Robert Whittaker (Mike Sloan/Sherdog)

MMA Mecca: Chicago

Chicago is the place to be in the MMA world. Well, at least for the next few months it is.

It’s fight week for Bellator 198. You can feel the energy building as fight day draws near here in the Windy City.

Not to be outdone, the premier mixed martial arts promotion, the UFC, touches down on the shores of Lake Michigan just two short months later in June with a stacked UFC 225 card.


As it stands now, the main card for UFC 225 looks something like this:

Middleweight champion Robert Whittaker returns from his injury-laden layoff to defend his title for the first time against the always dangerous Yoel Romero. The co-headliner, originally thought to be taking place in Chile, instead lands in Chicago, where Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington will now share the Octagon. The winner of that fight will be the new interim welterweight champion. Further down the lineup, Alistair Overeem, the No. 2-ranked heavyweight in the world, looks to cement himself as the top contender. He will have to get by Chicago’s own Curtis “Razor” Blaydes first. In another heavyweight bout, veteran Andrei Arlovski tries to hold off surging prospect Tai Tuivasa.

This is where things get interesting for the UFC matchmakers and decision-makers. What direction do they go in for the first fight on the pay-per-view card?

Perhaps former champion Holly Holm’s fight with Megan Anderson? The UFC newcomer Anderson is a former featherweight champ under the Invicta banner and could be the biggest remaining threat to UFC featherweight titleholder Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino, which guarantees that the contest will draw some eyes.

Or maybe the UFC decides to book local fighter Ricardo Lamas against Mirsad Bektic as the pay-per-view curtain jerker? Lamas had been a mainstay as a featherweight contender before his surprise loss to Josh Emmett in December. Bektic was on the wrong end of an epic comeback by Darren Elkins, but he remains undefeated outside of that one contest.

If the decision were based on merit alone, there’s little doubt the fight that would be kicking off the main card is Claudia Gadelha’s scrap with former UFC and Invicta strawweight champ Carla Esparza. Gadelha remains one of the top strawweight contenders, and Esparza is in the mix as well following back-to-back wins. Unfortunately, merit is not the barometer.

The fight that will likely fit the bill and kick off the main card might be the most highly anticipated match-up of 0-1 fighters in the history of the sport. Former professional-wrestler-turned-mixed-martial-artist Phil “CM Punk” Brooks will make his second walk to the Octagon on June 9 to take on Mike “The Truth” Jackson. Both Punk and Jackson dropped their UFC debuts to talented grappler Mickey Gall.

As it stands now, there are 13 fights slated for UFC 225. Fight cards always take hits as they draw closer, but let’s keep our fingers crossed ever so tightly in hopes of minimal changes this time around.

Regardless of what fights do make the pay-per-view main card, UFC 225 looks to be one of the best offerings the promotion has dished up in some time.