Ranking the Remaining 2014 UFC Title Fights
Even without pay-per-view princes Anderson Silva or Georges St-Pierre, the greatest MMA promotion on the face of the planet found a way to give its fans several memorable title bouts through the first half of 2014.
Whether it was TJ Dillashaw’s dismantling of reigning bantamweight champion Renan Barao at UFC 173, the back-and-forth battle between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler for the vacant welterweight strap at UFC 171 or Demetrious Johnson’s dominant, but routinely underappreciated, performance against Ali Bagautinov at UFC 174, the UFC has put on its fair share of jaw-dropping moments.
With six months left in the calendar year, Dana White and friends are looking to expand upon their already relatively successful year without either of the promotion’s biggest pay-per-view draws.
All of these fights garner the world’s attention, but only some of them will likely quench the thirst they’ve created within the MMA community.
Read on to see how the remaining 2014 UFC title fights stack up against one another.
6. Cain Velasquez vs. Fabricio Werdum
What: Heavyweight Championship
When: UFC 180 (Nov. 15, 2014)
Where: Arena Ciudad de Mexico (Mexico City)
Headed south of the border for the first time in UFC history, Velasquez is set to take on the ever-resurgent Fabricio Werdum, who has capped off four straight victories after returning to the UFC two years ago.
Few people actually believed Werdum would square off against Velasquez when the Brazilian was first paired off with Travis Browne back in April. After five one-sided rounds, the world needed convincing no more—Werdum was, at the very least, ready for a shot at the champ.
Neither fighter has ever looked better than he did in his last outing. But with Velasquez being the tireless machine that he is, there’s also little reason to believe Werdum has what it takes to remove the champion from his throne.
5. Ronda Rousey vs. Alexis Davis
What: Women’s Bantamweight Championship
When: UFC 175 (July 5, 2014)
Where: Mandalay Bay Center (Las Vegas)
We all tuned into Ronda Rousey’s first fight in the UFC because it was a spectacle. We tuned in the second time to watch the culmination of The Ultimate Fighter season’s worth of bad blood in her rematch against Miesha Tate. The third time around was also exciting, because it was the first time Rousey’s Olympic accolades could be matched when Sara McMann met her inside the Octagon.
Now, just 16 months after her Octagon debut, Rousey is training for Alexis Davis—a jiu-jitsu black belt who could potentially counter the champion’s favorite finishing move.
Riding a five-fight win streak that dates back to 2012, Davis only stands behind Cat Zingano in the UFC’s rankings.
With seven wins and zero losses via submission, Davis has a chance to hold her own against Rousey on the ground. But after Rousey captured a TKO victory just 66 seconds into her last fight, there’s reason for Davis to be wary of the champion’s improving stand-up skills as well.
4. Anthony Pettis vs. Gilbert Melendez
What: Lightweight Championship
When: UFC 182 (Dec. 27, 2014)
Where: TBA (Las Vegas)
For the second time in his UFC career, Gilbert Melendez will enter the Octagon with the intention of leaving with the lightweight title. Emblematic of a majority of former champion Benson Henderson’s tenure in the UFC, the winner was announced in controversial fashion the first time around.
In all likelihood, Anthony Pettis’ dynamic striking abilities coupled with Melendez’s fearlessness will make for an unquestionable champion after UFC 182.
Though Pettis may not have any sort of controversy with his opponent right now, Melendez's training partners will be sure to ignite any currently nonexistent flames leading up to the fight.
If for nothing else, fans should tune in to see what acrobatic strike “Showtime” will throw next.
3. Jose Aldo vs. Chad Mendes II
What: Featherweight Championship
When: UFC 176 (Aug. 2, 2014)
Where: Staples Center (Los Angeles)
Go ahead and thank TJ Dillashaw for amplifying your anticipation for this fight.
Already considered one of the better title fights on the table for 2014, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes are both out to prove more than who the better fighter is: Aldo wants to avenge his fallen teammate, while Mendes is seeking to reallocate another UFC strap from Nova Uniao to Team Alpha Male.
We have never teased them, not even to promote the fights. We have always showed nothing but respect before and mostly after the fights. How many of their fighters have lost to one of our fighters? They did it for free in their first big win against us. Renan does not only not need their Muay Thai class, he can teach it to them.
Aldo also told Radio Globo that Mendes would be the one to pay for his team’s inappropriate joke.
2. Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida
What: Middleweight Championship
When: UFC 175 (July 5, 2014)
Where: Mandalay Bay Events Center (Las Vegas)
Both of these men have a close relationship with former middleweight champion and pound-for-pound king Anderson Silva.
Though he may not want to admit it, those decisive but controversial victories against Silva have many wondering if Weidman in fact won those fights and wasn’t just rewarded with the victory. A fluke knockout and a checked leg kick should hardly have UFC fans clamoring for Weidman’s position amongst Jon Jones and Jose Aldo as one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world.
A victory against a better-than-ever Machida just might do the trick, though.
Machida said he isn’t looking to avenge his former training partner as motivation for this title fight. Regaining the glory he once had at 205 pounds should be more than enough reason for him to want to get past Weidman at UFC 175.
1. Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson II
What: Light Heavyweight Championship
When: UFC 178 (Sept. 27, 2014)
Where: Air Canada Centre (Toronto)
At just 26 years of age, Jon Jones has already cemented himself as one of the best fighters to ever roam the planet and at the very least has placed himself in the "most dominant champion in MMA history" conversation.
His MMA wrestling, along with his pterodactyl-like reach, gave all of his opponents fits—except for Alexander Gustafsson.
Many were quick to criticize the UFC for placing Gustafsson inside the Octagon with Jones back at UFC 165 last September. Their criticism went unwarranted, though, as the first matchup is now widely considered the greatest light heavyweight title fight in the promotion’s history.
The once-invincible champion was no longer so, and fans could not wait to see the two meet inside the Octagon again.
Nine months, two fights and an almost endless amount of disagreement later, one of the most anticipated rematches in MMA history has been booked.
Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University's student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.