It may come as a relief to some that despite the year’s marquee fight having passed, we still have some absolute crackers to look forward to.
Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier was a fight – and an event – that lived up to all of our expectations but with that slowly fading into the past, here are the top eight fights to keep you busy over the coming months.
Honourable mentions: Demetrious Johnson (c) vs. Henry Cejudo II, Cub Swanson vs. Renato Moicano, José Aldo vs. Jeremy Stephens,
#8 – Luke Rockhold vs. Chris Weidman II – November 3
It may be a rematch that was decisively won by Rockhold the first time around but make no mistake, this is a contest between two guys who are really at a crossroads in their MMA career. There’s a lot on the line and the winner here could get themselves right back into the title-mix.
#7 – Justin Gaethje vs. James Vick – August 25
James Vick has been knocking on the door of the 155lb top-10 for what seems like an eternity and now, the most tantalising opponent possible has answered. Justin Gaethje is an unmissable spectacle no matter who it is he faces – win, lose, or draw and with one of the division’s top up-and-comers who has been dying for a crack at the elite of the elite, expect some patented brutality from ‘The Highlight’ and ‘The Texecutioner.’
#6 – Frankie Edgar vs. Chan Sung Jung – November 10
This one may fly under the radar slightly because a lot of the newer additions to the sport’s fanbase mightn’t be overly aware of who the Korean Zombie is but trust me, this guy is one of the most legendary brawlers in the history of the lighter weight-classes and with Frankie Edgar as his dance partner – you can expect a ridiculously high-pace from the off.
#5 – Eddie Alvarez vs. Dustin Poirier II – July 28
Their original meeting at UFC 211 didn’t give us the resolution we craved but boy was it fun while it lasted! Now, with five-rounds to go to war and a spot in the 155lb top-3 presumably up for grabs, this is about as good a main-event as one could hope for and it’s taking place this weekend!
#4 – TJ Dillashaw (c) vs. Cody Garbrandt II – August 4
One of the most memorable rivalries of the decade served up one of the best fights of 2017. TJ Dillashaw recovered from a first-round knockdown to blast through Cody Garbrandt in the second but given the intense relationship between the two and the fiery bout that it culminated in, the UFC decided a second helping was in order and to be honest, who are we to complain?
#3 – Yair Rodriguez vs. Zabit Magomedsharipov – September 8
I’ve heard Zabit referred to – not only as the greatest MMA prospect in the world today – but also as the greatest fighter some of the people who have trained with him have ever seen. This guy is ridiculously talented and in Yair Rodriguez, he faces off against one of his fellow up-and-comers who will have to prove his mental toughness after enduring a humiliating loss at the hands of Frankie Edgar in his last outing.
#2 – Tyron Woodley (c) vs. Darren Till – September 8
It may have been a shock announcement to some, but with it now set in stone, Darren Till will look to take out one of the world’s finest pound-for-pound fighters in Tyron Woodley in a clash that is as stylistically interesting as anything you’ll see all year. Some call Tyron boring but in truth, he’s one of the finest examples of elite-level fight IQ you will ever encounter and with Till – despite his clear talent – experience may be the biggest factor in this matchup when it goes ahead. The Liverpudlian’s striking pedigree, however, is undeniable.
#1 – Yoel Romero vs. Paulo Costa – November 3
It was close, and I nearly gave the nod to the aforementioned 170lb title tilt at #2, but with the pairing of Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa – how could anything else ever take the gold? Two of the most ridiculous physical specimens in the sport will collide at UFC 230 in November and while I know full well what happened with UFC 226’s Ngannou/Lewis – I will stick my neck out once again and promise that this one will produce some serious violence.
Cillian Cunningham, Pundit Arena