Luke Rockhold

Pic by SHERDOG.COM -click for source- Credit: Esther Lin

Title fights galore will grace this summer’s fight cards. Four title fights will be up for grabs between now and August. With this in mind, the UFC does what they have shown to do best over the years, and that’s plan ahead.

As fighters fight for belts, others fight for their shot at gold as well. Listed below are the top ten contender fights, listed according to their respective fight cards, from closest to furthest away.

~UFC on FX 8 on May 18th~

Vitor Belfort vs. Luke Rockhold

Out of all the Strikeforce alumni finally stepping in to the Octagon, undefeated Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold is probably the most relieved to have  finally joined the big show.

His agitation for his lack of quality opponents and apparent waste of the prime years of his career was more than palpable in an interview with Ariel Helwani where he told an interesting story about women immediately writing off his claim of being a professional fighter, considering the name of the organization was Strikeforce (SF), and not the UFC.

If MMA fans have learned anything from fighters coming over from other promotions in the last couple years (ie: SF, WEC), it’s that they fight with the urgency of a fighter who isn’t content to let the cards fall where they may.

Instead these fighters explode on to the scene with brutal intensity coupled with high light reel finishes.

To name a few who arrived in style include Robbie Lawler (SF), Tyron Woodley (SF), Bobby Green (SF), Pat Healy (SF), Benson Henderson (WEC), Anthony Pettis (WEC), Donald Cerrone (WEC), and many more to come.

Of course in this case, Belfort is not someone to easily walk over these days. He’s fought the best in the world, only dropping losses to Anderson Silva and Jon Jones in his last 8 fights. Mark my words; he will absolutely collapse Rockhold with either of his hands if given the chance.

This will be a rough test for the Strikeforce champ, but will also have a very rewarding effect on his career if he can steal a win from the #2 middleweight in the world.

~ UFC 160 on May 29th~

Gray Maynard vs TJ Grant

This fight is already being billed by the UFC as a lightweight title eliminator, as well as it should be, well kinda. The lightweights are extremely talent rich at the top of the stack.

But with Gilbert Melendez recently dropping a loss to the champ and Anthony Pettis dropping to fight Jose Aldo in August, it’s fair to say the #3 fighter in the world in Maynard vs. the #9th in Grant is more than an adequate contest between two of the most deserving among the lightweights at this moment in time.

Junior Dos Santos vs. Mark Hunt

For the heavyweight title shot and all the glory, JDS and Hunt will step in to the cage and battle it out. This one shockingly makes sense.

Hunt is riding a four fight win streak, defeating Stephen Struve most recently who was ranked #6th in the world, while JDS is on a whole other planet of talent, only rivaled by the champ Cain Velasquez. Whoever walks out of this one will be a fun fight to see against Velasquez, of whom will most likely walk through Antonio Silva again, on the same night as JDS vs Hunt.

~UFC 162 on July 6th~

Mark Munoz vs. Tim Boetsch

Both of these fighters were one fight away from a shot against Anderson Silva. To be honest, both were probably not capable of pulling off the upset against the best in the world, but with their exploits in the cage, it would’ve been difficult to deny them title shots if they had strung together another win or two against top competition in the division.

Now they’re set to face each other in July, and with their respective rankings of 7 (Munoz) and 10 (Boetsch), this is an important fight for contention within the division. Whoever walks away with the win, may have a top five fighter in their future and a title shot looming within reach.

Chan Sung Jung vs. Ricardo Lamas

Ah the controversy of the featherweights. Both of these men are ranked within the top five (Jung at 4, Lamas at 2), and neither will get a title shot as long as high profile lightweights keep dropping down in weight to steal their thunder.

The controversy of superstar vs. true contender will be harder to ignore once one of these men pulls through with a win against the other. With the highlight reel finishes up to this point from both fighters, it will be very difficult for anyone to argue against the winner having earned a title shot against Aldo.

Denis Siver vs. Cub Swanson

These two destroyers are going to be fun to watch and probably will contend for either KO of the night or FOTN honors. With Siver dropping deadly liver kicks and Swanson bringin the heat in both fists, someone is getting their lights turned off.

Respectively ranked at 5 (Swanson) and 6 (Siver), one man will find himself knocking on the door of a title title shot or one fight away from one at least. On a side note, the featherweight contenders will be stacking up nicely by the time Aldo vs. Pettis is over.

~ UFC on FOX 8 on July 27th~

Rory Macdonald vs. Jake Ellenberger

Both men have been flirting with shots at the title for the last couple years. They have cleaned out many of the top fighters since then, and now are facing their biggest test to date against each other.

This fight will wind up being more technical than people realize since neither men will go balls out after the other. Both competitors are too skilled to be overwhelmed easily, and both have many tools at their disposal to secure a victory, and both are aware of their opponent’s capabilities in all these areas within the cage.

None the less, After Hendricks fights for the belt, they will be the next two men ranked who haven’t fought the champ (MacDonald at 3 and Ellenberger at 4).

Robbie Lawler vs. Teric Saffiedine

These two are an interesting pair. Both are ranked (Lawler at 9 and Saffiedine at 10) but with their lack of time on the list, one will probably stay put, while the other will drop off completely after losing in this one.

Yet with Saffiedine’s win against Nate Marquardt and Lawler’s against Josh Koschek, they have a lot of potential to stay relevant in the title hunt with a win on July 27th.

Miesha Tate vs. Liz Carmouche

Both these women have dropped a loss to the current undefeated women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey by first round arm bar, and yet both gave her the most trouble she’s had up to this point.

The one who comes away with a win here, will carry a ton of momentum back in to the title picture. Tate is still holding strong at #3 while Carmouche has dropped to 5th in the women’s bantamweight division in the UFC. So too secure a top five spot in the division or suffer by completely falling off the list altogether, this will fight is important for both women.