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UFC on ESPN+ 1: Bermudez retires in the win column to top the early prelims



The ESPN era of the UFC started off early on ESPN+ and culminated with the retirement of one of the UFC’s most reliable workhorses.

The featured prelim saw longtime featherweight contender Dennis Bermudez, fighting at 155 pounds for the first time in the promotion, get back in the win column for the first time in five bouts, dominating the young Te Edwards in route to a shutout unanimous decision. As UFC commentator Jon Anik came into the ring to do the post-fight interview, Bermudez took his gloves off and announced his retirement.

The night started out a little rough for Bermudez (17-9, 10-9 UFC), as Edwards, in just his second UFC fight, came out strong, catching him several times with head kicks and dropped him with a hard right hand. But Bermudez popped right back up and used his excellent wrestling to control much of the remained of the fight. The single leg takedown was money for the Long Island native, and he ended both the first and second rounds on top, raining down elbows.

Edwards (6-2, 0-2 UFC), fighting out of the MMA Lab in Phoenix, looked gassed out by the end of the first round. He was able to relax his way out of a series of submissions, including a kimura in the second round and a guillotine choke in the third, but he wasn’t able to keep Bermudez off him. All three judges scored the fight 30-26 for Bermudez.

It may have been the right time for Bermudez to go out. “The Menace” had won seven fights in a row between 2012 and 2014, including a split decision win over current champion Max Holloway. But a submission lost to Ricardo Lamas and a flying knee knockout to Jeremy Stephens halted his title chances. Bermudez lost his lost four fights, the last three by split decisions that were all close and controversial. So it must be nice to go out on a win.

Bermudez dedicated to his fight to an uncle who is battling cancer and was in tears as he left his gloves in the cage. Not a bad way to go out.

Neal shines against Muhammad

The Dallas/Fort Worth area has become a budding area for rising MMA talent and the top of that list may be welterweight Geoff Neal, who notched his third straight win with a dominant decision over veteran Belal Muhammad.

Neal used a concise, measured attack based around a sharp straight left hand to consistently keep the Chicago native off-balance. Muhammad did little in the way of offensive in the first round, but started to open up in the second, landing consistently to Neal’s body. But Neal kept attacking smartly in bursts and closed the second round with a flurry of lefts that hurt Muhammad and left no doubt that he won that round.

The most impressive thing for Neal (11-2, 3-0 UFC) may very well have been his takedown defense, as he was to stop all but one of at least seven takedowns by Muhammad, including a beautiful double leg attempt the first round. Despite winning both of the first two rounds, the fight was still on the table going into the third. But Muhammad (14-3, 5-3 UFC) abandoned his second round body attack and spent most of the third round trying to wrestle. Neal however stopped all of the takedowns, and twice dropped Muhammad in the third, once with a left hand and one with a head kick. Yet Muhammad just keep going and made it the fifteen minute distance.

The judges scored the fight 29-28, 30-27, and 30-27, all for Neal. This marks his third win since coming to the UFC last year. The loss stopped Muhammad’s four fight winning streak.

Recountre Submits Stewart

No matter what else happens in the career of Chance Recountre, he can always say he got the first win of the UFC era.

The Native American fighter from Nebraska made short work of late replacement Kyle Stewart, utilizing a beautiful counter double leg to make this the kind of fight he wanted it to be. He quickly had Stewart’s back and despite some quality defense from the former US Marine, Recountre (13-3, 1-1 UFC) was able lock in a rear naked choke and force Stewart to submit at 2:25 of Round 1.

Recountre, only his second UFC fight, did have to overcome the first hard low blow of the ESPN era, but he did it well. He has a great frame for the welterweight division and comes from a great camp at Alliance MMA. For Stewart (11-2, 0-1 UFC) who had been knocking on the door of the big show for a while, this an unfortunate occurrence, but the former Marine should be back.


UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story



UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249



It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans



UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.

It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.

Live action

The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled. 

And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.

Mouth-watering match-ups

Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport. 

May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.

A welcome distraction

Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.

Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.

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