Ranking the 5 Best UFC Fight Cards of the Summer
The summer of 2014 will be a monumental stretch for the UFC. With 15 fight cards between now and September, the number of relevant fights taking place inside the Octagon is dizzying. MMA fans will no doubt want to leave the house this summer, so understanding which events are “must-see” and which ones are DVR-able is very important for those who enjoy the light of day.
Ultimately, fight fans will have to decide which cards to sit inside and enjoy and which ones to skip, and all we can do here is make the case for which events matter more than the others. The criteria being used for this list include a number of factors, the most important of which is the perceived entertainment value of the fights on the main card.
Along our journey, cards with ranked fighters carry more weight than those featuring their unranked peers, and it almost goes without saying that cards with a title fight (or two) appear on this list. The main event of each card is used as a tiebreaker when needed, but at the end of it all, this is just one person's opinion on which fights will make you yell at your television more joyously than others.
The flyweight title is on the line when the UFC returns to Vancouver, British Columbia on June 14, and UFC 175 boasts two title fights featuring undefeated champions in Chris Weidman and Ronda Rousey. Matt Brown and Robbie Lawler are set to go at it on Fox on July 26 for a shot at the welterweight title in a fight that is sure to deliver.
With scraps like Conor McGregor vs. Diego Brandao, Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida and Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes all headlining cards this summer, the competition for the top five is steep.
Along with a few honorable mentions, here are the five best UFC fight cards of the summer.
The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale: Edgar vs. Penn
Do I really need to go over why a BJ Penn fight is worth your time? Of course not. “The Prodigy” is looking to avenge his back-to-back losses to Frankie Edgar from 2010, and the main event of The Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale will also be his first fight at 145 pounds.
The TUF 19 Finale on July 6 will also feature the yet-to-be announced finals of the 19th season of the UFC’s flagship reality show, as well as a killer flyweight fight between Justin Scoggins and Dustin Ortiz. The headliner is a head-turner, but this card occurs the night after UFC 175, and the emphasis of the UFC Fight Week seems to be on that card.
At this point, the fight cards set for the tail end of the summer aren’t entirely fleshed out yet, so we have a number of events with only the marquee matchups set in stone. One of those events is UFC 176, which takes place August 2 in Los Angeles.
The rivalry between Nova Uniao and Team Alpha Male is in full swing, after TJ Dillashaw conquered the streak of Renan Barao and won the bantamweight title last month at UFC 173. Add in the fact that Chad Mendes has been starching his competition since his January 2012 loss to Aldo, and we have a very intriguing UFC title fight.
The card also features a lightweight fight between Gray Maynard and Fabricio Camoes and a women's bantamweight fight between Bethe Correia and the debuting Shayna Baszler. We don’t know who else will be added to the UFC’s return to Los Angeles, but the title fight and the UFC debut of “The Queen of Spades” are enough to make this event worth watching.
UFC Fight Night: Bisping vs. Le
The UFC’s next trip to China only has two fights booked, but they are good enough to earn an honorable mention on our list. Headlined by a middleweight battle between Michael Bisping and Cung Le, the August 23 card also features a fight between two Top 10 welterweights in Hector Lombard and Dong Hyun Kim.
These two are both on a path to title contention, and the blitzkrieg style of Lombard mixed with the dominant judo and awkward yet powerful striking of Kim equals one thing: fireworks. No doubt, we’ll be hearing endless sound bites advising us not to blink before these two fantastic matchups take place in Macau.
No. 5: UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Brandao
After bursting onto the scene with two wins in 2013, Ireland’s most Google-searched athlete has been out since last August rehabbing a torn ACL. His third UFC outing will be in a five-round main event on July 19 against Diego Brandao, who fills in for the injured Cole Miller.
This is an interesting matchup for a number of reasons. For one, Brandao is ranked in the No. 15 on the UFC’s official rankings and on paper is a tougher opponent for McGregor than Miller would have been.
Brandao has looked great in his UFC career thus far, minus his most recent outing against Dustin Poirier. He’s a real test for McGregor, and this fight will answer a lot of questions about where the Irishman truly stacks up against the rest of the division.
The card also features a potential No. 1 contender's fight at 125 pounds between Ian McCall and Brad Pickett, as well the mystifying grappling of the always-stoic Gunnar Nelson.
Add the always entertaining Tom Lawlor, who takes on Ilir Latifi, and the scrappy style of another Irishman, Neil Seery, and you’ve got a fight card that is worth watching.
No. 4: UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller
Donald Cerrone’s quest to fight six times in 2014 continues on July 16 in Atlantic City, New Jersey, when he takes on the surging Jim Miller. Both of these guys have been on the warpath during their UFC runs and have only faltered against the very best in the division.
I consider Jim Miller to be one of the best lightweights in UFC history. His submission game is ever-present, and he is always within a split second of cranking a limb or a neck and getting his opponent to tap.
Cerrone isn’t much different, as he is never too far away from landing a devastating strike that usually lands him a post-fight bonus. I am looking forward to this fight more than any other this summer, and you’d be a fool to not get excited over the pairing.
The card also showcases two other lightweight contests, with Pat Healy taking on Gleison Tibau and Edson Barboza facing Evan Dunham. Lightweight has always been the murderers' row of the UFC, and this card proves it. Barboza is one of the most feared fighters in the UFC, and Cerrone was able to finish him in the first round back in April.
The battle of the scary nicknames takes place in Atlantic City, when hard-hitting muay thai striker John “Doomsday” Howard takes on the always game Rick “The Horror” Story, who some people forget holds a win inside the Octagon against the current 170-pound champion Johny Hendricks.
This great card features some guys who hit and kick really hard, and just about everyone on the docket likes to stand and trade. If you’re a hardcore UFC fan, I’m sure your calendar is already cleared on July 16.
No. 3: UFC on Fox 12: Lawler vs. Brown
OK, let’s all breathe for a moment. Before we talk about the chaos that the main event on July 26 has in store for the crowd in San Jose, California, let's talk about some of the other great matchups.
I’ve already extolled the virtues of how violent the lightweight division is, and this card supplies more proof. Daron Cruickshank vs. Jorge Masvidal is a fight between two very talented and entertaining mixed martial artists, and Josh Thomson vs. Michael Johnson is, in my opinion, A-plus matchmaking on the part of the UFC and Joe Silva.
This card has the potential to serve as a launching pad for a number of fighters who are looking to break away from the pack and establish themselves as elite-level competitors.
Clay Guida has had some mixed results inside the cage, while Dennis Bermudez is best known for his back-and-forth thriller with Matt Grice and is currently riding an ultra-impressive six-fight winning streak. These two are known for their feverish pace, and their main card fight should be fireworks.
The next challenger for newly minted UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks will be established in a fight that has even casual fans salivating. Matt Brown has won his last seven fights, and the action has crescendoed with each outing.
“Ruthless” Robbie Lawler has won four of his last five fights, and he and Hendricks put on one of the best welterweight title fights of all time at UFC 171. These guys have similar styles, and Brown’s description of his fighting style as being a “technical brawler” could be used to describe either man.
This is a huge fight with big stakes and has “Fight of the Year” written all over it.
No. 2: UFC 174
This card is flying under the radar a bit, and I’m not entirely sure why. Demetrious Johnson is one of the top-five pound-for-pound fighters in the world, and Ali Bagautinov is a formidable foe.
“Mighty Mouse” always puts on exciting performances and has recently established himself as a real-deal finisher, with his submission over John Moraga and his devastating knockout of Joseph Benavidez in his last fight.
Aside from the main event, UFC 174 on June 14 is one of the more stacked cards of the year. A matchup between two Top Five welterweights in Rory MacDonald and Tyron Woodley co-headlines the show, and former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski makes his way back to the Octagon against Brendan Schaub.
The main card also features two light heavyweight fights with all four men looking to stake their claim for a spot in the top-10 rankings. Ryan Bader is currently ranked No. 9 on UFC.com, but he no doubt needs to make a statement against Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante in order to insert himself back into the title conversation at 205 pounds.
Ryan Jimmo is coming off his first-round knockout of Sean O’Connell at the TUF: Nations Finale in April, while his opponent Ovince Saint Preux is coming off an impressive first-round submission over Nikita Krylov, which came by a Von Flue choke that rendered Krylov unconscious.
The main card features meaningful matchups and is headlined by a world title fight. Some people may be inclined to skip this one due to the relatively unknown Bagautinov in the main event, but I would advise against those urges.
No. 1: UFC 175
UFC 175 is the most stacked fight card of the year, and I predict it will be the most-watched as well. Headlined by two UFC title fights and also (currently) featuring the curious case of Chael Sonnen vs. Vitor Belfort, it is the one “must-see” UFC event of the summer on July 5.
Coming in under the radar at UFC 175 is the long-awaited return of fan favorite Stefan “Skyscraper” Struve, who takes on Matt Mitrione on the main card in Vegas. All eyes are going to be on how Struve rebounds from a nearly career-ending heart condition that he was diagnosed with last year.
As if there weren’t enough well-known fighters booked for UFC 175, Urijah Faber is facing “Bruce Leeroy” Alex Caceres as well. It’s a huge step up in competition for Caceres, but he is riding a five-fight winning streak and is deserving of the opportunity against Faber.
Dana White has called Ronda Rousey the “biggest star [the UFC] has ever had”, and that very well may be true. She attracts tons of mainstream eyeballs and has had almost no trouble in her nine professional fights.
She’ll be a heavy favorite to beat Alexis Davis and earn her fourth defense of the UFC women’s bantamweight championship in the co-main event of UFC 175. Davis presents an interesting challenge to Rousey’s grappling, as she is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt and is also undefeated in the UFC at 3-0.
The main event at UFC 175 is Chris Weidman’s first UFC middleweight title fight against someone other than Anderson Silva. The Long Island, New York, native has dispatched Silva twice, albeit both times in unique and interesting ways, and is now set to take on Lyoto Machida, who looks reinvigorated since his drop to middleweight.
Will we see another Weidman victory? Or are we on the precipice of an actual “Machida Era”? It’s a fantastic fight, and in my opinion Machida is the toughest fight for "The All-American" because of his ability to drop fools who rush in against him.
It’s the biggest event of the year and it all goes down on July 5. If you need any more fodder to convince you to watch UFC 175, Google these two words: Chael Sonnen.