MMA in December: 8 Under-the-Radar Fights to Watch
Thanksgiving is over, and I don't know about you, but I haven't quite recovered. It may take me a few days to get over Thursday's glutton-tastic family outing.
But we're going to soldier on here at Caged In and take a look forward to the month of December. It's the last month of the year, and it's chock-full of exciting fights. You already know about the big boys—Henderson vs. Diaz (for free!) and Dos Santos vs. Velasquez, but I'm here today to tell you about a few other fights you need to watch. You know, ones that aren't receiving the kind of attention they should.
Let's get started.
Mike Swick vs. Matt Brown, UFC on Fox 5
There was a time when I thought Mike Swick would never return to the cage, and that made me sad. Luckily for me—and for MMA fans everywhere—Swick made a return from the various ailments that kept him sidelined for what seemed to be an eternity, beating DaMarques Johnson at the last UFC on Fox event in August.
For his next trick, Swick goes in the cage against Matt Brown, a dude who is also known for having exciting fights. Seriously, these two guys just don't have a boring fight in them, and you're telling me they're going to be fighting each other?
Where's the popcorn? Let's do this.
Brendan Schaub vs. Lavar Johnson, UFC on Fox 5
Brendan Schaub is an athletic heavyweight who hits hard. Lavar Johnson is also an athletic heavyweight who hits hard. What happens when you put them together?
And that's reason enough to watch this fight, because somebody is likely finishing this fight on their back, either staring up at the lights or struggling to open their eyes. This one probably won't go three rounds—hell, it might not even go three minutes—so make sure you pay close attention, because fists are going to fly.
Pat Barry vs. Shane Del Rosario, TUF 16 Finale
A lot of the words that I wrote about Schaub vs. Johnson in the previous slide can also be applied here, but that's not why I'm including it. Yeah, Pat Barry loves to stand and trade punches, but he's also showing an increased willingness to work on his ground game.
And he'll need that ground game against Del Rosario, because the former Strikeforce heavyweight will not want to stand and strike with Barry for very long. Has Barry learned enough to prevent a submission on the ground? Or, wonder of wonders, will he go for submissions of his own?
Melvin Guillard vs. Jamie Varner, TUF 16 Finale
I love this matchup almost as much as I love seeing Jamie Varner's inexplicable career revival. Face it: two years ago, there's no way anybody in the entire world thought Varner would be making a return to the UFC, much less dropping the hammer on someone like Edson Barboza.
But he did, and here we are at Varner's third UFC fight since returning to the Octagon. And it's a fight that seems tailor-made for Varner to secure a decision win, so long as he doesn't attempt to stand and strike with Melvin Guillard for very long.
For Guillard, this is a crossroads fight; he's lost three of his last four, and desperately needs a win. And as we've seen in the past, a desperate Guillard is usually a very exciting Guillard. Expect fireworks here.
Jonathan Brookins vs. Dustin Poirier, TUF 16 Finale
Brookins vs. Poirier is a bout between two featherweights who many believe could contend for the UFC title, but both are coming off losses in their previous bouts.
Brookins lost to Charles Oliveira in June, while Poirier went down to Chan Sung Jung in one of the best fights of 2012. But despite the losses, both men are still very strong and technically-sound fighters, and this bout should be thrilling from start to finish.
Leonard Garcia vs. Cody McKenzie, UFC 155
When Cody McKenzie was on The Ultimate Fighter, he was largely viewed as a one-trick pony and a joke of a fighter. And yet, here he is, preparing for his sixth UFC fight. That's surprising.
By the same token, Leonard Garcia is a fighter who loses far more than he wins, but has managed to stick around the UFC because of his penchant for throwing his own health worries out the window and engaging in exciting (and likely debilitating) fights. He's lost three in a row, though, and you have to think that his back is against the wall.
I fully expect Garcia to put on another one of his amazingly ugly yet thrilling wars, and McKenzie will be a willing partner. Garcia should have the skills to beat McKenzie, but he often fights down to the level of his opponent. It'll be interesting to watch.
Joe Lauzon vs. Jim Miller, UFC 155
This was originally booked as Lauzon vs. Gray Maynard, and while I'd still like to see that fight at some point down the road, I'm intrigued by Miller as Maynard's replacement.
Miller is a ground grinder, and that falls right into Lauzon's wheelhouse with his great submission game. By all rights, Miller should be heavily favored here, but Lauzon has a knack for coming up big in big fights. This could be another night full of J-Lau magic.
Philip De Fries vs. Todd Duffee, UFC 155
The hulking Todd Duffee's return to the UFC is one of the more surprising moments of 2012, because it was believed he'd never get another chance after attitude problems derailed his first UFC tour of duty. But here he is, back on the big stage, and he's got a good opponent for his first time back.
Philip De Fries is a submission specialist, but his work on the feet isn't all that great. That's a good fit for Duffee, who should be able to get a big knockout win as long as he can avoid going to the ground.