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Monday MMA Round-Up: UFC closes out 2021 schedule

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - DECEMBER 18: (L-R) Derrick Lewis knocks out Chris Daukaus in their heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on December 18, 2021 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC)

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. We’re coming up on Christmas this upcoming weekend, and UFC held their final event of 2021 this past Saturday, so let’s dive right in to all of the happenings.

Looking back at UFC on ESPN+ 57

  • UFC finished out an outstanding year of fights on Saturday with yet another fun event that had some great finishes and quite a few fun fights and moments. The last fight of the year saw one of the most popular fighters in the sport, Derrick Lewis, having a vintage performance and knocking out Chris Daukaus in the first round. It was a barrage of brutal right hands that put Daukaus out, and Lewis showed he still has what it takes to compete in the heavyweight division. He also had his typical epic post-fight interview, where he talked about only ever wanting to fight in three-round fights and appealed to UFC to change title fights to three rounds. He also threw his cup to a fan in the crowd, which seems like a thing only Derrick Lewis could do. It was a great moment and a fun way to end the fight year.
  • Belal Muhammad made himself into a legitimate title contender at welterweight after his dominant decision win over Stephen Thompson in Saturday’s co-main event. No one had dominated Thompson in a way that Muhammad was able to, with Muhammad dominating on the ground and negating Thompson’s stand-up attack with takedowns. Muhammad was talking about wanting a title shot against Kamaru Usman next or to fight Leon Edwards next, which I’ll have more on below, but this was a statement win by Muhammad. He’s unbeaten in his last seven, and has just one loss in his last 12 fights, so he’s deserving of a high-profile fight next.
  • Angela Hill just can’t catch a break in close fights. She lost a split decision to Amanda Lemos on Saturday, the fourth time Hill has been on the losing end of a split decision. It was arguably the best fight on Saturday’s card, and the closest fight of those that went the distance. Lemos won the first, and Hill clearly won the second (more on that in a second), with the third being the toss-up round. It was even on the feet but Hill got a takedown and had control time, while landing better, which I thought was enough to get the win. Unfortunately for her, two judges had it for Lemos, including Doug Crosby scoring it 30–27 for Lemos, which is a ridiculous score because Hill dominated the second and even dropped Lemos in the round. Lemos was looking at potentially getting into the title picture with a win, and she will, but this fight showed she has lots to work on to be a threat to Rose Namajunas.
  • This is something that’s been brought up many times by many different people, myself included, but fights like the one between Lemos and Hill again show the need to get rid of the show/win pay structure. It’s really bad when bad judging has an effect on how much fighters make for a fight, and it’s a completely outdated system that really should be eradicated.
  • There were great finishes all up-and-down the card on Saturday, and a really fun fight that went the distance between Charles Jourdain and Andre Ewell. Among the big winners via finish were Ricky Simon, Mateusz Gamrot, Cub Swanson, Justin Tafa and Raquel Pennington. If you missed Saturday’s show, it’s one worth going back and catching a replay.
  • With it being the final UFC event of the year, it’s time for some year-end statistics: UFC ran 43 events in 2021, which accounted for 509 total fights. In those 509 fights, 171 fights were won by knockout, 73 won by submission, 201 by unanimous decision, 45 by split decision and five by majority decision. There were also five fights that ended in a draw, five fights ruled a no contest, two fights ended with a disqualification, and one fight overturned to a no contest due to a drug test failure. Additionally, 20 title fights that saw six titles change hands, two interim titles won, and one vacant undisputed title won.
  • There is strong talk that Kamaru Usman won’t be fighting again until the summer time. He injured his hand during the fight with Colby Covington, and between taking time to recover and wanting time off from fighting after his 2021 schedule, he doesn’t want to rush back. That leaves the question open as to what happens with Leon Edwards. Edwards was expected to be Usman’s next challenger, but it is possible they try and push Edwards into another fight, possibly to headline the planned London card. It’s not a guarantee that Darren Till will headline that card any longer despite a fight with Uriah Hall having been in the works. If they want Edwards to headline and he agrees to do so, it might open the door for Belal Muhammad to get the rematch against Edwards.
  • Speaking of fighters who deserve title shots but seem to have their back against the wall when it comes to actually being granted a UFC title shot, Rose Namajunas came out recently in support of Carla Esparza deserving a title shot at her and the UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship. Lots of fellow strawweights have come out in saying Esparza deserves the title shot, even with UFC seemingly trying to book Esparza for anything other than a title shot. Perhaps, things will now work out in favor for Esparza.
  • UFC 274 on May 7 will be held in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, which will mark the return of the Octagon to Brazil, barring any restrictions due to recent rising cases of COVID-19 with the Omicron variant, and barring any April events running in the country. With it being a pay-per-view event, that means we’ll either get a Brazilian champion defending their title in the main event, or a Brazilian title challenger in the main event. The timeline feels perfect for UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Glover Teixeira’s impending title defense against Jiri Prochazka, and May was when Teixeira was talking about wanting to fight next.
  • Former UFC title challenger Claudia Gadelha announced this past week that she was retiring from mixed martial arts competition. She hadn’t fought since November 2020, saying she suffered a bad concussion in her fight against Yan Xiaonan. She said she was suffering effects from it for quite a while, then started suffering from post-concussion syndrome, which made her evaluate whether or not to continue fighting. She ultimately decided to walk away for the good of her health. You can always say never say never in this sport, especially since Gadelha is only 33-years-old, but she seemed genuine in the decision to walk away, saying she’s studying nutrition now and looking at that as far as a future. Gadelha was one of the best strawweights in the world during her UFC run, and she had a heated rivalry with Joanna Jedrzejczyk, ultimately coming up short in challenging her for the title after the two had coached The Ultimate Fighter.
  • Dan Hooker has made it official that he is going to move to the featherweight division, and he’s targeting a fight against Brian Ortega for his return to the division.
  • Nate Diaz and Dustin Poirier have had an interesting battle on Twitter over the past week, seemingly setting up a fight between the two. Of course, it’s always complicated when it comes to actually signing Diaz to a fight, but Poirier talked about that fight being the only one that interests him right now following the loss to Charles Oliveira. Poirier claimed he’d be ready to fight Diaz in January, but UFC 271 in February in Houston really could use a big addition to the card, so that remains a possibility if they can get the fight to actually come together.
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov made a lot of announcements surrounding his promotion, Eagle Fighting Championships, this past week. Among the announcements were that ten events would be held in the United States, that they would be using the 165 lbs. and 175 lbs. weight classes, and that Kevin Lee had been signed by the promotion. There’s lots of buzz surrounding Khabib’s MMA promotion, and I hope it is successful, but I also hope people temper their expectations for it. It’s going to be nothing more than a UFC feeder promotion, and a promotion for lots of ex-UFC stars to end up signing with as they try and work their way back. There’s nothing wrong with that, and a promotion like that serves a great purpose. If there’s anything anyone who studies the business of mixed martial arts has learned over the last 10–20 years, it’s that the normal viewer doesn’t care about “MMA,” but they will watch and care about the “UFC.” There’s a reason why UFC is valued at $10 BILLION dollars right now, and why Bellator struggles to get even 50,000 people to watch on a weekly basis, and why the PFL is struggling to find a television deal.

Playing matchmaker

Here are some fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC On ESPN+ 57 on Saturday:

  • Derrick Lewis vs. Tai Tuivasa
  • Chris Daukaus vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
  • Belal Muhammad vs. Leon Edwards
  • Stephen Thompson vs. Michael Chiesa
  • Amanda Lemos vs. Tecia Torres
  • Ricky Simon vs. Song Yadong
  • Mateusz Gamrot vs. Vinc Pichel-Mark Madsen winner
  • Cub Swanson vs. Shane Burgos
  • Gerald Meerschaert vs. Brad Tavares
  • Justin Tafa vs. Greg Hardy-Aleksei Oleinik winner
  • Charles Jourdain vs. Nate Landwehr
  • Raquel Pennington vs. Ketlen Vieira

Fight announcements

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

  • Raoni Barcelos vs. Victor Henry — UFC Fight Night — January 15
  • Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader vs. Bellator Interim Heavyweight Champion Valentin Moldavsky — Bellator 273 — January 29 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Darrion Caldwell vs. Enrique Barzola — Bellator 273 — January 29
  • Jared Cannonier vs. Derek Brunson — UFC 271 — February 12   (moved from UFC 270)
  • Alex Perez vs. Matt Schnell — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Bellator Middleweight Champion Gegard Mousasi vs. Austin Vanderford — Bellator 275 — February 25
  • Tucker Lutz vs. SeungWoo Choi — UFC Fight Night — March 26
  • Pat Sabatini vs. Gavin Tucker — UFC Fight Night — April 9

Coming up this week

It’s a holiday week, with Christmas coming up on Saturday. There’s nothing going on in MMA. Enjoy the week off, I sure am going to. We can live without this sport this week.

This week in MMA history

Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira at PRIDE 24 in Fukuoka, 2002

On December 23, 2002, two of the legends of the sport fought for the second and final time in the main event of PRIDE 24: Cold Fury from Fukuoka, Japan. In the main event, Antonio Rodrigo “Minotauro” Nogueira scored a third-round submission win over Dan Henderson. Nogueira avenged a loss that, at the time, was the only career loss for him, as Henderson had defeated him in 2000 in the RINGS promotion. Nogueira was the PRIDE Heavyweight Champion at the time, but this was a non-title bout, and set him up for a showdown with Fedor Emelianenko, which took place three months later in March 2003.

Also on the card, Kevin Randleman defeated Murilo ‘Ninja’ Rua due to a cut in the third round, Alistair Overeem scored a second-round TKO win over Bazigit Atajev, Rodrigo Gracie scored a decision over Yuki Sasaki, Ron Waterman submitted Valentijn Overeem in the first round, and Antonio Rogerio “Minotauro” Nogueira scored a decision win over Guy Mezger.

You can watch PRIDE 24 on UFC Fight Pass here.

In The Clinch

This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will look back at the final UFC event of the year in our recap of UFC On ESPN+ 57. We’ll also talk all of the news of the week, answer some questions and share our own holiday plans. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, which is available on all major podcast platforms, including Apple Podcasts, Spotify and Google Podcasts. You can also visit our Patreon page for continued support of us and all other podcasts available on the network feed.

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