Taila Santos to Fight Erin Blanchfield on UFC Fight Night in February

Taila Santos is returning to the Octagon in February…

Before getting a rematch with champion Valentina Shevchenko, the 29-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist will take on top prospect Erin Blanchfield on a UFC Fight Night card on February 18 in Las Vegas, according to ESPN.

Taila SantosBlanchfield first mentioned the matchup on the Morning Kombat program Tuesday, saying she has signed a contract.

ESPN has Santos ranked No. 8 in the world at women’s 125 pounds. Blanchfield was ranked No. 2 on ESPN’s list of MMA fighters under 25 years old earlier this month.

Santos (19-2) fell to Shevchenko in a title fight at UFC 275 last June, a very close split decision mired by a clash of heads that caused Santos to suffer a broken orbital bone.

Santos was on a four-fight winning streak prior to that loss. Santos sports a 4-2 UFC record.

Blanchfield (10-1) is 4-0 in the UFC with two straight stoppage victories. The New Jersey native beat Molly McCann via first-round submission in her most recent outing at UFC 281 last month. Blanchfield, 23, has just one career loss, to fellow UFC fighter Tracy Cortez back in 2019 under the Invicta FC banner.

Jessica Andrade to Fight Lauren Murphy at UFC 283

Jessica Andrade is preparing a highly anticipated bout…

The 31-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist, a former UFC women’s strawweight champion, and Lauren Murphy – two of the top women’s flyweight fighters in the world – will meet in Brazil.

Jessica AndradeAndrade and Murphy has agreed to fight at UFC 283 on January 21 in Rio de Janeiro.

Andrade is ranked No. 9 on ESPN‘s pound-for-pound women’s MMA list. At flyweight, Andrade is ranked No. 3 and Murphy is No. 4.

Andrade (23-9) has won two straight and three of four with the only loss in that stretch coming to flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.

The Brazilian-born fighter held the UFC women’s strawweight title in 2019. Andrade is the only woman in UFC history to win fights in three different weight classes.

Murphy (16-5) is coming off a unanimous decision win over former women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate in July. The Alaska-born fighter, who lives in Texas, has won six of her past seven fights with the only loss during that stretch coming in a title fight against Shevchenko. Murphy, 39, is 7-3 since starting her UFC run with two straight losses.

Tatiana Suarez Medically Cleared for UFC Return in Near Future

Tatiana Suarez is cleared for combat…

The 30-year-old Mexican American professional mixed martial artist, one of the best women’s MMA fighters in the world, is finally close to returning to the Octagon.

Tatiana SuarezSuarez told ESPN in a video interview published Wednesday that she has been medically cleared by doctors and is targeting a return to the UFC in September, or perhaps even as early as August.

Suarez has been sidelined by a recurring bulging disc in her neck since June 2019.

“I’m super excited to get back out there,” she said. “It’s fun to practice, for sure. But it’s just different competing. Everybody knows that. It’s super exciting to just show what you’re working on.”

Suarez (8-0) said she was cleared for live training in February, but then she broke her hand and suffered a concussion while wrestling in her front yard with her boyfriend. Those were minor setbacks, she said, but she has been back to training now for the past several weeks and plans on starting a training camp “soon.”

When she comes back, Suarez said she plans to try her hand at a new division: flyweight. Suarez had dominated the UFC’s women’s strawweight division before the injury cropped up two years ago. But she said that cutting to 115 pounds left her feeling weak and tired on fight night and not as explosive as she is in training. Suarez said she’d like to see what it feels like to compete at 125 pounds, at least initially upon her return.

“Maybe if I’m not cutting too much weight at all, I’ll be a little more stronger and explosive,” Suarez said.

Suarez has won all five of her UFC fights and was the Ultimate Fighter 23 winner in 2016. The California native came close to competing in the 2012 Summer Olympics in wrestling, but the neck injury and a bout with thyroid cancer marred those plans.

Suarez has wins over former UFC strawweight champion Carla Esparza and current flyweight contender Alexa Grasso.

When asked how she thinks she could match up with women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko, one of the top three women’s fighters on the planet, Suarez said she believes very well.

“I do think I have a good skill set in terms of my wrestling [that] can give her trouble,” Suarez said.

Jessica Andrade to Fight Defending UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko 

Jessica Andrade is taking on a champion…

The 29-year-old Brazilian professional mixed martial artist and former strawweight champion is set to take on defending UFC flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 261, according to Ultimate Fighting Championship president Dana White.

Jessica Andrade

The 125-pound title fight will take place at the April 24 pay-per-view event, for which the UFC hasn’t yet finalized a location. It will mark Shevchenko’s fifth attempted title defense.

Shevchenko (20-3) has dominated the weight class since she dropped to 125 pounds from 135 pounds in 2018. She won the vacant belt by defeating another former strawweight champion in Joanna Jedrzejczyk in late 2018, then has looked more or less unbeatable in defenses against Jessica EyeLiz CarmoucheKatlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia.

Andrade (21-8) is widely perceived as the greatest threat to Shevchenko’s reign.

She won the UFC’s 115-pound championship by knocking out Rose Namajunas in May 2019 before surrendering the belt to current champ Zhang Weili three months later. She moved up to the 125-pound division in October, and scored a first-round knockout over Chookagian.

ESPN ranks Shevchenko and Andrade the No. 2 and No. 6 female pound-for-pound fighters in the world, respectively.

Juliana Velasquez Defeats Ilima-Lei Macfarlane by Unanimous Decision to Claim Bellator Women’s Flyweight Title

Juliana Velasquez is Bellator’s new flyweight queen.

The 34-year-old Brazilian mixed martial artist beat Ilima-Lei Macfarlane via unanimous decision (48-47, 49-46, 48-47) to win the Bellator women’s flyweight title Thursday night in the main event of Bellator 254 at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Connecticut.

Juliana Velasquez

Macfarlane had been the only women’s flyweight champion the promotion had known until now, after winning the belt in November 2017. Both women came in undefeated.

“To me, this is like a gold medal,” Velasquez said through an interpreter in her postfight interview.

ESPN had Macfarlane ranked No. 2 in the world at women’s flyweight coming in, just below UFC women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko.

 

Velasquez started off strong, though the first two rounds were close. A southpaw who was a Brazilian national-team-level judoka, she was able to keep Macfarlane at the end of her punches, particularly a nice straight left. Macfarlane attempted to blitz in for combinations and takedown attempts, but was mostly unsuccessful. At the end of the second, Macfarlane attempted a sacrifice throw against the cage, but it didn’t work — Velasquez ended up in top position on the ground.

Things started to pick up in Round 3. Macfarlane caught a Velasquez kick, starting a scramble. But Macfarlane fell head first against the cage, and it looked as though the fence opened up a cut across the top of her right eye area, just under her eyebrow. Velasquez then bloodied Macfarlane’s nose and mouth at the end of the round, connecting on a jumping knee.

Macfarlane was game, though. She was finally able to land a takedown on Velasquez late in the fourth round, where she delivered a nice volume of ground-and-pound. In the fifth, Macfarlane was not able to duplicate the feat. Velasquez stayed on her feet and once again took top position on a Macfarlane throw attempt. At the final bell, Velasquez landed a beautiful judo throw to seal it.

“At the end of the day, she just outperformed me,” Macfarlane said. “I think it was more like I didn’t find my groove until that [fourth-round] takedown. … Her game plan was spot on, though. She’s the champion, she deserves it.”

Judge Mike Bell scored the first, second, third and fifth rounds for Velasquez. Judge Sal D’Amato had Velasquez winning the first, third and fifth, and judge Bryan Minor had Velasquez winning the first, second and third.

Velasquez (11-0) has won all six of her Bellator fights. She was actually the slight favorite coming in, though she was the challenger.

Macfarlane (11-1) had won all 10 of her Bellator fights coming in. The Hawaii native, who lives and trains in California, had four title defenses, and if she had won Thursday she would have set Bellator’s title-defense record. Macfarlane, 30, had not been to a decision since 2016.

Cynthia Calvillo ThisClose to UFC Flyweight Fight Against Katlyn Chookagian

Cynthia Calvillo could be returning to the Octagon in the near future…

The UFC is close to finalizing a flyweight fight between the 33-year-old Latina mixed martial artist and Katlyn Chookagian for UFC 255 later this month, according to ESPN sources.

Cynthia Calvillo

Contracts haven’t been signed yet, but the bout will take place on November 21 in Las Vegas once it’s official.

It’s good timing for the 125-pound contender fight, as the UFC 255 pay-per-view event features flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko defending her title against Jennifer Maia in the co-main event.

Calvillo (9-1-1) catapulted herself into flyweight title contention with a five-round decision over former title challenger Jessica Eye in June. That was Calvillo’s flyweight debut in the UFC. She accumulated a 5-1-1 record as a strawweight prior to the move up in weight in June.

Calvillo was scheduled to face Lauren Murphy last month, but was forced to withdraw due to a positive COVID-19 test.

Chookagian (14-4) is coming off a knockout loss to former strawweight champion Jessica Andrade on October 17 in Abu Dhabi. Despite the loss, Chookagian is still the No. 2-ranked flyweight in the world per the UFC rankings, behind No. 1-ranked Andrade.

The 31-year-old Chookagian fought Shevchenko for the title in February, and came up short via third-round TKO. The fight against Calvillo will mark her fourth appearance in 2020.

Cynthia Calvillo to Fight Jessica Eye in UFC Fight Night Bout in June

Cynthia Calvillo is heading back to the Octagon next month.

The 32-year-old Latina mixed martial artist and fellow UFC women’s flyweight Jessica Eye have agreed to fight on June 13 at UFC Fight Night, according to ESPN.

Cynthia Calvillo

The bout would headline the event, sources said, though a location wasn’t immediately known.

Eye (15-7, 1 NC) is coming off a unanimous decision victory over Viviane Araujo at UFC 245 in December. It was her first fight since she challenged for the flyweight title and suffered a devastating head-kick knockout to champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 238 last June.

Eye, who is currently ESPN‘s No. 8-ranked women’s flyweight, has won four of her past five fights.

Calvillo (8-1-1) returns to the Octagon after fighting to a majority draw with Marina Rodriguez in December. That bout was fought at a catchweight after Calvillo missed the contracted strawweight limit.

Next Saturday’s UFC cardis expected to take place at the company’s Apex facility in Las Vegas. The location is subject to change until Wednesday, when the Nevada State Athletic Commission is scheduled to formally vote on reopening the state to combat sports.

NSAC officials indefinitely suspended all combat sports in mid-March because of the coronavirus pandemic.