Sherdog’s Top 10: Can’t-Miss MMA Fights of March

Sean O’Malley was always thought to be more hype than substance, but the gold now strapped to his waist serves as proof to the contrary.

The 2017 Dana White’s Contender Series graduate will put his undisputed Ultimate Fighting Championship bantamweight crown on the line in a rematch with the only man ever to defeat him when he confronts Marlon Vera in the UFC 299 headliner on March 9 at the Kaseya Center in Miami. O’Malley has compiled a 5-0 record with one no contest in six appearances since his technical knockout loss to “Chito” in August 2020. The MMA Lab product last fought at UFC 292, where he put away Aljamain Sterling with punches and laid claim to the bantamweight throne in the second round of their Aug. 19 pairing. The setback was Sterling’s first in nearly six years and brought O’Malley to power as the eighth 135-pound champion in UFC history. Vera, meanwhile, has rattled off five wins across his past six outings, a contentious split decision defeat to Cory Sandhagen the lone hiccup. One of the sport’s most durable competitors, the Colin Oyama protégé has never been finished in his 32-fight career.

The O’Malley-Vera showdown is but one can’t-miss fight in March. Here are nine more:

Cedric Doumbe vs. Baissangour Chamsoudinov
PFL Europe 1
March 7 | Paris

One of the more intriguing kickboxing converts in recent memory, Doumbe takes the next step in his crossover to mixed martial arts when the Professional Fighters League makes its 2024 European debut at Accor Arena with the two-time Glory champion as the headlining attraction. The 31-year-old Frenchman carries a 5-0 record, having finished all five of his opponents by knockout or technical knockout. Doumbe made waves with his first PFL assignment on Sept. 30, as he needed just nine seconds to punch out Jordan Zebo and announce his arrival as a potential primetime player. Chamsoudinov provides his latest test. The 22-year-old MMA Factory rep improved to 7-0 on June 23, when he buried Efrain Escudero with punches in the second round of their battle under the Ares Fighting Championship banner.

Chihiro Sawada vs. Jihin Radzuan
ONE on Prime Video 20
March 8 | Bangkok, Thailand

Sawada, the reigning Shooto women’s atomweight titleholder, returns to the ONE Championship stage for the first time in more than a year and does so in a clear clash-of styles confrontation. A decorated amateur wrestler, she steps back into the spotlight with the wind of a six-fight winning streak in her sails. Sawada, 26, last suited up at a Shooto event on Dec. 2, when she disposed of Miku Nakamaura with a first-round armbar. She operates out of the Abe Ani Combat Club in Tokyo, where she trains under the great Megumi Fujii. On the other side of the equation, Radzuan linked arms with ONE back in 2018. The 25-year-old Malaysian kickboxer last saw action at ONE Friday Fights 35, where she rebounded from a unanimous decision loss to organizational cornerstone Stamp Fairtex and tapped Jennifer Olsim with a triangle armbar in the third round of their Sept. 29 affair.

Uran Satybaldiev vs. Bruno Assis
LFA 178
March 8 | Santa Cruz, California

The fate of the interim Legacy Fighting Alliance light heavyweight championship will hang in the balance when once-beaten Satybaldiev takes on Assis at Kaiser Permanente Arena. The victor figures to serve as a placeholder for incumbent champion Bruno Lopes until a unification bout can be made. Kyrgyzstan’s Satybaldiev debuted with the organization at LFA 165, where he took a unanimous decision from Gabriel Thimoteo in their 15-minute scrap on Aug. 18. His four other victories all resulted in knockouts. Assis, meanwhile, has won four of his past five fights. The 31-year-old Brazilian last fought on Oct. 21, 2022, when he subdued Jesse Murray with an armbar in the first round of their LFA 145 main event. Assis has nine first-round finishes to his credit.

Dustin Poirier vs. Benoit St. Denis
UFC 299
March 9 | Miami

Poirier now stands guard over the gate to the UFC’s lightweight elite. The American Top Team mainstay and perennial 155-pound contender draws a co-main event assignment opposite St. Denis, a French special forces soldier who has made a tremendous amount of headway in a short period of time. Poirier, 35, finds himself on the rebound following a head kick knockout loss to former World Series of Fighting champion Justin Gaethje at UFC 291 in July. In 38 professional appearances, the Lafayette, Louisiana, native has never suffered back-to-back defeats. St. Denis, meanwhile, enters the Octagon on a five-fight tear. He last fought at UFC 295, where he cut down Matt Frevola with a first-round head kick on Nov. 11. The match lasted all of 91 seconds.

Liam Gittins vs. Roberto Hernandez
Cage Warriors 168
March 16 | Manchester, England

Gittins will risk his undisputed Cage Warriors Fighting Championship bantamweight crown for the first time when he faces the once-beaten Hernandez at the BEC Arena. The “Nightmare” laid claim to the vacant 135-pound title in November, as he outpointed Reece McEwan to a five-round unanimous decision at Cage Warriors 164. Gittins trains out of the Next Generation UK camp, where he sharpens his skills alongside UFC lightning rod Paddy Pimblett. He has rattled off five consecutive victories, three of them finishes. Hernandez figures to provide a stern test. Nicknamed “Green Light,” the Joe Stevenson disciple enters the cage on a nine-fight winning streak, having nailed down his spot as the No. 1 contender with a unanimous decision over Trevin Jones at Cage Warriors 165 on Dec. 15.

Jakub Wiklacz vs. Zuriko Jojua
KSW 92
March 16 | Gorzow Wielkopolski, Poland

The fate of the Konfrontacja Sztuk Walki bantamweight championship will hang in the balance when Wiklacz makes his first title defense of 2024. He steps back into view after leaving his longtime rivalry with Sebastian Przybysz unresolved, as their fourth encounter resulted in a unanimous draw at KSW 86 in September. The stalemate interrupted a four-fight winning streak that had seen the 27-year-old Wiklacz rise to the top of the promotion’s 135-pound weight class. Nevertheless, new challenges await. Jojua, 28, approaches the most significant opportunity of his career riding an eight-fight winning streak that spans nearly seven years. He has not fought since he took a unanimous decision from Antun Racic at KSW 76 in November 2022.

Corey Anderson vs. Karl Moore
Bellator 302
March 22 | Belfast, Northern Ireland

Still regarded as one of the top 205-pound talents operating outside the auspices of the UFC, Anderson will battle Moore for the vacant Bellator MMA light heavyweight title at the SSE Arena. Vadim Nemkov vacated the championship in order to move to the Professional Fighters League heavyweight division, then proceeded to choke Bruno Cappelozza unconscious with an arm-triangle in his PFL debut on Feb. 24. Anderson looks to fill the void in the Russian’s absence. “The Ultimate Fighter” Season 19 winner last strapped on the gloves at Bellator 297, where he eked out a split decision over Phil Davis on June 16. Moore should provide plenty of resistance. The former Cage Warriors Fighting Championship titleholder has pieced together four straight wins since he joined the Bellator roster in 2018.

Amanda Ribas vs. Rose Namajunas
UFC on ESPN 53
March 23 | Las Vegas

The Namajunas flyweight experiment moves to its next stage when the two-time 115-pound champion squares off with Ribas inside the UFC Apex. “Thug Rose” enters the Octagon on the heels of back-to-back defeats to Carla Esparza and Manon Fiorot. Even so, Namajunas’ resume stacks up favorably with the majority of her contemporaries and features victories over Weili Zhang (twice), Joanna Jedrzejczyk (twice), Jessica Andrade and Michelle Waterson-Gomez. Whether or not the 31-year-old Milwaukee native can restart her engine at 125 pounds remains to be seen. Ribas, meanwhile, has become something of an enigma, as she has alternated wins and losses in each of her past six outings. The former Jungle Fight titleholder last competed at UFC Fight Night 232, where she brought down Luana Pinheiro with a spinning wheel kick and follow-up punches in the third round of their Nov. 18 showdown.

Erin Blanchfield vs. Manon Fiorot
UFC on ESPN 54
March 30 | Atlantic City, New Jersey

This main event at Boardwalk Hall will likely identify the next No. 1 contender for current women’s flyweight champion Alexa Grasso. Blanchfield has been nothing short of a revelation in her two-plus years under UFC employ. The onetime Eddie Bravo Invitational winner has rattled off nine consecutive victories, six of them inside the Octagon, and at just 24 years of age, she has emerged as one of the sport’s best young talents. Blanchfield last appeared on Aug. 26, when she was awarded a three-round unanimous decision over Taila Santos at UFC Fight Night 225. In her way stands Fiorot. One of MMA’s most physical flyweights, the 34-year-old Frenchwoman has won 11 fights in a row. Fiorot has gone the distance in four straight outings.
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