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Monday MMA Round-Up: Knockout of 2021?

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 to the week ahead in the world of mixed martial arts. Let’s dive right into the news from this weekend.

Knockout of the Year?

  • Jiri Prochazka’s KO of Dominick Reyes in the main event on Saturday’s UFC show may end up being the Knockout of the Year, and what a fantastic knockout it was. It’s rare to see a spinning elbow finish, especially one that knocks a fighter out cold. Prochazka is the guy I said would end 2021 as UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, and it looks like the only thing that will stop him from accomplishing exactly that is not getting a title shot this year. His next fight should be against the winner of the title fight between Jan Blachowicz and Glover Teixeira, which takes place in September, and they shouldn’t risk Prochazka in any other fight.

  • It will be interesting to see where Dominick Reyes goes next; that’s three straight losses for him, though they’ve come in two title fights and essentially a title eliminator fight. Many thought he beat Jon Jones for the title just over a year ago, but now he’s stuck trying to not fall into gatekeeper status. The fight against Prochazka was a bad match-up to take coming off two losses, as it was a dangerous fight for both, and he really should be booked against an opponent that would be a proper bounce-back fight for him, as he’s still capable of fighting for titles in the future. I could see him having a Glover Teixeira-style bounce back.
  • Giga Chikadze has established himself as a contender at 145 lbs., scoring the biggest win of his UFC career by finishing Cub Swanson in just 63 seconds. It was his sixth straight win since joining UFC, and he’s put himself in line to fight a high-ranked opponent in his next fight. He has the striking tools to compete with the best featherweights, and his grappling has proven to be good as well. He’ll be a threat for years to come.
  • Merab Dvalishvili had yet another impressive showing in scoring a decision win over Cody Stamann. While he has yet to score a finish inside the Octagon, Dvalishvili’s wrestling is superb, and he has a gas tank that is hard to match. He has all of the tools to become a champion, and it’s time for him to start fighting top-ten, and even top-five, competition.
  • The rest of the card was hit-or-miss. There were a couple of fun fights, including between TJ Brown and Kai Kamaka, which saw Brown absolutely gifted a decision from the judges, one of the worst decisions in quite some time. The opener between Felipe Colares and Luke Sanders was also fun. If you saw the show, you likely enjoyed most of it, and, if you missed it, go back and watch the fights mentioned above, but the rest is skippable.
  • The most newsworthy item outside of the cage this week came with the sudden release of Diego Sanchez from UFC. He was scheduled to fight Donald Cerrone on 5/8, but was removed from the fight under unknown circumstances early in the week. Later in the week, there were videos posted to Sanchez’ social media accounts showing his manager and coach, Joshua Fabia, getting into disputes with UFC’s broadcast team during production meetings in Abu Dhabi in September over their, what he called, attempts to slight both Sanchez and himself in their coverage. Sanchez was released from UFC before these were posted, and Fabia, who controls all of Sanchez’ social media, went further and posted a phone conversation between himself and UFC executive Hunter Campbell that was wild, to say the least.Here’s what I can say about the situation: Sanchez has a major medical issue, that Fabia is attempting to use for a potential lawsuit against UFC—which will go nowhere. Fabia was trying to get medical records from Campbell to strengthen his case. Campbell, who is not only an executive but has also practiced law, knew what was going on, and the decision was made to pull Sanchez from the fight, pay him all of his money for the fight, then let him go so he and, more importantly, Fabia, would no longer be an issue for the company. Fabia has caused issues with numerous UFC staff, fighters, training partners, and commission officials. It is better for everyone involved to try and remove Fabia from the sport. Unfortunately, the situation has cost Sanchez his career, but those close to him not named  Joshua Fabia say Sanchez really doesn’t even want to fight again.
  • This Saturday’s main event between Cory Sandhagen and TJ Dillashaw was called off early in the week after Dillashaw was forced out due to a cut. That has left the event without a main event. A match-up between Michelle Waterson and Marina Rodriguez is in the works, but, as of Sunday night, had yet to be officially announced by UFC, and we are just days away from the event. It is planned, but they have to make sure that there are no issues getting Rodriguez into the US with a visa, as she is in Brazil, in order for the fight to take place. As for the fight between Sandhagen and Dillashaw, it is going to be re-scheduled, likely as the main event for the 7/17 card.
  • As I talked about last week in this column, UFC 263 on 6/12 was officially announced for Glendale, Arizona. Phoenix was targeted, but the Phoenix Suns Arena is currently on hold during that time for the NBA, so the decision was made to host it at the Gila River Arena, about twelve miles outside of downtown Phoenix. A rematch between UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya and Marvin Vettor UFC 263 instead. Their first fight, which was a non-title fight, actually took place in the same arena in April 2018.
  • The arguably hottest Bellator fight to make between Yoel Romero and Anthony Johnson is off: Romero was not medically cleared and was pulled from the fight. It is a huge hit for Bellator, which has been struggling to gain an audience on Showtime. The hope is to rebook that fight on down the line following the light heavyweight tournament.
  • Rory MacDonald had an impressive PFL debut, finishing Curtis Millender in the main event of PFL 2 in the first round. It was an impressive showing for MacDonald, who scored his first win in nearly two years. Unfortunately, our In The Clinch guest from last week, Tom Lawlor, suffered a first-round submission loss to Antonio Carlos Junior. Overall, PFL 2 was an enjoyable show.
  • Sean O’Malley will have his next fight at UFC 264 on 7/10, where he will take on Louis Smolka on the undercard of the Dustin Poirier against Conor McGregor card.

Playing matchmaker

Here are some next fights I would make for those who fought at UFC On ESPN 23 on Saturday:

  • Jiri Prochazka vs. Jan Blachowicz-Glover Teixeira winner
  • Dominick Reyes vs. Misha Cirkunov
  • Giga Chikadze vs. Edson Barboza-Shane Burgos winner
  • Sean Strickland vs. Jack Hermansson-Edmen Shahbazyan winner
  • Merab Dvalishvili vs. Pedro Munhoz
  • Luana Pinheiro vs. Montserrat Conejo
  • Luana Carolina vs. Tracy Cortez

Fight announcements

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

  • Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez — UFC Fight Night — May 8 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Steven Peterson vs. Chase Hooper — UFC 263 — June 12
  • Khaos Williams vs. Matthew Semelsberger — UFC Fight Night — June 19
  • Rodolfo Vieira vs. Dustin Stoltzfus — UFC Fight Night — July 17
  • Raphael Assuncao vs. Kyler Phillips — UFC Fight Night — July 24
  • Randy Costa vs. Adrian Yanez — UFC Fight Night — July 24
  • Mickey Gall vs. Jordan Williams — UFC Fight Night — July 24

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

  • UFC On ESPN 24 takes place on Saturday, May 8 from Las Vegas. The main card airs at 8:00 p.m. ET on ESPN, while the prelims air at 5:00 p.m. ET on ESPN+ (the main card also airs on ESPN+). Michelle Waterson vs. Marina Rodriguez is currently slated to be the main event, though that has yet to be formally announced.
  • PFL 2021 #3 takes place on Thursday, May 6 from Atlantic City. The main card airs at 9:00 p.m. ET on ESPN2, while the prelims air at 5:30 p.m. ET on ESPN+. Fabricio Werdum vs. Renan Ferreira is the main event. Kayla Harrison also will compete on the card.
  • FAC 8 takes place on Friday, May 7, airing at 8:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. Former UFC fighters Chance Rencountre and Jake Lindsey meet in the main event.
  • Bellator 258 takes place on Friday, May 7 from the Mohegan Sun in Connecticut. The main card airs on Showtime at 9:00 p.m. ET. Bellator Bantamweight Champion Juan Archuleta defends against Sergio Pettis in the main event. Also on the main card is Anthony Johnson vs. Jose Augusto in the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, Patricky Pitbull vs. Peter Queally and Michael Page vs. Derek Anderson.

This week in MMA history

May 9, 2020 was a different kind of day UFC’s history: It was when the company held their first event since the start of the COVID-19 outbreak inside an empty VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Fla. It did well on pay-per-view, garnering roughly 700,000 pay-per-view buys.

UFC produced a memorable show for their first card during the pandemic, which saw Justin Gaethje finish Tony Ferguson in the fifth round to win the Interim UFC Lightweight Championship. In the co-main event, UFC Bantamweight Champion Henry Cejudo finished former champion Dominick Cruz in the second round, and proceeded to announce his sudden retirement, which has stuck a year later, though most still expect him to return some day. Also on the main card, Francis Ngannou knocked out Jairzinho Rozenstruik in 20 seconds, Calvin Kattar finished Jeremy Stephens in the second round, and Greg Hardy scored a decision over Yorgan De Castro.

In the prelims, Anthony Pettis won a decision over Donald Cerrone, Aleksei Oleinik won a split decision over Fabricio Werdum, Carla Esparza won a split decision over Michelle Waterson, Vicente Luque won by stoppage over Niko Price, Bryce Mitchell dominated Charles Rosa en route to a decision win, and Ryan Spann took a split decision over Sam Alvey.

You can watch UFC 249 on UFC Fight Pass here.

In The Clinch

This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will look back at UFC On ESPN 23, look ahead to UFC On ESPN 24, talk PFL and Bellator, discuss the Diego Sanchez situation and much, much more. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, with our Patreon page found here.

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