UFC: Amanda Nunes to fight Megan Anderson

The greatest female fighter in MMA history will be making her return in December. Per ESPN’s Brett Okamoto, Amanda Nunes (20-4) will be returning at UFC 256. She will be defending her featherweight crown against Megan Anderson (11-4).

Nunes was rumored to be considering retirement after her last title defense at UFC 250, but with this announcement, it’s clear she’s not going anywhere. Anderson made the most sense as her next challenger, and she’s getting the shot.

Return of the UFC’s GOAT

When thinking of the greatest of all time in women’s MMA, there’s only one name that comes to mind, and that’s Amanda Nunes. It’s one of those questions where there really is not a debate.

Any female fighter that you could say is better or was better, she’s likely fought and defeated. She completely destroyed Ronda Rousey and Cris Cyborg in under a minute. Valentina Shevchenko gave her competitive fights, but still lost twice.

In her last fight at UFC 250, Nunes showed that she’s just head and shoulders ahead of her competition completely dismantling Felicia Spenser over five rounds. The beating was so bad that many begged Spencer’s corner to stop the fight.

Nunes is the only female fighter in UFC history to hold two belts simultaneously. She’s on an eleven fight winning streak and her only competitive fights came against Valentina Shevchenko who’s arguably the second greatest fighter in the world.

This is a massive step up in competition for Anderson. Anderson is riding a two fight winning streak and does pose some interesting challenges for Nunes given her size.

Anderson has good striking and decent submissions. She is going to have to come with her A+ game if she wants this fight to even be competitive. She’s expected to be a massive underdog to the UFC‘s queen.

Five Fights to Make after UFC 250

UFC, Dana White

Last night, the UFC made it’s PPV return to the fight capital of the world, and the card did not disappoint. There was a leg-kick TKO, two walk-off knockouts, and a brilliant performance from the greatest female fighter of all time. With that being said, let’s talk through five matchups that should be booked following UFC 250.

Suga Sean O’Malley vs Top Ten Opponent

Before last night, I said that the UFC did a great job of booking Eddie Wineland as an opponent for Suga Sean. O’Malley (12-0) is an elite striker, and he does a fantastic job at fighting from range. I thought it was the perfect showcase fight for him, and he did not disappoint. About halfway through the first round, O’Malley uncorked a right straight that put Wineland to sleep. O’Malley’s star is only going to continue to shine brighter, but I think the UFC needs to bring him along gradually. They need to use a similar path that they used with Conor McGregor.

O’Malley needs to fight someone in the rankings for his next fight. If you ask me, I would give him someone like a Rob Font (17-4). Font is currently ranked as the tenth best bantamweight in the world according to the UFC rankings. Font is coming off back to back wins, and he would be a good test for O’Malley. Font has been in there with some of the best guys in the world, and has only lost three times since 2016 to John Lineker, Pedro Munhoz, and Ralphael Assuncao. This is another winnable fight for O’Malley, but it would be a fight that would give him some top ten experience. Another win would vault O’Malley closer to the top five and a potential title shot.

Cory Sandhagen vs Jimmie Rivera

Last night did not go as planned for Cory Sandhagen (12-2). Sandhagen entered the matchup riding high having been unbeaten in the UFC. Sandhagen was submitted early in the first round by Aljamain Sterling (19-3). The only positive for Sandhagen was that he didn’t take damage in this fight. Sterling was able to get his back very quickly, but didn’t land a ton of shots. Instead, Sterling used his diverse ground attack to lock up a rear naked choke. With the loss, it’s back to the drawing board for Sandhagen.

To me, Jimmie Rivera (22-4) would be a good next opponent for Sandhagen. Rivera is currently ranked eighth in the world, but he’s coming off of back to back losses to Petr Yan and Sterling. Rivera is a tough guy who has consistently been one of the best in the world at bantamweight. Rivera hasn’t fought since last June so you have to believe he’s looking for a fight. With the limited damage, I’m guessing Sandhagen would like to get back in there as soon as he can. This would be a solid matchup of two top ten bantamweights who are looking to get back on the right track.

Cody Garbrandt vs Marlon Moraes

Cody Garbrandt (12-3) might have landed the best clean walkoff knockout of all time last night. Garbrandt had his back against the wall and he was facing a very tough challenger in Ralphael Assuncao (27-8). Garbrandt showed massive improvements last night in terms of his fighting IQ. Garbrandt stayed on the outside and used his speed brilliantly in this fight. Just before the second round ended, Garbrandt unleashed a right hand that put Assuncao to sleep. After getting knocked out three times in a row, this is exactly the type of win that Garbrandt needed.

“Magic” Marlon Moraes (23-6-1) is in a very weird spot in the bantamweight division. Moraes is currently the number one ranked bantamweight and he’s coming off of a win against the man who is getting the next title shot, Jose Aldo. Moraes is 5-1 in his last six fights with his only loss being to former champion, Henry Cejudo. It’s very clear that Aljamain Sterling is getting the next title shot, but a Garbrandt/Moraes fight would be perfect to setup the next challenger. Yan and Aldo will fight this summer, but maybe the UFC looks to book Sterling against the winner with Garbrandt/Moraes on the under card. Either way, I think this is the fight that makes the most sense.

Aljamain Sterling vs Winner of Yan/Aldo

There is no one in the UFC right now that is probably more deserving of a title shot than Aljamain Sterling. Sterling has now won five straight fights since his last loss to Marlon Moraes. Sterling has looked sensational in his last three fights, but last night he went to the next level. He went through the fourth ranked bantamweight like he was nothing. Sterling made an emphatic statement that he is next for the title, and honestly, he should be fighting for the title now.

Petr Yan (14-1) and Jose Aldo (28-6) have their fight finalized for sometime in July. Dana White announced that the fight was done and would take place in July. Sterling will be watching this fight very closely to figure out who he’s going to be taking on for the title.

Amanda Nunes vs Megan Anderson

To be honest, I really don’t know what to do with Amanda Nunes (20-4). She looked better than ever last night completely out-classing poor Felicia Spencer (8-2) over the course of a five-round beat down. Nunes is so much better than her competition it’s not even funny. I don’t see anyone in either of her two divisions giving her a challenge. Her only realistic challenger would be the UFC’s flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. I previously said it’s a super fight the UFC needs to make, but last night, Dana White said that fight wouldn’t be happening anytime soon.

With that in mind, we look at her two divisions for some challengers. After previously defending her bantamweight title a couple of times in a row, I think Nunes will look to defend her featherweight title for the second time in a row. The logical choice for a challenger would be Megan Anderson (11-4). Anderson is 3-1 in her last four fights with her only loss being to Felicia Spencer. Anderson is a very tall woman and could pose some interesting challenges for the champion. However, I don’t think anyone would give Anderson much of a chance in this one. Nunes is just so much better than anyone which is why she is the greatest of all time.

UFC 250 Recap: Amanda Nunes Crushes Felicia Spencer

UFC 250 marked the PPV return to the fight capital of the world and the main event featured a featherweight title fight between champion Amanda Nunes (20-4), and challenger, Felicia Spencer (8-2). The UFC has come back with a bang with these events, and tonight was arguably the best night of fights yet.

Amanda Nunes Dismantles Felicia Spencer

The greatest female fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes, made her return to the featherweight division for the first time since she took the title from Cris Cyborg back at UFC 232. Nunes was a massive favorite over challenger, Felicia Spencer. A Las Vegas better even placed a $1 million bet on Nunes prior to the fight. Early on, it became very evident as to why Nunes was such a massive favorite in this fight. Nunes hit Spencer with some bombs early on in the first round. To Spencer’s credit, she did take the shots well. Spencer tried to engage in grappling the champion, but Nunes immediately tossed her to the floor. Nunes spent the rest of the round dominating Spencer on the ground, punishing the challenger with vicious elbows which cut the challenger.

In round two, Spencer tried to rush the champion, but she continued to eat big shots coming in. Spencer continued to try to engage Nunes in the grappling in round two, but again, Nunes was able to take Spencer down. The fight ended back up on the feet, and Nunes continued to use Spencer for target practice. Round three didn’t see much of a change in the fight. Nunes just stayed on the outside picking Spencer apart. Nunes really hurt Spencer in the third round with some serious leg kicks. Spencer was having difficulties putting weight on her leg at the end of the round. Nunes was just having her way with the challenger.

Entering the championship rounds, Spencer tried to press forward knowing that she was down three rounds. However, Nunes just kept picking apart the challenger. Nunes kept a smile on her face as she stayed on the outside hurting Spencer. Nunes was using every striking technique she had in her repertoire, and every single one was landing. Despite getting dismantled, Spencer kept pushing forward trying to mount some offense, but there was nothing there. Nunes rocked Spencer bad at the end of the round. Nunes locked in a rear naked choke, but the round ended before Spencer went to sleep.

In the fifth round, Nunes landed a couple of clean shots then she took the fight to the ground. Spencer tried to throw up some submissions from guard, but nothing ever appeared to be close. Nunes seemed content to coast through the fifth round. Inside the guard, Nunes cut Spencer again with some sharp elbows. With about a minute left in the fight the two ended back up on the feet. Nunes landed a few more good shots and landed a massive takedown towards the end of the round. The final bell mercifully sounded in one of the most lopsided title fights in UFC history.  Nunes took the fight by unanimous decision (50-44, 50-44, 50-45).

Garbrandt Sleeps Assuncao in Two

The co-main event of the event featured the return of former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (12-3), and top contender, Raphael Assuncao (27-8). Both of the fighters went into this fight on two-fight losing streaks. The former champion, Garbrandt, had a ton of pressure on his shoulders after being knocked out in his previous three fights. Garbrandt opened up the fight with some solid leg kicks while keeping the distance on Assuncao. The entire first round, Garbrandt stayed very patient on the outside picking his shots on Assuncao. Assuncao really never got the distance right in round one. Assuncao was chasing Garbrandt all round and he was eating shots from the outside including some very nice leg kicks.

Garbrandt opened round two with a blitz where landed a clean head kick on Assuncao. Garbrandt’s speed and diverse striking attack was giving Assuncao fits. About two minutes into the second, Assuncao landed a couple of decent right hands, but Garbrandt didn’t react. In the past, Garbrandt would bite down on his mouthpiece and throw caution to the wind. Garbrandt stayed patient in round two trying to strike from the outside. Garbrandt quickly floored Assuncao with a big right hook that landed behind the ear. Assuncao bounced back up and landed some decent shots. Assuncao seemed to be gaining his range towards the end of the round, but right before the round ended, Garbrandt landed a massive right hook that put Assuncao to sleep. “No Love” made a massive statement with this fight, and proved to everyone that he is still one of the best bantamweights in the world.

Sterling Puts Sandhagen To Sleep via RNC

The fight that I was personally looking forward to the most heading into the evening was the bantamweight title eliminator fight between Aljamain Sterling (19-3) and Cory Sandhagen (12-2). Petr Yan and Jose Aldo will be fighting for the vacant title this summer, but Dana White said the winner of this matchup would fight the winner of that fight. The betting odds were dead even leading up to this fight with both men sharing very similar skill sets. Sterling came storming out of the gate putting a ton of pressure on Sandhagen early. Sterling was able to get Sandhagen down, and take his back within the first minute of the first round. From there, the fight did not last long. Sterling was able to lock in a rear naked choke and put Sandhagen to sleep. “Funk Master” left no doubt to who the number one contender is in the UFC’s bantamweight division with that performance.

Magny Decisions Rocco Martin

The second fight of the PPV featured a welterweight contest between Neil Magny (22-7) and Anthony Rocco Martin (17-5). There was a lot of pressure on Rocco Martin entering this fight with him saying earlier in the week that this fight was the last fight on his current UFC deal. Rocco Martin did come out with a sense of urgency really trying to push the pace early against the Haitian Sensation. The first round featured a lot of clinch work that was initiated by Rocco Martin. Whenever the fighters were at distance, Magny seemed to have the striking advantage, landing some solid straight punches and kicks.

In the second round, Rocco Martin was able to land a solid right hand which seemed to hurt Magny. A big takedown in the middle of the round for Rocco Martin was probably the most significant part of the round. In the third round, Magny came out with a ton of urgency. Rocco Martin seemed to be tired, and Magny put the pressure on him. Magny did a really good job of not letting Rocco Martin breathe in the third round. Rocco Martin was breathing very heavy in the third, and Magny landed some clean shots throughout the round. Magny looked like he could go another five rounds after the final bell sounded, and Rocco Martin looked exhausted. In the end, the judges gave the unanimous decision victory to Neil Magny (30-27, 30-27, 29-28). After nearly a two-year layoff, Magny has come out strong in 2020 with back to back victories.

Suga Show Rolls On With a Walkoff

The PPV main card kicked off with a great matchup between Suga Sean O’Malley (12-0) and Eddie Wineland (24-14-1). I said in our preview that I thought this would be the perfect showcase fight for O’Malley and it proved to be that. Wineland is a big name and is the kind of guy who would go right after O’Malley on the feet. Early on in the fight, O’Malley did a really good job at controlling the distance with his kicks. Wineland kept trying to press forward, but he really could never get close enough to do any damage. O’Malley used his feints extremely well in this fight and put Wineland to sleep with a massive right straight in the first round. O’Malley was already on the fast track to stardom before this fight, but his stock jumped massively with this performance.

Prelim Highlights

There were some definite bright spots in the prelims tonight. One of the early standouts was Herbert Burns (11-2), who kicked off the evening with a quick submission over veteran, Evan Dunham. Alex Perez (24-5) was also incredibly impressive in his performance against Jussier Formiga. Perez was able to get a stoppage via leg kicks which marks the second straight week we’ve seen a leg kick TKO in the octagon. Perez is now 6-1 in his seven UFC fights. Perez is likely next in line for the flyweight title. Devin Clark (12-4) was able to halt all momentum for previously unbeaten, Alonzo Menifield by getting the unanimous decision victory.

One of the fights that Dana White was telling everyone about before tonight was the fight between Maki Pitolo (13-5) and Charles Byrd (10-7). Both men went back and forth early on, but Pitolo was able to get the stoppage in the second round. Byrd has now been finished in three consecutive fights. The next fight featured a featherweight contest between Brian Kelleher (21-11) and Cody Stamann (19-2-1). Stamann was coming into this fight with an extremely heavy heart after he lost his younger brother this week. Stamann turned in an incredible performance and was able to take the unanimous decision victory. The next prelim saw a middleweight contest between Ian Heinisch (14-3) and Gerald Meerschaert (31-13). This was a fight that almost didn’t happen with a corner member of Heinisch testing positive for COVID-19 earlier this week. However, later testing determined it was a false positive so the fight went on. Heinisch went on to make a big statement stopping Meerschaert in the first round.

Bruce Leeroy Stops The Teenage Dream

The featured prelim of the evening featured a featherweight contest between the youngest fighter on the roster, Chase Hooper (9-1-1), and Alex Caceres (16-12-1). Hooper entered this fight with a ton of momentum and a lot of eyes on him. Hooper had the most viewed fight in the history of Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Caceres was a big step up in competition for Hooper and it showed. Caceres hurt Hooper early and often on the feet. There was a massive difference in the two men’s striking ability. Caceres spent the entire first fight busting “The Teenage Dream” up on the feet. Hooper threatened a couple of times in grappling exchanges, but this fight was controlled by Bruce Leeroy. Caceres went on to take the unanimous decision victory.

Final Takeaways

Amanda Nunes has no real challenges ahead of her at this point in either one of her divisions. To me, there is only one fight to make with Nunes, and that is a trilogy fight with flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. Shevchenko, who arguably won the last fight with Nunes, is facing a similar situation at flyweight. These two need to fight for a third time. Nunes’ dominance is something to behold. Felicia Spencer was absolutely game tonight, but she had nothing for the champion tonight.

Aljamain Sterling made a massive statement with his first round victory tonight. I’ve thought all along that Sterling deserved to fight for the title over Jose Aldo/Petr Yan, and he reinforced those thoughts tonight. “Funk Master” will now wait his turn, but there is no denying him of his shot now.

Sean O’Malley and Cody Garbrandt’s knockouts were something to behold tonight. While it was great to see Garbrandt back in the win column, to me, the night belonged to the Suga Show. O’Malley is a budding star, and he made a massive statement tonight. Look for O’Malley to jump into the top 10 in the UFC’s rankings after this performance. Do not be shocked to see the UFC take the Conor McGregor route with O’Malley. I fully expect the Suga Show to get a headlining fight in his next appearance.

 

UFC: Ian Heinisch out of UFC 250 after cornerman tests positive for COVID-19

UFC 250 has lost one of it’s featured prelims for Saturday night. Multiple reports have come out stating that a member of Ian Heinisch’s corner has tested positive for COVID-19. As a result, the UFC has decided to pull Heinisch from the card.

Heinisch (13-3), is currently ranked as the thirteenth best middleweight in the UFC according to the UFC’s official rankings. Heinisch was looking to use this fight against Gerald Meerschaert (31-12) as a way to get back on track. Heinisch was riding high last year entering his fight against Derek Brunson back at UFC 241. Many people were considering Heinisch to be a rising star in the division with a record of 13-1, and the Brunson fight was considered his first big step up in competition. Heinisch went on to lose that fight then he lost a decision to Omari Akhmedov back at UFC 245. Heinisch is still in the top fifteen, but needed a solid performance on Saturday night to right the ship.

As of right now, there is no word on what the UFC is going to do. There is no word on if Meerschaert will stay on the card or if they are going to move this fight to a later date. The UFC has enacted strict testing measures with the pandemic going on, and this is the second fight that has been cancelled due to COVID-19. At UFC 249, Jacare Souza tested positive for COVID-19, and his fight with Uriah Hall was cancelled. This has to be frustrating for Heinisch who by all signs tested negative for the virus, but the UFC is taking no chances with the pandemic going on. Assuming Heinisch does not test positive, you will likely see the UFC get him a fight as soon as possible even if the opponent is not Meerschaert.

UFC 250 Preview: Amanda Nunes looks to continue her reign against Felicia Spencer

This Saturday night, the UFC makes its return to PPV with UFC 250 which will be headlined by the greatest female fighter of all time, Amanda Nunes, defending her featherweight title against Canadian challenger, Felicia Spencer. UFC 250 also is an extremely important event for the UFC’s bantamweight division with a number of key matchups that will play a big role in deciding who will take on the winner of the Petr Yan/Jose Aldo title fight this summer. This is a stacked fight card that has intriguing matchups up and down the card. With that in mind, let’s dive into the card and take a look at some of those intriguing matchups.

Amanda Nunes vs Felicia Spencer

The main event of UFC 250 marks the return of champion, Amanda Nunes (19-4), following her victory over Germaine de Randamie at UFC 245. In that fight, Nunes looked a little more vulnerable than she normally does. The challenger was able to land some solid shots on Nunes for the first time in a while, Nunes appeared to be human. Still in a down performance, Nunes was able to unanimously defeat the former featherweight champion in de Randamie. Nunes hasn’t lost in six years and has looked unbeatable outside of her fights with flyweight champion, Valentina Shevchenko. Nunes is the total package with elite striking ability, incredible power, and a slick ground game. There are no holes in her game. At this stage in her career, it’s hard even finding fights that would be competitive for her. She’s just that much better than all the competition. Felicia Spencer (8-1), is hoping to show the world that she is beatable by pulling off the enormous upset.

You would be hard-pressed to find any girl tougher in the world than Felicia Spencer. Spencer is a bulldog when she fights who doesn’t stop pressing forward even if she is taking some heavy shots. She took everything that former champion, Cris Cyborg, had and just kept coming forward back at UFC 240. That night, Spencer suffered her only career loss. After losing to Cyborg, Spencer bounced back in impressive fashion stopping Zarah Fairn dos Santos in the first round. In that fight, she took some shots on the feet but dominated once the fight got to the campus. Spencer is the type of fighter who doesn’t want to win a pretty fight. She’s not going to dazzle you with her skills, but she looks to run you over with pure toughness and determination. In her training leading up to this fight, it looks like she’s really trying to make strides in her striking game to make her more fluid on the feet. This will be a key factor if she hopes to pull off the upset.

When it comes to this fight, I’m having a hard time seeing how Felicia Spencer can win. This is not a knock on her, but more of a testament to just how good Amanda Nunes is. The Lioness is truly something special to behold, and I don’t believe Spencer has the tools to win this fight. Spencer does not have the fluidity to dodge the shots that Nunes will be throwing on Saturday night. While she was able to evade some of Cyborg’s looping punches, she’s going to really struggle to evade the speed and accuracy that Amanda Nunes will be throwing at her. Spencer’s only chance in this fight is to make it a clinch war early where she can hope to tire the champion. If she can make Amanda tired, she could maybe take it to the ground where she can do what Cat Zingano did to Nunes almost six years ago. However, I think the fans are going to be in for a showcase performance by Amanda Nunes. Spencer is as tough as they come, but she is going to get lit up early and often in this fight. I just think the power and the speed is going to be way too much for Felicia Spencer on Saturday. Spencer is one of the best in the world at 145, but there is a massive gap between the contenders and Amanda Nunes.

Prediction: Amanda Nunes by TKO – Round 1

Cody Garbrandt vs Raphael Assuncao

The co-main event of the evening features the return of former bantamweight champion, Cody Garbrandt (11-3), as he looks to rebound against perennial bantamweight contender, Raphael Assuncao (27-7). Entering 2017, Garbrandt was looked at as the next big star of the UFC. He had just dominated Dominick Cruz to win the bantamweight title back at UFC 207, and he was extremely entertaining to watch. Garbrandt had seven first-round finishes in his first eleven fights which is almost unheard of for guys in the lower weight classes. Garbrandt had a speed/power combination that made him a handful. His stardom was starting to take off when he coached the Ultimate Fighter alongside ex-teammate, TJ Dillashaw. The two’s feud made the show a hit, and a lot of people were tuned into UFC 217 specifically to watch those two go at it. Garbrandt looked incredibly sharp early and almost finished the fight in the first round. Since that round, Garbrandt has not been the same fighter. Garbrandt got knocked out in the second round by Dillashaw. Following the loss, Garbrandt had trouble staying healthy but was able to get a rematch the next year. This time, Dillashaw knocked out Garbrandt in the first round. Then Garbrandt would go on to get knocked out in the first round by contender, Pedro Munhoz at UFC 235 last year. This is a make it or break it fight for “No Love”. He needs a big win here to get himself back on the right path and stop this horrendous skid that he’s currently on.

Standing across from Garbrandt will be contender, Raphael Assuncao. Since joining the UFC, Assuncao has quietly put together one of the better careers for someone who has never fought for the title. He’s 11-3 in the UFC and holds wins over TJ Dillashaw, Marlon Moraes, Aljamain Sterling, and Pedro Munhoz. You would think with all of those wins over the top guys in the world the guy would have fought for the title. The problem for Assuncao has been the title eliminator fights. At UFC 200, he lost to TJ Dillashaw in a fight that would have likely given him a title shot had he won. After that, Assuncao rattled off four consecutive wins and he found himself again on the cusp of a title shot only to lose to Marlon Moraes who he had just defeated 18 months prior. For the first time in his career, Assuncao has lost two fights in a row coming into UFC 250. This fight is massive for both guys who are at the top of the division, but both are coming into Saturday on multiple fight losing streaks.

I’ve gone back and forth with this fight on what I think is going to happen. Who wins will honestly come down to one man and that man is Cody Garbrandt. If we can see 2016 Cody Garbrandt, I think he is going to win impressively. His back is against the wall, and I believe that he still has plenty in the tank. Garbrandt is splitting this camp between Team Alpha Male and Mark Henry’s gym in New Jersey. I think you are going to see a new and improved Garbrandt in this fight. However, he cannot get reckless like he did against Pedro Munhoz. Garbrandt threw caution to the wind after he rocked Munhoz and got himself knocked out. Garbrandt needs to stay patient and pick his shots. If he rushes in recklessly, Assuncao possesses the power to knock him out. I think you are going to see a more mature Cody Garbrandt in this fight, and I think he stops his losing streak by stopping Raphael Assuncao.

Prediction: Cody Garbrandt by TKO – Round 2

Aljamain Sterling vs Cory Sandhagen

In all honesty, this is the fight that I’m most looking forward to on Saturday night. This bantamweight matchup between Aljamain Sterling (18-3) and Cory Sandhagen (12-1) will likely determine who will be facing the winner of the Petr Yan/Jose Aldo fight for the bantamweight title. I was blown away the last time that we saw Sterling in the octagon. Sterling’s striking looked better than ever which just makes him even more dynamic and dangerous. “Funk Master” is such a fitting name when you watch the way he picked apart Pedro Munhoz at UFC 238. Sterling throws from awkward angles yet he seems to find a home for most of his shots. He’s tremendous on the ground and doesn’t mind the fight going there which opens up his kicking game. Coming into this fight, Sterling has won four fights in a row. I believed that he should have been the one fighting for the title against Petr Yan, but the UFC is going for more name recognition in that one. Sterling is riding high and he’s hoping that he can continue that high against Sandhagen.

Cory Sandhagen has looked sensational since he debuted in the UFC back in 2018. Sandhagan made his UFC debut on just eight days’ notice when he stopped Iuri Alcantara in the second round. Since then he’s rattled off three more wins including notable victories over John Lineker and Raphael Assuncao. There are not a lot of weaknesses in Sandhagen’s game. He’s good on the ground and he’s really good on the feet. Sandhagen does a really good job of using his height and reach to control the distance when he strikes. In a fight that is likely going to go the distance, point fighting is going to be very important. Despite being taller by four inches, Sandhagen actually will have a reach disadvantage in this fight, but don’t let that fool you. Sandhagen fights taller than his reach with his frequent use of kicks to all targets from the legs to up top. This is truly a fight where I don’t know what’s going to happen.

It does not get more even than these two. Both guys bring a similar skillset to the octagon, and both guys are riding impressive winning streaks. This is a fight that I would be scared to bet any sort of money on. I’ve gone back and forth the last couple of days, and as I’m writing this, I’m going to lean towards Sterling. Sterling is so close to the title and I think he will fight with urgency. I think this fight is going to go back and forth, but I believe in the end, Sterling will do enough to secure a decision. I do not see either guy getting a finish, and I see the decision being razor close.

Prediction: Aljamain Sterling – Split Decision

Neil Magny vs Anthony Ricco Martin

The second fight on the main card features a welterweight contest between Neil Magny (22-7) and Anthony Rocco Martin (17-5). This is an interesting matchup that I see going one of two ways. Martin is the better fighter on the ground so if he’s able to get the fight to the ground, I can see him either winning by submission or by points. However, Martin does not do a very good job of getting fights to the ground which likely means we will see a standup fight. Magny has fought some of the best guys in the world and possesses a decent standup game. Magny also has a really good gas tank that will allow him to fight at a faster pace which does not favor Martin. Since I see this fight staying up on the feet, I think Magny is going to control this one throughout. Magny is coming off a win back in March after a 16-month layoff. I think Magny is going to get his second consecutive win by staying on the outside and controlling the range, picking apart Martin throughout. I don’t see either man getting a finish unless Martin gets it to the ground, so I’m going to go with Magny here to get his second win of 2020.

Prediction: Neil Magny – Unanimous Decision

Sean O’Malley vs Eddie Wineland

Kicking off the PPV card we will get to watch the Suga Show. “Sugar” Sean O’Malley (11-0) will be taking on veteran and former title challenger, Eddie Wineland (24-13-1). O’Malley has been through the wringer over the last couple of years. The 25-year-old burst onto the scene back in 2017 with an incredible performance on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. O’Malley would then go on to win his first two fights in the UFC. However, failed drug tests kept O’Malley out for two years before his return back in March. O’Malley’s situation was incredibly frustrating because the tests were finding trace amounts of a substance that was likely there due to a tainted supplement. O’Malley was frustrated, but stayed patient and finally got to return at UFC 248. There, O’Malley looked better than ever stopping Jose Alberto Quinonez in the first round. This is a perfect follow-up fight for O’Malley because he is now getting a chance to fight someone with a little name recognition.

Eddie Wineland has been around for a long time and was the first WEC bantamweight champion. Wineland has fought guys like Urijah Faber, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and Renan Barao. Wineland challenged for the UFC’s bantamweight title against Barao back in 2013. Wineland is about as tough as they come and he’s the kind of guy who is going to come right at O’Malley. The last time we saw Wineland, he stopped Grigory Popov in the second round back at UFC 238. Wineland is no joke, but he also makes for the perfect opponent for the rising UFC star.

This to me is a complete showcase fight for Sugar Sean O’Malley. He’s going to have a big advantage on the feet, and he’s taking on a guy who is going to come right at him. This fight on this stage will give O’Malley another big bump in his popularity if he’s able to impressively win. If you’re trying to build up a star, this is perfect matchmaking. Of course, Wineland is extremely tough and has a punchers chance, but I can’t see him beating O’Malley. I think O’Malley is going to pick him apart from the outside before catching Wineland with something big as he comes in. This fight is a stepping stone fight for O’Malley and I don’t believe he’s going to disappoint.

Prediction: Sean O’Malley by TKO – Round 1

Prelim’s to Watch

The entire card is really good for Saturday night. The prelims are filled with several intriguing matchups and fighters to pay attention to. I’m anxious to watch the featured prelim between Chase Hooper (9-0-1) and Alex Caceres (15-12). Hooper is another guy who could develop into a star for the UFC. The 20-year-old possesses some of the best ground skills in the UFC, and it will be interesting seeing him go up against a veteran like “Bruce Leeroy”. In addition to that, you have guys like Ian Heinisch, Cody Stamann, and Alex Perez all fighting on the prelims. I’m also very interested in seeing the undefeated Alonzo Menifield who is coming into UFC 250 with four consecutive first round finishes. The very first fight of the evening features Herbert Burns (10-2) and veteran, Evan Dunham (18-8-1). This is a fun fight and I’m interested to see more of Burns who is coming off of a sensational victory in his first UFC fight back in January. Burns is the brother of UFC welterweight contender, Gilbert Burns. Overall, the card is incredibly stacked with fun fights from start to finish. I’ll be excited to tune in on Saturday night for another night of incredible fights.

UFC: Landscape of the Bantamweight Division prior to UFC 250

Less than a month ago, Henry Cejudo (16-2) stopped Dominick Cruz (22-3) in the second round at UFC 249 to retain his bantamweight title. To the surprise of pretty much everyone, “Triple C” announced in the Octagon that he was leaving the sport following the Cruz victory. Cejudo said he felt like there was nothing left for him to accomplish and hinted that he wasn’t getting paid enough to stick around for any additional fights. With Cejudo out of the mix, the bantamweight division is wide open. While we do have some clarity in the title picture, the rest of the division is wide open with a lot of intriguing possibilities.

Yan vs. Aldo for the Title

UFC President, Dana White, came out last week and announced that Patr Yan (14-1) and former featherweight champion, Jose Aldo (28-6) would be fighting sometime this summer for the vacant bantamweight title. It was a fight that personally left me a little surprised. Jose Aldo is coming off of a loss in his divisional debut to Marlon Moraes (23-6) back at UFC 245 although many people including myself believe that Aldo won the fight. Aldo was called out by the former champion despite losing the fight on the scorecards. Because Cejudo wanted to fight him, Aldo was granted the title shot. With Cejudo out of the picture, I figured the UFC would pivot to someone at least coming off of a win. However, the UFC is still giving the former featherweight king the shot. Yan is the one guy in the equation who you cannot deny deserves the shot. He should have been in line ahead of Aldo in the first place. Yan is 5-0 since joining the UFC and has looked spectacular in every outing. He’s coming off an incredible win where he demolished UFC Hall of Famer, Urijah Faber. With Cejudo gone, Yan is the #1 guy in that division if you ask me. It will be a very interesting fight when he and Aldo square off given their skillsets. If you would have asked me a few years ago who would win, I would lean towards Aldo. However, if you ask me tonight as I’m writing this, I would lean towards the Russian, Yan. It will be a fun fight that fight fans should be looking forward to at some point this summer.

UFC 250 Has Big Implications

The rest of the division is completely wide open. There are two fights scheduled for UFC 250 which should help narrow down the contenders a bit, but it’s still not easy figuring out who would be next in line after the Yan/Aldo fight. Using the UFC’s rankings, #2 Aljamain Sterling (18-3), and #4 Cory Sandhagen (12-1) will be squaring off next Saturday in a fight that on paper would likely indicate the challenger for the winner of the Yan/Aldo fight. Sterling has rattled off four consecutive wins and Sandhagen is unbeaten since joining the UFC. A lot of people believed that Sterling should have been given the title shot over Aldo. The same night of the Sterling/Sandhagan fight we have former bantamweight champion, #9 Cody Garbrandt (11-3), and #5 Raphael Assuncao squaring off. Garbrandt was on the fast track to stardom after he dethroned Dominick Cruz for the title back in December of 2016. “No Love” was a knockout artist who looked like he could lead the division for the long haul. Garbrandt’s career has completely been derailed since that victory over Cruz. Garbrandt has dealt with numerous injuries and has been knocked out in three consecutive fights. This is a fight that could get him going back in the right direction. Assuncao, who is 11-3 in his last 14 fights, has been on the cusp of a title shot numerous times. Right before he’d get the shot someone would beat him. Back at UFC 200, it was TJ Dillashaw, then at UFC Fight Night 144 it was Marlon Moraes. Both guys were previously defeated by Assuncao, but he would fall to them both when a title shot was on the line. A win over Garbrandt could once again get Assuncao close to a title shot.

“The Answer” Drops Down

Last week there was another big announcement for the UFC’s bantamweight division in that former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar (23-8) would be dropping down to 135 to make his debut against #7 Pedro Munhoz (18-4). The last time we saw “The Answer” he was certainly not at his best. Edgar took a short notice fight against Chan Sung Jung and was taken out early in the first round. That loss came on the heels of his title loss to former featherweight champ, Max Holloway. Edgar hasn’t held UFC gold since 2011 and this drop to 135 is looked at as his last chance to win a title. Edgar had a solid run at featherweight but went 0-3 in his title opportunities. Now, Edgar is moving to the weight class he probably should have been in for a long time. Pedro Munhoz will be standing across from Edgar after a year layoff following a loss to Aljamain Sterling back at UFC 238. Going into the Sterling fight, Munhoz was riding a three-fight win streak which included a knockout of former champion, Cody Garbrandt. Munhoz is an extremely tough customer for Edgar’s first fight in the bantamweight division, but you wouldn’t expect anything less for Edgar. With his history, an impressive win over Munhoz on July 11th could vault Edgar right into title contention. I would like to see him get a couple of wins at 135 before getting a shot, but with the UFC, you never know.

What About GOATs?

With no disrespect to Henry Cejudo, the two greatest bantamweights of all time are Dominick Cruz and TJ Dillashaw. Yes, Cejudo did beat both, but he beat an older Dominick Cruz who hadn’t fought in three years and he beat a very depleted TJ Dillashaw at flyweight. When it comes to the body of work and longevity, the two best ever at 135 are Cruz and Dillashaw. So where do they fit into all of this? TJ Dillashaw popped for EPO back in January of 2019 after his loss to Henry Cejudo. Dillashaw had never failed a drug test before, but admitted he used it to assist him in having the energy to get himself down to 125 pounds. Dillashaw was suspended for two years, but that suspension will be up in January. Dillashaw thinks that he could warrant a title shot once he returns, but I’m not convinced the UFC will go in that direction.

Then you have Dominick Cruz. Cruz looked a step off in his fight against Cejudo at UFC 249. It was his first fight since the Garbrandt loss back at UFC 207 and he did not appear to be very sharp. In his time away from the sport due to injuries, Cruz continued to perfect the craft of being a commentator appearing on many of the UFC’s events over the last few years. Cruz is primed for a career at the booth once his career is over, but I’m not convinced he’s done just yet. He hinted that he might have retired if he would have won the belt from Cejudo, but I can’t see Cruz going out after that loss especially ending the way it did. So if Cruz isn’t going to retire and Dillashaw doesn’t get the title shot, what do you do with both of them? You can probably see where I’m going in suggesting you have them headline a card in January. I don’t see Cruz taking a fight against just anybody in the division and he might want to give himself a long training camp before his next fight. Dillashaw is going to need a big name for his return, and the two have a history with Cruz edging out Dillashaw for the title back in 2016. A fight between these two makes a ton of sense to me and I would not be shocked to see this fight announced in the fall.

Where’s the Magic?

I feel like someone is missing from all these potential matchups. Well, how about the UFC’s #1 ranked Bantamweight Marlon Moraes. I’ve mentioned Moraes a few times, but I haven’t talked about who he’s fighting next. Well, that’s because there’s no fight currently scheduled for him. Moraes, according to Dana White, was going to fight Yan in June, but that fight has been scrapped in favor of the title fight mentioned above. At this point, there’s not anyone for Moraes to fight that wouldn’t be a big step down in competition with most of the top ten already booked. At this point, I guess the UFC will likely pair Moraes up with one of the winners from UFC 250. You honestly have to feel for Moraes who holds wins over Aldo, Sterling, and Assuncao yet seems to be without a dance partner. If I had to take a guess, if Aljamain Sterling wins at UFC 250, he will likely get the next shot at the title. That would mean that the UFC will likely pair Moraes up with either Assuncao for the third time or he will fight former champion Cody Garbandt in his next fight. Of course, that is all speculative at this point.

Stacked Division, Stacked Fights

The UFC’s bantamweight division is incredibly stacked as we’ve laid out in this article. I didn’t even mention guys like Sugar Sean O’Malley, Jimmie Rivera, Urijah Faber, John Dodson, Song Yadong, and Marlon Vera in this article. With no champion, this talented weight class has entered chaos in the best possible way. There are so many fun matchups that are already scheduled and there are so many fun matchups to day-dream about. This division will become a lot more clear over the next six weeks, but until then, let the chaos commence.