Thursday, August 11, 2022

UFC Matchmaking Bulletin (6/20-6/25): Romanov Meets Tybura In Utah

MMA News has you covered with this week’s UFC matchmaking bulletin, featuring fights for surging heavyweight Alexandr Romanov, Mexican bantamweight Irene Aldana, entertaining flyweight Francisco Figueiredo, strawweight prospect Diana Belbiţă, and lightweight mainstay Michael Johnson.

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.

It’s been a relatively quiet few days in terms of big announcements, but there was one notable adjustment to the upcoming UFC 276 pay-per-view card, which you can read about by following the link 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 June 20 and June 25.

Michael Johnson vs. Jamie Mullarkey – UFC Vegas 58 (July 9)

UFC Vegas 58 is looking likely to be the under-the-radar card of July, with the other four, UFC 276, UFC Long Island, UFC London, and UFC 277, set to be stacked from top to bottom.

While the lack of name value on the July 9 card hasn’t been helped by the cancelation of former bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt’s fight against Rani Yahya, it’s received a sizable boost this week with the addition of an exciting lightweight matchup between Michael Johnson and Jamie Mullarkey.

Johnson (20-17) has faced the best since arriving in the UFC back in 2010. Given that he’s defeated the likes of Tony Ferguson, Dustin Poirier, and Edson Barboza, and fallen short against a number of elite fighters, including Khabib Nurmagomedov, Beneil Dariush, and Justin Gaethje, his nearly-even record is certainly not an accurate measure of his talent.

If anyone needed a reminder of Johnson’s abilities following the four-fight skid he went on between 2019 and 2021, the 36-year-old’s latest appearance likely provided just that. At UFC Vegas 54, “The Menace” brutally knocked out Alan Patrick. Johnson will now look to prove his post-fight claim as one of the division’s best strikers when he makes his second appearance in a calendar year for the first time since 2019.

He’ll certainly have the chance to display his standup skills again when he shares the cage with Mullarkey (14-5) on July 9. The Australian has 10 knockouts in 14 wins, two of which came in 2021 against Khama Worthy and Devonte Smith. But after turning around his 0-2 UFC start with a pair of triumphs last year, Mullarkey failed to make it three in a row at UFC 272 in March, falling to a second-round TKO against Jalin Turner.

While Johnson will be looking to further spark his resurgence with a two-fight win streak, the 27-year-old Mullarkey will have his sights set on a return to the win column at UFC Vegas 58.

This matchup was first reported by @Bendaman2001 on Twitter.

Alex Morono vs. Matthew Semelsberger – UFC 277 (July 30)

With just over a month to go until the promotion returns to Dallas for its UFC 277 pay-per-view, a welterweight scrap between Alex Morono and Matthew Semelsberger has been announced,

Morono (21-7) has had alternating returns in recent years. While 2019 saw him go unbeaten at 2-0, his form in the Octagon dipped the following year, with defeats to Khaos Williams and former lightweight titleholder Anthony Pettis surrounding a sole victory over recently crowned Cage Warriors champion Rhys McKee.

But like 2019, “The Great White” went perfect in 2021, recording a first-round TKO over UFC vet Donald Cerrone, as well as unanimous decision wins against David Zawada and Mickey Gall. The 31-year-old will look to make it four in a row when he squares off with Semelsberger (10-3).

“Semi the Jedi” has gone 5-1 since making his UFC debut in 2020, with two wins on either side of a unanimous decision defeat to Williams. After rebounding with an emphatic knockout victory over Martin Sano Jr. last September at UFC 266, Semelsberger outpointed AJ Fletcher at UFC Vegas 50 in March.

While the Maryland native will be targeting his first three-fight win streak in the UFC, Morono will be looking to prevent that from happening with his fourth straight triumph.

This bout was first reported by ESPN MMA.

Alexandr Romanov vs. Marcin Tybura – UFC 278 (August 20)

The heavyweight title picture has a lot of bodies at the moment, and it could be facing the addition of another come August 20.

At UFC 278, Alexandr Romanov (16-0), long tipped by many as a future championship contender, will face a true litmus test of his potential. The Moldovan has made a big impact since arriving in the Octagon, going 5-0. That slate includes a memorable submission victory over Marcos Rogério de Lima, which came via the UFC’s first-ever forearm choke.

While a split decision win against Juan Espino, which came after Romanov was unable to continue following an accidental groin strike, partially stalled his fast rise, “King Kong” has firmly returned to his finishing ways in his last two outings, defeating Jared Vanderaa via TKO and Chase Sherman with a key lock submission.

Having ascended to #13 in the rankings, Romanov is set for a steep step-up in competition, which will come in the form of Marcin Tybura (22-7) at the August pay-per-view. While a decision defeat last time out to perennial contender Alexander Volkov prevented the Polish powerhouse from improving on his #10 place, his form beforehand was impressive.

After going 4-5 in his first nine UFC outings, the former M-1 Global Heavyweight Champion went on a run that saw him collect five straight wins, including over Sergey Spivak, Ben Rothwell, and Greg Hardy.

Having been initially been scheduled to welcome Romanov to the UFC back in 2020, a bout that fell through after the then-newcomer tested positive for COVID-19, “Tybur” will look to stall the Moldovan’s rise two years on.

This matchup was officially announced through a UFC press release.

Jared Gordon vs. Leonardo Santos – UFC 278 (August 20)

In another notable bout added to Utah’s first UFC pay-per-view in the past week, lightweight veterans Leonardo Santos and Jared Gordon are set to collide.

Gordon (18-5) has gone 3-1 since a knockout defeat to former UFC Lightweight Champion and number one contender Charles Oliveira. But after a trio of victories over former Cage Warriors titleholder Chris Fishgold, Danny Chavez, and Joe Solecki, “Flash” had his win streak snapped last time out at UFC Vegas 53 against the highly touted Grant Dawson.

Following that loss, Gordon will look to rebound four months later at UFC 278, where he’ll share the Octagon with Santos (18-5-1). The Brazilian perhaps had an under-the-radar record a number of years ago. Prior to a three-year layoff between 2016 and 2019, “Lamparão,” who won The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 2 welterweight tournament, went 7-0-1 in the UFC, including finishes against Anthony Rocco Martin and Kevin Lee.

While he returned to action in the same form, extending his unblemished promotional record with victories over Stevie Ray and Roman Bogatov, he’s since lost back-to-back outings for the first time in his career courtesy of a last-second KO loss to Dawson and a submission defeat to legend Clay Guida.

Although both men will be looking to re-enter the win column following defeats last time out, the stakes will likely be slightly higher for Santos, who will be hoping to avoid the often fatal three-fight skid.

This bout that was first reported by Eurosport’s Marcel Dorff.

Amir Albazi vs. Francisco Figueiredo – UFC 278 (August 20)

Staying at UFC 278, a flyweight scrap between Amir Albazi and Francisco Figueiredo is slated for August 20, per an official press release.

Figueiredo (13-4-1), the younger brother of reigning UFC Flyweight Champion Deiveson, arrived on MMA’s biggest stage in 2021 as a former Interim Jungle Fight Bantamweight Champion who was unbeaten since 2017.

While he began his Octagon career on the right foot, earning a unanimous nod on the scorecards against Jerome Rivera, the Brazilian fell on the wrong side of the judges’ verdict in his sophomore appearance against Malcolm “X” Gordon.

Having immediately rebounded this year at UFC Vegas 53 by submitting Daniel Lacerda via kneebar just over a minute into the opening round, “Sniper” will be looking for his first win streak under the UFC banner when he makes his first PPV appearance this summer.

The man looking to stop the 32-year-old from doing so will be Albazi (14-1). The Swedish-born Iraqi joined the UFC in 2020 as a highly touted flyweight prospect. He enhanced that reputation with a first-round triangle choke against Gordon, who got the better of Figueiredo, and a unanimous decision victory over Zhalgas Zhumagulov.

Having been on the sidelines since last January and had bouts against Ode’ Osbourne and Tim Elliott scrapped, “The Prince” will look to pick up where he left off when he makes his return and take the next step towards his goal of becoming the first fighter to bring UFC gold to Iraq.

Irene Aldana vs. Macy Chiasson – UFC 279 (September 10)

While the UFC 278 card is still taking shape, the UFC 279 PPV is beginning to have matchups added to it, including this women’s bantamweight contest between Irene Aldana and Macy Chiasson.

Having had her main event debut spoiled by former champion Holly Holm in late 2020, Aldana (13-6) returned to winning ways last July in some style. At the Conor McGregor-headlined UFC 264, the Mexican made the most of the big stage, finishing former featherweight title challenger Yana Kunitskaya in one round.

Following failed matchups against Germaine de Randamie and Aspen Ladd, Aldana has been unable to utilize the momentum from her last outing, with her next appearance set to come over a year later. Nevertheless, she’ll hope to pick up where she left off when she welcomes Chiasson (8-2) back to bantamweight.

After moving to 5-1 in the UFC early last year, Chiasson was stalled by her first loss since 2019 in December. As well as being submitted by Raquel Pennington, the Louisianan set an unwanted record, with her 2.5-pound weight miss for the featherweight contest marking the highest weight registered by a woman in UFC history.

Given that Aldana missed the bantamweight limit by a mammoth 3.5 pounds last time out, all eyes will be on the scales for this matchup, which was first reported by ESPN Deportes’ Carlos Contreras Legaspi.

Melissa Gatto vs. Gillian Robertson – UFC Fight Night (September 17)

12-fight promotional veteran Gillian Robertson has her next fight booked, and it’ll see her collide with women’s flyweight prospect Melissa Gatto at the September 17 UFC Fight Night.

Robertson (10-7) has been incredibly active since debuting in 2017, facing the likes of Molly McCann, Maycee Barber, and recent title challenger Taila Santos during her time in the Octagon. But the Canadian has struggled for form as of late.

After rebounding from back-to-back losses to Santos and Miranda Maverick with an impressive first-round submission win against Priscila Cachoeira, which came in spite of the Brazilian’s blatant eye gouge, “The Savage” failed to continue her momentum onto a win streak, falling to a unanimous decision loss against JJ Aldrich at UFC Vegas 50 in March.

Like Robertson, Gatto (8-1-2) will be looking to make her way back to the win column on September 17. But while the Canadian’s latest setback marked her fifth in the UFC, the Brazilian’s represented the first blemish on her record.

After a pair of TKOs against Victoria Leonardo and Sijara Eubanks, the 26-year-old had extended her unbeaten form into the Octagon. But having fallen short against fellow hot prospect Tracy Cortez at UFC 274 last month, Gatto is in need of a victory to get her charge up the flyweight ladder back on track.

This September 17 matchup was first reported by Brazilian outlet AgFight.

Loma Lookboonmee vs. Diana Belbiţă – UFC Fight Night (September 17)

As well as the women’s flyweights, there will also be action in the strawweight division at the UFC’s September 17 event.

Loma Lookboonmee (6-3) arrived in the UFC in 2019 having made the switch from Muay Thai to MMA just over a year prior. After a decorated career in her former discipline, which included gold medals at the 2015, 2017, and 2018 I.F.M.A. World Championship, the Thai fighter hoped to replicate that success in the cage.

After a 1-1 start in the Octagon, with the loss coming against UFC veteran Angela Hill, the 26-year-old found form with consecutive victories over Jinh Yu Frey and Sam Hughes on the scorecards. But having been a victim of Lupita Godinez’s recent form last November, Lookboonmee is targeting a rebound performance on September 17.

Also look to re-enter the win column will be Belbiţă (14-7). The 25-year-old has struggled since earning a place in the MMA leader with four straight wins under the promotional banner of RXF, Romania’s largest mixed martial arts organization.

After breaking her initial two-fight skid, which comprised of defeats to McCann and Liana Jojua, with a unanimous decision win against Hannah Goldy, “The Warrior Princess” found herself with another blemish on her résumé earlier this year courtesy of Gloria de Paula.

This matchup was first reported by The AllStar’s John Hyon Ko.

Gregory Rodrigues vs. Chidi Njokuani – UFC Fight Night (September 17)

Just one week on from his memorable knockout victory over Julian Marquez at UFC Austin, Gregory Rodrigues (12-4) has another fight booked, and it looks set to be a banger.

If Rodrigues’ short stint in the Octagon so far has taught us anything, it’s expect fireworks. After debuting with a decision win against the once-highly touted Duško Todorović, the Brazilian earned an extra $50,000 in his sophomore outing, with his memorable KO of Park Jun-yong last October securing Fight of the Night honors.

While a narrow split decision setback against Armen Petrosyan earlier this year snapped the former LFA Middleweight Champion’s four-fight win streak and blemished his UFC record, Rodrigues bounced back fast in front of a sold-out Texas crowd last weekend.

He’ll look to return to a win streak at the September 17 event when he squares off with Chidi Njokuani (22-7). The 33-year-old has made quite the impression since arriving on the UFC scene last year.

Since being released by Bellator in 2019 following consecutive losses to John Salter and Rafael Carvalho, Chidi “Chidi Bang Bang” has gone 4-0, a run of form that includes a contract-earning performance on Dana White’s Contender Series and two performance bonus-worthy first-round knockouts inside the Octagon.

This exciting matchup was first reported by MMA Fighting’s Guilherme Cruz.

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

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