Here at Five Fights, we usually try to mix things up, presenting the best of the entire sport, whether it’s a UFC card; a Bellator bout; something worth watching overseas; or a battle of up-and-comers on AXS-TV.
This month, though, all but the UFC’s most irrational haters know the company is bringing the heat. Not only is UFC 226 at T-Mobile Arena the most stacked fight card thus far in 2018, but the back end of the month features what looks to be a hell of a fight card at UFC on FOX 30 in Calgary.
So without further ado, then, let’s take a look at what, on paper, are this month’s best matchups:
July 7: Stipe Miocic (18-2) vs. Daniel Cormier (19-1, 1 no-contest), UFC 226, Las Vegas, pay-per-view
This one’s for history. Miocic vs. Cormier, technically, is The Ultimate Fighter 27 coaches’ fight. But it’s also the rare true superfight, as Miocic, the heavyweight champ, defends his title against light heavyweight champion Cormier. Cormier, who was undefeated at a heavyweight and won the Strikeforce Grand Prix tourney before moving down to 205 pounds and winning the title, will look to join Conor McGregor as the only simultaneous two-weight champions in UFC history. He’ll also look to join McGregor, Randy Couture, and B.J. Penn, and Georges St-Pierre as fighters who have held belts at two weights. Miocic, meanwhile, has won six in a row, nine of 10, and avenged his only loss (Junior dos Santos) in that span. He’ll also look to add to his UFC record of three consecutive heavyweight title defenses.
July 7: Max Holloway (19-3) vs. Brian Ortega (14-0, 1 NC), UFC 226, Las Vegas, PPV
Every once in awhile, a fighter hits the scene who simply looks to be the future of the sport. Having two similar youngsters come up in the same weight class at the same time is a rare treat. But such will be the case when Holloway and Ortega square off for Holloway’s featherweight title. Holloway brings a 12-fight win streak into the bout, as the 26-year-old Hawaiian is coming off back-to-back finishes of longtime former champion Jose Aldo. He was also willing to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov at lightweight at short notice, though that bout fell out. Ortega, too, has been unafraid to jump at opportunities. The 27-year-old Gracie jiu-jitsu standout knocked out Frankie Edgar on short notice at UFC 222 to earn this spot, and had also been willing to fight Nurmagomedov. No wonder the duo have become popular. Something tells me when all is said and done, this bout will be the first chapter in a legendary trilogy.
July 7: Francis Ngannou (11-2) vs. Derrick Lewis (19-5, 1 NC), July 7, UFC 226, Las Vegas, PPV
Perhaps this was a bout which should have happened before Ngannou stepped into the cage with Miocic. Ngannou is coming off a one-sided loss to Miocic in the main event of UFC 220, which snapped a six-fight UFC win streak, all via finish. But a matchup with fellow heavy hitter Lewis seems like just the thing to prove whether Ngannou will be able to shake off his title-fight loss and make another run toward the belt, or if he will go down as a flash in the pan. This bout promises fireworks, especially given Lewis’ propensity for taking an inhuman level of punishment before launching his ludicrous comeback wins. Lewis has won seven of his past eight bouts and earned post-fight bonuses in four of his past six.
July 28: Dustin Poirier (23-5, 1 NC) vs. Eddie Alvarez (29-5, 1 NC), UFC on FOX 30, Calgary, FOX
One of the most anticipated rematches in recent MMA history goes down in Calgary. Their first bout, at UFC 211, was just beginning to heat up to potential Fight of the Year intensity when Alvarez drilled Poirier in the head with an illegal knee. While that could have been grounds for a disqualification, it was instead ruled a no-contest. A war of words went on between the two for the past year before their paths finally crossed again. Poirier has followed up his bout with Alvarez with finishes of Anthony Pettis an Justin Gaethje, both of which were Fight of the Night on their respective cards. Alvarez, for his part, is in the final fight of his UFC deal. The former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion also defeated Gaethje in what was a Fight of the Night bout, earning a third-round TKO at UFC 217.
July 28: Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-2) vs. Tecia Torres, UFC on FOX 30, Calgary, FOX
The best of an interesting slate of women’s fights on the month features a pair of top strawweights who are looking to get back into the win column. Jedrzejczyk looked like a killer racking up wins in her first 14 bouts, a streak which included winning and then successfully defending the 115-pound title five times. But she lost her title, and then a rematch to Rose Namajunas, so she has her work cut out for her if she’s going to make a case for another title shot. She can do so with the underrated Torres (10-2), Jedrzejcyzk’s former American Top Team teammate. Now based out of Colorado, Torres had a three-fight win streak steak snapped last time out by Jessica Andrade, and she’s looking to get back into the win column with what would mark her biggest victory to date.