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Monday MMA Round-Up: Blaydes stands tall in Columbus at UFC on ESPN 33

COLUMBUS, OHIO - MARCH 26: Curtis Blaydes celebrates his victory over Chris Daukaus in a heavyweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at Nationwide Arena on March 26, 2022 in Columbus, Ohio. (Photo by Josh Hedges/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. There was lots of action, inside and outside of the cage, that took place this week, so let’s dive right in to everything going on.

Looking back at UFC Columbus & more

  • UFC’s return to Columbus for the first time in 13 years on Saturday for UFC on ESPN 33 was another exciting event with lots of great fights on the show, with some fun finishes and one of the best fights to take place thus far in 2022. It also came in front of a hot crowd, which had lots of big reactions throughout. It is a show worth going back and watching if you missed it.
  • It’s a broken record in this column, but worth saying yet again after this Saturday: It is time for UFC to get their shows out of the UFC APEX. The crowd in Columbus was hot from the opening, and the fact that the graphic for the first fight got a huge reaction is something missing from the silence of the Apex. The crowd reactions to some of the fights and finishes were just more reasons. They also did a huge number for attendance and at the gate, and even if some of that is due to the show being the first in Columbus in 13 years, it’s just more proof that trying to save money, which they don’t need to do, is just an excuse. Get all of these shows back in arenas and in front of fans- there’s tons of UFC demand these days.
  • Curtis Blaydes kept himself in the heavyweight title picture with a second-round knockout of Chris Daukaus in the main event of UFC on ESPN 33. It was the first time in Blaydes’ career that he didn’t even attempt a takedown as he showed a striking game that has much improved in out-striking Daukaus before finishing him in the early seconds of the second round. Blaydes was calling for an interim title fight next, and he’s definitely in the mix. It does appear that an interim title is going to happen at heavyweight, but I think Blaydes is behind a few others. If I’m booking the heavyweight division, I’m going with Jon Jones against Stipe Miocic for the interim title, and then booking Blaydes against Ciryl Gane and Tai Tuivasa against Tom Aspinall.
  • There were two new contenders in the women’s flyweight division that established themselves on Saturday as Alexa Grasso scored the biggest win of her career in submitting Joanne Wood in the first round, while Manon Fiorot scored an impressive decision win over Jennifer Maia. Valentina Shevchenko has been in need of fresh challengers in the division, and if she gets by Taila Santos in June, it’s possible Grasso or Fiorot could be a match-up for her before the end of the year.
  • Another flyweight, this one a male, who established himself as a title contender was Kai Kara-France, who handed Askar Askarov the first loss of his career, when Kara-France had a strong final two rounds to score a decision. That fight was really fun and Kara-France was able to neutralize the wrestling of Askarov with his hands, and it paid off.
  • If you missed the fight between Matt Brown and Bryan Barberena, please go back and watch it. It will end up being among the best fights of the year, and I think it’s the best UFC fight of the first three months of 2022. Barberena got the decision in front of Brown’s hometown crowd, which wasn’t happy with the scorecards. Barberena said it was the final fight on his UFC deal, and that he was hoping to get a new contract, otherwise he would retire. He’s been in lots of entertaining fights over the years, so I’m assuming he ends up getting a new contract.
  • Neil Magny made history on Saturday as he tied Georges St. Pierre for the most welterweight wins in UFC history with his 19th win as he scored a decision over Max Griffin in a very competitive fight that could’ve gone either way. Magny has been one of the most active welterweights over the last several years, and he’s been a solid top-ten fighter for quite some time. I also loved his callout of Khamzat Chimaev, who he’s been calling out for months. That fight should’ve already happened.
  • Jorge Masvidal was arrested this past week after punching Colby Covington outside of a Miami steakhouse last Monday night after Covington decided to press charges. Both guys are in the wrong here after their fight in early March. Masvidal shouldn’t have attacked Covington, but Covington has been going on and on after the fight, including continuing to make comments that they’d fight in the street if they ran into each other. It is funny that this is now the third time Covington has been attacked in public by fighters or managers due to his comments, and each time he’s tried to press charges.
  • Conor McGregor couldn’t help himself as he had to get himself in the news as he was also arrested for reckless driving in Ireland, having his vehicle impounded as well. As far as bad things McGregor has done, this is probably relatively low on the list, but there’s no need to be driving that fast anywhere at any time. You’re just asking for something bad to happen, and getting arrested is low on the list of bad things that could happen in that situation.
  • Nate Diaz asked to be released on social media during the weekend, the latest in his ongoing saga with his contract situation. I’ve written about it several times- he wants to fight, the UFC wants him to sign a new deal, there was thought he would sign a new deal a few weeks ago, and they won’t book him unless he signs a new deal. I wish this would end.
  • It was announced this past week that UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno would be fighting for the fourth time for the flyweight title, likely in July. The fight isn’t signed and Figueiredo has been asking for a seven-figure payday to take the fight, so here’s another situation of a dispute. It would be nice if this wasn’t a constant issue, but that’s more fighter pay talk that isn’t changing. Figueiredo did float the option of fighting Kai Kara-France next after Saturday night.
  • It is very likely that UFC 277 on July 30 will be taking place at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas.
  • The Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix, scheduled to kick off in April, took a massive hit this past week, losing two participants, including Bellator Bantamweight Champion Sergio Pettis. Pettis had to pull out due to a torn ACL, and he will be out of action for close to a year. James Gallagher was also forced out of the Grand Prix due to injury. Juan Archuleta took Pettis’ place against Patchy Mix, and that fight will be for an Interim Bellator Bantamweight Championship, which will be defended throughout the tournament. They should’ve just made the entire tournament for the title, but I get this decision. However, losing those two, especially the champion, really hurts the Grand Prix overall.

Playing matchmaker

Here are the fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC On ESPN 33 on Saturday:

  • Curtis Blaydes vs. Ciryl Gane
  • Chris Daukaus vs. Walt Harris
  • Alexa Grasso vs. Andrea Lee-Viviane Araujo winner
  • Bryan Barberena vs. Niko Price
  • Kai Kara-France vs. Deiveson Figueiredo-Brandon Moreno winner
  • Neil Magny vs. Gilbert Burns-Khamzat Chimaev winner
  • Marc Diakiese vs. Drew Dober
  • Sara McMann vs. Germaine de Randamie
  • Manon Fiorot vs. Katlyn Chookagian-Amanda Ribas winner
  • Matheus Nicolau vs. Alex Perez

Fight announcements

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

  • Aspen Ladd vs. Raquel Pennington — UFC 273 — April 9
  • Jordan Leavitt vs. Trey Ogden — UFC Fight Night — April 16
  • Bellator Women’s Flyweight Champion Juliana Velasquez vs. Liz Carmouche — Bellator 278 — April 22 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Juan Archuleta vs. Raufeon Stots for the Interim Bellator Bantamweight Championship — Bellator 279 — April 23
  • Tanner Boser vs. Alexandr Romanov — UFC Fight Night — April 23
  • Jared Gordon vs. Grant Dawson — UFC Fight Night — April 30
  • Michael Page vs. Logan Storley for the Interim Bellator Welterweight Championship — Bellator 281 — May 13 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Jan Blachowicz vs. Aleksandar Rakic — UFC Fight Night — May 14 (MAIN EVENT)
  • Ryan Spann vs. Ion Cutelaba — UFC Fight Night — May 14
  • Louis Smolka vs. Davey Grant — UFC Fight Night — May 14
  • Michel Pereira vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio — UFC Fight Night — May 21
  • Eryk Anders vs. Jun Yong Park — UFC Fight Night — May 21
  • Tim Elliott vs. Amir Albazi — UFC Fight Night — June 25
  • Jinh Yu Frey vs. Vanessa Demopoulos — UFC Fight Night — June 25
  • Jessica Eye vs. Casey O’Neill — UFC 276 — July 2
  • Sean Strickland vs. Alex Pereira — UFC 277 — July 30

Coming up this week

There’s no UFC event this week, but here are some notable MMA events taking place this week:

  • Cage Warriors 135 takes place on Friday, April 1, from Manchester, England, airing at 2:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
  • CES 67 takes place on Friday, April 1, from Hartford, Connecticut, airing at 8:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
  • PFL Challenger Series 7 takes place on Friday, April 1, from Orlando, Florida, airing at 9:00 p.m. ET on fuboTV.
  • Cage Warriors 136 takes place on Saturday, April 2, from Manchester, England, airing at 2:00 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
  • XMMA 4 takes place on Saturday, April 2, from New Orleans, Louisiana, airing at 7:00 p.m. ET on YouTube. This card features several UFC veterans.

This week in MMA history

Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Le, 2008

On March 29, 2008, one of the rare times there was a co-promotion between two big MMA promotions took place at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, California as Strikeforce and EliteXC came together for one night for Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Le, which took place in front of 16,326 fans.

In the main event, Cung Le became the new Strikeforce Middleweight Champion when he scored a stoppage of Frank Shamrock at the end of the third round. It was an exciting fight, but the doctors ended up stopping it after Shamrock suffered a broken arm during the fight. Le would go on to hold the title for 588 days.

In the co-main event, Gilbert Melendez retained the Strikeforce Lightweight Championship, scoring a second-round knockout of Gabe Lemley. Other winners on the card included Joey Villasenor, Drew Fickett, Tiki Ghosn and Darren Uyenoyama.

You can watch Strikeforce: Shamrock vs. Le 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 33, take a look at all of the craziness going on in the world of mixed martial arts this past week, look ahead to the month of April and much more. You can listen to In The Clinch on The Fight Game Media Network, with our network of podcasts available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and our Patreon page.

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