The UFC's two most intriguing champions now have fights, with word breaking that UFC 197 will feature a blockbuster pair of main events in Conor McGregor vs. Rafael dos Anjos for the UFC lightweight title and Holly Holm vs. Miesha Tate for the UFC women's bantamweight title.
Jeremy Botter of Bleacher Report reported the bouts will take place in Las Vegas on March 5.
MMAJunkie.com then confirmed the news, saying "MMAjunkie subsequently confirmed the likely bookings with multiple people who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they are not authorized to publicly speak on such matters. UFC officials declined comment when contacted by MMAjunkie."
UPDATE: Tuesday, Januaary 12 at 4:15 pm ET
The UFC has finally made it official. Mark your calendars for March 5th.
Boom! 👊🏽 3.5.16 #UFC197: @TheNotoriousMMA vs @RdosAnjosMMA /@HollyHolm vs @MieshaTate https://t.co/FfmTWr96Z7 https://t.co/pb7FYJpmRM2016-1-12 21:10:20
---End of Update---
Both fights are a welcome surprise for longtime observers.
Discussion over who McGregor should face after his UFC 194 win over Jose Aldo has gripped the MMA universe for a month now, with a slew of names popping up at both 145 and 155 pounds. High-profile call-outs have included Frankie Edgar, Nate Diaz (warning: contains language NSFW) and Max Holloway, all in addition to the obvious possibility of a rematch with Aldo.
A fight with Dos Anjos, however, represents the biggest "money" fight available for McGregor. While Dos Anjos lacks name recognition, the bout is huge based on the storyline of McGregor potentially becoming just the third man to hold UFC titles in two different divisions (the first two being BJ Penn and Randy Couture) and the first ever to hold two UFC titles at the same time.
There is a lot to love about the co-main event as well.
Holm became a breakout star in 2015 with her upset win over Ronda Rousey at UFC 193, but her future was left in limbo due to the UFC's insistence on an immediate rematch. With no clear return date for Rousey, however, the UFC must have softened on the notion of Holm defending the title before Rousey's return.
Tate is the best option available for Holm's first title defense. Despite being best known for her lack of success against Rousey in their two fights, Tate has been a Top Five mainstay in the women's bantamweight division. Riding a four-fight winning streak with her most recent victory coming over Jessica Eye, she comfortably slides into the No. 1 contender spot and should be an interesting opponent for the new champ.