**The UFC will hold its Fight Night card from Abu Dhabi tonight beginning at 7 pm Eastern (which means the first fight will take place around 3 am local time). The main event is a featherweight fight involving Calvin Kattar and Dan Ige with the featherweight division in an interesting spot after Alexander Volkanovski’s win over Max Holloway on Saturday.
Contenders Zabit Magomedsharipov and Yair Rodriguez are expected to fight in August and that winner along with Chan Sung Jung would appear to be the frontrunners to fight Volkanovski next. The champion has stated he wants to get one more fight this year, so timing-wise, it would favor Jung, who doesn’t have a fight booked. The winner of Kattar and Ige would be at the next level below those contenders and would be around the same level as Brian Ortega.
Kattar (21-4) has a loss to Magomedsharipov from their fight last November but is coming off a TKO victory against Jeremy Stephens in May. Ige (14-2) has a big chance tonight to skyrocket his position in the rankings with the biggest fight of his career against Kattar. Ige has won his last six fights since losing his UFC debut in January 2018. His last two fights were split decisions over Mirsad Bektic and Edson Barboza (the latter was a fight many scored for Barboza and came down to how you scored the second round).
The rest of the card is average at best with Jimmie Rivera and Cody Stamann fighting at featherweight instead of their usual bantamweight class.
At Tuesday’s weigh-ins, welterweight Abdul Razak Alhassan missed weight by three pounds and featherweight Chris Fishgold missed by three pounds. Both of their fights will proceed with the fighters losing 20% of their purses.
Below is the full card:
MAIN CARD (10 pm ET on ESPN/ESPN+)
*Calvin Kattar vs. Dan Ige
*Tim Elliott vs. Ryan Benoit
*Jimmie Rivera vs. Cody Stamann
*Molly McCann vs. Talia Santos
*Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Mounir Lazzez
PRELIMINARY CARD (7 pm on ESPN/ESPN+)
*John Phillips vs. Khamzat Chimaev
*Jared Gordon vs. Chris Fishgold
*Ricardo Ramos vs. Lerone Murphy
*Modestas Bukauskas vs. Andreas Michailidis
*Liana Jojua vs. Diana Belbita
*Jack Shore vs. Aaron Phillips
**TSN5 in Canada will be airing the prelims and main card followed by a post-show at 12:30 am Eastern.
**The commentary team for the UFC card will feature Jon Anik, Michael Bisping, and Paul Felder. Felder made his way to Abu Dhabi but will leave the booth to corner Jared Gordon on the prelims.
**Bellator will return next Friday, July 24th with a card from the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, and will be its first live event since February. The card will feature seven fights including a bantamweight main event between Sergio Pettis and Ricky Bandejas. The card also features veteran Jordan Mein fighting Jason Jackson, Tywan Claxton vs. Jay Jay Wilson and Aaron Pico will take on Chris Hatley Jr. The main card will air on the Paramount Network with the prelims airing on Bellator’s YouTube channel.
ESPN’s Ariel Helwani reported that they initially wanted to have Juan Archuleta fighting Patrick Mix for the vacant bantamweight title in the main event, but Archuleta had to withdraw. Helwani added that Bellator is hopeful of running three more cards at Mohegan Sun on August 7th, August 21st, and September 11th but those cards are not locked in yet.
**The UFC 251 prelims on ESPN from this past Saturday had 809,000 viewers and did 0.48 in the 18-49 demographic that was #1 for the night on cable. The prelims featured a light heavyweight fight in the featured fight with Jiri Prochazka stopping Volkan Oezdemir in the second round. Compared to the UFC 250 prelims last month for the pay-per-view headlined by Amanda Nunes and Felicia Spencer, viewership was up 4.4% and the demo increased by 7%. This month’s prelims had larger increases with adults 18-34 (0.17 last month to 0.24), males 12-34 (0.20 last month to 0.30), and males 18-49 (0.40 last month up to 0.47). The prelims this month were down among females 18-49 from 0.19 to 0.15 and a minor drop of 0.01 among females 12-34.
**There is a very odd powerplay going on by Ali Abdelaziz of Dominance MMA and threatening to ban ESPN from speaking with its fighters. This stems from a discussion on Ariel Helwani’s program with Daniel Cormier regarding the welterweight title picture. Helwani argued for Gilbert Burns (a Dominance fighter) to fight contender Leon Edwards for the right to face Kamaru Usman next, instead of Burns receiving the automatic shot. Obviously, this story goes deeper than a theoretical matchmaking discussion but it’s silly on its surface given Edwards’ winning streak and that UFC went to Edwards prior to Burns once it was clear Jorge Masvidal wasn’t going to agree to the initial terms to fight Usman.
Abdelaziz added that TSN was also on the banned list but didn’t specify why. It’s worth adding that both outlets are UFC broadcast partners and frankly, keeping your fighters off such major platforms is a disservice to your clients. Abdelaziz did state he respected other reporters at ESPN and it’s clearly an issue he has with Helwani that the reporter has hinted at on shows regarding issues with the manager, who’s fighters have not appeared on Helwani’s shows.
**Jorge Masvidal spoke with ESPN’s Ariel Helwani on Tuesday assessing his loss to Kamaru Usman at UFC 251. In the interview, Masvidal discussed the process and issues attached to the short-notice fight, reaction to the reports on how the pay-per-view performed, and wanting a rematch with Usman above any other fight. Below are some highlights from the discussion:
-Knew he could cut the weight but it was going to be tough, he was hurting but knew he would make it
-Quarantined multiple times, had to fight at odd times
-He got up to 184 pounds for the fight
-He wasn’t at his best, was running and lifting weights when he got the call but not fight-specific shape
-Much better deal on the PPV end for this fight than the original offer to fight Usman
-He didn’t sign a long-term deal and his old deal is in place
-Could take sprints in the fight but not “run the mile” at his usual pace, so quick bursts and then catch himself and go again
-Constantly wanted to finish as he was concerned he wouldn’t have gas in the fourth and fifth
-Received 11 stitches from the fight on Saturday
-Has more power at welterweight and finishing power than when he fought at lightweight
-Usman maintained a good rate of strength throughout the fight instead of showcasing lots and then, fading
-This will be the biggest payday of his career
-Wants the rematch with Usman, even more than McGregor even though it would mean more money, wants the belt and Usman made his most money with him
-Would take the Usman fight this year
-Praised his coach Mike Brown, who couldn’t corner him after testing positive for COVID-19
**Helwani also spoke with UFC featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski after his narrow split-decision victory over Max Holloway over the weekend. Volkanovski is back in Australia where he will be in quarantine for two weeks until he can re-connect with his family. He indicated he is looking for new challenges as opposed to fighting Holloway for the third time after two wins:
-Is in quarantine in Australia for two-weeks following UFC 251 and staying at an apartment
-Had to make adjustments after the first two rounds and confident he won the last three
-Confident he won the fight and indicates he wants to move on to new opponents after winning twice
-Holloway is the toughest match-up in the division
-Wants another fight this year – Korean Zombie and Zabit Magomedsharipov catch his eye
-Respects Henry Cejudo and doesn’t agree with him jumping the contenders to fight him, he would fight Cejudo but wants to be properly compensated for that fight
-Hurt left shin in the fight
-Agrees they could make adjustments to the scoring system and would have done things differently if it was a different system
**UFC welterweight Leon Edwards spoke with James Lynch at MMA News about last weekend’s title fight between Kamaru Usman and Jorge Masvidal. He noted that prior to the UFC putting Gilbert Burns in to fight Usman, they had come to Edwards, but he couldn’t take the title fight on short notice with his gym being closed down and how the UK is dealing with the pandemic and speaking with his gym. Edwards said he was open to taking a fight with Burns to determine the next title challenger, fighting Masvidal, or fighting Usman next. He was not interested in fights with Colby Covington or Stephen Thompson right now.
**UFC bantamweight Marlon Moraes confirmed to ESPN Brazil that he and his wife contracted COVID-19. Moraes trains at American Top Team in Florida and alerted the gym he was feeling ill and was sent to get tested. Moraes added that there is a fight that has been offered for him in October, hinting that it’s with Cody Garbrandt and that Moraes’ side has accepted and is awaiting confirmation from UFC.
**Tanner Boser is making a quick turnaround following his victory over Phillipe Lins on June 27th. The Canadian will take the spot of Justin Tafa, who had to withdraw from his fight against Raphael Pessoa on July 25th. MMA Junkie reported the change that sees Boser return four-weeks after the fight with Lins.
**Cole Shelton at My MMA News was the first to report that the bantamweight fight between Ketlen Vieira and Yana Kunitskaya has been moved from August 1st to August 8th on the UFC’s Fight Night schedule. Vieira (10-1) is coming off the first loss of her career where she was knocked out by Irene Aldana at UFC 245 last December. Kunitskaya (12-5, 1 no contest), is 2-2 in the UFC and last fought in December where was stopped by Aspen Ladd.
**MMA Junkie reports that a bantamweight fight between John Dodson and Merab Dvalishvili has been added to the UFC 252 card on Saturday, August 15th in Las Vegas. Since returning to bantamweight, Dodson has gone 4-4 and is coming off a TKO win against Nathaniel Wood in February. Dvalishvili lost his first two fights in the UFC but has gone on win his last four fights against Terrion Ware, Brad Katona, Casey Kenney, and Gustavo Lopez all by decision.
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