November 30, 2016

UFC: December Is Packed With MMA Action, But How Much Excites You?

By Raphael Garcia

The end of the year is quickly approaching as December looms. One look at the schedule reveals that the UFC is due to have a busy 31 days ahead. Four of the month’s five weekends feature some type of UFC event, with two PPVs, the conclusion of the 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter, and UFC Fight Night 102 all planned, as well as a fight card on the FOX network. But even with this full slate of events, it’s hard to find many fights to get excited about as we close out 2016.

The news of Daniel Cormier’s withdrawal from UFC 206 rocked a card that was already on shaky ground. Surrounded by the massive success of recent UFC events and the upcoming return of Ronda Rousey at UFC 207, this event was left on an island by itself. Even though the main event bout between Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis is an intriguing fight, the reasoning behind the decision to book it is questionable at best.

This fight has much more value than the main events for the TUF 24 Finale and UFC Fight Night 102, but was originally intended to be the co-main event of the struggling UFC 206 event. Making the bout for an interim title while Jose Aldo sits at home and Conor McGregor “relinquishes” his belt devalues the term “champion” within the promotion. Although this fight will keep the featherweight division moving forward, it opens up a wealth of questions that leadership within the UFC probably won’t answer.

Why should fight fans watch either of the cards on the Fox Sports 1 platform this month? The 24th season of The Ultimate Fighter was a great refresh of the stale reality show which shined a light on regional mixed martial arts. But the co-main event, a fight between the coaches Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo, offers no insight into the future of the division, as both men have fallen to current pound-for-pound leader Demetrious Johnson. If he successfully defends his title, there's no telling what's next for the division as a whole.

UFC Fight Night 102 is in even worse straits, as the main event features a guy that many fans, hardcore and mainstream alike, will struggle to recognize. Derrick Lewis may be slowly developing a following, and this is the type of fight in which his style may shine, but this type of matchmaking has blown up in the promotion’s face in the past.

To say that December is a busy month would be quite the understatement. The oversaturation of mixed martial arts hasn’t been as much of a talking point recently as it was in the past, as the UFC has put together big cards to overshadow any that could be deemed less-than-quality. The month of December does feature that one big event, but it will be interesting to see whether the strength of the show at the end of the year will be enough to remove the weight of the four shows preceding it. Fans were given a brief respite a few weeks ago that played a part in the big success of UFC 205. The opposite will occur in December, however, and that may have a negative impact on the way the promotion seeks to close out 2016.

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