Before the bell: December edition

Upcoming events truly are an early gift for fight fans


Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon (Right) waves on the damage from Joseph Lasiri (Left) in another classic performance from the Muay Thai brawler during ONE on Prime Video 4 (via ONE Championship)

The world of combat sports is in full swing this December with high profile and exciting events throughout the month that will light up the night like a Christmas tree. A new UFC Light Heavyweight champion will be crowned. ONE will continue to showcase high-level martial artists to prove that they can compete in the United States market. Bellator has scheduled two major events while going head-to-head with Rizin to ring in the new year.

November hosted some of the most exciting upsets of the year with plenty of drama to follow. Let’s recap what happened during the upsets, dominant performances and bloody battles that shaped last month’s events.

November results (Main event/co-main)

  • UFC 281: The trilogy concluded with Alex “Poatan” Periera dethroning Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya in the fifth round with a standing TKO stoppage which resulted in Pereira getting the Middleweight Championship. During the Strawweight Championship, Zhang Weili outpaced Carla Esparza until Weili secured the submission victory via rear naked choke with 4:00 left in the second round. The grudge match between Dustin “The Diamond” Piorier and “Iron” Micheal Chandler resulted in a fight of the year contender right up until Poirier found a rear naked choke submission victory in the third round.

  • Bellator 288: Light Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov successfully defended his title via unanimous decision during the finale of the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix when he defeated Corey “Overtime” Anderson. Usman Nurmagomedov smothered his opponent for a unanimous decision against Patricky “Pitbull” Freire. This performance earned Nurmagomedov the Lightweight Championship and added yet another accomplishment under the belt of the renowned Dagestani fight team.
  • One on Prime Video 4: Kiamrian Abbasov started off strong against Christian Lee in the main event, but Lee was determined to claim the vacant Welterweight Championship. Lee rallied back and became double-champ with a TKO stoppage in the fourth round. Rodtang Jitmuangnon delivered another classic performance and shut down Joseph Lasiri to retain the Muay Thai Flyweight Championship, winning via unanimous decision.
  • 2022 PFL World Championship: The world was stunned when Larissa Pacheco defeated Kayla Harrison for the Women’s Lightweight Championship during MMA’s richest night. Pacheco won a unanimous decision victory in the fight and walked away with the championship belt and $1 million dollars in prize money. During the co-main event Brendan Loughnane defeated Bubba Jenkins by TKO in the fourth round to acquire the Featherweight Championship Belt and a life-changing $1 million dollars.

Early December results

One on Prime Video 5: ONE Championship kicked off this month’s events as they returned to Manila on Dec. 2, to host a duo of title fights. During the MMA Light Heavyweight Championship bout, Interim Heavyweight Champion Anatoly Malykhin’s size and pressure overwhelmed as he knocked out Reiner de Ridder to become double-champ. Kade Ruotolo showed impressive athleticism and skill as he defeated Matheus Gabriel via unanimous decision to defend the Lightweight Submission Grappling Championship.

Thompson vs. Holland: Truly a “styles make fights” type of main event in Orlando. On Dec. 3, Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson put on a masterclass of striking against a truly game Kevin Holland. Thompson threw devastating strikes at Holland who just would not go down by any means. Eventually Holland’s corner stopped the fight after the fourth round due to a broken hand. Rafael Dos Anjos proved he still has plenty left in the tank as he defeated Bryan Barbarena with a second round submission via rear naked choke. Dos Anjos made a huge callout of Conor McGregor, stating he earned the fight and would wait till July for McGregor to re-enter the United States Anti-Doping Agency testing pool.

December events and combat sports news

Bellator 289: Stots vs. Sabatello

Bellator returns on Dec. 9, with an electric night full of fights that features the semifinals of the Bantamweight World Grand Prix and crowns two champions for the promotion.

After escalating trash talk, someone is going to finally have to answer for their words when Raufeon “Supa” Stots and Danny “The Italian Gangster” Sabatello clash during the main event. Questions for the Bantamweight division will be answered as the winner leaves with the Interim Bantamweight Title and a ticket to the finale of the Grand Prix.

The whole event should be full of action when Liz Carmouche attempts to defend her title in a rematch with Juliana Velasquez for the Women’s Flyweight Championship Title during the co-headliner. Velasquez has suggested that their last fight in April was stopped early and now she gets her chance at redemption, but Carmouche is determined to prove the victory wasn’t a fluke.

The finalist on the opposite side of the bracket for the Bantamweight World Grand Prix will also be determined during the co-main event when Patchy Mix and Magomed Magomedov showdown to determine who gets the next shot at the Interim Bantamweight Championship and winner of Stots vs. Sabatello.

This highly anticipated Bellator main card airs live on Showtime at 6 p.m. from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Connecticut.

UFC 282: Blachowicz vs. Ankalaev

The newly vacated Light Heavyweight Championship is at stake on Dec. 10, when the UFC returns back to Las Vegas to showcase some of the promotions existing and emerging talent to the world.

Jan Blachowicz and Magomed Ankalaev headline this stacked card and will throw down to see who will be crowned the new king of the Light Heavyweight Division. With Jiri Prochazka recently getting injured, he vacated the title, clearing a path for both of these athletes to take their shot at becoming champion.

The stage is set to see if Paddy “The Baddy” Pimblett will live up to the hype as he faces Jared Gordon in the co-main event. Pimblett is on a three-fight winning streak since joining the UFC in 2021, but Gordon has seven wins since joining in 2017, and has his eye’s set on derailing the Scouser’s hype train.

This exciting last UFC pay per view (PPV) event of the year is going to be live from the T-Mobile Arena on ESPN+ at 7 p.m. on Dec. 10.

UFC Fight Night: Cannonier vs. Strickland

One week after the Las Vegas PPV, the UFC returns with the final event of the year for the promotion and a sleeper card full of skilled athletes.

Top 10 contenders in the Middleweight division are set to collide when Jared Cannonier meets Sean Strickland during the main event. Cannonier is returning after a lackluster performance in his recent title shot and plans to make a statement in his return, meanwhile Strickland has the same motivation coming back from a KO loss to the division’s newest champion.

Arman Tsarukyan is making his return after a very close decision loss that many fans argued he won to face the surging contender Damir Ismagulov in a showdown at Lightweight. Imsagulov is on an unheard of 19-fight winning streak that dates back to 2015 and wants to cement his position by breaking into the top ten of the division.

Don’t miss the final UFC card of the year when the promotion returns home to the UFC Apex on ESPN+ at 4 p.m., Dec. 17, for this sneaky good free card for ESPN+ subscribers.

Bellator MMA vs. Rizin

A cross-promotion showdown on New Years Eve will combine the rosters of Bellator and Rizin in order to prove which promotions MMA stars really shine the brightest.

During the main event A.J. McKee is representing Bellator when he faces Rizin’s Lightweight Champion Roberto de Souza at the 155 lbs. weight limit. McKee looked phenomenal in his previous fast paced debut at the Lightweight weight class and looks to keep the momentum rolling in this showcase event. Rizin’s champion de Souza has an impressive 14-1 record and has unbelievably never made it to a decision once in his professional career.

The co-main event features Bellator’s Featherweight Champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire going up against the Rizin Featherweight Champion Kleber Koike. Pitbull has been all business since winning back the belt, but the same can be said for the Rizin champion Koike who has finished his last six fights all by submission. Forget a pound for pound list, this event is literally having champions fighting champions to determine who is the best at their given division.

Don’t miss the final event of the year and a great showcase of international talent when Bellator clashes with Rizin at the legendary Saitama Super Arena in Japan at 7 p.m., Dec. 31, on Showtime.

Jiri Prochazka suffers an injury, decides not to hold up division

UFC 282 had its main event dropped at the last minute due to Jiri Prochazka’s unfortunate shoulder injury. The Czech mixed martial artist was scheduled to defend his title against Glover Texeira in a rematch, but instead Prochazka has dropped from the fight and vacated the Light Heavyweight Championship with hopes of not stalling the division.

What does Arnold Allen have to do for a title shot?

Fight fans are wondering what the UFC Featherweight contender Arnold “Almighty” Allen has to do further in order to get a title shot in his division. After stringing together an impressive 12 wins in a division stacked with talent, Allen was skipped over in the recently scheduled Interim Featherweight Championship on Feb. 12. The current Featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski also fights the same night in an attempt to win a second belt at Lightweight, so with both those fights in February just how long will Allen have to wait for his shot at gold?

Rest In Peace Anthony “Rumble” Johnson

The MMA world was left shocked on Nov. 13, when it was announced Anthony “Rumble” Johnson had passed away at the age of 38. It was confirmed by ESPN that the cause of death was organ failure due to non-hodgkins lymphoma. UFC Live and ESPN set aside time on air to honor Johnson’s legacy and career which can be seen in the following Youtube video.

Fedor Emelianenko announces his final retirement MMA fight

After starting his fighting career back in the year 2000, Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emelianenko has announced the retirement fight to his storied career. At one point Emelianenko had remained undefeated for 10 years, and after an epic list of accomplishments, he is finally set to perform in his final fight. Bellator has Emelianenko scheduled to face Ryan Bader for the Heavyweight Championship on Feb. 4, live on CBS from The Forum in Inglewood.

Future UFC Hall of Famer TJ Dillashaw hangs the gloves up

Former UFC Bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw has notified the UFC of his retirement.

Dillashaw, 36, notified the UFC of his decision to retire from mixed martial arts after a recent shoulder surgery. The surgery was done to correct an injury he had been managing since April 2022. The announcement was made by his manager, Tiki Ghosn, to the press.

Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier admitted to the hospital for staph infection, makes full recovery

Last weekend, the former interim UFC Lightweight champion, Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier was treated for a staph infection (warning: image of infection) while training in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu.

Poirier has made a full recovery and kept his fans updated via Twitter. Let this be a lesson: do not train barefoot!

Remember that the world of combat sports can be unpredictable, so all fight cards are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances.

Have a happy new years fight fans and prepare yourself for an upcoming blowout of a year when it comes to combat sports, stay safe over the holidays and don’t forget to protect yourself at all times!