The UFC has a rare weekend, but there is still a lot of MMA happening around the world. While most wrestling fans likely focus on the top duos, and for good reason, there are some ex-wrestlers out there in high-stakes MMA bouts. As always, InterMat has you covered; Below is a look at some of the best former wrestlers in the MMA movement.
For the first time, Eagle FC, the promotion owned by former UFC champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, will host a shot in the United States. The event, which features several former wrestlers, takes place Friday at 6 PM ET and will be streamed for free via FLX Cast (https://watch.goflx.com/).
Rashad Evans vs. Gabriel Chico
Evans retired after suffering a first-round knockout against Anthony Smith at UFC 225 in 2018. However, he will return to the cage this weekend against Gabriel Chico. The 42-year-old wrestled en masse at Michigan State. At the 2003 NCAA Championships, he eliminated three-time champ, Greg Jones, from the 174-pound class. Evans switched to MMA in 2004 and won the UFC Light Heavyweight title from Forrest Griffin in 2008. Checco has been fighting for nearly 10 years and holds a professional record of 12-5.
Cody Gibson vs Ray Borg
Gibson wrestled at both Bakersfield College and Menlo College during his college days, ending with a pair of American seasons. He lost his job with the UFC in 2015 but has since gone 6-1 with a victory over former title contender John Dodson. Gibson will get another shot to prove he belongs with him while facing another title contender at Ray Borg. Borg fought for the UFC title as recently as 2017. However, since that title match, he has gone 2-2 in the octagon and struggled with the weight. After leaving the tournament last year, he scored a victory over Jesse Arnett at the UAE Warriors 20.
Sean Bunch vs. Verdavis Khasanov
Bunch was a two-time All-American with Edenboro and made the 133-pound NCAA Final at the 2005 Championships. He then moved to freestyle swimming, winning the 2010 US Open and representing the US at the 2009 World Championships. He signed with Bellator in 2012 to start His first appearance in MMA. His record is currently at 10-5, coming off a win over last September. And his opponent, Khasanov, is from Uzbekistan, and he suffers two consecutive defeats.
Bellator always seems to have a variety of wrestlers on their shows, and this weekend is no exception. Saturday’s show will be hosted by Bellator 273, featuring former wrestlers Ryan Bader, Benson Henderson, Darion Caldwell and Chris Gonzalez. Caldwell and Gonzalez will be on the YouTube primary card, which begins at 7 p.m. ET, while the rest will be on the main card. It airs live on Showtime at 9 PM ET.
Ryan Badr vs. Valentin Moldavsky
Despite suffering two losses in his last three fights, Badr still holds the Bellator heavyweight title. The former Arizona State wrestler will put that title on the line against interim champion Valentin Moldavsky on Saturday. In college, Bader was a three-time Pac-10 champion and two-time All-American. He spent eight years in the UFC after winning the seventh season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. He defeated MMA legend Fedor Emelianenko to win the Bellator heavyweight title in 2019.
Moldavsky won a provisional version of the heavyweight title by defeating Tim Johnson. He is now 11-1 as a pro and beat veteran Roy Nelson in the Ultimate Fighting Championship.
Benson Henderson vs. Islam Muhammedov
Henderson was a two-time NAIA All-American for Dana College. Over the course of his MMA career, he has held the lightweight title for both the UFC and WEC. He left the UFC in 2015 and signed with Bellator. With his current promotion, he has gone 5-6 and has unsuccessfully challenged for the Welterweight and Lightweight titles. Mamedov holds an impressive 20-1-1 record. He fought widely for the PFL before signing with Bellator. In his last fight, he made his promotion debut with a split decision over former Lightweight Champion Brent Primus.
Darion Caldwell vs. Enrique Barzola
While wrestling for the NC State, Caldwell famously teased Brent Metcalfe to claim the 2009 NCAA title at £149. He finished his college career as a four-time ACC Champion and two-time NCAA Champion. Caldwell made his MMA debut in 2012 and won the Bellator bantamweight title in his thirteenth fight. He probably needs a win here after losing back-to-back battles. Berzola recently left the UFC after going 6-3-1 for promotion. Although Caldwell is the one with the wrestling credentials, Brazola averaged 4.20 takedowns per 15 minutes during the UFC run.
Chris Gonzalez vs. Saad Awad
Gonzalez was an NJCAA All-American for Harper College in 2012 and then decided to focus on Greco. He made the non-Olympic world team in 2016 and followed that up with a silver medal at the 2017 US Open. Gonzalez made his MMA debut the following year and quickly set a record 6-0, including a victory over UFC veteran Roger Huerta. . However, in his last fight, he suffered his first defeat against Goeti Yamauchi. Gonzalez will have an uphill battle against the award, who is between 24 and 13 years old and holds a variety of impressive victories.
Kennedy on Monday MMA debut
After completing his career in North Carolina as a three-time NCAA qualification, on Monday he let the wrestling world know his future was in MMA. It was announced this week that he will be making his MMA debut on Sunday in Anaheim. The details of the match were not announced. On his Instagram, he started training under Antonio Maci at the Team Body Shop.