Must-See MMA Fights for the Month of January

Dan HiergesellFeatured ColumnistJanuary 2, 2013

Must-See MMA Fights for the Month of January

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    With the UFC trying to mend injury-related issues that occurred last year, Bellator moving to Spike TV to expand their brand and Strikeforce offering a jam-packed farewell card, 2013 is ready to begin with a bang.

    Multiple title defenses, grudge matches, sneak previews of future championship contenders and more will give MMA fans truly something to cheer about following an inconsistent 2012.

    Based on potential, excitement, overall hype and significance, here are 15 must-see fights for the month of January.

Clay Guida vs. Hatsu Hioki

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    @ UFC on FOX 6

    Anytime Clay Guida steps inside the Octagon, it's worth watching.

    What makes it even more special this time around is the fact that he's making his debut at featherweight.  It could be a good move for Guida, considering he was one of the smaller lightweights in the UFC.

    Hatsu Hioki is one of the division's most well-rounded fighters, so Guida fans should be able to gauge if his frantic striking and superb wrestling skills are going to flourish at his new weight.

KJ Noons vs. Ryan Couture

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    @ Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine

    MMA fans are already familiar with KJ Noons and his abilities inside a cage.  He should have no problem making the UFC roster once Strikeforce subsides.

    Therefore, seeing how well Ryan Couture performs against a top-notch contender should be the focal point in this fight.

    If Randy's son can put together something special against a veteran like Noons, he should find his way to the UFC and receive the opportunity to follow in his father's footsteps.

Ben Askren vs. Karl Amoussou

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    @ Bellator Fighting Championships 89

    Many people consider Ben Askren the best welterweight in the world not currently employed under the Zuffa banner.

    His wrestling skills and overall ability to stifle his opponents has transformed into a perfect career record of 10-0.

    Watching him try to prolong that perfection should attract enough viewers to one of Bellator's championship fights featured on Spike TV this January.

Erik Koch vs. Ricardo Lamas

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    @ UFC on FOX 6

    This is a very intriguing fight.

    On one hand, you have Ricardo Lamas trying to showcase his true nature as a top contender in the UFC featherweight division, and on the other you have Erik Koch making his return to the Octagon after a 16-month layoff.

    It's going to be interesting to see how Koch performs under pressure against a hungry Lamas, who has racked off three straight victories in the UFC.

    If Koch can provide a finish on national television, he'll more than likely regain the divisional reputation that made him the No. 1 contender before he got hurt.

Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Ben Rothwell

5 of 15

    @ UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping

    The UFC heavyweight division is becoming one of the deepest pools in the sport.  Newly signed superstars and revamped veterans have transformed the thunderous weight class into a truly competitive forefront.

    With that said, the biggest heavyweight bout this month is going to be the showdown between submission expert Gabriel Gonzaga and the very heavy-handed, and -headed, Ben Rothwell.

    Gonzaga is trying to prolong his success after making his return to the UFC practically one year ago.  Rothwell is aiming to knock off a big name in the division, as well as showcasing his ability to stop a grappler, in order to regain any potential title hopes he lost after his defeat to Mark Hunt.

    It should be quite a battle considering their different disciplines, but one that could offer an immediate finish either way.

Ronaldo Souza vs. Ed Herman

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    @ Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine

    This fight will mark the first time in Ed Herman's career, and obviously the last, that he'll be competing as a Strikeforce middleweight.

    Unfortunately for Herman, whose last defeat to Jake Shields was overturned after his opponent failed a post-fight drug test, he'll be taking on the very dangerous Ronaldo Souza.

    For Souza, a 33-year-old Brazilian who may be the best submission artist in the game today, a win over a respected UFC name like "Short Fuse" should make his transition to the big show even quicker.

    Herman did in fact struggle opposite Shields back in August, so he should have his hands full if Souza gets a hold of him.

Rampage Jackson vs. Glover Teixeira

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    @ UFC on FOX 6

    If you pay attention to social media and public gripes between UFC fighters, this fight being on this list should come as no surprise.

    Rampage Jackson and Glover Teixeira have already been acclimated with one another in a battle of wits, so when they meet later this month inside the cage, someone is going to look like an incompetent trash talker.

    Assuming both men opt to stand and bang it out, which is most certainly their bread and butter, someone is getting knocked out.

    It should be interesting to see who hits the canvas first, considering Jackson is on the back end of his career and Teixeira's chin looked suspect after getting hit by Fabio Maldonado just once back at UFC 153 (despite murdering him).

Gegard Mousasi vs. Mike Kyle

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    @ Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine

    Consistently one of the most underrated MMA fighters in the world, Gegard Mousasi has the chance to provide yet another ferocious finish before making his way to the UFC.

    As long as he features the aggressive striking that has culminated into a 32-3-2 professional record, Mousasi should have no problem finishing the one-dimensional Mike Kyle.

    It also doesn't hurt Mousasi's future potential in the UFC that he's capable of bulking up and fighting as a heavyweight.

Pat Curran vs. Patricio 'Pitbull' Freire

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    @ Bellator Fighting Championships 85

    As one of Bellator's most prized competitors, 25-year-old Pat Curran will look to prolong his featherweight championship success against Team Black House's Patricio "Pitbull" Freire later this month.

    Freire, a 25-year-old Brazilian who has produced a 5-1 record under the Bellator name, could provide significant problems for Curran on the ground.

    It should be a nice little title fight to ring in Bellator's inaugural showing on Spike TV, and one that could produce a flashy submission or dashing knockout.

Nate Marquardt vs. Tarec Saffiedine

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    @ Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine

    Nate Marquardt's welterweight title defense opposite Tarec Saffiedine will be the very last championship bout in Strikeforce history.

    That alone makes it worth watching.

    What makes this battle even more attractive is the fact that Marquardt is dying to remain champion when he re-signs with the UFC.

    An unprecedented loss to Saffiedine, not to bash his overall ability, would no doubt put a damper on the champ's New Year's resolution.

Michael Chandler vs. Rick Hawn

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    @ Bellator Fighting Championships 85

    Outside of Gilbert Melendez, Michael Chandler seems to be the best lightweight in the world not fighting in the UFC.

    Chandler has become the quintessential poster boy for Bellator over the past 12 months after beating Eddie Alvarez for the lightweight championship last November.

    He's progressing into an unstoppable force inside the cage on the back of excellent wrestling and ridiculous conditioning, making any one of his fights worth the while.

    Luckily for fans, it's free on Spike TV.

Daniel Cormier vs. Dion Staring

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    @ Strikeforce: Marquardt vs. Saffiedine

    Strikeforce is truly pulling out all the cards for their final Showtime telecast ever.

    One of the biggest cards of all, not only for Strikeforce but for the sport of MMA, is in fact Heavyweight Grand Prix champion Daniel Cormier.

    Cormer has already been speculated as a future opponent for either UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones or any heavyweight not named Cain Velasquez.

    To watch him presumably cruise through an unknown in Dion Staring, prolong his success and make his arrival to the big show that much more warranted, will deliver entertainment on all levels.

Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis

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    @ UFC on FOX 6

    Quite possibly the most anticipated non-title fight in the UFC of 2013, Donald Cerrone vs. Anthony Pettis should provide dynamite results in a showdown capable of capturing Fight of the Year honors.

    It's a matchup that should reshape the top of the UFC lightweight division and pinpoint an exact heir to take on titleholder Benson Henderson sometime this year.

    Cerrone has suggested that Pettis has ducked him in the past, but the two are finally set to let the leather fly after booking issues and injury woes have been settled.

    Nobody really knows who's going to come out on top ,considering Cerrone is fighting like a man possessed and Pettis is an athletic mastermind, but one thing is for sure. 

    It's real and it's going to be spectacular.

Michael Bisping vs. Vitor Belfort

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    @ UFC on FX: Belfort vs. Bisping

    Michael Bisping finally has a shot to challenge the untouchable Anderson Silva for the UFC middleweight title.

    All he has to do is defeat Vitor Belfort in Brazil, in front of his home crowd and after he lost a light heavyweight title fight to Jon Jones.

    Lets just say that's way more easier said than done.

    Regardless, Belfort should be more than willing to stand and trade with Bisping, which is the Brit's best chance in capturing a victory.

    It should leave the top of the middleweight division roughly unchanged, but a win for Bisping would finally solidify his lengthy six-year UFC career.

Demetrious Johnson vs. John Dodson

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    @ UFC on FOX 6

    The looming fight between Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson will mean two things for the UFC.

    It will not only mark the first-ever UFC flyweight title defense, but it could very well be the fastest fight (not time) in MMA history.

    Both guys transform into fragments of light when they turn the heat on inside the Octagon.  Watching them shine opposite one another will truly satisfy any combat fan's appetite.

    Johnson presumably has the edge considering his boxing is so crisp and shifty, but Dodson's strength and ability to finish fights could change the champion's fortune.

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