Hello, everyone, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up. It is UFC 250 fight week in Las Vegas, kicking off UFC events on every Saturday during the month of June. We look back at the UFC’s first event at the UFC APEX, and there has been no shortage of news this week, so let’s dive right in.
Looking Back At UFC On ESPN 9 & This Week’s News
- The biggest news going on in the sport is the situation between Jon Jones and the UFC, in specific his public battle with Dana White. It has all escalated to the point of Jones being willing to give up the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship and ask to be released from his contract. While he is sincere about it, I don’t think it will actually happen. Everything has seemed to hit the breaking point between the two, and I think it will eventually get worked out. It all stems from Jones’ desire to fight Francis Ngannou and to get properly compensated for it.
- White has claimed that Jones wants to be paid similarly to Deontay Wilder for a fight against Ngannou. I’ve heard that isn’t true, and also that Jones and White have never actually discussed money for that fight. Jones likely discussed financials with UFC lawyer Hunter Campbell, who is just as pivotal to getting fights made as White is. The situation between Jones and White is so fragile at the moment that Campbell may be the one who ends up negotiating with Jones, much like he does with other fighters, notably the Diaz brothers.
- What is known is this much — the UFC isn’t giving pay raises at the moment due to the loss of live gates. If they can get fans in soon, that may change, but they are budgeting with the idea of no live gates for possibly the rest of the year. It is causing a lot of headaches for both the UFC in trying to put together fights, and the fighters who want better pay and proper compensation. If they aren’t careful, they could find themselves in a bunch of situations like they currently find themselves with Henry Cejudo — a champion walking away in his prime because he wants to get paid more.
- There is also the issue of Jones’ next title defense. The UFC wants Jones to defend the light heavyweight title against Dominick Reyes next, something that doesn’t seem to interest Jones. He keeps trying to avoid that fight, and bringing Ngannou into the equation derails what the company wants next. The fact is, they really don’t want Jones or Ngannou to lose, so putting them against each other is a no-win situation for their plans.
- A vacant 205-pound title would be a bad look for the company when they are having issues getting title fights made right now. The 125-pound and 135-pound titles are already vacant. The 145-pound, 155-pound and 185-pound titles are held by fighters who can’t get into the US right now. The 170-pound title is being held by someone who is causing some drama (more on that in a moment). The heavyweight title is up in the air. On the female side, the 115-pound title is held by someone who can’t get out of China, the 125-pound title is on the shelf due to injury, and the 135-pound title is held by someone who is defending the 145-pound title this weekend. They’re in tight spots.
To the light heavyweight title Veni, vidi, vici
— Jon Bones Jones (@JonnyBones) May 31, 2020
- Speaking of the UFC Welterweight Championship held by Kamaru Usman, there are a lot of questions as to what is going to happen with his next fight. They want him to fight Jorge Masvidal, but apparently Usman’s financial demands are very high for that fight, and they can’t come to an agreement. Masvidal knows this and is now looking elsewhere, and there is a lot of drama going on in the division right now.
- A man who put himself right into the welterweight title shot talk is Gilbert Burns, who scored an impressive decision win over Tyron Woodley on Saturday night in Las Vegas. It was the best he has looked and he dominated the fight. He said he is willing to fight Usman, who is his teammate, but he more than likely will need another win to get it.
- Woodley looked off on Saturday. He was injured coming into the fight and had his return delayed two months. His game-plan seemed off, and I’m not sure if that was due to the damage he took in the first round, or everything else. He just looked gun-shy and not at the level he was when he was the best welterweight in the world.
- Seeing how off Woodley looked, I wonder if Colby Covington is mad at himself for turning down fights against Woodley multiple times now.
- Two female fighters who looked impressive on Saturday were Mackenzie Dern and Katlyn Chookagian. Dern got the first submission via leglock in women’s UFC history, and she looked in the best shape of her career. She’s back on track, and to be honest, this win just proved how good Amanda Ribas is because she dominated Dern everywhere. Chookagian had the most impressive win of her career in dominating Antonina Shevchenko. She did things she hadn’t done yet in the UFC, showing off her ground game and mixing in takedowns. She got multiple takedowns, which were not only her first in the UFC, but it was the first time she even attempted takedowns. It’s going to take some work for her to get another title shot, but she looked real good.
- Spike Carlyle is fun to watch. He may have been on the wrong side of a close decision, but I can watch him fight every week. He’s exciting.
- Two other notable performances from Saturday came from Brandon Royval and Chris Gutierrez. Royval fought off the funky style from Tim Elliott to submit him in the second, while Gutierrez destroyed the legs of Vince Morales with kicks to finish him in the second. Both are young fighters with lots of potential, and fighters to keep an eye on.
- Moving on to UFC 250 on Saturday, this will be a test to see if Amanda Nunes can now be a draw as a headliner on her own. Felicia Spencer is a no-name opponent, and this is Nunes’ first main event since defeating Cris Cyborg, and she is the focus on this one. She was the co-main UFC 239, which did well on PPV, but was third-from-top and an afterthought on UFC 245, with three title fights, and that only did about 300,000 buys.
- UFC 250 isn’t the deepest card on paper, but there are lots of intriguing fights. It will be interesting to see how Cody Garbrandt bounces back under the tutelage of Mark Henry. Aljamain Sterling and Cory Sandhagen are battling for a title shot, and the winner needs to come out unscathed and ready just in case something happens to either Petr Yan or Jose Aldo. You have two young and exciting prospects in Sean O’Malley and Chase Hooper on the card, and there is a little something for everyone. It’s actually a good card overall.
Coming Up This Week
As mentioned above, it is UFC 250 fight week. UFC Women’s Featherweight Champion Amanda Nunes defends against Felicia Spencer in the main event. Also on the main card is Raphael Assuncao vs. Cody Garbrandt, Aljamain Sterling vs. Cory Sandhagen, Neil Magny vs. Anthony Rocco Martin, and Eddie Wineland vs. Sean O’Malley. It airs on ESPN+ PPV at 10 PM ET, 7 PM PT. The prelims, which will air completely on ESPN, begin at 6 PM ET, 3 PM PT, and are headlined by Alex Caceres vs. Chase Hooper. Among the prelims are Ian Heinisch vs. Gerald Meerschaert, Cody Stamann vs. Brian Kelleher, and Jussier Formiga vs. Alex Perez.
Outside of that, it is a quiet weekend for the sport.
This Week In MMA History
On June 4, 2016, we saw one of the greatest fighters to never hold a UFC championship finally get UFC gold strapped around his waist when Michael Bisping scored a shocking first-round knockout win over Luke Rockhold to become the UFC Middleweight Champion in the main event of UFC 199. Bisping famously took the fight on two weeks’ notice, and Rockhold already held a dominant win over him in the past. It seemed like Rockhold didn’t take the fight seriously, and Bisping made him pay by rocking him several times before finishing him off in 3:36. It was the crowning achievement of Bisping’s Hall Of Fame career.
That win capped off one of the best UFC events in history. Also on the show was Dominick Cruz successfully defending the UFC Bantamweight Championship against Urijah Faber in their trilogy bout, a featherweight war between Max Holloway and Ricardo Lamas that is famous for Holloway yelling at Lamas to bang in the last seconds of the fight, and Dan Henderson’s turn-back-the-clock comeback knockout of Hector Lombard.
The show started off with a wild and memorable brawl between Polo Reyes and Maestro Dong Hyun Kim, and also had signature wins by Dustin Poirier, Brian Ortega and Jessica Andrade.
You can watch the UFC 199 main card of UFC Fight Pass here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/23549?playlistId=1849.