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Knocked Down, Stock Up

Matthew Wells

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Has it settled in yet? Did the thirteen-second knockout of Jose Aldo register in your senses? Can Frankie Edgar do anything more to impress you? Is Sage ready for the next level of competition? We’re still in the aftermath of the record-breaking UFC 194 card that capped off an incredible three-card-week of fights in Las Vegas, and there are plenty of questions to be answered.

How does a fighter stand out in such a congested week? What can you do to ensure your name stays on the mind of fans and analysts alike in the wake of the Conor McGregor show? The obvious answer: Win your fight and win in an impressive fashion.  However, even in defeat, your stock can rise as a fighter. It usually takes a dynamic performance to do so, but it’s not necessarily always the case as you’ll read below. With 68 fighters squaring off over the course of three nights, half of those competitors left the cage with a loss on their record, but some left a lasting image in our thoughts.
Paige VanZant
Rose Namajunas gave Paige VanZant a proverbial wake-up call on Thursday evening. From opening bell to  tap-out, Rose completely outworked Paige in all aspects of mixed martial arts. From getting the better of exchanges on the feet, to takedowns, to slick BJJ and multiple deep submission attempts, Rose established her place on the shortlist of strawweight title contenders with a very impressive performance in the headlining bout on Thursday night.

Though, not to completely discredit Paige’s performance as she showed an incredible ability to stay calm and escape multiple deep chokes and armbar attempts from Namajunas. She also showed an incredible will to stay in the fight and keep coming back for more, while looking for that opportunity to shift the fight in her direction.  While her heart in the cage wasn’t enough to get her hand raised on the night, it’s what Paige did after the fight that has her stock rising.

In sharp contrast to Ronda Rousey, who went into a brief hiding period after her knockout loss by way of Holly Holm, Paige showed up at the post-fight press conference ready to face her detractors head-on. Like Ronda, some MMA pundits believed she was limited in her skill set and a benefactor of a hype train that would be derailed as she reached the upper echelon of the division.

It happened, and Paige VanZant completely owned it.

She immediately acknowledged the opportunities she has to improve as a fighter and let everyone see her scars and emotions on full display. It was refreshing to see someone with so much hype behind her show up and take it on the chin from the press afterward. “I got outclassed in every way. So, just get back with my team, game plan, and work on my technique,” said Paige at the post-fight press conference. Accepting and acknowledging there are holes in your game are the keys to improving as a fighter.

Frankie Saenz

Undefeated in his first three bouts in the UFC, Frankie Saenz found himself in a hell of a fight to cap off the prelims of UFC 194 against perennial title-contender, Uriah Faber. Not just any Faber, the most dangerous superlative version of Faber: Non-title shot Faber.

All but one of Faber’s 8 losses on his professional record were in bouts for a championship belt (the one being the other Frankie).

This was a fight that would have (and maybe still should have) been Fight of the Night, if it were not on the most stacked card of 2015. Saenz stood in the pocket and traded with Faber, hit him with brutal leg kicks, and popped the California Kid with some nasty uppercuts. Even in the second round after getting rocked with a knee to the head, Saenz stayed composed, weathered the storm of Faber’s hopeful fight-ending flurries, and found himself taking the back of Faber and controlling him to close out the round. While Frankie couldn’t seal the deal in the third round, he impressed the crowd and earned a lot of respect from the fans in attendance as he went the distance with the leader of Team Alpha Male in a hotly contested battle. Want to impress people? Don’t get finished in a tough fight against one of the most popular fighters in the sport, in the last free prelim slot on the biggest card of the year.

Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza

In one of the most interesting fights of the uber-stacked UFC 194 card, Jacare vs. Romero was one of the matchups many people couldn’t get off the fence about who they were picking to win. Jacare came into the fight on an 8-fight win streak, not tasting defeat since he lost the Strikeforce title to the man who would go on later that night to win the UFC Middleweight strap, Luke Rockhold. Yoel Romero’s last loss also came under the Strikeforce banner, but since that defeat had rattled off six-straight wins in the UFC, albeit not completely free from controversy (Google: Stoolgate).

The fight looked as if it were going to be over in the first round as Romero landed a vicious spinning backfist that dropped Jacare, leading to heavy ground and pound for what was the better part of the final minute in what scored as a 10-8 round in the eyes of some. Not to mention as the horn sounded, while Romero went back to his corner, Jacare was very slow to get up from the mat in the center of the Octagon. When he finally made it to his feet, he was very wobbly which garnered a lot of concerned rumblings from the crowd and prompted the cage-side doctor to come in for a closer look while being tended to by his corner. The fight went on to a second round that was relatively uneventful. However, the third round was when Jacare looked fully recovered from the first-round beating and unleashed heavy offense on the fading Romero by landing hard strikes on the feet and heavy elbows from top position after taking down the Olympic silver medalist.

This was a fight in which the first and third rounds were clearly decided, meaning the fight hinged on the second round. If you scored the second round for Jacare, was the first round a 10-8 for Romero? If so, that would mean the bout would result in a draw. What about that cage-grab from Romero that referee Marc Goddard could have taken a point away for? (See also: Is Using Your Warning “Dirty”?) Regardless of how the split decision was read by Bruce Buffer, the heart and determination shown by Jacare as the fight wore on, proved to be very impressive even though two of the judges’ scorecards saw it for Romero.

 

Even in defeat, your stock can rise as a fighter. Sometimes the performance outside the cage, after the fight is equally as important as the battle in the Octagon. Owning up to your shortcomings and working hard to overcome them is not only a lesson to be learned in mixed martial arts, but in everyday life. Heart, grit, and determination will get you through a lot of adversity throughout your journey in this life.

To quote Carlos Gracie Jr., “You either win, or you learn.”

 

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Bellator

Bellator 194, Nelson vs. Mitrione Pre-Fight Notes

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Bellator takes over the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut later tonight. The promotion hosts, Bellator 194: Nelson vs. Mitrione from the venue, beginning at 6:30 pm (ET). Bellator 194 marks the 17th trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino. Their last trip, took place a little more than a few months ago in October of 2017, Bellator 185. The first trip to the Connecticut casino, occurred all the way back in April of 2009, and the second ever event held by the promotion, Bellator 2.

Twenty four fighters will make the walk later tonight, giving fans 12 bouts to watch from prelims to main event. Of the 24 athletes set to compete, five make their professional debuts. Peter Nascimento, Mike Kimbel, Pat Casey, Ross Richardson, and Ronnie Leon all fight for the first time, professionally. As amateurs, the group holds a combined record of 18-12. Only Ross Richardson maintained an undefeated amateur record (3-0).

In recent cards past, only some full broadcasts brought forward newly professional fighters. Events such as Bellator 191, 190, and 187, only broadcast short main card. While events like 193, 192, 189, 188, and 186 broadcast full fight cards. Since November of 2017, 15 fighters made their pro debuts with the Bellator promotion. Including Khonry Gracie in his unanimous decision loss to Devon Brock (Bellator 192), and Ty-wan Claxton, in his amazing KO finish of Johnny Bonilla-Bowman in the first round of Bellator 186. Claxton makes his second pro appearance tonight at Bellator 194 against Jose Antonio Perez, whom also fights for the second time professionally.

Upon completion of Bellator 194’s broadcast, 50% of the promotions first round matches in their Heavyweight Grand Prix will be decided. It is nearly impossible to choose, one match-up more interesting than the others. Yet, the Mitrione vs. Nelson match up is not only puzzling to fans and media alike. One half of the main event, at least, was once annoyed by the prospect of fighting his former TUF cast mate. Mitrione spoke to MMAJunkie about his reaction to the match-up, “Well, I asked them, how does that make sense? Roy is arguably the #2 guy in the division… Explain that to me, is there any seeding?…” He continued, “But the more I thought about, the less I really cared. Either I beat Roy when I have the strap, or I beat Roy to get the strap. What the hell difference does it make?”

In one bit of event news, fan favorite flyweight, Heather Hardy missed weight, in what turned out to be an odd set of circumstances. According to Hardy, she believed she made weight, without stripping down and using the towel. It was her understanding that the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation gave her a weight allowance for the bikini top and bottom she wore while on the scale. Hardy weighed in at 126.25 lbs. with the aforementioned bikini top and bottom.

This understanding was not shared by president of Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, Mike Mazzulli. The president made the decision to record Hardy’s weight without allowing her to disrobe, or take use the extra two hours allotted to make weight. It was his understanding upon examining and attempting to communicate with Hardy whilst she stood on the scale that brought him to the decision. After renegotiation of the bout agreement, Hardy was fined 20% of her purse which goes to her opponent Ana Julaton.

 

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Bellator

Bellator 194 Weigh Ins Live Video

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Bellator 194 takes place Friday, February 16th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut. The stacked main card features the second bout in the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix matching Roy Nelson against Matt Mitrione. Both former members of the UFC roster, Mitrione and Nelson look to make a further impact in the Bellator Heavyweight division with a potential step towards the divisions championship crown. In the co-main event, MMA veteran Patricky Pitbull takes Derek Campos. The two will most likely battle for the next shot at the promotions Lightweight title, following the Brent Primus (c) vs. Michael Chandler rematch. Other notable bouts on the card include Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov, Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton, and Tywon Claxton against Jose Antonio Perez. Bellator 194 airs live on the Paramount network, main card beginning at 9 pm.

The official weigh-ins took place earlier today, the results are listed below.

Main Card (9 PM ET, Paramount Network)

Roy Nelson (23-14) vs. Matt Mitrione (12-5) Heavyweight bout.

RN: 265 lb.

MM: 255 lb.

Patricky Freire (18-8) vs. Derek Campos (19-6) Lightweight bout.

PF: 155 lb.

DC: 154 lb.

Heather Hardy (1-1) vs. Ana Julaton (2-3) Women’s Flyweight bout.

HH: 126.25 lb*

AJ: 125 lb.

Liam McGeary (12-2) vs. Vadim Nemkov (8-2) Light Heavyweight bout.

LM: 203.75 lb.

VN: 205 lb.

Tywan Claxton (1-0) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (0-1) Featherweight bout.

TW: 145 lb.

JS: 142.25 lb.

Preliminary Card (7 PM ET)

Ross Richardson (3-0, Amateur) vs. Ronie Arana Leon (2-5, Amateur) Lightweight bout.

RS: 155.5 lb.

RL: 156 lb.

Mike Kimbel (4-4, Amateur) vs. Geoffrey Then (0-1) Bantamweight bout. 

MK: 135.75 lb.

GT: 135 lb.

Regivaldo Carlvalho (4-2) vs. Thomas English (6-8) Featherweight bout.

RC: 145 lb.

TE: 146 lb.

Jarod Trice (2-0) vs. Walter Howard (3-4) Light Heavyweight bout.

JT: 205.5 lb.

WH: 203 lb.

Marcus Surin (4-1) vs. Dean Hancock (3-1) Lightweight bout.

MS: 156 lb.

DH: 155.25 lb.

Peter Nascimento (2-1, Amateur) vs. Kastriot Xhema (1-1) Catchweight (165 lb.) bout.

PN: 163.5 lb.

KX 164.5 lb.

Tyler Hamilton (1-0) vs. Pat Casey (7-2, Amateur) Lightweight bout.

TH: 154 lb.

PC: 155.5 lb.

*Heather Hardy missed weight by ¼ of a pound and subsequently fined 20% of her purse. The fine will go to her opponent Ana Julaton.

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Events

UFC 221 Rockhold vs. Romero Live Results

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UFC 221 marks the first event hosted by the promotion in Western Australia. UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at the Perth Arena. The co-main event features Australian star, Mark Hunt against Curtis Blaydes. In the main event, Luke Rockhold looks to earn the Middleweight interim title when he takes on Yoel Romero. Romero is not eligible to earn the interim Middleweight title due to the fact that the Cuban missed weight. Yoel Romero replaced the original headliner of the card, Robert Whittaker. Whittaker, current Middleweight champion, withdrew from the event due to a serious case of mistreated staph infection.

FIGHT NIGHT BONUSES:

Fight of the night: Li Jianliang vs. Jake Matthews

Performance of the night: Jussier Formiga, Israel Adesanya

MAIN CARD – PPV – 10PM/7PM ETPT

  • Yoel Romero (12-2) vs. Luke Rockhold (13-3) – Catchweight (187.7) bout
    • Result: Yoel Romero def. Luke Rockhold via KO (punch) 1:48 round 3
  • Mark Hunt (13-11, 1 NC) vs. Curtis Blaydes (8-1, 1 NC) – Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Curtis Blaydes def. Mark Hunt via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 29-27)
  • Tai Tuivasa (8-0) vs. Cyril Asker (9-3) – Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Tai Tuivasa def. Cyril Asker via TKO (punches and elbows) 2:18 round 1
  • Jake Matthews (12-3) vs. Li Jianliang (14-4) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Jake Matthews def. Li Jianliang via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-26, 30-26)
  • Tyson Pedro (6-1) vs Saparbek Safarov (8-1) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Tyson Pedro def. Saparbek Safarov via submission (kimura) 3:54 round 1

PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 8PM/5PM ETPT

  • Damien Brown (17-11) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (15-8-3) – Lightweight bout
    • Result: Dong Hyun Kim def. Damien Brown via split decision (29-28, 29-28 Kim, 29-28 Brown)
  • Rob Wilkinson (11-1) vs. Israel Adesanya (11-0) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Israel Adesanya def. Rob Wilkinson via TKO (punches) 3:37 round 2
  • Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) vs Alexander Volkovski (16-1) – Featherweight bout
    • Result: Alexander Volkovski def. Jeremy Kennedy via TKO (punches) 4:57 round 2
  • Jussier Formiga (20-5) vs Ben Nguyen (17-6) – Flyweight bout
    • Result: Jussier Formiga def. Ben Nguyen via technical submission (RNC) 1:43 round 3

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 6:30PM/3:30PM ETPT

  • Ross Pearson (21-12, 1 NC) vs. Mizuto Hirota (19-8-2) – Lightweight bout
    • Result: Ross Pearson def. Mizuto Hirota via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
  • Teruto Ishihara (10-4) vs. José Alberto Quiñónez (7-2) – Bantamweight bout
    • Result: José Alberto Quiñónez def. Teruto Ishihara via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Luke Jumeau (12-4) vs. Daichi Abe (6-0) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Luke Jumeau def. Daichi Abe via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 28-27)
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