Many in the mixed martial arts community are already fully aware that on August 17th the UFC delivered quite the treat to fight fans in the form of their UFC 241 fight card. The card saw such highlights as a three round war between Yoel Romero and Paulo Costa, the successful return of Nate Diaz, and Stipe Miocic regaining his title against rival Daniel Cormier in what was one of the best heavyweight fights to watch possibly of all time.
The event lived up to the hype; it was the type of fight card where the UFC could have handed out multiple “Fight Of the Night” bonuses and no one would have thought twice about it (Romero and Costa ultimately received this honor).
There is a con to having a fight card this high in quality, however, albeit a small one. Essentially, it presents the simple question: How do you top that? Well, with just over four months left in the year, there are still some excellent match-ups across multiple MMA promotions. In this article, we’ll be taking a look at some of the remaining fights to watch in 2019 that really standout, and hopefully will rid you of any post-UFC 241 blues you may still be feeling over a week later!
Fights to Watch in the Remainder of 2019
Event: UFC 242
The Fight: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin Poirier
Date: September 7th
In this one, we have a battle between champion vs champion, as the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov makes his return putting his undisputed lightweight title on the line against streaking interim champ Dustin Poirier. This ones exciting for many reasons. Any time Nurmagomedov steps into the cage there’s always intrigue, as he holds an absolutely insane (and unblemished) 27-0 record. This kind of resume is often unheard of in MMA, so whether you love “The Eagle” or hate him, you’re more than likely tuning in to see if he can extend his impressive win streak.
Poirier is on quite the tear himself. Unbeaten in his last six, he’s collected victories over the likes of Anthony Pettis, Eddie Alvarez, Justin Gaethje, and Max Holloway, the latter earning him the interim title. A well rounded fighter with knockout power in both hands, “The Diamond” has earned ten UFC post-fight bonus awards, meaning when he steps into the cage, expect him to put on a show.
This is a classic striker vs grappler match-up, with Nurmagomedov holding a wrestling advantage over just about anyone he faces, while Poirier is likely the better fighter on the feet. Neither man likes to take a backward step which usually leads to a fun fight to watch. Also, a win for either man will be huge for their legacy, so the stakes are high. This is one of those fights to watch you don’t want to miss.
Event: Bellator 226
The Fight: Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo
Date: September 7
Chances are if you’re a fight fan, on September 7th you’ll be tuning into Nurmagomedov vs Poirier. But, if that fight still doesn’t peak your interest, Bellator MMA might just have the thing with their Bellator 226 card. Atop the card is a heavyweight title fight between former UFC-stars turned Bellator-elite in Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo.
While Bader was a top UFC fighter, he failed to achieve championship gold. In Bellator, he’s had no such trouble, currently holding both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight belts. Not only has he improved as a fighter, he’s became more of an exciting one. Often using his wrestling en route to decision wins in the past, Bader has finished five of his last seven wins.
Cheick Kongo has paid his dues in the sport, with 42 bouts as a professional. At 44 years old, this could be Kongo’s last chance to realize his unachieved goal of being a world champion. Therefore, you can expect the heavyweight veteran to fight with everything he’s got in his bout with Bader.
If knockouts are your thing, historically a heavyweight bout is the safest bet, as the big boys of MMA tend to have the most power. And with 26 combined knockouts shared between Bader and Kongo, and a belt on the line, this one could end in the blink of an eye. September 7th is shaping up to be quite the day for MMA fans with multiple great fights to watch offered.
Event: UFC on ESPN +16
The Fight: Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje
Date: September 14th
In MMA, there is little certainty. When all it takes is one mistake or one strike and the momentum of a fight can instantly change, it makes the sport unpredictable. One thing I’d be willing to bet my house on, though, is that when Donald Cerrone and Justin Gaethje meet next month, its going to be an all-out slug fest.
It’s hard to argue with the stats on this one. Few fighters deserve the title of “people’s champ” more than Cerrone. He holds the record for most finishes in the UFC and most post-fight bonuses, meaning whenever you watch “Cowboy” fight you’re getting your money’s worth.
Gaethje has equally impressive stats that suggest he is also a must-see. He has only five UFC bouts, and in every one he has earned post-fight bonus honors (4 FOTNs, 1 POTN). He is the only UFC fighter to earn bonuses in their first five straight bouts.
These men have yet to disappoint, and I can’t see them starting to let fans down now. If you have to work while this fight is set to air, you might want to strongly consider calling in sick.
Event: Bellator 228
The Fight: Patricio Freire vs. Juan Archuleta
Date: September 28, 2019
Patricio Freire is riding some serious momentum coming into his featherweight title bout with Juan Archuleta. The now “double champ” Freire most recently stopped Michael Chandler back in May to add the Bellator lightweight title to his collection that he started with the featherweight belt. He is 17-4 in Bellator with 11 of those wins coming by finish, making him one of the most well-known and exciting fighters pound-for-pound on the Bellator roster.
The champ isn’t the only one with momentum on his side, though. Archuleta is a perfect 5-0 since signing to Bellator and a solid 22-1 overall. He most recently knocked out former bantamweight champ Eduardo Dantas in his last fight.
This bout is some excellent matchmaking done by Bellator president Scott Coker. Both men are devastating strikers and two of the most talented featherweights the promotion has to offer. It’s an interesting fight that poses some questions. Will Freire continue his run of dominance and retain his title? Or will Archuleta make the jump from rising prospect to world champion? All will be answered September 28th in a bout that’s sure to produce fireworks.
Event: UFC 243
The Fight: Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
Date: October 6th
Just like Nurmagomedov/Poirier, this fight between Robert Whittaker and Israel Adesanya will be a bout between champion and interim champion, this time at middleweight. Whittaker will look to rebound from a layoff due to injury and continue the same run that saw him pick up victories over top middleweight contenders Derek Brunson, Ronaldo Souza and Yoel Romero (x2). The later two victories over Romero were 5 round wars that showed the champions heart and skill, and were two of the best fights of 2017 and 2018 respectively.
Adesanya had a meteoric rise to the top of the division, entering the UFC in 2018 and rattling off six straight wins in just over a year. His win streak was capped off by an interim title fight with Kelvin Gastelum back in April, which also was a crazy war and one of my favorite fights of this year so far.
Both men have proven they can put on some of the most entertaining fights to watch the sport has to offer. Both are strikers with highlight reel knockouts on their resumes. This match-up on paper has little to no chance of failing to live up to the hype, and should have most fans salivating to see two of the divisions best do battle.
As mentioned at the start of the article, it’s hard after a near flawless event like UFC 241 to see how any event following could possibly top it. But there’s a lot of exciting fights to watch fight fans still have to look forward to in the rest of 2019 (some of the best end-of-the-year fights have yet to be confirmed!) Some honorable mentions that didn’t quite make the cut include but aren’t excluded to: Edson Barboza vs Paul Felder 2 (UFC 242), Aung La Nsang vs Brandon Vera, Demetrious Johnson vs Danny Kingad (ONE Championship: Century/100), Gegard Mousasi vs Lyoto Machida 2 (Bellator 228).
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