5 Fights To Watch In July 2016
July is loaded with UFC events. So much so that I have disqualified the landmark UFC 200 from this list because that card is so stacked it deserves its own analysis in a separate post. Even without the July 9th pay-per-view there are five other events in the month with plenty of fights that are worth making time for. There are three title fights on UFC 200 alone but there are four more spread out amongst the festivities. The only one of those that didn’t make this list is Demetrious Johnson vs. Wilson Reis. It’s always fun to watch ‘Mighty Mouse’ work his magic but he’s almost too good at this point. He’s running out of competitive match ups and Reis isn’t exactly a threat to dethrone the champ. The good thing is that it’s only a co-main event so he should get some residual eyeballs. Let’s see what I think are the fights you can’t miss.
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Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Eddie Alvarez (UFC Fight Night 90 – July 7th) – RDA has to be kicking himself for the poor timing of his broken foot earlier this year. He was lined up to fight Conor McGregor at UFC 196 which turned out to be one of the biggest UFC PPV’s of all time. Not to mention the way McGregor lost makes you think Dos Anjos could’ve been the one to upset the hype train instead since he demolished Nate Diaz in December 2014. To go from that potential pay day to headlining an online only Fight Pass card two days before UFC 200 against Eddie Alvarez has to be disappointing. With so many exciting and talented fighters at Lightweight its a little surprising that Alvarez got the shot coming off of two somewhat controversial, at the very least close split decision victories over Anthony Pettis and Gilbert Melendez after losing his UFC debut to Donald Cerrone. RDA walked through ‘Cowboy’ in his last title defense and I see him keeping the belt in dominant fashion in this case but Alvarez is extremely tough and should at least make it an entertaining fight to watch.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha (The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale – July 8th) – Nobody watches The Ultimate Fighter anymore, least of all me, but everyone that calls themselves a fight fan should be watching the finale on Friday night. First of all Will Brooks is making his UFC debut against Ross Pearson after the Bellator champion was released from the organization but most importantly is the fact that Jedrzejczyk has a case for one of the best pound for pound fighters in the sport and is going up against her toughest possible opponent. Joanna Champion beat Gadelha in a close split decision before going on to win the belt from Carla Esparza and defending it against Jessica Penne and Valerie Letourneau. Jedrzejczyk is one of the best strikers and most entertaining fighters in MMA and Claudia is right there with her. Her loss to the champion is the only one in her career and many people would argue she won the first iteration. These two hate each other if commercials for TUF are any indication and both have improved since their last meeting. It’s two more rounds than their first fight and I expect it to come down to the wire again.
Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko (UFC on FOX 20 – July 23rd) – This is an interesting rebound fight for Holm after losing her title to Meisha Tate in a stunning come from behind 5th round rear naked choke. This after becoming famous for knocking out the unbeatable Ronda Rousey in a stadium show in Australia. She didn’t get the rematch with Tate that she wanted and Rousey isn’t ready to come back after taking that beating so instead she takes a tough fight against another very good striker in Shevchenko. Valentina is coming off a close loss to the person that is getting the title shot against ‘Cupcake’, Amanda Nunes. With a win Holm is right back in the discussion for number one contender and is looking at big money rematches with Tate and/or Rousey. With a loss she’ll be right back at the drawing board and Shevchenko will make a huge step up in her stock. Holm should win but she’s never put anyone away in the UFC except for Ronda and that is a dangerous proposition against someone like Shevchenko as well as with judging being so unpredictable at times.
Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley (UFC 201 – July 31st) – ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler has been on an incredible streak since coming back to the UFC and dropping to Welterweight, winning the title and retaining it in some of the most entertaining fights that the UFC has put together. It has gotten to the point that anytime Lawler fights it’s a fight of the year contender. His fight against Rory MacDonald won him those honors in 2015 and his last title defense against Carlos Condit in January is still one of the front runners for that award in 2016. Many fights were on the table before it was settled on Woodley. A Condit rematch, a fight against Conor McGregor before he lost to Nate Diaz, a fight with Stephen Thompson after he demolished former Lawler foe Johny Hendricks. But Woodley it is. Tyron has shown flashes of brilliance but for me has been a disappointment. He has all the tools (power, wrestling) but tends to be tentative and give lackluster performances at the biggest moments. Lucky for us he’s fighting Robbie Lawler who I don’t think will let that happen, one way or another. This has the makings of a slugfest and I see ‘Ruthless’ making it through for another high profile fight as mentioned above. Perhaps against George St. Pierre in his return to the octagon.
Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (UFC 201 – July 31st) – Perhaps nobody has improved more than ‘Thug’ Rose since her loss to Carla Esparza for the Strawweight championship at the conclusion of her TUF season. She came back to dominate and submit Angela Hill and Paige ‘Dancing with the Stars runner up’ VanZant and then revenge her first professional loss against Tecia Torres by decision. Now she fights the undefeated Kowalkiewicz who has impressed me in both of her UFC fights since being signed. She has very good striking to match Namajunas but time will tell if she has the ground skills to match. The winner of this fight will put themselves right in the thick of things when it comes to the title picture and a chance at the winner of Jedzrejczyk/Gadelha, especially if it’s Rose. Even without any title implications this should be a fun back and forth fight between two very talented young prospects.
An auxiliary member of the MMAJA, Bob used to run the baseball blog 'The Oriole Report' before transitioning to podcasting about movies, TV, Video Games, and MMA. 'The Redbox Report' movie podcast was started in 2013 followed by 'The Redbelt Report' MMA podcast in 2016. In 2018 they were merged into 'Phelan to Communicate', a podcast that can be found on iTunes and a blog that can be found at http://PhelanToCommunicate.wordpress.com. Bob has also written for Konsume.com and BaltimoreSportsReport.com and delivers mail for a living in Baltimore County. Follow him on Twitter @PhelanToTweet.