The UFC’s groundbreaking television deal with FOX was an astronomical accomplishment for the sport of MMA, but the fighters are still the ones that ultimately have to move the needle with their performances. As we’re steadily approaching the end of 2011, fans can look forward to watching all seven UFC champions put their belts up for grabs over the next few months.
Everything starts this Saturday when middleweight king Anderson Silva defends his throne against Yushin Okami at UFC 134. The pay-per-view broadcast marks the Octagon’s first show on Brazilian soil since 1998.
Light heavyweight champ Jon Jones will then headline UFC 135 opposite Quinton “Rampage” Jackson on September 24th inside the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado. The 205-pound shootout marks Jones’ first title defense.
Dominick Cruz takes the bling-bling reins after “Bones” when he puts his bantamweight belt on the line against Demetrious Johnson at “UFC on Versus 6.” The October 1st broadcast is the first time a UFC title fight will air for free on live American television.
The Toyota Center in Houston, Texas will offer up a double-dose of championship affairs on October 8th. Featherweight champ Jose Aldo will meet Kenny Florian in UFC 136’s co-main event, while lightweight champion Frankie Edgar defends his crown for the second consecutive time against Gray Maynard in the night’s featured attraction. The overall card is perhaps the most star-studded the Octagon has offered all year.
Welterweight king Georges St-Pierre meets former Strikeforce champ Nick Diaz at UFC 137 on October 29th. The scrap could be viewed as an unofficial 170-pound title unification bout considering Diaz vacated his belt to swim in GSP’s pond.
Last but certainly not least, Cain Velasquez (Pictured) makes his first heavyweight championship defense when he squares off against Junior dos Santos at UFC 139 on November 19th. Velasquez hasn’t been seen since steamrolling Brock Lesnar for the strap in October 2010.
The best part of it all is that the UFC is notorious for hosting spectacular New Year’s weekend shows. It will be interesting to see what they have up their sleeves this year considering no hardware will be unavailable.