8 Must-See MMA Fights in February

Sean SmithAnalyst IFebruary 3, 2014

8 Must-See MMA Fights in February

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    Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Spor

    The MMA world was busy in January, but action will only pick up in February.

    With two UFC title fights already in the books, this month will also feature Ronda Rousey's next title defense, Gegard Mousasi's return to the middleweight division and Daniel Cormier's debut at 205 pounds.

    There will be plenty going on outside the Octagon as well, with Bellator MMA putting on its first show in 2014, World Series of Fighting holding a fight card in Canada and Titan FC making its debut on CBS Sports Network.

    It will be difficult for MMA fans to catch all the big fights this month, so here are the 10 matchups that can't be missed for the remainder of February.

8. Quinton Jackson vs. Christian M'Pumbu

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    Fight Card: Bellator 110

    When: Feb. 28

    When Quinton Jackson signed with Bellator MMA, many felt he might not be interested in the tournament format that would force him to compete more regularly than he did under the UFC banner.

    After warming up with a win over Joey Beltran, though, "Rampage" is now booked to meet former Bellator MMA champion Christian M'Pumbu in the opening round of a light heavyweight tournament at Bellator 110 this month. 

    If Jackson can bulldoze M'Pumbu then beat the winner of the bout between Muhammed Lawal and Mikhail Zayats, he'll earn himself a shot at the Bellator MMA 205-pound championship. Having "Rampage" as a champion would bring a lot of attention to Bellator MMA and help it take a small step toward closing the gap between it and the world leader in MMA.

7. Rustam Khabilov vs. Rafael Dos Anjos

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    Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    Fight Card: UFC 170

    When: Feb. 22

    At UFC 170, dark horses in the lightweight title picture, Rafael dos Anjos and Rustam Khabilov, will meet to determine which fighter is more prepared to test themselves against the elite 155-pounders.

    With four straight wins, Dos Anjos has elevated himself to No. 6 in the lightweight division. The Brazilian most recently defeated Donald Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 27, which established him as a serious contender in the 155-pound class.

    Khabilov has had a much shorter run with the UFC, but he's quickly risen to the top 15. At UFC Fight Night 31, the Russian defeated Jorge Masvidal to prove he is more than a prospect already.

6. Jessica Eye vs. Alexis Davis

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    Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports

    Fight Card: UFC 170

    When: Feb. 22

    Although she failed her drug test at UFC 166, Jessica Eye will be allowed to compete with Alexis Davis in February.

    Eye defeated Sarah Kaufman in her October Octagon debut, but that win has now been overturned. Still, Eye proved in that matchup that she can compete with the elite in the women's bantamweight division.

    Alexis Davis has made equally large waves early in her UFC career, beating Rosi Sexton and Liz Carmouche in her first two outings. Another impressive win over Eye could push Canadian into a title fight with the winner of the UFC 170 main event between Ronda Rousey and Sara McMann.

5. Rory MacDonald vs. Demian Maia

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    Fight Card: UFC 170

    When: Feb. 22

    Also competing on this month's UFC pay-per-view, Rory MacDonald and Demian Maia will attempt to bounce back from deflating losses and return to the hunt for a title shot in the welterweight division.

    MacDonald was recently riding six straight wins into UFC 167, where he had a chance to establish himself as the top 170-pound contender against Robbie Lawler. Instead, the Canadian was edged in a split decision, and now Lawler finds himself competing with Johnny Hendricks for the belt that MacDonald's teammate, Georges St-Pierre, vacated.

    After losing to eventual welterweight champion Chris Weidman, Maia decided to cut to 170 pounds in July 2012. The Brazilian picked up wins in his first three welterweight bouts, but he suffered a split-decision loss of his own against Jake Shields at UFC Fight Night 29.

4. Ronaldo Souza vs. Francis Carmont

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    Jeff Chiu/Associated Press

    Fight Card: UFC Fight Night 36

    When: Feb. 15

    The middleweight landscape is quickly changing.

    Anderson Silva will be out of action through most of 2014 and possibly into 2015. Even when he does return, the former champion may never be the same fighter again.

    For up-and-coming contenders like Ronaldo Souza and Francis Carmont, the door is open to make a run at the top. Coming off of respective wins over highly ranked middleweights Yushin Okami and Costas Philippou, Souza and Carmont will attempt to make their case for a title shot at UFC Fight Night 36.

3. Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Cormier

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    Andrew Richardson-USA TODAY Spor

    Fight Card: UFC 170

    When: Feb. 22

    One of the top contenders in the heavyweight division, Daniel Cormier has decided to drop down to light heavyweight, as his friend and American Kickboxing Academy teammate currently sits atop his former weight class.

    Welcoming Cormier to 205 pounds will be former titleholder Rashad Evans. With back-to-back wins over Dan Henderson and Chael Sonnen, Evans has once again established himself as a light heavyweight contender and is gunning for a rematch with rival Jon Jones.

    Alexander Gustafsson may be in front of both men in the race for a title shot, but Evans or Cormier could jump ahead of the Swede with an outstanding showing at UFC 170.

2. Lyoto Machida vs. Gegard Mousasi

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    Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports

    Fight Card: UFC Fight Night 36

    When: Feb. 15

    Former light heavyweights Lyoto Machida and Gegard Mousasi could be battling for a title shot at UFC Fight Night 36.

    Coming off of a knockout win over Mark Munoz, Machida is one of the most intriguing new additions to the 185-pound class. The move appears to have reignited his career and given him a realistic opportunity to reclaim UFC gold.

    Meanwhile, Mousasi recently picked up a dominant win over Ilir Latifi in his UFC debut. It was a ho-hum victory, but "The Dreamcatcher" has an excellent resume and wouldn't need much more than a win over Machida to become one of the biggest title threats at 185 pounds.

1. Ronda Rousey vs. Sara McMann

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    Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports

    Fight Card: UFC 170

    When: Feb. 22

    Less than two months after beating Miesha Tate at UFC 168, Ronda Rousey will defend her UFC title for a third time in a matchup with Sara McMann.

    McMann has only one UFC win, but she has the credentials that make her a threat to Rousey. She is also an Olympic medalist, and her wrestling could aid her in avoiding grappling exchanges with the champion, who has won all eight of her MMA fights with armbars.

    If McMann is unable to dethrone Rousey at UFC 170, the former Strikeforce champion could be the UFC's 135-pound queen for years.