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BJJ Superstar Gabi Garcia Disappoints in Victorious MMA Debut at RIZIN

AJ Camacho

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This past Wednesday, BJJ Superstar Gabi Garcia made a victorious debut over Lei’d Tapa, at Rizin Fighting Federation 2. The MMA upstart overcame getting rocked early in the round to come back and win with a decisive TKO ground and pound. For many, this win satisfied the old adage of “a win’s a win” but for others, her performance fell short of the high expectation and standard of aggression that the ADCC Champion has been known for.

Actually, to say she fell short is a bit of an understatement. Gabi came out with no serious attempt to use her Jiu-Jitsu while demonstrating a complete lack of striking fundamentals. As a newcomer to the MMA and striking game, her novice level striking was to be expected. What was shocking though was her willingness to completely abandon her world class Jiu-Jitsu in favor of a fighting style that was more akin to a high school locker room brawl. Actually, nowadays most locker room brawls do feature some solid double leg takedowns so maybe that comparison is ineffective.

I’m sure many will feel that I’m being too harsh. As an MMA novice, many aspects of her game are still an early, “work in progress”. Regardless of this expectation, I saw no signs of an integrated MMA game. When you develop a fighter in the early years of their MMA career you start at their strengths and build out from there. For a grappler with the accolades of Garcia, her striking should have been the means by which to enter a clinch and to set up her takedowns. This early in her career everything from combinations to footwork should be built around the concept of closing distance and getting Gabi to the brick and mortar foundation of her strength, her Jiu-Jitsu.

Like Mike Tyson once said, “Everyone has a plan ’till they get punched in the mouth.” That clearly could have been the case here. When the round opened the southpaw Lei’d Tapa repeatedly tried to setup up some wide overhand shots. Without adjustment and while lumbering forward, Gabi caught one of these overhands with her face, shuddering back and dropping into the ropes. She would madly scramble back to her feet while eating a few more fists but overall, Tapa would give her the space and time to recover her senses.

From this point on, Gabi’s demeanor changed. Before our very eyes, the ominous athletic powerhouse withered into a timid giant. Eating a few heavy hands herself, Tapa also became more cautious. Tapa knew she could crack this giant and was hoping that Gabi would throw more loopy overhands to open her up for another debilitating counter strike. Clearing her head, Gabi would charge forward with some half inspired straight punches, pressuring Tapa into the ropes, but failing to capitalize on the clinch. Two more times Gabi would rush Tapa back with no seeming interest in wanting to clinch or grapple Tapa to the ground. As a personal fan of her grappling, the frustration was unbearable.

Garcia would engage again, connecting with a right hand and left hand, before flying past Tapa with an overextended right cross. On this occasion, though, Garcia realized that her back was exposed and recovered with a heavy backfist as she tried to turn and re-square herself back towards Tapa. The backfist connected dropping Tapa to the ground and finally we got to see Garcia pounce and assert some grappling control. Instead of a submission attempt, though, Garcia played it smart and conservative opting instead to hammer out Tapa’s face until the ref called the match.

A solid novice debut, a disappointing premier, or a strong-willed fighter who overcame getting rocked in order to do what was needed to beat her opponent? It’s easy for me to sit back and judge her from the safety of a web feed and only Gabi really knows if she fell short of her potential. Tell us what you think, I’m curious to know how others saw this fight.

For the rest of the RIZIN results follow the thinks below.

RIZIN Fighting Federation: Day 1 Results

RIZIN Fighting Federation – Day 2 Results

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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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