The UFC has a great slate of fights headed to the Octagon in January but here are the five you can't miss.
David Dermer-USA TODAY SportsDavid Dermer
Yair Rodriguez vs. BJ Penn
Former lightweight and welterweight champion BJ Penn hasn’t fought since a TKO loss to Frankie Edgar in 2014 and hasn’t won a fight since 2010. Those facts haven’t deterred his UFC comeback though, as he returns against budding star Yair Rodriguez on Jan. 15 at UFC Fight Night.
Rodriguez is one of the best prospects on the roster and has already cracked the featherweight top 10 thanks to four straight action-packed performances against fellow prospects.
Now, he’ll get a chance to battle a veteran and officially gain some mainstream notoriety in the process.
Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY SportsJoe Camporeale
Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal
Donald Cerrone takes the Octagon on Jan. 28 just over a month after going three rounds with Matt Brown but that’s bee his M.O. lately.
Cerrone has fought 12 times since the beginning of 2014 and looks to continue that trend with a first-quarter bout against former Strikeforce contender Jorge Masvidal. Cerrone’s incredible 2016, when he moved up in weight from 155-pounds, saw he crack the welterweight top five. But he takes a step back to face 12th-ranked Masvidal, who has been calling for a fight with “Cowboy”.
Cerrone and Masvidal are both world-class strikers that should put on a show for the fans in Denver.
Getty ImagesSteve Marcus
John Moraga vs. Sergio Pettis
Flying under the radar at UFC Fight Night in Phoenix in a fantastic flyweight tilt between John Moraga and Sergio Pettis.
Moraga, a Phoenix native and eighth-ranked flyweight, has dropped back-to-back fights but before that had won five of his last seven, including four by finish. Pettis on the other hand, the younger brother of former lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, sits at 15th in the flyweight rankings and has won two straight since dropping down from bantamweight.
This bout should be action packed from bell to bell and could steal the show on Jan. 15.
Joshua DahlJoshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena
Top women’s bantamweight contenders Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena battle for a shot at the UFC title when they throw down in the main event of UFC Denver on Jan. 28.
Shevchenko is coming off an impressive win over Holly holm back in July, where she outstruck the former boxing champ over five rounds en route to a unanimous decision. Her only loss in her three UFC fights was a decision to current titleholder.
Pena is undefeated in her UFC career, winning all four of her fights since taking home the “Ultimate Fighter” season 18 title. Pena beat former title challenger Cat Zingano at UFC 200 and immediately called for a title shot, but it appears she’ll need one more win to get that fight.
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Andrei Arlovski vs. Francis Ngannou
Francis Ngannou looks to continue his destruction of the heavyweight division when he takes on former champion Andrei Arlovski in Denver.
Ngannou has never been to the judges in his professional career and in his four UFC fights, has dished out some reckless damage against his opponents. And he even proved he wasn’t a one-trick pony when he submitted Anthony Hamilton in his last fight.
He’ll have his hands full against fellow striker Andrei Arlovski, who looks to start 2017 off on a positive note after dropping all three of his fights in 2016. Despite that, Arlovski still holds dynamite in his hands and his years of experience should help the vet challenge Ngannou in ways he hasn’t seen inside the Octagon.