The UFC will be coming at viewers in full force this December. The month will feature four events: three title fights and a plethora of talented mixed-martial artists clashing head-to-head.
The biggest event of the month, and arguably the year, will be UFC 194 on Dec. 12 when Brazilian Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo (25-1) will look to defend his title against Irish challenger Conor McGregor (18-2). The event will also feature Middleweight Champion and Long Island native Chris Weidman (13-0), looking to defend his belt against Luke Rockhold (14-2). This event will cap a string of UFC cards taking place over three consecutive days.
Aldo’s lone loss came in 2005 while fighting for the Brazilian Jungle Fight promotion. Since being awarded the title of the UFC featherweight division’s inaugural champion in 2010, Aldo has defended his title seven times against top-notch opponents like Chad Mendes, Frankie Edgar and Ricardo Lamas.
McGregor on the other hand first fought in the UFC in 2013, winning all six fights. After his fifth victory, a knockout against the German Dennis Siver, he earned a title shot against Aldo. A fight between the two was supposed to take place back in July before Aldo suffered a rib injury, resulting in his pulling out of the bout. Mendes stepped in to fight McGregor on short notice for the interim title. After being dominated on the ground by Mendes for most of the fight, McGregor was able to rally for a knockout victory late in the second round, setting up a title unification fight with Aldo.
The brash Irishman has controversially gotten under the skin of just about every opponent he’s faced by verbally degrading them in the build-up before each fight. McGregor called Dustin Poirier a “peahead,” Siver a “Nazi,” Mendes a “midget” and Aldo a “little bitch.”
Assuming it happens, the fight between the McGregor and Aldo will be epic. Both have a vicious stand-up game, which is where the fight will likely take place. Aldo would be wise to use his offensive wrestling game and score some takedowns on McGregor, as Aldo arguably holds an advantage on the ground. While McGregor is a great fighter, his constant trash-talking may work against him. McGregor’s barrage of insults will likely fuel a fire inside Aldo, which could make him more dangerous than he’s ever been. Aldo will want to punish McGregor and has the skill to do it, which could lead to a late knockout.
Right before that fight will be the Weidman/Rockhold bout. Weidman has looked great since defeating the long-tenured middleweight champ, Anderson Silva. After knocking him out, Weidman defended his belt in a rematch against Silva when the latter broke his leg in gruesome fashion when attempting to land a kick. Weidman has since cruised to a decision win over Lyoto Machida and quickly dispatched of Vitor Belfort with ground and pound. Rockhold is on a four-fight winning streak, notably submitting Michael Bisping and Machida to earn a crack at the title.
The two are fairly evenly matched, as both have great ground games and solid striking. Both can end fights via knockout or submission. Weidman is probably a little better all-around and should be able to outstrike Rockhold in the stand-up. The champion will also likely be able to dictate where the fight takes place, as he has never been taken down in any of his nine UFC fights. If Weidman feels that Rockhold starts to get the better of the striking or wants to mix it up, he could probably lean on his offensive wrestling skills to get the fight to the ground. Weidman will likely be one step ahead for most of the fight and could ultimately secure a finish in the middle or later part of the bout.
The other title fight fans will witness in December is on the 19th, when Rafael dos Anjos will seek to defend his lightweight title for the first time against Donald Cerrone. Dos Anjos previously beat Cerrone in a unanimous decision in 2013. “Cowboy” Cerrone, as he’s known as, seems to be a different fighter since that loss. He has won eight straight matches since then, endearing himself to fans with his penchant for wanting to fight as often as possible. His crisp stand-up and solid submission game has helped him achieve his winning-streak in dominating fashion. Dos Anjos dismantled former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in March over five rounds to claim his belt and is riding a four-fight winning streak.
Cerrone and dos Anjos have both proven they have great cardio, so potentially going a full 25 minutes shouldn’t be a problem for either man. An area where dos Anjos holds an advantage is pressure. Cerrone hits a lot but takes a lot of hits in return. Personally, I’d love to see the people’s champ, Cowboy, win, but dos Anjos should be able to apply a furious pressure for five rounds similar to the way he beat Pettis and retain his title.
A day before Aldo and McGregor do battle, Mendes (17-3) and Edgar (18-4-1) will be going at it in the featherweight division in the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale. The winner of the bout may very well get the winner of Aldo and McGregor in a title fight. Both have excellent stand-up and ground-game capabilities. Mendes is coming off that loss to McGregor while Edgar is riding a four-fight winning streak.
It should be a close and entertaining fight. Edgar probably has the advantage in the striking department. Mendes may have more power in his fists, but Edgar will have a six-inch reach advantage and is superior from a technical standpoint. Their wrestling capabilities are very close. Mendes has more explosiveness on his takedown attempts, but Edgar has mastered the art of deceptive takedowns over his career, able to switch from striking, grappling and wrestling without telegraphing it much. Edgar probably has the better cardio between the two, as he’s been involved in many five-round wars over the course of his career, which should help lead him to a hard-fought decision victory over the talented Mendes.
The other card will take place a day before that fight, on Dec. 10, and the card will be headlined by a pair of very talented women in the strawweight division with Paige VanZant (6-1) taking on Rose Namajunas (3-2). VanZant was originally scheduled to face Joanne Calderwood before the latter had to withdraw from the fight due to a knee injury. Instead, she gets a far tougher opponent in Namajunas.
After getting submitted by Carla Esparza in a fight that decided the first strawweight champion, Namajunas pulled off a submission of her own against Angela Hill to get back on track.
VanZant has won all three of her UFC fights so far in a dominating fashion, but none of her previous opponents are on the same level as Namajunas.
VanZant’s main strength is her ability to push a fast and aggressive pace with her striking, as well as having a solid submission game if the fight goes to the ground.
Namajunas is a big step up in competition for VanZant, and fans will see if the hype surrounding VanZant this early in her career is real. VanZant’s best hope of winning is to outwork and frustrate Namajunas with her aggression for five rounds. The problem is that Namajunas is probably too skilled and could expose flaws in VanZant’s defense. If Namajunas is able to outwork VanZant on the feet, she could time a takedown and submit her. It will be interesting to see how this fight goes, but Namajunas should have the advantage.
That card will feature a few other good fights like Mike Chiesa vs. Jim Miller, Sage Northcutt vs. Cody Pfister and Tim Means vs. John Howard. In those fights, I’d favor Chiesa, Northcutt and Means. Chiesa is a solid fighter on the rise while Miller is trending in the other direction after a long career. Northcutt is one of the most hyped prospects in the organization. Pfister shouldn’t be much of a challenge, but the UFC is probably making the right call to develop Northcutt slowly. Means has looked great recently and should put on a striking clinic against Howard en route to a knockout victory.
On the stacked UFC 194 card, one of the most notable non-title bouts is Yoel Romero vs. Ronaldo Souza, the winner will most likely getting the winner of Weidman and Rockhold. If Souza is able to get the fight to the ground, he should be able to submit Romero with his amazing ground abilities. The card will also feature Urijah Faber vs. Frankie Saenz, Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens, Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson and Tecia Torres vs. Jocelyn Jones-Lybarger. Faber has seen better days but should still have enough left in the tank to beat Saenz. Holloway should win convincingly with his arsenal of strikes but Stephens has a puncher’s chance. In a three-round fight, Maia should have enough in his gas tank to control Nelson on the ground. Torres should be able to grind out a decision victory against the promotional newcomer Jones-Lybarger.
The event on Dec. 19 will also feature great fights between Junior Dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem, Michael Johnson vs. Nate Diaz, Randa Markos vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz and Charles Oliveira vs. Myles Jury. The Dos Santos and Overeem fight should favor Junior, but the heavyweight division can be a crapshoot. Johnson and Diaz should be a good fight, and the winner lies on how motivated Diaz is. The safe bet would be Johnson, as he looked good in a controversial decision loss to Beneil Dariush. The talented Markos should win a decision over UFC newcomer Kowalkiewicz, especially since she’s training out of the renowned Tristar Gym. Markos has improved striking to go along with a solid ground-game. Oliveira and Jury will be close. The likely outcome will be either Oliveira submitting Jury or Jury cruising to a decision win.
Now it’s just time to hope that all of these amazing fights happen.