UFC highlights: November fights not to miss

While the fall has been moderately slow for the UFC, things are about to pick up in November. The top mixed martial arts promotion will hold one event each weekend during the month, including a two title fight pay-per-view event during the second weekend — it will air in the U.S. on Nov. 14, but emanates from Australia on Nov. 15 due to time zone differences.

Most of these events are very strong cards, with the possible exception of the final Fight Night of the month. But, even that event features some solid intrigue.

November is also a good month to check out some of the best non-UFC talent, who compete in the U.S. (Bellator), Asia (ONE Championship) and Europe (KSW).

Here’s a look at the most-important UFC contests scheduled this month, as well as a couple standouts from the rest of the MMA world. All rankings in parentheses come from my personal rankings, which are available to view in full at www.ufc.com/rankings.

Nov. 7: UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3
Light Heavyweight: Glover Teixeira (4) vs. Patrick Cummins (10)
Middleweight: Vitor Belfort (1) vs. Dan Henderson (11)
Light Heavyweight: Fabio Maldonado (12) vs. Corey Anderson
Bantamweight: Thomas Almeida (9) vs. Anthony Birchak

Belfort knocked out Henderson in 77 seconds the last time these two met, and that was almost exactly two years ago. So why, exactly, are they fighting again? This could very well be Hendo’s last fight if he’s KO’d again, which is a pretty likely scenario in Sao Paulo, Brazil.

More interesting than the main event is Teixeira vs. Cummins. A win by either man puts him on the fringe of the title picture. The matchup favors Cummins due to his grinding wrestling style, but Teixeira is crafty and should find a way to finish his unpolished foe.

Speaking of unpolished, there is no shine on Maldonado. He’s a pure brawler, and he’s always fun to watch. Look for him to, as usual, fall behind early before storming back and decisioning the prospect Anderson, who isn’t quite ready for this opponent.

Almeida is a bona fide blue chipper who is certainly ready for a name opponent. Birchak has no name value. This is Almeida’s fight to lose, and a strong showing here will force the UFC to put him in a big-time matchup next time.

Nov. 15: UFC 193
Women’s Bantamweight Title: Ronda Rousey (C, 3 pound-for-pound) vs. Holly Holm (8)
Women’s Strawweight Title: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (C, 14 P4P) vs. Valerie Letourneau (8)
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt (10) vs. Antonio Silva (12)
Heavyweight: Stefan Struve (11) vs. Jared Rosholt
Middleweight: Uriah Hall (9) vs. Robert Whittaker

A Rousey fight always is a must-watch affair. There’s less heat in that matchup than leading up to her August title defense against Bethe Correia, but Holm is a better fighter. She’s an elite boxer, but her lack of power hurts her chances against a trained killer like Rousey. Short of a haymaker, the champ’s got this one in Melbourne, Australia. It may, however, go longer than a round for once.

Speaking of trained killers, Jedrzejczyk has been slicing up opponents like a food processor all year. Unless Letourneau can get the champ down — no small task — she has no path to victory. Consider this another showcase for the UFC’s smallest titleholder.

The last time Hunt and Bigfoot met Down Under, they produced perhaps the greatest heavyweight fight in MMA history. Temper expectations, but this should still have a fun finish that will probably come at Silva’s expense.

The nearly 7-foot Struve should be capable of beating Rosholt. Struve is a finisher in a finishers’ division, while Rosholt has an iffy gas tank and a penchant for decisions. As long as Struve doesn’t eat a clean overhand right, he’s got this.

Hall stepped in on short notice not long after an upset of Gegard Mousasi. He ought to be favored against Whittaker, fight close to his New Zealand home. But Hall has been inconsistent, so nothing is set in stone.

Nov. 21: The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2 Finale: Brown vs. Gastelum
Featherweight: Ricardo Lamas (4) vs. Diego Sanchez
Flyweight: Jussier Formiga (3) vs. Henry Cejudo (8)
Welterweight: Matt Brown (7) vs. Kelvin Gastelum (13 MW)
Bantamweight: Erik Perez (7) vs. Taylor Lapilus

Lamas and Sanchez should be the main event here in Monterrey, Mexico. Sanchez debatably has the most name value and he’s facing a top contender in Lamas. It’s hard to see Sanchez winning unless the judges reward pure aggression, but that’s happened for him more than once before.

The most important fight to any division’s title landscape is, without question, the flyweight scrap. Formiga is a no-brainer to fight champion Demetrious Johnson, considering he’s the top-ranked 125-pounder yet to face him. But Cejudo has the skills to earn the upset.

The main event doesn’t lack for division relevance, either. Gastelum is returning to 170 after a quick stop at middleweight. As long as he is on weight, he’s got a shot against Brown. Expect a Fight of the Night candidate, but it’s hard to pick a winner this far out.

Perez is the man of status here, but Lapilus has won his first two in the UFC. However, the UFC didn’t book this fight for Perez to lose in his hometown. He’s got this one.

Nov. 28: UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Alves
Welterweight: Benson Henderson (11) vs. Thiago Alves (15)
Welterweight: Dong Hyun Kim (6) vs. Jorge Masvidal
Heavyweight: Mirko Cro Cop vs. Anthony Hamilton

This bout should help indicate how much of a future Henderson, the former lightweight champion, has a welterweight. Alves is tough, but his best days are behind him. Look for Henderson to dominate on the ground and earn a late finish.

Kim surely will be on cloud nine fighting in his homeland for the first time in 11 years, but he can’t sleep on Masvidal. This is Kim’s strength against Masvidal’s speed. Kim has been reckless of late, and that will cost him. Masvidal will earn a stoppage due to strikes.

The heavyweight bout has little impact on the division, but the rest of the card is pretty thin. Cro Cop’s presence puts this third on the totem pole ahead of the rest. It’s hard to see the legend losing unless he’s completely spent as a fighter.

Outside the octagon…
Nov. 6: Bellator 145

Lightweight Title: Will Brooks (C) vs. Marcin Held
Featherweight Title: Patricio Freire (C) vs. Daniel Straus
Lightweight: Michael Chandler vs. David Rickels

These three bouts surpass the No. 28 UFC event’s three most interesting bouts, hands down.

Brooks almost surely would fit in well with the UFC’s 155-pounders, and he’s probably going to Polish submission ace Marcin Held.

Freire is even more impressive. He’s 24-2 with two split decision losses, one of which he avenged last year. This is a top 5 or better featherweight in the world who has cleaned out Bellator’s stable. He’ll beat Straus for the third time, and second of the year.

Chandler, who holds an impressive win over UFC lightweight Eddie Alvarez, also would fare well in the octagon. Expect him to put away Rickels violently.

Nov. 13: ONE Championship: Pride of Lions
Welterweight Title: Ben Askren (C) vs. Luis Santos

It’s a shame Dana White didn’t see fit to sign Askren as a free agent a few years back. He may be brash out of the cage and boring in it, but he’s a top talent stuck facing lesser fighters such as Santos. At least he can earn finishes against these cans.

Nov. 21: ONE Championship: Dynasty of Champions
Flyweight Title: Adriano Moraes (C) vs. Kairat Akhmetov

Moraes probably wouldn’t make Mighty Mouse Johnson sweat, but he might be the best non-UFC flyweight around. Check him out if you can.

Nov. 28: KSW 33
Middleweight Title: Michal Materla (C) vs. Mamed Khalidov

Hands down, this is the best middleweight matchup available beyond the UFC’s roster. If given the chance, both could probably earn their way into the UFC rankings. While Materla is the champ, Khalidov is a wrecking-machine who should capture the Polish promotion’s 185-pound title.