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 and look ahead to what is going down in the upcoming week in the world of mixed martial arts. It was a relatively quiet week compared with most, so let’s get right into it.
Looking back at UFC on ESPN+ 45
- After finally returning on Saturday after just over 600 days since his last fight, Leon Edwards’ fight with Belal Muhammad went to a no-contest after an accidental eye poke by Edwards. He did poke Muhammad in the eye in the first, so he was warned, and the end came early in the second, but it is really hard to blame Edwards in this situation. He was throwing a kick and his hand just so happened to connect Muhammad’s head while both were in motion. It wasn’t like he was pawing at him or anything. It was just a thing that happens sometimes, and you can’t really blame anyone for it. Muhammad was in a lot of pain, and he had lost his vision in his right eye for a little bit, but as of this writing, he has regained it, so he should be okay. Edwards looked great in the fight while it was going on and he was the clear better fighter, so it was just unfortunate his return didn’t have a definitive conclusion.
- I will say that Edwards’ comments after the fight did him no favors. He said he still should get a title shot, even though he technically didn’t win. I get it, the top of the welterweight division is a mess, and that is without mentioning that it is hard to get a couple of guys up there to agree to fight, so who really deserves a title shot is a matter of who is actually stepping up to fight. There’s no question that Edwards wants to fight, and maybe he is the best option for Kamaru Usman next. He shouldn’t act like he won the fight, and was kind of dismissive of Muhammad about his skills despite Muhammad being a top-fifteen fighter.
- You really have to feel for Muhammad in this situation. Here, he was taking a fight on just over three week’s notice, and he was a game opponent for Edwards. It was his opportunity to make a name for himself, and he almost lost an eye in the process. In good news, he says he should be okay. He actually wants to run it back with Edwards, but I think they’ll go for something bigger for Edwards, so hopefully he gets a top-ten opponent for his next fight.
- I see a lot of people wondering why Herb Dean didn’t disqualify Edwards. Dean made the right call as the eye poke was accidental and unintentional. You can’t disqualify someone in that situation. It wasn’t like last week when Petr Yan landed the knee to Aljamain Sterling’s head while Sterling was down. In that case, Yan was warned a full six seconds before he threw and landed the knee, which was clear intent. There was a situation on Saturday where Eryk Anders landed an illegal knee on a downed Darren Stewart in the first main card fight, but Anders wasn’t warned by the referee that Stewart’s knee was down and it also occurred in a scramble, so it also was accidental. These situations coming so close together is a rare situation, but there does need to be more clarity on the rules as to what is a no contest and what is a disqualification.
- Other big winners on Saturday night included Ryan Spann, Dan Ige, Davey Grant, Charles Jourdain, Rani Yahya and Matthew Semelsberger. Despite not a lot of big names on the card and the unfortunate end to the main event, it was one of the better UFC shows in recent months.
- There were also several strong fights to go back and watch, which are the fights between Matheus Nicolau and Manel Kape, one between Charles Jourdain and Marcelo Rojo, and the one between Nasrat Haqparast and Rafa Garcia. It was a shame they only gave out four performance bonuses; Jourdain and Rojo deserved to get a bonus for their fight as it was a great battle. Watch these fights if you missed them.
- There were a couple of really questionable decisions on the card, coming in the Nicolau vs. Kape fight and the fight between Cortney Casey and JJ Aldrich. Nicolau and Aldrich were declared the winners by split decisions in the fights, and both fights were close. However, when it comes to media scoring, every media score had the fight for Kape, and all but one media score had it for Casey. On paper, both look like robberies, but they were both close enough to where that may not be the right word. Nevada does need to evaluate their judges and maybe bring in some fresh bodies, as the majority of the judges have been working every show every week, and they maybe could use a break because there’s been a lot of questionable scorecards lately.
- There wasn’t a lot of outside of fighting news this week, with one of the most notable things announced was a fight between Tony Ferguson and Beneil Dariush at UFC 262 on May 15. The day before the fight was announced, Dariush was doing media rounds saying he wanted a big fight and felt he deserved a big fight, and that is what he’ll get here. Ferguson is trying to rebound from two losses and keep himself relevant, while Dariush needs a win over a big name to get into that tough title picture.
- Speaking of UFC 262, there is still no main event for that show as of this writing. The hope is still to get Amanda Nunes to make the quick return and defend the bantamweight title against Julianna Pena, but that is far from a done deal.
- After all of Dana White’s talk about trying to move UFC 260 on March 27 to somewhere in Texas, it ended up being all for naught as UFC never even applied for a license to hold an event according to the commission. According to reports, despite White saying he was turned down by the mayors of both Dallas and Houston, both cities were open to holding events, but there would likely be lots of restrictions, including not a full arena, which is what White wants. I hope cooler heads have prevailed and that they take the route of planning carefully a return to events with full arenas, because the world is getting closer to that point happening, and there is no reason to rush it.
- While the women’s featherweight division isn’t officially dead, it is now down just just two or three fighters as Megan Anderson is no longer under UFC contract following her loss to Amanda Nunes at UFC 259 on March 7. It wasn’t a cut—it was the final fight on her contract, and the decision was made to not renew the contract at this time as the future of the division is up in the air. It really is the right decision, and there just aren’t enough 145-lbs. female fighters to fill out divisions for both UFC and Bellator, and the majority of the top featherweights are over in Bellator, which should be the next move for Anderson to make in her career, and it wouldn’t be a bad move at all.
Here are some fights I would make next for those who competed at UFC On ESPN+ 45 on Saturday:
- Leon Edwards vs. Stephen Thompson
- Belal Muhammad vs. Neil Magny
- Ryan Spann vs. Anthony Smith-Jimmy Crute winner
- Dan Ige vs. Chan Sung Jung
- Davey Grant vs. Adrian Yanez-Gustavo Lopez winner
- Matheus Nicolau vs. Kai Kara-France
- Angela Hill vs. Tecia Torres
- Charles Jourdain vs. Steven Peterson
- Rani Yahya vs. Hunter Azure-Jack Shore winner
Here are some fights that were announced over the past week:
- Cheyanne Buys vs. Montserrat Ruiz — UFC Fight Night — March 20
- Trevin Giles vs. Roman Dolidze — UFC Fight Night — March 20
- Montel Jackson vs. Jesse Strader — UFC Fight Night — March 20
- Jared Gooden vs. Abubakar Nurmagomedov — UFC 260 — March 27
- Roger Huerta vs. Chris Gonzalez — Bellator 255 — April 2
- Merab Dvalishvili vs. Cody Stamann — UFC Fight Night — May 1
- Fabricio Werdum vs. Renan Ferreira — PFL 3 — May 6 (MAIN EVENT)
- Kayla Harrison vs. Mariana Morais — PFL 3 — May 6
- Mohammed Usman vs. Brandon Sayles — PFL 3 — May 6
- Cindy Dandois vs. Kaitlin Young — PFL 3 — May 6
- Tony Ferguson vs. Beneil Dariush — UFC 262 — May 15
- Jamie Pickett vs. Jordan Wright — UFC 262 — May 15
- Christos Giagos vs. Joel Alvarez — UFC 262 — May 15
- Justin Tafa vs. Jared Vanderaa — UFC Fight Night — May 22
- Tanner Boser vs. Ilir Latifi — UFC Fight Night — June 5
- Youssef Zalal vs. Sean Woodson — UFC Fight Night — June 5
- Luigi Vendramini vs. Fares Ziam — UFC 263 — June 12
- Julian Erosa vs. Seung Woo Choi — UFC Fight Night — June 19
- Ed Herman vs. Danilo Marques — UFC Fight Night — June 26
Coming up this week
Here are some notable events coming up this week in the MMA world:
- UFC On ESPN 21 takes place on Saturday, March 20. The main card airs on ESPN at 10:00 p.m. ET, and the entire prelim card airs on ESPN2 at 7:00 p.m. ET. Derek Brunson vs. Kevin Holland is the main event.
- Brave CF 48 is on Thursday, March 18 at 8:30 a.m. ET.
- Cage Warriors 120 takes place on Thursday, March 18, airing at 12:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- Cage Warriors 121 is on Friday, March 19, airing at 12:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- BFL 66 takes place on Friday, March 19, airing at 8:00 p.m. ET eastern time on UFC Fight Pass.
- LFA 102 takes place on Friday, March 19, airing at 9:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- KSW 59 is on Saturday, March 20, at 10:00 ET
- Cage Warriors 122 takes place on Saturday, March 20 at 12:00 p.m. on UFC Fight Pass.
- RIZIN 27 takes place on Sunday, March 21, at 12:00 a.m. ET.
This Week in MMA History: UFC 171
On March 14, 2014, a new era in UFC’s welterweight division started as the vacant UFC Welterweight Championship was on the line at UFC 171 in front of 19,324 fans at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas, which still stands as the fourth-largest United States attendance in UFC history. It was also the first time since 2001 that an undisputed welterweight championship bout didn’t feature Georges St. Pierre or Matt Hughes in it, as St. Pierre had just vacated the title months prior to this show.
It was then announced that the vacant title would be decided in a fight between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler in the main event of UFC 171. It nearly didn’t come to full fruition, as Hendricks had trouble making weight the day before at the weigh-ins, even being heckled by Nick Diaz and getting called fat, but he eventually made it and we had a fight.
The two had a classic battle, a back-and-forth fight that was tied going into the fifth round. In the fifth, behind a hometown crowd cheering him on, Hendricks won the round, ultimately winning the fight via unanimous decision to become the new UFC Welterweight Champion. The fight ended up winning all sorts of accolades for Fight Of The Year from UFC, MMA Junkie, MMA Fighting and the Wrestling Observer Newsletter.
Also on the card, Tyron Woodley scored a win over Carlos Condit, Myles Jury won a decision over Diego Sanchez, Hector Lombard won a decision over Jake Shields, and Ovince Saint Preux submitted Nikita Krylov. Among the winners on the prelims included Kelvin Gastelum, Dennis Bermudez, and future UFC champion Jessica Andrade.
You can watch UFC 171 on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will recap UFC On ESPN+ 45, preview UFC On ESPN 21, go over all of the news and controversies in the MMA world. We also go over how our betting picks did this past week and give our best bets for Saturday’s UFC card. You can listen to In The Clinch on the Fight Game Media Network, with the Patreon page found here.