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Monday MMA Round-Up: A new Fight of The Year?

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. There were UFC and Bellator events this week, as well as a couple of fairly major news items, so let’s dive right in to everything going on in the MMA world.

Looking back at UFC and Bellator

  • Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez entered the chat for 2021’s Fight Of The Year on Saturday, putting on an instant classic in the main event of UFC On ESPN+ 55. Holloway took the unanimous decision, winning the middle rounds after doing some serious body work and actually mixing in his grappling for the first time in a while. In a crazy stat, despite all of his success and accolades coming into this bout, Holloway had only scored five takedowns in his UFC career, and he had three against Rodriguez. The two landed a combined 389 significant strikes in the fight, and both had to be transported to the hospital afterwards. It was one of the top fights of the year, and it’s tough to say whether it was better than the fight between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler. It might be from a fight standpoint, but that crowd last weekend significantly boosted that Gaethje/Chandler fight, and this didn’t have that same type of atmosphere, even though there were fans inside the UFC APEX.
  • Holloway looks to have lots of options for his next fight. He didn’t ask for anything specific afterwards, even though Michael Bisping was almost begging him to say what he wants next in the post-fight interview. Holloway mentioned the featherweight title, brought up that he has a win over the lightweight champion, and also said he’s always on the short list for potential Conor McGregor opponents, which he is. McGregor was very vocal during the week about Holloway’s claims of being the best boxer in MMA, so it’s also a fight McGregor has his eyes on, and McGregor has always said they’ll go at it again some day. I think Holloway should go for the featherweight title again, as he’s the clear top contender and was even offered a title fight, but took this fight instead to stay active.
  • You have to give props to Rodriguez for how good he looked in the fight after two years out of action. He had his moments in the fight where it looked like he might’ve been able to pull off the upset, and looked every bit of a top-five fighter. His foot was a mess afterwards, so hopefully he won’t be out of action for very long, and if he can start fighting multiple times a year, there’s no doubt he’d be fighting for a UFC title in the future.
  • The rest of Saturday’s UFC card was fantastic, as we got nine finishes in the eleven fights on the card. It wrapped up what might have been the best three-week stretch of UFC events, from an excitement standpoint, in history, at least in the history of since they started running 35+ events a year. It has been a really fun time to be a fight fan if you’ve caught all of these cards from bell-to-bell.
  • Cris Cyborg did what everyone expected her to do, and that was make quick work of Sinead Kavanagh in the main event of Bellator 271 on Friday night. It didn’t take Cyborg long, as she only needed 92 seconds to put Kavanagh away. Kavanagh didn’t really belong in there, as she was just 3-4 in her last seven fights prior to this one, and Cyborg showed why. Hopefully, there are better fights lined up for Cyborg, though she’s making plenty of money just smashing tomato cans right now.
  • One of the interesting potential match-ups for Cris Cyborg comes in the form of Kayla Harrison, who was in attendance at Bellator 271 on Friday. Scott Coker talked after the show about wanting to meet with Harrison and her management as soon as today to discuss a deal, and he’s very interested in signing her. Between Dana White’s comments and the fact Harrison and Amanda Nunes aren’t too keen on fighting each other, Coker has the advantage in Bellator being the leader in the clubhouse when it comes to Harrison’s potential next landing spot.
  • Jorge Masvidal had to pull out of his UFC 269 bout against Leon Edwards this past week due to an undisclosed injury. It was arguably the second-biggest fight on that card, and a fight that has been almost three years in the making. Edwards was called out by several people who wanted to replace Masvidal, including Belal Muhammad, Khamzat Chimaev and Nick Diaz, but Edwards was pulled from the UFC 269 card and will not fight a replacement. Edwards had it written into his bout agreement with Masvidal that, with a win, he would be guaranteed a title shot against UFC Welterweight Champion Kamaru Usman. It seems like with Usman just having won, that Edwards will now be his next match-up without having to fight again, and Edwards has earned that shot and, really, he shouldn’t have to win another fight.
  • The Ultimate Fighter will return in 2022 to ESPN+ with men’s heavyweights and women’s flyweights being featured on the 30th season of the show. There is no current time frame as to when the show will be filmed or aired, and no current word on who the coaches will be. If it were my decision, the coaches would be Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal, as with Masvidal’s injury and the fight with Edwards being off, it opens the door wide for Covington and Masvidal to finally have their long-awaited fight. They were also supposed to coach last season, but between the pandemic delaying filming and Masvidal getting the rematch with Kamaru Usman in April, those plans eventually changed.
  • Jon Jones announced his new training camp, and it will be similar to his previous one, as he will be based at Jackson’s MMA Acoma, an affiliate of the main Greg Jackson gym just outside of Albuquerque, 12 miles away from the main gym. It appears he’ll be working with basically the same coaches and training partners, minus Mike Winkeljohn at least, and it’s a place where all of the Jackson fighters have gone and worked out at. It’s basically a non-move, just a change in at least one coach, as Greg Jackson himself could still be in Jones’ corner. Jones also went to Arizona this past week to train with the Fight Ready team alongside Henry Cejudo, and is talking about being ready to go as soon as the heavyweight title is figured out in January.
  • A quick tidbit I realized while looking at the UFC’s early 2022 schedule: UFC 271 on February 12 will be the first Super Bowl Weekend pay-per-view card the UFC has run since UFC 183 in 2015. There’s still no official location for the event, which is expected to be headlined by UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya defending against Robert Whittaker.

Playing matchmaker

Here are some fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC On ESPN+ 55 on Saturday:

  • Max Holloway vs. Alexander Volkanovski
  • Yair Rodriguez vs. Zabit Magomedshapirov (if he’s not retired)
  • Marcos Rogerio de Lima vs. Juan Espino
  • Khaos Williams vs. Daniel Rodriguez
  • Song Yadong vs. Sean O’Malley-Raulian Paiva winner
  • Joel Alvarez vs. Arman Tsarukyan
  • Andrea Lee vs. Valentina Shevchenko
  • Da Un Jung vs. Dustin Jacoby

Fight announcements

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

  • Loma Lookboonmee vs. Lupita Godinez — UFC Fight Night — November 20
  • Luana Pinheiro vs. Sam Hughes — UFC Fight Night — November 20
  • Mickey Gall vs. Alex Morono — UFC Fight Night — December 4
  • Maki Pitolo vs. Dusko Todorovic — UFC Fight Night — December 4
  • Augusto Sakai vs. Tai Tuivasa — UFC 269 — December 11
  • Erin Blanchfield vs. Miranda Maverick — UFC 269 — December 11
  • Andre Muniz vs. Eryk Anders — UFC 269 — December 11
  • Stephen Thompson vs. Belal Muhammad — UFC Fight Night — December 18
  • Diego Ferreira vs. Mateusz Gamrot — UFC Fight Night — December 18
  • Amanda Lemos vs. Angela Hill — UFC Fight Night — December 18
  • Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Silvia Gomez Juarez — UFC Fight Night — January 15
  • Punahele Soriano vs. Nick Maximov — UFC Fight Night — February 5
  • Carlos Ulberg vs. Fabio Cherant — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Mike Mathetha vs. Orion Cosce — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Ronnie Lawrence vs. Mana Martinez — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Maxim Grishin vs. Ed Herman — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Kyle Daukaus vs. Julian Marquez — UFC Fight Night — February 19
  • Nasrat Haqparast vs. John Makdessi — UFC Fight Night — February 19
  • Mario Bautista vs. Khalid Taha — UFC Fight Night — February 19
  • Sara McMann vs. Karol Rosa — UFC Fight Night — March 26

Coming up this week

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

  • UFC On ESPN+ 56 takes place on Saturday, November 20, from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The entire card airs on ESPN+. with the main card at 6 p.m. ET, and prelims at 3 p.m. ET. Ketlen Vieira vs. Miesha Tate is the main event.
  • CFFC 103 takes place on Friday, November 19, from Tunica, Mississippi, airing at 7 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
  • Fury FC 54 takes place on Sunday, November 21, from Houston, Texas, airing at 2 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.

This Week in MMA History

Brock Lesnar vs. Randy Couture, UFC 91

On November 15, 2008, the heavyweight landscape in the UFC changed, likely forever, with a massive event. UFC 91 took place on this day from the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas. It was a huge event, drawing 14,272 fans for a gate of $4.82 million. It also did massive pay-per-view numbers, with 1,010,000 buys.

The main event was the long-awaited return of UFC Heavyweight Champion Randy Couture taking on WWE superstar Brock Lesnar, with the title on the line. The size difference between the two was huge, but it was a fight fans were eager to see. It would be Lesnar getting the job done, finishing Couture in the second round to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion, starting a string of huge pay-per-view events headlined by Lesnar during his run as UFC champion.

The rest of the card was action-packed, as eight of the nine fights saw finishes, including four of the five main card fights ending in the first round. On the main card, Kenny Florian submitted Joe Stevenson, Dustin Hazelett submitted Tamdan McCrory, Gabriel Gonzaga knocked out Josh Hendricks, and Demian Maia submitted Nate Quarry. Among the winners on the prelims included Matt Brown and Jeremy Stephens, who had a vicious knockout of Rafael Dos Anjos. Between there only being four prelim bouts and the quick main card finishes, every fight on the card eventually aired on the pay-per-view broadcast.

You can watch UFC 91 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+ 55, look back at Bellator, preview UFC On ESPN+ 56 and talk all of the news in the world of MMA. In The Clinch is now available as a free show, which you can find on Apple Podcasts, Spotify and all other major podcast formats, as well as available free on the Fight Game Media Network Patreon page.

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