The mixed martial arts (MMA) Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) returned to Canada on June 10 for the first time in almost four years. In a night to remember in Vancouver, as all five Canadian fighters on the card took home a win.
Mike “Proper” Malott
Hailing from Hamilton, Mike “Proper” Malott stole the show, earning an emphatic second-round submission win in his fight with Adam Fugitt. In Dana White’s Contender Series in 2021, Malott earned his UFC contract with a guillotine choke against Shimon Smotritsky that caused him to submit 39 seconds into the first round. Malott continued to impress in other fights, with a first-round knockout of Mickey Gall and a first-round submission of Yohan Lainesse.
Malott’s fight against Fugitt was his biggest fight yet, taking place right before one of the two main events. While he opened as the favourite, Malott still exceeded expectations. An early body kick from Malott forced Fugitt to retreat early. The latter half of the first round showcased Malott’s pedigree on the ground as he landed two takedowns. Early into round two, Malott landed a pair of vicious hooks that sent Fugitt to the ground. The Canadian jiu-jitsu black belt capitalized on this and secured a guillotine choke to effortlessly end the fight.
A teammate of Mike Malott, Jasmine Jasudavicius faced Miranda Maverick on the same card. Fighting out of St. Catherines, the Canadian flyweight’s introduction to combat sports came at the late age of 26.
Yet her late introduction hasn’t stopped her from excelling. Like Malott, she earned her way to the UFC with a unanimous decision victory against Julia Polastri in the Contender series where she nearly finished Polastri in round one.
At UFC 289, Jasudavicius bore the storm early as Maverick was able to find success on her feet before taking down Jasudavicius. Round two saw Jasudavicius use her size with flurries of knees before stuffing a takedown and grabbing Maverick’s back. While Maverick fended off the choke attempts, Jasudavicius continued piling pressure in round three with a barrage of strikes. After another failed takedown, Jasudavicius controlled Maverick on the ground for the remainder of the fight to ultimately earn a unanimous decision victory.
Training alongside Jasudavicius and Malott is Kyle Nelson — a featherweight fighter from Huntsville — who fought the undefeated Blake Bilder. Nelson had a rocky road through the UFC, losing four of his seven fights. He entered UFC 289 on a three-fight winless streak, with his last bout ending in a controversial draw.
Despite stuffing a takedown early, a slow start on the feet allowed Bilder to take the lead in significant strikes. However, Nelson hurt Bilder with an overhand right to close the round. Later in round two, Nelson was able to hurt Bilder again with a series of leg kicks. The two would go back and forth on the feet before the final bell, earning Nelson a unanimous decision victory, snapping his winless streak and handing Bilder his first loss.
Another Canadian fighter on the card was Gatineau’s Marc-André Barriault, who faced off against Eryk Anders.
While competing under Technical Knockout (TKO) Major League MMA, Barriault won title fights in both the middleweight and light-heavyweight divisions. After signing with the UFC, Barriault went on a four-fight winless streak. Yet Barriault would win four of his next six fights, with his last outing resulting in a technical knockout victory in round two.
At UFC 289, Barriault impressed early — landing a right body kick, followed by a quick right hand that sent Anders to the canvas 30 seconds into round one. He continued to find success with body strikes throughout the fight. In spite of Anders setting the pace and mounting pressure, Barriault continued to have the edge on the feet — as well as neutralizing the majority of Anders’s takedown attempts — winning unanimously.
In a bantamweight bout, Aiemann Zahabi of Laval — younger brother of Firas Zahabi — faced Aori Qileng. So far, Aiemann’s run in the UFC has produced three wins and two losses, and he is currently riding a two-fight win streak.
Aimann expressed that the expectations of being the brother of a famous coach, Firaz Zahabi, resulted in him trying to force the action, telling The MMA Hour, “I’ve always tried to do more than I could.” However, facing Ricky Turcios — the season 28 winner of The Ultimate Fighter — in July 2022 proved to be a return to form. He displayed his defensive prowess, only allowing Turcois to land 11 per cent of his strikes, while systematically breaking him down with his counter-striking.
June 10 would prove to be a quick night for Aimann, who ended the bout only a minute into round one. Aimann’s counter-striking was on display once again, countering a leg kick from Qileng by feinting a takedown that created the opening for the left hook that ended the fight.
These rising prospects are looking to continue their rise in MMA through the UFC, hoping to create a bright future for Canadian MMA. The exceptional performances they produced on June 10 may simply be the beginning of a potentially successful UFC run and the growth of the sport in Canada.