Ten days, nine can't-miss fights
Thursday marks the start of a 10-day stretch featuring a massive amount of quality mixed martial arts, capped, of course, by the UFC heavyweight championship fight between
Meeting in the finals of Bellator's first bantamweight tournament after surviving an eight-man field, Makovsky (11-2) and West (15-4) face one more hurdle before either can stand alongside the likes of
Makovsky and West aren't yet worthy of top-10 consideration in the bantamweight division, but a win here would put either fighter on that path.
Welterweight contenders Hardy (23-7-1) and Condit (25-5) share similar résumés in advance of an important fight as the co-main event of UFC 120 on Saturday. Each fighter has a wealth of experience. Each has fought and won all over the globe. And each brings a varied enough MMA game to be considered truly well-rounded fighters. Hardy has complained about the proliferation of quality wrestlers slowing the pace of MMA bouts. He won't have to worry about that against Condit, a long striker with a mean mix of submissions. Based on their styles, this could be the best fight over the next week and a half.
The capper to UFC's return to London for the first time in a year and a half, Bisping and Akiyama have much to prove about their worth in the middleweight division. Bisping, 2-2 over his last four fights, should be considered the favorite against Akiyama (13-2), who succumbed to
Two undefeated welterweights vie for the organization's championship in a bout that should provide clarity as to the direction of both fighters' careers. Unlike other Bellator title holders, Good (10-0) has sat on the sideline since capturing the title in June 2009. In Askren (6-0) -- a two-time Dan Hodge Trophy winner for his accomplishments in collegiate wrestling at Missouri as well as a member of the 2008 U.S. American wrestling squad that went to Beijing -- Good gets the most high-profile opponent of his career. Askren is still green to MMA, but he's done a nice job so far of turning his grappling prowess into success in the cage.
Unlike Good, Alvarez (20-2) has fought twice since capturing the Bellator lightweight title last year. He's yet to defend the belt, and was set to do so against
Before an unfortunate injury in the third round of their fight in May, Bowling and Voelker (22-8) had engaged in a spirited battle meant to give further shape to an improving Strikeforce welterweight division. There's no reason to think they won't pick up where they left off after Bowling (8-0) won a fight forced to the cards after taking a finger to his right eye.
While the focus of the card is deservedly pointed to Lesnar and Velasquez, it would be unfortunate to dismiss several of the event's undercard fights, no more so than Shields against a dangerous veteran. Shields returns to welterweight in his UFC debut after spending several years bulking up to compete at heavier limits. A win over Kampmann (17-3) would offer proof that Shields (25-4-1) deserves being mentioned alongside the best fighters in the sport, and it would probably put him next in line to fight the winner between
Two welterweights in need of a victory, Thiago (13-2) and Sanchez (21-4) have combined to lose their last three. The pressure is on to get back on track with a win, and both seem capable of pulling it off. Sanchez is desperate for a victory after getting thumped by young British prospect
Can Schaub take the next step against a veteran like Gonzaga? He'll get a chance to answer that as the evening's action begins in earnest on pay-per-view. Gonzaga, three years removed from a wasted title shot against