Bo Nickal at the 2020 Olympic Team Trials (Photo/Tony Rotundo; WrestlersAreWarriors.com)
This weekend features the MMA debut of a Dan Hodge Trophy winner as well as the return of a Greco Roman World champion, and that is before the UFC hosts one of their biggest shows of the year. As always, InterMat has a breakdown of all the top wrestlers competing in the combat sport.
The main card of ONE Championship "Revolution" will be live and free on YouTube at 8:30am on Friday. On that card, Amir Aliakbari will return to action after suffering his second professional MMA defeat. Aliakbari won a gold medal in Greco at the 2010 World Championships at 96kg. He then moved up to 120kg and made the top of the podium again in 2013. However, he was then banned for life and stripped of the medal due to a doping offense. Aliakbari turned to MMA in 2015 and made the finals of the Rizin World Grand-Prix before falling against Mirko Cro Cop. He signed with the UFC in 2019 but left the company without fighting. In his last outing, Aliakbari suffered an upset against Kang Ji Won. On Friday, he faces off against Anatoly Malykihn, a Russian fighter with an undefeated 9-0 record.
Things kick into high gear for wrestling fans on Friday night. Late last week, three-time NCAA champion Bo Nickal announced he would be making his MMA debut at Island Fights 69. The card, headlined by a celebrity boxing match between social media influencers, is available on pay-per-view via FITE TV. Nickal recently finished second at the Olympic Trials after picking up wins over Carter Starocci, Pat Downey and Zahid Valencia. In his MMA debut, he will face off against David Conley, who fought once as an amateur in 2014 and lost via second-round submission.
The LFA 115 card, which airs live on UFC Fight Pass at 9:00pm ET, features a main event between Josh Silveira and Tee Cummins. To MMA fans, Silveira is likely known as the son of veteran MMA fighter and long-time coach Marcus "Conan" Silveira. However, wrestling fans probably remember him as Josh DaSilveira, who wrestled at Arizona State. As a senior, he went 22-11 and qualified for the NCAA tournament through the Pac-12.
Also on the LFA card, former Iowa wrestler Edwin Cooper Jr. will return to the cage against Andrew Johnson. Cooper also qualified for the NCAA tournament as a senior in 2016. He finished the year 18-11 with victories over Tyler Berger, Richie Lewis and John Van Brill. In MMA, Cooper holds a 4-1 record, while his opponent brings an 2-0-1 record into the event.
On Saturday, the biggest MMA promotion in the World returns with UFC 266, one of their biggest pay-per-view events of the year. As you might expect, the card is full of former wrestlers.
Curtis Blaydes, who was an NJCAA champion at Harper College, will be looking to get back on track after dropping his last fight against Derrick Lewis. At UFC 266, he faces off against converted kickboxer Jairzinho Rozenstruik who holds a 12-2 record as a professional.
Merab Dvalishvili may not have wrestled in college, but he is probably one of the most wrestling-centric style fighters in the promotions. He has an extremely high motor and lands a whopping 7.38 takedowns per 15 minutes of fight time. He takes on Marlon Moraes in a battle that could move the winner into contendership for the bantamweight title.
Nick Maximov was a California high school wrestler who went on to wrestle at Clackamas at the NJCAA level. He earned a spot in the UFC after competing on the Contenders Series. Maximov takes on Cody Brundage, who holds a 6-1 record.