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UFC calls on established names to finish 2018 in style

After the controversy of UFC 229, the UFC will turned to a host of respected champions to give them momentum heading into 2019

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Per Haljestam

After the controversy and carnage of UFC 229 in Las Vegas, thoughts are now turning to the UFC’s final three pay-per-view shows of 2018, where a host of established UFC stars will step up and look to finish the year with a bang.

The octagon returns to the iconic Madison Square Garden in New York for UFC 230, as Daniel Cormier looks to complete the first defence of his newly-won UFC heavyweight title.

Cormier will take on one of the fan-favourites from UFC 229, Derrick Lewis, after the Houston man claimed a spectacular, dramatic, last-gasp knockout of surging Russian contender Alexander Volkov in Vegas, then delivered a post-fight interview that will go down in history.

Lewis’ performance has been rewarded with an instant shot at Cormier’s title, as the UFC shuffles the deck and calls on “DC”, a true company man, to step up and help give their New York show some much-needed main event star power.

Paddy Power’s UFC odds have Cormier as a colossal 1/7 favourite ahead of the contest, with Lewis a 4/1 shot. Given Lewis’ short turnaround after a tough contest, plus Cormier’s relentless wrestling game, it’s hard to disagree with those odds.

UFC 231 features a world title double-header, with the rearranged featherweight title bout between Max Holloway and Brian Ortega headlining, and the women’s flyweight title scrap between Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk slotting in as co-main.

Personal issues forced Holloway out of the originally-scheduled bout with Ortega during International Fight Week in June, but despite the fact that there appears to be no clear diagnosis of what caused his sudden drop in energy, he remains the odds-on favourite, at 8/11. Ortega is undefeated at 14-0 with 1 no contest, and offers value at even money.

The co-main has Shevchenko the 3/10 favourite over former strawweight queen Jedrzejczyk. The pair have met before in Muay Thai, but this will be their first matchup in MMA. Shevchenko’s size and power has been given the edge over Jedrzejczyk’s hand speed and footwork. However it pans out, it promises to be a technical masterpiece of women’s striking.

The year rounds out with UFC 232, and the man considered by many to be the greatest fighter to ever pull on a set of four-ounce gloves returns in the main event.

With his USADA issues now firmly behind him, Jon “Bones” Jones is back, and he’s taking on the man who pushed him harder than any man in his career – Sweden’s Alexander Gustafsson – in Las Vegas.

The UFC has confirmed the bout will be for the UFC light-heavyweight title, with reigning champion Cormier set to relinquish the belt – presumably because they don’t believe he will find time to defend it before his self-imposed retirement deadline of March 20 next year.

It means Jones has the opportunity to win back the belt he never lost in the cage, and he is a clear favourite with the bookies to do just that.

Paddy Power have him pegged as a 3/10 favourite, with Gustafsson a 11/5 chance.

Women’s featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino (4/11) and reigning women’s bantamweight champ Amanda Nunes (15/8) face off in a co-main event champion versus champion bout, with “Cyborg’s” 145lb title on the line.

With the UFC able to book Cormier vs Lewis, Shevchenko vs Jedrzejczyk, Holloway vs Ortega, Justino vs Nunes and Jones vs Gustafsson, the organisation has the ability to put on five top-drawer world title bout that should help showcase the very best in mixed martial arts.

All we have to do now is cross our fingers that they all stay intact for long enough for us to enjoy them all – hopefully with no cage-jumping dramas.

Freelance sports writer and MMA reporter with 20 years’ experience in the UK's national media covering major sporting events including UFC world title fights, Olympic Games, FIFA World Cup, UEFA European Championships, Grand National and the FA Cup Final.

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