BREAKING: Kamaru Usman – Jorge Masvidal is done. Fight set to main event next Saturday’s UFC 251 card

The deal is done. The UFC has agreed to a deal with welterweight champion Kamaru Usman (16-1) and Jorge Masvidal (35-13) for next week’s UFC card on Yas Island. UFC‘s first Fight Island card is going to be headlined by the fight that was talked about all year long. ESPN’s Ariel Helwani has been on this story from the beginning.

How did we get here for UFC 251

Jorge Masvidal won the UFC‘s Male Fighter of the Year award in 2019 after three impressive wins. He won the BMF title, and was set to take on the winner of Kamaru Usman/Colby Covington. After Usman successfully defended his title, Masvidal set his targets on the Nigerian champion. The two had a run in at the Super Bowl which added more fuel to the fire of their fight.

It’s no secret that Masvidal has become a big UFC star, and he wanted to be paid like it. However, wanting to get paid like a star is where the fight negotiations took a turn for the worse. The UFC became frustrated with negotiations and gave the fight to Gilbert Burns over Masvidal. However, Burns tested positive for COVID-19 which opened the door for this fight again.

The UFC came to the table with a strong offer, and they got the deal done. Late last night, the two sides were very close to a deal, and they two sides reached an agreement today. Masvidal was flown on a private jet to Las Vegas to begin his testing precautions for the fight.

The fight that needed to happen

This is the fight that UFC fans wanted all along. Two massive stars who had legitimate beef going into the fight. This is the proper main event that the UFC‘s first card on Fight Island should have. In sports, you have rare times where you need to capitalize on a fighter’s stardom. This is the time to capitalize on Masvidal’s stardom. He needed to fight for the title, and it’s a very good thing that the UFC was able to pull this off.

UFC: Masvidal willing to step in for Burns, will the UFC make it happen?

Late Friday evening, next week’s UFC 251 card took a massive hit. The main event was taken out by a positive COVID-19 test from welterweight challenger, Gilbert Burns. UFC champion, Kamaru Usman, did not board the charter flight to Fight Island after the news came out. There is no official word from the UFC yet, but the original number one contender has voiced his interest in stepping in.

What will the UFC do?

No disrespect to Gilbert Burns, but this title shot always belonged to Jorge Masvidal. After Masvidal was named fighter of the year in 2019, he earned the title shot. There was so much heat between him and Usman that the fight was guaranteed to sell. However, the negotiations went south when Masvidal was expected to take less money for the title fight than he received for the BMF fight against Nate Diaz.

Negotiations spilled out into the public and Burns was given the shot over Masvidal. Now, Gamebred is saying that he will step in on a week’s notice to take the fight. The question is, will the UFC make it happen? Will the UFC pony up the money it will take for Masvidal to get the shot?

Anything is possible, but my guess is no. If the UFC couldn’t make the fight happen over the course of months of negotiations, I don’t think they will make a last minute fight happen. I think they will be content with rescheduling Burns/Usman for a later date. I hope I’m wrong because I believe that Masvidal deserves to be in that main event spot.

BREAKING: Gilbert Burns out of UFC 251 headliner after testing positive for COVID-19

UFC 251 has taken a hit as Gilbert Burns (19-3) has tested positive for COVID-19. Burns was set to take on welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman (16-1), on Fight Island next Saturday night. MMA Junkie was the first to report the news late Friday evening.

Tough blow for the UFC and Burns

Burns was on the cusp of cementing his status as UFC male fighter of the year. Burns entered 2020 as a solid welterweight contender, but after dominant wins over Demian Maia and Tyron Woodley, it was apparent that Burns was championship material.

Kamaru Usman was originally scheduled to take on Jorge Masvidal at UFC 251. However, contract negotiations fell apart. The surging Burns jumped at the opportunity to take on his now former teammate Usman. Burns became the top ranked welterweight and was given the shot.

What happens next?

As of now, nothing has been announced from the UFC so there is no real idea on what comes next. The likely scenario is that we will see the fight get rebooked for later this year. Perhaps next month on the same card as Cormier/Miocic 3 or perhaps it gets pushed back to September. No matter what, this is a tough blow to next week’s first card on Fight Island. With this news, the featherweight title fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway will slide into the main event slot.

I do wonder if the UFC tries to revisit the Masvidal fight now that the Burns fight has fallen through. The Masvidal fight had a ton of heat behind it, and it would sell very well. It is unlikely that the UFC would pass over Burns in favor of Masvidal, but it wouldn’t be completely surprising. I still think the likely scenario will be that we see Burns and Usman fight in either August or September.

UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov’s father Abdulmanap dies after battle with COVID-19

Abdulmanap Nurmagomedov, father of UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, has died, according to multiple reports coming out of Russia Friday morning. Abdulmanap was 57 years old.

Back in April, Abdulmanap was admitted to the hospital due to complications with the COVID-19. Abdulmanap was taken to military hospital for observation and treatment. Abdulmanap was induced into a medical coma a couple of times while he battled.

While in the hospital, Abdulmanap also suffered a heart attack which led to a bypass surgery. Recently it was reported that the Abdulmanap was in stable but serious condition. Khabib Nurmagomedov was said to be training twice a day and was using this as more motivation for his UFC title defense later this year.

Friday morning, it was announced by Ramzan Kadyrov via his telegram channel that Abdulmanap had died after his long battle with COVID-19. The UFC is currently scheduled to have Khabib defend his title against Justin Gaethje in September, but you have to think this will be a very difficult camp for Khabib.

UFC 242 just became even more special

For the first time in his UFC career, Khabib had his father Abdulmanap in his corner last September when he fought Dustin Poirier at UFC 242. Abdulmanap had always been Khabib’s head trainer. UFC 242 was the first time he was actually able to travel for the fights because of visa issues in the US. Khabib put on an incredible performance that night. He mentioned how much it meant to him that his father was there to see him defend his UFC title.

Khabib has mentioned that he could not be where he’s at if it had not been for his father. He gives all the credit to his father for developing him into the UFC‘s undisputed lightweight king. This is a devastating time for the Nurmagomedov family and our thoughts and prayers are with them.

UFC: Should athletic commissions show live scores in between rounds?

How many times have we heard UFC President Dana White tell his fighters or the media that you cannot leave fights in the hands of the judges. The reality of the situation is judging in MMA is far from a perfect science. Think of all of the terrible decisions we’ve seen over the years in MMA. Well, the Kansas Athletic Commission is trying something out that just might change the game.

That’s right, at tonight’s Invicta event, fighters will be able to know the scores after each round. Now, the fighters and their corners are not left guessing at what’s going on in the judges head. This is something that I’m a huge fan of. Think about it from the fighters perspective. A fighter might believe they have two rounds in the bag so they might try to coast in round three, but two judges have the fight 1-1. Now the fighter is forced to go all out in the third round knowing it’s do or die.

The UFC has been filled with terrible decisions over time. The UFC has also been filled with a bunch of fighters who completely take their foot off the gas when they think they have the fight won. Let’s think about a couple of tough decisions that went against former UFC welterweight champion, Johny Hendricks (18-8).

Decisions that could have changed UFC history

Bigg Rigg’s first tough decision loss came at UFC 167 against the great Georges St. Pierre. Anyone who was watching that night knew that Johny Hendricks was winning that fight. All 16 analysts from MMADecisions.com gave the fight to Hendricks. Going into the fifth round, everyone on those scorecards and one of the official judges had Hendricks up 3-1. However, two of the judges had the fight dead even at 2-2.

Hendricks coasted through the fifth round, and he didn’t fight with a ton of urgency. It was clear that Hendricks believed that he had three rounds in the bag. St. Pierre took the round and took the split decision to retain his UFC welterweight title. Hendricks was devastated and Dana White labeled the Nevada Athletic Commission as a “Atrocious” after the fight calling for the governor to get involved.

Less “What ifs?”

What if Hendricks knew going into the fifth round that two of the judges had it tied? Hendricks would have busted out of the gate trying to convince those two judges that there’s no way he should lose the fight. Same thing happened to Hendricks against Robbie Lawler at UFC 181.

Revealing the scores live would create less suspense before the cards are read. Now you could also see much more urgency in the final rounds of fights. At the same time, you could say that it would cause fighters to really take their foot off the gas if they know for a fact that they are up two rounds to one. It’s an interesting debate, but I’m all for the fighters knowing exactly where they stand in the eyes of the one ones that matter during a fight.

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

UFC, Colby Covington

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

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

The trouble between Masvidal and the UFC

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

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

The Perfect Matchup

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

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

UFC: Gilbert Burns looking to cement his fighter of the year status on July 11th

Entering 2020, not a lot of people were thinking about Gilbert Burns (19-3) as a top contender in the UFC‘s welterweight division. Sure, Burns had won four fights in a row, but his best win came against Gunnar Nelson at UFC Fight Night 160. While that’s a quality win, nobody was putting him on that elite level. Burns got his first shot to prove his eliteness back in March against Demian Maia (28-10).

Gilbert Burns UFC Ascension

Burns responded by knocking out Maia in the first round. It was clear that Burns was ready for the next step. Burns was calling out top competition after his win, and the UFC gave him what he asked for. Burns was slated to fight former champion, Tyron Woodley (19-5-1), in May. Many people (including myself) thought a motivated Woodley would win the fight. However, from the opening minute, it became very evident that those pundits were wrong.

Burns ran through Woodley as if the former UFC champion didn’t even belong in the cage with Burns. “Durinho” has completely taken off in 2020. Burns is elite on the ground, and he’s become incredibly dangerous on his feet with a fantastic combination of speed and power. Following the win, Burns called out his now former teammate and current UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman (16-1). Usman was initially scheduled to fight Jorge Masvidal, but contract disputes nixed that fight. Burns got the shot at UFC 251 instead.

2020 Male Fighter of the Year (So Far)

In the span of four months, Burns has the opportunity to go from being a top ten welterweight to being the best in the world. The run that Burns is on is truly remarkable. Now, winning the UFC title is not going to be easy. Usman is extremely well-rounded himself with a very strong wrestling game. It’ll be interesting to see the grappling exchanges with a top level wrestler and a top level jiu jitsu practitioner.

ESPN released their mid-year awards and named Burns the Co-Fighter of the Year along with lightweight Justin Gaethje. No disrespect to Gaethje, but this award belongs to Burns. Two incredibly dominant wins, and now he has the chance to win the title in July. If Burns can beat Kamaru Usman next week, he could step away until January and still win 2020 male fighter of the year in the UFC.

UFC: Brian Ortega Pressures Korean Zombie To Sign Fight Contract

Brian Ortega, UFC

Two of the most intriguing featherweights in the UFC’s rankings right now are Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung, the latter of the two better known by his nickname ‘the Korean Zombie.’ Jung has a 3-1 record since making it back from his mandatory military service in South Korea, while Ortega looks like a future champion with his only loss coming at the hands of Max Holloway. Both fighters have been on a collision course towards one another for some time.

However, their fight hasn’t happened just yet. It was meant to take place during December of last year, but a knee injury forced Ortega out of the bout. Despite missing the first fight, though, Ortega intends to meet the Korean Zombie in the octagon eventually.

Back in March, Ortega managed to get into a clash with Jung’s friend Jay Park. This time, nothing as exciting as that has happened. However, Ortega has still made his voice heard by speaking on social media. He took to Instagram, calling out Jung for not signing the contract yet for a rescheduled fight.

Ironically, the feud between Ortega and Park was started by Park translating for Jung during an interview where Jung accused Ortega of avoiding a fight with him. Now, it looks like the tables are turned with Jung being accused of stalling with signing the contract and Ortega putting pressure on him to get the fight done.

Ortega and Jung are closely matched in the rankings right now with Ortega sitting at third in the division and Jung resting one spot below him at fourth. Only Max Holloway and Zabit Magomedsharipov are higher right now in the contender standings for featherweight.

The next fights of all four fighters will significantly impact how the battle for the belt turns out. Holloway is set to fight a rematch for the title on July 11th, Magomedsharipov is currently still undefeated in the UFC, and both Jung and Ortega are in position to win and make a case for a fight with a top contender. In these next fights, the top section of the division may very well change drastically, and either Ortega or Jung could end up in a number one contender fight.

UFC: Michelle Waterson & Angela Hill to fight on August 22nd card

A big time UFC strawweight contest is being added to the August 22nd fight card. Eighth ranked, Michelle Waterson (17-8), will be taking on thirteenth ranked, Angela Hill (12-8). The August card is being headlined by a middleweight contest between Yoel Romero and Uriah Hall.

Waterson looks to get back to UFC title contention

Both of these ladies come into this fight with a lot on the line. For the “The Karate Hottie”, she’s looking to snap the first losing streak of her career. Since joining the UFC five years ago, Waterson has consistently been one of the better strawweights in the UFC. Last year, she got the closest she’s been to a title shot with her fight against former champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Waterson put up a really tough fight, but the former champion was too much. Waterson recently competed at UFC 249 and was suffered her second consecutive loss to another former champion, Carla Esparza. The decision was razor close and many scored the fight for Waterson.

Hill looking to bounce back

A week after Waterson suffered a tough loss on the scorecards, Angel Hill found herself the victim of a close decision. Hill had won three consecutive fights leading up to her fight against top contender, Claudia Gadelha. After losing the first round, many believed that Hill won the final two rounds to secure the win. However, two of the three judges gave the fight to Gadelha.

Hill got off to a rocky start in the UFC, but she looked like she was finding her groove this year. She won three fights in five months leading to that Gadelha fight. She looked fresh after that fight, and she wanted to get right back in there.

This will be an intriguing matchup for the UFC‘s strawweight division. A win for either woman puts them back on the road to contention. However, a loss for either would be a big setback at this stage in their careers. It should be a very fun matchup to watch when August 22nd rolls around.

UFC: Halfway through 2020, what has been the FOTY so far?

We are officially halfway through 2020. The UFC has put on some incredible cards, and the UFC has overcame a worldwide pandemic over the last two months to bring sports back to the world. There have been some incredible fights so far in 2020, but what has been the fight of the year?

Best of the Rest

This year has been so much fun when it comes to the UFC. We have seen the return of Conor McGregor, we’ve seen highlight reel knockouts, and we’ve seen some unforgettable fights. I have come up with a list of the three best fights of 2020, but there are several fights beyond my list that have brought many to their feet. Some of the fights that come to mind are: Emmett/Burgos, Felder/Hooker, Yadong/Vera, and many more. However, the three fights I have picked, I believe stand above the rest.

Justin Gaethje vs Tony Ferguson – UFC 249

When this fight was announced in April, did you expect anything else? Tony Ferguson (25-4) was the boogieman of the lightweight division, and Justin Gaethje (22-2) lives up to his name in being the highlight of the lightweight division. After UFC lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov, was pulled from his fight with Ferguson due to COVID-19 restrictions, Gaethje stepped up.

The UFC booked Ferguson/Gaethje for the interim lightweight title at UFC 249. The smart money was on Ferguson leading into the fight. Ferguson hadn’t lost in eight years, and many believed that he was the best lightweight in the world. Gaethje might have been the most exciting fighter in the world, but his reckless style has caused him to drop a few of his bigger fights. However, it became very apparent from the beginning, this was not the old Justin Gaethje.

Gaethje immediately took the center of the octagon throwing sharp and crisp combinations at Ferguson. “El Cucuy” was fully prepared to go to war firing back. The first round was action packed with Gaethje hitting Ferguson often. However, most got the sense that Gaethje would slow down as the fight went on. In the second round, Ferguson picked up his pace and dropped Gaethje near the end of the round.

Personally, I thought Ferguson was going to assume control, but that wasn’t the case. Gaethje came right out in the third with the same pace he started with. However, he was much more calculated. Gaethje was smart and picked his shots wisely against the former UFC interim champion, Ferguson. After putting on a clinic in the later rounds, Gaethje smashed Ferguson’s nose which caused Ferguson to turn away. The referee stopped the fight giving Gaethje the interim title. Both men threw everything they had at the other in an absolute war for five rounds, but on May 9th, Justin Gaethje was the better man.

Dustin Poirier vs Dan Hooker – UFC on ESPN 12

Man, I think I’m still recovering from this one. This past Saturday at UFC on ESPN 12, Dustin Poirier (26-6, 1 NC) and Dan Hooker (20-9) put on an absolute show. The fight was booked earlier in the summer after Hooker had called Poirier out back in February. Poirier was coming off a title shot against Nurmagomedov, and was looking to get back to victory. A win for either man would put them squarely in title contention.

There was really no feeling out process with this fight. After throwing big kicks early, both men looked to focus completely on the other man’s face. In the first two rounds, Hooker did a fantastic job of landing clean and precise shots. Poirier was landing his shots too, but Hooker seemed to have the cleaner lands. Several times early, both men ended up in close quarters just throwing reckless power shots at the other.

Late in the second round, Hooker unleashed a combination that would have put most lightweights down. In fact, if it wasn’t for the cage, I’m not sure Poirier would have stayed on his feet. Poirier went back to his stool down to rounds to the contender from New Zealand. At this point, I thought we were looking at the next UFC title contender in Dan Hooker.

Starting in the third round, Poirier drastically turned the tables. Both men were still throwing all they had at the other, but it was Poirier who was now landing the cleaner shots on Hooker. Both men really started to fatigue in the middle rounds, but Poirier seemed to have just a little more in the tank.

The last two rounds were where Poirier really won the fight. Hooker had slowed massively, and Poirier was taking advantage. Despite getting caught a few times coming in, Poirier’s relentless pace took over in the later rounds. Both men were absolutely battered coming down the stretch of this one.

The fight went to the scorecards and all three judges gave the fight to Poirier. Hooker had won the first two rounds on all scorecards, but Poirier won the final three rounds. A tremendous back and forth battle that will go down as one of the better fights in UFC history.

Weili Zhang vs Joanna Jedrzejczyk – UFC 248

You really can’t get much better than the fight between UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (22-1), and former champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk (16-4). A few years ago, Jedrzejczyk was known as the best female fighter in the sport. Since losing the title back in 2017, Jedrzejczyk has desperately tried to get back to UFC gold. UFC 248 gave her the chance.

Weili Zhang is the first UFC champion to be born in China. She is turning into a superstar, but she needed an opponent that could truly shine a light on her greatness. She found that opponent back in March when she took on the former champion, Jedrzejczyk.

This fight was so special because it was on the highest of levels, and the action was non-stop. From the opening bell, both ladies threw precise combinations at the other. The pace was unlike anything that I had ever seen in a title fight. Both women were putting everything on their shots, but it wasn’t wild.

This was a striking match on the highest of levels. Jedrzejczyk was really light on her feet throughout the entire fight landing great shots from the outside. Zhang did a tremendous job at stepping in and countering as Jedrzejczyk threw. Both women hit the other frequently, and they hit each other clean. Watching this fight you just had to keep wondering when someone was going to get tired.

All the way into the championship rounds, the women never slowed down. Both ladies pushed forward throwing everything. You had spinning attacks, leg kicks, head kicks, straights, uppercuts, hooks, you know it. It was a striking clinic put on by both women. Both women were visibly beat up, and the fight was razor close.

Entering the final round, I don’t think anyone knew who was winning. The fight was dead even at all times. Every time one woman would land, the other would land a counter. The UFC fans were getting spoiled back in March. In the end, two of the three judges gave the fight to the champion, Weili Zhang. The fight was truly one of the best fights I had ever seen, and it was at the highest level of the sport for a UFC title.

The UFC’s FOTY in 2020 (So far)

All three of these contenders are excellent fights, but if I’m going to give the award, it’s going to Zhang and Jedrzejczyk. The fight was truly a thing of beauty. The perfect balance of technique and violence. It never turned into a brawl where technique went out the window, but you would think with the damage that both women suffered, it was a massive brawl with no defense on display. Also the fact that it was for the title puts it over the top. Women’s MMA has come so far over the last few years, but the fight that Zhang/Jedrzejczyk put on back at UFC 248 is the greatest female fight of all time, and it’s not close in my opinion.