Mixed martial arts is unpredictable in nature.
Action ensues, fists fly and outcomes manifest in the matter of seconds. It’s a reality that often sets us free and one of the defining reasons as to why we watch in the first place.
Now while certain fighters carry a sense of invincibility with them to the cage, even the most untouchable entities in MMA today are not safe from the uncertainty of a sport ruled by violent movement (Ronda Rousey).
Luckily for fight fans around the world, December offers some of the best matchups that MMA has to offer, specifically in the UFC. And even though many of these scintillating bouts offer momentary clarity, we are left to our own imaginations when figuring out which fighters will leave the cage victorious.
In accordance with perceived outlooks on some of the most anticipated showdowns left this year, here are five bold predictions for the last four weeks of action:
Rose Namajunas will defeat Paige VanZant
So much effort has been exhausted by the UFC to make Paige VanZant the next transcendent female MMA superstar.
While the Team Alpha Male standout has looked good over her initial three UFC victories, which include wins by submission and TKO, the 21-year-old is still as raw as they come. Her striking is coming along at a pace incomparable to that of fellow strawweights like champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Michelle Waterson, Valerie Letourneau and even Joanne Calderwood, who was originally scheduled to fight “12 Gauge” at UFC Fight Night 80 before she had to pull out due to injury.
As for her wrestling, it’s been her main lifeline when confronted with adversity inside of the cage. She has leaned on that aspect of her game to score points, gain position, transition on the mat and land some good old-fashioned Sacramento ground-and-pound.
With that said, Rose Namajunas is going to give VanZant all she can handle when the two meet on Dec. 10. As one of the more rangy fighters at 115 pounds, the former TUF standout has the ability to launch wacky, unorthodox attacks on her feet from unscripted angles and locations. Add in a long history of finishing fights on the ground and Namajunas suddenly looks like one of the best kept secrets within the UFC’s newest weight class.
So even though the hype is surrounding the evolution and ascension of VanZant, the same can be said about Namajunas’ chances of a title shot if she can eek out a win.
Tony Ferguson will put Edson Barboza to sleep
Easily regarded as one of the very best strikers at 155 pounds, Edson Barboza is a flashy finisher capable kicking his way through almost anyone in the division.
Unfortunately for the budding Brazilian, his upcoming bout opposite Tony Ferguson at The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 Finale will not be a career epoch he’ll want to remember.
The blind eye that has covered Ferguson’s promotional career up to this point is about to transform into a bright spotlight. The owner of a 9-1 UFC record, including six finishes, “El Cucuy” has been eagerly working his way up the lightweight ladder for over four years. The culmination of his hard work with come to a head when he finds himself standing opposite his toughest test to date.
With some of the best all-around skills that the weight class has to offer, Ferguson should be able to outpoint Barboza wherever the fight may go. Unless one of the Brazilian’s patented head kicks comes into play, Ferguson’s scrambling ability, relentless pressure, wrestling, and suffocating grappling should reign supreme.
Either way, Barboza is going to see stars.
Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza will submit Yoel Romero
So much has been said about Yoel Romero’s knockout power, Olympic-level wrestling and overall ability to out-muscle opponents before the third round ever comes to an end.
That’s all well and good, but as sufficient and world-class as “Soldier of God” is, Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza is just a little better.
People already recognize Souza as one of the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioners to ever put gloves on, if not the greatest. This reputation has swirled around the MMA community for years, despite the fact that Souza’s most impressive work has come outside of the UFC.
It’s possible that Romero’s strong base, raw power and disciplined wrestling techniques will thwart any push by the Brazilian to drag this affair to the canvas, but there’s no reason in the world to doubt Souza’s effectiveness in close quarters.
Some may be surprised by the outcome of this fight, but we’re talking about a former Strikeforce champion with 26 professional bouts under his belt and a track record for disposing of heavy hitters. Romero just doesn’t have the experience and wherewithal to make a substantial stand when the two meet at UFC 194.
Donald Cerrone will defeat Rafael dos Anjos
This isn’t as bold as some of the other predictions on this list, but it’s a fascinating one to say the least.
The issue here for Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is the fact that he’s already been defeated by current UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos just over two years ago at UFC Fight Night 27. So forget about the eight-fight win streak that has catapulted Cerrone to the forefront of a seething 155-pound roster, the 32-year-old veteran must debunk a fighter who apparently has his number.
And when you add in the fact that RDA has evolved his striking, knockout power, combinations in close quarters, and ability to feed off his power wrestling, Cerrone’s chances of steam rolling the champion become even bleaker.
But when you pull back the curtain and look strictly at raw talent, Cerrone is the obvious choice to win this rematch. His striking has never looked better. His wrestling defense is on par with the best in the division. His ground game, fueled by an unparalleled ability to actively fight off his back, is as dangerous as ever. And his new found effectiveness early in the first round has led him to damage opponents even quicker.
This is no easy fight by any stretch of the imagination, but Cerrone is just too good to pass up. It’s going to be hard to finish a guy who has only been stopped twice in his entire career (once via an injured jaw), but “Cowboy” should find enough openings to ride off into the sunset at UFC on Fox 17 on Dec. 19.
Conor McGregor will finish Jose Aldo
Despite his efforts to make Jose Aldo look like a little school girl with zero capabilities inside of the Octagon, many remain optimistic that Conor McGregor will finally get his come Dec. 12 at UFC 194.
These people may have the right mindset considering the abuse McGregor has laid upon the UFC featherweight champion for nearly a year, but their lofty expectations will be proven wrong come fight night.
The fact remains that Aldo has never faced someone quite like “The Notorious.” McGregor is easily the best boxer he has ever faced, who has also found much success adding in round kicks, body shots, lunging uppercuts, head kicks, oblique kicks and front kicks to the stomach (just ask Chad Mendes). He also represents the only fighter Aldo has ever faced that will come forward and press the Brazilian backwards.
It may not seem like much, but as a fighter used to coming forward and attacking from certain angles, the champion may find it difficult to channel his speed, power, fluidity and range when he’s shuffling his feet away from his opponent.
McGregor will do himself no favors by pulling an Anderson Silva and sticking his chin out in front of Aldo, but barring any unforeseen acts of gaudy mockery gone wrong, the Irishman should have enough in his tank to put an end to an era.