Sizing up PFL’s 2021 heavyweight season

PFL is currently gearing up for their return for the 2021 season. After COVID cancelled the 2020 season, the promotion is ready to hit the ground running this year. While no fights took place in 2020, PFL sure stayed in the news with a number of big signings.

One of the biggest signings for PFL in 2020 was Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1). The former UFC heavyweight champion completed his contract with the UFC back in July on Fight Island. That night, Werdum welcomed Alexander Gustafsson to the heavyweight division.

In reality, it smelled like a showcase for Gustafsson. Werdum looked awful against Alexey Oleynik in May where he lost a split decision and this was a quick turnaround. Many (including myself) wrote off the 43 year old former champion.

However, Werdum showed everyone up that night. After a quick takedown, Werdum was able to lockup an armbar for the win halfway through the round. From there, he immediately raised his value on the free agent market.

PFL and Bellator were both very interested in bringing in Werdum. Werdum had the Fedor rematch waiting in Bellator, but PFL wanted him to bring more attention to their heavyweight division. In the end, Werdum signed with the Pro Fight League and he will be highlighted this season.

Other PFL heavyweights to watch

There are three other PFL heavyweights I’m really watching for during the upcoming season. The most obvious one to me would be Ali Isaev (9-0). The heavyweight from Dagestan was the 2019 PFL heavyweight champion.

With four dominating performances, Isaev put the world on notice that he’s a threat at heavyweight. The next guy I have my eyes on is Justin Willis (8-2). “Big Pretty” hasn’t fought since March of 2019. That was the final fight he had with the UFC.

Willis took on Curtis Blaydes and came up short by decision. However, up until that point, Willis was 4-0 in the UFC and that included a win over former title challenger, Mark Hunt. Willis is definitely a sleeper in PFL’s upcoming season.

The last guy I have my eyes on is Mohammed Usman (7-1). The younger and much bigger brother of the current UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman. Mohammed Usman is riding a four-fight win streak as he makes his debut in the big leagues under the PFL banner.

I cannot wait for this upcoming season of PFL. The promotion took the time off last year to really raise the bar in terms of talent on their roster. I love that another big promotion is making waves in US MMA. You can view the full heavyweight roster below.

PFL’s biggest stars ready for new season

Professional Fighters League’s reigning champions along with its new big-name signees are all set for its 2021 season.

World champions Kayla Harrison, Lance Palmer, Natan Schulte, and Ray Cooper III will be back to defend their titles in the most innovative and fastest-growing Mixed Martial Arts league on the planet.

The PFL has also added former world champions Rory MacDonald, Fabricio Werdum, Anthony Pettis and boxing icon Claressa Shields and many more world-class fighters in what promises to be its biggest offering yet.

The new PFL season will be aired live on the ESPN family of networks beginning in April.

Innovative format

Since its debut three years ago, the PFL has taken the MMA world by storm. Along with the finest collection of athletes globally, the league has continued to grow its fight-night and in-cage technology through SmartCage and IBM.

PFL fighters will compete in regular-season fights to accumulate points that will determine who will advance to the playoffs. The survivors from six different weight classes will battle it out in an exciting knockout style format in the playoffs. Each champion will be rewarded with a million-dollar paycheck.

Return of the champions

Harrison, a former Olympic gold medalist, Palmer, Schulte, and Cooper III are among the select few who have already run the gauntlet of the PFL and cashed in.

MacDonald is arguably one of the top pound-for-pound fighters of his generation. He took note of the PFL’s innovations and signed with the promotion in 2019. The welterweight fighter will make his debut this year.

In 2020, the PFL roster grew with the additions of such fighters as Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira and Sung Bin Jo. It served as a precursor to the earth-shattering signings of Werdum, Pettis, and Shields.

New stars

Werdum has risen to the top of the heavyweight division on more than one occasion, beating the likes of Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez along the way.

On the other hand, Pettis is also a former lightweight champion who has also competed at welterweight. His resume includes victories over Benson Henderson, Charles Oliveira, and Donald Cerrone.

Meanwhile, Shields is aiming to become the PFL’s crossover star. She will continue her quest inside the boxing ring while also beginning her career as a mixed martial artist this year. The three-division boxing world champion has been training at the world-famous Jackson-Wink MMA gym in New Mexico in preparation for her much anticipated PFL debut.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Inside PFL’s rise as no.2 global market leader in MMA

While the UFC continues to reign over the landscape of mixed martial arts worldwide, the Professional Fighters League (PFL) has exploded into the scene and now finds itself right behind the industry leader after just three years.

In an interview with CombatPress.com, PFL founder Donn Davis said that the league had established itself as the number-two MMA company globally on multiple factors, including fighter roster, worldwide audience, distribution, and growth.

“So I think what you’re seeing now, by all metrics, is the PFL is the number-two MMA company worldwide. In terms of fighter roster, PFL is number two. For a worldwide audience, PFL is number two. In terms of worldwide distribution, PFL is number two, and in terms of growth, PFL is number two,” Davis said.

Top MMA Promotions - PFL

Season format

But what pushed the PFL out into the front of the pack, alongside the UFC?

Founded in 2017, the league has already been able to put on two massively-successful seasons. Now, they are gearing up for the third season, which kicks off in April.

Notice how the PFL’s year is called a season?

That’s because the league follows a tournament-style format, which is unique in the world of MMA.

The league uses a regular season, playoffs, and finals format, which means the fighters will need to win to advance. At the end of the season, a world champion will be crowned for each weight division, and the winners are awarded one million dollars.

Stacked roster

Making that tournament format all the more exciting for the fans to watch is the stacked roster of fighters that the PFL boasts.

Each of the league’s six weight divisions features veterans and up-and-coming talent from across the globe. The PFL is home to many of the MMA world’s top stars, including PFL Women’s Lightweight Champion Kayla Harrison, two-time PFL Featherweight Champion Lance Palmer, two-time PFL Lightweight Champion Natan Schulte, and many others.

In 2021, the league will have an influx of world championship talent led by Fabricio Werdum, Anthony Pettis, Rory MacDonald, and three-division boxing world champion Claressa Shields, who will be making her mixed martial arts debut.

Top-notch management

While the PFL indeed features an all-star roster of fighters, they also have the number one executive team in sports.

Founder Donn Davis, who was also behind Revolution LLC, has brought together some of the top minds in media, sports, and digital to lead the league to the top.

Leading the charge is PFL CEO Peter Murray, who helped sign some of the biggest names in sports during his time with Under Armour. Executive Producer George Greenberg has over 40 years of experience and is coming off as an Executive Vice President for Fox Sports. President Ray Sefo was the founder of the World Series of Fighting and is a combat sports legend.

Those big names are just the tip of the iceberg when it comes to the PFL’s executive management roster.

Overwhelming support

The PFL is also backed by a world-class team of investors, including Swan & Legend Venture Partners and Matterhorn Private Equity, and Ted Leonsis, David Blitzer, Mark Lerner, Kevin Hart, Mark Burnett, and Tony Robbins. The league has also managed to secure sponsorships with AB InBev, Socios.com, The Marines, and many others.

The PFL can be seen in the United States via ESPN and in an additional 160 more countries worldwide via various platforms and sports networks.

With all these considered, it’s no surprise that the PFL is already at the top of the MMA mountain, alongside the UFC. With another big year in store in 2021, there’s no telling the heights that the fastest growing sports league in the world can reach.

Follow this writer on Twitter: @alderalmo

Fabricio Werdum signs with PFL

Former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum (24-9, 1 NC), has signed a deal with PFL. ESPN was the first to report the news that Werdum has made up his mind and will be heading to the Professional Fighters League.

It’s been a very interesting year for Werdum leading up to the PFL signing. Back in May, he made his return to the UFC after being suspended by USADA. Werdum had a lackluster performance in a loss to Alexey Oleynik.

After that, Werdum was booked against Alexander Gustafsson on Fight Island. Werdum looked much better in that fight and was able to use his superior ground skills to submit the former title challenger in the first round.

After the fight was over, it was announced that Werdum was a free agent. While PFL was on the radar, many expected Werdum to land with Bellator. Werdum had a previous relationship with Scott Coker and there were exciting fights in Bellator.

The two sides began negotiating a deal. PFL remained interested, however, up until last week, Bellator was the heavy favorite. Then it was reported that the talks between the two sides fell apart. 

After the failed negotiations with Bellator, Werdum announced that his management was in talks with PFL. It didn’t take long after that. Today we have learned that Werdum will be taking his talents to the Professional Fighters League.

PFL’s New Heavyweight

It’s been a tough year for PFL much like it’s been for the rest of the world. With everything going on, the promotion was not able to host any additional events in 2020 which brought great frustration to their stable of fighters.

Last week, it was announced that their star female fighter, Kayla Harrison, would be taking a fight in Invicta. However, the promotion is gearing up for a strong return in 2021 and Werdum will be a part of that return.

The heavyweight division is not steep inside of PFL, but signing Werdum was a good first step. Highlights in their heavyweight division include Ali Isaev, Justin Willis, and Mohammed Usman.

Bellator: Fedor Emelianenko will return in 2021

Fedor Emelianenko

We haven’t seen or heard much about Bellator‘s Last Emperor in 2020. Fedor Emelianenko has yet to step foot into the cage this year after competing back in December of 2019 at Bellator 237.

The 44 year old has been in a state of limbo much like the rest of the world. Bellator President, Scott Coker, had been asked in recent months about the return of Fedor. He never gave a clear answer on what would be next for Emelianenko.

There was talk of Emelianenko perhaps getting a rematch with Fabricio Werdum. Werdum was the man who snapped Emelianenko’s historic winning streak back in Strikeforce ten years ago.

Since then, Emelianenko has wanted to get that fight back. Werdum recently became a free agent and Bellator had been in talks with him about the rematch. However, reports are surfacing that the talks between Werdum and Bellator fell apart. 

With that, it looks like we are not going to get the rematch after all. However, Coker did shed some light on when Emelianenko would be making his return to the cage.

Fedor’s Bellator Return

Coker told reporters on Thursday, “We’d really like him to fight when there’s an audience available. But that can be challenging. So we’ll have to make a decision here pretty soon. But he’s going to fight in 2021 for sure, no matter what, because he has to fight and he’s got to keep going.”

Obviously there’s no word on who Bellator will pair up against Emelianenko, but I would expect it to be a high profile matchup. Perhaps Bellator can work things out and make the rematch happen with Werdum.

If they can’t make that happen, another good possibility could be Cheick Kongo. Kongo was close to getting a title shot, however, he just lost a decision to Timothy Johnson last month.

Either way, we know for sure that Fedor Emelianenko will be returning to Bellator at some point in 2021. I know Coker is wanting to wait for fans, but I think that’s something he might have to give up on.

Ryan Bader – Vadim Nemkov targeted for Bellator 244

Ryan Bader

Bellator‘s light heavyweight champion is picking right up where he left off before the pandemic threw everything off in 2020. Ryan Bader (27-5, 1 NC) will be defending his light heavyweight title against Vadim Nemkov (11-2) per ESPN.

These two men were initially scheduled to fight at the original Bellator 242 which was scheduled for May. However, once Bellator shut down operations due to COVID-19 the fight was scrapped.

Now that Bellator has held it’s first successful event in Connecticut, they are ready to resume action. Bader will be defending his light heavyweight title for the first time in three years.

Bader’s Bellator Journey

Ryan Bader was always one of the best fighters in the UFC, but he was one that couldn’t quite climb all the way to the top. After winning back-to-back fights in 2016 by knockout, Badar left for Bellator.

Once in Bellator, Bader defeated Phil Davis to become the Bellator light heavyweight champion. Bader would defend the title once against Linton Vassell. Since then, Bader has competed at heavyweight.

Bader would go on to become Bellator‘s heavyweight champion, and a double champion in the promotion. Now, Bader will move back down to his original weight class and defend his title.

If Bader is able to defeat Nemkov in August, I’m expecting him to defend his heavyweight title towards the end of the year. Perhaps defending it against a former UFC heavyweight champion.

Nemkov is coming into this fight riding a six fight winning streak with wins over guys like Phil David and Rafael Carvalho. Nemkov is looking to prove to the world that he’s one of the best on August 21st.

Four fights to make after UFC Fight Island 3

UFC, Dana White

The UFC hosted it’s fourth and final event from Final Island last night, and the card completely delivered from top to bottom. After the card was over, it’s always time to start pondering what’s next. Here are four fights that should be made following last night.

Robert Whittaker vs Winner of Adesanya/Costa

This is one of the easier ones when you think about it. The former UFC middleweight champion looked very impressive last night defeating world class striker, Darren Till.

Whittaker was hurt very early in the fight, but went on to win three of the next four rounds on his way to a unanimous decision. Whittaker improved to 10-1 since moving to the middleweight division.

Bobby Knuckles lost his title to Israel Adesanya back in October of last year at UFC 243. Getting a win over a guy like Till puts him right back in the top contender status.

If you look at the middleweight division, there really is not another fight for Whittaker. I expect Bobby Knuckles to sit back and watch the September title fight with Adesanya and Paulo Costa.

Whoever wins that fight will likely get a fight with Whittaker in early 2021 or even perhaps by the end of this year.

Fabricio Werdum vs Ryan Bader

I know you might be thinking, “Why is a Bellator matchup in a UFC article?” Well it’s no secret that last night was the last fight on Fabricio Werdum‘s current contract.

The former champion has made it known that he’s interested in moving on from the UFC. The logical next step for Werdum would be to move to Bellator.

Bellator has a history of pushing UFC vets straight to the top when they jump ship. I expect Werdum to get the same treatment given his resume. The heavyweight division in Bellator is not very strong.

With that, Werdum could go right into a title shot in Bellator. He poses some interesting problems for Ryan Bader. If the Werdum that fought last night shows up, it’s not out of the question that he becomes the Bellator heavyweight champion this year.

Carla Esparza vs Jessica Andrade

Carla Esparza was able to capture her fourth consecutive win last night at UFC Fight Island 3 defeating Marina Rodriguez. With that win, Esparza looks to be ready to challenge one of the divisions best.

In looking at the logical next opponents for her, there are only two opponents that make sense from a divisional standpoint and that’s Tatiana Suarez and Jessica Andrade.

Suarez just finished Esparza two years ago so I can’t see the UFC making that fight. Andrade is coming off of a close loss to Rose Namajunas back at UFC 251.

This fight would pair two former champions against each other as both look to get back to the top. Andrade has lost two in a row, but they were to the two best women in the world. Esparza needs a win over someone like Andrade to prove she’s still one of the very best.

Khamzat Chimaev vs Top 15 UFC opponent

For all of the fighters that took part in Fight Island, the one that UFC fans should be the most excited about is Khamzat Chimaev. The guy is an absolute monster. His dominance can be illustrated with one tweet.

Chimaev resembles a larger version of the UFC’s lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.

“Borz” is a frightening matchup for anyone in the welterweight division. He’s so exciting because unlike some wrestlers who just take their opponents down, Chimaev is constantly looking to “Smash” his opponents.

Seeing how polished he is already, I would not be surprised to see him fast-tracked. Chimaev’s wrestling base can allow him to move quicker than some prospects would in the UFC.

Perhaps a good fight for Chimaev would be taking on the winner of next week’s Randy Brown – Vicente Luque fight. Either way, Chimaev is going to get a quick turnaround. I expect to see Borz fight one or even two more times before 2021.

 

UFC: What’s next for Fabricio Werdum?

Last night, Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1) turned back the clock at UFC Fight Island 3. Many (including myself) were doubting the former heavyweight champion ahead of his fight with Alexander Gustafsson.

Werdum returned back in May and looked horrendous against Alexey Oleynik. Werdum was on the final fight of his UFC contract, and he fought like a man with something to prove last night.

UFC or Bellator?

Werdum was able to get Gustafsson’s back early and submit him with an arm bar. A huge win for Werdum who will now enter MMA free agency.

The former UFC champion has recently indicated that he would be walking away from the promotion after last night. Werdum’s legacy is secure inside the UFC after he defeated Cain Velasquez for the heavyweight title at UFC 188.

The logical career move for Werdum would be to go to Bellator MMA. There is no path forward for Werdum inside the UFC‘s heavyweight division. However, Bellator would welcome him right to the top of the division.

Bellator’s heavyweight division lacks star power, Werdum is still a big name. Assuming Werdum makes the jump to Bellator, I wouldn’t be shocked if they gave him the heavyweight champion, Ryan Bader, in his first fight.

Bellator usually likes to push the UFC vets they sign immediately due to the drawing power. Especially former UFC champions that sign with the promotion. No matter what, Werdum can walk away from the promotion with his head held high after last night’s performance.

UFC Fight Island 3 Recap: Robert Whittaker squeaks by Darren Till in entertaining scrap

The UFC hosted their fourth and final fight card from Fight Island tonight. In the main event of the evening, middleweights Robert Whittaker (20-5) and Darren Till (18-2-1) went head-to-head. The card was filled with action from start to finish.

Whittaker takes first step back to UFC gold

The main event of the evening was going to likely determine who would face the winner of the Israel Adesanya – Paulo Costa UFC title fight in September. Former champion Robert Whittaker took on Darren “The Gorilla” Till.

As the first round began, Till charged in and was met with a sharp shot from Whittaker. Whittaker also landed a stiff jab after that. Till seemed extremely aggressive early on. Both men charged at each other and Whittaker was floored by a clean elbow from Till.

Till started finding a home for his crisp left hand after he hurt Whittaker. Whittaker began reaching with his shots which is what hurt him in the Adesanya fight. Till pressed Whittaker back late in the first continuing to land shots.

Whittaker’s confidence seemed to be shaken a bit in the first. However, late in the round, Whittaker seemed to get his legs back and get more comfortable in the exchanges. Great opening round for Till.

Both men came out very light on their feet to start the second round. Whittaker landed a massive left hook as Till was off balanced. Whittaker seemed much fresher and confident early in the second.

Bobby Knuckles stormed forward with an overhand right that floored Till about a minute into the round. Bobby Knuckles landed some good elbows from top position. Till looked to be trying to regain his composure from the bottom.

Till was able to get back to his feet with about two minutes left in the round. Whittaker started peppering Till’s lead leg with solid kicks. Till seemed tentative still trying to regain some confidence. Dominant second round for the former UFC champ.

Both men touched gloves to start the third round, and then Whittaker landed another big leg kick. The two seemed to be a little more patient. Till kept looking for the left while Whittaker kept looking to blitz.

Neither man was landing anything clean for the majority of the third round. They would throw big shots from distance, but neither were connecting. An uneventful round, but I lean Whittaker in the third.

Entering the main event rounds, Whittaker seemed to have a little more bounce in his step. Till was able to step in with a big left hand early on. Whittaker continued to throw big calf kicks which seemed to be bothering Till.

Till landed a few big shots which seemed to wobble Whittaker momentarily. However, Whittaker seemed to get his legs back underneath him very quickly. The two men resumed trying to read each other after the big exchange.

Till began finding his left more in the fourth round. Whittaker tried for a couple of takedowns late in the round, but wasn’t able to land either. A close round four, but I lean Till due to the bigger shots.

Both men seemed to have good bounce to start the fifth. Till landed a big shot in the first exchange. Whittaker again tried for a takedown, but was unsuccessful. Till looked very aggressive to start the fifth round.

Till landed a solid 1-2 at the two minute mark in the round. Whittaker continued to look for calf kicks throughout the round. Whittaker looked for another takedown, but again, it was unsuccessful. Till landed another crisp left after Whittaker shot.

Till landed a massive elbow with about a minute left in the round which opened a massive gash on Whittaker. Whittaker was able to land a couple of takedowns late, but Till continued to bounce right back up. Close round, but I give Till the final round due to damage.

A razor close fight, but I lean Till 48-47. After the close fight, the judges were unanimous giving the fight to Whittaker (48-47, 48-47, 48-47).

Shogun completes the sweep against Little Nog

The co-main event of the evening featured a battle of Brazilian legends as former UFC light heavyweight champion Shogun Rua (27-11-1) took on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-10) for the third time.

As the first round began, both men tentatively took the center just feeling the other out. Nogueira circled the outside as Shogun started to pepper Nogueira’s leg with kicks. Shogun pressed forward to engage a clinch about two minutes into the round.

After little action, Shogun backed away with about half of the round remaining. Nogueira landed a massive left as the two began to strike. Both men really began to open up about four minutes into the round.

Nogueira began to press forward after he sensed that he was getting the better of the exchanges. Nogueira landed three massive lefts that wobbled Shogun. Shogun shot in and secured a late takedown before the bell. Close round that I gave to Nogueira.

Shogun opened the second round very aggressive pushing forward. Shogun landed a couple of big kicks to open the round. Nogueira seemed very patient looking to land his left hand. Everytime the former UFC champion stormed in, Nogueira was looking to counter with a left.

Nogueira stormed forward with big shots which forced another shot from Shogun. Shogun slipped which allowed Nogueira to end up on the top. Shogun was able to get back to his feet with two minutes left in the round.

Nogueira was getting clipped a little more in this round compared to the first. Shogun was doing a good job of slipping and countering the aggressive Nogueira attacks. A close round two, but due to the top control, I lean Nogueira.

The final round started with Shogun moving forward. Shogun landed a massive leg kick that buckled Nogueira early in the third. Neither man landed anything significant after that until about the halfway mark.

Shogun landed a big body kick and continued to stalk Nogueira. After that kick, the two men began to trade big shots. Shogun was able to land a couple of really good straight shots that backed Nogueira against the cage. He transitioned that into a takedown.

Shogun controlled the remainder of the round from the top position. To me, the clearest round to score of the fight. I gave the final round to Shogun but the fight to Nogueira 29-28. The judges were split but gave the fight to Shogun (29-28, 28-29, 29-28).

Werdum subs Gustafsson early in the first

The fifth fight of the main card featured the heavyweight debut of Alexander Gustafsson (18-7). In his debut he was taking on former UFC heavyweight champion, Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1).

Gustafsson started the first round very light on his feet. Werdum landed a massive leg kick in the opening seconds which Gus acknowledged. Gustafsson landed a good combination, but Werdum shot in for the takedown.

After initially missing on it, Werdum tripped Gustafsson and got his back immediately. Werdum tried for the rear-naked choke, but Werdum immediately transitioned to an arm bar. The ground wizard got Gustafsson to tap very early in the first. Very impressive from the former heavyweight champion.

Carla Esparza edges Marina Rodriguez

The fourth fight of the main card featured a strawweight contest between former UFC champ, Carla Esparza (16-6) and Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2). A win for either lady would get them close to a shot at the strawweight title.

To start the first round, Rodriguez was really heavy on her front leg expecting a shot from Esparza. After Rodriguez through a couple of big shots, Esparza shot in for a takedown and secured it.

Esparza had really heavy top control in the first. She did a very good job of picking and choosing spots to posture up and land good shots. Rodriguez did land a massive elbow from the bottom which cut Esparza.

Esparza made the odd decision to try to go for an ankle lock which resulted in her being on the bottom. Rodriguez landed some good shots before Esparza got back to her feet. Rodriguez landed some good shots before Esparza shot in for another takedown at the end of the first. Close round that I’d give to Rodriguez due to the damage.

As the second round started, Rodriguez appeared to be stalking Esparza. She didn’t look comfortable at all on the feet. Esparza shot in for a takedown two minutes into the round, and she was able to get Rodriguez down.

Esparza was able to land some pretty good shots from the ground after the takedown. Just like she did in the first, Esparza went for another bizarre leg lock. It resulted in her just taking massive shots from Rodriguez. Close round due to a massive flurry at the end, but I lean Esparza.

The final round started with Rodriguez continuing to stalk Esparza. Esparza tried for some sloppy shots early as Rodriguez landed some decent shots. About halfway through the round, Esparza was able to land a takedown.

The rest of the round consisted of solid top control for Esparza. Esparza landed some decent shots, but Rodriguez did really nothing in the final round. She was able to get up for a second before being taken right back down.

Nothing desirable in this fight, but I lean Esparza 29-28. The judges gave Esparza the fight by split decision (29-28, 28-29, 30-27).

Craig triangles Antigulov in the first

The third fight of the evening featured a UFC light heavyweight contest between Paul Craig (12-4-1) and Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-6).

Craig immediately ran across the octagon to meet Antigulov. About thirty seconds into the round, Antigulov was able to secure a takedown. Craig tried to secure a guillotine, but he was unsuccessful.

However, about a minute later, Craig through up a triangle choke. Antigulov threw some bombs to try to get out of it, but he was in massive trouble. After Antigulov fought hard for a few seconds, Craig locked in the choke deeper.

Craig was able to secure the tap from Antigulov and get the win via triangle choke. Antigulov fought hard, but Craig was too much from that position. Great win for the Scottish fighter.

Oliveira kicks his way past Peter Sobotta

The second fight of the main card featured “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira (21-8-1, 2 NC) taking on German standout, Peter Sobotta (17-6-1).

Both men immediately took the center of the octagon looking to strike. Oliveira landed a massive body kick to start the striking. Sobotta answered with a big kick of his own about a minute into the round.

Oliveira hurt Sobotta bad with a front kick right to the liver about two minutes into the round. Sobotta was able to land a few shots to keep Oliveira off of him. Both men had some decent exchanges late in the round.

Sobotta appeared to have injured his arm blocking a kick late in the round. Decent first round that goes to Oliveira.

As the second round started, Sobotta shot in for a takedown. Oliveira was able to defend the takedown, but it appeared that Sobotta was switching up his strategy. Oliveira was able to land some elbows in the clinch which cut Sobotta.

The two men separated and Oliveira immediately landed a big body kick. Oliveira was looking extremely crisp on the feet. About halfway through the round one of Oliveira’s kicks went low which caused a break in the action.

Once the action resumed, Oliveira continued to look to land kicks. In the final minute, Oliveira extended his hands which poked Sobotta in the eye which caused another break. After they continued the fight, Oliveira landed a massive right hand that floored Sobotta at the end of the first. 2-0 for Oliveira after two rounds.

As the final round started, Oliveira continued to look aggressive in the striking. Sobotta shot in for another takedown, but he wasn’t able to get Oliveira down. About halfway through the round, Oliveira hurt Sobotta again with a body kick.

Sobotta just seemed extremely uncomfortable in the striking exchanges. He would throw shots, but he was throwing from Oliveira’s range. Oliveira continued to land some decent kicks as the final round came to a close.

Great performance for Oliveira who takes it 30-27 on my scorecard. The judges agreed unanimously giving the fight to Cowboy Oliveira (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Khamzat Chimaev wins second UFC fight in 10 days

The opening fight of the main card featured dominant wrestling sensation Khamzat Chimaev (8-0) taking on UFC newcomer, Rhys McKee (10-3-1). Chimaev was looking for his second win on Fight Island.

Within five seconds of the first round, Chimaev immediately shot in for a takedown. Chimaev carried McKee over to his own corner to clearly hear instructions from his corner. Chimaev was able to get the mount position within 20 seconds of having top position.

McKee kept trying to explode out of the position, but Chimaev’s top control was incredibly impressive. Chimaev was just relentless with his ground and pound. With two minutes left in the round, the striking numbers were 43-0 for Chimaev.

Chimaev postured up and started raining down monster shots. The referee mercifully stopped the fight at 3:09 of the first round. There is no question that Chimaev will be a top contender in the welterweight division before long.

UFC Fight Island 3 Final Takeaways

The UFC closed it’s first stint on Fight Island this evening. Bobby Knuckles closes out Fight Island with a big win over Darren Till. Whittaker will now likely be next in line for a shot at the middleweight crown.

The last month has been filled with exciting fights and incredible story lines. Now, the UFC will come back stateside with a massive schedule in August.

UFC Fight Island 3 Preview: Whittaker and Till look to cement top contender status

The UFC will be hosting it’s last event on Fight Island in the month of July tomorrow night on Yas Island. The main event features former UFC middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker (20-5), and former title challenger, Darren Till (18-2-1).

The UFC has put forward a card that ties the record for the most fights on a single card with 15. The main card that kicks off at 8:00 ET features seven fights.

For this fight card, we are going to break down the top four fights of the evening. The UFC is leaving Fight Island with a bang.

Whittaker and Till battle for the next UFC title shot

The main event of the evening will likely determine who will get the winner of the Israel Adesanya – Paulo Costa fight as Robert Whittaker takes on Darren Till.

Whittaker could not have drawn up a better start to his middleweight career after leaving the UFC‘s welterweight division. Whittaker moved up and promptly went 9-0 capturing the middleweight title.

Bobby Knuckles combines elite striking and speed with incredible toughness and determination. He is susceptible to getting rocked but one of his trademarks is his heart to fight through it.

He was able to fight through it against Yoel Romero, but it finally caught up to him against Adesanya. Stylebender was able to finish Whittaker in the second round of their fight.

This is a massive fight for Whittaker as he looks to try to climb back towards the UFC middleweight title.

Darren Till was being built up as the next superstar just a couple of years ago. The UFC fast-tracked him to a title shot against Tyron Woodley.

That shot came back at UFC 228. The English born Till was actually the massive fan favorite at the Dallas event. However, Woodley put an end to the run with a second round submission victory.

Immediately following that loss, Till was knocked out by Jorge Masvidal prompting his move to the middleweight division.

Till made his UFC middleweight debut against Kelvin Gastelum back in November. In a fight that left a lot to be desired, Till walked away with a decision victory.

Till’s elite Muy Thai skills have brought him to the dance. He has a great way of closing distance very quickly and he’s got power that catches people off guard.

I’m expecting this fight to be contested on the feet, but I’m not sure it’s going to be as action packed as some want. I think this fight will start slow, but will pick up in the middle rounds.

Once they really get going, I think Bobby Knuckles is going to catch Till was something big. I expect Till to have big moments because he is an elite striker, but I think Whittaker is just on a higher level overall as a fighter.

Prediction: Robert Whittaker by TKO – Round 4

Shogun Rua vs Antonio Rogerio Nogueira

The co-main event of the evening features a contest between two legends of the sport from Brazil as Shogun Rua (26-11-1) takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-9).

Nogueira enters this fight just after turning 44-years old. We haven’t seen Nogueira since UFC 237 where he was knocked out by Ryan Spann. Nogueira has been dealing with a nagging back injury.

Nogueira throughout his career has been known for his crisp boxing and his elite skills on the ground. He has very good pop in his shots, and is deceptively accurate with his strikes.

The problem is that we really don’t know what kind of Nogueira we are going to see. He didn’t look great in his last fight, and he’s been dealing with back issues. Combine that with his age and there are a ton of question marks.

Shogun Rua has fought just six times in the last five years. However, he has gone 4-1-1 in those six fights with wins over Corey Anderson and Nogueira.

Shogun is a former UFC light heavyweight champion who is also nearing the end of his career. He has been known in his career for his solid overall game and his spurts that often catch fighters off guard.

Shogun has made a career on rocking or finishing opponents with sudden spurts that fighters are not ready for. In his last contest, Shogun fought to a draw with Paul Craig.

These two men have fought each other twice, and Shogun has won both. With all of the question marks surrounding Nogueira, I don’t see how the result will change in this third fight.

Prediction: Shogun Rua by TKO – Round 2

Alexander Gustaffson vs Fabricio Werdum

The fifth fight on the main card features former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1) welcoming Alexander Gustaffson (18-6) to the heavyweight division.

Just a few years ago, people were making the argument that Werdum was the greatest heavyweight in history. Those talks of course coming after wins over guys like Fedor Emelianenko and Cain Velasquez.

Of course, Werdum would go on to be knocked out and lose his heavyweight title to Stipe Miocic which halted those talks. Since that loss, Werdum has gone 3-3.

Werdum showed off improved striking a few years ago to go with his world class ground game. Werdum might be the best Jiu Jitsu practitioner in heavyweight history. However, Werdum looked horrendous in his last fight where he lost to Alexey Oleynik.

Alexander Gustaffson will be making his heavyweight debut tomorrow night. Gustaffson retired just over a year ago after he lost to Anthony Smith in Sweden.

Of course that retirement was short-lived. Gustaffson is one of the better fighters over the last few years who hasn’t won a UFC title. He’s fought for the title three times, coming up short each time. Two of those fights were razor close.

Gustaffson has built his career on his elite boxing skills, good footwork, and solid takedown defense. All of these are going to give him an advantage tomorrow night.

For Werdum to win this fight, he’s going to have to get the fight to the ground. There is no way that Werdum can win a stand up fight with Alexander Gustaffson. Werdum looked slow in his last fight, and he doesn’t have great takedowns.

I believe that for those reasons, the fight is going to stay on the feet. I fully expect Gustaffson to light Werdum up in this contest. Not 100% convinced he’s going to get a finish, but I don’t see this fight being close.

Prediction: Alexander Gustaffson by TKO – Round 3

Marina Rodriguez vs Carla Esparza

The fourth fight on the main card features a matchup between two top ten UFC strawweights in Carla Esparza (16-6) and Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2).

Esparza burst onto the UFC scene back in 2014 when she became the promotions first strawweight champion. Since winning the title, Esparza has gone 6-4 in the UFC.

The good news for Esparza is the fact that she’s on a three fight winning streak. Esparza has some of the best wrestling in the division. She has decent striking, but it’s mainly used as a way to setup her dynamic wrestling attack.

Marina Rodriguez is one of the brighter prospects in the strawweight division. While she’s actually older than Esparza, many consider her to be more of a prospect given her experience.

She’s fought four times in the UFC to a record of 2-0-2. Her last fight she fought to a draw with Cynthia Calvillo. Rodriguez has really good striking and good pop for the division.

She also does a really good job at striking at a high volume. Her cardio does hinder her later in fights and her wrestling defense is not great which could hurt her in this matchup.

The first round is going to decide the fight for me. If Esparza can come right out and take Rodriguez down, she’s going to march to a decision victory. However, if Rodriguez can keep it standing for a while, I can’t see her getting beat by Esparza.

This fight is going to be very close. I believe that Esparza will win the third round, but I think Rodriguez’s striking will also gain her a round. This is going to be a split decision that I think will go to Rodriguez with her high striking output.

Prediction: Marina Rodriguez by Split Decision

UFC Fight Island 3 Outlook

The UFC is leaving Fight Island with a massive card. The card has former champions and top contenders up and down the card. A record 15 fights will have fight fans glued to their TVs tomorrow night.