The UFC has a lot of fights on the docket for this summer, spread out over 13 cards between now and Labor Day. We're in a bit of a soft spot on the schedule, so it makes sense to take stock and look toward what the summer holds for fans.
To that end, here are the five best upcoming scraps as the Northern Hemisphere tilts toward the sun.
We mixed in several honorable mentions, all the while focusing on under-the-radar fights as well as the more obvious ones. Not all of these bouts are official yet, but in each case there are credible reports that the fight has been lined up. Official or not, matchups and cards are always subject to change for any number of reasons.
Ready? Let's jump in.
5. Calvin Kattar vs. Josh Emmett
Event: UFC on ESPN 37
Date: June 18
This main event doesn't make much of a ripple on the surface. Underneath, however, there is a flurry of activity! What this matchup lacks in name recognition, it more than makes up for in excitement and the potential for bloodshed at the very highest levels of blood-shedding.
Casual fans might pour hate on this bout; they shouldn't. Calvin Kattar may be best known as the too-tough-for-his-own-good foil to Max Holloway in the latter's record-setting performance last year on ABC. But that does him a disservice; he still has great striking and is a winner in three of his last four, earning two Fight of the Night bonuses.
Josh Emmett is a spectacularly violent competitor. Injuries have limited him to four bouts in the past three years, but he won all four, including a back-and-forth dandy over dangerous Dan Ige last December following an 18-month layoff for an injured ACL.
This should feature nonstop action, with the winner becoming a bona fide contender in the busy featherweight division. More on this weight class momentarily.
4. Brandon Moreno vs. Kai Kara-France
Event: UFC 277
Date: July 30
It's an interim flyweight title bout between ex-champ Brandon Moreno and one of the biggest and brightest names in the division in the person of New Zealander Kai Kara-France.
Kara-France is still just 29, but a defeat of the highly regarded Askar Askarov in March cemented his contender status. It also ran his UFC record to 7-2 and gave him a three-fight win streak.
The eminently likable 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 to bantamweight, Moreno has a chance to become the clear face of the division, interim tag or no.
3. Zhang Weili vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk
Event: UFC 275
Date: June 11
Speaking of layoffs, this is the first bout for Joanna Jedrzejczyk in more than two years. Her opponent for that bout? Zhang Weili. The two staged a true classic—maybe the best fight in women's MMA history—with Weili taking a close split decision and fans clamoring for a rematch since.
At UFC 275, they will finally get it. Ring rust is real, and the key question in this bout will be whether or to what extent it has afflicted Jedrzejczyk. Weili may be able to take charge of the fight from a physical standpoint, or Joanna Violence could find her range and pick Weili apart from distance.
Lest you forget, Jedrzejczyk is still the longest-tenured champion in UFC strawweight history, with a 966-day reign spanning five title defenses. It's also worth noting that Weili is still undefeated in the UFC against opponents not named 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 is at UFC 275.
2. Julianna Pena vs. Amanda Nunes
Event: UFC 277
Date: July 30
There's no need to sell this one, because this one sells itself.
This rematch is going down after Amanda Nunes, widely considered the GOAT on the women's side of the MMA ledger, lost a shocker to big-talking underdog Julianna Pena in December.
And that's the right word for it: It was truly shocking to watch Pena pressure and punish Nunes, and then to watch Nunes crumple from damage and exhaustion in the second round and ultimately succumb to a rear-naked choke.
After the loss, Nunes indicated she had gotten a bit complacent in training, which is understandable given that a) it's hard and b) she hadn't been seriously challenged in a very long time. Her last loss came when Barack Obama was still president.
We'll see if this rematch gets the Lioness back to her merciless ways. Pena can come off as a little cocky, so there will be plenty of people tuning in to see if Nunes can dish out some comeuppance. She'll surely be the favorite to do so once the betting lines open. But she was the favorite last time, too, and look who has the belt.
1. Alexander Volkanovski vs. Max Holloway
Event: UFC 276
Date: July 2
It's The Summer of Rematches, evidently.
This is the total package: action, intrigue, stakes and incalculable skills on display from two of the greatest champions on the UFC roster.
When Alexander Volkanovski puts his title on the line against Max Holloway this July, it will be the third meeting between the two men. As most fight fans know, Volkanovski took the first two, but both fights were competitive. The second, a split decision, was razor 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 bout, Volkanovski used leg kicks to take the starch out of Holloway's footwork. It's all part of a wider strategy to limit Holloway's offense. According to official UFC stats, Holloway landed 134 and 102 significant strikes, respectively, in the first and second contests. Both are far below his average, which is a problem if you rely on volume, as Holloway does.
But in both contests, Holloway came on down the stretch, finding his range and landing more shots. Will he start slow again against someone who very much wants him to do just that? Will he recapture the belt he's always believed was rightfully his? Will Volkanovski focus on offense to counter the dreaded “boring” label? I don't know, but I know I want to be there when we all find out.
In no particular order:
Brian Ortega vs. Yair Rodriguez (UFC on ABC 3/July 16)
Israel Adesanya vs. Jared Canonnier (UFC 276/July 2)
Arman Tsarukyan vs. Mateusz Gamrot (UFC Fight Night 208/June 25)
Robbie Lawler vs. Bryan Barberena (UFC 276/July 2)
Curtis Blaydes vs. Tom Aspinall (UFC Fight Night 210/July 23)
Luke Rockhold vs. Paulo Costa (UFC 278/August 20)
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev (UFC Fight Night 209/July 9)
Originally appeared on https://bleacherreport.com/articles/10037486-ranking-the-best-ufc-fights-on-the-books-for-the-summer-of-2022