UFC 228: Potential Main Events for September’s Pay-Per-View

Khabib Nurmagomdedov added to UFC 219 against Edson Barboza UFC 228
Credit: Mike Sloan/Sherdog.com

The upcoming slate of UFC pay-per-view main events is stacking up nicely. Now that we know what we’re looking forward to this summer, we can begin to piece together what’s left for September’s to-be-announced UFC PPV.

Sandwiched between a packed summer schedule and what’s expected to be another busy winter, the UFC has room for a fall PPV event. As of now, one reported UFC event is slated for September, a card in Moscow, Russia on the 15th. A PPV event that weekend would fit into the UFC’s 2018 Event Calendar puzzle.

UFC 227 is taking place on August 4 in Los Angeles, while UFC 229 has been announced for the T-Mobile Arena on October 6. Leaving a logical gap for UFC 228 sometime in September.

UFC 227 will end a run of impressive PPV cards, featuring five currently announced title-fights (and six belts) over the course of three pay-per-view events. If the past couple of years are any indicator, the final few PPV events of 2018 will share a similar load when it comes to title-fights. That doesn’t leave much for the fall.

All things considered, what’s left for the headline slot of September’s pay-per-view? We can rule out several big names right off the bat, leaving a few interesting options remaining for the main event of UFC 228 this fall.

Who’s Out?

There are two titles on-the-line at UFC 225 in June, meaning those belts likey won’t be fought for again after just a few months. That rules out Robert Whittaker’s potentially defending his belt for a second time, or Yoel Romero’s first defense as a new 185-pound champion.

We can also probably rule out a welterweight title-fight, too. Not only due to Tyron Woodley’s recent shoulder surgery, but due to the interim title fight at UFC 225 between Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington. Either winner will want plenty of time to recoup and prepare for a battle with Woodley, who has three title defenses on his resumé.

Three more champions will be fighting at UFC 226 in July, including two of them in one bout. Light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier will look to continue his undefeated run as a heavyweight and become the second UFC fighter ever to hold titles in multiple divisions at the same time. You might’ve heard about the other guy.

Cormier will attempt to achieve that feat against the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history: Stipe Miocic. An awesome matchup capping off the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter, Miocic-Cormier is as good as it gets in MMA today. The busy first half of 2018 likely puts both champions on the shelf for potentially main eventing UFC 228, though.

The two-month turnaround time would also be surprising from the co-main eventers of UFC 226, featherweight champion Max Holloway and Brian Ortega. Same goes for the headliners of UFC 227 in August, bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt.

T.J. Dillashaw UFC
Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

On the women’s side, a few UFC titles are likely ruled out for September’s PPV. Amanda Nunes is defending her 135-pound belt against Raquel Pennington in Brazil at UFC 224. The May pay-per-view date gives the winner a decent amount of time to recover, depending on how the fight goes. But, given the division’s current depth (or lack thereof), it’s hard to imagine the UFC continuing to give it a main event slot. A co-main event? That’d make more sense, but the promotion will likely save it for their packed schedule during their final months of 2018.

The same can probably be said for Rose Namajunas’ next title-defense. Whether it’s against Jessica Andrade, or another contender, the likelihood of the strawweight title headlining a UFC PPV is probably a ways off. The 115-pound division is incredibly fun and features a lot of depth, but that doesn’t always result in a passable buyrate.

Along those same lines, Nicco Montaño‘s frist defense of her women’s flyweight title against Valentina Shevchenko doesn’t fit atop a PPV. But, the promotion is reportedly looking at having the bout main event the UFC on FOX 30 card in Calgary this summer.

Who’s Available

In term’s of available and viable main event options, the promotion could call upon Cris Cyborg to continue her relatively impressive streak of buyrates going this fall. The question is less about her, and more about her potential opponent. The best matchup currently available is Megan Anderson, who makes her promotional debut at UFC 225 in June againt former bantamweight champ Holly Holm. The winner of that bout will likely be the next contender for Cyborg, given the lack of options at 145-pounds.

Would either contender be ready for a featherweight title fight with a three-month turnaround? Possibly. The situation is similar to that of the welterweight title race, where Tyron Woodley awaits the winner of Covington-dos Anjos at UFC 225. The difference between Cyborg being “available”, and Woodley being “out”, is the Brazilian’s ability to headline a lower-profile UFC PPV and still pull a respectable buyrate.

Yeah, her numbers aren’t that much more impressive than Woodley’s as a UFC main event draw, but she’s pulled those numbers more recently, during an era where the promotion’s buyrates are trending downward. She’s also competing with opponents from a division that doesn’t really exist in the UFC, including several that many are unfamiliar with. With the slated build-up fight between Anderson and Holm at UFC 225, they’re giving Cyborg an increased chance of buyrate success during the second half of 2018.

The second half of the year will also (hopefully) feature the first bout of the year for flyweight title holder Demetrious Johnson. The promotion has been angling for a Seattle event for a while now, and if that happens, Johnson’s next bout should be the headlining fight. Whether or not that event would be a pay-per-view remains to be seen. But, if a UFC PPV gets announced for September in Seattle, and he’s healthy, you can be Mighty Mouse’s next title defense will be featured.

Demetrious Johnson aka Mighty Mouse
Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson Credit: Dave Mandel/Sherdog.com

If the promotion wants to rely on a larger weight class for their UFC 228 main event, they could potentially look to the light heavyweight division. Depending on what happens between Miocic and Cormier in July, the light heavyweight division could be looking for a new champion. Even if Cormier defeats Miocic, and decides to try and carry two belts, we wouldn’t be surprised to see the UFC force an interim title fight onto a PPV event during the second half of the year (see: dos Anjos-Covington).

Whether it’d be for an interim title, or a bout for a vacant title, don’t be surprised if there’s a light heavyweight title fight not featuring Daniel Cormier sometime in 2018. The promotion doesn’t have many options at 205-pounds, but it’d be hard to hate on a matchup between Alexander Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir. Both have fought for the belt before, and are at the top of the heap in the all-important UFC Fighter Rankings.

And then, there’s Khabib.

The Russian is the promotion’s current lightweight champion, but it’s not without some controversy. Whether it’s Conor McGregor or Tony Ferguson, there are a few claims to the UFC’s 155-pound throne. Regardless of those claims, the road to the title now goes through Khabib Nurmagomedov. Given the currently reported UFC event in Moscow slated for September, the road could also go through his home-country, too.

It’s hard to imagine a UFC event taking place in Russia and Khabib not being in the main event. And if he’s in the main event, the card is probably going to be a PPV. A big one. With those stakes, it’s fun to picture Conor McGregor make his long-awaited return to the Octagon for such an occasion. Then again, he’s got some issues to sort out. Those things are very fixable, but they certainly don’t make things any easier.

While getting McGregor back seems impossible, it still seems more likely than us ever seeing Khabib square-off with Tony Ferguson. We’ve tried four times, and have been denied each time. Considering Ferguson’s most recent injury, a September return seems to be out of the question, and maybe that’s for the best when it comes to potentially fighting Khabib.

If not McGregor or Ferguson, then who? There’s Kevin Lee, Eddie Alvarez, and Dustin Poirier all coming off of wins. Poirier is currently on the best run, while Alvarez and Lee’s most recent losses have both come in title fights. When it comes down to it, the promotion won’t really care who faces Khabib, especially in Russia, with McGregor out of the picture. No matter what, Khabib will be in the main event.

The UFC has a summer full of top-notch matchups and high-profile fights, and will likely do the same to close out the year. So, what’s left for the months in between? We’ll find out soon enough, but until then, these options make the most sense for a PPV event this September. Let us know who you think will main event UFC 228, and who you’d like to see headline the promotion’s September PPV!



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