Following his UFC 259 title loss, most presumed that Israel Adesanya would stay at 185lbs to defend his middleweight belt. Though he has done that, is ‘The Last Stylebender‘ really done with the light-heavyweight division? Will we see him capitalise on his dream of holding two UFC titles?
This is my two cents on it all – this is Jake’s Takes!
Talks of reigning middleweight champion Israel Adesanya’s ascent to light-heavyweight had been present since his UFC debut. Having competed as high as heavyweight in kickboxing, many foresaw the Kiwi replicating his success in MMA. This is something that Adesanya himself had spoken on, but the long line of 185lb challengers were at the forefront of the champion’s mind.
UFC 253 on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi was headlined by a championship doubleheader. While Adesanya made his second title defense against rival Paulo Costa, the vacant 205lb title was on the line in the co-main event. In a breakthrough performance, Jan Blachowicz finished Dominick Reyes in the second round to claim the light-heavyweight belt. Adesanya, meanwhile, easily dispatched of Costa over the course of two rounds.
With both champions fighting on the same card, rumblings of a Blachowicz vs Adesanya superfight began to capture the attention of fans. However, clear top contenders in Glover Teixeira and Robert Whittaker, respectively, were expected to receive title shots.
Despite that, the promotion went ahead and booked Adesanya to face Blachowicz for the 205lb strap. The fight served as the main event of UFC 259 in March 2021. A potential grudge match with UFC legend Jon Jones was also on the table for Adesanya, with a win.
Come fight night, the -240 favourite Adesanya would enter the Octagon with a calm intensity. Ultimately, over the course of five rounds, Poland’s Blachowicz would prove to be too much for his Nigerian counterpart. The loss would be the first of Adesanya’s professional MMA career.
While he did ensure that his 185lb return was in the immediate future, the middleweight champ did not at all rule out a second stint at light-heavyweight. Speaking at the post-fight press-conference, Adesanya said, “It was like a bad day in the gym but it was in the office tonight. It’s not a one off, I definitely will be back. Dare to be great.”
Since he suffered his lone defeat, Adesanya has defended his title two further times. Decision wins in rematches with Marvin Vettori and Robert Whittaker solidified the champ’s status as the top dog at 185lbs.
Back at 205lbs, Jan Blachowicz would be set up with divisional mainstay Glover Teixeira. Becoming the oldest first-time champion in UFC history, Teixeira – who currently holds the title – would rest the belt away from Blachowicz on Fight Island.
A title fight between Teixeira and contender Jiri Prochazka has been slated for May of this year. As for Adesanya, his next challenger is likely to be power-punching Cannonier. That middleweight title bout is expected to happen in June.
Should Adesanya pick up his fifth title defense against Cannonier, I would not be surprised if we see him making a second crack at 205lb gold. Personally, I think the UFC will be on the champ’s side if this is something he wants to try again.
Both title defenses are scheduled for the summertime. Booking two champions involved in a potential superfight is not uncommon for the UFC. This method was seen with bouts like Henry Cejudo vs TJ Dillashaw & Adesanya’s first light-heavyweight title bid against Blachowicz.
Another comparison that can be drawn from the aforementioned UFC 259 bout is the skipping of rightful contenders. Even though Aleksandr Rakic, Magomed Ankalaev and Anthony Smith are all worthy challengers at 205lbs, the promotion will have no issue brushing past them in favour of a superfight.
In terms of middleweight contenders, the division is lacking a clear top challenger outside of Cannonier. Once he has his title shot, Adesanya will have fought every top contender with a solid argument for a crack at the belt. In recent interviews, the champion has used words like “bored” to describe the state of the title picture.
“Last year was my, to be honest, most lackluster year in my UFC career, I feel”, he said, prior to his UFC 271 fight. “It was just two fights. I went up to light heavyweight, failed that side mission, and I defended my belt at middleweight, and there’s a point in that [Vettori] fight where I got bored.”
He continued, “I’ve accomplished a lot, exceeded a lot of my goals, but I’ve written down new ones. I’ve jotted down new ones that I will accomplish, so yeah, I’m going back to my younger self. I’m tapping back into my younger self when I was soaking everything up, really enjoying the moment, really all the experiences I was soaking up.”
Within those goals, I feel, will be another attempt at capturing two titles. Of his two further planned bouts for 2022, I do see Adesanya making a second run at the title. Matchups with both Teixeira and Prochazka are intruiging for fans of the sport, no matter who wins the light-heavyweight title fight.
This whole idea is reliant on Adesanya defeating Cannonier, of course. If the heavy-handed Texan can dethrone New Zealand’s finest striker, this plan goes out the window, or is pushed back by a great margin. With that being said, I do see Adesanya collecting the seventh ruby in his belt this June.
Will Adesanya actually be able to become the fifth simultaneous double-champ in UFC history? That’s a story for another day. All we know for now is – a chance at redemption for ‘The Last Stylebender‘ is definitely on the table in 2022.
Fight To Watch | Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
Fights are being booked fast and furiously for July 23rd as the UFC’s anticipated return to London approaches. With fireworks expected throughout the whole event, MMAPlay365 and VMTV have scoured through the card and selected Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson as our ‘Fight To Watch’ on the night.
Muhammad Mokaev returns to the octagon following a successful debut back at UFC London in March against Cody Durden. ‘The Punisher’ made light work of his American counter-part, submitting him in the first round via guillotine choke with very little problems. His upcoming opponent, Charles Johnson, signs with the UFC after an impressive four-fight winning streak on LFA, which saw him capture and defend flyweight gold.
His ability to mix it up on the feet and in grappling scenarios make this a much more dangerous bout for Mokaev stylistically, but it’s still nothing the 21 year old won’t be able to handle in the eyes of MMAPlay365 Founder, Adam Newsome:
“At this stage of Muhammad Mokaev’s UFC career every fight is going to be a test. And just because you haven’t heard of Charles Johnson doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fighter. Johnson was the Flyweight Champion in LFA. If you aren’t familiar with LFA it’s basically the American equivalent of Cage Warriors. You are battle tested in LFA and if you become a Champion the chances are the UFC are going to sign you.
So this is a very interesting match-up but still right now I don’t think that Mokaev gets tested enough to the point he loses. This is going to be another fight I see him doing extremely well in and I don’t see Mokaev losing a fight until he hits the top 20 of the division. But even when that time comes, he is going to have improved and developed so much that he could run through that pool of fighters at that time. If a fighter is going to beat Mokaev outside the best fighters in the division then now is the time to do it whilst he’s still developing. But even though he’s still developing he’s still a problem. I’m not sure Mokaev finds another finish here so I am predicting a dominant three round decision victory for Muhammad Mokaev.”
Cauley Quilty, Editor for VMTV, had this to say on the fight: “Muhammad Mokaev is always a treat to watch in action and his UFC debut back in March was nothing short of spectacular! He came to fight and did exactly that getting the first round finish and I see him doing the same thing when he steps back out there against Charles Johnson. His extensive amateur career and impressive run of professional performances make it almost impossible to not side with Mokaev in this bout, especially with the way he defeated Durden on his debut.
However, Charles Johnson isn’t an opponent anyone should underestimate as his resume and recent performances speak for themselves! His fight vs Carlos ‘Mota’ Tizil was a barnburner and with 8 of his 11 wins coming by way of finish you know he can get the job done when needed. Both fighters are highly touted and respected so expect the winner of this to receive a bump up in competition on their next outing.”
Who do you think leaves the ‘Fight To Watch’ with their hand raised? Be sure to let us know your predictions below!
Sumo | Summer Tournament wide open after 10 days
The Sumo Summer Tournament has a surprise joint-leader after 10 days, but many Rikishi are in with a shout of glory with only 5 days to go.
So far, only two have managed to achieve a guaranteed winning record, with M15 ranked Ichiyamamoto and M4 Takanosho posting 8-2 records 10 days in to the basho. It remains to be seen if he can keep up his championship challenge, but Ichiyamamoto is bringing back memories of the January 2020 basho when the M17 ranked Tokushoryu took home the title in a huge surprise. Whatever happens, Ichiyamamoto should see himself catapulted up the rankings for the next tournament if he can keep up this form. It is a welcome return to form for Takanosho who has previously been a Sekiwake.
Despite his patchy form, Terunofuji has scrapped himself to a 7-3 record, which puts him 1 behind the leaders in a large chasing pack. On day 10 he managed to get by a spirited Hoshoryu who is improving all the time. The Mongolian giant will be hopeful of taking home his first championship of the year. Others in the pack on 7-3 are Kiribayama, Ura, Sadanoumi and Aoiyama. With NINE more wrestlers on 6-4, only two behind the leaders and with an outside shot, there will be an amazing 16 Rikishi who may be dreaming of lifting the Emperor’s Cup come Sunday 22nd May. The chances of there being a playoff for the win for the second tournament running are looking pretty high.
Down at the other end of the table, it has been another tournament to forget for March’s playoff runner-up, Takayasu, who has posted a losing record of 2-8 so far. After doing so well to get himself back to M1 rank, he will find himself going down the rankings ahead of the July tournament. Ozeki Shodai has continued his poor form and one more defeat will once again see him staring down the possibility of losing his rank come July. March winner Wakatakakage, alongside fellow Sanyaku ranked competitors Abi, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi, are all fighting for winning records having gone 5-5 so far.
Keep an eye out for the next update after Saturday’s day 14 when I will be recapping the standings and looking ahead to what promises to be a very exciting final-day’s action.
Remember to check out the VMTV Sumo introduction and guide here if you need a refresher of the rules and some of the words used in these articles.
You can find the full rankings and results of the tournament so far at the Japan Sumo Association’s page here.
UFC London | Aspinall vs Blaydes Staff Predictions
The UFC will take centre stage once again in London as they return to UK shores for a second time this year on July 23rd. Following the immense success of the previous show in March, the O2 Arena will again play host to another stacked night of fights.
Headlining the card is surging heavyweight contender Tom Aspinall who will be looking to cement his name amongst the top ranked in the division with a win over #4 ranked Curtis Blaydes. It’s do or die for Darren Till when he faces Jack Hermansson in the co-main event as he aims to get his first win since 2019.
Leading up to the event, VMTV have teamed up with MMAPlay365 and our writing staff will be giving their predictions for each fight on the card as there announced. You can view details on the partnership between VMTV and MMAPlay365 here.
Tom Aspinall vs Curtis Blaydes
- Cauley – Curtis Blaydes via KO/TKO, R4
- Matt – Tom Aspinall via decision
- Jamie -Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Jake – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Darragh – Curtis Blaydes via KO/TKO, R3
- Harry – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R3
- Colin – Tom Aspinall via KO/TKO, R2
Darren Till vs Jack Hermansson
- Cauley – Jack Hermansson via decision
- Matt – Darren Till via KO/TKO, R2
- Jamie – Darren Till via decision
- Jake – Darren Till via decision
- Darragh – Jack Hermansson via submission, R3
- Harry – Jack Hermansson via decision
- Colin – Darren Till via decision
Nikita Krylov vs Alexander Gustafsson
- Cauley – Nikita Krylov via decision
- Matt – Nikita Krylov via KO/TKO, R1
- Jamie – Alexander Gustafsson via decision
- Jake – Nikita Krylov via submission, R1
- Darragh – Nikita Krylov via decision
- Harry – Alexander Gustafsson via decision
- Colin – Nikita Krylov via decision
Paul Craig vs Volkan Oezdemir
- Cauley – Paul Craig via submission, R1
- Matt – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Jamie – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Jake – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Darragh – Paul Craig via submission, R1
- Harry – Paul Craig via submission, R2
- Colin – Paul Craig via submission, R2
Muhammed Mokaev vs Charles Johnson
- Cauley – Muhammed Mokaev via KO/TKO, R2
- Matt – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R1
- Jamie – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R2
- Jake – Muhammed Mokaev via decision
- Darragh – Muhammed Mokaev via KO/TKO, R1
- Harry – Muhammed Mokaev via decision
- Colin – Muhammed Mokaev via submission, R1
Molly McCann vs Hannah Goldy
- Cauley – Molly McCann via KO/TKO, R3
- Matt – Molly McCann via decision
- Jamie – Molly McCann via KO/TKO, R2
- Jake – Molly McCann via decision
- Darragh – Molly McCann via decision
- Harry – Molly McCann via decision
- Colin – Molly McCann via decision
Mandy Bohm vs Victoria Leonardo
- Cauley – Victoria Leonardo via KO/TKO, R2
- Matt – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Jamie – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Jake – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Darragh – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Harry – Mandy Bohm via decision
- Colin – Mandy Bohm via decision
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