It’s not MMA, but let’s be clear to start this off: that Misfits Boxing card on DAZN most definitely did not win the weekend, though there was plenty of interest in the event itself. Frankly, when you book Dillon Danis into a boxing match against a Youtube entertainer in 2023, you’ve basically lost out of the gate.
Booking MMA fighters with poor striking into boxing bouts aside, there was a lot of action this past weekend, with everyone from Combate Global to Cage Fury FC to LFA in action. As an honorable mention, LFA 147 was a very solid card with some great storylines attached, but we’re going to focus on the “big three” that were in action this weekend: the UFC, Bellator MMA, and ONE Championship.
We can get the UFC side of things out of the way quickly here. While the biggest UFC events almost always win the weekend by default, the quality of competition on the third weekend of November combined with the Derrick Lewis vs. Serghei Spivac UFC Vegas 65 main event falling through pretty much eliminates them from competition. Four finishes on what became an 11-fight card didn’t help, though some of the decisions were thrilling enough (h/t to Vanessa Demopoulos vs. Maria Oliveira). The biggest news coming out of UFC Vegas 65, aside from Derrick Lewis falling ill, was the continued emergence of Jack Della Maddalena, and Kennedy Nzechukwu making the most of a last-minute promotion to the main event.
That, however, isn’t enough to win the weekend when between the remaining two cards, you had three title fights. In Chicago, Bellator MMA had a double header, with Patricky Pitbull vs. Usman Nurmagomedov for lightweight gold, and Vadim Nemkov vs. Corey Anderson closing out the light heavyweight grand prix.
Both fights didn’t quite live up to expectations, mind you. Nurmagomedov was clearly in another gear in comparison to Brazil’s Pitbull, who appeared to be stuck in the mud through most of the fight. He could not close the distance on the Dagestani and on the odd occasion where he did, he paid dearly for it. The crowd grew restless throughout the fight, and after 25 minutes, Pitbull was left beltless, bloodied, and stranded at hospital when no one was around to stitch him up (insult, meet injury).
Nemkov vs. Anderson meanwhile was a solid enough fight, but with the Russian champ showing vastly improved takedown defense, it just didn’t live up to the pair’s first meeting. Anderson never really came close, and Nemkov proved to be unstoppable in rematches.
That said, the Bellator 288 undercard was very, very good. But if you want the best title fight on the night, you looked to ONE Championship, where Christian Lee survived a near-finish in the opening round of his fight against Kiamrian Abbasov to earn a TKO stoppage in the fourth. Lee vs. Abbasov was a back-and-forth war and everything you wanted from a title fight, with Abbasov missing weight and being stripped of his belt not really detracting from the action itself. Lee comes away with a second belt, but he may struggle with the size of opponents he’ll find in ONE’s welterweight division. That said, he still has his lightweight title to defend as well, and may be better suited to the smaller division (especially given ONE’s modified weight rules).
So, who did win the weekend? Does the ONE on Prime Video 4 main event give the Asian promotion the edge against Bellator’s two somewhat less entertaining title fights, despite Scott Coker’s org having the better overall card? We’ll call this one a draw, but what’s perhaps most remarkable is that, for the first time in a long time, the UFC sat in the bronze medal position on a busy weekend in MMA.