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 busy weekend with plenty of events, so let’s dive right in to all of the happenings.
Looking back at a busy weekend
- UFC put on another great show last Saturday, but it was hampered by a very bad and lackluster main event. Magomed Ankalaev scored a decision over Thiago Santos in the headliner in a fairly uneventful fight. It was Ankalaev’s eighth straight win and he was calling for a title shot after the fight, but this wasn’t the kind of performance that would firmly secure a title shot. He needed a more impressive win, and there was a time where Santos dropped him and nearly finished it. Ankalaev will likely need another win before a title shot.
- The rest of the show was outstanding, as there were eight finishes on the show and lots of excitement in lots of the fights. This show was another indicator that perhaps there should be a move away from post-fight performance bonuses to guaranteed finish bonuses. There could’ve been at least nine post-fight bonuses given out on the show, and I hope those who didn’t get an official bonus were taken care of as well.
- I have to feel that Saturday will end up being the last UFC fight for Marlon Moraes. Moraes was knocked out in the first round by Song Yadong, which marked the fourth straight loss for Moraes, and his fifth loss in his last six fights. All five of those losses have come by knockout as well. He’s got a high contract as well. He took off his gloves after the fight, which got many talking that he was going to leave them inside the Octagon, signifying a retirement. He took the gloves with him, and not every time a fighter takes off their gloves does that mean something, as some fighters always try to take their gloves off as quickly as possible, and some take them off quickly due to hand injuries. Whatever may be, I do think that was the last of Moraes as a UFC fighter.
- If you missed the fight between Drew Dober and Terrance McKinney, go back and find that fight and watch it. It was a fantastic one-round fight that had lots of momentum swings in it, and one of the better comebacks in recent memory as Dober came back from being nearly finished to finish McKinney. There were lots of comeback performances on the show. I said in my preview that I felt that this was a misstep for McKinney in taking this fight on about ten days’ notice, and while he started strong, Dober’s veteran experience got him the win. McKinney has lots of potential and I hope this doesn’t set him back.
- Alex Pereira survived a tough test as he won a decision over Bruno Silva in the main card opener. It was the kind of fight Pereira needed to get him to the next step if he wants to challenge Israel Adesanya. Silva is tough and durable and just as dangerous on the feet as Pereira is, and he had Pereira in some tough moments. Pereira did hurt Silva a few times, including late in the first and in the third, which made the differences in the fight. It was a solid win for Pereira, who still needs some time before he is ready for Adesanya.
- Bellator 276 happened on Saturday night, but I’m not sure many people actually knew a Bellator card was taking place. It didn’t have a marquee main event, except to hardcore fans, but Adam Borics scored a solid decision win over Mads Burnell in the headline fight. All four main card fights went the distance, and it was a fairly uneventful show. I do need to bring up Bellator’s matchmaking again, as there was a prelim fight which featured undefeated Romero Cotton, who is ranked eighth in their middleweight rankings, fighting Freddy Sandoval, a fighter with a losing record who hadn’t fought since 2009. There is no reason this fight should’ve been made or even sanctioned. Cotton easily won, finishing Sandoval in just over 90 seconds.
- Bellator President Scott Coker revealed after Bellator 276 that the planned retirement fight for Fedor Emelianenko was going to have to undergo some changes. Coker said the fight was planned to take place in the Red Square in Moscow, Russia this year, but the current war between Russia and Ukraine has forced those plans to be scrapped. Coker said he plans to meet with Fedor in San Jose in mid-April to shore up new plans for the retirement fight. Honestly, it should be against whomever is the Bellator Heavyweight Champion, and that will be decided between Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo in early May.
- In what was probably the biggest news story of the week, Kayla Harrison has officially re-signed with the PFL and will once again look to win the $1 million tournament in the women’s lightweight division this year. It was always expected that she would return, as a deal was nearly done weeks ago, but Bellator came in with a big offer at the last minute. PFL had matching rights, which means they have to match every term of the deal, which they ended up being able to do so, so they get to keep Harrison. The whole matching rights thing is something that MMA contracts need to get rid of, because fighters should have the option to be able to choose where they go even if the offer is the exact same, as Harrison was more so forced to remain a PFL fighter due to this clause, even if deep down she really wanted to fight elsewhere. She has said it’s not about the money, but that she wants to carve out a legacy in the sport. PFL needs to sign some more high-profile fighters for her division, but that is a hard task at hand already. Harrison did have a big offer from Bellator, as noted, but she didn’t get that big of a UFC offer, and she may have not even gotten an official one to begin with.
- The big fight everyone was talking about for Harrison was going to Bellator to fight Cris Cyborg. Even with the new PFL deal, that fight is not 100% off the table. Cyborg was announced this past week as defending her Bellator Women’s Featherweight Championship against Arlene Blencowe in April. That may be the last fight on her contract, but even if she has one more, the deal expires in the summer regardless of if all fights on the deal take place. There is a possibility she doesn’t re-sign with Bellator, who are looking to trim the budget a bit, and she makes a lot of money but doesn’t return much on the investment. It wouldn’t surprise me if PFL swoops in and makes Cyborg an offer so they can put together the fight with Harrison, and that’s a fight they can market for pay-per-view, since they have plans on running pay-per-view events, even if that is ill-advised. Bellator currently has no plans to run pay-per-views.
- Francis Ngannou is set to return to the United States from his trip to Cameroon this upcoming week, and he will be undergoing knee surgery when he gets back. It will likely keep him out of action until the end of the year. Dana White has said he has a meeting with Ngannou planned when he gets back, so it is possible we could be getting some news on the Ngannou front coming soon. I do think that, in the end, he’s going to sign a new UFC contract, especially considering the recent new deals with Israel Adesanya and Jorge Masvidal. Both of them coming to terms on new contracts was good news for Ngannou.
- Eagle FC was back on Friday and had another solid show which saw Kevin Lee scored a decision win over Diego Sanchez in the main event. Lee was concerned he suffered a major knee injury in the fight, but it was a solid bounce back for him in his first fight since his UFC release. It was also the first post-UFC fight for Sanchez, and considering everything he’s gone thru in the past two years, it was good to see him competitive, even if he really shouldn’t be fighting. They also announced the signings of former UFC Heavyweight Champion Junior Dos Santos, Hector Lombard and Thiago Silva over the past week, with all scheduled to debut on their next Miami card in May.
Here are some fights I would make next for those who fought at UFC On ESPN+ 61 on Saturday:
- Magomed Ankalaev vs. Anthony Smith
- Thiago Santos vs. Jamahal Hill
- Song Yadong vs. Dominick Cruz
- Sodiq Yusuff vs. Bryce Mitchell
- Khalil Rountree vs. Dustin Jacoby
- Drew Dober vs. Bobby Green
- Alex Pereira vs. Wellington Turman
- Matthew Semelsberger vs. Lyman Good
- JJ Aldrich vs. Miranda Maverick
- Damon Jackson vs. Hakeem Dawodu
Here are the fights that were announced over the past week:
- Gunnar Nelson vs. Takashi Sato — UFC Fight Night — March 19
- Aliaskhab Khizriev vs. Denis Tiuliulin — UFC Fight Night — March 26
- Alatengheili vs. Kevin Croom — UFC Fight Night — April 16
- Damir Hadzovic vs. Steve Garcia — UFC Fight Night — April 23
- Bellator Bantamweight Champion Sergio Pettis vs. Raufeon Stots — Bellator 279 — April 23 (MAIN EVENT)
- Bellator Women’s Featherweight Champion Cris Cyborg vs. Arlene Blencowe — Bellator 279 — April 23
- Kyoji Horiguchi vs. Patchy Mix — Bellator 279 — April 23
- Ilima-Lei Macfarlane vs. Justine Kish — Bellator 279 — April 23
- Rob Font vs. Marlon Vera — UFC Fight Night — April 30 (MAIN EVENT)
- Michael Chandler vs. Tony Ferguson — UFC 274 — May 7
- Tracy Cortez vs. Melissa Gatto — UFC 274 — May 7
- Junior Dos Santos vs. Yorgan De Castro — Eagle FC 48 — May 20 (MAIN EVENT)
- Hector Lombard vs. Thiago Silva — Eagle FC 48 — May 20
- Robert Whittaker vs. Marvin Vettori — UFC 275 — June 11
- Silvana Gomez Juarez vs. Na Liang — UFC 275 — June 11
Coming up this week
Here are some of the notable MMA events taking place this week:
- UFC On ESPN+ 62 takes place on Saturday, March 19, from the O2 Arena in London, England. The entire event streams on ESPN+, with the main card at 4 p.m. ET and the prelims at 1 p.m. ET. Alexander Volkov vs. Tom Aspinall is the main event.
- CFFC 106 takes place on Thursday, March 17, from Tampa, Florida, airing at 7 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- Cage Warriors 134 takes place on Friday, March 18, from London, England, airing at 1:30 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- iKON FC 2 takes place on Friday, March 18, from Miami, Florida, airing at 8 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass.
- PFL Challenger Series 5 takes place on Friday, March 18, from Orlando, Florida, airing at 9 p.m. ET on fuboTV.
This Week in MMA History
In honor of UFC’s return to London this upcoming weekend, we take it back to the last time the Octagon was there on March 16, 2019 for UFC On ESPN+ 5 at The O2 Arena, which kicked off the magical run of one of the most popular fighters in the sport at the moment. The show took place in front of 16,602 fans for a gate of $2.4 million.
In the main event, silence became of the loud crowd when Jorge Masvidal scored a stunning second-round knockout of Darren Till. The two had a bit of back-and-forth in the lead-up to the fight, but it was a left hand that put Till’s lights out cold. Another moment happened with Masvidal backstage after the show, where he and Leon Edwards got into a confrontation where punches were thrown. It is a moment that became infamous after Masvidal said in an interview afterwards that he hit Edwards with “the three-piece and a soda.”
In the co-main event, the aforementioned Edwards scored a split decision win over Gunnar Nelson. Also on the main card, Dominick Reyes won a split decision over Volkan Oezdemir, Nathaniel Wood submitted Jose Quinonez in the second round, Claudio Silva submitted Danny Roberts in the third round, and Jack Marshman won a split decision over John Phillips. Among the winners on the prelims included Arnold Allen, Marc Diakiese, Dan Ige and Molly McCann.
You can watch UFC On ESPN+ 5 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+ 61, Bellator 276 and Eagle FC 46. We will also look ahead to UFC On ESPN+ 62, look at the news of the week and much more. In The Clinch is part of The Fight Game Media Network of podcasts, which are available on Apple Podcasts, Spotify, Google Podcasts and our Patreon page.