July was bonkers.
Four weeks, five events and 62 fights later, there is a new UFC heavyweight champion, new threats in the middleweight and light heavyweight division to track and familiar names who have solidified their standing as top contenders in their respective weight classes, plus two new additions to the role call of Ultimate Fighter winners.
There were crazy knockouts, impressive comebacks and slick submissions to go along with a host of fan-friendly back-and-forth contests and it was all capped off by one of the most entertaining fight cards of the year last weekend in Calgary.
While there are only two events this month, there are plenty of intriguing fights and important matchups set to hit the Octagon, including a pair of championship rematches and several opportunities for emerging talents to take the next step forward in their quest to become bona fide contenders.
Here’s a look at the best of what’s on tap in August.
This is The 10.
UFC 227: Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 – Saturday, August 4 (Los Angeles, California)
After impressing Dana White and company during an episode of Lookin’ for a Fight in Bangor, Maine, Ramos was awarded a UFC contract and the young Brazilian has responded by turning in a pair of impressive performances.
Following his debut decision win over Michinori Tanaka, the 23-year-old handed Aiemann Zahabi his first career loss last November at UFC 217, connecting on a beautiful spinning back elbow that stopped the Tristar Gym standout in his tracks. Big for the division, Ramos has nine finishes from 11 career wins and profiles as someone with serious upside in the bantamweight ranks.
Kang returned from his two years of mandatory military service earlier this year and picked up where he left off, extending his winning streak to three with a first-round submission win over Guido Cannetti. Now 30, “Mr. Perfect” is the type of seasoned, smooth veteran who should be able to test Ramos, bringing out the best in the young Brazilian prospect as they get things rolling in Los Angeles this weekend.
UFC 227 is a bit of a bantamweight showcase, with five of the 12 bouts scheduled to hit the Octagon being contested in the 135-pound ranks. The penultimate matchup in that collection, this one is crucial for both “The Young Punisher” and “The Pikey.”
Munhoz has been a fixture in the Top 15 for the last couple years, turning back upstarts and hopefuls while falling to members of the division’s elite, while Johns suffered the first loss of his professional career last time out against Aljamain Sterling. In a division brimming with talent, dropping two straight can set your championship aspirations back a couple years, turning this into a must-win matchup for the talented grapplers.
The featherweight division is in a period of upheaval at the moment with Chad Mendes thundering back into the picture, Alexander Volkanovski announcing his presence and Jose Aldo reminding everyone that he’s still a threat last weekend in Calgary to go along with the ascendance of champion Max Holloway and No. 1 contender Brian Ortega.
Swanson is one of the stalwarts of the division – a permanent resident of the Top 10 since the division arrived in the UFC and a veteran who has earned his stripes by sharing the cage with a who’s who at 145 pounds. Moicano is part of the wave of relatively new names looking to make their mark on the weight class – a 29-year-old who already holds wins over Jeremy Stephens and Calvin Kattar while going toe-to-toe with Ortega last summer in Anaheim before “T-City” handed him the first and only loss of his career.
While Moicano looks to continue his climb up the rankings, “Killer Cub” is working to halt a two-fight skid and follow in Aldo’s footsteps from last weekend, reminding everyone that he’s still a force to be reckoned with near the top of the featherweight division.
The first time these two met at UFC 197, many expected Cejudo to give Johnson his toughest test in years. “Mighty Mouse” finished him in less than three minutes.
Two years, three months and 11 days later, they’ll do it again with Johnson searching for his 12th consecutive successful title defense and Cejudo looking to show that the improvements he’s made since their first encounter will change the way Saturday’s co-main event rematch plays out.
Johnson is a modern day marvel – arguably the most complete fighter in the sport today and someone who continues to innovate and impress each time out. He’s won 13 consecutive fights, defended his title more times than anyone in UFC history and is still getting better.
While he struggled in their first meeting, Cejudo has looked unstoppable since, displaying improved striking from a karate stance while swiftly dispatching Wilson Reis before thoroughly outclassing Sergio Pettis at UFC 218 to earn a second date with DJ.
Will this time be different? Can Johnson replicate his performance from their first meeting? Does he have another ultra-creative submission up his sleeve that he’s waiting to break out? Can Cejudo do what no other flyweight has done?
The heated rivals are running it back after their thrilling encounter at UFC 217 last fall in New York City, only this time, it’s Dillashaw entering with the title and “No Love” looking to reclaim the belt.
Their first meeting was seven minutes and 41 seconds of tense action with both men looking to end the fight with a single blow. Late in the first, Garbrandt nearly accomplished the feat, putting Dillashaw on the canvas just before the horn announced the end of the round. Thirty seconds earlier and the fight could have been finished, but instead, it continued, and midway through the second frame, it was Dillashaw connecting flush and the former champion swarmed to secure the finish.
One of the interesting wrinkles heading into their second meeting this weekend is Garbrandt’s health, as he spent a large portion of the lead-up to their first meeting recovering from a back injury that forced the contest to be moved from UFC 213 in Las Vegas to the November fight card at Madison Square Garden where it took place.
How much of an impact – if any – did that have on his performance and will it make a difference when these two former teammates look to settle their feud tonight in Los Angeles?
UFC Fight Night: Gaethje vs. Vick – Saturday, August 28 (Lincoln, Nebraska)
This is an intriguing clash as Calderwood returns for the first time in over a year looking to restart her career in a new division.
Officially the first women to earn a victory in the flyweight division in the UFC, “JoJo” has relocated to Las Vegas to train with the Syndicate MMA crew, and shifting to the 125-pound weight class should have her back to being the aggressive, smothering fighter that earned acclaim and a place on Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter earlier in her career.
But halting her two-fight skid isn’t going to be easy as Faria is a seasoned pro with 26 fights against some of the best female talent in the sport under her belt. She dropped a narrow split decision to Jessica Eye last time out and is still searching for her first UFC victory, so you can be sure the Brazilian veteran will be trying desperately to spoil Calderwood’s return to the cage.
Five years after challenging Demetrious Johnson for the flyweight title, Moraga has become a veteran presence in the middle of the Top 10 – a tough, durable talent who takes on all comers and turns back those who aren’t capable of mixing it up with the division’s elite. After suffering three straight losses between May 2015 and January 2017, the Arizona State alum has responded with a trio of victories over the last 13 months.
Still undefeated and riding a three-fight winning streak since arriving in the UFC, Figueiredo is hoping to use a win over the veteran stalwart to launch himself into the title conversation. Last time out, he banished Joseph Morales from the ranks of the unbeaten and if he can keep his run of success going against Moraga, the explosive Brazilian finisher could find himself in an even more high profile pairing before the year is out.
Originally scheduled as a matchup between Hill and Alexa Grasso, Casey’s subbing in for the injured Mexican prospect actually makes this a more exciting, potentially explosive fight.
Neither woman has been able to find consistency thus far in their UFC careers – Hill has alternated losses and wins since coming back, while Casey is 3-5 and riding a two-fight losing streak – but they’re consistently entertaining and those results don’t tell the whole story.
Having dropped a pair of close decisions to begin her UFC tenure and lost consecutive split decisions heading into this one, Casey is a couple scorecards away from being 7-1 in the UFC, which tells you all you need to know about how tough and competitive “Cast Iron” is once she steps into the Octagon. And while Hill is just 3-4 in the UFC, two of those losses came against perennial contenders and one came against current champ Rose Namajunas, so it’s not like she’s losing to scrubs.
This should be a spirited affair from the jump and a sleeper candidate for the best fight of the month.
Johnson’s featherweight debut got off to a strong start back in January as he came out and dominated the opening round against Darren Elkins. But then Elkins did what Elkins does and next thing you know, Johnson is tapping out to a rear-naked choke and catching his third consecutive loss.
Now he’s back for his sophomore appearance in the 145-pound weight class, looking to get back to the form that saw him quickly finish Dustin Poirier before his current slide while taking on another member of the Team Alpha Male squad.
Fili is closing in on five years in the UFC and enters on his first two-fight winning streak since signing with the promotion. He’s started to work more behind a long jab and temper the frenetic energy that often got him into bad positions or unfavorable exchanges.
As noted earlier, featherweight is in a period of upheaval and a strong showing from either of these two could propel them into the rankings conversation going forward.
Gaethje always said he knew his berserker style was going to result in him being on the business end of a blistering finish at some point and just as he prophesized, “The Highlight” has caught stoppage losses in each of his last two outings. Both were thrilling affairs where he had moments of success, but after 18 consecutive wins, Gaethje has now lost two straight and needs to rebound here in order to maintain his place in the Top 10.
Vick jumped at the opportunity to share the cage with the former World Series of Fighting champion after his initially targeted opponent, Al Iaquinta, withdrew his name from consideration. The rangy Texan has won four straight since suffering the first and only loss of his career and has been pleading for a chance to face a top-ranked fighter and now he gets his wish.
Things in the lightweight division are starting to clear up and this is a prime opportunity for these two to make a statement and insert themselves into the thick of the chase just below the championship class in the 155-pound ranks.
And Gaethje is fighting, so you know it’s going to be an absolute barnburner.