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The best fights to watch this weekend (UFC and ONE Championship)

The best fights to watch this weekend (UFC and ONE Championship)

Bibiano Fernandes and Kevin Belingon stand face-to-face at the ONE Championship press conference

The beauty of being a fight fan lies in knowing that no matter how your week has gone, you will always have some solid combat action to look forward to by week’s end.

So, even if your boss is getting on your nerves, one of your co-workers ate your lunch, and your significant other is giving you the cold shoulder because you forgot to take out the trash, there will always be some high-level martial arts to make you forget for a few hours at a time.

As far as the mixed martial arts world itself, this week was pretty mundane. Nothing crazy happened. Nothing crazy was announced. There definitely was NOT a surprise announcement that an undefeated boxing megastar will fight a 20-year-old kickboxing prodigy in some capacity under an unknown rule set (only for the boxer to act like the deal never existed just days later). No way. I definitely would have known if anything like that happened.

Thankfully, starting Friday, we have another action-packed weekend ahead in the form of LFA 53, Ring of Combat 66 and the heavy hitters; ONE: Heart of the Lion and UFC Fight Night 139. ONE: Heart of the Lion will be live from Singapore on Friday with a Bantamweight championship unification bout, while the UFC will be airing from Denver, Colorado, with what will serve as their 25th-anniversary show.

Here are the three fights you cannot miss this weekend!

Donald Cerrone vs. Mike Perry

UFC Fight Night 139, Saturday, November 10

The UFC’s 25th-anniversary show from the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado, will feature a co-main event between two men who embody what it is to be willing to fight anyone, anywhere, at any time. In a sport of fighters, you won’t easily find two men who like to fight more than Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and “Platinum” Mike Perry.

Despite being 1-4 in his last five fights, the 35-year-old Cerrone has never looked like a guy who was past his prime or “over the hill” and has only been losing to the cream of the crop. When he’s been winning, it’s usually been by highlight reel finish via a combination that looks like it could only be pulled off in a video game. The man has racked up three “Fight of the Night” bonuses, three “Knockout of the Night” bonuses, five “Performance of the Night” bonuses and is tied for the most finishes and wins in UFC history.

His dance partner across the octagon is a guy who has moved with an upward trajectory since debuting with the company. He has become well known by his fans for his crazy fighting style, knockout finishes, and outspoken, sometimes politically incorrect, nature. Perry blasted off in the UFC with two nasty knockout wins, and despite being only 3-3 since, his fights are guaranteed to be barnburners.

In this particular fight, the younger Perry possesses the exact type of fighter that Cerrone has struggled with his throughout his career, and especially in recent times. Big, strong, high-pressure power punchers have been the downfall of “Cowboy,” highlighted in his fights with Jorge Masvidal and Darren Till. The more pressure you put on Cerrone and the harder you hit him, the more he seems to stray from what makes him so good.

The intrigue lies in the fact that Perry isn’t always that fighter. When he is off his game, he is aggressive to a fault, foregoing any technical aspect of his game that he may have previously had, and this is the type of fighter that Cerrone can feast on. For my money, this fight will come down to whether or not Perry can harness his aggression, remain somewhat technical and not lose control and get sloppy trying desperately for the knockout.

If that’s not enough, two men who have never needed extra incentive to fight have recently received just that in the form of gym drama. Cerrone’s longtime team at Jackson Wink, according to “Cowboy,” has chosen to continue to train Perry in favor of their longtime client. In a long-winded rant, Cerrone referred to his old gym as a “puppy mill” and claims “bums” can come off the street and fight their pro fighters for the right price.

If you are wondering what that feeling is taking over your body right now, I believe it’s referred to as the “chills.”

Chan Sung Jung vs. Yair Rodriguez

UFC Fight Night 139, Saturday, November 10

The UFC has been plagued with canceled or altered main or co-main events in 2018.

In fact, it’s starting to become weird when the last two fights of a card remain intact from fight announcement to fight day. This time, a last-minute fight change could possibly have blessed us with an even better matchup than the original. What originally was supposed to be “The Korean Zombie” vs. Frankie Edgar, the main event of the UFC’s 25th-anniversary show will now be Chan Sung Jung battling Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez.

You could have told me that the main event was a mash-up of Jung and Rodriguez’s respective highlights and I probably still would have tuned in. The fighting styles of these two warriors are excitement personified. Jung was one-half of one of the greatest fights I’ve ever seen when he took on Leonard Garcia in the WEC. He also a twister submission to his name and recently came off a four-year layoff due to mandatory military duty to knock Dennis Bermudez out cold.

Rodriguez is still only 26-years-old despite being a seven-fight UFC veteran, not counting his winning run on “The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America”. He possesses arguably the most creative kicking arsenals in the entirety of the sport. If 95% of the roster attempted even half of the strikes Rodriguez did, they would probably be screamed at by their coaches for even thinking about trying them. But for Rodriguez, it works, and that was on full display with his insane flying high kick KO of Andre Fili was his finish of BJ Penn that was set up by a front kick to the face.

This is one of those fights where I genuinely do not care who wins. Both guys seem like class acts, and both have fighting styles that would make a fight against a stop sign exciting. The “Zombie” will keep moving forward while “El Pantera” spams kicks from his bag of tricks and someone will most likely fall, and it will be glorious.

Bibiano Fernandes vs. Kevin Belingon

ONE: Heart of the Lion, Friday, November 9

I try not to rank these fights in any order, but this is the fight I am looking forward to the most this weekend. Bibiano Fernandes will go toe-to-toe with Kevin Belingon for the second time, this time to unify the ONE Bantamweight Championship.

While I’m pretty devastated that Angela Lee was forced to pull out of her quest to become ONE Championship’s female “champ champ,” the rematch between Fernandes and Belingon serving as the new main event is an outstanding consolation prize.

Fernandes, ONE Championship’s long-reigning Bantamweight champion, has widely been considered one of the best talents outside of the UFC. The man has not lost in eight years and despite being 38, does not show any sign of slowing down.

The Brazilian has arguably one of the most dominant grappling attacks in the world at the lower weight classes. While his striking game has steadily improved over his illustrious career, it’s still that threat of the takedown that steers the whole ship. It only took Fernandes one takedown when he and Belingon first met in 2016. Fernandes didn’t even throw a punch before securing a single leg and taking “The Silencer” down. From there, Fernandes spent quality time in side control with little resistance before submitting Belingon to retain his title.

Two years is a lot of time for a fighter in his physical prime to evolve and learn from his losses, and that seems to be the case for Belingon. Since that title let down in 2016, “The Silencer” has won six straight fights. Each fight displayed his blinding speed and the crazy power he produces from his 5’5″ frame. Each fight showed his ability to swarm an opponent before they have a chance to defend themselves. But most importantly, each fight has shown his evolution into a complete mixed martial artist; a level he had not fully attained before taking on Fernandes the first time.

One only needs to look at his last fight against Martin Nguyen to get the full view of the new fighter who will be taking on Fernandes this weekend. Belingon was his usual self and showcased his fast movements and his ability to dart in to hit his opponent and then back out to avoid the comeback punch.

He implemented his wide array and devastating side and spinning back kicks, but what most stood out was his takedown defense. Nguyen tried to get the fight to the ground several times, and Belingon stuffed all of these attempts. In the last round, he even outmuscled Nguyen’s attempt at a double leg by pinning him up against the cage.

Will this new wrinkle in Belingon’s game be what he couldn’t do two years ago to top Fernandes? Or will Bibiano show us that there are levels to grappling and staying off your back against a guy like Nguyen will not translate against his takedown onslaught? On Friday, we could be seeing the ultimate “passing of the torch” moment if the Filipino fan-favorite can finally upset the Brazilian legend.

My heart is racing just thinking about it!

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