This weekend finally brought the much-anticipated return of the Swede Khamzat Chimaev to the octagon. On top of that, UFC 273 in Jacksonville, Florida, presented a flurry of captivating events. Starting with the prelims, we saw UFC veteran Raquel Pennington face Aspen Ladd. Pennington fought for the UFC Bantamweight Championship in 2018, losing against Amanda Nunes. She then lost another fight by unanimous decision, briefly redeemed herself by defeating Irene Aldana through split decision, before losing against Holly Holm. She has since won her last four fights but is in the prelims rather than fighting for a title. With her recent winning streak, she might be back on the main card soon.
Another prelim fight to be noted was Irishman Ian Garry’s defeat of Darian Weeks by decision. Garry is now 9-0, and a fighter to be followed. Similarly, the dane Mark Madsen opened the main card, facing Vinc Pichel. He won by decision and extends his record to 12-0. A former Olympian wrestler, he is doing very well in his MMA career and has been highly successful in his UFC career which began in 2019. Especially as a fellow Scandinavian, he is one to keep our eyes on for the future.
The two main events were championship bouts. Alexander Volkanovski stopped The Korean Zombie by TKO in the fourth round. I predicted he would win, although I thought it would come by submission. Talks about facing Max Holloway are on the table again, but Volkanovski seems intent on facing anyone, anytime. Even going up to Lightweight seems possible. The second title bout was the heated face-off between Alajamain Sterling and Petr Yan. I thought Yan would be hungry for a win, which no doubt he was. Sterling brought home the win and kept his title, which he won controversially against Yan last year, after a DQ of Yan following an illegal knee. Opinions are varied as to whether Sterling won this time around, Dana White saying he disagreed with the judges. In the end, the judges had their say, and Sterling seems to have silenced his detractors. For now. A trilogy might await.
The fight many of us were most anticipating was Chimaev vs Burns. There was huge hype for Khamzat, which we have written about leading up to the fight. The fight delivered and is an instant classic. Both athletes showed great spirit and determination. There were well over 400 strikes delivered on both sides, with 119 significant strikes landing on the Swede. It was the hardest test Khamzat has faced hitherto, no doubt about that. He faced the number 2 ranked athlete for his weight class, and yet he stood with the unanimous decision in his favour. This shows us exactly how skilled he is. Some said he looked beatable for the first time, which should also be expected at this level of competition. It can’t be a walk in the park, but he showed the world he is a force to be reckoned with and he will be around for a while. What the future holds for the swede with a record of 11-0 will be fascinating to follow.
GOLOVKIN VS MURATA
Only a few days after his 49th birthday, Gennady Golovkin stepped into the ring to face Ryoto Murata for a unified world middleweight championship fight. Golovkin stopped Murata in the 9th round, following the towel being thrown in by Murata’s team. Golovkin previously held the IBF and IBO titles, now also claiming the WBA title after his victory on Saturday. Triple G, as Golovkin is known, has faced Canelo Alvarez twice before: their first matchup ended in a draw, and the second resulted in a decision victory for Alvarez. A third fight might await if Canelo defeats Dmitry Bivol on May 7th. That would be a fight not to be missed.
MIKAELA MAYER VS JENNIFER HAN
On Saturday, female super featherweight champion Mikaela Mayer extended her record to 17-0, defeating Jennifer Han by unanimous decision. 12 of her 17 victories come from UD wins. Saturday’s bout saw her defend her WBO, IBF and The Ring titles. She could go on to fight for another title, either against Alycia Baumgardner for the WBC title, or Hyun Mi Choi for the WBA belt. She is also ready to face the winner of Katie Taylor vs Amanda Serrano in their forthcoming April 30th bout. Mayer is currently the number 5 ranked pound-for-pound women’s boxer in ESPN’s ranking, and her future is bright. Her fight on Saturday was a comfortable win, with 192 punches landed, compared to Han’s 63. At 31 years old, she is still young but also has enough experience and a record to go with the experience. Her next fight will surely be an interesting one to watch.