Roundtable: How do you rate the UFC 300 lineup so far?

On paper, UFC 300 is shaping up to be a fine card so far. A litany of former champions and some of the most respected contenders of this era are part of the event. Still, it feels like the tricentennial show is still missing that something special that makes it a can’t-miss card. While UFC CEO Dana White is promising a “crazy” announcement, for now, fans are left to wonder what matchup could headline such a momentous occasion.

With 11 fights announced, it’s definitely not too early to give an appraisal of the current lineup, and that’s what MMA Fighting’s Alexander K. Lee, Mike Heck, and Damon Martin are here to do. We also wave our magic wands to set up a possible main event and a structure for the main card.

(If you’re looking for some headliner options that are a little – or a lot – more out-of-the-box, check out our previous UFC 300 Roundtable here).

Before we proceed, here’s a reminder of the UFC 300 lineup as it stands today:

Lee: I am already mega-pumped for this card, and that’s not just me being The Prince of Positivity.

Sure, White and the UFC have set the bar a little too high for the big 3-double-0 as far as hype goes. But the UFC is a very, very different place than it was 100 pay-per-view events ago in 2016. There’s no more carefully saving fights to load up a particular card – the octagon demands fresh bodies, and the matchmakers have to shovel them in there on a weekly basis. So you’ll forgive them if they couldn’t save Alexander Volkanovski, Sean O’Malley, and Brandon Moreno for April.

What we’ve got to look forward to is pretty damn good, though, including a dream match between Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway, Zhang Weili defending her title in the underappreciated strawweight division, and former UFC champions Charles Oliveira, Holly Holm, Aljamain Sterling, Jiri Prochazka, Cody Garbrandt, Deiveson Figueiredo, and Jessica Andrade in action.

There are stakes too, with Gaethje, Holloway, Oliveira, and Arman Tsarukyan possibly fighting for a lightweight title shot, Sterling looking to make a fresh start at featherweight, and PFL star Kayla Harrison making a risky drop down to 135 pounds in the hopes of fast-tracking her way to a title shot.

Look, Conor McGregor ain’t walking through that door (I don’t think so, anyway), and that’s fine. If this is the best we got, it’s pretty great, and on paper already better than UFC 200.

Rating: A+

UFC 296: Edwards v Covington
Leon Edwards
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Proposed Headliner: Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad

Exciting, right?

Fine, this isn’t the banger main event that most are hoping for, but Edwards has said he expects to defend his title at UFC 300, and the fact that it’s taken so long for White to make an announcement tells me that he doesn’t want to have to go to his fallback headliner, which is this. Sorry if this isn’t CRAZY enough for you, fight fans.

The good news is that the card is so stacked, it really just needs a credible main event to tie the room together, and that’s what Edwards vs. Muhammad does. It’s 300! It sells itself!

Yes, we run the risk of the welterweight title fight going on after fans have screamed their lungs out over Justin Gaethje and Max Holloway going hammer and tongs, but that’s why I’ve got that Zhang Weili vs. Yan Xiaonan buffer in there.

Congrats on headlining UFC 300, Leon and Belal, you’ve earned it with your consistency and professionalism (the two sexiest words in the MMA lexicon).

Main Card Lineup:

  • Edwards vs. Muhammad
  • Zhang vs. Yan
  • Gaethje vs. Holloway
  • Prochazka vs. Rakic
  • Oliveira vs. Tsarukyan

Not the sexiest main event, and not the sexiest (I swear I’ll stop using that word now) PPV lineup, I hear you. But I’m choosing to respect the prestige of the actual UFC titles over the incredibly fun but—let’s call it what it is—inconsequential BMF belt. Besides, Gaethje vs. Holloway works better as a mid-PPV pick me up ahead of a couple of title fights that could provide mixed results when it comes to action. Nothing wrong with letting those two steal the show.

As for the rest of my main card choices, I’m sprinkling in some chaos with the always entertaining Prochazka. Plus, that bout has legitimate No. 1 contender stakes at light heavyweight, and we don’t have much big-boy representation on the main card (No heavyweights? Parker Porter, wherefore art thou?). Oliveira vs. Tsarukyan is a no-brainer to open the main card and potentially a bout we’ll be talking about as a “Fight of the Year” contender 11 months from now.

Leaving Kayla Harrison off was the toughest omission, especially when you consider her opponent Holly Holm has never fought on PPV prelims. But that fight has the potential to be a grueling three-rounder, and I think the UFC knows that, so much better to have Harrison and Holm in a featured spot on ESPN to appeal to the more casual crowd.

Heck: I understand that the expectations for this card are through the roof, and to some degree, not really fair, considering what is actually available right now. For a card like this, you need an eclectic mix of fighters, personalities, fights, stakes, and yes, even gimmicks. So far, this card has checked off almost all of those boxes — and guess what? There’s more to come.

We’re all on the same page here: Gaethje vs. Holloway is going to absolutely rule and deliver. Zhang vs. Yan is a historic matchup for the world title of one of the more consistent divisions in the sport. You have Prochazka coming right back against Rakic, Oliveira vs. Tsarukyan in a super high-stakes lightweight bout, Sterling’s featherweight debut against the always dangerous Kattar, Harrison’s UFC and bantamweight debut, and a whole lot more.

This A- will likely get a bump to an A grade, or higher. Patience, my friends.

Rating: A-

UFC 290: Whittaker v Du Plessis
Israel Adesanya and Dricus du Plessis
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Proposed Headliner: Dricus du Plessis vs. Israel Adesanya

If both guys are healthy and ready to go, “DDP” vs. Izzy is the fight to make, and it’s by a wide margin. The UFC can’t let this one slip away again, and if they can’t make it to UFC 300, neither should be on the card.

This is one of, if not the most, heated rivalries in the sport right now. With so many questions surrounding both fighters — most notably Adesanya following a lopsided loss to Sean Strickland — this one will further catapult the middleweight division from the sort of “meh” place it was in not long ago to the money division it’s rapidly becoming. This is a no-brainer if both guys are in.

By the way, Strickland vs. Khamzat Chimaev should also happen on this card if both guys can swing it. You’re welcome, UFC.

Main Card Lineup:

  • Du Plessis vs. Adesanya
  • Gaethje vs. Holloway
  • Zhang vs. Yan
  • Oliveira vs. Tsarukyan
  • Figueiredo vs. Garbrandt

The top-three fights are pretty easy to place here based on the usual structure of things, which the UFC rarely veers away from, though they did have a title fight early in the main card of UFC 200.

Oliveira vs. Tsarukyan has to be on the main card. We’re essentially doing a quasi four-man who-did-it-best tournament with these two guys and the BMF title participants.

I know having Figueiredo vs. Garbrandt as a main card opener over the likes of a Prochazka fight. Even the Harrison vs. Holm bout may be a head-scratcher. But for a card like this, you have to set the table. There’s no way Figgy vs. Garbrandt is boring, and somebody is likely going night-night. Get the energy cooking early with fireworks, and the rest will follow.

Martin: The truth is unless Georges St-Pierre storms to the octagon followed by Khabib Nurmagomedov for an epic showdown between two retired superstars, UFC 300 just isn’t going to live up to some people’s standards.

In reality, what White and the powers-that-be at the UFC have done is build a card that is unbelievably stacked from top to bottom. This isn’t a main card-heavy PPV. This is a “the first fight on the prelims would headline most UFC Fight Night cards” kind of lineup. They’ve already booked 10 current or former champions, and a lot of those names are destined to end up on the prelims! To quote Maximus Decimus Meridius — are you not entertained?!?

The bonus king, Gaethje, is taking on Holloway in a fight that absolutely, positively cannot suck. Neither of these guys understand the meaning of the word boring. Harrison will finally make her UFC debut, and we’re going to find out if she’s as good as many of us (myself included) believe she could be when she takes on a proven veteran in Holm. Oliveira clashes with Tsarukyan in a guaranteed banger. Sterling finally making his featherweight debut! The list goes on and on … and we know the UFC isn’t done matchmaking just yet.

The point is, UFC 300 had so much hype behind it before the first fight was even announced that some folks were just destined to complain. That’s fine. But at least take a deep dive on the card and look at the caliber of fights that will end up happening to an almost certainly empty T-Mobile Arena on the prelims (seriously, Las Vegas folks, go there for the whole event, not just the main card).

The lineup for UFC 300 is doing pretty great so far. Just show a little patience until the last couple of fights are announced, and then we can really get excited.

Rating: A+

The Ultimate Fighter Season 31: Team McGregor vs. Team Chandler
Conor McGregor and Michael Chandler
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Proposed Headliner: Conor McGregor vs. Michael Chandler

This is the matchup that always seemed perfect to headline UFC 300. But inexplicably, McGregor announced that his long-awaited return was getting pushed back to the summertime instead. Was that possibly happening so McGregor’s eight-figure payday wouldn’t consume the profits for this pay-per-view card? Maybe, but we all know this is the card that McGregor and Chandler wanted to headline.

Now both of these guys are teasing it!

It could all be smoke and mirrors with McGregor and Chandler just playing up to expectations that they’ll meet sooner rather than later. But with expectations higher than ever for this card to deliver, there’s no surer way to guarantee a ton of people will put down $80—or possibly even $100, because let’s be honest, this would be a move that the UFC/ESPN would pull for a historic event like this—than to put McGregor in the main event. Let’s not forget that McGregor vs. Chandler could—and most likely will—be joined by another title fight. Maybe Edwards vs. Muhammad could join the fun before it’s all said and done? Haters gonna hate. But come on, that’s a great one-two punch to cap off the night.

Main Card Lineup:

  • McGregor vs. Chandler
  • Gaethje vs. Holloway
  • Oliveira vs. Tsarukyan
  • Garbrandt vs. Figueiredo
  • Harrison vs. Holm

Right out of the gate, most people are probably wondering — where’s Zhang vs. Yan? Well, this is a card that’s going to sell big, and what better way to cap off the prelims than with a five-round title fight? Plus if my proposed Edwards vs. Muhammad title bout gets added to UFC 300, there would already be three five-round fights to go along with McGregor vs. Chandler and Gaethje vs. Holloway. That’s just tempting fate for the main card to go four hours.

Some will complain Harrison doesn’t deserve to be a main card opener in her UFC debut. But I’d argue the promotion had to pay her a pretty penny to abandon the guaranteed $1 million per fight she was earning in the PFL, so might as well start her out strong on the biggest pay-per-view of the year.

If this is the main card — and I truly believe at least one more title fight will get added, so that’s going to bump somebody back to the prelims — UFC 300 would be a massive, overwhelming success and one of the most stacked cards in the history of the promotion.