Updated: Oct 14, 2020
Travis Lizotte Full Contact Writer
Let's face it, this no live sports thing is sucking the life out of all of us. I know I would give a handsome portion of my stimulus money to sit in front of my television and watch some live fights once again. Fear not New England MMA fans there is a glimmer of light at the end of the tunnel as the UFC announced at the end of April that UFC 249 will take place at a new location; the VyStar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida on May 9th as the UFC plans to roll out three fight cards in just eight days from its temporary home in the Sunshine State, all without spectators in attendance. Along with the headline billing UFC 249 Ferguson v. Gaethje, the UFC will host Fight Night cards on both May 13th (Main Event: Anthony Smith (33-14) v. Glover Teixeira (30-7)) and 16th (Main Event; Alistair Overeem (45-18) v. Walt Harris (13-7), as the UFC looks to lead the sport world back into some semblance of normalcy with a stacked week long fight binge that begins with an absolute banger of a fight card at UFC 249 which airs on ESPN and ESPN+ pay-per-view.
Headlined by what seems to be an ever evolving Lightweight Title tilt between Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (25-3) and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (21-2) for the UFC’s Interim Lightweight crown, UFC 249 will play host to three matchups that New England MMA fans have had their eyes set on for quite some time. Three New England MMA veterans will make their highly anticipated Octagon returns Saturday as “Boston Strong” Charles Rosa (12-3, 6th UFC appearance), Yorgan “The Mad Titan” De Castro (6-0, 2nd UFC appearance) and Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar (20-4, 7th UFC appearance) lead an entire region out of the darkness of quarantine. Although it’s hard to say when we will see MMA at the regional level once again, seeing our region's fighters competing for the first time since the Coronavirus outbreak will overcome a massive hurdle as the sport pushes closer to a return globally.
With the UFC currently ironing out the ground rules for holding fights well into the summer months, including an attempt to work with the Nevada State Athletic Commission (NSAC) to bring fights to the UFC Performance Institute in Las Vegas, as well as the well traveled rumor of “Fight Island,” New England could see some of their favorite combatants return to the cage sooner rather than later. Below we take a closer look at all three New Englander’s matchups set to take place this Saturday at UFC 249 in Jacksonville. Also, we look back on two fights involving New England mainstays that were lost due to the virus, but could be rescheduled soon, as the UFC hopes to re-book bouts scrapped due to the Corona pandemic and uphold their entire 42 event schedule in 2020.
“Boston Strong” Charles Rosa (12-3, Peabody, Massachusetts) v. Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell (12-0) UFC 249 Prelims.
American Top Team’s Charles Rosa returned to the Octagon in October of 2019, after 30 months away from active competition due to a neck injury, in impressive fashion upsetting fellow New Englander and like minded submission specialist; Manny Bermudez (15-2) with a slick first round armbar at UFC on ESPN 6. With his twelfth career victory and 9th submission finish in his back pocket; Rosa, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, finds himself pitted against yet another submission wizard in Arkansas’ undefeated Bryce “Thug Nasty” Mitchell. The BJJ brown belt; Mitchell delivered just the second Twister submission in UFC history last December at UFC on ESPN 7 against Matt Sayles (8-3) earning himself a $50k performance bonus and setting up this meeting with New England’s Rosa. There has been plenty of bad blood brewing between these Featherweights leading up to the fight, with both men vowing to rip the other limb from limb once the cage door closes. Although Rosa outranks Mitchell in both belt level and experience, “Thug Nasty” presents a threat on the ground, to anyone in the Featherweight Division, given his crafty technique and grit.
Yorgan “The Mad Titan” De Castro (6-0, Fall River, Massachusetts) v. Greg Hardy (5-2) UFC 246 Main Card.
With one swing of his mean right hand Fall River’s Yorgan De Castro put the UFC’s Heavyweight division on notice as he removed Australia's Justin “Bad Man” Tafa (3-1) from consciousness in front of the Aussie’s home crowd in Melbourne, Australia at UFC 243. De Castro’s thunderous power was nothing out of the ordinary for New England fans who had watched “Yorgie” knockout four of his first five opponents, prior to his UFC debut downunder. As the wins continue to stack up for De Castro the stakes continue to increase, and this fight will be no exception as Yorgan faces off with former NFL castaway turned Knockout Artist; Greg Hardy. There is no doubt that American Top Team’s Hardy could be a force to be reckoned with in the Heavyweight division, possessing tremendous power to go with his already top level athleticism. However, Hardy has had a hard time with the MMA rulebook since signing with the UFC, suffering a disqualification loss to Allen Crowder (10-4) at UFC on ESPN+1 and having a Unanimous Decision win over Ben Sosoli (7-3) overturned to a No Contest for using an inhaler between rounds. Hardy opened a lot of eyes last time out against Alexander Volkov (31-7) as the former Dallas Cowboy hung around with the former Bellator Heavyweight Champion for three rounds en route to a Unanimous Decision loss. Hardy will be eager to get back in the win column after going winless in his last two appearances. Standing across the cage will be the heavy handed De Castro, looking to shut out the lights on Hardy’s UFC run.
Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar (20-4, Methuen, Massachusetts) v. Jeremy “Lil’ Heathen” Stephens (28-17) UFC 249 Main Card.
With the entire New England region behind him and led by the most lethal jab in the UFC’s Featherweight division, Methuen’s Calvin Kattar has made a continuous climb to the fringe of title contention since his arrival in the UFC in 2017. A narrow decision loss to Zabit Magomedsharipov (18-1) last time out did anything but hurt Kattar’s stock as “The Boston Finisher” matched the talented Russian blow for blow over three rounds of their Main Event clip at UFC on ESPN+ 21 in Moscow, Russia back in November. Many would argue that the outcome in Russia could have been a lot different had the fight been scheduled for the customary five rounds as UFC main events typically are. However, Kattar refuses to make excuses as he jumps right back into the fire against UFC’s seventh ranked Featherweight; Jeremy Stephens. The veteran of 32 fights inside the UFC’s octagon, the 33 year old Stephens is looking to shake his current three fight losing skid dating back to his 2018 loss to Jose Aldo. Stephens has yet another tough task ahead of him, as the red hot Calvin Kattar looks to put an end to “Lil Heathen’s” UFC title aspirations at UFC 249 Saturday night. This fight is going to be an absolute banger; both men are heavy handed but with vastly different striking styles, Stephens is an “in your face” brawler who is always pushing the pace, Kattar is much more precise with his strikes and picks his opponents apart with his calculated approach. Stephens may like to push the pace, but Kattar is known for dictating the pace and using his flow to upset the game plan of his foes. Make sure your spot on the couch is secure when these two lock horns. This is not a fight you’re going to want to miss!
Randy “The Zohan” Costa (5-1, Taunton, Massachusetts) v. Martin “The Spartan” Day (9-3) Originally scheduled; UFC on ESPN 8, March 28th.
The New England Superstar; Randy “The Zohan” Costa has not taken his foot off the gas pedal since the bell sounded on his UFC debut in April of 2019, against Brandon Davis (10-8) at UFC 236. Costa went “Full Send” last time out against Boston Salmon (6-3) overwhelming the Hawaiian from the opening bell and notching his first UFC victory, taking just over two minutes to dispatch the more experienced Salmon. With a total of just over eight minutes inside the Octagon, Costa has been nothing short of impressive. "The Zohan" anxiously awaits his third walk to the Octagon as his bout with Contender Series alumn; Martin Day, initially scheduled for March 28th, has been temporarily shelved due to the Coronavirus outbreak. Also hailing from the Hawaiian Islands; the 31 year old Day has had a rough go of it since his UFC debut in November of 2018, losing a split-decision to Pingyuan Lui (15-6) then subsequently losing his entire 2019 due to injuries. When on his game, Martin Day is a dangerous striker with some sneaky submission techniques on the mat, making this matchup with Costa a fight of the night candidate no matter which card it ends up on.
“Slippery” Peter Barrett (11-3, Plymouth, Massachusetts) v. Danny “The Hatchet” Henry (12-3) Origianlly scheduled; UFC on ESPN+ 31, April 25th.