We are about to embark on one of the craziest months in mixed martial arts history. As the UFC gears up for its most important four-week span of 2016, including the promotion’s long-awaited touch down in New York City, fight fans will have ample opportunities to see great Octagon action scattered across five total events.
Headlined by a lightweight title shot between current UFC champion Eddie Alvarez and featherweight titleholder Conor McGregor, who will be attempting to become the first fighter ever to simultaneously hold two belts at UFC 205, the next four weeks will be absolute fire. Add in prominent fights like Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero, Rafael dos Anjos vs. Tony Ferguson, Luke Rockhold vs. Ronaldo Souza, Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Michael Johnson, Kelvin Gastelum vs. Donald Cerrone and Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens, and you may have the biggest month of fights ever.
In order to sift through the chaotic schedule to determine what fight fans need to look out for, we take a deep dive into the prediction pool to set the tone for the month of November. Here are five bold predictions for a select few as 2016 rolls on.
1. Ferguson will stop RDA
When Alvarez dismantled RDA in less than four minutes many people were surprised. But as a guy who fights with little-to-zero concern for his own well being, dos Anjos ultimately had it coming. His brash offensive advancements were good enough to overwhelm tacticians like Anthony Pettis and Donald Cerrone, but those same efforts proved inefficient against a brawler like Alvarez.
Unfortunately for RDA, he’ll be facing another brawler at UFC Fight Night 98 Finale on Nov. 4. His opponent, Tony Ferguson, is a well-oiled machine wherever the fight may go and has displayed the ability to finish from multiple positions. While “El Cucuy” will give up a considerable strength advantage to RDA, Ferguson’s length, versatility and dynamic scrap fighting will be too much for the Brazilian to handle.
2. “Primetime” will knockout Mousasi again
It’s crazy to consider that Uriah Hall is such a massive underdog heading into his main event rematch opposite Gegard Mousasi at UFC Fight Night 99. He knocked out Mousasi just 14 months ago and is catching the surging veteran on short notice. If that doesn’t aid the efforts of “Primetime,” I don’t know what does.
The fact of the matter is that Hall has Mousasi’s number. As a guy who is going to willingly stand with Hall and welcome exchanges in bunches, Mousasi isn’t giving himself the best chance to win. Hall is magnificent on the feet, dangerous when he lets loose and is currently searching for an end to a two-fight losing streak. That makes him desperate and unpredictable — two things that will allow Hall to overwhelm Mousasi’s motherboard once again.
3. Thompson will thwart Woodley’s wrestling attack
Everybody is making a huge deal out of Thompson’s striking presence leading into his welterweight title fight with Woodley at UFC 205. While that’s all well and good considering “Wonderboy” is the most puzzling offensive fighter this sport as possibly ever seen, he isn’t going to defeat Woodley with just his hands.
Instead, Thompson must win the battle in close quarters if he wants to become UFC champion. That means keeping a conservative eye on his lead leg when attacking Woodley from distance, as well as preventing any possible takedown from the champ by maintaining his balance along the cage. Thompson possesses the athletic mold to do just that, but he may have to slow down his own output to make sure Woodley isn’t competing with his best weapon.
4. Stephens will become first to finish Edgar
Trust me. I know this sounds bold. But at some point, Edgar is going to show his age. The 35-year-old already displayed signs of decline opposite Jose Aldo this past July at UFC 200 by freezing up on many of his offensive queues, so it’s possible that “The Answer” may shows signs of physical devolution in his matchup with Stephens at UFC 205.
After defeating former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao earlier this year, Stephens is riding an all-time high. His time training alongside Dominick Cruz at Alliance MMA is truly beginning to pay off as “Lil Heathen” has begun to match his devilish knockout power with technique and timing.
Edgar will be giving up a 3-inch height and reach advantage to Stephens, which will be the biggest gap in size the former lightweight champion has had to deal with since defeating Charles Oliveira back in 2013. But this time around, he’s facing a bigger and stronger opponent who can also strike (Oliveira was strictly a submission threat).
5. McGregor will falter at UFC 205
Of course we’re going to talk about McGregor. The guy is the biggest draw in the sport today and a truly unique fighter who is on the precipice of making history later this month. Not only is “Notorious” headlining the first ever card in New York City, but he has the chance to hoist two UFC belts high above his head before the Thanksgiving Day turkey comes out of the oven.
Unfortunately, as awesome as it would be to see a fighter of McGregor’s mental makeup reign over two separate UFC divisions, he’s running into the wrong fighter at UFC 205. For all intents and purposes, Alvarez is the worst matchup of McGregor’s knockout-laden career. The current lightweight king is a beast in close quarters, drives through his takedowns, sticks to a gameplan, possesses the type of punching power that sends guys like RDA into another dimension and has only been finished by strikes once in 32 professional fights (lost via TKO to Nick Thompson in 2007, which was only Alvarez’s 11th pro bout).
If anyone is capable of pulling off the impossible it’s certainly McGregor. But at this time, it seems like the 28-year-old is finally biting off more than he can chew.