Duke it out
Yesterday's EA Play Live event passed without the expected EA Sports UFC 4 reveal. casually that a game announcement will take place during the Pay Per View. Expecting a little more isn't too complicated given that we already know what we're expecting.
I used this space three years ago to argue that Joanna Jedrzejczyk should be on the cover of EA Sports UFC 3. That argument has aged very badly as she lost for the first time ever a few days later. Since then, she's lost three more times to some of the top names in women's MMA. She won't be on the cover of EA Sports UFC 4 unless there's a Mars Attacks edition. Still, Joanna is my favorite fighter and you can't take that away from me.
So who will be on the cover? It's hard to say because while the UFC has only grown in popularity in the past few years, it no longer has a transcendent star like Ronda Rousey or Conor McGregor. (Conor "retired" again a few weeks ago.) There are plenty of options but few clear locks. Let's classify them.
He could very well be the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, but his record outside the cage has been less than stellar. He's fresh off a DUI conviction where he went biking while firing a handgun in the air, but that's hardly the extent of Jones' problematic story. He also had a hit and run against a pregnant woman, another DUI, a cocaine-related suspension and two other suspensions for using banned substances that most fans believe were masking agents for anabolic steroids. .
Seeing him on the cover of EA Sports UFC 4 will have people questioning their view, like they're just on the wrong end of a Jon Jones peek.
9. Justin Gaethje
Justin Gaethje is a world-class fighter who has exactly [checks notes] zero takedown attempts in the UFC. He doesn't play to his most obvious strength because he likes to punch guys in the head. And it works because the launches absolute bombs.
He is coming off a win over Tony Ferguson in May, setting him up for a crack at Khabib Nurmagomedov's lightweight belt. Gaethje isn't big enough for a video game cover just yet, but don't be surprised if he arrives very soon.
8. Valentina Shevchenko
There is probably no more underrated fighter on this list than Valentina Shevchenko. She has just two UFC losses, both decisions fell to Amanda Nunes. She hasn't lost since 2022. She's coming through the Flyweight division and it doesn't look like anyone is going to legitimately challenge her anytime soon. Still, she doesn't have much of a chance to be our cover athlete.
7. Jorge Masvidal
If Gaethje and Shevchenko prefer substance over style, Jorge Masvidal is the exact opposite. Gamebred has a career that is strewn with losses until a three-fight redemption arc propelled him to the top of the public eye. It started with a win over Darren Till but, more specifically, a bonus bonus after the backstage fights where he walked in with Leon Edwards and gave him "the three coins and a soda." The legend grew with his ridiculous 5 second knockout of Ben Askren.
Of everyone on this list, Masvidal is the only one who has never held UFC gold, not even an interim belt. No, the BMF belt does not count.
6. Kamaru Usman
The Nigerian nightmare has taken the welterweight division by storm, knocking out longtime champion Tyron Woodley in 2022. Additionally, he is headlining the card where EA Sports UFC 4 is going to be announced.
Honestly, just give him the cover to shut up that fake MAGA idiot.
Khabib is probably the hardest to analyze when it comes to this list. He can also claim the best MMA fighter of all time. He is undefeated and could very well stay that way forever.
Still, it's not that exciting from a marketing perspective. He lets his opponents do 98 percent of the trash talking to build hype. Then he climbs into the cage and chokes them. Plus, something tells me Khabib wouldn't want to be on the cover anyway — but maybe I'm wrong!
4. Daniel Cormier
Yeah, I know Stipe Miocic might be a better choice here because he just beat Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight championship. Yes, I know Cormier will forever have Jon Jones' career losses like the Pig-Pen dust cloud in Peanuts.
Something tells me Cormier is a very real candidate, though. He's in the twilight of his career and UFC president Dana White has commented on how well Cormier is doing as he nears retirement. He gets a rubber match with Stipe in August. He already has a fluffy announcer position when he's not fighting. There's a chance he'll also be on the cover of the next UFC game.
3. Conor McGregor
Forget what I said earlier, there's a good chance Conor will be on the cover of EA Sports UFC 4 because selling video games is what's most important. It's quite likely that he'll top all those fighters that you know are still fighting.
2. Israel Adesanya
It wasn't that long ago that Israel Adesanya was a top player, but now he's up there. The current middleweight champion is one of the most exciting fighters on the UFC roster. He is patient, relies on dodges and counter-strikes. He fakes a lot, finding odd angles to throw punches. And, it will drive the absolute shit out of your legs.
However, Adesanya is one of the most charismatic on the list. He's the rare mixed martial artist who has a personality, and isn't a forced smacktalker who comes across as cringey. There's also crossover appeal as Adesanya is a massive anime nerd. He did a walkout performance based on Naruto. He imitates writing the names of his victims in a Death Note-style notebook. His nickname is "The Last Stylebender", a tribute to Avatar: The Last Airbender. Yeah, Izzy feels almost perfect for the cover.
1. Amanda Nunes
Izzy feels almost perfect for the cover because there's only one truly perfect choice. This is Amanda Nunes. She is the greatest female fighter of all time. She currently holds the belt in two different divisions. Whenever she fights, the only real takeaway is "Damn, Nunes is really a whole lot better than everyone else." »
Here's a recent example: Nunes just defended the Featherweight belt two weeks ago against Felicia Spencer. Midway through the fight, the speech was all “Wow, Spencer is tough as hell because she takes a real beating,” and “Corners needs to be better at throwing in the towel to protect her fighters.”
Double champion, GOAT, an absolutely flawless monster in the cage. That's a cover-worthy summary.
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