December is arguably going to be the biggest month in UFC history.
You’ve seen the Nine Days of Fury promo, right?
Needless to say, with four events on the docket, the promotion may finally be selling a product that can deliver across the board. With elite draws like Conor McGregor, Jose Aldo, Junior Dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Chris Weidman, Luke Rockhold, Donald Cerrone, Frankie Edgar and Chad Mendes set to do battle, the next four weeks will feel like the Fourth of July.
But as we have seen in Octagon’s past, we as fans cannot rely on only a handful of fights to satisfy our appetite for blood, sweat and more blood. Instead, alongside these dynamic matchups and championships collisions, we must draw our attention to the fights that will fill the stocking, per say.
Here are five upcoming bouts in December that may be flying under the radar in light of the heavy-hitting main courses:
Jim Miller vs. Michael Chiesa
These are two guys you wouldn’t normally find on UFC Fight Pass, let alone fighting on a Thursday (Dec. 10). But, in effort to bulk up a card headlined by two strawweights with no title implications, the promotion has decided to pit two recognizable lightweight names against one another in order to determine who has a chance to make a push in 2016.
Jim Miller and Michael Chiesa remain some of the very best fighters at 155 pounds, which is saying a lot considering the weight class is chock-full of Cowboys, Irish Dragons, Boogeymen and Eagles.
Unfortunately, many people aren’t going to look at this fight as a reason to shell out $10 per month, but the interest is there nonetheless. It will be a matchup full of shifty transitions, submission attempts, sharp elbows and grisly beards.
Charles Oliveira vs. Myles Jury
Despite a move down from lightweight, Myles Jury carries just as much title consideration at the 145-pound level. That’s the reason why the UFC has presented him with No. 7 ranked Charles Oliveira for his divisional debut at UFC on Fox 17.
As two of the more well-rounded fighters under the age of 27 you’ll find amidst the UFC’s rapidly growing forces, Oliveira vs. Jury is capable of capturing Fight of the Night honors.
For Jury, this is a chance to successfully cut weight, showcase his big frame as a featherweight, utilize his crafty intelligence and to ultimately shake off a recent loss to Donald Cerrone at 155 pounds.
As for Oliveira, who recently lost to Max Holloway at UFC Fight Night 74 due to an unfortunate neck injury, defeating the likes of “Fury” will solidify his already deserved ranking in a division changing by the month.
Michael Johnson vs. Nate Diaz
Any fight involving Nate Diaz, or Nick for that matter, is one to watch. The fact that this even has to be mentioned on this list just goes to show how busy December truly is.
Standing in the way of Diaz is an angry Michael Johnson, who had his recent four-fight win streak snapped after losing a controversial split-decision to Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 73.
Johnson has looked like one of the more evolved lightweights on the roster over the past two years, turning athleticism into a budding striking game and an ability to hit and move that can be directly contributed to Blackzilians striking coach Henri Hooft.
But can Johnson’s newfound offensive approach be enough to ward off the pressure and precision that Diaz will bring to the cage? That is the question at hand.
Edson Barboza vs. Tony Ferguson
In many regards, this may in fact be a No. 1 contender’s bout in the lightweight division.
Obviously guys like Anthony Pettis, Khabib Nurmagomedov and Eddie Alvarez will have their say at the end of the day, but both Edson Barboza and Tony Ferguson can capture title momentum if they win big at The Ultimate Fighter Season 22 Finale.
As one of the most underrated fighters of the past few years, Ferguson has been waiting to break out onto the main scene. With unparalleled scrambling technique, pestering grappling, skin-slicing elbows in the clinch and a knack for finishing fights, he’s quickly turning into a fan favorite around these parts.
But when you stack him up against a guy who can kick a head off of shoulders at the drop of a pin, anything is possible in this high-octane clash of top-10 lightweights.
Demian Maia vs. Gunnar Nelson
This is arguably the most even-keeled matchup at UFC 194, let alone on this list.
As undoubtedly two of the most revered grappling experts outside of Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza, both Demian Maia and Gunnar Nelson possesses the ability to turn any fight into a gritty chess match.
But when you consider how dynamic both of these men are on the canvas, the mind begins to shutter with possibilities. Can Maia submit the younger Nelson? Or can Nelson take the torch from the Brazilian?
It’s also possible that Nelson’s exciting Karate style can help score him some points on the feet, but Maia’s wrestling is some of the best at 170 pounds, leaving this bout likely to take form on the ground.