–Kenny Rice

Never has the MMA world had a more productive, news making, intriguing and simply fun year as 2011. With that, it is difficult to find the right gift or even the perfect stocking stuffer for so many, but just as you make those final runs at the mall gauntlet, we must persevere.  There are still important things to wrap up to have ready under the MMA tree for this coming Sunday morning.

Here is the Christmas wishes I send to all.

Georges St. Pierre—  A speedy recovery from major knee surgery. The Welterweight champ is expected out of action until late in 2012.  He only had one title defense this season against Jake Shields in April, but that seems so long ago. As one of the marquee names in the sport, he can’t afford lengthy absences between fights; He’s too good and has too many fans, and everyone hates to see one of the best in the history of the sport have a career cut short by injuries.

Jon Jones—  What to give the talented youngster who appears to have it all already? Four wins this year, the UFC Light Heavyweight championship he took from Mauricio Rua and two impressive title defenses. For Jones only more of the same, and if any fighter deserves to cut back in 2012, it would be him.  Although at the height of popularity and money making time off would be doubtful. The fighter of 2011 could be holding on to that distinction for several years to come.

Anderson Silva—  To find an opponent worthy enough to keep his interest for at least a round. Okay it’s easier written than done. He might be the best MMA fighter ever, with the longest UFC winning streak at 14, the most successful title defenses at 9. But the Middleweight King has only gone past the second round four times in his last 15 fights. Two of those were of his own choosing, clownish antics against Thales Leites in UFC 99 and against Demian Maia in UFC 112, embarrassingly taunting for five rounds. Granted those fiascos almost hurt Silva when he faced a very real threat in Chael Sonnen in UFC 117 when it took a miracle finish submission with just over a minute remaining in the final round to keep his belt. Is there somebody who can seriously challenge him again? I think he would like to find out as well.

Alistair Overeem— Clean tests to once and for all put the focus on the Octagon as he at last makes his UFC debut. There, fans can at last see if it was his record against some Dream and Strikeforce opponents that was really pumped up.

Brock Lesnar—  As he makes his comeback from illness once again to take on Overeem, wishes for a much more improved striking game to go along with his already awesome ground power.

Dan Henderson—  For that Fountain of Youth he obviously has tucked away in his backyard to continue to flow deep. His UFC return victory over Rua was not even close to textbook, but the heart and will were straight out of Hollywood. When most of his peer group from Pride days are contemplating or have retired, Hendo just goes on, thankfully.

Gilbert Melendez—  A Lightweight unification title fight with the UFC’s best Frankie Edgar. The Strikeforce poster boy has grown into a man with so much talent that only Edgar appears able to challenge and 2012 would be the perfect time for the UFC to welcome him into the mix.

Frankie Edgar—  A giant bow on his amazing trilogy with Gray Maynard.  He is a terrific, gutsy champion whose meteoric rise over the past two years shows no sign of burnout. I believe he would welcome the shot at Melendez.

Dominick Cruz—  An appearance on “Dancing With The Stars.” The first UFC Bantamweight champ had two successful title defenses in ’11 and continues to exhibit some of the most amazing foot work, though not always conventional, in all of MMA.

Christiane “Cyborg” Santos—  What to wish for the greatest female fighter ever? Competition before she gets bored. Ronda Rousey has done a fine job lobbying for her shot, and in time it would be realistic, but in the foreseeable future perhaps Cyborg drops from 145 to 135 to take on the other Stikeforce champ Meisha Tate. Can Tate beat her? I don’t know, but at least it would be a unifying bout in the female division and create some interest, which is lacking because Santos has been so dominate with everyone else.

Tito Ortiz—  A solid win to retire on. As one of the true legendary fighters who helped establish the UFC, and who saved his place in the organization this year with a must win, he deserves not to go quietly into that not always good night of the sport in 2012.

Chael Sonnen—  A dose of humility. Not that his antics aren’t enjoyable at times, but here’s wishing he bears down against the tough Mark Munoz or all that smack talk for his rematch with Silva will smack him back as hard as he gave.

Rashad Evans—  A title shot against Jones. Is there anyone who doesn’t want to see if the former champ can challenge the almost unbeatable king of the moment?

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson—  Another good movie role. Not that he’s finished in the cage, but he sure was entertaining as “B.A.” in the underrated “A Team” flick.

Randy Couture & Chuck Liddell—  Long careers outside the Octagon. They were the faces of the UFC for a decade, and key in bringing mainstream interest to the sport. Here’s hoping their acting careers continue to flourish.

Carlos Condit—  More classy returns. He handled the debacle of not getting to fight GSP with such aplomb he is the case study for the next fighter who doesn’t get justice. Now he gets Nick Diaz for an interim belt, well deserved for a man who is a role model.

Nick Diaz—  For more people to get to know him. He’s bright, deep and compelling. The dark side he often shows publicly belies a hard working, studious side of nutrition and life approach to being such a threat every time he enters the cage.

Urijah Faber—  A fun coaching experience, which should be second nature. After all Faber is the Alpha of his NoCal group already and the upcoming season of TUF will showcase his ability to teach. Plus he gets Faber-Cruz III out of the deal.

Every Fighter Failing Drug Tests—  ‘fess up, clean you conscious then your body. What goes into you during preparation for a fight is ultimately your responsibility.

Fedor Emelianko—  A return to the U.S. against a quality opponent. Be it heavyweight or light heavy (which might suit him best) it would be good for an American audience to see one of the best at one time try and show why he is referred to as The Last Emperor, after anything but royal showings during his last fights in the States.

Jens Pulver, Don Frye & a few more—  A career in judging. The sport could use notables with knowledge scoring these fights. The current judges would appreciate their expertise. And it’s tough to watch such once viable guys struggling to stay in the game.

New York vs. MMA—  Real dialogue in 2012. Enough with the rhetoric of too violent, etc. there is more to it than that in keeping the fastest growing sport out of the capitol of entertainment. It should be frank, no holds barred about the real reason for the hold up.

Bas Rutten-–  Everything he wants and to always party on. The best analyst in the sport and the most loved by fans and media. Bigger things are ahead in 2012 as a co-star in the next Kevin James movie. He will dazzle you with his acting chops just as he did for so many years in the ring.

To all the Inside MMA Viewers–happiness, health and prosperity. Thank you for another great year.

And to all a good night. Merry Christmas.


Don’t miss Kenny Rice along with Bas Rutten for The Bazzie Awards celebrating the best in MMA in 2012, this Monday Dec. 26th at 8 PM ET.

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