Before the bell: April edition

Multiple promotions are back in full force


Allycia Hellen Rodrigues throws a vicious strike as Janet Todd does her best to defend during One Fight Night 8 (via ONE Championship).

There is plenty to be excited about as April is overloaded with combat sports action from start to finish. The Professional Fighters League will make its return by kicking off the promotions 2023 regular season in Las Vegas and ONE Championship continues to provide skilled martial arts action for their U.S. audience. Bellator will host a pair of back-to-back events which will culminate in the crowing of a Grand Prix Champion. The UFC is putting in overtime by hosting four different events which includes a headlining scrap between rivals for the Middleweight championship that is set to kick off the month.

There is something to watch every single weekend for fight fans, but before we get caught up in this month’s festivities, let’s take a quick look back at the intense battles and technical matchups we saw unfold during March’s events.

March results (Main event and co-main)

  • UFC 286: Leon Edwards retained the Welterweight Championship against Kamaru Usman with a hard-fought majority decision victory. Justin Gaethje battled it out in a war against Rafael Fiziev to walk away with a decision win after three rounds.
  • ONE Fight Night 8: Superlek Kiatmoo9 defended his Flyweight Kickboxing Championship with a knockout of Danial Williams in the third round. Allycia Hellen Rodrigues unified the Atomweight Muay Thai Championship after claiming victory over Janet Todd via unanimous decision.
  • Vera vs. Sandhagen: Cory Sandhagen put on an impressive display of his skillset as he secured the victory over Chito Vera by split decision. Holly Holm proved why she stays at the top of the division when she defeated Yana Kunitskaya-Santos by unanimous decision.

April events and combat sports news

UFC 287: Pereira vs. Adesanya 2

The UFC returns to Miami with a headlining matchup that will attempt to settle an intense rivalry between two athletes that has spanned for more than six years over two different combat sports.

Alex “Poatan” Pereira and Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya will clash for the fourth time in the span of their combat sports careers during the main event at UFC 287. In November, after Pereira climbed the UFC ranks, he faced Adesanya for the Middleweight Championship and won via TKO stoppage in the fifth round of the fight. Adesanya is hungry to reclaim the title and prove he can figure out the puzzle Pereira presents for his fighting legacy.

An intense matchup will take place during the co-main event with a possible top contender position up for grabs in the Welterweight division. Gilbert “Durinho” Burns is making a quick return from his late January performance where he won with a quick first round submission. Burns faces Jorge “Gamebred” Masvidal who returns from a one year hiatus and wants to get back on track after a trio of losses to the very top of the division.

The month is truly off to a strong start with this PPV that is stacked with talent. It all goes down live on ESPN+ PPV on April 8, at 7 p.m. from Miami-Dade Arena in Florida.

PFL 3 2023: Welterweights & Lightweights

During the month of April, the PFL returns with multiple events to kick off its regular season of competition, where the Welterweights and Lightweights will have their very first matchups of the season.

Olivier “The Canadian Gangster” Aubin-Mercier will face off against “Hurricane” Shane Burgos during the Lightweight main event. Aubin-Mercier returns, looking to continue where he left off after winning the Lightweight Championship in 2022. This matchup will be the PFL debut of Burgos, who recently left the UFC in July of last year while on a two fight winning streak in order to test out free agency.

The returning Welterweight Champion Sadibou Sy is back to compete against Jarrah Al Silawi in their first matchup of the regular season. Sy had a clean sweep during the 2022 season after winning all 4 bouts including the $1 million in prize money. Al Silawi wants to make a big statement after coming up short last season, the Jordanian fighter figures he can do this by defeating the returning champ early on.

This Welterweight and Lightweight showdown can be caught live on April 14, at 4 p.m. on ESPN+ from The Theatre at Virgin Hotels in Las Vegas. With multiple events happening in April, including April 1 and April 7, the PFL details all these events along with the entire 2023 season in the following video preview.

UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs. Allen

An electric fight night is scheduled this month when the UFC travels to Missouri for a stacked event full of elite skill and talent from the promotion.

Former Featherweight Champion Max “Blessed” Holloway will make his return against the surging Arnold “Almighty” Allen during the main event. Holloway is back after losing via unanimous decision in July during his latest attempt to regain the title and is ready to show why he is still at the top. Allen has been on an unbelievable 12-fight win streak that dates all the way back to 2014 and wants to show the world he is ready for his first shot at gold.

During the co-main event Light Heavyweight’s Tanner Boser and Ion Cutelaba are on a collision course which could land the winner a ranked opponent in their next outing. Boser is returning after a split decision loss in September that became an all-out war before it was over. His opponent Cutelaba always comes with an aggressive and intimidating showing, it is always kill or be killed and he has shown that by being finished in his last three fights against top competitors.

This combat sports showdown is going to be live on April 15, at 5:30 p.m. from the T-Mobile Center in Kansas City and will be broadcasted live on both ESPN and ESPN+.

ONE Fight Night 9: Nong-O vs. Haggerty

ONE Championship will make another exciting return to Thailand with a night that is jam packed full of high stakes martial arts matchups.

The main event will be a highly contested battle between two world class strikers as Nong-O Hama defends his Bantamweight Muay Thai Championship against Jonathan Haggerty. The Thailand Muay Thai legend Nong-O has been perfect since reaching ONE with 10 victories total and the five most recent bouts ending in a finish. Haggerty has been on a three-fight winning streak and wants to use that momentum to carry him toward another Muay Thai title.

Elite strikers will showdown for the Bantamweight Muay Thai Championship at ONE Fight Night 9 (via ONE Championship)

Within the co-main event, two undefeated MMA athletes will square off in a Lightweight showdown that will hand someone their first loss. Halil Amir has eight wins so far in his pro career and none of those have ever made it to the judges. It is a similar story on the other side of the cage, where Maurice Abevi has six professional wins and has never even seen the third round. With a 100% finish rate from both fighters, fans won’t want to blink during this one.

The energy is always off the charts at Lumpinee Boxing Stadium in Bangkok and it can all be witnessed live on April 21, at 5 p.m. on Amazon Prime Video.

Bellator 294 & Bellator 295: Back to back in Hawaii

It’s an annual tradition when Bellator hosts multiple events on The Hawaiian Islands and to cap it all off, one fighter will walk away as the Bantamweight Grand Prix Champion.

During the main event of Bellator 294 on April 21, Liz Carmouche is set to defend her Flyweight Title in a rematch against Deanna Bennett. It has been nearly three years since the two fighters first fought and both are eager to show how much they have improved since the first meeting. Carmouche is returning to the cage after her recent submission victory title defense in December. The challenger Bennett is riding a three-fight win streak since her loss to Carmouche in 2020, and wants to get the loss back in dominant fashion.

Bellator 295 takes place the next night on April 22, and will culminate with the Bantamweight Grand Prix Finals during the main event, where one combatant will walk away with the Interim Bantamweight Championship and $1 million. Raufeon Stots and Patchy Mix have both dismantled top-tier opponents on their way to the finals of this grueling eight man tournament and now it all comes down to this moment. This high stakes matchup will land one victorious fighter the chance to unify the Bantamweight Championship later on this year.

Bellator always provides an unforgettable experience for Hawaiian fans and both cards are going to be events that fight fans won’t want to miss from top to bottom. These back-to-back events will both be happening from Blaisdell Center in Honolulu and can be viewed live on April 21 and 22, at 4 p.m. on Showtime.

International Fight Week might have some explosive potential matchups

Although no headlining matches have been officially confirmed, International Fight Week will feature UFC 290 on July 8, and could potentially be a legendary night with some of the best fighters in the sport.

When UFC 285 came to a close Jon “Bones” Jones wasted no time calling out the former Heavyweight Champion Stipe Miocic. Both Miocic and Jones made it clear they both have their eyes set on International Fight Week. Miocic has been absent from the octagon for just over two years and Jones just recently made his return in early March from a similar break to claim the current Heavyweight Championship.

If a Heavyweight Title Fight is going to possibly headline UFC 290, then the deal will need to be signed soon or fans might miss out on a one of a kind Heavyweight main event for fight week.

PFL Europe highlights a new crop of talent

Some highly talented fighters are making their way into the regular season format that the PFL has to offer in PFL Europe. An announcement from PFL stated, “The inaugural PFL Europe season roster features 32 fighters from 14 countries competing across 4 weight divisions in the PFL SmartCage.”

If the first event in Newcastle on March 25 was any sign of what’s to come, then fight fans are in for a treat as there was a 70% finish rate throughout the night with some very impressive prospects making a noticeable impact. The first PFL Europe season will feature athletes in the Light Heavyweight, Lightweight, Bantamweight and Women’s Flyweight divisions and will crown four new champions with a chance to move on and compete in the global season for $1 million.

The next scheduled regular season event for PFL Europe will be on July 8 when combatants square off at Verti Music Hall in Berlin, Germany. In a new partnership PFL also announced the European League will be available to watch live on DAZN for “viewers in select countries.”

Muhammad Mokaev still wants to break UFC record

The undefeated Flyweight fighter Muhammad “The Punisher” Mokaev had an impressive comeback victory at UFC 286 on March 18 when he survived a gruesome kneebar submission from Jafel Filho which had his leg bending the wrong direction. Mokaev has previously stated on numerous occasions that he wants to break the UFC record held by Jon Jones when he became the youngest champion ever at 23.

Right now, the 22-year-old Mokaev sits ranked at No. 12 in the Flyweight division but has about 11 months left to climb his way to the top in order to break that impressive record held by Jones. Mokaev recently released the info that his injury from the submission at UFC 286 is a partial MCL tear and that he should be back in time for summer. With four UFC wins so far, Mokaev will need to continue having dominant performances if he hopes to reach a title shot in time to cement himself in the record books.

Patricio “Pitbull” seeks to become a three division champion in Bellator

It was just recently announced that the co-main event for Bellator 297 will be a “Super Fight” between the Featherweight Champion Patricio “Pitbull” Freire and Sergio Pettis for the Bantamweight Championship on June 16 in Chicago. “Pitbull” is currently ranked No. 1 on the Bellator pound-for-pound rankings and a win here will make him not only a double champion, but the very first fighter to ever be a champion in three different weight classes from a major professional MMA promotion. Whoever ends up winning will have their first title defense already lined up as they must face the winner of the aforementioned Bantamweight Grand Prix Finals in order to unify the Bantamweight Championship Belt.

Benson Henderson fully supports his wife’s professional MMA career

Maria “Mouse” Henderson made her Bellator MMA professional debut on March 31 against Mackenzie “Mack Judo” Stiller. The night did not go Henderson’s way though as she was promptly submitted by Stiller within the first round.

Henderson addressed the performance on Instagram honestly by stating, “I can’t really say much. I had a really horrible performance. … one second guess and the tide changed quickly. I’m sorry to everyone I let down. I’ll be back better.”

The next test for the newly debuted Bellator fighter will be to learn from this first loss and get back in the win column which she sounds optimistic about.

“@bensonhenderson we are still taking over the World,” Henderson said to wrap up her post.

If the name looks familiar that’s because she is the long time supporter and wife of the former WEC and UFC Lightweight Champion Benson “Smooth” Henderson who just recently retired from his own professional fighting career which spanned nearly 17 years.

“Catching Lightning” tells an unbelievable story intertwined with MMA

Although violence is synonymous with the sport of MMA, many people would never think of bank robbery and kidnapping at all.

“Catching Lightning” tells the story of “Lightning” Lee Murray who was actually in the UFC in 2004 but was convicted for one of the largest cash bank heists that the world has ever seen. Murray was a Middleweight who fought his way up to the UFC over a five-year career and would even lose a decision to Anderson “The Spider” Silva in his final fight in the promotion Cage Rage.

Murray would inevitably be arrested for his involvement in the Securitas Depot robbery in June 2006, which was less than two years from his last fight. This unbelievable story of Murray’s life and a heist that parallels blockbuster action movies will premiere on Showtime on April 7.

April is truly going to be overwhelming for MMA and combat sports fans, in the best way possible. Make sure to double check your fight schedules and get your time-off requests ready because you don’t want to miss any of these high stakes events all month long.

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.