Let MMA Junkie’s Mike Bohn and Farah Hannoun walk you through everything you need to know about UFC 257.
ABU DHABI — The first blockbuster UFC event of 2021 is here, and MMA Junkie has you covered.
We’ve had multiple reporters on the ground all throughout the UFC’s three-event stint at “Fight Island” to kick off the MMA calendar, and it’s all leading up to the big one: UFC 257, which takes place at Etihad Arena with a main card that airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and ESPN+
In the main event, former two-division champion [autotag]Conor McGregor[/autotag] makes his highly anticipated return after one year off to rematch former interim lightweight champ [autotag]Dustin Poirier[/autotag]. And in the co-headliner, former Bellator lightweight champion [autotag]Michael Chandler[/autotag] finally makes his UFC debut looking to make a strong first impression against [autotag]Dan Hooker[/autotag] in a pivotal fight at 155 pounds.
So what should we expect from the big fights, and what else on this card is worth keeping an eye on? Let MMA Junkie’s own Mike Bohn and Farah Hannoun walk you through everything important at UFC 257. Check out their preview in the video above.
MMA Junkie’s resident analyst, Dan Tom, walks you through the battle for the vacant bantamweight belt at UFC 251.
MMA Junkie analyst Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the the battle for the vacant bantamweight title at UFC 251 between [autotag]Petr Yan[/autotag] and [autotag]Jose Aldo[/autotag].
UFC 251 takes place Saturday at Yas Island in Abu Dhabi. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on ESPN and early prelims on UFC Fight Pass/ESPN+.
+ ACB bantamweight title
+ Master of sports in boxing
+ 6 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 3 first-round finishes
+ KO Power
+ Building pace and pressure
+ Excellent footwork
^ Shifts stances, takes angles
+ Accurate left hand
^ Jabs, hooks and crosses
+ Strong inside of the clinch
^ Defense, trips, strikes off the breaks
+ Solid wrestling ability
^ Scrambles well
+ Underrated submission savvy
+ Former UFC and WEC featherweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 4x Brazilian jiu-jitsu world champion
+ 16 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Athletic and agile
^ Good reactive instincts
+ Superb footwork
^ Lateral movement, pivots, back-steps
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Jabs and counter crosses
+ Hard leg kicks
+ Excellent wrestling ability
^ Strong hips and base
Point of interest: High-level fisticuffs
A bantamweight battle for a vacant belt, Yan vs. Aldo has all the makings for a classic meeting of high-level talents.
Yan, who is a fighter I’ve eyed since his epic battle with Magomed Magomedov back at ACB 32, has done nothing but inflate the feelings of hardcore fans since stepping onto the UFC stage.
A ferocious Russian competitor, Yan implements a boxing-heavy approach that is both analyst and fan-friendly, as he aggressively works his opposition toward the fence. Whether Yan is operating from orthodox or southpaw, the 27-year-old phenom often conducts traffic with his left hand, as he wields a bevy of accurate weapons from that side.
From straight shots down the center that range from jabs to crosses or sneaky hooks and uppercuts off the lead side, Yan can pretty much do all things from boxing range. The Tiger Muay Thai product will also mix in other things like kicks, knees and elbows into his repertoire – though he seems to smartly save that shot selection for his assaults off of the breaks.
Yan does a deceptively good job on the defensive end, as the former amateur boxer will subtly roll with oncoming shots while keeping his eyes on his opponent with returns in mind. That said, shifting aggression – no matter who is at the steering wheel – tends to be a ripe recipe in regards to opportunistic counters.
Although his people proudly proclaim him as “The King of Rio,” you could argue that Aldo is also the king of counters when looking at his overall fighting game from a thematic standpoint. And when narrowing it down to just his striking, it’s not hard to see the potent counters that the former featherweight kingpin brings to the table.
Typically commanding the cage with disciplined, technical footwork, we have seen Aldo, time and time again, steadily pressure his opponents into exchanges on his terms. Consistently keeping his feet beneath him, the Nova Uniao staple is seldom out of position, which in turn allows him to counter with conviction.
Displaying a solid sense of head movement, Aldo often slips and returns authoritatively with right hand-left hook counters or the occasional leg kick. When pressing forward, the former champ traditionally has been known for his classic “Dutchie” combination, launching a left hook to the liver that feeds nicely into a right leg kick that could serve him well, considering his counterpart tends to lean on a shelling defense.
However, as many have noticed by now, Aldo has been reluctant to go to his leg kicks in recent years.
If you listen to the Brazilian’s coaches and corner, then you will hear them telling their fighter to go to them sparingly, only encouraging Aldo to kick toward the end of rounds or the fight itself. And given the fact that Aldo seems to stay incredibly aware of opposition either trying to counter him or take him down, I won’t be holding my breath for any WEC flashbacks.
Still, power is usually the last thing to go on a fighter’s tool belt, and I suspect that Aldo’s countering ability alone will keep things tense for as the fight stays standing.
Next point of interest: Scrambling down the stretch
Check out the best highlights from this day in history with MMA Junkie’s “Combat Rewind.”
There’s “Flashback Friday” and “Throwback Thursday” (and Tuesday, too, if you want). But at MMA Junkie, we figured why not expand that to every day?
“Combat Rewind” brings you some of combat sports’ best highlights from every calendar day of the year. It’s a look back at history, courtesy of the UFC Fight Pass archives, featuring stellar finishes and classic moments in MMA and beyond on their anniversaries.
So kick back and relive the following bits of greatness in the video above:
Extreme Challenge 96: [autotag]Jason Louck[/autotag] vs. [autotag]Aaron Woods[/autotag] – May 10, 2008
Fight footage courtesy of UFC Fight Pass, the UFC’s official digital subscription service, which is currently offering a seven-day free trial. UFC Fight Pass gives fans access to exclusive live UFC events and fights, exclusive live MMA and combat sports events from around the world, exclusive original and behind the scenes content and unprecedented 24-7 access to the world’s biggest fight library.
Whether you pick Jon Jones, Stipe Miocic, or Anthony Johnson, all of Daniel Cormier’s rivals provided memorable high-stakes fights.
[autotag]Daniel Cormier[/autotag] has taken part in a number of big-time rivalries during his UFC career.
The out-of-the-cage heat between DC and [autotag]Jon Jones[/autotag] was unlike anything we’ve seen in mixed martial arts before or since. The rivalry between Cormier and [autotag]Stipe Miocic[/autotag] is an epic pure sports matchup between two world-class champions. Cormier’s fights with [autotag]Anthony Johnson[/autotag] were big deals, too.
But there’s a common thread among the six fights DC had with his most notable foes: All of them were for a championship, either an interim title or the undisputed version. A third title fight with Miocic is likely to follow, too.
So, when MMA Junkie Radio asked Cormier – who is expected to retire, win or lose, after the next Miocic fight – which rivalry her considers the biggest of his career, he settled on one fact: that all of his fights with Jones, Miocic, and Johnson were such high-stakes affairs, the rivalries were of secondary importance when they stepped into the cage on fight night.
Sure, it makes for fun bar banter on who might have been his single biggest rival. But a career spent in championship fights against the best over a span of several years speaks to Cormier’s legacy better than any one fight could.
“The importance of the fight is because of the belt,” Cormier said. “You can fight guys multiple times. But if you’re fighting these guys so many times with the belt on the line, that speaks to you and your opponent and the ability of both of these guys.”
Once you bring it down to a one-on-one level, of course, there are differences. At the end of the day, Jones beating Cormier twice (one of which was later ruled a no contest due to Jones flunking a drug test) and Cormier defeating Johnson twice matters. And, regardless of who takes the final fight between Cormier and Miocic, the fact they both hold a knockout win over the other puts them on equal footing.
“The reality is, for everything else that Jon and I were, I think that’s going to be the one that stands the test of time because it was so bitter,” Cormier said. “But on the competitive side, I think Miocic will be that guy that, when we walk away from this game, you go, ‘Wow, DC had two really big series of fights,’ and I think three, honestly, because Anthony Johnson falls in line with that, too.
“I’m just one of those guys who was lucky enough to fight big fights, fight big fights often, and have guys that were good enough to, win or lose, get right back to those big, big fights. The great thing about those rivalries – between the three guys, seven fights – is that every one of them was for a UFC championship. That, to me, is a bigger deal than even having those rivalries.”
If you missed one of MMA’s first magic moments of 2020, or simply want to relive it, check out the highlights of Bellator 238’s main event.
MMA history was made Saturday night at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.
On that night, [autotag]Cris Cyborg[/autotag] became the first fighter in the sport’s history to win championships in four major promotions. Her fourth-round TKO of Julia Budd in the main event of Bellator 238 saw her capture the Bellator featherweight title to add to a career ledger that already included 145-pound belts in Strikeforce, Invicta FC and the UFC.
While defending champion Budd (13-3 MMA, 7-1 BMMA) certainly proved to be tough, Cyborg (22-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) was simply too much for the woman who held the title for nearly three years. The Brazilian slowly wore Budd down, then finished the Canadian with a trademark flurry of fists early in the fourth round.
The featherweight title fight formed the main event of Bellator 238 at The Forum. The main card streamed on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.
If you happened to miss the fight, or simply wanted to relive one of MMA’s first magic moments of 2020, check out the video above.
Winning another championship would be nice, but the opportunity for a fresh start is what excited Cris Cyborg most about being in Bellator.
HOLLYWOOD, Calif. — For those who care about mixed martial arts history, [autotag]Cris Cyborg[/autotag]’s main event against [autotag]Julia Budd[/autotag] on Saturday at Bellator 238 is a fight to watch. If Cyborg (21-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) can wrest the Bellator featherweight title from Budd (13-2 MMA, 7-0 BMMA), it will give her a world title in a fourth promotion, to go with belts won in Strikeforce, Invicta FC, and the UFC.
But while Cyborg admits another championship in her collection would be nice, to her, Saturday night is mostly about a fresh start.
Cyborg will make her Bellator debut after a successful but acrimonious stint in the UFC. That, for Cyborg, means as much as any prize she can attain in her new promotion.
“I feel young. I feel motivated,” Cyborg told MMA Junkie at Thursday’s media day. “I feel happy, for new chapter in my career. Excited to have this fight.”
Cyborg’s 13-year stretch without a loss came to an end in Dec. 2018, when she lost the UFC title to Amanda Nunes. In hindsight, though, Cyborg views the loss as a blessing. After all, if she was still holding the title, she’d have been bound to the company through a champion’s clause. Instead, she’s freed from her tense business relationship with UFC president Dana White.
“I feel in my heart, that loss is God’s gift,” Cyborg said. “Because if (it did) not happen, I would not be here now. And now I am so happy for this new chapter, new era for me. I’m so happy in Bellator. If not happen, I would have to stay unhappy and struggling every day. And now I’m happy here, you know? Now I am focused on training, fighting.”
Now free of the stress of her previous promoter, Cyborg looks to enhance her legacy with another title. She’s found her own happiness already, but said taking the title from Budd will spread joy to those around.
“I think the belt means a lot of me, for me, just be thankful to have a belt around me,” Cyborg said. “For me, to use this platform to share my faith and touch people’s hearts and do what I love to do. You know? This belt is important to touch people’s hearts I’m going to hold their hand for a long time.”
Bellator 238 takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif. The main card streams on DAZN following prelims on MMA Junkie.
Curtis Blaydes has some big wins on his resume, but he’ll try to take out a former UFC champ for the first time at UFC on ESPN+ 24.
RALEIGH, N.C. – [autotag]Curtis Blaydes[/autotag] has won some big fights against some big names during his career, but never before has he beaten a former UFC champion.
Blaydes (12-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) will have the chance to do that for the first time Saturday, when he takes on ex-titleholder Junior Dos Santos (21-6 MMA, 15-5 UFC) in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 24. Blaydes is aware it’s a stern task, but said a victory over “Cigano” would be a strong representation of where he belongs in the heavyweight division.
“I already have gone against a couple legendary guys like Mark Hunt, Alistair Overeem – so to have another guy like him on my resume, it only strengthens my argument for getting my first title shot,” Blaydes told MMA Junkie. “I do believe Junior is still right there, he’s one of the best of the game and I know beating him basically will solidify my place as the next title challenger.”
The headlining matchup will be Blaydes’ second in the UFC, while it will mark the 13th of Dos Santos’ octagon tenure. It tops the card from PNC Arena in Raleigh, and streams on ESPN+.
It’s obvious that experience is one of the underlying storylines heading into the contest. One thing that hasn’t changed over the entirety of MMA history, though, is that styles make fights. Blaydes said it doesn’t matter how much longer Dos Santos has been in the game, or how hard he’s worked on perceived weaknesses, because he would never make the primary game plan to grapple.
“As he’s got older he’s pretty much the same guy,” Blaydes said. “He’s well rounded, but he hasn’t really added any, ‘Oh wow, that’s new.’ He’s Junior. I know I have the advantage when it comes to the wrestling department. Not many guys in this sport, let alone this weight class, that have my credentials in wrestling. So I want to use my grappling advantage. I know he doesn’t want to grapple. He wants to keep space and distance.”
For Blaydes, beating Dos Santos would be an important moment in his career. Doing it in style, however, would truly strengthen his argument as a title contender in the heavyweight division.
Blaydes has never finished opponents in back-to-back fights during his UFC run, and he’s coming off a second-round TKO of Shamil Abdurakhimov at UFC 242 in September. He hopes to buck the trend, but said he’s not approaching the fight different than any other.
“We always want the highlight-reel, but I don’t press it,” Blaydes said. “I think that’s why I do so well. I don’t hunt for the finish. You start hunting, you make mistakes and you don’t do A, B, C, D. You just try to jump to E. I want to do my ground-and-pound, if it happens, it happens. I don’t hunt. Like the one against Alistair, the one that everyone loves, I did not hunt that. That was organic. It just happened.”
Manager Abraham Kawa thinks the welterweight division revolves around his client, Jorge Masvidal.
LAS VEGAS — [autotag]Jorge Masvidal[/autotag] has multiple major options to consider.
Speaking to MMA Junkie on Thursday night during the launch party for Masvidal’s new El Recuerdo mezcal brand, his manager, Abraham Kawa, said he thinks Masvidal is in a position to go whichever direction he pleases.
“If he wants to fight (UFC welterweight champion Kamaru) Usman tomorrow, he’ll fight Usman tomorrow,” Kawa said. “If he wants to fight Conor and Conor is available, he’s going to fight Conor when he wants to fight Conor.”
Masvidal (35-13 MMA, 11-4 UFC) has emerged as one of the UFC’s biggest stars after an incredible 2019 campaign. He stopped Darren Till, Ben Askren, and Nate Diaz, en route to capturing the “BMF” title in the latter fight at UFC 244. He also recently launched his El Recuerdo, and is both the owner and brand ambassador.
And while many, including UFC president Dana White, think Masvidal has positioned himself to be next in line for a 170-pound title shot, Kawa says his client is looking to get paid.
“It was always ‘I need to get paid’ Once I get paid, everything else can come,” Kawa said. “The conversation’s changed a little bit and I think it’s changed a little bit just because of how close he is to the title so usually when you’re not that close to it, you just want to get paid, you don’t care about it. Or, you’ve had the title forever you’re like ‘ah I don’t care about it, it’s just metal, I’ll go get paid now.’ In his case, we’re right there so really, the whole 170-pound division flows through him.”
Kawa spoke these words before UFC 246, where Conor McGregor reaffirmed his standing as the game’s biggest star with a 40-second demotion of Donald Cerrone.
But McGregor’s win over Cerrone was at welterweight, and with UFC lightweight champ Khabib Nurmagomedov booked to face Tony Ferguson at UFC 249, the stars appear to be aligning for Masvidal to face McGregor.
That’s likely why Kawa, even before McGregor’s victory, hinted that the shot at Usman can wait.
“He wants that belt,” Kawa said. “I can honestly say he wants that belt but he needs to set his family up first and I think the Conor fight is there now.”
To hear more from Kawa on Masvidal, watch the video above.
He has ran through competition, taking out one hungry contender after the other, to the degree many believe he should move up to heavyweight.
But Kawa thinks Jones should only move up to heavyweight for a fight if the money is right.
“Jon’s comfortable at light heavyweight,” Kawa told MMA Junkie on Thursday during the launch party for Jorge Masvidal’s new El Recuerdo mezcal. “He has no reason to go up to heavyweight unless it makes financial sense for him. He’s already proved that he’s the best fighter that we’ve ever seen. He’s already proved that he’s the GOAT. In my opinion, he’s the GOAT.”
Jones takes on undefeated Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 on Feb. 8.
Current UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic is currently sidelined due to injury and on track to return in the summer, when he’s expected to complete his trilogy with former UFC dual-champ, Daniel Cormier.
So with both of the biggest-money potential heavyweight fighters expected to square off with one another, Kawa doesn’t see much urgency in a Jones move to 265.
“I don’t know if he goes to heavyweight,” Kawa said. “If the challenge is there and the challenge makes financial sense, he may or may not do it, it’s really up to him so that’s a question for Jon, but it won’t be a question that I believe he would answer today.”
In a recent interview with Canadian outlet TSN, UFC president Dana White was asked what he foresees for 2020, and when asked about a potential Brock Lesnar return this year, White said he likes the odds of that happening.
Kawa, for his part, thinks it would take a fight of Lesnar’s star power for Jones to make the move up.
“Everyone is dying to see Jon jump to heavyweight, well ok, there’s your jump to heavyweight. Give him the big, scary monster that is Brock Lesnar and we could go from there.”