This is just the UFC’s third Pay per View event of 2021 and it’s already looking like it will be the best and most exciting PPV of 2021 from the leader of Mixed Martial Arts. There will be three title fights and a host of other interesting fights on this card. This card is so stacked that arguably the greatest ever bantamweight fighter in UFC history, Dominic Cruz, will not be fighting on the main card, but will be on the Prelims.
Chinasia Ibonye previews all three title fights and some other selected fights on this card to whet your appetite as you anticipate what promises to be an unforgettable night in Vegas.
Israel Adesanya vs Jan Blachowicz for the Light-Heavyweight title:
There have been 81 champions since the inception of the UFC, of that number, 7 of them have won two titles and only 4 of that 7 have held both belts simultaneously. The four fighters are Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Amanda Nunes and Henry Cejudo.
Middleweight Champion, Israel Adesanya is attempting to join that exclusive company and become the fifth fighter to hold two belts simultaneously. However, the Nigerian will be the first fighter to move up 20 pounds and also the first-ever undefeated double champ, if he succeeds in his quest. Israel has always talked about his plans of being acknowledged as the greatest fighter to ever step into the octagon after he hangs his gloves and taking on this challenge is just another milestone for him on that journey.
Standing in his way will be the Light-Heavyweight Champion, Jan Blachowicz. The Polish fighter, who won the vacant Light Heavyweight title in his last fight, will be the biggest threat Adesanya has ever faced in his UFC career, literally.
The big Pole has gone through a lot to get to this point of his career. He began his UFC career with a 2-4 record and was on the verge of being cut by the promotion, before winning eight of his next nine fights on his way to becoming a champion. Some fight fans do not recognize Blachowicz as a true champion just because he didn’t beat the previous champion to win the title. I totally disagree with this school of thought because, in my opinion, he actually beat the champion.
Let me break it down for you. Long time Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, did indeed vacate the title to go up to Heavyweight, but in his last title defence, he got a controversial unanimous decision victory over Dominic Reyes, a fight that almost everyone in the fight world, bar the three judges on the night, gave to Reyes, because he clearly won that fight. Blachowicz later knocked out Reyes, who was supposed to be the champion, to win the belt, which makes him a very legitimate champion in my books.
Blachowicz is famed for his legendary Polish power and can knock your lights out with either fist, if he catches you with a well-placed punch, while Adesanya is one of the best counter strikers in the game and arguably the purest striker in MMA. Blachowicz has been telling anyone who cares to listen, that Adesanya will feel his power and he will knock out the Nigerian.
There is no one doubting the Pole’s power, but he seems to be setting himself up to fall prey to the same mistake that all other big, powerful and aggressive fighters that have faced Adesanya have fallen for.
Underestimating Adesanya’s elite striking & counter striking, by believing in using power and aggression to neutralize him, has led to nasty surprises for the likes of Paulo Costa, Robert Whittaker, Derek Brunson, etc. Adesanya weighed in at 200.5lbs for this bout while Blachowicz weighed in at 205lbs and will most likely be around 220lbs on fight night, so he might also try to grapple with Adesanya and put some of that weight on him to tire him out. However, Adesanya has also been talking about wanting to show the world another facet to his skill set, by grappling if he needs to do that. This will definitely be a fun fight to watch.
Megan Anderson vs Amanda Nunes for the Featherweight title
It’s very interesting how MMA fans have accepted female athletes and placed them at par with their male counterparts, as well as, if not better than any other sport, except maybe Tennis.
Two women will headline a main event and fans will wait out every other fight on the card to see these amazons clash inside the octagon. There have been great female fighters in the UFC, but Amanda Nunes is rightfully referred to as the greatest ever female MMA fighter of all time and I daresay, the greatest MMA fighter of all time, male or female.
Of the four simultaneous double champions in UFC history, Nunes is the only one to hold both titles and defend both of them, while still reigning as champion in both weight classes simultaneously. She is one of the most recognizable female athletes and a huge favourite in her fight against Australian challenger, Megan Anderson.
In Anderson, Nunes will be facing a true featherweight and the former Invicta champion will be a very tricky opponent for the Brazilian as she is an excellent striker who uses her long reach and angles very well. However, while Nunes is known for the power in her fist, she also has a great chin which is kind of underrated and will keep coming forward, so for an upset to happen, Anderson has to fight a perfect fight and hope Nunes has an off night.
Aljamain Sterling vs Petr Yan for the Bantamweight title
Of all three title fights happening on this card, this one has the most bad blood and might just be the most intense and explosive title fight on this card.
These two men do not like each other; the challenger believes the champion did not do enough to get the title fight that ultimately won him the belt, while the champion feels very disrespected by the challenger’s opinion. Both opinions can be understood and might even be valid.
Petr Yan is the Bantamweight champion, but he has never fought a top five contender in the division in his seven-fight march to the title, in fact, he only fought two fighters in the top fifteen, on his way to becoming the champion. This is by no fault of his as he can only fight whatever opponents the promotion puts in front of him. His last two fights were against hall of famers, Uriah Faber & Jose Aldo and he completely destroyed both of them, making them look like mismatches.
On the other hand, Sterling’s last three fights have been against top 5 ranked opponents and he has won all three of them. He believed he should have been the one fighting for the belt after Henry Cejudo vacated the title, instead of Petr Yan. This is his opportunity to get the title off the Russian and keep it for himself.
This is going to be a very fun matchup as Petr Yan is a savage inside the octagon; he is a powerful striker who seems to get more powerful as the fight progresses. He has a solid chin and devastating power in his fists and legs, while Sterling is a very unorthodox fighter as he can hit you with an array of strikes and is a beast in the grappling game. His awkward style is why he’s nicknamed ‘funky’ while some people call him the ‘human anaconda’ because of his ability to smother and submit opponents in a variety of ways. I believe the first round of this fight will give us a clue as to how this fight will pan out, but I also believe that the longer the fight goes on, the higher the chances of the champion retaining his belt.
There will be another interesting fight to look out for in this card. Former Light-heavyweight title challenger, Thiago Santos, will be looking to get back in the win column after two consecutive losses and possibly get another title shot with a win over fourth-ranked Aleksandar Rakic, who has only one loss in his six UFC fights.
Bantamweight great, Dominick Cruz will take on Casey Kenney in what promises to be a great fight. Former flyweight title challenger, Joseph Benavidez, will be going up against Askar Askarov, in what is surely going to be a decisive fight for Benavidez, because a win will put him right back in the title mix, while a loss might signal the end of a stellar career. Askarov failed to make weight for this fight and has been fined a percentage of his purse which will go to Benavidez.
Nigerians will be interested to know that Adesanya will not be the only Nigerian fighting on this card as Kennedy Nzechukwu, will be taking on Adesanya’s friend and teammate, Carlos Ulberg, who will be making his UFC debut.
Nzechukwu will be making his third appearance in the UFC and he boasts a 1-1 record. He will face a stern test in the form of Ulberg, who Adesanya has tipped to become the light-heavyweight champion at some point in his career.
Another Nigerian angle to this card is the fact that Adesanya’s opponent, Jan Blachowicz, enlisted the help of Polish-Nigerian mixed martial artist and former professional boxer, Izu Ugonoh, to prepare for this fight against the last stylebender.
I know you can’t wait for this card to begin, I can assure you that I feel exactly the same way as a fight fan.
Chinasia Ibonye is a Mixed Martial Arts expert and writes from the United States of America.