Before the bell: February edition

Pound for pound champions collide amidst this months melee


Chingiz Allazov lines up devastating strikes as he moves in to finish Superbon at One Fight Night 6 on Amazon Prime (via ONE Championship)

This year is still off to a strong start in the combat sports world. During the month of February, multiple promotions are picking up the pace by providing even more exciting matches for fans to soak up. The UFC will offer up multiple top 10 match ups throughout the month, with an international trip to Australia featured during the center of the month. Meanwhile, both ONE Championship and Bellator are back again with thrilling events both overseas and close to home.

January decisively rang in the new year with big results from high stakes fights rounding off the end of the month, so before we move any further let’s recap what the month delivered.

January results (main event/co-main)

  • ONE Fight Night 6: Chingiz Allazov clashed with Superbon Singha Mawynn in the main event for the Featherweight Kickboxing World Championship. Allazov claimed the title after dispatching Superbon with a powerful second-round knockout. During the co-main event, Superlek Kiatmoo9 battled it out with Daniel Puertas to win the Flyweight Kickboxing Title by unanimous decision. Within a featured match Mikey “Darth Rigatoni” Musumeci retained his Flyweight Submission Grappling World Championship via unanimous decision against Gantumur Bayanduuren.
  • Strickland vs. Imavov: It was a quick return for Sean Strickland as the aggressive Middleweight headlined in the main event against Nassourdine Imavov. Strickland was able to apply his pressure with the jab and rapid strikes to win a unanimous-decision victory against the French prospect. The power of Dan Ige was on display when he abruptly won by stoppage due to a flush left hook toward the end of the second round against Damon Jackson.
  • UFC 283: The champion for the Light Heavyweight division was decisively crowned when Jamahal “Sweet Dreams” put on a crisp technical striking display to defeat Glover Texeira in the main event. Texeira laid his gloves down after the war and was able to retire from his storied career in his home country of Brazil. The fourth fight between Brandon “The Assassin Baby” Moreno and Deiveson Figueiredo was decided by doctor stoppage when a strike from Moreno in the second round damaged Figueiredo to the point of being unable to continue the next round.

February events and combat sports news

Bellator 290: Bader vs. Fedor 2

Bellator will have multiple championships on the line and host a retirement celebration for one of MMA’s most legendary fighters on Feb. 4, here in Southern California.

Fedor “The Last Emperor” Emalianenko is calling an end to his illustrious MMA career which started over 22 years ago and amassed 27 first-round finishes over notable fighters worldwide. Emalianenko is scheduled to face Ryan “Darth” Bader in a rematch of his abrupt 2019 loss to the current Heavyweight Champion. Bader has been respectful to the retiring legend but still plans to send him off with a loss rather than losing his belt.

The Middleweight Championship is also being contested with Johnny Eblen trying to defend his title against No. 3 Anatoly Tokov. Eblen made a dominant statement in his last performance after dethroning Gegard Mousasi to become champion. Meanwhile, Tokov is riding on a seven-fight winning streak since joining the promotion six years ago.

This can’t-miss event, with a plethora of legendary MMA fighters in attendance, is being broadcasted live on CBS at 6 p.m. from the KIA Forum in Inglewood.

UFC 284: Makhachev vs. Volkanovski

It will be a night to remember when the UFC returns to Australia on Feb. 11, for the first time since the COVID-19 pandemic began.

The bragging rights for pound-for-pound best in the world and Lightweight Champion will be on the line when Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski moves up in weight to showdown with Islam Makhachev. Volkanovski has looked unstoppable at Featherweight where he has remained a dominant champion, but the same could be said for defending champion Makhachev at Lightweight. The world will know exactly who is the best once these two battle it out in the main event.

The aforementioned Featherweight division will have its Interim Championship belt up for grabs during the co-main event. Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez has appeared determined since his return and looks to move forward in the division when he faces Josh Emmett, in what is aimed to be a tactical brawl with highlight reel implications. The winner will get to move forward to face Volkanovski once the champ returns to the weight class to unify the title.

This unforgettable night down under begins at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ PPV live from RAC Arena in Perth.

UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Sandhagen

Returning from an international showcase, the UFC will make their way back home to Nevada on Feb. 18, for an event highlighting the skills of possible future champions.

Top five contenders of the Bantamweight division will square off during this main event with title shot implications. Marlon “Chito” Vera will fight for this opportunity against Cory “Sandman” Sandhagen in a showdown that is destined to be surging with talent. Vera is on a four-fight win streak with two highlight-reel knockouts among his wins. Meanwhile, Sandhagen looked dominant in his last performance exhibiting tactical precision striking against a hardy opponent.

Women’s Flyweight Contenders are also scheduled to battle it out during the co-main event when Taila Santos clashes with Erin “Cold Blooded” Blanchfield. Santos will have something to prove since she is coming off an extremely close decision loss in her most recent fight where she challenged for the Flyweight title. On the opposite side, young 23-year-old Blanchfield is returning from her previous aggressive performance where she finished the fight by first-round submission.

This showcase of future talent will be live at 4 p.m. on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex in beautiful Las Vegas, Nevada.

ONE Fight Night 7: Lineker vs. Andrade 2

A heated rematch over who will be crowned the Bantamweight Champion is set to take place on Feb. 24, during the climax of a night full of high impact striking and various high-level combat sports.

John Lineker and Fabricio Andrade will continue right where they left off during their rematch on One Fight Night 7 (via ONE Championship)

The previous bout between John “Hands of Stone” Lineker and Fabricio “Wonder Boy” Andrade left questions unanswered, after a no contest ruling from the judge ended the fight prematurely. During the scrap, Andrade appeared to be heading towards becoming the new champion, but an accidental low blow ended the fight in the third round and shattered Lineker’s protective cup. The two will rematch to determine who deserves to be Bantamweight Championship during the main event.

Crisp and precise striking will be the key to victory for both combatants during the co-main event for the Featherweight Muay Thai Championship. Tawanchai PK. Saenchai is scheduled to defend his title for the first time against Jamal Yusupov in this thrilling matchup.

These two fights are at the pinnacle of a full night of competitive bouts loaded with rising talent. ONE Fight Night 7 will be featured on Amazon Prime Video and air in the U.S. on Friday, Feb. 24, live at 5 p.m. from Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand.

Francis Ngannou vacates the Heavyweight Championship and becomes a free agent

Over the past year most media and fans had speculated whether or not Francis Ngannou would return to defend his UFC Heavyweight Title. On Jan. 14, it was confirmed by UFC president Dana White, that the promotion had released the champion and would be waiving any matching clause in the previous contract.

An ESPN Article by Marc Raimondi specifically details Ngannou’s response from an interview with The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani. Ngannou said he was seeking more than money, and even specifically mentioned fighter healthcare, but the UFC showed little respect for his demands. In the interview, Ngannou said he has been contacted by multiple MMA promotions but is hoping to eventually box a big-name opponent like Tyson Fury or Anthony Joshua.

Jon Jones will make his return in vacant Heavyweight Championship Title Fight

In light of the previous news, the UFC announced that Jon “Bones” Jones will be making his MMA return to the Heavyweight division when he faces Ciryl “Bon Gamin” Gane in the main event of UFC 285. Jones had leaked out on Twitter towards the end of 2022 that he was ready for a return but could not find an opponent, and now after two years departed from the sport the MMA star will make his long-awaited return. He faces a tough task in Gane who claimed his shot at the title in September by decisively finishing brawler Tai Tuivasa.

Bellator set to host 2023 Lightweight Grand Prix Tournament

Bellator MMA will be offering fans another thrilling Grand Prix Tournament in 2023 when some of the promotion’s best Lightweight fighters match up to determine who is the best. It was promptly announced that the Lightweight Champion Usman Nurmagomedov will be competing in the tournament with his title at stake throughout the competition. The remaining contestants of the 2023 Bellator Lightweight Grand Prix Tournament will be; A.J. McKee, Patricky Pitbull, Tofiq Musayev, Benson Henderson, Alexander Shabliy, Sidney Outlaw and Mansour Barnaoui. The 2023 Grand Prix Champion will walk away with a life-changing $1 million in prize money.

ONE Championship looks to continue gathering attention with first live US event

It will be a sight to see when on May 5, ONE Championship heads to the 1stBank Center in Broomfield, Colorado for its first event on U.S. soil. The event will be headlined by a trilogy fight between Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson and Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes when they battle it out with the Flyweight Championship up for grabs. Both competitors hold a stoppage finish over one another, so this matchup is always guaranteed to be explosive. ONE has also announced Sage Northcutt will make his combat sports return among many other talented fighters that will be featured on the card. After making its deal with Amazon Prime Video in 2022, ONE Championship is continually taking its next steps into the U.S. market.

The event schedules are already getting packed for the second month of the year, so don’t forget some additional noteworthy matchups for February. Both these events happen on Feb. 25, first, Bellator returns to 3Arena in Dublin at 8:30 a.m. with a Welterweight Championship main event and second, the UFC will host a Light Heavyweight main event at 4 p.m. the same day.

Remember that the world of combat sports can be unpredictable at times, so all fight cards are subject to change due to unforeseen circumstances.

Catch us next month for all the combat sports events and news you can’t miss before the bell, and don’t forget, protect yourself at all times.