As we sadly know all too well, the COVID-19 pandemic has played havoc with MMA fights, cancelling a number of UFC and Bellator cards, amongst others. Bellator 241 was cancelled and the UFC have cancelled three upcoming cards. We take a look at the four most important UFC fights that have been cancelled. We also give you some honourable mentions.
4 Most Important UFC Fights to be Cancelled due to COVID-19
1. Tyron Woodley Vs. Leon Edwards
Tyron Woodley vs Leon Edwards was supposed to headline UFC London. This was set to be a pivotal fight in the welterweight division and was arguably a #1 contender fight.
Former champion, Tyron Woodley made four successful defences of his welterweight belt before being dominated by Kamaru Usman. Many thought that he would have gotten a rematch following the defeat but it wasn’t to be. He was scheduled to fight Robbie Lawler in June of last year but had to withdraw with a hand injury. Woodley signed to fight Edwards as the UFC London headliner, however, as we know this fight hasn’t come to fruition. At 37, Woodley needs a big fight next, otherwise, father time could catch-up with him and ruin his chances at becoming a two-time welterweight champion.
Leon Edwards is arguably most hard done by from this situation. This was meant to be his coming-out party. The most deserving of a title shot, arguably in any division, it is hard to ignore Edwards any longer. The Brit is on an impressive eight-fight winning streak, including main event wins over Donald Cerrone and Rafael dos Anjos. With a win against Woodley, in his home country, it would have been hard to deny ‘Rocky’ a title shot. The champ, Usman also believes that Edwards ‘deserves a shot’ at the belt.
What is next for Woodley and Edwards? Hopefully, the UFC works out a way to re-book this fight as soon as possible. However, it looks as though Woodley has his eyes set on a grudge match with Colby Covington, not Leon Edwards.
2. Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik
Similar to the Woodley/Edwards fight, this match-up would have likely produced the next title contender. With both men tearing through the heavyweight division, the collision of these two stand-up powerhouses was sure to entertain.
Francis Ngannou hasn’t seen a second round since his 2018 loss to Derrick Lewis. Since then, he has finished Curtis Blaydes and former champions Cain Valasquez and Junior dos Santos all in the first round. We know that he holds scary power but when he faced Stipe Miocic for the belt in early 2018, he was exposed as very one dimensional. Miocic dominated him in the wrestling realm, leading to a dominant victory. It is important to remember that Ngannou had only been training for 5 years prior to his title shot and the improvements he’s made since then are likely to show should the two ever rematch.
Jairzinho Rozenstruik is one of the hottest prospects the UFC’s heavyweight division has seen in a long time. Undefeated at 10-0, ‘Bigi Boy’ has scary knockout power. With three knockouts in his first three UFC fights, Rozenstruik was ready for the main event. His shot came against the legend Alistar Overeem. In a fight where Overeem dominated, Rozenstruik was able to get a knockout with just four seconds remaining.
Following these two big hitters recent run of form, fans were salivating at the UFC Columbus main event. Two knockout artists facing off to becoming the #1 contender for the heavyweight belt. Simply put – Rebook it, please!
3. Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan
Originally planned for UFC 248, it was decided that Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan would be better placed as the UFC Portland co-main event. This would have been a brilliant fight to see if Shahbazyan has what it takes to hang with a veteran. It would have also given Brunson a chance to stop the hype train.
Brunson is often seen as a gatekeeper in the middleweight division. When Israel Adesanya defeated Brunson at UFC 230, it was seen as his coming out party. The underlying belief is that if you can’t beat Brunson, you won’t be able to hang with the best at 185. A veteran of 27 fights, including three main events, Brunson is extremely talented. He’s also currently on a two-fight winning streak and is ranked #8 in the 185lbs division. A win over the highly regarded Shahbazyan could catapult Brunson into the top 5.
Shahbazyan is arguably the hottest prospect in MMA today. At 11-0 and 4-0 in the UFC, Shahbazyan had a phenomenal 2019. He also has only seen the second round once in his career. This means he’s finished 10 opponents in the very first round. He notched a TKO finish in his second UFC bout, a submission in his third and a TKO in his fourth. These have come against established names. Charles Byrd, Jack Marshman and Brad Tavares have all fallen at the hands of ‘The Golden Boy’. At just 22 years of age, we very well could see him with a belt wrapped around his waist before he’s 30.
This fight has to be rebooked. The importance of this fight for the middleweight division is huge and it answers a lot of questions we have. Is Shahbazyan all that he is cracked up to be? Does Brunson have one more top 5 run left in him? These questions cannot be answered unless this fight goes ahead – Rebook it.
4. Vicente Luque vs. Randy Brown
Scheduled for UFC Portland, Vicente Luque vs. Randy Brown was a fight that was certainly going under the radar. This fight was important because we would see how Luque would bounce back from a dominant loss. We would also have the chance to see if Brown could hang with a top 15 ranked guy.
Luque had been on a tear in the build-up to UFC 244. He had won his previous six fights, picking up 5 finishes and two fight of the nights. He’d realised a top 15 position and was becoming an avoided man at 170lbs. Good wherever the fight goes, Luque is still a problem. He, unfortunately for him, ran into Stephen Thompson at UFC 244. Thompson dominated Luque 30-26 X 2 and 29-28. The Randy Brown fight was important for Luque as we would see how he bounced back from a disappointing loss. After his previous two losses in the UFC, he went on a tear and it would have been interesting to see if he could do the same again.
Randy Brown is still on 29 but has been a fringe top 15 guy for a long time. Whenever he gets close to cracking the top 15, however, he seems to slip up. With losses to Belal Muhammad and Niko Price which have really stunted his progression, Brown was looking to make it three wins in a row against Luque. His past two fights have shown what he can really do. He defeated Bryan Barbarena by TKO in June 2019, before finishing Warlley Alvarez in November. The latter earned him a performance of the night bonus.
This fight was one where we would have seen Luque try to bounce back from a disappointing loss. We would have also got to see how good Brown really is and would have got to see him tested against a solid opponent. Should this fight be re-booked? Possibly, but it wouldn’t be a surprise to see these men go their separate ways in search of an alternative fight.
Danny Roberts vs. Nicholas Dalby
This was a fight that got fans extremely excited. These two were almost guaranteed to get fight of the night at UFC London. Neither Danny Roberts or Nicholas Dalby are ever in a boring fight and from a fan’s perspective, we all hope that this one gets rebooked.
Alistar Overeem vs. Walk Harris
An important fight in some ways, it is a shame this one has to get cancelled. Originally scheduled for the UFC on ESPN 7 main event, Walt Harris withdrew from the event as a result of a family tragedy. This fight was rebooked for the main event of UFC Portland.
Harris certainly needs a fight to exorcise his demons. He has been out of action since July 2019. He is coming off the back of two back to back performance of the night bonuses. We certainly want to see Harris back soon, whoever it is against.
Tom Aspinall vs. Jake Collier
British fans, in particular, will be frustrated at having to wait for the UFC debut of Tom Aspinall. The Team Kabon prospect is 7-2 with seven finishes. He is the training partner of Darren Till and has also worked a lot with Tyson Fury. Aspinall has the skill and in a shallow heavyweight division, we could see him make waves very quickly. His opponent Jake Collier has been out of action since 2017 and was looking to make a triumphant return to the promotion.
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