Before the bell: May edition

A debut on U.S. soil is set to go down


Jonathan Haggerty celebrates after dethroning Nong-O in the main event at ONE Fight Night 9. Via ONE Championshi.)

All the high-stakes action is heating up in time for spring, with a huge debut that is set to take place among the many other events happening this month. ONE Championship is bringing some of their top-talents and elite-level athletes to make their highly anticipated U.S. debut. Bellator will head overseas to France to showcase their fighters and continue the Lightweight Grand Prix. Another month where the UFC will be putting on multiple events and even kick it all off with a showdown for the Bantamweight Championship.

Before things get going, let’s take a look back at the thrills, the upsets and the heartbreak that took place during the jam-packed month of April with all the drama it had to offer.

April’s results: Main event and co-main

  • UFC 287: Israel Adesanya knocked out Alex Periera cold during the second round to win back the Middleweight Championship. Gilbert Burns outpaced Jorge Masvidal and claimed victory by unanimous decision in this contender matchup.
  • PFL 3 2023: Olivier Aubin-Mercer delivered a smothering pace against Shane Burgos to win by unanimous decision. Sadibou Sy made his return with a powerful knee that led to the TKO of Jarrah Al Silawi in round 2.
  • Holloway vs. Allen: Max Holloway did just enough to get the unanimous decision victory over Arnold Allen in an entertaining back-and-forth battle. It was a classic Edson Barboza performance when he delivered a knee from hell to finish Billy Quarantillo in the first round.
  • ONE Fight Night 9: Jonathan Haggerty delivered a stunning upset with a first round knockout of the Muay Thai legend Nong-O to secure the Bantamweight Championship. Halil Amir won via unanimous decision during a hard-fought battle with Maurice Abevi.
  • Bellator 294/295: During the main event of 294, Liz Carmouche retained the Flyweight Championship with an arm-triangle submission over Deanna Bennett. Then next night during the main event of 295, Patchy Mix won the Bantamweight Grand Prix with a knee in the first round that abruptly knocked out Raufeon Stots.

May’s events and combat sports news

ONE Fight Night 10: Johnson vs. Moraes 3

It will be a night for the history books when ONE Championship make their U.S. debut to kick off the month, a highly contested trilogy bout that is set to take place during the main event.

An amazing lineup of talented athletes fills up the roster for ONE’s U.S. debut. Via ONE Championship.

Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson is scheduled to defend the Flyweight Championship in a trilogy fight main event against Adriano “Mikinho” Moraes. During their first matchup, Moraes would catch Johnson with a grounded knee that led to the TKO victory. In the second fight, the tables were turned when Johnson delivered a beautifully timed flying knee to knock out Moraes and reclaim the championship. Now with each fighter holding a finish over the other, only time will tell who will emerge victorious.

The co-main event will be an intense stand-up battle between Rodtang Jitmuangnon and Edgar Tabares in the Muay Thai Flyweight Championship. The champion, Jitmuangnon, is one of the promotion’s biggest stars and always puts on entertaining brawls where he is not afraid to feel his opponent’s power. Tabares is a former WBC Muay Thai Champion, the first of Mexican descent, and hopes to make a big name for himself in his debut matchup after just recently signing with ONE Championship.

A full lineup of star-studded talent will round off the rest of the night including athletes like Stamp Fairtex, Mikey Musumeci, Roberto Soldic, Sage Northcutt and Aung La N Sang, to name just a few.

This U.S. debut will take place on May 5 at the 1st Bank Center in Broomfield, Colorado, with live coverage available to watch at 5 p.m. on Amazon Prime Video.

UFC 288: Sterling vs. Cejudo

The UFC starts early this month with a PPV offering that will include a showdown for the Bantamweight Championship and a last-minute fight booking that is sure to be nothing but fireworks.

Aljamain “Funk Master” Sterling wants to cement his legacy in the Bantamweight division by defending his title and defeating the division’s former champion Henry “Triple C” Cejudo. Sterling is returning off a shutout title defense performance where he dismantled the injured T.J. Dillashaw within two rounds. Cejudo has a lot to prove since he will be returning just short of a three-year retirement, with his last fight being a title defense of the championship that Sterling now holds.

When the co-main event was canceled last minute, fans were upset that UFC 288 was not going to be worth the investment. The promotion heard the uproar and quickly secured an exciting contender fight in the Welterweight division between Gilbert Burns and Belal Muhammad. Burns makes a quick return, 27 days after earning a victory on April’s PPV and this last-minute fight will actually be the top-contending Welterweight’s third fight of 2023. Muhammad is on top of a four-fight win streak with his last TKO victory happening back in October in Abu Dhabi.

Exciting fights from start to finish should make this a night to remember. Don’t miss this high-stakes event on May 6 from the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey. These exciting matchups and more can be witnessed live at 7 p.m. on ESPN+ PPV.

Bellator 296: Mousasi vs. Edwards

Bellator always seems to host the most electric and mind-blowing live events internationally and Bellator 296 looks to be no different with some key matchups taking place under the shadow of the Eiffel Tower.

During this night’s main event, Gegard Mousasi and Fabian Edwards will clash with title shot implications surely on the line for the Middleweight division. Mousasi is the former two-time Bellator Middleweight Champion and throughout his career has held six championships between different promotions. Mousasi lost his championship belt back in June, so there’s no doubt there will be a fire in the veteran, motivating him to climb back to the title. Edwards fought more recently in October and is riding a win streak of three fights, with another win here over the veteran Mousasi, he hopes it will propel him towards a title shot.

This highly competitive main card will be live on May 12 from Accor Arena in Paris, France. Don’t miss out on any of the early action as this event starts at 1 p.m. and can be viewed on Showtime here in the U.S.

UFC Fight Night: Rozenstruik vs. Almeida

The UFC is taking the show on the road for an exciting fight night in North Carolina with a powerful Heavyweight main event which will be broadcasted on ABC and has the potential to blow the roof off the venue.

Jairzinho “Bigi Boy” Rozenstruik is making his first appearance of 2023, in the main event against the rising prospect Jailton “Malhadinho” Almeida. Rozenstruik has been sitting near the pinnacle of the division for the last few years and will make his return after a 23-second flash KO in the first round of his last appearance. Almeida has unbelievable momentum behind him as he sits on top of a 13-fight win streak after finishing every single opponent before the bell.

The co-main event of the evening is so highly anticipated it was originally scheduled as the main event. Anthony “Lionheart” Smith makes his return against the always entertaining Johnny Walker. Smith has been a perennial contender and will be making his return after a leg injury during his last matchup in July which led to a TKO loss in round 2. Before the injury Smith had been on a three-fight win streak all by finish. Walker has been more active with two fights in the last seven months which have both been won by stoppage in the very first round.

The attention will be on the UFC on May 13 when they head to the Spectrum Center in Charlotte, North Carolina. This entertaining Fight Night will be broadcast live on both ESPN+ and simultaneously on the major network ABC, at an afternoon start time of 12:00 p.m.

BKFC 41 brought MMA star power to the bare-knuckle main stage

On April 29, all eyes in the combat sports world fell on Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship 41. BKFC had managed to secure very noteworthy former-UFC champions and contenders to headline this stacked PPV event.

BKFC was able to set up a star-studded card with a main event featuring Mike Perry and Luke Rockhold, as well as a co-main which included Eddie Alvarez vs. Chad Mendez. Perry and Rockhold garnered incredible hype and attention by making their rounds before the fight doing interviews, podcasts and live face-to-face interviews.

The main event ended in a lackluster fashion when Rockhold chose not to continue during the second round after having his teeth severely chipped and pushed back. Although during the co-main, fans were in for a treat as Alvarez and Mendez put on a possible “Fight of the Year” performance in an incredible back-and-forth war that saw Alvarez come out on top.

The night culminated in a moment that seemed like a fever dream when post-fight Mike Perry called out Conor McGregor from the audience to do a faceoff. The two squared off in front of a sold-out arena with McGregor even holding a BKFC Championship Belt over his shoulder during the stare down.

Where will Francis Ngannou end up now?

Early in the morning on May 1, news broke throughout MMA media that ONE Championship had taken their offer off the table for the former UFC Heavyweight Champion and free-agent Francis Ngannou.

ONE Championship CEO Chatri Sityodtong released a general public relations statement to multiple media sources stating that the offer was off the table and that a deal could not be reached due to conflicting matters that were due to “non-financial terms.”

On The MMA Hour, Ariel Helwani stated he spoke with Ngannou that same morning to clarify what ended up happening with the fallout surrounding the deal. Ngannou confided during a phone call with Helwani that when he attended the meeting he had already verbally committed to a third party which he chose not to name. It appears that due to the verbal obligation, no deal was ever offered by ONE Championship and in an attempt to control the narrative released the public relations statement which did not necessarily reflect the entire situation.

With Ngannou stating he could possibly be signing a deal as soon as this week, where could he end up? Ngannou has made it clear he wants to pursue both boxing and MMA, so only time will tell which promotion will sign him and offer the terms he is seeking for the future of his career.

Demetrious Johnson hints at possible retirement

Former inaugural UFC Flyweight Champion and current ONE Flyweight Champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson has a tough task ahead of him when he clashes with Adriano Moraes for the third time on May 5.

Recently, Johnson has been making the media rounds prior to his big fight and has hinted that this next fight could very well be his last. In an interview with The MMA Hour’s Ariel Helwani, Johnson said, “It’s definitely possible. … How much more do I need to do? How much more do I want to do?”

“We’ve relied on my body and athleticism to pay my bills. It’s time to start looking at other avenues to bring in revenue to sustain my lifestyle,” Johnson said. “So we’ll see, I’m going to go out there and fight. Win, lose, draw, I’m gonna go on vacation with my wife and kids, with my feet in the sand and sit back like, hey do I want to continue to fight or focus on something else.”

Johnson has been a professional fighter since 2009, and throughout his years has amassed many records in the UFC that still remain today, including most consecutive title defenses, most successful title defenses, most Flyweight title fights and most significant strikes landed in the Flyweight division.

Johnson truly is a pioneer of the sport when it comes to the lighter weight classes and the day he does choose to retire will be a true changing of the guard.

Who will be the next fight for Dustin Poirier?

Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier has been relatively out of the octagon spotlight since his submission victory over Michael Chandler at UFC 281 in November.

With Chandler scheduled to face McGregor in the finale of The Ultimate Fighter that takes two options off the table right there. Also, Beneil Dariush and Charles Oliveira will meet in the co-main of UFC 289, so that takes two more fighters out of the running for this matchup. Will Poirier end up fighting backward in the ranking or continue to sit out hoping for a title shot?

What lies ahead for this No. 2 ranked Lightweight Contender can only be speculated at this point, but on April 14, Poirier tweeted, “I want to fight.” A message straight to the point from the fighter that makes it clear he wants to get back into the octagon.

The message came just one day after the five-year anniversary of Poirier’s epic fight with Justin Gaethje that ended in a TKO finish back in 2018. Could the timing of the tweet be some type of cryptic message that Poirier is ready for the rematch? With Gaethje recently fighting in March that would mean another two to three months more that Poirier would have to wait until he can make his return.

It’s evident that MMA fans would love to see this rematch, but does it truly fit in with Poirier’s schedule and timing? Only “The Diamond” knows the answer to that and hopefully, we will all find out soon.

Spring is definitely in full bloom, and along with that, there are some pretty noteworthy matchups that are equally bountiful this month. From start to finish, the entertainment level will be at an all-time high leading into summer so stay tuned.

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 a final edition of “Before the bell,” with all the combat sports events and news you can’t miss before the bell, and don’t forget, protect yourself at all times.