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5 MMA Fights not to Miss in January



Happy New Year to you all. We enter 2017 with the MMA landscape a quite different place than the one that started 2016. January promises to kick the year off with a bang, as we take a look at the 5 fights for the month that you cannot afford to miss.

1.)   January 14th, Invicta FC 21 – Pannie Kianzad vs Raquel Pa’aluhi

Invicta FC hosts their first event of the year on January 14th from their traditional base of Kansas City, Missouri. The card is filled with exciting match-ups – a credit to quality matchmaking. One fight that certainly stands out takes place in the bantamweight division between Pannie “Banzai” Kianzad and Raquel Pa’aluhi. At just 25 and 26 respectively, both Kianzad and Pa’aluhi are known for being entertaining fighters, and matching them together should result in a serious fight of the night contender. A former Cage Warriors world champion, Kianzad has racked up 8 wins in her professional career to date, including wins over current UFC fighters Milana Dudieva and Lina Lansberg. Kianzad has had a spell on the sidelines recently due to a knee injury, but will be looking to use her comeback fight as a springboard towards another shot at Invicta gold. Pa’aluhi has been talked about as a potential title contender in Invicta since her debut win over current Invicta matchmaker Kaitlin Young, but an early 2016 loss to Colleen Schneider slowed her momentum. Having already shared the cage with the likes of Raquel Pennington, Sara McMann and Amanda Nunes in her career, Pa’aluhi has gained a wealth of experience beyond what her 10-fight record suggests and, with both women eyeing title shots in 2017, fans could be in for a treat when they take to the Invicta cage on January 14th.

2.)   January 15th, UFC Fight Night 103 – Jimmie Rivera vs Bryan Carraway

The UFC’s bantamweight division was turned on its head at UFC 207 when Cody Garbrandt upset the odds to snatch the title away from Dominick Cruz. While it appears as if TJ Dillashaw is the favourite to get the first crack at the new champion, another bantamweight bout in the first UFC show of 2017 also carries meaning in the title picture as #6 ranked Bryan Carraway faces #4 ranked Jimmie Rivera. Carraway only fought once in 2016 – a May decision win over Serra/Longo prospect Aljamain Sterling. That win catapulted Carraway up the rankings and into the upper echelons of the division. Suddenly, the line of challengers at bantamweight is beginning to grow, and Carraway gets the chance to force his way ahead of another one at UFC Fight Night 103. Jimmie Rivera, on the other hand, is riding a 19-fight unbeaten streak and emphatically staked his claim as a serious title contender with a dominant unanimous decision win over Urijah Faber last September. With the division undergoing an upheaval, both Carraway and Rivera will be determined to make a statement on January 15th and show why they should be the first challenger for the new bantamweight king.

3.)   January 21st, Bellator 170 – Tito Ortiz vs Chael Sonnen

If the first two fights on the list featured divisional prospects, this fight features two veterans of the sport who also happen to be two of the most polarising figures in the history of MMA. “The Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz takes on “The Bad Guy” of MMA Chael Sonnen in a main event of Bellator 170 that is certain to do big viewing numbers for the promotion. Ortiz was last seen in the Bellator cage in late 2015, coming up short in his bid to take the Bellator light heavyweight title from Liam McGeary. However, Sonnen has had a much longer layoff, with his last fight coming in 2013 prior to his suspension for failing a drug test. The duo have been doing what they both do best in recent times – using their trash talking to hype the fight. While some of the exchanges have come across as a little forced, it cannot be denied that when Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen trash talk, people sit up and listen – and when Tito Ortiz and Chael Sonnen trash talk each other leading up to them meeting in the cage, people are going to tune in. Both men are certainly far past their best days in competitive MMA, but this is a fight that will bring out nostalgic feelings for fans, and is likely to be one of the last opportunities to see these two MMA legends in the cage.

4.)   January 28th, UFC on FOX 23 – Donald Cerrone vs Jorge Masvidal

The UFC returns to the city where it all began way back in 1993 – Denver, Colorado. So much has changed since then, but one thing that remains the same is the appetite of fans for high quality fights – and the evening’s co-main event is the perfect remedy for that hunger. Two of the welterweight division’s most exciting fighters will collide when Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Jorge Masvidal take to the octagon. Since making the move to 170 pounds in 2016, Cerrone has looked better than ever, rattling off 4 straight finishes of Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story and Matt Brown that have seen him steadily climb the rankings to a position of #5. With the regularity at which Cerrone fights, a title shot is by no means out of the question in 2017. However, Jorge Masvidal has every intention of halting Cerrone’s march through the division. After seeing bouts with Siyar Bahadurzada and Kelvin Gastelum fall apart towards the end of last year, Masvidal fought Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale in December, emerging with a first round TKO win, building on his previous decision win over Ross Pearson. Both men have a reputation for putting on a show for the fans, and there seems to be no reason why this bout should prove to be any different. Without doubt, Cerrone vs Masvidal falls under the category of ‘must not miss’.

5.)   January 28th, UFC on FOX 23 – Valentina Shevchenko vs Julianna Peña


One thing that has changed since the UFC 1 in 1993 is the presence of women’s divisions, so it is perhaps fitting that the UFC’s return to the city where it all began features a main event featuring the women’s bantamweight division. It is a main event with massive implications at the top of the division, too, as the winner appears all but guaranteed to face the undisputed queen of 135 pounds in Amanda Nunes. The women ranked #2 and #3 will clash as Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Peña aim to prove beyond doubt that they are next in line for their shot at gold. Shevchenko, of course, has history with Nunes, losing to the now champion by unanimous decision last March. In her sole bout since then, Shevchenko put on a masterclass to easily take a 5-round decision win over former champion, Holly Holm, exhibiting her world class striking prowess. On January 28th, she will meet an opponent in Julianna Peña who is yet to suffer defeat in the UFC. Since winning The Ultimate Fighter 18 in 2013, Peña has taken down Milana Dudieva, Jessica Eye and, most recently, Cat Zingano at UFC 200 in what was the biggest win of her career to date. Peña has been very outspoken about her belief that she should have had a title shot by now, as well as questioning the UFC’s decision to award Ronda Rousey a shot at Nunes at UFC 207. One would expect that, should Peña defeat Shevchenko, the UFC will not be able to deny her that shot any longer. One person who will certainly be casting a watchful gaze over proceedings will be “The Lioness” Amanda Nunes, as Shevchenko and Peña battle for the right to face her next.

January looks set to get the MMA world off to a great start for 2017 and set us up nicely for the year ahead. Which of these fights are you awaiting most keenly? Is there any other fight in particular you are looking forward to this month? Get in touch and let us know on Twitter @MMALatestNws.

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Saad Awad talks Zach Freeman, kickboxing, 165 lb division and more ahead of Bellator 186



Long-time Bellator veteran Saad Awad takes on Zach “the Pico slayer” Freeman at Bellator 186. Awad is currently coming off of a unanimous decision win over Ryan Quinn back at Bellator 178. Awad looks to beat top prospect Freeman in an attempt to go on a two-fight winning streak, in a stacked lightweight division.

Speaking with MMA Latest, Awad let it known he believes Freeman has the better ground game. “I think he’s a solid fighter, pretty durable, obviously better on the ground, so I know I just have to be sharp, and be precise with my striking, and get ready for a good ground game.”

Freeman made his name by beating Bellator’s hyped prospect Aaron Pico back in June, Awad had the chance to give his thoughts on the fight. “I thought it was good, I thought it was a fast win, but he didn’t shy away from it, he didn’t let Pico come in and impose his will, he struck back when he needed to, and dropped him, and got a nice submission.”

With every win helping fighters get closer to a title shot, it’s unclear whether or not Awad is close to a title shot, but he hasn’t given up hope. “I’ve been with Bellator since 2012, I think, or 2013 and I haven’t got a title fight yet so I don’t know man. To be honest, it’s on Bellator and on me to go out there and preform. So I need to win as many fights as I can, so I can go out there and win it.”

For a long time, Awad has been known mostly as the man who knocked out former Bellator champion Will Brooks. Awad believes he’s moved past that fight and more importantly, has moved on from that title. “Definitely at the time I was that guy and I feel like Zach Freeman is that guy for Pico because Pico was pumped up, obviously more than normal. I had that title for a while, but Will Brooks did go off and win a title right after he lost to me, so he had his name buzzing for a while. I definitely think I’ve moved on from that and I’ve beaten some really good guys after that, and I’ve had some really good wars since that fight. I’ll never let one fight dictate who I am and I’m glad I’ve moved past that”

Awad comes into the fight back in the win column and up against an up and coming opponent, Awad details the amount of pressure he’s on. “You know what I always put pressure on myself. Whether I’m winning or losing, because at the end of the day you want to win, whether you’re coming off of a loss or you’re coming off a win. If you lose, you lose, and that’s it, you lost, so there’s always expectation with me and yeah if this time I lose, I could possibly get cut if I lose this one, because I just won my last one and I’m not trying to have a win one, lose, win one, lose one. So there’s still that pressure to perform, especially being that Zach has only one fight in Bellator and I’m probably ten fights in. So I do have some pressure behind me.”

Awad was unable to watch the Henderson-Pitbull fight, lucky, but he did have a theory on why it went the way it did. “You know what I didn’t even watch it, normally I watch all the lightweights but I missed that fight. I read it online, people were complaining saying they both weren’t doing as much, but I understand why Henderson probably wasn’t doing as much, because Patricky hits pretty hard and usually when someone hits pretty hard, you don’t want to go out there with that person and mix it up, because you don’t want to get knocked out. I don’t know if that’s exactly what happened, but I know it could’ve happened. So I take nothing from them because they’re both really good fighters and he won a split decsion so it was obviously close enough for them to go to a split decision.”

Awad also spoke about whether he preferred lightweight or welterweight, and why Bellator should consider a 165-pound weight class. “Honestly man I hate cutting weight. I hate cutting weight but I feel like I’m one of those guys that like if there’s a 165-pound weight class, that would fit me the best. I’m a huge lightweight but I’m a small welterweight, not small but I don’t cut that much weight like my normal walk around weight is probably 165 so you know I’m not the biggest welterweight so I prefer 165 if they added that weight class. If Bellator gets that weight I’d probably be one of the first in line to fight for it.”

With Bellator’s recent splurge on free agents and former UFC fighter’s, Awad believes it’s only helped make Bellator stronger. “I think its cool. No matter where they come from at the end of the day we’re fighters and whether we get cut or we opt to get out of our contracts, it’s because we want to make money, we want to get paid as much as we can, and sometimes we feel like we’re not respected and, were not getting paid what we think we’re worth. So sometimes you have to get out of a contract whether it’s with the UFC, ONE FC or Titan wherever the hell they’re at, or Bellator even. They leave because they want to get paid more. Even if they lost a couple fights, guys can have bad nights and they lose a couple and get cut. It doesn’t mean the guys suck. They could have had something going on or they just have bad match-ups and those guys could be still just as good and dangerous as they were when they first started. So I think nothing of them, I don’t look down on any of the fighters that come here, whether they were cut or opted to get out. At the end of the day, they’re still fighters so there’s respect for their abilities.”

Awad has also been training with Duane Ludwig ahead of this fight. “You know what Duane used to train with my coaches back in the day, I think back in ‘99, 2000 and so they have a really good relationship. He was out in Colorado and we had some teammates that would train with him. Now he’s back out here in Cali, so now we have some teammates going out and mixing it up with them. I’ve only met him once but the dude brings a different aspect to training and for me training with them I would definitely like to train with him more because, like I said, it opened up a whole new book in the chapter of training. I’ll definitely look forward to learning his style of standup because I think it would be good. I’m a big fan of Muay Thai, kickboxing, and boxing, and that’s how I’m going to end being the best I can possibly be, so I think that can add a lot to my arsenal.”

Speaking of kickboxing, Awad has also shown interest in participating on Bellator’s kickboxing cards. “You know what I did ask them, it kind of got shunned away because they’re keeping me busy with MMA. If they cant keep me busy next year I’ll definitely ask them to put me on one of those cards.”

Saad Awad takes on Zach Freeman on November 3rd, at Bellator 186. MMA Latest would like to thank Saad for taking time out of his busy schedule to speak with us.

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Watch: Bellator 185 Prelims



Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Complete Bellator 185: Mousasi vs. Shlemenko Fight Card:

Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)

Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)

Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)

Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)

Preliminary Card:

Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)

Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)

150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)

Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)

Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results



Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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