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Monday MMA Round-Up: Whittaker earns title shot

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 another loaded week of action, and we are again headed into another busy week with an important UFC card taking place, so let’s dive right into what’s happening.

Looking back at UFC on ESPN 22

  • Robert Whittaker looked absolutely outstanding in his decision win over Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of Saturday’s UFC show. His striking was crisp and his wrestling looked better than ever. He looked like the best middleweight in the world, and left zero doubt that he should be getting a title shot and a chance to re-gain UFC Middleweight Championship from the man who beat him for it, Israel Adesanya. Whittaker said it’s the only fight that makes sense for him, and that he wants it in September or October in New Zealand or Australia. I doubt it happens in either country this year, but the fight has to be next- there’s no better fight to make at 185 lbs.
  • Despite losing the decision on straight 50–45 scores, Gastelum put up a better showing than those scores indicate. He did take the fight on less than four weeks’ notice, and doing that against the guy who may be the best fighter in the world in his weight class, who also happened to likely put on a career-best performance, you can’t help but give props to Gastelum. The loss shouldn’t hurt him much, but he does need to get back into the win column in his next fight, because he has lost four of his last five fights.
  • The rest of the show was skippable. It ended up being just ten fights overall after some late fight cancellations, and eight of the fights went to a decision, and some of them weren’t pretty. It was a show that was overshadowed by whatever that circus was that Triller put on for the “fight” between Jake Paul and Ben Askren, but also one that didn’t deliver to keep people away from the Triller show.
  • Weigh-in stare downs have often provided memorable moments in leading up to fights, but when fighters put their hands on each other, the potential for ugly incidents can occur, and that happened this weekend between Jeremy Stephens and Drakkar Klose: The two exchanged words and Stephens gave Klose a huge shove afterwards. It’s something we’ve seen a bunch of times, but in this instance, the worst happened. Klose ended up not being able to fight the next day as he suffered from whiplash, losing feeling in his arms for a few moments and suffering from nausea and concussion-like symptoms that kept him from fighting. It is a shame for both men, and hopefully people learn from this situation to keep that inside the cage, when both are getting paid for it.
  • Judging has been a hot topic for a long time in MMA, and this weekend was no exception: There were four split decisions on UFC’s card, and you could make a strong case that three of them ended up with the wrong fighter winning. On Bellator’s show on Friday, the main event, while not a bad decision, featured all of the judges giving Phil Davis two rounds when he, at best, only won one. It’s almost a weekly thing that there will be bad judging, but it feels like it is getting worse before it is getting better.
  • Season 29 of The Ultimate Fighter kicks off on June 1 on ESPN+, with Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega as the coaches. The season features bantamweights and middleweights, and filming has kicked off after all of the fighters were cleared to compete early in the week. The fighters are mainly unknown, but there are some good prospects included who have a chance to make some noise. The show should wrap up in August, and, as of now, the plan for the fight between Volkanovski and Ortega is to take place on September 4 at UFC 266.
  • Speaking of UFC 266 on September 4, it will be the event where UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz makes his next title defense, as he will defend against Glover Teixeira. There were hopes of the fight happening sooner, but Blachowicz didn’t want to fight again until September at the earliest, so they booked the fight for the earliest possible date.
  • That wasn’t the only title fight announced this week, as the long-planned bout seeing UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes defending against Julianna Pena will take place at UFC 265 on August 7. They wanted that fight in June, but Nunes wanted more time to get her natural weight back down to where making 135 wouldn’t be an issue after spending the last year-plus fighting at 145 lbs.
  • With those two title fights being announced, that leaves no other title fight available for UFC 263 on June 12, and it looks like the UFC Flyweight Championship bout between Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno will end up as the main event. There is still no word if the event will take place in an arena with fans somewhere or if they’ll have it at UFC’s APEX in Las Vegas, which they don’t want to do with pay-per-view events, but they might just do it with this one.
  • UFC 264 tickets went on sale this past week, and sold out in seconds for UFC’s return to the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas for the trilogy bout between Dustin Poirier and Conor McGregor. It’s no surprise the show sold out, even in seconds, as fans in Las Vegas have been eager to return to shows, and it just shows that the demand is there for fans to go to UFC shows again.
  • If you missed the fight between Paul Daley and Sabah Homasi on Bellator this past Friday, find a way to see their fight. It is among one of the better Bellator fights in recent memory.

Playing Matchmaker

Here are some fights I would make following UFC On ESPN 22 from Saturday:

  • Robert Whittaker vs. Israel Adesanya
  • Kelvin Gastelum vs. Jared Cannonier
  • Andrei Arlovski vs. Blagoy Ivanov
  • Tracy Cortez vs. JJ Aldrich
  • Luis Pena vs. Jalin Turner
  • Alexandr Romanov vs. Sergey Spivak
  • Jessica Penne vs. Jinh Yu Frey
  • Gerald Meerschaert vs. Zak Cummings

Fight announcements

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

  • Michael Page vs. Derek Anderson — Bellator 258 — May 7
  • Diego Ferreira vs. Gregor Gillespie — UFC Fight Night — May 8
  • Phil Hawes vs. Kyle Daukaus — UFC Fight Night — May 8
  • Francisco Figueiredo vs. JP Buys — UFC Fight Night — May 8
  • Yancy Medeiros vs. Damir Hadzovic — UFC Fight Night — May 22
  • Claudio Silva vs. Court McGee — UFC Fight Night — May 22
  • Sarah Alpar vs. Stephanie Egger — UFC Fight Night — May 22
  • Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Miguel Baeza — UFC Fight Night — June 5
  • Tom Breese vs. Antonio Arroyo — UFC Fight Night — June 5
  • Bellator Welterweight Champion Douglas Lima vs. Yaroslav Amosov — Bellator 260 — June 11
  • Drew Dober vs. Brad Riddell — UFC 263 — June 12
  • Matt Frevola vs. Frank Camacho — UFC 263 — June 12
  • Warlley Alves vs. Ramazan Emeev — UFC Fight Night — June 26
  • Renato Moicano vs. Jai Herbert — UFC Fight Night — June 26
  • Cameron Else vs. Aaron Phillips — UFC Fight Night — July 17
  • Billy Quarantillo vs. Herbert Burns — UFC Fight Night — July 17
  • Trevin Jones vs. Tony Kelley — UFC Fight Night — July 24
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Rafa Garcia — UFC Fight Night — July 31
  • UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Amanda Nunes vs. Julianna Pena — UFC 265 — August 7
  • UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Jan Blachowicz vs. Glover Teixeira — UFC 266 — September 4

Coming up this week

Here are some of the major MMA events taking place this upcoming week:

  • UFC 261 takes place on Saturday, April 24. The main card airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10:00 p.m. ET, with prelims on ESPN at 8:00 p.m. ET, and early prelims on ESPN2 at 6:00. UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman defends against Jorge Masvidal in the main event, with two other title fights on the card: UFC Women’s Strawweight Champion Zhang Weili defending against Rose Namajunas, and UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko defending against Jessica Andrade.
  • ONE on TNT 3 takes place on Wednesday, April 21, at 10:00 p.m. ET on TNT. Former UFC fighter John Lineker fights in the featured bout.
  • PFL 2021 #1 takes place on Friday, April 23. The main card airs on ESPN2 at 8:00 p.m. ET, with prelims on ESPN+ at 5:30. Anthony Pettis vs. Clay Collard is the main event. Other fights include Natan Schulte vs. Marcin Held and Lance Palmer vs. Bubba Jenkins.

This week in MMA history

UFC 83: GSP vs. Serra, 2008

On April 19, 2008, UFC broke new ground as they held their first-ever event in Canada, when the Octagon landed in Montreal, Quebec for UFC 83. The debut in Canada set two records at the time—it was the fastest sellout ever, and it set UFC attendance record, with 21,390 fans in attendance. It also had a $5.1 million gate, and sold 530,000 pay-per-views.

In the main event, Canadian hero Georges St. Pierre became the undisputed UFC Welterweight Champion, unifying the interim and regular welterweight titles, as he finished Matt Serra in the second round after a series of knees to the body. It was the crowning moment for St. Pierre, who went on to end his career as arguably the greatest UFC fighter on all-time.

Also on the main card, Rich Franklin finished Travis Lutter in the second round, Nate Quarry scored a decision over Kalib Starnes, Michael Bisping got a first-round win over Charles McCarthy, and Mac Danzig submitted Mark Bocek in the third round. In the prelims, Demian Maia scored a submission win over Ed Herman, and future UFC Heavyweight Champion Cain Velasquez made his UFC debut, finishing Brad Morris in the first round.

You can watch UFC 83 on UFC Fight Pass here.

In The Clinch

On this week’s edition of In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will be joined by AEW’s John Silver as we talk all of the happenings in the MMA world, look ahead to UFC 261, and talk a little bit with John about AEW, how MMA influences his wrestling style, his MMA fandom and UFC 261 in AEW’s home Jacksonville. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, with our Patreon page here.

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