The UFC’s return to action in 2021 is a busy one. After three weeks without fights, the promotion is holding three cards in the span of eight days in Abu Dhabi. The second one — sandwiched in between a huge featherweight main event between Max Holloway and Calvin Kattar and the UFC 257 Dustin Poirier vs. Conor McGregor blockbuster — is an event with some intrigue.
On Wednesday, Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny will headline UFC Fight Night in an important fight in the UFC’s always entertaining welterweight division.
ESPN has Chiesa ranked No. 10 in the world at welterweight. The winner of this fight will surely have big things ahead in 2021. Chiesa (17-4) has won three straight and is coming off a unanimous-decision win over Rafael dos Anjos in January 2020. The Washington native is 3-0 since his move to the welterweight division from lightweight in 2018. Chiesa, 33, has won six of eight overall.
Magny (24-8) has also won three in a row. Most recently, the New York native, who lives and trains in Colorado, impressively defeated former champion Robbie Lawler in August by unanimous decision. Magny, 33, has won five of seven overall. He went 3-0 in 2020 after being cleared by USADA of an anti-doping policy violation.
In the co-main event, Warlley Alves meets Mounir Lazzez in a battle of welterweight strikers. Alves (14-4) has dropped two of three and is looking to get back on track. Lazzez (10-1) has won three straight and is coming off a UFC debut win over Abdul Razak Alhassan in July.
Jeff Wagenheim and Marc Raimondi recap the action as it happens on Fight Island.
Fight in progress
Welterweight: Michael Chiesa (17-4, 10-4 UFC, +125) vs. Neil Magny (24-8, 17-6 UFC, -150)
Welterweight: Warlley Alves (15-4, 7-4 UFC) defeats Mounir Lazzez (10-2, 1-1 UFC) by first-round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Lazzez was the closest thing that fans at Etihad Arena had to a hometown hero in Wednesday’s 14 fights, but local fans had little to cheer about in the co-main event.
Alves was the aggressor from the start, and he never let up. He put Lazzez on his heels, and when the fighters broke out a clinch against the cage, Alves landed a left kick to the body, then another, then a third. Lazzez, clearly hurt, collapsed to the canvas and covered up as Alves pounced on him with strikes until the referee waved off the bout at 2:35 of Round 1.
For Alves, who is 30 and from Brazil, it was his first appearance in the cage since 2019, after being out with a torn biceps.
“I planned a lot for this moment,” Alves said. “I tore my biceps [and] say, ‘God, what happens now?’ God say, ‘Keep it going. Keep it going.’ I’m here. I’m back.”
Lazzez, a 33-year-old Tunisian who fights out of Dubai, about an hour’s drive from Abu Dhabi, saw his three-fight winning streak halted.
Afterward, Alves called out Nate Diaz, not simply because it’d be a high-profile fight but because Diaz uses marijuana.
“I prove, winner no use drugs,” he said. “Let’s go, Nate Diaz.”
Wow what a performance by Alves! Very aggressive! On point! 👌🏾👌🏾 #ufcfightisland8
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) January 20, 2021
Light heavyweight: Ike Villanueva (17-11, 1-2 UFC) defeats Vinicius Moreira (9-5, 0-4 UFC) by second-round KO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Moreira came in with an inside leg kick and was about to follow up with a big right hand. Villanueva saw it coming the whole way.
Villanueva ate the leg kick while going for a left hook and then swung for his own overhand right. He beat Moreira to the punch. Villanueva connected for a knockout win 39 seconds into the second round. Referee Jaosn Herzog was quick to call the bout when Moreira hit the floor.
Moreira had a very solid first round. He was kicking to the legs and body and landing some punching combination. Villanueva, meanwhile, seemed to be headhunting. He did land a big right hand in the first. But the strategy really paid off in the second when he absolutely blasted Moreira on the counter.
“Swangin’ and bangin’, baby,” Villanueva said in his postfight press conference. “Yes sir! I knew it was gonna come. That’s what got me to the UFC, that overhand right.”
Villanueva, 36, snapped a two-fight losing streak and earned his first UFC victory in three tries. The Texas native is the former Fury FC light heavyweight champion. Moreira, a 31-year-old Brazilian, has dropped three straight and is still in search of his first UFC win.
Women’s flyweight: Viviane Araujo (10-2, 4-1 UFC) def. Roxanne Modafferi (25-19, 4-7 UFC) via unanimous decision
The UFC women’s flyweight division might have a new contender.
In a bout she dominated early, Araujo outlasted Modafferi via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27) in a key bout in the 125-pound division. Modafferi had moments late and is tough to put away, but Araujo outclassed her early and nearly closed up both of Modafferi’s eyes with punches.
“I worked a lot on my boxing,” Araujo said in her postfight interview. … “I was just always one step ahead.”
— GILBERT BURNS DURINHO (@GilbertDurinho) January 20, 2021
Araujo came out in the first round and showed herself as the superior striker. She cracked Modafferi over and over with combinations, showed a great jab and briefly dropped Modafferi in the first. The second was a lot of the same, but Modafferi had some hope. She briefly caused Araujo to stumble with strikes. But Araujo landed a takedown to stymie Modafferi’s offense. Modafferi was bleeding near her right eye by the end of the round.
In the third, Araujo landed some hard right hands, but slowed down a bit. Modafferi hit a takedown and some blitzing combos. But it was not nearly enough. Araujo landed a big takedown with a minute left and rode out the rest of the round on top.
Araujo, 34, has now won two in a row and seven of her last eight. The Brazil native has just one UFC loss, to former UFC women’s flyweight title challenger Jessica Eye. Modafferi, 38, is one of the most tenured women’s fighters in MMA history. The Las Vegas resident has alternated wins and losses going back to 2017. Modafferi has been a pro MMA fighter for 17 years and has 43 pro fights.
Watch this fight on ESPN+.
Men’s flyweight: Matt Schnell (15-5, 5-3 UFC) def. Tyson Nam (20-12-1, 2-3 UFC) by split decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Schnell was knocked out in his last fight, but he had absolutely no fear against one of the most dangerous power punches in the division.
In a close flyweight contender bout, Schnell edged out Nam via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28). The whole fight was spent standing, which one would imagine would have worked in Nam’s favor. But Schnell landed more with combinations and befuddled Nam throughout.
When Nam landed, he was surely the heavier puncher. But Schnell peppered with him combos beginning in the first round. Whenever Nam through a big right hand, Schnell returned fire with a counter combination. By the end of the first round, Nam was cut by his right eye.
Schnell’s best round might have been the second, where he landed beautiful left hooks, a long combination late in the round and a big right hand. Nam rallied in the third with some hard combinations, especially one late against the cage. But it was not enough.
Schnell, 31, has won five of his last six fights. The Mississippi native, who trains at Fortis MMA in Dallas, was coming off a knockout loss to Alexandre Pantoja in December 2019. Nam, a 37-year-old Hawaii native, had his two-fight winning streak snapped.
Men’s featherweight: Lerone Murphy (10-0-1, 2-0-1 UFC) def. Douglas Silva de Andrade (26-4, 4-4 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Murphy postured up from guard and landed solid ground and pound as the bell sounded to end the final round. It was the finish he needed to seal a big win.
The undefeated Murphy beat Silva de Andrade by unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27) in a featherweight bout. Silva de Andrade put Murphy in trouble several times with his power — including a brutal left hook to the body in the second round — but Murphy was more effective over the duration of the bout.
— Angela Hill (@AngieOverkill) January 20, 2021
Murphy invested early in calf kicks and that paid dividends later in the bout. Silva de Andrade’s offense is built on blitzing in with combos and Murphy was able to evade him while also chopping down that leg and limiting his mobility. Silva de Andrade landed a blitzing combo and a big overhand right in the third round before Murphy got him down against the cage and landed punches from the top.
Murphy, 29, is 2-0-1 now in the UFC. The England native debuted with a draw against Zubaira Tukhugov in 2019 and has won two straight since. Silva de Andrade, a 35-year-old Brazilian, has alternated wins and losses in his last six fights.
Middleweight: Omari Akhmedov (21-5-1, 9-4-1 UFC) def. Tom Breese (12-3, 5-3 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Breese got a little too freewheeling going for leg locks. And Akhmedov made him pay.
Late in the first round, Breese dropped for leg locks twice and ended up on Akhmedov’s back to close out the frame. In the second, though, Akhmedov saw it coming. After Breese dropped for a leg lock on a takedown attempt, Akhmedov got on top, locked in an arm-triangle choke and finished via submission at 1:41 of the second round.
Well done my guy Omari !!
— Chito Vera (@chitoveraUFC) January 20, 2021
“I was working on that submission every day 100 times,” Akhmedov said through a translator. “So my coach told me I have to finish with this submission.”
Most of the fight consisted of grappling exchanges, which was somewhat strange considering Breese is known for his boxing. Breese definitely had success on the ground in the first with multiple submission attempts and some ground and pound. But Akhmedov has a sambo background and is dangerous down there. Breese paid the price.
Akhmedov, 33, has won six of his last eight fights and one of those during that stretch was a draw. The Dagestan, Russia native only has one loss since 2016, to former middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
Breese, a 29-year-old England native, has split wins and losses in his last five fights.
Men’s bantamweight: Ricky Simon (17-3, 5-2 UFC) def. Gaetano Pirrello (15-6-1, 0-1 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Simon was a step ahead in the standup early on and seized control on the canvas on the way to ending it with an arm triangle choke at the 4-minute mark of Round 2.
Simon, 28, from Vancouver, Washington, has won two in a row. He scored seven takedowns.
“I’m just one of those guys that’s not going away,” Simon said. “I can fight the best any given night, or if those guys are busy they can throw whoever they want at me like tonight. I’m going to do what I do.”
Pirrello, a 28-year-old from Belgium, saw a two-fight winning streak end in his UFC debut.
Men’s flyweight: Su Mudaerji (14-4, 3-1 UFC) def. Zarrukh Adashev (3-3, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Mudaerji used his mile-long reach to keep the fight at a distance from where he could control the exchanges and land more volume in all three rounds, winning his second in a row.
— jimmy flick (@jimmyflick) January 20, 2021
The 25-year-old from Tibet stands 5-foot-8, tall and lean for a flyweight. His reach and his footwork left Adashev often swinging at air. One judge gave Mudaerji all three rounds, while the two others had it 29-28.
Adashev, a 28-year-old from Uzbekistan who fights out of Brooklyn, has lost both of his UFC fights.
Middleweight: Dalcha Lungiambula (11-2, 2-1 UFC) def. Markus Perez (12-5, 2-5 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Lungiambula used power and patience to get back on track after seeing a long winning streak end in his last fight.
That fight happened way back in 2019, though, when the 35-year-old South African saw a run of six straight wins come to a close. He avoided that fate this time by throwing with power, taking the fight to the canvas and controlling Perez there. He landed some shots from top position and avoided multiple submission attempts by Perez.
— KAMARU USMAN (@USMAN84kg) January 20, 2021
Perez, 30, from Brazil, has lost five of his seven UFC bouts, including his last three. He had moments in this fight where he put his opponent in danger on the canvas, but by the end he was bloodied and no longer showing the urgency to turn the fight his way.
All three judges scored the bout 29-28 for Lungiambula.
“I feel like I’m an ambassador for my country,” Lungiambula said. “That motivates all my people that everything is possible. You have to believe and work hard.”
Men’s flyweight: Francisco Figueiredo (12-3-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Jerome Rivera (10-4, 0-2 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Figueiredo built a lead by calmly controlling the first two rounds before hanging on against an increasingly aggressive Rivera to take the decision (29-28 on all three cards) for his third straight victory.
Figueiredo, the 31-year-old brother of UFC men’s flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo, was not as active as his opponent but was far more efficient. In Round 1, for example, he threw fewer than half the strike attempts of Rivera, but landed at a far higher clip. The second round showed an even more dramatic difference, with Figueiredo landing at 72% to Rivera’s 15%.
Beautiful takedowns by Figueiredo. #UFCFightIsland8
— Claudia Gadelha (@ClaudiaGadelha_) January 20, 2021
But Rivera, who is 25 and from Santa Fe, New Mexico, turned up his aggression in the final round and made Figueiredo work for it. In the end, though, Rivera was left with his second loss in two UFC outings.
“I’m very happy to finally have my first fight in the UFC,” Figueiredo said. “It didn’t go the way I wanted, but it was a victory. You’re going to see me the next time. I look forward to coming back and showing who is Francisco Figueiredo.”
Lightweight: Mike Davis (9-2, 2-1 UFC) def. Mason Jones (10-1, 0-1 UFC) by unanimous decision (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
Jones walked into the cage for his UFC debut undefeated, and he left the cage with his first career loss. But he was no loser.
In a back-and-forth fight that left both fighters drained, it was a hungry Davis who got his hand raised for his second straight win in the Octagon — wins separated by 15 months.
Davis, a 28-year-old from Orlando, Florida, had not competed since October 2019, when he scored his first UFC victory. Since then he’d had a couple of bookings canceled. He made up for lost time in these three rounds, getting the better of early exchanges and holding off a surging Jones as the fight wore on.
This fights better than morning coffee
— Belal Muhammad (@bullyb170) January 20, 2021
Jones, who is 25 and from Wales, never stopped moving forward and was dangerous to the end. Before coming to the UFC, he reigned as a Cage Warriors champ at both lightweight and welterweight.
“2020, I’m going to say it again, was the worst year of my life,” Davis said. “I was injured from January all the way through December. I called my manager and said I need to fight. Any name you have is, the answer is yes. When he said Mason Jones, I said yes. I didn’t know who he was. I didn’t care who he was. I was forced to look up who he was — a multi-time Cage Warriors champion, 10-0 undefeated and taking people out in every type of way. For me to go in there after a year layoff and pull off that victory, it means the world to me. It wasn’t close. I won that fight. I feel so good about that.
“I want to get back, heal, talk my coaches about my nutrition and then I want to climb the ladder,” Davis continued. “I want a long lasting career. I want to be the guy who fought everybody.”
According to UFC Stats, Jones outlanded Davis 117-108 in significant strikes. However, Davis was the more accurate striker, landing 52% to Jones’ 37%.
Men’s bantamweight: Umar Nurmagomedov (13-0, 1-0 UFC) def. Sergey Morozov (16-4, 0-1 UFC) by second-round submission (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
You’ve heard it before: Nurmagomedov wins to remain undefeated.
But this Nurmagomedov was a newcomer to the Octagon, the 25-year-old cousin of Khabib Nurmagomedov. He’s a wholly different fighter from the UFC lightweight champion, utilizing kicks and slick standup to do early damage before going to the Nurmagomedov family’s bread and butter — wrestling — to secure the victory.
— Aljamain Sterling (@funkmasterMMA) January 20, 2021
Nurmagomedov, who last fall was named the 10th best fighter under age 25 by ESPN, used his fifth takedown of the fight midway through Round 2 to put himself in dominant back position, from where he sunk in a rear-naked choke to end it at 3:39.
“I’m very happy,” Nurmagomedov said. “All my hard work has paid off. I have a lot of work ahead. I have to keep working.”
Morozov, who is 31 and from Kazakhstan, had won five in a row coming into what was also his UFC debut.
Women’s flyweight: Manon Fiorot (6-1, 1-0 UFC) def. Victoria Leonardo (8-4, 0-1 UFC) by second round TKO (Watch this fight on ESPN+)
The festivities opened with a meeting of two flyweights making their UFC debuts, with just one of them looking the part.
Fiorot looked like she’d been there before, using front kicks to maintain distance, short punches to greet every Leonardo advance, and aggressive flurries to damage her opponent. The 30-year-old from France finished the job with a relentless assault against the cage as Leonardo covered up while still standing. That prompted the referee to step in at 4:08 to wave it off and give Fiorot her sixth straight victory.
Impressive performance there fiorot #UFCFightIsland8
— Baldy Ed (@brianboom135) January 20, 2021
“This is exactly how I wanted to start in the UFC,” Fiorot said. “This was perfect.”
Leonardo, a former Bellator and Invicta FC fighter who’s 30 and from Shreveport, Louisiana, saw her two-fight winning streak ended in a fight in which she never got on track.