Previously I took a look at the top fights that we had to look forward to for the month of April. This time around I’ll go over what’s in store for May. Beginning with UFC on FOX 3 in New Jersey on May 5, Zuffa hosts a total of four cards when you include the Strikeforce event on May 19 that will finally give us a conclusion to the Heavyweight Grand Prix. Let’s take a look and see which fights offer the most bang for the buck and hold the most importance.
Nate Diaz vs. Jim Miller – UFC on FOX 3:
The winner of this bout will more than likely go on to face the winner of the Benson Henderson-Frankie Edgar rematch for the lightweight title. Miller, the hometown favorite, rebounded nicely from his loss to Henderson in August with a convincing first round submission victory over Melvin Guillard in January. The loss to Henderson snapped a seven-fight wining streak and derailed his title aspirations, but if he defeats Diaz in May he will be right back on track.
Speaking of Diaz, the move back to the lightweight division has certainly been the right one for the Stockton native and younger brother of UFC welterweight contender Nick Diaz. In his first fight at 155 pounds in 18 months, Diaz made short work of former PRIDE lightweight champ Takanori Gomi, winning a Submission of the Night bonus. Diaz and Donald Cerrone won Fight of the Night when they hooked up at UFC 141 with Diaz walking away the winner by unanimous decision. A third win in a row should put him in line for a shot at UFC gold and, given the quality of this bout, maybe even another bonus as well.
Josh Koshcheck vs. Johny Hendricks – UFC on FOX 3:
Koscheck has won his last two fights but hasn’t looked all that impressive in doing so. He won a split decision over Mike Pierce at UFC 143 in a bout where he looked slow and uninterested. Before that he defeated UFC Hall of Famer Matt Hughes via first round knockout , but in the early part of round one Hughes was able to target and land on Koscheck’s surgically repaired eye. This was the same eye that GSP jabbed repeatedly for 25 minutes in their title bout at UFC 124.
Hendricks on the other hand is coming off the biggest win of his career over Koscheck’s former AKA teammate Jon Fitch. It took the Oklahoma State All-American all of twelve seconds to hand Fitch only his second loss in nine years. A win here for Hendricks could see him either face Jake Ellenberger for the right to face the winner of the Carlos Condit-Georges St. Pierre unification bout tentatively scheduled for the end of this year or, if spectacular enough, it could see him jump over the winner of Martin Kampmann-JakeEllenberger and go straight to the head of the line. Comparably, Koscheck is in a tough spot as no one wants to see him face GSP again meaning a win here for him would cement either Ellenberger/Kampmann in the #1 contender’s spot.
Dustin Poirier vs. Chan Sung Jung – UFC on Fuel 3 (5/15):
With so few contenders available to challenge UFC featherweight champ Jose Aldo, Poirier finds himself in a great position here to challenge for the title should he defeat “The Korean Zombie” on Fuel TV. Hatsu Hioki and Eric Koch are the only other featherweight fighters who have been talked about as possibilities for Aldo though neither has emerged as a true frontrunner. As far as Jung he would need another big win or two before he would be given any consideration as a viable challenger for Aldo’s title. If not Aldo, Poirier will almost certainly face Hioki with a win here.
Josh Barnett vs. Daniel Cormier – Strikeforce: Grand Prix Final (5/19):
Barnett seems to finally have gotten his career in order and is looking to not only win the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix but also force the UFC’s hand in giving him another shot at fighting inside the Octagon. A win over the undefeated and dangerous Cormier would go a long way in helping him achieve all of his goals. Barnett has had his hand raised in eight fights in a row but this would be by far his biggest win.
Cormier is coming off a dominating first round knockout victory over Antonio Silva in September and has a solid scrap with Roy Nelson on his hands (also in May). The AKA standout is 9-0 and a win over the tough veteran Barnett would send him in to the UFC on one hell of a roll. He defeated Jeff Monson before Silva and is gradually facing tougher competition while certainly answering the call. Either way expect to see him fight in the UFC whether in his next bout or after the one-off the Grand Prix will be booked for to close out Strikeforce’s heavyweight division.
Junior Dos Santos vs. Alistair Overeem – UFC 146 (5/26)
Assuming by some miracle Overeem gets licensed, Dos Santos will defend his title for the first time against the former Strikeforce, DREAM, and K-1 title-holder who retired former UFC champion Brock Lesnar when the two met at UFC 141 in December. This bout has fireworks written all over it as both men will look to stand and bang, likely meaning Las Vegas will be treated to two hard-hitting machines battling it out for the sport’s most coveted prize if Overeem’s drug test doesn’t get in the way.
JDS has the edge in boxing while Overeem holds the advantage with devastating knees and in being nearly 25 pounds heavier than “Cigano”. Overeem has shown that he can be hurt, but it’s been a long time since anyone has put him down. In fact, it’s been almost five years. Dos Santos has shown that he is tenacious and can keep a steady pace when necessary.
Frank Mir vs. Cain Velasquez – UFC 146:
Velasquez suffered the first loss of his career in September when he lost his title via first round TKO to Dos Santos. He will be looking to show the world that loss was an aberration and he wants his title back. He fought Dos Santos after being out of action for nearly a year and it showed as he seemed hesitant and slow. He can ill afford not to be prepared when he faces Mir because he will be facing of the most intelligent fighters to have ever graced the Octagon. He faces a man who has overcome injuries and adversity to wear UFC gold on two separate occasions.
Every time people want to count Mir out he comes back and proves everyone wrong. No one expected him to fight again after suffering serious injuries in a horrific motorcycle accident back in 2004. He was forced to relinquish his title and suffered some losses because he came back too soon. He became the first man to finish Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, also capturing an interim championship along the way in 2008 when no one gave him a chance. He lost to Shane Carwin at UFC 111 via first round KO and people said he was done, but he has since reeled off three straight wins and finds himself one win away from fighting for the title for the third time. Do not count Mir out against Velasquez. He has made a career out of doing what people say can’t be done.
UFC 146 has three other heavyweight bouts that are sure to excite the masses too with Mark Hunt vs. Stefan Struve, Gabriel Gonzaga vs. Shane del Rosario, and Nelson vs. “Bigfoot” Silva rounding out the first ever UFC PPV card consisting of all heavyweight bouts.
May should prove to be extremely exciting and June should be just as fun beginning with The Ultimate Fighter Live Finale on June 1. That card will be headlined by the flyweight rematch between Ian McCall and Demetrious Johnson. On June 23 from Brazil we will finally get to see the long awaited rematch for the middleweight title as Chael Sonnen enters very hostile territory to take on Anderson Silva. Additionally, after nearly fourteen years Vitor Belfort gets his shot at going 2-0 against Wanderlei Silva on the same card after each serves as a coach on TUF Brasil. All that and more will set pace for a fantastic summer of MMA. The heat is just beginning!
PHOTO CREDIT – UFC