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. It was Christmas weekend this week, and there wasn’t a whole lot that went on in the world of mixed martial arts, so this will be a condensed version this week, but let’s get into the news of the week.
Looking back on a quiet week
- Dana White had his annual year-end interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto this past week, and he seemed to be in a great mood during it. He let out a few tidbits, which we’ll get into below, but the big takeaway was White talking about how nothing stresses him anymore, and how UFC had their biggest year in company history, noting they did about 8.6-8.7 million buys on pay-per-view. Even with two huge events headlined by the two fights between Conor McGregor and Dustin Poirier, they still did strong numbers for the rest of the year, with at least half of their shows breaking the 700,000 buy mark.
- White did confirm that Carla Esparza would be the next challenger for Rose Namajunas and the UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship. I wrote last week about Namajunas campaigning hard for Esparza to get the shot, and how much she deserves it, and then the interview came out shortly after my column was published, so I guess they were finally listening. It’s the right fight to make, especially considering Namajunas wants to fight again relatively soon.
- He also said he doesn’t want to see Nick Diaz fight again, though he expects him to want to. He didn’t indicate either way whether they would or wouldn’t give him a fight, though if push came to shove, they’ll give him another fight if and when he wants it.
- White did say he thinks the rematch between new UFC Women’s Bantamweight Champion Julianna Pena and former champion Amanda Nunes will be the biggest fight in women’s MMA history, even bigger than the fight between Ronda Rousey and Holly Holm. Keep in mind that Rousey vs. Holm was in front of 56,214 fans and did 1.1 million buys on pay-per-view. I don’t want to say Dana is wrong on this one, but…..I don’t think so.
- There was also some Nate Diaz talk, with White confirming he does have one fight left on his deal and some uncertainty whether he’ll fight more than one more time inside the Octagon. It seems like they just don’t know what Diaz is going to do. They definitely want to sign him to a new deal. They also talked about whether the trilogy fight with Conor McGregor would be next for both, and White said “Diaz has to want that fight”, as Diaz seems uninterested in it. Diaz did take to Twitter and say he wouldn’t fight Conor since he has just one win in the last five years. Keep in mind, Diaz also has just one win in the last five years, but the same set of rules don’t apply to him in his mind.
- One last thing from the interview was again White talking about how no one wants to fight Khamzat Chimaev, except for Neil Magny. White keeps bringing that up but shies away from saying they’ll book that fight. They don’t really want to book it, right now at least, as they don’t want to risk Chimaev losing, and feel Magny has a great chance of beating him. Another name who threw himself out there as wanting to fight Chimaev is Belal Muhammad.
- There were rumors this past week of a fight between Donald Cerrone and Paddy Pimblett being booked for UFC 272 on March 5. The fight has been talked about, but it’s far from a done deal. They were wanting Pimblett for the London card, so there’s a possibility that could still happen. Not saying this fight will or won’t happen, just that it isn’t official.
- In what may end up being a bad idea, Diego Sanchez is getting back to action in March. He’ll fight Kevin Lee for Khabib Nurmagomedov’s Eagle FC promotion on March 11, which will be the first post-UFC bout for both men. Sanchez is just coming off a bout with COVID-19 that left him in awful shape, including spending over a month in the hospital. Coming back just three months after being released from the hospital in a sport where you need your lungs at full capacity seems like a bad idea. I hope it works out well for him.
Here are the fights that were announced over the past week:
- Jamie Pickett vs. Joseph Holmes — UFC Fight Night — January 15
- Sam Alvey vs. Phil Hawes — UFC Fight Night — February 5
- Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Stephanie Egger — UFC Fight Night — February 19
- Alejandro Perez vs. Jonathan Martinez — UFC Fight Night — February 26
- Tim Elliott vs. Tagir Ulanbekov — UFC 272 — March 5
- Maryna Moroz vs. Mariya Agapova — UFC 272 — March 5
- Dustin Jacoby vs. Michal Oleksiejczuk — UFC 272 — March 5
- Kevin Lee vs. Diego Sanchez — Eagle FC — March 11
- Marlon Moraes vs. Song Yadong — UFC Fight Night — March 12
- Bruno Silva vs. Alex Pereira — UFC Fight Night — March 12
- Cody Brundage vs. Dalcha Lungiambula — UFC Fight Night — March 12
- Damon Jackson vs. Joshua Culibao — UFC Fight Night — March 12
- Jack Shore vs. Timur Valiev — UFC Fight Night — March 19
- Askar Askarov vs. Kai Kara-France — UFC Fight Night — March 26
Coming up this week
Here are a few notable events taking place this week:
- Fury Pro Grappling 3 takes place on Thursday, December 30, airing at 7 :00 p.m. et on UFC Fight Pass. This is a grappling event, but features such match-ups as Danielle Kelly vs. Rose Namajunas, Chase Hooper vs. Renato Moicano, Clay Guida vs. Billy Quarantillo, Neil Magny vs. Joaquim Silva, Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Solecki, and several other UFC fighters including Sean Brady, Kevin Holland and Alex Caceres.
- RIZIN 33 takes place on Thursday, December 30, airing at 11:30 p.m. et on pay-per-view.
This week in MMA history
There has only been one UFC event to take place on New Year’s Day in company history, and that came on January 1, 2011 when UFC 125 took place at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. It drew 12,874 fans for a gate of $2.2 million and 270,000 buys on pay-per-view for an event that had plenty of competition on the day. It was also the first UFC event to take place following the official merger between UFC and the WEC.
The main event was one of the greatest fights in UFC history, as UFC Lightweight Champion Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard fought to a split draw in a memorable fight. Maynard dropped Edgar in the first and had Edgar in tons of trouble, and it looked like there was going to be a new champion crowned. However, Edgar made a great comeback, and they had a back-and-forth affair for the rest of the fight that ended up seeing scorecards of 48–46 for Maynard, 48–46 for Edgar, and 47–47 to make it a draw with Edgar walking away as still the champion. They would end up fighting again in October 2011 at UFC 136, which saw Edgar finish Maynard in the fourth round after the opening round went similar to this fight.
The rest of the main card saw Brian Stann score a first-round TKO of Chris Leben, Thiago Silva knocking out Brandon Vera in the second round, Dong Hyun Kim scoring a unanimous decision over Nate Diaz, and Clay Guida getting a second-round submission of Takanori Gomi. Among those scoring wins on the prelims were Jeremy Stephens, Dustin Poirier and Brad Tavares.
You can watch UFC 125 on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will look back at the year in mixed martial arts and talk about some our favorite moments of the year and give out our personal choices on many of the year-end categories that are out there. We will also talk about some fights we want to see in 2022, plus look at all of the other happenings going on. You can listen to In The Clinch as part of The Fight Game Media Network, with all of our podcasts available on major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and our Patreon page.