Which five fights are you most anticipating on the December 2015 MMA schedule, and why?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
The MMA Snob in me desperately wants to find a way to get away with saying that Georgi Karakhanyan vs. Daniel Weichel is one of my five top fights for the month of December. Let’s see if I can pull it off. Looking chronologically…
December 10 – Whilst Chiesa vs. Miller, PVZ vs. Thug Rose, and Eduardo vs. Sterling (I bet you forgot about that one, didn’t you? Buried in the middle of a Fight Pass prelim undercard and all) are fantastic, I can’t imagine any of them are top-five fights this month. Karakhanyan vs. Weichel is safe for now.
December 11 – OK, I’m not trying to come up with a conclusion and then find evidence that only backs up what I want to see. I’m not Obama, after all. So Edgar vs. Mendes? Yeah. Karakhanyan vs. Weichel is a distant #2 now. Dunham vs. Lauzon would have been great in 2010. Now, fun, but I don’t think so. Ferguson vs. Barboza though? Shit. That’s already two fights ahead of Karakhanyan vs. Weichel.
December 12 – To be honest, I’m at most 50% as hyped for Aldo vs. McGregor as I was a week and a half out of their originally planned UFC 189 fight. Of course, my hype-meter back then scored an infinity, and the meter actually only goes from 1 to 10, so yeah. Aldo vs. McGregor is up there way way WAY high. Oh, um, so is Weidman vs. Rockhold. So is Jacare vs. anyone (and for that matter, so is Romero vs. anyone). Gee, I didn’t even make it one weekend before losing Karakhanyan vs. Weichel. Some MMA Snob I turned out to be. And, yeah, it slides behind Maia vs. Nelson too, but ahead of Holloway vs. Stephens.
December 18 – TYRONE SPONG IS FIGHTING SOMEONE WITH A PULSE! I’m ok with this, because while he might only somewhat appeal to my MMA Snob side, he does appeal to by Kickboxing Poser Fan side. So, Spong vs. Heun is on my radar too. [Ed. Note: We’re attempting to talk the author of this post off of the ledge following the latest injury to Spong.]
December 19 – Shit. There’s still more high level MMA? It’s like we haven’t had one loaded card since mid-July or so, and now we’re just overloaded. It’s like some guy who’s never gotten laid in his entire life, finds a genie in a bottle, and well, figure out what his wishes might be (hint, they’re all the same wish). RDA vs. Cerrone 2? Yup. JDS vs. Overeem? Yup. Jury vs. Oliveira? Um… Almost, but not quite. Nate Diaz vs. Johnson? Nah. But, sleeper alert, I love McCrory vs. Samman.
So, let’s tally this up.
1.) Weidman vs. Rockhold
2.) Aldo vs. McGregor
3.) Jacare vs. Romero
4.) McCrory vs. Samman (to keep some of my MMA Snob bona fides in play)
5.) Edgar vs. Mendes (might be a point-fighting clinic, but it might be FOTY, too)
6.) RDA vs. Cerrone 2
7.) JDS vs. Overeem (assuming it stays together)
8.) Spong vs. a ham sandwich
9.) Ferguson vs. Barboza
10.) Maia vs. Nelson
11.) Karakhanyan vs. Weichel
So, I’m no MMA Snob. I love the same damn fights everyone else does. I couldn’t even get Karakhanyan vs. Weichel into my top 10. I’m going to go crawl into my custom-built YAMMA pit and cry myself to sleep now.
MICHAEL BANE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
No hidden gems or up and coming talents on my list, but I will leave you with nod to the John Cusack classic High Fidelity in my “Top 5 Fights for December.”
1. Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold – Both of these guys are unbeatable. Outside of a TRT infused Belfort kick to the head, Rockhold has been dominant. The amount of muscle he packs onto his lanky frame is getting downright scary. Weidman, on the other hand, doesn’t even seem to have gotten hurt in any of his fights. He took the best that both Machida and Belfort had to throw at him, and shrugged it off before winning those fights. If we want to do some MMA math, Weidman beat Machida by decision, whereas Rockhold beat the mess out of him before choking him out in two rounds. I’ve been picking Rockhold for months now, but it’s really hard to gauge who’s going to win a fight between two guys with no apparent weaknesses.
2. Chad Mendes vs. Frankie Edgar – Much like the aforementioned Wiedman vs. Rockhold fight, these two guys dominate everyone put in front of them, with the exception of Jose Aldo. Mendes generates an immense amount of power in his stocky frame, and that’s just gravy on a wrestling base that is one of the best in his division. His striking has improved to the point he’s one of the better knockout artists in the UFC right now. Edgar’s textbook boxing and head movement are among the most technical at 145 lbs. He shows a ridiculous amount of natural strength as well, I’d argue he’s one of the strongest P4P fighters in the UFC. Couple that with an ability to take an unhealthy amount of punishment, and he’s a guy who can hang with anyone in any aspect of the game. It’s high stakes, with the winner on the short list for the next title shot, and easily one of the best fights of the year on paper.
3. Jose Aldo vs. Connor McGregor – It’s hard to pick against Aldo, but the tidal wave of McGregor hype can’t help but start to convince people that he can win. Aldo is exceptionally violent, and while he hasn’t had a great finishing rate over the past couple of years, he exhibits very few weaknesses. He’s also won so many consecutive fights it’s hard to imagine anything other than his hand raised at the end of a match. McGregor showed he deserved to be among the elite when he took the interim belt in a bout against Mendes in July. He’s huge for a featherweight, and uses his reach to fire pinpoint strikes with an uncanny amount of power. He’s one of the few fighters that can actually put someone on the floor with a straight jab. A McGregor win would be huge for the UFC and the featherweight division, but Aldo is a good bet to crash that particular party for his 19th straight win. Unlike most of the free world, this isn’t my #1 fight of the month, but that says more about how highly I view the preceding two fights than my feelings about this one. I am pumped to see this fight, almost as much as any I’ve ever anticipated.
4. Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem – It seems like Overeem has been ducking dos Santos for a while now. Originally scheduled to meet in 2012, Overeem pulled out of their bout citing injury. While they’ve talked enough trash over the past couple of years, every time dos Santos was ready to fight, Overeem was taking time off. Vice versa, whenever dos Santos needed a rest or was between fights, Overeem appeared to be clamoring for fights at that time. Finally the waiting is (hopefully) over. The fight has lost a lot of luster as the Reem had a string of three knockout losses in four fights. Dos Santos has taken some brutal punishment in his losses to Cain Velasquez, and he looks more like a plodding, muscle bound fighter who’s willing to eat too many punches. This is a far cry from the athletic, technical boxer who first capture the UFC title. Regardless, it’s two very strong heavyweights who love striking going at it in January. The winner will be very close to a title shot, due to the lack of depth in the division. I expect fireworks, trash talk, and someone’s head to bounce of the canvas when this fight finally takes place.
5. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone – It was a bit of a tossup for me here with this fight and Jacare Souza against Yoel Romero, but in the end, I’ll take the fight that has the title on the line to round out my top 5. Dos Anjos is really kind of a shocking champ at 155 lbs., as many didn’t expect him to beat Benson Henderson or Donald Cerrone the first time they fought. Nobody saw him running through Anthony Pettis to claim the title in March. Cerrone is a fan favorite who’s always come up just short when the stakes are highest. He puts on an exciting fight, and has shown a willingness to fight whenever, wherever, and against whomever is available (it’s because he needs the money). He’s also riding an incredible eight fight winning streak over the past two years since his loss to dos Anjos. Cerrone is very well rounded, and always try to have an exciting fight. I’m looking forward to seeing whether dos Anjos can take control of the fight like he did against Pettis, or if Cerrone will have adjusted enough to make the champ’s first title defense his last.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
I really want to see UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor and UFC Middleweight Champion Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold at UFC 194. I also really want to see UFC Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone and Junior Dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem at UFC on FOX 17. Those are in order of my anticipation. The last of the five is actually the fight that’s the soonest: Rose Namajunas vs. Paige VanZant at UFC Fight Night 80. I’m expecting all these fights to be really good and exciting. This is a great month for fights and I’m damn excited for them. I think all these fights end in decisive victory and explosive fashion.
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
There are a lot more than five fights that I’m anticipating this month, so limiting my choosing to just five is a pain in the ass.
Aldo-McGregor has to be the most anticipated by far, as Aldo has been the most dominant champion currently holding a belt (Jon Jones will likely change that soon enough), and McGregor proved himself to be the real deal when he put down Chad Mendes. The buildup has been coming on for almost a year now and its about damn time that it spills over. I would have said that Aldo was going to walk all over McGregor back in July, but now I’m not so sure.
What I anticipate the most after that is extremely difficult to say. Is it Edgar-Mendes? Weidman-Rockhold? Dos Anjos-Cerrone? Dos Santos-Overeem? Jacare-Romero? Ferguson-Barboza? This really sucks trying to figure it out. I’ll say Weidman-Rockhold is next since both have looked unstoppable over the past two plus years. Edgar-Mendes comes in third, as Edgar is a pure joy for me to watch, while Mendes might be one of the few with the strength and quickness to cause him problems. Jacare-Romero comes in next, as this is another fight that has been in the making for almost a year with injury or illness robbing us every time. Dos Anjos-Cerrone will round out my top five as I can only imagine how Cerrone will come out of the gate seeing as how he has been pent up since May.
My honorable mentions include the aforementioned dos Santos-Overeem, Ferguson-Barboza, Van Zant-Namajunas, Maia-Nelson, Holloway-Stephens, Johnson-Diaz, Oliveira-Jury, Lauzon-Dunham, and Weichel-Karakhanyan. That is a lot of MMA to look forward to. Happy Holidays indeed…