Taking the majority of the headlines for the opening week of February, the UFC geared up for it’s return to Las Vegas, Nevada for a UFC Vegas 18 card — stacked high with talent and emerging contenders. The week also seen the announcement of Bellator MMA’s return to schedule, with an April landing pad eyed.
Still dealing with the fallout from UFC 257 where Dustin Poirier dispatched Conor McGregor inside two rounds, the former further distanced himself from an incoming shot at vacant lightweight gold — claiming if the UFC were hoping to shoehorn Michael Chandler into a title tilt, they could put him against Oliveira while he sits out.
Echoing his hopes to meet with Poirier for the vacant championship next, Oliveira spoke with ESPN MMA reporter, Ariel Helwani — detailing how if he drew the Louisianan next, he would be attempting to lodge his staggering twelfth Octagon submission success.
In the moments following the interview, news began to develop regarding a targeted UFC 258 showdown between Chandler and Oliveira for next weekend, with no title of any form on the line between the two. Rejecting the offer, Oliveira and co insisted they must fight for a championship next.
Speaking with UFC commentator, Jon Anik on the Anik and Florian podcast, former UFC featherweight and lightweight title challenger, Kenny ‘KenFlo’ Florian revealed he had been made aware by a renowned coach that former two-weight world champion, Georges St-Pierre was gearing up for a return to the UFC in a ‘superfight’ against still billed lightweight champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov.
Disputing that claim, Nurmagomedov’s manager, Dominance MMA leader, Ali Abdelaziz insisted these rumours were “fake news“ — telling how the UFC and Dana White aren’t interested in the potential matchup, and how St-Pierre doesn’t need to make an Octagon return.
Former interim champion, Justin Gaethje again made the headlines, claiming the current state of affairs at lightweight in regards to how muddled the title picture currently is, can be blamed on the above mentioned, White. Gaethje pointed out the promotion’s handling of a shelved matchup between fellow former interim champions, Tony Ferguson, and Poirier for UFC 254 in October, where both sides failed to agree on terms, as the reason for Poirier’s disinterest in fighting Chandler.
Expected to make his Octagon return at UFC 260 on March 27th. — polarizing bantamweight contender, Sean O’Malley announced he had agreed to matchup with faltering Muay Thai practitioner, Thomas Almeida at the UFC Apex facility event.
Taking umbrage to a prior callout from once scheduled UFC 230 foe, Poirier, Stockton fan favourite, Nate Diaz responded to the American Top Team mainstay, claiming “f**k a weight class“ ahead of a speculated return to the lightweight division where he once challenged Benson Henderson for undisputed gold.
Another interesting tie is reportedly in the works as well. 145-pound contenders, Arnold Allen and Sodiq Yusuff are targeted to meet at a UFC Fight Night event on April 10th. — with the victor extending their winning run and possibly earning a high-profile pairing.
Releasing a lengthy statement following his defeat to Poirier, former two-weight world champion, McGregor noted the effective use of calf kicks from his two-time opponent, before claiming he’s “buzzing” about the possibilty of a trilogy. Echoing those sentiments as well, Poirier took to his official Twitter to confirm that the duo will share the Octagon a third time.
Despite UFC president, Dana White detailing how Ferguson wouldn’t be welcoming Diaz back to 155-pounds for the first time since December of 2015, the Oxnard veteran fired a barb at his fellow Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player, claiming all he did was “bitch out” of fights.
Octagon legends, Donald Cerrone and Diego Sanchez also appear to be on the cusp of a showdown at a UFC event on May 8th. — with the former title-chasers agreeing to matchup on the card, in what Sanchez has claimed will be his career swansong.
Finally, we head to UFC Vegas 18 where often overlooked lightweight contender, Beneil Dariush met with fellow underrated challenger, Diego Ferreira — moving to 2-0 over the Fortis MMA staple with an exciting unanimous decision victory.
Making arguably the biggest statement of the night, number-two ranked bantamweight, Cory Sandhagen took just twenty-eight seconds to stamp his card as the next title challenger, conceivably at 135-pounds with a brutal flying knee knockout of former lightweight champion, Frankie Edgar.
Following in hot pursuit of Sandhagen’s statement success, Moscow striker, Alexander Volkov lodged the most high-profile victory of his career, decimating future Hall of Fame inductee, the decorated, former Dream, K-1, and Strikeforce gold holder, Alistair Overeem on his way to a second-round knockout. Bloodying the Dutch kickboxer, Volkov made it two wins in two, and is gearing up for a potential title-eliminator next.