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Top 5 MMA Fights to Watch in December

Conor McGregor
Photo Courtesy of AP

For as often as we’re obliged to refer to this series as the top five “MMA” fights to watch in the upcoming month, a good portion of those contests tend to reside in the UFC.

And for as great of a fight month as December appears to be, our gratitude is solely directed at the folks over at Zuffa. We apologize in advance to the folks at Bellator, World Series of Fighting, ONE Championship and Rizin Fight Federation — but the product provided by those promotions simply doesn’t match the quality of competition the UFC is churning this holiday month. Even a list of top 10 or 15 fights would still exclusively contain mixed martial arts fights competed inside of the famed Octagon, if we’re being true to ourselves.

But for consistency’s sake, we’ll retain the umbrella label to this series. Let us bring you the top five UFC MMA fights to watch in the month of December:

Honorable Mentions:

  • TUF 22 Finale: Edson Barboza vs. Tony Ferguson
  • UFC 194: Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza vs. Yoel Romero
  • UFC 194: Max Holloway vs. Jeremy Stephens
  • UFC 194: Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson
  • UFC on FOX 127: Michael Johnson vs. Nate Diaz

5. Junior dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=TcQKcgHLQls

Event: UFC on FOX 17

Date: Dec. 19

Location: Amway Center; Orlando, Florida

A fight that was better suited to take place in early 2012, when Junior dos Santos held the UFC heavyweight title and Alistair Overeem was fresh off of a victory against former heavyweight phenom Brock Lesnar, dos Santos vs. Overeem in 2015 still carries some of the luster it had three years back.

Two of the heaviest hitters in a division filled with nothing but, one of these two heavyweights is destined to fall to the canvas. But that’s just half the excitement; the other half lies in what’s expected for the victor: a potential title shot.

Chances are the winner of this matchup will have to compete with the victor of Stipe Miocic vs. Andrei Arlovski to determine the true No. 1 contender, but with Fabricio Werdum atop the division, any one of those title matchups is worth buying into.

4. Rafael dos Anjos vs. Donald Cerrone

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bAMWX9z1YEA

Event: UFC on FOX 17

Date: Dec. 19

Location: Amway Center; Orlando, Florida

If not for Holly Holm’s victory over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, Rafael dos Anjos’ victory over Anthony “Showtime” Pettis at UFC 185 may have gone down as 2015’s biggest championship upset in 2015. There was nothing the formerly dominant champion could do to contend with the dominance of the new titleholder. Save for stopping Pettis within 25 minutes, dos Anjos seemed to be able to do anything he wanted at UFC 185.

Now remind yourself he did all that with an injured knee.

Now remind yourself what dos Anjos was able to do to Cerrone back in 2013 — back in a time when the Kings MMA fighter looked nothing like the unstoppable champion he is today.

In fairness, Cerrone didn’t look the part of a viable title contender back in 2013, either. That was the last loss “Cowboy” suffered before reeling off one of the most impressive winning streaks the lightweight division has ever seen, including victories over Edson Barboza, Jim Miller, Eddie Alvarez, Myles Jury and Benson Henderson.

It’s about as much of a toss-up as any of the fights featured on this month’s list, and it’s only No. 4, folks.

3. Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2JFcEZo4E14

Event: Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale

Date: Dec. 11

Location: The Chelsea at The Cosmopolitan; Las Vegas, Nevada

Two phenomenal MMA wrestlers with a capacity to succeed when things are kept standing, Frankie Edgar vs. Chad Mendes is a fight that could be spent on the feet, against the cage or on the canvas and still retain every ounce of excitement we’ve afforded it.

Coming off of four consecutive victories since losing to Jose Aldo at UFC 156 two years ago, a victory over Mendes may be the final leg in Edgar’s journey back to the 145-pound title. Obviously that’s contingent upon who wins at UFC 194, because an immediate rematch for Aldo makes all too much sense should he lose to Conor McGregor.

A victory for Mendes wouldn’t offer quite as quick of a trip back to the title, but could do wonders for a guy who’s fallen short in three separate title fights since 2012.

2. Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=RfWISkul18Q

Event: UFC 194

Date: Dec. 12

Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena; Las Vegas, Nevada

Just like Robbie Lawler’s title defense at UFC 189, Chris Weidman’s title fight against top-ranked middleweight challenger Luke Rockhold could go down as the best fight of the night. Alas, it’s forced to play opener for the big fight we’re all dying to see.

It’s nothing short of the shame we’ve all produced in our hunger for the main event, but Weidman-Rockhold at UFC 194 is about as enticing of a middleweight title fight since Anderson Silva broke his leg against “The All-American” at UFC 168. A fight years in the making, fight fans will finally get to see the UFC-Strikeforce middleweight title unification bout we could’ve gotten in 2013.

Because like the main event, we’re not used to seeing either man lose. Weidman’s undefeated and Rockhold is far and away a better fighter than the one who stood across a TRT’d Vitor Belfort. Where Weidman thrives in his takedown offense, Rockhold matches in his grappling abilities. Where the champion finds an upper hand in knockout power, the challenger succeeds in his speed.

1. Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=m3v7Tml_vX8

Event: UFC 194

Date: Dec. 12

Location: MGM Grand Garden Arena; Las Vegas, Nevada

You couldn’t have honestly expected any other fight to sit atop this list, could you?

One could argue that this fight would even top a list for July 2009 (when Brock Lesnar fought Frank Mir for the heavyweight title at UFC 100), July 2012 (when Anderson Silva took on Chael Sonnen for the second time), March 2013 (when Georges St-Pierre took on longtime rival Nick Diaz) or January 2015 (when Jon Jones settled the score — for the first time, anyway — with Daniel Cormier).

Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor is, quite possibly, the biggest fight in the history of the promotion. And that says a lot, considering neither man will (fingers crossed) weigh more than 145 pounds come Dec. 11. Some well-deserved spotlight will shine on the talented featherweights of mixed martial arts at UFC 194. This is, for far too many reasons, a fight you cannot miss in the month of December.

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