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It's another busy month in MMA for June, which fights are you most anticipating over the next 30 days, and why?
RICH HANSEN, MMATORCH COLUMNIST
Well, of course there's that heavyweight title fight to crown the unofficial title of Baddest Man on the Planet (TM), so that really has to top everybody's list. It's amazing that no one is talking about the fact that later this month the heavyweight title is going to be defended. Frankly, I'm a big mark for the challenger. think of all the adversity he's overcome. Moving to a foreign country. Learning a new language. Working for Bjorn Rebney. Being stabbed and nearly dying in Bulgaria. Being released by Bellator after losing his first-ever professional fight. Oh. Wait. You thought I meant.... No no no, gentle reader. Smealinho Rama vs. Blagoy Ivanov is going down on the undercard of a Chris Horodecki fight on Friday night. And I'll bet that 95% of you didn't know that. I suppose there's a reason for that, though....
Of course Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum is the highlight of the upcoming month. But getting intrigued by that fight forces one to suspend belief long enough to believe that Velasquez's duct tape holds him together for another week and a half. Velasquez has never spent extended time on his back, and he's never faced a submission grand maester like Werdum. And while that sounds good... Cain's going to murder him.
And to keep the heavyweight theme going, I'm a big fan of both Ben Rothwell and of Matt Mitrione. I can't imagine this fight going more than 10 minutes, esp at sea level. On the same card this Saturday night, Shawn Jordan vs. Derrick Lewis should also be brief, violent, and sloppy. Ain't nothing wrong with that.
The shine and luster are kind of off of the one-time dream fight between Gilbert Melendez and Eddie Alvarez, but the potential is certainly there for a true barn burner. Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero is a make or break fight for both fighters. If Machida has any dreams of one last title shot, he absolutely must win this fight. And if Romero is going to beat Father Time, he has to make quick work of Machida. I like this pairing far more than the oft-postponed Jacare vs. Romero fight.
Oh, Kimbo vs. Shamrock. Just.... Yeah. Kimbo vs. Shamrock. 2?
DAYNE FOX, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Easily the most anticipated fight this month for me is the UFC Heavyweight Title fight between Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum. I'm expecting Velasquez to go into the fight as the favorite, but I anticipate it to be a very close fight. I admit that Velasquez has been dominant outside of his lone loss to Junior dos Santos, but I have been extremely impressed with the strategies he and his coaches have been coming up with for quite a while. Remember that Werdum comes from the same camp of Lightweight Champion Rafael dos Anjos, and he was a heavy underdog against Anthony Pettis when he took the title from him in March. And wasn't Werdum an underdog going into his bout with Travis Browne? I'm not going to be counting him out this time.
Call me a sucker for the other main events that the UFC are setting up later in the month as well, as Joanna Jedrzejczyk defends her belt against Jessica Penne and Lyoto Machida battles Yoel Romero to stay relevant in the middleweight title picture. Jedrzejczek is becoming must-see-TV for those in the know, even if she is likely to plow through a game Penne, and I love the clash of styles between Machida and Romero.
Outside of the UFC, the featherweight battle between Patricio Pitbull and Daniel Weichel should be a fun one to watch, and as much as I hate to admit it, I can't help but have a morbid curiosity about what will happen between Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice. I'm sure it will be just like a car accident: ugly, but for some reason you can't turn away from it.
FRANK HYDEN, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
It starts on June 13 with UFC 188. I want to see Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez, as I think that'll be a great war between those two. I also want to see Fabricio Werdum and Cain Velasquez unify the UFC Heavyweight Championship. I got my fingers crossed that Velasquez doesn't hurt himself again as this fight has been delayed enough already. After that, I want to Patricio Freire vs. Daniel Weichel at Bellator 138 on June 19. I know their fight will be overshadowed by the freakshow of 51 year old Ken Shamrock vs. 41 year old Kimbo Slice, but I think the Freire-Weichel fight will be really good. I also want to see Michael Chandler vs. Derek Campos on the same event. Those two fights are the real draw there. Then the next night, on June 20, we get to see UFC Women's Strawweight Champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk defend her title against Jessica Penne at UFC Fight Night 69. Jedrzejczyk has quickly become must-see TV. She's an excellent fighter, and I want to see how good she can become. That's a pretty damn awesome month.
BRAD WALKER, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
My personal highlights upcoming are Mitrione-Rothwell for a conceivably large boost in the rankings, Hendo vs. Boetsch, Velasquez-Werdum to unify the belt, Alvarez vs. Melendez in a three years ago dream fight, Shamrock-Kimbo in a never dream fight but entertaining slop fest of old guys, Volkov vs. Kongo, and Machida vs Romero. It's a packed month of insanity, and I can't wait to see it unfold!
TOM STRONG, MMATORCH UK CONTRIBUTOR
Let's get the most obvious fight out of the way first: UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez returns after an 18 month absence to face the number one contender and the current UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum, and they will collide at UFC 188. Though it's a busy month across the board for MMA, I'm not getting overly excited by many match-ups, maybe I'm being harsh or it's the sickness bug that I've had for a few days now that's making me very grumpy and tired.
Here are few bouts to which I'm looking forward:
UFC FN 68 - Matt Mitrione vs Ben Rothwell:
Love him or hate, win or lose Mitrione comes to fight. His last six fights haven't gone past the first round, and he's riding a three fight winning streak. All of those came via knockout while he picked up two "Performance of the Night" awards for his efforts. Rothwell is coming off his biggest win to date, defeating Alistair Overeem inside the first round via TKO last September; he as tough as any heavyweight can come, can absorb untold damage, and has the ability to finish a fight standing up or on the ground. This fight isn't going to last very long, so enjoy it whilst you can!
Bellatort 138 - Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice:
I have to put this into my list and don't care what abuse may come my way, but Ken Shamrock vs. Kimbo Slice has my full attention! Having always been a huge fan of Shamrock I'm compelled to see him fight again. Should he fight again? Probably not, though should Kimbo Slice? Probably not, so it's game in my eyes. Shamrock has the huge advantage that he's in with a fighter with zero ground game, but someone who can hit a little. Let's also be honest, if you want to admit it or not, Kimbo Slice is a fighter you'll tune into watch whether it's to see him win or lose. Maybe it's not the fight I'm looking forward to seeing the most, it's seeing how a 51 year old Shamrock is going to fair after nearly a five years absence from MMA, whilst trying to forget he's 3-7 in his last ten fights, with all seven of those defeats coming via TKO!
UFC FN 70 - Steve Bosse vs. Thiago Santos:
Middleweight Steve Bosse (10-1) will finally get to make his UFC debut after the rigmarole of Rampage contract issues when he faces Thiago Santos (10-3) at UFC FN 70 (TUF Brazil Final) on June the 27th. Though maybe not a fight that springs to the forefront of everyone's mind, this is a another bout that is highly unlikely to go the distance. With a combined record of 24-4 the two fighters have only gone to the judges score cards five times in victory and defeat. Both fighters possess knockout power and love nothing more than a good old fashioned tear up, what's not to love about this fight!
Joanna Jedrzejczyk (c) vs. Jessica Penne
Rick Story vs. Erick Silva
Daniel Strauss vs. Henry Corrales
Machia vs. Yoel Romero (If Romero actually turns up)
Dean Amasinger vs. Dan Vinni - Macto Championship
DAN MOORE, MMATORCH UK COLUMNIST
There are plenty of events in June, but it's very much a case of quantity over quality. On paper there's nothing really ground breaking on the New Orleans, Hollywood, or Berlin cards. Only Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum and Eddie Alvarez vs. Gilbert Melendez (both UFC 188) are what I would consider "must watch," with Lyoto Machida vs. Yoel Romero (TUF Brazil 4 Finale) just behind in my pecking order. Rick Story vs. Erick Silva, Mairbek Taisumov vs. Alan Patrick, and Chico Camus vs. Henry Cejudo are all intriguing match-ups in their own right, but other than that I've got no issue with skipping straight to July and UFC 189.
[Cain Velasquez art by Grant Gould (c) MMATorch.com]
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