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 the week that is in the world of mixed martial arts. It was a notable week this past week, to say the least, so let’s get right into it.
Looking back at UFC 261
- UFC 261 was an all-time classic event. It may have been the greatest UFC event of all-time. If you were putting a list together of best UFC events ever, it would definitely have to be in the top-five. It was a night of incredible fights with incredible finishes with a white-hot Jacksonville crowd. It was definitely worth its price on pay-per-view. The prelims started off hot with two fights that will end up among the best fights of the year. From there, it didn’t let up, with an absolutely incredible main card, particularly the three title fights. If you didn’t see the show, I urge you to go back and watch it from start-to-finish. You can read GG’s live play by play on the website.
- Kamaru Usman continues to cement his legacy as MMA pundits more seriously consider whether he is the greatest welterweight of all-time. Usman isn’t quite there yet, because accomplishments aren’t quite at the level of Georges St. Pierre, but there no question that with Khabib Nurmagomedov now retired, Usman is the most dominant male UFC champion at the moment. After his performance against Jorge Masvidal on Saturday night, I’m not sure there’s anyone at 170 lbs. who could beat him.
- You have to give Jorge Masvidal credit for turning himself into a star. He was a welterweight, who, while respected for his toughness, was going really nowhere and looked to be more of a gatekeeper after his loss to Stephen Thompson. He was then brought in as an opponent to rehab Darren Till, but he spoiled those plans, then made himself an absolute superstar with his five-second knockout over Ben Askren. He turned that into a big fight against Nate Diaz, which then turned into two title fights against Usman. This run made him more money than he could probably ever think of, and if he never gets back there, he at least made it near the absolute top in an exciting way.
- What more can be said about Rose Namajunas? She may be the most interesting female fighter in the world as a human being. She wears her heart on her sleeve and there’s just something about her that makes you root for her. Her finish of Zhang Weili to become a two-time UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion was an absolutely incredible moment that brought her, her coaches, Justin Gaethje, Joe Rogan, and countless others to tears. I hope the pressure of being champion is easier to manage the second time around, because she could end up being one of the all-time greats, if she isn’t already there.
- Is there any fighter you would want to fight less than Valentina Shevchenko? She’s absolutely incredible, and she knows it. She made her fight against Jessica Andrade, one of the best in the world and a former champion, look like light work. Her post-fight interview, too, was an absolute home run. Her telling every one of her future opponents to not bother looking for a weakness in her, because there isn’t one, that’s stone cold killer mentality. I don’t know if any other female can beat her right now, and that includes Amanda Nunes. It will be interesting to see what is next for Shevchenko.
- Prayers up for Chris Weidman: That leg break was absolutely horrific. I was five feet away when the same thing happened to Anderson Silva, which was coincidentally against Weidman, and this looked more gruesome. I hope he can make a full recovery and come back just to prove that he can, but it will be a long road at 36-years-old. You also have to give Uriah Hall credit for how classy he handled everything.
- Other fighters who stood out on Saturday include Anthony Smith, Randy Brown, Brendan Allen and Danaa Batgerel. All three scored finishes and all three looked great, especially Smith against a young prospect in Jimmy Crute. Big moments for all of them.
- If you missed the first two preliminary fights, one between Na Liang vs. Ariane Carnelossi, and the other, Jeff Molina vs. Aoriqileng, stop reading and watch both immediately. These may have been the greatest first two fights to kick off a UFC event ever.
- The crowd in Jacksonville was absolutely electric. We’ve been used to UFC events with no crowds for close to a year, and you don’t realize how much you miss a crowd until it’s back.
- UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya will defend the title against Marvin Vettori at UFC 263 on June 12. That’s under seven weeks from now, which means a both will have short training camps. Vettori is getting the shot because Robert Whittaker isn’t available. UFC first asked Whittaker if he wanted the shot, after his win over Kelvin Gastelum last Saturday. Whittaker said no, however, as he’s still healing from injures on top of having to return to Australia and undergo a mandatory two-week quarantine. He’d only have about four weeks to actually prepare for a title fight. Whitaker is expected to face the winner.
- UFC 263, it still doesn’t have an official location for the show, though Dana White mentioned Arizona last week. I’m told Phoenix is the current front-runner for the show. UFC is waiting for the OK from the Phoenix arena, but the arena in Glendale is said to be the back-up option.
- White also said that it looks like UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou against Derrick Lewis is next, saying that Lewis deserves the shot, and that when Jon Jones is ready to fight to call him. White claimed that Jones asked for $30 million guaranteed for the fight, which Jones quickly denied. Whatever the issue over money is, I really hope it gets settled soon, because Ngannou vs. Jones is the fight you must make if you’re White, Hunter Campbell and Mick Maynard. It has to happen.
- White also said that Colby Covington would be next in line for Usman. He gave Usman the toughest fight of his career thus far, though he’s only fought once, a fifth-round TKO win over Tyron Woodley, since, and many think he should fight once more before a title shot. He played the game perfectly in sitting out until he got what he wanted, and it seems to have worked.
- Speaking of Tyron Woodley, he is, in fact, no longer a UFC fighter. His contract was up after his last fight against Vicente Luque, and at 39 and with four straight losses, he won’t be re-signed by UFC.
- Nick Diaz was at UFC 261 and had a meeting with White after the show, and White said, before they met, that Diaz wants to fight again, and they would give it to him. If I were booking, my top tw choices for Diaz would be either Carlos Condit or Robbie Lawler. Remember, Diaz hasn’t fought in over six years, so, despite his star power, I wouldn’t put him against a ranked opponent unless it’s Conor McGregor or Masvidal, mainly because we don’t know how he’ll look, but also because his return could always be one-and-done.
- PFL’s return on Friday may not have turned out as they had liked it to. Of the ten fights on the card, nine went to decision, with several questionable ones. Anthony Pettis, their big-name signing, lost to Clay Collard, a boxer who hasn’t done MMA in over two years. The two PFL champions, Natan Schulte and Lance Palmer, also suffered losses. The show presentation and production were good, but PFL must be a bit disappointed with the fight results in terms of building viewer interest for the upcoming tournaments and playoffs.
I would make these fights following UFC 261 this past Saturday:
- Kamaru Usman vs. Colby Covington
- Jorge Masvidal vs. Leon Edwards-Nate Diaz loser
- Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza-Yan Xiaonan winner
- Zhang Weili vs. Claudia Gadelha
- Valentina Shevchenko vs. Joanne Calderwood-Lauren Murphy winner
- Jessica Andrade vs. Cynthia Calvillo
- Uriah Hall vs. Darren Till
- Anthony Smith vs. Paul Craig-Jamahal Hill winner
- Randy Brown vs. Max Griffin
- Brendan Allen vs. Makhmud Muradov
- Jeff Molina vs. Matheus Nicolau
- Matt Schnell vs. Rogerio Bontorin — UFC 262 — May 15
- Ricardo Ramos vs. Bill Algeo — UFC Fight Night — May 22
- Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Augusto Sakai — UFC Fight Night — June 5 (MAIN EVENT)
- Makwan Amirkhani vs. Nate Landwehr — UFC Fight Night — June 5
- UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya vs. Marvin Vettori — UFC 263 — June 12 (MAIN EVENT)
- Marlon Vera vs. Davey Grant — UFC Fight Night — June 19
- Dricus Du Plessis vs. Trevin Giles — UFC 264 — July 10
- Francisco Figueiredo vs. Malcolm Gordon — UFC Fight Night — July 17
- Miles Johns vs. Anderson Dos Santos — UFC Fight Night — July 17
Coming up this week
- UFC On ESPN 23 takes place on Saturday, May 1 from Las Vegas. The main card airs at 10:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2, and the prelims air at 7:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2. Dominick Reyes vs. Jiri Prochazka is the main event.
- ONE on TNT 4 takes place on Wednesday, April 28. It airs on TNT at 10:00 p.m. ET. Eddie Alvarez, Shinya Aoki and Senegal’s “Reug Reug” are among those on the card.
- PFL 2021 #2 takes place on Thursday, April 29. The main card airs at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2, with prelims at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Rory MacDonald vs. Curtis Millender is the main event, and other featured fights on the card include Tom Lawlor vs. Antonio Carlos Junior, as well as UFC veterans Gleison Tibau, Cezar Ferreira, Chris Camozzi, Alexey Kunchenko and Vinny Magalhaes.
- CES 62 takes place on Friday, April 30, airing at 8:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
This week in MMA history
On April 30, 2011, the largest UFC event in North American history took place when UFC 129 took place at the Rogers Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. It was the first sanctioned MMA event held in Ontario since the sport was legalized, and UFC wanted to bring a massive event to Toronto, which they did. The event drew a record 55,724 fans, with a gate of just over $12 million USD, and the show did 800,000 buys on pay-per-view.
In the main event, Canadian hero and UFC Welterweight Champion Georges St. Pierre had a successful title defense, scoring a unanimous decision win over Jake Shields. In the co-main event, UFC Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo also had a successful title defense, winning a unanimous decision against Mark Hominick in a memorable fight due to the hematoma on Hominick’s head. Also on the main card, Lyoto Machida knocked out Randy Couture with a head kick in Couture’s final fight, Vladimir Matyushenko finished Jason Brilz in just twenty seconds, and Benson Henderson scored a unanimous decision win over Mark Bocek.
On the prelims, which UFC 129 became the first event to ever have every preliminary bout aired in some fashion, Rory MacDonald scored a decision win over Nate Diaz in the featured prelim. Other winners on the prelim card included Jake Ellenberger, John Makdessi, Ivan Menjivar and Jason MacDonald.
You can watch UFC 129 on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
Our guest on In The Clinch this week is ‘Filthy’ Tom Lawlor. In addition to being on this season of PFL, Lawlor also wrestles for MLW and, more recently, New Japan of America, where he currently holds their Strong Openweight Championship. On the show, we talk UFC 261, PFL, Tom’s debut at PFL #2 this week, and if we can expect Tom to have some fun at the weigh-ins. You can listen to In The Clinch on the Fight Game Media Network on Patreon.