Masvidal on UFC return timetable: “Hopefully December or November”

Arguably the biggest star in the UFC right now has laid out the timeline for him to return to the octagon. Last night, the BMF Jorge Masvidal (35-14) took on cornhole pro, Cody Henderson, on ESPN.

Following the cornhole grudge match, Masvidal was asked about his UFC return by ESPN. Masvidal replied, “Hopefully, December or November… My opponent has a broken nose.. due to me…he’s going to be out for a couple days… I think next week we’re going to find out just how long he’s out for and then we’ll start determining who will be the next fight and where”

Who will the UFC have face the BMF?

Masvidal is clearly talking about welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman, in that interview. Masvidal lost a decision to Usman back at UFC 251. Gamebred took the fight on one week’s notice.

Masvidal looked fantastic in the first round, but it became apparent that he didn’t have the gas tank to deal with Usman’s style. Usman was able to implement his game plan and win the fight.

The fight did massively well selling 1.3 million PPV buys. The UFC could no longer deny the fact that Masvidal had become a huge star. However, Dana White has said multiple times that Gilbert Burns will be next for the champion.

With that, who will Masvidal fight? Colby Covington and Tyron Woodley are scheduled to fight at some point in the next couple of months which takes them off the table.

The only opponent that would make sense from a rankings perspective is either Leon Edwards or Stephen Thompson. Masvidal has said that he’d love to get the Wonderboy fight back after losing a decision in their first fight.

Of course, Edwards and Masvidal do have history. They got into a backstage scuffle after the UFC‘s BMF knocked out Darren Till in London. I would think the UFC would lean towards Edwards for Masvidal’s next fight.

Either way, it looks like we have a general timeline for the return of Gamebred. What do you think? Who do you think Masvidal should fight upon his return to the octagon?

UFC struggling to book Covington – Woodley

UFC, Colby Covington

One of the bigger potential grudge matches in the UFC would be Colby Covington (15-2) and Tyron Woodley (19-5-1). Per ESPN‘s Ariel Hewlani, the UFC was trying to book the fight for August which was confirmed by a Covington Instagram post.

Will the UFC make it happen?

As you can see from the post above, Covington and Woodley were offered to headline a UFC fight night on August 22nd.

Covington stated that Woodley was the one who would not agree to that date which was later confirmed by Woodley himself. T-Wood clarified his stance with Ariel Helwani.

“”My answer to whether I would fight Colby is eternally yes. . . At 96 years old in a nursing home it’s yes! He said no six times and now creates a date that works for him? F— out of here,” Woodley said in a text to Helwani.

Both men have a lot of heat between the two of them and both men are former UFC champions. Woodley is coming off back to back losses while Covington is coming off of the loss to Kamaru Usman.

I’m a little surprised that the UFC is going with Covington/Woodley as opposed to having Jorge Masvidal fight Covington. That fight to me makes more sense than this one.

Woodley has looked like a shell of himself in his last two fights, and I don’t see him fairing well against Covington. I think Covington’s pace and pressure would be way too much for Woodley to handle at this stage.

Looks like the UFC will try again to book this fight in September or October. It will definitely be a main event whenever it does/if it does get booked.

UFC: Jorge Masvidal wants rematch with Usman more than anything

Arguably the UFC‘s biggest star has only one fight in mind whenever he makes his return to the octagon. Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal appeared on Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show to give his thoughts.

Would the UFC run it back?

There is no question that Masvidal is the sport’s biggest star right now. Because of him, UFC 251 generated a whopping 1.3 million PPV buys.

Masvidal did come up short against UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman (17-1), after taking the fight on six days notice. Masvidal looked really good early, but Usman’s pressure and wrestling gave him the victory.

Masvidal told Helwani that he believes he has the recipe to beat Usman. Many, including myself, thought the UFC would try to book Masvidal with Conor McGregor if Gamebred won the fight on Saturday.

A fight between those two would probably be the biggest fight of all time from a PPV perspective. Masvidal’s stock didn’t go down at all from the loss, in fact, it might have gone up.

As you can see in the video above, Masvidal was asked about a shot at McGregor. Gamebred has no interest in anyone but Kamaru Usman at this point.

You can hardly blame the man for wanting another shot at the title. Now, I think the UFC is going to stick to their guns by giving Gilbert Burns the next shot at the title. I personally think the UFC should book Masvidal with Colby Covington (15-2).

The fight makes perfect sense for both men. Both have a ton of heat between the two of them, and both are coming off of losses against the champion. A win for either puts them first in line for another shot.

The UFC could also look at booking Masvidal with Leon Edwards (18-3). That fight could sell well as they have history that involves a three piece and a soda. You can catch Masvidal’s full interview with Helwani below.

UFC: Gilbert Burns & Leon Edwards argue over who’s more deserving of the next title shot

This past weekend at UFC 251, Kamaru Usman (17-1) successfully defended his welterweight title. After the event, UFC president Dana White said that Gilbert Burns (19-3) would be next for the title.

However, Leon Edwards (18-3) took exception to this. Edwards, who is on an eight fight winning streak responded to Burns on Twitter of the weekend stating why he deserves to be next. What resulted was a fiery back and forth between the two.

Who deserves the next UFC title shot?

If you’re looking at the two men on paper, Burns definitely deserves the title shot. Yes, Burns stepped in for Edwards to fight Woodley. Yes, the UFC offered Edwards the shot before Burns, but that doesn’t matter at the end of the day.

Burns has the better resume, and Burns presents an interesting angle. Being a former teammate and the most difficult stylistic matchup for Usman is very appealing.

I can understand where Edwards is coming from. The UFC offered him several big opportunities that he had to turn down due to the inability to train with the pandemic going on.

Edwards could be in a bit of a tough spot. The UFC has made it clear that they are going with Burns with the next title shot. I don’t think Edwards is going to get either Colby Covington (15-2) or Jorge Masvidal (35-14) in his next fight.

I think the UFC will likely pair those two up for a fight. Tyron Woodley (19-5-1) has lost a couple of lopsided fights in a row which doesn’t make him appealing. Maybe Stephen Thompson (15-4-1) would be the best fight for Edwards?

You have to feel for the spot that Edward’s is in. You can’t blame him for wanting the shot since he was actually offered the fight before Burns. Who do you think deserves to be next for the UFC‘s welterweight title?

UFC: Fights to make after UFC 251

Following any major UFC event, the fans want to know what comes next? UFC held their first event on Fight Island last night, and everyone wants to know what fights are going to be made following UFC 251. Here are five fights that the UFC should make.

Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns

This is a fight that we basically got confirmed from UFC president Dana White last night. In the post-fight press conference, White made it clear that Gilbert Burns (19-3) would be the next challenger for Kamaru Usman (17-1).

Burns was originally scheduled to be in the main event last night, but a positive COVID-19 test took him out. Once he recovers, he is the first guy in line for Usman. He’s also the one fighter who is the worst matchup for Usman in the division.

Usman did not win any new fans at UFC 251, but the champion did what he had to do in defeating Jorge Masvidal (35-14). Usman leaned on his wrestling and controlled the BMF title holder for five rounds.

Burns and Usman matchup extremely well. Usman’s wrestling can be neutralized by Burns’ elite skills on the ground. Burns has elite striking and speed which can give Usman issues.

Usman and Burns were once teammates which adds in another wrinkle to the fight. Expect this matchup to be booked in October/November.

Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington

Gamebred stepped up on six days notice, but he fell short in his quest to become the UFC’s welterweight champion. He made it clear that he wants to stay active and work his way back to the title. The quickest route to that is against his former training partner.

Colby Covington (15-2) would make the perfect opponent. Both men used to live together, but now they can’t stand each other. Both are coming off a loss to Usman which is a perfect setup for the fight.

This fight would have a ton of heat, and the winner would be guaranteed another shot at the UFC‘s welterweight title. With the drawing power of both men, this could headline a card on it’s own. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one occur around the same time that we see Usman-Burns.

Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas

It was known that the winner of the Rose Namajunas (9-4) and Jessica Andrade (20-8) fight would likely get the next shot at UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (21-1). Both women went to war last night, but Namajunas walked away with a decision.

To me, Namajunas has always been the second best strawweight in the world. I thought she was always better than Andrade, but got caught in that slam. I also firmly believe that Zhang is the absolute best in the world.

Thug Rose is going to get the title shot after last night’s victory, but I’m not sure how I feel about the matchup for her. This fight could be a springboard for Zhang.

If Zhang is able to defeat Namajunas, she could aim for a champion versus champion fight with Valentina Shevchenko next.

Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling

The UFC crowned a new bantamweight king last night, and his name is Petr Yan (15-1). It didn’t come easy, but Yan was able to stop Jose Aldo (28-7) in the fifth round to claim the UFC‘s bantamweight champion.

Last month, Aljamain Sterling (19-3) made an emphatic statement that he’s the top contender at 135 pounds. In a fight with Cory Sandhagen (12-2) which was considered a title eliminator, Sterling finished Sandhagen in under 90 seconds.

Many people believe that Sterling was more deserving of a title shot than Yan was. Well, now the UFC can move to make this fight. There might not be a more exciting division in the UFC than bantamweight right now. Yan/Sterling is going to be incredibly fun to watch.

Alexander Volkanovski vs Winner of Zabit Magomedsharipov-Yair Rodriguez

The UFC‘s featherweight king didn’t get the clean victory he wanted last night. Many people, including Dana White, believe that he lost the fight. However, the judges are all that matter and they gave the fight to Alexander Volkanovski (22-1).

I can’t see the UFC moving to book Volkanovski-Holloway 3 with Alexander being up 2-0 in the series. The Australian champ wants to fight by the end of the year, so what makes the most sense?

Reportedly, Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2-1) are supposed to fight in August. Magomedsharipov is currently ranked right behind Holloway while Rodriguez is ranked fifth.

Both of these men are extremely popular and talented fighters. I think the UFC would be smart to make this fight the title eliminator. Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung who are also supposed to fight this year, have already had shots at the title.

Magomedsharipov is considered the next great Russian champion that’s in the UFC. If Zabit can defeat Rodriguez in August, it would be a massive global fight to pair him with the champion, Volkanovski.

UFC has great fights ahead

The UFC is going to put on some stacked cards the rest of this year. All of the fights listed above should take place before we hit 2021. Combine those with the fights that are already scheduled, and you should be expecting some stacked cards in the second half of 2020.

Colby Covington on the UFC 251 headliners: “Dirty, cheating fighters”

UFC, Colby Covington

UFC‘s first event on Fight Island features the highly anticipated welterweight title fight between Kamaru Usman (16-1) and Jorge Masvidal (35-13). Top contender and former interim champion, Colby Covington (15-2), has come out with his thoughts on the two men that will be squaring off for the UFC welterweight title.

“Load the house on Usman. That’s the easiest bet of all time…There’s nothing that excites me about this fight, these aren’t two good fighters. You have one dirty cheating fighter then you have another dirty cheating fighter,” Covington told MMA Fighting.

“Chaos” believes he’s the best in the UFC

When it comes to Saturday night, there is no questioning that Covington believes Usman is the better fighter. He doesn’t seem to think Masvidal has a chance to dethrone the welterweight king. Covington said in the interview that he has unfinished business to attend to with the welterweight king.

Covington believes that he was not given a fair shake in his first fight with Usman that came back at UFC 245. “Chaos” has gone on record saying that the stoppage was early, and alluded to multiple Usman fouls in his interview with MMA Fighting. Covington had thrown his name out there to replace Burns at UFC 251 before the UFC gave the shot to Masvidal.

Covington is currently sitting with no opponents lined up. It’s very clear that he wants to get back to the welterweight title. Him and Usman put on one of the best fights of 2019. The two men are razor close in their skills, but Usman was the better man at UFC 245. After UFC 251, expect “Donald Trump’s Favorite Fighter” to voice his opinion on getting the next shot at the title. You can see Covington’s full interview below.Colby Covington on the UFC 251 headliners: “Dirty, cheating fighters”

UFC: Colby Covington tells Dana White he’ll “Take care of Street Judas Masvidal”

UFC, Colby Covington

Former UFC interim welterweight champion, Colby Covington (15-2), isn’t shy about calling out anyone in the UFC. Covington has made a name for himself over the last few years as someone who talks a lot of trash, but he goes in and backs it up. Covington was recently interviewed by and he was very open about calling out another top welterweight.

“I know Dana’s having a dispute with ‘Street Judas’ Masvidal right now… Hey Dana, you know who to call. Call me, bro. I’ll finish ‘Street Judas’ off. I’ll send that dude to the morgue, he won’t ever fight again. He’s got the BMF title but that’s not even a real title, it’s a participation trophy. He’s really got the SMF title right now. The saddest motherfcker, or the scaredest motherfcker. It wasn’t a money issue, it was a scared issue.”

The trouble between Masvidal and the UFC

It’s been no secret that the UFC has been having trouble with the BMF, Jorge Masvidal (35-13). Masvidal was originally slated to fight Kamaru Usman for the UFC welterweight title next week, but he’s been in a public dispute with the company regarding revenue sharing. Gilbert Burns was able to get the title shot due to the failed negotiations.

Now, Masvidal is sitting on the sidelines with no opponent. Recently, I wrote about a few possible fights for Masvidal as he sits on the sidelines. The fight that makes the most sense for the division is Covington. The two men were once as close as brothers, but they have turned bitter rivals. Both taking every chance they get to throw shade at the other.

The Perfect Matchup

After Covington lost his title fight to Usman in December, he has yet to find an opponent. Masvidal is looking to fight someone who will generate a nice payday for him. This sets up perfectly for the two of them. Masvidal/Covington would be a big fight that the UFC could make for later in the summer. If the fight were to take place, it would setup the winner to fight the winner of the July title fight between Usman and Burns.

The more personal a fight is, the more it sells. Masvidal has developed into a star over the last year, and you know that Covington knows how to sell a fight. Not sure if the fight will actually come together, but it would solve a lot of problems that are currently going on in that division. I believe the UFC is going to figure everything out, but this would be a great place to start.

UFC: Former welterweight champ, Tyron Woodley, hungry to fight two more times in 2020

UFC, Tyrone Woodley

Just two years ago, Tyron Woodley (19-5-1) was looked as one of the best fighters in the UFC. Woodley had knocked out Robbie Lawler to win the welterweight title, then he successfully defended the title three times. With his skillset, it was hard to imagine him losing the welterweight title. Fast-forward and Woodley finds himself on a two-fight losing streak. At 38-years-old, Woodley still remains hungry and took to Instagram Live to say as much recently.

“I want to fight two more times this year,” (via MMA Junkie). “So we are right now in June. I feel like if I can get one on the books sometime in the near future then it still leaves me with November or December to fight again.”

What does the UFC do?

Woodley would also go on to say that he’s not in a position to call anyone out. Woodley is coming off back-to-back shutout losses. Kamaru Usman dominated him for five rounds taking away his UFC welterweight title, then Gilbert Burns dismantled him back in May. In both fights, Woodley just looked very hesitant to pull the trigger. He did not look like the same Tyron Woodley that we have seen in the past.

Robbie Lawler

So the question becomes, what does the UFC do with Woodley? To me, I think there’s a few matchups that would make sense for Woodley at this stage of his career. I think if you paired Woodley up with Robbie Lawler (28-14, 1 NC) it would make sense. Both men are on multiple fight losing streaks. They were already supposed to rematch a year ago, but injuries forced Woodley out of the fight.

Stephen Thompson

Another fight that could make sense is a third fight with Stephen Thompson (15-4-1). Both of their first two UFC title fights were razor close. They are right next to each other in the rankings so it would make perfect sense from that standpoint. Probably not the sexiest matchup considering the way the first two fights went, but it’s definitely a possibility.

Colby Covington

Then of course you have the potential matchup with Colby Covington (15-2). While there is a lot of heat behind this matchup, I’m not sure the UFC would give Woodley this fight after back-to-back losses, but it’s the biggest potential fight there is. There is a ton of heat between the two men, and both are looking to get back to the UFC welterweight title. This has to be the fight that Woodley wants.

Time will tell what Dana White and the UFC decide to do with Tyron Woodley. He’s still considered to be one of the better welterweights in the world, but many are doubting his eliteness at this stage of his career. I would guess that we will probably see him back in August, perhaps on the card headlined by Cormier/Miocic 3.

UFC: What is next for Jorge Masvidal?

A couple of months ago, this was an easy question to answer. Jorge Masvidal (35-13) was going to be fighting for the UFC welterweight title in his next fight. “Gamebred” won fighter of the year in 2019 after knocking out top welterweights Darren Till and Ben Askren. Masvidal capped his year off with beating Nate Diaz for the BMF title back in November. All that was left was for Masvidal to fight Kamaru Usman for the title. However, due to failed negotiations we have seen the title shot go to Gilbert Burns. Now that the title shot is gone, what is next for the BMF? Let’s take a look at four realistic options for Jorge Masvidal’s next fight.

Colby Covington

This fight would have the most personal heat, and it’s the fight that probably makes the most sense from a rankings perspective. Former teammates and roommates turned bitter rivals. A fight between Masvidal and Colby Covington (15-2) makes all the sense in the world. Masvidal has been wanting to get paid more for his next fight. A fight with Covington would be a big money maker. Love him or hate him, Colby Covington has turned into must see TV. After reinventing himself a couple of years ago, he has blown up in popularity.

The two men were once closer than brothers if you just take a look at their Instagram accounts from a few years ago. They were both constantly talking about taking over the UFC‘s welterweight division together. Fast forward to now, and both men cannot stop insulting each other in public whenever the other is mentioned. Covington has left American Top Team due to all of the tension that was in the gym. Whether it was a shoot or reality, the heat has seemingly become real between the two. This fight would be a massive seller for the UFC. A fight between Covington and Masvidal would also give a clear number one contender to challenge the winner of the Usman/Burns fight in July.

Nate Diaz

When everything started to go south with the title negotiations, Masvidal turned his attention to Nate Diaz (20-12) with one tweet.

This tweet caught a lot of people off guard considering the fact that everyone was assuming that Usman/Masvidal was opening. Of course we all learned how the negotiations went, and now Masvidal is left without a dance partner. Well, the November BMF title fight left a lot to be desired. Not because of the fight itself, but because of how the fight ended. The fight was getting ready to head into the championship rounds when a ringside doctor called it off due to a cut.

Diaz had some really good moments in the third after Masvidal had dominated most of the fight. Masvidal made more money against Diaz than he was offered to fight Usman. Well, how about running back the BMF title fight as Masvidal suggested? Have to think that the UFC would pony up a little more money considering the star that Nate Diaz is. This would give Masvidal a fight, and it would give the fans a proper conclusion to the BMF title fight that they were robbed of in November.

Winner of Usman/Burns

Probably the easiest thing for Masvidal to do at this point is wait. Kamaru Usman (16-1) and Gilbert Burns (19-3) are fighting in a couple of weeks for the UFC welterweight title. Masvidal can sit on the sidelines while these two go at it. After the fight is over, Masvidal can go back to the UFC to negotiate fighting the winner. The UFC supposedly made a last minute effort to try to get Masvidal to fight Usman on July 11th, but the money just never worked for Gamebred. After all of this fuss, maybe a second round of negotiations after July 11th will go smoother. In an ideal world, Usman would beat Burns on July 11th, and the UFC would move right back to try to book Usman/Masvidal. Realistically, I think this will be the first option considering the fight is just weeks away.

Conor McGregor

Red panty night anyone? Masvidal wants to get paid, and Conor McGregor (22-4) just wants to fight. McGregor “retired” due to the frustrations he had with the UFC for not giving him a fight. Masvidal passed up a title fight due to his frustrations with pay. Do you see where I’m going with this? A fight with Masvidal and McGregor is a win-win for everyone. Masvidal would get the paycheck that he’s searching for. McGregor would get an opponent who would stand and trade with him, and the UFC would hit it out of the park with a massive PPV. I mean imagine a fight with McGregor and Masvidal with no fans. You could hear every word that the two would say to each other. The McGregor fight is one that Masvidal has wanted for a while, and it’s a fight that makes sense for both men. For Conor, he could lose the fight, but not lose ground in the lightweight division. It’s a fight that makes a lot of sense, but I’m not confident the UFC will move to book it.

What does the UFC do?

It’s crazy, but the two biggest fights in terms of PPV money are the two least likely from the UFC‘s perspective. I just don’t see the UFC pushing to make the McGregor or the Diaz fight for Masvidal. My guess is that they will wait to see how July 11th goes. If Usman gets through Gilbert Burns, I think they start up the talks again to have Masvidal fight Usman for the title in the fall. If that fight doesn’t materialize the UFC could pivot to try and booking Masvidal with Covington. However, a roadblock there could be the UFC trying to book the rematch between Usman and Covington. I respect Masvidal for sticking to his guns, but if he gets another chance at Usman, I really hope he doesn’t pass it up. I don’t think the UFC will give him the money fights he’s looking for, so if he doesn’t get the title shot, who knows what’ll happen to him. Gamebred soared to stardom last year, and it is crazy to think that there’s a possibility that the 2019 fighter of the year will not fight in 2020.

UFC Vegas Recap: Gilbert Burns dominates former champion, Tyron Woodley

UFC on ESPN 9 marked the UFC’s return to Las Vegas and the main event featured former Champion, Tyron Woodley (19-5-1), and rising contender Gilbert Burns (19-3). This is a fight that was interesting for a number of reasons. There were a lot of questions going into the fight about just how good Gilbert Burns was and how motivated Tyron Woodley was. Early on in the fight, we got our answer. Burns took the center of the octagon early, and Woodley immediately through a huge power shot and whiffed. Burns landed a massive right hand that rocked Woodley early. The fight went to the ground where Burns possesses a huge advantage. Burns was able to get full mount, but he wasn’t able to really get a ton of damage done from the mount position. Woodley was able to regain his composure while being on the bottom. Woodley was able to explode up from the mount position and get the fight back on the feet with about 90 seconds left in the first round. However, he wasn’t able to accomplish much on the feet. Gilbert Burns could not have gotten off to a better start in the main event.

In the second round, Woodley came out with a lot of urgency landing some really big shots early. The two welterweights exchanged a few times in the second before Burns was able to land a big takedown with about two and a half minutes left in the round. Woodley was able to work his way back up to his feet using the fence. After Woodley worked his way up, both men stayed in the clinch the rest of the round with nothing significant happening as Burns coasted to his second straight round. The third round didn’t feature a ton of major moments as the two men stood and traded shots throughout the round. Burns continued to pressure the former champion, and Woodley seemed to be headhunting for a one-punch knockout. Woodley landed a couple of good shots, but this was another round where Burns seemed to be in control of the fight. The fourth round started really slow for both guys. The two engaged in a clinch for the first few minutes with not a lot of action. Referee Herb Dean separated two fighters, and after they separated, Burns completely took control. Burns popped Woodley several times with a few stiff jobs and momentarily dropped Woodley with a huge right hand. Burns took down Woodley towards the end of the round and almost ended things with a guillotine choke. Woodley looked completely lost heading back to his corner after losing his ninth consecutive round dating back to his loss to Kamaru Usman.

Coming out for the fifth, Woodley through with everything he had in the first couple of exchanges, but Burns was able to neutralize him against the cage. There wasn’t a ton of action the rest of the round. Woodley continued to look for a miracle shot, but that shot would never come. Gilbert Burns looked incredible, and the judges agreed giving him all five rounds and the unanimous decision victory. Burns made me a believer with that performance. His striking looked crisp, he was very fast, and his ground skills are elite. “Durinho” has now won six consecutive fights and called out the champion Kamaru Usman after the fight was over. It would be hard to argue against his case for a title shot after that performance. The UFC has been struggling to book Usman and Jorge Masvidal for July, and Burns just gave them another option for that card. Burns comes out of this fight without a scratch and he said he could fight in July. It will be interesting to see what the UFC does, but Gilbert Burns is for real and he made a believer out of me.

Fall From Grace

Just two fights ago, Tyron Woodley looked unstoppable. He had incredible power and a great wrestling base to dictate where any fight would take place. Since his submission of Darren Till, Woodley has not just lost two consecutive fights, but he’s been shut out in both fights. Woodley has lost ten consecutive rounds looking like a shell of the guy who was the champion. I’m really not sure where Tyron Woodley will go from here. Going into this fight, I thought if he showed up motivated, he could stop Burns. Instead, Woodley looked lost and out of it again. Maybe it was mental or maybe it was the first big shot that Burns landed. At 38 years old, you have to wonder how much is left in the tank for Woodley.

Prelim Recap

UFC on ESPN 9 took place in the same location where Dana White’s Contender Series takes place, the UFC Apex, and the fighters on the prelims fought like they were on the Contender Series. Everyone was going for the finish which led to incredible fights throughout the undercard. One standout performers was undefeated prospect Jamahal Hill (8-0) who stopped Klidson Abreu (15-5) with a huge knee to the body early in the first round. Hill is now 2-0 in the UFC since getting signed after his TKO win in the contender series. Chris Gutierrez (15-3-1) also looked incredible stopping Vince Morales (9-5) with a flurry of leg kicks in the second round. Gutierrez’s striking looked crisp and he put a beating on the lead leg of Morales which looked horrifying after the fight. Casey Kenney (14-2-1) was also able to pull off a slick guillotine choke on Louis Smolka (16-7) in the first round. The best fight we saw in the prelims was between Tim Elliot (15-11-1) and Brandon Royval (11-4). The pace was incredible in this fight and it was back and forth throughout. Elliot looked really good in the first round but found himself on the losing end of an arm-triangle choke in the second round.

Chookagian Bounces Back in Dominant Fashion

Katlyn Chookagian (14-3) and Antonina Shevchenko (8-2) was the fight I was the most intrigued by on the prelims. I thought it was going to be interesting to see how Chookagian would bounce back from her last loss and how Shevchenko would handle the step up in competition. The first round was shocking to watch as Chookagian immediately took Shevchenko down and took her back. The majority of the first round, Chookagian looked like she was seconds away from finishing the fight. She had Shevchenko in a fully locked in rear-naked choke a couple of times and she mounted Shevchenko and landed some heavy shots. The second round was very similar to the first round in that Chookagian immediately clinched and took down Shevchenko. Once they were on the ground, Chookagian immediately got to the mount position. Chookagian spent the rest of the round landing some pretty good ground and pound on Shevchenko, but never seemed close to finishing the fight. The third round made me raise my eyebrows a little to start. Chookagian decided to not go for the takedown for the first three minutes of the round after dominating the entire fight on the ground. As a result, Shevchenko was starting to build a little momentum landing some pretty decent shots. Chookagian was landing shots as well, but the former Muay Thai champ was getting the better of the exchanges. With about two minutes left in the final round, Chookagian finally shot in for the takedown. While she didn’t get one on her first attempt, she was able to get Shevchenko down before the round ended. In the final 15 seconds, Chookagian started dropping bombs and almost finished the fight. This was a huge fight for Chookagian coming off the loss to the champ, and she bounced back in a very impressive way winning on all three scorecards 30-25. Now that she’s back on the winning track, I think you’ll see Chookagian get a top 5 fighter in her next outing.

Main Card Recap

Kicking off the main card was a really good fight between Mackenzie Dern (8-1) and Hannah Cifers (10-5). Dern came into the fight as the biggest favorite on the card, and she showed why with a first-round knee-bar. Cifers came out and looked strong in the opening minute, but shortly after Dern was able to take control of the fight. Dern’s hands look much improved and she was able to land some pretty clean shots. The two got in a scramble, and Cifers seemed okay with trying to ground and pound the Jiu-Jitsu world champion which was not a good idea. Dern quickly locked up one of Cifer’s legs and finished the fight. This was such a big win for Dern after suffering her first career loss back in October. Dern struggled with her weight in her last fight, but her cut was no problem this time around. She made 115 pounds with ease and looked fresh in this fight. I would like to see a pretty quick turnaround for Dern with a step up in competition with a top 15 opponent.

Next up we had a lightweight fight between highly touted prospect, Roosevelt Roberts (10-1), and the entertaining Brok Weaver (15-5). There was a lot of heat before this fight with Weaver and Roberts let Weaver know he wasn’t happy about Weaver missing weight. The first round was pretty back and forth with both guys landing some clean shots. Roberts was talking to Weaver throughout the first round and landed the cleaner shots on the feet. Roberts was really showing off his speed in this fight. In the second round, Roberts was able to get the fight to the ground and that is where is ground skills took over. Roberts landed some heavy shots on the ground and was able to transition to a rear-naked choke. A very impressive performance for Roberts who is now 4-1 in the UFC. Roberts called out Matt Frevola (8-1) for his next fight. These two were supposed to fight back in April, and if Frevola can win on June 20th, this seems like the fight to make.

The third fight of the main card was a catchweight fight between Spike Carlyle (9-2) and Billy Quarantillo (14-2). Carlyle ran across the octagon as soon as the fight started and got the fight to the ground after a flying kick and some vicious elbows. Carlyle was able to get to the mount position and land some heavy shots. After going for an armbar, Carlyle lost top position and Quarantillo started to take control. Quarantillo was able to get Carlyle’s back and almost secured a choke. Carlyle was able to reverse the position and get back to the top. After that, Carlyle was able to control the rest of the round from the top position. There was a weird moment at the end of the round where Carlyle stood up as if the round was over and Quarantillo landed a clean shot that dropped Carlyle. In the second round, Carlyle landed a huge elbow early that rocked Quarantillo. After a scramble, Carlyle was able to get top position and control Quarantillo for a good portion of the round. Later in the round, after the fight was back on the feet, both men were able to secure takedowns. Quarantillo almost finished the fight with a triangle choke late in the round, but Carlyle was able to power through the choke. Carlyle was completely gassed going into the third round and Quarantillo was able to get the better of the grappling exchanges in the third round. Quarantillo through up several submissions early in the round, but Carlyle was able to slip out of everything and regain top position a couple of times. Quarantillo dominated all aspects of the third round even landing some very heavy shots on the feet. The two men fought to the scorecards in an incredibly close fight. I had Carlyle winning two rounds, but the judges saw this one differently giving Quarantillo the fight 29-28 on all three scorecards.

The co-main event of the evening featured a heavyweight battle between Blagoy Ivanov (18-3) and Augusto Sakai (14-1). The two heavyweights came out pretty slow in this one showing respect for each other. There were not a ton of exchanges early, but Ivanov rushed Sakai a few times throughout the round and was able to land a couple of clean shots. Sakai through some kicks throughout the first round, but seemed to be a little out of range early. Towards the end of the first round, Sakai was able to land some pretty decent leg kicks, one of which buckled the leg of Ivanov. In the second round, Ivanov came out pretty aggressive and landed some good left shots early. Sakai continued to land good leg kicks and seemingly found his range in the second round landing a few shots up top. As the round went on, Ivanov seemed to stay more on the outside feeling the effects of some of Sakai’s kicks. Sakai controlled most of the round with his striking, but Ivanov was able to secure a takedown near the end of the round. The takedown made the round closer, but this was seemingly a 1-1 fight going into the third round. Augusto Sakai was the much fresher fighter entering the third round and it showed. Sakai was able to stay on the outside and pick his shots against the labored Ivanov early. Ivanov did land a few good shots, but Sakai continued landing good shots even throwing a flying knee at one point. There was a little controversy in the third round where Ivanov was close to landing a takedown, but Sakai grabbed the fence to stop the takedown. There was no point deduction despite the obvious foul from Sakai. Ivanov seemed to get a second wind after the takedown attempt and really pushed the pace late landing some really good shots. Going to the scorecards, I thought Sakai one the fight 29-28 which two of the judges agreed with. Sakai won the fight via split decision, but one judge saw the fight 30-27 for Ivanov which was frightening to see.

Final Takeaway

The UFC’s return to Vegas was a successful one and they might have a new star on their hands. Gilbert Burns didn’t just open the door tonight, he kicked it in. I will be very interested to see what the UFC does with him next whether he gets a title shot or maybe a shot at Colby Covington. The card delivered in all aspects tonight and we get to turn around for another fight next week when we see UFC 250 headlined by the Lioness, Amanda Nunes. UFC 250 is completely stacked and I personally can’t wait to sit back down next week for another great night of fights.