The weekend of Friday November 5th to Saturday November 6th 2021 brought an astronomical amount of anticipation for combat sports fans. From live crowds back in the O2 in Dublin, to Madison Square Garden completing another chapter in their endless epic of fight history, this star-studded weekend did not disappoint. With every contest came queries after. You could argue that for the fans and pundits alike, we were all left with more questions than answers once the dust had settled in regards to what’s next for some these athletes. With that said, let’s take a look at each major event throughout the weekend and try and make sense of the chaos that unfolded.
Starting us off strong Friday Nov. 5th we had Bellator 270 in Dublin, Ireland headlined by a massive lightweight title bout between the hometowns Peter Queally and the Brazilian power house Patricky Pitbull Freire which saw the Brazilian silence the Dubliners with a 2nd round TKO that arguably sets up a trilogy bout between the two 55ers. Co-headliners Patchy Mix vs James Gallagher went tit-for-tat with their guillotine games with Mix proving to be the superior. It was a rough night for the Irish but not without cause. Mix’s win over Gallagher emphasizes the expanding depth in the Bellator Bantamweight division. Champion Sergio Pettis is looking for a new challenge sitting at the top of the division at 3-0. With Pitbull’s win over Queally, Bellator’s lightweight division becomes a bit less stagnant. Killers in the wait like Usman Nurmagomedov, Brent Primus, and Sidney Outlaw are all itching for a chance at Patricky, so the faster this trilogy between the Irishman and the Brazilian is settled, the faster we can get to possibly shaking up the divisions title race. Some of the questions that arose from the contests on Friday were as follows; is James Gallagher as good as we thought he was? Can Patricky beat AJ Mckee? Is Patchy Mix the real deal? Time will only tell in this case.
Saturday Nov. 6th brought UFC and combat sports fans one of the most anticipated events of the year with UFC 268. This event not only lived up to the hype, but defined some certainties that were more or less uncertain before the night began. One of those being; yes, Trevor Wittman is the best coach in mma at this moment in time. The Wittman trinity of Gaethje, Namajunas, and Usman was +300 on the night and it cashed. All three of the head coach’s main event fighters won their bouts in block buster performances. Gaethje delivered another fight of the year (all-time) candidate, as if we expected anything less, against Michael Chandler. Champions Rose Namajunas and Kamaru Usman both retained in definitive decision victories. Namajunas overcoming the chess match against her now division rival Zhang We Li and Usman conquering the chaos brought by Colby Covington. It’s evident the strides and improvements both champions have made under the tutelage of Wittman. You can tell his athletes trust him and the process he unfold and it is without a doubt, extremely fun to watch.
There are now a bevy of match ups to be made across the board now that the UFC 268 dust has settled. Starting with the lightweights; Gaethje has stamped his claim for the next shot at the title. Regardless of Makhachev’s dominant first round finish of Hooker last month, Justin Gaethje’s fan friendly, bonus flooding style of fighting will always favor over the technical dominance of the Dagestani. Does this mean feed Chandler to Makhachev then? Absolutely not. I think Dana knows what he has with both gentlemen. Fiscally speaking, the match up for Chandler is Connor. McGregor vs Chandler is a main event pay-per-view that easily sells over a million buys. If I’m Makhachev, I let the rest of the division play out until the spring. Once Ramadan passes, he takes the loser of Oliveira vs Poirier. If Makhachev wants to stay busy, then you give him another fight night main event against Dariush.
The biggest loser to come out of the Namajunas victory over We li was Carla Esparza. Commentators were quick to dismiss any challenge for Rose in the 115 lb. division, completely dismissing the run of wins Esparza has racked up in the last year and a half, on top of all ready having a win over the current champion. The short-sightedness emphasizes the lack in luster of competition in the straw weight division. The welterweight division however has never been clearer. 170 lbs. has their king in Kamaru Usman. After defeating Covington twice, taking out Masvidal and Burns, and already having a win over surging contender Leon Edwards, Usman owes the fans and pundits nothing. With that said, there are some incredible opportunities for the UFC match makers. Colby should get the winner of Masvidal vs Edwards regardless of the winner. We know Covington is salivating at another million dollar opportunity to sell the grudge match between him and Masvidal, but if Colby wants the title, he’ll need to sort his priorities out before picking his next opponent. The 170 lb. division is stronger than ever, and is arguable the most compelling in the promotion at this time. 268 proved that there is more to be settled within the unfolding physical dialog between these competitors.
Saturday night was not just for the cage fighting fanatics. The evening was capped off by one of the most important moments in the sport of boxing; an undisputed unification bout. The MGM Grand in Las Vegas was home to the 168 lb. undisputed title bout between the quick-handed American Caleb Plant and the Mexican power house that is Canelo Alvarez. Plant had Canelo putting puzzle pieces together for the early half of the fight. Plants consistent jab allowed him keep his fight on the outside in the attempts to bait Canelo for the perfect counter. Nevertheless, the legend that is Saul Canelo Alvarez persisted. The champion’s sustained power through the later rounds would be the defining factor in the bout. Canelo would go on to knock out Plant in the 11th round becoming the first unified 168 lb. champion in the division’s history. This cements Alvarez’s legacy as not just one of, if not the, greatest Mexican champions of all time, but pound for pound top 15 maybe 10 of all time boxing greats. When we look at what may be next for the p4p king, the champ may decide to enjoy the fruits of his labor for once considering the amount of activity he's put in the last two years. Fighters like Andrade or the Charlo twins don't seem to entice the champ like some may think. A rematch with long-time foe GGG makes no sense at this stage of their careers and David Benavidez doesn't seem to be able to make the weight at this moment in time. It's a fun time to be a boxing fan though, that's for sure. Whoever said boxing is dead is a liar.