Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up, where we take a look at all of the happenings in the world of mixed martial arts.
It was a quiet week outside of what has essentially become our weekly UFC event, so let’s dig right in and take a look at everything going on.
Looking Back at UFC on ESPN+ 43
- It’s time to give Derrick Lewis all the shine as one of the best heavyweights in the world. His upset win over Curtis Blaydes was the win he needed to show that he belongs in the discussion of the elite in the division. It was a brutal uppercut followed by a couple of extra brutal ground punches that put Blaydes’ lights out. With the win, Lewis tied Vitor Belfort for most wins by knockout in UFC history, and is now tied for second-most UFC wins in the heavyweight division at 16. Lewis might be in the best run of his career, as he’s looked great in putting together a four-fight win streak. If it wasn’t for the heavyweight division having a crowded title picture, he would be next in line, but he may have to fight once more to get a shot. He said he wants a three-round fight next, and to fight again soon, and that is something that could easily happen as I could see them throwing him on a pay-per-view card in April or May. Either way, Lewis has been fantastic of late and deserves the accolades he’s garnering.
- It will be interesting to see where Curtis Blaydes goes from here. He was in a no man’s land situation regardless of a win or a loss. The loss to Lewis knocks him out of the title picture, and he’ll need a couple of wins to get back into it. However, he has just one fight left on his UFC contract, and it’s no secret that he and Dana White don’t see eye-to-eye, or even speak, and he’s someone who has been vocal about pay in the past. It wouldn’t surprise me if they part ways with him off the loss, and his value for re-signing was hurt by this. I don’t know what is next for him, and I would like to see him stay with UFC, as he’s a good heavyweight, but there are lots of issues there.
- There were three other heavyweights with great showings on the card, with Chris Daukaus, Tom Aspinall and Serghei Spivac all scoring wins. Daukaus got his third straight first-round knockout win over Aleksei Oleinik. Aspinall looked fantastic in submitting Andrei Arlovski in the second round. Spivac bloodied up Jared Vanderaa in a dominant showing in the first fight on the card. The heavyweight division is a thriving division at the moment, with a lot of contenders at the top, and a lot of rising prospects. Aspinall looks to have the brightest future and is the most promising, but the heavyweight division right now is a fun one to keep an eye on.
- It’s days later, and I’m still convinced that Ketlen Vieira was on the wrong end of a bad decision in her loss to Yana Kunitskaya. Kunitskaya did land more strikes, but Vieira had a ton of control in the fight and was constantly working from the top in the first and third rounds. It was a close fight, though, and not all that exciting, so nothing worth getting upset over. Nice win for Kunitskaya to keep her in the bantamweight title picture.
- Kudos to both Leon Edwards and Belal Muhammad for agreeing to fight in the main event of the March 13 UFC event. Edwards has been eager to fight for a long time, not having been in action since July 2019, and after losing Khamzat Chimaev as an opponent numerous times, it’s good that he proved he just wanted to fight and would fight anyone. Taking a fight against a lower-ranked opponent like Muhammad is a gamble, but he should get a title shot if he wins this. Props have to go to Muhammad, who just fought, but he deserves a big fight, and with Colby Covington turning this fight down, it opened the door for him. This should be a good main event coming up in a few weeks.
- After looking promising early in the week, things when it comes to The Ultimate Fighter and making deals for Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal have slowed down. Usman has already agreed, essentially, but things have stalled on Masvidal’s side. I do think things will get ironed out, but Usman is starting to get more upset by Masvidal and his camp playing their games and taking their time.
- After being rumored to take place in Singapore, UFC 261 on April 24 is now tentatively scheduled for Las Vegas, though UFC is still exploring possibilities to hold events in other cities and states depending on attendance possibilities.
- The Ottman Azaitar situation got even more bizarre this past week, when Dana White changed his course and decided that Azaitar would remain on the UFC roster. I get that UFC has a good relationship with his manager and Ali Abdealaziz likely got him back on the roster, but it does send the wrong message that fighters can break COVID-19 protocols and not get released.
- Happy trails to Stefan Struve, who announced his official retirement this past week. It is something he’d been considering for some time, but he would keep coming back, only to falter in his return. It is good to get out while he still can, and he wants to spend time with his family. He can be one of the few fighters who can say they hold a UFC win over Stipe Miocic. I’ll always remember Struve for his bloody win over Denis Stojnic at UFC 99.
Here are some fights I would make for those who fought at UFC On ESPN+ 43 on Saturday:
- Derrick Lewis vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik/Ciryl Gane winner
- Curtis Blaydes vs. Blagoy Ivanov/Marcin Tybura winner
- Yana Kunitskaya vs. Irene Aldana
- Darrick Minner vs. Julian Erosa
- Chris Daukaus vs. Walt Harris
- Tom Aspinall vs. Sergei Pavlovich
- Phil Hawes vs. Jun Yong Park
- Casey O’Neill vs. JJ Aldrich
Here are some fights that were announced over the past week:
- Pedro Munhoz vs. Jimmie Rivera — UFC Fight Night — February 27
- Angela Hill vs. Ashley Yoder — UFC Fight Night — February 27
- Raoni Barcelos vs. Marcelo Rojo — UFC Fight Night — February 27
- Trevin Jones vs. Mario Bautista — UFC 259 — March 6
- Leon Edwards vs. Belal Muhammad — UFC Fight Night — March 13 (MAIN EVENT)
- Gregor Gillespie vs. Brad Riddell — UFC Fight Night — March 20
- Johnny Eduardo vs. Anthony Birchak — UFC Fight Night — March 20
- Blagoy Ivanov vs. Marcin Tybura — UFC 260 — March 27
- Khama Worthy vs. Jamie Mullarkey — UFC 260 — March 27
- Shane Young vs. Omar Morales — UFC 260 — March 27
- Mike Perry vs. Daniel Rodriguez — UFC Fight Night — April 10
- Tony Gravely vs. Nate Maness — UFC Fight Night — April 17
- Devin Clark vs. Ion Cutelaba — UFC Fight Night — May 1
- Shamil Abdruakhimov vs. Augusto Sakai — UFC Fight Night — May 1
- Loma Lookboonmee vs. Sam Hughes — UFC Fight Night — May 1
- Herbert Burns vs. Alexander Munoz– UFC Fight Night — May 1
- Holly Holm vs. Julianna Pena — UFC Fight Night — May 8
- Katlyn Chookagian vs. Viviane Araujo — UFC 262 — May 15
- Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell — UFC 262 — May 15
Coming up this week
Here are some notable MMA events coming up this week:
- UFC closes out their February schedule with UFC On ESPN+ 44 on Saturday, February 27, airing on ESPN+, with the main card at 8 PM eastern time, and prelims at 5 PM eastern time. Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Ciryl Gane is the main event. I will have my Guide to UFC On ESPN+ 44 out later in the week.
- ACA 118 takes place on Friday, February 26.
This Week In MMA History
Late February could very well be called Ronda Rousey week, as the final week of February is memorable for three Rousey fights and successful UFC title defenses.
On February 23, 2013, UFC 157 took place in Anaheim, California, which marked the UFC debut of Rousey, in the main event position, defending the newly-made UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship. She overcame some early adversity, but ended up submitting Liz Carmouche in the first round with the armbar to retain the title in the first-ever women’s fight in the UFC. UFC 157 was a success on pay-per-view, garnering 450,000 buys.
364 days later, on February 22, 2014, Rousey had another successful title defense, as she scored her first knockout win of her career, finishing Sara McMann in just 66 seconds in the main event of UFC 170 in Las Vegas, Nevada. That card did 340,000 buys on pay-per-view, and it moved Rousey 9-0 in her career.
Just over a year later, on February 28, 2014, Rousey found herself in another main event, as she headlined UFC 184 in Los Angeles, California with her toughest test to date against Cat Zingano. This was a highly-anticipated fight, but it ended up being the quickest fight of Rousey’s career, as she submitted Zingano in just 14 seconds with an armbar after Zingano bull-rushed her to start the fight. This fight was so quick that it got replayed over-and-over on Instagram, and could be pointed at as the moment where Rousey became the breakout superstar she became. UFC 184 did 600,000 buys on pay-per-view.
You can watch the Ronda Rousey Collection on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
On this week’s episode of In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will recap UFC On ESPN+ 43, look ahead to UFC On ESPN+ 44, and take a look at all of the happenings going on in the world of mixed martial arts. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network on Patreon, where you can listen to us, and at least eight different podcasts, each week for a low price of just $7.99 a month.