UFC: Yair Rodriguez suspended by USADA

Yair Rodriguez

The world is going to have to wait a little longer for Yair Rodriguez‘s UFC return. Earlier this afternoon, ESPN reported that the top five featherweight has been suspended for six months by USADA and will not be eligible to compete until March.

However, the suspension is an interesting one. Rodriguez was not suspended for failing a drug test. Instead, the top UFC featherweight was suspended for not updating his location inside the USADA tracker for random testing.

Rodriguez did this three times in the span of 12 months which triggered the suspension. Over the weekend, Dana White gave some interesting answers regarding Yair Rodriguez. He stated in the post-fight press conference that Rodriguez wouldn’t be fighting anytime soon.

However, he didn’t announce why Rodriguez wouldn’t be fighting. A few days later and we have our answer. This is truly a headscratcher and in my opinion a very stupid reason to be suspended. However, it’s on Rodriguez for not following simple instructions.

UFC Return

It’ll be interesting to see what the promotion does with Rodriguez once he returns in March. Rodriguez was originally supposed to take on Zabit Magomedsharipov back in August in a UFC title eliminator.

Whoever won that fight was going to be in prime position to take on Alexander Volkanovski. Of course, Rodriguez went on to break his ankle and the fight was cancelled. The UFC has tried several times to make that fight, but it’s fallen through each time.

Since then, things have been extremely quiet on the Yair Rodriguez front. Considering the suspension dates back to September, we now know why things have been so quiet between the UFC and Yair Rodriguez.

If the promotion still hasn’t found Zabit a fight by the time March rolls around, the UFC should still try to book that matchup. However, if Zabit has been booked, another fight for Rodriguez could be the loser of Max Holloway/Calvin Kattar or a rematch with Chan Sung Jung.

UFC: Alexander Volkanovski eyes two key fights for next title defense

Everything has been pretty quiet at the top of the featherweight division since UFC 251. Champion Alexander Volkanovski (22-1) has been in a state of limbo since he defeated the former champion, Max Holloway (21-6), for the second time.

The second fight was razor close, and at first, the UFC seemed interested in putting on the trilogy. However, Volkanovski didn’t seem interested as he had just defeated Holloway twice in his eyes. Can’t really blame the guy for wanting to move on.

Since then, the UFC has abandoned the idea. Now, Volkanovski is eyeing two key featherweight contests to determine who will face him next. Those two contests are the Chan Sung Jung – Brian Ortega fight and the Zabit Magomedsharipov – Yair Rodriguez fight.

Who will be the next contender for the UFC featherweight crown?

On the upcoming fights, the UFC featherweight champion said to MMA Junkie, “I want these guys to go out and take their number one contender spot. Right now, if someone was just given the shot, it’s not a big fight.” Volkanovski wants his next fight to generate a ton of interest.

“At the end of the day, it’s what the UFC and fans want. It also depends on their performances. If someone has a big knockout, submission or a dominant performance, it can solidify them as the next guy,” Volkanovski said.

Brian Ortega (14-1, 1 NC), Chan Sung Jung (16-5), Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1), and Yair Rodriguez (13-2, 1 NC) would all be deserving of a UFC title shot with a win. But whoever wins those contests must do it impressively. Sound like the most impressive could get the next shot at the champ.

What about Holloway?

As I pointed out above, originally the UFC was interested in a trilogy fight with Holloway. However, Volkanovski wants to see Holloway get active again in the division before he grants him another shot at the title. He does seem interested in the trilogy eventually.

“Even though I’m 2-0, there still seems to be unfinished business. I think it could definitely happen, but not anytime soon,” Volkanovski told MMA Junkie. My guess is that Holloway is going to be paired up with someone like Calvin Kattar (22-4) before the year is over.

There is a lot of fluidity right now in the featherweight division. The UFC champ is happy to just watch it all play out. Whatever fight generates the most interest after all these matchups, Volkanovski will be ready for it and ready to defend.

UFC BREAKING: Zabit Magomedsharipov – Yair Rodriguez off due to an ankle injury

Yair Rodriguez

One of the more anticipated UFC featherweight contests of 2020 will not happen. Dana White confirmed this evening that Yair Rodriguez (13-2) has injured his ankle and will not headline the August 29th fight night against Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1).

What does the UFC do?

The UFC has tried to make this fight multiple times over the last couple of years. Injuries have continued to get in the way of this fight being a reality.

Zabit and Rodriguez are two of the brighter stars in the UFC‘s lower weight classes. The fight between the two of them was likely to determine who would face Alexander Volkanovksi next for the featherweight title.

As ESPN’s Ariel Helwani suggested, Calvin Kattar has offered to step in to face Zabit in the main event of the August 29th card. Kattar and Zabit do have history.

The two men just fought and headlined a fight night back in November. Zabit won the three round main event, but Kattar was really coming on strong at the end. Many believe that Kattar could have won if it had been a traditional five round main event.

Kattar would make sense from a rankings perspective, but there’s no word on if Zabit would want to fight Kattar back-to-back. There are a couple of additional options for Zabit at 145 pounds.

Other Options

The UFC has been trying to book Chan Sung Jung and Brian Ortega for some time now. White has said that the UFC is close to booking that fight. However, maybe the promotion looks to see if one of them would be interested in stepping in to face Zabit.

Another outside the box option could be giving Max Holloway a call to see if he’d take the fight. The former champion could really establish that he should get another shot at Volkanovski if he can beat Zabit.

White said the Rodriguez has a high ankle sprain and a fracture. It’s unlikely, but if he recovers quickly, the UFC could shift gears to move up a main event and move back the Zabit – Rodriguez fight. Many options are on the table and we should expect the UFC to move quickly on this one.

 

UFC: Zabit Magomedsharipov Confirms Long Awaited Yair Rodriguez Fight

Zabit Magomedsharipov, UFC

Zabit Magomedsharipov versus Yair Rodriguez is one of those fights that just seemed like it was never going to happen. There were talks about it since 2018 but a number of things came up that made it seem less and less likely as time went on.

First, it seemed like Rodriguez was out of the UFC after declining the fight. Then, he was back. And then injury kept the fight from happening at UFC 228. There’s been a lot of events since then and this matchup probably moved to the back of a lot of people’s minds.

However, it’s finally happening, as Magomedsharipov confirmed on Instagram by sharing the official fight poster.

The fight announcement we’ve all been waiting for

The caption that Zabit wrote on the post is pretty fitting and describes the whole situation.

“Two years later, on the third attempt, this fight will still take place,” he said.

It’s one of the most exciting fights that fans could ask for, as Rodriguez and Zabit are both in the conversation for the top rising fighter in their division. Zabit is undefeated in the UFC with only one loss overall while Rodriguez has an unconventional fighting style and never puts on a boring performance.

Based on how long everyone has been waiting for this one, it’s safe to say this will be the main event of the upcoming Fight Night 176 card on August 29th. The event is set to happen from the UFC Apex facility. Some of the other fighters on the card include Anthony Smith, Ricardo Lamas, and promising light heavyweight Aleksandr Rakic.

But let’s be real. After waiting a couple of years for this fight, it’s probably the one we’re all looking forward to on this card.

UFC: Max Holloway could get the next title shot according to Dana White

It was very clear that UFC president Dana White was not a fan of the decision at UFC 251 between featherweight champion, Alexander Volkanovski, and former champion, Max Holloway.

The fight left the UFC in a bit of a pickle when it comes to what happens next. If Holloway had only lost that one time to Volkanovski, the promotion would have no issues booking the fight again.

However, Holloway has lost two consecutive fights to Volkanovski. Yes, the second fight was razor close, but still it’s two losses in the record books. With that, most thought that there is no way that the UFC would give Holloway another shot especially right away.

Despite that, White said to ESPN that, “It’s hard to not…” when considering booking Volkanovski – Holloway 3. White went on to talk about how Volkanovski wouldn’t enjoy that idea.

What should the UFC do?

The UFC is really in a tough spot when it comes to the featherweight division. The UFC is going to book Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez but that’s not finalized yet. They are also going to book Brian Ortega – Chan Sung Jung but that fight is also not finalized.

Those are all the contenders in the division outside of Calvin Kattar. I’m not convinced the UFC loves the idea of giving Kattar a shot at the title right now.

So with everyone booked, either Volkanovski is going to sit for a while or they run the fight back a third time. I definitely understand the frustration this would bring from the champion.

Volkanovski really has nothing to gain from fighting Holloway a third time meanwhile Holloway has everything to get back. Both of these fighters are so evenly matched. A third fight between the two would create more problems than solutions.

What if Max Holloway wins a close fight? How could you then deny Volkanovski a fourth fight since he won the first two? If you give Holloway another shot, it really hurts the division.

While he might not want to, I think the best thing would be for Volkanovski to sit on the sidelines for a bit. Maybe let Holloway fight a guy like Calvin Kattar next. Let the division play out more before giving Holloway a third fight with Volkanovski.

UFC: Fights to make after UFC 251

Following any major UFC event, the fans want to know what comes next? UFC held their first event on Fight Island last night, and everyone wants to know what fights are going to be made following UFC 251. Here are five fights that the UFC should make.

Kamaru Usman vs Gilbert Burns

This is a fight that we basically got confirmed from UFC president Dana White last night. In the post-fight press conference, White made it clear that Gilbert Burns (19-3) would be the next challenger for Kamaru Usman (17-1).

Burns was originally scheduled to be in the main event last night, but a positive COVID-19 test took him out. Once he recovers, he is the first guy in line for Usman. He’s also the one fighter who is the worst matchup for Usman in the division.

Usman did not win any new fans at UFC 251, but the champion did what he had to do in defeating Jorge Masvidal (35-14). Usman leaned on his wrestling and controlled the BMF title holder for five rounds.

Burns and Usman matchup extremely well. Usman’s wrestling can be neutralized by Burns’ elite skills on the ground. Burns has elite striking and speed which can give Usman issues.

Usman and Burns were once teammates which adds in another wrinkle to the fight. Expect this matchup to be booked in October/November.

Jorge Masvidal vs Colby Covington

Gamebred stepped up on six days notice, but he fell short in his quest to become the UFC’s welterweight champion. He made it clear that he wants to stay active and work his way back to the title. The quickest route to that is against his former training partner.

Colby Covington (15-2) would make the perfect opponent. Both men used to live together, but now they can’t stand each other. Both are coming off a loss to Usman which is a perfect setup for the fight.

This fight would have a ton of heat, and the winner would be guaranteed another shot at the UFC‘s welterweight title. With the drawing power of both men, this could headline a card on it’s own. I wouldn’t be shocked to see this one occur around the same time that we see Usman-Burns.

Weili Zhang vs Rose Namajunas

It was known that the winner of the Rose Namajunas (9-4) and Jessica Andrade (20-8) fight would likely get the next shot at UFC strawweight champion, Weili Zhang (21-1). Both women went to war last night, but Namajunas walked away with a decision.

To me, Namajunas has always been the second best strawweight in the world. I thought she was always better than Andrade, but got caught in that slam. I also firmly believe that Zhang is the absolute best in the world.

Thug Rose is going to get the title shot after last night’s victory, but I’m not sure how I feel about the matchup for her. This fight could be a springboard for Zhang.

If Zhang is able to defeat Namajunas, she could aim for a champion versus champion fight with Valentina Shevchenko next.

Petr Yan vs Aljamain Sterling

The UFC crowned a new bantamweight king last night, and his name is Petr Yan (15-1). It didn’t come easy, but Yan was able to stop Jose Aldo (28-7) in the fifth round to claim the UFC‘s bantamweight champion.

Last month, Aljamain Sterling (19-3) made an emphatic statement that he’s the top contender at 135 pounds. In a fight with Cory Sandhagen (12-2) which was considered a title eliminator, Sterling finished Sandhagen in under 90 seconds.

Many people believe that Sterling was more deserving of a title shot than Yan was. Well, now the UFC can move to make this fight. There might not be a more exciting division in the UFC than bantamweight right now. Yan/Sterling is going to be incredibly fun to watch.

Alexander Volkanovski vs Winner of Zabit Magomedsharipov-Yair Rodriguez

The UFC‘s featherweight king didn’t get the clean victory he wanted last night. Many people, including Dana White, believe that he lost the fight. However, the judges are all that matter and they gave the fight to Alexander Volkanovski (22-1).

I can’t see the UFC moving to book Volkanovski-Holloway 3 with Alexander being up 2-0 in the series. The Australian champ wants to fight by the end of the year, so what makes the most sense?

Reportedly, Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2-1) are supposed to fight in August. Magomedsharipov is currently ranked right behind Holloway while Rodriguez is ranked fifth.

Both of these men are extremely popular and talented fighters. I think the UFC would be smart to make this fight the title eliminator. Brian Ortega and Chan Sung Jung who are also supposed to fight this year, have already had shots at the title.

Magomedsharipov is considered the next great Russian champion that’s in the UFC. If Zabit can defeat Rodriguez in August, it would be a massive global fight to pair him with the champion, Volkanovski.

UFC has great fights ahead

The UFC is going to put on some stacked cards the rest of this year. All of the fights listed above should take place before we hit 2021. Combine those with the fights that are already scheduled, and you should be expecting some stacked cards in the second half of 2020.

Report: Zabit Magomedsharipov-Yair Rodriguez targeted for Aug. 29th

Zabit Magomedsharipov, UFC

A big-time UFC featherweight contest that was originally scheduled two years ago, looks like it’s finally going to come together on the UFC‘s planned August 29th card. The contest would pair two top five featherweights against each other in Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1) and Yair Rodriguez (13-2-1).

Zabit’s UFC Dominance

Since joining the UFC back in 2017, Magomedsharipov has been nothing short of dominant. The lengthy 6’1 featherweight holds a UFC record of 6-0. These days, the world of Russian MMA is on fire. You have the most dominant champion in the sport in Khabib Nurmagomedov, then you have Petr Yan who is getting ready to challenge for the bantamweight title, then there’s Zabit. Zabit is such a unique talent with a unique skillset especially for the 145 pound division. His last two fights were big step-ups in competition, and he passed those with flying colors. In his last fight, he defeated Calvin Kattar (21-4) back at UFC Fight Night 163. Kattar gave Zabit his toughest test yet, but the Russian was able to pull of the unanimous decision victory. This fight with Rodriguez was supposed to happen two years ago before an injury pulled Yair out of the fight. It will be very hard to deny Zabit of a title shot if he wins in August. We might have three Russian UFC champions by the end of this calendar year.

Rodriguez living up to his potential

Back in 2017, there might not have been a more exciting prospect in the UFC than Yair Rodriguez. “El Pantera” had highlight reel finishes over Andre Fili and UFC Hall of Famer, BJ Penn. He got his first real test against former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar. Rodriguez showed that he wasn’t quite ready for that step-up as Edgar completely dismantled Rodriguez. Doctors had to stop the fight after the second round. Injuries kept Rodriguez out of the UFC for over a year after that fight. Upon his return, he had an incredible come from behind knockout victory over Chan Sung Jung. Following that fight, he had a pair of fights with Jeremy Stephens. The first fight ended in fifteen seconds after Stephens was accidentally poked in the eye and couldn’t continue. In the second fight, Rodriguez showed just how dynamic he could be, beating Stephens by unanimous decision. For Rodriguez, this fight is his chance to really prove he’s finally arrived at the top of the sport. It would be hard to deny Rodriguez the title shot if he’s able to defeat Magomedsharipov. Jung is the other likely contender for a title shot if he’s able to defeat Brian Ortega, but with Rodriguez holding a knockout win over Jung, Rodriguez might be next in line.

UFC’s Featherweight Division

The UFC‘s featherweight division is heating up much like the bantamweight division. The UFC‘s lower weight classes (excluding flyweight) are so deep it’s crazy. Back at UFC 250, the bantamweights put on a show. We all know how insane the UFC’s lightweight division is, and now the featherweights are showing their strength. Next month on Fight Island, you have the title fight and rematch between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway. Later this year we should see the “Korean Zombie” and Brian Ortega fight, and now it looks like were getting the Magomedsharipov-Rodriguez fight in August. It’s going to be an insane rest of the year for the UFC’s featherweight division.