When the UFC rolls into the Toyota Centre in Houston, Texas this weekend for UFC 271 all eyes will be on the 185-pound division.
Headlining the card will be the middleweight division undisputed title fight between champion Israel Adesanya and number one contender Robert Whittaker.
But two fights before that there is another huge middleweight fight scheduled which could have big implications on the title picture for the rest of 2022.
It will be number three ranked Jared Cannonier fighting number four ranked Derek Brunson on the main card, with both knowing that a victory could set them up for a title shot against the winner of the main event next time around.
For Cannonier, he has been here before. ‘Tha Killa Gorilla’ won three fights in a row against David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson via knockout to setup a fight with Robert Whittaker at UFC 254.
Israel Adesanya admitted that a win for Cannonier that night would’ve seen him next in line for the belt, but he was comfortably beaten by the number one contender.
He bounced back in his next fight though against Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 34 to retain his top five ranking and earn another shot at glory.
Across the cage will be a resurgent Brunson, who has already fought Adesanya and got embarrassed by the now-champion via a first-round knockout.
Since then, Brunson has rattled off five wins in-a-row, a run only better matched by the champion himself in the weight class. He claimed decision wins against Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch, before a dominant main event win over prospect Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5.
He then claimed another main event victory, dismantling Kevin Holland with his wrestling at UFC Vegas 22 before a big fight with Darren Till. Till had been in a similar position to Cannonier, told he’d potentially get a title shot with a win.
Brunson quickly ended those dreams though, wrestling the Brit for two-and-a-half rounds before submitting him with a rear-naked choke.
Now the dream is his own. A win sees him move to six-in-a-row and almost certainly sets up a title fight against the winner of the main event in a rematch from earlier in his career.
But Cannonier will surely not let this opportunity pass him by twice, having been through a rollercoaster of a career with weight divisions and successes.
A victory should do it for either man in reality, but a statement win would be the icing on the cake and would likely guarantee it.
Middleweights go to war at UFC 271, but it’s not only in the main event that you should be paying attention.
When you think about the best fighters to ever compete in the middleweight division in the UFC, there are three names that should jump to the top of everyone’s list.
One is the long-time UFC champion of yesteryear Anderson Silva, who to this day holds the record for the longest undefeated run in the organisation’s history at 16.
The other two are once again headlining a card with the belt on the line this weekend; Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker.
When these two men fought for the first time back in October 2019 at UFC 243, it was long-reigning champion against number one contender and interim champion.
On that occasion it was the challenger, Adesanya, who came out on top with a vicious second-round knockout in what was seen as a relatively flawless performance.
Since that fight ‘The Last Stylebender’ has gone 3-1 in the UFC with wins against Yoel Romero at UFC 248, Paulo Costa at UFC 253 and Marvin Vettori most recently at UFC 263.
That defeat, which is the only one of his professional MMA career, came when he moved up to light heavyweight to try and become a double champion against Jan Blachowicz.
Whittaker on the other hand has gone 3-0 since that fight, earning himself unanimous decision victories against Darren Till at UFC Fight Island 3, Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 and Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24.
He has never dropped below number one in the rankings and is the rightful contender to the title.
Now not much has changed since their first fight, and thus many are expecting the same result. But now that they’ve been in there with each other and have evolved further, things are bound to be a bit different.
Whittaker has openly stated that he believes Blachowicz laid the blueprint on how to beat Adesanya when the fought at UFC 259, suggesting that he could look to wrestle more in the rematch.
Izzy on the other hand is adamant the outcome will in fact be the same, claiming that Whittaker’s most recent wins have been blown out of proportion.
But it’s impossible to ignore just how evenly matched these two fighters are on paper. Both have got excellent striking techniques, knockout power, great movement and a brilliant fight IQ.
Anyone who tells you they’re completely writing either man off is a liar, because it’s just impossible to do so.
If Adesanya is to claim a second victory over Whittaker, then he undoubtedly jumps ahead of him in that list of memorable and great middleweights that was mentioned earlier.
There is even a case that he tops it, considering he holds a win over Silva too and has done everything in such a short period of time.
A win for Whittaker though pits them closer than ever before in the legacy rankings, which means a third and final deciding fight will be needed to separate them and decide who the best really is.
The UFC returns from a two week break this weekend with a middleweight main event that many fans and casuals are sleeping on.
We’ll see two top-ten ranked 185-pounders go head to head at UFC Vegas 47 when Jack Hermansson returns to the octagon to take on the man steamrolling through the division currently in Sean Strickland.
But while these two aren’t exactly household names in the division, they are two incredibly skilled individuals who should bring the best and worst out of each other on the night.
For Hermansson, he’s looking to get back into title contention.
There have been several occasions where he seemed on the brink and then fell flat. His defeat to Jared Cannonier saw a four-fight win streak snapped and since then he’s alternated.
He beat Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Fight Island 2 with a heel hook in 88 seconds, before suffering a dominant decision loss to Marvin Vettori at UFC Vegas 16 despite the Italian coming in on short notice.
He bounced back in his most recent bout against Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 27 with a decision win, and now goes in against a hungry striker once again.
Strickland is on a five-fight win streak currently, with four of those coming since a two-year injury layoff.
He has dismantled Jack Marshman at UFC Vegas 12, before KO’ing up and coming talent Brendan Allen in a short-notice catchweight fight at UFC Vegas 14 just two weeks later.
He followed that up with dominant decision wins against Krzysztof Jotko at UFC Vegas 25 and then Uriah Hall in his first main event.
He’s showed little weakness in his game, with a solid wrestling background to go with his sturdy boxing and great cardio. His unstableness has seen some fans turn against him, and rightly so in all honesty, but his abilities are undeniable.
So this fight has a veteran looking to finally break through his glass ceiling, and a fighter on a hot run of momentum looking to smash through that ceiling at the first attempt.
If Hermansson can win, then it will show he is still good enough to hang at the highest level. His submission skills are elite, his striking is decent but it’s his intelligence that often gets to people the most and he is able to pick opponents apart.
‘Tarzan’ on the other hand just looks to break his opponent. Whether that be physically, mentally or both, he will come forward talking to his opponents and blasting them with countless strikes.
A win for him is huge as it cements him as the new contender in the weight class, with back-to-back main events in the bank and a fight with a top five guy up next. A loss though, shows him up to be just another pretender.
The UFC returns to title fights this weekend at UFC 270 when the heavyweights and flyweight strap is on the line.
Both of those belts changed hands in 2021, as Francis Ngannou knocked out Stipe Miocic at UFC 260 and Brandon Moreno submitted Deiveson Figueiredo at UFC 263.
We also saw a new bantamweight, lightweight and light heavyweight champion crowned during the year, so how will 2022 pan out? Lets take a look.
Flyweight (125lbs) – Askar Askarov
Flyweight is one of the better divisions in the UFC right now and I think we’ll once again see a new champion crowned at some point in 2022.
Askar Askarov has been undefeated throughout his career with a 14-0-1 record, with the only draw coming in his UFC debut against… Brandon Moreno. Askarov will get his title shot by the end of the year, and his wrestling is too good for anyone to be able to navigate past him so I think he holds the belt come 2023.
Bantamweight (135lbs) – Petr Yan
The only reason Yan isn’t the champion right now is because he got over excited and threw a knee to a downed Aljamain Sterling at UFC 259. He was winning the first fight quite comfortably at the time, so the fight was re-made for later in the year.
Sterling was forced to withdraw and it’s now set for UFC 273 in April, which means Yan will head into the summer as champ. He’ll likely defend the strap at the end of the year against TJ Dillashaw in a brilliant fight, but I think he edges that and takes a huge boost in credibility this year.
Featherweight (145lbs) – Max Holloway
What a division, and what a title fight that awaits us later this year.
If Volk can see off the Korean Zombie at UFC 273 now in the new bout, he will face off against Holloway at some point in 2022 and I think ‘Blessed’ finally gets his win over the Aussie to reclaim the title.
Lightweight (155lbs) – Islam Makhachev
Arguably the most exciting division in the company right now when it comes to the title picture, I’m predicting yet another new champion at lightweight.
I think Makhachev gets the victory there, then gets the victory in the title fight too to fulfil Khabib Nurmagomedov’s prophecy that he will become champion and rule over the division for a long time to come.
Welterweight (170lbs) – Kamaru Usman
The best in the world right now pound-for-pound, and I don’t see that changing in 2022.
Usman went 3-0 in 2021 with wins over Gilbert Burns at UFC 258, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 261 and Colby Covington at UFC 268 and is now not expected to return to the cage until the summer.
That means one or two fights at most this year, with Leon Edwards certainly one of them, and I don’t see him losing to anyone so soon so I think he holds onto the belt yet again.
Middleweight (185lbs) – Israel Adesanya
The best middleweight in the world and one of the best of all-time, Israel Adesanya will be the 185-pound champion when we enter 2023.
His biggest test will come in February when he faces Robert Whittaker in a rematch at UFC 271, which I think he’ll win again. With that said though, a loss will almost certainly result in a rematch later in the year with their personal series set at 1-1 and he’d then reclaim the belt there.
Either way, ‘The Last Stylebender’ will be the champ when 2022 closes.
Light Heavyweight (205lbs) – Jiri Prochazka
This division isn’t particularly stacked at the top end but one thing it does have is a pathway for the title picture.
Glover Teixeira dethroned Jan Blachowicz at UFC 267 to finally claim the strap, but it feels short-lived because he’s due to take on the killing machine that is Jiri Prochazka next and that means he probably gets violently finished.
Aleksandar Rakic and Magomed Ankalaev are likely to find themselves in contention too by the end of the year, but stylistically none of them suit a fight with ‘Denisa’ and he holds the throne until 2023.
Heavyweight (265lbs) – Ciryl Gane
The big boys are in the best shape they’ve been in, maybe ever, in the UFC right now and it’s created arguably an amazing year in the division in 2022.
Ciryl Gane will take on Francis Ngannou this weekend and a fight with Jon Jones seemingly awaits the winner. Stipe Miocic is likely to return at some point this year too and head for the title once again.
With Miocic back as well as Jones and Ngannou’s contract situations there are plenty of routes to the title this year, but ultimately they all end with ‘Bon Gamin’ as the heavyweight champion of the world heading into 2023.
The fight will now take place at UFC 271 however as the co-main event, meaning both fighters can serve as back-ups to the middleweight title fight headlining the card.
It was announced this week that Israel Adesanya will defend his 185-pound championship against number one contender Robert Whittaker in Texas on February 12th, in a rematch from their 2019 bout that saw Adesanya take the title from him for the first time.
With the card for UFC 271 looking relatively thin, the UFC have made the decision to bolster the card with another big bout but it will also serve as the back-up in case something happens to one of Adesanya or Whittaker.
Brunson is on a five-fight win streak heading into this fight, having last lost when he fought Adesanya in 2018. He has beaten Elias Theodorou, Ian Heinisch, Edmen Shahbazyan at UFC Vegas 5, Kevin Holland at UFC Vegas 22 and most recently Darren Till at UFC Vegas 36 to climb back up the rankings into the top five.
Cannonier has strung together a 4-1 run in his last five fights, with knockout wins against David Branch, Anderson Silva and Jack Hermansson. He was beaten by Whittaker at UFC 254, but he bounced back with a dominant decision win against Kelvin Gastelum in his last outing at UFC Vegas 34.
Brunson reacted to the news on social media, saying he would now be training for five rounds in preparation in case the title fight was to fall out.
Adesanya is undefeated at 185-pounds, defending his title three times successfully against Yoel Romero, Paulo Costa at UFC 253 and Marvin Vettori at UFC 263. He suffered the first defeat of his career against Jan Blachowicz when he looked to move up to light heavyweight and become a double champion at UFC 259.
Whittaker on the other hand has won three-in-a-row since losing his title to Adesanya, easing to decision victories against Darren Till at UFC Fight Island 3, Jared Cannonier at UFC 254 and then Kelvin Gastelum at UFC Vegas 24.
This fight is between the two undisputed best middleweights in the entire world, with their performances in the division putting them far and away ahead of the rest of the weight class.
It’s been a while since the UFC had it’s weight classes as stacked as they currently are across the landscape of the organisation.
With the way MMA is evolving currently, we’re seeing more and more fighters who can do everything to a super high level and that means that amazing fights can show up anywhere on the card, at any time!
But which divisions are the ones to really look out for and which are looking a little slim right now? I’ve ranked them from worst to best.
A division that has just crowned a new champion is usually hard to say that it’s lacking depth, however 205lbs is in the worst state that it’s been for a while.
Teixeira is 42 years old and holds the belt, but beyond Jiri Prochazka, Magomed Ankalaev and Aleksandar Rakic there aren’t many guys in the division who you can see being among the top guys in a few years time.
Unless there’s an influx of talent out of nowhere, then it’s hard to imagine this division attracting many eyes going forward.
The top five in this division is stacked and in Israel Adesanya they have one of the most popular fighters in the world as their champion. But outside of that, the division looks a little stale.
The top five can all fight each other and have mixed results for the most part, but Adesanya has largely cleaned up by beating four of them convincingly so it’s hard to look beyond him as being a level above the rest.
That makes the division a little less appealing and therefore sits low down on this list.
Flyweight never die! A super exciting division because of the speed of the guys in the division, but outside the top four or five there aren’t many guys that you can consider as contenders.
Moreno looks set to reign for a while after dispatching of Deiveson Figueiredo relatively easily so their rematch at UFC 270 is unlikely to be as eventful as their first two bouts. There are a few contenders beyond that but the lack of finishes in the division doesn’t really help either unfortunately and it’s unlikely you’ll see this division headlining a card on its own any time soon.
The big boys tend to fight at a slow pace and historically don’t make for the most exciting fights, but this new wave of heavyweights is the best in a long time.
The top of the division is full of exciting match ups, with the prospect of anyone ending a bout in the blink of an eye adding to the excitement. But on top of that, there are several young prospects coming through such as Tom Aspinall and Chris Daukaus while Ciryl Gane looks formidable too despite his lack of experience.
Don’t forget Francis Ngannou is the champion and could probably KO a horse, while Jon Jones is still waiting in the shadows to debut among the giants too.
This division would likely be even higher up in this list if it wasn’t for the fact that Kamaru Usman is just a level ahead of everyone. He’s beaten everyone there is to beat in his weight class, but the rest of the division is still absolutely stacked.
Covington would be champion in any other era, Leon Edwards has entered new territory with his abilities, Jorge Masvidal is a superstar that has transcended the sport, Gilbert Burns and ‘Wonderboy’ are in the conversation and Sean Brady is climbing his way up the ranks.
Don’t forget Khamzat Chimaev fights in this division too, so that’s always exciting.
Beyond them this division is home to the likes of Brian Ortega, Yair Rodriguez, Zabit Magomedsharipov, Korean Zombie, Calvin Kattar and now Dan Hooker too.
There a string of exciting fights plus prospects such as Arnold Allen, Giga Chikhadze and veteran Edson Barboza competing at this weight it’s always got fireworks waiting to go off.
This has been considered one of the best divisions in the organisation for a long time and it’s still as stacked as ever.
Charles Oliveira, Dustin Poirier, Islam Makhachev, Justin Gaethje, Michael Chandler, Conor McGregor, Rafael Dos Anjos, Beneil Dariush, Tony Ferguson, Brad Riddell, Rafael Fiziev, Joel Alvarez – the list goes on.
It’s almost impossible to make a bad fight at lightweight right now and they all have huge implications in some way or another. What a division.
Without a doubt in my mind, bantamweight is the place for you to place your attention if you want guaranteed entertainment in the UFC.
Aljamain Sterling is the champion and Petr Yan is interim champ, but the division also possesses the likes of Cory Sandhagen, TJ Dillashaw, Merab Dvalishvili, Rob Font, Jose Aldo in title contention. Then there are veterans like Frankie Edgar, Pedro Munhoz and Dominick Cruz looking to get back into contention.
Then beyond that you have the likes of Marlon Vera, Sean O’Malley, Adrian Yanez, Randy Costa and Song Yadong in the division you could quite easily create a top 30 rather than a top 15. It’s got everything and is comfortably the best division in the UFC right now.
After a week full of drama and surprises, Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori delivered a brilliant main event at UFC Vegas 41.
The two were scheduled to face off in a middleweight main event bout in the Las Vegas Apex, only for Costa to reveal during fight week media obligations that he wouldn’t be able to make the weight.
Vettori and Costa then verbally agreed to a 195lbs catchweight bout, before the fight finally got moved again to 205lbs the day before weigh-ins.
With Vettori now a fan favourite for refusing to let the fight get scrapped and wanting a war with one of the best strikers in the UFC, the two met an entire weight class above their usual division.
What followed was a brilliant fight in which Vettori showed his incredible granite chin to take the power shots of a humongous Costa in the cage, while also showing his cardio is among the best in the world with a 25-minute performance in which he earned a unanimous 48-46 decision across the scorecards.
Following the fight, in which Costa didn’t disgrace himself by any means, ‘Borrachina’ revealed a bicep injury was the reason he was unable to cut weight during fight week and said he hoped to return to 185lbs for his next fight.
UFC president Dana White had other ideas though seemingly, stating that Costa would be competing at 205lbs going forward. Speaking in the post-fight press conference, White said;
“Yeah, we absolutely tell you where to fight when this happens. Yeah, he’s gonna have to fight at 205.
He’s a light heavyweight. I mean, you guys saw him tonight. He’s massive. And the thing that stood out the most for me: as big as he is, look at the cardio that he had tonight. That was a fuckin’ dog fight. That was a war between two guys who both really wanted to win.”
Paulo Costa has admitted to media that he won’t be able to make the middleweight limit for his main event fight against Marvin Vettori at UFC Vegas 41 this weekend.
The two middleweight contenders are scheduled to fight each other in the main event on Saturday night at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, with both having been defeated by Israel Adesanya in their last outings.
But during media day interviews, Costa revealed that he currently weighs 211lbs and has no intentions of trying to weigh in at the agreed 186lbs limit for the bout.
Costa said that it is “not in his plans” to go down to 186lbs for the fight and he is hopeful that Vettori will be willing to meet him in a catchweight bout instead.
The Italian responded in a joint interview with ESPN and Costa stating that he would fight him at any weight, but blasted ‘Borrachina’ for being unprofessional.
The two fighters verbally agreed a 195lbs catchweight during the interview and the UFC have since confirmed that the plan is now for the fight to proceed at a catchweight, although they haven’t announced if it will be at 195lbs.
Costa has been plagued by unprofessional episodes since losing his title fight against Adesanya at UFC 253 last October.
After that bout he claimed that he drank a bottle of wine the night before the fight as he couldn’t sleep, and said he wasn’t sober when in the cage.
The UFC Vegas 41 main event is set to be an absolute banger when knockout artist Paulo Costa takes on the machine that is Marvin Vettori in the middleweight division.
It’ll be the first time that Vettori has stepped into the cage since his UFC 263 defeat to Israel Adesanya, a rematch he had been clamouring for since their first fight in 2018.
That first bout was a split decision victory for the current 185lbs champion, but Vettori had always protested that he won the fight.
After some injury problems and over a year out, Vettori returned the following year and racked up a five-fight win streak in order to claim a title shot earlier this year.
In each of those fights, the Italian was able to completely dominate and overwhelm each of his opponents. He secured only the second finish of his UFC tenure so far when he choked out Karl Roberson in their grudge match, but aside from that has completely controlled fights from start to finish.
But against Adesanya in the rematch he failed to really show his tools. There was a lot of waiting, less of that overwhelming pressure that we’ve seen in the past and he wasn’t able to secure significant takedowns in the fight to get the fight where he wants it.
The power and accuracy of Adesanya’s striking warranted a slight change in game plan for sure, but Vettori disappointed his fans and himself with his performance that night.
Now, against a powerhouse like Costa who has 11 knockouts from 13 career wins, Vettori can look to put it right.
This is a chance for Vettori to step into the cage and deliver a performance that fans can go back to in the future as a sign of why he is among the best middleweights in the world.
He is missing that stellar win on his resume right now, that career defining moment. The UFC Vegas 41 main event is the chance for him to earn that and put himself on the map as being in the title conversation for the foreseeable future.