The UFC is off for the second week in a row, all apart of their longest break of year, with no major shows until their September 2 return in Rotterdam, The Netherlands. But that doesn’t mean those in the offices of the MMA Leader have been idle. Not only they do that have that boxer vs MMA fighter thing going on next week, they have been busy making the fall slate of fights, and they have come up with some doozies.
So many great fights have been made across all divisions that it’s not something that I can gush about in a few tweets. So here’s the list of fights to watch that were made this week.
10) Mark Hunt vs. Marcin Tybura
UFC Fight Night Sydney — Qudos Bank Arena — Sydney, Australia
Headlining in his home country for the second fight in the row, Hunt will look to follow-up his knockout victory over the surging Derrick Lewis against Tybura, who is riding a three-fight winning streak. Hunt had beaten up by Brock Lesnar and stopped by Alistair Overeem in his previous two fights and it’s not an over exaggeration to say that his third round stoppage of the “Black Beast” didn’t save his UFC career. But now, once again, the sixth ranked UFC heavyweight has a main event at home against Tybura, who is ranked number ten.
The Polish heavyweight is coming off the biggest his win of his career, decisioning Andrei Arvolski this past June in Singapore. This followed knockout wins over Viktor Pesta and Luis Henrique. Tybura won the Arvolski fight by taking him down and pounding him out, although Arvolski did have a significant advantage and hurt him several times on the feet. That doesn’t bode well for him against Hunt, who of course is one of the greatest strikers in heavyweight history. If he can’t take Hunt down, we could be in for a vintage Hunt walk off KO in Sydney.
9) Felice Herrig vs. Cortney Casey
UFC 218 — Little Caesars Arena — Detroit, Michigan.
After a long layoff following a loss to Paige Van Zant, Herrig has come back and fired off a three fight winning streak choking out Kailin Curran, upsetting Alexa Grasso and literally choking the shit out of Justine Kish in June. Now, the ninth ranked strawweight draws another interesting matchup in Casey, who has rebounded from two losses to start her UFC career by winning three of her last four. She was outclassed last November by Claudia Gadelha, but has submitted Randa Markos last August and up-kicked the hell out of Jessica Aguliar in her last fight in May. It is a very interesting matchup between two well-rounded and growing fighters.
Casey may have the advantage on the ground, but Herrig carries an extensive kickboxing background and has looked better with each fight. The wild card here is that Casey was wrongly accused of doping by the terrible Texas State Athletic Commission in her last fight; her last win was briefly turned into a no-decision before being restored in court. Casey will have something to prove, which could make her a hell of force going into this fight. Time will tell.
8) Fabrico Werdum vs. Derrick Lewis
UFC 216 — T-Mobile Arena — Las Vegas, Nevada
This is the kind of fight that makes you raise an eyebrow when you hear about it. You don’t start salivating at the potential for action, but rather start thinking of the various scenarios of how this could go. Both men will be coming off of losses; Werdum a razor-thin decision to Alistair Overeem in July, Lewis a knockout loss to Mark Hunt in June. It’s definitely a hill to climb for Lewis, whose punishment for the knockout loss is fighting the best fighter of his career. Werdum will have light years more experience on the ground and its unreasonable to think that Werdum won’t try to take him down, but Lewis will still have heavy hands. This fight will probably depend on the confidence of the “Black Beast.” He will have to be at his best and come to win, or he could be in for a bad night against the former UFC heavyweight Champion…
7) Matt Brown vs. Diego Sanchez
UFC Fight Night Norfolk — Ted Constant Convocation Center — Norfolk, Virginia.
Two of the greatest action heroes in UFC history will meet up in this unexpected matchup between two UFC Bonus Babies. What makes this so unexpected is that Sanchez’ will be moving back up to 170 pounds for the first time in five and a half years after a long campaign at lightweight and even a brief foray down to featherweight. But with his two years being a yo-yo, with wins over Jim Miller and Marcin Held and first round knockout losses to Joe Lauzon and Al Iaquinta, Sanchez is clearly looking for answers.
Brown isn’t a bad opponent to make this jump against, as Brown has lost three straight fights, the last being a brutal headkick knockout loss to Donald Cerrone last December in Toronto. “The Immortal” needed a break and the nearly year-long layoff should do him good. In reality, this is a good matchup for both men, and given their histories, this seems destined to be a war. My instinct tells me that someone will try to take this one to the mat, and whoever does this successfully will win this fight.
6) Lyoto Machida vs. Derek Brunson
UFC Fight Night San Paulo — Ginasio do Ibirapuera — San Paulo, Brazil.
The former UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Machida will end a two-year layoff in his home country against Brunson, who will be looking once again to defeat a Brazilian legend.
For Machida, he will be looking for redemption following the most difficult stretch of his career. He was choked out by Luke Rockhold and KO’d by Yoel Romero, getting ran over twice by larger fighters. He was scheduled to fight Dan Henderson last Spring, but when he listed the substances he was taking, there was a banned one in there, and he was suspended for eighteen months. Brunson had a difficult stretch of his own, being knocked out by Robert Whitaker last November and then being robbed against Anderson Silva in February. But he rebounded in May with a one punch KO of Daniel Kelly and now looks to collect the biggest scalp of his career.
The intrigue here will be from the other side however. What Lyoto Machida will we see? Is there anything left of the guy who KO’d Rashad Evans for the title, starched Ryan Bader or even gave Chris Weidman hell? Derek Brunson will tell us this November.
5) Anderson Silva vs. Kelvin Gastelum
UFC Fight Night Shanghai — Mercedes Benz Arena — Shanghai, China
The man once held as the greatest MMA Fighter of all time marches on, in a fight that was originally scheduled for June, but was scratched because Gastelum tested positive for marijuana after his win over Vitor Belfort in Brazil in February. Silva acted like a bit of a child after the bout was cancelled, but Gastelum will now get the chance to take him to the woodshed, as well as rebound from his third round submission loss to Chris Weidman last month. Gastelum had been perfect at middleweight until then, including whipping Tim Kennedy and Belfort in his two previous fights.
Given that Gastelum has the kind of style that has always given Silva trouble, combined with Silva’s age tells you that this should be an easy win for Kelvin, but you just never know with Silva. Hell, he nearly KO’d current champion Michael Bisping last March, didn’t do too badly on three days notice against then light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier last July, and then edged out Derek Brunson in February. Not bad for an old dude. You just never know…
4) Cody Garbrandt (C) vs. TJ Dillashaw (UFC Bantamweight Championship)
UFC 217 — Madison Square Garden — New York, New York
This match was supposed to be the co-main event of UFC 213 in July, but that card was snakebite from the word-go. Garbrandt dropped out to the fight with a back injury and Dillasahw briefly courted the idea of going down to challenge flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, but nothing ever materialized there. But the fight is back on, and I will admit that only the fear that this fight might be canceled again keeps me from ranking it higher.
In reality, it’s a fantastic matchup of elite good strikers who hate each other. The fight will probably come down to if Dillashaw can land his heavy kicks or if Garbrandt will be able to use his boxing based style to control the pace and distance as he did against Dominick Cruz. The big question here though remains, will the fight actually happen?
3) Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee (UFC Interim Lightweight Championship)
UFC 216 — T-Mobile Arena — Las Vegas, Nevada
The uncrowned champion of the division will hopefully, finally, get a shot to win the gold here against Lee, who no one (except me) saw could be in this position a year ago. Ferguson comes into the fight with one of the greatest winning streaks in the UFC, including a submission win in a bloody war over Edson Barboza and a dominant performance over former champion Rafael Dos Anos. He was supposed to fight for this title against Khabib in March, but the Russian dropped out the day before the fight.
Ferguson will be coming into this fight with a year-long layoff, which could be a factor. Meanwhile, Lee has risen from unknown to world title challenger with five straight victories, with the last three coming by rear naked choke. He was especially impressive in his controversial first round submission over Michael Chiesa in June, but he’s gotten to this point beating progressively better competition and by being the busiest fighter in the division. It’s an excellent stylistic matchup between two well matched, streaking fighters. But one wonders how big a factor the layoff for Ferguson will be. At the same time, we must remember that winner of this fight may just be next for Conor McGregor.
2) Anthony Pettis vs. Dustin Poirier
UFC Fight Night Norfolk — Ted Constant Convocation Center, Norfolk, Virginia.
Fireworks! This is the kinda fight that you almost want to jump out of your skin when you hear about it, as it is two powerful exciting strikers going after each other who both badly need wins if they want to get back on the championship trail.
Pettis was on the top of the world several years ago, but the former UFC lightweight champion seemed to have lost his mojo at some point. He went back down to featherweight to try to get it back, but missed weight and got his ass kicked by Max Holloway last December. Pettis then moved back to lightweight, embracing true strength and conditioning for the first time. He made great inroads in his last fight, dominating Jim Miller in July.
Meanwhile, Poirier was starting to make way as a lightweight when he got starched by Michael Johnson last October. He bounced back with a win over Miller, but nearly got his calf kicked off in the process. Then in his last fight he was dominating Eddie Alvarez until he was hit with an illegal knee and the fight ruled a no contest. Alvarez was awarded with the chance to be a coach on the Ultimate Fighter, but now comes Poirier’s consolation prize, a chance to fight another former world champion. Both men will come to fight and both badly need the win. It has classic written all over it.
1) Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal
UFC 217 — Madison Square Garden — New York, New York
After Tyron Woodley and Damien Maia sh*t the bed last month at UFC 214, the welterweight division has been badly needed of guys people like to see fight. Thompson had two fights with the champion and no one wants to see them fight again ever, but he’s still probably the best striker at 170 and ranked number one for a reason. Enter ‘The Hitman’.
Even though Masvidal’s nickname is officially ‘Gamebred’, he said it himself, he’s the guy the UFC sends to beat up the guys they don’t like. He came up short in keeping Maia away from the title shot, but now he seeks to make sure ‘Wonderboy’ doesn’t get anywhere near Woodley again. It’s an awesome matchup and it will be a treat to see how Masvidal’s boxing style and Thompson’s karate stylings matchup. Plus, the fact that it’s three rounds makes a little more interesting, as both men can go all out. We can all hope and pray these guys go all out and give us the kind of fight we expect in NYC and maybe, just maybe, a welterweight title shot is waiting for the winner.
Yes, all of those fights were made just last week. Along with about twenty more. It’s going to be great fall in the UFC!.