It is easy for several fights to fly under the radar with the high-profile matchups such as Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Tony Ferguson and Kamaru Usman vs Jorge Masvidal on the horizon. Here we will look over four of the best under the radar fights to watch once the UFC is back up and running!
Derek Brunson vs Edmen Shahbazyan:
If you are a fan of “the passing of the torch” type of fights, look no further than the potential middleweight showdown between rising middleweight star Edmen Shahbazyan and longtime middleweight contender Derek Brunson. The two top middleweights were scheduled to originally meet at UFC 248 but were rescheduled to instead meet at UFC Fight Night 172 a month later. Due to the COVID-19 pandemic, UFC Fight Night 172 was postponed, and no further update has been given on when the two middleweights will eventually meet for their highly anticipated showdown. The potential bout between Brunson and Shahbazyan is one of the more significant fights in the middleweight division for several reasons.
Since his arrival to the UFC, Shahbazyan has been nothing short of impressive by compiling a 4-0 record with the promotion and earning himself a top 10 ranking in the UFC middleweight division. Shahbazyan was invited to participate on Dana White’s Contender Series where he impressed the UFC President with a first-round knockout of Antonio Jones. He has gone on to win four straight in the UFC and most recently knocked out Brad Tavares with a thunderous head kick at UFC 244. Shahbazyan enters 2020 as the most prominent middleweight prospect who is eager to prove his stature as a top UFC middleweight contender. To do so, he will have to get through one of the most established middleweights on the roster in Derek Brunson.
Brunson has compiled an 11-5 record since his arrival to the UFC in 2012 and has established himself as one of the most consistent and exciting finishers in the division. After suffering back to back losses to Israel Adesanya and Ronaldo Souza in 2018, he has bounced back with two straight wins at the expense of Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch. Brunson is averaging a 64% finishing rate throughout his UFC career and a 100% takedown defense rate. The North Carolina native is notorious for boasting an impressive wrestling game and enormous power in his punches. His athleticism and formidable cardio allow him to explode at any given time and blast his opponents with powerful punches that usually lead to a finish. Brunson’s five losses in the UFC have come at the hands of Yoel Romero, Robert Whittaker, Anderson Silva, Ronaldo Souza, and Israel Adesanya who are all current or past top middleweights or champions. Sitting at #8 in the official UFC rankings, Brunson is the perfect test for an aspiring top contender like Shahbazyan.
Make no mistake, someone is going to sleep in this fight. Brunson and Shahbazyan combine for 20 knock out finishes and compliment each other’s aggressive styles. The key to this fight will be if Shahbazyan can survive the first round of Brunson’s aggressive onslaught. Brunson tends to start fast and try to intimidate his opponents with his superior power and athleticism. Shahbazyan will give up size and a distinct strength advantage to Brunson and it will be interesting to see the rising star manage an opponent as experienced and aggressive as Brunson. Can the surging Shahbazyan take the next step or will the power and experience of Brunson prove too much for the young contender? We cannot wait to find out!
Carlos Diego Ferreira vs Drew Dober:
This fight is not getting anywhere near the amount of love and attention as it should. With guys like Dustin Poirier, Tony Ferguson and Justin Gaethje calling the lightweight division home, its easy to forget about some of the lower ranked fighters who are making a buzz with their most recent performances in the division. Carlos Diego Ferreira vs Drew Dober is a match made in heaven and one of the best bouts scheduled in 2020.
Carlos Diego Ferreira surprised most fans at UFC 246 with a second submission victory over Anthony Pettis. Although Ferreira was riding five fight win streak, many expected the former UFC Lightweight Champion Pettis to return to the lightweight division with a vengeance and reestablish himself as a contender in 2020. Apparently, no one told Ferreira that as he began the bout by establishing himself as the aggressor and intent on extending his current win streak. Ferreira learned from Petti’s past opponents and continuously backed up Pettis with his pressure and aggression. What resulted was a spectacular second submission via rear-naked choke that officially turned heads toward Ferreira and his impressive six fight winning streak. He is now 17-2 in his mixed martial arts career with his only two losses coming at the hands of Beneil Dariush and Dustin Poirier over four years ago. The Brazlian standout is now ranked #12 in the official rankings and slated for a big bout with fellow surging lightweight Drew Dober.
Drew Dober packs a special kind of power behind his punches. The Nebraska native joined the UFC back in 2013 where he compiled a 1-3-1 record in his first five UFC appearances. Since then, Dober has been on fire and compiled a 7-2 record since 2016 with notable wins over Josh Burkman, Jon Tuck and Marcos Polo Reyes. His biggest win came at UFC 246 where he knocked out rising lightweight Nasrat Haqparast in the first round earning a performance of the night award. Dober has finished four of his seven wins via knock out and continues to dazzle fans with his elite power and relentless style.
The winner of this fight will land himself in the top 10 of the division and a huge fight near the end of 2020. Ferreira is almost certainly going to aim to get this fight to the ground where he will enjoy a grappling advantage against the heavy hitting Dober. However, Dober is no slouch on the ground and has finished six of his opponents via submission and has a background in high school wrestling. Expect a back and forth affair where both men will get to shine and the winner moving up one step closer to the top 10 of the ultra-competitive lightweight division.
Alistair Overeem vs Walt Harris:
The bout between Alistair Overeem and Walt Harris has been cancelled/postponed three times since December of 2019. Whenever these two finally meet in the Octagon, be prepared for one of the best heavyweight fights in a long time with a big finish to close the show. Overeem should be 3-0 in his last three fights. A last second knockout at the hands of Jairzinho Rozenstruik ended Overeem’s winning streak and left him with a devastating lip injury. As of April 2019, the former number one heavyweight contender looks to be almost fully healed and eager to get back in the Octagon. Overeem has fought most, if not all the notable UFC heavyweights throughout his Strikeforce and UFC career. Overeem has proven time after time that he can bounce back from a big loss and still compete with the best heavyweights out there. The Dutch kickboxer’s resume includes wins over Roy Nelson, Brock Lesnar, Frank Mir, Fabricio Werdum and Mark Hunt as he looks to add Walt Harris’s name to his lengthy list.
At 6’5 and over 250 pounds, Walt Harris is a terrifying UFC Heavyweight that had displayed immense power and elite athleticism. All 13 of his wins have come by way of knockout which has led him to compiling a 3-0-1 record in his last four UFC bouts. Harris’s fight with Overeem was cancelled due to the unfortunate disappearance and later passing of his stepdaughter in November of 2019. Harris has taken some time off to attend to his family and now looks to return to the Octagon as soon as possible. The towering heavyweight is currently averaging a 1.40 knockdown ratio and an impressive 6:35 fight time. Harris hopes to build upon his latest win streak which consists of wins over Sergey Spivak and Aleksei Oleinik both by way of knockout.
Overeem has notoriously struggled against heavy punches who look to pressure and then counter. His best bet will be to take this fight to the ground like he did against Rozenstruik and control Harris on the ground. Harris has a clear path to victory if he can keep the fight on the feet and eventually land a shot or two to end this fight early.
Mauricio “Shogun” Rua vs Antonio “Lil Nog” Rogerio Nogueira:
Whatever outcome we get from the trilogy bout between Shogun and Lil Nog, its certiainly time for these two Brazilian mixed martial arts legends to retire after having incredible careers. Its hard for any longtime MMA fan not to get excited at the thought of Shogun stepping into the Octagon even at the back end of his career. The Brazlian knockout specialist has finished 80% of his mixed martial arts bouts and has done so in incredible fashion. Shogun’s style combines powerful leg kicks with vicious power in both hands making him one of the most exciting finishers in UFC history. The 38-year-old UFC legend has notable knockout victories over Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida, Forrest Griffin, Gian Villante, and Quinton Jackson throughout his remarkable career. The highlight of Shogun’s career came when he defeated Machida in a rematch via knockout and claimed the UFC Light heavyweight Championship in spectacular fashion. After compiling a 4-1-1 record in his last six UFC bouts, Shogun is ready to end his memorable career once he can throw down with fellow Brazlian legend Antonio Rogerio Nogueira for the third and final time.
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira and his brother will forever go down as two of the most prominent and respected names in combat sports history. Like Rua, Nogueira is content with retiring after getting the chance to face Rua one final time in an exciting and farewell trilogy bout. He has compiled a 6-6 record since joining the promotion back in 2009 and has notable wins over Tito Ortiz, Rashad Evans, Patrick Cummins, and Sam Alvey throughout his UFC career. Nogueira is know for his incredible ground game but has two more wins via knockout than he has by way of submission. The 43-year-old Brazlian legend has compiled a 2-4 record in his last UFC appearances which include knockout losses to Anthony Johnson, Ryan Bader, and Ryan Spann. After a storied career as both a grappler and mixed martial artists, Nogueira will get his chance to say goodbye to fans in a fight that will surely end in spectacular fashion.
Rua was able to outpoint Nogueira in their first two bouts and win in convincing fashion. Out of the two, Rua is certainly the fresher fighter and has taken less punishment throughout his career than Nogueira. Either way, expect a thrilling affair where both men will look to leave everything in the cage and resort to all out war.