Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up, where we take a look at what is going on in the world of mixed martial arts. As we are into the final month of this crazy 2020, things are getting a little more quiet than normal, but there is still plenty going on. Let’s dive in and take a look at all of the happenings.
Looking Back At UFC On ESPN 19
- The biggest news of the week was Yoel Romero parting ways with the UFC, which was announced on Friday. It was a real surprising move as Romero had three fights left on his contract, and was just in a title fight. However, it makes a lot of sense for this move to be made. Word is that Romero was wanting out of his deal, and while the UFC wants to keep headliners, they are also cutting fighters and he has a high-dollar contract. It also makes sense in that Romero wasn’t going to get another title fight without going up to 205 lbs., which wasn’t going to happen, but at the same time, he’s still too good to be a gatekeeper and would possibly derail any fighters the company would be trying to build up for a title shot. He is also 1–4 in his last five fights, with three straight losses, so his best days could be in the past, but you just never know with him. If he really wanted out, let him go to Bellator or any other promotion and fight out whatever remaining time he has left. It’s a blow to the UFC, but not one they can’t recover from.
- Dana White said there would be about 60 fighters cut from the roster. The unofficial word is that the number of fighters cut could actually be between 60 and 80. While that seems like a large number, there are currently just under 650 fighters under UFC contract right now. That is a huge number and they do need to trim the roster. There will likely be some pretty notable names among the cuts, but that is to be expected. If you’re a fighter on a skid, especially one who has been around for a while and has a high contract, you should be worried. It’s part of business. I will say this, though—if you have that many fighters on the roster and you need to trim, there is no need to be doing a new season of The Ultimate Fighter and more runs of the Contender Series. However, those fighters come cheap and you can cut your high-paying talent. It’ll upset fans, but they always eventually move on.
- COVID struck the UFC event this week, yet again, with fights between Montana De La Rosa and Taila Santos, and Nate Landwehr and Movsar Evloev, being called off due to positive COVID tests. The former was cancelled after one of De La Rosa’s cornermen tested positive, while the latter was called off after Evloev tested positive. Again, that is the risk of running events during the pandemic, and even when you think of having it under control, you really don’t. An additional fight, this one being Jimmy Flick vs. Cody Durden, was also called off due to commission issues. Word is that Durden had pink eye and the commission wouldn’t clear him to fight, and that the bout was going to be rebooked on the 12/19 card.
- The main event of Saturday’s UFC event between Marvin Vettori and Jack Hermansson was one of the better fights of the year. They pounded away at each other throughout the fight, landing a combined 248 significant strikes. Vettori came into the fight as the favorite, which I felt was a surprise, but he scored the impressive win, taking the first two rounds and halting Hermansson’s attempts at making a comeback in the fight. It won’t get love when it comes to talking about the best fight of the year, but it should make some top ten lists. On a show that was hurt by losing fights, it ended up leaving viewers with a positive review of the card.
- Other fighters with impressive performances on the card were Jamahal Hill, Gabriel Benitez, Jordan Leavitt, Louis Smolka and Ilia Topuria. Leavitt’s slam knockout of Matt Wiman was very scary, and Wiman was down for a long time, but he was able to walk off. I would like to see Wiman hang it up, as he took five years off and hasn’t looked good since coming back, and this was a scary moment. Topuria is a big-time prospect who scored a one punch knockout of Damon Jackson, and at 23-years-old, they have a potential title contender on their hands there.
- Yair Rodriguez being suspended by USADA for six months for a whereabouts failure is really baffling. I know from talking to fighters and having seen it first-hand that updating their whereabouts on the app can be difficult at times, but getting three strikes on it is still really hard to accomplish. It is almost like not caring about it. In the five years since USADA came on board, only Rodriguez and Nick Diaz have suffered whereabouts failure suspensions. Of course, it doesn’t matter in the case of Diaz, or didn’t at the time. Many fighters have strikes against them, but when Conor McGregor or Jon Jones can update their whereabouts when they are in the middle of all of their party time, others can as well. Dana White did get some criticism for mentioning there were issues with Rodriguez and making it sound worse than it really was, but I can tell you that Dana only knew it was a USADA suspension and not what for, and he does tend to over dramatize things at times.
- Speaking of Nick Diaz, his manager came out this past week and said it was “99.9999%” that Diaz would fight again in 2021. He has been training a lot to return and has gotten in better shape. From all accounts, he is serious about returning and has put the heavy partying behind him for now. He hasn’t fought since February 2015, and hasn’t won a fight since October 2011, so it will be interesting to see who he would fight in his return, which will be at 170 lbs. I see three possible opponents- Tyron Woodley, Carlos Condit or Robbie Lawler.
- T.J. Dillashaw popped back in the news this week in an interview with ESPN. He came out saying he wants an immediate title shot when he’s eligible to return from his USADA suspension in January. He shouldn’t be granted that request seeing as he was suspended two years for a pretty serious offense. It is true he never lost the UFC Bantamweight Championship inside the Octagon, but he should have to earn a title shot because of the drug test failure. Honestly, right now is the best time to book the grudge match between Dillashaw and Urijah Faber.
- It is time for Nevada to loosen up on suspensions for marijuana. They suspended Niko Price for six months and fined him just under $9,000 after failing a post-fight drug test for marijuana metabolites following his draw with Donald Cerrone in September. Keep in mind that he didn’t fail a USADA test for it, because USADA allows higher thresholds than the NSAC does, and they also don’t suspend for marijuana. It is a joke that in a state where marijuana is legal, and as Congress attempts to deregulate it nationally, that this keeps happening in Nevada, as well as other places. To take six months from a man’s career, and to fine him that much, especially during the holiday season, for something completely harmless, especially since it is small amounts, is an absolute joke. Nevada should be ashamed.
- Dominick Cruz was announced as returning in March at UFC 259 against Casey Kenney. It will be the first time Cruz fights more than once within a 12-month period in four years. It is interesting that he is returning against Kenney, and while it feels like a weird match-up, it really isn’t. If Cruz is going to remain relevant at the top of the division, he needs to be able to beat fighters on the rise such as Kenney, who is quickly moving up the bantamweight ladder. This fight will show whether Cruz can still compete at a high level, or whether it might be time to hang up the gloves and focus on commentary. With all of that being said, he really should be fighting against Jose Aldo as that is a perfect match-up, but Aldo is booked for a fight.
- Fights began being announced for a January 20 card, which is a Wednesday. That is going to be in Abu Dhabi, and is going to be in the middle of a three events in a week stretch, as UFC Fight Night on January 16 and UFC 257 on January 23 will also be on Fight Island. It is still not yet known if it will be just those three events or more as those decisions are still being made, and recent COVID outbreaks aren’t making the decisions any easier. There is no main event yet scheduled for the 1/20 card, but the hope is that Leon Edwards will be ready to fight then after his bout with COVID so they can rebook his fight with Khamzat Chimaev, which was called off last week after rumors had come out that it was Chimaev who had tested positive for COVID. The 1/16 and 1/20 shows look like they will be in the Flash Forum, where the other Fight Island events will be held, and UFC 257 will be the official grand opening of the Etihad Arena.
- As noted last week, Sean O’Malley is returning at UFC 258 in February. He was offered a fight against Thomas Almeida, but Almeida turned it down. It actually makes sense for Almeida to turn it down, and when hearing about that fight being offered, it’s a bad idea. O’Malley and Almeida can both be future title contenders, both are still young, and they should be booking both with the idea of getting each a win in their next fight. It is not a smart fight to make at this moment. I’d be booking O’Malley and Almeida against any one of the three following names: Khalid Taha, Benito Lopez or Alejandro Perez.
Here are some fights I would make for the fighters who fought on Saturday’s UFC On ESPN 19 card:
- Marvin Vettori vs. Paulo Costa
- Jack Hermansson vs. Darren Till
- Jamahal Hill vs. Volkan Oezdemir
- Roman Dolidze vs. Maxim Grishin
- Louis Smolka vs. Miles Johns
- Ilia Topuria vs. Jamall Emmers
- Jake Collier vs. Parker Porter
Here are some fights that were announced this past week (not all are official):
- Anthony Pettis vs. Alex Morono — UFC Fight Night — December 19
- Warlley Alves vs. Christian Aguilera — UFC Fight Night — January 16
- Lerone Murphy vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade — UFC Fight Night — January 20
- Francisco Figueiredo vs. Jerome Rivera — UFC Fight Night — January 20
- Julian Marquez vs. Maki Pitolo — UFC 258 — February 13
- Aleksei Oleinik vs. Chris Daukaus — UFC Fight Night — February 20
- Adriano Moraes vs. Demetrious Johnson — ONE Championship — February 24
- Dominick Cruz vs. Casey Kenney — UFC 259 — March 6
- Joseph Benavidez vs. Askar Askarov — UFC 259 — March 6
Coming Up This Week
This upcoming week is going to be a real busy one, so here is a schedule of events:
- UFC 256 is the big fight card of the week as the UFC ends their 2020 pay-per-view campaign on Saturday, December 12. It airs on ESPN+ PPV at 10 PM ET, with early prelims on ESPN+ at 6 PM ET and featured prelims on ESPN2 at 8 PM ET. UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno is the main event. You can check out my full Guide To UFC 256 later in the week.
- Bellator ends their 2020 schedule with Bellator 254 on Thursday, December 10. It airs on CBS Sports Network at 10 PM ET. Bellator Women’s Flyweight Champion Ilema-Lei Macfarlane vs. Juliana Velasquez is the main event.
- Cage Warriors 117 takes place on Thursday, December 10, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 1 PM ET.
- Cage Warriors 118 takes place on Friday, December 11, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 1 PM ET.
- FAC 5 takes place on Friday, December 11, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 8 PM ET with UFC veterans Jason High vs. Jake Lindsey in the main event.
- IKON Fighting Federation 4 takes place on Friday, December 11, at 10 PM ET with Bella Mir, daughter of Frank Mir, competing on the card.
- Arena Fight Championship 2 takes place on Saturday, December 12, at 12 AM ET, with UFC veteran Artem Lobov in the main event, as well as UFC veterans Fabio Maldonado, Mehdi Baghdad and Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva on the card.
- Cage Warriors 119 takes place on Saturday, December 12, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 1 PM ET.
This Week In MMA History
This week marks five years since the most ambitious fight week the UFC had put on to date took place, when the company ran three events on three straight nights in Las Vegas, capped off with one of the biggest shows in UFC history, UFC 194.
It started off on Thursday, with a UFC Fight Night event that saw Rose Namajunas submit Paige VanZant in the fifth round. Also on that card, Michael Chiesa submitted Jim Miller, Sage Northcutt submitted Cody Pfister, and Thiago Santos scored a decision over Elias Theodorou.
On Friday, The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale took place. In the main event, Frankie Edgar scored a first-round knockout over Chad Mendes. Also on the card, Tony Ferguson submitted Edson Barboza in a wild fight, which was originally supposed to be one of the several times that Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov were going to fight. In the TUF Finale, Ryan Hall scored a decision win over Artem Lobov.
The big event took place on Saturday, that being UFC 194. It was a sold-out show that had a $10 million gate and drew 1,200,000 pay-per-view buys. In the main event, Conor McGregor scored a stunning 13-second knockout over Jose Aldo to become the undisputed UFC Featherweight Champion and cement himself as the biggest star in the sport. It was a shocking moment that many remember. The rest of the card was just as thrilling.
Also happening on the show- Luke Rockhold scored a fourth-round TKO of Chris Weidman to become the new UFC Middleweight Champion, Yoel Romero won a decision over Ronaldo Souza, Demian Maia won a decision over Gunnar Nelson, and Max Holloway took a decision over Jeremy Stephens. Among those who competed on the prelims include Urijah Faber, Yancy Medeiros, Kevin Lee, Tecia Torres and Colby Covington.
It was truly one of the biggest weeks in UFC history. You can watch UFC 194 on UFC Fight Pass here.