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. It was a week off of UFC action this past week, but Bellator and Eagle FC made their 2022 debuts, so there was plenty of action going on, so let’s dive right in.
MMA week in review
- Bellator was back in action with Bellator 273 on Saturday, which was capped off with Ryan Bader becoming the Undisputed Bellator Heavyweight Champion as he scored a decision over interim champion Valentin Moldavsky. It was a close fight that really came down to how you judge fights, with Bader winning on straight 48–47 scorecards. I scored the fight for him, and it was far from a robbery like some may have tried to make it out to be, but rather just another example of a close fight that could’ve gone either way. Bader has let it be known that he’s done fighting at light heavyweight and will remain at heavyweight for the rest of his career. His next fight has already been announced, as well, as it was confirmed at the post-fight press conference that he’ll defend against Cheick Kongo in May in Paris, France.
- Other winners on at Bellator 273 on Saturday included Benson Henderson, who scored an upset in a close split decision over Islam Mamedov, Henry Corrales, Sabah Homasi and Enrique Barzola, who made his Bellator debut with a win over former champion Darrion Caldwell. It was the last fight on the contracts for both Henderson and Corrales. Corrales said he was hoping to re-sign, while the future with Henderson seems a little more murky as both him and Bellator President Scott Coker said they aren’t sure at the moment if he’ll be back. That’ll be an interesting situation to monitor as it’s not much of a secret that the promotion is looking at cutting costs and spending.
- A big Bellator fight that was supposedly in the works to take place in the near future has now hit a snag, with a title fight between Bellator Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg and Cat Zingano not currently looking to take place. Zingano has stated that there’s issues with Cyborg and not wanting to take a drug test as the reason for the hold-up, while Cyborg has been saying Zingano is the reason for the hold-up. Scott Coker didn’t say much on things, other than he wants to make the fight and is going to talk to Zingano’s manager to see when she’s going to be ready to fight, which makes it seem like the issues are on Zingano’s end. Zingano was saying she’ll be ready to fight on March 11, which seemed to be the plan for when the fight was going to take place. This is another development to follow in the coming weeks.
- Eagle FC 44 on Friday night was the promotion’s debut in the United States, and they had a good show with some solid production behind it, so a good presentation overall. Serghei Kharitonov scored a second-round TKO of Tyrone Spong in the main event, while Rashad Evans’ return from retirement was a successful one, as he scored a unanimous decision over Gabriel Checco. It was Evans’ first win since November 2013. Other winners on the show included UFC veterans Ray Borg and Yorgan De Castro, PFL fighter Loik Radzhabov, as well as prospects Raimond Magomedaliev and Ramazan Kuramagomedov. Their next event in the United States takes place on March 11 with a main event of Kevin Lee against Diego Sanchez.
- Filming for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter is slated to begin sometime around the end of February or start of March, and the coaches are expected to be Julianna Pena and Amanda Nunes, which will set up their rematch for the summer time. As far as the two as coaches, I’m not sure it’ll make for an interesting dynamic, but they’re about the best options available as ESPN wants more UFC content, so the show lives on.
- Dana White did a Q&A session on ESPN+ earlier this week and clarified why he didn’t wrap the title around Francis Ngannou’s waist or take part of the post-fight press conference at UFC 270. He said there was a backstage situation that required his attention, so he left before the end of the main event. He also said that they are targeting a fight between Michael Chandler and Tony Ferguson.
- It was announced this past week that one of the most anticipated fights coming up in the first half of 2022, the title fight between UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira and Justin Gaethje, would take place at UFC 274 on May 7. That event was originally slated to take place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, but news came out this week that it would not take place in Brazil, though a new location for the event has yet to be announced. That card also has UFC Light Heavyweight Champion Glover Teixeira defending against Jiri Prochazka.
- Speaking of Prochazka, he said this past week he was headed to Arizona to train at the Fight Ready camp, with the primary focus being working on his wrestling with Henry Cejudo and Jon Jones.
- Zabit Magomedshapirov’s future could be known soon, as his manager, Ali Abdelaziz, is slated to meet with UFC brass this week to discuss him. He’s back training after being out of action due to health issues, but he also wants a new contract. I hope he’s able to return, because he would be a great re-addition to the exciting featherweight division.
- The PFL announced this past week they would be returning to the ESPN family of networks, signing an extension for broadcast rights. Many main cards will air on ESPN and ESPN2, while all main cards and preliminary cards will air on ESPN+. This is a pretty big deal for them for this relationship to continue.
- PFL signed long-time UFC veteran Jeremy Stephens to compete in their upcoming lightweight tournament this past week. Stephens’ UFC contract ran out after his last fight in July, and they decided to not re-sign him. Stephens competed in 34 UFC bouts, which is fourth all-time for the promotion. His record was just 15-18 with one no contest, which dates back to his UFC debut in May 2007. He was in many high-profile bouts, and holds wins over the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos, Darren Elkins, Dennis Bermudez, Renan Barao, Gilbert Melendez and Josh Emmett. He had gone winless in his last six before his departure.
- Jan Blachowicz was forced out of his main event bout against Aleksandar Rakic on 3/26, which is slated to take place in Columbus, Ohio, the first non-PPV event to be held in a United States arena since before the pandemic began. Rakic won’t fight a replacement opponent, so it’ll be interesting to see what they get to headline the card, as it’s an important event in the scope of things at the moment.
Here are the fights that were announced over the past week:
- William Knight vs. Maxim Grishin — UFC 271 — February 12
- Parker Porter vs. Alan Baudot — UFC Fight Night — February 19
- Misha Cirkunov vs. Wellington Turman — UFC Fight Night — February 26
- Josiane Nunes vs. Jennifer Gonzalez — UFC Fight Night — February 26
- Damon Jackson vs. Kamuela Kirk — UFC Fight Night — March 12
- Nikita Krylov vs. Paul Craig — UFC Fight Night — March 19
- Gunnar Nelson vs. Claudio Silva — UFC Fight Night — March 19
- Nathaniel Wood vs. Liudvik Sholinian — UFC Fight Night — March 19
- Slava Borshchev vs. Marc Diakiese — UFC Fight Night — March 26
- Luis Saldana vs. Bruno Souza — UFC Fight Night — March 26
- Dricus Du Plessis vs. Chris Curtis — UFC 273 — April 9
- Kay Hansen vs. Piera Rodriguez — UFC 273 — April 9
- Vicente Luque vs. Belal Muhammad — UFC Fight Night — April 16 (MAIN EVENT)
- Uriah Hall vs. Andre Muniz — UFC Fight Night — April 16
- Pannie Kianzad vs. Lina Lansberg — UFC Fight Night — April 16
- Tyson Pedro vs. Ike Villanueva — UFC Fight Night — April 23
- Tanner Boser vs. Rodrigo Nascimento — UFC Fight Night — April 23
- Su Mudaerji vs. Manel Kape — UFC Fight Night — April 23
- Donald Cerrone vs. Joe Lauzon — UFC Fight Night — April 30
- Mike Breeden vs. Natan Levy — UFC Fight Night — April 30
- Bellator Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader vs. Cheick Kongo — Bellator Paris — May 6 (MAIN EVENT)
- UFC Lightweight Champion Charles Oliveira vs. Justin Gaethje — UFC 274 — May 7 (MAIN EVENT)
- Lupita Godinez vs. Ariane Carnelossi — UFC 274 — May 7
- Chase Hooper vs. Felipe Colares — UFC Fight Night — May 21
Coming up this week
Here are some of the notable MMA events taking place this week:
- UFC On ESPN+ 58 takes place on Saturday, February 5, from the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The entire card airs on ESPN+, with the main card at 7:00 p.m. ET, and the prelims at 4:00 p.m. ET. Jack Hermansson takes on Sean Strickland in the main event.
- LFA 123 takes place on Friday, February 4, from Hammond, Indiana, airing at 9:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- FAC 12 takes place on Sunday, February 6, from Independence, Missouri, airing at 3:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- Fury FC 56 takes place on Sunday, February 6, from San Antonio, Texas, airing at 8:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
This week in MMA history
One of the more famous moments in UFC history took place on February 5, 2011 at UFC 126. The event took place at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, Nevada, drawing 10,893 fans for a gate of $3.6 million, as well as 725,000 buys on pay-per-view.
In the main event, one of the most memorable finishes in UFC history took place as Anderson Silva landed a front kick right to the face of Vitor Belfort, leading to a first-round knockout that saw Silva retain the UFC Middleweight Championship in the midst of his dominant reign. The moment has been replayed in highlight reels all over the world, and has even been memorialized in portrait, which hangs inside the UFC APEX in Las Vegas. The two were rivals at the time, and the event was a massive deal in Brazil, and it may still be the most-watched fight in Brazilian MMA history.
In the co-main event, it was a battle of future UFC Hall Of Fame members as Forrest Griffin scored a unanimous decision win over Rich Franklin. In a third major fight, Jon Jones submitted Ryan Bader in the second round, which would lead to Jones making a quick turnaround to challenge Mauricio Rua for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship just a month later at UFC 128. The other main card fights saw Jake Ellenberger win a split decision over Carlos Eduardo Rocha, and Miguel Torres win a decision over Antonio Banuelos.
On the prelims, Donald Cerrone, in his first of what is now 37 career UFC fights and 23 UFC wins, scored a second-round submission of Paul Kelly. Also among the winners were Chad Mendes, Paul Taylor, Kyle Kingsbury, Mike Pierce, and Demetrious Johnson, who scored a decision over the late, great Norifumi “KID” Yamamoto.
You can watch UFC 126 on UFC Fight Pass here.
In The Clinch
This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will look back at the major stuff which took place at Bellator 273 and Eagle FC 44. We will also look ahead to UFC On ESPN+ 58, as well as talk all of the news of the week. 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, Google Podcasts, and on our Patreon page.