viewed by many as a “minor league” compared to the UFC, but fighters like Henderson are changing that perception.

With wins over Donald Cerrone and Jamie Varner and a superhuman ability to escape submissions, Henderson is quickly becoming one of the most poplar young fighters in the world.

7. Chuck Liddell UFC Light Heavyweight

Many fans believe the former 205 pound king is washed up, but Liddell seems to think otherwise. Liddell makes the list not because anyone is excited to see him fight Tito Ortiz for the third time, but because 2010 may be the final time we see him step into the Octagon.

Very few fighters have done as much for the popularity of the sport as Liddell has, but in his last few fights he has looked way past his prime.  This year we’ll find out if he has one more run in him or if he is in fact done.

8. Urijah Faber-WEC Featherweight

No fighter has done more for an organization than Faber has for the WEC and they have rewarded him by making the “California Kid” the first to challenge new champ Jose Aldo for his title.

After winning 13 fights in a row, Faber has lost two of his last four and has never faught someone as talented as Aldo. 2010 is the year he will either regain his title or become a stepping stone for up and coming fighters.

9. Brian Bowles-WEC Bantamweight

When Bowles took on Miguel Torres in August, it had been nearly six years since Torres had been defeated. It took the baby faced Georgian less than four minutes to end that streak.

Bowles is unbeaten in eight fights as a professional and will make his first title defense in March when he takes on 14-1 Dominick Cruz. If he can pass that test, a rematch with Torres will likely be in the works.

10. Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva-UFC Welterweight and Middleweight Champions

Both St.Pierre and Silva are in interesting positions having basically cleaned out their respective weight classes. That seems to leave one logical next step: have them fight each other.

The fight would undoubtedly generate more hype than any in recent memory, but the size difference would put St. Pierre at a significant disadvantage.

Upcoming MMA Events

Strikeforce: Miami-January 30, 2010 Live on Showtime from the BankAtlantic Center in Sunrise, Florida

UFC 109: Relentless-February 6, 2010 Live on Pay-Per-View from the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada

UFC 110: Nogueira vs. Velasquez- February 20, 2010 Live on Pay-Per-View from Acer Arena in Sydney, New South Wales, Australia

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