This week in MMA bookings: Last week of January 2021

Over the week that was, a boatload of fights were made official in several of the sports major promotions. Setting up crucial matchups in the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s middleweight division, for ONE Championship’s first set of “ONE on TNT” events, and at a landmark event in the history of Legacy Fighting Alliance.

April showers bring UFC middleweight power

The month of April offers two pivotal matchups in the UFC middleweight division’s top-five. On Monday, Sherdog was first to report a planned bout between first and second-ranked middleweights, Robert Whittaker and Paulo Costa. The pair are the most recent victims of champion Israel Adesanya, and will headline a UFC Fight Night card on April 17. Costa will be looking to bounce back from his aforementioned September TKO loss to “The Last Stylebender,” while “Bobby Knuckles” aims for a third straight victory to lock up a rematch against Adesanya, the man who ended his championship reign in October of 2019.

Further down the middleweight trough, ESPN was out front in bringing the news that surging Italian talent Marvin Vettori will headline an April 10 UFC Fight Night card against former welterweight title contender Darren Till. This will be No. 4 ranked Till’s third foray at middleweight; at 185 he won a Split Decision vs. Kelvin Gastelum and lost a Unanimous Decision to Whittaker. It is as well his first booking after a scheduled bout with Jack Hermansson fell through in December. Hermansson ended up getting paired up with Vettori, and “The Italian Dream” made good on the high profile main event opportunity, earning his fourth straight win, and the most notable victory of his 20-fight career.

ESPN was also first to report negotiations for a UFC 260 welterweight clash between former division king Tyron Woodley, and ninth-ranked Vicente Luque. In addition, MMAJunkie delivered the news that former UFC women’s flyweight champion Nicco Montano is out of a sixth straight booking, this time a scheduled UFC Fight Night 184 clash with Karol Rosa. Newcomer Joselyne Edwards will jump in on three weeks’ notice to replace Montano. “La Pantera” earned an impressive debut victory over Yanan Wu at UFC on ABC 1.

A golden April for ‘ONE on TNT’

A flyweight championship battle between division title incumbent Adriano Moraes, and flyweight grand prix winner Demetrious Johnson was already official for ONE Championship’s April 7 primetime debut on TNT. However, during the organization’s media call on Wednesday, CEO Chatri Sityodtong confirmed two more title bouts.

At ONE on TNT II, lightweight champion Christian Lee returns to defend his crown for a second time, against No. 3 ranked soccer kicking knockout artist Timofey Nastyukhin. Lee is in the midst of a five-fight winning streak, while the Russian will get his first chance at ONE gold, on the heels of wins over Pieter Buist and former UFC lightweight titleholder Eddie Alvarez.

The following week at ONE on TNT III, Aung La Nsang will return to the light heavyweight division to defend his title in a trilogy fight with Russian tough guy Vitaly Bigdash. “The Burmese Python” saw his seven-fight winning streak, and middleweight title reign, come to an end in October via a first-round submission to Reinier de Ridder. Nsang’s recent streak first began in 2017, after scoring a unanimous decision win over Bigdash in the pair’s championship rematch. Bigdash has not competed in ONE since December 2018.

LFA releases full card for milestone 100th event

After Legacy Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fighting Alliance merged in September 2016, the newly formed Legacy Fighting Alliance promoted their first event in January 2017. The start of year four, for the industry’s premier developmental organization, will offer LFA’s centennial event on February 19.

LFA 100 will be headlined by a vacant flyweight title scrap between Victor Altamirano, and unbeaten Brazilian Carlos Mota. It will as well feature the semi-finals of the organization’s middleweight title tournament. The complete card is as follows:
Victor Altamirano (8-1) vs. Carlos Mota (5-0), flyweight title bout
Anthony Adams (8-2) vs. Gregory Rodrigues (7-3), middleweight tourney semi-final
Steven Nguyen (6-1) vs. Raihere Dudes (8-1), featherweight bout
Charles Johnson (7-2) vs. Karlee Pangilian (6-0), flyweight bout
Christian Natividad (2-0) vs. Evan Woolsey (1-1), bantamweight bout

April’s freakshow fight

April will also have a healthy dose of freakshow fare when it comes to combat sports. Youtube star and boxer Jake Paul will look to win his third straight as a “professional” prize-fighter when he clashes with former ONE Championship and Bellator welterweight champion Ben Askren. Paul made the bout announcement on Tuesday, via his Twitter account. The Triller promoted event will go down April 17, and it will be the UFC veteran’s first professional boxing fight.

Paul has won both of his outings in the squared-circle by TKO. Including a second-round drubbing of former NBA player Nate Robinson, on the undercard of November’s pay-per-view event headlined by an exhibition between boxing greats Mike Tyson and Roy Jones, Jr. “Funky” has not competed in a cage, or ring, since his October 2019 submission loss to Demian Maia.

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