Valentina Shevchenko expected to defend UFC belt against Katlyn Chookagian

Valentina Shevchenko def Joanna Jedrzejczyk UFC 231

UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko is expected to make the next defense of her belt opposite Katlyn Chookagian on Feb. 8 at an as yet unannounced UFC event.

The event is targeted to be a pay-per-view in Houston, but its numbering hasn’t been worked just yet, as the promotion has yet to finalize details of a Jan. 18 event in Las Vegas. If the January date pans out as Conor McGregor’s return, it will be UFC 246 and the Houston date would be UFC 247, but details have yAftet to be sorted on that.

Either way, sources confirmed an ESPN report that Shevchenko has agreed to defend the belt against Chookagian on Feb. 8. 

Shevchenko (18-3) won the flyweight title by defeating former strawweight titleholder Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 231 after inaugural champion Nicco Montaño was forced the vacate the championship. Montaño was transported to the hospital because of issues related to her weight cut prior to a scheduled bout with Shevchenko at UFC 228.

TRENDING > Dana White hints at Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk coming soon

Shevchenko won a unanimous decision over Jedrzejczyk, then went on to knock out Jessica Eye before winning another unanimous nod over Liz Carmouche. 

Chookagian (13-2) is 4-1 since returning to the flyweight division in early 2018. Her only defeat was a split-decision loss to Eye to close out 2018. She has since strung back-to-back decision wins over Joanne Calderwood and Jennifer Maia, putting her in position to challenge for the belt.

The women’s flyweight championship joins a fight card expected to also host a heavyweight showdown between Derrick Lewis and former light heavyweight contender Ilir Latifi, who is making his heavyweight debut.

Greg Hardy among several lengthy UFC Moscow medical supsensions

Greg Hardy at Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series

Greg Hardy topped a list of five UFC on ESPN+ 21 fighters that could be one the sidelines for as long as six months following the release of the event’s medical suspensions.

Hardy stepped in on short notice to fight Alexander Volkov in Moscow. The fight didn’t go his way, but Hardy managed to go three full rounds with the vastly more experienced Russian fighter.

It was Hardy’s fifth bout of 2019, a record for UFC heavyweights, but he now faces a 180-day medical suspension for an injury to his right hand and wrist. Like the other fighters facing medical suspensions, Hardy could return sooner than 180 days if he gets cleared by a doctor.

Other fighters facing potential six-month suspensions include Dalcha Lungiambula, Abubakar Nurmagomedov, Jessica-Rose Clark, and Grigorii Popov.

All medical suspensions were issued by the UFC and reported to, as there was no government sanctioning body in Moscow.

TRENDING > Bellator 234 results & highlights: Linton Vassell dominates Sergei Kharitonov

UFC Moscow: Zabit vs. Kattar medical suspensions

  • Zabit Magomedsharipov: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Calvin Kattar: 30-day medical suspension for hard bout, 21 days no contact
  • Alexander Volkov: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Greg Hardy: 180-day medical suspension for right hand/wrist injury (requires X-ray); 30 days mandatory rest, 21 days no contact
  • Danny Roberts: 30-day medical suspension for right temple laceration, 21 days no contact
  • Zelim Imadaev: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Ed Herman: 30-day medical suspension for hard bout, 21 days no contact
  • Khadis Ibragimov: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Anthony Rocco Martin: 30-day medical suspension for nasal laceration, 21 days no contact
  • Ramazan Emeev: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Shamil Gamzatov: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Klidson Abreu: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Magomed Ankalaev: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Dalcha Lungiambula: 180-day medical suspension, requires clearance from OMF (oral and maxillofacial) physician; 30 days mandatory rest, 21 days no contact
  • Rustam Khabilov: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Sergey Khandozhko: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Karl Roberson: 30-day medical suspension for right eyelid laceration, 21 days no contact
  • Roman Kopylov: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • David Zawada: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Abubakar Nurmagomedov: 180-day medical suspension for left elbow injury (requires X-ray); 14 days mandatory rest
  • Roosevelt Roberts: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Alexander Yakovlev: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Pannie Kianzad: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Jessica-Rose Clark: 180-day medical suspension, requires clearance from ENT (ear, nose, and throat) specialist; 45 days mandatory rest, 30 days no contact
  • Davey Grant: 7-day mandatory rest period
  • Grigorii Popov: 180-day medical suspension, requires nasal X-ray; 30 days mandatory rest, 21 days no contact

Dana White hints at Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk coming soon

Dana White over Zhang and Jedrzejczyk

UFC strawweight champion Weili Zhang may have an opponent for her first title defense when she returns to action in 2020.

This past week, former 115-pound champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk did an interview where she was quoted as saying “anywhere, anytime” she could get her hands on Weili and “beat the s**t out of her.”

It didn’t take long for word to reach Weili, who quickly fired back at Jedrzejczyk, as she not only accepted the challenge, but quickly tagged UFC president Dana White in an effort to put the fight together in the very near future.

“She seems very angry,” Weili wrote on Instagram. “Don’t worry, she will calm down. I am ready now. Call my manager [Brian Butler of Suckerpunch Entertainment] or call Dana White. I’m ready.”

Following her knockout win over Jessica Andrade to become champion and Jedrzejczyk’s victory against Michelle Waterson in October, the 30-year-old fighter from China didn’t show much interest in the fight.

“I don’t think she’s the fighter that she used to be,” Weili said when speaking to TMZ. “She’s not in the condition she used to be. I’m not very interested.”

It’s not evident what changed her mind, but the UFC strawweight champion definitely appears to be interested now — and so does White.

TRENDING > Video: Check out the rolling thunder kick that laid Ross Pearson out cold

Dana White likes the idea of Weili Zhang vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Following the exchange over Instagram between the fighters, the UFC president chimed in while all but confirming that the organization hopes to book that match-up sometime next year.

“This is going to be a VERY fun fight,” White wrote.

With Zhang already holding a knockout win over Andrade, former champion Rose Namajunas coming off of a loss, and “Ultimate Fighter” winner Tatiana Suarez still dealing with a neck injury, Jedrzejczyk is the most logical choice for the next title shot.

The UFC has not made any announcements regarding the fight, but it sure looks like the promotion is moving in that direction in the near future.

Video: Check out the rolling thunder kick that laid Ross Pearson out cold

Rolling thunder kick - Ross Pearson KO

(Courtesy of MMA FUN)

Not many people have heard of MMA fighter Davy Gallon, but nearly everyone interested in MMA – and many that aren’t – are now familiar with the infamous rolling thunder kick he used to knock out UFC veteran Ross Pearson.

Pearson retired from the UFC in early 2019 having lost six of his last seven bouts in the Octagon. A few months later, he opted to return for the main event of Probellum 1 on his home turf in London, but things didn’t go as planned.

TRENDING > Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson training for UFC return at heavyweight

Little known French fighter Gallon gave Pearson a rude welcome back to the cage with his rolling thunder knockout. 

It’s tough to put it into words, so you best watch the video and see for yourself.

Yoel Romero angling for Israel Adesanya title fight with Paulo Costa sidelined

Yoel Romero UFC 241 media day

He may have lost three of his last four fights, but Yoel Romero is still angling for a UFC middleweight title shot.

By all rights, Paulo Costa earned a shot at current champion Israel Adesanya with a unanimous decision win over Romero at UFC 241 in August. That victory did make him the top contender, but Costa’s manager has since said that his fighter had to have surgery on his biceps and that the ensuing rehabilitation will put him out of action until sometime around April 2020.

That is likely too long for the UFC to wait for Adesanya’s first title defense, although it does present a sticky situation to navigate for an opponent.

Costa was the ideal challenger, coming off of victories over Uriah Hall and Romero en route to a spotless 13-0 record. With him temporarily out of the picture, the choice isn’t so obvious.

Adesanya would like to fight Romero and Romero would like to fight Adesanya, but having lost three out of four bouts, including his last two, doesn’t make for the most presentable championship challenger.

There is, of course, the prospect of an immediate rematch with Robert Whittaker, but Adesanya won the belt by knocking him out in the second round.

The logical sporting choice would be Jared Cannonier, who is 3-0 since dropping to the UFC middleweight division in 2018. He has knocked out David Branch, Anderson Silva, and Jack Hermansson, the longest of those fights going 39 seconds into the second round.

Yoel Romero justifies why he should fight Israel Adesanya next

Thus far, UFC president Dana White hasn’t been on board, but Romero insists he is still the best choice to challenge Adesanya.

“I want this fight to happen because many people talk, ‘Who is the true (champion)? Who is the real champion of middleweight?’ And the people know who it is because everybody has seen what happened the last three fights before. Now Israel has the belt, the people want to see who is the real champion,” Romero said on Monday’s edition of Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show on ESPN.

“The people see that I am losing three fight. Yes, I’m losing three fight. But when you ask them, inside their soul, ‘Did Yoel Romero lose?’ Yoel Romero did not lose. Yoel Romero is still the winner. Now you see what happened, the people want to see the really best people fight. Who is the best middleweight right now?”

Romero insinuated that if anyone has defeated him in the Octagon it has been the judges, as all three of his UFC defeats went to the scorecards. And that is why he believes he should still be considered as the next opponent for Adesanya.

“The day when I lose, I say I lose. The day when I lose in the Olympic game, I lose. Everybody ask me, ‘You’re a loser?’ Yes, I lose it. Somebody beat me. But right now, nobody beat me in the UFC.”

TRENDING > Ben Askren calls it a career, announces his retirement

Yoel Romero discusses his desire to fight UFC champion Israel Adesanya

(Courtesy of ESPN MMA)

Derrick Lewis expected to welcome Ilir Latifi to UFC heavyweight division

Derrick Lewis UFC 216 sly

Former UFC light heavyweight contender Ilir Latifi is making the move to heavyweight, where divisional powerhouse Derrick Lewis is expected to act as his welcoming committee. sources confirmed the news following an initial report by ESPN that Lewis and Latifi have verbally agreed to fight. They are expected to step into the Octagon opposite one another on Feb. 8, 2020, although a location and venue have yet to be finalized. Sources indicated that Houston is under strong consideration for the fight.

That location would make sense, particularly because Lewis resides in the Houston area.

Lewis (22-7, 1NC) has fought for the heavyweight title, losing to Daniel Cormier at UFC 230 on Nov. 3, 2018. He followed that setback with a loss to former champion Junior dos Santos in a Fight of the Night effort earlier this year in Wichita, Kan.

Lewis most recently got back in the win column with a split-decision nod over Blagoy Ivanov at UFC 244 on Nov. 2 in New York. He’ll hope to add to that victory and continue his climb back into the title picture.

Latifi (14-7, 1NC) has struggled to remain in title contention at 205 pounds, so he is going to test the waters in the UFC’s heaviest division. He faces no easy task in his first heavyweight bout in Lewis, jumping immediately into the deep end of the pool.

TRENDING > Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson training for UFC return at heavyweight

Having made his way into the UFC as a late replacement to fight Gegard Mousasi in UFC Fight Night main event in his home country of Sweden in 2013, Latifi has constantly been on the cusp of earning a title shot, but has never gotten the win that would put him in a championship bout.

Following back-to-back losses to Corey Anderson and Volkan Oezdemir, it is time for Latifi to rebuild, and he plans on doing so at heavyweight.

Ben Askren calls it a career, announces his retirement

Ben Askren at UFC 239 media day

UFC welterweight Ben Askren has decided to hang up his gloves for the final time.

Citing a need for hip replacement surgery, Askren on Monday announced via ESPN that he is retiring from fighting.

“I’m retiring from the sport of mixed martial arts and, frankly, I’m retiring from everything,” said Askren. “I’ve been having hip problems and I finally had the discussion with my doctor and I actually got the MRI before my last fight and I need a hip replacement.

“That’s it for me. I’ve been thinking about this for a week and kind of what I was going to say. Really I’ve just been filled with gratitude for how great of a career I’ve been able to have, even though in the end it did not turn out to go my way.”

Ben Askren’s championship career

Though his UFC tenure was much shorter than he had planned, Askren has achieved many milestones in a professional fighting career that began in 2009, piggybacking off of his wrestling career. He was a two-time NCAA national champion and also earned a spot on the 2008 Olympic team in Beijing.

Askren’s mixed martial arts career saw him go undefeated in stints as the Bellator and ONE Championship welterweight titleholder. He retired undefeated with the ONE Championship belt in 2017, but returned to fighting when ONE made a blockbuster trade, sending him to the UFC in exchange for former UFC flyweight champion Demetrious “Mighty Mouse” Johnson.

Askren won his first fight in the Octagon by submitting former champion Robbie Lawler at UFC 235 in early 2019. He made two subsequent trips to the Octagon. He lost via a blistering 5-second flying knee knockout courtesy of Jorge Masvidal at UFC 239 and then via technical submission to Demian Maia of the UFC Fight Night main event in Singapore.

Ben Askren’s hip problem has been lingering for years

Going into the fight with Maia, Askren already knew that he was having trouble with his hip, but was intent on fighting until the doctors finally said that he needed to get the hip replaced. In fact, he had trouble with his hip before he ever set foot in the Octagon, but he tried for the past year to work through it.

“I’ve been having hip issues for three to five years somewhere in there. When I came back and started training in December it got really bad. I visited my doctors in Columbia, who I kept in touch with, that’s where I went to college, and I went down there and I got an x-ray and I got a PRP (platelet rich plasma) shot. The PRP shot helped significantly with the pain, but not with the mobility at all,” said Askren.

“They saw the x-ray and said you’re all jacked up but you can just keep going and whenever you’re done we’ll fix it. In August, it had gotten pretty bad again and I went down there and got another PRP shot and that didn’t really help all that much. I consulted with that doctor and he said why don’t you get the MRI before your fight, I’ll look at it and when you’re done with your fight, we’ll scope your hip and that will give you a couple years worth of relief. You’ll probably need to get the hip replacement at some point.”

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Following the loss to Maia, Askren consulted with his doctor, who said that he needed to get his hip replaced. He spoke with several more doctors, all of whom said that once he has the surgery, his athletic career is pretty much done. 

Though things haven’t gone the way he would have liked in his move to the UFC, Askren is calling it a career and going to get the hip replacement.

After more than a decade in the fight game, Askren finishes his professional career 19-2 with one no contest, and having held world championship titles in two of the most prominent fight promotions in mixed martial arts history.