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Top MMA fights to watch in November 2016: Part II

A brief scan of the fights scheduled for November 2016 and you’ll realize you may not have enough time to do much else but watch mixed martial arts.

Between Bellator 163, UFC Fight Night 98, Bellator 164, UFC 205, Invicta FC 20, Bellator 165, UFC Fight Night 99, UFC Fight Night 100 and UFC Fight Night 101, fight fans will be sure to get their fill well before Thanksgiving comes around.

As noted in Part I of November’s top fights to watch, we opted to extend this stacked month from the traditional top five to a top 10. For a full recap on the fights that ranked No. 10-6, as well as November’s honorable mentions, check out Part I of this month’s edition.

Here, we bring you the top five MMA fights to watch in November.

 

5. Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero

UFC middleweight fighters Chris Weidman, left, and Yoel Romero pose for photos during a news conference for UFC 205, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, in New York. Weidman and Romero are on the first UFC card to be held in New York after the state legislature legalized the sport earlier this year. UFC 205 is scheduled to be held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Event: UFC 205

Date: Nov. 12

Location: Madison Square Garden; New York City

Much was left uncertain following Chris Weidman’s loss to Luke Rockhold at UFC 194 last December. Was the former middleweight champion exposed in certain areas of the fight game or was he merely a victim of an incredibly poor decision when throwing that spinning back kick in Round 3? Those questions were poised to be under a massive spotlight at UFC 199, only to be put on ice after Weidman underwent surgery to repair his neck.

The former middleweight king — the same one who defeated Anderson Silva twice, Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort — now faces a man with some pretty important questions of his own. Failing a random drug screening earlier this year, Yoel Romero was granted a reduced suspension after successfully proving some of the supplements he was taking were tainted with banned substances. Where many questioned the Cuban fighter’s integrity as a clean fighter, Romero needs to prove he remains as effective of a fighter in the aftermath of his run-in with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency. It won’t be easy though, as Weidman is hellbent on sprinting back to the throne currently helmed by Michael Bisping.

4. Liam McGeary vs. Phil Davis

Event: Bellator 163

Date: Nov. 4

Location: Mohegan Sun Arena; Uncasville, Connecticut

From the moment Phil Davis packed his bags and set sail for Bellator MMA, the MMA community had its sights set on a future matchup between Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary and “Mr. Wonderful.” In many ways, this provides us with the greatest litmus test available to determine where McGeary — long considered the best light heavyweight fighter competing outside the Octagon — truly stands in the greater landscape.

A 6-foot-6 light heavyweight who cruised his way to a light heavyweight title matchup against former champion Emmanuel Newton, McGeary made Newton’s unorthodox style as ineffective as it was awkward. Several months later, he welcomed former UFC light heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz as his first title challenger. An early takedown from Ortiz offered signs of a competitive matchup, but it was McGeary’s inverted triangle choke from the bottom that cemented the English fighter as the more crafty competitor.

Despite the two impressive wins, however, McGeary has yet to face a man anywhere near the level of the former UFC 205-pound mainstay.

Since dropping a split decision in the final outing of his UFC career in January 2015, Davis has ran roughshod against the top contenders Bellator has to offer. A first-round knockout against Newton, followed by a first-round knockout over Francis Carmont on the same night, Davis most recently made his presence felt in a unanimous decision win over former title challenger Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal. A championship victory would do wonders for “Mr. Wonderful’s” future as a mixed martial artist — one that likely includes a second trip to free agency four fights into his Bellator contract.

3. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, left, faces off with Karolina Kowalkiewicz during a news conference for UFC 205, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, in New York. Jedrzeczyk and Kowalkiewicz are on the first UFC card to be held in New York after the state legislature legalized the sport earlier this year. UFC 205 is scheduled to be held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Event: UFC 205

Date: Nov. 12

Location: Madison Square Garden; New York City

Easily one of the more entertaining fighters on the UFC roster present day, Joanna Jedrzejczyk looks to continue her unbeaten streak in an all-Poland championship contest in the heart of New York.

“Joanna Champion” will only be about four months removed from the most recent defense of her UFC title, going the distance against rival Claudia Gadelha in a surefire Fight of the Year candidate at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale. After giving up numerous takedowns and likely giving up the first two rounds to the challenger, Jedrzejczyk authored a ferocious comeback in Rounds 3-5 to earn the unanimous decision win. It was a career-defining victory for the undefeated striker, who’s already made the likes of Valerie Letourneau, Jessica Penne and former champion Carla Esparza look pedestrian inside the cage.

While many anticipated Rose Namajunas to be slotted in the blue corner against Jedrzejczyk back in July, it was Karolina Kowalkiewicz who saw her hand raised in the UFC 201 co-main event. A gritty fighter capable of disrupting even the most successful gameplans, Kowalkiewicz steps into the cage looking to do the same against the most dominant female fighter not named Cris “Cyborg.”

A rare championship matchup between two undefeated fighters, at least one of these two ladies is destined to garner quite a bit of the spotlight on the great stage that is UFC 205.

2. Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson

UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, left, poses for photos with Stephen Thompson during a news conference for UFC 205, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, in New York. Woodley and Thompson are on the first UFC mixed martial arts card to be held in New York after the state legislature legalized the sport earlier this year. UFC 205 is scheduled to be held at Madison Square Garden on Nov. 12. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Event: UFC 205

Date: Nov. 12

Location: Madison Square Garden; New York City

A fight that’s sure to leave us on the edge of our seats for as long as it lasts, Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson comes in at No. 2 in the stacked month of November.

“The Chosen One” proved he was, well, the chosen one last time out, knocking out former champion Robbie Lawler just over two minutes into their title fight at UFC 201. It was the culmination of a long, patient journey for Woodley, who sat out from January 2015 to July 2016 to finally receive his shot for UFC gold. Many questioned whether the standout wrestler had done enough to warrant a shot at the crown, considering neither of the two of victories that came before it were against elite-level competition. That mattered not, however, once Woodley managed to land a devastating right hand that proved Lawler was, after all, a mortal man.

While Woodley’s accomplishments were left in question, there were few that could challenge Thompson’s worthiness for a shot at the belt. Riding a seven-fight winning streak that includes first-round TKO wins over middleweight standout Robert Whittaker and former UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks, as well as an impressive unanimous decision win over former title challenger Rory MacDonald, Thompson was far and away the most worthy fighter to challenge for the belt at UFC 205.

1. Eddie Alvarez vs. Conor McGregor

UFC president Dana White, center, speaks during a press conference for the upcoming UFC 205, Tuesday, Sept. 27, 2016, in New York. UFC 205 will be held in New York City on Nov. 12, 2016, the first UFC card in New York after the state legislature legalized the sport in New York state earlier this year. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

(AP Photo/Julie Jacobson)

Event: UFC 205

Date: Nov. 12

Location: Madison Square Garden; New York City

As tends to be the case anytime the Irishman graces the Octagon with his presence, Conor McGregor lands atop our list of fights to watch in the month ahead. McGregor faces Eddie Alvarez in hopes of not just becoming the UFC lightweight champion, but becoming the first man to ever hold two UFC titles at the same time.

McGregor is fresh off a two-part series against Nate Diaz, rebounding from his devastating submission loss in March with an impressive majority decision win at UFC 202 in August. Rather than return to the division he championed back in December of last year when defeating former king Jose Aldo, “The Notorious” continues to put the 145-pound division on the backburner while history takes the brunt of his attention.

Only, McGregor’s journey toward immortality won’t come without a true, stern test in the form of the lightweight champion. Capable of not only handling the Irishman with his wrestling abilities, Alvarez is also a relatively avid striker with the sort of knockout power that can put any man in the division away.

UFC 205 is easily the biggest fight card of the year, and very likely the most impressive pay-per-view in the history of the sport — all thanks to the two men in the main event.

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