Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is in the midst of "International Fight Week," leading up to its annual Fourth of July extravaganza, which usually features a big fight card.
But, this time, the world's leading mixed martial arts (MMA) promotion has doubled down with UFC 175 and The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) 19 Finale, which will air tonight and tomorrow, respectively, delivering a host of solid fighters who should put on solid performances.
At UFC 175, Chris Weidman will look to defend his Middleweight crown for a second time against Lyoto Machida, and in the co-main event, Ronda Rousey will look to continue her reign of dominance in women's MMA when she fights Alexis Davis. TUF 19 Finale is headlined by a fight between the season's coaches, Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn, as they meet for a third time after "The Answer" came out victorious in their first two bouts.
While neither event features a ton quality depth as far as the "Prelims" under cards are concerned, they both feature some monumental fights. And just because the early matches might not be as relevant, it does not mean they won't have some standout performances.
Without further ado, let's take a look:
Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida: This fight is just so intriguing, and no matter how it goes, I just can't see it being boring. It will take a lot for them to figure each other out, but both are so skilled that I am torn as to who will win. I could see both men having their moments in a "Fight of the Night" performance, or either man just getting the better of the other throughout and being impressive in doing so. With how monumental this fight is, I just cannot see one of these fighters not leaving without a performance bonus.
Ronda Rousey (Fighting Alexis Davis): Death. Taxes. Rousey via armbar.
Stefan Struve (Fighting Matt Mitrione): Mitrione's biggest asset is his athleticism, which is not enough to get a fighter by consistently at this advanced level. There's a lot you can say to discredit Struve's ability, but he is still a fairly good fighter, especially on the ground. I think he uses that to his advantage and defeats Mitrione by submission for a triumphant return to action.
Urijah Faber (Fighting Alex Caceres): This was a pretty odd booking, but understandable given Faber's continued failure to obtain a championship since coming over to UFC. That said, Faber is about as elite as a non-champion can get, whereas Caceres is flawed and not nearly as experienced. Every time Faber has lost in a championship fight, he has submitted his next opponent, and I suspect the trend will continue here.
Kenny Robertson vs. Ildemar Alcantara: Both of these guys are generally just pretty fun to watch. They boast great ground games and like to look for submissions rather than drawn out positional battles. And they're both pretty good on the feet. I think this could definitely be a sleeper "Fight of the Night," one that displays high level skill as opposed to windmill bludgeoning.
... and now onto TUF 19 Finale ...
B.J. Penn (Fighting Frankie Edgar): Realistically, I should have Edgar here, but Penn fighting at 145 pounds is something I've wanted since UFC introduced the division. Penn is notorious for fighting below his potential for large parts of his career, but if he isn't truly past it, and has put his best efforts into this fight, maybe he can get revenge on Edgar after their first two fights didn't go his way.
Dustin Ortiz (Fighting Justin Scoggins): Ortiz is a solid Flyweight, and took a former contender to a controversial split decision. He has very good wrestling along with good strikings, whereas I find it hard to rate Scoggins as he hasn't faced the same level of opposition as Ortiz.
Jesse Ronson vs. Kevin Lee: Both of these guys are pretty skilled fighters, just not quite up to scratch as of yet in UFC. They're both in danger of being cut with a loss, which is the primary reason an exciting fight would serve them both well, and I think they'll provide that.
Robert Drysdale (Fighting Keith Berish): Drysdale is unreal on the ground and Berish is just nothing worth noting. This is the type of fight UFC makes for a one-dimensional, kind-of name fighter to continue to build himself up, while trying to see if he can progress enough to take on better opposition.
And there you have it.