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‘IT IS ALL OVER’ – UFC Fight Night 73

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The ground game took centre stage at UFC Fight Night Teixeira vs. Saint Preux, with fights being finished throughout the card via ground and pound or submissions. There were some solid pieces of ground technique that every fighter can learn from on Saturday night and here we will break them down, looking at every finish from the weekends UFC event.

Dustin Ortiz def. Willie Gates via. KO, round 3

Takedowns were the weapon of choice for Dustin Ortiz throughout Saturday night and the end of the contest came from another takedown in the final round. After some ground and pound followed by Willie Gates scrambling, Ortiz was able to take a crucifix style top position, locking up Gates’ right am with his legs. Ortiz kept up the ground and pound pressure forcing Gates to attempt another scramble to stay in the fight.

Ortiz anticipated this perfectly and used the scramble to take full mount position. From here, Ortiz rained down elbows and punches. The mix of Ortiz’s cardio and his dedication to position over finish allowed him to control Gates, defend the escape attempts and still have the energy to keep attacking from the top position smothering the exhausted Gates and forcing the referee to call off the fight.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, keeping position when on top should always be number one priority over attacking. When on top, stabilize your position first and then look to attack with strikes, submissions or passes. In this contest, whenever Gates showed a hint of moving from the bottom position, Ortiz stopped his attack, repositioned Gates and then continued striking. This minimalizes your opponent’s chances to escape and maximizes your chances of finishing the fight.

 

Uriah Hall def. Oluwale Bamgbose via. KO, round 1

This fight finish showed the true power Hall has in his hands, with what looked like minimal ground and pound from a full guard position instantly turning into a fight ending situation.

From being in Bamgbose’s full guard, Hall was able to stack up and land a short left hand right on Bamgbose’s chin. This short shot spelled disaster for Oluwale, as he immediately turtled up following the strike, prompting Uriah to pour on the ground and pound pressure and forcing the referee stoppage. Bamgbose was visibly very wobbly as he stood up following the finish showing just how destructive Hall’s strikes can be even from the shortest distance.

It’s hard to take much from this stoppage as it was more about Hall’s physical gifts rather than his technique, but what we can take is that it’s great to finally see what Uriah Hall is capable of when he gets his mind in the game.

 

Amanda Nunes def. Sara McMann via submission (rear naked choke), round 1

Being such a stellar and accomplished wrester, McMann has made her career on being able to take her opponents down and control them. all three of her professional losses, including this one, have one thing in common and that is McMann not being able to get her opponent to the mat.

McMann opened the contest with a slew of takedown attempts, all of which failed to put Nunes on her back. When her wrestling failed her, McMann was forced to use her less than elite level striking against arguably the hardest hitter in the division. McMann threw a lazy leg kick which Nunes stepped away from and as McMann span round and back into fighting position; Amanda greeted her with a straight right hand to the chin. This forced McMann to the ground where Nunes took her back. McMann tried to improve her position, but Nunes kept up the ground and pound until the rear naked choke presented itself. Nunes slapped on the choke and there was nothing Sara could do but tap.

This fight perfectly shows what happens when you are a one dimensional fighter in the UFC in 2015. Only having wrestling skills, no matter how credentialed they may be, is not a viable option in MMA today. When McMann’s takedowns didn’t work, she had nothing else to go to and this gave Nunes all the advantage, leading to the early finish.

 

Derek Brunson def. Sam Alvey via. KO, round 1

Despite some simply horrendous boxing technique, Brunson showed how sheer aggression, power and killer instinct can overcome all else and get you the win.

This short fight started slowly, with Brunson pressing Alvey against the cage and landing some short punches, when the two separated, Brunson was able to hurt Alvey with a straight left and proceeded to run Alvey down, chasing him around the cage and winging power punches constantly. Despite recovering, these punches would prove to be too much for Alvey as he was once again tagged and dropped. The referee jumped in and stopped the contest seconds later followed by heavy protests from Alvey and the crowd.

This was an early stoppage in many people’s minds, meaning it’s hard to take anything solid from the finish, as it probably shouldn’t have happened. But one thing Brunson should learn from this fight is that his total lack of striking technique displayed in this contest will not serve him well in the upper echelon of the division. Fighters like Lyoto Machida and Michael Bisping would pick apart this style of striking and probably finish Brunson. Please clean up your technique Derek and then you could well be a great middleweight contender.

 

Glover Teixeira def. Ovince St. Preux via. Submission (rear naked choke), round 3

This fight finish came courtesy of a lack of cardio. Coming into the third round, Saint Preux was completely gassed from the constant pressure from Glover earlier in the fight. Glover was able to get the takedown in the third and keep top control, offering minimal striking, but enough to make sure the fighters were not stood up. Glover tried many times to lock in an arm triangle but all were defended off, however, the threat of the arm triangle was enough to force Ovince to try and scramble to a better position and when he did Glover took his back and immediately sunk in a rear naked choke separating Ovince from his consciousness.

This fight showed the importance of wearing down your opponent and fighting your fight. Ovince has so much power in his strikes and Glover knew that early on, getting dropped from a Saint Preux body kick. After this, Glover decided to fight his fight and wear down the questionable cardio of Ovince and it worked perfectly. The finish was very solid technically, but the deciding factor was that Saint Preux just didn’t have enough energy to even attempt to fight off the finish.

 

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Fight Announcements

Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224

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Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.

The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.

Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).

In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.

UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.

*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224

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Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”

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In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the metro.uk, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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Announcement

UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

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UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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