November in MMA was as stacked as any month we’ve seen before.
Between Bellator 163, UFC Fight Night 98, Bellator 164, UFC 205, Invicta FC 20, UFC Fight Night 99, UFC Fight Night 100, Bellator 165 and UFC Fight Night 101, keeping up with mixed martial arts came close to being a chore as much as it was a luxury for fight fans in month No. 11.
Here, we bring you the top five contests that took place in the chaotic month.
5. Joanna Jedrzejcyzk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
Despite the one-sided scorecards, Karolina Kowalkiewicz never looked too inexperienced for the moment she was given at UFC 205 earlier this month. Taking on the most dominant female champion the UFC has to offer — and perhaps the second most dominant champ, including the men — Kowalkiewicz stood her ground against Joanna Jedrzejczyk for five rounds before walking home with the first defeat of her pro career.
Jedrzejczyk looked as masterful as ever. A new camp in her corner, courtesy of a move to American Top Team earlier this year, the Polish dynamo pressed forward with her high-volume attack en route to a trio of 49-46 scorecards. It was the fourth time she defended her crown.
What’s more, and admittedly the only reason this fight lands on the list, is that this bout marked the first time Jedrzejczyk appeared hurt throughout her UFC career. Kowalkiewicz staggered the champion in the fourth round, coming far closer than anybody ever has to stopping “Joanna Champion.”
4. Tony Ferguson vs. Rafael dos Anjos
A lightweight clash destined to carry a former champion back into contention or a new challenger into championship recognition, Tony Ferguson vs. Rafael dos Anjos delivered in every which way he hoped it would.
A strong first round from the former titleholder, the first five minutes of action had some of us believing if “El Cucuy’s” remarkable success at 155 pounds was more a result of the quality of opponents rather than his own merits. Strong leg kicks followed by massive straight rights, dos Anjos looked like the same fighter who ran through the division just two years back.
But then came the second round, and Ferguson flipped a switch. As fluid a striker as he’s been through his winning streak, Ferguson let his hands go with precision in both accuracy and timing. A volume puncher by nature, Ferguson’s attack constantly left dos Anjos retreating or moving forward while his head snapping back. A masterful performance from the former TUF winner, Ferguson proved he was worth of at least having his name in the hat.
3. Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson
A fight between two elite welterweights with vastly different skill-sets, this fight was expected to go one of a handful of different ways. And it did. All of them.
As anticipated by some, Woodley took control of the fight early one with a takedown in Round 1. He kept the pressure on the challenger until the first bell sounded, landing some damaging elbows from the top that left Thompson in as bloody a mess as we’ve ever seen inside the Octagon.
The following two rounds, according to many, were all Thompson. Woodley’s takedown offense was questionably tucked away, allowing “Wonderboy” to manage the distance with his striking and pick the champion apart.
Then came the fourth round that nearly sealed the champion with his first defense. Landing a massive punch to the head, Woodley had “Wonderboy” in deep waters with both ground-and-pound striking and a devastatingly close guillotine choke.
A bounce-back effort from Thompson in Round 5 forced at least two judges to ultimately score it a 47-47 tie, leading to a majority draw that allowed Woodley to remain welterweight champion. A rematch will likely be in order as a result — a consequence few outside Demian Maia should be upset about.
2. Robert Whittaker vs. Derek Brunson
The only fight on this list to not go the distance, Robert Whittaker vs. Derek Brunson at UFC Fight Night 101 didn’t even make it out of the first round. Two rising middleweight contenders looking to make a statement in a crowded division full of name-brand fighters, we had every reason to expect a wealth of violence in Melbourne, Australia.
Whittaker was one of the top strikers in the division; Brunson was in search of a fifth straight first-round knockout to add to his resume. A combination of this nature and we were destined for an exciting ending to this bout. Brunson got going early, using a questionable lunging style of offense that previously afforded him great deals of success. But against as technical a style as Whittaker has, there would be no highlight-reel KO. Not for him, anyway.
The Aussie backed away and often stood his ground to retaliate with counter shots. Landing a short hook before bookending it with a kick to the head. A frantic four minutes of offense came to a close with Whittaker pounding his chest in front of a supporting home crowd.
1. Michael Chandler vs. Benson Henderson
An instant classic, a fight between lightweight champion Michael Chandler and Benson Henderson immediately inserted itself into the annals of Bellator’s best.
Chandler kicked off the fight with a ferocious pace, trying to bury Henderson into the canvas with a suplex takedown to make Brock Lesnar proud before landing an uppercut from hell. A remarkably one-sided opening round for the champion.
But then came the rounds that followed. Henderson proved his gas tank would hold up far greater than the champion’s. Taking advantage of the middle rounds, “Smooth” nearly did enough to secure the victory but eventually gave way to a clear-cut win to Chandler by fight’s end.
A night to remember for Bellator MMA, but one that was surely overshadowed by the likes of competing events like UFC Fight Night 100 and Sergey Kovalev vs. Andre Ward.