The UFC’s next Fight Night card goes down on September 5 at Foxwoods Casino in Ledyard, Connecticut, and has the potential to be 2014’s best fight card on free TV. A middleweight battle between Gegard Mousasi and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza headlines the event, and Alistair Overeem will take on the returning “Big” Ben Rothwell in the co-main event.
It’s no coincidence that the UFC chose this particular event to showcase so many great matchups. Just up the road at Mohegan Sun Arena, Bellator MMA will kick off its next season with a stacked card of its own on the same night. The UFC will be going head-to-head with Bellator for television viewers and a live gate, for the first and perhaps only time in history.
Competition is something that the UFC hasn’t had to deal with in quite some time, if ever. The purchases of Pride, Strikeforce and WEC eliminated any viable contenders to the UFC’s throne of being the No. 1 MMA promotion in the world. Bellator has been squeaking along over the past several years, and after its first and only pay-per-view event reportedly drew 100,000 buys, it might be on its way to giving Zuffa a run for its money.
Bellator 123 features the featherweight championship rematch between champion Pat Curran and Patricio “Pitbull” Freire, as well as “King” Mo Lawal, Bobby Lashley and Cheick Kongo. It doesn’t match up to the talent featured on Fight Night 50, but it’s clear that Bellator is trying to put its best foot forward under the leadership of Scott Coker.
With Bellator putting effort into making its next show a good one, the UFC kicked things into overdrive in what is seemingly an effort to outgun the competition. Not only has the UFC crafted a card that is better than Bellator’s offering, it has gone above and beyond what is becoming the norm for UFC cards—lots of debuting fighters and only a few meaningful contests.
Nearly every fight at Fight Night 50 is a meaningful and intriguing matchup. The six-fight main card starts off with a flyweight fight between Justin Scoggins and John Moraga.
Moraga’s only career losses have been against the champion Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson. Scoggins is one of the brightest prospects in the UFC, but Moraga is easily the toughest test in the 22-year-old’s career thus far. It should be a fast-paced, technical fight and is a great start to the Fox Sports 1 broadcast.
The rematch between Nik Lentz and Charles Oliveira is also an intriguing fight. Their first fight was originally a submission win for Oliveira but was changed to a no-contest after a review by the PSAC due to an illegal knee thrown by Oliveira that essentially brought about the end of the fight.
This time around they’ll battle at 145 pounds, and this could be a breakout fight for Oliveira if he can beat Lentz again. He’s been thrown in with some top-notch competition inside the Octagon and has faltered a few times along the way, but he might finally be putting together the poise and veteran instinct that will allow him to properly showcase his talents.
The first fight that was announced for UFC Fight Night 50 was a lightweight fight between Joe Lauzon and Michael Chiesa. This is a fantastic fight for a lot of reasons. Both men have shown tremendous resiliency throughout their UFC careers and are extremely well-rounded submission artists. This could easily be the Fight of the Night and break Lauzon’s tie for post-fight bonuses with Anderson Silva.
The two heavyweight fights on the main card exist for the sole purpose of providing the fans with a couple of big knockouts. Matt Mitrione vs. Derrick Lewis has no business being fought anywhere but on the feet and will probably end in the first round.
The co-main event of Ben Rothwell vs. Alistair Overeem is a great heavyweight fight. Rothwell is coming back from a nine-month suspension for elevated levels of testosterone. His last fight, which still counts as a victory despite the positive test and subsequent suspension, was an insane TKO over Brandon Vera where Rothwell seemed to snap into berserker mode and charge forward to put Vera away with punches and knees in the third round.
Overeem shook off back-to-back knockout losses with a unanimous-decision win over Frank Mir at UFC 169 back in February. He put a thorough beating on Mir and didn’t tire out throughout the 15-minute affair. He needs to keep the momentum going if he wants to get back into title contention, and Rothwell is the perfect opponent to do it against.
The co-main event of UFC 176 (which was canceled) is now the main event of UFC Fight Night 50. Jacare only has one loss since he first faced Mousasi in 2008 in the Dream promotion and has gone on a six-fight tear through the Strikeforce and UFC middleweight divisions.
Souza is becoming one of the most dangerous strikers at 185 pounds, and that's on top of his Brazilian jiu-jitsu skills, which are some of the best in the world. We all know Mousasi is no slouch, despite his body language in and out of the cage. He’s won five of his last six fights and is coming off an impressive first-round submission over Mark Munoz in May.
Fight Night cards with this many good fights are few and far between; even the UFC’s recent pay-per-views haven’t been this strong. The main event could produce the next challenger for the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Vitor Belfort or catapult the winner into a title-eliminator bout at the end of the year. It’s a stacked card, and so far it is the best free TV event the UFC has put on this year.