The 10: February’s Fantastic Fights

After easing into the New Year with a couple events spread out over the month, business picks up in the Octagon in February, with three events running back-to-back-to-back beginning this weekend.

Here’s a look at the standout matchups and potential fireworks displays on those fight cards.

This is The 10.

UFC Fight Night: Bermudez vs. Korean Zombie (Saturday, February 4 – Houston, Texas)

Jessica Andrade vs. Angela Hill

This could very well be a battle to determine the next top contender in the strawweight division, which is crazy to consider given that Andrade wasn’t a part of the division at this time last year and Hill is returning to the Octagon after aJessica Andrade poses after her victory over Joanna Calderwood wildly successful four-fight tour of duty on the Invicta FC roster.

But here we are.

Undersized at bantamweight, where she went 4-3, Andrade’s power has translated well in her new weight class and led to two strong finishes in her first two appearances, putting her on the precipice of a title shot. Hill blossomed under the Invicta FC banner, winning the strawweight title and adding experience and increased knowledge to the natural talent that earned her a place in the UFC following her time on TUF 20.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk currently doesn’t have an opponent lined up and the winner of this one would certainly make sense as a potential dance partner for the Polish champion. Regardless of whether they’re next in line or not, this one should be explosive and entertaining from the outset and well worth your time.

Alexa Grasso vs. Felice Herrig

The second of Saturday’s strawweight engagements holds down the co-main event spot, as unbeaten prospect Grasso looks to continue her climb up the rankings in a litmus test pairing with proven veteran Felice Herrig.

The 23-year-old Grasso looked comfortable in her debut, a solid decision win over Heather Clark back in November and should feel more at home when she steps into the Octagon for a second time. The Lobo Gym product has smooth striking, good pop and the upside to be a perennial contender, possibly even champion in the future.

Herrig got back into the win column with a first-round submission win over Kailin Curran in July after taking over a year off to reset and recharge. The charismatic veteran has alternated wins and losses through her first three Octagon appearances, but looked her best against Curran and should be a stern test for the talented, but less seasoned Grasso in this one.

Dennis Bermudez vs. Chan Sung Jung

The last time we saw “The Korean Zombie,” he was sharing the cage with Jose Aldo in the main event of UFC 163, trying to prevent the Brazilian standout from kicking him in his jacked up shoulder in their championship main event. Now finished with the mandatory military service that kept him out of action since, Jung returns as a talented, established wild card entrant in the already deep and competitive featherweight field.

Bermudez had a nice bounce-back year in 2016, picking up victories over Tatsuya Kawajiri and Rony Jason to cement his position as a fixture in the Top 10. Now looking to make another run up the rankings, the Long Island MMA staple hopes to spoil Jung’s return and keep the momentum he built last year rolling in his first fight of 2017.

This is a tough matchup after more than two years away for Jung, but also a great immediate test to see where he fits in the division. He was a tough out and top contender when he left and he’s still only 29, so it wouldn’t be all that surprising if he stepped right back into the position he occupied prior to his departure, though Bermudez certainly has other ideas.

UFC 208: Holm vs. de Randamie (Saturday, February 11 – Brooklyn, New York)

Dustin Poirier vs. Jim Miller

Sometimes it doesn’t matter where fighters are ranked or whether they’re coming off losses; sometimes you just know a good scrap when you see it and this, my friends, is a helluva scrap.

Michael Johnson snuffed Poirier’s hot run at lightweight out last September, while Miller has been enjoying a resurgence with three straight wins after being ready to hang up his gloves heading into his UFC 200 bout with Takanori Gomi. As it turns out, trying to train and fight while battling Lyme disease is tough and impacts your performance. Who knew?

Now these two meet in a lightweight matchup that is flying under the radar, but should produce fireworks because, well, it’s Dustin Poirier and Jim Miller and that’s what they do.

Glover Teixeira vs. Jared Cannonier

This is an interesting clash in the light heavyweight ranks that should end with someone waking up wondering, “What happened?”

Teixeira is as battle-tested as they come in the 205-pound ranks, with 30 professional bouts under his belt and the last four years spent fighting the elite the division has to offer in the UFC. Conversely, Cannonier’s last appearance – a unanimous decision victory over Ion Cutelaba – was the 10th of his career, his first in the light heavyweight division and just his third in the UFC.

But in a division where new names are rare, there is no point in slow-playing a guy like Cannonier, which is why he’s diving right into the deep end in a fight with tons of upside and little downside for him here.

If he beats Teixeira, he puts himself on the short list of contenders in the light heavyweight division, and if he comes up short, he lost to a guy that has fought for the title and only been beaten by the best in the division.

Expect heavy leather to fly early and often in this one.

Ronaldo Souza vs. Tim Boetsch

Established as one of the top contenders in the middleweight division, but tired of hanging out without a fight, “Jacare” is getting back into the cage in a fight with Boetsch that is more dangerous than people seem to be letting on.

Souza has been outstanding since moving to the Octagon from Strikeforce, picking up six wins against one loss, a controversial split decision setback to top contender Yoel Romero at UFC 194. After stopping Vitor Belfort last spring in Curitiba, the Brazilian standout was scheduled to face Luke Rockhold in November, but the former champ was forced out with a knee injury, leaving Souza on the sidelines.

After dropping three straight to close out a rough eight-fight run, Boetsch has rebounded with consecutive stoppage wins to put him 10 fights to the good for his career at 20-10. He looked very good in dusting off Rafael Natal in just over three minutes at UFC 205 and a similar performance in this one would turn the middleweight title picture on its ear.

Anderson Silva vs. Derek Brunson

Weird fact alert: Anderson Silva hasn’t won a fight since UFC 153 in October 2012.

The long-reigning middleweight champion has gone five appearances without a victory, but that doesn’t tell the whole story. His most recent outing was a short notice, “save the day” loss to light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier at UFC 200, where he had a couple nice moments despite coming in cold and, before that, Silva (and many others) thought he had finished Michael Bisping at the end of Round 3 when they fought in February, only to find out the round had ended and the fight was to continue.

Plus, he’s Anderson Silva, so writing him off at any point would feel foolish.

Brunson gets the opportunity to get right back into the win column here after his five-fight run of success was halted by Robert Whittaker in just over four minutes last November. With power in his hands and strong wrestling in his back pocket, Brunson has blossomed into a legitimate Top 10 talent and, after fighting a little loose last time out, expect a more patient, more poised performance this time around.

Holly Holm vs. Germaine de Randamie – for the UFC women’s featherweight title

These two women battle for a place in the history books as they vie for the newly created women’s featherweight title in the UFC 208 main event.

Holm had a rough year in 2016, losing the women’s bantamweight title to Miesha Tate in a come-from-behind finish atHolly Holm celebrates after defeating <a href='../fighter/Ronda-Rousey'>Ronda Rousey</a> to become the UFC women's bantamweight champion UFC 196 before getting picked apart on the feet by pending title challenger Valentina Shevchenko in the summer. She’s still an outstanding counter-striker with smooth footwork once she finds her range and rhythm and despite the recent poor results, dismissing Holm’s chances (or diminishing her previous successes) would be a mistake.

A decorated kickboxer who has logged just four appearances in three years in the UFC, de Randamie quietly put together a nice two-fight winning streak before getting the call to face Holm here, stopping Larissa Pacheco and Anna Elmose with flush, heavy shots. Featherweight is a more natural fit for the tall, strong Dutch veteran (as it is Holm as well) and while she might not be the most well known fighter on the roster, those that pay attention know that “The Iron Lady” is as tough as they come.

This one should be fun.

UFC Fight Night: Lewis vs. Browne (Sunday, February 19 – Halifax, Nova Scotia)

Carla Esparza vs. Randa Markos

This is a pivotal fight for both competitors, but for very different reasons.

After defeating Rose Namajunas to become the inaugural women’s strawweight champion, Esparza promptly lost the belt to Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first title defense and was then sidelined due to shoulder surgery, shuffling her into the background in a division she briefly helmed in quick fashion. She returned to the Octagon and the win column April, but needs to add another here in order to truly get back into the title picture in the 115-pound weight class.

Markos was the Cinderella of Season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, advancing to the semifinals before losing the “bronze medal match” to Jessica Penne at the show’s finale. The Windsor, Ontario-based fighter has alternated wins and losses since and enters this one following a first-round submission defeat at the hands of Cortney Casey. If the “Quiet Storm” wants to make some noise in the division in 2017, defeating the former champion would be a really good place to start.

Derrick Lewis vs. Travis Browne

Originally scheduled for UFC 208, Brooklyn’s loss is Halifax’s gain and I’m sure there aren’t many Haligonians (that’s what people from Halifax are called, for real) that are complaining about getting these big boys in the main event.

Lewis rattled off four wins in 2016 to climb into the Top 10, finishing the year with a fourth-round comeback finish of Shamil Abdurakhimov in December. Browne started 2016 on the right foot, collecting a win in January, but back-to-back losses to former champions Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum have the Hawaiian heavyweight in need of a victory in this one.

With the heavyweight division constantly at risk of being shaken up by one thunderous knockout, both men enter this one with the potential to land themselves a bigger name with bigger stakes with an impressive performance here.

Given that they only have eight trips to the scorecards between them (from a combined 46 fights), don’t be surprised if this one ends well before the final bell.


Watch Anthony Smith backstage after his win at Fight Night Hamburg.
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Watch Anthony Smith in the Octagon after his win at Fight Night Hamburg.
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Watch Corey Anderson in the Octagon after his win at Fight Night Hamburg.
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Watch the Fight Night Hamburg Post-fight Press Conference live following the event.
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