As the New Year rolls in, so do new obstacles and challenges to overcome. There is no such thing as a holiday in our dictionary; Henri Hooft was busy training his troops on both Christmas and New Years day. There is no room for complacency in this industry and Hooft knows this better than anyone.
First up, is a rescheduled fight that will take place as part of the main card of UFC Fight Night 124 on January 14th. Kamaru Usman, will finally bump heads with Emil Weber Meek. They were originally due to fight at UFC 219, but Meek allegedly had visa issues. Now, it seems all the pieces are in place for this battle to happen. Though Meek is not a top 10 contender that Kamaru has long desired, his victory over him will surely secure him a top-10 opponent thereafter.
Michael Johnson will be in-tow with Kamaru, as he too is fighting on the card. It will be his first stint at featherweight and his imminent victory should see him be immediately propelled into the top-10 of the division, given that his opponent Darren Elkins, is at the 10th spot himself.
Next is a long-awaited fight in Volkan Oezdemir challenging Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title at UFC 220 in Boston. After some friendly back-and-forth banter on twitter, the gloves are starting to come off, as both held nothing back at the UFC 220 press conference. After only 3 fights, Volkan is in line for the title and it is without a doubt one of the quickest rises to the belt the UFC has seen in years. Though the bout was perceived as the main event, it is now in fact the co-main, as the UFC has booked Stipe Miocic versus Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title as the de facto main event.
February 11th will see normalcy restored to the Middleweight title debate, as GSP has vacated, leaving Robert Whittaker the undisputed champion. Up steps, Luke Rockhold. The bout will take place at the Perth Arena in Australia, and serve as the main event. That’s right, Rockhold wants his belt back, and given his recent training-regime, he seems nothing short of hell-bent on getting it back, even though he’s fighting on Whittaker’s home turf. The main event is due to begin at 11 am, local Perth time, in order to accommodate the primetime broadcasting over on the western hemisphere.
Gilbert Burns will be next up, taking on Oliver Aubin-Mercier at UFC Fight Night at UFC on Fox 28, on February 24th at the Amway Center only 3 hours north of Hard Knocks 365, in Orlando. He is coming off an emphatic over-hand KO over Jason Saggo, and will look to improve upon his 13-2 record.
And finally, at UFC 222 on March 3rd at the acclaimed T-Mobile Arena, The Skyscraper, Stefan Struve, will make his return to the octagon versus UFC Heavyweight Veteran, Andrei Arlovski. Struve is coming off a loss versus Aleksander Volkov at UFC Fight Night 115 last year. No matter, as he is still in the top 15, and after beating Arlovski, he’ll be back in the top-contenders in no time.