The Top Ten UFC Fights in April
The UFC loaded up April with four events. Maybe you’re like me, and you have trouble keeping up with it all. So, let’s go through the cards and find the ten best fights coming up.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Roy Nelson, UFC Fight Night 39 – This will be sad. Either Nogueira shows up and fight as old as he looks, or Nelson shows up bad enough to allow Old Man Nogueira to beat him. That Nelson is only a -180 favorite against this Nogueira speaks volumes. That Nelson would be a huge jump in Nogueira’s recent win column (Herman, Schaub) speaks just as many.
Clay Guida vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri, UFC Fight Night 39 – Kawajiri is perfect since moving down to featherweight in 2011. While that run includes a few relics of JMMA’s heyday (Hansen, Miyata, Omigawa), Guida would be his first real test. For Guida, he risks losing his fourth fight in five tries (the lone win in a controversial decision over Hatsu Hioki). It seems unlikely the UFC would cut Guida, but protracted losing streaks change everything.
Thiago Alves vs. Seth Baczynski, UFC on Fox 11 – Heading into UFC 100, Thiago Alves was only a 2-1 underdog to Georges St-Pierre, which was the closest line in a GSP fight until St-Pierre fought Johny Hendricks. Alves sort of fell off the rails after his loss to St-Pierre, going 2-3 with his wins coming over John Howard and Papy Abedi. Despite taking two years off from fighting, Alves is only 30 years old. It’s unlikely he makes another run at the title, though not impossible. We’ll find out just how practical it is when Alves meets journeyman Seth Baczynski.
Phil Davis vs. Anthony Johnson, UFC 172 – This is notable if only because of Anthony Johnson’s story. He debuted in the UFC at welterweight, but struggles to make weight forced him out of the UFC and up in weight. He even took a heavyweight fight against Andrei Arlovski…and won. He’ll fight against Phil Davis at light heavyweight, however, and Davis’ athleticism and wrestling are the same attributes that gave Johnson problems against Josh Koscheck.
Jorge Masvidal vs. Pat Healy, UFC on Fox 11 – Masvidal and Healy have both, in the words of the UFC, struggled in recent fights, and we probably have a good idea of the ceilings for both of these former Strikeforce fighters. Still, these two bring divergent offensive styles that could make for a fun fight. Masvidal is a technical, dynamic striker who throws fluid combinations with all four limbs while Healy is a crowding pressure fighter who looks to make things dirty.
Donald Cerrone vs. Edson Barboza, UFC on Fox 11 – Cerrone’s been through something of an uneven run, though a look at his losses (Diaz, Pettis, dos Anjos) explains things a bit. He’ll run into Barboza, a once can’t-miss prospect who took a surprising fall against Jamie Varner. He’s run off three straight wins in the interim, and he can make a major case for a top spot in the division with an emphatic win over Cerrone.
Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy, The Ultimate Fighter Nations Finale – They hate each other or they’re pretending that they hate each other and I don’t care enough to make the distinction. Bisping’s an awful matchup for Kennedy, whose striking won’t be able to catch the hit-and-run tactics of the Brit. That said, Bisping’s lack of reliable knockout power allows his opponents to stay in the fight, and Kennedy is a legit tough dude.
Brad Tavares vs. Yoel Romero, UFC on Fox 11 – Tavares, a TUF 11 alumnus, is a surprising 12-1, with his lone loss to Aaron Simpson back in 2011. Romero, the 2000 Olympic silver medalist, is 7-1, with his lone loss coming to Rafael Cavalcante in his Strikeforce debut. As a Twitter friend noted, this could wind up a turd (pun intended?), but Romero is wound with high potential violence.
Jon Jones vs. Glover Teixeira, UFC 172 – Glover Teixeira is the “if you could build a machine to defeat Jon Jones and also do other human things like make coffee and ride a bicycle” du jour. Teixeira brings…some power? Some jiu-jitsu? I don’t know. The man’s been heaped with this weird Jones-defeating hype since he finally got over visa issues and entered the UFC back in 2012. While his five straight wins inside the Octagon are nothing to laugh at, he hasn’t faced any of the division’s elite: Alexander Gustafsson, Rashad Evans, Phil Davis, etc. He’ll get his first crack when he steps in against Jones, and it’s hard to imagine a path to victory.
Fabricio Werdum vs. Travis Browne, UFC on Fox 11 – With wins over Gonzaga, Overeem, and Barnett, Browne shouldn’t be “a guy” anymore, but it’s still hard to see him as anything else. I still don’t know what it is. Anyway, he has a real shot to beat Werdum, who hasn’t fought since earning his title shot with a victory over Old Nog in June of last year. The winner, barring any setbacks, should get the title shot against a returning Cain Velasquez.
Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov, UFC on Fox 11 – The UFC announced Nurmagomedov would fight Gilbert Melendez, and then it came out that Melendez wasn’t actually under contract, and the fight was announced prematurely. Melendez eventually signed, and was given a shot against champion Anthony Pettis at the end of the year. Numagomedov went through a cycle of rumored opponents before the UFC finalized a fight against top-5 lightweight Rafael dos Anjos. This should be an exciting, relevant lightweight fight, and the only problem is that it’s only three rounds.
Mike Fagan is a weekly contributor to MMA Owl. He also hosts Untethered MMA every Thursday at 7 p.m. ET. Follow him on Twitter.