On November 9, 1993, inside McNichols Sports Arena in Denver, Colorado, eight men climbed into the octagon for the first time to battle each other in a one-on-one, bare-knuckle, no-holds-barred tournament. On the line was a purse of $50,000 and the chance to be the first ever to hold the title of The Ultimate Fighting Champion. At the end of the night, to the shock of most of the crowd, an unassuming warrior stood victorious. 185lb. Brazilian Jui-Jitsu master, Royce Gracie, conquered three opponents from various fighting disciplines to win the purse and the title of Ultimate Fighting Champion.
Greatest UFC Fight Week in UFC History?
The Immortal Jim Brown, a commentator that night, summed up perfectly what everyone was thinking: “What we’ve learned tonight is fighting is not what we thought it was.” None could have predicted the outcome of that night, nor the phenomenon it would launch. This UFC Fight Week, fans will witness the culmination of over two decades of the sport’s evolution. 36 bouts, five title fights, three consecutive nights of carnage that have the potential to be the greatest week the UFC has ever seen.
UFC Fight Night 90 – Rafael DosAnjos vs. Eddie Alvarez
It will kick off Thursday, July 7, with UFC Fight Night 90 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. The main event features a Lightweight title bout between Champion Rafael Dos Anjos (24-7) and challenger and MMA veteran Eddie Alvarez (27-4). Although DosAnjos is a better than 3:1 favorite, fans may see a more competitive fight than those odds would indicate. Both have very respectable striking outputs, takedowns, and takedown defense. Neither fighter has been knocked out in almost a decade.
Also on the card, number 10 ranked Heavyweight, Roy “Big Country” Nelson (22-12), will face the number 12 ranked, Derrick “The Black Beast” Lewis (15-4). Nelson’s well-known power together with Lewis’s 93 percent KO rate should provide for an exciting contest.
UFC Fight Night 90 will be shown exclusively on UFC’s subscription service, Fight Pass. It will mark the first time a title bout will be featured as the main event since Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Juliana Penna at UFC Fight Night 69 in June 2015.
The Ultimate Fighter Finale 23 – Joanna Jedzejczyk vs. Claudia Gadelha
Friday night, July 8, The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale takes place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It will be the first time the main event features a coach’s bout, between undefeated Women’s Strawweight Champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (11-0), and number one ranked contender, Claudia Gadelha (13-1). Fans following the show will be particularly interested in this bout after the drama that ensued throughout the show. The card also features South Korean phenom Doo Ho Choi (13-1), and UFC veterans, Gray Maynard (12-6) and Ross Pearson (21-10) in separate bouts.
UFC 200 – Daniel Cormier vs. Anderson Silva
Brock Lesnar vs Mark Hunt
The week will climax with UFC 200, Saturday, July 9, at the brand new T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas . The official main event was listed as the Light Heavyweight title fight between Champion, Daniel “DC” Cormier (17-1), and number one ranked contender and former Champion, Jon “Bones” Jones (22-1). However, this match has been cancelled due to Jones apparently testing positive for performance enhancing drugs. In his place, on short notice comes Anderson “The Spider” Silva in a three round non-title fight.
Luckily, the entire main card is basically one giant main event containing the who’s who of the UFC. Former Heavyweight Champion, Brock Lesnar, makes his return to the octagon after a five-year hiatus against Mark “The Super Samoan” Hunt. Number two ranked former Heavyweight Champion, Cain Valasquez marks his return against number seven ranked contender, Travis “Hapa” Browne. And there are two more title fights on the main card of five fights.
In the Women’s Bantamweight title match, champion, Meisha “Cupcake” Tate (18-5), will defend her title for the first time since her shocking upset over Holly Holm at UFC 196. She will be facing up-and- coming, number four ranked knockout ace, Amanda “The Lioness” Nunes (12-4).
Number one ranked contender, Jose “Junior” Aldo (25-2) will face off against number two ranked, Frankie “The Answer” Edgar, for the interim featherweight title. The main belt held by Connor McGregor is being held up by the fact he has taken some fights at a higher weight class.
If the main card weren’t enough to make it the most stacked in UFC history, the prelim card has the likes of Johny “Bigg Rigg” Hendricks, T.J. Dillashaw, Diego Sanchez, and potential up-and-coming star, Sage “Super” Northcutt.
From its humble beginnings on a snowy winter night in Denver, in 1993, few could have predicted that a single event that started out as a brutal, bloody, savage spectacle, with no rules, no judges, and no time limits, would evolve to a mature sport with events viewed by hundreds of millions in 170 countries, and some of the most elite athletes in the world. This week has the potential to be the culmination of that evolution. It is truly an amazing time to be a fan.
Main Photo: LAS VEGAS – JULY 03: Brock Lesnar reacts after his second round submission victory against Shane Carwin to win the UFC Heavyweight Championship Unification bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena on July 3, 2010 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)