The final quarter of 2021 is filled with high profile fights, including six title fights, and other appearances from Max Holloway, Jose Aldo and Derrick Lewis. With plenty of action to look forward to, it’s easy to overlook some of the under-the-radar fights that will land on the remaining maps of the year. Here are five fights every mixed martial arts fan should have circled on their calendar for the rest of the year.
Miguel Baeza against Khaos Williams; UFC Fight Night 197, November 13
It’s easy to overlook the rest of a card when it’s featured by two of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster. Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez headline UFC Fight Night 197 on November 13 for a fight that could very well determine who is next in line for a UFC featherweight title. Also on this card is a potential contender for the ‘Fight of the Night’, which comes in the form of Miguel Baeza against Khaos Williams. It’s a contest that could define the future of welterweight rankings.
These days, it’s rare to see a fighter compile three finishes in his first three UFC appearances. That’s exactly what Baeza did when he entered the Octagon 7-0 as a pro and then beat Hector Aldana, Matt Brown and Takashi Sato in just 13 months. He continued his impressive 10-0 start with an epic three-round war against Santiago Ponzinibbio last June. This earned both fighters a “Fight of the Night” bonus. Despite his failure against the Brazilian, the 29-year-old Floridian has undoubtedly proven that he has what it takes to compete at the top of the division. He’ll be looking to make a top-15 spot by 2022, but he’ll have to face Williams first.
If you haven’t seen Williams’ knockout against Abdul Razak Alhassan, I suggest you go to Youtube for a quick look at how hard this Michigan native hits. Williams got off to a good start to his UFC career when he finished Alhassan after firing Alex Morono in a similar fashion on his UFC debut nine months earlier. Both fights ended in a first round knockout in 30 seconds or less. The runner-up landed him a main slot against the entertaining and elusive Michel Pereira. Williams failed in this one by unanimous decision, but he quickly rebounded with a decisive victory over Matthew Semelsberger several months later. Still only 27 years old and continually improving with every fight, Williams is certainly the top pick to enter the top 15 welterweight conversation by 2022.
Baeza and Williams are both prolific forwards capable of knocking out anyone who dares to stand in front of them. The pair combine for 13 professional knockouts and will stage one of the most memorable striking battles on November 13. Make sure to tune in when these two meet in the center of the Octagon and swing until one falls for the count.
Michael Chiesa vs. Sean Brady; UFC Fight Night 198, November 20
If an action-packed grappling affair featuring two prolific jiu-jitsu black belts sounds appealing, look no further than the top 15 welterweight game between Michael Chiesa and Sean Brady. The pair are set to meet on November 20 at UFC Fight Night 198 and will likely slip into the main event slot just before Kelten Vieira and Miesha Tate go head-to-head.
Switching to welterweight was easily the best career decision for seventh-ranked Michael Chiesa, who compiled a four-game winning streak by committing once to 170 pounds. He beat Carlos Condit, Diego Sanchez, Rafael dos Anjos and Neil Magny, before being strangled by D’Arce, thanks to Vicente Luque in August 2021. Nonetheless, Chiesa remains one of the most talented grapplers. of the division whose hitting is improving. , and overall resilience, will always make him a dangerous foe.
Brady’s association with Chiesa shows just how high the UFC is on the undefeated Philadelphia native who has compiled a 4-0 UFC record since making his debut in 2019. Brady is a superb wrestler with a solid background in Muay Thai which allows him to succeed against his opponents both on the feet and on the ground. He is currently number 13 in the UFC welterweight standings and can quickly find himself in the top eight in the division with a victory over Chiesa.
It will be a grueling affair that will see multiple transitions and changes in momentum, and the tenacity will be fully visible. While I would expect Chiesa to win a convincing decision due to his size and experience, Brady will show he can hang on to the top of the division, as the pair have fought a stellar battle. unforgettable.
Josh Emmett vs. Dan Ige; UFC 269, December 11
It’s possible that the featherweight clash between Josh Emmett and Dan Ige will go unnoticed due to the immense star power showcased at UFC 269. With a card featuring Dustin Poirier, Charles Oliveira, Amanda Nunes, Jorge Masvidal , Leon Edwards and Dominick Cruz, it will take an incredible performance to distract from what could be an epic card to close out a year. However, if there are two names capable of doing this, it’s Emmett and Ige.
Numerous facial and left leg injuries derailed what should have been an incredible road to a title shot for seventh Emmett. The Arizona native has arguably established himself as one of the most powerful featherweights to ever set foot in the Octagon. He racked up stoppage wins over Ricard Lamas, Michael Johnson and Mirsad Bektic. He recently met Shane Burgos in a co-main clash in June 2020 where the pair stood face to face for three full rounds, which resulted in a unanimous decision victory for Emmett. Unfortunately, he suffered several leg injuries, including an ACL tear in his left knee. Fully recovered and ready to get back on track, Emmett will need a big performance to continue his winning streak and secure a top five featherweight for his next UFC appearance.
After losing on his UFC debut to Julio Arce, Ige embarked on an epic six-game winning streak, most notably against the aforementioned Kevin Aguilar, Bektic and Edson Barboza. He was then tasked with meeting Calvin Kattar in a five-round war in July 2020. He ultimately suffered a unanimous decision loss, despite a fine performance. He rebounded with a first round knockout against Gavin Tucker, which led to a main showdown against “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung several months later. Despite a 1-2 record in his last three UFC appearances, the ninth Ige has established himself as one of the longest lasting and improved featherweights on the UFC roster.
Expect this fight to be absolute barn scorching as the two top 10 featherweights look to trade hard blows and chase knockout. The power advantage certainly goes to Emmett, but Ige certainly has the smoothest and most polished strike.
Cub Swanson vs. Darren Elkins; UFC Fight Night 199, December 18
It is truly amazing that Cub Swanson and Darren Elkins never faced each other in the Octagon. Swanson’s best days are certainly behind him, but he still has some of the most smooth and dynamic strikes we’ve seen in UFC featherweight history. After establishing himself as one of the top five featherweights for several years, Swanson enjoyed a four-game losing streak that effectively knocked him out of the title race. However, he rebounded with two impressive performances against Kron Gracie and Daniel Pineda before suffering a first round knockout loss to Giga Chikadze. Swanson still has one of the most illustrious careers in UFC featherweight history. His track record includes victories over Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Jeremy Stephens, Doo Ho Choi and Ross Pearson, making him a go-to name on every card he’s featured on.
It’s impossible to come up with a list of the toughest UFC fighters in history without putting Elkins at the top of the list. He’s had more comeback wins than anyone in the division and continues to shock the mixed martial arts world with his durability, resilience, and desire to win. His most notable winning streak began in 2015 when he went on a 6-0 streak that included wins over Chas Skelly, Dennis Bermudez and Michael Johnson. His comeback win over the aforementioned Bektic was particularly impressive, as Elkins suffered an absolute beating before coming back to score a third round knockout. After a TKO victory over Darrick Minner and a two-game winning streak, Elkins will look to make three in a row on December 18.
This fight will be the most realistic version of a Rocky fight that we have seen in recent memory. Swanson will be looking to dance around the slower Elkins and throw several punches and kicks on Bloody Elkins at the start. He will attempt to control the center of the Octagon in the same way Apollo Creed did to Rocky. On the other hand, Elkins will continuously advance and seek to penetrate Swanson’s jab, with the aim of causing severe damage to Swanson’s body and possibly getting a pullout. This fight will steal the show at UFC Fight Night 199 and enter the “Fight of the Year” conversation for 2021.