Five Rounds: Can Suarez return to contender status? Are O’Malley and Miocic up next for title shots?

The UFC schedule is about to get out of hand, with major pay-per-view events taking place in Las Vegas and London over the next three weeks.

UFC 285, March 4: Jon Jones is finally at heavyweight. UFC 286, March 18: Leon Edwards and Kamaru Usman Trilogy in London!

There are other fantastic fights on these maps, as well as UFC Fight Night at the Apex in Las Vegas and many new intriguing fights in the spring schedule. In other words, there is something to look forward to.

Here are five storylines I think about as February comes to an end.

1. Aljamain Sterling vs. Henry Cejudo May 6, so what about Sean O’Malley?

After a lot of uncertainty, it is revealed that Sterling will be defending his title against Cejudo at UFC 288. Had Sterling not entered this fight due to a prolonged bicep injury, the UFC would have been poised to have an interim title fight between Cejudo and O’Malley. So, now that Sterling is officially in, where will O’Malley go next?

I spoke to him this week and he said that the UFC has offered him a “backup” position at UFC 288 in which he will make weight this week, expecting to be replaced if needed. He told me he turned down the offer because the idea of ​​gaining weight without fighting for a much lower salary than he was used to didn’t appeal to him at this point in his career. However, he intends to essentially “set up camp” as a potential backup later this month. If something happens to Sterling or Cejudo before the fight week, he will be ready to take advantage of this opportunity.

“I feel like I’ll be fit and ready if that happens,” O’Malley said. “I am officially heading to camp and will be sparring in the next couple of weeks. I will almost completely camp, only without losing weight at the end. I really think both of them will go through the fight but Alho has a bicep injury and he will fight a lot in this fight so I will be ready.”

Will O’Malley be able to fight at bantamweight on the same card as the back-up in the main event? He said that the UFC did not make such an offer and does not expect it from matchmakers. He’s fine looking forward to the winner of Sterling vs Cejudo and prefers to have that fight in Las Vegas in July. If not, the UFC will return to Las Vegas with another pay-per-view in September.

2. What happened to Stipe Miocic and the rest of the heavyweights?

After a year of total heavyweight uncertainty, we’re finally going to get some clarity on March 4th. Francis Ngannou is no longer in the UFC, so Jon Jones is up against Cyril Gein for the vacant belt. Now what lies behind this?

Stipe Miocic has publicly stated that he wants to win in July and that is the most likely scenario depending on what happens on March 4th. I was told that Miocic will attend UFC 285 to continue this story (if you know Miocic, he rarely attends fights). ), and Jones has already said he wants Miocic next. If Jones wins and can’t recover quickly, that will be your main event of International Fight Week. However, if Gein wins, things get a little more complicated.

If you are a UFC representative, the fight between Jones and Miocic is a slam dunk.

This is a market fight between arguably the greatest fighter of all time and the greatest heavyweight of all time. If Gein wins at UFC 285, will there be the same appeal in Gane vs Miocic? I’m not sure. The same goes for Miocic. Yes, he said he wants a winner. But if it turns out that Ghane is the winner, will it set fire to Miocic, who has already seen and done it all? I’m not saying that Gane vs Miocic can’t or won’t happen, but the conversations are a little different than if it was Jones.

Meanwhile, the UFC has just booked the April 22 main event between 3rd seed Sergey Pavlovich and 4th seed Curtis Blaydes. This fight makes sense and is an amazing main event, but overall I see it as another wrinkle on the heavyweight landscape. If a fight between Jones and Miocic makes sense after the dust settles on March 4, it will be a fight. But if it’s less obvious than that, I can imagine the Pavlovich vs. Blades winner potentially taking the opportunity.

3. We need to applaud Beneil Dariush again

This person just accepts fights that others don’t have.

Dariush will face Charles Oliveira on May 6th. Oliveira, lightweight champion less than a year old, is a monster contender with eleven straight wins before losing to Islam Makhachev in October, including 10 finishes. Dariush is the #1 contender at lightweight and deserves his next belt fight. The current champion Makhachev should fight this summer.

Dariusz has a lot to lose and very little to gain. Some fighters would be willing to sit it out year under the circumstances for a title shot and no one would blame them. And yet, here is Dariush entering a fight he doesn’t need. And by the way, he did it in October when he fought the promising Mateusz Gamrot.

I appreciate this guy, a fighter with a championship mindset on the cusp of a big opportunity.

4. Can Tatiana Suarez make flyweight the most interesting division in women’s MMA?

We can argue about it if you want, but the most intriguing division in women’s MMA has been the strawweight – and it always has been. for some time. The top of the division is just very strong. The combination of Zhang Weili, Rose Namajunas, Jessica Andrade, Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Carla Esparza – that parity at the top far outweighs what we’ve seen in the flyweight and bantamweight divisions.

But if Suarez returns after a nearly four-year hiatus and can deliver on the potential she showed in a 4-0 start in the UFC, we have a lot to talk about.

Suarez, 32, returned from a long injury hiatus this weekend at UFC Fight Night and became the favorite to bet against Montana De La Rosa. It’s a little under the radar, but if you’re only watching one fight this weekend, then this might be the one you can’t miss.

And if Suarez really looks like herself in her comeback, she’ll be joining a growing roster of new flyweight title contenders. This list is topped by Frenchwoman Manon Fiorot and 23-year-old power saw Erin Blanchfield. Suarez said she wants to return to flyweight this week, but we’ll see what the future holds for her. As a fan, I wouldn’t mind seeing her at flyweight if she looked good for the matches we see.

5. UFC 285 main card is very good

Jones, who has returned from a three-year hiatus and moved up to heavyweight, will eclipse all the headlines next week, but this main card is phenomenal from top to bottom. Valentina Shevchenko is a big favorite, but in recent years we’ve seen several dominant champions struggle or fall, including Shevchenko in her latest title defense.

Also on the map is Bo Nikal’s hype train, ready to roar out of the station in his UFC debut against Jamie Pickett.

The fight between Jeff Neil and Shavkat Rakhmonov is fantastic because Rakhmonov is considered legitimate championship material, but Neil is not afraid of him and has a forgotten mentality that respects my name.

Jalyn Turner is another up and coming player facing a difficult, all-round challenge at Gamrot. This is one of the best five-fight main maps we’ll see all year.


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