UFC Fight Night 3: Five key talking points ahead of the final show in Abu Dhabi
A stacked 15-fight card will close the historic series on Yas Island
The very first UFC Fight Island comes to a close in Abu Dhabi on Sunday with a packed Fight Night 3 at Flash Forum. Here are some of the reasons why the fourth and final event of the series, which features a record-tying 15 bouts, should not be missed.
Will a refocused and refreshed Robert Whittaker deliver?
The former middleweight champion returns for the first time since losing his belt to Israel Adesanya last October, when he faces the dangerous Darren Till at the top of the card.
Whittaker (20-5 MMA, 11-3 UFC) may be only 29, and still sits as the division’s No 1-ranked challenger, but he admitted to falling out of love with the sport following that Adesanya defeat – his first reverse in 10 bouts. However, Whittaker says a fire has been lit.
How much he has in his tank – he has fought only twice in three years, been involved previously in a two-fight war with Yoel Romero, and suffered from a succession of injuries – against a real threat like Till, remains to be seen.
Is Darren Till a genuine top contender at middleweight?
Heralded as the face of British mixed martial arts, the Englishman’s world came tumbling down when he was submitted by Tyron Woodley and then knocked out by Jorge Masvidal.
However, the shift from welterweight to the division above appears to have steadied the ship, with his split-decision victory against Kelvin Gastelum in November putting him back on track.
Till (18-2-1 MMA, 6-2-1 UFC) seems to be in a great headspace – he has become the UFC’s undisputed social-media champion – and appears a much more natural fit in this class, thus avoiding the brutal weight cuts of the past. His left hand remains his greatest weapon. Get past a top-class Whittaker, and he’ll warrant that title shot at Adesanya.
Which considered legend will go out with a bang?
A three-fight match-up comes to an end on Sunday, 15 years following the first encounter. Former UFC light heavyweight Mauricio “Shogun” Rua takes on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira for the third time, with their most recent clash coming in 2015.
Rua has had the upper hand both times thus far, although they were each memorable tussles. “Lil Nog” is 44 and so has rightly declared this will be his final appearance in the UFC, win or lose, while soon-to-be 39-year-old Shogun must seriously consider his future if he comes out on the wrong side.
It’s an intriguing co-main event between two celebrated Brazilians, which is sure to garner plenty of attention even if its combatants are some way past their respective primes.
How will Alexander Gustafsson fare on debut at heavyweight?
A yearlong retirement has made way for a return to the sport – and a new division for Gustafsson to try his luck at. The Swede, a former three-time light heavyweight challenger, has made the step up to heavyweight, much to the surprise of many.
Considered one of the greatest fighters to not hold a title – twin defeats to Jon Jones surely still rankle – Gustafsson (18-6 MMA, 10-6 UFC) takes on former champion Fabricio Werdum on Sunday with more than a point to prove.
The two have a little bit of beef stretching back to differing accounts of a long-time-ago sparring session, while Werdum (23-9-1 MMA, 11-6 UFC) turns 43 next week and hasn’t won since 2017. Gustafsson must show he was right to come back.
Can history-chasing Khamzat Chimaev justify the hype?
Billed pretty much as the sport’s next big thing, Khamzat Chimaev took his opportunity last week, and in some style too. The Russian made his UFC debut at Fight Night 1, moving up to middleweight on short notice to dominate and then dispatch veteran John Phillips.
Chimaev won by a second-round TKO, and even took a rare 10-7 in the first round. Now he’s intent on making history in Abu Dhabi. Chimaev (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) requested another bout in the capital, so has dropped down to his usual welterweight to take on Northern Ireland’s Rhys McKee, who arrived in the UAE only on Tuesday.
Secure another triumph, and Chimaev will record the fastest consecutive victories in the UFC, 10 days apart. Do that, and all aboard the hype train.
Updated: July 25, 2020 07:11 PM