With an extremely unremarkable upcoming schedule (especially in the month of August), the UFC has forced media and fans to look deep into the fourth quarter for signs of life. Presently though, only two major events have been announced in that time frame: Johnson v. Borg at UFC 215 and Bisping/GSP at UFC 217. But as bad as August looks to be, the final months of the year hold immense promise for a number of divisions and major players.
At UFC 215 and UFC 217 the Men’s Flyweight, Middleweight and Women’s Bantamweight titles will be on the line. That still leaves the vast majority of divisions eligible for title fights in October, November, and December. Typically in that window we see three or four PayPerView events that can feature up to three title-fights (though usually only one or two).
What that means is in the last three months of the year we can expect to see anywhere from three to eight title-bouts! Who then can we expect to fill these various openings?
Last weekends card featured three title fights and by all accounts none of those current Champions will be making a quick return to the octagon. Tyron Woodley is reportedly out with a torn labrum while finding a willing opponent for Cris Cyborg usually resembles conscription and not volunteering. Jon Jones on the other hand is relatively available for say a December fight though his prospective opponent, Brock Lesnar, is not one who can be easily corralled back into the UFC.
One championship fight that hasn’t been announced but is nevertheless certain to happen before the end of the year is Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas for the Women’s Strawweight title. Joanna “Champion” last fought in May winning a lopsided fight in which she took relatively little damage. Namajunas too fought in the spring winning impressively by submission. Unless one or both of these women are sidelined due to injury, expect them to fight by the end of the year.
Another matchup that we are likely to see is Stipe Miocic vs. Cain Velasquez. Miocic last fought in May winning quickly by knockout. The Cleveland native is certainly due for a new fight but Velasquez’s track record makes this fan-favorite matchup somewhat questionable.
So far the UFC has formally announced Men’s 185lbs and 125lbs title-fights along with Women’s 135lbs. Men’s 135lbs and 170lbs are off the table until 2018 (unless interim belts are established) and Women’s 145lbs along with 205lbs seem unlikely. At present Heavyweight is very plausible but rests on the wild card that is Cain Velasquez’s health and we will most certainly see Women’s 115lbs in the fourth quarter.
That leaves just two divisions: Men’s Featherweight and Lightweight. Although Max Holloway fought recently (in June), it is not a stretch to imagine him facing Frankie Edgar before 2017 wraps. The Lightweight Champion is an entirely different story though and at this moment it seems more likely that we will see an Interim Champion at 155lbs before the reigning Champ returns (despite what the man who runs boxing might have you believe).
All in all, the fourth quarter of the UFC calendar is looking extremely strong. While a few notable divisions are off the table (Men’s 135lbs, 170lbs and likely 155lbs and 205lbs) we will be seeing action at 125lbs, 185lbs, and potentially 145lbs and 265lbs. On the Women’s side we will more than likely be seeing 2 of the 3 divisions and perhaps all 3 if a sacrificial lamb can be scrounged up for Cyborg. Moreover, there is always the potential for surprises and shakeups.