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On The Rise: January 20 Edition


At the end of November, Sumudaerji announced that a new threat in the flyweight division had arrived.

Paired off with Malcolm Gordon for his first appearance in the 125-pound weight class, “The Tibetan Eagle” showed not only that he has continued to make major strides in his development, but also that he has the potential to be a problem in the flyweight ranks going forward. Working behind long, crisp strikes, “The Tibetan Eagle,” who turns 25 on Wednesday, picked apart the Canadian, stinging him with a collection of laser-targeted left hand rockets that found the mark and put him on the canvas in less than a minute.

Because that contest was the second bout of the evening and neither entered with much fanfare, it’s understandable if the performance slipped passed you. That being said, an effort like that cannot be overlooked and should serve to bring far more attention to the very intriguing new flyweight.

Sumudaerji is one of those fighters who accumulated a great deal of experience at a very young age, as he was already 11-3 in his career when he made his UFC debut at age 22. After getting submitted by returning veteran Louis Smolka in his first appearance, the promising young talent scored a unanimous decision win over Andre Soukhamthath in his sophomore outing and returned a little over a year later to deliver a breakout performance in his flyweight debut.

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This week, Sumudaerji squares off with 28-year-old Zarrukh Adashev, who looks to rebound after catching a massive right hand from Tyson Nam on the chin in his debut last summer.

If Sumudaerji turns in another blistering effort like the one he delivered against Gordon when he steps in opposite Adashev, he’ll secure himself a birthday victory and position himself as an intriguing new player in the highly competitive, always entertaining flyweight division very early in the year.

Enter The Dragon: Mason Jones’ Octagon Debut


As always, Jones has pushed himself to his limits in his training camp, but recently made the time to take up a rare opportunity to help other aspiring fighters in his country. 

“We’ve pushed hard in training, I’ve been able to get partners in, and we’ve done everything by the book in terms of restrictions and everything.”

Besides training and his ever-growing media commitments, all while retaining his razor sharp focus on his debut, Jones jumped at the chance to speak to young members of the Welsh national judo team about the role of judo in his life and the importance of setting your own goals and chasing them – not chasing others.

“I’m an ex-Welsh team member, I’ve been through what they’re trying to do and so one of the coaches got in touch with me to talk to them about my experiences. 

“I did a video call with the squad and it was something I enjoyed; anything to support educating people on the subject of mental health is something I support. There’s a lot of people struggling in these times, but we can all help each other.”

RELATED: UFC Fight Island 8 Weigh-in Faceoffs

The proud Welshman, who will have a Welsh flag glued to him for his entrance and the post-fight aftermath, aims to accelerate his road to glory in the UFC by being himself, which he believes will set him apart and make him a breakout talent in 2021.   

“Stylistically I already stand out from everyone; my fights are high-adrenaline, action-packed and my personality will shine through. 

“I’ve got to beat Mike Davis before I look at other fighters in the division and future bouts. I’m going to knock him out, I’m convinced of that, but you never know what can happen on the day. I don’t want to look past someone; I’m going to show the best version of me in the Octagon.”

Jones signed off with a message to UFC fans who haven’t watched him compete before and explained why they should be excited for his arrival.

“If someone hasn’t seen me fight before then you’re going to see a tremendous amount of physicality, you’re going to see someone who takes the front foot and takes the fight to their opponent. Whether it’s standing or on the ground, I don’t stop working, 

“I make sure I outwork my opponents and that my fights are exhilarating from start to finish.

“A Mason Jones fight is always an exciting fight, fans enjoy watching me, so it’s about all bringing that package to the UFC and showing the U.S. and the world exactly what I can do.”

Make sure to watch Jones and Davis at UFC Fight Island 8, Wednesday, January 20: Prelims begin 9am ET/6am PT, Main Card at 12pm ET/9am PT.

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Victoria Leonardo Plans To Prove She Belongs


Victoria Leonardo has called Louisiana home since she was four years old, but in the lead-up to her November bout against Chelsea Hackett on Dana White’s Contender Series, the New Jersey native had an opportunity to show off her East Coast attitude.

Three opportunities, to be specific, as she rapidly found out that despite eight pro wins and bouts in Invicta FC, LFA and Bellator, she was going into the UFC Apex as an underdog to 22-year-old Australian phenom Chelsea Hackett.

That didn’t sit too well with a fighter dubbed “Fury,” who had been in a similar situation more than once over the course of a pro career that began in 2018.

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“It always seems like every single time the hype is against me for whatever reason,” she laughed. “But I really feel like my best performances have been when I’ve had to prove myself in some way. Me and my husband (Brent Mason) have talked a lot about this because I think some of my worst performances are when I was overconfident. But I’ve always performed the best when I felt like I had this chip on my shoulder. For example, my pro debut there was a lot of hype behind Hailey (Cowan) and I felt like I had to go in there and show that I was up at that level. I’ve faced a lot of undefeated opponents, so every time it seems like they’ve got that hype behind their name because they’ve got the ‘0’ or for whatever reason, it fuels me.”

And that was before things really heated up. After getting the call to face the unbeaten Hackett, Leonardo scoured the internet for info and footage on her opponent, eventually winding up on Reddit. You can see where this is going.

“I don’t know how I got on this thread, but some person was like, ‘Yeah, Victoria’s good when she wants to be, but I think Hackett’s gonna win,’” Leonardo recalls. “For a day, it f**ked with me and then I was like, ‘No, I’m gonna prove this stupid motherf**ker on Reddit wrong.’ I don’t know if that person even cares, but it got to me.”

Leonardo laughs about it now, her credentials as a true fighter already established by her reaction. But, at the time, it was just putting Hackett in a deeper hole because now the Shreveport product was even more fired up.

RELATED: Preview The Entire Event Fight By Fight | Significant Stats | Lerone Murphy’s Patient And Steady Rise | Dalcha Lungiambula Wants To Show His Warrior Spirit | Roxanne Modafferi Embraces Every New Challenge | Tom Breese Eyes A Run To The Top | Mounir Lazzez Won’t Be Beaten On His Home Turf

Then came fight day, and in the van on the way to the venue, Leonardo’s coach and husband found that night’s card online.

“My boxing coach, for whatever reason, was like, ‘Oh look, they’ve got the pictures of everybody next to their opponent,’” Leonardo laughed, “And I was like, ‘Don’t show me that, it’s got betting odds on it.’”

They didn’t believe her.

“I said, ‘Look it’s right there,’” she said. “I don’t know why I felt the need to point it out to them, but I did, and then I saw it and I was like, ‘Well, the + is by my name.’”

It was official. Leonardo was the underdog. Two down, one to go, and the third jab at her was as she sat and saw a preview of the night’s bout.

View Leonardo’s Athlete Profile

“I see (UFC featherweight champion) Alexander Volkanovski’s quote about my opponent,” said Leonardo. “And I sat there, just seething. At that point, I was pissed. ‘Wow, they’re just gonna completely count me out of this. Everybody thinks she’s gonna blow through me.’”

Leonardo had other ideas, but first she had to get in her zone and get ready for a fight.

“Just stay focused and get to the fight because I know I’ve faced better competition than she has and I’m not trying to say anything about the girls that she’s fought and be negative towards them, but they were just not on the same level as the competition I faced in Invicta. I felt ready to show people that.”

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She did. At 4:41 of the second round, Leonardo halted Hackett, handing the Aussie her first loss while picking up a UFC contract for herself. She breaks that contract in on Wednesday when she battles fellow newcomer Manon Fiorot on Fight Island in Abu Dhabi. It’s the biggest fight of her life…again…so she’s ready for everything to come.

“I feel like every fight is the biggest fight of my life,” said the 30-year-old. “Every fight that I have coming up, it’s always like this is the biggest fight of my life. And it’s those little fights in between or on the way to that really start to define your career and so you really can’t lose too many of those. I’ve had a couple of devastating losses, so I know how important it is for me to go out there and put on a great performance in every single fight. I’m certainly gonna have jitters, but I don’t know if they’re gonna be different than my normal pre-fight jitters. Every fight’s important and I really do look at every fight like that, like this is the biggest fight I’ve ever had in my life.”

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That’s a good sign, because if it wasn’t that way, Leonardo would be going backward, not forward. And she is most certainly going forward. Just don’t call her a UFC fighter yet.

“I don’t feel like I’ve made it,” she explains. “I feel like, can I really tell people I’m a UFC fighter if I haven’t won a UFC fight? I want to be able to say, I’m here, I whupped this girl’s ass and this girl’s ass and I’m ready to be in line with the top contenders. I’m gonna continue to have a goal in front of me because that emotional high from winning the fight wears off and then I start to see, okay, I’ve got this thing now, and I want to get back to that feeling of reaching that goal and feeling my hand raised again. It’s addicting. And now I’ve gotta prove I belong in the big show, so it’s never done.”

Make sure you tune into UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs Magny at a special time this Wednesday: Prelims Begin At 9am ET, Main Card at 12pm ET

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Jerome Rivera’s Determination Won’t Let Him Down


Jerome Rivera laughs when it’s pointed out that as far public perception goes, fighters like him have fallen out of the sky and into the Octagon when making a UFC debut.

He’s fine with that, but the Santa Fe native, who makes his second UFC start on Wednesday against Francisco Figueiredo knows otherwise.

“It was a long time coming,” said the 25-year-old, who turned pro in 2014. “I was suffering dislocated elbows and working temporary city jobs trying to figure out something when my daughter was on the way, so it’s gonna be a really emotional moment when I get that W.”

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In his mind, there’s no question when it comes to the result on Fight Island. Sure, he wasn’t able to get the job done in his first walk against Tyson Nam last September, but this time around, the Dana White Contender’s Series veteran isn’t leaving without a victory.

“I know this is where I belong, and even just envisioning this fight, I know in my mind there’s nothing this dude can do that’s gonna stop me from winning,” he said. “If he catches me with an overhand or maybe he puts me in a submission for a second, the way my mindset is right now, there’s nothing he can do that’s gonna beat me. It’s going to be a very gratifying feeling when I get that first W.”

So gratifying that for a moment he can forget those days digging wells with one arm a couple weeks after elbow surgery, desperate for any job to make sure he was providing for the arrival of Emilia, now two years old.

“Those were some humbling times,” said Rivera, whose dilemma played out in front of the MMA world as his elbow was dislocated in a televised LFA bout against current flyweight contender Brandon Royval in May 2018.

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Coming back added a layer of resilience to an already talented and gritty fighter, and three wins followed when he returned, the last of which over Luis Rodriguez last August didn’t get him a UFC contract, but it did garner him a call to face Nam on late notice. A defeat followed, but in his second bout in the Octagon, Rivera can spoil the debut of UFC flyweight champion Deiveson Figueiredo’s younger brother. And while Brazil’s “Sniper” isn’t exactly an easy fighter to find footage on, Rivera and his team are making the best of the situation with what they can find.

“It definitely makes it a little harder when you can’t look up the fighter,” said Rivera. “When I got offered Tyson Nam, that guy’s got a lot of fights on YouTube and stuff like that, so we were able to look him up and come up with a pretty solid game plan. But this guy’s pretty hard to find, so when that happens, then you study their camp and see the style that those guys fight. So there’s his brother Deiveson and there’s also another guy that I’ve seen fight, so we’re kind of preparing for a style those guys have – really tough jiu-jitsu, pretty solid Muay Thai. From what I’ve seen, it looks like he fights like his brother a lot, so I’m really motivated. It makes me excited. I feel like I’m kinda getting ready to fight the champ, in a sense.”

He’s right, because if Rivera does make a statement against Figueiredo, big brother will likely want a crack at the New Mexico product. Maybe not in a fight or two, but down the line, making this a perfect way for Rivera to truly announce his arrival.

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“That makes me really excited about the matchup,” he said. “I consider my coach (Joshua Montoya) like a brother; we have a really cool relationship. So when we got offered the fight, I was telling my coach, ‘Any time I’ve ever seen you fight and you lose, I’ve always wanted to fight the dude.’ I know Deiveson Figueiredo likes to try and intimidate people and I’m not really gonna be there to do a whole lot of talking; I’m just looking to go make a statement the way I beat up his brother.”

Sounds like Rivera might be dumping his “Renegade” moniker to go back to his original nickname, “Shy Guy.”

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He laughs, admitting that he thought about it, but for now, it’s still “Renegade” on the outside and “Shy Guy” in his DNA. And he’s fine with that.

“When I fight, I hit that 180,” Rivera said. “If you meet me out on the street or you see me at the gym, I’m this really nice, calm, soft-spoken dude. But when I fight, sometimes I flip that switch and the little Santa Fe boy in me comes out.”

Make sure you tune into UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs Magny at a special time this Wednesday: Prelims Begin At 9am ET, Main Card at 12pm ET

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Mounir Lazzez Won’t Be Beaten On His Home Turf


Mounir Lazzez made a splash in his Octagon debut back when the UFC visited Fight Island in Abu Dhabi for the first time last July, as the welterweight from Dubai secured a victory over the dangerous Abdul Razak Alhassan in a Fight of the Night-winning performance.

Since that bout, Lazzez (10-1) has felt a slight shift in his public perception, and while he welcomes the notoriety, he won’t let it go to his head.

“It’s been different and better because I get more attention, but it’s the same mission: stay calm, composed, humble and hard work,” the 33-year-old told “In Dubai, when I’m in the mall or walking, people know me. It’s a nice thing when you’re a home-grown fighter and people appreciate what you do. I want to perform for them.”

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This time around, when he meets veteran Warlley Alves at UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs Magny, Lazzez will have the opportunity to do just that. The UFC is allowing a limited number of fans into Etihad Arena for the event and that means that for the first time in the UFC, Lazzez will be able to fight in front of his people.

“It’s going to be unreal,” Lazzez said. “I’m sure 100 percent you will discover it yourself; it’s going to be every single one of them screaming my name, so that will give me push as well to drive and get deeper in the fight and get that extra push.”

“The Sniper” found that extra push against Alhassan and impressed many with his gas tank and excellent skills on the feet. He’s excited for the challenges that Alves will present and is expecting the Brazilian to bring his A-game.

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“I’m expecting he’s coming to fight on his best day and I’m coming the same, so it’s going to be fireworks,” Lazzez said of Alves (13-4). “That’s what I’m expecting – war.”

With one war already under his belt, it’s clear that Lazzez is accepting that as the reality of being in the UFC. He isn’t concerned with the pressure of following up that Fight of the Night act with another bonus-worthy performance.

View Lazzez’s Athlete Profile

He is simply on a mission to get a win and represent his region.

“I am representing the region. I’m the one who has grown here and the one who made it to the UFC, and with a such good performance with a lot of technique brought to the table. Slowly I’m climbing but still with the same mission: feet on the floor, working hard and smart to get to the top,” Lazzez said. “I don’t want to jump, and trash talk and whatever. Stay humble and hardworking, and I’m going to climb the rankings. I’m just Mounir Lazzez. He’s here, he’s on UFC Fight Island, he cannot be beaten. This is my ground, and this is my home.”

Make sure you tune into UFC Fight Night: Chiesa vs Magny at a special time this Wednesday: Prelims Begin At 9am ET, Main Card at 12pm ET

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The Forces That Shaped Neil Magny


If recent history is any indicator, Magny will indeed shine. Since returning from a frustrating year-plus layoff in 2020, “The Haitian Sensation” has strung together three impressive wins over Li Jingliang, Anthony Martin and Robbie Lawler. Back in the main event slot for the first time since 2018, Magny knows his moment is now.

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“On Wednesday I need a dominant performance against Mike Chiesa in order to reach the next level in my division. There’s a lot of really good guys in my division, but I need to make myself stand out from the pack, and I feel a dominant win over Chiesa will allow me to do just that.”

Magny had promised during his layoff that he would come back a new fighter, a promise he has kept and then some, as a new gear was evident in his three 2020 outings.

“One of the things that’s been clicking well for me on my win streak is being able to put all the pieces together. Right now, I’m vibing with my coaches, vibing with my teammates…we’re able to go out there and just put things together. It’s one of the things that has really pushed me to success this past year.”

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The Good Fight Foundation: Making A Difference


Since Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier made his UFC debut in 2011, the Louisiana native’s rise as one of the top fighters in the world goes hand-in-hand with his outstanding contributions to the community. Together with his wife Jolie, the Poiriers formed The Good Fight Foundation, which is committed to helping those in need.

The idea started when Dustin and Jolie were packing up fight memorabilia and realized that instead of holding on to boxes full of hand wraps and shorts, they could auction off the fight-worn gear for proceeds that could go toward making a difference in the lives of people in Louisiana and around the world.

With people across the globe struggling in 2020, The Good Fight stepped up, finding a way to carry out several of the foundation’s goals despite setbacks caused by COVID-19.

Here are just some of The Good Fight’s contributions to the community in 2020:

  • Provided years’ worth of transitional car seats for families in need
  • Provided over a thousand warm meals for healthcare workers and first responders
  • Donated to several non-profits, including the Lebanon Red Cross following the explosion in Beirut
  • Donated infant necessities to mothers displaced during Hurricane Laura
  • Provided tools and supplies to assist with the clean-up of hurricane debris in Lake Charles
  • Hosted a fundraising event to raise money for St. Jude’s Research Hospital
  • Donated toys and clothing to The Hub Lafayette

“Life is a fight, and we have to stay positive during the good and bad times,” Dustin told “The Good Fight Foundation will not lose sight of the goal no matter what is happening. It’s our mission to not only help, but be a voice to those in need. We will persevere and continue the fight.”

The new year brings new opportunities for both Dustin inside the Octagon, and for The Good Fight outside of it.

On Saturday January 23, Poirier headlines UFC 257 in a highly anticipated rematch against Conor McGregor. A win in the bout could punch Dustin’s ticket back to a shot at the UFC’s lightweight title. Regardless of the result, the intense media exposure that comes with such a high-profile fight will certainly shine a light on the incredible work done by those involved with The Good Fight and assist in raising more funds for them to operate.

“We are extremely excited about the upcoming rematch with Conor McGregor and knowing the magnitude of this fight, it will be great to push the foundation even more,” Jolie told “Dustin plans on auctioning off his fight worn gear from UFC 257 on eBay and we will post the link within the week following the fight.”

The proceeds from Dustin’s UFC 257 fight kit will go directly toward The Good Fight’s current goal to provide transportation and tutoring for the children at The Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana’s six locations. The Boys & Girls Club of Acadiana provides youth with a safe and impactful environment focusing on academic success, healthy lifestyles and leadership.

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The Poiriers also hope to host a 5K Unity Run in 2021, bringing the community together to support local businesses, artists, musicians and foundations. The Good Fight also aspires to open a youth boxing gym near where Dustin grew up. The gym would allow children to earn their membership by maintaining good behavior and good grades in school.

It didn’t take long for Dustin’s peers to take notice of the great work done at The Good Fight, prompting them to contribute.

Some of the fighters that have donated their fight kits to The Good Fight include: Khabib Nurmagomedov, Max Holloway, Cub Swanson, Allen Jouban, Eryk Anders, Brendan Allen and Sabah Homasi.

“Having the foundation and seeing the difference it has made in so many people’s lives has been extremely rewarding,” the Poiriers said. “It has given us a completely different outlook on how we can use our platform to positively impact, and influence others to do the same.”

For more information on The Good Fight Foundation, what it does and how you can contribute please visit:

To watch Dustin’s fight with McGregor, order UFC 257 on PPV here.

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UFC Fight Night Chiesa vs Magny Results


UFC FIGHT NIGHT: CHIESA vs. MAGNY  features a battle between two veteran welterweights looking to make their move into serious contention and will take place Wednesday, January 20 on Abu Dhabi’s Yas Island. All bouts will air live on ESPN, ESPN Desportes and ESPN+ in the U.S.

Chiesa (17-4, fighting out of Spokane Valley, Wash.) has his sights set on continuing his ascent up the welterweight ranks by taking out one of the division’s toughest competitors. The winner of The Ultimate Fighter season 15, Chiesa established himself as one of the best lightweights in the world with victories over Beneil Dariush and Jim Miller before moving up to welterweight in 2018. Since the move, Chiesa has gone undefeated with wins over Rafael Dos Anjos, Diego Sanchez and Carlos Condit. He now looks to make it four in a row and stake his claim for a spot in the top 5.  

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A member of the UFC roster since 2013, Magny (24-8, fighting out of Denver, Colo.) has faced the who’s who of the welterweight division. Among the most active athletes on the roster with a record-tying five wins in a calendar year in 2014, Magny’s resume includes victories over former UFC champions Robbie Lawler, Johny Hendricks and Carlos Condit. He now seeks to begin the New Year with a major win and work his way towards his first UFC title shot.


  • Main Card: 12pm ET / 9am PT
  • Prelims: 9am ET / 6am PT


Victoria Leonardo vs Manon Fiorot

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Umar Nurmagomedov vs Sergey Morozov

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Mike Davis vs Mason Jones

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Francisco Figueiredo vs Jerome Rivera

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Dalcha Lungiambula vs Markus Perez

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Sumudaerji vs Zarrukh Adashev

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Ricky Simon vs Gaetano Pirrello

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Omari Akhmedov vs Tom Breese

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Opponents Michael Chiesa and Neil Magny face off during the UFC weigh-in at Etihad Arena on UFC Fight Island on January 19, 2021 in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates

Lerone Murphy vs Douglas Silva de Andrade

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Roxanne Modafferi vs Viviane Araujo

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Matt Schnell vs Tyson Nam

Ike Villanueva vs Vinicius Moreira

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Co-Main Event: Warlley Alves vs Mounir Lazzez

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Matt Schnell Is Focused On Wins, Not Statements


It hasn’t been all bad, though. In February, Schnell and his wife Morgan welcomed a daughter to the world.

“Being a daddy has been fun,” Schnell told “It’s been great. Obviously, twists and turns, things you can’t anticipate, but so far, it’s been great. I love my little girl, and I think me and my wife have grown closer through trying to bring her up, and we’re all learning things every day. That little girl – she’s something else.”

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When asked what’s harder between mixed martial arts and taking care of a newborn, Schnell joked that based on the sleep-schedule alone, taking care of a newborn takes that cake. To be fair, Schnell was making things look fairly easy before his loss to Pantoja. He rode into that fight on a four-fight winning streak, including two submissions.

Although the loss halted his momentum in the ever-growing flyweight division, he is eager to remind people of his ability.

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“Sometimes, you let things get away from you,” Schnell said. “You allow yourself to get emotional. You get caught up in the moment. What’s great about fighting is nothing is irredeemable, so I’ve got to get back out there and try to put these hands on this young man. I feel good about things. I’ve been training, and I know I’ve been out for a while, but we haven’t forgotten how to fight. I assure you that.”

Against Nam, Schnell faces a veteran of the regional circuit coming off two knockout wins in 2020 who has a propensity to stand and bang. One could assume it’s a fight that’ll allow Schnell to flex his karate black belt or his ground game, depending on where he takes the fight.

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“He’s shown that he is difficult to put away and that he’s game and capable everywhere,” Schnell said. “He’s got a great first reaction to takedowns and looks to be pretty strong and physical and, obviously, he’s a puncher. That’s all something to take into consideration, but I feel like my tools stack up well against his, and I think I’ll be able to do well.”

While flyweight is fairly open season in terms of the title picture once Deiveson Figueiredo and Brandon Moreno sort out their business, Schnell is more focused on the result than making a loud announcement about himself.

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“I’m not looking to make a statement,” Schnell said. “I’m looking to get a W. We’ll go out there, and we’ll do what we need to do. If I have to take him down and lay on him for 15 minutes, that might just be what happens, but I don’t anticipate that’s what’s going to happen. It should be a good fight. It’ll be competitive, and I’m going to go out there and put it on the line as always. I think my body of work speaks for itself, and I’ve had some curious performances, but I’ve had some good ones too, and I’m one of the best guys out here.”

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At No. 9 in the rankings, Schnell isn’t far off from bursting into the title picture and responding from a setback isn’t foreign territory. After dropping his first two UFC fights, Schnell went on that aforementioned four-fight winning streak, and on January 20, he has the chance to do the same.

“I got a real skill set,” he said. “I’ve been doing this for a long time my own self, and when I go in there and things click for me, it looks good.”

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UFC Fight Night: Holloway vs Kattar – The Scorecard


Kudos to Punahele Soriano and Dusko Todorovic for putting their unbeaten records on the line in their Saturday bout. As I wrote last week, that’s a rarity, but it shows the confidence both young men have in their skill sets. With that said, wow, what a win by Soriano, who showed that Hawaiian “Just Scrap” mentality to catch up to and finish Todorovic with a series of laser-like left hands. After more than a year on the sidelines, “Puna” is back, and what a welcome return it is.


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