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Who Might Get the First Crack at James Toney in the UFC?

James ToneyIn processing the news of James Toney signing with the UFC, the mind quickly shifts to who Toney will face in his maiden voyage in the octagon. While Dana White had no information on a date or opponent to give MMA Fighting while confirming his signing, it's always fun to speculate on who it could be.

There is a set of assumptions we can make about a prospective opponent. First, rather than risk a promising young fighter losing to Toney and losing momentum, it's safe to assume the UFC will try to match him with a veteran. So guys like Cain Velasquez and Todd Duffee are probably out. Second, the promotion will pair him with a name fighter. At 41 years old, Toney's days in MMA are limited, and the UFC knows they need to cash in immediately. Third, Toney won't get a gimme in his first time out; he wants a big payday, and he knows there are only a few opponents who will bring it. Finally, weight class doesn't matter. I have a feeling Toney's first time out may well be a catch weight.

That said, here are MMA Fighting's handicaps on the odds of his likely opponent:

Chuck Liddell (3:1) - Liddell seems like the best fit for Toney's debut. Though the UFC has money invested in the last fight of Liddell's trilogy with Tito Ortiz, they may switch plans if they can make more with Liddell-Toney, which seems quite possible. Also, both Liddell and Toney have few fights left in their careers; why not pair them against each other?

Randy Couture (4:1) - Amazingly enough, this fight was talked about once, years ago. Couture only wants big fights, and a Couture-Toney fight would get massive media exposure.

Kimbo Slice (6:1) - Slice has an May date against Matt Mitrione, but after making his name as a backyard brawler, it would be interesting to see him against a star boxer, even if it is in an MMA cage rather than a boxing ring. Because Slice isn't thought of as a future champion, there would be little risk to his reputation in such a matchup as well. The fight would be a win-win proposition.

The Shane Carwin-Frank Mir UFC 111 loser (8:1) - This may seem a bit more far-fetched than most as Toney isn't really ready for a huge hitter who can take him to the ground, but he's said he'll face anyone, and this could be a way for Dana White to prove MMA's superiority over boxing as a combat sport.

Anderson Silva (12:1) - A darkhorse, but maybe more possible than we might imagine. Silva's always wanted to box Roy Jones; maybe Toney would help him quell his desire to face a boxer. He is big enough to fight Toney even at heavyweight, and he may campaign for the opportunity. The "Boxing Champ vs. MMA Champ" storyline is also an easy one to sell.

Rampage Jackson (15:1) - Jackson has said he may be done with the UFC after fighting Rashad Evans at UFC 114, but perhaps a chance at a big payday against Toney might lure him back into the fold.

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