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5 great UFC fights that we were robbed of by Covid-19

  • Covid-19 has forced the cancellation of the UFC's next 3 shows.
  • Fights like Leon Edwards vs. Tyron Woodley and Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik have been canceled.
Scott Newman
SENIOR ANALYST
Top 5 / Top 10
Modified 19 Mar 2020, 03:12 IST

Covid-19 has forced the cancellation of the Leon Edwards/Tyron Woodley clash
Covid-19 has forced the cancellation of the Leon Edwards/Tyron Woodley clash

Despite UFC President Dana White suggesting that the UFC would do all they could to ensure that the show would go on during the current Covid-19 pandemic, earlier this week, the promotion tapped out to the crisis and announced that their next three shows have been canceled. Realistically, this was the only smart and safe decision that the UFC could’ve made, and nobody can ever fault them for making this call, particularly when practically every other sporting event across the globe had also been forced to stop.

Unfortunately, of course, the cancellations mean that we’re going to miss out on a handful of truly fantastic fights – unless the UFC can re-book them for somewhere down the road of course. Here are the 5 best fights we’ve been robbed of by Covid-19.

#1 Leon Edwards vs. Tyron Woodley

Tyron Woodley
Tyron Woodley's last fight came in March 2019

This Welterweight clash would’ve main evented the UFC’s trip to London this weekend, and would’ve represented a huge opportunity for Birmingham’s Leon Edwards to cement himself as perhaps the next challenger for UFC Welterweight champion Kamaru Usman – who dethroned Tyron Woodley last March to win the title.

‘The Chosen One’ hasn’t fought since that loss to Usman; his planned clash with Robbie Lawler last summer was scrapped when he suffered a broken hand, while Edwards is currently riding an 8-fight win streak and most recently defeated Rafael Dos Anjos via unanimous decision last July.

The most interesting thing about this fight? Despite entering the UFC with a reputation for his striking, ‘Rocky’ has won his most recent fights by using his massively improved wrestling game, landing a number of takedowns on Dos Anjos and also on Donald Cerrone in their 2018 clash.

With Woodley being one of the best wrestlers in the division, it would’ve been fascinating to see what gameplan Edwards might’ve looked to use on him – and whether ‘The Chosen One’ could’ve prevented it and used his heavy hands and powerful takedowns to stop the Brit’s winning streak. Hopefully, the UFC can re-book this one soon.

#2 Francis Ngannou vs. Jairzinho Rozenstruik

Francis Ngannou could
Francis Ngannou could've cemented a title shot by beating Jairzinho Rozenstruik

When Francis Ngannou knocked out former UFC Heavyweight champs Cain Velasquez and Junior Dos Santos in 2019 – following his 2018 KO of Curtis Blaydes – it seemed like a certainty that the promotion would award ‘The Predator’ with a title shot. But instead, it appears that they’re going with a Stipe Miocic/Daniel Cormier rematch instead – meaning that Ngannou was set to fight on March 28th’s ESPN card from Columbus, Ohio.

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His scheduled opponent? Striking savant Jairzinho Rozenstruik, who was last seen knocking out Alistair Overeem – tearing his top lip off his face in the process – back in December. With a record of 10-0, and 4 UFC wins all coming by knockout, it’s easy to see why ‘Bigi Boy’ seemed like the perfect opponent for Ngannou.

How would this one have gone? It’s hard to say; Ngannou is the more proven fighter at the top level and yet there are still a lot of questions around him, particularly his ability to work through adversity, but Rozenstruik has a lot of question marks too – and was comfortably losing to Overeem before finding that big right hand in the dying seconds of the fight.

Either way, the winner of this one would undoubtedly have been in line for a shot at the Miocic/Cormier winner – and should probably still be, assuming the UFC can re-book the fight later in 2020.

#3 Alistair Overeem vs. Walt Harris

Alistair Overeem suffered an extreme facial injury in his last fight
Alistair Overeem suffered an extreme facial injury in his last fight

This Heavyweight clash should’ve main evented the UFC’s ESPN show in December, but unfortunately, Walt Harris was forced to withdraw due to the tragic disappearance – and eventual death – of his stepdaughter. That left Alistair Overeem to face Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and despite looking likely to win a comfortable decision, he was knocked out with just 4 seconds remaining in the fight – leaving him with some extreme facial damage in the process.

‘The Reem’ will now be looking to get back on the winning horse against an equally dangerous opponent; Harris’ last fight saw him take out tough veteran Aleksei Oleinik in just 12 seconds, and in fact, ‘The Big Ticket’ hasn’t lost a fight (ignoring an odd DQ loss) since his submission at the hands of Fabricio Werdum in October 2017.

The question here, of course, would’ve been how Harris would handle returning to action following the awful events that he suffered last year. At his best, he would’ve been a very tricky fight for Overeem in that he’s very quick and hits very hard – but the Dutch veteran would, of course, have held a huge advantage over him on the ground and in experience levels, too.

Overall this would’ve been a great clash to main event the UFC’s visit to Portland, Oregon, and it’s a shame that we have to miss it.

#4 Derek Brunson vs. Edmen Shahbazyan

Edmen Shahbazyan dealt with Brad Tavares in violent fashion in his last fight
Edmen Shahbazyan dealt with Brad Tavares in violent fashion in his last fight

When Edmen Shahbazyan debuted in the UFC with a blanketing win over Darren Stewart, few people had high hopes for him – particularly given that his coach was Edmond Tarverdyan, who rose to infamy with his somewhat questionable cornering of Ronda Rousey in her last few fights.

Since then, though, the young Armenian-American has taken out three opponents, all by stoppage, and in his most recent fight, he took just under 2 and a half minutes to derail the tough veteran Brad Tavares, finishing him off with a head kick.

This fight against Derek Brunson – which would’ve acted as the co-main event on the Portland card – would’ve been his toughest test to date, though; Brunson has always been a little inconsistent, but he’s still arguably the trickiest gatekeeper in the 185lbs division and is currently on a two-fight winning streak, beating Elias Theodorou and Ian Heinisch to take his overall UFC record to 11-5.

If Shahbazyan had been able to take out Brunson with the ease in which he dealt with Tavares, he may well have cemented himself in the top five of the division – putting him in line for a fight with someone like Yoel Romero or Robert Whittaker. As it is, he’ll likely have to wait a little longer to fight Brunson – hopefully sharpening his skills in the process.

#5 Michelle Waterson vs. Carla Esparza

Michelle Waterson is one of the Strawweight division
Michelle Waterson is one of the Strawweight division's most popular fighters

Michelle Waterson – one of the most popular fighters in the Strawweight division – was likely one fight away from a title shot when she faced off with Joanna Jedrzejczyk last October, but she was clearly outpointed across five rounds and has been sent right back to the drawing board. This would’ve been a chance for her to jump back to the front of the queue – a fight against a former champion and one on a 2-fight win streak.

Carla Esparza’s UFC career has been up-and-down since her loss to Jedrzejczyk back in March 2015, but despite some inconsistency, her only recent loss came at the hands of Tatiana Suarez – arguably the most dangerous grappler in the entire division.

This essentially would’ve been a test of Waterson’s grappling skills; ‘The Karate Hottie’ has shown herself to be an extremely well-rounded fighter, but she undoubtedly would’ve held a striking advantage over ‘The Cookie Monster’ and if she could’ve proven herself capable of keeping the fight standing, it likely would’ve gone her way.

Overall though, this would’ve been a tremendous clash of high-end contenders – and one that the UFC should look to put back together later in 2020. 

Published 19 Mar 2020, 03:12 IST
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