Yas Island in Abu Dhabi– better known to most as Fight Island, has emerged as the interim fight capital of the world during the pandemic. In a span of 10 days, from July 15 to July 25, the island hosted three action-packed events.
Now that the UFC is headed back to the APEX in Vegas for it’s next event on Aug. 1, we take a look back at the Fight Island fights and ponder what’s next for each fighter.
Fight Island 1
Liana Jojua def. Diana Belbita via submission (arm bar)
Taila Santos def. Molly McCann via unanimous decision
Fight Island 2
Ariane Lipski def. Luana Carolina via submission (knee bar)
Fight Island 3
Pannie Kianzad def. Bethe Correia via unanimous decision
Carla Esparza def. Marina Rodriguez via split-decision
Diana Belbita (13-6)
It was a tough trip to Fight Island for Belbita who found herself on the wrong end of a submission. At 24-years-old, “The Warrior Princess” has time on her side and despite being 0-2 in the octagon, I am confident she can put things together and bounce back. Belbita may need some time to heal her arm, but when she is ready to return, a fun stylistic matchup for her is Justine Kish, who is 1-1 in the UFC flyweight division since moving up in 2018.
Liana Jojua (8-3)
After making her UFC debut as a bantamweight, Jojua moved down to the flyweight division for her sophomore appearance. In doing so, “She-Wolf” showed off some serious ground skills and nabbed her sixth career submission finish. Sabina Mazo does not currently have a fight booked– perhaps a fight between the two could be telling for where they are stand in the division. Jojua would test Mazo’s grappling and Mazo would test Jojua’s striking.
Molly McCann (10-3)
On Fight Island, McCann’s flyweight momentum was halted by Brazil’s Santos. “Meatball” is a game fighter who is usually involved in entertaining scraps. She was scheduled to face Ashlee Evans-Smith in March, however, COVID-19 forced the cancellation of that bout. Four months later, the fight still makes sense. Evans-Smith is also coming off a loss and has not fought since February 2019.
Taila Santos (16-1)
Santos’ performance on Fight Island was a coming out party– the Brazilian looked sharper than ever and showed skills on the feet and on the ground. In her first fight since February 2019, Santos finds herself close to cracking the top fifteen. A matchup with Antonina Shevchenko, who is currently ranked No. 13 in the UFC flyweight rankings, is a fun stylistic matchup that makes sense from a rankings perspective.
Luana Carolina (6-2)
After succumbing to a brutal knee bar finish on Fight Island, “Dread” could find herself out for up to six months. There may be different matchups available when she returns, however, a fight with China’s Yanan Wu makes sense. The pair has been scheduled to meet twice in the past but injuries on both sides forced cancellations.
Ariane Lipski (13-5)
“The Violence Queen” lived up to her moniker on Fight Island with an instant “Submission of the Year” contender. After a tough start to her UFC career, it looks like Lipski is turning a corner and putting things together– now riding a two-fight win streak. With another win or two, the former KSW champ will find herself knocking on the door to the top fifteen. A fight with Cortney Casey would make for a fun matchup– Casey is an experienced and known name in the UFC who is frequently involved in exciting fights.
Bethe Correia (11-5-1)
The former bantamweight title challenger finds herself in a tough spot after dropping a decision on Fight Island. The loss cost “Pitbull” her No. 15 ranking and she likely now finds herself somewhere between No. 16 and No. 20. With that being said, Correia is a brawler and even in her losses she has shown a lot of heart and grit. The winner of Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Sarah Alpar, scheduled for Sept. 26 makes sense.
Pannie Kianzad (13-1)
“Bonzai” showcased some slick boxing on Fight Island. Since competing on TUF 28 in 2018, Kianzad has shown improvements and growth in each bout. After the fight, she called for a match with Raquel Pennington— while that may be a fairly big jump in the rankings, why not? The bantamweight division is wide open with no clear pecking order. It’d be a great test as to where Pannie fits in the division. If the matchup with Rocky doesn’t come to fruition, a matchup with Lina Lansberg makes more sense from a rankings perspective.
Marina Rodriguez (12-1-2)
Brazil’s Rodriguez tasted defeat for the first time in her career at the hands of former champ Carla Esparza. Even in the loss, which was a closely contested one, Rodriguez did a lot of things right. Her striking and frame make her a tough out for anyone in the division. A fight against the fighter on the losing end of Claudia Gadelha vs. Yan Xiaonan, scheduled for Sept. 26, makes sense. If its Gadelha, her and Rodriguez were already scheduled to fight before the coronavirus. If its Yan, the fight is a fun stylistic matchup.
Carla Esparza (17-6)
In the most competitive women’s division in the sport, “The Cookie Monster” may find herself closing in on title contention. She is now on a four-fight win streak with victories over respected and ranked opponents. Esparza has been eyeing a rematch with Gadelha for sometime now but that matchup will only make sense now if Gadelha defeats Yan in September. Carla versus the winner of Claudia Gadelha vs. Yan Xiaonan makes great sense. Another great option is rising star Amanda Ribas— Ribas mentioned Esparza after her last win at UFC 251, and Esparza said she’d be interested after her fight on Fight Island.
What do you think fight fans? Would you like to see any of these matchups made?