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Sherdog’s Top 10: Can’t-Miss Fights of December


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The Khabib Nurmagomedov shadow that once held sway over the Ultimate Fighting Championship lightweight division has begun to recede, leaving Charles Oliveira and Dustin Poirier their moment in the sun.

Oliveira will defend his 155-pound crown against the American Top Team star in the UFC 269 headliner on Dec. 11 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The Brazilian champion enters the cage on the strength of a nine-fight winning streak. He last appeared at UFC 262, where he put away three-time Bellator MMA titleholder Michael Chandler and laid claim to the vacant lightweight throne in the second round of their May 15 showdown. Poirier, meanwhile, has rattled off three consecutive victories, two of them against former simultaneous two-division champion Conor McGregor. He last competed on July 10, when he completed his trilogy against the Irishman with a first-round technical knockout at UFC 264.

The Oliveira-Poirier showdown is but one can’t-miss fight in December. Here are nine more:

Sergio Pettis vs. Kyoji Horiguchi
Bellator 272
Dec. 3 | Uncasville, Connecticut

Pettis’ first turn as Bellator bantamweight champion looks like a doozy. The Roufusport standout will put his 135-pound title on the line against Horiguchi in the Bellator 272 main event on Dec. 3 at the Mohegan Sun Arena. Pettis carries a wealth of momentum, having won four fights in a row. The 28-year-old Milwaukee native last fought at Bellator 258, where he captured the promotion’s bantamweight championship in a five-round unanimous decision over Juan Archuleta on May 7. Horiguchi has recorded 14 wins across his past 15 assignments. He has not fought since New Year’s Eve, when he reclaimed the Rizin Fighting Federation bantamweight belt and avenged an August 2019 defeat with a first-round technical knockout of Kai Asakura.

Nong Stamp vs. Ritu Phogat
One Championship “Winter Warriors”
Dec. 3 | Kallang, Singapore

The One Championship atomweight grand prix will reach its conclusion when the Stamp-Phogat tournament final headlines “Winter Warriors” at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Stamp hits the cage with the wind of back-to-back victories in her sails. The 24-year-old took a unanimous decision from Julie Mezabarba in the semifinals in October. Stamp has already held One Championship atomweight titles in muay Thai and kickboxing. Phogat, meanwhile, has strung together three straight wins. The Evolve MMA product punched her ticket to the tournament final with a unanimous decision over Jennifer Olsim at One Championship “NextGen” on Oct. 29.

Sign up for ESPN+ right here, and you can then stream the UFC, PFL, Dana White’s Contender Series and “The Ultimate Fighter” live on your smart TV, computer, phone, tablet or streaming device via the ESPN app.

Joshua Silveira vs. Jared Revel
Legacy Fighting Alliance 119
Dec. 3 | Phoenix

The fate of the vacant Legacy Fighting Alliance middleweight championship will be decided when the undefeated Silveira locks horns with Revel at Arizona Federal Theatre. Another promising prospect spawned by the star-studded American Top Team camp in Coconut Creek, Florida, Silveira has finished all six of his opponents as a pro, five of them inside one round. The 28-year-old figures to move quickly through the MMA talent pipeline should he strike LFA gold. Revel, 37, rides into the match on a six-fight winning streak. The Revolution Fight Team representative has not yet competed under the Legacy Fighting Alliance banner.

Rob Font vs. Jose Aldo
UFC on ESPN 31
Dec. 4 | Las Vegas

Two of the sport’s premier bantamweights will settle their differences inside the Octagon when Font toes the line against Aldo in a hotly anticipated five-round main event. The 34-year-old Font has quietly compiled a 9-3 record since joining the UFC roster in 2014, his run highlighted by wins over Marlon Moraes, Thomas Almeida, Douglas Silva de Andrade and Matt Schnell. The Mark DellaGrotte protégé last competed at UFC Fight Night 188, where he was awarded a five-round unanimous decision over Cody Garbrandt on May 22. Aldo, 35, has rebounded from a career-worst three-fight losing streak with back-to-back victories over Marlon Vera and Pedro Munhoz. The future hall of famer has secured 17 of his 30 career wins by knockout or technical knockout.

Brad Riddell vs. Rafael Fiziev
UFC on ESPN 31
Dec. 4 | Las Vegas

Ascendant, once-beaten lightweights will do battle in a co-headlining assignment, as Riddell tackles Fiziev at the UFC Apex. Both men have climbed into the Top 15 at 155 pounds in short order. Riddell, 30, operates out of City Kickboxing in New Zealand, where he sharpens his skills alongside reigning UFC champions Israel Adesanya and Alexander Volkanovski, among others. He enters the cage on career-best seven-fight winning streak. The 28-year-old Fiziev has recorded consecutive victories since his 86-second technical knockout loss to Magomed Mustafaev at UFC Fight Night 149 in April 2019. The Sanford MMA export last competed at UFC 265, where he took a unanimous decision from former King of the Cage champion Bobby Green on Aug. 7.

Pedro Munhoz vs. Dominick Cruz
UFC 269
Dec. 11 | Las Vegas

When Munhoz charges into battle with “The Dominator” at T-Mobile Arena, he will get the chance to restore some of the luster that not long ago made him a dark horse title contender in the bantamweight division. The 35-year-old former Resurrection Fighting Alliance titleholder has lost three of his last four fights, including a unanimous decision defeat to Jose Aldo at UFC 265 in August. Even so, Munhoz carries a reputation as a crowd-pleasing action hero. He has delivered 13 of his 19 career victories by knockout, technical knockout or submission. Cruz, 36, serves as a cornerstone of the Alliance MMA camp in Chula Vista, California. The onetime bantamweight champion last appeared at UFC 259, where he eked out a split decision over Casey Kenney on March 6. Cruz has not fought more than once in a calendar year since 2016.

Sam Creasey vs. Luke Shanks
Cage Warriors Fighting Championship 132
Dec. 11 | London

Undoubtedly on the radars of global talent evaluators, Creasey will defend his CWFC flyweight crown in a rematch at York Hall. The 33-year-old Elite Training Centre rep laid claim to the promotion’s vacant flyweight championship at Cage Warriors 129, where he became the first man to submit Shanks—a third-round guillotine choke did the honors—on Oct. 2. Creasey has not lost in more than two years and finds himself on a four-fight winning streak ahead of their second encounter in a matter of months. Shanks, 26, held the Cage Warriors flyweight crown previously, from Sept. 24, 2020 to Dec. 10, 2020. He trains out of BST MMA in Northampton, England.

Cub Swanson vs. Darren Elkins
UFC Fight Night 199
Dec. 18 | Las Vegas

The chance for bloodshed seems inordinately high with these two men involved. Swanson has been a UFC mainstay for more than a decade now, having accrued a 12-8 record across his 20 assignments inside the Octagon. The 38-year-old Californian last fought at UFC on ESPN 23, where he succumbed to a first-round body kick and follow-up punches from Giga Chikadze in their May 1 co-main event. Elkins—aptly nicknamed “The Damage”—boasts a reputation as one of the featherweight division’s toughest outs due to his ability to absorb copious amounts of punishment and battle back from the brink. He steps into the cage on the heels of back-to-back victories over Luiz Eduardo Garagorri and Darrick Minner.

Mamed Khalidov vs. Roberto Soldic
KSW 65
Dec. 18 | Gliwice, Poland

“Robocop” will attempt to become a rare simultaneous two-division champion when he sets aside his welterweight crown to challenge Khalidov for the undisputed KSW middleweight title a week before Christmas at Arena Gliwice. The 26-year-old Soldic has gone on an absolute tear since his April 2018 technical knockout loss to current UFC standout Dricus Du Plessis. He has pieced together a six-fight winning streak—five of the six victories have resulted in finishes—that includes a third-round knockout of Du Plessis in their rematch. Khalidov, long viewed as the poster boy for the Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki organization, has not competed since he reclaimed the middleweight championship with his spectacular 36-second knockout of Scott Askham at KSW 55 on Oct. 10, 2020. Advertisement
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