Some of the best fights in mixed martial arts history have taken place during the month of June: Randy Couture upset Chuck Liddell to win the Ultimate Fighting Championship light heavyweight title in 2003, Anderson Silva made his UFC debut against Chris Leben in 2006, and, most recently, Diego Sanchez engaged Clay Guida in a three-round thriller in 2009.
There are plenty of major sporting events vying for the buying public’s attention nowadays. In this monthly series, we take readers around the globe in an effort to broaden their MMA horizons, showcasing the best fights and fighters that might not get much attention otherwise. The latest installment features the return of former Pride Fighting Championships heavyweight titleholder Fedor Emelianenko, who will carry a two-fight winning streak into his 2012 debut.
As always, the list does not focus on the well-promoted main event bouts from major organizations you already know to watch, but rather on fights from all over the planet that are worth seeing. The UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator Fighting Championships cards are excluded by design.
Fedor Emelianenko vs. Pedro Rizzo
M-1 Global “Fedor vs. Rizzo” | June 21 -- St. Petersburg, Russia
There is no denying that Emelianenko and Rizzo are past their sporting primes. Rizzo has become something of a question mark, as has not fought for nearly two years. However, the fact that this could be Emelianenko’s last fight makes it far more intriguing. Will this be the last time we see the greatest heavyweight of all-time or was it just a smart marketing ploy from M-1 Global?
Rene Nazare vs. George Sheppard
UCC 5 “Unleashed” | June 8 -- Teaneck, N.J.
The co-headliner of Universal Combat Championship’s latest effort promises violence. Struggling for the vacant lightweight title in a five-round fight will be Bellator veteran Nazare and M-1 Selection Americas finalist Sheppard. Nazare is a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with notable wins over Luiz Azeredo and Juan Barrantes, while Sheppard is a lethal striker with six first-round knockouts on his record. Both men already have experience going five rounds, so this should be a barnburner.
Gregor Herb vs. Mike Wiatko
SFC Tournament 2012 Part III | June 2 -- Mainz, Germany
Germany’s Herb appeared headed for a UFC berth in late 2009. Injuries and the workload of being a school teacher and father of two, all while running his own gym and preparing for fights, have held back the submission specialist in recent years. Busy domestic promotion Superior Fighting Championship has now matched Germany’s top middleweight with Wiatko, Belgium’s premier 185-pounder. The brawny 26-year-old is an aggressive striker who has never gone the distance in 10 career fights.
Abner Lloveras vs. Ryan Quinn
CES MMA “Proving Grounds” | June 15 -- Lincoln, R.I.
Another former M-1 title contender, Lloveras will do work in what will already be Classic Entertainment and Sport’s third event this year. The two-time Spanish boxing champion will face a tough opponent in Bellator veteran Quinn. The 25-year-old American Top Team prospect raised a few eyebrows when he handed highly regarded Brazilian Dhiego Lima his first loss in 2010 and most recently won a unanimous decision over “The Ultimate Fighter 11” alum Marc Stevens. It will be a classic battle between striker and grappler.
Satoru Kitaoka vs. Katsunori Kikuno
Deep 58 Impact | June 15 -- Tokyo
Things did not exactly go as planned when Kitaoka fought his former teammate and friend Shinya Aoki on New Year’s Eve. “Tobikan Judan” issued a five-round beating and made Kitaoka gurgle his own blood. Half a year later, the stocky grappler is back in the ring facing former Deep lightweight champion Kikuno. The 30-year-old karateka had a significantly more pleasant NYE, as he knocked out cosplayer-turned-kickboxer Yuichiro Nagashima in a special rules bout.
Alexandre Moreno vs. Trevor Smith
BXC “The Rise” | June 16 -- Springfield, Mass.
It is going to be a busy month for Team Link. Abner Lloveras fights June 15, and Ricardo Funch takes perhaps his final shot in the Octagon a week later. Sandwiched in between, Moreno will compete on the stacked inaugural Battle Xtreme Championship show being streamed live on Sherdog.com.
The 29-year-old Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt will take on All-American wrestler Smith, a three-time Strikeforce veteran who is dropping to 205 pounds. With 18 submission wins between them, this promises to be a chess match on the mat.
Renato “Babalu” Sobral vs. Tatsuya Mizuno
One FC 4 “Destiny of Warriors” | June 23 -- Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
Originally announced for a One Fighting Championship 3 matchup with Melvin Manhoef, former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion Sobral will finally make his promotional debut and in-cage comeback after 18 months away from active competition. His opponent will be Mizuno. One of the better Japanese big men, he holds a first-round submission win over Manhoef. Mizuno, a third degree black belt in judo, has worked diligently on his striking and looked much improved on his feet in recent outings.
Marcus Aurelio vs. Lyle Beerbohm
ShoFight 20 | June 16 -- Springfield, Mo.
Aurelio, who was at his peak between 2004 and 2006 in Japan, is still going strong after more than 10 years in the game. As part of the deep ShoFight 20 card, the Takanori Gomi killer will take on former Strikeforce lightweight contender Beerbohm. “Fancy Pants” has bounced back from his lone career losses to Pat Healy and Aoki with back-to-back first-round submissions.
Rosi Sexton vs. Aisling Daly
CWFC 47 | June 2 -- Dublin, Ireland
Sexton, the “Iron Lady” of the MMA scene in the United Kingdom, will not surrender her place to Daly, a woman 10 years her junior, without a fight. Adding difficulty for the 34-year-old osteopath will be the fact that the Cage Warriors Fighting Championship women’s 125-pound tournament semifinal will take place in Daly’s backyard. Daly will enter the cage on the strength of three straight submission victories. The winner will have the dubious pleasure of facing German slugger Sheila Gaff for the title this summer.
Jorge Santiago vs. Jay Silva
TFC 23 “Fight for the Troops” | June 15 -- Fort Riley, Kan.
Two UFC-experienced Brazilians will headline Titan Fighting Championship’s card from the Fort Riley army post. Santiago had a positive experience fighting for the promotion previously, having knocked out countryman Leonardo Pecanha at TFC 21 in March. Silva was not as fortunate, as he dropped a hard-fought decision to Polish grappler Michal Materla last month. In the Materla fight, the 31-year-old Reign MMA fighter showed a glaring weakness on the ground. Santiago’s camp will certainly have taken note.
Follow Tim Leidecker on Twitter at @TimLeidecker or contact him at www.facebook.com/Rossonero1.