clock menu more-arrow no yes mobile

Filed under:

UFC 225 preview: Sport, spectacle on display in Chicago PPV bonanza

Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is bringing one of its strongest line ups to the United Center in Chicago, Ill., this Sat. night (June 9, 2018), courtesy of its UFC 225 mixed martial arts (MMA) event, headlined by not one, but two compelling title fights (see the complete line up here).

First and foremost is the middleweight rematch pitting 185-pound champion Robert Whittaker opposite aging division bruiser Yoel Romero, in what amounts to round six of their UFC 213 slug-a-thon from last July. Preceding their second go-round is the interim welterweight title fight sending ex-lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos into battle against wrestling motormouth Colby Covington.

In addition, two pivotal bouts in both the heavyweight and women’s featherweight divisions will go a long way in determining future title contenders. Alistair Overeem and Curtis Blaydes will collide on the FOX Sports 1 “Prelims,” shortly before Holly Holm and Megan Anderson hook ‘em up on the pay-per-view (PPV) main card. Yes, the same main card that features the return of World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) import CM Punk, who gets his hands dirty with 170-pound warm body, Mike Jackson.

The UFC 225 line up brings the two things that made MMA mainstream, equal parts sport and spectacle. If we look at some of these match ups for what they really are, devoid of marketing hype or promoter hyperbole, they appear silly (because they are). There is no reason to have an interim title at 170 pounds because the champion is not injured or otherwise booked. Welterweight kingpin, Tyron Woodley, only decided to have some work done on his shoulder after he realized he was unable to pick his next opponent. And if we’re to believe “The Chosen One,” who has been referred to as “The Frozen One” for failing to stay active, he was ready to compete in July, one month after Dos Anjos vs. Covington.

We also can’t overlook the fact that Dos Anjos is a former lightweight who got tired of cutting weight, while Covington is a former nobody who got tired of being ... well, nobody. Winning five straight in UFC is impressive in any weight class, but his victories over ranked competition have been wholly unspectacular in just about every way. “Chaos” is an outstanding wrestler, as well as an astounding pain in the ass, and the division is weak enough to let those qualifications elevate him into the championship conversation. I would reckon that most fans are tuning in to watch the soft-spoken Brazilian cave his face in, and not to see Covington dazzle the “Windy City” crowd with his dynamic skill set. I guess in the end, the only thing that matters is fan interest, so mission accomplished in that regard.

That’s pretty much the only reason CM Punk is fighting at UFC 225. Without his name value, doubled in his hometown of Chicago, there is no chance a soon-to-be 40 year-old ex-wrestler is getting prime real estate on a major PPV card. I can appreciate promotion president Dana White’s candor on the matter, as he explicitly told the MMA media that Punk sells tickets, as well as PPV buys, and therefore gets attention congruent with those needle-moving abilities. Unfortunately for fight fans, his welterweight battle against the equally-hapless Jackson will be not be far removed from a bar fight between two guys who trane UFC, because let’s face it, they are both 0-1 for a reason.

CM Punk sucks, and that’s okay, because if MMA is an actual sport, then he’s supposed to suck. Especially when coming into a new endeavor with zero experience and trying to hang with proven stars. What would it say about the National Football League (NFL) if a former pro wrestler could walk onto the field and earn a first-string position simple because he was muscular and athletic? That’s why even the mighty Brock Lesnar, who had as good a chance as anyone to make that happen, came up short in his 2004 attempt. I’ll be watching Punk fight this weekend simply because I’m vested in his storyline, regardless of how preposterous it’s become over the years. Yes, years, because the “Straight-Edge Superstar” signed with UFC back in 2014 and it’s been one silly headline after another en route to just two pro fights.

Morbid curiosity (“Gee, I hope they get smashed”) is not a compelling enough reason to buy a pricey PPV, so the promotion needs to temper that rubbernecking with real, legitimate match ups. From top to bottom, UFC 225 succeeds in every way. It’s nice to have a fight card that doesn’t rely on one or the other, something that is bound to happen again and again when looking at this ridiculous schedule for 2019 and beyond.

Sign up for the newsletter Sign up for the MMA Mania Daily Roundup newsletter!

A daily roundup of all your fighting news from MMA Mania