The UFC’s return to action in 2021 is a busy one. After three weeks without fights, the promotion is holding three cards in the span of eight days in Abu Dhabi. The second one — sandwiched in between a huge featherweight main event between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar and the UFC 257 Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor blockbuster — is an event with some intrigue.
On Wednesday, Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny will headline UFC Fight Night in an important fight in the UFC’s always entertaining welterweight division.
ESPN has Chiesa ranked No. 10 in the world at welterweight. The winner of this fight will surely have big things ahead in 2021. Chiesa (17-4) has won three straight and is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Rafael dos Anjos in January 2020. The Washington native is 3-0 since his move to the welterweight division from lightweight in 2018. Chiesa, 33, has won six of eight overall.
Magny (24-8) has also won three in a row. Most recently, the New York native, who lives and trains in Colorado, impressively defeated former champion Robbie Lawler in August by unanimous decision. Magny, 33, has won five of seven overall. He went 3-0 in 2020 after being cleared by USADA of an anti-doping policy violation.
In the co-main event, Warlley Alves meets Mounir Lazzez in a battle of welterweight strikers. Alves (14-4) has dropped two of three and is looking to get back on track. Lazzez (10-1) has won three straight and is coming off a UFC debut win over Abdul Razak Alhassan in July.
Also on the card Wednesday, Roxanne Modafferi meets Viviane Araujo in a women’s flyweight contender battle, Matt Schnell takes on Tyson Nam in a clash of exciting flyweights and bruising middleweights Tom Breese and Omari Akhmedov face off.
Jeff Wagenheim and Marc Raimondi recap the action as it happens on Fight Island.
Fight in progress: Men’s featherweight: Lerone Murphy (9-0-1, 1-0-1 UFC, -330) vs. Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-3, 4-3 UFC, +260
Middleweight: Omari Akhmedov (21-5-1, 9-4-1 UFC) def. Tom Breese (12-3, 5-3 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Breese got a little too freewheeling going for leg locks. And Akhmedov made him pay.
Late in the first round, Breese dropped for leg locks twice and ended up on Akhmedov’s back to close out the frame. In the second, though, Akhmedov saw it coming. After Breese dropped for a leg lock on a takedown attempt, Akhmedov got on top, locked in an arm-triangle choke and finished via submission at 1:41 of the second round.
“I was working on that submission every day 100 times,” Akhmedov said through a translator. “So my coach told me I have to finish with this submission.”
Most of the fight consisted of grappling exchanges, which was somewhat strange considering Breese is known for his boxing. Breese definitely had success on the ground in the first with multiple submission attempts and some ground and pound. But Akhmedov has a sambo background and is dangerous down there. Breese paid the price.
Akhmedov, 33, has won six of his last eight fights and one of those during that stretch was a draw. The Dagestan, Russia native only has one loss since 2016, to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
Breese, a 29-year-old England native, has split wins and losses in his last five fights.
Well done my guy Omari !!
— Chito Vera (@chitoveraUFC) January 20, 2021
Men’s bantamweight: Ricky Simon (17-3, 5-2 UFC) def. Gaetano Pirrello (15-6-1, 0-1 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Simon was a step ahead in the standup early on and seized control on the canvas on the way to ending it with an arm triangle choke at the 4-minute mark of Round 2.
Simon, 28, from Vancouver, Washington, has won two in a row. He scored seven takedowns.
Pirrello, a 28-year-old from Belgium, saw a two-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut.
Men’s flyweight: Su Mudaerji (14-4, 3-1 UFC) def. Zarrukh Adashev (3-3, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Mudaerji used his mile-long reach to keep the fight at a distance from where he could control the exchanges and land more volume in all three rounds, winning his second in a row.
The 25-year-old from Tibet stands 5-foot-8, tall and lean for a flyweight. His reach and his footwork left Adashev often swinging at air. One judge gave Mudaerji all three rounds, while the two others had it 29-28.
Adashev, a 28-year-old from Uzbekistan who fights out of Brooklyn, has lost both of his UFC fights.
— jimmy flick (@jimmyflick) January 20, 2021
Middleweight: Dalcha Lungiambula (11-2, 2-1 UFC) def. Markus Perez (12-5, 2-5 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Lungiambula used power and patience to get back on track after seeing a long winning streak end in his last fight.
That fight happened way back in 2019, though, when the 35-year-old South African saw a run of six straight wins come to a close. He avoided that fate this time by throwing with power, taking the fight to the canvas and controlling Perez there. He landed some shots from top position and avoided multiple submission attempts by Perez.
Perez, 30, from Brazil, has lost five of his seven UFC bouts, including his last three. He had moments in this fight where he put his opponent in danger on the canvas, but by the end he was bloodied and no longer showing the urgency to turn the fight his way.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Lungiambula.
“I feel like I’m an ambassador for my country,” Lungiambula said. “That motivates all my people that everything is possible. You have to believe and work hard.”
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) January 20, 2021
Men’s flyweight: Francisco Figueiredo (12-3-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Jerome Rivera (10-4, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Figueiredo built a lead by calmly controlling the first two rounds before hanging on against an increasingly aggressive Rivera to take the decision (29-28 on all three cards) for his third straight victory.
Figueiredo, the 31-year-old brother of UFC men’s flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, was not as active as his opponent but was far more efficient. In Round 1, for example, he threw fewer than half the strike attempts of Rivera, but landed at a far higher clip. The second round showed an even more dramatic difference, with Figueiredo landing at 72% to Rivera’s 15%.
But Rivera, who is 25 and from Santa Fe, New Mexico, turned up his aggression in the final round and made Figueiredo work for it. In the end, though, Rivera was left with his second loss in two UFC outings.
“I’m very happy to finally have my first fight in the UFC,” Figueiredo said. “It didn’t go the way I wanted, but it was a victory. You’re going to see me the next time. I look forward to coming back and showing who is Francisco Figueiredo.”
Beautiful takedowns by Figueiredo. #UFCFightIsland8
— Claudia Gadelha (@ClaudiaGadelha_) January 20, 2021
Lightweight: Mike Davis (9-2, 2-1 UFC) def. Mason Jones (10-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Jones walked into the cage for his UFC debut undefeated, and he left the cage with his first career loss. But he was no loser.
In a back-and-forth fight that left both fighters drained, it was a hungry Davis who got his hand raised for his second straight win in the Octagon — wins separated by 15 months.
Davis, a 28-year-old from Orlando, Florida, had not competed since October 2019, when he scored his first UFC victory. Since then he’d had a couple of bookings canceled. He made up for lost time in these three rounds, getting the better of early exchanges and holding off a surging Jones as the fight wore on.
Jones, who is 25 and from Wales, never stopped moving forward and was dangerous to the end. Before coming to the UFC, he reigned as a Cage Warriors champ at both lightweight and welterweight.
“2020, I’m going to say it again, was the worst year of my life,” Davis said. “I was injured from January all the way through December. I called my manager and said I need to fight. Any name you have is, the answer is yes. When he said Mason Jones, I said yes. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t care who he was. I was forced to look up who he was — a multi-time Cage Warriors champion, 10-0 undefeated and taking people out in every type of way. For me to go in there after a year layoff and pull off that victory, it means the world to me. It wasn’t close. I won that fight. I feel so good about that.
“I want to get back, heal, talk my coaches about my nutrition and then I want to climb the ladder,” Davis continued. “I want a long lasting career. I want to be the guy who fought everybody.”
According to UFC Stats, Jones outlanded Davis 117-108 in significant strikes. However, Davis was the more accurate striker, landing 52% to Jones’ 37%.
This fights better than morning coffee
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) January 20, 2021
Men’s bantamweight: Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Sergey Morozov (16-4, 0-1 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
You’ve heard it before: Nurmagomedov wins to remain undefeated.
But this Nurmagomedov was a newcomer to the Octagon, the 25-year-old cousin of Khabib Nurmagomedov. He’s a wholly different fighter from the UFC lightweight champion, utilizing kicks and slick standup to do early damage before going to the Nurmagomedov family’s bread and butter — wrestling — to secure the victory.
Nurmagomedov, who last fall was named the 10th best fighter under age 25 by ESPN, used his fifth takedown of the fight midway through Round 2 to put himself in dominant back position, from where he sunk in a rear-naked choke to end it at 3:39.
“I’m very happy,” Nurmagomedov said. “All my hard work has paid off. I have a lot of work ahead. I have to keep working.”
Morozov, who is 31 and from Kazakhstan, had won five in a row coming into what was also his UFC debut.
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 20, 2021
Women’s flyweight: Manon Fiorot (6-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Victoria Leonardo (8-4, 0-1 UFC) by second round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
The festivities opened with a meeting of two flyweights making their UFC debuts, with just one of them looking the part.
Fiorot looked like she’d been there before, using front kicks to maintain distance, short punches to greet every Leonardo advance, and aggressive flurries to damage her opponent. The 30-year-old from France finished the job with a relentless assault against the cage as Leonardo covered up while still standing. That prompted the referee to step in at 4:08 to wave it off and give Fiorot her sixth straight victory.
“This is exactly how I wanted to start in the UFC,” Fiorot said. “This was perfect.”
Leonardo, a former Bellator and Invicta FC fighter who’s 30 and from Shreveport, Louisiana, saw her two-fight winning streak ended in a fight in which she never got on track.
Impressive performance there fiorot #UFCFightIsland8
— Baldy Ed (@brianboom135) January 20, 2021
Still to come:
Welterweight: Michael Chiesa (17-4, 10-4 UFC, +125) vs. Neil Magny (24-8, 17-6 UFC, -150)
Welterweight: Warlley Alves (14-4, 6-4 UFC, +200) vs. Mounir Lazzez (10-1, 1-0 UFC, -240)
Light heavyweight: Ike Villanueva (16-11, 0-2 UFC, -125) vs. Vinicius Moreira (9-4, 0-3 UFC, +105)
Women’s flyweight: Roxanne Modafferi (25-18, 4-6 UFC, +260) vs. Viviane Araujo (9-2, 3-1 UFC, -330)
Men’s flyweight: Matt Schnell (14-5, 4-3 UFC, +115) vs. Tyson Nam (20-11-1, 2-2 UFC, -135)
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