May is upon us and it promises to be a great month for MMA fans across the world with a number of solid cards featuring some of the sport’s current icons, as well as rising stars fans can look forward to watching for years to come. Here, I take you through my list of 5 fights during the month of May that every MMA fan should have marked on their calendars.
1.) May 6th, ONE Fighting Championship: Ascent to Power – Angela Lee vs Mei Yamaguchi
The first fight on our list takes place in Asia, Singapore to be precise, as Angela “Unstoppable” Lee takes on Mei “V.V” Yamaguchi for the inaugural ONE FC women’s atomweight world title. Not only that, but it will be the first women’s championship fight in ONE FC history. Lee, who is just 19-years-old, will be aiming to become the youngest MMA world champion ever, beating Jon Jones’ record of 23 years and 8 months when he became UFC light heavyweight champion. As one of the brightest prospects in MMA today, Lee is the favourite to keep the unbeaten start to her MMA career going. Her opponent, Mei Yamaguchi, will be looking to spoil her party and take her own place in history as ONE FC’s first female champion. Yamaguchi is a vastly experienced fighter, who, like Lee, is well-versed in submission skills and is yet to be finished in her professional career so far. In a battle of youthful exuberance vs veteran experience, which woman will come out on top on May 6th and carve their name into history?
2.) May 8th, UFC Fight Night: Rotterdam – Alistair Overeem vs Andrei Arlovski
Just two days later we arrive in Europe for the UFC’s first show in the Netherlands at UFC Rotterdam and the promotion have brought a heavyweight main event with them. Home country hero Alistair Overeem headlines against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. After losing 3 out of 4 bouts, all of which came by knockout, many were quick to drive nails into the coffin of Overeem’s career. However, 3 straight victories over Stefan Struve, Roy Nelson and a huge knockout of Junior dos Santos have re-energised the potential for Overeem to earn a UFC title shot. With a remarkable 17 knockouts and 19 submissions in his 40 professional wins, the highlight of the Dutchman’s career could amazingly be yet to happen. Potentially the final hurdle to his shot at UFC gold is Andrei Arlovski. The Belarussian was seemingly marching towards a title shot of his own earlier in the year with a four fight winning run to begin his second stint with the UFC. However, current number one contender, Stipe Miocic, put those plans temporarily on hold by finishing Arlovski back in January at UFC 195, but “The Pitbull” is back for another run towards the top. These two stalwarts of MMA heavyweight history have the same goal in mind and, when their paths cross at UFC Rotterdam, only one can take a giant leap towards achieving that goal.
3.) May 14th, UFC 198 – Cris Cyborg vs Leslie Smith
Less than one week after UFC Rotterdam, the octagon rolls into South America for UFC 198 from Curitiba, Brazil. The card features a who’s who of Brazilian MMA royalty including Anderson Silva, Vitor Belfort and Fabricio Werdum, but the bout I have chosen features the long-awaited UFC debut of Cris “Cyborg” Justino. The bout will also be the first women’s fight in the UFC to take place at a catchweight of 140 pounds. Thought of by many as the number one women’s fighter in MMA today, “Cyborg” has not lost since her MMA debut in 2005 and, since then, has left a trail of destruction in her wake. An incredible 13 of her 15 professional wins have come by way of knockout, often in brutal fashion, including victories over Gina Carano, Shayna Baszler and two over Marloes Coenen. The Invicta FC featherweight champion has long been linked with a potential UFC fight with Ronda Rousey, but her opponent at UFC 198 will be Leslie Smith. According to UFC president, Dana White, Smith was “the only one that wanted” to fight the Brazilian. “The Peacemaker” has a 2 – 2 record with the UFC, but was victorious in her last outing against Rin Nakai. As one of the biggest underdogs in recent MMA history, Smith will be out to shock the world on May 14th.
4.) May 14th, Bellator 154 – Phil Davis vs Muhammad Lawal
On the same night as UFC 198, Bellator host their biggest event this month with Bellator 154 from San Jose, California. The main event for this card will feature two of the top 205 pound fighters in the world as Phil “Mr. Wonderful” Davis tackles Muhammad “King Mo” Lawal in a fight to determine the number one contender for the Bellator light heavyweight title. Originally, Davis was pencilled in to fight Liam McGeary for the title at this event, but, as the champion is injured, Lawal stepped in. Uniquely, both men are coming off wins in MMA tournaments – Davis won the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix while Lawal emerged victorious from the Rizin FF Heavyweight Grand Prix. Of course, Davis and Lawal were supposed to face off in the final of the aforementioned Bellator Grand Prix, but Lawal was forced to withdraw at the last minute due to injury. However, all of that just served to build even more hype surrounding this fight, and MMA fans will be delighted to finally get the chance to see Davis and Lawal square-off at Bellator 154.
5.) May 29th, UFC Fight Night 88 – Thomas Almeida vs Cody Garbrandt
Last, but by no means least, we have UFC Fight Night 88 to close out the month in style on May 29th from the fight capital of the world – Las Vegas, Nevada. The card is main evented by an outstanding bantamweight contest between two of the best young fighters in the division – Thomas Almeida and Cody Garbrandt. The Brazilian, Almeida, is unbeaten in his MMA career with a highly impressive record of 21 – 0, with only two of those wins going as far as the judges’ scorecards. The 24-year-old has earned 3 Performance of the Night, as well as one Fight of the Night bonus in his time fighting for the UFC so far. His opponent, Cody Garbrandt, is another unbeaten 24-year-old, with 8 wins to his name thus far, only one of which made it to a decision. These two young, striking specialists will go head to head on May 29th and the likelihood is that it will not last for the full scheduled 25 minutes. Whichever man triumphs on the night could very well be next seen fighting for the 135 pound title, but, for MMA fans, this is a fight which surely all but guarantees high quality entertainment.
So, 3 MMA promotions across 4 different continents later, there we have it– 5 fights any MMA fan would be crazy to miss during May. Do you agree with the list? Is there any other fight in particular you are looking forward to this month? Get in touch and let us know on Twitter @MMALatestNws.
Highest Ranked Strawweight Outside of the UFC challenged Angela Lee to a title fight in One Championship
28 Years Old, Zhang Weili(16-1) from China has challenged Strawweight champion Angela Lee for her strap in One Championship according to a source close to the Chinese fighter. Zhang who is the champion and fighting for Chinese based promotion Kunlun FC is currently negotiating on a one fight deal to face Angela. According to the source, they would like to determine who is the best women fighter in Asia in a one-off match and would have no problems to fight under the One Championship banner.
Since her pro debut loss in 2013, Zhang has racked up 16 wins in 3 years with a total of 15 finishes. She is the number #6 ranked women strawweight in the World according to Fightmatrix.com, just behind Rose Namajunas who will be facing UFC champion and number #1 ranked strawweight Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the title next month. Angela, on the other hand, is 9 rungs below Zhang at number 15.
While ONE was very eager to have a cross-promotion fight between Angela Lee and Joanna Jedrzejczyk to determine who has the better strawweight, they seem less eager to have a Kunlun FC champion on board for a one fight deal. The source states that ONE would need for Zhang to sign a 2-year exclusive contract first before discussing further for a fight with Angela.
If the source is accurate, ONE seems to be covering their bases this time and would not like for their champion to lose the belt to another promotion without securing Zhang on an exclusive contract. Kunlun, on the other hand, would also not want to lose their best fighter to another Asian promotion. Zhang would be a huge asset to ONE for their expansion in China but it would be tough for them to pry off the Chinese fighter as the source states that Zhang is being paid handsomely on Kunlun FC.
While things are looking bleak for a match between Angela Lee and Zhang Weili to happen in the ONE Championship cage, the fans will be keeping their fingers crossed and hope that they could witness a fight between two of the best women Strawweights in Asia.
Martin Nguyen to challenge Eduard Folayang’s title in Manila for the first champion vs champion fight in ONE Championship
After speculations on who Martin Nguyen’s next opponent when he signed a fight contract, ONE Championship have confirmed that Martin Nguyen is set to challenge Eduard Folayang’s lightweight title in Manila on ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD on 10 November.
The fight is the latest in a series of cross-division fights announced after Shinya Aoki vs Ben Askren and Aung La NSang vs Alain Ngalani, but this will be the first time the reigning ONE Championship titleholders from two weight divisions will clash.
Nguyen’s coach, Fari Salievski, did tease on the idea of Nguyen fighting for the title in different weight divisions , but he teased on a bantamweight division since Martin was underweight for his featherweight title fight against Marat Gafurov.
Despite being on the lighter side of a featherweight division, the new champion decided to challenge the title against a fighter a weight class above him, and opens the possibility of the first fighter in ONE Championship to challenge the title in 3 weight divisions.
“I’m not out only to make a statement, but to go down in history as the best to ever compete under the ONE Championship banner” – Martin Nguyen
ONE: LEGENDS OF THE WORLD will be held in Malls of Asia Arena in Manila on 10 November 2017
Bashir Ahmad embraces new role in ONE Championship
Bashir Ahmad is appointed as the Senior Manager of Industry Partnerships, the role made to develop and strengthen the relationships between ONE Championship and various MMA gyms and promotions.
“Essentially, I see myself doing what I did in Pakistan and working to accelerate the growth of MMA in Asia with other players in the MMA scene,” Ahmad explained.
As the pioneer of Pakistani MMA, Bashir Ahmad has worked to promote MMA in Pakistan, most notably the Shaheen Gym project, a non-profit gym which serves to take at-risk youth off the street with the appeal and focus of MMA. With his new position in ONE, Ahmad believes he will be better positioned to develop MMA in Asia, particularly in his hometown Pakistan.
“I think it’s a win-win. I’ve learned about developing MMA in a really difficult market – Pakistan, and I bring that experience with me.”
“On the flip side, I get work with one of the world’s most professional martial arts brands and bring those lessons to my mission in Pakistan.”
4-3 on his professional MMA career, Ahmad has been fighting for ONE Championship since April 2013 and became the first ONE Championship athlete to make the transition from into the management role in the promotion. Despite this additional role, Ahmad is adamant that his new role in ONE Championship does not take him away from active competition.
“100% not retired. I can certainly train. If Martin can beat Gafurov while being a full-time mechanic, I can certainly train when I work in the MMA industry for a living. It’s about time management and training smart.”
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