Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up, where we take a look back at the week that was in the world of mixed martial arts and prepare for what is coming up. Let’s dive in and look back at the top stories of the week.
Looking Back At UFC 256
- If you missed UFC 256 on Saturday, find a way to go back and watch it as soon as possible. It may very well be the Event Of The Year for the UFC, and it was definitely among the best events in UFC history. All ten fights on the card delivered, and it was capped off by one of the best UFC title fights of all-time.
- Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno deserve more credit than is possible to give. They were in a tough situation coming back three weeks after fighting, and they not only delivered, but they gave us an all-time classic. It was quite the war and both men are bigger stars coming out of it. With it being declared a draw, it’s not a matter of it, but when, we see the rematch. Give both men some time off- we can wait until May or June to see it again. Bravo, gentlemen.
- If Charles Oliveira isn’t in a title fight for his next fight, it’s promotional malpractice. He looked absolutely incredible in scoring a dominant decision over Tony Ferguson, and that is now eight straight wins. He beat Ferguson like no one else ever has and made Ferguson look like a washed-up fighter. Oliveira has earned that title fight, whether it’s against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Conor McGregor, Dustin Poirier, Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler, or whoever.
- Kevin Holland’s knockout of Jacare Souza was one of the most unique and impressive knockouts in UFC history. Knocking out someone while on the bottom and being in the process of getting up is unheard of, and it put Holland 5–0 in 2020. The sky is the limit for him and they can now use him as a bonafide headliner on some of the ESPN and ESPN+ shows.
- Other impressive winners of the show were Mackenzie Dern, Ciryl Gane, Cub Swanson, Rafael Fiziev and Tecia Torres. It was especially nice to see Swanson get a win after the devastating knee injury he suffered in December in a grappling match. He’s one of the good guys in the sport.
- One of the big stories outside of the Octagon this week was the mutual parting of ways between the UFC and Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson. Johnson has been planning on returning for some time, and many were expecting him to become a contender once again at 205 lbs. It was a surprise when the release was announced, which is something Johnson asked for. When Dana White was doing a scrum on Friday, he didn’t seem too pleased about the situation, saying he wanted Johnson in the UFC, and that Johnson wanted to remain in the UFC, and left it open to lots of speculation. That led to a lot of guessing as to why they parted ways, with many pointing to USADA as the main reason. Johnson did say in August 2019 that he was returning, but it took him well over a year to re-enter the USADA testing pool. There was frustration because the UFC was ready to book him as soon as possible. I think letting him go was the right decision, as Johnson is 36, which isn’t old, but he hasn’t fought in close to four years, and he’s often thought about retiring. Who knows if he’ll stick around after just one fight, and that isn’t to mention all of the domestic violence allegations he’s had over the years, including an incident just last year. Johnson signed with Bellator almost immediately, which is kind of a head scratcher after Scott Coker said they weren’t going to spend big money on aging talent and shift their focus, but then he went and did this. Johnson says he’ll fight at both heavyweight and light heavyweight.
- Dana White also said he’ll be meeting with Khabib Nurmagomedov in January, and he’s betting on himself being able to convince Khabib to come back. It is interesting since Khabib keeps insisting that he is retired and the only way he will come back is if his mother gives him her blessing. Khabib and his team released an interesting video on Friday showing a behind the scenes look at his weight cut for UFC 254. After watching that video, all I can say is, Khabib, there is no need to put yourself through that again. It was an extremely rough cut, to say the least, and there were even questions as to whether he actually made weight. It’s not an easy video to watch, and only makes you appreciate Khabib and what he’s accomplished, and you have to agree with him calling it a day. Even if he ultimately decides to come back, he has no business putting himself through that again, just fight at 170 and maybe try and make a legacy there as well, though if he actually returns, I only think it will be for one more fight.
- A lot of people may call this an upset, but I don’t think Juliana Velasquez defeating Ilima-Lei Macfarlane to become the new Bellator Women’s Flyweight Champion is that big of an upset. Sure, Macfarlane was undefeated coming in, but she has had to score comeback wins in many of her fights. It was going to catch up with her one day, and it did here. Velasquez is also undefeated and has looked impressive, and Macfarlane says that losing is a weight off her shoulders. I expect the two to rematch sometime within the first six months of 2021.
- As I noted last week, the plan for the January 20 UFC event in Abu Dhabi is to have the re-scheduled main event between Leon Edwards and Khamzat Chimaev as the headliner. Dana White came out this week and said that is what they have planned for that show, though it is not official. It all hinges on how Edwards feels after dealing with COVID.
- There is talk of adding Michael Chandler vs. Justin Gaethje to the UFC 257 card as the co-main event underneath the fight between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier. They want to get Chandler on the card and they are close to announcing his first fight and it is just a matter of opponent. Gaethje has some out and said he wants to fight once, win, and then fight for the title, so fighting Chandler would make lots of sense. Other options for Chandler’s debut include Rafael Dos Anjos and Dan Hooker.
- The January 30 UFC card currently doesn’t have a main event, but it is looking like it may be the landing point for the re-scheduled bout between Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis as the headliner.
- A fight between Paulo Costa and Robert Whittaker is in the works for UFC 259 on March 6, but is not yet to be signed. Costa has agreed to the bout, but Whittaker has yet to do so.
- One fighter who fought this weekend that big promotions need to keep an eye on is Jake Hadley, who won the Cage Warriors Flyweight Championship at Cage Warriors 117 on Thursday. He is 24, he’s 7–0 and an exciting flyweight. If the UFC needs to find opponents for, he would be an excellent addition to the roster, whether put on the Contender Series or just signed outright.
Here are some fights I would make for the winners and losers from the UFC 256 fight card from Saturday:
- Deiveson Figueiredo vs. Brandon Moreno
- Charles Oliveira vs. whomever is the UFC Lightweight Champion or in a vacant title fight
- Tony Ferguson vs. Paul Felder
- Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres
- Kevin Holland vs. Derek Brunson
- Ciryl Gane vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov
- Cub Swanson vs. Ryan Hall
- Rafael Fiziev vs. Brad Riddell
- Gavin Tucker vs. Alex Caceres
- Chase Hooper vs. Jamey Simmons
- Omari Akhmedov vs. Tom Breese — UFC Fight Night — January 16
- David Zawada vs. Ramazan Emeev — UFC Fight Night — January 16
- Matt Schnell vs. Tyson Nam — UFC Fight Night — January 20
- Marina Rodriguez vs. Amanda Ribas — UFC 257 — January 23
- Khalil Rountree vs. Marcin Prachnio — UFC 257 — January 23
- Eddie Wineland vs. John Castaneda — UFC Fight Night — February 20
- Jai Herbert vs. Drakkar Klose — UFC Fight Night — February 20
- Islam Makhachev vs. Drew Dober — UFC 259 — March 6
- Sean Brady vs. Jake Matthews — UFC 259 — March 6
- Ray Rodriguez vs. Irwin Rivera — UFC Fight Night — March 13
- Davey Grant vs. Jonathan Martinez — UFC Fight Night — March 13
- Adrian Yanez vs. Gustavo Lopez — UFC Fight Night — March 20
Coming Up This Week
Here are some upcoming events this week in the world of mixed martial arts:
- The final UFC event of the year, UFC On ESPN+ 41, takes place on Saturday, December 19. It airs on ESPN+, with the main card at 7 PM ET and the prelims at 4 PM ET. Stephen Thompson vs. Geoff Neal is the main event. Check out my Guide to UFC On ESPN+ 41 coming later this week.
- CFFC 90 takes place on Thursday, December 17. It airs on UFC Fight Pass at 7 PM ET.
- CFFC 91 takes place on Friday, December 18. It airs on UFC Fight Pass at 7 PM ET.
This Week In MMA History
On December 16, 2010, the final WEC event took place, capped off by arguably the greatest fight in WEC history as WEC 53 took place in Glendale, Ariz. World Extreme Cagefighting, owned by Zuffa, was the breeding ground for tons of lighter weight fighters, and the exclusive home of the featherweight and bantamweight divisions. The decision was made to add those divisions to UFC competition in 2011, thus bringing the WEC to a close, and bringing not just the featherweight and bantamweight divisions and fighters over, but also what was left of the lightweight division in the promotion. Some of the best fighters in UFC history got their starts in the WEC.
In the final bout in WEC history, it was a battle of two future UFC Lightweight Champions, as Anthony Pettis scored a decision win over Benson Henderson to become the new, and final, WEC Lightweight Champion. It was arguably the greatest fight in WEC history, an amazing back-and-forth fight that went down to the fifth and deciding round. With time running near an end, Pettis hit arguably the most-famous kick in MMA history as he ran up the side of the cage and delivered a flying kick right to the jaw of Henderson, knocking Henderson down and securing Pettis the final round and the victory. It has been played on highlight reels constantly over the last ten years, and has been dubbed “The Showtime Kick.”
In the co-main event of the show, Dominick Cruz scored a decision win over Scott Jorgensen to keep the WEC Bantamweight Championship, and he would eventually be named the first UFC Bantamweight Champion in early 2011. Also on the card, Donald Cerrone submitted Chris Horodecki, and future UFC standouts Eddie Wineland, Danny Castillo, Iuri Alcantara, Brad Pickett, and Renan Barao scored wins.
You can watch WEC 53 on UFC Fight Pass here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/30885/henderson-vs-pettis.