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Monday MMA Round-Up: An early ‘Fight Of The Year’ contender?

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JANUARY 15: (R-L) Calvin Kattar elbows Giga Chikadze of Georgia in their featherweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on January 15, 2022 in Las Vegas, Nevada. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

Hello, fight fans, and welcome to this week’s edition of the Monday MMA Round-Up, your destination for all of the news and notes from the past week in the world of mixed martial arts. It was a busy one as the UFC returned to action and there was tons of news, so let’s dive right in.

UFC on ESPN 32 recap and news rundown

  • Saturday’s main event at UFC On ESPN 32 between Calvin Kattar and Giga Chikadze was absolutely incredible. I highly expect that fight to be in the running for “Fight Of The Year” come the end of 2022, and, if not, it’s because we had the craziest year of fights ever. Kattar looked absolutely incredible in ending Chikadze’s win streak, proving that he could bounce back from the loss to Max Holloway a year ago. If you didn’t see that fight, go find a replay of it immediately.
  • The rest of the card was just kind of there, but it was nice to have some fights once again after nearly a month without UFC action. The flyweight fight between Brandon Royval and Rogerio Bontorin, and the women’s flyweight fight between Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia were good fights, plus a solid debut from Slava Borshchev.
  • The card was changed quite a bit due to COVID-19 protocols, which has to due with the numerous amounts of positive tests in the United States lately due to the Omicron variant. We started the week with 12 fights, then went down to ten, and two of those had fight week changes to them. That is something to keep an eye on in the coming weeks and months, even though lots of experts believe the country will be on the down swing of this coming soon. It wouldn’t surprise me if they decide to only test fighters who show symptoms and get away from their two standard fight week tests.
  • One of the biggest stories of the week, if not the biggest, was the announcement that the UFC 272 main event on 3/5 will be a five-round, non-title bout between Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal. It’s a surprise in the sense that it’s the first non-Conor McGregor non-title fight that has been booked as a pay-per-view headliner since January 2015. It’s also surprising in the sense that the two actually finally agreed to fight after multiple years of false starts, and it’s happening much quicker than anticipated. It’s a huge grudge match and the build-up should be, well, interesting to say the least. I know there was a lot of criticism about this headlining with no title fights, but it’s a fight that can headline a pay-per-view on its’ own and draw well, and it won’t overshadow a title fight.
  • With that being announced, the two title fights that had been originally announced for UFC 272 have shifted to UFC 273 on 4/9, which will take place in Jacksonville, Florida. Those are the UFC Featherweight Championship bout between champion Alexander Volkanovski and his new challenger, Chan Sung Jung, which will be the main event, and the UFC Bantamweight Championship unification bout between champion Aljamain Sterling and interim champion Petr Yan. Another fight that has been talked about for that card, but may get shifted elsewhere, has been Gilbert Burns taking on Khamzat Chimaev.
  • With all of these big-name welterweights being linked to fights, UFC President Dana White has confirmed that Leon Edwards is getting the next title shot against Kamaru Usman. White even used the phrase “100%” when talking about Edwards getting the shot. Usman is still recovering from a hand injury, so expect that fight to take place in the summer.
  • With the announcement of Chan Sung Jung being the replacement for Max Holloway in getting the title shot against Alexander Volkanovski, the most vocal about it has been Henry Cejudo. Cejudo, despite having not fought in nearly two years and having never fought at 145 lbs. before, wanted the shot as he wants to make history and become the first-ever three-division champion. Dana White came out and said that Cejudo “can’t just jump the line” and get an immediate title shot, which gave some ammunition for people to use, including Cejudo, to bring up the situations where Conor McGregor and Georges St. Pierre got immediate title shots in divisions they’d never fought in before. It’s a great point, but you have to look at it on the surface. McGregor and St. Pierre are two of the top four draws in UFC history. They sell tickets, they sell pay-per-views, and sponsorships on the Octagon floor, posts and during the broadcast bring the most money in for the company. Cejudo isn’t even close to comparing to them, so it’s really not the same situation. If he was the draw that they are, he’d get the same opportunities. This is without even mentioning they’ve been trying for two years to get him to return and things haven’t been worked out. Fighters, media, pundits, fans, if they haven’t realized that the biggest draws are going to get the best opportunities after all of these years, which is the case in anything related to both sports and entertainment, then I really don’t know what to tell them.
  • Dana White also said this week that UFC is definitely coming back to London, though he, and the company, have yet to confirm that the return will be on 3/19. There has yet to be a main event announced, but a fight that could end up being the headliner is a featherweight bout between Arnold Allen and Dan Hooker. That fight is targeted for this event, though contracts have yet to be signed.
  • Miesha Tate will, in fact, officially be moving down to the flyweight division after having talked about doing so. Her divisional debut will be on 5/14 when she takes on Lauren Murphy.
  • There were releases from UFC’s roster this past week, as Maki Pitolo, Matt Sayles, Jared Gooden and Michel Prazeres were all released from the promotion.

First UFC finish of 2022

Playing matchmaker

Here are some fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC On ESPN 32 next:

  • Calvin Kattar vs. Brian Ortega
  • Giga Chikadze vs. Shane Burgos
  • Jake Collier vs. Andrei Arlovski-Jared Vanderaa winner
  • Brandon Royval vs. Manel Kape
  • Katlyn Chookagian vs. Angela Lee
  • Bill Algeo vs. Ryan Hall
  • Court McGee vs. Matt Brown-Bryan Barberena winner
  • Brian Kelleher vs. Nate Maness

Fight announcements

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

  • Michel Pereira vs. Andre Fialho — UFC 270 — January 22
  • Ilia Topuria vs. Charles Jourdain — UFC 270 — January 22
  • Jack Della Maddalena vs. Pete Rodriguez — UFC 270 — January 22
  • Silvana Gomez Juarez vs. Vanessa Demopoulos — UFC 270 — January 22
  • Andrei Arlovski vs. Jared Vanderaa — UFC 271 — February 12
  • Joaquin Buckley vs. Abdul Razak Alhassan — UFC Fight Night — February 19
  • Johnny Parsons vs. Michael Gillmore — UFC Fight Night — February 26
  • Josiane Nunes vs. Wu Yanan — UFC Fight Night — February 26
  • Priscila Cachoeira vs. Ji Yeon Kim — UFC Fight Night — February 26
  • Colby Covington vs. Jorge Masvidal — UFC 272 — March 5 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Kevin Holland vs. Alex Oliveira — UFC 272 — March 5
  • Devonte Smith vs. Erick Gonzalez — UFC 272 — March 5
  • Jake Hadley vs. Allan Nascimento — UFC Fight Night — March 19
  • Joanne Wood vs. Alexa Grasso — UFC Fight Night — March 26
  • Matheus Nicolau vs. David Dvorak — UFC Fight Night — March 26
  • Nate Landwehr vs. Lerone Murphy — UFC Fight Night — March 26
  • Aliaskhab Khizriev vs. Abus Magomedov — UFC Fight Night — March 26
  • UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski vs. Chan Sung Jung — UFC 273 — April 9 (MAIN EVENT)
  • UFC Bantamweight Champion Aljamain Sterling vs. Interim UFC Bantamweight Petr Yan — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Jairzinho Rozenstruik vs. Marcin Tybura — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Mackenzie Dern vs. Tecia Torres — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Kelvin Gastelum vs. Nassourdine Imavov — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Mickey Gall vs. Mike Malott — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Julio Arce vs. Daniel Santos — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Drakkar Klose vs. Brandon Jenkins — UFC Fight Night — April 16
  • Clay Guida vs. Claudio Puelles — UFC Fight Night — April 23
  • Louis Cosce vs. Preston Parsons — UFC Fight Night — April 23
  • Aoriqileng vs. Cameron Else — UFC Fight Night — April 23
  • Dean Barry vs. Mike Jackson — UFC Fight Night — April 23
  • Miesha Tate vs. Lauren Murphy — UFC Fight Night — May 14

Coming up this week

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

  • UFC 270 is the big event of the week, the first UFC pay-per-view of 2022, taking place on Saturday, January 22 from the Honda Center in Anaheim, California. The main card airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10:00 p.m. ET, with the main preliminary card airing on ESPN & ESPN+ at 8:00 p.m. ET, and the early preliminary card airing on ESPN & ESPN+ at 6:00 p.m. ET. UFC Heavyweight Champion Francis Ngannou vs. Interim UFC Heavyweight Champion Ciryl Gane is the main event.
  • LFA 122 takes place on Friday, January 21 from St. Louis, Missouri, airing at 7:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.

This week in MMA history

In honor of a major UFC Heavyweight Championship bout taking place this upcoming weekend, we flash back to another pay-per-view headlined by a major heavyweight title bout as we look back at January 20, 2018. UFC 220 took place on that date from the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts, with 16,015 fans in attendance. It had a gate of $2.45 million and an estimated 350,000 buys on pay-per-view.

The main event featured UFC Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic defending the title against rising prospect Francis Ngannou, who was coming off a vicious knockout of Alistair Overeem. Miocic would end up dominating the fight with his wrestling on his way to scoring a unanimous decision to keep the title. Ngannou would avenge the loss just over three years later by knocking out Miocic to win the title at UFC 260 in March 2021, and he remains the champion headed into his first official title defense this upcoming weekend.

In the co-main event, UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Daniel Cormier scored a second-round TKO of Volkan Oezdemir to retain the title. Also on the main card, Calvin Kattar finished Shane Burgos in the third round, Gian Villante scored a decision over Francimar Barroso, and Rob Font scored a second-round knockout of Thomas Almeida. Among those who scored wins in the prelims included Abdul Razak Alhassan, Dustin Ortiz, Julio Arce and Islam Makhachev.

You can watch UFC 220 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 32, look ahead to UFC 270, take a look at all of the crazy news that came about over the past week and much more. In The Clinch is part of The Fight Game Media Network, with all of our podcasts plus many others available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts, and our Patreon page. We will also have an exclusive UFC 270 post-fight edition of the show available on the Patreon following UFC 270.

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