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Monday MMA Round-Up: UFC 253 Recap

ABU DHABI, UNITED ARAB EMIRATES - SEPTEMBER 27: Israel Adesanya of Nigeria celebrates after defeating Paulo Costa of Brazil in their middleweight championship bout during UFC 253 inside Flash Forum on UFC Fight Island on September 27, 2020 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC)

Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up. It was quite the weekend in the world of mixed martial arts, with the big event being UFC 253 in the return to Fight Island. There was no shortage of news from the show, and from the week as well, so let’s get into things with my thoughts on the week that was.

Looking Back At UFC 253

  • I expected Israel Adesanya to win, and while I did think he would finish Paulo Costa, I didn’t think he would make it look that easy. It wasn’t even a competitive fight, which shows just how far ahead of the pack that Adesanya is. Costa didn’t look like a top contender. Rather, he looked like a guy plucked from the Contender Series and put into a title fight for his first UFC fight. I’m not quite ready to declare Adesanya the greatest UFC middleweight of all-time, because everything Anderson Silva accomplished was incredible and Adesanya has just two title defenses thus far, but he is well on his way to becoming just that. We are witnessing greatness every time he steps inside the Octagon, and that has to be appreciated.
  • Costa’s strategy in the fight was bizarre. He had very little offensive output, which was surprising because he generally has a lot of offensive output, and seemed like he wanted to taunt Adesanya more than he wanted to fight. Costa did come into fight week lighter than ever, as he has had trouble making 186 pounds in the past, and he needed to make it to 185 because it was a title fight, and it may have had an effect on his performance. This may be his only chance to win the middleweight title, at least as long as Adesanya is the champ, due to the nature of how the fight went. While I think he will stay at 185 pounds, it would not surprise me if he teased the idea of moving up to 205 pounds. He’s close enough to where he wouldn’t be undersized, especially if he adds a couple of pounds, and that division is wide open at the moment.
  • Jan Blachowicz’s turnaround to become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion in stunning fashion is nothing less than remarkable. He was, at one point, close to being on the chopping block after losing four of five fights following a successful UFC debut, but he has since gone on an 8-1 run to become the new top guy at 205 pounds. There will always be a bit of “what if” due to Jon Jones vacating the title, and Jones has already teased putting the move to heavyweight on hold to go win his title back. I mean, he did only vacate the title because they wanted him to defend against Dominick Reyes in a rematch, and he didn’t want to do that, so he dropped the title instead. It will be interesting to see how the new-look light heavyweight division plays out, because it is still wide open.
  • Much like Costa, I expected more out of Dominick Reyes. He came so close to beating Jones in February, and coming into Saturday, it looked like he was ready to take his place as the best 205-pounder in the world. He looked flat and didn’t look like someone who showed up to fight. He’s still got a tremendous amount of talent, and a few wins can put him right back into title contention, but this is going to be a tough loss to rebound from.
  • With the light heavyweight division being wide open, the one who may benefit the most could be Anthony Johnson. Johnson has re-entered the USADA drug testing pool and is expected to fight in the first quarter of 2021. He is a big name, and while I doubt they would put him into an immediate title fight, I think just one impressive win would earn him a title shot.
  • If I’m Blachowicz, the guy I’m keeping my eye on is Jiri Prochazka. He’s the most dangerous light heavyweight in the UFC right now.
  • One fighter who stood out to me more than anyone on UFC 253 was Brandon Royval. His striking looked incredible and submitting Kai Kara-France is no easy task. They had an incredible fight as well. It looks like the move to becoming a full-time fighter has already paid dividends, and I look forward to seeing more of him in the future.
  • To Diego Sanchez, it’s time to hang them up. Physically, he looked terrible and clearly didn’t come into UFC 253 in his best shape. He has nothing left in the gas tank to compete at the UFC level. I thought it was a mistake for the UFC to give him a new contract after the loss to Michael Chiesa, but they did, and I don’t want to see those last two fights. It is past the point of enjoyment watching him fight.
  • Speaking of Sanchez, the biggest news outside of the Octagon of the past week was Conor McGregor leaking private Instagram messages between himself and Dana White, which included McGregor asking to fight Sanchez. It was wrong for McGregor to post those messages, because it doesn’t make White look good at all, but posting those also doesn’t make McGregor look good. It seems to be yet another tactic from McGregor in pressuring the UFC to schedule him a fight sooner rather than later, because he is ready to return.

  • In other big McGregor news, there was lots of talk about him fighting Manny Pacquiao in a boxing match next. Yes, it is something that has been discussed, but it is a long way from even being close to a done deal. McGregor’s preference is fighting in MMA, and the UFC does have to approve him boxing, and they have a bunch of issues to work out. I would say that, as of now, it is more likely to not happen than it is to happen. Of course, that can change by the day.
  • They were unable to get Michael Chandler a fight on the UFC 254 card, so his lone goal will be to focus on making 155 pounds and be ready to fill-in in the event of something happening to either Khabib Nurmagomedov or Justin Gaethje.
  • Chandler wasn’t the only big lightweight signing recently, as the UFC also signed former two-division KSW champ Mateusz Gamrot. Gamrot is one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, and he is a big signing for the UFC.
  • Khamzat Chimaev will be headlining the 12/19 UFC show in Las Vegas, but his opponent remains to be seen. They wanted Stephen Thompson, but Thompson wants to fight Leon Edwards or Jorge Masvidal. There are lots of guys who don’t want to fight Chimaev, but there are a few that do. I fully expect Chimaev to fight Neil Magny on that date.
  • Dana White is now saying that they’re looking at booking Jorge Masvidal against Colby Covington next. It makes sense to go to this fight, and it would be a big fight and is already one fans want to see. I’ve never liked the idea of Masvidal taking a rematch against Nate Diaz, though that is something he wants to do as he feels he owes Diaz a fair chance at a fair ending, even though everyone agrees that the first fight ended in a fair manner.

Playing Matchmaker

Here are the fights I would make for some of the winners and losers at UFC 253:

  • Israel Adesanya vs. Robert Whittaker-Jared Cannonier winner
  • Paulo Costa vs. Robert Whittaker-Jared Cannonier loser
  • Jan Blachowicz vs. Thiago Santos-Glover Teixeira winner
  • Dominick Reyes vs. Volkan Oezdemir-Nikita Krylov winner
  • Brandon Royval vs. Alex Perez
  • Ketlen Vieira vs. Raquel Pennington
  • Hakeem Dawodu vs. Bryce Mitchell-Andre Fili winner

Coming Up This Week

The UFC keeps their 2020 schedule rolling with their second of five straight Saturday events in Abu Dhabi. UFC On ESPN 16 takes place on Saturday, headlined by a pivotal women’s bantamweight fight between Holly Holm and Irene Aldana. Also on the main card is Yorgan De Castro vs. Carlos Felipe, Germaine de Randamie vs. Julianna Pena, Tom Breese vs. KB Bhullar and Dequan Townsend vs. Dusko Todorovic. One of the big fights on the prelims sees Carlos Condit vs. Court McGee. The main card airs on ESPN at 10:30 PM eastern time, while the prelims kick off at 7:30 PM eastern time on ESPN+.

This is also a big week for Bellator, which will hold two events in Milan, Italy, including their debut on the CBS Sports Network on Thursday. That event, Bellator 247, will be headlined by Paul Daley vs. Derek Anderson, and will kick off at 4 PM eastern on CBS Sports Network. Their event on Saturday, Bellator Euro Series 9, will be headlined by James Gallagher vs. Cal Ellenor, and will air on Bellator.com at 5 PM eastern time on Saturday.

In other MMA events, Brave CF 43 airs on internet stream on Thursday at 1 PM eastern time and LFA 92 will take place on Friday, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 9 PM eastern time.

This Week In MMA History

On September 28, 2001, one of the most important events in the history of mixed martial arts took place, and a landmark event that is very polarizing. UFC 33 took place in Las Vegas, Nevada, the very first event sanctioned by the Nevada State Athletic Commission. The show took place at the Mandalay Bay, and marked the beginning of a very long and profitable relationship between the UFC and the city of Las Vegas, which is still home to the company to this day.

However, it remains one of the worst events in the history of the UFC, with three title fights, and the five main fights all went the distance. The pay-per-view feed actually cut out during the main event between Tito Ortiz and Vladimir Matyushenko, and was the last time the UFC scheduled more than five main card fights on pay-per-view for over ten years. It is often referred to by Dana White as the worst event in UFC history.

You can watch (if you dare) UFC 33 on UFC Fight Pass here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/32071?playlistId=1865.

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