My goodness, UFC 198 is stacked.
The showcase pay-per-view event of the month features eight bouts with ranked fighters, including the top heavyweight and women’s featherweight on the planet and three of the top five middleweight contenders.
That event, along with the two UFC Fight Night cards this month, combine for an interesting rarity: The No. 2 ranked contender — from my set of rankings — in five of the UFC’s eight men’s weight classes will compete in May.
Read on for more major May bouts, and there are a ton of them both in and out of the octagon. All rankings in parentheses come from my personal rankings, which are available to view in full at www.ufc.com/rankings.
May 8: UFC Fight Night: Overeem vs. Arlovski (Rotterdam, Netherlands)
- Heavyweight: Alistair Overeem (2) vs. Andrei Arlovski (6)
- Flyweight: Kyoji Horiguchi (2) vs. Neil Seery
- Heavyweight: Stefan Struve (13) vs. Antonio Silva (14)
The hulking Dutchman Overeem was a perfect choice for the UFC’s first show in his homeland. And he’s lined up to secure another knockout victory over the former heavyweight champion and set up a championship bout soon.
Horiguchi has one of the most impressive UFC records in the flyweight division (5-1), with his lone loss coming to champion Demetrious Johnson. His competition has been somewhat lackluster, but Seery isn’t the type of foe to slow him down. The 25-year-old Japanese standout will run away with a decision.
Struve, the other Dutch big man on the card, has a stiff challenge in front of him. At nearly 7-feet, Struve often is susceptible to power punchers like Bigfoot. This could go either way, but look for Silva to get back on track and KO the tallest fighter on the roster.
May 14: UFC 198 (Curitiba, Brazil)
- Heavyweight title: Fabricio Werdum (C, 4 pound-for-pound) vs. Stipe Miocic (4)
- Women’s 140-pound catchweight: Cris Justino vs. Leslie Smith (10 WBW)
- Middleweight: Vitor Belfort (2) vs. Ronaldo Souza (3)
- Welterweight: Demian Maia (2) vs. Matt Brown (10)
- Middleweight: Anderson Silva (5) vs. Uriah Hall (10)
- Light heavyweight: Mauricio Rua (7) vs. Corey Anderson (13)
- Light heavyweight: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (8) vs. Patrick Cummins (11)
- Middleweight: Nate Marquardt (15) vs. Thiago Santos
Werdum finally makes his first defense of the heavyweight crown he won from Cain Velasquez last June. While the champ’s kickboxing has greatly improved, he wisest strategy is get the fight to the floor and work his world-class grappling. Miocic is a live underdog, but this should go Werdum’s way.
At long last, Cyborg will showcase her skills in the octagon. The top women’s featherweight in the world is a wrecking ball who should walk through the tough Smith, as long as the weight cut to 140 isn’t too stressful. Fingers crossed Cyborg decides she can make the drop to 135 eventually if this weight cut goes well.
At middleweight, the Belfort-Souza matchup should produce a viable title challenger for later this year. While Souza lost a close decision to currently-suspended Yoel Romero in his last outing, he should be well-rounded enough to hold his own in the striking department while scoring points in grappling exchanges to win a decision.
Speaking of future title challengers, Maia’s resume makes him worthy of the honor, and he’ll be even more so when he submits Brown. That’s not to rule out Brown entirely, but his greatest weakness (grappling) is Maia’s strength.
This event is so stacked, former middleweight kingpin Silva isn’t even among the five highest-ranked fighters on the card. The 41-year-old had moments of greatness in his recent loss to Michael Bisping, and a more focused Spider should be able to beat the inconsistent Hall. But Hall will have the edge in speed, and while Silva should find a way to KO the younger man, there’s no discounting Hall, either.
A pair of 205-pound contests with aging former Pride stars may not be as explosive. Rua concedes a vital wrestling edge to Anderson, who should grind out a decision. Ditto for Nogueira, although Cummins may find a way to pound out Little Nog.
Rounding out the ranked fighters on the card — and there are a ton of ’em — is the aging Marquardt, who may be ranked for the last time if Santos prevails. Bank on that, with the Brazilian scoring a TKO inside the first 10 minutes.
May 29: UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs. Garbrandt (Las Vegas)
- Bantamweight: Thomas Almeida (10) vs. Cody Galbrandt
- Featherweight: Renan Barao (2 BW) vs. Jeremy Stephens (8)
- Bantamweight: Aljamain Sterling (5) vs. Bryan Caraway (8)
- Women’s bantamweight: Sara McMann (5) vs. Jessica Eye (8)
- Welterweight: Tarec Saffiedine (14) vs. Rick Story
Curious choice for a main event. Both are exciting young prospects, and this should be an excellent bout, but neither is a household name. The unbeaten Almeida should be favored here, but Garbrandt’s striking is to be feared. It’s a real coin toss, but I like Garbrandt in the upset.
Barao’s return to 145 pounds really ought to be the main event. The former bantamweight champ has an excellent matchup here against the brawling Stephens. He’ll take advantage of a distinct edge on the ground and force a tapout.
Another strange choice was relegating Sterling-Caraway to Fight Pass. Both are ranked higher than either main-event fighter. Perhaps it’s because this one has a decent chance to be a bit of a slog. Nonetheless, Sterling is younger and better than Caraway and figures to keep his record unblemished with a decision victory.
The major women’s bout of the event is a must-win for both. Each is 1-3 in her last four, and another loss might lead to a pink slip. McMann’s wrestling should be enough to grind out a decision, but the former Olympian hasn’t even impressed in that department of late. Look for Eye to put together enough damage on the feet to get the judges’ nod.
Story hasn’t competed in a year-and-a-half, so a little rust is to be expected against Saffiedine. Story is a tough out, but superior striking should win the day for Saffiedine as he wins on points.
Outside the octagon...
May 7: Invicta FC 17 (Costa Mesa, California)
- Women’s bantamweight title: Tonya Evinger (C) vs. Colleen Schneider
- Women’s strawweight title: Livia Renata Souza (C) vs. Angela Hill
After Evinger picks up another impressive victory, the UFC should not hesitate to add her to their roster. She is, by far, the best women’s bantamweight outside the octagon, and she’ll prove it again with a finish of the overmatched Schneider.
This is Souza’s chance to certify herself as a UFC-caliber strawweight. Meanwhile, Hill seems likely to return to the UFC one day after building up her resume. This will be a good start, and she figures to finish Souza with her impressive striking arsenal.
May 14: Bellator 154 (San Jose)
- Light heavyweight: Phil Davis vs. Muhammed Lawal
- Lightweight: Michael Chandler vs. Josh Thomson
Davis, a bona fide top five light heavyweight, often struggles against fighters with equal or better wrestling chops. Lawal matches that description, and he’s got some serious power. Look for King Mo to land a power right hand and finish Davis for the biggest win of his career.
Both Chandler and Thomson are top 15 lightweights, but Thomson is essentially a gatekeeper at this point. He’s a tough out, but Chandler should be superior in most areas and will pick up a clear decision win.
May 20: Bellator 155 (Boise, Idaho)
- Women’s featherweight title: Marloes Coenen vs. Julia Budd
- Featherweight: Pat Curran vs. Georgi Karakhanyan
Although relegated to the prelims, the bout for the vacant women’s 145-pound crown will decide the next-best featherweight after Cyborg. Experience favors Coenen, and she’s a smart bet to snap Budd’s six-fight win streak with a decision win.
Pat Curran has fallen off from his Bellator championship reign, but he remains a top 20 featherweight. That will change if Karakhanyan gets it done. Look for him to do just that by swaying the judges and handing Curran his fourth loss in his last six.
May 21: Venator FC 3 (Milan, Italy)
- Welterweight title: Rousimar Palhares vs. Emil Weber Meek
It’s not a sure thing this bout happens, as Palahres is suspended but under contract with World Series of Fighting. The disgraced former champion notorious for holding submission for too long will likely earn a quick submission if he does compete. Hopefully for Meek, Palhares lets it go when the referee says to stop.
May 27: KSW 35 (Gdansk/Sopot, Poland)
- Middleweight title: Mamed Khalidov (C) vs. Aziz Karaoglu
The best middleweight yet to compete in the UFC returns to action against the surging Karaoglu. Expect Khalidov to walk through his foe with a first-round finish — he has nine during his current 11-fight win streak.