MMA Fighting: Five Fights to Watch in May
By: Dave Doyle MMA Fighting
Bellator, the World Series of Fighting, and Invicta are all on hiatus this month. The first two promotions return to action in June and the latter in July.
So that means the mixed martial arts world is nearly all-UFC in May. From an intriguing middleweight matchup in Brazil to a stacked UFC 160 in Las Vegas, there’s just enough to tide everyone over until the pace picks up again next month.
Oh, and there’s one non-UFC fight worth a look, as well, which we’ll get to. So let’s dive right into this month’s Five Fights to Watch.
1. Vitor Belfort (22-10) vs. Luke Rockhold (10-1), UFC on FX 8, Santa Catarina, Brazil, May 18: Rockhold, the final Strikeforce middleweight champion, gets the toughest test of his career when he faces the former UFC light heavyweight champion in Brazil. The American Kickboxing Academy fighter has won nine consecutive fights with seven finishes in that span, but he’s only competed once the past 17 months. The 36-year-old, testosterone replacement therapy using Belfort, meanwhile, dropped back to middleweight after his September loss to Jon Jones and scored knockout head kick of Michael Bisping in January. Since his move to 185 in 2008, Belfort’s only middleweight loss is to champion Anderson Silva.
2. Fallon Fox (2-0) vs. Allanna Jones (2-1), Championship Fighting Alliance, Coral Gables, Fla., May 24: Yup, we’re including this one. Obviously the fighters involved aren’t on the same level as the elite mixed martial artists who comprise the rest of the list. But when you’re as newsworthy as transgender competitor Fallon Fox has become, then your fights become something to circle on the calendar. Fox, who has won both of her pro fights via first-round stoppage, will have her bout against Jones will be aired live on AXS TV. It’s the semifinal round of a featherweight women’s tournament. The 26-year old Jones has a pro record of 2-1 and was 6-2 as an amateur.
3. Cain Velasquez (11-1) vs. Antonio Silva (18-4), UFC 160, MGM Grand Garden Arena, Las Vegas, May 25: At his best, Silva has appeared to have limitless potential. Think of his classic victory over Fedor Emelianenko or his vicious finish of Alistair Overeem on Super Bowl weekend. At his worst … well, the last time “Bigfoot” looked his worst as at the hands of Velasquez. A year after being straight-up slaughtered by Velasquez, Silva gets his shot at redemption, in the same building as last year’s fight and with the title on the line. Has anything changed since? It’s hard to see anything going differently the second time around, but, you know what? That was also the consensus heading into the second Velasquez-dos Santos fight as well. Speaking of which …
4. Junior dos Santos (15-2) vs. Mark Hunt, UFC 160 (9-7): The other half of the UFC 160 heavyweight doubleheader. The beating dos Santos took from Velasquez for five rounds in December was the sort that makes you wonder if he’ll ever be the fighter he once was. We’ll find out right away, as he’s being matched up with one of the heaviest hitters in the division. Hunt, the popular brawler from New Zealand, has never been hotter, with three knockouts during a four-fight win streak, but dos Santos represents Hunt’s toughest competition since he met Emelianenko in 2006. The co-main event opportunity on a big Vegas show is one he likely thought he was never getting at age 39. While nothing is guaranteed in MMA, fireworks in this fight seem as close to certain as you can get.
5. Gray Maynard (11-1-1, 1 NC) vs. T.J. Grant (20-5), UFC 160: An unexpected prize of a title shot at lightweight champion Benson Henderson for the winner has added considerable stakes to what previously seemed simply an interesting fight between two top-ten 155ers. Thanks in part to a knee injury, Maynard hasn’t been seen since his split decision victory over Clay Guida last June. Maynard’s pair of 2011 title shots at Frankie Edgar were his only two career bouts in which he didn’t emerge the victor. Grant, meanwhile, his worked his way into the picture with four consecutive victories, the most recent being a first-round finish of Matt Wiman at UFC on FOX 6. A victory over a fighter the caliber of Maynard will go a long way toward silencing his skeptics.