A couple new fight announcements as well as another fighter being flagged by USADA form the basis of today’s MMA odds and ends, and you can find my thoughts on the news below.
Sean O’Malley Flagged By USADA, Out Of UFC 229
UFC bantamweight prospect Sean O’Malley, who was set to fight this weekend at UFC 229 against Jose Quinonez, announced himself on social media that he is off the card due to a potential USADA violation. According to O’Malley, he was flagged for some sort of steroid (not marijuana, like many suspected) and had to be removed from the card. Due to USADA’s new policy where they won’t announce suspensions until the cases are officially resolved this might not have come out so soon, but with the fight happening this weekend O’Malley announced the move himself. He says he is already talking to USADA and plans to fight this news. At this point, the UFC has not officially announced a replacement opponent for Quinonez. It’s possible the UFC will just remove him from the card and take it from 13 to 12 fights. Another bout on the prelims will likely be shifted up into the main televised spot on the preliminary card, which the UFC had pegged for O’Malley, who it sees as a future star. Just disappointing news overall.
Darren Stewart vs. Edmen Shahbazyan, TUF 22 Finale
A middleweight fight between Darren Stewart and Edmen Shahbazyan will take place at the TUF 22 Finale, which is set for Friday, November 30 at Pearl Theater at Palms Casino Resort in Las Vegas, Nevada. The bout has been officially announced by the UFC. Stewart (9-3, 1 NC) is 2-3, 1 NC overall in the UFC but is finally showing some promise. He’s won two straight fights, with back-to-back knockout wins over Charles Byrd and Eric Spicely helping him save face in the UFC. He finally looks like the knockout artist that we were all promised before he joined the UFC. Shahbazyan (7-0) is just 20 and is in the UFC at a young age after winning all seven of his pro fights by T/KO, including a devastating knockout on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. This is a really tough fight to call because Stewart has actually looked really good as of late and has UFC experience but Shahbazyan looks like an amazing prospect. I’m assuming the youngster will be favored here, but I’d look at Stewart if he was a big underdog.
Brad Katona vs. Matthew Lopez, UFC 231
Bantamweights Brad Katona and Matthew Lopez are set to meet at UFC 231, which takes place Saturday, December 8 at Scotiabank Arena in Toronto, Ontario, Canada. The UFC has officially announced the matchup. Katona (7-0) won The Ultimate Fighter 27 and looks like he could be something special in the bantamweight division. Lopez (10-3) is 2-3 overall in the UFC and has lost back-to-back fights by knockout to Alejandro Perez and Raphael Assuncao. I think at this point you have to fade Lopez, who just hasn’t looked good at all, and go with the prospect in Katona. I’d favor the young Canadian quite a bit in this fight.