With only a month remaining until the new year, it is time to compile a list of the top 9 fights to see throughout the month of December. With four UFC cards and two Bellator cards to look forward to, there are a variety of fights to choose from. The list I have complied is based on the significance (title fight/main event) and overall potential of the match-up.
1. Benson Henderson vs. Nate Diaz [UFC on FOX 5]
The lightweight title fight between Benson Henderson and Nate Diaz headlines a stacked UFC on FOX 5 card on December 8th. Both competitors have been a part of some of the most exciting lightweight bouts in recent memory and that will certainly not change when they collide. Henderson is coming off two close decision wins over former champ Frankie Edgar whilst Diaz has finished some of the divisions top competitors including Donald Cerrone and Jim Miller, earning himself the next title shot. In placing this fight as the headlining bout on their FOX show, the UFC has shown faith that these lightweight will put on a show to remember.
2. Junior Dos Santos vs. Cain Velasquez II [UFC 155]
The final UFC bout of 2012 could very well be one of the best of the entire year. Whilst the first outing may have lasted under a minute, the chances of repetition are slim at best. Rumours circulated that Velasquez was not healthy going into UFC on FOX and had suffered a knee injury during his training camp. His performance in the rematch will determine how much of a factor the injured knee truly played on his performance. Likewise, dos Santos will be looking to prove that the first win was not a fluke by finishing Cain in similar fashion.
3. Rory MacDonald vs. B.J. Penn [UFC on FOX 5]
This fight is a must watch for several reasons. Firstly, it marks the return of a UFC legend in BJ Penn, who had tentatively retired from MMA after a loss to Nick Diaz. After a year’s absence from the octagon, fans and media alike are interested in finding out how seriously Penn has taken his training heading into UFC on FOX 5. His stamina and motivation have been in question before and have arguably cost him several fights in the past. Tristar’s top prospect Rory MacDonald, is no easy fight for the former two-division champ. MacDonald’s only UFC loss came against Carlos Condit and he has since been on a three fight win streak that includes wins over Nate Diaz, Che Mills and Mike Pyle. If Penn does not come into this fight at his best, it will almost definitely be his final Octagon outing.
4. Brad Pickett vs. Eddie Wineland [UFC 155]
This is potentially a Fight of the Year candidate and could very likely steal the show come December 29th. Brad Pickett and Eddie Wineland are both fan favourites because of their aggressive and exciting in-ring style. Whilst both are generally well rounded fighters, they prefer to keep the fight standing and attempt to knock their opponent’s heads off. Wineland recently picked up his first UFC win, a devastating second round KO over Scott Jorgensen. The win vaulted Wineland back to the upper echelon of the bantamweight division, where he now prepares to face another top 135 pounder. Pickett is also coming off a spectacular knockout of Yves Jabouin and will be looking for another when he steps into the cage at UFC 155.
This is a fight you do not want to miss.
With the sudden retirement of Cole Konrad, this particular heavyweight tournament final will determine the next champion in the division, which significantly ups the stakes for this fight. Hale is coming off a spectacular knockout of Thiago Santos back in October and will be riding that wave of momentum into the finals against Russian striker Alexander Volkov. Volkov administered a dominant beating on Bret Rogers in the quarterfinals and followed up with a TKO over Vinicius Queiroz. He will present the toughest test to date for Hale and it will be interesting to see if he is capable of rising to the occasion.
6. Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller [UFC 155]
Whilst both these competitors have grappling based games, they have managed to develop their striking to become well-rounded fighters. Jim MIller once stood as a top contender in the lightweight division and was riding a 7-fight win streak prior to losing to current champ Benson Henderson. After his recent loss, this fight is a great way for Miller to regain some momentum in the division. Lauzon, on the other hand, is coming off a ‘Fight of the Night’ performance against Jamie Varner (his eleventh in the UFC) and will be looking to pick up another one come UFC 155.
Another guaranteed exciting fight.
7. Hector Lombard vs. Rousimar Palhares [UFC on FX 6]
After an extremely disappointing debut back at UFC 149 in Calgary, Hector Lombard will need a decisive win to truly earn the respect fo the casual UFC fan that is not aware of his prior exploits in Bellator. Lombard looked tentative and never took control of his fight with Tim Boetsch, ultimately costing himself a split decision that he could have arguably won. Rousimar Palhares presents an entirely different fighter, a submission specialist that will not be interested in standing with the former Bellator middleweight champ. If Lombard can pick up a decisive victory over Palhares, he will be back ‘in the mix’ of top middleweight contenders.
8. Jessica Eye vs. Zoila Gurgel [Bellator 83]
Zoila Gurgel made a successful return to Bellator last month after over a year away from the cage recovering from reconstructive knee surgery for a torn ACL. Whilst she still regins as the 115lbs champ, Zoila’s return came at 125lbs, where she won a unanimous decision over Casey Noland to set up the anticipated Jessica Eye fight. Eye is 8-1 in her MMA career and one of the most touted female fighters coming out of Ohio so a match-up with fellow Ohio native in Gurgel makes for a very interesting fight.
9. Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner [The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale]
Two names that are synonymous with exciting fights, win or lose, are Melvin Guillard and Jamie Varner. Whilst both men are top-class fighters, they have recently suffered setbacks; Guillard a KO loss to Donald Cerrone and Varner a submission loss to Joe Lauzon. Now with their backs slightly against the wall, this is an opportunity for either man to climb back to the upper echelon of the lightweight division.
This is a barn-burner you do not want to miss for sure.