Robert Whittaker and Darren Until have been having fun with pleasant back-and-forth exchanges on social media for the higher a part of the yr.
It began with Until’s repeated query of “Rob?” on Instagram and Twitter. Then the 2 joked in regards to the form of junk meals they had been consuming throughout their respective pandemic-related quarantines. In April, the 2 agreed to a catchweight of 195 kilos — somewhat than a 185-pound middleweight bout — so neither needed to weight loss program.
The 2 genuinely like one another, however there is not any doubt the time for quips can be over once they enter the Octagon for the principle occasion of UFC Struggle Evening on Saturday night time in Abu Dhabi.
ESPN has Whittaker ranked No. 2 and Until ranked No. 6 on the earth at middleweight.
Whittaker (20-5) has not fought since dropping the middleweight title to Israel Adesanya at UFC 243 final October. The New Zealand-born Australia resident was on a nine-fight successful streak previous to that and had held gold since 2017. Whittaker, 29, was the primary Aussie to win a UFC title.
Until (18-2-1) moved as much as middleweight from welterweight and beat Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 244 final November. The England native had misplaced two straight earlier than that, to Jorge Masvidal and Tyron Woodley in a welterweight title bout. Until, 27, was undefeated earlier than falling to Woodley.
Within the co-main occasion, Brazilian legends will meet in a trilogy bout. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in a light-weight heavyweight battle. Rua (26-11-1) has defeated Nogueira twice and has only one loss in his previous six fights. Nogueira (23-9), a 44-year-old veteran of 19 years in MMA, has mentioned he’ll retire after this bout.
Additionally on the cardboard, former gentle heavyweight title challenger Alexander Gustafsson comes out of retirement and strikes as much as heavyweight to tackle former champion Fabricio Werdum. Plus, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza meets up-and-comer Marina Rodriguez, and prime prospect Khamzat Chimaev returns after a wonderful debut two weeks in the past to face Rhys McKee.
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Struggle in progress:
Strawweight: Carla Esparza (17-6, 7-Four UFC, +160) vs. Marina Rodriguez (12-0-2, 3-0-2 UFC, -180)
Gentle heavyweight: Paul Craig (13-4-1, 5-4-1 UFC) defeats Gadzhimurad Antigulov (20-7, 2-Three UFC) by first-round triangle
Recap to come back.
Welterweight: Alex Oliveira (21-8-1) defeats Peter Sobotta (17-7-1, 4-Three UFC, 10-6-1 UFC) by unanimous choice
Oliveira has been identified to struggle like a wildman at occasions, however not this time. He placed on a poised efficiency from lengthy vary, utilizing physique kicks to maintain Sobotta out of boxing distance and even damage him a number of occasions.
The 32-year-old from Rio de Janeiro is again on monitor, successful his second straight struggle after dropping three in a row. He was in command the entire method, with the largest menace to his three 30-27 scorecards being his personal fouls. The bout was paused twice — after Oliveira landed a low blow, then poked the Polish-born German within the eye — however no level was deducted.
Sobotta, 33, misplaced for the second straight time. However the different loss got here again in 2018. He had a struggle canceled final yr due to harm.
Oliveira saved the struggle at lengthy vary for essentially the most half, absorbing some physique kicks however touchdown way over he took. When Sobotta tried takedowns, Oliveira defended effectively and landed elbows to the aspect of the pinnacle. That enabled him to interrupt away and preserve the struggle standing, and his footwork remained efficient and at occasions was even playful.
Welterweight: Khamzat Chimaev (8-0, 2-Zero UFC) defeats Rhys McKee (10-3-1, 0-1 UFC) by first-round TKO
Khamzat Chimaev’s TKO victory over Rhys McKee marks his second win in two completely different weight courses within the span of 10 days.
Struggle Island? How about Chimaev Island?
The most popular new prospect within the UFC completely ran by way of McKee with a TKO at 3:09 of the primary spherical. Chimaev had the quickest turnaround victory in UFC historical past (10 days) after beating John Phillips on the July 15 card. The Swedish supernova has been one of many stars of the UFC’s 14-day stretch in Abu Dhabi.
Wow, who on the earth is khamzat Chimaev? This dude proper right here simply smashing dudes. Two of em in per week. Wow
— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) July 26, 2020
On Saturday, Chimaev ran throughout the cage, picked McKee up and took him down simply. He then received into prime management and rained down strikes till referee Wealthy Mitchell pulled him off. It was whole domination — prefer it was towards Phillips.
After beating Phillips, Chimaev advised UFC president Dana White that he wished to remain on Struggle Island and compete once more. White received him a struggle for this occasion. Chimaev mentioned he’d be prepared to struggle once more in a while the cardboard.
What is the restrict to his potential? Chimaev mentioned there was none.
“It would not matter,” Chimaev mentioned. “I can smash everyone. What number of fighters within the welterweight division? I can smash all of them.”
In simply two-plus weeks, Chimaev, 26, has emerged as one of many prime prospects on the whole UFC roster. “The Wolf” trains out of AllStars Coaching Middle in Sweden with the likes of Alexander Gustafsson, and his supervisor, Ali Abdelaziz, has in contrast him to present MMA pound-for-pound king Khabib Nurmagomedov. “Khabib 2.0,” Abdelaziz calls him.
McKee, a 24-year-old from Northern Eire, was making his UFC debut. He had a three-fight successful streak snapped.
Light-weight: Francisco Trinaldo (26-7, 16-6 UFC) defeats Jai Herbert (10-2, 0-1 UFC) by third-round TKO
Francisco Trinaldo drops Jai Herbert with an overhand left hook, then completes the end.
Because the struggle wore on, Trinaldo was getting lit up. Then, the veteran from Brazil turned out the lights.
The end was sudden — and but not sudden sufficient. Trinaldo, who had been pieced up within the standup for a lot of the primary two rounds, threw a powerful left hand early in Spherical Three that linked to the temple and despatched Herbert crashing backward onto the mat, stiffened. As Trinaldo moved in, Herbert didn’t transfer. So Trinaldo held again, however referee Herb Dean stood there immobile, as effectively, not stopping the struggle. A few seconds ticked off the clock, with nobody transferring, so Trinaldo threw a punch at his fallen opponent, who didn’t defend. Then, Trinaldo threw one other punch. He paused once more. Lastly, Dean jumped in to finish it at 1:30 of Spherical 3.
Oh my!!!respect to trianaldo he did not wish to proceed to hit him and he did not have to
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) July 25, 2020
Trinaldo, a 41-year-old Brazilian, had missed the light-weight restrict by 4 kilos at Friday’s weigh-in, and his vitality appeared to wane earlier than the primary spherical was accomplished. He got here out aggressively and rapidly closed the space on the slick English striker, scoring a takedown, transferring into half guard and threatening a few submissions.
However Herbert, a former Cage Warriors champion who was making his UFC debut whereas driving a six-fight successful streak, defended effectively on the bottom, and when he received the struggle again to standing, he took benefit of his quick fingers and fixed motion. The 32-year-old Englishman even blended in some grappling work, almost securing a rear-naked choke within the second spherical.
However Herbert’s greatest work was within the standup, and Trinaldo was sporting the results of that increasingly because the struggle continued. And but Trinaldo, who owns victories over the likes of Paul Felder and Jim Miller, saved coming ahead, and his resilience paid off when he landed the massive punch that ended it. Or ought to have ended it.
Watch this struggle on ESPN+.
Welterweight: Jesse Ronson (22-10, 1-2 UFC) defeats Nicolas Dalby (18-4-1, 2-3-1 UFC) by first spherical submission
Jesse Ronson submits Nicolas Dalby with a vicious strike to Dalby’s face and a comply with up rear-naked choke in Spherical 1.
Welcome again, “Physique Snatcher.”
After a six-year absence from the UFC, Ronson stopped Dalby by way of submission (rear-naked choke) at 2:48 of the primary spherical of a welterweight bout. Ronson dropped a pressuring Dalby with a stupendous left hand, received into mount, took the again and choked Dalby till he tapped. An all-but-flawless efficiency from the veteran.
“I climbed tooth and nail to get again in there,” Ronson advised Dan Hardy afterward. “… To hell and again. That is all it’s. And right here I’m — I am again.”
Props to Jesse for taking the struggle on brief discover. I by no means underestimated him one second and congratulations to him!
As for me? I’ve a Phoenix overlaying my entire again for a purpose. Huge or small setbacks, I’ll all the time preserve going. #BackwardsNeverForwardsEver
— Nicolas “Lokomotivo” Dalby (@DalbyMMA) July 25, 2020
He added that he’ll drop right down to light-weight after this bout. Ronson referred to as out Luis Pena and Jalin Turner for later within the yr — due to their heights. Each are above 6-foot, which is tall for the division.
“For those who’re 6-foot-3, you might want to eat one thing apart from lettuce and ice cubes, [you shouldn’t be a lightweight],” Ronson mentioned. “… I like preventing tall guys, and I like crushing their guts.”
Ronson, 34, had not fought within the UFC since a break up choice loss to Kevin Lee on July 6, 2014. The Canada native has bounced round, successful a title within the TKO promotion and having misplaced twice in PFL final yr. Dalby, a 35-year-old from Denmark, had been unbeaten in his previous 5 fights coming in.
Watch this on ESPN+.
Heavyweight: Tom Aspinall (8-2, 1-Zero UFC) defeats Jake Collier (11-5, 3-Four UFC) by first-round KO
Tom Aspinall wastes no time knocking out Jake Collier with an enormous knee and two follow-up jabs in Spherical 1 of their bout.
Aspinall didn’t waste any time in making an impression in his UFC debut, knocking out Collier with a straight proper hand simply 45 seconds into their heavyweight bout.
This was a well-recognized end result for the 27-year-old from England. All eight of his skilled victories have come by knockout, most within the first minute.
Maintain your eyes on this child!! #UFCFightIsland3
— Alex Volkanovski (@alexvolkanovski) July 25, 2020
Collier, who had not fought since 2017 due to harm, a PED suspension and bout cancellations, was making his heavyweight debut after competing at middleweight and lightweight heavyweight. Regardless of having come from these lighter divisions, although, he was a step sluggish proper from the beginning. He absorbed a straight proper within the opening seconds, and Aspinall instantly measured him for an additional, setting it up with a left hook.
The correct hand that adopted despatched Collier face-first to the canvas, the place Aspinall pounced, including a number of extra photographs on his immobilized opponent earlier than the referee jumped in.
For Aspinall, it was his fourth straight victory. Collier has alternated victories and defeats going again to 2014.
Watch this struggle on ESPN+.
Males’s featherweight: Movsar Evloev (13-0, 3-Zero UFC) defeats Mike Grundy (12-2, 1-1 UFC) by unanimous choice
Evloev would not have a nickname. Possibly it must be “Houdini.”
Time and time once more, Evloev was capable of escape Grundy’s takedowns and submission makes an attempt, together with an extremely tight D’arce choke within the first spherical. When again on the toes, Evloev dominated along with his putting en path to a unanimous-decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) win.
Loopy escape!! https://t.co/3SQRGE9VBj
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) July 25, 2020
Grundy took early management along with his superior wrestling. He received Evloev down in a precarious place up towards the cage and appeared for a choke. He almost cinched it in, however Evloev pulled off an unbelievable escape.
From there, Evloev had all of the momentum. He break up open Grundy’s left cheek with a tough proper hand within the first and landed easy mixtures all through the struggle. Evloev’s jab particularly was very spectacular.
Evloev, 26, has gained three straight within the UFC and stays undefeated. The Russia native, a former M-1 champion, seems to be a respectable prospect within the featherweight division. Grundy, a 33-year-old England native, had his nine-fight successful streak snapped. This was the British wrestler’s first loss since 2015.
Watch this struggle on ESPN+.
Heavyweight: Tanner Boser (19-6-1, 3-1 UFC) defeats Raphael Pessoa (10-2, 1-2 UFC) by second-round KO
Tanner Boser finishes Raphael Pessoa after touchdown a vicious left hook to Pessoa’s face in Spherical 2.
Twenty-eight days earlier, Boser scored a first-round knockout in Las Vegas. Then he traveled to Struggle Island and needed to work a bit longer, however the end result was one other large knockout victory.
After spending all the first spherical and far of the second utilizing footwork to remain out of vary of the heavy-fisted Pessoa, and likewise touchdown leg kicks that reddened the massive Brazilian, Boser started partaking in punching exchanges halfway by way of Spherical 2 and clipped Pessoa with a counter left hand that instantly despatched Pessoa into retreat, squinting out of a compromised proper eye. Boser went on the assault as his opponent slumped on the canvas and punched away till the referee stepped in at 2:36 of the spherical.
I took this punch contained in the eyebefore as effectively, it hurts so much however Come on you can’t hand over trigger this 🤦🏾♂️🤷🏾♂️ #UFCFightIsland3
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) July 25, 2020
The 28-year-old out of Edmonton, Alberta, who wanted barely 2½ minutes to take out Philipe Lins on June 27, put in his work proper from the beginning however this time that work was principally within the type of motion. He strikes effectively for a heavyweight, and his array of kicks and punches had been troublesome to counter. Pessoa saved his proper hand cocked, able to unleash, however it merely couldn’t discover its goal.
This was the fourth win in Boser’s previous 5 fights. Pessoa, a 31-year-old out of Rio de Janeiro, misplaced for the second time in his previous three bouts.
Ladies’s bantamweight: Pannie Kianzad (14-5, 2-2 UFC) defeats Bethe Correia (11-5-1, 5-5-1 UFC) vs. by unanimous choice
Bethe Correia thinks Spherical 1 is over, not realizing there are nonetheless 10 seconds left, and Pannie Kianzad takes benefit.
Kianzad has began placing collectively considerably of a run within the UFC’s girls’s bantamweight division with two straight wins and three of 4.
After years of bouncing round promotions and struggling along with her weight minimize, Kianzad now has her first UFC successful streak, courtesy of a unanimous choice (30-27, 30-27, 29-28) victory over Correia, the previous UFC title challenger.
Kianzad appeared stable the entire struggle along with her boxing and knees within the Thai clinch. She did stable harm on the finish of the primary when Correia thought the clacking sound that signifies there are 10 seconds left within the spherical meant that the spherical was over. Kianzad landed a tough mixture when Correia let her guard down.
Kianzad was the extra correct, highly effective striker all through. Correia had moments, together with stable ground-and-pound putting within the second spherical. However Kianzad confirmed off the higher stand-up.
Kianzad, the Iran-born Sweden native, had a crack on the Invicta FC bantamweight title in 2015, however missed weight. She moved as much as featherweight and went to the finals of the UFC’s Final Fighter girls’s 145-pound event in 2018, falling to Macy Chiasson. Kianzad, 28, has appeared stable again at 135 kilos now.
Correia (11-5-1) has dropped three of 4 and has just one victory since 2016. The 37-year-old Brazilian famously fought Ronda Rousey in the principle occasion of UFC 190 in 2015. That is still Rousey’s final win.
Watch this struggle on ESPN+.
Welterweight: Ramazan Emeev (19-4, 4-1 UFC) defeats Niklas Stolze (12-4, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous choice
Niklas Stolze lands an enormous knee to the chin of Ramazan Emeev on the finish of Spherical 1 of their bout at UFC Struggle Evening.
Emeev used 4 takedowns and a number of other spells of ahead strain to regulate the struggle for all however a number of moments and take the choice.
The 33-year-old Dagestani, who misplaced in November to Anthony Rocco Martin to finish a seven-fight successful streak, began robust and secured a submission try throughout the first half of Spherical 1, however Stolze, making his UFC debut on a four-fight successful streak, defended effectively and damage his opponent seconds earlier than the horn, dropping Emeev with a knee to the face.
However Emeev seized again management of what was a sluggish struggle firstly of Spherical 2, and apart from absorbing the occasional low kick, jab or knee, saved the German on the defensive.
Two judges scored the bout 30-27 and the opposite had it 29-28.
“I felt very assured that I may end him couple of occasions,” Emeev mentioned. “However due to the 2 failed submission makes an attempt, my fingers had been very heavy. I wasn’t rocked from his knee within the first spherical and I felt that I dominated the struggle. Subsequent time I’ll get a end for positive. I really feel utterly wholesome and wish to get again to the Octagon as quickly as potential.”
Watch this struggle on ESPN+.
Males’s bantamweight: Nathaniel Wooden (17-4, 4-1 UFC) defeats John Castaneda (17-5, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous choice
Nathaniel Wooden and John Castaneda commerce huge blows in the course of Spherical 2 of their bout at UFC Struggle Evening.
Coming off a momentum-killing defeat earlier this yr, Wooden received himself proper again into the circulation with a poised and relentless assault.
Strong efficiency right here from @TheProspectMMA Good showcase of his putting towards a tricky opponent.
— michael (@bisping) July 25, 2020
The 26-year-old out of London, who noticed an eight-fight successful streak ended by a John Dodson left hook in February, didn’t have it straightforward towards Castaneda, however his fluid motion and array of punches and kicks from all angles received him again on the successful monitor. All three judges scored the struggle 30-27.
Castaneda, 28 and out of Minnesota, placed on a powerful efficiency in his UFC debut. He received hit so much, bloodied within the second spherical, however by no means stopped coming ahead and clipped Wooden on many events. He simply couldn’t string collectively the form of mixtures that saved Wooden a step forward.
“The struggle was enjoyable,” Wooden mentioned. “It was good to truly have a call for a change. It was good to truly undergo the three, 5 minutes and really do what I am doing within the fitness center. There’s nothing higher than stepping into and getting a fast knockout, choosing up a bonus, these type of fights, however it’s good to truly go in and have a struggle, as such.
“Every thing my coaches wished me to do was not brawl. Let’s not give him that likelihood of let’s commerce photographs. I do know it is enjoyable for the followers to look at, do not get me fallacious, I am nonetheless going to be doing it and I nonetheless attempt to have a bit of little bit of a go in there, however I knew I used to be up within the rounds, I knew I used to be the higher fighter and I knew I might outscore him. So for me to have a fifty-fifty alternate with him, I am giving him the advantage of the doubt and coming off a loss, I could not afford to try this. My coaches mentioned, be the sniper, decide the photographs, do not get right here and that is what I’ve accomplished.”
Watch this on ESPN+.
Nonetheless to come back:
Middleweight: Robert Whittaker (21-5, 11-Three UFC, -125) vs. Darren Until (18-2-1, 6-2-1 UFC, +105)
Gentle heavyweight: Mauricio Rua (26-11-1, 11-8-1 UFC, -185) vs. Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (23-9, 6-6 UFC, +165)
Heavyweight: Fabricio Werdum (23-9-1, 9-Four UFC, +285) vs. Alexander Gustafsson (18-6, 12-Four UFC, -350)
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