By Dwight Wakabayashi
The start of the 2013 UFC event schedule is just 10 days away and the stage is set for a much better year ahead in both Canada and around the entire world. Despite the injury-plagued 2012 wreaking havoc on many fights and shows, including UFC 149 in Calgary, it was a very successful year for the UFC in Canada as a whole.
The country will look to build on that momentum with four and possibly five shows planned for the hectic 2013 event schedule, with the first one, UFC 158: St-Pierre vs. Diaz set for March 16 in Montreal. The entire schedule has not been announced yet, but expect a show in Toronto and at least one in Western Canada to round out the Canadian event schedule.
UFC 158 in Montreal has already scheduled eight of Canada’s best fighters in big fights for their respective careers in 2013. Georges St-Pierre, Rory MacDonald, Nick Ring, John Makdessi, Patrick Cote, Yves Jabouin, Sean Pierson and newcomer Jordan Mein are all scheduled for action on the card.
The champion GSP will defend his title against Stockton, Calif., bad boy and dangerous fighter Nick Diaz in a bout that the champ asked for personally. Rory MacDonald will also be on this card in a rematch vs. Carlos Condit in a fight that will play a big role in how his year plays out as well. If St-Pierre and MacDonald come out of the gates with wins, it will create the inevitable buzz of these two being on a collision course for the title. They have both stated emphatically that they will not fight each other, but something may have to give in 2013 where these two Canadians are concerned.
The year will see some Canadian fighters making their long-awaited debuts in the UFC and none more than Mein, who will square off against veteran Dan Miller in Montreal. Mein will finally benefit from the UFC taking over Strikeforce and is now on the UFC roster full time going forward. While Mein is the only one currently officially scheduled for a debut in 2013, other Canadian fighters like TUF finalist Mike Ricci, TUF contestant Michael Hill and Score Fighting Series stalwarts Jesse Ronson and Josh Hill are all on the cusp of getting that fight in the big show in the coming months.
Canada had one of its best removed from the UFC roster with the retirement of Mark Hominick, but there are many others on the roster who are set to make some real noise in the UFC in 2013. Here is a quick look at the five prominent Canadian fighters looking to carry strong momentum in the UFC last year into 2013.
The lightweight out of Nova Scotia is coming off his best year yet and has arguably cracked the world top 10. He is set to face Matt Wiman at UFC on FOX 6 in Chicago on Jan. 26. If he beats Wiman, he could be set for fight against a true contender like Rafael dos Anjos, Edson Barboza or Jamie Varner sometime in 2013.
The Edmonton light-heavyweight’s debut could not have been any better with his one-punch knockout of veteran Anthony Perosh in July. It instantly put him in the consciousness of fans everywhere and he gets a chance to follow it up on Feb. 16 at UFC on FUEL TV 7 against a much tougher James Te Huna. If Jimmo can get a dominant win there as well, he will fast-track himself up the 205-pound ladder to the likes of Ryan Bader, Matt Hamill or Vladimir Matsyushenko in two short fights.
The Tristar lightweight is coming off the best win of his career over Sam Stout in November and his next fight is already set for UFC 158 in Montreal against young beast Daron Cruickshank. The winner will announce himself as the best new rising star in the division behind the likes of Anthony Pettis, Gilbert Melendez and possibly Eddie Alvarez.
Ring missed a big opportunity after having to withdraw from his fight at UFC 154 against Costa Philippou due to illness, and he only fought once in 2012. His win over Court McGee was close and controversial, and he needs a follow-up win to keep his momentum. He is set to face Chris Camozzi, who is on a three-fight winning streak and the winner here will get a big fight in the summer of 2013.
The Oshawa native established himself as Canada’s best featherweight in 2012 and is coming off back-to-back wins over Daniel Pineda and Rodrigo Damm. He has nothing scheduled yet in 2013 but look for Carvalho to get a fight with another established name early in the new year. This is a big year for the 33-year old to get a three- or four-fight win streak going and possibly crack the top-10 rankings. Possible opponents for Carvalho include George Roop, Pablo Garza, Mike Brown and Nam Phan.
There are big things ahead this year for the UFC in Canada with many other fighters on the roster either healing from injuries or waiting for their next fight offer from the UFC. Barring a major catastrophe, 2013 will have the most events in Canada in one year in the promotion’s history with at least four.
It could even be the year that a TUF Canada reality show is announced, something that UFC director of Canadian operations Tom Wright has been working on for over a year.
Canada will be front and centre in the world of combat sports in 2013.
Dwight Wakabayashi is a featured columnist for Bleacher Report UFC and regular contributor to Sportsnet.ca’s UFC section. Follow him on Twitter @wakafightermma.