Monday morning, the UFC officially announced the organization will makes its debut in Saskatoon with a Sunday evening UFC Fight Night event on August 23 at the SaskTel Center with surging featherweights Max Holloway and Charles Oliveira poised to headline the event.
Hosting an event in Saskatchewan has been bandied about for a couple years now and UFC Executive Vice President and General Manager for Canada, Australia and New Zealand Tom Wright hinted at a show “west of Thunder Bay” when the UFC was in Montreal earlier in the year, so Monday’s news isn’t surprising at all and the fact that Holloway and Oliveira have been tabbed to close out the show should be recognized as a coup for fight fans planning on attending the event.
While the emerging featherweight talents might not carry the same level of recognition as household names like Michael Bisping or “Rampage” Jackson, Holloway and Oliveira are both closer to challenging for UFC gold than those two veteran talents and they both employ an aggressive, entertaining style in the cage. Simply put, there is no way that this fight isn’t electric and doesn’t cap the evening in style.
But whom else might fans in Saskatoon see later this summer?
One thing to keep in mind while envisioning major names and marquee fights heading to The Prairies is that everything else on the card is going to fall behind the announced main event, so if you’re holding out hope for Johny Hendricks-Carlos Condit II, you’re going to be disappointed.
Even getting someone like Jackson in the co-main event is wishful thinking, in part because the former light heavyweight champion is still tied up in legal red tape surrounding his departure from Bellator and return to the UFC, but also because he’s too big of a name to burn in the co-main event slot of a Sunday evening show in Canada. “Rampage” is a pay-per-view name and that’s where he’ll fight next.
Ultimate Fighter winner Michael Chiesa is someone that could definitely land in the co-main event – he carries name value having won TUF, is coming off a good win over Mitch Clarke back in April and is knocking on the door of the Top 15 in the lightweight division. As for a dance partner, how about pairing Chiesa up with Dustin Poirier?
“The Diamond” has earned back-to-back first-round stoppage wins since returning to lightweight after being a legitimate title threat at featherweight and is in a similar position to Chiesa in terms of the divisional rankings. It’s another fight that is sure to be entertaining and it has some stakes to it without being a blockbuster that is miscast on a Fight Night show like this.
Let’s say that fight comes together and Chiesa makes the trip from Spokane, Washington to Saskatoon, why not bring his teammate Julianna Pena with him and match her up with Canadian Sarah Kaufman?
Sure, Kaufman is coming off a loss, but the Victoria, British Columbia native is a former Strikeforce champion and a clear step up in competition for Pena, who won the women’s bantamweight competition on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter and picked up a win over Milana Dudieva back in April.
Being that this is a Canadian event, you can also be sure there will be several fighters from “The Great White North” added to the lineup.
Lethbridge, Alberta’s Jordan Mein would be a smart addition to the lineup and there is an abundance of potential opponents for him in the welterweight division. Same goes for Montreal-based, British Columbia-born lightweight Kajan Johnson, who picked up his first UFC win in May.
Unbeaten lightweights Chad Laprise and Olivier Aubin-Mercier are coming off quality wins at UFC 186 in Montreal and would be sound choices as Canadian fighters to continue showcasing on an event like this, while recently signed light heavyweight Misha Cirkunov will likely make his UFC debut on the show as well.
With the event just over eight weeks away, the fight announcements for the UFC’s debut in Saskatoon should start coming hot and heavy pretty soon and when they do, we’ll be sure to keep you updated.