This month in MMA is looking to be a good one. That’s if the dreaded injury bug has it in his heart to leave everybody alone. You have the Gustafsson and Manuwa fight this weekend, the Lawler Hendricks title fight, the much anticipated rematch with Hendo and Shogun as well as a few other high profile fights. There are also several very good fights that, in my opinion, haven’t been talked about enough. Sure it may be because they hold no title implication, or are on smaller shows, but a good fight is a good fight no matter what promotion or what’s at stake. Here are five fights that I think are worth your time this month.
Melvin Gullard vs. Michael Johnson – UFC Fight Night London
Plenty of people are talking about, what I think, is a squash match between Alexander Gustafsson and Jimi Manuwa, but little attention has been focused on its co-main event. Sure Guillard is 2-4-1NC in his last seven fights, but he’s an exciting fighter that is always looking for the finish. His opponent, Michael Johnson, is looking to make it three wins in-a-row after rebounding from a two fight skid. While Johnson’s style has the possibility of making any fight a 15 minute grinder, he does tend to throw in an occasional finish. Melvin on the other hand comes out fast and tries to take his opponent’s head off. The constant pressure of Guillard, plus the improved standup of Johnson is what makes this fight exciting. Winning of course wouldn’t warrant a title shot, but it would be a step in the right direction for either of these lightweights.
Hector Lombard vs. Jake Shields – UFC 171
This fight, I could easily see being the co-main event in place of Condit vs. Woodley. Shields has already beaten both men and would be riding a four fight win streak but one was overturned. Lombard is coming off an impressive knockout win over, the always durable, Yushin Okami. In terms of style match-ups, it is similar to the fight I previously mentioned. A strong grappler versus a powerful striker. The way this one differs from the other is that Lombard is no slouch on the ground and has never been finished in his 37-fight-career. Aside from his many knockouts, Lombard has had a few submissions as well. In an interview with MMA Junkie Lombard said “I think he’s been so boring and me always trying for the KO, it’s going to be exciting. He’ll make it boring, or I’m going to end up knocking him out. It’s going to be one or another.” On the other hand, Shields claims he will be the first one to finish Lombard which is a very bold statement to make and I’m excited to see if he is able to deliver. With both of these guys going for finishes there is sure to be some fireworks inside the octagon.
Leonard Garcia vs. Shane Howell- Legacy FC 29
Yes Leonard Garcia is still alive and still fighting. He’s actually doing quite well for himself. After five straight UFC losses, Garcia was released and he signed with regional promotion, Legacy FC. Since joining, he’s rattled off three straight wins with three finishes. If successful in his fourth, it would bring him the Legacy featherweight title. Standing in his way is Shane Howell who is riding a win streak of his own, six in a row with five finishes. A relatively unknown fighter that’s bounced from regional promotion to regional promotion, Howell is looking to propel himself to the next level and a win over a big name like Garcia could be just what he needs. The majority of his wins have come by submission which could present a problem for Garcia. But if it’s one thing I’ve learned from watching Garcia fight, is that there is no quit in him. Expect a great fight that could possibly be Garcia’s ticket back into the UFC.
Yushin Okami vs. Svetlozar Savov- WSOF 9
It’s been six months since Okami unfortunately had to step into the cage with Ronaldo Souza and needless to say, things didn’t quite go his way. Now with a new promotion, we get to see if the one time title challenger has anything left or if he’s destined to fade into obscurity like every other UFC castoff that signs with a smaller promotion. He faces fellow WSOF newcomer Svetlozar Savov, a Bulgarian submission ace who has a 12-4 record but hasn’t faced as tough opposition as he’ll find in Okami. The fight intrigues me because, in my opinion, Okami was cut too soon from the UFC and a few wins in a smaller pond might land him back in the big leagues (yes I’m aware I mixed my metaphors).
Brett Cooper vs. Kendall Grove- Bellator 114
This fight wouldn’t appeal to many MMA fans but I’ve been a fan of Kendall since his TUF days so I wanted to include him on my list. Kendall meets Brett Cooper in the Bellator middleweight tournament semifinals on March 28th. Grove has seen mixed success going 7-4 since his departure from the UFC back in 2011. He was able to string together consecutive wins against Derek Brunson, Joe Cronin, and Ariel Gandulla, but that was followed by a three-fight losing streak. Now he’s looking to make it three wins in a row again and being one fight closer to earning a title shot. He faces Brett Cooper a Bellator veteran who is coming off two losses, the first to Doug Marshall in the season 8 tournament finals and his most recent, a failed bid for the middleweight belt against Alexander Shlemenko. Cooper is the better striker with the ground advantage going to Grove, who I feel, is also the more well-rounded fighter. The winner will go on to the finals to face either Doug Marshall or Dan Cramer.