5 burning questions heading into UFC on ESPN+ 16

If you match just about anyone up with Donald Cerrone, you’re likely to have an exciting fight.

Same goes with Justin Gaethje.

So if you match Cerrone (38-12 MMA, 23-9 UFC) and Gaethje (20-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) against one another, well, you just might have your most natural mix since someone over at Reese’s first put peanut butter and chocolate together. 

Some weeks, the UFC puts on shows simply to fill out the contractual obligations that come with its mammoth ESPN deal, which turns the proceedings into a slog for even the most hardcore of fans.

Then there are events like UFC on ESPN+ 16 on Saturday which stand out from the pack. The lightweight showdown between Gaethje and Cerrone is a must-watch, and there are other interesting competitors sprinkled in for good measure.

UFC on ESPN+ 16 takes place Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The card streams on ESPN+.

With that, on to five burning questions going into UFC on ESPN+ 16.

Is Justin Gaethje a real contender in the lightweight division?

Gaethje arrived in the UFC in 2016 after a string of wildly exciting fights as World Series of Fighting lightweight champion. He then lived up to that reputation with “Fight of the Night” performances in his first three UFC bouts.

However, he also lost the last two of those three, against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, a caliber of competition which suggested that perhaps Gaethje’s UFC tenure was going to be the sort in which he’s always in the running for a post-fight bonus, but never a title.

But it urns out he could possibly be both. It’s not like the losses were blowouts, as both were highly competitive affairs. Since, he’s gone out and earned back-to-back knockout victories over James Vick and Edson Barboza (and, almost needless to say, earned performance bonuses for each).

Now he faces one of the sport’s all-time great competitors and the holder of the UFC wins mark (23) in Cerrone. A victory here would make three in a row, and a chance to step up one more time against one of the division’s top dogs to prove himself a contender once and for all.

Donald Cerrone cool with the ‘BMF’ belt, talks gym knockout of Justin Gaethje, title shot

VANCOUVER — As the man who introduced the phrase “BMF” into the mixed martial arts lexicon, you could excuse Donald Cerrone if he chose to be salty about the fact he won’t be fighting that particular belt.

Cerrone is the owner of the BMF Ranch in New Mexico, but it’s Nate Diaz and Jorge Masvidal who will fight for the BMF title in the main vent of UFC 244.

If you expect the “Cowboy” to hate on the idea, though, you must not have been following his career very long.

“That’s cool though, good for them,” Cerrone told reporters, including MMA Junkie, at Wednesday’s UFC on ESPN+ 16 open workouts. “I don’t have any hate or anything silly toward them, good for them.”

Besides, there’s an undisputed pair of BMFs heading into the Octagon for UFC on ESPN+ 16’s lightweight main event in Gaethje (20-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Cerrone (38-12 MMA, 23-9 UFC), two of the most crowd-pleasing fighters in the game. 

And they’ve already thrown down before. Gaethje, in the buildup to the fight, pointed out that Cerrone once knocked him out in sparring. Cerrone, while surprised Gaethje mentioned it, confirmed it happened. 

“I would have never brought that up on my end, you know?” Cerrone said. “So I don’t know why he did. But training is totally different than fighting, and it must have been a weird, lucky shot. That was so many years and he’s a totally different guy and its gonna be the fight everyone thinks it’s going to be.”

If Cerrone can repeat their gym war result out in Vancouver, he believes he should be next in line for a shot at Khabib Nurmagomedov’s lightweight title. But he also doesn’t want to sit around, so “Cowboy” said he’d be willing to take a welterweight fight in the interim. 

“After I beat Gaethje, there’s nobody else (except Nurmagomedov),” Cerrone said. “That’s it, there is no one in front of me. I do want to fight in December though. I’ll have to take a little 155 break go to 170, we’ll see.”

And if that doesn’t pan out, hey, maybe he could get the first shot at the winner of the BMF belt. But you’d have to get past the fact Cerrone already lost to both.

“There we go,” Cerrone said with a chuckle. “Both of them whooped my ass already so that would be kind of hard.”

Marvin Vettori trashes ‘giant (expletive)’ Andrew Sanchez for cancelation: ‘I would crush him right now’

VANCOUVER — To say Marvin Vettori is upset that Andrew Sanchez pulled out of their UFC on ESPN+ 16 fight would be an understatement.

Word broke Wednesday that Sanchez (11-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) had to pull out of the planned middleweight preliminary-card bout due to an illness, but Vettori is having none of that.

This marks the second time Sanchez has pulled out of a bout with Vettori, and in an interview with MMA Junkie, Vettori said he is tired of feeling like he’s wasting his time.

“The guy is scared, man,” Vettori said. “He is not a tough guy. I mean, he’s a giant pussy. He bailed on me a year ago, maybe a year ago, or a year and a half ago. He was coming from two losses, he didn’t want to risk to get cut or something like that. And then now, he’s coming off two wins, and then he got a little confident and maybe like, oh, I can take this risk, but, he doesn’t want to fight me as much as I want to crush his face, I don’t want him to mess with my plans and things like that.”

Word on the street is that the UFC wants to reschedule the bout as soon as possible. Vettori (13-3-1 MMA, 3-2-1 UFC), for his part, is torn between wanting to fight Sanchez out of pure anger and not trusting that Sanchez will show up if a third attempt at making this bout is announced.

“Those guys who they don’t fight and they want to reschedule right away? He doesn’t deserve hat. He doesn’t deserve it I would crush him right now if I see him and I want to crush him will fight him again, he doesn’t deserve that ,,, I’m not going to fighting today because of some stupid-ass thing on my eye but now I’m going to fight again it is what it is, at the end of the day you need to have a strong mind as well as a strong body.”

Lest there’s any remaining doubt where Vettori is coming from here, he continued to vent about the situation.

“He’s not a professional guy,” Vettori said. “I always show up, I always make weight, I always show up and put on great fights. He’s not like that, he doesn’t fight well. He’s well-boring ass guy to watch, I was falling asleep when i was watching tapes of him getting ready for my fight.”

UFC on ESPN+ 16 takes place Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The card streams on ESPN+.

Andrew Sanchez vs. Marvin Vettori pulled from UFC on ESPN+ 16 due to illness

UFC on ESPN+ 16 is down a fight.

The preliminary-card middleweight bout between Andrew Sanchez (11-4 MMA, 4-2 UFC) vs. Marvin Vettori (13-3-1 MMA, 3-2-1 UFC) has been called off to due an illness on the part of Sanchez.

MMA Junkie confirmed the news with a person with knowledge of the situation after TSN’s Aaron Bronsteter initially tweeted the news Wednesday.

The source indicted the promotion will look to reschedule the fight at another date. This means the card, which is headlined by Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje, will proceed with 11 bouts instead of 12. 

UFC on ESPN+ 16 takes place Saturday at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada. The card streams on ESPN+.

Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza vs. Jan Blachowicz headlines UFC on ESPN+ 22

An interesting and unexpected light heavyweight matchup will headline UFC on ESPN+ 22 on Nov. 16.

Former Strikeforce middleweight champion Ronaldo Souza will make the move up to 205 pounds, where he’ll face one of the division’s hottest competitors in Jan Blachowicz. It will serve as the main event for a card which will take place at Ginasio do Ibirapuera in Sao Paulo, Brazil, and stream entirely on ESPN+.

MMA Junkie confirmed an initial Tuesday report by ESPN.

Souza (26-7 MMA, 9-4 UFC) is looking for a fresh start after a run in which he won post-fight bonuses in three of his past four fights, but was only victorious in two of them. His most recent result was a unanimous-decision loss to short-notice replacement Jack Hermansson in the main event of UFC on ESPN+ 6 in Sunrise, Fla.

Blachowicz (24-8 MMA, 7-4 UFC), meanwhile, is coming off the biggest win over his UFC career, one which coincidentally came at the expense of another former Strikeforce middleweight titleholder. The Poland native knocked out Luke Rockhold in the second round of their UFC 239 bout in Las Vegas on July 6, which marked the fifth victory in his past six fights.

Several bouts of note have already been named for the card, including Antonio Arroyo vs. Kevin Holland and Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira vs. Trevor Smith.

UFC 242 medical suspensions: Joanne Calderwood out up to six months with nasal issue

Joanne Calderwood scored one of the most important victories of her career at UFC 242, but she might have to sit out awhile before she can capitalize on her victory.

Calderwood earned a split-decision victory over Andrea Lee in the featured strawweight prelim bout at Saturday’s card in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, but she’ll also have to miss up to six months due to a nasal issue coiming out of the fight.

That’s the most noteworthy item out of the medical suspensions for the event, which were obtained by MMA Junkie on Tuesday. With no official athletic commission to oversee the event in the U.A.E., the UFC self-regulated the card.

Calderwood could resume training sooner than the length of her suspension should she receive clearance from a doctor, which holds true for the remainder of the injured fighters.

Headliners Khabib Nurmagomedov and Dustin Poirier came out of the event relatively unscathed. Poirier must avoid contact for 30 days due to lacerations received in the bout, while lightweight champion Nurmagomedov must sit out seven days to rest.

The full list of UFC 242 medical suspensions: