Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up, where we look back at the week that was in the world of mixed martial arts. As 2020 is winding down, so are MMA events and as we head into Christmas this week, there’s not a lot of news going on, but let’s dive right in and take a look at the week that was.
Looking Back at UFC On ESPN+ 41
- UFC ended a tumultuous 2020 with a strong show on Saturday night, which saw long-time veterans Stephen Thompson, Jose Aldo and Anthony Pettis pick up wins, while Rob Font scored a statement win over Marlon Moraes and Marcin Tybura pulled off what many call an upset, when he finished Greg Hardy.
- Thompson, who hadn’t fought in over a year, showed that he should still be considered an elite fighter as his performance in a win over Geoff Neal in the main event of Saturday’s UFC event was a masterful performance. He looked excellent on his feet and overcame some adversity. Yes, he’s already had two title shots, but that was also against Tyron Woodley, and with Kamaru Usman now as champion, Thompson could get another crack at winning a title. He did the smart thing of calling out Jorge Masvidal, even though he handily beat Masvidal three years ago. Masvidal has other stuff going on, so it is doubtful that fight gets made, and Thompson may have to fight some lower-ranked opponents to keep himself in the title picture.
- I was very high on Geoff Neal coming into this fight, even calling him a title contender in 2021, but this was a fight he will learn from. He has had a much rougher 2020 than almost all of UFC’s roster, but he still bounced back from having heart issues to fight during the year. Fighting Thompson, an elite top-five fighter, after not having fought ranked opponents was a huge step-up, but I still believe he will fight for a UFC title some day.
- Jose Aldo got that much-needed first win at 135 pounds and kept himself relevant in the division with an impressive win over Marlon Vera. Vera looked good in the fight, but Aldo did the smart gameplan, especially in the third round, to eek out the unanimous decision win. As much as I’ve been pushing for T.J. Dillashaw to fight Urijah Faber, Aldo vs. Dillashaw is an absolutely perfect fight to make for Dillashaw’s return bout, and it is a great fight to headline a show. Aldo was smart on that callout.
- Rob Font deserves a big fight after finishing Marlon Moraes. Font was coming off a torn ACL and looked better than ever in knocking out Moraes. That’s three straight impressive wins for Font, who is rising up the rankings fast. As for Moraes, that is losses in three of his last four fights, and the move to American Top Team hasn’t really been working out for him. He could find himself worrying about the roster cuts.
- It really is time to end the Greg Hardy experiment. Hardy did look the best he ever had in the first round against Marcin Tybura, but he looked awful in the second round. He doesn’t have the conditioning to go past the halfway mark of a fight, and if his opponent can take him down, which his defense isn’t good at all, it’s all over on the ground. It’s become evident he’s never going to be a top-15 fighter, and this is a guy who is making at least $200,000 a fight. Unless he takes a gigantic pay cut, which he’ll quit before that happens, there’s no reason to keep him on the roster.
- It will be interesting to see what Anthony Pettis does next. He beat Alex Morono on Saturday, the last fight on his current UFC deal. His agent, Malki Kawa, said on Twitter after the fight that it would be Pettis’ final UFC fight. Of course, Kawa is saying that for leverage. The belief, though, has been that Anthony would be joining his brother, Sergio, in Bellator. Again, Bellator signing more former UFC fighters to big deals at a time when they claim they want to focus on growing talent. Pettis made it sound like he wanted to stay with UFC, as he knows that’s where the best fighters are, but he’s also going to take the best deal. He said, no matter what, he’s dropping back to lightweight and wants to win the title. I believe UFC should re-sign him, but it also wouldn’t surprise if they let him go elsewhere.
- Earlier in the week, Dana White talked about Rose Namajunas not wanting to fight for the title and that they were booking Carla Esparza as Zhang Weili’s next title challenger. Namajunas’ team came out and said she wants to fight for the title next and that White was incorrect. While most think this has to do with money, while it may very well be the reason, it could also be they have a plan set for when Weili is going to defend the title, and it doesn’t fit in with Namajunas’ planned return from her broken nose, so they were looking at other options. In the end, I expect the next title fight to be Weili defending against Namajunas.
- Michael Chandler’s UFC debut is still expected to take place at UFC 257 on January 23. It is a matter of opponent at this point. They really wanted it to be Justin Gaethje, but that appears more and more unlikely as the days pass by. As of this moment, the opponent is likely going to be Dan Hooker.
- The UFC Featherweight Championship bout between current champion Alexander Volkanovski and challenger Brian Ortega looks to be taking place at UFC 258 on February 13.
- UFC announced a fight between Cory Sandhagen and Frankie Edgar for the February 6 card, where it will be the co-main event. With an event in January and one in February currently without announced main events, I’m surprised they didn’t put this fight as a headliner on one of those cards as this would be a great main event. The winner is expected to be in line for a bantamweight title shot.
Here are some fights I would make for some of the fighters who competed on Saturday’s UFC On ESPN+ 41 event:
- Stephen Thompson vs. Neil Magny
- Geoff Neal vs. Alex Oliveira
- Jose Aldo vs. T.J. Dillashaw
- Michel Pereira vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
- Rob Font vs. Jimmie Rivera-Pedro Munhoz winner
- Marcin Tybura vs. Ciryl Gane
- Anthony Pettis vs. Tony Ferguson (if Pettis re-signs)
- Pannie Kianzad vs. Ketlen Vieira
- Jimmy Flick vs. Tim Elliott-Jordan Espinosa winner
Here are some fight announcements made this past week:
- Cory Sandhagen vs. Frankie Edgar — UFC Fight Night — February 6
- Chas Skelly vs. Jamall Emmers — UFC Fight Night — February 20
- Darrick Minner vs. Charles Rosa — UFC Fight Night — February 20
- Raphael Assuncao vs. Raoni Barcelos — UFC Fight Night — February 27
Coming Up This Week
Merry Christmas, there are no major MMA events this week. We all need a break.
This Week In MMA History
On December 27, 2008, one of the bigger events in UFC history took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, as UFC presented UFC 92: The Ultimate 2008. It featured a triple main event coming just days after Christmas, and a show that produced 1,000,000 buys on pay-per-view.
In the main event, Rashad Evans became the new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion when he finished Forrest Griffin in the third round with punches from the top. It was the first title fight in UFC history between former winners of The Ultimate Fighter, and established Evans as one of the biggest stars in the company.
In the co-main event, Frank Mir knocked out Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in the second round to become the new Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion in a massive upset. That win would set up Mir for his much-anticipated title unification showdown with Brock Lesnar, which took place at UFC 100. In the third part of the triple main event, it was the third fight between Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Wanderlei Silva. After two battles in PRIDE, which were both won by Silva, Jackson got his revenge by knockout Silva out cold with one punch in the first round.
You can watch UFC 92 on UFC Fight Pass here.
This Week on In The Clinch
On this week’s edition of In The Clinch, hosted by myself and Paul Fontaine, we will be wrapping up UFC’s 2020 year by recapping UFC On ESPN+ 41, plus talking all of the news from this past week. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, with the Patreon page found here. Our show has new episodes every Tuesday, so please support us and all of the other great shows featured on our network.