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Luke Rockhold to Face Romero in First Title Defense

Matthew Wells

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According to Malki Kawa, MMA agent and CEO of First Round Management,  the first UFC Middleweight Title defense for Luke Rockhold will be against #2 Yoel Romero.

The statement was made in the following tweet from Kawa:

malkitweet

While the UFC has yet to officially announce the matchup, Kawa, a representative of some of the biggest names in the UFC, is about as reliable of a source you can get.

Luke Rockhold earned the right to be called Champion after his impressive TKO stoppage over Chris Weidman at UFC 194. After the bout which earned the Fight of the Night honor, Rockhold expressed a desire to meet fourth-ranked Vitor Belfort to avenge his TKO loss back in 2013. “Vitor Belfort on a silver platter would be a beautiful thing,” Rockhold stated at the UFC 194 Post-Fight Press Conference. However, from a rankings standpoint, Yoel Romero is the clear-cut number one contender after emerging victorious over third-ranked Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza in a closely contested battle on the same night Rockhold would hear Bruce Buffer say, “and NEW!”

Rockhold is currently on a five-fight winning streak, whereas Romero has won seven straight.  With Chris Weidman out of the conversation for an immediate rematch, the middleweight title picture is almost as clear as it can get. Rockhold knew the Romero fight was imminent as he stated at the UFC 194 post presser, “That fight will happen. Me and Yoel will have to fight. We know this is coming.”

 

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Fight Announcements

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220

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UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)

Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:

“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.

The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.

If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.

Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.

UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.

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Darren Stewart Among Changes made to UFC Winnipeg

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December 16th, the UFC will touch down in the cold Canadian city of Winnipeg, Manitoba. The third Canadian event for the promotion this year, lost its main event in the second week of November, Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas, when Aldo, replaced Frankie Edgar at last weekends pay-per-view event, UFC 218. Fortunately, Josh Emmett was booked last week, to replace Aldo. The former featherweight champion is not the only one whom won’t make the walk in Canada.

Several fighters on the card have been forced to withdraw. The UFC announced changes to card yesterday releasing an article, indicating the replacements. Justin Scoggins withdrew due to a spinal injury, otherwise known as, spinal process fracture.

According to the Winchester Hospital website, most of these injuries heal without long-term damage.

Replacing the injured Scoggins, the undefeated British prospect, Pietro Menga. “Pitbull” compiled a 13-0 record before signing with the UFC. Seven, by way of submission. The British newcomer will face Tim Elliot at flyweight. Elliot, winner of TUF 24: Tournament of Champions, has had a bitter-sweet return to the UFC. With a record of 1-2 since his return, he looks to put on a dominating performance in order to find his way back into title contention.

The other Brit to posthumously join the Winnipeg card, Darren Stewart. Stewart replaces Vitor Miranda, to fight Julian Marquez in the middleweight division, the news was originally announced by MMA Today’s Nolan King.

After entering the UFC with an undefeated record, Stewart has gone winless in his three bouts with the promotion. Twice he fought Francimar Barroso, winning their first match-up, only to have the decision overturned by the Brazilian MMA Athletic Commission (CABMMA) for an inadvertent headbutt.

His opponent, Julian Marquez, found his way to the UFC roster through, Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. Marquez, knocked out his opponent, Phil Hawes, in the second round. Nicknamed, “the Cuban Missile Crisis”,  he dominated his opponent, taking him down twice in the round before cleanly landing a head kick as Hawes, stood up against the fence.

The final change to the card comes in the welterweight division. Oddly enough, the opponents of both, Danny Roberts and Nordine Taleb, withdrew. Roberts and Taleb instead, will fight each other, as reported by Nolan King as well.

Hopefully, Canada’s final UFC event of the year proceeds with its twelve scheduled bouts. UFC Winnipeg takes place at the Bell MTS Place, in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada on December 16th. The card features, Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael Dos Anjos, in the main event, elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on fan favorite Mike Perry.

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Jeremy Stephens vs. Doo Ho Choi added to UFC St. Louis

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The UFC St. Louis card is beginning to round out. Late last night, the UFC announced, Jeremy Stephens (26-14, 13-13 UFC) vs. Doo Ho Choi (14-2, 3-1 UFC), for the January 14th event.

Stephens last saw time inside the octagon when facing, Gilbert Melendez. Stephens dominated in the bout, landing crippling leg kicks from the opening bell which severely hampered Melendez’s ability. An extremely gutsy performance from Stephens’s opponent, ended by unanimous decision.

Born in the quaint town of Des Moines, Iowa, Stephens now lives and trains out of San Diego, California with Team Alliance alongside teammate Dominick Cruz and coach Eric Del Fierro. His teammate Cruz frequently remarks, Jeremy Stephens, as one of the hardest hitting fighters on the UFC roster. Backing up that statement, the sixteen knockouts to his record. “Lil Heathen”, has KO’d the likes of Rafael Dos Anjos, Yves Edwards, Rony Jason, and Dennis Bermudez.

“The Korean Superboy”, Doo Ho Choi, is another fighter at featherweight who has extreme confidence in his hands. He has knocked out eleven of the fourteen opponents he defeated, including his first three opponents in the UFC. The Korean born Choi is an extraordinary talent hidden in the deep end of the featherweight rankings. Choi has been hidden because of inactivity and injury. Since signing to the UFC in 2013, he has fought four times. His most recent bout was, a few days removed from, one year ago. A fight which he lost to Cub Swanson by unanimous decision but, in spectacular fashion. Deservedly, the loss earned Choi and his opponent, Fight of the Year honors.

The UFCs featherweight division holds young prospects, as well as crafty veterans. The ensuing year shall be a brilliant display of talent from the one hundred forty-five pounders. Not to mention, Stephens vs. Choi is the perfect way to set the tempo for the division in the new year. UFC St. Louis takes place at the Scottrade Center in St. Louis, Missouri on Sunday, January 14th, 2018.

 

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