Before the bell: March edition

Back-to-back events all month with championship fights across the board


Fabricio Andrade stuns John Lineker with a quick hook during the ONE Bantamweight Championship (Via ONE Championship).

The weather might be gloomy but the action is heating up in the world of combat sports as March rolls in loaded with explosive events. One of the UFC’s most dominant champions will make his return after a long hiatus and a later trip to London will settle a trilogy for the Welterweight title. Bellator travels to the west coast in order to kick off the Lightweight Grand Prix and ONE Championship returns with a powerful heavyweight fight to cap off a night full of highly skilled martial arts.

During February, fans witnessed a clash between the top pound-for-pound athletes in combat sports and some young rising stars who also made an impact, so let’s quickly review the battles that took place.

February results: (Main event and co-main)

  • Bellator 290: Ryan Bader defeated Fedor Emalianenko by TKO in the first round. Johnny Eblen won via unanimous decision against Anatoly Tokov

  • UFC 284: Islam Makhachev battled Alexander Volkanovski to claim victory by unanimous decision. Yair Rodriguez submitted Josh Emmet during the second round with a triangle choke.
  • Andrade vs Blanchfield: Erin Blanchfield sunk in a rear naked choke during the second round to defeat Jessica Andrade. Zac Pauga won a unanimous decision victory against Jordan Wright.
  • ONE Fight Night 7: Fabricio Andrade was victorious when John Lineker was unable to answer the bell for round five. Tawanchai P.K. Saenchai quickly stopped Jamal Yusupov in the first round with a leg kick TKO.

Early March results

  • UFC 285: Jon Jones quickly submitted Cyril Gane in the first round of the Vacant Heavyweight Championship. Alexa Grasso submits Valentina Shevchenko in the fourth to become the first Mexican Woman Champion.
  • Bellator 292: Usman Nurmagomedov finished Benson Henderson via submission in the first round of the Lightweight Championship. Henderson retired from his illustrious career after the loss. Alexander Shabliy was declared victorious after Tofiq Musayev was unable to continue fighting from an unintentional low blow.

March events and combat sports news

UFC 286: Edwards vs. Usman 3

The UFC is back twice in one month on Mar. 18 with an International PPV event and fans are eager for an anticipated championship rematch over 6 months in the making.

Leon “Rocky” Edwards shocked the combat sports universe with the shot heard around the world when he knocked out Kamaru Usman in the fifth round with a flush head kick during their last championship bout in August. Usman was delivering a smothering performance up until the shot which quickly ended his night. This action-packed trilogy main event will determine who will move forward as the Welterweight Champion to face a new batch of contenders that are surging to the top.

The Lightweight division of the UFC will be on display during the co-main event with possible title shot implications at stake. Justin Gaethje makes his eagerly awaited return after coming up short in his previous title fight in May and wants to prove he still deserves to be in the title picture. He faces Rafael Fiziev who is riding high on a 6 fight winning streak with 3 finishes and has his own plans to keep marching towards the championship.

The crowd will undoubtedly blow the roof off of The O2 Arena in London and all the scenes can be witnessed live at 2 p.m. on ESPN+ PPV.

ONE Fight Night 8: Superlek vs. Rodtang

ONE Championship is back when heavy hitting champions headline a monumental clash on Friday, March 24 live from Singapore.

Precision striking will be the theme during the main event when Superlek Kiatmoo9 defends his Flyweight Kickboxing Championship against Rodtang “The Iron Man” Jitmuangnon. Jitmuangnon holds the Muay Thai Championship in the same weight class but faces a tough task at becoming a double champion in kickboxing when he meets the world class striker Superlek in the center of the cage.

Multiple champions will have their belts up for grabs during ONE Championship’s monthly offering aimed at U.S. audiences (via ONE Championship).

Allycia Hellen Rodrigues is set to make her return to combat sports and hopes to utilize her new found “mom strength” to unify the Atomweight Muay Thai Championship. Rodrigues will be making her return to the sport after an over two year hiatus from the sport and faces the much more active Janet “JT” Todd. Todd claimed the interim title much more recently in July 2022 with a unanimous decision victory and wants to prove she is the top dog in the Atomweight division.

This live event is happening Mar. 24 at 5 p.m. on Amazon Prime Video from Singapore Indoor Stadium, and can be viewed at no extra charge to Prime Video subscribers.

UFC Fight Night: Vera vs. Sandhagen (AT&T Center in San Antonio Texas)

The UFC will wrap up the month’s events on Mar. 25 when surging combatants in both mens and womens Bantamweight meetup to determine who will advance further towards a title shot.

A top contender fight between Marlon “Chito” Vera and Cory “The Sandman” Sandhagen was unfortunately postponed in February, but is now scheduled to main event this upcoming fight night in Texas. Vera has been riding high on a four fight win streak since his loss to Jose Aldo in 2020 and is hoping a dominant performance will fast track him to the Bantamweight championship. Meanwhile Sandhagen is hoping to regain momentum after his last victory over Song Yadong and previous defeats back-to-back number one contender fights.

During the co-main event Holly “The Preacher’s Daughter” Holm and Yana “Foxy” Kunitskaya are scheduled to clash in a Bantamweight battle that could propel one of them to the top of the division. Holm is returning after a split decision loss in May 2022, and wants to secure a win so that she can keep progressing within the division. Kunitskaya is coming back from a one year and 7 months hiatus, and hopes that by dispatching Holm she can regain a spot in the rankings.

This exciting fight night is traveling to AT&T Center in San Antonio, Texas and will be broadcasted live at 4 p.m. on ESPN+ and ESPN.

Ukrainian Yaroslav Amosov defended his country before his title

The Ukrainian Champion Yaroslav Amosov returned to defend his Bellator Welterweight Championship in Dublin on Feb. 25. Although the battle in the cage was nothing compared to the battle that Amosov has faced for his country and his family. Bellator and Showtime combined to create a powerful video that displays how Amosov chose to defend his country after the Russian invasion of Ukraine on Feb. 24, 2022 before he chose to defend his title.

McGregor and Chandler announced as “The Ultimate Fighter” coaches

The coaches for “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 31 have been announced as Conor “Notorious” McGregor and “Iron” Michael Chandler. Fans have been anticipating a return from McGregor since his previous injury in 2021 but no one really expected a coaching experience on TUF that would lead to a showdown with the Lightweight contender Chandler. Chandler has been nothing but non-stop high stakes action since entering the UFC and although the date has not been announced, their showdown is already expected to be one of the biggest PPVs ever.

A pound for pound clash in the UFC leaves questions unanswered

MMA Media and fans expected more answers after the matchup of Alexander Volkanovski and Islam Makhachev at UFC 284 in Perth, Australia. After a very competitive back and forth war, the scorecard’s read out in favor of Islam Makhachev, but when the pound for pound rankings were released, the Dagestani fighter still remained below Volkanovski at No. 2. Now with the thoughts of a rematch on the horizon, fans are curious if a second victory from Makhachev will be enough to put him above Volkanovski on the pound for pound list. Yair Rodriguez claimed the Interim Featherweight Championship that same night in Perth, so now the attention falls back to Volkanovski to announce which division his next championship matchup will take place in.

A bill proposed in California aims to create a pension for retired MMA fighters

Former MMA Champion Ronda Rousey and CA Assemblymember Matt Haney met with ESPN’s Marc Raimondi to discuss a newly proposed bill that would create a pension for retired professional MMA fighters. Haney said, “[This bill] would put a small fee, one dollar per ticket that’s sold in our state, and put it into a pension fund that would be overseen by the State, so that when these fighters retire they will have something to be able to provide for themselves.” The full discussion with more details, including Former Champion Rousey’s support, can be seen in the following video from ESPN.

With the extreme toll that MMA does take on fighters, hopefully this newly proposed California bill will pass into law and be a sign of things to come for these athletes. In the upcoming future, athletes and fans alike will be interested to see if other states will follow the lead of the California Assembly to introduce their own legislation for MMA fighter pension plans.

Remember that the world of combat sports can be unpredictable, 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.