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Is Dan Henderson the UFC’s Most Unlikely Title Contender? Possibly Not ….

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Five months ago nobody was clamouring for this fight. Nobody was even thinking of it, least of all UFC 204’s world title challenger Dan Henderson.

Yet here we are. UFC 204 is only a few days away and sitting right there as the headline attraction is a rematch from UFC 100. Michael Bisping vs. Dan Henderson, with the UFC middleweight championship on the line. It is a booking both absurd and brilliant in equal measure.

Look at everything that had to happen for this championship bout to come together. Firstly, Michael Bisping, forever the 185 pound nearly man, had to actually win the middleweight title because, lets be clear, in 2016 Dan Henderson could only get a shot at UFC gold if Bisping were the champ.

Bisping, who had gone 6-4 in his previous ten fights, wasn’t even scheduled to fight for the title until Chris Weidman withdrew with a neck injury three weeks ahead of UFC 199. On top of that, Bisping wasn’t even the first choice substitute, with Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza turning down the opportunity as he had injured his meniscus in his UFC 198 clash with Vitor Belfort.

To make the eventual outcome even more unlikely, Bisping had to defeat Luke Rockhold to win the title. The same Luke Rockhold who had cruised past Britain’s premiere mixed martial artist less than two years prior, submitting Bisping early in the second round of their bout in Sydney, Australia. Since then Rockhold had continued to improve, which contributed to Bisping opening and closing as a bigger betting underdog than he had for their first fight.

Bisping would defeat Rockhold to realise a career-long dream and become UFC middleweight champion. All that had to happen before we even consider Henderson playing his part, which he did, by defeating Hector Lombard in thrilling fashion on the very same night in Inglewood, California.

Winning any fight in the UFC was becoming an increasingly difficult proposition for Henderson by that point. Before the Lombard fight, Henderson had won only twice inside the octagon since 2011. His overall record during that time was 2-6 and he had lasted one minute and 20 seconds against Vitor Belfort in November 2015 in his last outing.

The right win at the right time, bringing together two fighters whose opposing history dated all the way back to season nine of The Ultimate Fighter in 2009, and included the most devastating defeat on Bisping’s 12 year resume in front of far and away the largest pay-per-view audience the company had ever broadcast to at UFC 100.

Even then, had it not been for nostalgic fans bombarding the UFC all over social media calling for this fight to happen, the promotion may well have opted to pit Bisping against someone higher in the middleweight rankings for his first title defense.

All things considered, the UFC 204 main event might be the most unlikely championship bout in UFC history, and as you will see from the following shortlist that is a bold claim. Here are some of the other major contenders for that honour.

Andrei Arlovski vs. Justin Eilers – UFC 53

If you think the heavyweight division in 2016 lacks depth, try to imagine what it was like back in 2005 when many of the best big men in the sport were fighting in Japan. Eilers was not only coming off a knockout loss to Paul Buentello at UFC 51, but he was the fifth choice challenger for Arlovski’s interim heavyweight title.

Injured heavyweight champion Frank Mir was still on the shelf following his motorcyle accident. A bout between Arlovski and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic in Japan could not be made either. Former UFC champion Ricco Rodriguez was scheduled to face Arlovski but pulled himself from the fight. Then Buentello, who had hit Eilers so hard at UFC 51 that the Miletich fighter had lost complete control of his legs, was not medically cleared to fight when the UFC 53 title fight was made. That meant Eilers was the last man standing, at least until the four-minute mark of his title shot against Arlovski, where his desperate title bid was ended by the in-form champion.

Randy Couture vs. Brock Lesnar – UFC 91

Former WWE champion Brock Lesnar’s star power was never in question, nor was his physical prowess and athletic ability. His mixed martial arts resume when he stepped into the cage against Randy Couture to challenge for the UFC heavyweight title in 2008 though? That was thin. Really thin. Lesnar had only made two appearances inside the UFC’s octagon, picking up a loss against Frank Mir and a win over Heath Herring. His only previous MMA outing was a one-minute mauling of Min-Soo Kim.

The bout was, at least partly, the product of Couture’s contract dispute with the UFC which had seen Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira crowned as the interim champion in his absence. With Nogueira and Frank Mir tied up coaching season eight of The Ultimate Fighter ahead of their interim title fight, Lesnar was left to face Couture for the title “the Natural” had never lost. Lesnar took little more than eight minutes to tear away Couture’s championship belt and leave the hall of famer eyeing a return to light-heavyweight.

Frank Shamrock vs. John Lober – UFC Brazil

Long before Dan Henderson was granted a title shot against Michael Bisping largely because he held a previous win over the champion, John Lober was given a similar opportunity against Frank Shamrock. The reigning UFC middleweight champion had already won three championship bouts against more notable competition when he defended the title against Lober in October 1998, but the challenger was the last fighter to beat Shamrock at that time.

It didn’t matter that the win was the result of a contentious 30-minute split decision at a time when the sport was still figuring out how to determine who won when bouts went the distance. Nor did it matter that since that fight, Lober had lost five of his next six, with only a time limit draw against Osami Shibuya sandwiched in the middle. Still, with Shamrock clearing out the division in a hurry, the UFC presumably figured that a win over the champion made him a sellable contender. Unsurprisingly, Shamrock forced Lober to submit making it six defeats and one draw from seven fights for Lober, who never fought in the UFC again.

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*WATCH* DaveNoseMMA – Aljamain Sterling Knockout Aftermath

Harry Davies

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In this video, MMA Latest’s Dave Noseworthy shares his thoughts on Marlon Moraes’ brutal knockout of Aljamain Sterling that took place this past weekend at UFC Fresno.

Check out Dave’s thoughts below:

 

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Fight Announcements

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220

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UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)

Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:

“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.

The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.

If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.

Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.

UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.

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Events

Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview

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Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.

LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.

Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.

Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)

The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.

In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.

Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.

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