Ladies first. Strikeforce’s future is still up in the air after this year while Invicta seems to be picking up the women’s divisions making it uncertain the fate of SF women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousy. Now that Sara McMann is in Invicta the competition in Rousy’s division is truly there so be sure to catch July’s Invicta show. Bellator meanwhile are in a predicament as W115 champion Zoila Gurgel will no longer make 115 pounds while the rest of their stars are still fighting at that weight such as Jessica Aguilar (recently defeated Megumi Fujii). Jessica Eye is a wild card as she usually fights at 130, could challenge Gurgel at 125 or up to 135 for Invicta, meanwhile she has been dominating NAAFS.
Flyweight is the newest division the UFC sanctions however there still isn’t much serious action outside the UFC. Of those Sean Santella stands out for his former Ring of Combat and current CFFC titles, the later he defends in August. The other major flyweight is Ian McCall, champion of Tachi Palace Fights which arguably has done more for the division than any other promotion. These two have drastically different styles but would make a great main event somewhere, just don’t expect it to happen outside the UFC.
Bantamweight is where the competition truly kicks in with champions Eduardo Dantas (BFC), Aljamain Sterling (CFFC), Ian Loveland (TPF), and Jimmie Rivera (ROC). TPF again has some serious competition in this division with Casey Olson and Joe Soto in the ranks while the Legends of Fighting’s tournament for a TPF contract currently has Chico Camus/Tom McKenna in the finals coming up. Former BFC champion Zach Makovsky’s next move is uncertain but he is still definitely one to keep an eye on despite losing the title to Dantas, Makovsky’s first loss in eight fights.
At featherweight the champions are Pat Curran (BFC), Joey Gambino (CFFC), Conor McGregor (CWFC), Frank Caraballo (NAAFS), Guillermo Serment (ROC), Lazar Stojadinovic (CFA), and Georgi Karakhanyan (TPF). Curran next defends his title against BFC season 6 tournament winner Daniel Straus who has much improved since joining Jackson’s MMA but the one who has made the most improvement is BFC vet and current TPF champion Georgi Karakhanyan.
The big news at lightweight of course is champion Michael Chandler vs. season 6 tournament winner Rick Hawn while other significant titles include John Gunderson (SCC), Pat Audinwood (ROC, LFC), Dakota Cochrane (def Joe Stevenson RFA), Cliff Wright (def Dakota Cochrane RFA 2), Jorge Patino (LFC), and Gabe Ruediger (TPF). Luis Palomino deserves special mention for defeating Gesias “JZ” Cavalcante recently while Flavio Alvaro won the UWF tournament stretching his win streak to nine in a row.
The welterweights holding titles are a little more familiar to most fans with UFC vet John Alessio holding the TPF title and Ben Askren being one of the major Bellator stars. Others include George Sullivan (CFFC), Gael Grimaud (CWFC), Uriah Hall (ROC), Lucas Pimenta (UWF tournie), and Nathan Coy (MFC). UFC vet and Strikeforce middleweight tournament winner Jorge Santiago recently announced dropping to this weight class following his last win in TFC while former MFC champion Ryan Ford made an impression in his BFC debut. Arguably the most interesting if unknown is Zorobabel Moreira who defeated UFC vet Roger Huerta in One FC in June.
With BFC’s middleweight title vacated now that Hector Lombard has joined the UFC it is up to season 6 tournament champion Maiquel Falcao to fill the void while other champions include Tom Watson (BAMMA), Hector Urbina (NAAFS), and David Loiseau (TPF). Cage Warriors have a great tournament to keep an eye on with Chris Fields, John Phillips, Faycal Hussin, and Victor Cheng in the semifinals while BFC vet Sam Alvey earned a little more respect when he was victorious in the main event of the ShoFight pay-per-view. Overall this is arguably the most competitive division outside Zuffa shows.
The same can’t be said for the light heavyweights. Bellator champion Christian M’Pumbu looked terrible in his non-title fight against UFC vet Travis Wiuff and now Wiuff is in the summer series tournament which is up to the semifinals while the only other significant champion is ROC’s Ed Gordon. The field is so scarce that NAAFS and CFFC don’t even have champions in this class while MFC’s has been vacant.
Heavyweight isn’t much better as Zuffa tends to swallow them up faster than the fighters can win the belts. In BFC champion Cole Konrad defeated Eric Prindle so fast it looked a little suspicious while Tom DeBlass (ROC) and D.J. Linderman (CWFC) have little competition.
Look for the next installment of the monthly Declaration of Independents for a rundown of which of these fighters next step into the cage as the summer heats up.