MMA Ratings Podcast

January 7, 2020

Fights To Watch Out For: January 2019

By Michael Ford

The New Year is light on big fights, as the 2020 hype cycle hasn't kicked into gear yet. However, even a fight fan that's more focused on the NFL Playoffs and awards season should make time for these matchups. However they turn out, folks are going to be talking about the outcomes, and they'll likely set the tone for the kinds of storylines and narratives we'll see throughout the year in the UFC and Bellator MMA:

Conor McGregor vs. Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone

The biggest star in the sport returns to the Octagon against one of its top "any time, any place" scrappers in the main event of UFC 246. This is a big money fight in its own right, but the bigger money comes for the winner, who should be able to call out whoever he wants after an impressive showing in front of the entire world. Much has been made of the possibility of a McGregor win setting up a rematch with Khabib Nurmagomedov, but I wouldn't be surprised if The "Notorious" One called out Jorge Masvidal.

BMF II could be twice as big as the fight between Masvidal and Nate Diaz, and McGregor has a much better shot at winning that fight than a Nurmagomedov rematch. As for Cowboy, if he can pull off the upset (because make no mistake about it, Cerrone is on the verge of going from "suspect chin" to "chindicted," and the UFC matchmakers know that), he absolutely should double down on the win and take that BMF II payday. We should all expect violence, intensity, and an exciting finish next weekend, and if you're a fight fan, you'd be crazy to miss it.

UFC 246
Conor McGregor vs. Donald Cerrone

Julia Budd vs. Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino

Yes, Amanda Nunes is the GOAT when it comes to women's MMA, but Cyborg is still one of the few fighters to transcend the sport, and now she brings that aura to Bellator. In the main event of Bellator 238, Julia Budd will have the opportunity to validate her featherweight title reign with a win over one of the most fearsome names in the arena of female face-punching. For Cyborg, it's obvious that she has lost a step, but a win will show fans that she isn't completely washed, while also setting her on the path to more lucrative paydays and more promotional focus than the UFC was ever prepared to give her.

Bellator 238
Julia Budd vs. Cris Cyborg (Women's FW Championship)

Alfred Khashakyan vs. Sergio Pettis

When a former UFC fighter moves over to Bellator, there is often the sense that he or she has "washed out" of the promotion, and in doing so, indicated that his or her ceiling as a fighter has been reached. For the 26-year-old Pettis, that isn't necessarily the case, as he exited the promotion on a win, with a serviceable 9-5 Octagon record after competing in both the bantamweight and flyweight divisions. Now, at Bellator 238, he will get the opportunity to make his mark in the Bellator bantamweight division when he makes his promotional debut against Alfred Khashakyan.

As the younger brother of Anthony "Showtime" Pettis, Sergio was perhaps burdened by unreasonable expectations as a prospect, particularly at a time when the UFC was trying to find stars at 125 pounds to challenge flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson. This may have compromised his development, while also hanging losses on his record that a less aggressive matchmaking regimen would have avoided. In Bellator, Pettis can expect to be matched favorably, as the promotion has invested in his long-term success and likely views him as an asset to cultivate rather than attempt to cash in on immediately. But the first step is an exciting and impressive bout against Khashakyan. If he can give fans something to hang on to, he can add that to his name recognition and start gathering momentum for this next phase of his career. It's go time.

Bellator 238
Alfred Khashakyan vs. Sergio Pettis

As is often the case, shaking off the holiday malaise leads to January 2020 being a light month in terms of must-see MMA action. Future months will demand more of our attention. But what that means is that fans should make it the utmost priority to see the top two bouts, while keeping an eye out for the third, be it live or in highlight form. It's a slow start, but once the sport hits its breakneck pace, these will be the weeks we look back on and appreciate.

Bellator 238: Budd vs. Cyborg takes place January 25, 2020 at The Forum in Inglewood, California.

Click HERE for more Bellator 238 Pre-Fight Analysis

UFC 246: McGregor vs. Cowboy takes place January 18, 2020 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada.

Click HERE for more UFC 246 Pre-Fight Analysis

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