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Monday MMA Round-Up: COVID Strikes

Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up. I hope everyone enjoyed their Thanksgiving week, and it was a relatively quiet week in the world of mixed martial arts. Let’s get into what’s is going on in the MMA universe.

Looking Back At UFC On ESPN 18

  • It was bound to happen, but COVID struck not one, but two, UFC main events this week. The worst news came with the cancellation of the Curtis Blaydes vs. Derrick Lewis main event fight on Saturday, which was called off early Friday morning just before the weigh-ins, after Blaydes tested positive for COVID, leaving the show without a main event. Luckily, they had Anthony Smith on the card, who was moved into the main event slot, even though it was against Devin Clark, who was competing in his first main. It was a bad blow to the card.
  • Blaydes vs. Lewis is going to be rescheduled. There was talk of getting Lewis another fight on an upcoming card, but Blaydes still wants to fight as soon as he gets a negative test for COVID. There was talk of it being added to UFC 256 on 12/12 to bolster the card, but it could end up happening in January, possibly as the main event of the 1/30 card.
  • The main event for the next card also was dealt a blow as Kevin Holland tested positive for COVID, which forced him out of the headline slot against Jack Hermansson. It’s an especially tough blow for Holland, who was looking to score an upset to go 5–0 in 2020 and move into the rankings. The UFC was able to get Marvin Vettori, who was scheduled to fight Jacare Souza on the UFC 256 card on 12/12, to agree to fight a week earlier and fight Hermansson. Vettori is a ranked fighter who has been asking for his shot at a big fight, so this is a positive move for him. And kudos to Hermansson, who will be preparing for his third different opponent for this fight. Holland said he was feeling good and had no symptoms, and wanted to quickly return, so they did book him against Souza on the UFC 256 card, though the fight does have the chance of not happening, at least on that date.
  • There were rumors on Sunday that Khamzat Chimaev tested positive for COVID and would be out of the fight against Leon Edwards on 12/19. The reports came from reliable sources, but Chimaev’s team came out and denied the rumors, and no one from Edwards’ team has heard anything from the UFC. As of this writing, the fight is still on, but is something worth keeping an eye on.
  • Anthony Smith’s much needed return to the win column deserves some praise. I was highly critical of him fighting again so soon after taking a really hard beating at the hands on Aleksandar Rakic less than three months ago. That had already come just over three months after a bad beating at the hands of Glover Teixeira. However, he escaped his win over Devin Clark taking the least amount of damage as possible, which is good for him. I hope he takes a little longer off and that he’s not in a rush to fight so soon. Take a break, Anthony, we don’t need you until the spring.
  • The rest of the UFC card on Saturday was enjoyable for the most part. There were some nice wins coming from the likes of Miguel Baeza, Jonathan Pearce, Su Mudaerji and Nate Maness. There was also a sloppy heavyweight brawl that some people enjoy. It wasn’t a flashy card by any means, but an overall good show.
  • It was only a matter of time for COVID to hit some big fights again. The UFC has been lucky that they’ve gotten through the bulk of shows without the virus affecting a main event for the most part, outside of when it forced Gilbert Burns out, but that only led to a stronger fight between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal. With the rise of cases going on in the United States, it was bound to hit the UFC. They’ve done a good job of testing, and they should be glad they aren’t dealing with all of the issues that the NFL is.
  • To those who still hold out hope that Khabib Nurmagomedov is going to fight again, I think his announcement that he has purchased a fight organization and is going to run the operations is further proof of his plans for after fighting. He is continuing the vision set forth by his father and continuing his legacy of giving the youth population in Dagestan, and other countries, an opportunity. He is supposed to be meeting with Dana White sometime soon, which is where I expect not only for him to forfeit the UFC Lightweight Championship, but for him to also cut a deal for his promotion’s events to air on UFC Fight Pass.
  • I’ve said it before in the last few weeks in this column, but UFC 257, the show headlined by Conor McGregor against Dustin Poirier, is going to be at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi. A lot of people got the impression that it might be in Las Vegas with the UFC applying for a license to promote an event there on the same day, but that is just standard protocol. There will be multiple events in Abu Dhabi, and Dana White said the plan is to do a Saturday-Wednesday-Saturday schedule. It is still up in the air whether it’ll just be three events on Fight Island, or if they will extend their stay through UFC 258 on February 13, which has been talked about.
  • The Ultimate Fighter should start filming at any moment, with the idea of wrapping the show up before everyone heads to Abu Dhabi. Barring any last-minute changes, it is expected that the coaches will be Jorge Masvidal and Colby Covington.
  • UFC 258 on February 13 could have up to three title fights on it. Kamaru Usman vs. Gilbert Burns is currently planned for the event. Petr Yan vs. Aljamain Sterling is currently targeted for the card. Zhang Weili vs. Rose Namajunas could join them as well, though that is far from official and could take place later in the year as it is dependent on Namajunas being ready.
  • Sean O’Malley is currently scheduled to return to action on the UFC 258 card.

Playing Matchmaker

Here are some fights I would make for some of the fighters who competed at UFC On ESPN 18 on Saturday:

  • Anthony Smith vs. Paul Craig
  • Devin Clark vs. Shamil Gamzatov
  • Miguel Baeza vs. Alex Morono
  • Parker Porter vs. Philipe Lins
  • Bill Algeo vs. Jonathan Pearce
  • Gina Mazany vs. Shana Dobson
  • Su Mudaerji vs. David Dvorak

Fight Announcements

It was a light week for fight announcements with the holiday, but here are some notable fights that were announced:

  • Jack Hermansson vs. Marvin Vettori — UFC Fight Night — December 5
  • Kevin Holland vs. Ronaldo Souza — UFC 256 — December 12
  • Hakeem Dawodu vs. Shane Burgos — UFC 257 — January 23
  • Diego Ferreira vs. Beneil Dariush — UFC Fight Night — February 6
  • Michael Johnson vs. Clay Guida — UFC Fight Night — February 6
  • Julio Arce vs. Timur Valiev — UFC Fight Night — February 6
  • William Knight vs. Alonzo Menifield — UFC Fight Night — February 27
  • Uros Medic vs. Aalon Cruz — UFC 259 — March 6
  • Randy Costa vs. Trevin Jones — UFC 259 — March 6

Coming Up This Week

Here are some upcoming events taking place this week:

  • UFC On ESPN 19 on Saturday, December 5. The entire card is currently scheduled to air on ESPN2 (it could change during the week), with the prelims kicking off at 7 PM eastern time, and the main card at 10 PM eastern time. Jack Hermansson vs. Marvin Vettori is the main event. I will have my Guide to UFC On ESPN 19 coming later this week.
  • LFA 96 on Friday, December 4. It airs on UFC Fight Pass at 9 PM eastern time.
  • Oktagon MMA 19 on Saturday, December 5, which features UFC veterans Karlos Vemola and Lucie Pudilova on the card.

This Week In MMA History

Robbie Lawler, 2014

On December 6, 2014, one of the most violent fighters in MMA history finished off his career turnaround with UFC gold being put around his waist after over 13 years in the sport. Robbie Lawler completed a 2014 year for the ages, completing his career comeback by defeating Johny Hendricks for the UFC Welterweight Championship at UFC 181. It was a rematch of a fight that happened in March, which Hendricks won by close decision to win the title, but Lawler worked his way back to the rematch and finally fulfilled his long-known potential to become a UFC champion.

That was the second of two title fights on the card as UFC Lightweight Champion Anthony Pettis submitted Gilbert Melendez in the co-main event to retain the title. The two had come off a coaching stint against each other on the most recent season of The Ultimate Fighter. Also on the main card, Travis Browne beat Brendan Schaub, Todd Duffee finished Anthony Hamilton in 33 seconds, and Tony Ferguson submitted Abel Trujillo.

In undercard action, Urijah Faber submitted Francisco Rivera, the late Josh Samman knocked out Eddie Gordon with a vicious head kick, Corey Anderson got a decision win over Justin Jones, and Raquel Pennington had a crazy submission win over Ashlee Evans-Smith.

You can watch UFC 181 on UFC Fight Pass here.

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