The world of combat sports has been on fire recently. Back on February 12th, we were treated to one of the greatest MMA fights in history when Islam Makhachev and Alexander Volkanovski squared off in Perth, Australia for the right to be called the UFC’s pound-for-pound king. In the end, it was the Dagestani fighter that scraped a unanimous decision victory, a victory which wasn’t enough to usurp Alexander The Great from the top of the pound-for-pound charts.
Then, on March 5th, the GOAT returned. Jon Jones is many people’s consensus pick as the greatest mixed martial artist of all time, and he returned to the Octagon to make his heavyweight debut three years on from his last fight, a victory over Dominick Reyes at UFC 247 in December 2020.
He immediately challenged for the heavyweight title against Cyril Gane, the French striking sensation who formerly held the interim heavyweight championship. Yet, online sportsbook Bodog’s UFC betting odds made Jonny Bones the favorite for the bout, despite his long layoff and the fact that it was his first fight at a weight above 206 pounds. In the end, the bookie was proven right. Jones made light work of his French opponent, submitting him in the first round and securing his legacy as the greatest MMA fighter that’s ever lived.
It’s crazy to think that those two mega-events were barely three weeks apart. But don’t worry fight fans, the fun isn’t over yet. In fact, it’s just getting started.
Leon Edwards vs Kamaru Usman 3 – March 18th
Last August, Britain’s Leon Edwards gave us arguably the greatest sporting moment of 2022 when he knocked out then-pound-for-pound king Kamaru Usman to become the new UFC welterweight champion. Heading into the final round, ‘Rocky’ was trailing on all three scorecards. But with his coach’s scathing words ringing in his ears, the Jamaican-born Brit found a head kick from the gods, sending The Nigerian Nightmare into the shadow realm and taking the famous gold championship title back to the United Kingdom.
On March 18th, Usman will get his shot at redemption when he faces Edwards for the third time. The champion is looking for vindication, providing that his victory wasn’t a fluke, and he will do so in front of a raucous home crowd at London’s O2 Arena. He is once again the underdog, but he has proven that he can do the unthinkable once before, can he do it again?
There are plenty of big names righting on the undercard also. Justin Gaethje – almost one year removed from his humbling defeat at the hands of Charles Oliveira – will return. He faces off against Kazakh knockout artist Rafael Fiziev, and both will be looking to secure themselves a title shot against the aforementioned lightweight king Makhachev.
David Benavidez vs Caleb Plant – March 26th
In the world of boxing, 2023 could be the year of the super fight. Heavyweight kings Tyson Fury and Oleksandr Usyk are expected to square off to crown the first undisputed champion since the days of Lennox Lewis almost two decades ago. At welterweight, Errol Spence Jr. and Terrence Crawford are finally expected to get it on after years of the Mayweather – Pacquaio marinating treatment. But what of Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez?
Every time the Mexican steps foot into the ring, the eyes of the world are watching. But since his shocking defeat at the hands of Dmitry Bivol and his third and final fight with Gennady Golovkin, new contenders have risen at super middleweight, a division in which he is the undisputed champion.
One of those contenders is American-born Mexican David Benavidez. The undefeated 26-year-old is currently the interim WBC champion, and he is considered a front-runner for a shot at his compatriot for all the gold. Rather than resting on his laurels and waiting patiently for his opportunity, however, The Mexican Monster has decided to take on a difficult challenge in defending his interim title against the talented Caleb Plant.
Sweethands is a former super middleweight champion himself. He was the reigning IBF champion at 168 pounds, a title he defended on four occasions. His title was the missing piece of the puzzle in Canelo’s quest to become undisputed champion, and the pair squared off in November 2021 for all the marbles.
In the end, it was the Mexican box office sensation that picked up the victory, knocking out Plant in the 11th round. The talented American returned last October and picked up a stunning knockout victory over Anthony Dirrell, and now Benavidez has opened the door for the 30-year-old former champion to gain a rematch against Alvarez. Taking the opportunity will prove to be a difficult task, however.
Benavidez enters the bout as the overwhelming favorite to secure the victory and in turn, a title shot at Canelo. However, he must also be commended for taking on such a difficult challenge, when he could simply wait for a shot and a mega-money payday. March 26th will certainly be a high-stakes evening for all involved.
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