As MMA fans, we are subjected to (what I would call) just fights, far more often than we are gifted with elite or high-level MMA. It is the lopsided balance between ‘just fights’ and high-level MMA that helps create the aura and excitement around a card such as this weekends UFC 225. When a fan is well aware of the distinction between the best MMA has to offer and the lesser, a deep appreciation is developed for these standout events.
UFC 225 is, for the most part, the best that the sport of MMA has to offer. This card — apart from two fights — will feature some of the best fighters in the world. Including; one current and six former world champions, six current or former title challengers, and four promising ranked up-and-comers. With that in mind, these are the three best fights taking place at UFC 225.
Three – Rafael Dos Anjos Vs Colby Covington
Due to the extended absence of Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley, the UFC has decided to create an interim championship fight between former Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos and Colby Covington. Although this matchup has only been put together due to Colby Covington’s pro-wrestling shtick rather than a more deserving number one contender’s fight — Eg. Rafael Dos Anjos Vs Stephen Thompson — the fight is more intriguing than many are giving it credit.
Since making the move to Welterweight, Rafael Dos Anjos has been a fighter reborn. He is currently 3-0 in the division and will be entering this fight off an outstanding five round display of dominance against former champion Robbie Lawler. Although he has, seemingly, adapted well to fighting much larger opponents, RDA is yet to face a powerful grappler the likes of Covington.
Although Colby Covington is at a clear disadvantage in the striking department and will likely lose if the fight stays standing, it is quite possible that we could see him takedown and control RDA the first time in his Welterweight run. If Colby is able to execute his game plan and test RDA, this fight has the potential to be one of the best of the night.
Two – Alistair Overeem Vs Curtis Blaydes
The classic matchup between a rising young contender and a potentially declining veteran is one that will never cease to intrigue me. Although these matchups are slightly rare at the highest level, they have resulted in two of the best fights of 2018 so far — Frankie Edgar Vs Brian Ortega and Kelvin Gastelum Vs Jacare Souza.
In this fight, we will see 27-year-old rising Heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes take on one of the most notable heavyweights of all time; Alistair Overeem. This is going to be a pivotal fight for both men and will serve as an indicator of what their future’s hold. Curtis Blaydes will be entering this fight off the momentum of the biggest win of his career which came again Mark Hunt at UFC 221 earlier this year. With a win against another top veteran contender, Blaydes will likely propel himself into the title picture after this fight.
Alistair Overeem, on the other hand, will be entering the octagon for the first time since his devastating knockout loss against Francis Ngannou in December of last year. At 38 years of age, having just suffered his twelfth and most devastating knockout loss, Overeem finds himself in a must-win situation. It is this battling dynamic — Blaydes’ hunger to rise to the top Vs Overeem’s desire to remain at the top — that will create one of the best fights of the night and potentially the year.
One – Robert Whittaker Vs Yoel Romero 2
Robert Whittaker and Yoel Romero are without a doubt the two best Middleweights in the world fighting for the undisputed Middleweight championship. Although it was a slightly messy road to get to this point, this fight is a perfect example of what happens when a division is in order. In an age where undeserving and lackluster title fights are becoming more common, a fight between the two best fighters in a division should be relished.
Being that this is a rematch of a fight that took place eleven months ago, many people will assume that it may play out the same. I don’t think that will be the case. There are many variables at play that will make this fight different. The first is Robert Whittaker health. It was well documented that Whittaker was suffering from a reoccurring knee injury leading into the first fight that was then re-injured early on in the first round. Whittaker will, hopefully, be entering this fight a full health and will thus be able to perform at a higher level.
The second x-factor is Yoel Romero‘s game plan. In the first fight, Yoel chose to execute a takedown-heavy game plan that in turn saw him fatigue as the fight went on. In this fight, I believe we will see him take a more measured approach and utilize more of his usual rest and explode style. If he is to take this approach we could potentially see his endurance hold as the fight goes into the later rounds. With these two x-factors at play, I believe we will be seeing the best possible version of both fighters and thus the best possible fight.