With the UFC scheduled to return to the so-called Fight Island off of Abu Dhabi in the New Year, the promotion is starting to fill those festivities with fights featuring fighters who made big impacts in 2020.
MMA Fighting reports that a pair of middleweight bouts have been added to UFC Fight Island 7, scheduled to take place on January 16th.
Those bouts include Joaquin Buckley vs. Alessio Di Chirico and Phil Hawes vs. Nassourdine Imavov.
Buckley starred in the UFC’s highlight of the year for 2020, when he knocked out Impa Kasanganay with a spinning back kick at UFC Fight Night; Moraes vs. Sandhagen in October.
That was the Missourians second UFC bout. He lost his debut, by TKO, to Kevin Holland in August. Last time out, at November’s UFC 255, Buckley KO’d Jordan Wright.
Despite feuding with James Krause and Krause’s Glory MMA gym, ‘New Mansa’ finds himself up against Di Chirico, a UFC vet who hails from Rome.
Di Chirico is entering his fifth year of UFC competition. He holds Octagon wins over Garreth McLellan, Oluwale Bamgbose and Julian Marquez. He’s currently on a three fight losing skid, with decision losses to Kevin Holland, Makhmud Muradov and, most recently, Zak Cummings.
Former super prospect Phil Hawes began making good on his much celebrated potential in 2020, with stunning stoppages of Khadzhimurat Bestaev (on Contender Series) and Jacob Malkoun (at UFC 254). Those were Hawes’ first UFC appearances since a crushing loss to Julian Marquez, via head kick KO, on the Contender Series back in 2017.
Hawes’ opponent, Nassourdine Imavov, made a successful UFC debut with a gutsy decision win over Jordan Williams at UFC Fight Night: Holm vs. Aldana in October.
UFC Fight Island 7 is expected to feature former UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway versus top ranked Calvin Kattar in the main event. Ricky Simon vs. Brian Kelleher and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Jingliang Li are also expected to take place on the card.
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