The ordering process for Ultimate Fighting Championship pay-per-views has changed: UFC 238 is only available on ESPN+ in the U.S.
I imagine many people around the world are like me when June comes around. Each June, I make a list of different things I would like to do during the summer months. My checklist is usually made up of going to the beach, attending cookouts and catching a fireworks show among, other things. While I expect some of you have lists that look similar to mine, mixed martial arts fans get to add some additional items to their agenda. As the temperature rises, the MMA schedule also heats up with a number of intriguing matches.
No one needs to be told to remember to check out an Ultimate Fighting Championship title fight or the showdown between fan favorites Tony Ferguson and Donald Cerrone. Here are 10 under-the-radar fights you should add to your summer to-do list.
Professional Fighters League 3: 2019 Regular Season
Uniondale, New York
Tiller entered the Professional Fighters League’s 2018 heavyweight season as a relative unknown who was not seen as a true contender to win the $1 million prize. “The Mama’s Boy” quickly became a breakout star for the promotion due to his larger-than-life personality and stoppage wins over Caio Alencar and Jared Rosholt. While the Kansas native was unable to reach his ultimate goal of becoming the 2018 champion, he remains one of the favorites in Season 2. His first opponent for the PFL’s sophomore campaign: the undefeated DeReese. “Da Beast” joined the 2018 PFL season as an alternate and used his opportunity as an audition to be selected this year. The 31-year-old ran through Leroy Johnson and Mike Kyle and hopes the experience he gained will benefit him in 2019. With Season 1 champion Philip Lins and kickboxing star Ben Edwards having pulled out of the competition, the heavyweight field appears to be wide open. The Tiller-DeReese winner could emerge as the favorite.
Invicta Fighting Championships 35
Kansas City, Kansas
The only female fight on this list comes in the smallest weight class: atomweight. The undefeated Zappitella takes another step up in competition when she goes to war against Pereira. The 24-year-old Zappitella was a decorated amateur wrestler who won four national tournaments while competing in high school. “Half Pint” has uses her lightning-fast entries to take down opponents and control them from the top. The Ohio export has the potential and the personality to become one of the most popular fighters under the Invicta Fighting Championships banner. Pereira, a UFC veteran, has lost three fights in a row, though those losses have to Tatiana Suarez, Xiaonan Yan and Mizuki Inoue. Still only 25 years old, the Brazilian has gained some valuable experience against tough competition. She will be looking to show the MMA world that she is one of the young atomweights about which everyone should be excited.
Since the start of UFC 1, Brazil and the United States have been the leading countries for producing top talent. However, it appears that the MMA world is in the midst of a Russian takeover, as the country has overloaded the scene with high-level competitors. Yan is widely considered the best Russian fighter in the bantamweight division. At 12-1, he has already avenged his only career loss and sports a 4-0 record inside the Octagon. Coming on the heels of a lopsided decision over John Dodson, “No Mercy” takes another step up the ladder when he battles Rivera. The 29-year-old Rivera amassed a 20-fight winning streak before being brutally knocked out by Marlon Moraes in 2018. Since then, the Team Tiger Schulmann representative has alternated a win and a loss but enters his fight with Yan as a substantial underdog. With both fighters being known for their technically sound boxing, their styles seem tailormade to put on a standup classic.
Bellator MMA took a major risk that not many other organizations are willing to take when it sent its bantamweight champion, Caldwell, over to Rizin Fighting Federation to battle the Asian promotion’s star fighter, Horiguchi, on New Year’s Eve. The former NCAA wrestling champion appeared to be on his way to a decisive victory until late in the contest, as he made one mistake and was submitted by a Horiguchi guillotine choke. The two champions will lock horns once again six months later, this time under the Bellator banner, when “The Wolf” defends his title against Horiguchi. The Alliance MMA standout will aim to show the world that the result of the first fight was a fluke. Horiguchi, meanwhile, competes on American soil for the first time since January 2015. The American Top Team export has won 12 fights in a row. The winner of their rematch will carry the mantle of best bantamweight outside the UFC.
Bandejas was brought into Bellator to play the role of sacrificial lamb to rising star James Gallagher, but someone forgot to tell him he was supposed to lose. The New Jersey fighter blasted the Irishman and picked up a first-round knockout. Bandejas, 27, faced the tough Juan Archuleta next, dropping a close and somewhat controversial decision. His stellar takedown defense and high-output striking game led many MMA media members and fans to believe the former Cage Fury Fighting Championships titleholder should have gotten his hand raised. Mix is widely considered to be on the best prospects in all of MMA. The King of the Cage champion is undefeated and holds wins over Andre Ewell and CES MMA titleholder Tony Gravely. Mix is a former NCAA wrestler who has finished his last five opponents. The 25-year-old fighter is getting his first chance under the bright lights of a major organization. The company must have high hopes for Mix, as the promotional debutant faces Bandejas on the main card of one of Bellator’s marquee events.
One Championship “Legendary Quest”
An undefeated submission specialist, de Ridder gets back into action with the toughest test of his career, as he has been paired with a crafty veteran in Galvao. The Holland-based fighter has passed every test with flying colors thus far, defeating nine opponents by submission and another by technical knockout. The 28-year-old is quickly showing why he might be the best unknown middleweight fighter on the planet. Galvao enters the matchup having won 14 of his last 15 bouts. The savvy Brazilian fighter does not have the finishing ability that de Ridder possesses, but he has nearly four times as many professional fights under his belt. While “Giba” has amassed an impressive 30-6 record, no win will be bigger than his managing to slow down the de Ridder hype train.
Bellator officials have decided to match two of the best up-and-coming prospects in the middleweight division against each other, as Shipman is scheduled to meet van Steenis in the cage. They have combined for a 24-2 record. Shipman is primary training partner for Michael Page. The London Shootfighters representative dropped his first professional bout but has taken career of business in every match since. During his 13-fight winning streak, the Englishman has not seen the judges’ scorecards. Van Steenis burst on the scene in Bellator with back-to-back first-round finishes. The Netherlands export picked up the most significant win of his career when he defeated former NCAA All-American wrestler Chris Honeycutt by split decision. The Shipman-van Steenis winner will take a major step forward in his development.
UFC Fight Night 154
Greenville, South Carolina
Though both fighters are well-rounded, the matchup between Aguilar and Ige at UFC Fight Night 154 will likely be promoted as a striker-versus-grappler showdown. These budding featherweights appear to be on the brink of breaking into the UFC’s Top 15 rankings. A former Legacy Fighting Alliance champion, Aguilar is riding a nine-fight winning streak and owns a 3-0 mark in the UFC. The Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series veteran is a heavy-handed boxer with brutal one-punch knockouts over talented fighters like Thanh Le and Damon Jackson. Ige is a pressure fighter who is relentless in his attacks. The grappling specialist has won his last three fights in the UFC behind his powerful takedowns, ground-and-pound and submission skills. The winner of this matchup could see himself battle a ranked opponent next.
Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series Season 3, Episode 2
The UFC used the first two seasons of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series as a vehicle to find possible future stars in Sean O'Malley, Sodiq Yusuff and Maycee Barber. The talent-finding series returns for its third season in June with hopes of continuing to showcase up-and-coming stars while helping young fighters’ dreams of reaching the UFC come true. Two of these hopefuls are Lombardo and Daukaus, who have been booked opposite each other in a middleweight clash during the second episode of the season. The two fighters have combined for a 14-1 professional record. Lombardo enters the fight on a five-fight winning streak and is the current Friction Fighting Championship titleholder. He has not reached the judges’ scorecards in his last four appearances, with three of the fights ending in the opening round. Daukaus is undefeated and enters the cage on the heels of having won the vacant Cage Fury Fighting Championship middleweight title with a submission of UFC veteran Jonavin Webb. The Philadelphia native has submitted all six of his professional opponents thus far. Considering the finishing ability of both men, the winner has a strong chance of earning a UFC contract.
UFC on ESPN 3
In a March interview with Megan Olivi, UFC President Dana White listed Roberts as a fighter who has the potential to become a household name. The undefeated fighter has lived up to White’s lofty expectations so far, as he has easily handled his business in his first two scraps in the promotion. The 25-year-old is taking a step up in competition with the crafty Pichel. An “Ultimate Fighter” alum, Pichel returned from over a three-year absence to defeat Damien Brown and Joaquim Silva. Though the California native dropped a decision to the uber-talented Gregor Gillespie in 2018, his power and never-say-die attitude pose a tough test for a fighter like Roberts. Will he show he is just scratching the surface of his potential?