Saturday, July 2, 2022

Matchmaking Bulletin (5/30-6/4): Almeida Stays At HW, Grasso Booked

MMA News has you covered with this week’s matchmaking bulletin, featuring fights for Jailton Almeida, Alexa Grasso, and Matt Schnell, as well as the debut of a Combate Global champion.

With UFC cards being held most weekends, Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby have their matchmaking work cut out if they’re to fill them, meaning new bouts are confirmed each and every week.

In recent days, a number of huge fights were confirmed/made official by the UFC and reputable sources. For more information on those matchups, which includes two high-stakes contests at middleweight and featherweight, check out the links below:

If you’ve had your fix of big announcements since last Monday, scroll down and check out this week’s matchmaking bulletin, featuring a number of bouts that may have flown under your radar between May 30 and June 4.

Matt Schnell vs. Su Mudaerji – UFC Long Island (July 16)

The flyweight division has grown immensely in recent years and consistently sees exciting bouts. This matchup set for UFC Long Island on July 16 should be no different. It pits 10-fight UFC veteran Matt Schnell (15-6) against rising prospect Su Mudaerji (16-4).

When they collide in New York, the Mississippi native will be hoping to rebound from a first-round submission loss to top contender Brandon Royval at UFC 274 last month. Having only had his hand raised once since 2019, Schnell is in need of a result next time out, especially if he’s to maintain his place in the divisional top 10.

For the #12-ranked Mudaerji, UFC Long Island will offer the chance to ascend towards the upper echelon at 125 pounds by extending his promotional record to 4-1. Since a debut loss to Louis Smolka, the 26-year-old has amassed a three-fight win streak, most recently recording a unanimous decision victory over Zarrukh Adashev last January.

With canceled bouts against Tim Elliott and Manel Kape since his last appearance, the Chinese prospect will no doubt be eager to return to the Octagon and show his skills, especially against an established name like Schnell.

This bout was first reported by MMA Island.

Dwight Grant vs. Dustin Stoltzfus – UFC Long Island (July 16)

Also set for UFC Long Island is a middleweight clash between Dana White’s Contender Series alums Dwight Grant and Dustin Stoltzfus

On July 16, Grant (11-5) will be searching for form in a new weight class. The longtime welterweight has lost three of his last four outings, including consecutive defeats to Francisco Trinaldo and Sergey Khandozhko in the last eight months.

In a similarly tentative position on the UFC roster is Stoltzfus (13-4), who has seen the 10-fight win streak he first entered the Octagon with crumble to a three-bout skid courtesy of a decision loss to Kyle Daukaus and a pair of submission setbacks against Rodolfo Vieira and Gerald Meerschaert.

With both men’s poor form in mind, the stakes will be high come July 16 as the pair look to show that they deserve to keep their places on MMA’s biggest stage.

Ignacio Bahamondes vs. Ľudovít Klein – UFC 277 (July 30)

UFC 277 is shaping up to be an exciting pay-per-view card, and the addition of lightweight prospect Ignacio Bahamondes certainly won’t do any harm to it.

Bahamondes (13-4) went viral in his second UFC appearance after delivering one of 2021’s most memorable knockouts. At UFC Vegas 34, the Chilean slept Roosevelt Roberts with just five seconds remaining courtesy of a brutal spinning wheel kick.

Having already impressed in a memorable three-round war with John Makdessi, the KO established Bahamondes’ name in the sport’s premier promotion, and a second consecutive win earlier this year aided his mission even further. Against Rong Zhu, “La Jaula” showed his versatility, submitting “Little Yama” via brabo choke.

In the 24-year-old’s way of a third straight win will be Ľudovít Klein (18-4). The Slovak lightweight entered the year on a two-fight skid but evened his promotional slate with a split decision victory over Devonte Smith at UFC 272. The result marked the 27-year-old’s second triumph in the UFC, having previously knocked Shane Young out on debut in 2020.

This addition to UFC 277 was first reported by ESPN’s Carlos Contreras Legaspi.

Orion Cosce vs. Blood Diamond – UFC 277 (July 30)

Orion Cosce and Mike “Blood Diamond” Mathetha will be hoping it’s third time lucky now that their long-cursed matchup has been re-arranged yet again, this time for UFC 277 on July 30.

Cosce (7-1) was initially scheduled to welcome Blood Diamond (3-1) to the UFC in February this year. When he was forced out through illness, Jeremiah Wells stepped in, handing the Zimbabwe-born welterweight his first professional loss and a rude arrival in the Octagon at UFC 271.

The pair were then booked to clash at UFC 275 next weekend in Singapore. This time, Blood Diamond, who trains with the likes of Israel Adesanya at the renowned City Kickboxing gym in New Zealand, withdrew due to injury.

Now, the two exciting 170lbers are set to finally square off at UFC 277, set for Dallas on July 30, per Cosce’s management team, Iridium Sports Agency. For “Galaxy,” the matchup will mark his first appearance since a debut defeat to Phil Rowe, which will have occurred almost a year ago to the day when he shares the cage with Blood Diamond.

With both men looking to rebound from the opening blemish’s on their records and unsuccessful first UFC outings, this one should be an exciting scrap, should it make it to the cage this time, that is…

Alexa Grasso vs. Viviane Araújo – UFC Fight Night (August 13)

The August 13 UFC Fight Night card has also received the addition of an intriguing matchup, and one that could have title implications in the women’s flyweight division. Per MMA Junkie, top-10 contenders Alexa Grasso and Viviane Araújo are set for a summer collision.

Grasso (14-3), a former Invicta FC headliner, has found consistency inside the Octagon, having traded wins and losses for her first six outings. Since searching for success at 125 pounds following a defeat to now-reigning strawweight champion Carla Esparza, the Mexican has gone 3-0 in her new weight class, besting Ji Yeon Kim, Maycee Barber, and Joanne Wood on her way to #5 in the rankings.

While Grasso will be looking to stake her claim for a shot at Valentina Shevchenko’s gold, Araújo (11-3) will be hoping to ascend into the flyweight top five at her expense. The Brazilian recently rebounded from a defeat to top contender Katlyn Chookagian by earning the judges’ nod against Andrea Lee last month.

At #7 on the flyweight ladder, “Vivi” will have the chance to leapfrog a number of names on August 13 when she shares the cage with Grasso.

Alessio Di Chirico vs. Roman Kopylov – UFC Paris (September 3)

The UFC’s French debut is beginning to amass quite the Italian presence. Joining top middleweight contender Marvin Vettori on the card will be Alessio Di Chirico (13-6), who’ll face Russia’s Roman Kopylov (8-2) in Paris on September 3.

When he makes the walk in the Accor Arena, Di Chirico could well be fighting for his place in the UFC. He was in a similar position last January, when he rode a three-fight skid into his clash with Joaquin Buckley. With a highlight-reel read-kick KO, “Manzo” avoided the cut.

However, after being on the receiving end of a similar finish, only even more vicious, at the hands (or right foot) of Abdul Razak Alhassan last August, Di Chirico is likely close to the chopping board once again.

Looking to potentially send the Italian out of the promotion will be Kopylov, who appears to be in a similarly tentative position in the UFC having gone 0-2 inside the Octagon. Defeats to Karl Roberson and Albert Duraev have left the Russian 31-year-old in desperate need of a win next time out.

This bout was first reported by Super Lutas, and later confirmed by Al Zullino.

Shamil Abdurakhimov vs. Jailton Almeida – UFC Fight Night (September 10)

In one of the more interesting announcement in the past week, Jailton Almeida’s decision to remain at heavyweight was confirmed, and will see him face promotional veteran Shamil Abdurakhimov on September 10.

Almeida (16-2) broke onto the scene at light heavyweight by adding the first blemish to Nasrudin Nasrudinov’s record on Dana White’s Contender Series, earned a contract with a second-round rear-naked choke. On debut, the Brazilian stormed through Danilo Marques, ground-and-pounding his way to a quick TKO victory.

After a 205-pound bout against Maxim Grishin fell through at UFC Vegas 55, “Malhadinho” moved up a weight on short notice. Against Parker Porter, who was riding a three-fight win streak, Almeida looked mightily impressive, rag-dolling the American around before finishing him with ground strikes in round one.

While it’s clear that he’s a threat at both light heavyweight and heavyweight, the latter is where he’s seemingly looking to find success at first. Almeida will hope to further his cause at his new weight by adding the name of the #12-ranked Abdurakhimov (20-7) to his résumé.

The Russian has entered the Octagon 10 times, sharing it with the likes of Derrick Lewis and Andrei Arlovski. He’ll ride a three-fight losing skid into his contest with Almeida, having fallen to defeat at the hands of Chris Daukaus last September and Sergei Pavlovich at UFC London earlier this year.

At 40 years old and with three TKO setbacks in a row, it stands to reason that “Abrek” is nearing the end of his time in the cage, something Almeida will look to capitalize on later this year.

This heavyweight collision was first reported by Sexto Round.

Melissa Martinez vs. Hannah Cifers – UFC Fight Night (September 10)

Also confirmed this week was the arrival of Combate Global strawweight champion Melissa Martinez to the Octagon. She’s set to face Hannah Cifers in her debut on September 10.

Martinez (7-0) hasn’t been in action since she won the title against Desiree Yanez at Combate 51 in December 2019. That split decision victory marked only the second time that “Super Melly” has required the scorecards, with five of her wins ending via knockouts.

Looking to spoil the debut of the 2016 Panamerican Kickboxing Championship gold medalist will be Cifers (10-7). 2019 wins over Polyana Viana and Jodie Esquibel got the North Carolina native off to a 2-1 start in the Octagon, but four straight losses to Angela Hill, Mackenzie Dern, Mariya Agapova, and Mallory Martin have left “Shockwave” on the brink of a UFC exit.

While Martinez will hope to get her Octagon career started on the right foot, Cifers will be looking to return to the win column when she makes her first appearance since 2019.

This September 10 matchup was first reported by Lichald Scott.

Vinc Pichel vs. Jesse Ronson – UFC Fight Night (October 1)

In another bout confirmed by Iridium Sports Agency, lightweights Vinc Pichel and Jesse Ronson will meet at the October 1 UFC event, joining women’s featherweights Leah Letson and Chelsea Chandler as only the second matchup to be added to the card thus far.

The Ultimate Fighter alum Pichel (14-3) has been in action once this year. At UFC 273, “From Hell” was handed his first defeat since a 2018 submission loss to Gregor Gillespie courtesy of elite wrestler Mark Madsen. The 39-year-old’s reaction to the setback was perhaps more notable than the fight itself, with Pichel protesting the scorecards on Twitter and accusing his Danish foe of “cowardice” with his approach.

While he’ll look to bounce back on October 1, Ronson will be looking to record his first official win in the Octagon. The Canadian made a memorable debut in 2020, upsetting the odds to submit Nicolas Dalby. But after testing positive for metandienone, the result was overturned to a no contest and “The Body Snatcher” was handed a 22-month suspension.

Having made an unsuccessful return against Rafa Garcia at UFC Vegas 51 earlier this year, Ronson’s place on the UFC roster could be on the line when he shares the cage with Pichel on October 1.

Who do you envision having their hands raised in these UFC matchups?

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