UFC Matchmaking Bulletin (12/26-1/7): Brit Joins UFC 286 Card, Five Cancellations

MMA News has you covered with the latest UFC matchmaking bulletin, featuring fights for UK standout Jai Herbert, bantamweight veteran Raphael Assunçâo, and returning strawweight Cynthia Calvillo.

With UFC cards being held most weekends, aside from the ongoing break over the holiday period, Mick Maynard and Sean Shelby have their matchmaking work cut out if they’re to fill them. That means new bouts are confirmed each and every week.

During the new-year period, a couple of big-name fights were reported, confirmed, or made official by the UFC and reputable sources. For more information on those matchups, check out the links below:

It was a busy week for fight announcements, with a number of lower-profile matchups coming together. For those, check out this week’s quick hits:

But it wasn’t all positive, with a few fights falling through. For those failed pairings and any confirmed replacements, see below:

  • Geoff Neal (OUT) vs. Shavkat Rakhmonov – UFC Vegas 67 (January 14), rebooked for UFC 285 (March 4)
  • Omar Morales (OUT, Mateusz Rębecki IN) vs. Nick Fiore – UFC Vegas 67 (January 14)
  • Nasrat Haqparast (OUT, Francisco Prado IN) vs. Jamie Mullarkey – UFC 284 (February 11)
  • Billy Goff (OUT, AJ Fletcher IN) vs. Themba Gorimbo – UFC Vegas 69 (February 18)
  • Abusupiyan Magomedov (OUT) vs. Gerald Meerschaert – UFC Vegas 69 (February 18)

For detailed information on some other notable fights that may have flown under your radar between December 26 and January 7, scroll down and check out the latest edition of the UFC matchmaking bulletin.

Shane Young vs. Blake Bilder – UFC 284 (February 11)

The Oceanic contingent headed to the local RAC Arena in Perth for UFC 284 has expanded with the addition of featherweight Shane Young.

On February 12, Young (13-6) will be looking to rebound from a two-fight losing skid in what will be his first fight close to his native New Zealand since his most recent victory, a decision win over Austin Arnett at the UFC’s previous visit to Australian shores in 2019. Since then, “Sugar” has fallen via knockout against Ľudovít Klein in Abu Dhabi and unanimous decision to Omar Morales in Las Vegas.

If he’s to return to the win column in what will be his first fight in almost two years, Young will need to blemish the résumé of newcomer Blake Bilder (7-0-1). “El Animal” extended his unbeaten record with a contract-winning performance on Dana White‘s Contender Series this year, a result that marked his fourth consecutive stoppage victory.

This featherweight fight was first reported by MMA Fighting’s Mike Heck.

Mike Malott vs. Yohan Lainesse – UFC Vegas 70 (February 25)

It’ll be an all-Canadian affair at the UFC’s fourth and final February card, as welterweights Mike Malott and Yohan Lainesse collide.

Malott (8-1-1) burst onto the scene in a big way at UFC 273 last April. After a contract-winning 39-second knockout of Shimon Smotritsky the year prior, “Proper” made a similar impact on debut, stopping the once-highly touted Mickey Gall in one round. While he hasn’t competed in the cage since, he did outlast Trevin Giles at the Fury Pro Grappling 6 event late last month, showing he’s not just a threat on the feet.

The 31-year-old’s sophomore outing will come against his countryman Lainesse (9-1). While “White Lion” joined the roster courtesy of a win on the same DWCS season as Malott, he made two appearances in 2022, going 1-1. After a knockout loss to Gabe Green on debut, the 30-year-old rebounded with a composed three-round display against Darian Weeks at UFC 279.

UFC Canada confirmed this welterweight matchup on social media.

Kamuela Kirk vs. Esteban Ribovics – UFC 285 (March 4)

The first United States-held pay-per-view of the year is beginning to fill up, with the latest addition seeing Kamuela Kirk’s first lightweight outing join the card.

Kirk (11-5) had a strong start in the UFC, following up consecutive stoppage wins under the LFA banner by outpointing Makwan Amirkhani in 2021. But in his sole outing of 2022, “The Jawaiian” was submitted via arm-triangle choke against rising featherweight Damon Jackson at UFC Vegas 50.

After a 1-1 divisional record at 145 pounds, Kirk will search for success at 155 when he meets the debuting Esteban Ribovics (11-0) at UFC 285 on March 4. The undefeated Argentine boasts a 100% finishing rate, with six knockouts and five submissions making up his victories. In his most recent appearance, the 26-year-old knocked out Thomas Paull in one round during last year’s series of DWCS.

This lightweight bout was first reported by ESPN Deportes’ Carlos Contreras Legaspi.

Raphael Assunçâo vs. Kyler Phillips – UFC Vegas 71 (March 11)

Bantamweight veteran Raphael Assunçâo will look to continue his resurgence by stalling the rise of Kyler Phillips at UFC Vegas 71 on March 11.

Assunçâo (28-9) entered 2022 on the back of a rough four-fight losing skid, with his recent defeats coming via knockout at the hands of Cody Garbrandt and Ricky Simón. But while that left the 40-year-old Brazilian out of the rankings and with many calling for his retirement, he turned back the clock in 2022 with an impressive display at UFC Vegas 62, where he outpointed Victor Henry.

The longtime contender will look to show he’s still got what it takes to have his hand raised by securing his first win streak since 2018 this year. To do so, he’ll need to halt the charge of Phillips (10-2).

The 27-year-old had a flying start in the MMA leader, with a victory over top-10 bantamweight Song Yadong leaving him 3-0. And while a controversial decision loss to Raulian Paiva marked a setback, he bounced back in style at UFC 271 by submitting Marcelo Rojo.

This bantamweight contest, which was previously scheduled and cancelled in 2021, was confirmed by Phillips’ management team, Iridium Sports Agency.

Jai Herbert vs. Ľudovít Klein – UFC 286 (March 18)

After scoring victories at UFC London last July, Jai Herbert and Ľudovít Klein will return to England’s capital to face each other at UFC 286 on March 18.

Herbert (12-4), a former Cage Warriors champion, started his UFC tenure with some difficult assignments, falling against Francisco Trinaldo and Renato Moicano. Since then, he’s gone 2-1, with a knockout loss to Ilia Topuria separating wins over Khama Worthy and Kyle Nelson. Having rebounded in front of a home crowd last summer, “The Black County Banger” will be hoping for his first win streak in the Octagon when he meets another London victor at The O2.

After a rough 2021 that saw him suffer setbacks against Michael Trizano and Nate Landwehr, Klein (19-4) bounced back in 2022. Following a narrow decision victory over Devonte Smith at UFC 272, the Slovakian stalled the charge of Mason Jones four months later. He’ll look to do the same to another former Cage Warriors titleholder at the UK’s first UFC pay-per-view since 2016.

This lightweight fight was first reported by Eurosport Nederland’s Marcel Dorff.

Daniel Pineda vs. Tucker Lutz – UFC San Antonio (March 25)

Featherweight Daniel Pineda will be searching for a victory in front of his home state fans when he makes the walk at UFC San Antonio on March 25.

Pineda (27-14) has amassed experience across a number of promotions, including Bellator MMA and the PFL. Prior to rejoining the UFC in 2020, “The Pit” had notably blemished the record of Movlid Khaybulaev, but the result was overturned to a no contest after a failed drugs test. Since departing the SmartCage, the 37-year-old has gone 1-1-1 in the Octagon, with a knockout win over Herbert Burns followed by defeat at the hands of Cub Swanson and a no contest opposite Andre Fili.

He’ll look to notch his first victory in over two years at the expense of two-time DWCS victor Tucker Lutz (12-2). The Maryland native had a 12-fight win streak ended in his sophomore UFC outing in 2021, falling to Pat Sabatini on the scorecards. After sitting out 2022 following a cancelled clash with Seungwoo Choi, “Top Gun” will look to make the most of a long-awaited chance to rebound.

This featherweight matchup was first reported by MMA Junkie’s Nolan King.

Cynthia Calvillo vs. Loopy Godinez – UFC 287 (April 8)

Cynthia Calvillo will be hoping that a return to strawweight at UFC 287 on April 8 brings some better fortune following a lengthy losing skid.

Prior to rising to 125 pounds, Calvillo (9-6-1) had defeated Joanne Wood, Cortney Casey, and Poliana Botelho, and fought to a draw against Marina Rodriguez. While she began life as a flyweight with a headline victory over Jessica Eye, it’s been downhill for the 35-year-old since then. After a decision loss to Katlyn Chookagian, she suffered devastating stoppages against Jéssica Andrade and Andrea Lee.

Following a lackluster decision defeat against the returning Nina Nunes last year, Calvillo is hoping to recapture form at 115 pounds, where she’d previously struggled to make weight. Her first challenge back in the division will be against Loopy Godinez (8-3), who saw her two-fight winning run ended at the hands of Angela Hill at UFC San Diego last August.

This strawweight scrap was first reported by ESPN Deportes’ Carlos Contreras Legaspi.

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

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