Fans Blow A Gasket Over UFC 278 Lineup Change

Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

“Literally the difference between buying the PPV or not.” At some point over the last 48 hours, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) quietly tinkered with its UFC 278 pay-per-v…


UFC Fight Night: Yanan v Inoue
Photo by Brandon Magnus/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC

“Literally the difference between buying the PPV or not.”

At some point over the last 48 hours, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) quietly tinkered with its UFC 278 pay-per-view (PPV) lineup, pulling the heavyweight banger between Marcin Tybura and Alexandr Romanov and sending it to the ESPN/ABC/ESPN+ preliminary card this Sat. night (Aug. 20) at Vivint Arena in Salt Lake City, Utah.

Taking its place? Wu Yanan vs. Lucie Pudilova at 135 pounds.

UFC fans did not react well to the lineup change, insisting it was a “joke” and “literally the difference between buying the PPV or not” for an already “brutal card.” Some fans suggested the opening fight between unheralded light heavyweight bruisers Tyson Pedro and Harry Hunsucker was the bout to poach in favor of “random WMMA fights.”

Read all the dissenting opinions on Twitter below:

It should be noted that Yanan and Pudilova have three “Fight of the Night” bonuses between them so they’ve certainly earned their spot on the PPV main card, it’s just a shame that it came at the expense of Tybura vs. Romanov. UFC PPV events cost $74.99 along with a subscription to ESPN+, so these days, every fight counts.

To see the revised UFC 278: “Usman vs. Edwards 2” fight card and PPV lineup click here.

Storylines to watch from UFC 278: A rematch six years in the making

Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards Meet in the main event of the UFC 278 PPV card on Saturday in Utah | Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Luke Rockhold returns to test himself opposite Paulo Costa in the co-main event of …


Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards Meet in the main event of the UFC 278 PPV card on Saturday in Utah
Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards Meet in the main event of the UFC 278 PPV card on Saturday in Utah | Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

Luke Rockhold returns to test himself opposite Paulo Costa in the co-main event of UFC 278

It’s been over six years since Kamaru Usman and Leon Edwards first fought. A lot of things have changed since Usman defeated Edwards on the early prelims of a UFC on FOX card in December 2015. One thing that hasn’t changed is the 0 in the loss column of either fighter since Usman’s hand was raised in victory that night. The two face off in the main event of UFC 278. Usman’s UFC welterweight crown is at stake in the pay-per-view headlining contest.

In the evening’s co-main event, ex-UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold returns to the octagon for the first time in over three years to face former UFC middleweight title challenger Paulo Costa, who hasn’t competed since October 2021.

Ahead of the August 20, ESPN+ streaming pay-per-view event, I look at the storylines to follow on the PPV portion of the UFC 278 fight card, which streams on ESPN+ pay-per-view, following the ABC prelims and the early prelims on ESPN+ and UFC Fight Pass.

Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards 2

If you think Leon Edwards is going to get a second chance at the UFC welterweight title if he loses at UFC 278, I’m here to tell you that will not happen. Edwards could lose the most controversial of split decisions and he’s not getting a rematch if he fails to unseat Kamaru Usman on Saturday. No, Leon Edwards, who is 9-0-0-1 since he dropped a unanimous decision to Usman on the UFC on FOX 5 early prelims in 2015, is only getting this one opportunity. to win UFC gold.

Like his opponent, Usman is also unbeaten since these two last fought. His record stands at 13-0 since his first meeting with Edwards. Five of those wins have been in defense of the welterweight title he took from Tyron Woodley in 2019.

Neither of these men is the same fighter they were in 2015. The big question in this contest is which one has progressed more without suffering the backward step that often comes with age and facing top notch competition in, well, any sporting contest.

Oh, and if Usman loses, you can bet he’ll get a trilogy fight against Edwards — directly.

Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

Luke Rockhold is saying — and if we are to believe him, —doing — all the right things to prepare for his return to the UFC.

“You can’t be half in, half out and I’ve been that way over the last five years,” Rockhold told MMA Fighting in the lead up to UFC 278. “Ever since getting the title, I haven’t been there. I’m in now. I’m f****** ready. I’m solely here for this.”

“I feel f****** unbelievable,” Rockhold added. “I feel better than I’ve ever felt in my life. Literally, I’ve devoted every last second, every last minute to training and recovery and just furthering myself to being the best I can be.

“I don’t go out. I don’t drink. I haven’t drank in over four months. I haven’t had a f****** drink of alcohol. Not saying I had a problem but I just don’t have the urge to go out and do these things. I’m single-track focused to doing whatever the f*** I need to do to be better every f****** day.”

That’s all well and good, but Rockhold hasn’t fought since July 2019 and he hasn’t won since 2017. He’s also 37 and has been knocked out in three of his past four outings.

I don’t doubt Rockhold’s sincerity and dedication, but MMA is an unforgiving endeavor. It’s a sport that doesn’t care that you are a former UFC champion or if you’re more dedicated than your opponent or even more well prepared and athletic than the person you’re facing.

Rockhold is testing himself in a big way against former middleweight title challenger Paulo Costa, who has knocked out 11 of his previous opponents.

Jose Aldo vs. Merab Dvalishvili

Has Jose Aldo gotten old? That’s the question begging to be answered at UFC 278. Those who wrote off Aldo during — or after — his (very) rough stretch between December 2015 and July 2020, have had to hold their tongues as the former featherweight champ has found new life at 35 in the bantamweight division. What’s remarkable about Aldo is that he has been fighting the best of the best since 2009, when he defeated Cub Swanson in the WEC featherweight title eliminator. In a sport that eats its own, Aldo has managed to have a second act that few expected.

Merab Dvalishvili, who made his professional MMA debut after Aldo had defended the UFC featherweight title five times and the WEC title twice, has the chance to end Aldo’s fairytale second act. That’s a big ask, but the opportunity is there for him and he is coming off the biggest win of his MMA career.

Marcin Tybura vs. Alexander Romanov

According to UFC commentator Jon Anik, Alexander Romanov entered his UFC Vegas 53 matchup against Chase Sherman as the biggest betting favorite in UFC history. Romanov, who was unranked and unbeaten (15-0) heading into that clash, was a -2200 favorite over Sherman, who checked in as the +1100 underdog.

The bout was Romanov’s fifth with the UFC. Romanov, who had also been a favorite in each of his previous trips to the UFC octagon, scored his fifth UFC stoppage in that contest. With the win, the 31-year-old Romanov broke into the official UFC heavyweight rankings.

For his first fight as a ranked fighter, the UFC booked the No. 13 ranked Romanov opposite the No. 11 ranked Marcin Tybura. Romanov isn’t as big a favorite in this scrap as he was in his previous outing, but at better than 4-1 odds, he is one of the biggest betting favorites on the UFC 278 fight card.

Like the Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker fight, which I discuss below, this booking feels like the UFC wants to give Romanov a winnable fight against a ranked opponent.

Tybura, who was on a five-fight winning streak before he dropped a decision to Alexander Volkov in October, has the opportunity to play the spoiler in this fight, but I don’t think he has the skills to overcome the confidence and complete game of his opponent in this engagement.

What fans want to watch here is if Tybura can force Romanov to engage in a striking battle. Frankly, that’s the only chance Tybura has in this matchup as Romanov’s wrestling skills are overwhelming.

Tyson Pedro vs. Harry Hunsucker

The UFC matchmakers seem to have a soft spot for Tyson Pedro. The 30-year-old returned to action in April after three surgeries and over three years outside the octagon. In his return bout, Pedro, who was 1-3 in his previous four outings and riding a two-fight losing skid, was a massive -630 favorite over Ike Villanueva. Pedro made quick work of Villanueva, who was 1-4 and also riding a two-fight losing skid.

I understand that matchmaking — to a point. The promotion has a young fighter in Pedro, who could be a promotable competitor in a market outside North America (Australia). With that in mind, the UFC gave him a bit of a soft landing in his return to the cage. What I don’t understand is why Pedro is getting another favorable matchup here. Pedro is an 8-1 favorite over Harry Hunsucker at UFC 278.

Hunsucker is coming off first-round knockout losses to Tai Tuivasa and Justin Tafa, who are both coincidentally, also Australian fighters. All five of Hunsucker’s career losses have come via first-round knockout.

This fight feels like it was designed to get Pedro another knockout win and then put him back in the light heavyweight mix. If that happens, it perhaps sets him up to land on the main card of a potential UFC Australia card in 2023.

The UFC has set Pedro up for success, but MMA is a fickle beast. We’ll find out on Saturday if he can deliver.

Kamaru Usman weighs up future Jon Jones clash at 205lbs: ‘If the money’s right, I’ll try my luck’

Kamaru UsmanWith talk of a potential light heavyweight excursion circling UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman ahead of his UFC 278 headliner this weekend, speculation has linked the Auchi native with a leftfield bout against former two-time 205lbs kingpin, Jon Jones; a clash Usman is failing to dismiss. Usman, the current undisputed welterweight champion and the promotion’s […]

Kamaru Usman

With talk of a potential light heavyweight excursion circling UFC welterweight champion, Kamaru Usman ahead of his UFC 278 headliner this weekend, speculation has linked the Auchi native with a leftfield bout against former two-time 205lbs kingpin, Jon Jones; a clash Usman is failing to dismiss.

Usman, the current undisputed welterweight champion and the promotion’s pound-for-pound number one fighter – a status he took from the aforenoted, Jones last year, returns this Saturday night in Salt Lake City, as he draws challenger, Leon Edwards.

Closing the curtain at the Vivint Arena in Utah, Kamaru Usman will look to further solidify his status as an all-time great at welterweight, as well as turn in his sixth successful successive title knockback at 170lbs. 

The Trevor Wittman native already holds a pair of wins over both Colby Covington and Jorge Masvidal as welterweight champion – as well as a knockout of Gilbert Burns. And has welcomed the opportunity to challenge the likes of Jiri Prochazka, Glover Teixeira, and Jan Blachowicz at light heavyweight next – skipping the middleweight division entirely. 

Kamaru Usman distances himself from a clash with Jon Jones

However, talks of a potential, albeit unlikely pairing with Rochester native, Jones has surfaced, with Usman distancing himself from the bout, but maintaining money could likely twist his arm to share the Octagon with the veteran.

“We’ve got to chill with these scenarios now,” Kamaru Usman told assembled media during his media availability ahead of UFC 278. “Nah, Jon (Jones) is Jon, he’s big as hell, which is why he can easily make that transition to heavyweight. If the money’s right, I’ll try my luck, but Jon is great. Jon is a fantastic competitor and definitely in that conversation as the best-ever.” 

While Jones has yet to make his expected heavyweight divisional bow at the time of publication, the former light heavyweight kingpin has been continually linked with an end-of-year clash against either former champion, Stipe Miocic, or current titleholder, Francis Ngannou.

Former Andrew Tate Opponent Calls Bullsh*t on Injury Claim Amidst Rumors of Fight With Jake Paul

Andrew TateFour-time kickboxing world champion Andrew Tate is rumored to make a return to competition against YouTuber turned professional boxer Jake Paul. The controversial kickboxer is said to have recently met with Paul’s manager Nakisa Bidarian to work out the details of a potential showdown between the two inside the squared circle. Andrew Tate has been […]

Andrew Tate

Four-time kickboxing world champion Andrew Tate is rumored to make a return to competition against YouTuber turned professional boxer Jake Paul.

The controversial kickboxer is said to have recently met with Paul’s manager Nakisa Bidarian to work out the details of a potential showdown between the two inside the squared circle. Andrew Tate has been out of competition for the last five years but has stayed relevant on social media with his TikTok videos amassing nearly 12 billion views with his often controversial and misogynistic views.

With rumors of a fight between the two social media stars coming together, a former opponent of Andrew Tate is stepping forward to call bullsh*t on Tate’s online persona. El Boustati faced Tate for the Enfusion 90kg world championship back in 2016. Boustati scored a victory over Tate just minutes into the contest. With Boustati landing a number of heavy shots in the opening moments, the Brit complained of an eye injury and asked the referee to stop the bout. Later on, it was revealed that Tate had suffered from a detached retina, but Boustati finds that hard to believe.

“The most painful thing for him was that he lost his belt, the only thing he ever loved,” Boustati said while speaking to The Mirror. “He came out of retirement for me to defend the belt, he lost it in the first round to a left hook in the head, the video is out there and directly after that he was defending himself saying he already had an injury on his eye. But when I look back, it was all a reason to protect himself for the time he’s living in now so people couldn’t say he’s not the champion he claims to be. 

Since the alleged injury took place, Andrew Tate competed three more times in Romania. Now that the former world champion is gearing up for a high-profile bout with ‘The Problem Child,’ Boustati felt it was time to call out Tate and bring attention to a story that to Boustati, just doesn’t make much sense.

“I heard after that he fought three times in Romania against three, like, douchebag people. He was having all these problems with his eye, but after my fight he goes straight to Romania and fights three nobodies to be able to pump up his record for wikipedia so people don’t think he’s a nobody.

“When I heard he was fighting Jake Paul that’s when I decided I need to bring this up. You can’t ride a Bugatti with a broken eye, you can’t fight three fights in Romania after me with a broken eye, come on!

El Boustati Calls Andrew Tate vs. Jake Paul an “Influencers Match”

Both Andrew Tate and Jake Paul have established massive followings through social media. A bout between the two makes perfect sense given their popularity online, but El Boustati believes this potential match-up is an “influencers match” and not a boxing match.

“Jake is a very very smart person, he knows what he’s doing and how to make his career very big. That’s why it’s the moment to fight Andrew and I give them both credit because it’s a very smart move, they both have unbelievable followings behind them, but don’t see this fight as a boxing match, see it as an influencers match.”

The thing El Boustati takes most issue with is Andrew Tate’s “alpha male” persona. Leading up to their 2016, bout, Tate appeared to be humble and respectful of El Boustati, but now the social media sensation is quick to throw verbal jabs at his former opponent. Boustati believes those actions show Tate is nothing more than a “scared person.”

“Don’t call yourself an alpha male if you’re a scared person, an alpha male is someone who’s the man of men. If you’re scared of any man, flesh and blood, then you are not an alpha male.”

Luke Rockhold tears into ‘degenerate’ reporter, defends Marlon Vera: ‘Do your f*cking homework, motherf*cker’

Luke RockholdAhead of his first Octagon appearance in over three years, former UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold has jumped to the defense of recent UFC San Diego headliner and teammate, Marlon Vera and his culture, tearing into a Full Send reporter – urging him to do his “homework”. Rockhold, a former middleweight champion under the UFC […]

Luke Rockhold

Ahead of his first Octagon appearance in over three years, former UFC middleweight champion, Luke Rockhold has jumped to the defense of recent UFC San Diego headliner and teammate, Marlon Vera and his culture, tearing into a Full Send reporter – urging him to do his “homework”.

Rockhold, a former middleweight champion under the UFC and Strikeforce banner, most recently featured on the main card of UFC 238, suffering an eventual second round knockout loss to Jan Blachowicz in his light heavyweight division bow.

Returning this weekend in the co-main event of UFC 278, Luke Rockhold features against Brazilian powerhouse and one-time title chaser, Paulo Costa in a pivotal clash in his Octagon return and middleweight rebirth.

Luke Rockhold last scored a win back in 2017 with a TKO stoppage of David Branch

Approaching his return to active competition with a large sizeable chip on his shoulder regarding the UFC’s practices and fighter pay, Rockhold pointed out a Full Send reporter during his media availability, criticizing his platform for encouraging a “degenerate” culture, and urging him to do his culture after he gifted Ecuadorian finisher, Vera, a Mexican lucha libre mask post-UFC San Diego.

“I see all you all you guys around here now, and I see this motherf*cker right here,” Luke Rockhold said when pointing to a Full Send reporter. “You gotta do your f*cking homework, you f*cking – you know, this degenerate culture of f*cking Barstool Sports and Full Send. You gotta do your homework. You can’t approach ‘Chito’ (Marlon Vera) and give him a f*cking Mexican mask about his culture. His culture? He’s f*cking Ecuadorian, motherf*cker. Do your homework.” 

“You gave him a Mexican mask and said, ‘This is your culture.’” Luke Rockhold continued. “You said something along those lines and it was a disrespect to him. And where he’s from. It’s about – being a reporter, is about doing your homework, and really understanding – and I know you guys (Full Send) got carte blanche because Dana’s (White) f*cking partnered with you guys, but f*cking do your f*cking homework. And grow a better culture. Stop giving bad culture to kids.”

When the reporter in question attempted to defend himself and explained how he had reached out to Vera’s manager, Jason House to explain the gift, Rockhold urged him to do his homework. And when pressed if he consumed any other Full Send content, Rockhold replied, “No, no I don’t.” 

Rockhold then denied that the reporter “appreciated” him as he had said as their interaction ended, saying, “You don’t – and I don’t (appreciate) you either.”

UFC 278: Usman vs. Edwards alternative stats

Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 278 fight card from Salt Lake City. UFC 276 goes down Saturday night in Utah with the re…


UFC 278 Press Conference
Photo by Carmen Mandato/Getty Images

A detailed breakdown of the position-by-position statistics to watch out for in Saturday’s UFC 278 fight card from Salt Lake City.

UFC 276 goes down Saturday night in Utah with the return of pound-for-pound #1 ranked champion Kamaru Usman. He’ll square up in a rematch with Leon Edwards, seven years in the making.

The co-main event features a long-awaited return of former UFC and Strikeforce middleweight champ Luke Rockhold who hasn’t fought since before the world knew what Covid-19 is, and hopefully has had ample time for his chin to recover from some devastating knockout losses.

So let’s jump into the numbers for UFC 278’s headliner fights.

Remember, what you’re about to read are not official UFC statistics. They’re alternative stats generated from official statistics designed to (1) give more weight to the recent present than the distant past and (2) not let one huge or horrible performance dominate the data. See the notes at the bottom for definitions of certain statistics.


Kamaru Usman vs. Leon Edwards

Edwards and Usman are both are coming in on very nice winning streaks. Usman last tasted defeat over nine years ago when he was choked out on the undercard of CFA 11. And the last time Edwards lost, it was almost seven years ago to Usman – in the early prelims of UFC on FOX 17, two fights after Francis N’Gannou opened the show in his promotional debut.

So it’s definitely been a while.

While they’ve each had long streaks, the dominance edge easily goes to Usman. Even though Edwards has been winning, his scraps tend to be much closer. Put another way, the most statistically dominant fight of Edwards’ 14-bout UFC career was his last-second KO of Peter Sobotta in 2018. Meanwhile, Usman’s had eight showings in his perfect 15-0 UFC career that have been even more dominant than Edwards at his best.

This is partly because Usman has the ability to dominate opponents in multiple ways. In four of his wins, he had over 10 minutes of ground control. In one of his wins, it was over 10 minutes of clinch control. And in three of his wins, he did his thing at distance for over 18 minutes. While wrestling is Usman’s bread and butter, he’s an extremely well rounded fighter.

But all rounds start at distance where Usman and Edwards both tend to spend around three of every five minutes, yet in different ways. Edwards isn’t much of a jabber, throwing 34% fewer head jabs than the average welterweight and 40% fewer than Usman. Edwards also throws a slightly less than average power volume, but when he unleashes those attacks, he’s accurate.

Edwards connects with half of his power strikes at distance. This is partly because he’s accurate to the head (41% vs Usman’s 37%) and partly because he does a good job mixing in more higher percentage shots to the body and legs (75% head, 15% body, 10% legs). Tagging your opponents is a good thing, but one issue Edwards has had is that opponents don’t tend to fall when he lands with power. While Edwards has four total knockdowns to his name, once we account for his time in the Octagon and activity levels, his three knockdown metrics come in 41-56% lower than the typical welterweight and 73-80% below Usman’s.

Meanwhile Usman is more active and accurate with head jabs and, while his power volume makes up for slightly less accuracy, Usman’s relative knockdown power was just shown above.

The end result, though, is that Edwards appears to be very much a live dog at distance. But if the fight moves to the clinch or ground, the numbers don’t crunch in his favor.

While both fighters spend 41 seconds to a minute of every round clinched up, Usman is the controlling fighter 74% of the time to Edwards’ 42%. And since damage is what really matters, while he’s there Usman blasts a +10.9 power strike differential (per five minutes in the position, P5M) to Edwards’ +2.8. And then there are takedowns. Usman attempts clinch takedowns at an average rate but completes a rock solid 60% (46% average). He’s also never been taken down anywhere, at distance or the clinch.

If Edwards does hit the canvas, in spite of his average to slightly better than average takedown defense, Usman’s maintained 100% top control during his time on the ground (68% for Edwards).

100%!

It’s hard to compare power strike differentials in this world since Usman’s only been controlled for basically a rounding error amount of time – 2 seconds of his 78 ground minutes – but his offensive GnP game connects with opponents 55% more than an average welterweight and 134% more than Edwards.

While the submission game is certainly a possibility – both guys have tapped out one opponent in the UFC – they don’t attempt them with much frequency and neither has been tapped in their time with Zuffa.

So how does this fight go down? In what should statistically be one of Usman’s worlds or at distance where the stats are much less certain of the outcome? I can’t wait to find out.


Paulo Costa vs. Luke Rockhold

The co-main event also has streaks, but not the good kind. Costa and Rockhold each enter the cage Saturday on two-fight losing skids.

While Costa was the victim of an Israel Adesanya “Flawless Victory” two years ago, he at least took 2-of-5 rounds against Marvin Vettori last year. The concerning thing for Rockhold is he’s been on the receiving end of highlight reel knockouts in three of his last four outings.

When they start at distance, Rockhold still maintains small but positive head jab and power differentials. He also mixes in body and leg strikes extremely well. But Costa’s got a nasty power volume and differential. Spending 4:30 of every five minutes standing in open space, Costa throws almost twice the power volume of a typical middleweight and he out-strike’s his opponents with a +14.8 differential P5M.

Against recent-Rockhold, it’s very possible that only one of those 14.8 will be needed to shut the lights off. Costa’s knockdown round percentage is more than double the average middleweight, and in alternative stats, so is Rockhold’s rate of getting cracked – his knocked down round percentage.

If Rockhold takes Izzy’s advice and tries to “start wrestling straight away,” he’s probably going to want to clinch up first. Costa’s defended 15-of-16 takedown attempts at distance while Rockhold’s only landed a measly 1-of-18. Rockhold’s at least been better in the clinch, going 5-of-15 on lower body takedown attempts. And while Costa’s only faced three such attempts in his UFC career, he’s twice succumbed and only once successfully defended.

While in the clinch, Rockhold tends to be the fighter with control against the cage (59% to Costa’s 4%), and if he’s able to take the fight to the ground, he’s the top position fighter 61% of the time to Costa’s 32%. And we know the danger Rockhold poses from there.

Rockhold’s got a nasty +47.1 power strike GnP differential from the ground (P5M) and he throws up 2.4 sub attempts per five modified ground minutes (see notes below) completing 43%. That means he attempts 72% more submissions than a typical middleweight and has a 70% better completion percentage.

The man is dangerous on the ground.

But will Rockhold ever have a chance to get there without it being for Costa’s finishing blows? That’s the big question which leads me to say:

Bring on the glorious fights!

Statistical Notes: Strike attempts are per an entire five minute round in each position (P5M) and are categorized as jab or power. A jab is just a non-power strike. Strikes are documented based on where they land or are targeted (head, body, legs), not the type that is thrown (punch, elbow, kick, knee). Knockdown rate is per five minutes at distance or in the clinch off the cage. Knockdown percentage is per power head strike landed while standing. It’s really hard to knock someone down if they’re already on the ground. Knockdown/Damage round percentage is the percentage of rounds with at least one knockdown or busted up face, respectively. Clinch control is having the opponent pressed against the cage. Ground control is having top position or the opponent’s back. Submission attempts are per five minutes of ground control minus time spent in the opponent’s guard plus time spent with the opponent in guard.

Paul writes about MMA analytics and officiating at Bloody Elbow and MMA business at Forbes. He’s also an ABC-certified referee and judge. Follow him @MMAanalytics. Fight data provided by FightMetric.