Dec. 10 marks one of the most jampacked days in recent combat sports history. Mixed-martial arts, boxing and kickboxing will all be showcased this Saturday, with each sport’s elite talents on display. With so many fights on one night, keeping track can be overwhelming. We’ve put together a guide to all of this weekend’s top action and what you should watch out for.
Conor McGregor left behind a mess at the top of the featherweight division, but it is about to be cleared up. Now that the superstar is stripped of that title, Jose Aldo has been promoted to champion. At UFC 206, Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis will contest for the interim strap and the chance to fight Aldo. This is one of the year’s most exciting matchups from a stylistic standpoint: Holloway (16-3) and former lightweight champ Pettis (19-5) are both dazzling strikers with a knack for highlight-reel finishes. The stakes are huge for Holloway, who is on a nine-fight winning streak, and Pettis, who looks to become a champion in a new division.
The rest of the pay-per-view card is filled with enticing scraps: young phenom Doo Hoi Choi will look to land his devastating right hand on veteran Cub Swanson in another featherweight affair. In the welterweight co-main event, fan-favorite Donald Cerrone will throw down with the madman Matt Brown. That fight is guaranteed to produce fireworks. While UFC 206 lacks in the big name blockbusters that made UFC 205 so great, it instead presents a lineup of wall-to-wall action that is likely to produce some of the year’s best fights.
Taking place right before UFC 206 kicks off, the most important fight in kickboxing’s recent history has arrived. Rico Verhoeven and Badr Hari will fight in a heavyweight main event in Germany. For those uninitiated to the sport, Verhoeven is the heavyweight champion and golden boy of GLORY, while Badr Hari is the most controversial figure in the sport, “the bad boy of kickboxing”.
If there’s one event that casual fans should watch to witness the best action in kickboxing, it’s GLORY: Collision. Rico vs. Badr is a fascinating clash of styles that will likely end with one heavyweight laying on the floor. If that’s not enough, the main card also includes the return of fan-favorite Nieky Holzken, who defends his welterweight belt in the co-main event.
Anthony Joshua vs. Eric Molina:
Dec. 10 features a showcase for two of the most promising stars in the heavyweight division.
First, IBF champion Anthony Joshua defends his title for the second time in Manchester. While the Brit is a heavy favorite over his opponent Eric Molina, Joshua’s performance is one to watch closely: If he is victorious, he will fight former reigning champion Wladimir Klitschko early next year.
We still have a lot to learn about the 17-0 Joshua, who is only 27, but you should pay attention to him early: you may be looking at the next king of the heavyweight division. If Joshua keeps winning, even when faced with the likes of Klitschko, he will be one of the biggest stars in the sport by this time next year.
Parker vs. Ruiz:
The second heavyweight showcase comes in New Zealand, where Kiwi boxer Joseph Parker will fight for the WBO heavyweight belt in his hometown against Andy Ruiz. Parker, another bright prospect in the division, will look to make history as the first heavyweight champion to come out of New Zealand. While you may not be familiar with Parker yet, he is a massive star in his home country, and a win over Ruiz will take him closer to global stardom.
The fight itself promises to be an action-packed affair. Parker has the size and power to put Ruiz down, but the Mexican boxer has never been dropped in a fight yet and he always comes forward and brings the action to his opponents.
If you can catch Parker vs. Ruiz and Joshua vs. Molina, you’ll receive an exciting education on the future of boxing’s heavyweight division. If Parker and Joshua continue on the roads they’re on, you may see the Brit and the Kiwi step into the ring together in the coming years.
Crawford vs. John Molina Jr.:
140-lb. Champion Terence “Bud” Crawford is one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in boxing. He will defend his title in his hometown of Omaha, Nebraska against John Molina Jr. This fight is mainly a means for Crawford to stay active, but that does not mean he can overlook the heavy-handed Molina. If Crawford is as dialed in as he was for his last few bouts, he should showcase why he deserves to be one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world.
While you may not get the most competitive fight out of this matchup, there are few fighters as talented as Crawford. Watch him defend his title and enjoy his crafty footwork, devastating pressure and slick movement. Down the line, you may see Crawford in massive super-fights with elite fighters from other divisions, including boxing legend Manny Pacquiao or the rising star Vasyl Lomachenko.
Jesus Cuellar vs. Abner Mares:
This fight is not just a showcase of one elite fighter defending his belt in style, but rather a genuine toss-up between two equally matched boxers. WBA featherweight champion Jesus Cuellar (28-1, 21 KOs) will take on former three-division champ Abner Mares (29-2-1, 15 KOs). This title fight has experts split on which featherweight can impose their will and emerge with the belt.
After watching the big boys throw down with the two heavyweight title fights, Cuellar vs. Mares (along with Crawford vs. Molina) will show you just how exciting the lighter weight classes are in the sport of boxing. Just because these fighters aren’t pushing 200 lbs doesn’t mean you shouldn’t expect a knockout: Cuellar’s record speaks for itself. But if Mares can sustain the champion’s power shots then this fight could become a tightly contested war. On a big night for boxing, Cuellar vs. Mares may be the best fight of them all once the final bells ring.
Bellator 168 & Bellator Kickboxing:
Bellator’s event in Florence, Italy took a hit when it lost its main event title fight between Melvin Manhoef and Rafael Carvalho. But let’s be honest: the first fight between those two gave us no reason to expect fireworks in a second go-around. The new main event is a more enticing bout between Alessio Sakara and UFC vet Joey Beltran.
Taking place that same night is a Bellator Kickboxing event featuring some of the sport’s top talents. Giorgio Petrosyan, considered by many to be the pound-for-pound best in the sport, takes on Jordan Watson. Tune in and see why Petrosyan has earned such a legendary status. American kickboxer Joe Schilling will also fight at the event, taking on Vittorio Iermano. If you’re not familiar with Schilling, some of your favorite fighters are: He is a friend and training partner of the Diaz brothers and was recently seen sparring with Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone. In the vein of those fan-favorites, Schilling doesn’t know how to be in a boring fight.
The Bellator Kickboxing portion of the event will air on SPIKE on tape delay next Friday, Dec. 16.