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Brazil Looks Set To Rise Again

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is an organization which has primarily been dominated by champions from the United States and from Brazil. The two nations have always had somewhat of an unspoken rivalry with both having a relatively equal number of champions at any one time. Of late many have said that the Americans have dominated the MMA scene though a closer inspection of the landscape reveals that the Brazilians are on somewhat of a resurgence – Brazil Looks Set To Rise Again

This year alone, two heavy under-dog Brazilian challengers have fought to victory in title fights. At UFC 185 Rafael Dos Anjos challenged Anthony Pettis for the Lightweight title, Dos Anjos was a +375 under-dog; however, Dos Anjos was able to dismantle Pettis over five rounds to earn a 50-45 victory. At UFC 188 Cain Velasquez made a long anticipated return to the octagon to face the Interim Heavyweight Champion Fabricio Werdum. Werdum entered the fight as a +375 under-dog, and similar to his fellow Brazilian; Werdum was able to control three rounds against the baddest man on earth, earning a submission victory in the third round to unify the belts.

The UFC has always had the presence of elite Brazilian Mixed Martial Artists. Through the modern era of title fights the UFC has had in total eleven different Brazilian title holders (including the interim title held by Antonio “Big Nog” Nogueira), and forty two different title holders that were American ( including interim title holders Frank Mir, Shane Carwin, and Carlos Condit).

Although there is a lack in the number comparison between the United States and Brazil, this number can be directly related to the sheer dominance by three of the best Brazilians to ever compete in Mixed Martial Arts. Anderson Silva dominated the Middleweight division, he held the title for an astounding 2,457 days (nine years). Respectively UFC Bantamweight Renan Barao had his Interim Bantamweight belt promoted to undisputed champion, and he held this belt for close to two years.

After these two champions lost their belts within four months of each other, it had appeared that the Brazilian dominance in the championship category could be coming to an end. The current number one Pound-for-Pound fighter in the world Jose Aldo would ensure that the streak of nine consecutive years with a Brazilian title holder would not be broken. Jose Aldo, the current UFC Featherweight Champion has held the belt for an outstanding five years and counting. Aldo was slated to face off against “The Notorious Conor McGregor” at UFC 189 during international fight week in Las Vegas, however; Aldo was forced to withdraw from this fight due to an injury sustained in training. To date, there are currently three UFC Brazilian title holders, but don’t be too surprised if we see that number increase by this time next year. We will now take you through the title fights already booked containing Brazilian challengers, and Brazilian contenders that could obtain the title in the near future.

Heavyweight:

Fabricio Werdum was at one time removed from the UFC, though earlier this year he pulled off one of the biggest upsets of 2015 putting on an absolute clinic against “the baddest man on the planet” Cain Velasquez, to successfully unify the Heavyweight belts. The number two contender in this division is fellow Brazilian Junior Dos Santos. It appears we won’t see the rematch of UFC 90 anytime soon as Werdum recently asked for some “time off”. It is unlikely that Werdum will be granted his time off as Stipe Miocic, former Heavyweight Champ Andrei Arlovski, and Junior Dos Santos have all openly staked their claim to challenge for the title next.

Light Heavyweight:

Jon Jones will be back. And when he does he will be granted an immediate title shot. Whoever that may be, it doesn’t appear that it will be against a Brazilian born fighter. Daniel Cormier won the vacant belt vs. Anthony Johnson at UFC 187. The top ranked Brazilian in the LHW division is Glover Teixeira who is booked to face Ovince St. Preux at UFC Fight Night 73 August 9th. Win or lose for Glover, it doesn’t appear he will compete for the strap anytime soon. It is already been confirmed that Alexander Gustaffson will face-off against DC at UFC 191 for the title. The rest of the division is currently booked up with Rashad Evans making his return from a two year injury layoff to face Ryan Bader on the same card as D.C and Gus. The thing these Evans and Bader have in common; they were both previously scheduled to face Cormier, so expect the winner of this fight to challenge Cormier next for the title (Pending Jon Jones’s suspension).

Middleweight:

Chris Weidman is the Brazilian killer, a fact that is well backed up. Weidman defeated the best fighter in the world, Anderson Silva twice, Lyoto Machida, and Vitor Belfort. But this division is stacked with a murderous row of top Brazilian title contenders. These three include Jacare Souza who sits as the number two contender, Vitor Belfort ranked fourth, Lyoto Machida ranked fifth, and Anderson Silva (pending a NSAC hearing) ranked number 6. The problem with these three Brazilians is two of them (Machida and Belfort) are both coming off of loses and they are likely one or two straight wins from fighting for the title again. The most likely scenario for a Brazilian to obtain this belt by 2016 stands with Jacare Souza. Souza has 8 straight wins and has been begging for a title shot, again; it looks like he will have to wait in line as it was recently announced that Chris Weidman will be facing Luke Rockhold first. Maybe Souza will finally fight Yoel Romero, a fight that was scheduled and cancelled twice. If Souza were to beat Romero, expect Jacare Souza to fight for the title some time during 2016, and expect him to give either Rockhold or Weidman a very difficult title defense.

Welterweight:

“Paging Dana White” can we please bring Rousimar Palhares back into the UFC?! As it stands right now the top ranked Brazilian in the UFC in this division is Demian Maia, ranked sixth. The Jiu Jitsu guru is having a decent resurgence since his move to Welterweight and is expected to fight Neil Magny at UFC 190. That being said even if Maia was to defeat Magny, he would still be one to two more wins away from a number one contender fight in the stacked Welterweight division. As it stands right now the only Brazilian that would have a remote chance of competing with the likes of Lawler, Hendricks, and company in the near future is Palhares. A very unlikely scenario. Look for this belt to stay away from the Brazilians for quite a while.

Lightweight:

We witnessed one of the biggest under-dog victories in quite some time in the UFC’s Lightweight division this past March when the heavily favored champion Anthony Pettis, lost his belt to Brazilian Rafael Dos Anjos in a totally one sided affair. Dos Anjos required knee surgery after the fight and is expected to be fighting Donald Cerrone in December of 2015. If Dos Anjos wins this fight, don’t expect a Brazilian to compete for the strap anytime soon as Edson Barboza is the next highest ranked Brazilian at number seven. With a murderous row on top of the division Barboza is currently not in the running for a contender fight.

Featherweight:

The one and only undisputed champion of this division, Jose Aldo, already has had an illustrious career. At the age of 27 Aldo has already been the champ for five years, and he has the fourth most title defenses in UFC history (only behind Anderson Silva, George St. Pierre, and Jon Jones). Aldo was preparing to defend his title for the ninth time when he was set to fight Conor McGregor at UFC 189. Two weeks out from the title fight Jose Aldo was forced to withdraw from the fight due to an injury he sustained during training. Due to the tendency of withdrawals, an Interim Featherweight title fight was put in place between Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes. McGregor was able to win the Interim title fight via Knockout, setting up one the most anticipated title unification fights in UFC history between McGregor and Aldo. Fellow Brazilian Charles Oliveira is the next ranked countrymen at number seven, and a win against his upcoming opponent Max Holloway could catapult him into contender status.

Men’s Bantamweight:

Again we’ve had further upsets in this division. Renan Barao was dominant much of his career at Bantamweight, that is when unknown under-dog T.J Dillashaw came around and dismantled the champ to win the belt. The two have been scheduled to rematch each other on multiple occasions, but; multiple injuries by both fighters pushed the rematch back to July 25th 2015. Dillashaw was able to put on a similar performance and completely outclass Barao, retaining his title via fourth round TKO. Raphael Assuncao is the next ranked Brazilian in this division, and given the troubles Barao has had versus Dillashaw, it appears the Assuncao ihas the best chance to win the Bantamweight belt for the Brazilians. Assuncao is on a seven fight win streak (with a decision victory over Dillashaw) and he is hungry for a chance at the belt.

Flyweight:

It goes without saying that Demetrious Johnson is one of the best Mixed Martial Artists to grace the UFC today. Dominant in all aspects of the sport it is difficult to see him losing the belt anytime in the near future, especially against number 3 ranked Brazilian Jussier Formiga. Beating top contenders consistently such as Ian McCall, and Joseph Benavidez, don’t expect a Brazilian, let alone anybody dethrone the champ.

Women’s Bantamweight:

Arguably the most dominant woman in Mixed Martial Arts history, Ronda Rousey has been the one and only champion of this division. Anyone she faces is typically a massive under-dog, but; could we see the trend of Brazilian upsets continue when she faces the fifth ranked Betche Correira at UFC 190? Although unlikely, never say never when it comes to a Brazilian upsetting an American favorite. Speaking of never say never, Christina “Cyborg” Justino is Brazilian, if she can cut from 145 pounds to 135 expect the fight close to five years in the making to occur in the near future.

Women’s Strawweight:

What a beat down Joanna Jędrzejczyk put on TUF winner and former champ Carla Esparza to win the title. Absolutely befuddling the champ Esparza; Jędrzejczyk was able to stop her in the first round. Jędrzejczyk has been tested by a Brazilian before in Claudia Gadehla; it was a fight that many though Gadehla had actually won (lost via split decision). Claudia Gadehla is set to face UFC new comer Jessica Aguilar, and the winner of this fight is almost guaranteed to be the next challenger for Joanna Jędrzejczyk. If it is Gadehla that is victorious, expect these two to rematch by the end of 2016, and expect it to be an all out war!

Given the recent struggles by some of the best Brazilian Mixed Martial Artist in the world, the time is now for Brazil to rise again. If the three current champs can successfully retain their titles. Look for a strong Brazilian showing out of the Middleweight, Men’s Bantamweight, and Women’s Strawweight divisions. In a sport that as of late, has been dominated by American champions, do not be shocked if by the end of 2016 the UFC has a Brazilian holding a belt in six different divisions.

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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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