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Monday MMA round-up: Conor, Diaz, and Cyborg set to return, TUF update

Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up, where we look back at all of the news and notes that happened in the world of mixed martial arts over the past week. Even though UFC didn’t host an event, there was no shortage of news, and the week even marked the return of Bellator, so let’s dive into all of the happenings.


Looking back at a busy news week

  • Bellator returned this past Friday, with their debut event on Showtime. It didn’t feel much different than any Bellator show in the past when it comes to production or pacing of the show, which remains bad, but it did feel like a bigger event and more important. It remains to be seen whether this will end up being a good move, a bad more, or a move that ultimately means nothing, but there is a feeling of positivity post-show.
  • The show ended with the best possible result in the main event as Patricio Pitbull added to his resumé as arguably the greatest fighter in Bellator history, submitting Emmanuel Sanchez in the first round. It was a horrible stoppage by the referee, as Sanchez was out cold from a guillotine choke for some time, but the referee stopped it late and even checked the arm of Sanchez several times before ending it. It just shows that bad officiating and bad judging isn’t just a UFC issue. It sets up a fight between Pitbull and A.J. McKee, which is the best fight Bellator could put together, and one of the best fights to make in the sport overall. That fight should be fantastic whenever it happens.
  • While UFC has yet to make an official announcement, the trilogy fight between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor is basically a done deal. Poirier signed his bout agreement this past week, and while McGregor has yet to officially do so, there is expected to be no hold-ups there. The biggest obstacle remaining is where the event will be held. The hope is still Las Vegas, and there is plenty of time until the fight, which will be at UFC 264 on 7/10, that there’s no need to worry about getting a deal done until even close to June. If, for some reason, they can’t get clearance to hold the show in Las Vegas, Dallas looks to be the top choice barring clearance from other cities and states. One thing is for sure: It won’t be in Abu Dhabi, as Poirier has zero desire to ever fight there again.
  • Another big name was announced to make a comeback: Nate Diaz will be returning to action at UFC 262 on 5/15 in Houston against Leon Edwards in a history-making fight, as it will be the first non-title co-main event bout scheduled to go five rounds. This is something UFC has batted around as a possibility, but the idea was to always save it for a big fight that could be a main event, and only on pay-per-view shows, and with fights that could be designated as title eliminator bouts. There is zero doubt that Edwards would get a title shot with a win, and he would deserve it. If Diaz wins, it will upset many, but it would be likely that he jumps the line at 170 lbs., especially if both he and Jorge Masvidal win.
  • The coaches for the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter have finally been announced, as UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega will coach against each other. They were far from the first choice, but when their fight at UFC 260 on 3/27 fell apart, it became an option. Volkanovski just got done dealing with a very bad case of coronavirus, one that landed him in the hospital, and they want to take their time in him returning to make sure he’s okay, so it was looking like a late summer return for him anyways. The timing just felt right to have them coach the show, which begins filming later this month. It is expected to begin airing in late June, with the fight between Volkanovski and Ortega likely taking place sometime around September.
  • Cris Cyborg’s return to action and return to Showtime was announced on the Bellator show on Friday, as she will defend the Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship against Leslie Smith at Bellator  259 on 5/21. It will be the second time those two have fought, as they squared off against each other in Cyborg’s UFC debut, and, well, it didn’t end well for Smith. It is unlikely to go any different the second time around, but with no one else ready to challenge Cyborg, Smith was the best option.
  • The Bellator move to Showtime also signaled the end of Mike Goldberg as a play-by-play announcer for the promotion. This was a Showtime decision, as he didn’t fit into what they want as far as a play-by-play voice. He’s been around the sport for a long time, but he has regressed as an announcer, and I agree with this move.
  • There is no news on the Jon Jones front. He had several days of very vocal social media messages he sent out, most of which were later deleted in typical Jones fashion. He claims he was offered between $8 and $10 million for the fight against Francis Ngannou, and he said no because he wants more. Of course, Derrick Lewis, who is the other option, said he’d easily take $8 million to fight Ngannou (which he won’t get), so that doesn’t help Jones at all. It remains to be seen whether the issues will be worked out, but there is plenty of time to get a deal done.
  • UFC is attempting to add a second title fight to UFC 263 on 6/12. When looking at who is available, the only real option at the moment seems to be Amanda Nunes, and that is who they’re trying to get on the card. The plan is for Nunes to defend the UFC Women’s Bantamweight Championship against Julianna Pena if they can come to a deal. No other champions are available right now due to multiple reasons, which is good news for UFC, as they don’t have to start worrying about title fights again until August.
  • You have to give credit to both Marvin Vettori and Kevin Holland for saving the main event of this upcoming week’s UFC event. Vettori was left without an opponent when Darren Till had to pull out due to a collarbone injury. He could’ve turned down lesser opponents, but he was also in the same position months ago when he was a late replacement against Jack Hermansson. He was willing to face anyone, and not many would step up on ten days’ notice, but Holland did despite just fighting on 3/20. A lot of people were shaking their heads at this fight being put together, but likely those same people were ignoring the circumstances. When it comes to trying to put together a main event fight on ten days’ notice, you take what you can get.

Fight announcements

Here are some fights that were announced over the past week:

  • Marvin Vettori vs. Kevin Holland — UFC Fight Night — April 10 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Norma Dumont vs. Erin Blanchfield — UFC Fight Night — April 10
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Jacob Malkoun — UFC Fight Night — April 17
  • Zarah Fairn vs. Josiane Nunes — UFC Fight Night — April 17
  • Jessica Penne vs. Lupita Godinez — UFC Fight Night — April 17
  • Juan Espino vs. Alexandr Romanov — UFC Fight Night — April 17
  • Poliana Botelho vs. Luana Carolina — UFC Fight Night — May 1
  • Leon Edwards vs. Nate Diaz — UFC 262 — May 15
  • Lando Vannata vs. Mike Grundy — UFC 262 — May 15
  • Kevin Aguilar vs. Tucker Lutz — UFC 262 — May 15
  • Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg vs. Leslie Smith — Bellator 259 — May 21 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Alessio Di Chirico vs. Roman Dolidze — UFC Fight Night — June 5
  • Claudio Puelles vs. Jordan Leavitt — UFC Fight Night — June 5
  • Demian Maia vs. Belal Muhammad — UFC 263 — June 12
  • Chan Sung Jung vs. Dan Ige — UFC Fight Night — June 19 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Aleksa Camur vs. Nicolae Negumereanu — UFC Fight Night — June 19
  • Rick Glenn vs. Joaquim Silva — UFC Fight Night — June 19
  • Ciryl Gane vs. Alexander Volkov — UFC Fight Night — June 26 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Michel Prazeres vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov — UFC Fight Night — June 26
  • Charles Rosa vs. Justin Jaynes — UFC Fight Night — June 26
  • Raoni Barcelos vs. Timur Valiev — UFC Fight Night — June 26
  • Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor — UFC 264 — July 10 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Gilbert Burns vs. Stephen Thompson — UFC 264 — July 10

Coming up this week

Here are some major events upcoming this week in the world of MMA:

  • UFC on ABC 2 takes place on Saturday, April 10. The main card airs on ABC at 3:00 p.m. ET, with prelims on ESPN at 12:00 p.m. ET, and all fights also simulcast on ESPN+. Marvin Vettori vs. Kevin Holland is the main event.
  • Bellator 256 takes place on Friday, April 9. The main card airs on Showtime at 9:00 p.m. ET. Ryan Bader vs. Lyoto Machida is the main event. The card also features Liz Carmouche, Cat Zingano, Jeremy Kennedy, Julia Budd and Adam Borics.
  • ONE on TNT 1 takes place on Wednesday, April 7. The one-hour tape-delayed broadcast airs on TNT at 10:00 p.m. ET It features ONE Flyweight Champion Adrian Moraes defending against Demetrious Johnson, and Eddie Alvarez vs. Iuri Lapicus.

This week in MMA history

Bonnar and Griffin post-match at TUF 1 Finale

One of the most important events in UFC history took place during this week, as on April 9, 2005, it was the finale of the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, held in Las Vegas at the Cox Pavilion, which was also the first live fight card to air on Spike TV.

It featured what is called the most important fight in UFC history, a classic brawl between Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar that has long been hailed as one of the best fights in UFC history. It was a back-and-forth fight that saw both men get standing ovations, and despite Griffin winning by a unanimous decision, both men ended up getting six-figure UFC contracts, and the rest is history.

Also on the card, Diego Sanchez scored the other six-figure contract when he finished Kenny Florian in the first round. In the actual main event of the show, Rich Franklin scored a first-round TKO win over Ken Shamrock. Of course, the prelims featured the debuts and first wins of many notable future UFC stars, including Josh Koscheck, Nate Quarry, Mike Swick and Chris Leben.

You can watch The Ultimate Fighter 1 Finale on UFC Fight Pass here.

In the Clinch

On this week’s edition of In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will talk all of the news about Conor McGregor against Dustin Poirier, Nate Diaz returning against Leon Edwards, The Ultimate Fighter coaches, and much more. We will also look at the important stuff coming out of Bellator 255, and look ahead to UFC on ABC 2. You can listen to us on the Fight Game Media Network, with our Patreon page found here.

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