On paper, November looks like the best month of the year for mixed martial arts addicts.
With four UFC events, Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks, The Ultimate Fighter Finale, Michael Chandler vs. Eddie Alvarez II in Bellator or a flyweight grudge match, the next four weeks are limitless.
But if anything has taught us about today's MMA over the years, it's that nothing is for certain. Main event showdowns often come up short, title contenders push divisional kings to their brink, and some of the sport's most heralded athletes sometimes get derailed.
In any case, November has all the ingredients to exceed expectations. Here are 10 bold predictions for the numerous cage collisions set to commence this coming month.
Fighters rarely make an overly impressive debut in their first UFC appearances.
Well, the talented Brandon Thatch is an exception. He left a hard-nosed Justin Edwards reeling in pain after just 80 seconds of action this past August.
But what Thatch brings to a fairly top-heavy welterweight division is not just his innate size, but a powerful kickboxing pedigree better left for the promotion's most elite strikers.
With a victory over the always formidable Paulo Thiago at UFC Fight Night 32 on November 9, "Rukus" will put his name atop an evolving prospect list entering 2014.
Lyoto Machida filling in for an injured Michael Bisping this past weekend may have been the best-case scenario for Tim Kennedy.
"The Dragon" looked downright destructive, and the Army staff sergeant would have had a tough time dealing with him.
In any case, Kennedy now has to deal with the well-rounded cage game of Rafael Natal, who will be riding a three-fight win streak entering UFC Fight Night 31.
But despite his high-caliber jiu-jitsu and naturally strong build, Natal is going to feel the wrath of an elite grappler. Kennedy will prove to be the better black belt on November 6 and give the troops a main event performance they deserve.
Everyone was shocked when Emanuel Newton knocked out Muhammed "King Mo" Lawal this past February with a sneaky spinning backfist.
However, despite one of his most disappointing and embarrassing performances of his rather accomplished career, Lawal still has the tools to inflict revenge at Bellator 106 on November 2.
Riding two straight finishes against two tough light heavyweights, the Tennessean has the momentum to put Newton away, secure his throne as the best knockout specialist in the promotion and prove that the first meeting was merely coincidental.
Look for King Mo to stay patient, wait for an eager Newton to push the action and secure a satisfying victory with slick and powerful boxing.
Both Gray Maynard and Nate Diaz are coming off some of the worst defeats of their tenured UFC careers.
Maynard got overwhelmed by a precise TJ Grant, while Diaz finally got caught on his feet as Josh Thomson secured a vicious head-kick knockout in April.
Although it's often difficult for aging veterans to come back after such misery, there aren't two better options in the UFC to overcome such adversity and reclaim their spots in the lightweight title scene.
What makes this matchup even more intriguing for The Ultimate Fighter 18 Finale is that Maynard and Diaz have already fought. Their 2010 meeting ended in a split decision, as 71 total strikes by Diaz weren't enough to sway the judges' scorecards.
In any case, after losing two tough fights in a row, it's borderline crazy to think Diaz isn't going to come into his November 30 rematch with something a little extra.
Look for him to stay away from the power of "The Bully," utilize his grappling skills, push the pace against the cage and tire out Maynard early.
Chael Sonnen's resume is second to none. He has fought the best of the best while they were at their best, and he has looked good doing it.
But what a lot of people lose focus on while scrutinizing his UFC career is that he is actually a skilled fighter.
Sure, his antics outside of the cage make it difficult to respect him inside of it, but he has beaten nearly every opponent the promotion has thrown in front of him.
Now on the heels of a move to light heavyweight, the Fox Sports 1 anchor by day has a chance to capture back-to-back victories. The only problem is that Rashad Evans stands in his way at UFC 167 on November 16.
But as accomplished and skillfully equipped as Evans is, it seems as if Sonnen has more to offer so late into both of their careers.
He's a better wrestler, respectable striker and evolved grappler, and he possesses the machismo that other fighters can't grasp.
In any case, knowing how tough this fight is going to be, look for Sonnen to instill his will for three straight rounds and once again prove that his bite is as big as his bark.
When Michael Chandler and Eddie Alvarez first met at Bellator 58 in 2011, they not only produced one of the best bouts of the year but proved that Bellator has some of the most elite talent on the planet.
Their inevitable clash set them each apart from the rest of Bellator's hungry lightweights. It was a sensational performance by a veteran like Alvarez and an up-and-coming superstar like Chandler.
While their initial fight was, for the most part, evenly contested until Chandler secured a fourth-round rear-naked choke, the second installment this weekend at Bellator 106 could be predominantly one-sided.
The fact of the matter is that Chandler's evolution as a mixed martial artist over the past two years has surpassed the veteran cage presence of Alvarez, who hasn't fought in more than a year. That type of absence could equate to minor ring rust. As a result, Chandler's ferocious stand-up and powerful ground game will spell the former champ's demise.
Look for one of the best lightweights in the world to put a quick beating on his opponent and shut down any trilogy talks.
Despite a rare lackluster performance against a hard-hitting Jake Ellenberger in July, Rory MacDonald is still one of the best young fighters in the world.
Some say he's a superstar champion in training, but nothing is for certain in today's unpredictable world of flash knockouts, bloody battles and unheralded finishes.
In other words, don't be surprised when the brutality of Robbie Lawler knocks the Canadian down a level or two and sheds some light on his far-from-perfect skill set.
That's not to say that MacDonald can't be as talented as the next guy, but when you possesses the barbaric power and killer instinct that "Ruthless" does, skill sometimes gets overshadowed. If Lawler can keep this fight standing, MacDonald is going to be in a lot trouble come UFC 167.
Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson and Joseph Benavidez are easily the two best flyweights in the world.
They've fought once before, which saw Johnson capture the first-ever division title via split decision, and they will fight beyond this November's long-awaited rematch.
They're basically the LeBron James and Kobe Bryant of their weight class.
In any case, as the two best fighters around in the division, it is only fitting to see them square off once again. Now whether or not the athleticism and power of Benavidez can finally subdue the quickness of Johnson has yet to be seen.
However, Mighty Mouse has struggled to finish fights in the past. Assuming Benavidez doesn't get stopped for the first time in his career, look for him to put the beatdown on the champ before the fifth round comes to a close at the TUF 18 Finale.
After securing back-to-back TKO finishes in the flyweight division, Benavidez is a chainsaw in a drawer full of spoons.
As any sane and level-headed person will agree, all good things come to an end.
Now while that's rather pessimistic when it comes to love, luck or looks, it's borderline fate when it comes to today's MMA.
Just look at what happened to Anderson Silva.
What this means is that Dan Henderson's infamous ability to withstand damage, maintain his footing and keep fighting may come to an end when he meets the blazing-hot Vitor Belfort at UFC Fight Night 32.
Through 39 career fights, "Hendo" has never been finished by punches, and he's only been submitted three times—against Silva and each Nogueira brother. That streak will be in jeopardy as he tries to end a disappointing two-fight losing streak opposite a guy who has rejuvenated an already scary striking game.
What Belfort has done over his past few fights is equivalent to a tank adding a flamethrower. It's like having two shotguns when all you need is a pistol.
For Henderson to finally get finished, Belfort is going to have to play it smart. On one hand, he needs to push the pace and mix it up, but on the other hand, he needs to stay away from the old man's power.
As bold as it is, Belfort will finish Henderson by knockout or TKO when they meet on November 9.
Predicting Georges St-Pierre to lose and relinquish the belt he has held for nearly six years is as bold as it gets.
That's like predicting Chris Weidman would knockout Anderson Silva with one swift left hook.
But for the sake of argument and this list, let's say Johny Hendricks pulls off the impossible. Let's say "Bigg Rigg" once again reaps the benefits of ungodly natural power.
Because if there is anything to pick from GSP's arsenal that doesn't quite add up to the rest, it would be his inability to eat a big shot. We saw it against Matt Serra and most recently opposite the talented Carlos Condit.
But what Hendricks possesses that every welterweight contender who has faced St-Pierre lacked is the elite wrestling to subdue the Canadian's bread and butter.
The fact of the matter is that UFC 167 will be the first time in the champion's career that an opponent will have the skill set to stuff takedowns, complete his own and dictate where the fight is going to go.
If Hendricks can keep this fight standing for at least three rounds, he'll have the time to land one of his power shots flush on GSP's chin. He'll topple a pound-for-pound king and put the gold around his waist.
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