As the final months of the MMA 2017 event calendar start to take shape, a couple of major pay-per-view events are still looking for main events. There are two UFC PPV events in December, with the first coming in Detroit at UFC 218.
Similar to last December, and last July, MMA’s premier promotion is doubling-up their major events in a singular month. Last year, it was with UFC 206 and UFC 207 in the winter, while UFC 213 and UFC 214 took place this summer. In each instance, one PPV got a little more love from the matchmakers than the other, and it looks as though UFC 218 is in the less enviable position.
Following UFC 217, held at Madison Square Garden in November, several major main event options will be tied-up. You can add a couple more to that list, if past scheduling of year-end PPV events are any indicator of what the promotion has planned for UFC 219 on December 30 in Las Vegas.
With those packed events on the schedule, and UFC 218 sandwiched in between, what’s left for Detroit’s PPV?
As of this writing, there are two reported fights for UFC 218. Both bouts are from the strawweight division, and feature some names MMA fans will recognize. Felice Herrig will fight Cortney Casey, and Angela Magana is taking on Amanda Cooper.
The original plan seemed obvious: Kevin “The Motown Phenom” Lee versus whoever makes sense at the top of the lightweight division. The puzzle pieces even fell into place, with Lee earning a shot at the interim lightweight title against Tony Ferguson. Except that awesome matchup will take place at UFC 216 in Las Vegas in early-October. Without that simple solution, the promotion has a few other options for the main event of UFC 218.
While we wait for the official announcement of the main event for Detroit’s PPV, here are the options available for matchmakers.
We already mentioned Kevin Lee and Tony Ferguson’s interim lightweight title bout taken by UFC 216. A two-month turnaround for the victor, depending on the style of victory, isn’t crazy. But, it’s very unlikely.
The turnaround from this weekend’s pay-per-view, for the winners of title bouts in the flyweight division between Demetrious Johnson and Ray Borg, and the women’s bantamweight bout featuring Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko, would be doable. With other options in other weight classes, rushing either of these champions back is probably unnecessary.
It’s safe to rule out the title bouts from UFC 217 at MSG, as well. That means Detroit won’t be treated to either the middleweight title bout between Georges St. Pierre and Michael Bisping, or Cody Garbrandt’s first bantamweight title defense attempt against TJ Dillashaw.
A return to the Octagon from either of the top-two light heavyweights in the world, Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier, is also not the direction the promotion is going. That mess is going to take time to sort out, and attempting to force whoever holds the belt into a bout in December is as unlikely as it is unwise. Cormier also mentioned on a recent appearance on The MMA Hour that some time away from the Octagon was in his future, as he’d like to spend time with his family, and has desk duties for FOX’s Octagon coverage on the schedule.
There are reports of Joanna Jedrzejczyk fighting Rose Namajunas for the strawweight title at MSG in 2017, but the bout has yet to be made official, leaving it up for grabs for UFC 218. There has been talk of three title fights on UFC 217 in November, like they did last year. It would seem as though they are debating on giving that final slot to either JJ-Rose, or the featherweight title fight we can’t wait for between Max Holloway and New Jersey-native Frankie Edgar.
Both Edgar and Jedrzejczyk featured at MSG in 2016, and deciding which fight belongs in New York this year is a tough call. Whether they go with three or four title-fights, whichever bout is potentially left off of the card could be a top candidate for UFC 218 in Detroit.
A couple of title-winners from UFC 214 should be available as well. Newly crowned women’s featherweight champion Cris Cyborg and welterweight champ Tyron Woodley could be chocies the promotion considers.
Woodley has been very busy recenly, fighting four times from July of 2016 to July of 2017. Considering her issues, Cyborg has been relatively active in the Octagon, fighting twice in that same timespan. Of the two, Cyborg is more likely for UFC 218, as Woodley mentioned a break was in his future due to a potentially torn labrum in a recent appearance on The MMA Hour. Even then, the likelihood of Cyborg fighting outside of Las Vegas, California, or Brazil in her next bout, in favor of Detroit, is slim.
According to UFC President Dana White, a heavyweight clash has been in the works for Detroit’s PPV. Originally, the idea of Stipe Miocic defending his heavyweight belt against light heavyweight champion* Jon Jones was on the cards. Now that ship has sailed, but maybe Miocic could still feature. Detroit is only a few hours away from Cleveland, and we all remember how raucous Miocic’s homecoming was last September.
The problem with that scenario is finding a suitable opponent for Miocic. On one of the most impressive runs in UFC heavyweight history, the promotion’s realistic options for their champion are few and far between. The one we’d all prefer, Cain Velasquez, seems more like a hope than an actual possibility. Velasquez was slated for a fight with Fabricio Werdum at UFC 207 last year, and has even been discussed in a bout with Miocic at UFC 216, despite that bout with Werdum never happening.
After those reports, the Ferguson-Lee interim lightweight title bout was officially named the main event, with Fabricio Werdum and Derrick Lewis in the co-main event. Moving that title matchup to UFC 216, when it makes more sense at 218, probably means the promotion felt forced into moving that bout up in the calendar due to the lack of top-tier options.
With the Miocic-Velasquez bout becoming increasingly unlikely, there aren’t many other fighters available for the heavyweight champion. He’s already defeated three of the top-five contenders in the last couple of years, with the other two fighters being Velasquez and Francis Ngannou. It might be too-much too-early for one of the promotion’s top prospects. But, without any other options, Ngannou could find himself in a title-fight sooner rather than later. He’s currently free, after his bout with Junior dos Santos at UFC 215 was canceled.
Oh, lightweight champion Conor McGregor is available, technically. But his return to MMA coming in Detroit at UFC 218 is as improbable as a boxer with zero professional bouts taking on Floyd Mayweather. Or something.
There aren’t a ton of options for the main event of UFC 218, but a high-profile title fight should be headed to Detroit this December. Currently, the matchup that makes the most sense is Stipe Miocic taking on either Cain Velasquez or Francis Ngannou. If the UFC can’t get that fight made, whichever title bout gets left off of UFC 217 at MSG between Holloway-Edgar and Jedrzejczyk-Namajunas could find itself main eventing Detroit’s PPV. Regardless, expect UFC 218 to look a little light compared to the major events surrounding it throughout the end of the year.