UFC Vegas is in the books and with 8 of the 12 fights going the distance; Fight Night 88 certainly lived up to its billing as one of the most tightly matched cards of the year so far. However if you thought that a distinct lack of finishes meant there weren’t many stories to come out of last nights’ fights you would be wrong. Here are a few of the things we have learned from UFC Vegas.
“No Love” Has Put The Entire Bantamweight Division on Notice
Cody Garbrandt once again proved why he is one of the most highly touted prospects in all of Mixed Martial Arts with a quick and decisive 1st round knockout of fellow young prospect, number 7 ranked Thomas Almeida. Prior to this weekend, the Ohio-born Garbrandt had looked nothing short of perfect in his fledgling MMA career, flying out to an impressive 8-0 record, finishing 7 of his 8 opponents. Despite this string of victories, “No Love” was not even ranked inside the top 15 of the UFC’s Bantamweight division; that will surely change when the rankings are next released. This victory against Almeida, who was previously unbeaten in all 21 of his pro MMA bouts, will not only bring with it an official ranking, but also a step up in competition for 24-year-old Garbrandt. His next opponent will almost certainly be another top 10 fighters and may even come at UFC 203 in Cleveland, Ohio, Garbrandt’s home state. It remains to be seen if that will come to fruition, however, one thing is for sure, Cody Garbrandt put the entire UFC Bantamweight division on red alert with his performance on Sunday.
Jeremy Stephens is Ready For a Top 5 Opponent Next
Before this weekend the UFC had Jeremy Stephens at #9 in the Featherweight rankings and given some of the fighters above him in that list, that seems a fair spot for the Iowa-born, Alliance MMA product. However those that draw up the rankings may have to assess Stephens’ position after his performance in Las Vegas on Sunday, because not only did Stephens take home a unanimous decision victory, he got that W against a very dangerous man in Renan Barao. This is a big scalp for Stephens and whilst it cements his place in the top 10, it also furthers his claim for a fight against a top 5 ranked opponent in the near future. In his post-fight interview “Lil Heathen” stated he was ready to step in if one of Frankie Edgar and Jose Aldo get injured before they fight for the Interim UFC Featherweight Championship at UFC 200. Whilst he may not be the first to get the call should that happen, it must be said he has earned a big name fight next and with Chad Mendes currently without an opponent, I believe that Joe Silva will look to set up a fight between Stephens and Mendes in the near future.
It’s Back to the Drawing Board for the Brazilians
Both Thomas Almeida and Renan Barao had high hopes of igniting a title charge with victories this past weekend; instead, they were left assessing what went wrong as both fell to defeats at the hands of their American opponents. Former UFC Bantamweight champion Barao moved up to Featherweight in the hope of starting a fresh run at UFC gold and a win over Jeremy Stephens would have been a great first step in that quest. However in a hard fought contest he ended up losing a unanimous decision to Stephens, furthermore his weight cut still seemed to be an issue even though he went up 10lbs for this fight. Since suffering two losses to TJ Dillashaw, Barao has looked like a shadow of the fighter that won the 135lb belt and this loss to Stephens will leave the Brazilian scratching his head as to what he should do next. The question for him is whether he can ever replicate the type of performances that saw him go 32-1 to begin his MMA career. For Thomas Almeida the damage of his loss is not of the same scale, as a young fighter who has looked fantastic in the UFC up till this point, he has only to look at his first loss to Cody “No Love” Garbrandt as a learning experience. The knock on Almeida coming into this fight was his lack of head movement and how much he gets hit as a consequence of that. This proved to be his downfall against a fast and powerful striker in Garbrandt and though this first career loss will hurt the young Brazilian prospect now; long term it should only serve to make him a stronger fighter, providing, of course, he and his coaches make the appropriate adjustments to his game going forward.
Bryan Caraway Is Not To Be Underestimated
It would seem that Bryan Caraway said it best in his post-fight interview, “I am the underdog in every single fight and I keep winning… you can keep doubting me. But eventually, you are going to have to deal with me and recognize my talent”. No longer can anyone at Bantamweight underestimate Bryan Caraway, he certainly proved that much as he ground out a tight split decision victory over up-and-comer Aljamain Sterling. After a back and forth first two rounds, it was Caraway that bit down on his mouthpiece and controlled the pivotal 3rd, to take home a W that will taste all the sweeter given Sterling’s trash talk prior to fight week. The animosity made for an interesting spectacle at the weigh-ins when Caraway refused Sterling’s hand and pre-fight when the two did not touch gloves. In defeating Sterling who is ranked at number 4 in the Bantamweight standings Caraway, like Garbrandt, sent a message out the every 135-pounder on the roster this past weekend.
Jessica Eye May Be On The Brink
With only 1 win in her last 6 outings; that coming against Leslie Smith at UFC 180 in Mexico City, it is pretty safe to say that Jessica “Evil” Eye’s UFC career is teetering on the edge. Simply losing to Sara McMann on Sunday may not have put her in this position; however the manner in which she went down to the former Olympian was so passive that Eye has left herself in a situation whereby her next fight, will likely be to remain on the UFC roster. Whether it was because of their past, or the pressure of having her teammate Stipe Miocic recently win Heavyweight gold, only Eye will know. But she looked highly tentative to mount any significant offense whether on the feet or on the mat, in the end, it was a case of what might have been as McMann controlled the fight and handed the Ohio native her 3rd straight loss. It is not beyond the realms of possibility that Sunday may be the last time we see “Evil” Eye compete inside the octagon for a while; however it is far more likely she will get one last chance to prove her worth, here’s hoping she take it with both hands.
Erik Koch is Back Looking Sharp
Early in the night, the Vegas crowd witnessed the return of a somewhat forgotten fighter; his name, Erik Koch. In the 3rd fight of the evening, Iowa-born Koch returned from a two-year injury layoff to face Shane Campbell in a Lightweight collision with big implications for both men. For Koch this was the end of a long road that was filled with disappointment, as injury had derailed a promising start to his UFC career and denied him a title shot with the then Featherweight Champion Jose Aldo. Koch has long been considered as having all the tools to compete for UFC gold but has been held back by a string of injuries, something he hopes is now behind him. If that is the case then the UFC’s Lightweight division, where he now plies his trade, has just gotten a little tougher. On the basis of his performance on Sunday, when he finished Campbell via rear-naked choke at 3:02 of the 2nd round it seems Koch is back with the same sharpness he showed a couple of years ago. If this man stays fit and healthy and continues to progress as many experts believe he can, there is no reason why we won’t see him mixing it up with the top 10 or 15 of the UFC’s 155lb division very soon.
With the up and coming fighters on this card, UFC Vegas was most certainly a glimpse into the future of the Bantamweight division. However with the wins for Cody Garbrandt and Bryan Caraway and the potential of Thomas Almeida and Aljamain Sterling, it was also a look at the present for a division which has enjoyed a lot of good coverage recently. Coverage which is unlikely to stop anytime soon, since the champ Dominick Cruz has his rubber match vs Urijah Faber just next week at UFC 199 and the rematch between top contenders TJ Dillashaw and Raphael Assuncao will take place at UFC 200 in July. As far as competitive divisions go, Bantamweight is stacking up quite nicely against the rest these days, UFC Vegas showed us that if nothing else.
Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217
UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.
The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:
— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) October 19, 2017
It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.
Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.
Fight News update!!
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2017
This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.
With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th? Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.
*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)
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)
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)
Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams
Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.
Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.
Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.
Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.
⭐️ F I G H T W E E K ⭐️ . . Tickets/ T-shirt’s / Afterparty info at www.heather-hardy.com 🥂 link is in my bio 🥂 . . @bellatormma @dymatize @lululemon @jlewbags @rgfa @gleasonsgym @shihandevon . . #heatherhardy #heathertheheat #teamheat #boxing #femaleboxing #girlboxer #boxinglife #boxinghype #boxingnight #boxingday #boxinggloves #boxingfanatik #boxer #boxingfitness #womensboxing #boxeo #wmma #mma #teamrenzogracie #bjjgirls #womensmma #renzograciegirls
Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.
Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.
There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.
But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.
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