The month of June is upon us and the calendar's sixth month brings us three UFC shows, two Strikeforce cards, a Bellator and an MFC in a pear tree. Awful Christmas music-inspired jokes aside, June is shaping up to be a great month for any fan of mixed martial arts. The sport's big boys, the UFC and Strikeforce, are bringing the heat this month and their fights dominate the list with a light slate of other action.
Here are five fights you absolutely cannot miss this month:
Lorenz Larkin jumped onto the scene with a dominating TKO win over Scott Lighty in April and will make his return to the cage when he faces Gian Villante at Strikeforce Challengers 16. This one was "scrap" written all over it. Villante was unsuccessful in his Strikeforce debut, as he was stopped by Chad Griggs in a Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament alternate bout but showed some brief flashes. Now he'll drop to 205 pounds to fight Larkin, who came out of nowhere to dazzle the MMA world with his stoppage of Lighty. If how these two fought in their respective Strikeforce debuts is any indication of how this bout could go, we could be in for fireworks.
Two of Strikeforce's top lightweights will battle, each looking for the opportunity to face champion Gilbert Melendez, when Jorge Masvidal faces K.J. Noons in a crucial lightweight bout at Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum. The fight, which will be broadcast on HDNet, marks Noons' return to Strikeforce after his unanimous decision loss to Nick Diaz in their welterweight championship bout in October. Masvidal is coming off a unanimous decision win over Billy Evangelista at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson in March. Both men are known for their stand-up and should produce an extremely exciting, technical affair.
In a fight to determine the No. 1 contender for the UFC heavyweight championship, Junior dos Santos meets Shane Carwin for the right to face Cain Velasquez. Both of these fighters have been through long layoffs, with dos Santos last fighting in August (beating Roy Nelson by unanimous decision) and Carwin being off since early July when he lost by second-round submission to then-champion Brock Lesnar in a title unification bout. Both these men hit hard. Very hard. Not only that, between them, they are 24-2, each coming into this fight with a 12-1 record, with only one decision between them. Will Carwin be able to rebound from his back surgery? Only time will tell. Regardless, this is one fight where you will not want to blink.
2) Alistair Overeem vs. Fabricio Werdum (Strikeforce: Overeem vs. Werdum - June 18 - Dallas)
The Strikeforce Grand Prix Heavyweight Tournament returns after a long four-month absence with Strikeforce heavyweight champion Alistair Overeem making his return to Strikeforce after more than a year away against Fabricio Werdum, a fighter coming off the biggest win of his career when he submitted Fedor Emelianenko last June. These two met five years ago in the quarterfinals of the PRIDE Open Weight Grand Prix and meet again in the quarterfinals of this tournament. The loss to Werdum set Overeem into a bit of a career tailspin, as it was the beginning of a stretch where he lost 5-of-7 fights. This is a big fight for both men. Werdum has a ton of momentum, as he's knocked off Antonio Silva and Emelianenko in his last two fights while Overeem is riding a huge wave of momentum in both MMA and K-1. The winner of this fight should be the likely favorite to win the whole thing.
One word: Barnburner. While all the other fights this month (and on this list) are nothing to shake a stick at, if you can only see one fight this month, this is the one and it's not even close. Anthony Pettis had one of the most exciting years in MMA history in 2010, capping his year with two absolutely thrilling bouts: A third-round submission of Shane Roller and then a unanimous decision win over Ben Henderson to capture the WEC lightweight title. Now, in his UFC debut, he faces the UFC's version of the Energizer Bunny, Clay Guida, who has won three in a row and is trying to position himself for a title shot. This is a "Fight of the Year" candidate before the two even step into the cage and should be one of the most exciting bouts of 2011.
What fight or fights are looking most forward to this month? Did we overlook a fight? Let us know by sounding off in the comments section!