Spring is an especially busy time for MMA, with six championship belts from the UFC and Strikeforce on the line in the next three months. With so many fights on the docket, which ones stand out? These are the fights that will keep you warm until the summer solstice.
Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley — Gilbert Melendez vs. Tatsuya Kawajiri: In his first fight in the U.S., Kawajiri will get a chance to avenge a 2006 loss to Melendez while also showing off his bruising style. Melendez spoiled the American debut of one Japanese fighter in Shinya Aoki. Can he do it again with Kawajiri and hold onto his Strikeforce lightweight belt?
Bellator 41 — Patricio Freire vs. Wilson Reis: Last year, Freire won his bout over Reis in a decision. Freire earned his berth in the semifinal with a third-round destruction of Georgi Karakhanyan, while Reis got his second chance at Freire with a quick rear naked choke of Zac George. Can Freire follow in his brother’s footsteps and create another Bellator highlight?
UFC 129 — Jose Aldo vs. Mark Hominick: The hype for this event has been focused on Georges St. Pierre’s title bout with Jake Shields, including the best commercial that the UFC has ever produced for a bout. That doesn’t mean it’s the best fight on the card, because a case could be made for the featherweight championship bout between Aldo, the champ and force of destruction, and Hominick, the hometown favorite who is on a five-fight winning streak.
UFC 130 — Brad Pickett vs. Miguel Torres: Since moving up to Montreal’s Tri-Star training camp, Torres has become a more disciplined, but still dangerous fighter. It will be fun to watch what kind of strategy he comes up with for the always-exciting Pickett. Bonus: the fight is on Spike, so you just have to pay your cable bill to catch it.
The Ultimate Fighter 13 Finale — Clay Guida vs. Anthony Pettis: Does anything even need to be written about why this fight will be fun? Pettis, the WEC lightweight champ, will be fighting with a chip on his shoulder after being denied a title shot by the Gray Maynard/Frankie Edgar draw. Guida is eager to stop the Pettis hype train. The two have earned a combined eight fight night bonuses for Fights, Knockouts and Submissions of the Night. This all adds up to this being an amazing bout. Oh, and it’s on Spike, so again, pay your cable bill.
UFC 131 — Brock Lesnar vs. Junior dos Santos: After the loss to Cain Velasquez, Lesnar has a huge question hanging over his head. Can he take a punch? He’ll have a chance to show if he’s grown as a fighter since UFC 123, and his test will be one of the hardest hitters in the UFC. Even without the build-up from "The Ultimate Fighter," this fight was a must-watch.
Strikeforce in Dallas — Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum: Just days before the solstice, two of the world’s best heavyweights will square off in Dallas. Can Werdum recreate his upset magic and submit Overeem like he did Fedor Emelianenko? Or will Overeem throw Werdum around the cage like he did to Brett Rogers in Overeem’s last Strikeforce bout?