Every month I pick five fights I'm most excited to see. This month is a bit of the calm before the storm, as February promises to be absolutely bonkers. Still, there is some great action coming our way. These are just five that struck my fancy. As always, vote for your favorite in our poll.
5. Jason High vs. Rudy Bears: Titan Fighting Championships 16 (January 28, Kansas City, Kansas)
Everyone's favorite fighter on twitter Jason High is riding, well, high after the biggest win of his career over Hayato "Mach" Sakurai on New Year's Eve in Japan. Looking for another shot at the big time, the UFC and Affliction veteran is concentrating on one thing: winning. Bellator veteran Bears is an opponent seemingly tailor made for High - he's a kickboxer who hates wrestlers. After this bout between two local guys, he may really hate High.
4. Tyron Woodley vs. Tarec Saffiedine: Strikeforce Challengers 13 (January 7, Nashville, Tennessee)
This is a very brave bit of matchmaking by Strikeforce. Woodley is a rising star at welterweight, a 170 pound wrestling machine. Many promoters would be inclined to protect a young fighter with Woodley's potential - but not Strikeforce. He fought a dangerous jiu jitsu ace in André Galvão in his last fight and Saffiedine is just as deadly, albeit on his feet rather than on the mat. The contest depends on how easily Woodley can take Saffiedine to the mat. Tarec did well against wrestler Brock Larson at Shark Fights 13. Can he defend Woodley's takedowns as easily as he did Larson's? I can't wait to find out.
3. Masakatsu Ueda vs. Farkhad Sharipov: SHOOTO (January 11, Tokyo, Japan)
Ueda lost the SHOOTO Featherweight title (132 pounds) last year, a title he had held for almost two years, when he was choked out by Shuichiro Katsumura. He rebounded nicely from the first loss of his career against Akitoshi Tamura in May. Sharipov, a Russian wrestler fighting out of Gracie Barra in Orlando should pose another tough test for the Japanese star. This one won't be for people who love "stand and bang" style fights. This will be a battle of wrestling as each will try to put the other on the mat - and keep them there.
2. Mark Hominick vs. George Roop: UFC Fight For the Troops 2 (January 22, Fort Hood, Texas)
2010 was a great year for "The Machine" Mark Hominick. He beat Yves Jabouin in one of the very best fights of the year and pulled off the impossible: he actually won a decision over the decision king Leonard Garcia. Now Roop may be the only thing standing between Hominick and UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Roop is no gimme win - at 6-1 his size and reach present all kind of challenges for smaller guys at 145. Should be an interesting and tactical standup battle.
1. Nick Diaz vs. Evangelista Cyborg: Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Cyborg (January 29, San Jose, California)
I took a lot of heat for supporting this fight, mostly from fans disappointed that Diaz wouldn't be facing Jason "Mayhem" Miller. I would have loved to see that fight as well, and in fact, encouraged Strikeforce to make it and make it quickly. But sometimes you just have to move on. I am an unabashed Diaz fan. I love his unique approach to the stand up game and his fights never fail to intrigue. Don't let Cyborg's record fool you. He's made huge improvements in the last two years and barely resembles the brawler from early in his career. This fight isn't as one sided as many think and should end up being a barn burner.