ByJosh Stillman, writer at
IPAs, brunch, and punch-face. Husband, teacher, MMA writer and analyst. Half of @DailyFantasyKO podcast
Josh Stillman

This year's International Fight Week is going to be off the chain if everything goes off as it's expected to. There are two lineups chock-full of violence that will satiate fight fans' bloodlust.

There are sure-fire action fights like those between and , and , and and . There are wild personalities like , , and . And there are exciting prospects such as , , , , and .

But, somehow, none of them are in the five best fights of the weekend. Here are the five that are absolutely not to be missed:

1. Yoel Romero vs. Robert Whittaker

taking on "Bobby Knuckles" (a.k.a. ) isn't the headliner of either card, but it is unequivocally the one fans are salivating over the most. The two will serve as the co-feature of .

With middleweight champion out with knee surgery, after trying to hook up a fight with , the top of the division is tied up. Gone are the days when middleweights not named were regarded as a bad joke. With hitters like , , and up there with them, fans want to see as many permutations of these guys duking it out as possible. Somehow Jacare has fought four of them, but no one else has knuckled up yet.

That's what this fight is: the chance to see two of the five best middleweights in a stacked division slug it out. Both are dynamic finishers with sudden, shocking power and athleticism. Neither has lost at middleweight in the UFC. Time to see one of them hit the deck and the other get gold wrapped around his waist.

2. Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko

No disrespect to and ; slotting them in at second on this list because their fight should be scintillating as well.

The rematch between the two women in the main event of UFC 213 is so gripping because of how compelling their first matchup was. At UFC 196 in March 2016, a competitive first round gave way to Nunes battering "Bullet" from top position for most of the second frame. But Shevchenko, cut and bloodied, came out and nearly stopped the exhausted "Lioness," securing a takedown of her own before threatening with ground and pound and submission attempts.

Had their first fight gone on, Shevchenko likely would have taken it. She has since notched impressive victories over Holly Holm and Julianna Peña, while Nunes brutally stopped all-time bantamweight greats Miesha Tate and .

This time around Nunes and Shevchenko are scheduled for five rounds to see who the best female 135er in the world is, and these two hard-hitting, well-rounded women should answer the question with style points.

3. Justin Gaethje vs. Michael Johnson

If one fight this weekend is destined to bring the violence, it's welcoming to the UFC in the headliner. Gaethje is a kill or be killed kind of fighter, eschewing defense and his own well being in favor of delivering as much punishment as possible as quickly as possible. And so far, he remains undefeated.

Johnson, no stranger to a bangers himself (see his wars with Edson Barboza, Nate Diaz, and Tony Ferguson for proof), will try to take Gaethje's "0" in as devastating a fashion as he can. And Johnson has also never been knocked out.

Just how far Gaethje can go in the shark tank that is the UFC lightweight division is a point of interest for fans of slugfests everywhere. Regardless, another top-shelf, all action, all the time killer in the most vicious weight class in MMA is something to get excited about.

4. Fabricio Werdum vs. Alistair Overeem

Former heavyweight champion and contender are still at the top of the rankings a decade after they first entered them. Both will try to win their own personal trilogy while getting back to the belt..

The two big men are one victory removed from devastating losses, but another big "W" could propel either to another title opportunity. That's the nature of heavyweight MMA. Overeem lost in his long-awaited UFC title fight against divisional kingpin , but rebounded by knocking out the granite-chinned Mark Hunt. Werdum, meanwhile, beat up on Travis Browne after relinquishing the strap in shocking fashion to Miocic.

They also have a personal beef to settle, as their record stands at 1-1 against one another. Werdum snatched the first meeting with a kimura-induced tap way back in May 2006 at Pride Total Elimination Absolute. Overeem was at the height of his powers as K-1 Kickboxing, Dream, and heavyweight champion when the two rematched as part of the Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix in 2011. "Ubereem" evened the score in a dreadful affair that June night in which Werdum continually flopped to the ground and butt-scooted. Overeem would not be drawn into Werdum's world, so he took home a lackluster decision.

Their final meeting should be much more entertaining, as Werdum's striking as improved by leaps and bounds while Overeem's chin has become a well-known liability. With these two throwing heavy leather, someone seems destined to get slept.

5. Anthony Pettis vs. Jim Miller

Kicking off the pay-per-view portion of the UFC 213 card will be lightweight action fighters extraordinaire and . Two guys who always come to scrap, their bout should be nothing if not entertaining.

Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports
Anne-Marie Sorvin-USA TODAY Sports

Pettis has fallen on hard times of late, losing his lightweight championship and two other bouts before an ill-fated cut to 145 pounds saw him go 1-1 and miss weight for an interim title opportunity. But "Showtime" is still a dynamic offensive force; his issues have been much more about getting outworked when a kill-shot fails to materialize or not being able to keep his back off the fence.

He'll duke it out with Miller, who was once 9-1 in the UFC. He has since settled into the role of reliable action-oriented gatekeeper, and has put on exciting performances against the likes of Dustin Poirier, Thiago Alves, and Joe Lauzon recently.

While this isn't the sky-high-stakes bout it might have been a few years ago, there should be no shortage of willing kickboxing or wild scrambles from these two finish-minded hardcore fan favorites.


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