August 2015 might as well be known as "Ladies Month" in the UFC. The promotion's pay-per-view event for the month is headlined by one of the sport's top stars, women's bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey.
But it goes beyond the "Rowdy" one. Four of the month's top 10 most important UFC bouts are in the two women's divisions, bantamweight and strawweight. If you've yet to be converted as a fan of women's MMA, now's as good a time as any to keep an open mind.
Here's a look at the most important UFC contests scheduled this month, as well as a few standouts from the rest of the MMA world. All rankings in parentheses come from my personal rankings, which are available to view in full at www.ufc.com/rankings.
Aug. 1: UFC 190
Women's Bantamweight Title: Ronda Rousey (C, 3 pound-for-pound) vs. Bethe Correia (5)
Women's Strawweight: Jessica Aguilar (1) vs. Claudia Gadelha (3)
Light Heavyweight: Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (8) vs. Mauricio "Shogun" Rua (11)
Welterweight: Demian Maia (6) vs. Neil Magny
Rousey has first-round victories over each of the top-four women's contenders, and she seems likely to make it five with a win over Correia in the challenger's native Brazil. Anything other than a squash would be surprising.
At 115 pounds, Gadelha welcomes Aguilar to the octagon. Many considered the newcomer to be the top strawweight in the world before UFC champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk won the belt. She's on a 10-fight winning streak and will be pushed by the ground specialist, but Aguilar should win and secure a title shot.
Although Minotouro and Shogun are well past their Pride-days prime, they remain fringe top-10 205ers in a depleted division. Perhaps they will turn back the clock and entertain for old time's' sake. Either way, look for Shogun to see his hand raised.
Before the pay-per-view portion begins, Maia will look to stay relevant while providing Magny a chance to prove his seven-fight win streak wasn't the result of lesser competition. Figure on Maia taking advantage of a Magny mistake or two and scoring a vintage submission victory.
This is one of the deeper cards you'll see in terms of high-to-midlevel talent, so be sure not to skip the prelims.
Aug. 8: UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Saint Preux
Light Heavyweight: Ovince Saint Preux (4) vs. Glover Teixeira (5)
Women's Bantamweight: Sara McMann (4) vs. Amanda Nunes (9)
Lightweight: Michael Johnson (7) vs. Beneil Dariush (11)
Teixeira's name headlines this event, but Saint Preux is the reason this fight is so important. Teixeira likely is on the cusp of his athletic decline whereas Saint Preux, a Knoxville, Tennessee native fighting in Nashville this month, has finally added some impressive wins to match his impressive athleticism. Another this month could vault should put him in the title picture. Look for him to get it done via TKO.
Another fight with one-way title implications. Like Teixeira, McMann already lost a title fight last year. For those interested in seeing a fresh face challenge Rousey soon, root for the aggressive Nunes to overcome McMann's Olympic-level wrestling. Just don't bank on it.
Again, this is a title-picture fight, although the winner may need another solid win to earn a crack at the title. Both are on four-fight win streaks with impressive wins, although Johnson's recent victory over Edson Barboza carries more weight. Dariush wins on the ground; Johnson wins on the feet. For my two cents, Johnson will take this one but will have to work for it.
Aug. 23: UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Oliveira
Featherweight: Max Holloway (5) vs. Charles Oliveira (8)
Welterweight: Erick Silva (14) vs. Rick Story (15)
Women's Strawweight: Maryna Moroz (8) vs. Valerie Letourneau
Two of the 145-pound division's most promising young stars should put on one heck of a main event, for however long it lasts. Holloway possesses perhaps the division's best boxing -- that's saying something when Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor are in that group. Oliveira began as a ground specialist but has developed into a potent kickboxer. Look for Holloway to find a path to victory, but an Oliveira win would be no surprise whatsoever.
Silva and Story are past the point of being prospects, but there's a feeling that either could break through into the top five over the next 12 months. That journey begins in Saskatchewan against one another. Silva should have a slight edge in the striking department that will sway the battle.
Moroz came out of nowhere when she submitted Joanne Calderwood in a stunner earlier this year. She'll need to prove she's worthy of her leap into the top-10 against Canadian Letourneau, whose only losses are to elite bantamweights and strawweights. Look for Moroz to get the job done.
Outside the octagon...
Aug. 1: World Series of Fighting 22
Welterweight Title: Rousimar Palhares (C) vs. Jake Shields
Bantamweight Title: Marlon Moraes (C) vs. Sheymon Moraes
If these were the top two fights on a UFC Fight Night card, there wouldn't be much to complain about -- as long as they weren't title bouts. For those looking for a free alternative to UFC 190, catch WSOF 22 on NBCSN.
Shields' fights aren't always stimulating, but he's a bona fide top-five welterweight who never should have been cut by the UFC if talent was the only factor. Same can be said of Palhares, to a lesser extent. He's likely top 10 in the world at 170, but his propensity to hold leg locks for too long rightfully had him banished from the octagon. Palhares won't have such an easy time submitting Shields, who should win a decision while tiring out the thick Brazilian.
In what is sure to be confusing for the WSOF announce team, the champion Moraes will defend his title against the challenger Moraes. The champ hasn't lost in four years and would make an excellent addition to the UFC's bantamweight title picture. He'll extend his winning streak to 10 with a win over the less-experienced challenger.