Here at Five Fights, we do our best to mix things up and go all over the MMA world, whether it’s a UFC fight featuring a pair of superstars, an LFA fight featuring up-and-comers, something interesting out of Asia, or an Invicta matchup. July, though, is the UFC’s biggest month of the year so far, with something big nearly every weekend. So forgive us, but Five Fights for July will have a heavy UFC flavor.
Michael Johnson vs. Justin Gaethje, TUF 25 Finale, Las Vegas, July 7, FS1
The first of the UFC’s back-to-back nights in Las Vegas is headlined with a crackerjack lightweight bout. Former World Series of Fighting champ Gaethje (17-0) brings a reputation for exciting fights in his UFC debut. He’s won 11 of his past 12 bouts via KO or TKO, only going the distance once. He asked for a legit opponent in his first UFC bout and he got one in the veteran Johnson (17-11). While he’s dropped three of his past four fights, Johnson, at his best, is very, very good, and he’s always one of the division’s toughest competitors. Adding to the intrigue is that the trash talk between these two has gone to absolutely nasty places, adding a grudge element to a fight which already didn’t need much extra hype.
Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko, UFC 214, Las Vegas, July 8, PPV
It’s almost unfathomable how much has changed in the women’s bantamweight division in the 15 months since these two last tangled. Nunes (14-4) decisioned Shevchenko (14-2) at UFC 196. Later that night, Miesha Tate upset Holly Holm to win the bantamweight title; Nunes submitted Tate to win the belt at UFC 200; Shevchenko decisioned Holm several weeks later; Nunes made short work of Ronda Rousey; and Shevchenko submitted Julianna Peña in January. That’s how you justify a rematch in such a short period of time, with the path leading us to the main event at T-Mobile Arena.
Derek Campos vs. Brandon Girtz, Bellator 181, Thackerville, Okla., July 14, Spike TV
It’s not the most-hyped trilogy in MMA history, but Bellator 181’s main event features a pair of well-matched fighters. Campos (18-6), took their first meeting via unanimous decision four years ago at Bellator 96. Girtz (14-6), a Grudge Training Center competitor, responded with a 37-second knockout at Bellator 146. Campos has won three consecutive fights and is poised to finally break through in Bellator’s lightweight division, while Girtz is looking to shake off a two-fight losing streak.
Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum, UFC on FOX 25, Uniondale, N.Y., July 22, FOX
A strange set of circumstances frame a consequential middleweight main event at Nassau Coliseum. Weidman (13-3), for his part, was involved in one of 2017’s strangest finishes, a TKO loss to Gegard Mousasi at UFC 210 following questionable calls on Mousasi knees. Gastelum (13-2, 1 NC) is the reluctant middleweight contender, who keeps wrecking his opponents at 185 pounds, despite the fact he’d rather compete at welterweight, where he routinely misses weight. Gastelum had an easy go of it in his last fight against Vitor Belfort, winning via first-round TKO, before he tested positive for marijuana in a USADA drug test and the Brazilian commission ridiculously overturned it to a no contest. Either way, assuming we can avoid some sort of wackiness -- something you should never take for granted when the New York State Athletic Commission oversees things -- the winner of this should come out a major middleweight player.
Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones, UFC 214, Anaheim, Calif., July 29, PPV
Do we really have to explain why the main event of the loaded UFC 214 is a big fight? For those who have been living under a rock the past several years, Cormier (19-1) vs. Jones (22-1) is MMA’s hottest rivalry. This marks the fifth time the UFC has attempted to put this fight together, but they’ve only actually made it to the cage once -- at UFC 182, where then-light heavyweight champ Jones handed Cormier his only career defeat, via unanimous decision. Since then, Jones has been through a litany of issues, both of the legal and regulatory kind. Cormier won the vacant light heavyweight title after Jones was stripped and has successfully defended the belt twice. UFC has three two more title fights -- Cyborg Justino vs. Tonya Evinger for the vacant women’s featherweight belt and Tyron Woodley vs. Demian Maia for the welterweight belt -- on tap in case DC-Jones falls out again, but keep your fingers crossed it actually comes through this time.