UFC 225-Chicago bound to deliver with impressive line-up
UFC 225 in Chicago on paper appears to be one of the most intriguing fight cards of the year.
The whole card features six former or current UFC champions, current middleweight champion Robert Whittaker, and former UFC champions, Rafael dos Anjos, Holly Holm, Andrei Arlovski, Carla Esparza, & Rashad Evans.
The main event took an unexpected hit when Yoel Romero (13-2) missed weight a day before the fight by less than one pound.
Romero becomes the first fighter in UFC history to miss weight for two title bouts and will not be eligible to win the middleweight title if he goes to defeat Whittaker.
Whittaker (19-4) claimed the interim middleweight title with a razor thin decision over Romero last year at UFC 213. He was elevated to full champion when Georges St. Pierre relinquished his title after beating Michael Bisping to deal with health issues related to Colitis.
Whittaker suffered a knee injury in that fight and also dealt with a staph infection which caused him to be inactive for over a year.
The co-main event will be for the welterweight interim title and will pit former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos (28-9) against probably the most disliked fighter on the UFC roster, Colby Covington (13-1). Covington has made his presence felt by going out of his way to insult the entire country of Brazil, calling their citizens, filthy animals, and hurling outlandish jabs at everyone and anyone that will listen. His "act" of villain appears to be working smoothly as a victory over dos Anjos all but guarantees a title shot against current champion Tyron Woodley who is recovering from shoulder surgery.
This fight card is so stacked that the #1-ranked flyweight contender, Joseph Benavidez, who is making his comeback after over a year because of a serious knee injury, is one of the featured opening fights that will be available on the UFC's streaming service, Fight Pass.
That slot is usually reserved for up and coming but lesser known fighters.
Former WWE superstar CM Punk (0-1), who hails from Chicago, will be making his second appearance inside the Octagon when he faces MMA journalist/amateur fighter, Mike Jackson (0-1). Both suffered defeats to Mickey Gall in their UFC debuts.
Former UFC women's bantamweight champion, Holly Holm (11-4), looks to get back on track when she welcomes Invicta FC featherweight champion Megan Anderson (7-2), who will be making her UFC debut.
Many consider Anderson the biggest threat to Christiane "Cyborg" Justino, the current UFC featherweight champion.
Anderson is one of three Aussies on the card along with Whittaker and heavyweight Tai Tuivasa, who steps up in competition against former UFC heavyweight champion Arlovski.
The schedule also includes notable fighters such as fan favorite Clay Guida, former Strikeforce champion, Alistair Overeem, Ricardo Lamas, & Mirsad Bektic.
A fight that will clearly have title implications in the women's strawweight division is between top contender, Claudia Gadelha, who lost two close decisions to former champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, and inaugural strawweight champion, Carla Esparza (13-4), who is seeking her third straight win.
Esparza beat current champion Rose Namajunas in The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale in 2014 to become the first UFC women's strawweight champion.
The winner will most likely secure a title shot against Namajunas, possibly next year, as Namajunas has indicated she will take the rest of the year off after two brutal fights with Jedrzejczyk.
While the main event has undeniably removed some of the luster from the card, it is a safe bet that this will be a fight card to remember and couldn't come at a better time for the UFC who has dealt with some less than stellar numbers on recent pay-per-view cards.
UFC 225 will be held on June 9 at the United Center in Chicago and will be available live on pay-per-view at 10PM/7PM ET/PT.