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Monday MMA Round-Up: UFC 268 at MSG

NEW YORK, NEW YORK - NOVEMBER 06: Kamaru Usman celebrates after his decision victory over Colby Covington in their welterweight title bout during the UFC 268 event at Madison Square Garden on November 06, 2021 in New York City. (Photo by Mike Stobe/Getty Images)

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. This week was full of events, so let’s dive right into all of the happenings.

Looking back at UFC 268 at MSG

  • UFC 268 at MSG on Saturday was one of the best UFC events in the promotion’s history. It seems like every time the Octagon is set up inside Madison Square Garden that something special happens, and this was no exception. You had two great, close title fights, one of the absolute best fights in UFC history, a fight that on any other night would be talked about as a classic, and a highlight-reel finish. And that was just the main card. You then add the prelims into there, which I’ll get into a little bit lower, and you have just an incredible event. If you missed it, go back and watch it as quickly as possible.
  • It is time to start talking about whether Kamaru Usman is the greatest welterweight of all-time. I don’t think he’s quite ahead of Georges St. Pierre yet, but the numbers are starting to creep up there. Usman also has an advantage over St. Pierre in the sense we’ve never seen him lose inside the Octagon. His win over Colby Covington on Saturday was a great showing, and, despite all of the opinions on Twitter from the hardcores on social media, after having watched that fight twice, Usman was the rightful winner.
  • Colby Covington was talking about wanting another shot at Usman. Of course he does, since it’s how he’ll make the most money, but he’s going to need more than one win over a washed-up former champion over the course of two years if he wants another shot as long as Usman is the champion. He’s going to need about three solid wins, so hopefully he recognizes what needs to be done to get back to the top.
  • Rose Namajunas was put in arguably her toughest fight to date, at least in a championship bout, and she came out on top in a close decision over Zhang Weili to keep the Strawweight championship. It was a really close fight, and, again, another fight I’ve watched twice. The first time watching it, which was live, I had it for Weili. Watching it a second time, I had it for Namajunas. It was a really good fight, arguably the best five-round fight in women’s UFC history. Kudos to both women, and Weili is going to need to be like Covington and get several wins before another shot as long as Namajunas is champion.
  • I know Dana White wouldn’t commit to it, but if anyone other than Carla Esparza gets a shot at Rose Namajunas next, that’s just wrong. I know they’ve been wanting to book her in a fight and she’s been wanting to stay on the sidelines and wait for a title shot she’s earned, and it’s starting to feel like they might punish her for doing so, which is completely wrong. There needs to be something that changes in how these fighters handle their careers, and that goes for both sides. You shouldn’t punish someone for waiting for a title shot while you’re rewarding someone else for doing the same at the same time.
  • Words won’t do this fight justice, so I’ll just keep it short: The fight between Justin Gaethje and Michael Chandler somehow exceeded expectations, and is one of the most-exciting and best fights in UFC history. Watch it IMMEDIATELY.
  • I do feel bad for Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo for having to follow that fight, because on any other night, that fight is getting talked about as one of the best of the year. It was a really great fight, but it just happened to follow the wrong fight, but is also a fight worth watching immediately.
  • What an incredible set of prelims at UFC 268 on Saturday. It started off slow with three fights that went the distance, but it was on from there with six straight knockouts heading into the main card. There were some brutal finishes. It finished with Alex Pereira landing a flying knee to knock out Andreas Michailidis in the featured prelim. That is why they signed Pereira, and have high hopes that he can quickly build up the résumé to challenge Israel Adesanya one day. Hopefully, if they want that, they avoid matching him up with grapplers until that part of his game improves.
  • If you missed everything involved with Chris Barnett on Saturday, from his dance during his walkout to his finish of Gian Villante to his post-fight celebration to his post-fight interview to his post-fight media scrum, go consume all of it as soon as possible, and he will be your new favorite fighter. UFC has been given a guy in him they can make into a fan favorite, and they better run with the ball.
  • If there was any bigger reason for Patricio Pitbull to have vacated the Bellator Lightweight Championship, there needed to be no explanation after all, as his brother, Patricky, finished Peter Queally in the second round to become the new Bellator Lightweight Champion. There was lots of talk that neither man truly deserved to be in the title fight, but Pitbull got the job done to win the title and now he’ll be the man chased for the title. It was a letdown for the crowd in Dublin, which was arguably the best crowd of any MMA event that has happened since fans were let back in, as James Gallagher also suffered a loss, as he was submitted by Patchy Mix in the third round.
  • Expect at least the first several UFC Fight Night events of 2022 to take place at the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. It’s an easy place for the company to hold events, and they do want to get back to full touring, but there’s still lots of logistics to figure out, none the least being which countries have vaccination requirements to get in to. A big part of the Fight Night cards is the touring, as nearly half of those events take place in non-United States markets, and there are just not enough U.S. markets for the UFC to run 42 events without burning out places, as lots of markets they only hit once every few years, which helps with the ticket sales.
  • The vaccination status issue is going to be a big deal in MMA, not only with restrictions starting in the United States today, but in other countries as well. We saw an issue with Ireland this weekend, as several of Patchy Mix’s coaches weren’t allowed into the country due to not be vaccinated and also for not taking the required PCR test to get in without vaccination. It’s eventually going to cost a lot of fighters, and their coaches, money and possibly their jobs.
  • UFC plans to hold the March 19 their UFC Fight Night event in London.
  • Jon Jones announced that he has officially left the JacksonWink camp and is in search of a new training camp for when he returns. That comes on the heels of co-owner and co-head coach Mike Winkeljohn saying Jones wasn’t allowed into the gym at this time due to his recent incidents. It will be interesting to see where Jones ends up, and who he ends up working with.
  • Roxanne Modafferi announced that her fight against Casey O’Neill, which will take place at UFC 271 on 2/12, which will also be her 50th career fight, will be her last, as she will go into retirement following that fight. She’s definitely one of the pioneers of women’s MMA.
  • Maycee Barber was forced out of her bout against Erin Blanchfield at UFC 269 on 12/11 due to injury. Honestly, that seems like a lucky break for Barber. It appears Miranda Maverick will be stepping in to fight Blanchfield, though that fight is not yet signed.
  • Also on UFC 269, Dricus Du Plessis is out of his fight against Andre Muniz, and it appears there will not be a replacement to fight Muniz.
  • Dana White’s Contender Series wrapped up its’ 2021 campaign this past Tuesday, with Maheshate and Yohan Lainesse both earning contracts. Both had good showings. Dana seemed less interested in giving out contracts on this edition than he had in prior episodes this season, so perhaps he thought he gave out too many. Regardless, it was a great run of fights on the 2021 edition, and if you missed anything, most weeks are worth going back and watching.

Playing matchmaker

Here are some fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC 268 on Saturday:

  • Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards (if he beats Jorge Masvidal at UFC 269)
  • Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal (regardless of UFC 269 outcome against Leon Edwards)
  • Rose Namajunas vs. Carla Esparza
  • Zhang Weili vs. Yan Xiaonan
  • Justin Gaethje vs. Charles Oliveira-Dustin Poirier winner
  • Michael Chandler vs. Rafael Dos Anjos
  • Marlon Vera vs. Merab Dvalishvili
  • Shane Burgos vs. Alex Caceres
  • Alex Pereira vs. Gregory Rodrigues
  • Bobby Green vs. Jim Miller
  • Chris Curtis vs. Jamie Pickett
  • Nassourdine Imavov vs. Andre Muniz
  • Ian Garry vs. Matthew Semelsberger
  • Chris Barnett vs. Andrei Arlovski
  • Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk

Fight announcements

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

  • Bruno Silva vs. Jordan Wright — UFC 269 — December 11
  • Michel Pereira vs. Muslim Salikhov — UFC Fight Night — January 15
  • Casey O’Neill vs. Roxanne Modafferi — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Vinc Pichel vs. Mark O. Madsen — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Chas Skelly vs. Mark Striegl — UFC Fight Night — February 19
  • Tom Aspinall vs. Shamil Abdurakhimov — UFC Fight Night — March 19

Coming up this week

Here are some notable MMA events taking place this week:

  • UFC On ESPN+ 55 takes place on Saturday, November 13, from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas, Nevada. The entire show airs on ESPN+, with the main card at 4:00 p.m. ET, and the prelims at 1:00 p.m. ET. Max Holloway vs. Yair Rodriguez is the main event.
  • Bellator 271 takes place on Friday, November 12, from the Seminole Hard Rock Casino & Hotel in Hollywood, Florida. The main card airs on Showtime at 10:00 p.m. ET, and prelims air on YouTube at 7:00 p.m. ET. Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg defends against Sinead Kavanagh in the main event.
  • LFA 118 takes place on Friday, November 12, from Burbank, California, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 10:00 p.m. ET.
  • Fury FC 53 takes place on Sunday, November 14, from Denver, Colorado, airing on UFC Fight Pass at 8:00 p.m. ET.

This week in MMA history

UFC debuted on FOX in 2011

One of the more important dates in UFC history is November 12, 2011. It was when the promotion debuted on network television, as they held their first event on the FOX network a couple of months prior to their new seven-year television deal with the FOX networks, which ran from 2012 thru 2018. It started with a one-hour special featuring one fight, but with a full slate of fights held at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The show drew 11,607 fans for a gate of $1.072 million.

The only fight that aired on FOX was a big one, as the UFC kicked off their relationship with their new television partner with the UFC Heavyweight Championship on the line as champion Cain Velasquez defended against Junior Dos Santos. It was built-up during the broadcast, but the fight lasted just 64 seconds as Dos Santos scored a knockout of Velasquez to become the new UFC Heavyweight Champion. The fight drew well, drawing over 5.7 million viewers.

In prelim action, Benson Henderson scored a decision win over Clay Guida in an exciting fight. Among others who picked up a win on the card included Dustin Poirier, Ricardo Lamas, DaMarques Johnson and Alex Caceres.

You can watch UFC on FOX 1 on UFC Fight Pass here.

In The Clinch

This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will look back at UFC 268, take a look back at Bellator 270, preview this weekend’s UFC On ESPN+ 55 and Bellator 271 cards, and look at all of the happenings going on. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, which can be found here.

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