The UFC‘s early 2013 schedule is already starting to fill up, as the organization has six events scheduled in the first nine weeks of the year, including a pair of pay-per-views.
Light heavyweights Ryan Bader and Vladimir Matyushenko will meet at UFC on FOX 6, with both former title contenders desperately needing a win. Bader is just 2-3 in his last five after starting off 12-0, and he is coming off of a nasty knockout loss to Lyoto Machida at UFC on FOX 4 in August.
It was reported that Matyushenko was close to retirement, but the 41-year-old will have at least one more bout in the UFC before he calls it quits. He, too, is coming off of a nasty knockout loss, as he’ll compete for the first time since dropping a TKO to Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 141 last December.
Flyweights will square off at UFC 156 on Super Bowl weekend, as Joseph Benavidez is scheduled to meet Ian McCall at the event. Both fighters are coming off of losses to 125-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson, but a win would put either man right back in the title mix. Benavidez is looking to start a new streak after having his five-fight upswing snapped against Johnson, while McCall is looking to bounce back from his arrest earlier this year.
Benavidez’s teammate Urijah Faber will return to the cage later in February, as he is slated to take on Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157 in Anaheim. Faber is in a 1-2 skid, and despite both bouts being in title fights, he really needs a win here. Menjivar has quietly put together a 4-1 UFC record including three stoppages, and he’s looking to build on his “Submission of the Night” over Azmat Gashimov at UFC 154 with a breakout performance against the former world champion.
And finally, fan favorite Mark Hunt will return to action following an injury, as a previously planned bout against Stefan Struve will go down at UFC on FX 8 in Japan on March 2. Hunt will return to Japan for the first time since 2009, and he’ll look to continue his career renaissance against one of the hottest heavyweights in the UFC. Struve could be vying for a title shot, as he looks for his fifth straight stoppage win. And he’ll have a pretty significant height advantage – more than a foot – to work with against Hunt.