If you caught my last piece discussing why UFC Fight Night 26 in Boston has such high potential to be one of the most exciting UFC cards to date, then you won’t feel too left out on this one. With so many proven audience-pleasers on this card, it’s kind of difficult to determine which fight may steal the cake. Let’s break a couple match-ups down that I feel could be deserving of the Fight of the Night bonus.
1. Conor McGregor vs. Max Holloway
The first thing I look for when determining which match-up has “FOTN” written all over it, is what kind of styles each fighter may bring against each other. In this match-up, it’s very clear that both of these are stand-up fighters, and will most likely look to bang in the center. McGregor is a power hitter who’s stand-up rarely fails him. His fluidity, timing, and accuracy are second-to-none and it looks like he could turn into one of the best strikers at 145lbs. His opponent, Max Holloway, follows similarly in those footsteps. At 21-years old, Max is a scrappy featherweight who incorporates a wide array of techniques into his aggressive striking arsenal. He’s extremely aggressive, pushes the pace, and isn’t afraid to let it all loose for the crowd. McGregor and Holloway have the perfect chemistry to put on one of the most action-packed striking bouts we’ve seen.
2. Joe Lauzon vs. Michael Johnson
Statistically, this fight is probably your best bet for predicting Fight of the Night or Submission of the Night awards. Tied for the most post-fight bonuses in the UFC, Joe Lauzon is one of the most entertaining fighters to watch on the roster. Every fight he gets into he either wins by impressive submission, battle in a back-and-forth brawl that leaves both fighters bloodied and battered, or a combination of both. Lauzon will no doubt want to take Johnson down and turn this fight into a grappling competition, but Michael’s wrestling skills are going to make it interesting; which is where the excitement happens. If you look at Lauzon’s fight against Jamie Varner (a very similar opponent to Michael Johnson, stylistically), we saw a back-and-forth fight that featured high moments on both sides. However, Lauzon’s relentless pace and aggression eventually overcame Varner in a bout that stole Submission and Fight of the Night bonuses. We could very well see the same exact thing here in this fight.
3. Matt Brown vs. Mike Pyle
This welterweight fight features two guys that just don’t know how to quit. Both Matt and Mike are at the peaks of their careers and are true dark horses of the division. No one really ever thought either Brown or Pyle would make it to where they are now, but their determination, grit, and relentless attitude has reigned superior over the other 170lbs contenders. Matt Brown, an iron chinned brawler whose underrated clinch game has gotten him to where he is, is a guy that walks forward and never stops. Unfortunately, Mike Pyle is also a guy who never stops moving forward. His relentless grappling offers a pace very few can keep up with, with his craftiness often opening up opportunities for exciting submission attempts. This fight may not be technically pretty, but it’ll be a war between an unmovable object and an unstoppable object colliding in a bloody showdown of grit, determination, and toughness.
4. Mauricio Rua vs. Chael Sonnen
Much like Brown/Pyle, this fight is a very similar scenario. Chael Sonnen, a man who does not believe in a “feeling out period”, is an ultra-aggressive no-bull fighter who charges forward like a man and fights his opponent the way our Founding Fathers would’ve wanted. Sonnen’s style is a breeding-ground for back-and-forth exchanges, fast paced fighting, and wild brawls courtesy of his and his opponents’ fists. His opponent, Shogun Rua, will offer the same thing. Already having one Fight of the Year performance under his belt against Dan Henderson, Shogun is no stranger to all-out brawls that may leave both he and his opponent lying in the hospital the day after. This fight has everything a Fight of the Year performance needs, but the big question is whether or not Rua’s cardio will hold up. If you look back to the Henderson fight, Rua’s cardio began to fail him mid-way through the fight which arguably cost him the decision. However, Rua’s heart is never in question, and will always continue to fight until the very end. Expect Sonnen and Rua to collide in one of greatest fights to ever grace the cameras.