While 2008 was another banner year for the sport of MMA. I really think 2009 could be better in many different respects. These predictions are in no particular order.
1. MMA will become legalized in the state of New York-I just see this getting done at some point this year. It's inevitable.
2. Alistair Overeem will make his UFC debut-Overeem as a HW is scary. The guy is on an absolute tear and is clearly a top ten HW. The guy is marketable and has shown interest in fighting in the UFC. If Dana and Co. keep their word in pursuing the best fighters, then he's one of the guys they need to get.
3. Barring legal setbacks, Rampage Jackson will be the fighter of the year in 2009-Rampage Jackson is capable of beating anyone in the LHW division. The guy has an incredible chin, KO power, and is a well rounded fighter. If he fights Rashad Evans I would give the nod to Rampage right now. I think he would beat Shogun in a re-match, and I think he would beat Lyoto Machida. Simply because Machida will not KO him, nor will be be able to manhandle Jackson the way he did Tito Ortiz. Oh, and he would beat Forrest Griffin in a re-match...I still think he won the first bout.
4. Anderson Silva will lose his MW title-It's something that has to happen at some point. Anytime a fighter goes this long without losing or having a competitive bout they lose some of that edge. A match up with Demian Maia could very well make this prediction a reality.
5. Chuck Liddell will move up to the HW division-I've been calling for this move for months now, and it's the way to keep Liddell viable to the UFC. Liddell will never be LHW champion again, especially with Rampage in the midst of a title shot again. Liddell vs. Lesnar would do huge PPV numbers.
6. Kenny Florian will be the UFC LW champion-Many people think BJ Penn will roll over Florian if they ever fight. However, I see that fight being much more competitive than most people do. I don't know if Florian will beat Penn, or maybe Penn will relinquish the LW belt if he beats GSP at UFC 94. I really think Florian has the drive, confidence, and talent to beat any LW in the UFC right now.
7. Matt Hughes will retire.-Much of this will depend on how his fight with Matt Serra goes. However, I don't see Hughes being competitive with anybody that's in title contention in the WW division. He's always said he'll retire before becoming a gatekeeper, and he's pretty much fitting that bill right now.
8. Tito Ortiz returns to the UFC-This is more of inevitability than a prediction I suppose. Ortiz simply doesn't have any other options. No other promotion can afford him, and he's not the same PPV draw that he once was. Dana White has also gone on record saying that he'll never say never in regards to Ortiz returning.
9. The UFC will surpass PPV totals set in 2008-I know the economy is bad and all, but I expect it to improve at some point in 2009. Also, barring injuries the UFC will be able to count on Chuck Liddell, Rampage Jackson, and possibly Randy Couture for 3 fights each next year. Something the UFC didn't have in 2008. Not to mention Lesnar will be able to fight 3 times again in 2009.
10. Karo Parisyan will be the comeback fighter of the year-Karo had a miserable 2008 from getting KO'ed by Thiago Alves to pulling out of a fight at the last minute at UFC 88 with injuries. Karo was a top ten WW for a long time and at the ripe age of 25 I expect him to come back with something to prove in 2009. He's expected to take on Dong Hyun Kim at UFC 94. A win over a quality opponent like that will get him off on the right track.