2012 offers up a pair of unique title fights and the newly acquired 125-pound weight class. Find out who walks away a champion in the UFC’s first ever 4-man Flyweight tournament. And can either Rashad Evans or Alistair Overeem dethrone current title holders Jon Jones and Junior Dos Santos?

UFC 2012: Flyweight Tourney

March 3rd marks the inception of the UFC’s Flyweight division. A four man tournament between Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall, and Joseph Benavidez vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani will decide the first ever 125 pound champion.

Demetrious Johnson vs. Ian McCall

Demetrious JohnsonAs a former bantamweight fighter for the WEC, Ian McCall has refined both his footwork and striking to reinvent himself as a flyweight. Just last year he defeated Jussier da Silva at Tachi Palace Fights 8-- who at the time was considered the number one flyweight in the world.

The scouting report on McCall tell us a few things: One: He stays busy with outside leg kicks while constantly switching from orthodox to southpaw. Two: There’s big power in his short right hands, as he dropped Darrell Montague with a short right in their first round. 3: Good enough takedown defense to stuff most wrestlers.

However, Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is far from your average wrestler. Over the years we’ve seen him precisely alter his takedown style for MMA. I would even say he possesses the most effective MMA-wrestling in this tournament. The way he was able to clinically outmaneuver both Miguel Torres and Damacio Page bodes horribly for McCall.

I’m expecting Johnson’s wrestling to be the biggest edge either fighter has in this fight, enough to see him into the finals against either Benavidez or Yasuhiro Urushitani.

Joseph Benavidez vs. Yasuhiro Urushitani

Perhaps above any other participant, Joseph Benavidez brings the most impressive resume to this tournament. His only 2 losses are against bantamweight champion Dominck Cruz – the latest coming in a split decision at WEC 50.

Since the loss to Cruz, he’s reeled off three straight wins -- including a dominant submission over Wagnney Fabiano. Like most “Team Alpha Male” fighters, Benavidez is known for his bone crushing guillotine chokes. That same power-submission game, combined with the knockout power in his right hook makes him a marginal favorite to win this tournament -- Demetrious Johnson being a close second.

Yasuhiro Urushitani, meanwhile, is expected to be the overwhelming underdog in this tournament. More than anything, he lacks the finishing ability of the other three. Through 29 fights he has just 5 finishes to his 15 decisions. He simply isn’t equipped with the same caliber of wrestling as the other three.

Benavidez’s must evade the accuracy of Urushitani’s straight left while circling away from the power in his head kicks. He either clamps onto a fight ending choke or earns a knockout before the 3rd.

2012 Heavyweight Championship: Dos Santos vs. Overeem

For Alistair Overeem, knocking out Brock Lesnar at UFC 141 meant an immediate title shot against Heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos later this year.

This match-up begs two basic questions: How does Dos Santos deal with the strength of Overeem’s clinch game, and can Overeem adapt to the speed and punching power of Junior’s boxing?

It’s been proven countess times: the human body simply isn’t conditioned to absorb Alistair’s knees. Just like the power in Junior’s right hand, Overeem’s knees from the clinch are the biggest threat to his opponent’s consciousness. Former UFC fighter’s Brock Lesnar and Todd Duff were the latest to contemplate retirement after absorbing fully cocked knees from “The Reem”. .

Shortly after retiring Brock Lesnar with a liver kick, UFC odds makers opened Overeem as a +185 underdog against the champion. In the last few days, however, heavy money has dropped the price on the challenger. Fans were so impressed with the Lesnar performance that we’re now seeing almost a 60 cent shift in favor of Overeem. My guess is we may see something closer to EV by fight time.

To retain the title belt, Dos Santos will need to utilize his fast hands and brilliant combinations on the outside. He needs to stay tight and guarded with his uppercut without becoming too predictable against Alistair’s short, concise counters. If he can successfully land from the outside I like his chances of finishing Overeem within 2 rounds.

Rivalry of the Year: Rashad Evans vs. Jon “Judas” Jones”

Jon JonesThe growing rivalry between former teammates Rashad Evan and Jon Jones sets the stage for the largest PPV sales of the year.

However, before finalizing the contract, Evans must defeat undefeated Phil Davis at the UFC on FOX 2 main-event. Currently, the line for that matchup is holding firm around -155 at Pinnacle. Phil’s decorated wrestling pedigree almost single handily puts the blockbuster matchup between Evans and Jones in jeopardy. It also happens to be what’s created so much volatility in UFC betting line -- moving it as low as -145, and as high as -170.

After the betrayal by Jones and his former Coach, Evans created his own team known as the Blackzilians - who train in Florida out of the Imperial Athletics training center. Right now, the team consists of current UFC fighters Anthony Johnson and Melvin Guillard, as well as Strikeforce contender Gesias Cavalcante. On paper, it’s a well assembled blend of top notch wrestling and increasingly dynamic striking. 

Since the transition to Imperial Athletics, Evans went on to decimate Tito Ortiz within two rounds at UFC 133. Throughout the fight, Evans showcased improved striking behind some newfound aggression. He looked a lot more committed to his strikes and showed a much more varied attack. 

Jon Jones, meanwhile, has gone on to secure the most dominant title run in light-heavyweight history. Consecutively destroying Shogun Rua, Rampage Jackson, and Lyoto Machida solidifies his spot as the top pound for pound fighter in the world. At this point, after just 4 years of training, I already view Jones as the greatest MMA fighter to ever enter the octagon. 

Evans seems to be banking on whatever advantage he had in past sessions with Jones. Truthfully, I don’t think that helps him one bit after almost a year of Jon’s evolution. Jon Jones is evolving into an increasingly puzzling enigma each time he enters the cage. The longer Evans waits for this fight, the more dynamic he’s allowing Jones to become. When it comes to placing my UFC picks, I’m willing to lay a heavy price on the champion keeping his belt here.