Already announced, UFC 216 in September will be the lone Canadian pay-per-view of the year, and the promotion’s first trip to Edmonton. After a summer full of fights, who’s left for the main event of UFC 216?
Following a string of lackluster main events in UFC PPVs to begin the year, things have begun to turn around for the promotion. Or, it at least seemed that way. The likes of UFC 211 and 212 got things going in the right direction, while July’s double-dose of PPVs is more of the same high-quality matchups fans can easily get behind. Then, the fallout around the still-to-be-announced UFC 215 began. That’s for another article.
Last year, the lone Canadian PPV of the year was at UFC 206 in Toronto. That card would eventually lose its original main event, the initially scheduled rematch between Daniel Cormier and Anthony Johnson, and instead be treated to a fight for the interim featherweight title (remember that?) featuring Max Holloway and Anthony Pettis. Here’s hoping the promotion remembers that fact, and treats Canada right with a top-tier main event this fall.
The card is beginning to take shape, with one official fight announced for UFC 216. Undefeated Canadian prospect Gavin Tucker will put his 10-0 record on the line against Rick Glenn. The additionally reported, but to-be-confirmed, bouts include a flyweight fight featuring Henry Cejudo and Wilson Reis, as well as a women’s bantamweight bout between Sarah Moras and Ashlee Evans-Smith. A heavyweight bout is also being reported featuring Luis Henrique and Olympian Arjan Bhullar.
While those fights are well and good, the main event is what we’re most interested in. The promotion is slated for a busy summer, and the final quarter of the year is pretty packed as well. We can expect a title bout, even if it’s as forced as the one last year. So, who’s left for Canada’s lone PPV of the year in Edmonton at UFC 216?
First, who won’t be invited to the main event party for two in the Octagon at UFC 216? Well, the easiest people to cross of the list are the champions with already scheduled bouts. That means we won’t be seeing Amanda Nunes or Daniel Cormier in Edmonton, as the turnarounds from UFC 213 and 214 in July are too soon. Plus, the promotion will be needing champions for the PPV events to close out the year as well.
On the injured list, the likes of Cody Garbrandt and Michael Bisping are misses for UFC 216 as well, while the interim middleweight title is on-the-line at UFC 213. We’re going to go ahead and say Demetrious Johnson won’t be defending his flyweight title in Canada this year either, but who really knows considering the twists that seemingly easy booking for UFC 215 has taken recently.
The likelihood of the newly crowned undisputed featherweight champion Max Holloway first defense coming in Canada, relatively quickly after UFC 212, is low. As are the chances of lightweight champion Conor McGregor’s unexpected return coming in Edmonton in September.
Of the remaining available champions, welterweight title-holder Tyron Woodley is the most rested. Defending his belt against Stephen Thompson in early-March at UFC 209, Woodley even has an opponent who, by September, would be ready to go: Demain Maia. This bout makes all the sense in the world for the promotion and the 170-pound weight class, and likely leaves either fighter ready for Georges St. Pierre’s late-2017 return. It would’ve been great for GSP’s return to come in Canada, but he’ll barely have begun sparring at that point.
The UFC could lean on either of their UFC 211 title-defenders. Both Stipe Miocic and Joanna Jedrzejczyk were dominant in their performances in May, and although it is more likely the promotion utilizes those assets on higher-profile PPVs later in the year, they are both legitimate options. Of the two, Miocic seems a slightly better fit than Jedrzejczyk, with a European destination becoming more likely with each victory for the strawweight champion. For the heavyweight champ, UFC 216 makes sense so long as he has an opponent. The best option at this point might be Cain Velasquez, and attempting to predict his availability is as tough as ever in 2017.
Outside of the easier options, there’s women’s featherweight champion Germaine de Randamie and her belt. As of this writing, Cris Cyborg is slated for UFC 214 in July, without an opponent. So, there’s that. As weird as the Mighty Mouse situation is, the drama in the essentially non-existent women’s 145-pound weight class is something nobody expected this year, but we don’t expect it to spill over into Edmonton’s PPV.
We’d be remiss if we didn’t bring up the potential for an interim lightweight title. As mentioned earlier, the promotion has no problem sticking an interim belt on the line in a Canadian PPV main event. Whether or not they think pitting Tony Ferguson against Nate Diaz (or Khabib Nurmagomedov) makes sense for UFC 216 is another story.
Unfortunately for Edmonton, timing is tough. July has two huge cards, and it’s looking as though December will too. Between those cards, UFC 214 and 220, are five more PPVs, each of which will likely demand at least one title fight. Given those parameters, we expect the promotion to save whatever they decide to do with the 155-pound division somewhere other than Edmonton.
Despite that, the promotion still has a few options that could make the Canadian crowd happy. Leading the way is Woodley’s third welterweight title defense against arguably the greatest Brazilian jiu-jitsu practitioner in MMA today in Demian Maia, while calling upon Stipe Miocic or Joanna Jedrzejczyk could be the UFC’s solution. Regardless, a title-fight should be expected, and it’ll be interesting to see who the promotion picks for UFC 216.