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The first Ultimate Fighting Championship card of 2021 lost a key matchup.
On his Instagram page on Friday, Anthony Hernandez (7-2, 1 NC) posted that he contracted COVID-19 and his bout with Rodolfo Vieira (7-0) needed to be rescheduled. The middleweight pairing originally slated for UFC on ABC 1 on Jan. 16 has been pushed to UFC 258 on Feb. 13.
“Happy New Year,” Hernandez wrote. “Good news is that #teamFluffy is safe and gear goes out next week. Bad news is the fight’s delayed – 2020 left me with the COVID. I’m good [though] – and rescheduled for 2/13.”
Hernandez will be looking to bounce back from his first career knockout loss, which Kevin Holland handed to him in 39 seconds in May. “Fluffy” has overcome some adversity leading into and throughout his UFC career, as he began his ascent on Dana White's Contender Series by knocking out Jordan Wright in 40 seconds. The victory was overturned when Hernandez failed a post-fight drug test, but the promotion still brought him aboard to face fellow ex-Legacy Fighting Alliance champ Markus Perez in his debut. Perez submitted him with an anaconda choke, and “Fluffy” rebounded by becoming the first fighter in UFC history to ever win and lose bouts by anaconda choke, as he tapped out Jun Yong Park a few months later with one.
Facing Hernandez a few weeks later will be Vieira, who has yet to taste defeat as a professional – or even reach the judges. All seven of his wins by finish, six of those came by submission. His organizational debut in 2019 was a successful one, as he tapped out Oskar Piechota with an arm-triangle choke. In 2020, Vieira met Saparbek Safarov, and he too handed Safarov a defeat from an arm-triangle choke. In victory, “The Black Belt Hunter” became one of a small number of fighters to ever grace the Octagon that have landed multiple submissions of this type – Vieira is the first among them to achieve this in his first two bouts.
UFC 258 goes down tentatively at the Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates, although there is a chance it could take place instead at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas on Feb. 13. The pay-per-view card will be topped off by a welterweight championship match as Kamaru Usman takes on Gilbert Burns. The co-main event sees Kelvin Gastelum face Ian Heinisch at middleweight, while another featured bout on the main card also comes at 185 pounds when Chris Weidman runs it back with Uriah Hall.