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Sherdog’s Top 10: Can’t-Miss MMA Fights of June


Order Now! UFC 302 "Makhachev vs. Poirier" Saturday at 10 p.m. ET on ESPN+

Conor McGregor still holds the mixed martial arts world captive in many regards, even though he has not set foot inside the cage in almost three years.

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The former Ultimate Fighting Championship featherweight and lightweight titleholder will return to active competition when he toes the line against Michael Chandler in the UFC 303 headliner on June 29 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. UFC CEO Dana White indicated he expects the event to set an all-time gate record for the promotion, largely on the back of McGregor’s star power. The SBG Ireland cornerstone held the company’s 145-pound championship from Dec. 12, 2015 to Nov. 26, 2016 and its 155-pound crown from Nov. 12, 2016 to April 7, 2018. McGregor, 35, enters his latest assignment on the heels of back-to-back losses. He has not strapped on the gloves since he suffered a fight-ending leg injury in the first round of his UFC 264 trilogy bout with Dustin Poirier on July 10, 2021—some 1,000 days ago. Chandler, meanwhile, has lost three of his past four fights. The three-time Bellator MMA champion last appeared at UFC 281, where he tapped to a rear-naked choke from Poirier on Nov. 12, 2022. McGregor and Chandler coached opposite one another on Season 31 of “The Ultimate Fighter” reality series.

The McGregor-Chandler blockbuster is but one can’t-miss fight in June. Here are nine more:

Islam Makhachev vs. Dustin Poirier
UFC 302
June 1 | Newark, New Jersey

Makhachev took notes from longtime mentor Khabib Nurmagomedov and looks like he intends to establish a dominant reign of his own as undisputed lightweight champion. The 32-year-old Russian finds himself on a 13-fight winning streak, having upped his overall record to a remarkable 25-1. Makhachev last suited up in October, when he put an exclamation point on his two-fight series against Alexander Volkanovski with a head kick knockout at UFC 294. In his way stands Poirier. The American Top Team mainstay has alternated wins and losses in each of his past four outings but remains one of the promotion’s most widely revered and respected competitors. Poirier, 35, last answered the call to arms at UFC 299, where he put away Benoit St. Denis with punches in the second round of their March 9 pairing.

Philip De Fries vs. Augusto Sakai
KSW 95
June 7 | Olsztyn, Poland

Try though they might, no one has been able to budge De Fries from his perch atop the Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki mountain. The 38-year-old Englishman puts his heavyweight championship on the line when he confronts the well-traveled Sakai at Urania Hall. De Fries has retained the title on nine different occasions and steps back into the spotlight on the strength of 12 consecutive victories. He victimized Szymon Bajor in July, when he put the Polish powerhouse to sleep with a rear-naked choke in the second round of their KSW 84 clash. On the other side of the equation, Sakai makes his first appearance outside the UFC since 2018. The American Top Team-trained Brazilian has delivered 11 of his 16 career wins by knockout or technical knockout. Sakai, 33, was released by the UFC in March 2023.

Kade Ruotolo vs. Blake Cooper
ONE 167
June 7 | Bangkok, Thailand

One of the most acclaimed and accomplished submission grapplers of his generation, Ruotolo makes his long-awaited crossover to mixed martial arts under the ONE Championship banner. The 21-year-old Andre Galvao protégé was a gold medalist at the 2022 Abu Dhabi Combat Club Submission Fighting World Championships and later captured the inaugural ONE submission grappling lightweight title. Intrigue abounds once the fists start flying for the first time. Cooper, meanwhile, went 3-0 as an amateur and owns a 2-1 record as a pro. He last fought at ONE on Prime Video 14, where a first-round elbow strike and follow-up punches from Maurice Abevi spoiled his Sept. 29 organizational debut and resulted in his first defeat.

Kegan Gennrich vs. Richie Lewis
LFA 185
June 7 | Hammond, Indiana

Gennrich seeks a seventh straight victory when he puts his Legacy Fighting Alliance lightweight championship on the line for the first time. The 30-year-old trains out of the Fox Valley Grappling Club in Appleton, Wisconsin, and began his reign atop the 155-pound weight class in January, when he subdued Jacobi Jones with an arm-triangle choke in the fifth round of their LFA 174 main event. Gennrich’s degree of difficulty only figures to increase moving forward, starting with this title defense. An accomplished amateur wrestler, the undefeated Lewis was a two-time All-American at Iowa Central Community College—the same school that gave rise to Jon Jones, Cain Velasquez and Colby Covington—and a two-time NCAA qualifier at Rutgers University. The Kill Cliff Fight Club rep has raced out to a 5-0 record in his transition to professional MMA and captured the vacant Titan Fighting Championship lightweight crown in his most recent outing on July 21.

Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Sergio Pettis
Rizin Fighting Federation 47
June 9 | Tokyo

Horiguchi sets his Rizin Fighting Federation flyweight championship on the back burner to move back to 135 pounds for a shot at redemption. The American Top Team ace crashed and burned spectacularly in his first altercation with Pettis at Bellator 272 on Dec. 3, 2021, when he was felled by a fourth-round spinning backfist in a failed bid to claim the Bellator MMA bantamweight championship. Horiguchi, 33, has put together a 3-1 record with one no contest since his doomed showdown with the Roufusport star. On the opposite side of the ledger, Pettis has rattled off six victories across his past seven outings. He last suited up at Bellator 301, where he yielded to a rear-naked choke from Patrick Mix and surrendered the company’s bantamweight title in the second round of their Nov. 17 pairing. It was Pettis’ first setback in almost five years.

Impa Kasanganay vs. Jakob Nedoh
PFL 5
June 21 | Salt Lake City, Utah

Kasanganay continues his pursuit of a second straight Professional Fighters League light heavyweight championship in his second assignment of 2024. The Kill Cliff Fight Club product has won seven of his last eight fights, a contentious split decision defeat to reigning Bellator MMA middleweight Johnny Eblen his only misstep. Kasanganay rebounded from his loss to Eblen when he cut down Alex Polizzi with first-round punches at PFL 2 on April 12, as the 30-year-old UFC veteran nailed down the sixth first-round finish of his career. Now, he awaits one of the more intriguing talents spawned by the PFL Europe circuit. Nedoh, 27, saw an eight-fight winning streak grind to a halt in April, when he succumbed to punches from Dovletdzhan Yagshimuradov a little less than three minutes into their PFL regular-season opener.

Robert Whittaker vs. Khamzat Chimaev
UFC on ABC 6
June 22 | Riyadh, Saudi Arabia

The undefeated Chimaev has become one of the UFC’s most polarizing figures for a variety of reasons, from the considerable hype the promotion has thrown behind him and his inconsistent schedule to his inability to meet contracted weight requirements. None of it has had an effect on his performance inside the Octagon. Chimaev improved to 13-0 on Oct. 21, when he was awarded a majority decision over Kamaru Usman in the UFC 294 co-main event, inching ever closer to a title shot at 185 pounds. Whittaker serves as his latest obstacle. The former middleweight champion has alternated between victory and defeat in each of his past four appearances. Whittaker, 33, last competed at UFC 298 in February, when he rebounded from a technical knockout loss to Dricus Du Plessis and outstruck Paulo Costa to a unanimous decision.

Jason Jackson vs. Ramazan Kuramagomedov
Bellator Champions Series 3
June 22 | Dublin

Jackson looks anything but uneasy wearing the crown. “The Ass-Kicking Machine” risks his Bellator MMA welterweight championship for the first time when he tackles the undefeated Kuramagomedov at the 3Arena in Ireland. Jackson steps back into view with an eight-fight winning streak in tow, a knockout of Yaroslav Amosov highlighting his climb to the top of the 170-pound weight class. The 33-year-old Kill Cliff Fight Club rep has also held titles in the Titan Fighting Championship, Legacy Fighting Alliance and Victory Fighting Championship organizations. Kuramagomedov, meanwhile, leans into his most significant opportunity to date with a perfect 12-0 record. The Xtreme Couture-trained Russian has finished five of his past six opponents and last fought at Bellator 301, where he disposed of Randall Wallace with a second-round rear-naked choke on Nov. 17.

Goiti Yamauchi vs. Andrey Koreshkov
PFL 6
June 29 | Sioux Falls, South Dakota

Clash-of-styles matchmaking always works. Yamauchi puts his world-class grappling skills to the test when he toes the line against the longtime Alexander Shlemenko protégé in a compelling welterweight tilt at the Sanford Pentagon. Where the fight plays out seems likely to play in a role in the outcome. Yamauchi has secured 21 of his 29 career victories—a whopping 72% of them—by submission and has done so through a variety of means, with armbars, rear-naked chokes and triangles all in play. On the other side of the equation, Koreshkov has delivered more than half (14) of his 27 professional wins by knockout or technical knockout. The 33-year-old Russian held the Bellator welterweight title from July 17, 2015 to Nov. 10, 2016. Koreshkov’s list of victims includes Chidi Njokuani, Nah-Shon Burrell and Marius Zaromskis.
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