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Diego Sanchez is facing a similar career end as Chuck Liddell

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“The Iceman” Chuck Liddell and “The Nightmare” or “Lionheart” or “The Dream” or even “El Corazon de Leon”, it doesn’t matter what you call him, Diego Sanchez will always share similarities with Chuck Liddell. Sure the two men have crossed paths before, Liddell was Sanchez’ coach back on the inaugural season of “The Ultimate Fighter”. But the two men are linked by much more than a TV Show, a TV Show that ultimately saved the UFC. It’s the warrior spirit, the bloodbaths, the wars, the never back down mentality the two brought into the cage. Unfortunately, it also looks like they’re set to share a similar end to their respective careers.

Chuck Liddell retired back in June of 2010 after suffering his third straight knockout loss, this time, to Rich Franklin. It was a quick and brutal fall from grace after Liddell lost his title. The biker goateed, mohawked, native of Santa Barbara, California, suffered his first true knockout loss at the hands of “Pride” legend Quentin “Rampage” Jackson, at UFC 71, in 2007. The world could only sit in silence as they witnessed their seemingly unbeatable champion get dropped by a right-hook after leaving his chin too long in the air following a failed left-hook attempt. Jackson’s perfectly timed counter dropped Liddell right on his back as the challenger followed up with some punches that left the champion stiff for a few seconds, the referee was forced to step in and sparked the beginning of the end of a legendary career.

Diego Sanchez’ career had been a bit of a roller-coaster following his loss to BJ Penn in 2009. Alternating wins and losses but putting on exciting contests either way. His “Rampage” Jackson ended up being Joe Lauzon. Sanchez took on Lauzon at UFC 200 in 2016, the fight had been booked as a war between two lightweight gatekeepers, a fun fight to kick-off the UFC’s failed attempt at a legendary event. It wasn’t to be that night. Lauzon caught Sanchez’ with a flurry of punches against the fence, Sanchez tensed up, and prepared for a gritty back and forth brawl, just like he’d done against everyone in the past. Unfortunately, Sanchez’ body didn’t respond that night, he found himself unable to muster a flurry of punches back, eventually, a left hook robbed him of his legs, and an uppercut robbed him of his movement, the flurry continued, Sanchez lost his mouthpiece as he attempted to get away from his aggressor, another flurry of punches hit him before the referee decided he had seen enough. Sanchez had never been finished like this, “At least I wasn’t knocked unconscience [sic]”, Diego expressed on Instagram later that night.

Chuck Liddell’s rough patch continued as he lost to Keith Jardine by split decision, Liddell won the first round before Jardine’s legs kicks and awkward, southpaw style, eventually sealed the win. Liddell’s final victory came against Wanderlei Silva at UFC 79, looking to rebound from the Jardine loss, Liddell would win go on to win an entertaining decision. Liddell and Silva engaged in an entertaining brawl that would go on to win the 2007 fight of the year. “The Iceman” would make his return to the cage almost ten months later as he challenged up and coming contender, Rashad Evans, in a number one contender fight. Evans responded to the opportunity by hitting Liddell with the hardest punch he had ever thrown, a right-hook landed flush on the chin of “The Iceman”. Liddell’s body came crashing to the canvas as he entered the “Shadow Realm” and ultimately, his career came crashing down with him.

Liddell would go on to challenge “Father Time” and “The MMA Gods” two more times before Dana White stepped in and told him it was enough. In his next fight, Liddell got caught with a big punch, on the chin, against Mauricio “Shogun” Rua in a legends fight, another Pride vs UFC fight. After that, the UFC offered him the chance to beat up Tito Ortiz one last time, Ortiz pulled out of the fight and was replaced by Rich Franklin. Franklin would get his arm broken by a kick, in a fight, Liddell was clearly winning. Liddell rushed in against a hurt Franklin in an effort to finish him, Franklin planted a well-timed, well-placed cross right on Liddell’s chin. It was over. Liddell fell to the ground like a bag of wet newspapers, as the commentators announced this was probably the last time we would see him fight. They were right.

Diego Sanchez rebounded quickly from the Lauzon fight. He would make his return four months later to take on Polish leg lock specialist, Marcin Held. Sanchez won the fight in impressive fashion as he used his veteran savvy and often forgotten ground game to put the youngster back in his place. Sanchez then took on “Ragin” Al Iaquinta in his next match-up, a strange fight as the up and coming Iaquinta had taken out veterans Ross Pearson and Joe Lauzon in his four-fight win streak. The fight was made purely on the expectation that the two would engage in a brawl to entertain the fans.

The gritty veteran started the fight very patiently, attempting to find openings and not forcing a back and forth war. During the feeling out process, a  big left-hook from Iaquinta dropped Sanchez, Sanchez came back to his feet, scrunched his face, and prepared for war. Just like against Lauzon, his body didn’t respond. Iaquinta landed a big right-hook that separated Sanchez from his consciousness as he fell awkwardly to the ground. He was out. There was no denying his career was coming to a finish.

Technical brawler, Matt Brown had announced he would have one last fight before calling it a career. The fan favorite welterweight announced he would be fighting Diego Sanchez, in Diego’s return to welterweight. One last ride, one last heist, one last… war. If there was anyone who would gladly oblige and engage Brown in a fire-fight, it was Sanchez. Sanchez had his moments against Brown, he briefly hurt the man with a kick to the liver. That was the closest he would come to winning the fight. Brown eventually caught one of Sanchez’ kicks and forced him against the fence. Brown raised his elbow well above his head like a Matador set to plant the sword that would end Bull’s suffering. Brown swung his elbow as hard as he could, landing right behind Diego’s ear. Sanchez’ body instantly shut down as his body crashed into the canvas. It was over… Both Matt Brown’s career as well as Diego’s.

Just like Chuck Liddell, Sanchez’ warrior spirit wouldn’t allow him to back down. It was going to take more than getting knocked out for Diego to call it a career. In the end, Chuck needing saving from himself. It appears as though Sanchez will need saving as well.

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Conor McGregor

Who will Conor McGregor fight next in the UFC?

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Conor McGregor has announced via Instagram that he intends to return to fighting and he even revealed that he had offered to replace the injured Max Holloway in the main event of UFC 222.

He did say however that the UFC rejected the opportunity to have him headline against Frankie Edgar as he was told “there wasn’t enough time to generate the money that the UFC would need”.

With his return seemingly imminent and an already proposed fight with Frankie Edgar falling through here’s a look at the men who could be standing across the cage from the “Notorious One” upon his return to the octagon.

Frankie Edgar

Let’s start with the man McGregor claims he was ready to fight next month, Frankie Edgar.

It’s a fight that has been rumoured and talked about for years now, but has always failed to become a reality and right now I believe each mans future lies elsewhere.

Although I believe Edgar would choose a fight with McGregor over a title fight with Holloway, his next bout should finally be for the real featherweight title, providing he beats Ortega at UFC 222. McGregor on the other hand, is unlikely to want the Edgar fight now given the much more lucrative options at his disposal.

If you’re a fan still clinging to hope that you will one day see this match up, I hate to break it to you but the only place you’ll be seeing this match up anytime soon is on UFC 3.

Likelihood: 2/10

The winner of Ferguson vs Khabib

If UFC 223 goes as planned then we will see a new UFC Lightweight champion. It means Conor McGregor will be without a belt for the first time since December 2015 and it would be no surprise to see him want his belt back instantly.

As a competitor the winner of this fight represents the best the division has to offer. As a businessman the winner of this fight represents the best the division has to offer.

It is the fight that makes sense, but as we know, sense doesn’t always prevail in the UFC. But, the winner of this bout being the next to face McGregor, is a real possibility.

Likelihood: 9/10

Max Holloway

Conor McGregor is no longer the man at featherweight, Max Holloway is.

Does that hurt McGregor’s ego? Maybe. There has been a lot more activity on McGregor’s social media channels about his fight with Holloway. Most notably the “I miss those sunglasses” post. Which certainly has a hint of jealousy to it. Perhaps McGrgeor wants to remind fans of what he can do at featherweight?

Although I think McGregor’s days at featherweight are pretty much over, I don’t think it’s beyond the realms of possibility that we see this fight at lightweight. But I don’t believe this fight is next for either man.

Likelihood: 4/10

Nate Diaz

Nate Diaz and Conor McGregor have both announced their comebacks in quick succession of each other. Could it mean they’re coming back for a fight this summer? Who knows.

But one things for sure, the trilogy fight will happen. It has the potential to be even bigger than the first two fights and will surely bring in a boat load of cash. Enough to motivate the two rivals to meet in the octagon again.

The fight seems inevitable and it has every chance of being the next fight for McGregor.

Likelihood: 9/10

Floyd Mayweather Jr.

Floyd Mayweather UFC

Mayweather Jr. in the octagon has been teased since before his boxing match with Conor McGregor and the ongoing speculation seems never ending.

But it’s wishful thinking to believe that Mayweather Jr. will repay the favour to McGrgeor by competing in his sport.

This sport has taught us to never say never and many of us would have never envisioned McGregor competing in boxing, but here we are. But this is just a whole new level of unlikely.

Likelihood: 0/10

 

 

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Bellator

Refereeing’s Loss is Bellator’s Gain

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When former Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith left the organization last week, not many expected MMA veteran referee, John McCarthy, to be his replacement. There is little doubt that McCarthy will make an excellent color analyst. However, it’s hard not to be disappointed that the sport is losing one of the best and most experienced referees.

McCarthy has been part of the fabric of MMA and the UFC in particular, since 1993. He was hugely influential in creating and enforcing the rules of the cage that have changed MMA into the respected sport it is today. Back in early to mid-nineties, the ‘sport’ was fairly labeled by some critics as ‘human cockfighting’. Without McCarthy as an instrumental player in changing regulations and rules, who knows where the MMA would be today.

What we have grown to appreciate most about McCarthy over the past two decades is how simple he makes this tough job look, which can be credited to years of experience and dedication. To the layman, it would appear that it’s a simple as stopping the fight when a fighter is knocked out or submitted. MMA fans know there’s a lot more to it than that.

It’s difficult to remember a moment in recent memory where McCarthy has let a fight go too long, or even stopped a fight too soon. His timing is almost always perfect. His composure and rationale in the cage are unmatched. When McCarthy is the third man in the Octagon we know the fighters are in safe hands.

It’s worth reiterating how important McCarthy is in maintaining the standard of referring and judging in the sport. The sport of MMA is still very young and is growing rapidly and so are the rules. The former LAPD police officer created his own training school known as C.O.M.M.A.N.D. The course teaches the next generation of MMA referees and judges, and there is no better person to be educated by. Referees must complete this or a similar course run by Herb Dean to be licensed as an official.

Former fighter Frank Trigg, who has pursued refereeing since his career wound down, has taken the course. He recently appeared on The MMA Hour to explain just how tough C.O.M.M.A.N.D is. It took Trigg three attempts to pass, emphasizing just how difficult a career path officiating is.

While ‘Big John’ as he is more affectionately known hasn’t completely left refereeing, he will likely no longer be seen in the cage at the biggest shows. The pool of referees trusted with the big title fights is rather small. Normally McCarthy and Herb Dean are tasked with the important title fights.

It’s not all bad that McCarthy is stepping aside for the time being. The likes of Mark Smith, Jason Herzog, and Chris Tognoni have all shown they are capable officials. There is now a great opportunity for them to move into the main event slots. There are also the likes of Yves Lavigne, Mike Beltran and Marc Goddard who can be trusted to referee the big fights.

While it is surprising, it’s understandable that McCarthy is looking for new career ventures. It is no secret that MMA referees are poorly paid relative to other sporting officials. Las Vegas often discloses referee pay when assignments are announced. The pay tends to range between $1000 and $2000 for the night. Trigg explained on The MMA hour that there is no money in becoming a referee and that most also have full-time jobs. McCarthy’s passion for the sport of MMA has been the biggest incentive for refereeing. It is totally understandable that he would take a bigger payday and put all his knowledge of the sport to good use in the commentary booth.

McCarthy will almost certainly be as dedicated to his new job as he was with his refereeing duties. He can also offer a fascinating insight into the officiating of a fight that nobody else can offer. If there wasn’t already an excuse to watch Bellator 192 on January 20th, headlined by Rory MacDonald vs Douglas Lima, then there most definitely is now.

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Could Miocic vs Ngannou be one of the biggest heavyweight title fights of all time?

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When you think of great heavyweight title fights, fights like Lesnar vs Carwin, Couture vs Sylvia, and Lesnar vs Velasquez may spring to mind. Each and every fight mentioned epitomises what the heavyweight division is all about. The baddest men on the planet taking each other on to become the unofficial ‘baddest man on the planet.’

On January 20th, Cleveland’s own Stipe Miocic will defend his heavyweight title against Francis Ngannou and it has all the makings of a heavyweight classic. But just how good can this fight become?

In one corner you have Stipe Miocic, the defending heavyweight champion. He is a part-time firefighter and a full-time bad ass. Despite being at the pinnacle of MMA, Miocic continues to work at his local fire department whilst defending his strap. It’s part of what makes Miocic so lovable, his down to Earth lifestyle and mentality makes him relatable to many.

Although the focus is on the ferocious striking of the man he is facing, Miocic has some of the best boxing in MMA, he is currently on a streak of four first-round knockouts where has displayed frightening power and skill, dismantling heavyweight greats like Arlovski, Werdum, Overeem and Dos Santos in spectacular fashion. Miocic also possesses the movement of a middleweight and has very good wrestling skills, when he chooses to use them.

Miocic’s last 5 fights

  • UFC 211: Stipe Miocic (c) def. Junior Dos Santos via TKO (punches) – Round 1, time 2:22
  • UFC 203: Stipe Miocic (c) def. Alistair Overeem via KO (punches) – Round 1, time 4:27
  • UFC 198: Stipe Miocic def. Fabricio Werdum (c) via KO (Punch) – Round 1, time 2:47
  • UFC 195: Stipe Miocic def. Andrei Arlovski via TKO (punches) – Round 1, time 0:54
  • UFC FN 65: Stipe Miocic def. Mark Hunt via TKO (punches) – Round 5, time 2:47

This fight could be a historic one for Miocic who could be the most dominant UFC heavyweight champion since the company’s inception in 1993. A win over Ngannou would see him set the record for the most consecutive title defenses with a total of 3.

CLEVELAND, OH – SEPTEMBER 10: Stipe Miocic celebrates after defeating Alistair Overeem of The Netherlands in their UFC heavyweight championship bout during the UFC 203 event at Quicken Loans Arena on September 10, 2016 in Cleveland, Ohio. (Photo by Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

In the opposing corner is the man looking to become Africa’s first UFC champion, Francis Ngannou. The heavyweight division seems to be like a revolving door at the top and Ngannou wants to continue that trend by stopping Miocic from breaking the record of consecutive defenses.

Ngannou has an incredible story and has incredible ability. It’s seen him become one of the most popular fighters on the roster despite being with the UFC for only 2 years.

So far in his short UFC career, Ngannou has justified the hype that surrounds him. Since his UFC debut in December 2015, Ngannou is yet to go to a decision and has won each of his 6 UFC bouts. Like Miocic, Ngannou is on a streak of four first-round finishes.

Ngannou’s last 5 fights

  • UFC 218: Francis Ngannou def. Alistair Overeem via KO (punch) Round 1, time 1:42
  • UFC on Fox Shevchenko vs Pena: Francis Ngannou def. Andrei Arlovski via TKO (punches) Round 1, time 1:32
  • UFC FN 102: Francis Ngannou def. Anthony Hamilton via Submission (Kimura) Round 1, time 1:57
  • UFC on Fox Holm vs Shevchenko: Francis Ngannou def. Bojan Mihajlovic via TKO (punches) Round 1, time 1:34
  • UFC FN 86: Francis Ngannou def. Curtis Blaydes via TKO (doctor stoppage) Round 2, time 5:00

Ngannou is a big heavyweight with freakishly powerful striking. His knock out of Alistair Overeem garnered plenty of attention due to the brutal nature of the uppercut he landed. But it was just a snippet of what Ngannou is capable of.

ALBANY, NY – DECEMBER 09: (R-L) Francis Ngannou of Cameroon secures a kimura submission against Anthony Hamilton in their heavyweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at the Times Union Center on December 9, 2016 in Albany, New York. (Photo by Patrick Smith/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

This fight is the best heavyweight fight for years on paper and it really feels important for the division. Will Stipe break the record or will the unstoppable force beat the immovable object?

This fight feels like it could end up being one of the greatest heavyweight title fights of all time. It’s been a while since we’ve seen two heavyweights in their prime go head to head for a truly spectacular stand up scrap and that’s exactly what we’re getting here.

The fight could potentially be over within one minute and the odds will probably be in favor of a first-round finish, especially given each man’s recent run. But what an exciting minute that would be. Knowing that both fighters have the skill and raw power to end the fight at any moment. That excitement is something the heavyweight division has missed for a long time. Even if the fight doesn’t turn into the classic slugfest we would like it to be, this fight will remain an important one which could see the tide of the heavyweight division turn to a new, positive direction. Whether it’s the most dominant champion ever or the young stud, the heavyweight division is in good hands.

These are the two most marketable heavyweights right now, two of the most popular heavyweights right now and two of the biggest hitters right now. Only one will be considered the baddest man on the planet come the 20th of January. Who’s your money on?

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