It’s been a lively start to the second half of 2019 in the UFC, thanks to the knockout-laden feast that was UFC 239 in Las Vegas. Now the attention turns to a host of upcoming world title fights as the best of the best look to cement their positions at the top of their respective divisions.
Here’s a look ahead to SIX huge title fights coming your way in the coming months:
UFC 240: MAX HOLLOWAY VS FRANKIE EDGAR – JULY 27
If you’re a fan of all-action, back-and-forth battles, this one should be right up your street. Holloway and Edgar both made their names as Duracell Bunny-type fighters, with their relentless pace and bulletproof cardio taking them to world titles.
Edgar’s time at the top was a few years ago now, during his time as a lightweight. He’s a featherweight these days, and his quest for a world title in a second weight class sees him face defending champ – and one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the planet – Holloway.
Edgar used to be the man to beat in the lower weight classes, but age has started to catch up with him recently, while Holloway has looked outstanding with each passing appearance at 145lbs. His move up to lightweight ended in a rare defeat, but at featherweight, he’s untouchable. It’ll take the biggest performance of Edgar’s stellar career to topple him.
Max Holloway to win: 2/9
Frankie Edgar to win: 11/4
Pick: Holloway to return to winning ways but it won’t be easy and the 4/1 for him to win on points is too good not to take
UFC MONTEVIDEO: VALENTINA SHEVCHENKO VS LIZ CARMOUCHE – AUGUST 10
Watching Valentina Shevchenko in action, it seems almost inconceivable that someone could not just beat her, but finish her in a fight. Yet that’s exactly what happened when she faced Liz Carmouche nine years ago in Oklahoma. Carmouche stopped Shevchenko via doctor stoppage long before their respective UFC days, but more recently has since charged into a title-challenging position in the UFC’s 125lb division.
Now the pair will meet again, but despite her win over “Bullet,” Carmouche is a sizeable underdog in the rematch, and rightly so. Shevchenko is the best technical female fighter on the planet, and her stunning head-kick knockout of Jessica Eye in her last title defence backed that up. She’s ruthless, skilful and capable of beating anyone on the planet. Carmouche is teak-tough and will provide stubborn opposition, but she’ll have to find something out of this world to stun the Kyrgyzstani world champion,
Valentina Shevchenko to win: 1/9
Liz Carmouche to win: 5/1
Pick: Shevchenko to get retribution for the first meeting and win via KO (odds TBC)
UFC 241: DANIEL CORMIER VS STIPE MIOCIC 2
When Daniel Cormier met Stipe Miocic the first time at UFC 226 last summer, Miocic was the record-breaking heavyweight champion of the world, and Cormier was the light-heavyweight champ looking to become a “champ champ”. What a difference a year makes.
Now Cormier is the heavyweight champ, but has since relinquished his 205lb strap, while Miocic is the man on the outside, looking in. And after Cormier’s recent assertion that the former champ “just isn’t good enough” to beat him in a rematch, expect the Ohio firefighter to be all fired up for their rematch in Anaheim on August 17.
Cormier can beat anyone on the planet at heavyweight, but Miocic is quite possibly the best heavyweight champion in UFC history. He got caught in the first fight. Will history repeat itself in the second?
Daniel Cormier to win: 4/6
Stipe Miocic to win: 11/10
Pick: A tough one to call but we think Miocic will get the job done via KO/TKO @ 5/2
UFC SHENZHEN: JESSICA ANDRADE VS WEILI ZHANG – AUGUST 31
China gets a world title fight, as women’s strawweight champion Andrade puts her belt on the line against China’s own Zhang in a huge matchup for the region. Andrade is a pocket rocket of a fighter, all power and aggression, and she is likely to face plenty of those qualities in return from Zhang, whose action-packed performances have seen her catapulted up the strawweight ranks to the point that the UFC have taken a punt and thrown her into a title shot.
There’s a general belief that it may be a little too early for Zhang, but you can bet she’ll be inspired to deliver a career-defining performance on home soil. And for Andrade, who captured the title on home soil against Rose Namajunas, she’ll know exactly how her opponent feels as she gets set to compete against a home favourite.
Despite the huge support for Zhang, however, Andrade is the betting favourite for the fight itself. But she’s lost four times in the UFC before. Can Zhang make it five?
Jessica Andrade to win: 1/2
Weili Zhang to win: 6/4
Pick: This will be one hell of a war. Expect them both to plant their feet and trade. We’re going with Zhang to come out on top via KO (odds TBC)
UFC 242: KHABIB NURMAGOMEDOV VS DUSTIN POIRIER – SEPTEMBER 7
Can anyone stop the Russian freight train that is Khabib Nurmagomedov. Twenty-seven have tried and 27 have failed. But American Dustin Poirier, who is in the form of his life, believes he can be the 1 in 27-1 and hand “The Eagle” the first defeat of his career.
Nurmagomedov has dominated the opposition throughout his UFC career, including a fourth-round finish of a certain Conor McGregor. And against Poirier he’ll face a man with solid takedown defence, excellent striking and the sort of relentless pace that could really test the Russian.
Can “The Diamond” sparkle in the desert, or will “The Eagle” fly high once again? It should be a hell of a scrap in Abu Dhabi.
Khabib Nurmagomedov to win: 2/9
Dustin Poirier to win: 11/4
Pick: Khabib – all day long! Via submission @ 7/5
UFC 243: ROBERT WHITTAKER VS ISRAEL ADESANYA – OCTOBER 5
It’s Australia versus New Zealand for the UFC middleweight title as reigning champ Whittaker takes on interim champ Adesanya in a mouth-watering clash that’s expected to take place in Melbourne. Whittaker is a power hitter with a remarkable ability to fight through adversity, while Adesanya is a next-level striking technician with the smarts, and the temperament, to pick apart the very best fighters on the planet.
To massively over-simplify it – and to borrow a strapline from Rocky Balboa’s fight with Mason “The Line” Dixon – you could say it’s a case of “Will versus Skill”. And it should produce a fascinating contest Down Under in a few months’ time.
Robert Whittaker to win: 4/6
Israel Adesanya to win: 11/10
Pick: We love Adesanya and his skill set but he won’t have faced anyone with the sheer toughness as Whittaker. If he’s fully fit we expect the Aussie to get the job done.