The Safety Bubble – Fight Island Recap
The fabric of the world has been torn apart by the pandemic that is — COVID-19. From the start, President of the UFC, Dana White adamantly maintained fights would continue as per usual. After the dramatic shutdown of Las Vegas, White found it necessary to look elsewhere to house the octagon. Since the two entities have done business in the past, White and the United Arab Emirates, also with multiple companies came together to deliver a fighting paradise as no one has ever seen. Inside a ten-mile radius safety bubble, citizens, staff, and athletes are protected. During the pandemic era, this is the second time the UFC has come to Abu Dhabi to host fights. An ambitious goal, the company amassed five events this time with some amazing cards. The five-event stretch in Abu Dhabi was a success, hosting exciting match ups with a variety of international talent.
UFC 253 – Recap
UFC 253 kicked off fight island with extreme heat behind two title fights. The action was wholesale with Israel Adesanya facing undefeated, Paulo Costa in a grudge match. Before that monumental event, the vacant light heavyweight belt is up for grabs, when former title challenger, Dominic Reyes squares off against the Polish powerhouse, Jan Blachowicz. The night turned out to be truly magical. Blachowicz put on a display, ultimately stopping Reyes via strikes in the second round, which lit up American and Canadian sports betting sites.
Bad blood boiled over when both undefeated athletes finally stepped into the cage. Most expected violence, but the middleweight championship was a one-sided beatdown. Adesanya surpassed expectations and finished the Brazilian with the same type of hook he nailed Robert Whittacker with to win the undisputed title. Before that, he utilized range and launched kicks that slowly dismantled Costa. Not knowing where the next strike was coming from, Costa succumbed to the pressure also losing by TKO in the second round. The five-event stretch in Abu Dhabi was already proving that the secluded environment was creating special moments for athletes inside the cage.
Second of Five Event Stretch In Abu Dhabi
Fight Night Holm Vs. Aldana
Certainly, a hard act to follow, the former champions took over this fight night. Former bantamweight champ, Holly Holm, and former featherweight champ, Germaine de Randamie showed off how well-rounded they have become. Perhaps the biggest surprise of the night, came when Randamie locked up the second submission win of her career via guillotine. On top of what was an already impressive performance, Randamie submitted grappling ace, Juliana Pena to put a stamp on it.
In the main event, Holm showed her veteran skills with a rounded out takedown game. Also, Holm showed her conditioning to be a weapon. Aldana fell behind massively on the scorecards, and by the third round, Holm was comfortably controlling the fight. Despite the aggression of Aldana, Holm’s speed proved to be a problem. A performance that highlighted Holm’s improvements, she pitched a shut-out winning on all the judge’s scorecards 50-45 x3.
Third of Five Event Stretch In Abu Dhabi
Fight Night Sandhagen Vs. Moraes
The third leg in the five-event stretch of Abu Dhabi was an exciting one. Featuring two prominent strikers, most fans knew Corey Sandhagen and Marlon Moraes would put on a show. Consequently, the “Sandman” dominated the main event. Timing a massive spinning head kick, Sandhagen finished the fight in the second round. The night was littered with violence, as Tom Aspinall and Dricus du Plessis picked up impressive finishes. However, there was no doubt that Sandhagen was the star of the show. The five-event stretch in Abu Dhabi was showing itself to be a safe proving grounds for fighters in North America but even more so for international fighters.
Fourth of Five Event Stretch in Abu Dhabi
In one of the most anticipated match-ups of 2020, Brian Ortega vs Chan Sung Jung completely delivered. In my own breakdown I admit that if the fight stays on the feet late, it massively favors Zombie. However, Ortega showed pundits and writers alike, when he picked Zombie apart with an array of different strikes. Most notably changing the course of the fight when he landed a massive spinning elbow on Zombie, ala to Yair Rodriguez’s elbow. In a pure striking match, Ortega dominated and threatened a couple of leg grabs to keep Zombie at bay.
Interestingly, Ortega admitted his approach to the game plan changed during the fight. He laughed exclaiming “No!”, after a reporter asked if the plan was to stand southpaw instead of orthodox. Ortega explained in a post-fight interview, that he was noticed getting hit less while in southpaw and decided to adjust mid-fight. There have been many surprises on fight island, and Ortega’s performance was amongst the biggest. The fourth of five event stretch in Abu Dhabi was a success, with Ortega likely receiving the next title shot at featherweight.
The final chapter of the five-event stretch in Abu Dhabi ends on the shoulders of Khabib Nurmagomedov. Fighting for the memory of his late father, the Dagestani native puts his undefeated record on the line once again. Facing the undefeated Russian, is American, Justin Gaethje. Known as the “Highlight”, Gaethje has never been in a boring fight. In fact, he has had more bonuses (9) than actual fights (7) in the UFC. Both men’s credentials are extraordinary. Nurmagomedov has never been knocked down or cut. Additionally, Nurmagomedov has only lost one round to Conor McGregor. In the final leg of the five-event stretch in Abu Dhabi, fight island provides the perfect environment for athletes to advance their career safely, while also providing entertainment and a medium to become a superstar.