The summer is finally upon us and with that in mind, we’re going to take a look at the top-10 most intriguing bouts that are scheduled to take place over the next three months.
#10 – Derrick Lewis vs Mark Hunt – UFC Fight Night 118 – June 11th
To kick things off we have a fun little heavyweight encounter between two of the division’s most ferocious knockout artists. Derrick Lewis stands as one of 265lb’s most entertaining prospects and with his recent win over Travis Browne, he knows that a win over Mark Hunt will guarantee him a top-5 opponent in his next outing.
For Mark Hunt, age is most certainly not on his side but with his legendary fight-ending power definitely still in play, there’s just no way you can rule out a KO for this Super Samoan when the octagon doors close.
Expect a brawl with this one, folks!
#9 – Fabricio Werdum vs Alistair Overeem – UFC 213 – July 8th
Another contest with massive ramifications for the heavyweight division up next as the former champion Fabricio Werdum takes on the decorated kickboxer Alistair Overeem at UFC 213 in July.
Werdum lost his UFC title back at UFC 203 when he made the mistake of running straight into a hard Stipe Miocic shot but with his ever-improving striking and impeccible jiu-jitsu, he knows full-well that his talents are undeniable at this stage.
Overeem is another who fell at the hands of the champ Miocic in recent times but for the most part, his problems inside the octagon have stemmed from poor judgment and circumstances because his technical prowess is as good as anyone’s we’ve seen compete in this sport.
#8 – Demian Maia vs Jorge Masvidal – UFC 211 – May 13th
It’s the classic ‘grappler versus striker’ matchup and with the champion Tyron Woodley still without an official opponent, look to this contest to determine the true number-1 contender in the welterweight division.
Demian Maia has been on an absolute tear since dropping down from middleweight and perhaps possesses the most impressive pure-grappling in MMA history. His ability to pass guard and sink in a submission is unrivaled and the danger of his ground game has allowed him to pressure and intimidate his opponents in each of his fights.
Jorge Masvidal just took home the biggest win of his career to date when he annihilated Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone earlier this year and with him now facing arguably the most dangerous man in the division, he could end up fighting for the title if all ends up going his way come fight night.
#7 – Eddie Alvarez vs Dustin Poirier – UFC 211 – May 13th
Two men who fell in spectacular fashion to the mighty Conor McGregor will battle it out to become the next lightweight contender in this truly fascinating showdown at UFC 211 next month.
The veteran Eddie Alvarez was all-but-humiliated by the ‘Notorious One’ McGregor in November of last year but if there’s one thing that’s hardwired into this Philly-brawler’s DNA it’s the ability to bounce back after a setback.
Dustin Poirier stands as one of the division’s most entertaining fighters and since making the move to 155lbs, he has looked nothing short of spectacular, dropping only one from six and looking increasingly dangerous with each passing fight.
#6 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Jessica Andrade – UFC 211 – May 13th
Can Joanna do it again? The Polish muay-thai superstar as shown every facet of her MMA game in her current title-reign but in Jessica Andrade, she perhaps faces her most tricky opponent to date.
Jedrzejczyk is one of the UFC’s most decorated strikers and in her UFC 205 outing against Karolina Kowalkiewicz, she showed that she has tremendous heart to match her impeccable skills.
Andrade has racked up three straight wins at 115lb, including stoppages of Joanne Calderwood and Jessica Penne but despite her impressive resumé, the step up in competition that Joanna represents will be a true test of her championship credentials.
#5 – Frankie Edgar vs Yair Rodriguez – UFC 211 – May 13th
What a fight this should be! As if UFC 211 wasn’t stacked enough as it is we’re also going to get a chance to see the former-lightweight champion Frankie Edgar take on one of the promotion’s most highly-touted prospects in Yair ‘El Pantera’ Rodriguez.
Frankie Edgar just will not go away will he? ‘The Answer’ is a legend of the sport at this stage and despite his 27-fight career, he has never once been finished and has only dropped losses to some of the very best the game has had to offer over the years.
Rodriguez’s style is so unorthodox and unpredictable that you really have to see it to believe it. He mixes so many spinning attacks into his striking offense that it seems as though even he himself has no idea what he’s going to do next, but one thing that is guaranteed is that this fight may well be one of the year’s best.
#4 – Stipe Miocic vs Junior dos Santos – UFC 211 – May 13th
Their first meeting was among the best heavyweight fights in recent memory and at UFC 211, Miocic and dos Santos will do it over five rounds once again.
Stipe Miocic is slowly but surely carving out his own piece of UFC history as he looks to extend his title-reign to two defenses by taking out the guy who holds the honour of being the last to defeat him inside the octagon. After KO’ing Alistair Overeem in front of his hometown crowd at UFC 203, Miocic can really make a statement by taking out the former-champ in dos Santos.
Junior’s 3-3 run in his last six fights is pretty patchy at best, but his crisp boxing and legendary knockout power are still very much a factor as he looks to nab himself his second taste of UFC gold. His win over Ben Rothwell last year was enough to get him his title shot and if the first fight is anything to go by, this should be an absolute war.
#3 – Cody Garbrandt vs TJ Dillashaw – UFC 213 – July 8th
On pre-fight buildup alone I’d be sold on this one. One newly-crowned champ against one unbelievably talented former-champ. Garbrandt versus Dillashaw will do more than enough to keep fans on edge as Dominick Cruz plots his return and stylistically, it stands as one of the year’s most intriguing matchups on the feet.
Cody Garbrandt shocked the world when he dismantled Dominick Cruz at UFC 206 in a fight where few gave him even a puncher’s chance at doing so and with the bantamweight belt now firmly in his grasp, a win over Dillashaw could set him up for some huge matchups in the future.
TJ Dillashaw’s stock didn’t take that much of a hit after his title-loss to Dominick Cruz last year but even so, the frustration that he must have due to the very-close nature of that loss will only serve to drive him on towards winning back that coveted 135lb strap.
#2 – Robbie Lawler vs Donald Cerrone – UFC 213 – July 8th
Did someone say barnburner?
When this fight fell apart after originally being announced for New York’s UFC 205, the MMA community as a whole let out a shout of anguish, but now, the UFC have thankfully rebooked it for a slot on July’s UFC 213.
Robbie Lawler’s shocking UFC 201 KO loss to Tyron Woodley ended his truly legendary reign as the UFC’s welterweight champion but despite his clear skill and animalistic passion, questions still remain over the effect that his advancing years and cumulative damage will have over his future title aspirations.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone’s run at the title took a huge hit when he was destroyed by Jorge Masvdial earlier this year but ever since his move to the welterweight division he has looked nothing short of spectacular and a win over the former-champ in Lawler could be enough to hurl his name right back into the title-mix.
#1 – José Aldo vs Max Holloway – UFC 212 – June 3rd
And here we have it! The most intriguing fight of the summer, José Aldo versus Max Holloway to unify the promotion’s featherweight belts.
José Aldo’s reputation in the eyes of the mainstream MMA world, took a massive hit when he was KO’d unconscious by the ‘Notorious’ Conor McGregor at UFC 194 but in his win over Frankie Edgar at UFC 200, he showed that he was willing to adapt his game, utilizing great counterstriking and movement to outpoint ‘the Answer’.
Max Holloway is another who has ties to the outspoken Irishman but ever since his loss to McGregor back in 2013, he has racked up 10-straight victories and looks more-than-worthy of his interim-champ status.
This is a great, great fight to put on and for me, it’s one that could go either way very easily and for that reason it’s probably the most exciting matchup the UFC has arranged for what should be a truly brilliant summer of fights.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena