ANTHONY PETTIS VS MAX HOLLOWAY
Max Holloway has more than earned his shot at 145-pound gold, and while the interim title adds more weight to this main event between “Blessed” and Anthony Pettis, this was a great fight without two extra rounds and a title on the line. Pettis is still one of the most creative fighters in the sport, and when he’s on, he’s a scary matchup for anyone. But in recent bouts, being “on” has been the issue for “Showtime.” That’s not the case for Holloway, who has always shown up with his “A” game, and it’s that consistency that could be the biggest factor for him on Saturday night.
MATT BROWN VS DONALD CERRONE
Donald Cerrone has been a revelation at welterweight, winning three in a row, all by KO or submission. Matt Brown is likely to be Cerrone’s 170-pound truth machine though. If “The Immortal” can press “Cowboy” and force him to fight going backward, it’s going to be a true test of Cerrone’s ability to hang with the big boys in his new weight class.
TIM KENNEDY VS KELVIN GASTELUM
It was an interesting November for Tim Kennedy and Kelvin Gastelum, and not in a good way, as Kennedy saw his fight with Rashad Evans at UFC 205 get pulled on fight week when Evans was removed from the bout, while Gastelum’s own bout at 205 was scrapped when the former TUF winner didn’t make weight. Well, it’s a new month and a clean slate for both middleweights, one of whom will have some nice momentum to take into 2017 when the dust settles in Toronto.
DOOHO CHOI VS CUB SWANSON
It’s the fight the diehards want to see, and for good reason. Dooho Choi is a knockout machine at 145 pounds, and Swanson is the seasoned vet with perhaps the best boxing in the division. The one factor that could change things around is Swanson’s ground game, but guys like Swanson don’t want to beat you where they’re at their best; they want to beat you where you’re at your best.
EMIL MEEK VS JORDAN MEIN
Emil Meek is a fan favorite from Norway whose 45-second knockout of Rousimar Palhares kickstarted his call to the Octagon. On Saturday, “Valhalla” faces returning Canadian vet Jordan Mein, who is back in action after a short retirement. These two both get after it on fight night, so it will be exciting while it lasts. The question is whether it’s Meek aggressiveness or Mein’s technical attack that gets the job done.
MISHA CIRKUNOV VS NIKITA KRYLOV
My favorite fight on this card, just slightly ahead of Brown-Cerrone and Choi-Swanson is this light heavyweight matchup between Misha Cirkunov and Nikita Krylov. Both are high-level finishers and the winner has to be catapulted into the upper reaches of the 205-pound rankings. This is the kind of matchup you rarely see in boxing anymore, so we should all be happy when they happen as frequently as they do in MMA.
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DREW DOBER VS OLIVIER AUBIN-MERCIER
When he came off TUF Nations, Olivier Aubin-Mercier was going to be the next Georges St-Pierre. That hasn’t happened yet, but “The Quebec Kid” has been evolving with each fight, and with a win over always tough Drew Dober, OAM should be in for some more interesting matchups in 2017.
VIVIANE PEREIRA VS VALERIE LETOURNEAU
Brazil’s Viviane Pereira comes to the UFC with an unbeaten record and plenty of positive notices, but she’ll have to be something special to get by veteran Valerie Letourneau in her first UFC fight. Simply put, Letourneau is crafty and tough and she knows all the tricks, which means Pereira has a lot of mountains to climb to get the job done on Saturday.
MATTHEW LOPEZ VS MITCH GAGNON
Mitch Gagnon gets a home game in his return from injury, and his bout with Matthew Lopez should be a good one. Lopez gave a good account of himself in a debut loss to Rani Yahya, and with him trying to get his first UFC win and Gagnon wanting to make an impression in his return, both will likely be going for broke to get that victory.
LANDO VANNATA VS JOHN MAKDESSI
Lando Vannata became every fan’s favorite fighter the night he stepped in on short notice and nearly finished Tony Ferguson earlier this year. Now that he’s in the door, he’s seeking his first UFC victory, and if he can get another bonus, which could be likely against fellow striker John Makdessi, he wouldn’t mind the early Christmas present.
RUSTAM KHABILOV VS JASON SAGGO
Rustam Khabilov has quietly returned from a two-fight losing streak and a year off due to injury with three wins in a row in 2016. He hasn’t been his suplexing self in those fights, but a win’s a win, and he could be looking at a big 2017 if he can make it four straight over Canada’s Jason Saggo.
DUSTIN ORTIZ VS ZACH MAKOVSKY
Two seasoned vets, Dustin Ortiz and Zach Makovsky, get the night started off in the flyweight division, and this should be a competitive and closely contested bout that is likely to go 15 minutes. If it doesn’t and one of these fighters gets a finish over the other, that’s a major statement for one of the flyweight contenders who hasn’t shared the Octagon with champion Demetrious Johnson yet.