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Froback Friday: This Week in MMA History

Vinny Craig

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(This is our weekly Throwback Thursday article. Yes, today is Friday. We called it Froback Friday this week. The dress is black and blue. Nick Diaz said so.)

This Week in MMA History

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article written about the events and news that have happened in the world of MMA during this week. The twist, we’ll be going back in time to show you the events that already happened and are forever stitched into our minds. This week we take a look at February 23 to March 1.

 

UFC 30: Battle on the Boardwalk

Taking place at the Vegas away from Vegas, UFC 30 saw two title fights headline the card. Before those, the preliminary card saw Sean Sherk and Phil Baroni get victories. In the second bout of the main card, future Heavyweight champions Pedro Rizzo and Josh Barnett fought it to the battle. Rizzo knocked out Barnett in the second round, and got a shot at Heavyweight champion Randy Couture.

In the co-main event, Jens Pulver and Caol Uno fought for the ‘Bantamweight’ title of the UFC. Pulver got the Unanimous Decision after five tough rounds, and became the champion. The name of the weight class was changed to Lightweight (155 lbs weight limit) and we didn’t see the Bantamweight (135 lbs limit) class until the UFC/WEC merger in 2011.

In the main-event, Light Heavyweight champion Tito Ortiz knocked out his opponent Evan Tanner just 30 seconds into the match. He would defend his title three more times before losing it to Randy Couture at UFC 44. Tanner would go 9-5 in his remaining fights until his death in 2008.

 

UFC 41: Onslaught

Just over 2 years after UFC 30, in the same city, the UFC put on another two title-fight card.

The card would see a Heavyweight title-fight between Tim Sylvia and Ricco Rodriguez and a Lightweight title-fight between BJ Penn and Caol Uno. Before the two title fights, we saw victories from Yves Edwards, Din Thomas, Vladimir Matyushenko. Frank Mir beat Tank Abbott in his return to the UFC almost five years after his last fight.

In the first title fight, BJ Penn and Caol Uno fought to a majority draw in the final bout of a Lightweight tournament. The judges scored the card 48-47 Uno, 48-46 Penn, and 48-48. The division would go on hiatus after that and not come back until UFC 64. In the Heavyweight title bout, Tim Sylvia beat Ricco Rodriguez by KO for the vacant tile. Sylvia would be champion and in title fights for the next 5 years.

 

UFC 82: Pride of a Champion

The UFC dropped in to Columbus, Ohio for a Middleweight super-fight. The main event was to unify the the UFC Middleweight championship and Pride Welterweight Champioship. The UFC champion Anderson Silva faced the Pride Champion Dan Henderson.

The preliminary card would see five good fights. In the first fight, Jorge Grugel won a UD over John Halverson. Diego Sanchez, Josh Koscheck, and Andrei Arlovski all got finished to end the prelims. In the main card, Yuskin Okami would KO Evan Tanner 3 minutes into the second round and Chris Leben picked up $60,000 by his first round KO of Alessio Sakara.

The main event between two champion came through. The first round went back and forth between the two, and the fight was looking as if it would live up to its high expectations. The second round would start the same way, but soon change. The UFC champion Silva would take the back of ‘Hendo’ and submit the Pride champion just before the round ended. That submission earned Silva a Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night Bonuses

UFC 127: Penn vs. Fitch

In 2011, the UFC put on a show in Sydney, Australia to the tune of 18,000 people. The main event was a Welterweight bout between former champion BJ Penn and former title-challenger Jon Fitch. The fight was meant to be a title-eliminator, but neither got a title shot after. It saw 260,000 pay-per-view buys, which was low for the time.

The card saw future stars Mark Hunt, Alexander Gustaffson, Kyle Noke, and Dennis Siver grab victories. In the co-main event, Michael Bisping and Jorge Rivera took to the Octagon. In just the second round, Bisping nabbed the TKO victory just 114 seconds into the round. The main-event saw the two title-contenders fight to a majority draw, as two judges saw the fight as a draw, and one gave it to Jon Fitch. The fight would not result in the next title-challenger.

 

UFC 144: Edgar vs. Henderson

The UFC’s first return to Japan since UFC 29 came with many of the countries former stars from Pride. The headliner was a Lightweight title fight between champion Frankie Edgar and Benson Henderson. The card had a seven fight main card, which aired on PPV and got 375,000 buys.

Before the main event, former Japanes stars such as Takanori Gomi, Hatsu Hioki and Mark Hunt picked up wins. Others guys like Yushin Okami and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson took losses. Future Lightweight champion, and former WEC champion, Anthony Pettis picked up a Knockout of the Night with a headkick to Joe Lauzon.

In the main event, longtime champion Frankie Edgar faced former WEC Lightweight champion Benson Henderson for all the marbles. Edgar was facing a different man other than BJ Penn and Gray Maynard for the first time in almost two years. The fight would go into the championship rounds after three hard fought rounds. Eventually, the challenger would bring the belt back with him to Phoenix and held it through his next four fights. The next man to take it from him was the last man to beat him before that in Anthony Pettis.

 

UFC 157: Rousey vs. Carmouche

Anyone remember Dana White saying he would never let a women in the UFC? Well that all changed when he  found Ronda Rousey. After the UFC signed Strikeforce, it also took on its Women’s Bantamweight division and its champion Ronda Rousey. The champ would get the chance to be the first women to fight in the UFC, and would do so by headlining a card. The fight took place in Anaheim, California near where Rousey trains. She would face former Marine Liz Carmouche who would try and ruin the Rousey party.

Before we would see the women, the rest of card would see good fights to start off. Brendan Schaub would pick up a victory over Lavar Johnson to end the prelims. To start off the main card, future champion Robbie Lawler would KO Josh Koscheck cold in the first round. Former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber continued his impressive streak of non-title fight wins with  a first round RNC of Ivan Menjivar. In the co-main event, Lyoto Machida took the UD over Dan Henderson.

Then came the main event. Carmouche looked good early, taking punches and giving them right back. She would take the champs back mid-way through the round, and try to sink in the RNC. When she couldn’t get the arm under her chin, she looked for a neck crank. Just before it looked too late, Rousey shook her opponent off and ended up on top. This is where she worked her judo magic and got to her famous armbar position from the top. She would finish Carmouche with just 11 seconds left in the round to defend her belt for the first time.

 

The Ultimate Fighter China Finale: Kim vs. Hathaway

The UFC put on its first version of The Ultimate Fighter in China. The season would see fighters in the Featherweight and Welterweight divisions. The Featherweight final would be cancelled for this event due to an injury to Yang Jianping. The main event would be Asian superstar Dong Hyun-Kim and John Hathaway.’

The card had very little hype to it, but did see nice KO’s by Wang Anying over Albert Cheng and Matt Mitrione over Shawn Jordan. The Welterweight final would see Zhang Lipeng defeat Wang Sai by Split-Decision to take the contract. The main event one of the best KO’s of the year as Kim hit Hathaway with a beautiful elbow to the head.

 

WEC 39: Brown vs. Garcia

The originally scheduled title fight between Carlos Condit and Brock Larson was cancelled due to an injury. It was then announced that the Welterweight division would dissolved into the UFC. The main event changed to Mike Brown and Leonard Garcia for the Featherweight title.

In the prelims, Johny Hendricks got a UD over Alex Serdyukov and Danny Castillo an SD over Phil Cardella. Future WEC and UFC champion Jose Aldo would pick up a TKO win over Chris Mickle. He would get the title shot two fights later and never leave it again. In the main event, champion Mike Brown put an arm-triagle choke on Garcia and made him tape before two minutes of the first round.

 

Pride 19: Bad Blood

The year is 2002, the date is February 24th and the location is Saitama, Japan. The event in Pride 19, and it was awesome. Rodrigo Gracie submitted Daijiro Matsui by Guillotine, and Carlos Newton put an armbar on Jose Landi. Things get pretty interesting after that, as Big Nog put a triangle on Enson Inoue. The main event was a Middleweight title fight between legend Wanderlei Silva and Kiyoshi Tamura. Silva would knock him out in the second round, and keep his title. 4

 

Pride 31: Dreamers

In one of its last events, Pride put on a super event. ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Fabricio Werdum  got the decision wins. Then a much smaller Alistair Overeem got the TKO win by knees over Sergei Kharitonov. Big Nog picked up the submission win, and Mark Coleman the TKO over Shogun. In the main event, Mark Hunt got the KO win in the Mark Hunt fashion over Yosuke Nishijima.

 

Pride 33: The Second Coming

The title says it all, as Pride put on one of its biggest shows. Frank Trigg beat Kazuo Miskai by decision in the Middleweight division. Hayto Sakurai put the KO on Mac Danzig just 23 seconds into the fight. ‘Shogun’ Rua and Alistair Overeem did not last long as Rua KO’d Overeem three and a half minutes into the fight. In one of the best fights of all time, Nick Diaz put a gogoplata on legend Takanori Gomi. The victory was later changed to a NC when Diaz tested positive for Marijuana. The main event saw champ Wanderlei Silva get KO’d by Dan Henderson to become the first two-division title holder in Pride history.

 

Bellator XCI

In the first event of season 8 for Bellator, we would see the Lightweight tournament. In the semi-final, David Rickels beat Jason Fischer by decision and Saad Awad beat ‘Ill’ Will Brooks, future champion, by TKO just 43 seconds into the fight. For the Light Heavyweight title, champion Christian M’ Pumbu lost his title by decision to Attila Veigh. Before the main card, Holly Holm picked up another TKO victory when she beat Katie Merrill.

 

Bellator CX

In the first event for Season 10, we saw Light Heavyweight and Featherweight tournaments. The quarterfinal for the Featherweights would see Daniel Weichel, Will Martinez, Desmond Green, and Matt Bessette get victories. The only finish by those guys was Weichel getting the RNC over Scott Cleve. In the Light Heavyweight semi-finals, ‘King’ Muhammed Lawal got the UD to move onto the final. In the other semi-final, Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson got the KO over former champion Christian M’Pumbu.

Strikeforce Challengers: Kaufman vs. Hashi

In this Strikeforce event, the Women’s Bantamweight championship was on the line. Before we would get there, we would see finishes by Jesse Tobar, Tristan Arenal, and Wayne Phillips. Future Middleweight champion Luke Rockhold  got the TKO over Paul Bradley. In the main event, Sarah Kaufman beat Takayo Hashi by five round decision to take the belt. She would beat Roxanne Modafferi to defend it in her next fight, but lose it to Marloes Coenen. She would get another shot at the title when she faced Ronda Rousey. She would lose by classic armbar.

 

Future: UFC 184: Rousey vs. Zingano, Bellator 134: The British Invasion

 

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Bellator: Selecting the Four Alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.

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With an 8-man tournament bracket full of legends and former champions, join us as we chose four alternates for the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Main Tournament Participants:

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Frank Mir
  • Chael Sonnen
  • Quinton Jackson
  • Roy Nelson
  • Matt Mitrione
  • Ryan Bader
  • King Mo Lawal

The alternate tournament bracket will consist of: two opening round fights (semi-final), and then two victorious fighters competing against one another at the finale (final). This will determine a worthy contender to step into the main tournament bracket, in case any of the main bracket fighters are injured in their semi-final bouts.

If a pull-out or injury occurs before the opening bouts, I believe Bellator have to select the most decorated fighter, and a natural heavyweight fighter. So in case of a pull-out occurring before the opening round, I would select my #1 alternate, and so on for any more opening pull-outs.

This structure covers all bases, and keeps the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament intense and prestigious.

So with the structure laid out, here is our selected alternate fighters.

  • #1: Vitaly Minakov
  • #2: Linton Vassell
  • #3: Attilah Vegh
  • #4: Emanuel Newton

Alternate Opening Round [Semi-Final]:

  • Bout 1: #1 Vs. #3
  • Bout 2: #2 Vs. #4

Alternate Final:

  • Victor of Bout #1/#3 Vs. Victor of Bout #2 Vs. #4

Linton Vassell vs. Emanuel Newton would be a trilogy that needs to be completed. Linton dominated on the ground for the most part of their first bout, but felt he gave up positions he felt he could have held longer, and took needless transitions and risks; allowing for a very sneaky Emanuel Newton to escape the clutches of ‘The Swarm’, and when the gas tank begins to empty – a scrambling Emanuel Newton is not what you want!

Fighter bios:

Vitaly Minakov: A former Bellator tournament winner, and former Bellator heavyweight champion. A Judo black belt, and multi time Sambo world champion, there’s no denying this man’s resume as one of the best put forth out of these 4 fighters.

Linton Vassell: A man who really lives up to the moniker – ‘The Swarm’, Linton Vassell has dominated and dispatched various opponents Bellator have put across from him. Having fallen short in two title fights, and a close decision loss to King Mo, Linton has shown that he’s there with the best Bellator has to offer, maybe the Heavyweight Grand Prix might see the dark-horse finally come into the lime-light! Currently contracted to Bellator with a 7-3 record for the promotion.

If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:

Emanuel Newton: Already holding two victories over King Mo, who’s allocated in this Heavyweight main tournament bracket – that alone is just cause to enter Emanuel. An exciting and unpredictable entry this would be. Bellator parted ways with Emanuel in 2016. Currently, Newton is not on the best of runs, but this tournament needs a ‘wild-card’, and Emanuel owns that title.

Attilah Vegh: A former Bellator LHW champion. Not currently signed to Bellator. Was strangely released in 2014 after having a record of 5-1 with the promotion, and some victories over some very reputable names. Currently on a 2 fight win-streak outside of Bellator MMA.

If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:

 

Bellator 192 at The Forum – Jan. 20, 2018: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-15-1)
Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun Arena – Feb. 16, 2018: Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy Nelson (23-14)
Bellator at Allstate Arena – April, 2018: Fedor Emelianenko (36-5, 1 NC) vs. Frank Mir (18-11)
Bellator at SAP Center – May, 2018: Ryan Bader (24-5) vs. “King Mo” Lawal (21-6, 1 NC)

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Exclusive: Hisaki Kato: “My priorities are in MMA”

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French-Japanese middleweight Hasaki Kato returns to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on former welterweight Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani. Ahead of the high-level striking match-up, Kato took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with MMA Latest.

Rangy striker Njokuani makes his middleweight debut Friday as he looks to erase his loss to Andrey Koreshkov from recent memory. It isn’t lost on Kato just how tall and lanky the 6’3 striker truly is. “Well he’s very tall,” Kato tells MMA Latest. “He was a welterweight but even for a middleweight he’s really tall he’s like 6’2, 6’3 taller than me, longer reach than me. Obviously, I was watching his fights, he’s fighting with range and using his reach to fight so that’s his number one weapon.”

In Njokuani’s last fight, Koreshkov, the former welterweight champion, held Njokuani down and elbowed him until the ref stepped in. So what exactly went wrong in the fight? “Well, first I think Koreshkov is really, really strong,” Kato explains. “Chidi Njokuani normally escapes the ground part or at least he’s on top of his opponent. But Koreshkov has good pressure and good grappling and he could take the top position. Obviously, Njokuani is not comfortable when he is on the bottom. So yeah, I think he couldn’t play his game during the last fight because Koreshkov was putting too much pressure on him.”

Former UFC fighter, Gegard Mousasi, recently made his debut against Alexander Shlemenko back in October. The Dutchman had a tough debut that resulted in a controversial decision win, Kato weighed in on whether or not he’s eyeing a fight with him and what he thought of his Bellator debut. “If I have an offer I will fight him,” he says without any particular enthusiasm. “I will fight everybody in the division. Yeah, for the last fight, well, I think luckily for him it was a three-round fight. I think if it was a five round fight the victory would have gone to Shlemenko. I don’t know maybe he had a bad camp, I don’t know but he was doing terrible.”

Kato also believes a title shot isn’t far away. “I believe I’m really close to that (a title shot),” he says. “After the win, after the Gracie fight, even if it was a decision win, the Gracie is a big family name so I was expecting a title fight. I didn’t have it so I guess if I win this time I have a good chance to have it.”

Whatever you do, don’t expect to see Kato back in a kickboxing ring anytime soon. Does it interest him to return? “Not really,” Kato replies after giving the question some thought. “If the offer is good then why not, for now, I feel more comfortable in MMA so my focus, my priorities, are in MMA.”

Many fans were very disappointed with the way his last fight turned out. Paired up against jiu-jitsu fighter, Ralek Gracie, Kato ended up going to the judges for the first time in his career. “Yeah the fight itself was really frustrating,” Kato admits. “I couldn’t do what I wanted and after two rounds, I knew I had done enough to win, and I knew he would push more. So I decided ‘yeah ok then it’s going to a decision’ but at the very least I had to win that fight.  That’s why I didn’t take too many risks in the third round. During the first and the second, I really wanted to end that fight like I always try but I couldn’t do it.”

So why hasn’t Kato fought since January? “I had an offer in September,” he says. “But I got injured during the training and had to go into surgery, and after the surgery, the process is really long to recover so that’s why.”

So what does Kato predict for the fight? “Obviously his nickname is ‘Bang’ you know, he likes to fight and that’s all I like doing too,” Kato laughs. “I’m really thinking about having a big knockout with my hands.”

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Exclusive: Fernando Gonzalez talks Paul Daley and Michael Page fights

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Long-time Bellator welterweight contender, Fernando Gonzalez, has made a career out of fighting the best fighters his promotion had to offer. The always tough Californian has displayed this willingness to fight the best when he took on Paul Daley in a kickboxing match and when he took on Michael ‘Venom’ Page, in what was supposed to be Page’s coming out fight.

The kickboxing match with Daley happened back in 2015 at “Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1” in an event that featured both Glory kickboxing as well as its fair share of intriguing Bellator MMA fights. Gonzalez would go on to lose the fight in what many fans called a ‘lackluster’ contest. Speaking to MMA Latest, Gonzalez was asked if he had any interest in returning to the kickboxing ring and why he participated in Glory kickboxing.

“No. Honestly, that kickboxing match was more just to get Daley; because they kept trying to give him to me on short notice and one was on an injury,” Gonzalez told MMA Latest. “So I was like, ‘no I don’t want to give him an easy win’, but the only thing they came up with was that kickboxing match in that time. So ever since that fight, I was like ‘listen dude lets do this MMA’. I’m an MMA guy, I know how to kickbox and I’m good with it but I prefer MMA. I love doing MMA. I don’t like to have too many rules put on me. I like being able to go out there and flow freely. Honestly, I want Daley in an MMA fight so he gets the real fight.”

Gonzalez’ fight with Michael Page was booked as the veteran getting fed to the younger up and coming contender. The fight was Page’s opportunity to add another highlight reel knockout to his collection. Obviously, someone forgot to tell Gonzalez. Gonzalez went out and made sure he never gave Page any openings, unfortunately, he would go on to lose the fight by split decision. Fernando explains what went wrong in his only Bellator loss.

Honestly the only thing that went wrong in the fight is how people viewed the fight”, Gonzalez explains. “If you really look at the fight he really didn’t land anything. The whole first round they’re talking him up, how he’s dancing and how it’s putting me into a lullaby and this and that. I was never in danger. He was not throwing a single punch. This is MMA, you cant just take on the fight with one style, you have to fight different styles for different people. If it was just boxing, you would fight a boxer just one way realistically, but Michael Page has the karate style. So you have to come up with a different formula if you’re going to fight somebody like that.”

“So my style with him, I knew that he’s used to everybody rushing him and trying to take him down. I’m a striker so I don’t mind striking. If I’m not in danger then I’m going to keep it striking. So what I did was I circled, I kept him at arm’s length, so he constantly had to throw long arms where he’s having to reach out and grab you. He’s throwing those arms out, that makes him have to basically hold his arms out a lot longer than he’s used to. He’s used to guys rushing in on him. So with me playing that outside game, obviously my legs are a lot longer than my arms, so I had to throw a lot more kicks, there was a lot of head kicks to take away his power-punch where he leaps in. By doing that, that made him work a lot longer in the second and third round where he’s normally finishing guys. By that third round, he was completely exhausted and couldn’t throw. He said his timing was off and this and that, but he was just exhausted. I had already gassed him out and he had just enough to stay away from me.”

“Really it’s just how you see the fight. They automatically assumed I had to take him down to win and that’s not necessarily true. If I’m not in danger, and I’m landing kicks, and I’m landing good shots, and he’s hitting my arms. Realistically most of the shots he landed were on my arms and that really doesn’t count. So it’s really just how you see it and that’s why one judge had it 30-27. It’s just how you’re seeing the fight. If you’re a striker you would know what you’re looking at, but if you’re a ground guy, of course, you’re going to say ‘oh I got to get it to the ground’ which is what the commentators were; two ground guys talking about what I should’ve done.”

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