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5 Things We Learned From UFC 198

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Earlier this year when the card for UFC 198 was announced; many said it was not only the best Brazilian card they had seen but potentially the most stacked UFC card to date. The talent on the display was such, that even with the late withdrawal of an exciting match-up between the great Anderson Silva and the ever entertaining Uriah Hall; UFC 198 could still be held up as one of the best events that the promotion has put together.

If it looked good on paper, then UFC 198 was even better on canvas, as a record-setting Brazilian crowd at the Arena de Baixada in Curitiba, witnessed their compatriots go 10-2 on the night. After a strong start to proceedings, Brazilian fighters were 7-0 in their bouts before Bryan Barberena defeated Warley Alves via unanimous decision in the first fight on Pay-Per-View. However, it was the second Brazilian loss of the night that would leave an arena full of people stunned as Stipe Miocic took under one round to knock out Fabricio Werdum and take home the UFC Heavyweight belt.

Whether it was that win for Miocic, Jacare Souza solidifying his claim for a Middleweight title shot or the dominant UFC debut of Cris Cyborg, UFC 198 has set a number of stories rolling; so here are a few of the things we have learned from the weekend’s fights.

Stipe Miocic vs Alistair Overeem is Likely the Next Heavyweight Title Fight

Where else to start but with the crowning of a new UFC Heavyweight champion?

Not once during fight week did Stipe Miocic look like he was under pressure, whether it was during interviews or at the weigh-ins he was at ease with the situation and this was especially true of the 2 minutes and 47 seconds he spent inside the octagon. It was obvious early on that his activity in the last 12 months benefitted his performance as he was loose and relaxed, stuffing a Werdum takedown and connecting with his jab on multiple occasions, before landing a shuddering right hand going backwards that sent Werdum to the canvas. It was as decisive a win as the Cleveland native could have hoped for and in knocking out the champion in the first round, Miocic ensured that an instant rematch for the Brazilian looks highly unlikely.

When it comes to immediate rematches, I believe that unless it was an extremely close decision like the fight between Robbie Lawler vs Carlos Condit earlier this year, they should be avoided at all costs. The manner in which Miocic finished this fight to take home the UFC Heavyweight gold leads me to believe that we will not be seeing an immediate rematch of Saturday’s main event. Instead, Miocic’s first title defence will almost certainly come against Alistair Overeem, a man who has called for the fight as recently as two weeks ago after he defeated Andre Arlovski at UFC Rotterdam.

Overeem had mentioned that he would like to fight for the belt in November at UFC 205 in New York and whether that is likely to materialise is yet to be seen, however, I do expect to see Miocic and Overeem square off inside the octagon before the end of 2016.

Jacare is More Than Worthy of a Middleweight Title Shot

Prior to his fight against Vitor Belfort this past weekend, Jacare Souza had been questioned by many as a legitimate title contender at Middleweight. Partly due to the perceived lack of quality opposition he has faced inside the octagon, but also because of his loss to fellow contender Yoel Romero, Jacare was doubted as having the necessary ability to get over the hump for a title fight. However, these doubts were blown away by the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu master as he swept aside Vitor Belfort inside a round to put himself firmly at the head of the queue for the next shot at the 185lb gold.

After his 4 minute 38 second TKO finish of the former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Souza will now turn his attention towards UFC 199 and the Middleweight title rematch between Luke Rockhold and Chris Weidman, where he will likely find out his next opponent and it would seem the Brazilian has a preference for who he would like to fight for the belt. In his post-fight interview, he stated “I’ve earned a title shot, I deserve it… I’m going to finish Luke Rockhold”. If Jacare gets his way we would see a rematch of a 2011 Strikeforce bout in which Rockhold took Souza’s Middleweight title via a decision win that the Brazilian feels was unjust.

However, regardless of who wins the UFC Middleweight title on June 4th, it seems that their next opponent will be a primed and dangerous Jacare Souza and on the basis of Saturday night, they will have their work cut out for them.

Expect to See Cris Cyborg in the UFC Again, But For Now Only at a 140lb Catch-Weight

The knock on Cristiane Justino, or Cris Cyborg as she is more commonly known, has long been that she could not make weight at 135lbs and therefore qualify to fight in the heaviest of the UFC’s female weight classes. That is seemingly now a moot point as she made her promotional debut at a 140lb catch-weight in Curitiba on Saturday; she weighed in at 139lbs and looked great on the scale, as did her opponent Leslie Smith.

The fight itself was a very routine win for Cyborg, as many predicted beforehand it did not last long, in fact, Smith didn’t make it past the 2nd minute of the 1st round. Viciously short and sweet; the Invicta Featherweight champion made short work of the gritty American, who, despite her protestations at the stoppage, was overwhelmed by the superior striker and took a large amount of damage without reply.

In her post-fight interview Cyborg addressed the elephant in the room and admitted that for now at least, she wants to defend her Featherweight title with Invicta. She went on to say that rather than push her body to make the cut down to Bantamweight which would signal a permanent move to the UFC, she would like to continue to take catch-weight fights with the organisation, around her schedule with Invicta.

At the Very Least, Demian Maia is in the Welterweight Title Conversation

Where can a 4 fight winning streak and a ranking of 6th in the UFC’s Welterweight division get you? Apparently it doesn’t even get you on the main card of a huge Pay-Per-View event in your home country; however it seems that Demian Maia will not be getting sold short on his demand for more recognition much longer.

This past weekend Maia scored a submission victory over Matt Brown and extended his unbeaten streak to 5 fights, this is a feat that surely cannot be overlooked by the UFC brass as the dominance of Maia’s win was something to behold. Not only did he subdue the dangerous Brown on the feet, he proceeded to out grapple Brown at every turn when he took the fight to the mat. The 4th degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt displayed once again why he has one of, if not the best ground game in the sport by smothering Brown in every round, before making the American tap with a rear naked choke late in the 3rd round.

Such was Maia’s dominance that a couple of my colleagues and myself believe he may have had one if not two 10-8 rounds in the books before the finish at 4:31 of the 3rd. Though it is unlikely we will see him fight for the belt next, this was a performance that puts the Brazilian very much in the title picture at 170lbs. It is probable that lying in wait is a number one contender fight against the winner of Rory MacDonald vs Stephen Thompson which takes place at UFC Ottawa on June 18th.

Whether that is the next step for Maia or not remains to be seen, and with the UFC’s Welterweight division being as talent stacked as it currently is then he may have to wait for a couple of fights to get his shot at the gold. That said, with this most recent win the 38-year-old Maia has certainly thrust himself into the title picture.

Brazilian Fans Are So Passionate & It Sometimes Boils Over

The fact that the 45,000 tickets for UFC 198 sold out in 24 hours, making it the 3rd biggest crowd in UFC history, proved once again that Brazilian MMA fans are some of the most passionate in the sport and their ability to vocalise that passion is surely unmatched. Whether they were cheering their own fighters or booing their opponents, the volume of the crowd in the stadium was constantly on high from the first prelim fight to the main event, topping out at 110 decibels when Jacare Souza finished Vitor Belfort in the co-main event.

As always the infamous chants of, “uh vai morrer!” translated to English as “You’re going to die!” echoed around the Arena de Baixada during the entrance and introduction of every non-Brazilian fighter, however, there was one man in particular who garnered a lot of negative attention from the Brazilian fans. That man was Matt Brown, whose ill-advised antics at the weigh-ins made him a target for punches from the crowd as he embarked upon his ring walk; never one to shy away from a fight the Ohio native returned the blows.

Despite this, UFC 198 showed us, beyond any doubt, why the nation of Brazil is so important, not only to the UFC but the sport of Mixed Martial Arts as a whole with their overwhelming support of every aspect of the fight game.

Top to bottom, the card will be remembered as a huge success for the UFC and it’s safe to say the company has started a busy period strong as UFC 198 is the first of many events coming up in the next 6 weeks, the culmination of which is at International Fight Week with UFC 200 on July 9th in Las Vegas.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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UFC 219: Cyborg vs Holm recap

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In yearly tradition , the UFC hosted a pay per view fight card at the T-Mobile Arena  in Las Vegas once again and for the second year in a row, the card was headlined by two females fighting for the title of the baddest woman on earth. Cristine Cyborg Santos was looking to defend her featherweight title for the first time since capturing the title last summer in a tko victory over Tonya Evinger.  Her opponent would be Holly Holm, the woman who shot into stardom after knocking out Ronda Rousey to become the bantamweight champion in 2015 and was fighting for the featherweight title for the second time after being unsuccessful in a controversial loss to Germaine De Radamie in Brooklyn.

In the co main event, The UFC welcomed one of the most feared lightweights and beloved contender Khabib Nurmagomedov who returned to the cage after a year layoff after failing to make weight earlier this year in a title eliminator with Tony Ferguson . Welcoming Nurmagomedov to the cage was exciting Brazilian striker Edson Barboza who was on a 3 fight win streak after losing to interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson in 2015. The winner would guarantee a title shot for themselves against either Tony Ferguson or the winner of the title unification fight between Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson if it happens.

The rest of the card had other stories that intrigued the fans with the return of former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit taking on Neil Magny, Cynthia Carvillo looking to go 5-0 in 2017 with a win over Carla Esparza and an exciting lightweight fight between Marc Diakiese and Daniel Hooker.

 

The Main Event

UFC Women’s Featherweight championship

Christine ” Cyborg” Santos vs Holly ” The Preachers Daughter” Holm

When the UFC announced it’s intentions to start a featherweight division for females in the UFC, a fight between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm was the most logical fight to start the division. It took almost a year to come into fruition but on Saturday night, we finally had the answer of who would be the most feared female fighter in the world.

The fight started off with Holm tripping Cyborg after a kick and started the clinch game for Holly , who overpowered Cyborg against the cage. A move that would slow down Cyborg’s attacks in the later rounds but this was not the case tonight. Cyborg, who was known as a devastating berserker like striker in her earlier has become a more patient striker under the guidance of Jason Parillo. Cyborg caught Holly with a variation of counter strikes throughout the fight which swelled Holm’s left eye. Holm had her moments in the fight and gave Cyborg her toughest fight to date.

As we moved into the later rounds, the counter strikes were landing more often for Cyborg and started to dictate to fight. The final bell rang and although many scores were thrown around on twitter all in favor for Cyborg. Cris Cyborg won a unanimous decision with one judge scoring the fight 49-46 which had Cyborg winning four rounds and the other two judges scoring the fight a lot closer 48-47.

What’s next for Cyborg? She asked for Meagan Anderson in Australia , the last Invicta featherweight champion who has yet to make her debut for UFC after signing last summer. With the card in 6 weeks, its unlikely she will get her wish but Cyborg vs Anderson should be next in the shallow and confusing 145 division for females.

 

The Co-main event

Khabib ” The Eagle ” Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza

A fight that in many people’s eyes was the true main event with fan favorite Khabib Nurmagomedov putting his unbeaten 24 fight win streak on the line against fellow top contender Edson Barboza.

What can you say about Nurmagomedov that hasn’t been said already. He was nothing short of perfection.

Implementing his game early, Nurmagomedov took the fight to the ground early in round 1 after failing on the first attempted takedown on Barboza. Once the takedown was secured, the Russian posture to his feet and landed devastating ground and pound on Barboza. It took a minute to see Barboza would be in for a rough night as by the sound of the bell ending for the first round, Barboza was bloodied up and looked defeated.

The second round was even more devastating when Khabib had Barboza on the ground for the entire round. The commentators in awe of Khabib’s abilities began to sound concerned that Barboza took too much damage as no matter who much punishment Nurmagomedov would deliver to Barboza, Barboza continued to be in the fight and looked for the knockout whenever the fight would go back to standing which ultimately ended in the brazilian being taken down again.

Barboza had a chance to end the fight in the third when he landed a head kick on Nurmagomedov who showed a granite chin and walked through the shot like T-1000.

The fight went to the judges and the judges scored the fight in favor of Khabib Nurmagomedov ( 30- 25, 30-25,30-4) which just highlights the one-sided victory for the Russian who moves to 25-0 and will likely take on Tony Ferguson next year.

The rest of the card

Although not the most exciting run of fights in the lead up to the main and co main. The main card hosted the return of Carlos Condit who after returning to the cage following a 16 month hiatus only to suffer a decision loss to an impressive Neil Magny who used his wrestling to take down the former champ on numerous occasions.

Speaking of former champs, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza scored a big win beating undefeated Cynthia Carvillo, who impressed in round 1 before Esparza turned the tides and finished the fight with a flurry of strikes to secure the victory.

Daniel Hooker used the ” McKenzietine” guillotine choke to submit the Brit Marc Diakiese in the third round after winning the first two rounds with his ground game. In what many anticipated to be a stand up war, the fight was quite the opposite and Hooker sinked in the choke after an attempted takedown by Diakiese.

Preliminary cards

We won’t be ringing in the new year celebrating the prelims this year as every fight on the FS1 portion of the card went to a decision.

Michal Oleksiejczuk got the biggest underdog win on the night upsetting Khalil Rountree Jr in a decision in which both fighters gassed early after Rountree held on the a guillotine which gassed the American when he failed to get the submission. The other decision victories went to Myles Jury looking impressive at featherweight against Rick Glenn and  Matheus Nicolau who knocked down Louis Smolka three times in the first round to win a one-sided decision.

Omari Ahkmedov and Marvin Vettori went to a majority draw in what seemed like the longest fight in history and finally Tim Elliot scored a submission victory over Mark  De La Rosa and dedicated the victory to the late great Robert Follis who sadly took his own life this month.

Overall UFC 219 wasn’t a great card but a masterclass by Khabib Nurmagomedov was worth every penny.

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Invicta 27 Officially Announced

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The all-women promotion, Invicta FC, returns to Kansas City, Missouri on January 13th, 2018 for Invicta 27. The promotion announced on their website, the promotions inaugural 2018 event will start the new year off with a fan-friendly main event, Sarah Kaufman (18-4 1 NC) vs. Pannie Kianzad (8-2).

Kaufman returns to Invicta FC after a three-year stint with the UFC. The Canadian athlete fought once prior, in the female-only promotion, defeating Leslie Smith via split decision. Both women earned Fight of the Night honors for their efforts. In her previous three bouts, Kaufman posted a record of 1-2. The former Strikeforce bantamweight champion lost her final two UFC bouts against Alexis Davis and Valentina Shevchenko. Her most recent bout was a victory over Jessica Rose-Clark, in the Battlefield FC promotion.

The veteran Kaufman made her debut in 2006, nearly six years before her opponent. Pannie Kianzad made her professional debut with the Estonian promotion MMA Raju, in 2012. Kianzad began her career undefeated in eight bouts. On the way, capturing the Cage Warriors bantamweight championship. The Iranian-Swede holds an identical record to Kaufman in her previous three bouts, 1-2. Currently, she finds herself on a two-loss skid.

In the co-main event, Vanessa Porto (19-8) faces Mariana Morais (12-5). The Brazilian, Morais, is coming off a disappointing title challenge in the flyweight division of the KSW promotion. Ariane Lipski submitted her in 58 seconds. Porto, however, is fresh off her Invicta 26, TKO victory over, Milana Dudieva.

Porto is an Invicta FC veteran, having fought in seven of the promotions twenty-six held events. Throughout her career, the veteran faced the best women the world had to offer. The thirty-three-year-old has fought the likes of Roxanne Modafferi (twice), Agnieszka Niedzwiedz, Barb Honchak, Tara LaRosa, Jennifer Maia (twice), Tonya Evinger, Germain De Randamie, Amanda Nunes, and Cris “Cyborg” Justino.

The first card of 2018 for Invicta holds a plethora of inexperienced women. Of the 17 women booked for the card, only four women hold ten or more professional fights on their record. Another four women will make their professional MMA debut: Loma Lookboonmee, Jade Ripley, Helen Peralta, and Akeela Al-Hameed. The Invicta 27, the card will feature nine bouts. The event will take place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri on January 13th, 2018. The card will proceed as follows:

Pannie Kianzad (8-2) vs. Sarah Kaufman (18-4 1 NC) – Bantamweight Division

Vanessa Porto (19-8) vs. Mariana Morais (12-5) – Flyweight Division

Sharon Jacobson (4-2) vs. Ashely Nichols (3-1) – Strawweight Division

Ashley Cummings (5-4) vs. Stephanie Alba (3-2) – Atomweight Division

Brogan Walker-Sanchez (4-0) vs. TBA – Flyweight Division

Felicia Spencer (3-0) vs. Akeela Al-Hameed (0-0) – Featherweight Division

Mallory Martin (1-2) vs. Tiffany Masters (2-1) – Strawweight Division

Melissa Wang (1-0) vs. Loma Lookboonmee (0-0) – Atomweight Division

Jade Ripley (0-0) vs. Helen Peralta (0-0) – Strawweight Division

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