Monday MMA Round-Up: The new UFC Lightweight championship scene is here
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. It was a newsworthy week, with just about all of it taking place outside of the cage, so let’s dive right into all of the happenings.
Looking back at a news-filled week
- Monday brought a huge announcement from Dana White, as he announced UFC will return to arenas full of fans on April 24 for UFC 261 in Jacksonville, Florida, also announcing the rematch between UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal for the card. The announcement was met with mixed emotions from everyone. There is a section of people that are eager for them to get back to arenas with crowds, while there is another section that says it is still too soon in the pandemic to get back to arenas with crowds. We all know this was eventually going to happen, and I personally think April may still be a little too soon, but it is also hard to say when is the exact perfect time for this to happen. It will be interesting to see what happens, and hopefully nothing bad comes of the situation.
- That wasn’t the only event that was announced as returning to an arena full of fans, as UFC 262 on May 15 will be taking place in Houston, Texas. That event will be headlined by Charles Oliveira and Michael Chandler deciding a new UFC Lightweight Champion, as Dana White has finally accepted the fact that Khabib Nurmagomedov is retired, and the title was officially vacated on Thursday. May feels like a better time than April to return to full arenas. I will say that fighters seem more excited about returning to full arenas than most, and this is something they overwhelmingly want, so maybe media and others should back off a little bit on it, and take a wait-and-see approach. We all hope for the best, and let’s hope that happens.
- With Nurmagomedov’s retirement now official, the lightweight title picture clears up, and it is a deep division. There’s a lot of questions as to why Dustin Poirier isn’t in the title fight, but I can say his trilogy fight with Conor McGregor is getting closer to being a done deal, and the fight with Oliveira and Chandler was put together late Thursday, as they were planning a non-title fight between Chandler and Justin Gaethje on May 15, but changed directions. Poirier wants to cash in on his name, and he’ll clearly make more money fighting McGregor for a third time, and there really is no way you can put the title on the line in that fight. I fully expect the winner between Poirier and McGregor to be the first challenger to the winner between Oliveira and Chandler.
- A big title fight that was upcoming this weekend at UFC 260 was postponed as UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski tested positive for COVID-19, and his defense against Brian Ortega is off Saturday’s show. That is a huge blow to the card, which was pretty much a two-fight card with the two title fights, but both were big fights. At least the main event is still on. The plan is to try and rebook the fight as quickly as possible, but they also want title fights on pay-per-view events, and April 24 is booked solid with three title fights. It’s possible it gets added to UFC 262 in May or UFC 263 in June, which would definitely strengthen either card.
- With UFC 261 and UFC 262 being announced for arenas, I fully expect all pay-per-view events to be held in full arenas wherever they get clearance, while the weekly fight cards remain at UFC APEX until they can start fully touring again. It could take some time before every event is held in full arenas, because many shows do take place overseas and who knows when that will happen.
- I fully expect them to at least make an attempt at holding UFC 264 in July in the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a full crowd.
- This past Saturday’s UFC event wasn’t very exciting, with Derek Brunson scoring a dominant decision win over Kevin Holland in the main event. Brunson used his wrestling, a smart strategy, to win the rounds, and Holland had no defense for anything, with his only hope seeming to be knocking Brunson out. He came close on a couple of occasions, but he didn’t do much of anything else.
- This fight only showed that Holland is loaded with talent, but him wanting to do his antics during the fight is going to keep him from ever being a top-level fighter. This show was built around trying to get him a showcase win, and he failed spectacularly. He spent more time talking than trying to get out of bad positions, and spent time between rounds talking to Khabib Nurmagomedov instead of his coaches and instead of listening to his coaches. This was a complete failure all around by him, and he needs to change if he wants that top-level success. Not only did the way he act cost him a win, but as Belal Muhammad tweeted, it’s all fun and games until you realize you only get half a check, and Holland cost himself money in this one and in the future.
- There were a few impressive knockout wins scored by Max Griffin, Adrian Yanez, Tai Tuivasa and Grant Dawson. Those are worth seeking out if you’re looking for something from this show.
- The weigh-in situation with Julija Stoliarenko was definitely scary. For those that missed it, Stoliarenko stepped on the scale then started wavering and ultimately fainted and had to be helped to her feet. She then stood back on the scale and made weight before fainting for a second time. It is very rare to see this at the scale, but it is also something that happens behind the scenes more than people realize. When this happens, there’s no way fighters should be allowed to fight, and kudos to UFC for pulling her fight against Julia Avila. Unfortunately, fights being pulled doesn’t happen enough when fainting happens. Weight cutting remains dangerous and, unfortunately, something tragic is actually going to have to happen for things to change. Stoliarenko blamed the fainting on a mismanaged weight cut.
- There were several other main event fights announced this week. First off, Kelvin Gastelum will be stepping in for Paulo Costa to fight Robert Whittaker on April 17. That is re-booking a title fight that was cancelled the day of between Whittaker and Gastelum, and they get their long-awaited bout two years later. There were also two big bantamweight main events announced as Cory Sandhagen will fight TJ Dillashaw on May 8, and Rob Font will fight Cody Garbrandt on May 22. The winner of the Sandhagen/Dillashaw fight is going to get the next title shot, and the winner between Font and Garbrandt will be right in the mix for afterwards.
- There are rumors that the PFL season start could be delayed due to legal issues. While I haven’t heard that there could be a delay in the start of the season, there is some smoke to these rumors.
- It is time for UFC to sign Paddy Pimblett.
Here are some fights I would book next for those who competed at UFC On ESPN 21 on Saturday:
- Derek Brunson vs. Paulo Costa
- Kevin Holland vs. Belal Muhammad at 170 lbs.
- Max Griffin vs. Geoff Neal
- Adrian Yanez vs. Benito Lopez
- Tai Tuivasa vs. Greg Hardy
- Macy Chiasson vs. Alexis Davis
- Grant Dawson vs. Clay Guida
- Trevin Giles vs. Makhmud Muradov
Here is a list of fights that were announced over the past week:
- Robert Whittaker vs. Kelvin Gastelum — UFC Fight Night — April 17 (MAIN EVENT)
- Bill Algeo vs. Ricardo Ramos
- UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman vs. Jorge Masvidal — UFC 261 — April 24
- Zhu Rong vs. Kazula Vargas
- Randa Markos vs. Luana Pinheiro — UFC Fight Night — May 1
- Cory Sandhagen vs. TJ Dillashaw — UFC Fight Night — May 8 (MAIN EVENT)
- Ben Rothwell vs. Phillipe Lins — UFC Fight Night — May 8
- UFC Lightweight Championship: Charles Oliveira vs. Michael Chandler — UFC 262 — May 15 (MAIN EVENT)
- Jack Hermansson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan — UFC 262 — May 15
- Rob Font vs. Cody Garbrandt — UFC Fight Night — May 22 (MAIN EVENT)
- Alan Patrick vs. Mason Jones — UFC Fight Night — June 5
- Montana De La Rosa vs. Ariane Lipski — UFC Fight Night — June 5
- Hakeem Dawodu vs. Movsar Evloev — UFC 263 — June 12
- Karol Rosa vs. Sijara Eubanks — UFC 263 — June 12
- Lara Procopio vs. Casey O’Neill — UFC Fight Night — June 19
- Punahele Soriano vs. Anthony Hernandez — UFC Fight Night — June 26
- Marcin Prachnio vs. Ike Villanueva — UFC Fight Night — June 26
Coming up this week
Here are some major events being held this coming week:
- UFC 260 is the big event this weekend, taking place on Saturday, March 27. The main card airs on ESPN+ PPV at 10:00 ET with prelims kicking off on ESPN at 6:30 p.m. ET (times subject to change). UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic defends against Francis Ngannou in the main event.
- Brave CF 49 takes place on Thursday, March 25, at 8:30 a.m. ET.
- ACA 120 takes place on Friday, March 26, at 12:00 p.m. ET. The card is filled with several name fighters, including UFC veterans Magomed Bibulatov, Rashid Magomedov and Diego Brandao, as well as Ivan Shtyrkov and Bibert Tumenov.
- Titan FC 68 takes place on Friday, March 26, at 8:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. UFC veteran Markus Perez fights on the card in his first fight since his UFC release.
- LFA 103 takes place on Friday, March 26, at 9:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. UFC veteran Spike Carlyle fights in the main event in his first post-UFC release bout.
- Submission Underground 21 takes place on Sunday, March 28 at 6:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
This Week in MMA History
On March 27, 2010, a UFC Welterweight Champion added to his legacy in Newark, New Jersey in front of 17,000 fans as Georges St. Pierre continued his dominance in the 170-lbs. division in scoring a unanimous decision win over Dan Hardy in the main event of UFC 111. Hardy was coming in with a lot of momentum, and it was the first time a British fighter had fought for a UFC title. UFC Primetime even returned to hype up the main event, and the show ended up doing 770,000 pay-per-view buys.
St. Pierre was just too much for Hardy, though, as he dominated the entire fight, winning all five rounds on all three scorecards. He came close to finishing Hardy with a deep armbar on one occasion, but it was a fantastic showing from the champion overall.
In the co-main event, Shane Carwin scored a knockout win over Frank Mir to win the Interim UFC Heavyweight Championship, which set him up for a showdown with Brock Lesnar at UFC 116 in July. Also on the card, Jon Fitch won a decision over Ben Saunders, Jim Miller scored a decision over Mark Bocek, Nate Diaz scored a first-round TKO win over Rory Markham, Ricardo Almeida submitted Matt Brown in the second round, and Matt Riddle scored a rare disqualification win over Greg Soto.
You can watch UFC 111 on UFC Fight Pass here.
In the Clinch
This week on In the Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine have no shortage of topics to talk about. We will recap UFC On ESPN 21, look ahead to UFC 260, talk about events in full arenas, the lightweight title picture, and all of the big fights that were announced this past week. You can listen to us on the Fight Game Media Network, with the Patreon page found here.