Was Zhang Weili the right choice for UFC 268?

At UFC 268, we will see a rematch for the strawweight title. However, it’s not the rematch that a lot of people in the MMA community thought we were going to see. Rose Namajunas (10-4) will defend her title against Zhang Weili (21-2) in November at UFC 268.

These two first met back in April at UFC 261. Namajunas always has a flare for the dramatic when capturing world titles and April was no different. She knocked Weili out with a head kick and stopped her just over a minute into the first round.

The loss snapped a massive winning streak for Weili and it was also her first loss in the UFC. Weili lost her first ever professional MMA fight. After that, she won 21 in a row on her way to becoming the strawweight champion.

She knocked out Jessica Andrade to become the champion and defended successfully in 2020 against Joanna Jedrzejczyk in a fight of the year effort. Namajunas was looked at as her biggest challenge in the strawweight division.

However, nobody expected her to lose in the fashion she did at UFC 261. Given how lopsided and quick the fight was, many thought that Weili wouldn’t get an immediate rematch with the champion.

Was Weili the right choice for UFC 268?

When the fight was announced a couple of weeks ago, a lot of UFC fans were confused by the booking. Many believed that Carla Esparza (18-6) would be the next in line for a title shot.

Given the way the first fight with Weili and Namajunas went, most didn’t think an immediate rematch would take place. The UFC had Esparza as the top contender if Namajunas wouldn’t take the fight against Weili in April.

When Namajunas took the fight, Esparza went on to fight Yan Xiaonan and dominated her and got a second round TKO. That dominant performance was a fifth straight win for the former UFC champion.

Given the fact that Esparza was a former champion and holds a win over Namajunas, I figured she’d get the nod. However, the sexier fight in terms of numbers in the eyes of the promotion is the rematch with Weili.

Weili’s run is certainly remarkable, but I do think Esparza should’ve gotten the spot at UFC 268. Despite getting passed over, Esparza was in good spirts posting on her Instagram that she’s “Got next”.

UFC announces Rose Namajunas – Zhang Weili 2

One of the biggest women’s fights of the year will get a part two. Tonight at UFC Vegas 35, the promotion announced that we will see a strawweight title rematch in November at UFC 268 as Rose Namajunas (10-4) will defend her title against Zhang Weili (21-2).

These two ladies first fought back in April at UFC 261. The card was the first PPV card with a full crowd and their first fight was one of the most highly anticipated female fights in the promotion’s history.

Zhang Weili looked like she was going to reign over the strawweight division for a long time. The first UFC champion born in China had dominated virtually every opponent that stood in her way on her way to capturing the title.

She won the Fight of The Year in 2020 when she defeated Joanna Jedrzejczyk in her first title defense. However, UFC 261 was going to be her toughest fight to date. Many had looked at Rose Namajunas as the best in the world when she was truly focused on fighting.

Well, Namajunas was focused at UFC 261. Zhang Weili was just feeling out the fight in the opening 90 seconds when she was met with a brutal head kick that put her out. Namajunas became the first woman to regain a UFC title after losing it.

Second UFC reign for Namajunas

The journey of Rose Namajunas has been something to see inside the UFC. Namajunas was first introduced via The Ultimate Fighter when the promotion held the show to crown a 115 pound champion.

While Namajunas was looked at as a favorite, she lost in the finals to Carla Esparza. Following that loss, Namajunas focused on improving and she gradually rose to the top of the UFC’s strawweight division.

She pulled off a massive upset when she knocked out and dethroned Joanna Jedrzejczyk to become the strawweight champion. She proved she was the best by beating Jedrzejczyk in an immediate rematch.

Namajunas finds herself in virtually the same position now. She knocked out Zhang Weili at UFC 261 and now she’s fighting her in an immediate rematch. It’ll be interesting to see if history repeats itself in November.

UFC pivots and books Frankie Edgar – Chito Vera

Frankie Edgar

The UFC has switched up their plans for a bantamweight contest that will go down in November. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto reported this afternoon that the promotion was booking at contest between Frankie Edgar (24-9-1) and Chito Vera (19-7-1).

The matchup will take place at UFC 268 on November 6th. Now, originally the promotion was planning on Edgar taking on Sean O’Malley on this card. However, The Suga Show turned down the date due to some conflicts in his schedule.

The UFC wanted to keep Edgar on the card with the card being planned for Madison Square Garden. Edgar, a New Jersey native, was also wanting to stay on the NYC card in November.

As a result, the UFC scrapped their plans for O’Malley and shifted to the one man who’s defeated him, Chito Vera. Vera is coming off of a bounce back win back in June when he defeated Davey Grant by decision.

That win came on the heels of Vera’s loss to former UFC champion Jose Aldo back in December. Now, Vera is getting right back in there with another legend and another former UFC champion.

Last UFC Stand for Edgar?

Frankie Edgar still has a lot of fight left in him. The former lightweight champion is now competing in his third weight class in the UFC as he’s trying to once again capture gold that has evaded him since 2012.

As mentioned, Edgar became a star when he became the UFC lightweight champion. That said, Edgar was always undersized for a lightweight. Eventually, Edgar moved to 145 pounds and tried to become a champion at featherweight.

Edgar had three cracks at the UFC featherweight title and came up short in each contest. For the final move of his career, Edgar decided to drop down to 135 pounds and compete as a bantamweight.

In reality, this is the best weight class for Edgar and who knows what his career would’ve been like if he would have been at 135 the entire time. He made his bantamweight debut last year and picked up a win over Pedro Munhoz.

Edgar lost in a UFC title eliminator earlier this year to Cory Sandhagen by first round knockout in 28 seconds. That said, Edgar is still ready to try again and he’s ready to take on Chito Vera.

UFC pushing back Israel Adesanya – Robert Whittaker 2

One of the more highly anticipated UFC fights of 2021 is going to have to wait. Today, we’ve learned that the rematch between Israel Adesanya (21-1) and Robert Whittaker (23-5) is being delayed.

Apparently, the UFC was targeting this rematch as the headliner of UFC 268 in New York. The rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington was thought to be the headliner of the event.

However, we are now learning that the UFC was targeting that fight as the co-main while the Adesanya – Whittaker rematch would be the headliner. Unfortunately for fight fans, that fight will not take place in November as originally planned.

Whittaker’s manager told the Daily Telegraph today that the UFC had planned on Whittaker – Adesanya 2 headlining MSG. However, due to COVID-19 restrictions in New Zealand, the fight is being pushed back.

According to Whittaker’s manager, neither Adesanya nor Whittaker were going to have issues getting into the United States. However, Adesanya was going to be stranded for a while without being able to return to New Zealand for a while. As a result, the UFC is scrapping the November idea.

When will the UFC book this rematch?

Per Whittaker’s manager, the UFC is now looking at potentially booking the rematch in the first part of 2022. Perhaps the January PPV or even the Super Bowl PPV cards could be the target for their rematch.

The two men fought back at UFC 243 when Adesanya was the interim champion and Whittaker was the undisputed champion. Adesanya finished Whittaker in the second round to unify the UFC title.

Since that win, Adesanya has gone 3-1 with the lone loss coming in his attempt to capture a second world title against Jan Blachowicz. Whittaker has been extremely patient while he’s waited for his rematch with the UFC champion.

Bobby Knuckles has gone on a run where he’s defeated Darren Till, Jared Cannonier, and Kelvin Gastelum. Honestly, Whittaker deserved this rematch a long time ago and I’m just glad he’s getting the next shot. Downside is that we have no idea at this point when the fight will take place.

UFC’s Gaethje to Chandler: ‘There’s something about your face that just makes me want to punch you’

One of the most highly anticipated fights of the year is scheduled to go down at UFC 268. Two of the best lightweights in the world will battle it out as Michael Chandler (22-6) takes on Justin Gaethje (22-3).

Both men have incredibly similar styles and both love to stand and trade. In addition to having a similar fan-friendly fighting style, both men are also in a very similar spot in their career.

Chandler just lost a UFC lightweight title fight back in May to Charles Oliveira. The last time we saw Justin Gaethje fight was at UFC 254 when he lost a lightweight title fight to Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Both men are coming off title losses, but they still rank at the very top of the division. While they have paid some compliments to each other in the past, there is some underlying beef between the two UFC lightweights.

It all started with Chandler stating on an Instagram Live that Gaethje turned down a fight with him several times. Gaethje fired back at Chandler and said that he was slandering his name. This was all prior to the UFC finalizing the fight between the two.

UFC 268 In Flux

Today at the UFC weight in show, Justin Gaethje appeared as a guest. Michael Chandler was one of the hosts along with Daniel Cormier and several other personalities from the promotion.

Gaethje stated in the interview that he doesn’t have much of a reason to dislike Chandler, but he just does. The former interim UFC champion said to Chandler, “It’s been a while since I fought someone I didn’t like… There’s something about your face that just makes me want to punch you… It’s the smirk.”

This got a big smile out of Chandler. Chandler has seemed incredibly excited since this fight got announced. Chandler has stated that the one guy that he wants to fight more than anyone is Justin Gaethje.

Now, there was an interesting statement from Gaethje in today’s interview. Gaethje openly said that he didn’t think his fight with Chandler will take place in New York City and he was hoping that it doesn’t.

Couple this with Michael Chandler saying he’s not going to get vaccinated and it’s starting to look like UFC 268 is going to change. New York City issued a vaccine mandate and that could jeopardize the event.

Dana White has said this week that he has spoken to Madison Square Garden and there’s no issue. However, my guess is that the UFC is already planning on either moving this fight or moving their PPV to a new location. I would imagine that the promotion would like to keep Gaethje – Chandler on PPV so it will be interesting to find out where it takes place.

Vaccine mandates in NYC could alter the plans for UFC 268

UFC, Dana White

UFC 268 is supposed to be a massive event for the promotion. The promotion is targeting a return to Madison Square Garden for the event and they are bringing incredible fights to New York for that event.

Headlining UFC 268 is the rematch between Kamaru Usman (19-1) and Colby Covington (16-2). In addition, UFC 268 will play host to the return of Luke Rockhold as he takes on Sean Strickland. 

However, arguably the most anticipated matchup that’s been announced is the co-main event. The UFC has booked Michael Chandler (22-6) against Justin Gaethje (22-3). This is a dream fight for most fans and were supposed to see it in November.

However, a new mandate in New York City might jeopardize that fight. Michael Chandler had an Instagram Live session yesterday (from MMA Junkie) where he was very open and honest about the fact that he will not be vaccinated come the November.

Chandler said that he was not anti-vax and that he would consider taking the vaccine once it’s FDA approved. I can assure you that Chandler is not the only fighter in the UFC who is not vaccinated and I guarantee he’s not the only one on the card that won’t be.

New York City announced new mandates that requires vaccination proof to do just about anything indoors. With this new mandate coming down, the UFC 268 location might be in jeopardy.

UFC 268 Backup Plans

Dana White has always said that the UFC will never force their athletes to do anything. In regards to forcing vaccinations, White said to TSN, “I would never tell another human being what to do with their body. If you want to get vaccinated, that’s up to you. That’s your choice. You’re never going to hear me say I’m going to force people to get vaccinated. Never gonna happen.”

I can guarantee White isn’t going to change his position and I guarantee the UFC fighters who don’t want the vaccine will not get it. That said, this card is in a lot of trouble in terms of the location.

It’s worth noting that the location has not been announced for UFC 268. While it’s widely known that it’s supposed to take place at MSG, the promotion hasn’t officially announced anything yet.

Dana White has been operating through the fluid waters of this pandemic for well over a year. The UFC knows how to deal with situations like this and I can assure you that they’re already working on a new location. This will definitely be something to watch over the coming weeks.

UFC books Luke Rockhold – Sean Strickland

Luke Rockhold

The UFC is in the process of finalizing a big middleweight contest for November. Aaron Bronsteter of TSN was the first to report that the promotion was closing in on a middleweight contest between former UFC champion Luke Rockhold (16-5) and Sean Strickland (24-3).

The fight will take place at UFC 268 which is scheduled for November 6th. The location is tentatively booked for Madison Square Garden, but given our current environment, that location is not set in stone.

Strickland is coming off of a big win against Uriah Hall at UFC Vegas 33 over the weekend. Earlier today, we published a piece about what could be next for Strickland. One of the options out there was a fight with sixth ranked Jack Hermansson.

However, the UFC had different plans. Luke Rockhold has been itching to make his return, but the promotion was having a tough time getting him a fight. He wanted someone in the top ten, but nobody was available for him.

UFC books Rockhold’s Return

After Strickland won this past weekend, the UFC asked him if he’d be interested in fighting Luke Rockhold in November. Strickland told the promotion that he’d be ready and the UFC went back to Rockhold with an offer.

It didn’t take long for the former middleweight champion to accept and now his return is officially on the books. Rockhold will be fighting at middleweight for the first time since 2018 when he lost to Yoel Romero in an interim title fight.

After that loss, Rockhold moved up to light heavyweight where he was knocked out by the current champion Jan Blachowicz. After that fight at UFC 239, Rockhold said that he was walking away from the sport.

However, after having some time away to heal up, Rockhold got the itch to compete again. Now, the former UFC champion is set to make his return and he’s coming for the middleweight title.

Overall, Rockhold is 6-3 in his last nine UFC fights. However, he’s just 1-3 after becoming middleweight champion and all three of those losses were by knockout. This is a huge fight for both men and it will tell us a lot about where each man is.

UFC books Justin Gaethje – Michael Chandler

One of the most highly anticipated lightweight matchups has been officially booked. ESPN’s Brett Okamoto was the first to report that the UFC has finalized a lightweight contest between Justin Gaethje (22-3) and Michael Chandler (22-6).

The fight is taking place at UFC 268 on November 6th. While it’s not official, the location for UFC 268 is supposed to be Madison Square Garden. The rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington will headline the UFC 268 card. Chandler and Gaethje are expected to be the co-main event.

The UFC has been trying to book this fight for a while and it’s finally being booked. Michael Chandler was the big free agent signing for the UFC last year after his stint with Bellator. Chandler made his debut back in January and scored a first round knockout over Dan Hooker.

Following that win, Chandler got a shot at the vacant UFC lightweight title against Charles Oliveira. After a dominant first round, Chandler was stopped in the second round. Chandler took a little time off after the loss, but he’s ready to get back at it and the only fight he wanted was Justin Gaethje.

UFC return for Gaethje

This will actually be the first fight for Justin Gaethje since UFC 254 last October. Heading into that fight against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Gaethje was the interim lightweight champion. Gaethje was submitted in the second round by Nurmagomedov.

Since then, Gaethje has been taking some time off as he planned his next fight. Originally, the promotion was looking at having Gaethje and Chandler fight at UFC 262 for the vacant lightweight title. However, the promotion shifted gears and gave the shot to Oliveira who went on to capture the lightweight title.

Prior to his loss to Nurmagomedov, Gaethje had won four straight fights all by stoppage. This fight will seemingly line up with the title fight between Dustin Poirier and Charles Oliveira which is being targeted for the end of the year. The winner of this fight at UFC 268 will be the next in line for a title shot.

UFC finalizes rematch between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington

The UFC has finalized arguably the biggest rematch they can make right now. ESPN was the first to report today that the promotion had finalized the welterweight title rematch between Kamaru Usman (19-1) and Colby Covington (16-2).

The matchup is scheduled to headline UFC 268 which will take place on November 6th. The current plan is for UFC 268 to take place at Madison Square Garden, however, that is not finalized yet and with an ongoing pandemic, things can always change.

However, that is the plan as of now. The fight will be the second installment of this tremendous rivalry between the two best welterweights on the planet. Their first fight took place at UFC 245.

That night, we saw an absolute war between the two men. The fight was fought at a crazy pace and both men had a tremendous amount of success. Heading into the final round the scores were: 3-1 Covington, 2-2, 3-1 Usman.

The fight came down to the final round. In that final round, Kamaru Usman was able to get the stoppage win and retain his UFC welterweight title. The stoppage is something that Covington protests to this day.

UFC 268 at MSG

Now, nearly two years after their first fight, these two will run it back at MSG at UFC 268. Since the first fight, Covington has fought only once and that was last August against former champion Tyron Woodley.

Covington put a beating on Woodley and stopped him in the final frame. Kamaru Usman has successfully defended his title three times since their first fight including twice already in 2021.

It seems that Usman is getting better and better which each fight. His two title defenses this year really showed just how special Usman is. He stopped Gilbert Burns at UFC 258 then knocked out Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261.

Now, the world will get the rematch we’ve waited on. Colby Covington is always going to be the toughest fight for Kamaru Usman given his style. On the flip side, Kamaru Usman is always going to be an incredibly difficult fight for Colby Covington.

Make no mistake about it, these are the two best welterweights in the UFC. I’m very much looking forward to the rematch that we’ve been waiting for, for almost two years.