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. Last week was a rare off-week for the UFC, but Bellator and the PFL still ran events, and plenty of stuff happened during the week, so let’s dive right into the news and thoughts of the week.
Looking back at Bellator, PFL & more
- Gegard Mousasi retained the Bellator Middleweight Championship with a third-round TKO win over John Salter in the main event of Bellator 264 on Friday. Salter took Mousasi down in the first two rounds, but tired himself out, and Mousasi took advantage to come on strong in the second before getting the finish in the third. Mousasi has now gone 6–1 in Bellator, with two separate middleweight title reigns, since joining the promotion in 2017 after leaving the UFC on a five-fight win streak, and continues to be, arguably, the best middleweight in the world. He already has his next match-up booked, as his next defense will be against Austin Vanderford, known best to MMA fans as the husband of Paige VanZant, but he is a deserving title challenger. Should Mousasi defeat him, Mousasi will have likely cleaned out the division, and the most interesting match-ups for him are really at 205 lbs., and he did say he’s very interested in fighting Anthony Johnson.
- Speaking of potential future opponents for Mousasi at either 185 or 205, Yoel Romero was officially cleared to return to action, and he will make his Bellator debut in September, headlining Bellator 266 on 9/18 against Phil Davis in San Jose. It will be on the same day as a UFC event and will follow a boxing event on Showtime, but there should be no conflict in viewing against the UFC show. Romero was arguably the biggest recent signing that Bellator made, and it will be interesting to see if he helps their not-so-hot ratings.
- Raufeon Stots had an impressive decision win over Magomed Magomedov at Bellator 264, which should get him a shot at the Bellator Bantamweight Championship. That title is held by Sergio Pettis, who is a teammate of Stots, but the two have indicated they’d be willing to fight one another with a belt on the line.
- PFL spending all of that money for high-priced, named-talent didn’t seem to pay off all that well for them, as none of their high-profile signings ended up making it to the finals of their playoffs, as Rory MacDonald was eliminated after dropping a decision to Ray Cooper III at PFL 2021 #6 on Friday. Cooper III will square off in the finals against Magomed Magomedkerimov in a rematch of the PFL 2018 Welterweight finals, which was won by Magomedkerimov. Cooper III won the PFL Welterweight Playoffs in 2019, so he’ll be gunning for his second straight million-dollar tournament win.
- Anderson Silva and Tito Ortiz will be facing off in a boxing match on September 11. Okay. It’s supposed to take place at 195 lbs., and Ortiz made a video of himself on August 8 where he weighed 240 lbs. Color me skeptical that the fight even happens.
- Time for some UFC news. UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya was supposed to defend against Robert Whittaker in the main event of UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden in November. It was agreed to and both men were going to start training camps, but contracts were never signed. Due to New Zealand’s strict quarantine rules upon re-entering the country, they have a backlog to where it is November at the earliest before people who are just now leaving the country can return. If Adesanya was to leave the country in October to New York for his fight, the system in New Zealand, since the quarantine is mandatory in government-purchased hotels, there is no clue when he and his coaches would be able to return to the country after the fight. New Zealand has said that they are planning on easing restrictions in early 2022, so the fight is going to be pushed back to 2022. It is also wreaking havoc with other UFC fighters they want to book who are based in New Zealand. Genah Fabian, who fights on the PFL show this week in Florida, trains with Adesanya’s camp, and she has been unable to book a return to New Zealand, and she says he might be stuck in the United States or elsewhere until at least the end of November.
- UFC Strawweight Champion Rose Namajunas started training camp this past week, with all indications pointing to her defending the title at UFC 268 at Madison Square Garden in November. It currently looks like she’ll be defending in a rematch against Zhang Weili, who she defeated for the title in a first-round knockout in April. The title shot should really be against Carla Esparza, who deserves a shot and there’s the story of Esparza beating Namajunas to become the inaugural strawweight title holder, so it would be a chance for Namajunas to avenge that loss. However, Zhang is still a big deal in China, and that is an important market for UFC, and sometimes business reasons are put ahead of sporting reasons in these decisions.
- A fighter wanted for UFC 268 is Sean O’Malley. The hope is to book a fight against Frankie Edgar on the show. However, O’Malley has been very vocal as of late with some issues with the company and matchmaker Sean Shelby, and it hasn’t been good. O’Malley has been complaining about his contract, and did state he didn’t want to fight on that UFC 268 card due to it being too close to a grappling match his head coach is having, plus he doesn’t want the added expense of having to pay extra income tax for fighting in New York, which does come into play for a lot of fighters who think about that kind of stuff. He’s also publicly called out Shelby, which isn’t a smart thing to do either. It’ll be interesting to see how the future plays out for O’Malley, because this might not be the smartest thing for him right now.
- Urijah Faber is looking to return either late this year or early next year, but is dependent on him coming to an agreement on terms for his next fight with the UFC and finding an opponent that interests him. He’s still under contract and still in the USADA testing pool despite not having fought since December 2019. With his growing family and his age, if he wants to keep fighting, he needs to get things worked out soon.
- Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier have been going back-and-forth on Twitter over the past week, and it appears they’re trying to get a fight between the two set up. The UFC isn’t even entertaining the idea as they want Poirier to fight Charles Oliveira next, but Poirier has to know the payday for a Diaz fight would be much larger. It’ll be interesting to see how this one plays out.
- Happy trails to Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, who announced his retirement this past week. He ends his career with a 26-10 (1 NC) record, but on the sour note of losing his last four fights, and ending his career suffering a broken arm in his last fight. Souza was one of the best middleweights in the world for a long time, winning the Strikeforce Middleweight Championship in 2010. He never got a title shot in the UFC, as he was always just one win away for challenging for it, but would come up short in that one last fight he needed to win. One big question looms over his career, though, and that is what if he hadn’t turned down the late-notice title shot opportunity against Luke Rockhold at UFC 199 in June 2016. He was offered the fight before Michael Bisping was, but turned it down as he had just fought three weeks prior and was in need of knee surgery, and opted for the surgery over the title shot. Had he taken the fight and beaten Rockhold for the title, who knows where his career would’ve ended up. It will remain one of the big what-ifs in MMA lore.
Here are some fights that were announced over the past week:
- Kevin Lee vs. Daniel Rodriguez — UFC Fight Night — August 28
- Jonathan Martinez vs. Marcelo Rojo — UFC Fight Night — September 4
- Tom Aspinall vs. Sergei Pavlovich — UFC Fight Night — September 4
- Arman Tsarukyan vs. Christos Giagos — UFC Fight Night — September 18
- Yoel Romero vs. Phil Davis — Bellator 266 — September 18 (MAIN EVENT)
- Matthew Semelsberger vs. Martin Sano Jr. — UFC 266 — September 25
- Alexander Hernandez vs. Leonardo Santos — UFC Fight Night — October 2
- Jun Yong Park vs. Gregory Rodrigues — UFC Fight Night — October 23
- Zubaira Tukhugov vs. Ricardo Ramos — UFC 267 — October 30
Coming up this week
Here are some of the major MMA events taking place this week:
- UFC on ESPN 29 takes place on Saturday, August 21, from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The main card airs on ESPN & ESPN+ at 10:00 p.m. ET, with the prelims airing on ESPN2 & ESPN+ at 7:00 p.m. ET. Jared Cannonier vs. Kelvin Gastelum is the main event.
- PFL 2021 #8 takes place on Thursday, August 19, from the Seminole Hard Rock Hotel & Casino in Hollywood, Florida. The main card airs on ESPN & ESPN+ at 9:00 p.m. ET., with the prelims airing on ESPN+ at 5:30 p.m. ET. Kayla Harrison vs. Genah Fabian will main event.
- Bellator 265 is on Friday, August 20 at the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The main card airs at 900 p.m. ET on Showtime, with prelims airing on YouTube. Cheick Kongo vs. Sergei Kharitonov is the main event.
This week in MMA history
In honor of Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza, this week’s look back at some MMA history is going to feature him in one of his biggest, if not his biggest, accomplishments in the sport. On August 21, 2010, from the Toyota Center in Houston, Texas, Strikeforce presented Strikeforce: Houston, their first-and-only foray into the city, which drew a respectable 8,365 fans in attendance.
Souza fought in the co-main event, battling Tim Kennedy for the vacant Strikeforce Middleweight Championship. It was a competitive fight, but Souza won the decision on scorecards of 49-46, 48-47 and 48-47 to become the new middleweight champion. That was actually the co-main event of the card. In the main event, Rafael ‘Feijao’ Cavalcante finished Muhammed Lawal in the third round with punches and elbows to become the new Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion.
Also on the main card, K.J. Noons scored a second-round TKO finish of Jorge Gurgel, and Chad Griggs scored an upset, forcing current WWE World Champion Bobby Lashley to quit on the stool at the end of the second round. In a notable fight on the prelims, Daniel Cormier competed in his fifth professional fight, forcing Jason Riley to submit to punches in just 62 seconds.
You can watch Strikeforce: Houston on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will briefly look back at this past weekend’s MMA action, set you up for UFC On ESPN 29, take a quick look at this week’s Bellator and PFL events, and look back at some of the news of the past week. You can listen to In The Clinch on the Fight Game Media Network, with our Patreon page found here.