The next season of TUF is possibly going to be one of the best as we will see some of the best flyweights in the world compete against one another to become the next TUF winner. Unlike most seasons of TUF, this one will probably be one of the most competitive yet because the contestants will not only competing for a UFC contract, they will also be competing for an opportunity to become the next UFC flyweight champion. This season will be coached by Joseph Benavidez and Henry Cejudo and contestants will be decided by invite only, meaning the best fighters from around the world will be handpicked by the UFC. So here at MMA Latest News we decided to take a look at who are the top contenders that could possibly make it on the show and this is who we’ve come up with.
1. Rany Saadeh
First up we got the BAMMA flyweight champion of the world, Rany Saadeh (8-1). Rany has been dominating the BAMMA flyweight ranks since 2013, picking up the title in only his 3rd bout under the promotion with a win over Jody Collins. He has since gone on to successfully defend his belt once and is expected to defend it again in September at BAMMA 26. Hailing originally from Germany, Saadeh now trains out of Phuket Top Team, a top gym in Thailand, and he is also arguably the top European Flyweight around at the moment.
At only 23 years of age, Saadeh is a very well rounded fighter, capable of comfortably bringing the fight anywhere. His striking is possibly his strongest aspect of his game, boasting very quick hands with powerful leg kicks to follow. When it comes to clinch work then he is usually very dominant, putting his opponents back against the cage, throwing effective strikes and ultimately landing big takedowns that will land him in top control of his opponent. Rany would certainly be a great addition to the TUF 24 season and after dominating the flyweight division of Europe’s top promotion at the moment, he would most definitely be a worthy contender.
2. Magomed Bibulatov
Up next is Magomed Bibulatov who is most well-known by some after winning the inaugural WSOF flyweight title in his promotional debut. Bibulatov boasts a spotless 12-0 record dominating every challenger who stood across from him. As well as his WSOF glory, Bibulatov has proven victorious in an ACB 8 man tournament at 135lbs and is currently in the final of the Akhmat Fight Show 125 Grand Prix.
The Russian has previously spoken about his want to join the UFC, in an interview last year with Bloody Elbow he explained how he believed he could beat the current champion Demetrious Johnson and how he’d love to join the UFC. TUF 24 might just well be his shot at doing so. Bibulatov has been a fan and practitioner of wrestling and sambo since he was young, both playing a fair role in his fight style. Despite only one TKO on his record, though, his striking is nothing to sleep on, excelling in his practice of Kempo Karate. Bibulatov would be an extremely tough and competitive guy to have on the season that would bring the fight to anyone in his way.
3. Alexandre Pantoja
Top Brazilian prospect, Alexandre Pantoja (16-2) has broken through the ranks over at well-known American-based promotion, RFA to become the company’s flyweight champion. As well as taking over as king of the RFA flyweights, he has also proved just how good he is, with an outstanding submission victory over UFC veteran and current Legacy FC champion Damacio page at RFA vs. Legacy FC: Superfight. Now currently riding a 9 fight win streak, the Nova Uniao fighter would be the perfect fit for the show.
At the beginning of his career, Pantoja seemed to prefer to finish his opponents with his phenomenal striking, however, in most recent times he has gone on to show his prowess on the ground, finishing 4 of his last 5 by way of submission. Similar to the other champions on this list he is still only young at 26 making him more appealing to have on the show becuase if he was then signed by the promotion he would have quite a lot of years ahead of him to fight and excel in the promotion.
4. Yuki Motoya
26-year-old Yuki Motoya is arguably the top flyweight out in Asia right now, making easy work of everyone put in front of him. Motoya is currently enjoying his second spell as DEEP flyweight champion after avenging his loss to the man who once dethroned him to take back his coveted crown. He has most recently fought under RIZIN, with the bout ending in a no contest. Motoya making the cast would actually make a lot of sense, especially since he was chosen for Roy Nelson’s team on “Road to UFC” but unfortunately was forced to pull out due to injury, therefore an invite here would really get his UFC dreams back on track
Motoya is currently undefeated since 2013 winning 7 consecutive fights. Despite only starting training at the age of 18 Motoya is a unique all-round type of fighter that is capable of finishing the fight wherever it goes with numerous wins coming from all methods of victory. Since 2014 following his successful title challenge, Motoya has been eager to travel overseas and fight in the top promotions, if he is seen as a serious contender for the season, a call to take part in TUF 24 could finally be his shot.
5. Bruno Menezes
Bruno Menezes (16-5) is currently the flyweight champion under top Brazilian promotion Jungle Fight where former UFC champions such as Fabricio Werdum, Jose Aldo and Lyoto Machida once competed. Menezes picked up the title there back in 2015 with a decision victory over Nildo Nascimento then followed it up 3 months later by successfully defending his the flyweight strap with a 1st round TKO victory. He has yet to fight since his first defence, despite being scheduled at the end of last year, the fight was scrapped after Menezes failed to make weight, something that could possibly damage his hopes of getting an invite to the TUF 24 house if he was ever to be in contention.
Menezes is quite big for a flyweight, he likes to stand in front of his opponents and strike, he likes to look for that big right hand to finish it while mixing it up with a variety of different kicks. Whilst being a rather technical fighter, he has not been shy of taking his opponents to the mat and putting together a lock or choke to force his opponent to submit. Without a doubt, this guy would be an intriguing one to have in the cast.
6 .Sean Santella
At 15-5, Santella has been knocking on the door to the big show for quite some time. He is widely recognised as the one of the most talented flyweights in the Northeast region of the US and has achieved a large and loyal fan base fighting in well-established organisations like Ring of Combat and the Cage Fury Fighting Championships, both of which he was the champion. Sean has fought at both bantamweight and flyweight and has amassed a flyweight record of 7-2-1. His 10 submission wins should indicate that he is a dangerous grappler and aggressive finisher.
When he isn’t training with the likes of Frankie Edgar, Corey Anderson, and Edson Barboza at Ricardo Almeida’s gym, he’s mixing it up with Jim and Dan Miller at Miller Brother’s MMA, where he is the head Brazilian Jiu Jitsu instructor. He has fought UFC veterans in Aljamain Sterling and Nick Pace at bantamweight and there are even some rumoured TUF 24 competitors that have turned down fights with Santella in the past. Being a former CFFC champ also seems to hold weight with the UFC nowadays as Paul Felder, Jim Miller, the aforementioned Aljamain Sterling, and Lyman Good are all former CFFC champs who were called up to the UFC and have found success there. We might be adding Santella to the list sometime soon.
7. Matt Schnell
Fighting out of ATT, Matt Schnell (10-2) is the current Legacy FC interim flyweight champion and is best known for appearing on ‘Caged’. A docu-series produced by MTV profiling four young fighters from Louisiana and looking at their journey with MMA and efforts to make the big time.
Schnell is quite the grappler and submission artist, finishing 7 of his 10 wins via submission, be it a lock or a choke. He has only been brought the distance on two occasions throughout his career, winning one and losing one. Since the last time he has gone the distance, none of his fights have made it out of the second round, some not even making it past 30 seconds. Now on a 7 fight win streak and after 2 organised fights falling through an opportunity tom compete in TUF 24 would be perfect for him to get back in there if it ever came about.
Although it may only be quite an outside chance he may feature, “Zulu Boy” (8-2) has been dangerous over in leading South African based promotion EFC where he has held titles in two different weight classes. Starting his career at Bantamweight, Zulu won the title in the respected weight class at EFC 27, upon losing it in his first defence he opted to move down to flyweight where he has most recently won the title.
Zulu, who’s inspiring story can be seen in a Fightland documentary, is an exciting fighter who doesn’t like to give his opponent a moment to breath, he very active on the feet and likes to throw some crazy combos. He may not be the most likely to get an invite due his lack of experience at 125lbs but wouldn’t be out of place in the competition that’s for sure, especially after his displays under his current promotion in each weight division.
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.
The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.
Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.
Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.
Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.
With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
- Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
- Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
- Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
- Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
- Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
- Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
- John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
- Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.
More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.
Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.
There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.
While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.
With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.
Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.
However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.
At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.
The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.
So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.
The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.
Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.
Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.
Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.
The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.
From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.
Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.
If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.
As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.
However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.
The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016. James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.
After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.
Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.
Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”
His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.
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