Issue 202

March 2024

Ray Klerck jumps into the Fighters Only wayback machine to recap the best of mixed martial arts in February.

Bellator Reign Supreme On PFL vs. Bellator CHAMPS Card

Fighters Only Feb 25, 2024

It was a fantastic night for the competitors representing Bellator at the PFL vs Bellator CHAMPS card, with the promotion almost securing a clean sweep in the champion vs champion bouts. 

The biggest upset of the night came in the main event of the evening when Ryan Bader was handed his first loss since 2021 in just 21 seconds, when Renan Ferreira secured the thirteenth win of his professional career.

Just 15 seconds into the fight, the 2023 PFL Heavyweight champion landed a stiff right hand on the chin of Bader, which sent the Bellator champion crashing to the mat. Then once the Brazilian unloaded numerous strikes on the floored Bader, the referee stepped in and waved the contest off.

Other than the main event, the Bellator athletes shone throughout the night.

Johnny Eblen remained undefeated but it was undoubtedly his toughest test to date in a split decision win over Impa Kasanganay in the co-main event. Over the 15 minute affair, Eblen was pushed more than he has ever been before in order to grind out the win on two of the three judges scorecards.

Jason Jackson stopped Ray Cooper II in the second round with stoppage and extended his unbeaten run to 8, adding yet another big name to his resume.

Vadim Nemkov looked more than comfortable at heavyweight and stopped Bruno Cappelozza with a second round Triangle.

The big wins kept coming for the Bellator Yoel Romero proving age is merely just a number with a unanimous decision win over Thiago Santos.

AJ McKee Jr. started the card strong for the Bellator contingency, submitting Clay Collard in the very first round.

Aaron Pico made the most of being able to use elbows in the cross promotional bout and unloaded huge shots to a grounded Henry Corrales to even things up between the two.

On the undercard, Biaggio Ali Walsh got his professional career off to winning ways with a unanimous decision over Emmanuel Palacio whilst the 'GWOAT' Claressa Shields moved to 2-1 with a hard fought split decision win against Kelsey DeStantis.

The Saudi Arabians secured a 100% win rate in their home nation with Abdullah Al-Qahtani and Malik Basahel both getting wins against Edukondala Rao and Vinicius Pereira, respectively.

Alex Pereira vs Jamahal Hill Set To Headline UFC 300

Fighters Only Feb 18, 2024

UFC 300 now has the main event locked in with Alex Pereira set to take on Jamahal Hill for the UFC Light Heavyweight title.

The speculation has eventually came to an end as to who will headline the monumental card, which will take place on April 13th at the T-Mobile Arena, Las Vegas.

Taking to social media, Dana White announced the news to his 8.9 million followers, he said:

"It will feature Alex Pereira defending his Light Heavyweight title against Jamahal Hill. Alex Pereira is the first fighter to become a champion in both the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight division of the UFC.

It took him the shortest period of time in the history of the organisation to win his Middleweight title, and it took him the fewest number of bouts to win a championship in a second weight class. He is an all action striker with incredible power and seven of his nine MMA wins have come by knockout.

"He is violent, he is scary and he will be taking on Jamahal Hill, who is the former Light Heavyweight champion who never lost the title but vacated his belt after tearing his achilles last year. In his last bout and defeating former champion Glover Teixeira, he landed 232 strikes, which is the most strikes ever landed in a UFC Light Heavyweight fight. He is the first Dana White Contender Series alum to win a world title. Like Pereira, he is a world class kickboxer with serious power. He has won a performance bonus in each of his last four fights and four of his five last UFC wins have come by knockout."

The bout will mark Hill's first return to the cage since the Achilles injury that ultimately led to him vacating his belt after the Teixeira win at UFC 283.

The last time Hill competed, Pereira was yet to compete at 205lbs - but wins over Jan Blachowicz and Jiri Prochazka secured the Brazilian his second UFC title in just his seventh bout.

Post UFC 298 White was asked by the media about who else was in contention for the converted spot, he was full of praise for the current UFC Welterweight champion Leon Edwards. He said:

We were out there talking to lots of people, trying to make lots of fights and in this business it is about taking opportunities. Headlining UFC 300 with all the buzz and all the energy around it. Let me say this, Leon Edwards has had like three opponents throughout this thing. Leon Edwards, doesn't say no to anybody. This kid is an absolute stud. He's had like three opponents thrown at him during UFC 300. Yes, yes, yes. Was willing to take on anybody man, the kid is an absolute stud. Leon, thank you. Much respect."

Ilia Topuria Dethrones Alexander Volkanovski To Become UFC Featherweight Champion

Fighters Only Feb 18, 2024

Ilia Topuria proved he could walk the walk as well as talk the talk in the UFC 298 main event, defeating Alexander Volkanovski in the second round to become the new UFC Featherweight Champion.

The main event lived up to all expectations and answered the questions so many people had of if Topuria was ready for the challenge of taking on long time champ Volkanovski, in only his seventh bout in the promotion.

Volkanovski started well, keeping busy and looking to keep Topuria at bay, but the immense power of the challenger was always a threat and a booming leg kick which sent the champion stumbling, proved as much.

Pre-fight, Volkanovski admitted he was well aware of the boxing power Topuria possessed and was something he would certainly need to watch out for. Unfortunately for the champion, the boxing prowess of ‘El Matador’ proved pivotal when after a combination pushed Volkanovski up against the cage, a thunderous right hook landed clean on the jaw of the champ, sending him crashing to the mat and the bout was over.

In the co-main event, Robert Whittaker landed back in the win column with a decision win against Paulo Costa, but it wasn’t without issues.

With just seconds left in the first round, Costa landed a spinning heel kick flush on the chin of Whittaker which sent him dancing across the cage but the Australian managed to survive and make it back to his stool for some much needed recuperation. It appeared that the time away from competition appeared to impact Costa, as he started to slow down as Whittaker then took the next two rounds comfortably on all three judges' scorecards and cruised to a unanimous decision.

Ian Machado Garry continued his unbeaten run in a very closely contested bout against Geoff Neal. Although the momentum has always surrounded Machado Garry, the way in which UFC fans now perceive the athlete has changed somewhat. It felt like there was more pressure on the 26-year-old’s shoulders, to perform than ever before. It is common knowledge that the Irishman has fantastic striking and keen to avoid it, Neal looked to clinch at any possible opportunity throughout the bout which led to a frustrating opening two frames. Neal’s coach pleaded with him to try and push the action in the third but this played into Machado Garry’s game and the Irishman walked away with a 30-27, 30-27, 28-29 split decision win.

It appears to be the end of the road for the former two weight division champion Henry Cejudo as he dropped a unanimous decision to the formidable Merab Dvalishvili. The Georgian’s relentless pace and forward pressure proved to be too much for ‘Triple C’. After taking the first round, Cejudo simply couldn’t match the work rate Dvalishvili brings into every single fight and throughout the second and third this became increasingly evident as Dvalishvili took both rounds and secured the win.

Anthony Hernandez extended his impressive win streak to 5 with a second round submission win over Roman Kopylov to round out the main card.

The Fight of the Night bonus correctly went to Mackenzie Dern and Amanda Lemos who put on an absolute war in the featured prelim. After a tough two opening rounds for Dern, she looked to rally in the third but it was too little too late and Lemos took the unanimous decision win.

Other standouts on the prelim section of the card included Marcos Rogerio de Lima beating the late call-up, Junior Tafa, with brutal leg kicks and Mingyang Zhang stunning Brendon Ribiero with a TKO stoppage in the first round.

"I'm More Focused" – Joshua Pacio Promises To Fight With No Hesitation In Rematch With Jarred Brooks At ONE 166

Fighters Only Feb 23, 2024

A lot has changed since Joshua Pacio last held the ONE Strawweight MMA World Championship. The division is now more stacked than ever, and it has a brash king sitting on the throne. 

But since he lost the World Title to Jarred Brooks at ONE 164 in December 2022, “The Passion” has made adjustments, too, and he’ll be looking to use them to his advantage when he challenges his American foe’s reign at ONE 166: Qatar on Friday, 1st March. 

After parting with the crown, Pacio had some soul-searching to do. He left his longtime gym, Team Lakay, to form Lion’s Nation MMA with former ONE Lightweight MMA World Champion Eduard Folyang, which has allowed him to centre himself and put everything into his critical rematch.

“You know, when you’re preparing for a bout with this kind of magnitude, you must be 100% ready physically, mentally, spiritually, and emotionally,” he analyzed. 

“So far, all is well. I’m more focused. I have less than two weeks left of hard training, and we’re good to go.”

In the lead-up to their first clash 15 months ago, the meetings between Pacio and Brooks were far from civil. The American berated and bashed “The Passion” at any given opportunity, and this altered the former World Champion’s headspace.

As a result, Pacio’s performance was hindered, which undoubtedly contributed to him losing the match and the belt by unanimous decision. 

The 28-year-old is highly aware of what he needs to do this time around, and he has sharpened up every aspect of his game to neutralize Brooks and leave Qatar with the World Title back over his shoulder. 

“That’s the goal of this training camp – to fight with no hesitation. In this rematch, I must fight the way I really fight,” Pacio divulged.

“This is mixed martial arts. It’s either you will get hit or you will get taken down. Now, this camp has taught me to have the proper mindset. If I am one of the best in the world, I should fight like one. Yes, I’m also fighting one of the best in the world. But I shouldn’t forget that I’m also one of the best in the world.”

What We Missed

KSW Epic Event Showcases No Holds Barred & PRIDE Rules MMA Fights

By BVM Sportsdesk, 02/26/2024

KSW Epic event took MMA fans back to the early 2000s with its No Holds Barred/PRIDE Rules fights, featuring stomps and soccer kicks ending a brutal match.

The Big Picture

The event showcased a mix of fight styles, including boxing, grappling, Muay Thai, and old-school PRIDE Rules matches, adding a unique twist to the MMA scene.

By the Numbers

Rafal Haratyk becomes the KSW light-heavyweight world champion after defeating Damian Piwowarczyk via decision in a split (Round 3, 5:00).

Josh Barnett vs. Phil De Fries grappling match ends in a draw after Judge's decision (Round 1, 10:00).

State of Play

KSW Epic event on February 24th, 2024, at Gliwice Arena in Poland featured a variety of fights, showcasing the league's reputation for entertainment.

Unique formats like the No Holds Barred/PRIDE Rules fights added to the excitement, with the audience hoping for more similar events in the future.

Bottom Line

KSW Epic's incorporation of diverse fight styles and the revival of old-school rules like stomps and soccer kicks highlights the league's commitment to delivering thrilling and unconventional MMA experiences.