POLLOCK’S NEWS UPDATE: Mickie James discusses Royal Rumble news, rundown of each UFC weight class

Mickie James chats about the Royal Rumble announcement, the title picture for every UFC weight class, AEW Dynamite quarters & more.

Photo Credit: WWE

POST IT NOTES

**Rewind-A-SmackDown is live tonight at 11:15 p.m. ET. Wai Ting and I will review Friday Night SmackDown and AEW Rampage before taking your calls.

**On Saturday, WH Park will be joined by Martin Bushby from the British Wrestling Experience on The Long & Winding Royal Road. The two will review the March 2003 match between Mitsuharu Misawa and Kenta Kobashi, which was their first singles match outside of All Japan.

**POST Wrestling has released its Worst of 2021 Show with the panel of Wai Ting, Braden Herrington, Davie Portman and I making our picks in all the categories. The show can be downloaded or you can watch the entire show on the POST YouTube channel.

**The 2022 MMA Prediction Show is out with Ariel Helwani joining me to go back and see how his 2021 predictions panned out before playing “Likely or Unlikely” for this year:

POST DAILY NEWS UPDATE

– Ten performers off Sunday’s NOAH card
– Wrestling Observer Hall of Fame inductees
– Hiroshi Tanahashi re-signs with New Japan
– SmackDown & AEW Rampage tonight
– Terminus event and rules

WRESTLING NEWS

**Mickie James spoke with Ariel Helwani about the recent announcement on her inclusion in the women’s Royal Rumble later this month in St. Louis. From the interview:
*She was contacted a few weeks ago by Scott D’Amore on whether she was interested, and she was excited. It was her understanding that John Laurinaitis reached out to D’Amore about the idea.
*She thought it was going to be a surprise (which is something Summer Rae and The Bellas have also noted) prior to the announcement on Friday Night SmackDown last week.
*The match with Deonna Purrazzo was always going to be the main event of Hard to Kill and wasn’t changed based on the Rumble announcement.
*Mickie is hopeful she can wear her title at the Royal Rumble and expects to come as her IMPACT character.
*She didn’t want the trash bag incident to be the final moment she’s remembered for in WWE. She reiterated what happened and was the same way her belongings were sent in 2010 when she was released. She did not feel it was the company trying to send a message to her but it was thoughtless and noted how they don’t do that anymore and did receive calls and apologies from key people at WWE over the incident.

**IMPACT Wrestling finished among the top 150 cable programs on Thursday, per Showbuzz Daily. The show following Hard to Kill averaged 111,000 viewers and 0.03 in the 18-49 demographic, finishing #147 among cable originals. The show featured a ‘Winner Take All’ match between ROH women’s champion Rok-C and Reina de Reinas champion Deonna Purrazzo.

**Friday Night SmackDown takes place from the CHI Health Center in Omaha, Nebraska tonight and airs at 8 p.m. ET on Fox. The following announcements have been made for the show:
*Face-to-face between Roman Reigns and Seth Rollins
*Lita appearance
*Sami Zayn debuts “InZayn” segment
*Natalya vs. Aliyah

**WrestleTix reports that SmackDown is nearly sold out with the capacity set-up at the CHI Health Center in Omaha tonight with over 6,800 tickets out for the show.

**WWE is running live events in Fargo, North Dakota on Saturday and Sioux Falls, South Dakota. The shows will feature talent from both brands with Roman Reigns, Becky Lynch, Charlotte Flair, Big E., Kevin Owens, and Seth Rollins as the top talent advertised.

**AEW Rampage is the taped episode from Raleigh, North Carolina with the following matches and segments airing at 10 p.m. ET on TNT and streaming on TSN Direct in Canada:
*Shawn Spears vs. Andrew Everett
*Adam Cole vs. Trent Beretta
*Nyla Rose, The Bunny & Penelope Ford vs. Kris Statlander, Red Velvet & Leyla Hirsch
*AEW Tag Team Championship: Jungle Boy & Luchasaurus vs. John Silver & Alex Reynolds
*A feature on Thunder Rosa and Mercedes Martinez

**Game Changer Wrestling is holding events in Detroit and Hoffman Estates this weekend. Tonight’s card takes place at Harpo’s Theatre with Kevin Nash and Sabu scheduled to appear. The event will stream at 8 p.m. ET on FITE TV with the following card:
*GCW Ultraviolent Title: Alex Colon (champion) vs. Hoodfoot
*2 Cold Scorpio & Ricky Morton vs. Effy & Allie Katch
*Rich Swann vs. Leon Ruff
*Matthew Justice vs. Atticus Cogar
*Tony Deppen vs. Dark Sheik
*Matt Cardona vs. Rhino
*Jimmy Jacobs vs. Alex Shelley
*Nate Webb vs. Gringo Loco vs. Dante Leon vs. Jimmy Lloyd vs. Jordan Oliver vs. Ninja Mack

**Brandon Thurston reported the quarter hours from this past Wednesday’s episode of Dynamite on TBS. The peak in overall viewers and 18-49 came in the first quarter with 1,169,000 viewers and 588,000 respectively featuring the talking segment with Adam Cole, reDRagon, The Young Bucks, and Best Friends. For the remainder of the show, the 18-49 ranged from 450,000 to 553,000 ending with 469,000 for the main event between Sammy Guevara and Daniel Garcia. In overall viewership, segments 2-8 ranged from 1,096,000 (following the opening segment) down to 852,000 for the penultimate segment with The Acclaimed vs. Bear Country and angle with Darby Allin & Sting, It rose to 880,000 for the main event.

**New Japan World is launching a new series called “Lion’s Roar” with a behind-the-scenes documentary feature on the New Zealand Dojo run by trainers Bad Luck Fale and Tony Kozina. It will be a weekly series that premieres tonight at 8 p.m. ET.

**One of the more interesting concepts begins on Sunday with the launch of Terminus, founded by Jonathan Gresham and Baron Black. The inaugural event from Atlanta will be streaming at 6 p.m. ET on FITE TV with commentary from Lenny Leonard and Dave Prazak. There are eight matches scheduled involving talent from IMPACT, AEW, and top stars on the independent scene. They have also released the unique ruleset, which includes:
*Time limits of 15 minutes for singles matches and tag/multi-man matches, and 20 minutes for championship matches
*If the time limit is reached, there will be a 90-second overtime period where the performers start in a neutral position
*A disqualification will be called if a foreign object is used or outside interference occurs. You are also allowed one technical foul before being disqualified on the second one. Technical fouls will be called if an opponent is thrown over the top rope, a ten-second rope break or five-count on the rope or corner is not adhered to, an intentional low blow, intentional eye gouge, fish-hooking, intentional hair pulling, spitting, and closed fist punches to the face
*Count-outs will occur if a competitor is outside the ring for five seconds
*Weapon usage will result in a disqualification and EXPULSION from Terminus

**WWE has issued the following announcement for Monday’s edition of Raw:

This Monday, WWE will honor Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. with this tribute set to John Legend’s “Never Break” across all platforms, including Monday Night RAW on USA Network.

Legend describes this song as “the idea of resilience, the idea of commitment to something greater than yourself, and the idea that despite whatever challenges you might face, that love and unity and togetherness and resilience can help you get through all of it.”

Dr. King’s legacy lives on, inspiring generations. Please join WWE as we pay homage to a man who had the courage to stand against injustice, shout from the mountain tops and encourage all of us to judge based on character not the color of our skin.

**Wrestle Kingdom 16 Night 3 featuring New Japan vs. Pro Wrestling NOAH is now available on New Japan World and Wrestle Universe with both Japanese and English commentary with Kevin Kelly & Chris Charlton from New Japan and Stewart Fulton & Mark Pickering on the NOAH side.

**Below are the matches and segments for 205 Live tonight at 10 p.m. ET on the WWE Network:
*Ivy Nile vs. Valentina Feroz
*Guru Raaj in action
*Andre Chase addresses the WWE Universe

**AEW is taping two sessions of AEW Dark on Saturday at 2 and 7 p.m. ET at Universal Studios. Adam Cole, Eddie Kingston, Jade Cargill, Orange Cassidy, John Silver & Anna Jay are among those advertised.

**Warrior Wrestling has booked The Briscoes for their card at Cicero Stadium in Illinois on Saturday, February 12th.

**Prestige Wrestling has booked Charlie Haas for multiple dates this year with announcements to come. Haas worked on the most recent set of IMPACT Wrestling tapings and said he would be taking dates once again in 2022.

**Adam Summers from the Big Audio Nightmare show on the Wrestling Observer site has launched a newsletter on substack. The newsletter is called “Three Count Fall” analyzing three stories happening in the Japanese wrestling industry and it is free to subscribe to.

**Freddie Prinze Jr. chats his time writing for WWE in an interview with Barstool Sports.

**The WWE stock closed at $53.17 on Friday.

MMA NEWS

**The UFC kicks off its year on Saturday with the first Fight Night of 2022. I thought it would be a good time to look at the key stories and fights for each weight class as the year begins:

Heavyweight (Champion – Francis Ngannou, Interim – Ciryl Gane)

Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane will fight next weekend to determine the undisputed heavyweight champion after Gane won the interim title last August. It is Ngannou’s first defense since defeating Stipe Miocic last March and has aired his grievances with the UFC. If Ngannou loses, his current UFC deal would expire while a win extends the deal due to the champion’s clause. All eyes will be on Jon Jones this year and whether the former light heavyweight champion makes his heavyweight debut and if so, how quickly he fights for a championship? The other question is the future for Stipe Miocic, who has been quiet since losing the title ten months ago. The fighter to watch in this division is Tom Aspinall (11-2), who has won his four UFC fights with stoppages and only one escaping the first round.

Light Heavyweight (Champion – Glover Teixeira)

No one would have predicted that Glover Teixeira would be standing on top of the division one year ago but the 42-year old is the 205-pound champion. While not official, it is expected that Jiri Prochazka is the next in line for Teixeira and will be a difficult fight for the champion, as it will any title defense given the age discrepancy. Former champion Jan Blachowicz returns in March to fight Aleksandar Rakic but this division is wide open with a new champion and one that may not be favored against several of the contenders. This is a pivotal year for Dominick Reyes to try and make a comeback but the fighter I’d be keeping my eyes on is Magomed Ankalaev, who fights Thiago Santos on March 12th.

Middleweight (Champion – Israel Adesanya)

Israel Adesanya and Robert Whittaker will meet once again next month at UFC 271 with the division’s best squaring off in a rematch from October 2019. Adesanya had a speed bump in 2021 by testing himself at light heavyweight and gave up way too much size to Jan Blachowicz but returned to middleweight to defend his title against Marvin Vettori. Adesanya and Whittaker appear to have a comfortable distance from the rest of the pack. Derek Brunson is surging with a five-fight win streak that will be tested against Jared Cannonier next weekend at UFC 270 and would be in line for a title fight if he can extend the streak. Whittaker winning the title will shake things up but if Adesanya continues his run, it’s a small list of options that is limited to next weekend’s winner.

Welterweight (Champion – Kamaru Usman)

Kamaru Usman is coming off a year that many voted him the top fighter of 2021. Leon Edwards would appear to be in a position where he cannot be denied any further and will get his rematch with Usman. Despite the dominance of Usman, there are still a lot of players at 170 pounds ranging from Vicente Luque, Belal Muhammad, and rising stars Sean Brady and Khamzat Chimaev. It is Chimaev that will be on the fast track if he secures one more win and appears the most marketable opponent with an incredible style that has garnered significant attention despite fighting once last year. Nate Diaz has one fight remaining on his UFC deal and that’s the one to watch throughout the year to see if that fight happens and with whom. Conor McGregor can always throw a wrench into plans at either 155 or 170 pounds, although lightweight would seem the superior destination. This is a great division and will produce some excellent fights this year. I would not throw in the towel on Michael Chiesa, who had two rough losses in his last outings but is still a skilled fighter in this division.

Lightweight (Champion – Charles Oliveira)

Charles Oliveira was another improbable champion when 2021 began but cemented his legacy with wins against Michael Chandler and Dustin Poirier to earn the distinction as the top 155-pounder in the world. The expected fight with Justin Gaethje could be the best of the year. Oliveria is always going to be doubted based on past losses and concern over the different types of styles he will be matched against. Islam Makhachev feels like the champion-in-waiting and will have a big test against Beneil Dariush next month where a win by Makhachev should punch his ticket for a championship fight. That comes with the “Conor McGregor caveat” and the former champion finding his way back to a title fight should not be laughed off. Dustin Poirier and Michael Chandler would seem like a great direction for those two, who are temporarily out of the title mix. Rafael Fiziev is poised to break through in a big way if he can beat Rafael dos Anjos next month. It’s a loaded weight class and there are so many ways this division can go in 2022.

Featherweight (Champion – Alexander Volkanovski)

We thought the year would start off with the third fight between Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway, but instead, Chan Sung Jung will challenge for the title in April. Volkanovski will be heavily favored in that fight and you can’t discount Jung, but it would be a decent-sized upset if the champion did not retain. For now, this is the division of Volkanovski and Holloway and the others are playing for rankings. The only deviation from a third fight is if Holloway made the full-time move to lightweight, which didn’t go well in 2019 when he fought Dustin Poirier but seems an inevitability for Holloway with his natural growth in size and the fights that are waiting for him ten pounds up. Giga Chikadze is the featherweight to watch, he fights Calvin Kattar this weekend and is riding a lot of momentum. Yair Rodriguez had one of the best fights of 2021 with Holloway but came up on the losing end, he could have a big rebound. Rodriguez is 29 years old and has been in some wars, but his activity has not been huge with only four fights since the brutal loss to Frankie Edgar in 2017.

Bantamweight (Champion – Aljamain Sterling, Interim – Petr Yan)

This division can not move forward until Aljamain Sterling and Petr Yan have their fight later this year. Most will favor Yan in that fight and it will be a full year since Sterling last competed as he is coming off neck surgery. The fight has been pushed to April, so this division is moving in quicksand. Jose Aldo is an interesting case as he’s looked sensational in recent fights and the idea of him fighting for a title seems like a step too far in this late stage of his run, but plausible with another statement victory. T.J. Dillashaw has to be viewed as a contender but likely needs to take a fight rather than wait as the Sterling vs. Yan winner likely won’t be ready until late summer or the fall. The one to watch is Merab Dvalishvili, who has won seven straight fights. Cory Sandhagen is certainly a bantamweight to keep your eyes on as I expect him to challenge for, and potentially win a championship at this division in time. Sean O’Malley has a big star presence but has not fought the level of competition for us to render a solid decision on his ceiling.

Flyweight (Champion – Brandon Moreno)

Brandon Moreno will fight Deiveson Figueiredo for the third time next week at UFC 270. In the era of championship fights being saved for pay-per-view and the latest price increase, I only see flyweight being a division where the title fight is paired with something bigger on top. The fight next weekend should be terrific just like their past fights have been especially the UFC 256 contest. Askar Askarov fights Kai-Kara France at the end of March and it would make sense for the winner to get the next opportunity. This division is badly in need of a star to generate interest and hype around it. It’s an important year for Brandon Royval to see how he responds after losses to Moreno and Alexandre Pantoja.

Women’s Featherweight (Champion – Amanda Nunes)

This is barely a division. It has a champion and the state of the division depends on whether a challenger literally exists. If the UFC signs Kayla Harrison, then all signs point to her fighting in this weight class and going right to the fight with Nunes. However, I see other options for Nunes in the immediate future.

Women’s Bantamweight (Champion – Julianna Pena)

This division was busted open by Julianna Pena with one of the biggest upsets in MMA history last month by defeating Amanda Nunes. It appeared the biggest fight on the horizon was Nunes and Kayla Harrison if Harrison were to sign with UFC (and was in the crowd and focused on by the UFC production team) but I think the rematch with Pena and Nunes is the way to go. Harrison would not have been fighting at 135 anyway, you could have had her challenge Nunes at 145, but I’d go with Nunes challenging for the bantamweight title first as the rematch is larger and people will be more into the fight than the first where no one gave Pena a prayer. It gives new life to Holly Holm if she is ever to fight for a title again as it’s more likely with Pena than Nunes. Aspen Ladd and Irene Aldana will fight in April at UFC 273 and that’s a notable fight among contenders.

Women’s Flyweight
(Champion – Valentina Shevchenko)

Valentina Shevchenko has no one to fight in this weight class. The champion has defended her title successfully against Jessica Eye, Liz Carmouche, Katlyn Chookagian, Jennifer Maia, Jessica Andrade, and Lauren Murphy. It’s the reason why Miesha Tate coming down to 125 pounds would likely require a maximum of one win before they would thrust her into a title fight. The only fights for Shevhenko exist outside her weight class and with Amanda Nunes having other options, I’d rule out a third between them happening this year. The one exception is Tatiana Suarez, who has not fought since 2019 due to health issues, and she certainly needs to win some fights before fighting for a title but if she can get her career back on track, would be a contender that much quicker given the lack of options.

Women’s Strawweight (Champion – Rose Namajunas)

Rose Namajunas solidified herself as the top flyweight by regaining her title and defending it against Zhang Weili. Carla Esparza looks to be the next challenger and with five wins and a previous victory over the champion in 2014, there is a great back story for the fight. Marina Rodriguez is rising after a loss to Esparza in 2020 and bouncing back with three wins last year. Yan Xiaonan will look to rebound after suffering the first loss to her career to Esparza last year. Tecia Torres and Mackenzie Dern will fight in April at UFC 273 and with a win, Torres would extend her streak to four.

**Below is the Fight Night card for Saturday’s show at the UFC Apex beginning at 4 p.m. ET on ESPN+.

MAIN CARD (7 p.m. ET on ESPN & ESPN+)

*Giga Chikadze (146) vs. Calvin Kattar (146)
*Chase Sherman (250) vs. Jake Collier (264.5)
*Rogerio Bontorin (125.5) vs. Brandon Royval (125.5)
*Katlyn Chookagian (126) vs. Jennifer Maia (126)
*Dakota Bush (155.5) vs. Viacheslav Borshchev (155)
*Bill Algeo (145) vs. Joanderson Brito (145.5)

PRELIMINARY CARD (5 p.m. ET on ESPN+)

*Jamie Pickett (184.5) vs. Joseph Holmes (185.5)
*Court McGee (170) vs. Ramiz Brahimaj (170.5)
*Brian Kelleher (144.5) vs. Kevin Croom (145)
*Charles Rosa (156) vs. T.J. Brown (155)

**The COVID-19 restrictions in the province of Ontario are impacting professional mixed martial artists. TSN reporter Aaron Bronsteter shared a message that an unnamed UFC fighter received from the Ministry of Heritage, Sport, Tourism and Culture Industries that explains MMA fighters are not exempt from the current restrictions that include the closures of indoor sport and recreational fitness facilities except for athletes training for the Olympics, Paralympics, and select professional and amateur sports leagues.

**Aleksei Oleinik is off the UFC 270 card next Saturday where he was scheduled to fight Greg Hardy (7-4). MMA Junkie reported that Oleinik (59-15-1) was forced to withdraw from the fight and will be replaced by Serghei Spivak (13-3). The two are scheduled to fight on the pay-per-view portion of the card from Anaheim, which is headlined by Francis Ngannou and Ciryl Gane for the UFC heavyweight championship.

**UFC featherweight Ilia Topuria (11-0) has a new opponent at UFC 270. After Movsar Evloev was forced to withdraw from the fight in Anaheim, it was reported by Alvaro Colmenero and confirmed by MMA Junkie that Charles Jourdain (12-4-1) will take the vacant spot and fight next Saturday on the pay-per-view portion. Jourdain last fought in December where he defeated Andre Ewell by split decision. Topuria last fought in July at UFC 264 where he knocked out Ryan Hall in the opening round.

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About John Pollock 3366 Articles
Born on a Friday, John Pollock is a reporter, editor & podcaster at POST Wrestling. He runs and owns POST Wrestling alongside Wai Ting.