Written by @NickRiznerMMA
Taking a page out of the Buzzfeed playbook, I thought it’d be a great idea to end the year with a little list. People like lists. There are a lot of pictures. It’s easy to view on your phone while you’re operating a vehicle or pretending to do some work. The finite amount of options leave ample opportunity for internet outrage…
“How could you not include Brock Lesnar vs. CM Punk?!”
There’s a reason why the world’s biggest websites fill their pages with a vertically-stacked version of a google image search. People click those links. Plain and simple.
So, the questions remain. Am I sacrificing my integrity as a writer? Perhaps. Am I allowed to do a simple article every now and then to generate some buzz? Debatable. Nevertheless, here you have it… my list of Five Fun Fights (alliteration) that I would like to see in 2016.
I’ll try to mix in some MMA jargon so that this piece isn’t a complete cop out.
JOANNE CALDERWOOD VS. PAIGE VANZANT
The cancellation of this one left a stale taste in my mouth. A stale taste that had to be remedied by its inclusion in my hypothetical wishlist. JoJo and PVZ were originally slated for UFC Fight Night 80. Unfortunately, Calderwood was forced to pull out of the fight, leaving us with Rose Namajunas as the late replacement. Thug Rose proved to be far too much for Paige, delivering a near-perfect performance and securing her place as a true contender to the belt.
In the process of losing, however, Paige increased her stock. The lack of technique can be explained away by age and experience. But that heart. That unteachable fighter’s edge. It was her first test and she aced it. Throw that in there with Joanne’s tendency to fight with her heart on her sleeve and you’ve got one hell of a caution-to-the-wind slugfest. Let’s make it happen!
CONOR MCGREGOR VS. ANTHONY PETTIS
When McGregor announced his plans to move to lightweight, visions of potential matchups danced through my head. Cerrone, Ferguson, Barboza. The amount of dynamic strikers at 155 are endless; each and every one of them providing a unique challenge to the Notorious Irishman.
In all likelihood, I could come up with a list comprised solely of dream fights for McGregor, but for the time being, I’ll limit it to one. And that one is Anthony Pettis. Two of the most creative strikers to ever enter the Octagon, McGregor vs. Pettis would be an absolute spectacle from the word go.
HOLLY HOLM VS. MIESHA TATE
Holly and Ronda. Ronda and Holly. I’ve seen it and I want something new. Time and time again, Miesha Tate has been promised a title shot. Time and time again, she’s been passed by. Could it be the boomerang of good fortune making its way around from that TUF coaching shuffle? Perhaps it’s her own doing. Afterall, she did lose to Rousey twice already. Either way, she’s been on a four fight win streak and absolutely deserves another crack at the belt.
But this is not a list about who deserves what. It’s about fun. And Holm vs. Tate would be a whole lot of fun. Tate’s relentless pressure would create for some fantastic counter opportunities for Holm. But unlike the Rousey fight, Tate would likely have more success in a scrappy striking match. Her tenacity would push Holm to new levels and the fans would reap the benefits. Cautious fighters make counter strikers boring. Miesha Tate is not a cautious fighter. And this fight would be far from boring.
SAGE NORTHCUTT VS. STEPHEN THOMPSON
I’ve made this comparison several times on the podcast and I think it’s time to watch it play out in real life. The new flashy striker vs. the time-tested vet. Lethal combinations. Spinning wheel kicks. Victorious flips. This is going to look more like a Power Rangers fight sequence than a UFC bout. Just a couple of Ninjas going toe-to-toe for stand-up supremacy.
If this one comes to fruition, we’ll need to brace ourselves for an overdose on positivity. Thompson and Northcutt are on top of the pound-for-pound polite list, and the levels of ‘friendly’ will be off the charts in this lead-up/post fight coverage. Hey… it’ll be a good counterbalance for all that McGregor trash talk. Yin and Yang
JOANNA JEDRZEJCZYK VS. ROSE NAMAJUNAS
I had to double up in the Strawweight division. For my money, the 115 pounders are the most exciting fighters on the roster right now, and after Rose’s brilliant performance over PVZ, I am itching to see how she fairs against Joanna. She’s looks to have vastly improved since that Esparza debacle, and I think this one is a better stylistic matchup for her than Carla’s wrestling. If Rose is going to wear the belt, this would be a great time to make that run.
A front-runner for fighter of the year in 2015, Joanna continues to prove the superiority of her stand-up game. Eleven wins as a pro, five under the Zuffa banner, and three in the past calendar year (all title fights), Joanna is the undisputed queen of the strawweights. A win over a streaking Namajunas would be a real legacy builder. That is, of course, assuming she can avoid that creative Thug Rose offense. I need to see this one in action. Fingers crossed for this one in 2016.Check out our latest podcast episode featuring Jimi Manuwa, Andreas Georgiou & Nate Zielinski.