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John Kavanagh: Eddie Alvarez no concern to McGregor, Chad Mendes more difficult wrestler

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The longtime coach of Conor McGregor and Straight Blast Gym head honcho John Kavanagh wades in on his protege’s next opponent, Eddie Alvarez.

You’ve heard it before and you’ll hear it again, November 12th represents an historical moment in mixed martial arts history. Not only will the once ‘barbaric’ sport step foot inside of New York City for the first time, the current featherweight champion Conor McGregor has the opportunity to be the UFC’s first simultaneous two-weight champion as he takes on lightweight king Eddie Alvarez.

Like most facets of his celebrity life, McGregor’s preparations have been under scrutiny, starting when he suffered his first UFC loss to Nate Diaz. Losing to Diaz via submission at UFC 196 exposed holes in his ground game, and adding to his woes that night, his cardio failed him. The cracks in his once impregnable armour resulted in his fight camps being under intense examination going forward; fans, fighters and media all had their say – but the 145-pound champion stepped up to the plate.

His rematch with Diaz at UFC 202 saw him enlist the help of Dillon Danis, a renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt under Marcelo Garcia, and Conor Wallace, a lanky southpaw boxer. Danis and Wallace were the antidote to Diaz, a statement that McGregor was learning, improving, and willing to accept change. But Diaz was a difficult body to prepare for, his unusually effective southpaw style, piston-like punches and unworldly cardio meant that he was difficult to emulate, but not like Alvarez, as Kavanagh told The42.ie:

“Obviously sparring partners now, we’re back to orthodox. You know we did find Conor Wallace, but it wasn’t an easy find to find the right person to try and imitate that style [of Diaz]. Finding an orthodox guy, with basic striking skills and strong wrestling skills is a lot easier, it’s a lot more straightforward. And it’s also a lot more familiar to Conor, the guy that kind of throws the overhand right and then will just try to grind him down on the fence, we’ve faced that since we went into the UFC, and even before then.”

“We’re lucky we have Sergey [Pikulskiy], his wrestling coach for the last seven years, seven or eight years, he’s almost physically a double for Eddie. About 5’7″, similar weight. I would consider Sergey a much slicker wrestler, but he can mimic that grinding style of wrestling as well.”

Kavanagh is one of the most respected trainers in the sport today, understandable having produced one the most famous athletes the world has ever seen. But at this elite level, it’s not just great fighters that are pitched against each other, it’s also great tacticians behind the scenes that battle it out like a dangerous game of chess.

Like Alvarez’s moniker “The Underground King”, his coach Mark Henry has an almost cult-like and sometimes underappreciated reputation as a mixed martial arts trainer. Longtime coach of UFC legend Frankie Edgar, Henry has been openly critical of McGregor, and Kavanagh has returned the favour. When asked whether the current lightweight champion poses any concern to the Irish superstar, Kavanagh replied “not really,” and the comparisons between Alvarez and Chad Mendes began:

“We didn’t have a huge training camp for Mendes, and I consider him almost a more difficult wrestler to deal with because he’s so short, it’s easier for him to get underneath Conor’s shots. Eddie, for some reason he’s on the webiste as being the same height as Conor, but you put them together, they’re not. I guess Conor’s about 5’10” and Eddie’s maybe 5’7″,but there’s not that much of a height difference that if Conor bends his knees a little bit he’s going to eye-level with him. So it’s a little bit easier dealing with someone close to your own height shooting in.”

“Then of course the lead up to the Mendes fight, with the knee injury [McGregor’s], we weren’t able to do a lot of wrestling, and also because we were preparing for Aldo [Jose], we didn’t do a whole lot of wrestling anyway. The one or two takedowns in that fight [against Mendes], Conor almost just gave them just to secure guard, rather than fight them hard and possibly injury his knee.”

Famed for his dogged, pressuring, wrestling style, Alvarez will no doubt look to dominate McGregor in the clinch and on the mat, much like he did against another creatively unorthodox striker, Anthony Pettis. But Kavanagh has a very different expectation in this department come November 12th.

“Any takedown Eddie gets, he’s going to have to fight tooth and nail for it, and even if he does get a takedown, it’s going to be an exhausting process. Conor’s very very difficult to take down, and even if you do get him down he’s  very very difficult to hold down. And if you are holding him down, you’re going to be eating big elbows, submission attempts. He’s going to be talking in your ear, reminding him how tiring it’s getting. He’s a tough guy for anyone.”

Join us at MMA Latest to witness history this coming Saturday, November 12th. We’ll have you covered every step of the way.

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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