For the first time ever, UFC action took Sioux Falls, South Dakota by storm on Wednesday night as another product of “Dana White: Lookin’ for a Fight” Matthew Lopez squared off with promotion veteran Rani Yahya. The rookie and Arizona native Lopez brought in a spotless 8-0 professional record and seven finishes while Yahya entered with a 5-1 mark in his last seven bouts (1 no contest) in addition to a hunger to add the first blemish to his opponent’s record. In other words, this evening’s UFC Fight Pass prelim was bound to be entertaining.
As soon as the five-minute clock started, Yahya rushed out and began his attack with a right kick and a follow-up 1-2 strike. Silent initially, Lopez responded with an engage, in which both traded, landed, and broke away. Moreover, the American continued to push the pace prior to nailing his opponent with a hard shot. To answer, the experienced submission artist started a body lock while up against the side of the cage. In close quarters, Yahya initiated solid knees before landing his first takedown. Although the time on the canvas would be swift for the bantamweight pair since Lopez transitioned to top position and was able to get back to his feet, it was Yahya, not Lopez, who enjoyed a big strike in stand-up via a kick. Following the landed strike, however, Lopez began to find his groove. From landing nice counters to taking advantage of the Brazilian’s predictability, the rookie started scoring before the 2:00 mark. Under the aforementioned amount of time remaining, Yahya missed a leg kick, which allowed Lopez to get the action to the ground and showcase his submission talent. Yet, the veteran escaped the loose hold in a scramble and even withstood a knee bar attempt. The segment would end with Yahya inducing a failed mediocre choke on the opposition.
Unlike the 1st, the two fighters took it slow to begin the 2nd. However, once the pace quickened, it did not slow. The first strike was a heavy right straight, which blasted Lopez at the end of a flying knee attempt. Despite the previous, the American scored a nice takedown but ultimately put his arm in danger as Yahya looked for isolation. Yet, it was Lopez who had the submission of the round, for he locked in an inverted leg triangle that was tight around the veteran’s neck. With more than 3:30 remaining, some were skeptic of whether Yahya could survive the remaining time. Though, it really never became a factor as Lopez abandoned his tight submission attempt, allowing his opponent to take top position while unleashing haymakers with his left hand. Yahya persisted to take advantage of his position by landing brutal right hand punches. Displaying a grit of his own, the Cal State Fullerton product got to his knees and sprawled on the submission artist. Moreover, Lopez took the match back to stand-up; but, the style would be short lived as Yahya capitalized on a left counter and took down the opposition. The Brazilian advanced his position to top mount and attempted a well-angled armbar. But, Lopez survived and a 3rd round was up next.
At first glance, both Rani Yahya and Matthew Lopez were visibly gassed. While the veteran landed some soft jabs and a kick, Lopez took top position after a takedown. Again on the ground, the Brazilian eyed an armbar; yet, there was nothing going as Lopez realized to get off the canvas and ultimately slipped out. Later, Yahya tried a takedown; however, it was defended very well by his adversary. But, the never ceasing Yahya continued to work hard for a desirable position, and he found it shortly after the 3:30 mark by covering Lopez like a blanket. On top, he unloaded short elbows and rock hard punches. After slamming Lopez to the mat when the two were locked up, Yahya took top position again and did not squander the finish opportunity, for he beautifully set up an arm triangle and earned the tap-out with just 41 seconds remaining in the bout.
Rani Yahya defeats Matthew Lopez via arm triangle, Round 3 – 0:41
He Said It:
“It’s a great win. Matt is definitely a prospect, he was undefeated. I wanted to fight against, like him, a good wrestler, who was undefeated,” said Rani Yahya in his initial thoughts of his performance.
He Said It (Part II)
“Yeah, he’s a grappler too. I wanted to strike and surprise him, and I think it did work. The grappling came natural. I think it is natural for both of us,” analyzed Yahya.
He Said It (Part III)
“I want to fight in Brazil. It’s my hometown and birth town. There’s a fight [card] in September and I would like to be in it,” stated Yahya about where he would like to fight next.
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.
The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.
Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.
Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.
Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.
With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:
- Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
- Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
- Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
- Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
- Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
- Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
- Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
- John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
- Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.
More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.
Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.
There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.
While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.
With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.
Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.
However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.
At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.
The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.
So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.
The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.
Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.
Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.
Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.
The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.
From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.
Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.
If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.
As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.
However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.
The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016. James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.
After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.
Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.
Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”
His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.
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