After successful title defense at UFC 266, what’s next for Alexander Volkanovski?

This past Saturday in the main event of UFC 266, Alexander Volkanovski (23-1) defended his featherweight title against Brian Ortega (15-2, 1 NC). Ortega was getting his second crack at UFC gold while Volkanovski was trying to defend for the second time.

When this fight was first announced, I really liked Ortega’s chances. The Brian Ortega that fought Chan Sung Jung last year looked like he could be the guy to take out Volkanovski. Or, so I thought.

Volkanovski has had an interesting run so for as UFC champion. He did the unthinkable when he defeated Max Holloway (22-6) to win the title. Then he barely edged out Holloway in the second fight to retain.

However, the split decision nature of the second fight has casted some doubts regarding his status as UFC champion. Well, Saturday night he did a pretty damn good job of silencing those who casted doubt.

From the opening bell, Volkanovski controlled the fight. Sensational feints and pinpoint striking had Ortega flustered throughout the fight. However, there was one moment where the fight almost went to Ortega.

Ortega locked in a mounted guillotine in the third round. It was so deep that I was tapping from my chair at home. However, the UFC champion gutted it out and survived. Ultimately, he won a lopsided unanimous decision.

What’s next after UFC 266?

Volkanovski now finds himself in an interesting spot after UFC 266. To me, the clear option for his next opponent is the trilogy with Max Holloway. However, Holloway has a fight with Yair Rodriguez in November so there’s likely going to be a layoff for the champ.

Nobody is expecting Holloway to have troubles with Yair Rodriguez so I think the plan is already in place for the UFC to do the trilogy. However, there could be an outside the box idea that could get considered.

Henry Cejudo (16-2) continues to tease a comeback. The former two-division UFC champion and Olympic Gold Medalist retired last year after defending his bantamweight crown. He’s talked about his desire to capture a belt in three weight classes which has never been done.

I do not expect the UFC to go in this direction, but I wouldn’t dismiss it either. If Volkanovski wants to fight relatively close to the beginning of the year, they might have to go a different direction than Holloway. That direction could be the King of Cringe.

After sensational win at UFC Vegas 35, what’s next for Giga Chikadze?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 35, we saw a big time showdown in the featherweight division. Two of the very best and most dynamic strikers in the promotion went head-to-head as Giga Chikadze (14-2) took on Edson Barboza (22-10).

Since moving down to 145 pounds, Edson Barboza has looked tremendous. Had it not been for poor judging, he would’ve carried a perfect record at 145 pounds into UFC Vegas 35‘s main event.

That said, Chikadze was going to be his toughest test to date. Barboza has always been known for his tremendous striking. However, this was really the first time he was going to be going up against someone that’s at a higher level.

Giga Chikadze showed just how special he is on Saturday night. Barboza has always stifled opponents with his speed and power. However, he was lacking in both of those categories compared to Chikadze on Saturday night.

Giga landed beautiful kicks throughout the first couple of rounds. He also had bursts where he was so much faster compared to Barboza. Eventually, he caught him with the shot he was looking for. In the third round, Chikadze poured it on and stopped Barboza at UFC Vegas 35.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 35?

After the fight was over, there was one name on the mind of Giga Chikadze. That name was former UFC featherweight champion and arguably the greatest featherweight in the history of the promotion, Max Holloway (22-6).

Holloway was supposed to headline a Fight Night in July against Yair Rodriguez. That bout was expected to be a UFC title eliminator, however, Holloway had to pull out of the fight with an injury.

Currently, the UFC is targeting that fight for November according to Dana White. However, Chikadze might have changed the plan. There’s no word on it yet, but I wouldn’t be surprised if the promotion tries to get Chikadze in that spot.

If Holloway isn’t next, Chikadze wants to be the backup fighter for the UFC 266 main event. Next month, Alexander Volkanovski will defend against Brian Ortega. If one of those guys falls out, Chikadze wants to be the backup. I could see the promotion doing that as well.

Either way, Chikadze is going to be at the very top of the UFC’s featherweight division once the new rankings come out. Don’t be surprised to see the featherweight from Georgia in a title eliminator in his next fight.

Is AJ McKee the best featherweight in the world after Bellator 263?

AJ McKee

This past Saturday at Bellator 263, we saw the conclusion of the Featherweight Grand Prix in the main event. The champion Patricio Pitbull (32-5) was looking to defend his title against the undefeated challenger AJ McKee (18-0).

McKee has a superstar quality about him, but many were still picking the Bellator champion heading into Saturday. Patricio Pitbull is the greatest fighter in the promotion’s history and he owns virtually every Bellator record there is to own.

Saturday night was going to tell us just how good AJ McKee is. Well, AJ McKee is not just good, he’s something truly special. McKee dropped Pitbull in the first round at Bellator 263 with a beautiful combination and he finished him with a standing guillotine.

In a fight that was built to be the best versus the best, McKee made it look incredibly easy. It reminded me of when Conor McGregor knocked out Jose Aldo in 13 seconds to become UFC featherweight champion. Just like McGregor, McKee left no doubts at Bellator 263.

Bellator 263 Proved McKee’s Greatness

After his dominant win at Bellator 263 many are wondering if he’s the best in the world regardless of promotion. Over the course of recent history, the UFC champion has been considered to be the best of the best.

However, Bellator has a legit argument with their new featherweight champion. While Patricio Pitbull was a dominant champion, nobody ever considered him to be better than Max Holloway or Alexander Volkanovski.

He was always seen as a step below them, however, McKee is not. I truly believe that McKee is on that elite level with the best that the UFC has to offer. The 26 year old has it all. He has incredible ground skills and he’s developed dangerous striking to go along with it.

Who is the best in the world?

At Bellator 263, he showed off the full package. Now, when everyone is at their absolute best, I still believe in my heart that Max Holloway is the best featherweight on the planet. Yes, he’s lost to Volkanovski twice. However, I do not believe he lost that second fight last year.

The Max Holloway that we saw in January is the best featherweight in the world. While I don’t think McKee is the best in the world, I think he’s right there with those guys. It’s truly a shame that he fights for Bellator in that we won’t be able to see him fight the best of the best.

That said, McKee’s contract is coming up soon. McKee told MMA Junkie that he would like to resign with Bellator if they show him the money. McKee has fought all 18 of his professional fights under the Bellator banner.

However, the UFC is interested. Dana White did come out and say that he would take McKee to lunch making good on a bet McKee made with him when he was a child. McKee told the UFC president that he would become world champion and when that happens, White had to take him to lunch.

White told TSN that he would make good on that bet and also said that when his contract is up, they’d be interested in talking. Time will tell what McKee ends up doing, but make no mistake about it, the new Bellator champion is a star.

UFC: Will Giga Chikadze replace Holloway against Yair Rodriguez?

Last week we learned that the main event between former UFC champion Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez was off. Holloway sustained an injury and had to pull out of the Fight Night main event that was scheduled for July 17th.

At first, it looked like the UFC was focused on getting the fight rescheduled. However, we have now learned that the promotion has been shopping for replacements in order to keep Rodriguez on the July 17th card.

The top name on the replacement list is the native of Georgia, Giga Chikadze (13-2). Chikadze made his UFC debut back in September of 2019 and he’s already fought six times for the promotion. He’s gone a perfect 6-0 inside the octagon.

After some close decisions to start his UFC career, Chikadze has been incredibly dominant. His last two performances really stood out as he stopped James Krause-Simmons and Cub Swanson in the first round by TKO.

The Cub Swanson victory was incredibly impressive and Chikadze has been moving up in the UFC‘s welterweight division. The promotion has called Chikadze about being the replacement and he says he’s accepted. However, he posted on his Instagram page that Rodriguez is playing games.

Will the UFC book the fight?

As you can see from the above video, Chikadze has accepted the UFC’s offer to replace Holloway. However, Rodriguez has yet to accept the fight and is said to be weighing his options.

A lot will come down to how long Max Holloway is going to be out. Rodriguez hasn’t fought in nearly two years and he needs to get back in the cage. However, it’s obvious that he relishes the opportunity to fight someone like Max Holloway.

Giga Chikadze is an incredibly dangerous fight for Rodriguez. Chikadze could use him as a stepping stone and Rodriguez wouldn’t gain a ton by picking up the win himself. If Holloway isn’t going to be out too long, I expect Rodriguez to hold out for the former UFC champion.

However, if Holloway’s return is going to take some time, he should take this fight with Chikadze. He needs to get back in there and Chikadze would be a great fight for him.

After UFC Vegas 29 victory, what’s next for Chan Sung Jung?

This past Saturday at UFC Vegas 29, Chan Sung Jung (17-6) took on Dan Ige (15-4) in the main event. The matchup was a pivotal one for the featherweight division. The winner was expected to move up towards the top of the rankings.

Heading into UFC Vegas 29, there were a lot of questions surrounding The Korean Zombie. Jung’s loss to Brian Ortega last October took a lot out of him. The damage he’s taken over his career and the loss to Ortega had The Zombie briefly considering hanging up the gloves.

However, Jung decided that he wanted to fight on and he took the matchup with Dan Ige. Ige was coming off of a 20 second knockout and he was looking for that one signature win that would put him in title contention.

The fight on Saturday night was very back-and-forth. Both men had their moments, but at UFC Vegas 29, there was one man that was clearly getting the better of things and that was Chan Sung Jung.

Dan Ige showed that he can hang with The Zombie, however, Jung was too much for him on Saturday night. In the end, all three judges gave the fight to Chan Sung Jung and as a result, the UFC‘s Korean Zombie is back on track.

What’s next after UFC Vegas 29?

After the event, there was one name on the mind of TKZ. Jung took to the post-fight press conference where he made it clear that he wanted to face former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway (22-6) in his next fight.

Jung said that he doesn’t believe Holloway has the power to hang with him. Holloway recently was scratched from his UFC main event against Yair Rodriguez next month. The former featherweight champion had to pull out due to an injury.

The promotion is leaning towards rebooking the fight, however, there has been replacement talks. If Rodriguez gets a replacement opponent, I think a fight between Holloway and Jung would be fantastic. It would provide a true number one contender in the UFC’s featherweight division.

UFC headliner between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez postponed

Some unfortunate UFC news was broken this morning by ESPN Deportes. The outlet reported that the highly anticipated headliner next month between Max Holloway (22-6) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC) is off.

The fight was set to headline a UFC Fight Night on July 17th. ESPN reported that Holloway has sustained an injury and will not be ready to compete next month. However, the promotion is keeping the fight together and is already working on new dates.

At this time there is no word on the severity of the injury to Max Holloway. This fight was being looked at as a title eliminator as both Holloway and Rodriguez are ranked at the very top of the UFC‘s featherweight division.

Back in January, Max Holloway put on the best performance of his career. On Fight Island, Holloway fought Calvin Kattar and broke virtually every significant strike record. In reality, that performance should have earned him another shot at the UFC title.

Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega were set to fight at UFC 260 in March for the featherweight title. The winner of that fight would have lined up perfectly with Max Holloway, however, Volkanovski got COVID and that fight was pushed back.

Better timing for the UFC

Volkanovski and Ortega ended up coaching The Ultimate Fighter and now they are currently scheduled to fight at the end of September at UFC 266. Again, there’s no word on the severity of Holloway’s injury. However, this fight getting pushed back actually works out better in lining up the two headlining featherweight fights.

The early word is that the fight could be rescheduled for September or early October which again lines up perfectly. This featherweight headliner is the biggest fight of Yair Rodriguez’s UFC career.

By the time the fight comes together, Rodriguez would have nearly been off for two years. The last time we saw Rodriguez in the UFC was October of 2019 when he defeated Jeremy Stephens. There have been a number of issues that have kept him out of action.

However, he’s back and he’s ready to go. This fight should be a fantastic one whenever it takes place and it will provide a clear-cut number one contender in the UFC’s featherweight division.

UFC books headliner between Max Holloway and Yair Rodriguez

The UFC has finalized a sensational headliner in their featherweight division. Dana White broke the news tonight to ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that the promotion had finalized a main event between Max Holloway (22-6) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC).

The matchup will headline a UFC Fight Night on July 17th. This is by far the biggest opportunity in the career of Yair Rodriguez. Rodriguez has had a ton of hype surrounding him since he joined the UFC a few years ago.

His flashy style and highlight reel knockouts made him an instant fan favorite. However, he was rushed to the top quickly and Frankie Edgar completely dominated him at UFC 211. That loss alone forced Rodriguez to stay away for over a year.

Once he made his UFC return, Rodriguez knocked out Chan Sung Jung in the final seconds of their fight. A year after that matchup, he defeated Jeremy Stephens by unanimous decision.

The problem for Rodriguez has been his activity level. Since the Frankie Edgar loss at UFC 211, Rodriguez has only fought three times. Due to a suspension and injuries, this fight against Holloway will be his first since October of 2019.

The former UFC champion returns

Back in January, Max Holloway fought in his first non-title UFC fight for the first time since 2016. The former champion was coming off back-to-back losses to Alexander Volkanovski and he was looking to make a statement.

Standing in his way was Calvin Kattar. Kattar played the part of sacrificial lamb as Max Holloway put on a performance like we’ve never seen before. Holloway set virtually every UFC striking record as he battered Kattar for five rounds.

The Max Holloway we saw in January looked like the best featherweight in the world. After that performance, it looked like Holloway would get his title shot in the summer.

However, Alexander Volkanovski got COVID and his UFC title fight with Brian Ortega was pushed back. So, Holloway was left with either waiting things out or taking another fight. When the UFC offered him this main event, he jumped at the chance. If you’re a fight fan, you should be pumped for this one.

Is Bellator’s Patricio Pitbull on the same level as Alexander Volkanovski?

Last weekend at Bellator 255, Patricio “Pitbull” Freire (32-4) choked out Emmanuel Sanchez in the first round of their title fight. The matchup was also the semi-final matchup in Bellator‘s Featherweight Grand Prix.

After the fight, Patricio Pitbull and his management have talked about how he’s the best featherweight in the world. They told ESPN’s Ariel Helwani this week that they are more than willing to take on the UFC champion, Alexander Volkanovksi (22-1).

A huge feather in the cap of Pitbull is his knockout of Michael Chandler. Chandler is getting ready to challenge for the vacant UFC lightweight championship and Pitbull knocked him out in the first round after catching him with a looping hook around the ear.

Granted, the stoppage was premature in my opinion, but nevertheless, that’s how Patricio Pitbull became a two-division Bellator champion. With that said, is Patricio Pitbull on the same level or is he even better than the best the UFC has to offer?

Bellator vs UFC

This is yet another time where we are comparing the two biggest MMA promotions. Is Bellator on the same level as the UFC? 99% of the time the answer to that question is going to be an emphatic no.

However, Patricio Pitbull is a very special fighter and many believe he is one of if not the best featherweight in the world. At the same time, I think it’s very important to remember the competition level here.

Let’s take a look at the last four wins for the UFC champion. Volkanovski has defeated Max Holloway twice, Jose Aldo and Chad Mendes. That is quite astonishing considering how great all three of those fighters are.

The last five wins for the Bellator champion include Emmanuel Sanchez twice, Juan Archuleta, Pedro Carvalho, and Michael Chandler. Archuleta is the bantamweight champion and Carvalho and Sanchez are not on par with UFC competition.

I will give the Bellator champion all the credit in the world for the Chandler win. That is by far the best win of his career. However, I just can’t say that Patricio Pitbull is better or even on the same level as Alexander Volkanovski.

ESPN’s divisional rankings have this one right. They have the Bellator champion in fourth behind Volkanovski, Max Holloway, and Brian Ortega. I think that’s where he should be. I believe he could be a top five fighter in the UFC, but in my opinion, he wouldn’t be the best.

UFC: Brian Ortega’s dream scenario is to win the belt then fight Max Holloway

Brian Ortega, UFC

Next weekend at UFC 260, Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC) will get his second crack at the featherweight title. This time, standing in front of him is Alexander Volkanovski (22-1). Ortega’s first attempt came back at UFC 231 against Max Holloway (22-6).

Brian Ortega was being hyped up as the guy who could take the belt away from Max Holloway back in 2018. Ortega had shown improved striking and his incredible skills on the ground were said to be a threat to the champion at the time.

However, Ortega proved to be no match for Holloway. Holloway put on a dominant performance and the doctor had to stop the fight after the fourth round and Holloway retained his UFC featherweight title.

After that fight in December of 2018, Brian Ortega took some time off. Then, he had a round of injuries that kept him out of action. During that time, Alexander Volkanovski challenged and defeated Max Holloway for the title.

Although controversial, Volkanovski then defeated Holloway a second time at UFC 251. A few months after Volkanovski beat Holloway for the second time, Ortega made his long anticipated return against The Korean Zombie, Chan Sung Jung (16-6).

Ortega was an underdog in the eyes of many due to the layoff. However, he quickly showed UFC fans that he’s much better than he was in 2018. Ortega dominated TKZ on the feet on his way to winning a decisive decision.

Ortega’s UFC dream scenario

That performance against Jung earned Ortega this shot at UFC 260. Ortega talked with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto this week about the fight and his future with the promotion. During the interview, Okamoto asked Ortega if the belt would mean more than beating Max Holloway.

Ortega gave a very interesting answer to this question. While capturing the UFC title is a dream of his, Ortega said he wouldn’t feel like the real champ until he beats Max Holloway. Holloway is the only man to have ever defeated him inside the octagon and that eats at him.

Ortega said that his dream scenario would be to defeat Volkanovski at UFC 260 then defend the title against Holloway. In that scenario, he could avenge his loss and capture the title. However, it all has to start with next Saturday night. I will say this, after seeing Ortega in October, I believe he’s fully capable of pulling it off.

After his dominant win at UFC Fight Island 7, what’s next for Max Holloway?

Heading into UFC Fight Island 7, I thought that Max Holloway (22-6) was going to need to be on his game to defeat Calvin Kattar (22-5). Kattar looked to be a dangerous contender and he was riding a ton of momentum.

Holloway on the other hand was just 1-3 in his last four fights. While you could make the argument that he defeated Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) at UFC 251, two of the scorecards said he lost which is what matters.

I wanted to see how Holloway would do in his first non-title fight since 2016. Would we get the Max Holloway who tore through the division on his way to capturing gold? Or would we get the more flat Max Holloway that lost to Volkanovski in December of 2019?

Well, at UFC Fight Island 7, we saw the best version of Max Holloway. Holloway put on the greatest performance I’ve ever seen him have. Of course he’s had other great ones, but there was just something about this performance that stood out.

He set virtually every striking record on Saturday. He landed over 400 significant strikes and one of the scorecards even read 50-42 which is unheard of. This was a one-sided beating and Max Holloway made a statement on Saturday.

What’s next after UFC Fight Island 7?

I’ve said for the last couple of months that the Brian Ortega (15-1, 1 NC) that we saw fight Chan Sung Jung was the best featherweight on the roster. Just the way he looked, I was blown away. However, Saturday changed that for me.

The Max Holloway that we saw at UFC Fight Island 7 is the best in the world. If that Holloway shows up to fight, not only do I think he defeats everyone at 145, but I think nobody even comes close to beating him. He’s that good when he’s on.

However, we haven’t really seen that dominant Max Holloway in a couple of years. The last time we saw that Holloway was against Brian Ortega. If this Max Holloway sticks around, he’s going to be the UFC featherweight champion again.

In March, Ortega will challenge Volkanovski for the featherweight title. No matter what the result, there is no doubting that Max Holloway is getting the next shot. He’s the clear number one contender and even a couple of days removed, I’m still blown away by his performance on Saturday.