When the UFC’s Octagon touches down in Chicago on June 9, it will mark the first time the premier MMA promotion on the planet hosts a pay-per-view at the Windy City’s marquee venue, the United Center. UFC 225 is headlined by middleweights, but it’s the big men that will cast the largest shadow come this summer in Chicago.
Matchmakers have already done an excellent job building this event. Robert Whittaker will finally defend his middleweight title against Yoel Romero in the evening’s main event. Cláudia Gadelha and Carla Esparza go to war in what is no doubt a strawweight title eliminator. However, the recurring theme of the night will be the big men.
“I want that feeling,” said Chicago native Curtis “Razor” Blaydes in his post-fight victory speech at UFC 221. He was referring to the love Mark Hunt received all week long from the Aussie faithful. The matchmakers listened and granted Blaydes the opportunity to fight the No. 2-ranked Alistair Overeem in the Windy City. If this contest is not the night’s co-main event, then it would be a wasted opportunity. The UFC needs to capitalize on the massive following Blaydes has in the area.
“With a win, I should get a title shot,” Blaydes told Combat Press last week. “It doesn’t even need to be dominant.” It would seem, in his mind at least, this fight has huge title implications. The same does not apply in Overeem’s case, but this fight feels like it could be Blaydes’ coming-out party.
The always-exciting Rashad Coulter looks to get his hand raised in the Octagon for the first time in his short UFC career when he clashes with one of the contract recipients from last summer’s Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series, Allen Crowder. Both men are coming off losses. Crowder suffered defeat against Justin Willis in his formal UFC debut in December. Meanwhile, Coulter has gone 0-2 inside the Octagon. You can bet these guys will be fighting as if their UFC careers depended on it. They very well may.
The most recent of the UFC 225 heavyweight trifecta matches to be announced pits Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski against up-and-coming Australian slugger Tai “Bam Bam” Tuivasa. The Belarusian fighter has had yet another late-career resurgence, but one can’t help to think this is his swan song. Tuivasa, on the other hand, could prove to be exactly what many people think he is — the second coming of Mark Hunt — with another wild knockout.
UFC 225 is going to be a big deal for the fans in Chicago. After numerous UFC on Fox events, the city finally gets a pay-per-view offering. Take it from me, a lifelong Chicagoan: if there is one thing we enjoy more than eating, it’s our heavyweight fighters.