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UFC Musical Chairs — What It Means

Last minute changes are nothing new this year. In fact they’re recurring; especially in recent weeks. Numerous high-profile match ups—including two, possibly three main events—have been modified as result of COVID-19.

2020 has been defined by adversity and UFC athletes have been forced to adapt just like the rest of us. American novelist James Lane Allen once said: “adversity does not build character, it reveals it.”

I think that phrase is quite applicable to the situation these athletes are facing. Several weeks of training and preparation for a fight—their livelihood—just for it to be squashed last minute.

Last weekend’s UFC Vegas 15 was affected immensely by the COVID-19 virus. Just one day prior to the fight, and only minutes from official weigh-ins, it was announced that the main event was canceled as result of Curtis Blaydes testing positive for the virus.

The news was a tremendous blow to an event that was already competing against the Tyson-Jones PPV.

As of now, the UFC is hoping to reschedule Blaydes vs Lewis for UFC 256 on Dec. 12th, but a deal has yet to be reached on that front. Blayes-Lewis wasn’t the only anticipated bout that was scrapped over the weekend. Renato Moicano was forced out of his fight versus Rafael Fiziev due to a positive COVID-19 test. Fortunately, that underrated lightweight match-up has officially been rescheduled for UFC 256.

What does it mean?

Well, the damage is already done. Yet, as always, the UFC is doing its best to salvage what it can. UFC Vegas 15 produced a ton of action, but my guess is only hardcore fans were tuned in. UFC 256 will benefit however, if Blaydes-Lewis joins the card in addition to Moicano-Fiziev.

Moving along to this weekend’s event—UFC Vegas 16—which has been a complete and utter game of middleweight musical chairs. Lets look at the timeline:

  • Aug. 21st: Jack Hermansson vs Darren Till announced
  • Nov. 6th: Till withdraws (Injury)—replaced by Kevin Holland
  • Nov. 28th: Holland withdraws (COVID-19)—replaced by Marvin Vettori
  • Nov. 29th: Holland vs Jacare Souza confirmed for UFC 256

Again, kudos to the UFC matchmakers for rearranging all these pieces to the middleweight puzzle.

What does it mean?

Essentially, the biggest loser in this outcome is Hermansson. ‘The Joker’ is in a strange situation, having gone from facing a contender in Till, to a dangerous unranked guy in Holland, to now a forward-charging bruiser in Vettori. Hermansson gains much less from a win over Vettori than he would have from beating Till. Though I’m sure he’s happy to just have an opponent at this point.

Meanwhile, the biggest winner quickly changed from Holland to Vettori in the matter of hours. ‘The Italian Dream’ now has the chance to steal the spotlight and shoot up the rankings with a win over a top contender. Holland, while still receiving a big opportunity in Jacare, will have to wait to fight his first ranked opponent since 2018 (Thiago Santos).

For the final piece of COVID-19 related UFC news, we all just have to keep our fingers crossed. Just yesterday, it was reported that Khamzat Chimaev has tested positive for the virus. The news puts his highly antcipated main event fight against Leon Edwards in limbo.

Chimaev-Edwards is scheduled to headline the Dec. 19th event. Now I used the word “is” and not “was” because Chimaev is still hoping to compete in 19 days.

What does it mean?

The Dec. 19th Fight Night card will fare just fine with the absence of Chimaev-Edwards. Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson and Geoff Neal, who are currently slated as the co-main event, would make for a quality headliner. Lets be honest though, we all want to see Chimaev fight again as soon as possible. Not to mention, Leon Edwards hasn’t fought since July 2019.

Don’t be shocked if more fights are forced to be altered between now and Saturday. The UFC has proven to be capable of putting on entertaining events in the midst of hysteria.

Again, keep your fingers crossed that no more main events get scrapped because of the Coronavirus.

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