UFC 203: The Heavyweights Battle, Big Names Return & The Debut of Punk

This Saturday, September 10, the UFC invades the Quicken Loans Arena in Cleveland with their latest PPV event. UFC 203 is a loaded card with the UFC Heavyweight championship on the line, other great UFC fighters battling it out, and the long-awaited debut of CM Punk, the former professional wrestler who left that business to jump into the MMA juggernaut. And the action all starts before the actual PPV hits the air.

In the prelims, which air on Fox Sports 1, Bethe Correia battles Jessica Eye in a Women’s Bantamweight division fight. Just a little over a year ago, Correia was the latest threat to dethrone Ronda Rousey’s championship reign. But she was knocked out in just 34 seconds and lost after all of the trash talking. Since then, she lost to Raquel Pennington via split decision in April and is hoping that she can bounce back in this fight. But Jessica Eye has also been on a losing streak of late and the Cleveland native will also be looking to get a win, setting up what should be a great fight.

On the main card, the Women’s Strawweight division will be in action as Jessica Andrade battles Joanne Calderwood. These women are ranked #6 and #7, respectively, and are hoping to earn an eventual title shot against the champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. And although Jedrzejczyk just defended her title this past July, don’t think that she won’t keep her eyes out on who wins this fight.

UFC 203 also features two fights that feature longtime greats in the company. Uriah Faber faces Jimmie Rivera in a Bantamweight fight, while heavyweights Fabricio Werdum and Travis Browne face off. Faber, who first fought in the UFC in 2011, is the #2 ranked bantamweight in the UFC and a win could set up an eventual rematch with champion Dominick Cruz, who he lost to in June. 

Fabricio Werdum was the UFC Heavyweight champion at the beginning of the year but lost the title to Stipe Miocic in May. He was then set to face Ben Rothwell at this PPV but Rothwell backed out due to injury in August. But Travis Browne stepped in and a new matchup was set. Werdum needs a win to get another championship opportunity. Losing to Browne, who is the #7 ranked heavyweight in UFC, would send Werdum back down the list of challengers. Browne is coming off of a TKO loss to Cain Velasquez at UFC 200 and a win here would move him up the ladder closer to the top.

And of course the night will be closed out by Stipe Miocic, the Cleveland native, defending his Heavyweight championship against Alistair Overeem. Miocic won the title in May by defeating Werdum. Originally, Werdum was supposed to fight Velasquez in January. But after Velasquez pulled out due to injury, Miocic stepped in. But then Werdum backed out and the fight with Miocic was rescheduled for May. Miocic won the championship and now steps into the octagon to defend his title for the first time against Overeem, who has been on a four-fight win streak. Overeem has notable wins over many former UFC Heavyweight champions and now has his chance to beat the current champion.

But the most intriguing fight of the night will be between welterweights Mickey Gall and former WWE champion CM Punk. Gall is 2-0 in the UFC and is one of the UFC’s hottest young stars. The brash youngster begged for this fight and was granted the opportunity to make a name for himself against Punk. But Punk, who wrestled for the WWE from 2005 to 2014, is not going to go down quietly.

CM Punk has been training to for this debut for a long time and will come into this fight fully prepared. Sure, he is 37 years old and has never had an MMA fight before. Yes, the odds are stacked against him and experts will say that he has no chance of winning this fight. But Punk has been training hard at the Roufusport MMA Academy in Milwaukee alongside UFC great Anthony Pettis and many others. He has put in the work and I believe that he will at least put up a hell of a fight.

Whether he wins or loses, Punk will give his all just as he did in the wrestling ring. Whether in the WWE or not, Punk had been active in wrestling for over 15 years and never gave anything less than his all. And sure, wrestling is a sport in which the outcomes are predetermined. But that doesn’t mean that he didn’t put his body through hell to perform. He pushed himself to the limits in the ring and I am sure he will do the same in the octagon.

Ironically, as Punk said in the documentary series that aired recently on Fix Sports 1, the Quicken Loans Arena is not only where his UFC career will begin, but also where his WWE career ended. It was in this arena on January 27, 2014 where Punk walked out on Vince McMahon and the WWE. And now, more than two years later, the next chapter of his life begins. And buzz around this fight, along with a stacked card, will make UFC 203 something you do not want to miss if you are a MMA fan.

Daryl Karpinski, Jr.