10 June Tussles Worth Watching

By Tim Leidecker Jun 3, 2009
Early summer often holds the least amount of consequential mixed martial arts action, which seems perfectly understandable. Be honest. Most of you would rather hang out on the beach than spend an afternoon and evening in an arena, a bar or in front of a television set. Therein lies the reason many big promotions are on a summer break.

There will be no Affliction, Dream or Sengoku shows this month. The only organizations keeping the flag flying are traditional busy bee UFC, its main rival in the North American market, Strikeforce, and feeder shows like M-1, Pancrase and Deep.

Sherdog.com has compiled a rundown of 10 must-see MMA tussles for June.

As always, this list does not focus on the major bouts you already know to watch but rather on fights from all over the planet that are worth seeing.

10. Bobby Lashley vs. Bob Sapp
Fight Force International “Ultimate Chaos,” June 27 -- Biloxi, Miss.

FFI’s end-of-the-month effort, “Ultimate Chaos,” received plenty of press due to the inclusion of Affliction frontman Tom Atencio and a UFC vs. Pride duel between Pedro Rizzo and Gilbert Yvel. On top of those, the Mississippi Coast Coliseum event will be headlined by a true larger-than-life bout. In the “Battle of the Bobbys” former World Wrestling Entertainment star Bobby Lashley will take on Japanese cult hero Bob Sapp. With 600 pounds of combined muscle between the two heavyweights, workers setting up the cage might want to reinforce its walls.

9. Renato Migliaccio vs. Niko Puhakka
M-1 Challenge 16, June 6 -- Kansas City, Mo.

The undercover main event on the fifth stop of the M-1 Challenge tour -- which returns to Kansas City for the second time in eight months -- is the clash between Ryan Gracie black belt Renato Migliaccio and Finnish iron head Niko Puhakka. Migliaccio, a Brazilian qualifier for the Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Wrestling World Championships in 2007, has moved Brazilian jiu-jitsu, grappling and wrestling competitions to the end of the queue in order to concentrate on his promising MMA career. In Puhakka, he will face perhaps his toughest test to date.

8. Luigi Fioravanti vs. Fabricio Nascimento
XC-1, June 18 -- Rome, Italy

In the first MMA event held inside a cage on Italian soil, promoter XC-1 secured the support of American Top Team with UFC veteran Alessio Sakara’s help. As a result, ATT middleweight prospect Rich Attonito will compete in a four-man middleweight tournament, which also features Michele Verginelli, Igor Araujo and Gregory Babene. Meanwhile, UFC veteran Luigi Fioravanti takes on Novo Uniao black belt Fabricio Nascimento. Despite suffering through a rough 2008, the Italy-based Brazilian can threaten anyone at 170 pounds with his slick ground game.

7. Joey Villasenor vs. Evangelista Santos
ShoMMA: Strikeforce Challenger Series 2, June 19 -- Kent, Wash.

In an encounter that makes all hardcore fans drool, former King of the Cage middleweight champion Joey Villasenor and Chute Boxe Academy brawler Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos will go toe-to-toe. Because of losses to Robbie Lawler and Murilo “Ninja” Rua, Villasenor remains one of the few fighters spawned by Greg Jackson’s camp to not shoot through the roof. Still the 33-year-old possesses a solid all-round game. Will it be enough to survive the onslaught by the ultra-aggressive and wild-swinging Brazilian bad boy?

6. Michal Materla vs. Lincoln Rodriguez
Pro Fight 4, June 6 -- Szczecin, Poland

For the past 18 months, talk surrounding Polish superstar Michal Materla had grown quiet. In February, the 2007 Abu Dhabi European qualifier made his long-awaited comeback for the fledgling Pro Fight promotion. The Polish organization made the ferocious grappler its centerpiece and booked its second event of the year in Materla’s hometown. Materla’s opponent will be will Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Lincoln Rodriguez, who recently turned heads by reaching the semi-finals of the Ultimate Cage Fighters Championship open-weight tournament.

Jeff Sherwood/Sherdog.com

Clay Guida vs. Diego
Sanchez will be a war.
5. Diego Sanchez vs. Clay Guida
“The Ultimate Fighter 9” Finale, June 20 -- Las Vegas

There are no easy fights near the top of the mountain. Sanchez, winner of the first season of “The “Ultimate Fighter,” has experienced that truth firsthand. Since beating Kenny Florian in the middleweight final four years ago, “Nightmare” has dropped down in weight and fought almost exclusively against the top names in the game. On June 20, he takes on “TUF Killer” Clay Guida. Even though “The Carpenter” has a mixed UFC record of 5-3, he was responsible for the first UFC losses of TUF 6 winner Mac Danzig and season five winner Nate Diaz.

4. Miku Matsumoto vs. Lisa Ward
Deep “Toyama Impact,” June 28 -- Toyama, Japan

Miku Matsumoto, arguably one of the top five females competing in MMA, will look to defend her Deep 110-pound strap against Lisa Ward, the last woman to stop the diminutive “Supernova.” If the Club Barbarian fighter -- who has lost just once in 16 outings inside the Deep promotion -- has a weakness, it’s submission defense. That’s the strength of Ward, a two-time FILA world champion. Can she snatch the belt from Matsumoto and snap her 10-fight winning streak in the process?

3. Phil Baroni vs. Joe Riggs
Strikeforce “Lawler vs. Shields,” June 6 -- St. Louis

There’s much to like about Strikeforce’s first foray into the Midwest: two catchweight main events, the heavyweight slobber knocker between Andrei Arlovski and Brett Rogers, Rafael Cavalcante vs. Mike Kyle and the return of Kevin Randleman. Still, there’s nothing like a good old grudge match, as Lawler and Shields will seek to add a new chapter to the time-honored tradition of striker-versus-grappler.

2. Dan Hardy vs. Marcus Davis
UFC 99 “The Comeback,” June 13 -- Cologne, Germany

Can he take that last step? Can he pass one final test to be universally recognized as a world-ranked fighter? Dan Hardy may answer “Yes,” as “The Outlaw” and his camp have worked incredibly hard and are just one win away from entering the upper echelon of the welterweight division. Still, Marcus Davis poses a serious threat to the Nottingham, England, native. Hardy’s key to victory revolves around whether or not he possesses the all-around skills needed to neutralize Davis’ polished boxing ability.

1. Jose Aldo vs. Cub Swanson
WEC 41 “Brown vs. Faber 2,” June 7 -- Sacramento, Calif.

Few fighters symbolize the evolution of MMA better than Jose Aldo. Although the 22-year-old is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, he’s ripped his opponents to shreds with crisp stand-up and big knockout power. Since joining the WEC one year ago, he has knocked out all four of his foes, including longtime Shooto king Alexandre Franca Nogueira and the durable Jonathan Brookins. The Erik Paulson-trained Cub Swanson -- who holds notable wins over Shannon Gugerty and Hiroyuki Takaya -- will try to end the Nova Uniao prospect’s frightening run in the featherweight division.
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