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Monday MMA Round-Up: Weekend of upsets

LAS VEGAS, NEVADA - JUNE 25: Mateusz Gamrot of Poland reacts after his victory over Arman Tsarukyan of Georgia in a lightweight fight during the UFC Fight Night event at UFC APEX on June 25, 2022 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. It was a busy weekend of events, so let’s dive right in to all that’s happening.

UFC, Bellator, PFL Recaps

  • The main event between Arman Tsarukyan and Mateusz Gamrot on Saturday’s UFC on ESPN 38 event was an absolutely excellent fight that saw Gamrot score the upset in winning a unanimous decision on straight 48-47 scorecards. It was a very high-level fight and a close one as well. I had it scored for Tsarukyan, but the third and fourth rounds could’ve gone either way, so it wasn’t like there was a robbery (which is the most over-used word in MMA) or anything. It was just two guys who gave it their all in their first main event spots, turned in a fantastic fight that could be re-visited down the line, and you know these are two high-level fighters who have title contender potential between them.
  • Other impressive winners on Saturday’s UFC event included Shavkat Rakhmonov, Thiago Moises, Carlos Ulberg, Cody Durden and Mario Bautista. Rakhmonov was especially impressive as he dominated long-time veteran Neil Magny in the co-main event, and he looks every bit of a future title challenger as he’s now 16-0 in his career.
  • Johnny Eblen scored a massive upset in the main event of Bellator 282 on Friday as he defeated Gegard Mousasi to become the new Bellator Middleweight Champion. Mousasi had been a dominant champion but Eblen used solid and effective wrestling that kept Mousasi on defense all night, plus good striking and defense on the feet to win all five rounds in clear fashion. Eblen is now 12-0 and looks to be a solid fighter that has the potential to control that division for time to come.
  • Bellator 282 also saw Danny Sabatello and Magomed Magomedov score wins to advance in the Bellator Bantamweight Grand Prix, while other winners included Brennan Ward, Alexander Shabliy, Cat Zingano, Sabah Homasi and Aaron Jeffery. Zingano’s win should set her up for a title fight against Cris Cyborg, should Cyborg sign a new deal, but Zingano appeared to suffer a knee injury and it’s unclear the extent of the injury at the moment. It could delay any potential fight between the two.
  • PFL 5 on Friday also had several upsets, including Stevie Ray submitting Anthony Pettis in the second round with a body triangle to secure a spot in the 2022 PFL Playoffs. Ray and Pettis will rematch in the opening round of the playoffs in just a couple of months, so that will be interesting to see what happens. Matheus Scheffel upset Bruno Cappelozza in the main event, and the other big upset saw Klidson Abreu score a decision over Renan Ferreira. Pettis, Denis Goltsov and Chris Wade all secured top seeds in their respective weight classes for the 2022 PFL Playoffs.
  • Lauren Murphy was forced out of her scheduled fight at UFC 276 this upcoming weekend against Miesha Tate, which was a pivotal bout on the card. There was no reason given why Murphy was forced out, but she did say she would be available to fight on the Long Island card on 7/16 and that they were trying to get Tate to agree to the re-booking. Matchmakers were also looking for a new opponent for Tate to keep her on Saturday’s card, but it’s been difficult to find a short-notice replacement.
  • Francis Ngannou said this weekend that he could potentially be ready to fight in December, saying his recovery from a torn ACL and surgery is coming along right on schedule. He still needs to come to terms on a new contract. There has still been talk of an interim title fight between Jon Jones and Stipe Miocic, but the ball has been rolling slowly on getting that fight done. Ngannou does want to fight Tyson Fury, but Fury is currently having issues getting into the United States, so who knows what the status on a potential boxing match between them is, plus Fury also reiterated this week that he is retired. The right play is for Ngannou to come to terms on a new UFC deal because he’ll make big money for a fight with Jones.
  • UFC 279 on September 10 is likely headed to Atlanta, Georgia. That’s not 100% official yet, but the two front-runners to hold the event were Atlanta and Boston, and the TD Garden in Boston has seen that date be booked by a Kid Cudi concert, so that takes Boston out of the running.
  • Nate Diaz was again asking for his release from his UFC contract this week, saying he wants to box Jake Paul. Again, this whole thing is dumb. Paul actually has no interest in boxing Diaz right now, but possibly in a few years. Diaz has no value outside of the UFC expect to fight Paul, which is years away. He should have better advisers telling him this, but it is what it is as they say. They aren’t releasing him, though.
  • Julia Budd was forced out of her anticipated main event bout this upcoming week against Kayla Harrison at PFL 6, scratching what was arguably the biggest fight they had for Harrison. Harrison will now take on Kaitlin Young in the main event this weekend.
  • Carla Esparza was talking this week about being injured and how she won’t be able to defend the UFC Women’s Strawweight Championship until at least near the end of the year. That delays any possibility of the title being defended in October, which was the hope. She was also saying Marina Rodriguez should be getting the title shot over Zhang Weili. Maybe on merit, she has a point, but Weili is at least the second biggest star in the division now that Joanna Jedrzejczyk is retired, and the reactions she gets is going to have her as the top and most logical choice. Mackenzie Dern was also calling for an interim title fight against Weili, which isn’t going to happen, but even if it were, an interim title fight should be Weili against Rodriguez over Dern.
  • Bella Mir, the 19-year-old daughter of Frank Mir, improved to 3-0 in her professional career with a submission win on Friday night for the XFN promotion in Oklahoma. She said her goal is to be a bigger icon than her father, and she’s going to get signed by a top promotion soon. If I’m UFC, I’m getting her a fight on Dana White’s Contender Series later in the year, and if she impresses, signing her to a developmental deal as quickly as possible.
  • Greg Hardy signed with Bare Knuckle Fighting Championships recently, but claimed this past week that he’d be brought back to UFC once he learns some wrestling. I doubt that happens.

The Crystal Ball

Twelve fighters scored triumphs at UFC on ESPN 38 on Saturday, so it’s time to look into the crystal ball and see what is next for them:

  • Mateusz Gamrot scored an impressive decision win over Arman Tsarukyan in the main event, his fourth straight win. It should move him into the top ten of the lightweight rankings and into another main event slot for his next fight. I see him fight the Rafael Dos Anjos vs. Rafael Fiziev winner next as they fight in two weeks.
  • Shavkat Rakhmonov remained undefeated as he scored a second-round submission win over Neil Magny. He’s now 16-0 in his career and 4-0 since signing his UFC deal. He’s ready for top-level competition and had a few callouts afterwards. The crystal ball sees him fighting Stephen Thompson next.
  • Josh Parisian had an ugly heavyweight brawl with Alan Baudot on Saturday, a fight where both men were in trouble several times during the fight. Parisian ended up being the one to score the finish in the second round to move his UFC record to 2-2, and I assume he’ll be signing an extension. The crystal ball sees him fighting Chris Barnett next.
  • Thiago Moises had one of the more impressive finishes on the show as he submitted Christos Giagos with a rear-naked choke from the backpack position in the second round. It got Moises back into the win column after two straight losses. He had a callout after the fight, one that makes perfect sense, so he’s doing the crystal ball’s job for it I see him fighting Joe Solecki next.
  • Umar Nurmagomedov absolutely looked like a future champion in scoring a dominant decision win over Nate Maness on Saturday. Cousin Umar is now 15-0 in his career with a 3-0 UFC record. He said he’s ready for top-ten competition, and I believe him. He might not get a ranked opponent next as bantamweight is stacked, so the crystal ball sees him fighting Rani Yahya next as that would be a good test to get him ready for ranked opposition.
  • Chris Curtis continued what some might consider an improbable UFC run as he improved to 3-0 inside the Octagon with a decision win over Rodolfo Vieira. Curtis was retired in 2019 after thinking he’d never make it to the biggest promotion in the world, and now he’s on the brink of being ranked. The crystal ball sees him against Nassourdine Imavov next.
  • Carlos Ulberg had his entire City Kickboxing team inside the UFC Apex with him as Israel Adesanya, Alexander Volkanovski, Brad Riddell and others were in there and loud for him, and he responded by finishing Tafon Nchukwi in the first round. It’s Ulberg’s second straight win and he seems to be improving even though his career is still in the early stages. The crystal ball sees him fighting Maxim Grishin next.
  • Shayilan Nuerdanbieke is nearing 50 fights in his career and he scored his second straight win with a decision over TJ Brown to move to 37 career wins and a 2-1 UFC record. He’s still near the bottom of a tough featherweight division but is moving up slowly. I see him fighting Chase Hooper next.
  • Sergey Morozov came back from losing the first round to score a decision win over Raulian Paiva in a hard-fought victory. It got Morozov back into the win column and he’s now 2-2 during his UFC tenure. The crystal ball sees him fighting Casey Kenney next.
  • Cody Durden got back into the win column on Saturday with an impressive first-round knockout of JP Buys in just over a minute. It is his second UFC win and was his best performance to date. He called for his next fight afterwards, and the crystal ball says it makes sense, so Jeff Molina should be his next opponent.
  • Mario Bautista was another fighter who had his best UFC performance to date as he submitted Brian Kelleher about halfway thru the first round with a rear-naked choke. It marks Bautista’s second straight win, and he’s won four of his last five. He’s ready to continue his move up the tough bantamweight and I would like to see him fight Tony Gravely next.
  • Vanessa Demopoulos scored her second straight UFC win on Saturday, but she was lucky to do so as she won a robbery on the scorecards against Jinh Yu Frey. That’s not her fault as she fought a good fight, but over 90% of those watching had it scored for Frey. It won’t affect her going forward, and with two straight wins, the crystal ball sees her fighting Karolina Kowalkiewicz next.

The Chopping Block

It wasn’t the best night on Saturday at UFC on ESPN 38 for these twelve fighters as we look at who might be on the chopping block:

  • Arman Tsarukyan came up on the short end of the scorecards on Saturday in the main event, dropping a close decision to Mateusz Gamrot in a fantastic fight. It ended Tsarukyan’s five-fight win streak, but he won’t lose much as far as position in the lightweight division. His future is 100% SAFE and I’d like to see him matched up against Renato Moicano next.
  • Neil Magny came up short in trying to take sole possession of first on the all-time wins list in UFC welterweight history as he was submitted by Shavkat Rakhmonov in the second round. That keeps him at 19 wins and ends a two-fight win streak. His roster spot is SAFE and I’d like to see him against an un-ranked but surging contender next and Randy Brown fits that bill.
  • Alan Baudot looked close to scoring his first UFC win in the first round against Josh Parisian, but he got tired and Parisian came back to score the finish in the second round. Baudot is winless in his four UFC fights, and even with the Paris show coming up, I expect him to be RELEASED from the roster.
  • Christos Giagos had a disappointing outing on Saturday being submitted in the first round by Thiago Moises. Giagos is in his second UFC stint, and while he’s lost two straight, his losses during this run have been to top-level fighters. He should be SAFE FOR NOW and I’d like to see him matched up against Scott Holtzman for his next fight.
  • Nate Maness was thrown to the wolves on Saturday, and while he put up a valiant effort, he was no match for the dominance of Umar Nurmagomedov, losing a decision. It ended Maness’ three-fight win streak. His roster spot is SAFE and I’d like to see him against Raulian Paiva next.
  • Rodolfo Vieira is lucky to be able to continue to fight after having some serious health issues that almost forced him to retire. He got back to action and looked good early before gassing out and dropping a decision to Chris Curtis. He’s lost two of his last three but still has potential. I feel that he’s SAFE FOR NOW and could see him against Jacob Malkoun next.
  • Tafon Nchukwi was looking to gain some momentum at light heavyweight but instead he suffered his second straight loss when Carlos Ulberg knocked him out in the first round. Nchukwi is now 2-3 during his UFC tenure. I don’t think he’s getting cut but he SHOULD WORRY that another loss could see him removed from the roster. I’d like to see him against Aleksa Camur next.
  • TJ Brown was looking to extend a win streak on Saturday, but instead he suffered a hard-fought decision loss to Shayilan Nuerdanbieke, ending his two-fight win streak. He’s now 2-3 during his UFC run but he should be SAFE in getting another fight. The crystal ball sees him against Seungwoo Choi next.
  • Raulian Paiva was once ranked in the bantamweight division, but lost his spot after a loss to Sean O’Malley, and he’s now lost two straight after dropping a decision to Sergey Morozov. He’s 3-4 under the UFC banner and I see him GETTING ANOTHER FIGHT and a bout with Nate Maness next would be good.
  • JP Buys was returning from a decent layoff in search of his first UFC win, but it wasn’t meant to be as he was finished in 68 seconds by Cody Durden. He’s now 0-3 during his UFC run, and, unfortunately, I see him being CUT from the roster after this loss.
  • Brian Kelleher is a popular fighter who is always willing to fight anyone at any time, but he suffered his second straight loss on Saturday after being submitted in the first round by Mario Bautista. That’s two straight losses but he’s GOING NOWHERE and a match-up against Vince Morales could be a good opportunity to get back into the win column.
  • Jinh Yu Frey should’ve had her hand raised on Saturday, but she was on the wrong end of a questionable decision against Vanessa Demopoulos. Instead of scoring her third straight win, she’s now looking to bounce back from a loss in her next fight. Her future is SAFE and I’d like to see her fight Montserrat Ruiz next.

Fight Announcements

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

  • Jim Miller vs. Donald Cerrone — UFC 276 — July 2
  • Jamie Pickett vs. Denis Tiuliulin — UFC Fight Night — July 9
  • Jared Vanderaa vs. Chase Sherman — UFC Fight Night — July 9
  • Alex Morono vs. Matthew Semelsberger — UFC 277 — July 30
  • Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo — UFC 278 — August 20
  • Marcin Tybura vs. Alexandr Romanov — UFC 278 — August 20
  • Leonardo Santos vs. Jared Gordon — UFC 278 — August 20
  • Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova — UFC 278 — August 20
  • Aoriqileng vs. Jay Perrin — UFC 278 — August 20
  • AJ Fletcher vs. Ange Loosa — UFC 278 — August 20
  • John Makdessi vs. Nasrat Haqparast — UFC Fight Night — September 3
  • Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson — UFC 279 — September 10
  • Loma Lookboonmee vs. Diana Belbita — UFC Fight Night — September 17
  • Gillian Robertson vs. Melissa Gatto — UFC Fight Night — September 17
  • Gregory Rodrigues vs. Chidi Njokuani — UFC Fight Night — September 17

The Cut List

Unfortunately, these fighters this week received some bad news and will be looking for a new promotion to fight for:

  • Rogerio Bontorin, who was pulled from a fight against Manel Kape at UFC 275 on 6/11 after being taken to the hospital due to a bad weight cut, was released from the roster. He was winless in his last four UFC fights, and had a 2-3 with 1 NC UFC record overall. He’d also been under a USADA suspension and had weight cut issues before during his UFC stint, and this could just be a situation where they let him go to figure out his weight, let him get a win or two on the regional scene and then bring him back.
  • Gloria de Paula, who suffered a split decision loss to Maria Oliveira at UFC on ESPN 37 just last weekend on 6/18. It put her at a 1-3 mark during her UFC tenure. If you read my column last week, I expected this to happen, as it was the last fight on her contract, which wasn’t renewed. She’s young and with more experience and some more wins, I could see her being brought back.
  • Hannah Cifers, who last fought in August 2020, was released from her contract. She was scheduled to fight Melissa Martinez in September, but pulled out due to unknown reasons, and with not having fought in nearly two years and having four straight losses, the decision was made to let her go and fill her roster spot. She exits with a 2-5 UFC record.
  • Zarrukh Adashev, who suffered a first-round knockout loss to Ode Osbourne at UFC on ESPN+ 65 on 6/4, did not see his contract renewed following the fight and a 1-3 UFC stint.
  • Timur Valiev, who last fought in March, dropping a decision to Jack Shore at UFC on ESPN+ 62. This is an interesting one as Valiev has a 2-1 with 1 NC UFC record, and he was a big signing and had the potential to be a title challenger. This feels like a situation where his contract was up and the two sides didn’t come to terms on a new deal, because this is a surprising release.

Coming Up This Week

It’s UFC International Fight Week this week with lots of events scheduled to take place in Las Vegas. Here are some of the notable events taking place this week:

  • UFC 276 takes place on Saturday, July 2, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. The main card airs on ESPN+ pay-per-view at 10 p.m. ET, while the four featured prelims are simulcast on ABC & ESPN at 8 p.m. ET, and the opening prelims air on ESPN at 6 p.m. ET. UFC Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya defends against Jared Cannonier in the main event, while UFC Featherweight Champion Alexander Volkanovski defends against Max Holloway in a trilogy bout in the co-main event.
  • The 2022 UFC Hall Of Fame Induction Ceremony takes place on Thursday, June 30, from the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada. It will air at 10 p.m. ET on UFC Fight Pass. Khabib Nurmagomedov, Daniel Cormier and the fight between Cub Swanson and Doo Ho Choi are set to be inducted.
  • PFL 6 takes place on Friday, July 1, from the Overtime Elite Arena in Atlanta, Georgia. The main card airs on ESPN & ESPN+ at 8 p.m. ET, while prelims air on ESPN+ at 5 p.m. ET. Kayla Harrison takes on Kaitlin Young in the main event.

In The Clinch

This week on In The Clinch, myself and Paul Fontaine will look back at UFC on ESPN 38, Bellator 282, PFL 5 and The Ultimate Fighter. We will also look ahead to UFC 276 and look at all of the news of the week. In The Clinch is part of The Fight Game Media Network with all podcasts available FREE on Apple Podcasts and Spotify. You can also support all of the shows thru our Patreon page.

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