The UFC have announced a host of huge main event bouts for the remainder of the second quarter of 2021 as they look to return to normality following the COVID-19 pandemic.
After it was announced that the company would return to a full, sold-out, capacity crowd for UFC 261 on April 24th – headlined by Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal 2 for the welterweight title – they have looked to put together some mega fights and cards as we close out the first half of the year.
UFC 262 will also take place in front of a sold out arena on May 15th, with the vacant lightweight title on the line as Charles Oliveira takes on Michael Chandler in the main event. That card will also feature Leon Edwards taking on Nate Diaz in the first ever non-title five-round co-main event in UFC history, while Tony Ferguson will battle Beneil Dariush also.
Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will then meet in their much anticipated rematch for the flyweight title at UFC 263 on June 12th before the big trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor at UFC 264 on July 10th.
With the pay-per-view main events set for the foreseeable future, the UFC have now announced some of their Fight Night main events and some other notable bouts too.
After UFC 261, former light heavyweight title challenger Dominick Reyes returns to the octagon following his defeat at UFC 253 when he takes on Jiri Prochazka on May 1st in their main event bout. Prochazka made his UFC debut at UFC 251 with a stunning knockout win over Volkan Oezdemir to shoot himself into contention for the top five. This fight was originally scheduled for February but Reyes was forced to withdraw due to injury.
The bantamweight division will then see its next contender rise to the top of the rankings as Cory Sandhagen takes on returning former champion TJ Dillashaw in the main event on May 8th. Sandhagen impressively knocked out Marlon Moraes on Fight Island in October before flatlining Frankie Edgar in February and was expected to challenge for the title before the controversial finish to Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259.
These two will now battle it out for the number one contender spot, with Yan and Sterling certain to compete in a rematch later this year. Dillashaw makes his return to the octagon after serving a two-year suspension after admitting to injecting EPO ahead of his flyweight title fight with Henry Cejudo in 2019.
The following weekend will see UFC 262, before a return to the bantamweights headlining as Cody Garbrandt takes on Rob Font in a battle of heavy hands. ‘No Love’ last fought at UFC 250 with a highlight reel knockout over Raphael Assuncao, before being scheduled to move down to 125lbs for a flyweight title fight against Figueiredo. Garbrandt was forced to withdraw with injury and ‘Deus da Guerra’ instead fought Alex Perez at UFC 255.
Font on the other hand made it three wins in a row when he took out Marlon Moraes in the first round of their bout at UFC Vegas 17 in the final card of 2020. A win for him will push him into the title picture too as he currently sits at number three in the rankings.
Moving into June, at UFC 263 welterweight jiu-jitsu king Demian Maia will make his return to the octagon for the first time since being brutally knocked out by Gilbert Burns at UFC Brasilia last year – the first event to take place without fans due to the pandemic – when he takes on Belal Muhammad.
Muhammad stepped in on short notice to fight Leon Edwards last month but the fight was unfortunately cut short after an eye-poke from the Brit meant ‘Bully’ was unable to continue. He’s seemingly been rewarded for the short-notice step in though, as he’ll shoot up the rankings with a win as he takes on number eight Maia despite currently sitting at number 13.
The following Fight Night card on June 19th will be headlined by two top featherweights as the Korean Zombie returns to the cage to take on Dan ’50K’ Ige. Zombie was given a striking lesson in his last bout when he was dominated by Brian Ortega on Fight Island, while Ige bounced back from a defeat to Calvin Kattar last summer with a huge knockout win over Gavin Tucker at UFC Vegas 21 to live up to his nickname with a performance bonus.
Following on from that on June 26th, two heavyweight contenders will main event a Fight Night card as Alexander Volkov and Ciryl Gane meet in the octagon. Both giants have already picked up main event wins in 2021, with Volkov knocking out Alistair Overeem at UFC Vegas 18 before Gane dominated Jairzinho Rozenstruik to remain unbeaten at UFC Vegas 20 just a few weeks later.
With the top of the division currently at a standstill as Jon Jones and the UFC have a contract impasse and Derrick Lewis waiting on a decision to see if he will fight new champion Francis Ngannou next for the title, Volkov and Gane have chosen to stay busy and look improve their own situations in the running for a potential title shot in the future.
That fight will be backed up by a bantamweight banger between two of the most underrated fighters in the division as Raoni Barcelos takes on Timur Valiev. Barcelos returned after nearly a year away from the cage with a masterful performance against Khalid Taha at UFC Vegas 13 before seeing his next three bouts fall through for various reasons. He has won his last nine fights professionally and is 5-0 in the UFC.
Valiev earned himself a unanimous decision win over Martin Day at UFC Vegas 18, which followed a no-contest against Trevin Giles who failed a drug test following their bout at UFC Vegas 7. Valiev was knocked out in that fight but since it was overturned, he is officially unbeaten in eight bouts in a row.
Last but not least, the UFC also announced blockbuster welterweight co-main event for UFC 264 on July 10th when Gilbert Burns returns to the cage to take on Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson.
Burns was on a tear at 170lbs and fought Usman for the title at UFC 258 in February, only to suffer a third round TKO loss to his former teammate. He’ll be taking on former title challenger Thompson who has won his last two fights in a row, defeating Vicente Luque and then Geoff Neal most recently at UFC Vegas 17 in December. Both men are looking to get back into the title picture as soon as possible and with Leon Edwards hoping that a win over Nate Diaz at UFC 262 can earn him a fight against the winner of Usman vs Masvidal later this year. A win for either of these two competitors in July could see them challenge next for the title, especially if they can do it impressively.