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 little bit of a newsworthy week this past week, and the UFC is gearing up for 2021 UFC International Fight Week in Las Vegas this week, so let’s dive right in to everything going on.
Looking Back at UFC, Bellator & Retirements
- Anthony Smith continued to show why he is one of the best light heavyweights in the UFC with his first-round submission win over Ryan Spann in the main event of Saturday’s UFC show. Spann came in with a lot of momentum, but Smith showed off his veteran instincts and was patient after rocking Spann a couple of times before getting his back and the submission via a rear-naked choke. That’s now three straight wins for Smith, who badly wants a rematch with Aleksandar Rakic. That would be a really good fight to make as Rakic is not doing anything at the moment and is behind at least one other fighter when it comes to a title shot, and the bout could easily be made into a title eliminator.
“I'm figuring this fighting thing out, and it feels really good.”
After submitting Ryan Spann in the first round, @LionheartASmith feels like he's coming into the best form of his career and believes he's close to challenging for the title again.
More #UFCVegas37 Results ⬇️:
— UFC News (@UFCNews) September 19, 2021
- The rest of the main card of Saturday’s UFC show was really good. The prelims had some good finishes, but also some lackluster stuff. It wasn’t the most exciting card on paper, and it was a lot of content to digest at 14 fights, but it was entertaining if you stuck it out all the way.
- If you haven’t been watching him already, Arman Tsarukyan is a name to watch out for at 155 pounds. He had a quick first-round finish of Christos Giagos on Saturday, moving him to 17-2 in his career, with a 4-1 mark in the UFC, the lone loss coming to Islam Makhachev. Tsarukyan is ready to fight top-level competition.
- A prospect you need to start watching right now, is Erin Blanchfield. She had an absolutely dominant UFC debut win over Sarah Alpar on Saturday, and she has all of the tools to be one of the young and bright stars of the future. She’s only 22, and is now 7-1 in her career. The crazy thing is she probably already would’ve been in the UFC, except for the one loss that likely kept her out for longer. Many thought she won that fight. She is extremely talented and if you were looking for someone coming up to be a potential threat to Valentina Shevchenko, Blanchfield may very well be that fighter.
- There were nice finishes by Nate Maness, Joaquin Buckley and Carlston Harris on the show. The Maness knockout of Tony Gravely was crazy, in that, Maness was nearly finished at the very end of the first round, but was saved by the bell. He then came back just minutes later to knock Gravely out in the second round. Buckley’s finish of Antonio Arroyo came in the third round, and it couldn’t have come at a better time, as the third round would’ve decided the fight and many thought Buckley was losing. Harris’ first-round finish of Impa Kasanganay was his fifth straight win and he’s got some potential to move up the rankings.
- If you missed the Bellator 266 main event between Phil Davis and Yoel Romero, well, you didn’t really miss much. I mentioned on our In The Clinch podcast that the fight could either have a quick and explosive finish, or it could be really boring. It ended up being the latter, as Romero basically did almost nothing during the fight. He also looked out of shape at 205 pounds. Davis was the better fighter, but it was just a few combos and mainly takedowns and laying on top that got him the win. When it comes to Romero, he just looks done as a fighter. He’s 44 and whatever aura he had around him is certainly gone now. It appears the UFC made the right call in letting him go. I think the age has finally caught up to him, no matter how ridiculous he looks for a 44-year-old. Also, Jerin Velel is not only a bad referee, but he also appears to be a bad judge as well, as he scored the fight 29-28 for Romero, and there is no way you can convince anyone that Romero won one round, let alone two. Just horrible all around.
- This was a week of retirements for two well-known names to long-time WEC and UFC fans, as Joseph Benavidez and Carlos Condit both announced they were hanging up their gloves this week. The retirement of Benavidez didn’t really come as a shock to me. He recently fought twice for the UFC Flyweight Championship, coming up short both times to Deiveson Figueiredo, and then lost his last fight to Askar Askarov. He just didn’t look the same as a fighter and he always struck me as someone who would walk away if he knew he couldn’t contend for a championship. He’s one of the best people in the sport, just a really nice and good guy, and he’ll still be involved in lots of ways. Benavidez will always be in the discussion when it comes to best UFC fighter to never win UFC gold.
- As far as Condit, this one seems a bit of a surprise, at least to me. I’ll fully admit that Condit is one of my two favorite all-time fighters, so I personally am not ready to cope with this. He seemed rejuvenated after two wins in the past year, and he signed a new UFC deal prior to his loss to Max Griffin in July, and he didn’t look bad in the fight with Griffin. Condit will always be remembered as one of the most exciting fighters in the sport, and one of the most beloved. He took Georges St. Pierre to the limit, and had an absolute classic against Robbie Lawler for a UFC title at UFC 195. Condit also held UFC gold, even if you don’t want to admit interim titles are real championships, but he has a UFC belt in his home, which came when he defeated Nick Diaz at UFC 143. If you missed any of Condit’s reign as WEC Welterweight Champion, I urge you to check out UFC Fight Pass and relive those fights, plus his UFC bouts, and you’ll see why he was so loved by both fans and fighters. As Michael Bisping said on Saturday’s broadcast, Carlos Condit was your favorite fighter’s favorite fighter. Happy trails to both Benavidez and Condit. They both will be missed.
- Anthony “Rumble” Johnson had to pull out of the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix, as well as his title fight against champion Vadim Nemkov, on Friday due to what is being called a serious health issue. Johnson announced the news on his Instagram page, but didn’t go into detail about what the issue is other than it’s not COVID-19. According to some, it is a very serious issue, and while he vows to return, it’s also possible he may not be able to. Best wishes for a speedy recovery for Rumble.
- The planned title bout rematch between UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya and former champion Robert Whittaker looks to finally have a date locked up, as Dana White said this past week the fight would be in January. He didn’t give a specific date, but I’ve heard January 22 as the date. As far as a location, they would love for it to be in a stadium in New Zealand or Australia, but that doesn’t seem feasible with COVID-19 restrictions, so it’ll likely be somewhere here in the United States.
- An unlikely trilogy bout was announced this week as the UFC announced that UFC Flyweight Champion Brandon Moreno would defend against Deiveson Figueiredo in their third fight at UFC 269 on December 11. It was not what the first plan for the title fight was, but Alexandre Pantoja was unavailable to take the fight in December, and Moreno really wanted to fight again in 2021, so Figueiredo gets his shot at regaining the flyweight title.
- For the third straight week to kick off the 2021 season of the show, Dana White signed five more fighters from the Contender Series on Tuesday, which again shows that winning on the show, while it still means a lot, maybe doesn’t mean as much as in previous years. Three fighters who won absolutely deserved a contract in Jailton Almeida, Albert Duraev and Jack Della Maddalena. You could debate whether Jasmine Jasudavicius deserved one, but she’s Canadian and a flyweight, so they are in need of both. Lukasz Brzeski also got a contract, and he probably didn’t deserve one as much as the others, but he’s a heavyweight and they need some of those. Bantamweight Mo Miller was the only one not to get a contract, even though he had a dominant win, but that was the right call as he looked like he needed just a little more time before the UFC call. I don’t want to say that giving out so many contracts every week is killing the show, because it isn’t, but it might just take off some of the luster and intrigue for the viewer if they know that it doesn’t matter how they win, whoever wins each fight gets a contract. It used to be fun to debate who would get a deal, because at times it was so few, but that has been thrown out the window, at least for now.
- IT’S NICK DIAZ FIGHT WEEK!!!!
Here are some fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC On ESPN+ 50 on Saturday:
- Anthony Smith vs. Aleksandar Rakic
- Ryan Spann vs. Khalil Rountree
- Ion Cutelaba vs. Nikita Krylov
- Ariane Lipski vs. JJ Aldrich
- Arman Tsarukyan vs. Dan Hooker-Nasrat Haqparast winner
- Nate Maness vs. Sean O’Malley
- Joaquin Buckley vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan
- Raquel Pennington vs. Julia Avila
- Erin Blanchfield vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
Here are the fight announcements that took place over the past week:
- Shanna Young vs. Stephanie Egger — UFC Fight Night — October 2
- Marcelo Rojo vs. Daniel Santos — UFC Fight Night — October 16
- Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Vadim Nemkov vs. Julius Anglickas — Bellator 268 — October 16 (MAIN EVENT)
- Jonathan Martinez vs. Aaron Phillips — UFC Fight Night — October 23
- Tabatha Ricci vs. Maria Oliveira — UFC Fight Night — October 23
- Albert Duraev vs. Alessio Di Chirico — UFC 267 — October 30
- CJ Vergara vs. Ode Osbourne — UFC 268 — November 6
- Danilo Marques vs. Jailton Almeida — UFC Fight Night — November 13
- Adrian Yanez vs. Davey Grant — UFC Fight Night — November 20
- Brad Tavares vs. Brendan Allen — UFC Fight Night — December 4
- UFC Flyweight Champion Brandon Moreno vs. Deiveson Figueiredo — UFC 269 — December 11
- Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell — UFC 269 — December 11
- Ryan Hall vs. Darrick Minner — UFC 269 — December 11
- Raphael Assuncao vs. Ricky Simon — UFC Fight Night — December 18
- Gerald Meerschaert vs. Abusupiyan Magomedov — UFC Fight Night — December 18
- Matt Sayles vs. Jordan Leavitt — UFC Fight Night — December 18
Coming Up This Week
It’s 2021 UFC International Fight Week this week with a big UFC pay-per-view event highlighting the week. Here is what else that is on tap this week in the world of MMA:
- UFC 266 takes place on Saturday, September 25, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card airs on ESPN+ PPV at 10 PM eastern time, with four prelims airing on ESPN News & ESPN+ at 8 PM eastern time, and early prelims airing on ESPN+ at 6 PM eastern time. UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski defends against Brian Ortega in the main event. Plus, UFC Women’s Flyweight Champion Valentina Shevchenko defends against Lauren Murphy, and Nick Diaz makes his long-awaited return against Robbie Lawler in a rematch 17 years in the making.
- Dana White’s Contender Series 40 takes place on Tuesday, September 21, from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, airing at 8 PM eastern time on ESPN+.
- LFA 115 takes place on Friday, September 24, from Oshkosh, Wisconsin, airing at 9 PM eastern time on UFC Fight Pass.
This Week in MMA History
On September 21, 2013, one of the greatest UFC title fights ever, and one of the greatest UFC fights ever, took place when UFC 165 went down at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The show drew 15,504 fans for a gate of $1.9 million, and 310,000 buys on pay-per-view.
The main event was an all-time classic, and one of the toughest fights in the career of arguably the greatest fighter of all-time, as Jon Jones had a successful defense of the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, edging challenger Alexander Gustafsson by decision. It was a back-and-forth fight that saw all rounds close, and even though Jones got the unanimous nod, Gustafsson was a game challenger. Jones has gone on record since talking about how he didn’t train much for that fight or take it serious, yet it became an instant classic. It’s also notable in that the fight will be inducted into the Fight Wing of the UFC Hall Of Fame this week during International Fight Week in Las Vegas.
In the co-main event, Renan Barao successfully defended the Interim UFC Bantamweight Championship as he finished Eddie Wineland in the second round with a spinning back kick followed by some punches. Also on the main card, Brendan Schaub scored a first-round submission of Matt Mitrione, Francis Carmont scored a decision over Costas Philippou, and future all-time great Khabib Nurmagomedov won a decision over Pat Healy. Among the winners on the prelims included Myles Jury, John Makdessi, Alex Caceres and Stephen Thompson.
You can watch UFC 165 on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will recap UFC On ESPN+ 50, look ahead to the big UFC 266 show this upcoming weekend, as well as reminisce on the storied careers of Joseph Benavidez and Carlos Condit. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, with our Patreon page found here.