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Holly Holm vs. Valentina Shevchenko – A Career Defining Moment Set to Fade

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On Saturday night at the United Center in Chicago, Illinois, Holly Holm and Valentina Shevchenko headline the latest UFC on FOX card. It is the first time women have closed the show on FOX, and only the second time in UFC history that a non-title women’s bout has been given main event honours.

The fight also carries major title implications. We know that Ronda Rousey will get a shot at the UFC title any time she opts to return and claim one, but we still have no idea when that might be. An impressive win for Holm would likely see her status as a former champion in a still young division propel her to the next shot against newly crowned bantamweight Queen Amanda Nunes.

Nunes’ dismantling of Miesha Tate at UFC 200 was vicious and it was brutal. Winning the title in what had been billed as the largest show in UFC history was the defining moment of Nunes’ career. Holm and Shevchenko are both one fight removed from their own.

Bringing an 11-1 professional MMA record with her to the cage for her UFC debut against Sarah Kaufman in December 2015, Shevchenko had been on the prospect radar for a while. The big question mark was her level of competition.

Her most notable win came against Jan Finney, a fighter known only for serving as Cristiane “Cyborg” Santos’ victim in Sherdog’s beatdown of the year for 2010. On top of that, while Shevchenko’s fight with Finney was one-sided, it was anything but thrilling.

The other recognised name on Shevchenko’s record was Liz Carmouche. Shevchenko had returned to the sport in 2010, and was beaten by the future UFC title challenger. While many will tell you otherwise in hindsight, the truth is that none of us really knew quite how good Valentina Shevchenko was. Yet.

That changed when Shevchenko stepped up to make her UFC debut against Kaufman on short notice. The first ever Strikeforce women’s bantamweight champion, Kaufman held wins over Miesha Tate, Alexis Davis, Valerie Letourneau and Liz Carmouche. The step up to the big league to fight one of the top fighters in the world bought out the best in Shevchenko, as she matched her more experienced opponent over three tough rounds to win the fight by split decision.

The magnitude of the win cannot be understated. At the time, Kaufman was an obvious top ten fighter on the all-time women’s pound for pound list. Shevchenko was stepping in on only one week’s notice to fight by far the greatest fighter she had ever faced in her career.

To suggest it ranks alongside Holly Holm’s biggest win would be disingenuous. Nothing matches up to Holm’s knockout of Ronda Rousey in Melbourne at UFC 193. It is one of the most emotive moments in UFC history, and however the rest of her career plays out Holm will always be remembered as the fighter who ended Rousey’s reign of terror over the bantamweight division.

Yet while the stunning image of that knockout is one that will be forever etched into the memory banks of MMA fans across the world, even the most visceral images can fade over time. Holm’s performance that night as a massive underdog was sensational. It was the stuff of legend. It was James “Buster” Douglas over Mike Tyson.

Douglas had utilised a precise jab to pick Tyson apart in Tokyo in 1990, before knocking him out in the 10th round. Just like Holm against Rousey, few had given Douglas a chance of even making the fight competitive, such had been Tyson’s dominance over the heavyweight division to that point. Just like Holm, who did so against Miesha Tate, Douglas would drop the title in his first defence against Evander Holyfield. Douglas never made it back to the top, or anywhere near it, again.

When Holm and Shevchenko meet on Saturday, they do so with the biggest wins of their career in danger of fading. Both approach the fight off the back of a loss, Holm losing her title to Miesha Tate, and Shevchenko dropping a decision to Amanda Nunes.

Should Holm be defeated, naysayers will talk of how that special night in Melbourne was merely an outlier on a resume that doesn’t stack up well against the division’s other top fighters. After all, beyond Rousey, Holm’s most impressive victory came against Marion Reneau, a good rather than great fighter who currently sits outside the top 15 in the division.

Defeat for Shevchenko and she is miles away from entering the discussion when future title shots are being handed out. The win over Kaufman diminished, chalked down to late replacement awkwardness, with Kaufman perhaps not being quite the fighter she once was.

For the winner, the integrity of their career defining moment remains intact. If that is Shevchenko, she might even be creating a new one. Whoever loses on Saturday night only moves one step further away from greatness.

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Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.

Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.

Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)

Main Card:

Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)

Preliminary Card:

Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)

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Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams

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Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.

Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.

Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.

Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.

Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.

There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.

But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.

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