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These fighters have all been on the nice list this year because of their huge impact in the world of combat sports and are being gifted with the biggest forthcoming opportunity they could ask for from Santa this Christmas!
Christmas Gifts for MMA Fighters:
• Gift 1: Kayla Harrison receives a UFC contract: One of the most intriguing non-UFC fighters on the planet is current PFL lightweight champion and undefeated prospect Kayla Harrison. The two-time Olympic gold medalist (judaka) has fought out her contract with the PFL and is now a free agent, meaning she is on every promoters list to sign. The only caveat with signing Harrison, a 155-pound juggernaut, is that she is the queen of a very, very thin pool of fighters. While Harrison is a phenomenal athlete who is only approaching the peak of her talents, whichever promotion takes her on has to also build a handful of opponents for Harrison to fight. There's a lot of logistics involved but it could work.
• Gift 2: Jan Blachowicz is too nice not to get a rematch: Very friendly to his challenger during the lead up to UFC 267, Blachowicz seemed checked out during his UFC title defense vs. Glover Teixeira before the fight even happened. Needless to say, Blachowicz lost fairly easily. It's one thing is to be respectful but another to be overly-jovial. It reminded me of when Conor McGregor, in the lead up to his UFC 257 rematch against Dustin Poirier, was dishing out hugs and hand pounds and seemed like Poirier’s best friend. To the victor go the spoils and though McGregor lost again to Poirier in their third fight, I think Blachowicz can learn to keep his edge a bit more in future fights.
• Gift 3: Brandon Moreno is gifted a world tour: The first Mexican-born UFC champion and very elf-like looking, Brandon Moreno beat the unbeatable Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263, setting the MMA world on fire by dominating every facet of the fight. Moreno, who has a very innocent demeanor, doesn’t only speak fluent English but he is a crossover star for fans of MMA that attract to the less gaudy types. It would be a wise move for the UFC to capitalize on his boiling stardom inside his fight-heavy home country, but also with a worldwide media tour – especially if he beats Deiveson Figueiredo again in January at UFC 270.
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• Gift 4: Robert Whittaker learns patience: Back at UFC 243, Whittaker, who was the undisputed UFC middleweight champion, walked into that fight extremely emotional against fellow oceanic fighter Israel Adesanya and got beat pretty handily, being dropped several times before being completely finished off with a devastating KO. In one of the largest-attended MMA events of all-time, the 56,000+ crowd of screaming Australians and New Zealanders no doubt pushed the already-amped Whittaker to another gear. Now, three consecutive wins later, Whittaker finds himself in the challenger's corner and is looking to be a bit more measured in his approach this time around against Adesanya at UFC 271 in February.
• Gift 5: A.J. McKee gets a 2-for-1 special: Undefeated and on the cusp of being a major combat sports star, A.J. McKee showed off his beautiful martial arts talents when he defeated top featherweight Patricio Freire via submission. Now, it only makes sense for Bellator to schedule the rematch for Freire’s second belt at lightweight. In a time when Bellator is trying to sprout a homegrown fighter to crack through as a worldwide superstar, it’s vital they do everything in their power to make this fight happen ASAP.
Christmas Gifts for Boxers:
• Gift 6: Tyson Fury gets a chance to unify: The jolly English giant, Tyson Fury, had another spectacular performance against Deotay Wilder in October and now has his sights on the very skilled Ukrainian, Oleksandr Usyk. We will get a rare chance to see all the heavyweight belts be unified whenever this fight gets signed. On paper, the fight between Usyk and Fury is a modern day abominable snowman vs. Rudolph fight! The 6'9" Fury is large and in charge with tremendous footwork power, but Usyk has shown size doesn’t matter and his superior work rate and punching technique has proven that. This will be another epic battle in the heavyweight division!
• Gift 7: Deontay Wilder Relearns to Control his Emotions: In all three fights against Tyson Fury, Wilder was out of character when he either let his guard down or fought with blind rage. Prior to the trilogy of fights with Fury, the “Bronze Bomber” was more patient before ultimately unloading on his opponents, winning via knockout 40-of-41 times. But, it seemed as though he was a bit shocked when Fury could take a licking and keep on ticking like a wooden soldier. I truly believe that if Wilder can string together two or three convincing wins in a row by landing jabs and shots to the body before throwing his monstrous right hand, we just might get the fourth fight between these two Goliaths. And who wouldn't want to see that?
• Gift 8: The Lightweight Division is Heating Up: It’s not always the big ol’ St. Nicks that get to have all the fun in combat sports; sometimes it’s the fighters that are built more like Santa’s helpers that put out the better product and that has been the case over this last year with boxing’s lightweight division. From Lomachenko to Lopez, Kambosos, Davis and Garcia, the division is flourishing right now with young and talented stars. And most importantly for the sport, the matchups are being made. 2022 should be more of the same with these technicians being paired up to deliver more fight of the year candidates!
• Gift 9: Canelo Continues to Put Coal into Stockings: Since his last and only career loss at the hands of Floyd Mayweather, Canelo has turned into must-watch television and doesn't seem to be slowing down anytime soon. The Mexican boxer is as talented as they come in the squared circle and has been stuffing his opponents stockings with sleigh loads of coal. The unified super-middleweight champion is rumored to move up in weight (again) and face undefeated Russian knockout artist Artur Beterbiev next. That would be apple pie with a scoop of ice cream on top if that fight came to fruition!
Happy Holidays! Stay tuned to NBCSE for all your betting content!