UFC Fight Island 3: The Night of Comebacks
By: Clint MacLean (@DieHardMMAPod)
Fight Island has been amazing. These fight cards have been all action all the time, and they just don’t seem to be slowing down. On the surface, Fight Island 3 might look like it’s a ragtag group of fighters, and Dana is starting to scrape the bottom of the barrel, but closer inspection shows that we have extremely intriguing matchups. The low key there are some jobs and rankings on the line.
Kicking off the main card is the UFC’s hottest new prospect Khamzat Chimaev who doesn’t fit this article as being in need of a comeback, but I HAD to mention him. This kid is looking like the complete package, and I am all on board the Khamzat train! He may not be fighting for a spot in the rankings, but he can make UFC history on Saturday by setting the record for the fastest turn around with consecutive finishes.
Just getting started 🤯
🇸🇪 @KChimaev gave us a debut to remember!
— UFC (@ufc) July 16, 2020
The next fight of the night features Alex Oliveira, who is 1-3 in his last four, and while he may not be cut with a loss due to his fan-friendly fighting style, he could use another “W.” Across the cage from Oliveira will be Peter Sobotta, which is a name you may not have heard in some time. Sobotta was a decent looking UFC prospect several years ago, but the last time we saw him, he was TKO’d by Leon Edwards, who we now know is a title contender. Injuries have side-lined Sobotta for some time, and now he is attempting to make his UFC return and looks to be in great shape. Sobotta is a high-level BJJ black belt, and Oliveira better minds his Ps and Qs if he is going to make it out of this one without tapping. Oliveira likes to be the bully in the cage and does like to mix in takedowns, which will play straight into the game of Sobotta. Peter’s durability was in question before his leave of absence, and some may think the time off isn’t a good thing. Still, honestly, I feel like it may have given his body time to heal, and if he comes back with more of a chin than he had the last time we saw him, he has a great shot at pulling off the upset Saturday.
— UFC (@ufc) May 28, 2017
Carla Esparza is facing Marina Rodriguez on the main card of Saturday’s UFC Fight Island 3, and she is not looking for a bounce-back per se but she is looking to crack back into the top of her division. Esparza is the former Straight champion and has been striving to get back to that point for some time. Saturday, she faces undefeated rising contender Marina Rodriguez who is a striker with a high output. Rodriguez may be undefeated, but she is coming off of a draw and has two on her record. Both times she has narrowly avoided defeat against wrestling heavy opponents in Cynthia Calvillo and Rando Markos shining the spotlight on the biggest hole in her game. Carla fits the prototype of the wrestling heavy fighter that has caused Rodriguez nothing but problems in the past, and we have to wonder if Rodriguez has been able to patch up that issue in the last seven months. Based on the way Esparza is looking right now, she is ready to go for this fight, and I expect an extremely competitive battle. The winner will be taken seriously in the conversation for the next title contender.
One of the main stories this week is the actual come back of Alexander Gustafsson. Gustafsson decided to hang it up after his loss to Anthony Smith just a short year ago, and like so many MMA “retirements,” it just didn’t stick. Gus now moves to heavyweight, thinking he will possibly fair better there, and I have to admit he has the frame for it. Fabricio Werdum is also looking for a comeback after dropping his last fight to Alexey Oleynik, making him 0 in his previous 2. Werdum is the former UFC Heavyweight champion, but is undoubtedly reaching the end of his career and seems to be showing up for a paycheck at this point nearly. Gus more than likely has more in the tank at this stage of his career, but I cannot imagine laying -300 on him after watching him completely give up in the Smith fight and then succumb to retirement. I have no idea where either of these men’s head is at, and while I think Gus gets it done, I would not be shocked if Werdum had one last one in him.
The main event has possibly the biggest comeback story on the card when Rob “The Reaper” Whittaker returns to attempt an assault on the 185-pound division after losing his belt last year. Robert has long been one of the most underrated fighters in the UFC and has quietly dominated the Middleweight division for the previous five years. After back to back wars with Yoel Romero Whittaker finally appears to have succumbed to the damage inflicted on him and Israel made quick work of him. The big question on everybody’s minds is: Is Rob shot, or is Izzy that good?
Whittaker faces UFC Hype Train Darren Till Saturday in the main event and will have his work cut out for him, proving that he is not damaged goods. Till is a physical monster who was on the shot road to the title since he stepped in the cage and finds himself once again in striking distance of a title shot. Till is a power puncher who relies on the knockout and might be the worst thing for Rob at this point in his career; however, Rob will be the first fighter who can match the physicality of Till since he has been in the UFC cage. I have personally never been on the Till train, and I have seen the cracks in his game exposed more than once. I think Whittaker has enough gas in the tank to come out here and remind us all why he was the champion.
— DieHardMMA_Podcast (@DieHardMMAPod) July 20, 2020