0 out of 6
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
The UFC has plenty of fights on the schedule this summer, spread across 13 cards between now and Labor Day. We’re in a bit of an awkward position on the schedule, so it makes sense to take stock and look towards what the summer has in store for fans.
To that end, here are the top five tracks to come as the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun.
We’ve mixed in several honorable mentions, while focusing on the under-the-radar fights as well as the more obvious ones. Not all of these fights are official yet, but in each case there are credible reports that the fight has been lined up. Official or not, matches and cards are always subject to change for a number of reasons.
Ready? Let’s go.
2 out of 6
Josh Emmett (left) Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Event: UFC on ESPN 37
Date: June 18
This main event doesn’t make a lot of ripples on the surface. Below, however, there is a flurry of activity! What this showdown lacks in name recognition, it more than makes up for in excitement and bloodshed potential at the highest levels of bloodshed.
Casual fans might pour some hate on this fight; they should not. Calvin Kattar is perhaps best known as Max Holloway’s too-tough-for-his-own-good foil in the latter’s record-breaking performance last year on ABC. But that does him a disservice; he still has a big hit and is victorious in three of his last four, earning two Fight of the Night bonuses.
Josh Emmett is a spectacularly violent competitor. Injuries limited him to four fights in the last three years, but he won all four, including a back-and-forth against the dangerous Dan Ige last December after an 18-month layoff for an ACL. hurt.
It should feature nonstop action, with the winner becoming a bona fide contender in the busy featherweight division. More information on this weight class momentarily.
3 out of 6
Kai Kara-France Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC
Event: UFC 277
Date: July 30
This is an interim flyweight title fight between ex-champ Brandon Moreno and one of the biggest and brightest names in the division in New Zealander Kai Kara-France. .
Kara-France is still only 29, but a loss to the much-loved Askar Askarov in March cemented their status as a contender. He also took his UFC record to 7-2 and gave him a three-fight winning streak.
The eminently likeable Moreno is best known for his electric rivalry with lineal champ Deiveson Figueiredo. But with Figueiredo on the shelf recovering from hand injuries and flirting with a move up to bantamweight, Moreno has a shot at becoming the clear face of the division, interim tag or not.
4 out of 6
Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC
Event: UFC 275
Date: June 11
Division: Straw weight
Speaking of layoffs, this is Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s first fight in over two years. His opponent for this fight? Zhang Weili. The two put on a true classic – perhaps the best fight in women’s MMA history – with Weili taking a close split decision and fans clamoring for a rematch ever since.
At UFC 275, they will finally have it. Ring rust is real, and the key question in this fight will be whether and to what extent it has afflicted Jedrzejczyk. Weili may be able to take over the fight from a physical standpoint, or Joanna Violence could find her range and pick Weili out of range.
Remember, Jedrzejczyk is still the longest-serving strawweight champion in UFC history, with a 966-day reign spanning five title defenses. It should also be noted that Weili is still undefeated in the UFC against unnamed opponents Rose Namajunas.
With all due respect to a solid light heavyweight champion in Glover Teixeira and a worthy challenger in Jiri Prochazka, the co-main event is where the real action takes place at UFC 275.
5 out of 6
Louis Grasse/PxImages/Icon Sportswire via Getty Images
Event: UFC 277
Date: July 30
There is no need to sell this one, because this one sells itself.
This rematch is down after Amanda Nunes, widely regarded as the GOAT of the women’s side of the MMA ledger, lost a shock to high-talking underdog Julianna Pena in December.
And that’s the right word for it: It was really shocking to see Pena pressure and punish Nunes, then see Nunes crumble from damage and exhaustion in round two and finally succumb to a rear choke.
After the loss, Nunes indicated that she had become a bit complacent in training, which is understandable given that a) it’s tough and b) she hadn’t been challenged seriously in a very long time. His last defeat came while Barack Obama was still president.
We’ll see if this rematch brings the Lioness back to her ruthless ways. Pena can come across as a bit arrogant, so there will be plenty of people tuning in to see if Nunes can provide some satisfaction. She will surely be the favorite to do so once the betting lines open. But she was also the favorite last time out, and look who has the belt.
6 out of 6
Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC
Event: UFC 276
Date: July 2nd
It’s the summer of revenge, of course.
It’s the complete package: action, intrigue, stakes and untold skill presented by two of the greatest champions on the UFC roster.
When Alexander Volkanovski puts his title on the line against Max Holloway next July, it will be the third meeting between the two men. As most fight fans know, Volkanovski won the first two, but both fights were competitive. The second, a split decision, was very close.
Volkanovski’s complex matrix of feints, pressure and violence is a compelling foil to Holloway’s boxing, which is some of the best in MMA.
In the first fight, Volkanovski used leg kicks to take the starch out of Holloway’s footwork. It’s all part of a larger strategy to limit Holloway’s attack. According to official UFC stats, Holloway landed 134 and 102 major strikes, respectively, in the first and second contests. Both are well below his average, which is a problem if you’re relying on volume, as Holloway does.
But in both competitions, Holloway came on the stretch, finding his reach and landing more shots. Will he start slowly again against someone who really wants him to do just that? Will he get the belt he always thought was his? Will Volkanovski focus on offense to counter the dreaded ‘boring’ tag? I don’t know, but I know I want to be there when we all find out.