A Viewer's Guide to the 13 Best MMA Fights in March

Jon Jones Photo credit USA Today Sports

UFC will put on fights on each of March's five weekends, starting with the biggest card of the month this Saturday night. March will also bring the debut of two former UFC stars in their new promotions. Get ready for a ton of can't-miss MMA fights.

UFC 235
Saturday, March 2
Early prelims, 6:15 p.m. ET, UFC Fight Pass; Main prelims, 8 p.m., ESPN; Main card, 10 p.m., PPV

Jon Jones (champion) vs. Anthony Smith (ranked No. 3), light heavyweight title, main event

Jones, arguably the best light heavyweight of all time, as well as the most controversial figure in MMA, steps back in the cage 10 weeks after beating Alexander Gustaffson at UFC 232. The champ has expressed his desire to fight at least three times in 2019, which is a huge challenge considering that he only fought five times in the past five years. His first challenge comes against Smith, a 30-year-old Texan with 44 MMA fights under his belt. Smith has been on a roll recently, finishing his last three opponents, including former champions Rashad Evans and Mauricio Rua. Jones and Smith are both tall fighters (6-foot-4) for the 205-pound division, but there is one huge difference: Jones has a freakish 84.5-inch reach while Smith has a modest 76-inch reach. Smith will look to brawl with Jones, but will he be able to close the distance on the champ? That's never been done.

Tyron Woodley (champion) vs Kamaru Usman (ranked No. 2), welterweight title, co-main event

Since Woodley won the belt in 2016, UFC seems to be writing a script that makes him look like a boring fighter. Three of his four title defenses have come against specialists, which make for a less aggressive approach. The champ's next opponent is no different. Usman, like Woodley, is a highly skilled wrestler, and the Nigerian owns a three-inch advantage in height and two-inch edge in reach. But Woodley has the knockout power. Woodley, 36, has great take-down defense and is a great counter-striker. If Usman is quick to shoot for a takedown, expect Woodley to tag him. And don't be surprised if this fight goes the full five rounds. Just think of it as a 25-minute chess match.

Robbie Lawler (ranked No. 6) vs. Ben Askren (NR), welterweight, main card

These two veterans have completely different styles. Lawler, a former UFC champ, is a brawler with amazing take-down defense. Askren, a former ONE Championship welterweight champ, is known for his incredible wrestling skills, which allows him to open up submissions and the ground-and-pound. Askren and UFC president Dana White have frequently been at odds, which is why it took so long for 34-year-old to finally get an opportunity to fight in the biggest promotion in MMA. With the great contrast in styles, don't be surprised if this ends up as a one-sided fight.

Cody Garbrandt (ranked No. 2) vs. Pedro Munhoz (No. 8), bantamweight, main card

This fight marks the return of Garbrandt, the former bantamweight champion coming off back-to-back knockout losses to T.J. Dillashaw in title fights. Garbrandt took eight months off to recover. The 27-year-old had a meteoric rise, getting a title shot in just his sixth UFC fight and embarrassing one of the best ever in the division, Dominic Cruz, to win the belt. The big question in this fight: Has Garbrandt adjusted his game plan since August, or will he stick to the all-or-nothing approach that got him battered out of the main-event scene?

UFC Fight Night 146 (UFC on ESPN+ 4)
Saturday, March 9
Main prelims, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN+; Main card, 8 p.m., ESPN+

Derrick Lewis (ranked No. 3) vs. Junior dos Santos (No. 8), heavyweight, main event

It's a must-watch whenever two ranked heavyweights go toe-to-toe. Lewis has been known to take some brutal beatings yet still land the unexpected knockout punch that gets him the win. Dos Santos is known for his knockout power as well as how he can control a fight. Don't be shocked if you see this fight make it into the second or even third round. Regardless, don't blink!

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (ranked No. 13) vs. Curtis Millender (NR), welterweight, co-main event

Dos Santos (no relation) has won six fights in a row and 10 of his past 11. The 32-year-old Brazilian has been awarded three fight-of-the-night awards during his winning streak. Millender, a tall 31-year-old from California, is riding his own nine-fight win streak. Dos Santos has recorded 14 of his 20 wins via knockout; Millender is more patient. Millender is looking to crack the top 15 with a win, while dos Santos hopes to get a top 10 fight next time around.

UFC Fight Night 147 (UFC on ESPN+ 5)
Saturday, March 16
Main prelims, 12 p.m. ET, ESPN+; Main card, 3 p.m., ESPN+

Darren Till (ranked No. 3) vs. Jorge Masvidal (No. 10), welterweight, main event

Last September, Till was undefeated, fighting for the welterweight title. Then he was dismantled by Woodley in less than two rounds. After the loss, the 26-year-old Till contemplated moving up in weight class, but ultimately did not. Now the 6-foot Brit is looking to start a new win streak. The 34-year-old Masvidal, who trains out of American Top Team, took a break from fighting after a loss to Stephen Thompson in 2017 andcompeted on a sports-based, Spanish-language reality TV show. Masvidal is no stranger to all-out brawls, and Till certainly will look to keep the fight standing. Watch out for Till's weight: He's missed weight by more than four pounds in two of his past five fights. If he misses weight again, it could mean the end of his time at welterweight.

UFC Fight Night 148 (UFC on ESPN+ 6)
Saturday, March 23
Main prelims, 5 p.m. ET, ESPN+; Main card, 8 p.m., ESPN+

Stephen Thompson (ranked No. 4) vs Anthony Pettis (NR), welterweight, main event

Here are two fighters looking to make one last run at a title. Pettis, a former UFC champion at lightweight, fights in the welterweight division for the first time since 2008. Pettis has been in a tailspin since losing his belt in 2015 to Rafael Dos Anjos, losing six of his past nine fights, most recently to Tony Ferguson at UFC 229. Thompson also has had a rough go of it lately: The 36-year-old kickboxer has won only one of his past four fights. A victory for Thompson could put him in line for a No. 1 contender fight. Pettis is looking to find a home in the welterweight division.

Maycee Barber (not ranked) vs JJ Aldrich (NR), women's flyweight

Barber recently went on record stating she will be as big as both Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey. At just 20 years old, with just one UFC fight to her name, Barber has her mind set on becoming the youngest champion in UFC history. Aldrich, a 26-year-old fighting out of Denver, is on a three-fight UFC win streak and is making her debut in the flyweight division. Aldrich is always game for a stand-up battle, and has won many of her fights by out-pointing her opponents. Taking out the heavily hyped Barber would do wonders for Aldrich's career.

Bellator 219
Friday, March 29
Prelims, 6:30 p.m ET, Bellator.com; Main card, 9 p.m., DAZN & Paramount Network

Andrey Koreshkov vs. Lorenz Larkin, welterweight, main event

Larkin was a rising star in the UFC and left on a high note by winning three out of four fights, beating Santiago Ponzinibbio, Masvidal, and Neil Magny. His move to Bellator was surprising, not only for leaving the top promotion, but also because he lost his first two fights in his new company. The 32-year-old bounced back to win his past two fights and now faces a tough challenge in Koreshkov, a 28-year-old Russian with just three losses in 24 professional fights (one to Ben Askren, two to Douglas Lima). The winner of this fight would be in line to enter the welterweight grand prix in the event of an injury.

Saturday, March 30
Early prelims, 3:30 p.m. ET, TBA; Main prelims, 5 p.m., ESPN; Main card, 7 p.m., ESPN

Edson Barboza (ranked No. 6) vs. Justin Gaethje (No. 7), lightweight, main event

The first main event on ESPN -- Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez -- was over in just 26 seconds. UFC is set up for a more gripping headline fight the second time around. Barboza and Gaethje are two fighters who will put on a show. Gaethje is a brawler. He doesn't care about his wrestling background, he is just looking to knock out his opponent. Barboza, known for his ridiculous leg kicks, has a taekwondo and muay thai background. The entertainment potential here is very high.

ONE Championship A New Era
Sunday, March 31
Main card 4 p.m. ET, onefc.com

Demetrious Johnson vs. Yuya Wakamtsu, flyweight grand prix quarterfinals

Johnson's debut in ONE Championship after being acquired in the "trade" that sent Askren to UFC. Johnson, the former UFC flyweight champion, was touted as the number one pound-for-pound fighter in UFC for a very long time. Johnson was undefeated in his first 14 flyweight fights and successfully defended his title 11 times until losing to Henry Cejudo last August. Now, UFC is considering shutting down its flyweight division. Good news for the Singapore-based ONE, which scooped up one of the best MMA fighters ever. As long as Johnson stays healthy, there is no reason to think he can't don the flyweight belt in his new promotion.

Eddie Alvarez vs. Timofey Nastyukhin, lightweight grand-prix quarterfinals

Alvarez finished his UFC contract by suffering a TKO loss to Dustin Poirier last July. It took him less than three months to announce he would be signing with ONE Championship. The 35-year-old lightweight has held titles in Bellator and UFC, and would complete an unprecedented three-peat by claiming the title in ONE. That would just add to the Philadelphia native's Hall of Fame resume.