Ranking the Biggest UFC Fights in April
The UFC's four fight cards in April are littered with potentially exciting and memorable fights. The big headliner is Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira at UFC 172.
UFC is coming off a month that had plenty of big fights. Johny Hendricks' took a decision win over Robbie Lawler in a close, action-packed brawl, and Dan Henderson knocked out Mauricio "Shogun" Rua in a back-and-forth scrap. The UFC hopes to continue that success in April.
The UFC is promoting four fight cards in April:
- UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi on April 11
- The Ultimate Fighter: Nations Finale on April 16
- Fox UFC Saturday on April 19
- UFC 172 on April 26
Each card has a couple of enticing matchups that have the potential to be great fights.
The criteria used for this ranking were the potential for each fight to be exciting, how competitive the fight appears to be and how important the fight is in the division rankings.
No. 2-Ranked Joseph Benavidez vs. No. 8-Ranked Tim Elliott
At UFC 172, Joseph Benavidez takes on Tim Elliott. This fight has a lot of significance in the flyweight division; however, this is due to the weight class being thin. The UFC has only 30 flyweights on its roster—the least of all men's divisions.
Therefore, this fight looks more competitive on paper then it really is. Benavidez is better than Elliott in every facet of fighting. The only hope for Elliott is to take his opponent down and grind out a win from top position. This is not very likely because Benavidez's strength and athleticism make it hard to take him down and hold him there.
If someone were just looking at the records or ranking of each fighter, it would seem like a close and competitive fight, but in reality, it's neither. Look for Benavidez to dominate from the opening bell and bounce back from his TKO loss to UFC champion Demetrious Johnson.
Overall this fight is not competitive enough to be on the list of top fights in April.
No. 3-Ranked Miesha Tate vs. No. 7-Ranked Liz Carmouche
Miesha Tate takes on Liz Carmouche at Fox UFC Saturday. The only reason Carmouche and Tate are ranked so high is because of how shallow the women's bantamweight division is (mostly based on how new it is to the UFC).
Carmouche has lost two of her last three fights, while Tate has lost three out of four. Women's bantamweight is the only division where fighters with recent records like that are ranked as highly as they are.
This fight should not be very competitive, either. Tate seems to have the advantage standing and on the ground. Carmouche shouldn't give much resistance in either aspect. Tate is developing a good grappling game (despite getting dominated by Rousey), and Carmouche hasn't improved in any of her recent fights. Tate should be able to take this fight to the ground and dominate her opponent on the mat en route to a submission win.
While this fight could be exciting and have a major impact on the division, it isn't competitive enough to warrant a place on the list.
No. 9-Ranked Clay Guida vs. No. 12-Ranked Tatsuya Kawajiri
In an exciting and competitive featherweight bout, Clay Guida takes on Tatsuya Kawajiri at UFC Fight Night in Abu Dhabi. As stated in the video above, both fighters are competent wrestlers. While the power advantage goes to Kawajiri, the speed and cardio advantages go to Guida. He has been to known to be a part of many thrilling fights.
However, he had a lackluster and slow performance against Gray Maynard, which led many fans to turn on "The Carpenter."
Kawajiri always comes to fight and is an aggressive battler in his own respect. It all depends on which Guida will come to fight—the aggressive one or the passive one. Because of this variable, it is hard to put this fight onto the list.
Also, this fight doesn't have much of an impact on the featherweight division. Guida doesn't look like he will be challenging for a title anytime soon, and Kawajiri is getting old at 35 years of age. While he could challenge for a title because of his name value in Asia, his age is a big concern, and a win over Guida shouldn't put him in line for a title fight.
This was a big reason why it was just outside of the top fights in April.
5. Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy
At the TUF: Nations Finale on April 16, No. 5-ranked Michael Bisping takes on No. 8-ranked Tim Kennedy. As stated by former UFC fighter and now UFC commentator Brian Stann, this fight is a toss-up.
There have been copious amounts of smack talk from both sides leading up to this fight. The MMA Corner's Zach Miller reported that Bisping called Kennedy an "embarrassment to himself, the Armed Forces, and to the UFC." Meanwhile, MMA Fighting's Dave Doyle reported that Kennedy called Bisping a "dirty fighter."
As stated in the above video by Stann, this fight fills the criteria for competitiveness. Both fighters are closely matched and have strengths that could cancel out the other's.
Kennedy seems to have a slight edge in the grappling, while Bisping has the advantage while standing. Nevertheless, Kennedy does have some power, as evidenced by his KO win over Rafael Natal.
This fight also has a lot of significance in the middleweight division. A win by either fighter can push him within one win of a title shot (probably a little more likely for Bisping then Kennedy at this point because of name value).
This fight can also be exciting. Bisping and Kennedy always throw a high volume of strikes. However, this bout also has the potential to be a long, drawn-out decision win. It just does not have the type of expected excitement of Jones vs. Teixeira or Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza.
The deciding factor will be Bisping's takedown defense and his underrated ability to get up when grounded. If Bisping keeps it standing, his high volume of strikes should be enough to take the win.
4. Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
No. 7-ranked Khabib Nurmagomedov looks to continue his 21-fight unbeaten streak against No. 5-ranked Rafael dos Anjos in a lightweight bout at Fox UFC Saturday.
Nurmagomedov has looked almost unstoppable since he joined the UFC in 2012. While Dos Anjos has had a much bumpier road since joining the UFC, he has been on a tear lately, winning his last five fights.
As shown in the video above, both fighters are well-rounded and exciting. While they are not known to be finishers, they both have a propensity for thrilling fights.
It is a travesty that this fight is taking place on the prelims and not the main card. This fight deserves to be on Fox.
Nurmagomedov seems to have a big edge in wrestling, while Dos Anjos has the advantage standing up. Nurmagomedov's strengths are much more dominant than Dos Anjos', however. The Russian has overwhelmed all his opponents by using his mixture of sambo and wrestling, while Dos Anjos has used his ever-improving striking game and jiu-jitsu-based ground game.
This fight will have a huge impact on the lightweight division. Both fighters are closing in on a title shot. If either looks dominant in winning, it could lead to him getting a title shot. Both fighters are young, and a loss would not preclude them from climbing back to being a contender in the near future.
It is a competitive fight as well. Nurmagomedov has the wrestling to slow down Dos Anjos' lethal striking game and is good enough from top position to neutralize the Brazilian's guard game. Also, Dos Anjos has the type of takedown defense to give his opponent trouble.
However, I expect Nurmagomedov to use his wrestling to take control of the fight and earn a hard-fought decision win.
Even though this fight can be exciting, it doesn't seem like it will be rousing in a violent, back-and-forth way like Henderson vs. Shogun. This fight will be more technical and less of a slobberknocker. This is why it lingers behind Cerrone vs. Barboza and Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne.
3. Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza
At Fox UFC Saturday, No. 8-ranked Donald Cerrone goes up against No. 11-ranked Edson Barboza. The excitement and expected violence meters are full for this fight.
Both men bring vicious kickboxing styles that should bring a lot of entertainment to the Octagon. Furthermore, they have diverse striking arsenals with vicious kicks. While Cerrone is more straightforward and basic with his kicks, Barboza has an eclectic kicking style.
As the video above shows, Cerrone tends to bring the violence inside the Octagon, and that usually leads to an exhilarating scrap. He seems to have the slight edge in wrestling and grappling. He has an underrated grappling game that is aggressive and submission-oriented.
Barboza, on the other hand, is defensive on the ground; he always looks to get back to his preferred aspect of MMA, striking.
This should be one of the most exciting fights of the year with back-and-forth striking exchanges. The bout is also competitive because they are even in most aspects of fighting. While Barboza would seem to have the advantage in striking, he has shown to be vulnerable to aggressive strikers, as evidenced by his fights against Jamie Varner and Danny Castillo.
Cerrone's best bet would be to either get the fight to the ground or display an aggressive, punch-centric striking game.
The only reason this fight is not higher is because it doesn't have the impact in the division rankings that Werdum vs. Browne or Jones vs. Teixeira has. Neither Cerrone nor Barboza is close to a title shot right now, and both are at least two wins away from contention.
2. Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne
No. 2-ranked Fabricio Werdum takes on No. 3-ranked Travis Browne in a heavyweight clash at Fox UFC Saturday.
The fighters' strengths are diametrically opposed. As shown in the video above, Browne brings an insane amount of power with his hands, feet and elbows, while Werdum brings a world-class ground game. This shows that this fight has the potential to be exciting in a multitude of areas, which is something other bouts on this list don't have.
Browne has displayed the ability to do well on the ground but only from top position. Werdum has the ability to dominate and end the fight from any position on the mat with his wide variety of submissions. Werdum has underrated striking but does not have the power that Browne brings to the Octagon.
Werdum will obviously try to get the fight to the ground, but that is a scary proposition. Browne showed in his fight against Josh Barnett that he can do immense damage when his opponent tries to take him down.
While Browne does have the advantage in the stand-up, he is not foolproof there. Werdum has the ability to outpoint Browne and stay away from his opponent's power.
The winner of this fight will likely challenge Cain Velasquez for the UFC heavyweight title. Thus, it has huge implications in the heavyweight division. Furthermore, this fight has the potential to be exciting by pitting Browne's huge power against Werdum's slick grappling.
The fight is also competitive because of each man's strengths in different areas. In one round, Werdum might dominate with his grappling, while in the next round, Browne might show off his explosive power.
Overall, this fight has the potential to be awesome. The only reason it is No. 2 is because it is not for a title, unlike the last bout on this list.
1. Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira
At UFC 172, Jon Jones defends his UFC Light Heavyweight Championship title against No. 2-ranked Glover Teixeira.
Jones is coming off his thrilling unanimous-decision win over Alexander Gustafsson. That was the first fight that Jones actually looked beatable. In past fights, he was always able to dominate using his wrestling if he was ever having trouble in the striking, but he failed to do that against the big Swede.
This will be the key for Teixeira if he wants to win.
This fight looks to be competitive and a difficult test for Jones. He is obviously the favorite with his great striking, wrestling and grappling, but Teixeira will not be a pushover.
He brings a lot of power to the Octagon, along with a top-notch ground game. He placed fourth at the 2009 ADCC Submission Wrestling Championships. Therefore, if Jones takes his opponent down, he will have a lot to deal with on the ground.
Teixeira also has good wrestling defense that could give Jones problems, as the challenger has never been taken down in the UFC. He also has the power to end the fight with one punch, and that is a scary proposition for Jones.
The champ will have to use his length and kicks to keep Teixeira on the outside where he can't use his power and then mix in some takedowns to keep his opponent guessing.
It is hard to bet against Jones, seeing as how he has never legitimately lost. He will most likely win the fight on the back of his wrestling and kickboxing from the outside.
No other bout on this list is a title fight, so this one has the biggest divisional impact. Also, this fight is competitive, and Jones' tilts have been entertaining as well.
It is always interesting to see if someone can knock off the No. 1 pound-for-pound fighter in Jones.