This is one of those month’s where The 10 needs to be The 20 or the very least, The 15.
With five events on the schedule for November, including a day-night doubleheader – from Belfast, Northern Ireland and Sao Paulo, Brazil no less – on the 19th and an historic evening in New York City a week earlier, there is such a large collection of fights to draw from this month that putting together this column has been a nightmare.
I mean, how do you leave out a former champion like Frankie Edgar or not have room for Top 15 matchups at featherweight, lightweight, welterweight and middleweight?
November is going to be so much fun. November is my Christmas.
This is The 10.
The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 3 Finale (November 5 – Mexico City)
Standing in the blue corner, a fighter on an eight-fight winning streak who has collected five bonus checks in his last
four appearances. Standing in the red corner, the former champion, returning for the first time since dropping the title.
Ferguson has been rolling through guys for three years now, using his unconventional, attacking style to collect wins over the likes of Gleison Tibau, Josh Thomson and Edson Barboza while climbing to No. 3 in the division. That leaves him one spot behind Dos Anjos, who appeared poised to enjoy a lengthy reign over the lightweight ranks before getting dethroned by Eddie Alvarez in the summer.
This is one of several terrific fights in the 155-pound ranks in November and should set the bar for the other contender showdown on tap for later in the month.
UFC 205 (November 12 – New York City)
Here is the aforementioned other lightweight contender showdown on tap for November – a clash between the unbeaten Nurmagomedov and the rejuvenated Johnson that will be the sixth fight to hit the Octagon at Madison Square Garden.
Just when it seemed like Johnson was being forced to take a step back after back-to-back losses, the former TUF finalist went out and thumped Dustin Poirier in Hidalgo, Texas, picking up the victory (and a Performance of the Night bonus) in 95 seconds to re-insert himself in the title conversation.
With Nurmagomedov, it’s never been a question of talent, as he ran roughshod over everyone he’s faced to date, both in the UFC and abroad, en route to a 23-0 record. But injuries have limited him to one fight in the last two years and while he looked solid beating Darrell Horcher in April, “The Eagle” needs to ace this lightweight litmus test in order to potentially earn a title shot.
Get ready for UFC 205: Fight card for Nov. 12 | Champions Alvarez, McGregor to headline historic card | McGregor brings the show to New York City | Woodley-Wonderboy welterweight title clash set | Polish stars Jedrzejczyk, Kowalkiewicz perfect for NYC | Watch: Ticket info
Middleweight is the most interesting and active division of the month, as six members of the Top 10 will be in action, beginning with this pair in NYC.
Weidman returns for the first time since losing the middleweight strap at UFC 194 and following a surgical procedure that forced him out of his scheduled rematch with Luke Rockhold in June. The Long Island native is back at full strength and will be bolstered by the partisan crowd, so don’t be surprised if we get the best version of Weidman to date at UFC 205.
That still may not be enough to beat Romero, however, which is one of the reasons why this is such a compelling fight. The former Cuban Olympian is one of the best athletes in the sport and capable of controlling the action on the ground or ending it with one well-placed strike just the same.
Just as Dos Anjos and Ferguson will set the bar for Nurmagomedov and Johnson, being the first of three important middleweight matchups on the schedule for November means this one will be the clubhouse leader everyone will be chasing at UFC 205.
It’s a clash of unbeaten Polish standouts in this championship battle.
Kowalkiewicz has quietly put together a three-fight winning streak since joining the UFC, running her record to 10-0 while earning her a shot at gold in New York City. After collecting one-sided wins over Randa Markos and Heather Jo Clark, Kowalkiewicz out-worked Rose Namajunas at UFC 201, picking up a split decision victory to cement her standing as the No. 1 contender in the 115-pound ranks.
A few weeks earlier, Jedrzejczyk showed her championship mettle by rallying to defeat Claudia Gadelha and retain her title. Now training at American Top Team in South Florida, there is potential for “Joanna Champion” to up her game even more and this showdown with her compatriot will be our first look at the impact of her transatlantic training move.
Expect a spirited kickboxing battle from start to finish in this one with the potential for these ladies to steal the show at UFC 205.
After unseating Robbie Lawler at the end of July, Woodley looks to begin a lengthy reign atop the welterweight division. All that’s standing in his way is a fighter with a hard-to-counter style riding a seven-fight winning streak.
Woodley’s performance at UFC 201 was the type of showing everyone knew he was capable of delivering, but had only witnessed in fits and starts since he matriculated to the UFC from Strikeforce in 2013. He closed the distance and cold-cocked Lawler with a right hand, swarming to get the finish and if he fights with that same focus and intensity going forward, “The Chosen One” could very well find himself entrenched atop the 170-pound weight class for some time.
But Thompson is a difficult puzzle to solve – a world-class kickboxer who has dramatically improved his takedown defense and conditioning to become one of the elite in the welterweight division. He made Johny Hendricks look like a deer in the headlights in February and flustered Rory MacDonald in June to run his winning streak to seven.
If he gets to eight, we’ve got a new welterweight champ.
Conor McGregor</a> and Eddie Alvarez exchange words at the UFC 205 pre-fight press conference in New York City" align="middle" />
Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor (Lightweight Championship)
While McGregor chasing history is the major narrative of this fight, it will be Alvarez who gets introduced last as it is his lightweight title that is up for grabs in the UFC 205 main event.
“The Underground King” became the man in the spotlight in July, striding into the cage and putting it on Dos Anjos to become the new champion. After suffering a loss to Donald Cerrone in his promotional debut, Alvarez has shown the steely resolve, dogged determination and full arsenal of skills that made him an exciting addition to the division and now the man standing atop the deepest collection of talent in the organization.
Winning a second title has been McGregor’s goal for 2016 since he claimed the featherweight title at UFC 194 and after a two-fight detour with Nate Diaz, he’s back on track, looking to make history. “The Notorious” one accomplished the feat under the Cage Warriors banner and his size and style should play better at lightweight than it did at welterweight, which means there is a very real possibility McGregor will end the year with championship gold on each shoulder.
Of course, Alvarez has other ideas.
UFC Fight Night: Mousasi vs. Hall 2 (November 19 – Belfast, Northern Ireland)
Rematches often are.
Hall scored an impressive and surprising knockout win over the former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion last September in Japan, connecting with a jumping spinning back kick that will be featured on highlight reels for years to come. He’s since suffered back-to-back losses to Robert Whittaker and Derek Brunson (who meet each other in Australia at the end of the month), but a repeat in this rematch instantly returns him to the fringes of contention.
Conversely, Mousasi has been streaking since their first encounter, posting three straight victories, including a first-round knockout of Thiago Santos and a second-round stoppage win over Vitor Belfort just a couple weeks ago at UFC 204. He’s long been a “if he just fights to his full potential” guy and it appears he’s finally doing that, which means this one should be even better than their initial meeting and that one was excellent.
UFC Fight Night: Bader vs. Nogueira (November 19 – Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Claudia Gadelha vs. Cortney Casey
Casey has been making waves in the shallow end of the strawweight Top 15 over her last couple outings, picking up consecutive first-round stoppage wins over Cristina Stanciu and Randa Markos to break into the rankings. Now, “Cast Iron” is being tossed into the deep end for a “sink or swim” matchup against the best fighter in the division not named Joanna Jedrzejczyk.
Gadelha is 13-0 for her career against everyone other than the UFC strawweight titleholder, but winless in a pair of meetings with “Joanna Champion.” Returning for the first time since coming up short in her attempt to wrestle the belt away from Jedrzejczyk in July, the Brazilian has relocated to the Jackson-Wink Academy in Albuquerque for this camp and remains an elite talent.
This is Casey’s chance to pull the upset and insert herself in the title conversation, while Gadelha is out to affirm her standing as the unquestioned silver medalist in the 115-pound division.
Coming off a sharp first-round stoppage win over Patrick Cummins in May, “Little Nog” wants to show he’s still got something left in the tank and gain a measure of revenge in this main event rematch. The veteran Brazilian came out on the wrong side of a unanimous decision result when these two clashed at UFC 119, but has looked good in his last couple appearances and will have the backing of the raucous Brazilian crowd behind him.
Bader bounced back from his January loss to Anthony Johnson with a knockout finish of Ilir Latifi in September, giving him a 7-1 mark over his last eight bouts. The former Ultimate Fighter winner is entrenched in the Top 5, but isn’t satisfied with that standing and another impressive win over Nogueira is a good way to keep pushing forward.
UFC Fight Night: Whittaker vs Brunson (November 27 – Melbourne, Australia)
Robert Whittaker vs. Derek Brunson
Although it’s the most unheralded of the middleweight tussles on deck for the month ahead, this matchup actually features a pair of fresh talents on the rise in the 185-pound ranks who should make some noise in 2017.
Whittaker has been perfect since moving up in weight after beginning his UFC run in the 170-pound ranks, with four consecutive victories in the division and five straight overall. Brandishing clean, technical kickboxing skills plus the granite chin and warrior spirit so often found in competitors from the South Pacific, “The Reaper” stands as one of the most intriguing young fighters on the UFC roster today and can inch closer to contention with another victory here.
While Whittaker started early and is already impressing at age 25, Brunson is more of a late bloomer, but he’s been making up for lost time over his last five fights. The 32-year-old North Carolina native and Team Jackson-Wink representative has thundered his way to five consecutive victories, ending the last four before the three-minute mark of the first round. Now 7-1 in the UFC, an eighth win inside the Octagon would put Brunson in the mix in the middleweight division.