Ever since the huge success of UFC 100, building a pay-per-view card that could deliver the goods in equal (if not greater) measure has been a kind of holy grail for the organization and the fans.
Obviously, if it was as easy as plugging names into slots, we would have seen it by now. But UFC 100 was a stacked card from top to bottom. While it’s tempting to put men like Brock Lesnar into the mix for another blockbuster event, we still don’t know if he will come back.
Also, in terms of this hypothetical matchmaking, at least some realism is needed. Jon Jones has been banged up as of late and probably wouldn’t sign to fight in July, especially after fighting Glover Teixeira in late April.
Mark Hunt vs. Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva II is also not a possibility, since Silva will still be on suspension for elevated TRT levels. Thus, another big rematch is off the table for July.
But there are other fights that could make for the biggest July 4 weekend event ever. Could it equal UFC 100 in terms of buys and customer satisfaction? While the latter is possible, the former remains uncertain.
But it’s fun to ponder the possibilities nonetheless.
In a bout that showcases two nearly undefeated newcomers with serious skills, Omari Akhmedov and Yan Cabral would start the night off right.
Akhmedov is 12-1, with six wins coming by way of KO/TKO and four by submission. His first scrap in the UFC saw him stop Thiago Perpetuo by knockout in the first round, earning them Fight of the Night honors.
Cabral is just as impressive, owning a record of 11-0 with 10 wins via submission. A ground specialist from Brazil, he has a real chance at winning if he can get Akhmedov to the ground, but only so long as he can defend himself from heavy punches.
Both men are accomplished finishers, and seeing them square off would be the perfect start to a big night.
While it’s a low position on the card for a The Ultimate Fighter winner, Kelvin Gastelum would have the chance to display his skills against a tough fighter in Alex Garcia on a card built to attract a lot of attention.
Garcia is a well-rounded fighter on a five-fight win streak since his lone loss in 2011. He’s won four of his last five by stoppage, and he came out strong in his first UFC appearance, winning by knockout in less than 60 seconds.
Gastelum and Garcia each have just one decision victory on their records, and they have won by KO/TKO or submission in equal measures.
This bout could have the fans on their feet from the get-go.
As the first of three rematches on the card, the second chapter of Jessica Eye vs. Sarah Kaufman would either settle their business or potentially lead to a rubber match.
Both ladies traded verbal jabs with each other after Eye was awarded a split-decision victory in their first fight at UFC 166. Both were banged up in a close bout that saw Eye use her speed and Kaufman try to grind out a victory with her size.
Which woman would be able to correct the mistakes of the past and implement the better game plan? I would love to find out.
If Josh Koscheck returns to the Octagon, a bout with newcomer Adlan Amagov would show us some desperation on both sides.
As a clear step down in ranked competition for Koscheck, Amagov would have a huge chance at making a name for himself early in his UFC career. For Koscheck, who is used to fighting on the main card, he would have a chance to gauge just how much he wants to continue as a UFC fighter.
Coming off three straight loses, he would still be the favorite. He could begin the process of rebuilding himself against a younger, gritty newcomer.
In addition, his name on the preliminary card would help pull in viewers and announce that this event is not to be missed.
Their first bout won Fight of the Year honors in 2012, and a rematch would give the fans another chance to see both men clash.
Dustin Poirier has looked impressive since his defeat to Chan Sung Jung, rattling off three victories out of four fights. Jung has been inactive since their last fight, except for his loss to Jose Aldo in August 2013.
Facing Poirier again would give him a notable opponent and a chance to prove that he is still among the top of the division. Likewise, Poirier would get the opportunity to avenge a loss in a bout that would be afforded a great deal of attention thanks to their last meeting.
Back in the days of Pride, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira put on one hell of a fight in the quarterfinal round of the 2005 Pride Middleweight Grand Prix.
Both men were dropped by hard punches only to rally back in a bout that saw Shogun advance via unanimous decision.
Now, more than eight years later, could the rematch be as sweet as their first meeting?
Shogun has had a spotty UFC career since losing his title to Jon Jones, but recently he looked fantastic in dispatching James Te-Huna via knockout in December.
Nogueira has been a bit more consistent, but he has only fought twice since December 2011 due to injuries.
A rematch (the third and final one of this card) would give them a chance to revisit an old rivalry that just might bring out the best in them.
This bout should need no explanation as to why it should happen.
No divisional ramifications would be compromised, and we would get to see the resolution of a feud that has been brewing for a while.
This is a bout for the fans and the fighters themselves; Sanchez and McGregor have worked hard to build the anticipation of this fight, and it should be realized in the Octagon.
It’s hard to imagine either man coming in unprepared to give his all in order to back up his talk, and that is one of the cornerstones of professional fighting.
And when the prize is bragging rights, it doesn’t get more honest than that, which makes this tilt a perfect way to start the main card.
Given that Carlos Condit and Matt Brown have already been scheduled to fight once before, this bout is long overdue.
Both men love to stand and trade, and both have one-and-done knockout power.
On the floor, Condit has a huge advantage, but odds are that the former interim champion would use this opportunity to slug it out with Brown in pursuit of a high-profile victory.
Brown is on a six-fight run, stopping five of six by KO/TKO. All the ingredients are here for a barn-burner that could steal the show.
Both men have the power to level the other with a single shot, but the more likely scenario would see them both battered and bloodied in a tremendous bout that makes them both winners.
Coming off a five-fight win streak, TJ Grant was lined up for a shot at the title against Anthony Pettis before injuries put him on the bench.
Then, Gilbert Melendez engaged in a war for the ages against Diego Sanchez, and Grant saw his shot at the title put in even more jeopardy.
It seems only fitting that they square off to decide who gets the next shot at Pettis. Like Condit vs. Brown, this bout could be a serious brawl that makes selecting “Fight of the Night” very hard.
Both men are rugged grapplers who know how to strike. On paper, the submission advantage goes to Grant and the striking to Melendez, but fans know it is not so cut-and-dried.
This is a tough fight for both men, no matter where it goes, and the winner would be the top contender for the lightweight title, which is exactly as it should be.
It's an important fight on an important night.
It’s the superfight that is both super and possible, and it would be a huge addition to any event.
Depending on who you talk to, either Aldo will dominate Pettis, or Pettis will take it to Aldo; that’s the kind of division of opinion that makes this such a good fight.
Of course, the skills and athleticism of both men could take it from a good fight and elevate it to a classic. It’s a tale of two excellent strikers in their primes who have been looking at each other across the not-so-great divide that separates the featherweights from the lightweights.
It’s the Marco Antonio Barrera vs. Erik Morales of MMA, and it has every chance of being worthy of the comparison, especially with the lightweight title on the line.
Now, obviously, this fight is in glaring contradiction to the Melendez vs. Grant fight; it is far more likely that either Melendez or Grant would get a crack at Pettis before Aldo.
But for the sake of including a superfight to make this a big card, some realism has been sacrificed.
As if you weren’t expecting this—no big event is complete without a heavyweight bout of true significance.
So, how about a title fight between Cain Velasquez and the winner of Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne?
Granted, it assumes that either man would be healthy enough to hop right back into the cage after their scrap in April, which is no guarantee. Still, it’s a shot at the title, so we can assume that if it was at all possible, the winner would jump at the chance.
Velasquez is poised to make history as the only man to ever defend the heavyweight title three consecutive times. Against Werdum or Browne, he could give us a fight worthy of the moment instead of another blowout like we saw when Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva fought Velasquez for the second time.