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Monday MMA Round-Up: UFC 252 Fight Week

Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up. This past week was a busy week of news, with the UFC and Bellator each running an event, and this upcoming week is a big one. Let’s break it all down.

Thoughts On This Past Week:

  • I feel like the most important story coming out of this past weekend’s fight cards is the win at Bellator 242 by Michael Chandler over Benson Henderson. Chandler flattened Henderson with a hard left hand in just over two minutes. It was Chandler’s final fight on his Bellator contract, and for the first time since before signing with Bellator in 2010, he will pursue free agency. I don’t think he’s going to be returning to Bellator. The big question is where does he go. I fully expect the UFC to make an offer, and that would be the place for him to go. He would immediately be a ranked fighter, likely in the top ten, and the list of potential match-ups are endless for him. It would also provide another big option for the lightweight division as a lot of the top-ten ranked fighters have fought each other. He would be an excellent addition to the UFC roster, and he’s 34, so the time is now. I see the only other option for him being ONE and a potential third fight against Eddie Alvarez, but there isn’t much else there. The UFC would love to have Alvarez back, by the way, as they never wanted to let him go, but ONE’s contract offer was just way too big to match.
  • Another big change change in fighter homes saw Corey Anderson sign with Bellator after being released by the UFC. Anderson quietly asked for his release from his UFC contract, and it was granted, and he quickly signed with Bellator. It is extremely rare for the UFC to grant anyone a release when they’re asked, which just goes to show how they felt about Anderson more than anything. They were more than happy to let him go as he wasn’t very well liked. He often complained about a lot of things, both privately and publicly, and often blamed a lot of others for his own issues. He also was very upset about Dominick Reyes being chosen over him for a title shot against Jon Jones, and felt he was being punished and forced to fight Jan Blachowicz instead of a title fight he felt he deserved, and they weren’t happy about that. Hopefully, his attitude in Bellator is better, and he is quickly a contender at 205 pounds there.
  • Another UFC release this week was former flyweight title challenger Ray Borg. He pulled out of a fight last week, which was the final straw. He has had a lot of issues over the years and a lot has to do with the health of his son, which they take very seriously. However, this most recent pull out was because he wasn’t going to make weight, which would have been the fifth time he had missed weight. At some point, enough is enough when it comes to missing weight, and having fights cancelled because of it constantly showed just how unreliable he is to the matchmakers, and they felt they had no choice but to cut him.
  • Derrick Lewis’ big win over Aleksei Oleinik in the main event of UFC On ESPN+ 32 on Saturday puts him in an interesting spot. A lot of what happens next in the heavyweight division is dependent on what happens this weekend at UFC 252. We kind of find ourselves in a mini-tournament in the heavyweight division, and Lewis is a part of that. He has gotten better and another win could get him a title shot that doesn’t come on three weeks’ notice, giving him ample time to prepare.
  • I thought Chris Weidman’s return to 185 pounds and subsequent win over Omari Akhmedov was good, but he is still far from being able to stamp himself as ready for the top of the division. He is confident he can still compete for the title, but the middleweight division has a lot of killers right now, and I don’t think this win shows Weidman is ready for them. He needs another impressive win or two against lower-ranked fighters to truly be back.
  • Beneil Dariush continues to be impressive and he is one of the most likable fighters in the sport. Five straight wins in the lightweight division isn’t easy, and he has been doing it by getting highlight-reel finishes. He’s always been right there on the cusp of breaking into the top ten, and his stock has never been higher than it is right now.
  • Kevin Holland continues to be a joy to watch inside the Octagon. He is constantly in action-packed fights, and he has scored some great finishes. He’s got a great personality, and he is putting it together very nicely. He has a tremendous amount of potential and the sky is the limit for him.
  • I’m gutted to see Geoff Neal’s health issues. He had to spend a week in the ICU this past week and was forced out of his upcoming bout against Neil Magny. He has spent all of 2020 trying to get a fight, and many potential opponents have turned him down. He finally gets a fight and then suffers from health issues forcing him out. If that doesn’t sum up 2020 for most of everyone, I don’t know what does.
  • Zabit Magomedshapirov vs. Yair Rodriguez is turning into the featherweight version of Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson. It finally looked like they were going to finally fight on August 29, but Rodriguez was forced out due to an ankle injury. It is currently in the process of being rebooked for later this year. Magomedshapirov was wanting to get a title fight instead with Rodriguez pulling out, but they aren’t going to give it to him and want him to fight Rodriguez first.
  • I’m not surprised that Cody Garbrandt is getting the first shot at UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo. Are there legit contenders at 125 pounds? Yes. Brandon Moreno should be getting the shot, and Alex Perez and Askar Askarov are in the mix. However, sometimes you have to look at what is best for the health of the division. The flyweight division doesn’t get the attention it deserves now that Demetrious Johnson and Henry Cejudo are gone, and Garbrandt brings a jolt of energy and attention to a division that needs it as he’s a big name and very popular. The fact that Figueiredo vs. Garbrandt is headlining a pay-per-view event while the other fights would only headline an ESPN+ event proves that. It’s also a chance for Figueiredo to get a huge win in front of a bigger audience. This is a win-win fight for the division.
  • After his loss at Bellator 242 on Friday, that may be it for Matt Mitrione. He’s winless in his last four fights, he’s 42, and now it’s starting to look like his chin might be gone. He accomplished far more in the sport than many thought he would, and he was a much bigger name than anyone thought he would be. He has some good wins on his resume, including wins over Fedor Emelianenko, Derrick Lewis and Roy Nelson, but the time may be near the end.
  • The return of Dana White’s Contender Series produced some good fights and felt like a welcome addition to the weekly routine. I thought Dustin Jacoby and Uros Medic were both worthy of a contract, and was surprised that Jordan Leavitt got a contract as well. It was looking like Jacoby wasn’t going to get a contract and that White changed his mind at the last second, but he deserved one. Of course, getting a finish is the most important thing to White and the matchmakers on the show, but Jacoby did everything he could to finish his fight and completely dominated. He’s a solid addition to the light heavyweight division.

Playing Matchmaker

Here are fights I would make following both UFC On ESPN+ 32 and Bellator 242:

  • Michael Chandler vs. Paul Felder in the UFC if Chandler signs with the UFC
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Curtis Blaydes
  • Aleksei Oleinik vs. Junior Dos Santos-Jairzinho Rozenstruik loser
  • Chris Weidman vs. Luke Rockhold 2
  • Beneil Dariush vs. Al Iaquinta
  • Kevin Holland vs. Andrew Sanchez
  • Tim Means vs. Mike Perry

Coming Up This Week

The UFC has a major event this week, with one of the biggest fights of 2020 taking place. UFC 252 is on Saturday, August 15, with a trilogy to be decided in the main event as UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic and former champion Daniel Cormier settle the score and determine the greatest UFC heavyweight of all-time. The rest of the pay-per-view card is Sean O’Malley vs. Marlon Vera, Junior Dos Santos vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik, John Dodson vs. Merab Dvalishvili and Magomed Ankalaev vs. Ion Cutelaba. The event is available for purchase on ESPN+ and the main card starts at 10 PM eastern time. The prelims kick off at 6 PM eastern time on ESPN.

Dana White’s Contender Series is back for week two of 2020 on ESPN+, airing Tuesday at 8 PM eastern time.

This Week In MMA History

On August 15, 2009, arguably the biggest fight in women’s MMA history, but definitely the most important fight in women’s MMA history, took place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California.

It was one of the most-anticipated fights of 2009 as Gina Carano and Cris Cyborg were headlining a Strikeforce event. It was a landmark moment in MMA, the first time women headlined a major MMA event. The show drew a huge crowd in San Jose and garnered a lot of interest in the sporting world.

Cyborg would go on to finish Carano with just one second left in the first round, in a fight she largely dominated, to become the Strikeforce Women’s Featherweight Champion. It would establish Cyborg as the most dominant female fighter in the sport, but was also the final fight of Carano’s career. Also on the show, Gegard Mousasi knocked out Renato Sobral to become the Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion, Gilbert Melendez finished Mitsuhiro Ishida to retain the Interim Strikeforce Lightweight Championship, and Fabricio Werdum submitted Mike Kyle.

You can watch the Carano vs. Cyborg fight on UFC Fight Pass here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/31868.

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