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Are we seeing the rise of lighter heavyweights?

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Bigger isnt always better, and this has never been more true in the UFC’s heavyweight division than right now, with the smaller and more athletic heavyweights shunning the 265lb weight limit and breaking forward as serious contenders and champions, it is becoming more and more obvious that the future of heavyweight is slimming down.

When you think of 206+lb fighters, speed isn’t the first thing that comes to mind, but this is one of the most important advantages we now see for not hitting the 265lb weight limit. The simple science is if you’re lighter you will be faster, and not only on your feet, but your strikes will come faster, so will your takedowns and so will your ground transitions. Having all these improved just from eating veg instead of burgers can drastically change any match-up inside the cage. Power is important, and none more so then with the heavyweights, but it doesn’t matter how strong your strikes are if your opponent is too fast to even hit. This was never more evident that when Roy Nelson (260lbs) took on Stipe Miocic (243lbs). Nelson came in with a huge power advantage and a three fight KO win streak. Miocic used technical boxing skill, footwork and angles to pick apart Nelson for three rounds and take the lopsided unanimous decision. Miocic showed the Mayweather art of ‘hit and not be hit’ in this fight completely nullifying Nelson’s power.

Having speed is one thing, but having the energy to keep up the higher pace is a completely different animal, and this cardio, that has famously been lacking in the heavyweight division, is something that is only improving with the lighter heavyweight fighters. With so many pounds being thrown around in a heavyweight contest, it’s easy to see why many of the fighters gas out before the final bell, but one man in particular has made his entire career out of capitalizing on others lack of cardio and that man is Cain Velasquez (240lbs).  When the heavyweight champion steps into the cage he simply outworks every man he has ever faced with strong strikes and dominating wrestling. In a division where cardio is scarce amongst the heaviest in the weight class, being able to force your opponent to work knowing you can work harder and for longer can turn even the most skilled and powerful fighter into an exhausted heap on the floor and prime for being finished. This was never better shown then when Velasquez took on Brock Lesnar (264lbs) Cain was able to fend off the aggressive Lesnar early on and pour it on when Brock was gassed late in the first round and get the win.

Being able to fight longer than your opponent is a major aspect of MMA, but having the skills and technique to win the contest is an entirely different animal, but again one that the lighter heavyweight competitors seem to excel at. Being the smaller man in the cage sometimes means you will pack less power, and therefore have to rely on your technique rather than sheer KO strength. An example of this happened at UFC on Fox 11when Fabricio Werdum (232lbs) took on knockout artist Travis Browne (245lbs). Werdum used exceptional Muay Thai technique to outwork Browne throughout the contest and get the decision win. being the lighter fighter means having better cardio and speed giving you not only the physical ability but also the confidence to  throw a wider variety of strikes with greater chance of success and minimalized energy loss, for example Junior Dos Santos (239lbs)  knocked out Mark Hunt (264lbs) with a spinning heel kick.

The big downside always brought up when fighters lose weight is power. Force = mass x acceleration, so with less weight your strikes will arguably make less impact. The bigger heavyweights from Hunt and Nelson to Lesnar and Overeem show how size and power are a great pair, but the lighter heavyweights are not lacking in KO power whatsoever. Smaller heavyweights such as Dos Santos, Miocic, Arlovski and Velasquez, with a combined 48 KO’s between them show that being lighter and more athletic does not have to impact your jaw-shattering strength. Powerful takedowns, guard passes and clinch games are also present in sub 260lb fighters such as Werdum, Mir and Struve.

Although there is much evidence of heavyweight Goliaths reigning the division from the likes of Shane Carwin, Brock Lesnar and Tim Sylvia all hitting the 265 limit, the future for UFC heavyweights seems to be getting smaller with the likes of Velasquez, Dos Santos and Werdum ruling the bracket in recent years proving that technique and fitness are starting to take over might and size. This could be due to the natural progression of the sport or some other factor we are yet to see, but the fact is that these smaller heavyweights are filling a hole in the weight class that has been there since the early days of the UFC, and I for one cannot wait to see where the careers of some of these guys end up.

 

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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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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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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