UFC202 is now in the books and the dust has barely had time to settle on another whirlwind weekend in Las Vegas before the Ultimate Fighting Championship sets its sight on another city and another action packed card.
Travelling north to Canada for the second time this year, the UFC did a little reshuffling of the pack to provide an action packed main event for the Canadian fans. Carlos Condit and Demian Maia were originally scheduled to do battle on the UFC202 main card but were taken off the bill and instead will collide atop of an action packed fight night live and free on Fox.
Providing support for the evening’s main event is a rematch between Joe Lauzon and Jim Miller both of whom picked up big stoppage wins at UFC200 back in July. Adding another layer of interest is the return of fan favourite Paige Vanzant who takes on Bec Rawlings in a thrilling strawweight affair.
Perhaps the most interesting fight taking place on the main card aside from the main event is a mouth- watering clash between grappling wizard Charles “Do Bronx” Oliveira and the high flying and always entertaining Anthony ‘Showtime” Pettis.
Anthony is making his debut as a featherweight having struggled in recent times against the cream of the crop in the lightweight division. Dating back to the days of the WEC Pettis had terrorised the 155-pound division with an array of thrilling knockouts and slick submissions. He captured the lightweight belt in the WEC before transitioning over to the UFC in 2010. Within three years he had also added the UFC belt to his collection and his star truly began to grow.
After defending his title with a submission of Gilbert Melendez, Anthony looked to be a step ahead of the chasing pack and a lengthy run as champion was expected. What happened next shocked everyone. The Roufusport man was mauled by former champion Rafael Dos Anjos in March losing his belt and a certain amount of his pride in the process. Two more lacklustre performances followed. A loss to current king Eddie Alvarez in January 2015 set him back but it was the loss to Edson Barboza that left Anthony in an awkward space.
Having been beaten comprehensively by Barboza at his own strength, Anthony was forced to look for answers as he was moving further and further away from contention at 155 pounds.
A move to featherweight was widely touted and the man himself confirmed it in a post on his Instagram account this past June. Having already begun to cross train between Greg Jackson and Mike Winklejohn’s gym in Albuquerque as well as at home in Milwaukee Wisconsin it is clear that Pettis is searching to rediscover the form that led to his name being discussed as one of the pounds for pound best fighters in the sport. He is clearly not afraid to try new methods in both training and approach to unlocking the missing piece in the puzzle however it is not clear what he can expect by dropping ten pounds to the featherweight division.
To give ourselves an idea of what Anthony can expect this weekend in his first fight at 145 pounds let us take a look at five fighters who have made similar moves in their respective careers.
1 Frankie Edgar
Like Pettis, Edgar captured the lightweight title and defended it as well. After losing the belt to Benson Henderson and failing to reclaim it in the rematch Edgar made the decision to move ten pounds south. In his first fight at 145 pounds, Frankie met Jose Aldo at UFC156 losing a competitive decision to the then featherweight king. After that “The Answer” would go on an incredible run of consecutive wins taking out the likes of Chad Mendes, Cub Swanson, and BJ Penn in the process. This set up another clash with Aldo at last month’s blockbuster UFC200. Although once again he would come up short against Aldo, Frankie Edgar is still undoubtedly one of the best fighters in the UFC’s featherweight division.
2 Charles Oliveira
Ironically it is former UFC lightweight Charles Oliveira who will welcome Pettis to a new weight class Saturday night. The aggressive jiu-jitsu specialist once plied his craft at 155 pounds where he was initially successful before he ran into talented lightweights such as Jim Miller and Donald Cerrone. Forced to consider his options Oliveira like Pettis decided to shed ten extra pounds even though he had struggled to hit the lightweight limit previously. Since he has moved to featherweight “Do Bronx” has flirted with the excellent and the disappointing as a recurring number of botched weight cuts have certainly dampened his six thrilling submission wins. A guillotine choke finish over Myles Jury last time out has once again shown the potential that Oliveira possesses and he will have the opportunity to increase his standing at 145 with a win over Anthony.
3 Jeremy Stephens
Jeremy Stephens possessed frightening knockout power as a lightweight fighter (who can forget his destruction of Rafael Dos Anjos.) He is even scarier now considering he is playing his destructive trade against a lighter opposition. Stephens has alternated wins and losses since he began competing at 145 pounds. Lacklustre performances against the likes of Max Holloway and Cub Swanson have not helped the Alliance MMA product’s cause. The positives for Stephens are clearly his ability to end anyone in the divisions night early with one punch or kick. Take a quick glance back at UFC189 to watch his incredible flying knee knockout of top contender Dennis Bermudez once again and you can see why Stephens is an amazing asset to the featherweight ranks. A win over Renan Barao last time out has placed him on the winning path once more. As both he and Anthony are explosive finishers this could certainly be a fight of the night somewhere down the line.
4 Clay Guida
A former Pettis opponent at 155 pounds Clay Guida marked his featherweight debut with a win over Hatsu Hioki. Since then the former Strikeforce lightweight champion has struggled for consistency beating lower ranked competition but having trouble with higher tier featherweights such as Chad Mendes. His last two fights have resulted in a submission loss to in the first round to Thiago Tavares and a brutal knockout at the hands of up and coming talent Brian Ortega. Although Guida has been involved in a number of wars in his career prior to cutting down in weight his erratic form since doing so could be viewed as evidence that it is not just as simple as dropping a few pounds to rediscover one’s form.
5 Diego Sanchez
One of the sport’s original gangsters Diego Sanchez has had a storied career so far. Since winning TUF1 as a middleweight “The Nightmare” or “Dream” depending on the night has locked horns with some of the sports top names across four different weight classes. His longevity in an unforgiving sport is admirable but even the most game competitors can perform within themselves if they are energy deprived. Last November Sanchez made his featherweight debut against Ricardo Lamas. Although he did make the featherweight limit on weigh in day, he looked particularly depleted while on the scales. After losing the fight to Lamas by decision Diego took to Twitter afterward to admit he had bitten off more than he could chew in terms of weight. Immediately Sanchez returned to the lightweight division and has had mixed results losing by knockout to Joe Lauzon following a hard-earned decision win over Jim Miller.
The mixed experience of each of the aforementioned men points to the volatile nature of harsh weight cuts. While smaller fighters like Edgar have had great success at 145 pounds those with larger frames performances may have suffered by dehydrating their bodies. Anthony Pettis is by no means the largest man to ever compete in the lightweight division so it remains to be seen how he fares with the drop in size. Unfortunately for the former lightweight king, he can ill afford another below par performance and this is a must win fight. If “Showtime” can return to the form that saw him shoot to stardom he poses a huge threat to everyone else on the featherweight roster.
Anthony Pettis takes on Charles Oliveira this weekend at UFCVancouver. As always MMALatestNews will be following all of the action in the lead up to and the night of the event. Stay tuned!
UFC Shanghai: Michael Bisping vs Kelvin Gastelum Preview
UFC Shanghai is only 2 days away, something that looked unlikely only a few weeks ago after Anderson Silva was pulled from the main event after testing positive for a banned substance. With little options and very few interested, the main event and entire card looked in tatters. Then up stepped the always reliable company man Michael Bisping. Fresh from defeat at UFC 217 no one would have expected Bisping to step up to fight in Shanghai just three weeks later. But here we are, two days out from Bisping vs Gastelum.
Both fighters are coming off difficult losses that must have been hard to swallow. Bisping was doing well against a tired and damaged GSP, and Gastelum had knocked down Weidman at the end of the first round and was moments away from a finish, but both men went on to lose in the third round.
Both fighters will be motivated and desperate for a win to cleanse the demons their respective last fights have brought them.
Gastelum is a fantastic young talent, not many fighters are considered top level guys in two divisions like he is. Gastelum is a good all-rounder in all aspects of MMA, his tenacious boxing and solid wrestling are stand outs in his game. There is no question he has the skills to succeed in the 185lb division. But his biggest struggle is the physical disadvantage he faces in the middleweight division.
Gastelum is 5’9″ with a 71.5 inch reach. Since his return to middleweight he has been the smaller man in every fight. After his loss to Chris Weidman in the main event of UFC on FOX 25, Gastelum told reporters “He felt really big, he felt really strong” and “170 is my home” (MMAJunkie). A clear indication that Gastelum knows he is too small at this weight, but perhaps the aura of facing Anderson Silva was too much to turn down.
By now you know what Michael Bisping brings to the table. This is his 29th fight with the UFC. He is the definition of a UFC veteran.
Bisping excels on the feet where he uses his great boxing skills and high work rate to nullify his opponents. Bisping also has underrated wrestling skills and a gritty clinch game to match his own gritty style. Under Jason Parillo, Bisping’s striking has only gotten better and better. Just look at the Rockhold fight as an example. His kicks have vastly improved and so have his hands, especially his killer left hook.
Unsurprisingly, as he is a former light heavyweight, Bisping will be the much larger of the two men in the octagon. Bisping stands at 6’1″ and has a reach of 75.5″.
Two main components of Mixed Martial Arts will come into play in this fight, boxing and cardio.
You have to imagine most of this fight take place on the feet. The only way it goes to the ground is if Gastelum can’t keep up with Bisping’s relentless pressure, and feels it’s the best way to get the victory. But after seeing the way Bisping battered and bloodied GSP from his back, Gastelum should be wary.
Gastelum uses his excellent and aggressive jabbing technique to gauge distance against his opponents. He did an excellent job of keeping Tim Kennedy at bay as he tried to enter the pocket. As Bisping is a fighter who uses movement and feints to put a volume of strikes together inside the pocket, Gastelum must use his jab to nullify Bisping’s main tools and keep him at bay, especially as the rounds progress and Bisping throws more combinations. Gastelum can then hide behind that jab to set up more strikes and find a knock out blow. After all Bisping is a very hittable fighter, who focuses more on offence than defence.
But with all that being said, no jab on earth will stop Bisping marching forward.
Bisping will also use his jab throughout the fight as he looks to set up multiple strikes. However, when Bisping dives in with his jab he leaves himself open to a counter punch. We saw GSP do this perfectly, which ultimately set up his finish. Gastelum may want to fight as a counter puncher rather than the aggressor. Not only will it allow him to conserve his energy, but it also means he may find that knock out punch when Bisping leaves himself open, especially to the left hand.
Gastelum must try to slow Bisping down with hard shots to the body, because if Bisping is fresh after UFC 217, like he said he is, then he can go all night at a pace Gastelum won’t be able to keep up with.
The later the fight goes the more aggressive Bisping can be as his shots get harder to grind you out and put you away. He increases his output, which will make Gastelum have to work even harder as the rounds progress. Even if Gastelum does not gas, he will naturally slow down and that’s when Bisping smells blood. Bisping will close the distance and change his game from jabbing you to death to landing some brutal combinations.
I believe Gastelum will win the early exchanges. Whilst Bisping will land a few pecking jabs, it will be Gastelum who finds success early. Gastelum may even look for an early knock out. But as time goes on and the fight progresses, I feel Bisping will find his groove and take over.
His reach advantage will come into play as he dances around Gastelum and finds a range where he can get off several long strikes at once. And once the fight enters the later rounds Bisping will close the distance to up the tempo and fight his fight.
As much as I can envision a TKO victory for Gastelum, with his experience and composure I believe a fired up Bisping will overcome Gastelum’s boxing skills to right his wrongs at UFC 217.
Official Prediction: Michael Bisping defeats Kelvin Gastelum via Unanimous Decision – 48-47
UFC looks for undefeated fighters for the next season of TUF
As the latest season of The Ultimate Fighter comes to a close in a few weeks, UFC has set tryouts for the next season of The Ultimate Fighter on December 12th but there is a catch, participates must hold an undefeated record.
Titled The Ultimate Fighter 27: Battle of the Undefeated, the next installment of TUF will be looking for male fighters with an undefeated record with a minimum of 3-0 to apply for the show. The casting call asks for featherweights and welterweights but in the early stages of tryouts, a weight class will be decided later in the process.
Fighters must be aged between 21 – 34 and will grapple and light spar in front of UFC matchmakers and must be prepared to stay in Vegas until December 16th.
It is unknown what the future of TUF will be after the TV deal with FOX ends next year but the show has been a success for the company and many fighters to emerge from The Ultimate Fighter have become champion including current interim Lightweight champion Tony Ferguson, Bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw and Strawweight champion Rose Namajunas coming from past seasons of the show.
This will be the third time in a row that a gimmick will be added to the show that has been on the decline in the ratings in recent years but yet to use only undefeated fighters. An undefeated streak can be one of the most prestigious records to keep in mixed martial arts with the wins and losses being so vital in a fighters career.
Who will keep their zero? Who will be the next Ultimate Fighter? Who will be the coaches?
These questions will be answered when the new season of TUF begins shooting in January and the show premiering later in the year.
Tom Gallicchio on UFC Release “It’s Been a Dream of Mine to Fight in KSW”
MMA Latest spoke to TUF 22 and 25 season competitor Tom Gallicchio about being cut from the UFC, and potential promotions that he could sign for in the future.
Gallicchio (19-10) signed for the UFC after reaching the semi-finals of The Ultimate Fighter: Season 25. Losing to James Krause in his debut, “Da Tank” was informed earlier this month that the UFC had parted ways with him.
Q: Before we jump into the whole free agency stuff, talk me through how the UFC broke the news that they were going to release you?
I thought I was going to have another fight, this time at lightweight. I got a letter dated July 7th, saying they were going to keep me, I received it in September. I was getting emails to update my USADA, I never got a cut letter and I got tested by USADA on October 24th. I was hoping to fight sometime in January or February, then they broke the news to me that they need to make a room for new talent.
Q: You made your UFC debut against James Krause in July, then 4 months down the line, they cut you. How surprised were you at this somewhat out of the blue decision?
I’m thankful for my opportunity in the UFC and the fact that they gave me another shot, but it was definitely surprising how it happened. They released a newsletter in September welcoming Jesse (Taylor) Dhiego (Lima) and myself into the UFC, all signs pointed towards another fight. Hearing that I was cut was just heartbreaking.
Q: Have any talks started with a new promotion. I saw you name a few on Twitter, the likes of Bellator, BAMMA, KSW and ACB. Who do you see yourself signing for?
I would love to compete in any of those! A couple of them hit me up, one of which I am very happy to talk with. Since they came out, It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW. They’re taking care of their fighters, I would love to fight for them. I want to travel, I want to see the world, I want to fight. I’ve got a lot of fans overseas and I want to give them a show.
It’s been a dream of mine to fight in KSW.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 15, 2017
Q: Your long time friend Jesse Taylor was victorious in the TUF 25 Finale, but he has since accepted a 1-year ban for failing a USADA test. What is your take on this given how close you two are?
I know Jesse is not a juicer, I’ve known him ever since I came down to (Team) Quest. It’s probably come from some supplement that he’s taking, it sucks for him. I think he went into a little bit of panic mode, he could have done a better job of handling it.
— Tom Gallicchio (@TomGallicchio) November 16, 2017
I don’t take supplements, if there was a way, I’d still keep myself in the USADA pool just because I believe in a clean sport. I think it’s important we keep the sport clean and if we’re cleaning up the supplement companies then good, because no one else is.
Where would you look to see Tom fight next? Let us know below!
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