MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Month for February: Middleweight contenders net another bonus

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best fights from February 2024: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s Fight of the Month award for February.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.

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Charles Johnson def. Azat Maksum at UFC Fight Night 235

Charles Johnson (14-6 MMA, 3-4 UFC) had a tall order in front of him to upset the previously unbeaten, highly touted Azat Maksum (17-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) – but he pulled it off.

After a strong opening round by Maksum in the flyweight bout, Johnson rallied after the slow first and pulled off the unanimous decision upset in a thriller.

Johnny Eblen def. Impa Kasanganay at PFL vs. Bellator: Champions

Johnny Eblen (15-0) kept his undefeated record intact, but it didn’t come without a close call against Impa Kasanganay (15-4) in their middleweight bout.

Bellator champ Eblen met PFL’s Impa Kasanganay in the matchup of champions from two different promotions. The fight was filled with back-and-forth action, but after 15 minutes, it was Eblen who got his hand raised over Kasanganay with a split decision nod.

Daniel Zellhuber def. Francisco Prado at UFC Fight Night 237

Daniel Zellhuber (15-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) put his jab to work for 15 minutes against Francisco Prado (12-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) and outworked him for his third straight win.

By the end of the lightweight fight, which included a 30-26 score for Zellhuber, Prado’s face was a bloody mess, and his body no doubt was beat up, too, from bunches of knees. For his work, Zellhuber got an extra $50,000 for the win in front of his home fans in the city of his birth.

Brian Ortega def. Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 237

Brian Ortega’s (15-4 MMA, 7-4 UFC) first attempt vs. Yair Rodriguez (18-5 MMA, 10-4 UFC) ended in an injury and a loss. The second attempt started with an injury and ended in victory.

In a rollercoaster 15-minute stretch, Ortega overcame an ankle injury and an onslaught of striking to become the first to submit Rodriguez, locking in an arm-triangle choke early in the third round to cap off a remarkable comeback.

The winner

The winner: Robert Whittaker def. Paulo Costa at UFC 298

Aside from a scare late in the first round, former champion Robert Whittaker turned in a phenomenal performance in an all-out striking affair against Paulo Costa.

The middleweight bout was one filled with action from two powerful top-tier fighters. When time expired after three rounds, Whittaker (25-7 MMA, 16-5 UFC) claimed victory over Costa (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) by earning scores of 29-28, 29-28, and 30-27.

From the beginning, it was clear this fight would be filled with hard-hitting action.

Powerful kicks from both started the fight, with Whittaker investing attacks to the legs, while Costa went high. Left hand jabs were also on display early. The pace was fast as Whittaker controlled from the center. The former champ controlled the action by darting in and out with punches, causing Costa to play his counter game or wait for chances between Whittaker’s offerings.

In the closing seconds, Costa uncorked a spinning heel kick that caught Whittaker right on the jaw, wobbling him badly. Somehow, Whittaker made it to the second round.

Whittaker came out in Round 2 with the same plan of attack. Costa smiled as Whittaker cracked him with a hard shot. In response, Costa peppered his jab and circled as blood began to trickle from Whittaker’s nose. Costa’s thumb accidentally poked Whittaker’s eye causing a brief pause, but when the fight resumed, they went right back into the firefight.

Hard leg kicks dug in from Whittaker, affecting Costa’s movement. Whittaker’s counterpunching began to shine in the second half of Round 2 as well.

Just five minutes remained, and the high-paced action continued. Costa chose leg kicks while Whittaker connected with punches upstairs. Costa called for Whittaker to stand in the center of the cage and throw down, but Whittaker kept to his plan. Whittaker’s darting strikes scored well, while Costa loaded up for more powerful strikes. Hard leg kicks from Whittaker also gave Costa trouble as the fight came to a close.

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Story originally appeared on MMA Junkie