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Backstory to UFC 190: Suicide and Revenge

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“Bethe has succeeded in being disliked more than Miesha. That’s quite a feat.” These are the words of unbeaten UFC Women’s bantamweight champion “Rowdy” Ronda Rousey just last month when asked about her next opponent at UFC 190 in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil, Bethe Correia. For anyone who has followed the career of Rousey, the mere thought of someone overtaking Miesha Tate’s prized role as Rousey’s “most hated” opponent was unfathomable, but Correia has managed to do just that. This display of abhorrence doesn’t seem to be mere fight hype; Rousey clearly does not like the Brazilian. The question is: How did it get to this stage?

Think back to April, 2014. Bethe Correia, a relative unknown in the UFC despite her 7 – 0 record, holds one win inside the octagon. A split decision nod over Julie Kedzie. The Brazilian was next matched against Jessamyn Duke at UFC 172. The fight itself wasn’t overly memorable, but immediately following her decision win, Correia held up 4 fingers to the camera and then lowered one. A flashy show indicating there are now just 3 left. This gesture was a reference to her having defeated one of Rousey’s “Four Horsewomen”. Named after an old pro-wrestling stable known as “The Four Horsemen” (or the biblical apocalyptic crew), the name came about following season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter. A season in which Rousey was one of the head coaches. The Olympian’s long time training partner and best friend Marina Shafir worked as her assistant coach. During filming, the pair bonded with Duke and fellow cast member Shayna Baszler, which led to them dubbing themselves “The Four Horsewomen”. By making a very public point of “one down, three to go”, Correia sent out a very clear message: She was coming after them, Rousey in particular.

Such a statement instantly sprung the UFC matchmakers into action and Bethe Correia was booked to fight at UFC 177 against her second of the Horsewomen, and pioneer of women’s MMA, Shayna Baszler. During the build-up to the fight, Correia continued to thrash the Four Horsewomen, Rousey in particular. With the current climate of MMA, marketing yourself effectively is becoming an integral part of earning fans and getting where you want to be. This is where Correia really started to use the horsewomen angle perfectly. As with all trash talk, words prove insignificant unless acted upon. At UFC 177, Correia used her fists as talking points, stopping Baszler just two minutes into the second round with a brutal barrage of punches. Once again, she used this opportunity to raise 4 fingers to the camera and count down her fingers, but this time to 1, the leader of The Four Horsewomen: Ronda Rousey (this is presumably because the other remaining member, Marina Shafir, fights at 145lbs and isn’t on the UFC roster). She emphasized her desire to fight Rousey further by motioning a belt around her waist, the international “I want the belt” (or perhaps if you’re a Green Bay Packers fan a “discount double check“). In her post-fight interview with Joe Rogan, “Pitbull” said, through her translator, that she wanted to send a message to Rousey. That she was going to take the belt and maintain her “invincibility”.

It was at that point that Rousey took notice of the Brazilian’s words. During the post-fight press conference for UFC 177, UFC president Dana White revealed that Rousey wanted to fight Correia, and soon.  “As soon as (Correia) started talking,” White said “(Rousey) texted me and said ‘I want that fight; I want it now. I want it before someone else beats her.’” While White dampened the possibility of an imminent match between the two, he did say Correia was on the “short list” to face Rousey.

Rousey was instead scheduled to face Cat Zingano at UFC 184, an event that Correia flew from Brazil to get to, with the intention of getting into the octagon and confronting Rousey afterwards. However, Dana White told her he wasn’t going to let her do that and she could only watch on as Rousey submitted Zingano in just 14 seconds. In the days after the fight, Rousey was vocal about wanting to fight again soon, and, while on the Jay Mohr Sports radio show, she called for the Correia fight in Brazil, Correia’s home country, as she felt that was the best way she could get revenge for her fallen friends. Her wish was soon granted, as the fight was set for UFC 190.

Rousey’s dislike for Correia was about to grow considerably. It was this interview Correia did with Combate that really fanned the flames of hatred. In the aforementioned interview, Correia mentioned Rousey’s past personal troubles that Rousey herself had documented in her book. Correia remarked that she hoped Rousey woudn’t “kill herself” after Corriea beat the American. As Rousey’s father committed suicide when Rousey was just 8 years old, this was seen by many as Correia taking her trash talk too far. Rousey took to twitter to tell Correia that “Suicide is no joke or selling point. My father will be with me the day I hand you the comeuppance you deserve.” Clearly the Brazilian’s comments were enough to upset and anger Rousey. Correia did respond, saying she was “humble enough to ask for forgiveness”, adding that she was not aware of her father’s suicide. It was an apology which Rousey, during a media session, called “disingenuous” and claimed the “face saving” apology was “as insulting as what she said in the first place” and that it “wasn’t even a real apology.” That’s how Rousey sees it and makes no mistake about it; she’s out to make Correia pay.

Correia has definitely made quite an impact on Rousey with her actions, but more so her words. While initially she seemed nothing more than a mild annoyance, beating Rousey’s friends and speaking ill of a deceased parent turned milk annoyance into a strong dislike.  “I never looked forward to beating up somebody more in my entire life and I’m not going to finish her off quickly. This is the only time that I will say that I will purposely drag a fight out to punish someone.” Rousey said menacingly at the launch of the new Reebok fight kits last month. If any quote sums up the bad feeling between the two women, it’s this. On Saturday, it all comes to a head with the UFC women’s bantamweight title on the line. Will Rousey prove, once again, why she’s the most dominant woman in combat sports history? Or has Correia gotten to the champion and will this, coupled with her self-belief, carry her to the biggest upset in UFC history?

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Forget Cormier vs. Jones – Cyborg vs. Megan Anderson Should Headline UFC 214

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Daniel Cormier vs. Jon Jones II is all but confirmed for UFC 214 in Anaheim, California on July 29. Despite the magnitude of the light-heavyweight championship rematch, the UFC would do well to look elsewhere for their UFC 214 main event — namely in the direction of Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and Megan Anderson.

The UFC’s schedule for the first half of 2017 is largely booked as of now. Fight announcements for July are coming in daily but there is still no clue as to who might headline UFC 213, the promotion’s International Fight Week pay-per-view offering. Jon Jones is expected to make his long-awaited return in July however not for 213.

UFC President Dana White has stated that Jones will not be eligible to compete during International Fight Week due to his suspension, making UFC 214 in late July the most likely option. White also insisted that Jones cannot be trusted to headline an event due to his past transgressions.

If White holds true to his word it’ll be a bizarre and unfortunate set of circumstances to promote the most important rematch in the history of the UFC. Many titleholders are booked for the moment, so the Cormier vs. Jones rerun would seem the most logical choice. However, as has been the norm in the past two years of UFC promotion an interim title can be slapped on to any semi-interesting match.

Countless arguments are made about how interim titles are senseless and harmful to the actual titleholder but those arguments although valid, are not much more than gripes.

The absence of sanctioning bodies in mixed martial arts are a contentious point of debate in the MMA community and combat sports in general but sanctioning bodies in regard to titles are almost always a nuisance in the world of boxing.

Any educated fan knows who the real champion is. Even in the rare instance where the interim titleholder is held in higher regard or more popular than the actual champion as was the case with Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo, nothing was done to diminish the value of the featherweight belt.

The notion that a title fight must headline a card may be antiquated but it seems that is the manner that the UFC will continue to handle business for the foreseeable future. Five rounds are seldom a negative in high-level MMA and an interim belt would be most justified if a match is made between former Invicta featherweight champion Cristiane “Cyborg” Justino and current champion Megan Anderson.

If Cormier vs. Jones will play second fiddle to another fight, an interim featherweight title fight between “Cyborg” and Anderson would be a sensible headliner for UFC 214. Given the lack of options and the current featherweight champion’s fighting future in doubt, the fight would merit its headlining spot.

Jones in a co-headliner may seem strange business wise. It is rare for Dana White to put morale ahead of dollar signs but if it is the case it may be for the better. An alpha male like Jones doesn’t want to be second to anyone. The very fact that the marquee will say Cormier vs. Jones instead of Jones vs. Cormier most likely rankles with the superstar.

Yet the promotion of Jones is more intriguing now than it ever has been. Jones reportedly pulled in right under 500,000 buys for UFC 197. Not too shabby for a 15-month layoff with a lukewarm undercard.

Moreover, a fight with the magnitude of Cormier Vs. Jones will be heavily promoted under any circumstance. ESPN, TMZ, Deadspin, will all be pulled towards covering the event, so the co-main event placing may not be that big of a deal. The benefits that the Cormier/Jones rematch can provide for the women’s featherweight division are substantial.

..that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.

UFC 208 was the official introduction of the featherweight division in the Ultimate Fighting Championship and it wasn’t loved by many spectators. Germaine de Randamie outpointed Holly Holm in a 25-minute striking affair.

Technically, the fight was brilliant but provided not a single awe-inspiring moment. The fact that there was controversy regarding some illegal blows, a contested decision, and that the fight itself was between a 135 pounder who had lost her last two and a fringe top 10 bantamweight didn’t make matters any better.

The great thing about a Cyborg/Anderson fight is that both women really want the fight and also happen to be great kickboxers that have genuine horsepower. “Cyborg” trounced Leslie Smith in less than a round and utterly pummeled Lina Lansberg in just over five minutes. Anderson is young and still relatively raw but has some exceptional power at featherweight.

The desire to improve is also not lost on the talented Aussie. Her Invicta FC debut was an embarrassingly one-sided loss to notorious overachieving veteran Cindy Dandois.

Grappling is an aspect of MMA that Anderson hasn’t fully grasped as of yet but is miles ahead of where she was in 2015. Anderson’s 2016 was outstanding with three knockouts in a row and she showed her artistic side as she used Charmaine Tweet’s blood to splatter the canvas red like a deranged college activist student.

There was a USADA flagging for “Cyborg” after her last win that was retroactively cleared. Unfortunate and badly timed, it ended up rekindling an old hatred that some in the MMA community have had for the Brazilian since her first positive test in 2011.

“Cyborg” is a respectful competitor and her fighting style is barbaric but her past with PEDs rubs some fans the wrong way, making her a lightning rod for controversy. More often than not, controversy sells.

In the skills and experience department “Cyborg” will hold a distinct advantage, however, Anderson is not lacking in confidence and may be the first fighter that can match “Cyborg’s” power. Anderson also happens to be a fan favourite in Invicta and isn’t shy about trash talking when the opportunity calls for it.

Justino vs. Anderson would not only be a well-matched and entertaining scrap, it would possess something many women’s MMA fights are too commonly missing, intrigue.

Ronda Rousey is unlikely to come back and that leaves the UFC looking for ways to create a new female star. This bout would seem like the most probable one to do that.

Rousey had a great home backing in Southern California from early on in her career and it might be time for “Cyborg” to take some of those fans as she has been a SoCal native for years. Anaheim is only a few miles from “Cyborg’s” hometown of Huntington Beach and it shares an ocean with The Land Down Under.

If a sacrifice is made by the UFC to prove a point, then let it be one that carries some positive possibilities for other athletes who are hungry and deserving of the spotlight. Step aside Jones, and let the ladies handle this one.

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Reports: Vitor Belfort to step in against Anderson Silva at UFC 212

Matthew Wells

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UFC 212 may have a new co-main event featuring two legends from Brazil.

Ag.Fight has reported Vitor Belfort has offered to fill in for Kelvin Gastelum to face Anderson Silva at UFC 212 in Rio on June 3.

Gastelum was originally scheduled to face Silva, but due to a potential USADA anti-doping violation which saw Gastelum flagged for marijuana metabolites stemming from an in-competition sample collected on March 11, 2017, a provisional suspension was levied and he was removed from the card.

Silva, who celebrates his 42nd birthday on April 14, will remain on the UFC 212 card which is headlined by a featherweight title fight between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo. Silva found his way back into the win column at UFC 208 where he won a unanimous decision over Derek Brunson, notching the 34th professional victory for the former UFC Middleweight Champion. The win over Brunson is the first official victory on Silva’s record since UFC 153 over Stephan Bonnar since the win over Nick Diaz at UFC 183 has since been overturned to a No Contest.

Due to Gastelum’s USADA issues, we may have a rematch of a title bout that took place at UFC 126 that saw Silva defend his middleweight strap against Belfort in devastating fashion.

Belfort, who turned 40 on April 1, has one more fight remaining on his UFC contract and expressed his desires to fulfill his contract after suffering a loss in his last outing to the aforementioned Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 106 in March. The loss was the third straight TKO loss for the former champion, whose last win came over Dan Henderson at UFC Fight Night 77 in November 2015. Belfort always wants the biggest fight available, and name-wise, they don’t come much bigger than Anderson Silva.

While both men have had their bumps in the road in the recent final chapters of their careers, fighting on their home soil in Brazil is something both men always look forward to.

UFC 212 takes place at the HSBC Arena in Rio de Janerio, Brazil on June 3, 2017.

Confirmed bouts include:

  • Jose Aldo vs. Max Holloway
  • Claudia Gadelha vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz
  • Antonio Carlos Junior vs. Eric Spicely
  • Johnny Eduardo vs. Matthew Lopez
  • Marco Antonio Beltran vs. Delveson Alcantra
  • Yancy Medeiros vs. Erick Silva
  • Paulo Henrique Costa vs. Oluwale Bamgbose
  • Leonardo Santos vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
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Rafael Carvalho – I Hope Manhoef Comes to Fight This Time

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Bellator 176 takes place this Saturday on April 8th from Torino, Italy and will mark the promotion’s second trip to Italy after Bellator 152 which took place almost one year ago. The main event for the event will be a middleweight title rematch between champion Rafael Carvalho and challenger Melvin Manhoef.

The two first met at Bellator 155 in May of last year. On that occasion, Carvalho left with a decision victory that some felt should have gone the way of his Dutch opponent. Carvalho does not believe that the judges will be required this time, however. “I will defend my title with a knockout,” Carvalho told MMA Latest News. “I hope he (Manhoef) comes to fight this time like the Manhoef we know.”

The fight received some criticism at the time from fans and even Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith. However, Carvalho believes the blame for that lies squarely at the feet of Manhoef, whose tactics on the night surprised him. “I trained for, and came with, a tactic to knock him out,” Carvalho explained. “However, he did not come to fight and was not as aggressive as he usually is. He was afraid I would take him to the ground. I do not understand why he ran away from the fight. I was always moving forward but he did not want to come and strike, just to use low kicks. You do not win a fight with only low kicks.”

The rematch takes place in Europe, which is a first for Carvalho, but will also be in front of a crowd that loves striking, as the card takes place in conjunction with a Bellator kickboxing event. That is something which excites the Brazilian. “It will be really good to fight in Europe,” Carvalho enthused. “Europe is the land of the great K-1 strikers – the fans love strikers. Manhoef is a feared striker and I hope he does not sh*t himself scared and comes for a murderous striking fight.”

The fact that the event is happening alongside a Bellator kickboxing event has another level of intrigue to it, as Carvalho also revealed that he is planning on competing on a Bellator kickboxing card in the near future and hopes to fight in both Bellator disciplines. “I think about it a lot,” he said. “My manager has already informed Bellator that I would like to fight in Bellator Kickboxing also.”

The expansion of Bellator in recent times has been there for all to see, from signing big name free agents such as Rory MacDonald and Ryan Bader, to hosting more shows in different countries such as Italy and Ireland. However, one country that the promotion has not yet visited is Brazil, which is something that Carvalho believes should happen in the near future – and one would have to believe that Carvalho would have a strong case to headline  such an event. “It would be a great show,” he began. “Bellator cannot stay out of Brazil. Brazilians love MMA – it is where it all started. A show in Curitiba or Rio de Janeiro would be a great success. We have many top Brazilian fighters in Bellator. A card in Brazil cannot wait any longer.”

Bellator 176 takes place on April 8th from Pala Alpitour in Torino, Italy. Tune in to see Rafael Carvalho and Melvin Manhoef settle the score once and for all to see who will leave Europe with the Bellator middleweight title.

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