The month of November gave MMA fans many reasons to talk, as contenders separated themselves from pretenders, upsets came in a major way, and the sport saw new champions crowned in the form of Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks and UFC interim heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum.

December marks the end of this calendar year, but the schedule is as solid as the past couple of months. If all goes according to plan for the month, eight world titles will be contested, with five of those title bouts scheduled to happen this weekend.

While there are some great fights on the schedule every year at around this time, ten fights make this particular December a special kind of time in the MMA world.

Check them out below.

 

10. The Ultimate Fighter 20 women’s strawweight final, TUF 20 Finale
The finals of TUF, during most seasons, is just another final to “just another season” of TUF, but everything changed long before Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez were announced as TUF 20 coaches. In fact, fans knew from the second that someone said “UFC strawweight title” that this season would be more than just the standard array of drama and tomfoolery, since no previous season was ever contested with a UFC world title in the balance, and as this season truly has been “any girl’s game”, the finals will shape up to be must see, regardless of who is in the finals.

9. Rousimar Palhares vs. Jon Fitch, WSOF 16
More than the mere notion of this fight, people had trouble fathoming that the two men would ever contend against each other for a title. Alas, it will happen, and it breaks down very easily: Fitch wants to shut Palhares’ grappling down while Palhares wants one of Fitch’s legs. The welterweigt title may be a second thought, in comparison to the grappling battle, which has had many excited for this fight since before it ever got announced.

8. Rick Glenn vs. Lance Palmer, WSOF 16
Fight fans don’t hear much about Glenn or Palmer, but both represent two very excellent fight teams, and both know how to hunt for a finish when the opportunity presents itself. When we last saw Palmer, he submitted Nick LoBosco, while Glenn would force a TKO win over former WSOF featherweight champion Georgi Karakhanyan. Now, Glenn’s first defense comes against a man in Palmer who has gone the distance before in a title match situation, while Palmer faces the challenge of a man who has not lost since 2010.

7. Renan Barao vs. Mitch Gagnon, UFN 58
Despite a lengthy winning streak with two WEC wins, Barao entered the UFC as arguably the most lethal and most promising bantamweight that fans of the sport had, at that time, never heard of. Barao would go on to first win the UFC interim bantamweight strap, and then get promoted to the undisputed champion, but a dominant five round performance from TJ Dillashaw changed everything. Fast forward a few months, and Barao finds himself against one of the UFC’s unsung bantamweights in Gagnon, who excels in the grappling realm, and is the underdog on paper for this fight. Therefore, if Barao really wants to prove that he belongs back in the title picture, he ought to keep his focus on Gagnon now, and then if he survives this test, he can worry about Dillashaw at another time.

6. Junior dos Santos vs. Stipe Miocic, UFC on Fox 13
Dos Santos hasn’t been the same man that he was back at UFC 155, when he was UFC heavyweight champion and had his rematch against Cain Velasquez, and whether or not that’s a good thing for Miocic depends entirely on who you ask. Sure, Miocic has been on a tear, but dos Santos represents his toughest test to date, outside of him just being the first former UFC heavyweight champ to face Miocic. The Ohioan can battle like a zombie with an insane gas tank at times, but headshots always stop zombies, and few know headshots like “Cigano”. By the same token, though, Miocic knows how tough dos Santos can be in five round bouts, and while it would give most people an edge, dos Santos can be too tough for his own good at times, which makes the potential upset all the more possible.

5. Zach Juusola vs. Medhi Baghdad, RFA 21
The MMA world’s premier developmental league returns to AXS TV with another battle of unsung prospects in a headlining capacity. Baghdad originally planned on seeing JJ Ambrose in an RFA lightweight title clash, but when Ambrose had to withdraw, Juusola accepted the challenge. Strip away the title situation, though, and we’re looking at two exemplary lightweights who aim to show the world what they can do at 155.

4. Michelle Waterson vs. Herica Tiburcio, Invicta 10
Even if Cristiane Justino had not planned on seeing action on this card, Shannon Knapp and Julie Kedzie still did it big for this card and got “The Karate Hottie” For this card. The overwhelming favorite to take just about anyone in this division, the champion Waterson faces a tough task in Tiburcio, who could make for another big upset this year if the 22 year old Sao Paolo native can topple the reigning champion.

3. Bibiano Fernandes vs. Dae Hwan Kim, One FC 23
Fernandes has long since been one of the best bantamweights outside of the UFC, and while many thought he would sign with the promotion back in 2012, “Flash” has kept his name alive by signing to ONE FC and claiming their bantamweight belt. Kim is a 27 year old product who has done well in ONE FC with two submission wins, but the BJJ specialist remains his toughest test to date, and with the ground game Fernandes employs, this bout raises a lot of questions about how Kim hopes to handle him on Friday.

2. Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez, UFC 181
Let two things sink in for a moment. First, as a spoiler alert, this UFC lightweight title tilt legitimately holds the potential to steal “Fight of The Year” from any other fight this year, solely because of how both the champion and challenger compete. Secondly, for all the talk of how Pettis has not fought since submitting Benson Henderson for the title, we must remember not only Pettis’ plans on defending his belt against Josh Thomson, but also the fact that Melendez also has not fought since defeating Diego Sanchez.
Still, when Pettis signs to fight, he shows up ready to go all night long, as does Melendez, and despite both being out for over a year, they will still bring it for as long as their title tilt lasts.

1. Johny Hendricks vs. Robbie Lawler, UFC 181
We all remember where we were when Hendricks defeated Lawler for the UFC welterweight crown at UFC 171. All five rounds delivered arguably the most intense action ever witnessed in the UFC welterweight division, and at the end of the bout, the MMA world seemed split on who really won—did Hendricks really do enough to wrest the bout away from Lawler? As Lawler has battled twice since the defeat and Hendricks makes the first defense of the belt as part of this rematch, any questions that lingered after that memorable bout in Dallas will all receive answers come Saturday night.