UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has long targeted 2021 as the year he would step up and try to become a double champion, but the plan has always been to challenge Jon Jones for the light heavyweight title.
But with Jones pursuing his first heavyweight fight, Adesanya will face it instead Jan Blachowicz on March 6 at UFC 259. After Jones vacated the title, Blachowicz stopped Dominick Reyes to win the belt in the second round on September 26th. Blachowicz was a tough underdog against Reyes, which proves he shouldn’t be overlooked against Adesanya who will likely be the betting favorite.
Is this the right step for Adesanya?
Adesanya will keep his middleweight title as he seeks to become just the fifth fighter in UFC history to hold two belts at the same time. But would that be good for both divisions or would it slow the momentum if the champion moves from one weight class to the next?
Speaking of stalled dynamics, Leon Edwards has not fought since July 20, 2019 as several fights failed, mainly due to the pandemic. He should fight the upswing Khamzat Chimaev on January 20th, but Chimaev came down with COVID-19. And that was after the fight was canceled when Edwards caught the virus. Should the UFC move on from this fight or postpone it?
ESPN reporters Brett Okamoto and Marc Raimondi take a look at these issues Anthony Pettis Joining the PFL to decide what is real and what is not.
Real or not: this is the right step for Israel Adesanya
Okamoto: Absolutely. Right now is the next challenger for Adesanya’s middleweight title Robert WhittakerPersonally, I’m higher than most in this rematch. I want to see it and I am giving Whittaker a real try at regaining the belt. But if Adesanya prefers the bigger fight that offers the chance to add “champion champion” to his already stellar resume, nobody can blame him.
I have always admired Adesanya’s tendency to seek a challenge. from having such frequent fights early in his UFC career to calling for a defense against Yoel Romero When no one really asked, this guy feared no one. And I see Blachowicz as a very, very difficult fight. In my opinion, a perfect 2021 means promotion against Blachowicz for Adesanya. a middleweight return for the Whittaker rematch; and then maybe a move back to light heavyweight Jon Jones.
Real or not, double champions are bad for the sport because they slow down the divisions
Raimondi: In some cases this may apply. It really is case by case. But I won’t say real. There were four fighters in UFC history who held two titles at the same time: Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier, Henry Cejudo and Amanda Nunes. I can’t really say that a division got worse after someone was a double champion. In some cases the departments got better. Since Cejudo was flyweight champion, the 125-pound weight class has been brand new. Without Nunes, there would most likely not even be a women’s featherweight division.
One of the reasons double champions haven’t slowed down the divisions is because the UFC pulled the trigger very well when they urged these defending champions to give up their belts. That is what McGregor did in 2016 after he hit Eddie Alvarez to win the easy title. Jose Aldo was promoted to undisputed champion after winning the subtitle by beating Frankie Edgar at UFC 200. Max Holloway In the end, he beat Aldo to become champion and a new star was born. The same thing happened to Cejudo, who had removed his belt before a fight between the two Deiveson Figueiredo and Joseph Benavidez in January. Figueiredo missed the weight but stopped Benavidez only to stop him again in a rematch in July. Figueiredo was a revelation in flyweight, the best finisher in division history.
In other words, these departments don’t have to slow down if the UFC doesn’t allow them. If Adesanya beats Blachowicz to win the light heavyweight title, he has options of what to do next. And the UFC too. If it makes sense, the PhD will do whatever it takes to make way for a new potential standout in a title fight.
Okamoto: A million percent should rebook the fight, and it looks like that will happen after the news came late Wednesday that the Michael Chiesa vs. Neil Magny The fight became the main event on January 20th.
This is a compelling – and unusual – matchup between a high-profile competitor – Edwards is ESPN’s No. 4 welterweight – and someone who has only had three UFC fights. But those three wins, all disruptions, put Chimaev on the fast track, and it is possible that the winner of that fight will get a title shot next.
I would have seen well if the UFC had found Edwards as an opponent because he needs a fight. We haven’t seen him in over a year. But this fight is so good, I understand the UFC wants to keep it.
Real or not: Anthony Pettis becomes PFL champion
Raimondi: Really. On paper, Pettis must be considered a favorite to win the PFL lightweight season and, in the end, the $ 1 million prize. PFL has signed some solid names for its 155-pound division for 2021, people like Marcin hero, Clay Collard and of course the two-time defending champion Natan Schulte. While a fight with Schulte would be very competitive – Schulte is very underrated – Pettis has a skill and experience that is above all others. If you want to say that Pettis is a little behind his prime and not the same fighter he was as the UFC lightweight champion in 2013 and 2014, that’s fine. One can argue that. But that doesn’t mean he’s not a championship level fighter.
Pettis might even be waiting for one Jorge Masvidal-like resurrection in the latter half of his career. “Showtime” cleaned up his party and became more of a family man, and he found a new love for Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu with acclaimed trainer Robert Drysdale in Las Vegas. Pettis looked great in a win Alex Morono on December 19th, and Pettis also owns a win over Donald Cerrone earlier this year. I mean, this is the same guy who blew a much bigger one Stephen Thompson in 2019. Pettis is able to easily beat almost anyone in the world. When he’s at his best, the Milwaukee native is still elite. It will be very interesting to see him outside of a UFC / WEC cage for the first time in 13 years. It wouldn’t be a shock if Pettis had one of those giant checks for $ 1 million on him in about a year.