The Ultimate Fighter
For the third consecutive month, four events will hit the UFC Octagon in June, one on each Saturday beginning this weekend in New Orleans and culminating with the Ultimate Fighter Brazil 4 Finale at the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel and Casino on June 27.
Even without the full lineup announced for the final event of the month, there are currently 40 bouts scheduled to take place and we’ve sifted through them to give you a look at the best of the best from the month ahead.
This is The 10.
UFC Fight Night: Boetsch vs. Henderson (June 6 – New Orleans, Louisiana)
With all due respect to the middleweight headliners, who should deliver an entertaining scrap to close out the night at the Smoothie King Center this weekend, there are a couple other bouts on the 12-fight lineup that carry a little more divisional significance and that pique our interest even more.
Dustin Poirier vs. Yancy Medeiros
Fresh off a first-round knockout win over Diego Ferreira in his return to the lightweight ranks, Poirier is making a quick turnaround in order to fight in his home state of Louisiana for the first time in five years. He’s a perfect 6-0 in the Pelican State and will look to keep that run of success going on Saturday.
Standing in his way is the 27-year-old Medeiros, who has collected consecutive submission finishes after starting his UFC career with losses to Rustam Khabilov and Jim Miller and a no contest result against Yves Edwards. The Hawaiian lightweight is 11-2 overall (plus the no contest) and has collected back-to-back Performance of the Night bonuses.
The 155-pound ranks are crazy-deep, but the winner of this one will be knocking on the door of the Top 15 heading into the summer.
Ben Rothwell vs. Matt Mitrione
The heavyweights have been making a lot of noise lately and it should hit another decibel this month. Following up on Stipe Miocic’s dominant win over Mark Hunt and Andrei Arlovski and Travis Browne turning in one of the best rounds in recent memory, these two Top 15 ranked veterans are poised to lock up in the co-main event this weekend.
Rothwell enters off a first-round knockout win over Alistair Overeem back in September that featured “Big Ben” doing a little dance over his felled foe and he has won back-to-back fights for the first time in his UFC career. Meanwhile, Mitrione has rebounded from his first-round submission loss to Brendan Schaub at UFC 165 with three straight first-round stoppages of his own.
With the divisional rankings feeling rather fluid right now, the winner of this one has a chance to move up and put themselves on the fringes of title contention to begin the second half of 2015.
UFC 188: Velasquez vs. Werdum (June 13 – Mexico City, Mexico)
This month’s Pay-Per-View offering is headlined by a heavyweight title unification bout between two men who were supposed to meet the first time the UFC Octagon made the trek to Mexico City – returning champ Cain Velasquez and interim titleholder Fabricio Werdum – but they’re not the lone tandem worth tuning in to see.
Chico Camus vs. Henry Cejudo
Camus is a scrappy Milwaukee native who made a triumphant debut in the flyweight division last November with a split decision win over veteran Brad Pickett. He’s tough as nails, darts in and out on offense and is a stiff test for just about anyone in the 125-pound weight class.
Cejudo, however, has the markings of a next-level talent. The 2008 Olympic gold medalist has world-class wrestling and sharp, clean boxing to go with it. After failing to make the flyweight limit in his aborted UFC debut and dominating Dustin Kimura in a bantamweight fight, “The Messenger” asked for a second chance at flyweight and cruised to victory against former title challenger Chris Cariaso.
With Demetrious Johnson running low on fresh opponents, a win for Cejudo could put him in the title conversation, while Camus can throw a wrench into such plans by pulling off the upset in Mexico City.
Tecia Torres vs. Angela Hill
This battle of TUF 20 alums has the potential to shake up the title picture in the strawweight division.
Hill showed a ton of growth in dominating Emily Kagan back in December, using her striking, superior athleticism and a relentless pace to put it on the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn fighter. Now 2-0, she’s taking a significant step up in competition here, but it’s a chance for Hill to show where she fits in this division going forward.
The No. 3 seed heading into season 20’s title tournament, Torres was bounced from the competition on two different occasions – first by Randa Markos and then again in the quarterfinals by eventual winner Carla Esparza after replacing Justine Kish – but she rebounded to pick up her fifth straight victory by defeating Angela Magana at the TUF 20 Finale.
“The Tiny Tornado” already holds wins over Felice Herrig, Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas, so a dominant performance her could put her on the short list of options to challenge the winner of this month’s strawweight championship fight in Berlin.
Gilbert Melendez vs. Eddie Alvarez
Once talked about as the best lightweight fight possible outside of the UFC Octagon, this contest is now the co-main event of the organization’s sophomore appearance in Mexico City.
Melendez returns for the first time since losing to Anthony Pettis in his second bid to claim UFC lightweight gold. The last time “El Nino” was coming off a loss, he teamed with Diego Sanchez to deliver one of the best fights of 2013, and after getting tapped out last December in Las Vegas, you can be sure the former Strikeforce champion will be looking to make a statement in this one.
Like Melendez, Alvarez enters off a loss, having dropped his promotional debut to Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone at UFC 178 last September before being forced out of a January showdown with Benson Henderson. It was just the second loss for the Philadelphia native in the last seven years, and with the constant ebb and flow of the lightweight division, there is no way Alvarez wants to start his UFC career with consecutive losses.
Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum
Werdum has been the best heavyweight on the planet for the last two years, earning impressive victories over Travis Browne and Mark Hunt to claim the interim UFC heavyweight title and set up this second attempt at a showdown with Velasquez. A perfect 5-0 since returning to the UFC, the Kings MMA product has become a complete threat, elevating his striking game to the same level as his elite jiu-jitsu skills.
When he’s healthy, Velasquez is a force of nature – a unique blend of pace and punishment unlike anything the heavyweight ranks have ever dealt with before. Unfortunately for the American Kickboxing Academy product, he’s had a hard time staying healthy.
Ready to return to action for the first time since his second win over Junior dos Santos, Velasquez is primed to remind everyone of how dominant he can be, dispatch Werdum and resume his reign over the UFC’s big boy division.
UFC Fight Night: Jedrzejczyk vs. Penne (June 20 – Berlin, Germany)
The UFC’s second event in Berlin and fourth in Germany brings the country its first championship bout, as well as a host of contests featuring up-and-coming European talents and a battle of emerging middleweights.
Derek Brunson vs. Krzysztof Jotko
Five years into his pro career, Brunson is starting to put it all together. After suffering a short notice loss to Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza under the Strikeforce banner in August 2012, the Team Jackson-Winkeljohn representative has gone 4-1 inside the Octagon. His only setback during that stretch was a third-round TKO loss to Yoel Romero where the Cuban Olympian came back from being down two rounds to earn the stoppage.
The 25-year-old Jotko has gone 2-1 in his first three UFC appearances, collecting unanimous decision wins over Bruno Santos and Tor Troeng before and after a submission loss to Magnus Cedenblad. The Polish middleweight is a solid kickboxer with good movement, and a win over the improving Brunson would place him on the brink of breaking into the Top 15 in the ultra-competitive 185-pound weight class.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Jessica Penne
Prior to her bout with Carla Esparza at UFC 185, Jedrzejczyk said there was no need to learn how to pronounce her name; soon enough, you could just call her “Joanna Champion.” She then went out and picked apart Esparza, earning a second round stoppage win to claim the strawweight title.
Jedrzejczyk showed tremendous takedown defense and a suffocating offensive output against Esparza, shrugging off every attempt “The Cookie Monster” offered and overwhelming her with strikes from the outset. As the second round wore on and the onslaught continued, the referee stopped the bout and the UFC had its first titleholder from Poland.
Penne lost in the semifinals of TUF 20 to Esparza before winning the “bronze medal match” against Randa Markos at the finale. She was originally tabbed to face Juliana Lima back in May, but was pulled from that matchup and handed the opportunity to challenge for UFC gold.
The former Invicta FC atomweight champion has a slick submission game, a long jab and a ton of experience against tough competition. She’ll need to get inside to neutralize the champion’s striking, but if she can get a hold of Jedrzejczyk and get this fight to the mat, Penne has every opportunity to leave Berlin with the belt in her possession.
The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 4 Finale (June 27 – Hollywood, Florida)
Though there are still a bunch of fights to be added to this event, a couple of the contests already made official really stand out.
Rick Story vs. Erick Silva
Back-to-back wins, including an upset victory over Gunnar Nelson, have propelled Story back into the Top 10 in the welterweight division. The first man to defeat Johny Hendricks, “The Horror” is a durable wrestler-boxer with a ton of strength and good pop in his hands, combined with a wealth of experience competing against the best of the best in the 170 pound weight class.
Fellow 30-year-old Silva has won consecutive fights in the UFC for the first time in his career and looks to make it three-in-a-row against Story. An electric striker and dynamic finisher, the Brazilian is a high energy, high output fighter that presses for the finish from the word “Go!”
There are changes afoot in the upper echelon of the welterweight division and the winner of this one will certainly be a part of that Top 10 grouping going into the latter half of this year.
Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero
A perfect 5-0 since transitioning to the middleweight division, Romero was twice previously scheduled to face “Jacare” Souza in a potential title eliminator earlier in the year – once at UFC 184 in Los Angeles, then again at UFC on FOX in Newark – but both times, the bout was scuttled. Now the surging former Olympic silver medalist gets a chance to add a victory over a former UFC champion to his resume with a main event assignment opposite “The Dragon.”
Machida enters off a second-round submission loss to Luke Rockhold on that same April FOX event in New Jersey where Romero was supposed to face Souza. The former light heavyweight champion and middleweight title challenger didn’t look right in the lead-up to the contest and delivered the first flat performance of his UFC career.
A strong rebound performance here against Romero could put the Brazilian right back into the title conversation, despite his prior setbacks to Rockhold and current champ Chris Weidman. Conversely, a victory for “The Soldier of God” would give him a six-fight winning streak and put him on the short list of potential title challengers going forward.