Issue 203

March 2024

Ray Klerck jumps into the Fighters Only wayback machine to recap the best of mixed martial arts in March 2024.

UFC 299 - Sean O'Malley Dominates To Retain Bantamweight Title Against Marlon Vera

Fighters Only Mar 10, 2024

UFC 299 had been billed as one of the biggest cards of the year, stacked from top to bottom with talent, and it certainly lived up to the hype. 

In the main event, Sean O'Malley successfully defended his UFC Bantamweight title against Marlon 'Chito' Vera with a unanimous decision win - even the score with the only man who has beaten him as a professional.

'Suga' took control of the fight from the first bell and made sure the fight was caught at his pace and to suit his style. Both men were clearly using the round to try and make as many reads as possible but O'Malley made sure he done enough to take the first round.

Vera's toughness has played a pivotal role in his career thus far and really needed to call upon it in the second round as O'Malley picked his strikes at will and really put the pressure on the challenger.

O'Malley piled the pressure on again in round 3, with Chito rallying late and finding the most success he'd had in the bout until that point- but it still wasn't enough to take the round from the champion.

Growing into the contest, the fourth round between the two proved to be the closest with several back and forth exchanges but again O'Malley managed the five minutes better and took the round.

It was apparent to everyone that Vera needed a finish in the fifth but instead, it was the champion who piled the pressure on, once more, and cemented his win.

The score cards read 50-45, 50-45, 50-44.

Dustin Poirier proved he deserves to still be at the top of the Lightweight division, with a brutal knock out win against the hard hitting and always dangerous Benoit Saint Denis in the co-main event.

It was widely perceived that 'The Diamond' was taking a huge risk taking on the surging Frenchman. For a contest scheduled for five rounds, the pace in which the two started proceedings suggested neither man was planning on seeing the final bell.

The first round witnessed the pair bring big strikes and heavy pressure to the octagon. Clearly looking to take the contest to the ground, Saint Denis had a few take down attempts throughout the first round but Poirier largely managed to negate the attempts or ensure, if he was taken to the floor, there was little to no damage inflicted.

Half way through round two, Poirier tagged Saint Denis with a left hand straight down the pipe, which sent the 'God Of War' stumbling. Sensing the end could be near, Poirier cranked up the intensity and when ditching a guillotine attempt, he landed a huge right hand on the chin of Saint Denis and sent him crashing to the mat before a violent right hand cemented the win.

Michael 'Vemon' Page went the distance for only the sixth time in his career, with a unanimous decision win, in his promotional debut against Kevin Holland.

MVP's pace proved to be a huge factor in the contest, with Holland admitting to his corner between round one and two that the Brit was a lot quicker than Holland and his team thought.

The point fighting style MVP brings to every contest was clear from the outset and he comfortably took round 1. Holland found a lot more success in the second round and ultimately edged it on all three judges score cards. With it all to play for going into the third round, MVP was visibly frustrating Holland with his hit hard and be hard to hit game plan and MVP took the third round.

The Jack Della Maddalena hype train continued, with a vicious third round finish against Gilbert Burns.

Entering the third round likely two down, Della Maddalena's team made it clear to their fighter that he needed to set up the pressure and the pace in order to try and resurrect a victory. After escaping from a hold, the Australian met Burns with a monster knee which he then followed up with a barrage of elbows before the referee had seen enough.

Elsewhere on the card, there were notable wins for Petr Yan, Curtis Blaydes, Mateusz Gamrot and Michael Pereira.

Dana White Heaps Praise On Dustin Poirier After UFC 299 Knockout Win

Fighters Only Mar 11, 2024

UFC CEO Dana White has heaped plaudits on Dustin The Diamond Poirier following the veteran’s stellar victory against Benoit Saint Denis at UFC 299. 

Entering the bout on the back of 5 wins, all coming by way of stoppage, the surging Saint Denis was handed a huge opportunity to leapfrog many in the division when he came face to face with Dustin Poirier in Saturday’s co-main event. 

‘The Diamond’ shone throughout and proved to any doubters that he is still more than deserving to be at the very top of the Lightweight division with a stunning second round knockout against the Frenchman. 

Talking to the media post UFC 299, White was full of praise for Poirier. Well aware of the conversations that were taking place prior to the contest, White expressed the how much not only the fact he took the fight, but the way in which he won, shows Poirier’s worth. He said:

“The fight that he took tonight with Benoit. I mean, everybody, when talk first started. It was like, ‘Oh, that's a bad fight for Poirier,’ blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. This is the sh*t that makes you a f**king legend. These are legendary fights.

When you go in and you face a guy who is a savage and looks like you can't win this fight or people think you can't win this fight. And then you go in and do it in spectacular fashion the way that he did tonight. 

“You've heard it many times in the past. ‘They want me to lose’ or ‘They're trying to make me lose.’ I heard some nutty sh*t the other day from somebody that I won't even mention, but we don't determine whether you lose or whether you win. You do. What we try to do is put on the best matched made fight that we can possibly do. And that's why big stars are built in the UFC and legendary fights happen every weekend.

When asked if the performance could see Poirier re-enter the title picture, White admitted that Poirier’s win has increased the 35-year-old’s stock even more

“Like I just said, I just went through that whole, you know, his stock again goes through the roof at his age, all the things he's accomplished, all the things he's done. Look at what he did tonight. And I don't know if you guys are too busy typing or whatever the f*ck it is you guys do during fights.

“But if you stood up there in that fight and saw the arena, it was insane. It was insane. People were going nuts. Yeah. Poirier went to a whole other level tonight with this fight.”

The Lightweight division could see a lot of moving parts over the next few weeks, with Justin Gaethje looking to defend his BMF belt against Max Holloway, at 155lbs, and former champion Charles Oliveira facing Arman Tsarukyan at UFC 300. With champion, Islam Makhachev, likely not competing until the later part of the year, all the athletes in and around the top of the division will be looking to solidify their place as he next title challenger.

OKTAGON strips Elias Garcia of flyweight title - Aaron Aby to face Sam Creasey for the vacant belt.

Fighters Only Mar 22, 2024

OKTAGON have added a Flyweight title fight between Aaron Aby and Sam Creasey to OKTAGON 56, after stripping their inaugural Flyweight champion Elias Garcia of the 125lbs title.

The announcement regarding Garcia being stripped off the title can be found in full below and was announced across all of the promotion's social media platforms:

"Statement from Ond?ej Novotný: OKTAGON MMA’s flyweight division no longer has a champion. Elias Garcia has turned down our offer twice to fight, and as a result has been stripped of his title. We now have a very interesting replacement for Aaron Aby, and you can look forward to a great title fight very soon."

Garcia claimed gold at OKTAGON 48 in the main event of the promotion's first show in the UK against Welshman Aaron Aby. Aby was looking the sharper of the two and was arguably up on the score cards but was caught with a huge shot that cut him on the eyebrow, which led to the doctor calling the contest off in between rounds 2 and 3.

OKTAGON owners had made the intention to try and schedule the rematch very clear immediately following the contest. The promotion originally looked at Newcastle, which Garcia did not accept and following this, they announced he would have one more chance to accept a match up before they would consider stripping him.

Staying true to their word the announcement of his stripping came just hours before the the vacant title fight between Aby and Creasey was announced, a rematch 3 years in the making.

The first time the two met was at Cage Warriors 123, on a card which featured several of the current OKTAGON roster including Matthew Bonner and Mick Stanton. The bout was one of the two semi-final contests to decide who would fight for the Cage Warriors world title.

Creasey walked away with a unanimous decision win, looking more than comfortable across the bout and went on to be crowned the Flyweight champion.

Since their initial meeting, both men have remained extremely active, with Aby competing 9 times and Creasey, 6.

Aby will no doubt be looking to not only avenge the loss the Creasey, but also eventually get his hands on the OKTAGON Flyweight title, a belt he felt he was heading towards prior to the doctor's stoppage at OKTAGON 48.

Creasey could make a huge statement to 125lb-ers across Europe if he can manage to come in and beat Aby for a second time, to become the champion in his promotional debut.

Rose Namajunas Picks Up First Flyweight Win Against Amanda Ribas At UFC Vegas 89

Fighters Only Mar 24, 2024

'Thug' Rose Namajunas has likely earned her place in the top 10 rankings with a unanimous decision victory win against Amanda Ribas in the main event of UFC Vegas 89.

In the main event of the impressive card, Namajunas started out the quicker of the two women, and landed the better strikes in the first round. Once taken to the ground, she managed to work quick and establish top position with over a minute left on the clock and landed some tidy elbows.

The second round was much closer with the consistent volume and forward pressure of Ribas coming up against the more tactful movement and clean striking of Namajunas. 'Thug' rose managed to do enough to take the round on two of the scorecards.

Round three was undoubtedly Ribas' best round. Throughout the contest, the Brazilian had been looking to utilise a headlock toss and it eventually came to fruition in the third. The throw, followed by Ribas' heavy top control and strikes done enough to secure the round for her.

Namajunas picked up where she left off in the second round, with not a tonne of strikes but the ones she did throw, landed. The ever forward pressure of Ribas was making the contest interesting but it was the American that was having the most success with her strikes. After getting the fight to the mat, the 31-year-old needed to do slightly more work against Ribas to really solidify the round but nevertheless had done enough still to take it.

It was much of the same in the fifth and final round with Namajunas once again showing her impressive fight IQ and shot selection to land the more impactful strikes and take the round.

The win will likely put 'Thug' Rose into the top 10 at Flyweight as she looks to secure her second UFC title.

Karl Williams continued his impressive UFC unbeaten run with a unanimous decision win against Justin Tafa in the co-main event.

The heavyweights came out swinging but Williams was clearly the more well versed in the grappling department and utilised this throughout the three rounds to stop Tafa landing and major strikes, with the two he did, rocking Williams badly.

Edmond Shahbazyan managed to survive some early trouble to turn his Middleweight contest around and stop AJ Dobson with less than 30 seconds left on the clock in the first round.

The surging Payton Tallbott picked up yet another win, and a performance of the night bonus in the process, startching Cameron Saaiman early in the second round.

Billy Quarantillo found himself on the wrong side of a rear naked choke against Youssef Zalal in their Featherweight fight. Zalal found had some very impressive striking in the first round before getting the takedown in the second round and applying the choke.

In one of the strangest moments fans have witnessed in the octagon for some time, Andre Lima picked up a win against Igor Severino after the latter bit his opponent on the arm in their Flyweight bout. Whilst clinching Lima then gestured to the referee who then brought a stop to the action and it emerged that Severino had left a nasty bite mark on Lima's bicep. UFC CEO Dana white awarded Lima a 'bite of the night bonus' which was then doubled when it was revealed that the unbeaten Flyweight's first stop after the bout was to a tattoo parlour to mark the occasion on his skin for life.

Unbeaten Brit Michael Parkin continued his impressive run in the UFC, moving to 3-0 with a unanimous decision victory against Mohammad Usman in the opening bout of the evening. After a strong first round for Usman, Parkin put on a striking clinic, controlling the distance well and used his solid shot selection over the second and third round to take the bout 29-28 on all three judges scorecards.

There were also wins for Fernando Padilla, Trey Ogden, Julian Erosa, Miles Johns, Jarno Errens and Dariya Zheleznakova.

Cedric Doumbe handed first MMA loss following freak injury. (PFL Europe 1)

Fighters Only Mar 07, 2024

Cedric Doumbe was handed his first loss as professional mixed martial artist in front of a sold out Accor Arena in a peculiar ending to the opening PFL Europe card of 2024.

The card featured the opening round of both the 2024 PFL Europe Lightweight and Welterweight tournament and was headlined by the ever popular Doumbe facing the fellow unbeaten Baysangur Chamsoudinov.

The bout opened and Chamsoudinov looked to implement a clear game plan early doors, get the contest to the floor. As a former Glory Kickboxer and with all of his MMA wins coming by way of KO/TKO, opponents will look to take the contest to the floor against such a seasoned striker.

Chamsoudinov had some success with this in the first but ultimately failed to capitalise on having the bout on the mat, with Doumbe constantly working and managing to get the bout back to the feet.

Doumbe signalled to referee Marc Goddard that he was struggling with some sort of complication but the top referee clearly stated 'Don't stop, don't stop.' There were then plenty of feints between the two but with no action. Goddard asked for some action from the pair. Again, Doumbe signalled to his foot and with that, Goddard waved the bout off.

Doumbe immediately protested the decision but as veteran referee John McCarthy via the PFL Instagram page, Doumbe left Goddard with no choice other than to wave the contest off. He said:

"When you see Cedric Doumbe say I have something wrong with my foot, there is nothing that has been done that is illegal so he going to have to fight through the injury, it is what we call self inflicted. And then you see they start to go, and Baki stops like 'hey, you don't want to fight.' And Cedric again looks at Marc Goddard and points to his foot, illustrating he has an injury to his foot. Once that is done, Marc Goddard has got to call the fight, the fight is over. It is a technical knock out for Baki, based upon what we call a self inflicted injury."

In his post fight interview, Doumbe revealed that he had a small slither of glass in his foot which was causing complications. he said:

"First of all, thank you to everyone for watching the fight. So, I did not want to stop the fight, not at all. I wanted to fight, of course, as everybody saw. But I have- I still have because I don't want to remove it, I don't want people to say I am a liar, I have a small (piece of) glass on my foot. I don't know, inside the cage, it is hurting me, I just want to remove it and keep going.

"The referee told me 'you can't stop' so, okay. I wanted to fight and then my opponent, he is looking at me, he is seeing that something is annoying me. He says 'just remove it' and then we both stopped together, looking at the referee and then he stopped the fight."

Alexa Grasso And Valentina Shevchenko Named As Coaches For Season 32 Of The Ultimate Fighter

Fighters Only Mar 09, 2024

Dana White has announced that UFC Flyweight Champion Alexa Grasso and the number one ranked Valentina Shevchenko will feature as the coaches on the upcoming season of The Ultimate Fighter.

The two will likely then meet in their long awaited trilogy bout following the conclusion of the show, as Shevchenko will to become a two time world champion and Grasso looks to cement her legacy and end the rivalry once and for all.

UFC CEO Dana White took to social media to announce the news. In a reel, he said:

"What's up everybody, we have just confirmed the coaches for season 32 of The Ultimate Fighter and it will be UFC Womens Flyweight Champion Alexa Grasso and former champion Valentina Shevchenko.

"Grasso became the first Mexican UFC Women's Champion after defeating Shevchenko and their last fight resulted in a draw.

"Before their last two fights, Valentina had successfully defended the belt 7 times.

"This show will premier on June 4th on ESPN, ESPN Deportes and ESPN+.

"I don't have to tell you, these are two of the most bad ass women on the planet and this should be a very fun season!"

After dominating the Flyweight division for four years, claiming the vacant title with a unanimous decision win over Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231. It looked as though nobody would even be able to come close to taking the belt from Shevchenko, that was until Grasso stepped up to the plate at UFC 285. Grasso shocked the words when she submitted the long reigning champion in the fourth round of their contest.

The two met again 6 months later with Grasso retaining the belt following a split decision draw.

The Ultimate Fighter has produced some serious talent through the years, with the season one finale between Stephan Bonnar and Forrest Griffin going down as not only one of the greatest fights to ever take place in the cage, but a bout that ultimately changed the trajectory for the UFC.

The show's alumni include a monumental list of names who went on to become UFC champions or star names within the promotion such as Michael Bisping, T J Dillashaw and Nate Diaz, to name but a few.

Joanna Jedrzejczyk will be inducted into the 2024 UFC Hall Of Fame

Fighters Only Mar 11, 2024

It has been confirmed that former UFC champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk will be inducted into the 2024 UFC Hall Of Fame. 

The self proclaimed 'Boogeywomen' reigned supreme at the very top of the UFC Strawweight division for many years and will now rightfully take her place in the Hall Of Fame. 

After signing with the UFC as a 5-0-0 prospect, Jedrzejczyk made her promotional debut at UFC on FOX 12 against Juliana Lima in July 2014 and got her UFC career off to winning ways with a unanimous decision victory. 

She then faced Claudia Gadelha 5 months later in an extremely close contest, with Jedrzejczyk edging it on two of the three judges' scorecards and managed to edge a split decision. This result would be the start of one of the most intriguing rivalries of Jedrzejczyk’s career but would not surface again until 2 years later.

The win against Gadelha led to Joanna’s first shot at UFC gold, against Carla Esparza at UFC 185. Without doubt, the best she had looked since signing with the promotion, looking levels above the champion in the striking department and regularly negating Esparza’s takedown attempts throughout the bout. Cranking the pressure up, Jedrzejczyk cranked the pressure up and once she had Esparza backed up against the fence, she started unloading and became the first woman to stop Esparza with strikes.

In her first title defence, Jedrzejczyk once again showed that she was one of the best strikers in the Strawweight division with a third round stoppage against Jessica Penne. She then defended her belt once more against Valerie Letourneau at UFC 193. 

The reigning champion then filled one of the positions of the two coaches on Season 22 of The Ultimate Fighter, and coaching the other team - Claudia Gadelha. From their first bout, there had been no love lost between the two and things escalated when the pair had to be in the same space on a regular basis. 

The pair met once more at The Ultimate Fighter 22 Finale and after a slow start from the champion, which saw her drop the opening two rounds. The champion had to dig deep to rally late, finishing the bout in dominating fashion and even scored a 10-8 round on all judges' scorecards in the fourth to cement the win.The scorecards read 48-45,48-46,48-46.

Her next defence came at UFC 205 against fellow Polish native, and unbeaten prospect, Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The two delivered an extremely entertaining contest but again, Jedrzejczyk navigated her way through the five rounds in a more superior fashion and claimed yet another unanimous decision win. She then defended the belt for the fifth time at UFC 211 against Jessica Andrade.

UFC 217 played home to the, then, 30-year-old squaring off against ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas. ‘Thug’ stunned all in attendance at Madison Square Garden and the rest of the Strawweight division, when she knocked out Jedrzejczyk in just over three minutes to be crowned the new Strawweight champion. 

Due to the incredible reign Jedrzejczyk had as the Strawweight queen, she was granted an immediate rematch against Namajunas, which came at UFC 223. Unfortunately for the former champion, she would come up short against ‘Thug’ Rose once again, with the champion defending her title by way of unanimous decision. 

After the back to back losses, Jedrzejczyk looked to rebuild with a win against Tecia Torres and then decided to move up to Flyweight to challenge Valentina Shevchenko for the vacant Flyweight championship. Once again Jedrzejczyk found herself in the losing column by way of unanimous decision. 

Another move back to Strawweight and a win against Michelle Waterson-Gomez and it was yet another title shot, this time, against Weili Zhang. The five round affair is largely regarded as the greatest ever women’s Strawweight fight. The two women left everything in the cage, with Jedrzejczyk’s forehead swelling to a size not seen before in the octagon. It was to be Weili’s night as ‘Magnum’ took the split decision.

In her final bout, the two met once more and Jedrzejczyk bowed out on the back of a second round knockout defeat. 

Jedrzejczyk ended her UFC tenure with a number of accolades including being the first Female European UFC Champion, first Polish UFC Champion and holds the most title wins in UFC Strawweight history.