If your New Year’s Resolution was to watch more MMA, January has you covered with some amazing scraps. People look forward to fights for different reasons. Sometimes it’s a match up you know will deliver tons of action and sometimes it’s a compelling story. Let’s take a look at five fights that should have your undivided attention in January.
Yair Rodriguez vs. BJ Penn – UFC Fight Night 103 – January 15th on Fox Sports 1
This fight is compelling for a number of reasons. First and foremost, it’s the return of BJ Penn to MMA. Penn has lost 3 consecutive fights but seems primed to make a return. Penn is training at Jackson’s Wink MMA for this fight. He will face off against the exciting Yair Rodriguez, who has won five consecutive since coming to the UFC via the TUF Latin America show. While both fighters train at the same gym, Greg Jackson will corner BJ Penn.
Will BJ Penn be able to once again capture lightning in a bottle and shock the world, or will he fall victim to Yair’s dizzying kicking game? BJ Penn once said, “I only want to be known as the best ever, is that too much to ask?” This fight will help tell the tale.
Tito Ortiz vs. Chael Sonnen – Bellator 170 – January 21st on Spike TV
This one is must see TV, for obvious reasons. Tito Ortiz makes the walk to the cage for the last time in what he has stated will be his retirement fight. That enough is reason to tune in. One of the sport’s biggest stars, for Ortiz this fight marks the end of an era. Add to the mix the promoting genus that is Chael Sonnen and this is going to be good.
While wrestling in college these two met and Tito was pinned by Sonnen. They have both been pretty outrageous leading up the match. They have been smashing juice boxes, claiming the other is broke, just being silly, but when they meet in the cage, you can bet I’ll be watching. You should be watching too.
Paul Daley vs. Brennan Ward – Bellator 170 – January 21st on Spike TV
This is going to be good, really good. Paul Daley is a heavy handed striker who will mix it up with anyone. He has a ton of experience against the best of the best, and truly has one punch KO power. Brennan Ward isn’t afraid to bang with anyone on planet earth. He brings two heavy hands and a big heart into the cage with him.
These two will undoubtedly sling leather until one of them falls down and can’t get up. Whoever that is, at this point, is anyone’s guess. That said, it’s not to be missed.
Donald Cerrone vs. Jorge Masvidal – UFC on FOX 23 – January 28th, on FOX
Let’s be honest, if Donald Cerrone is fighting, I am watching. He is just too good, and his fights are always super entertaining. Pair him with someone who has no fear and will go toe to toe like Jorge Masvidal and you’ve got everything needed for FOTN.
If you feel like you just saw Masvidal in the Octagon, you’re right. He fought a month ago in December in a fight with Jake Ellenberger that ended awkwardly with Jake getting his foot stuck in the cage. Before that oddity however, Jake and Jorge threw hands with reckless abandon and that’s why I love watching Masvidal fight. He always fights hard.
Donald Cerrone is instant action, just put him in a cage and give him someone who’ll engage. I love this fight, and I am looking forward to it as much as I’ve looked forward to a fight for a long while. Tune in, you won’t be disappointed.
Valentina Shevchenko vs. Julianna Pena – UFC on FOX 23 – January 28th, on FOX
This fight interests me for a number of reasons. Julianna Pena has been willing to tell anyone who’ll listen that she’s ready to take over the Bantamweight Division. She feels her skills are the best out there, and she’s done a great job in the cage of proving that point. Her last win came against the very skilled and durable Cat Zingano.
On the other side of the coin here, is Valentina Shevchenko, who is coming off of an impressive victory over former Bantamweight Champion, Holly Holm. She’s also defeated the very talented Sarah Kaufman and her only loss in the UFC came via decision to current champion, and all around killer, Amanda Nunes.
This fight will certainly go a long way to determine the next potential challenger for Nunes. She’s fresh off of her dominating 48 second victory over Ronda Rousey. This is a compelling fight, and it could come down to which fighter can best implement their game plan. It’s an important fight, and I’ll definitely be watching.
There you go, five fights you shouldn’t miss this month, for various reasons. It should be a fun month for the sport, and when the month ends, we’ll take a look at what February holds for fans of the fist.