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MMA Latest News’ Top 5 weekly Prospects: Canada

Iain MacMillan

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In this weeks edition of “MMA Latest News’ Top 5 Prospects”, we are taking a look at the great white north: Canada. While it may not be the hot bed that places like the U.S. and Brazil, Canadians have always had an impact on the MMA scene since the early days. GSP, Carlos Newton, David Loiseau are some of the great Canadian MMA pioneers, just to name a few.

Since there are so many young and talented Canadian fighters both in and outside the UFC, I have broken it down into top 5 prospects already signed by the UFC, and top 5 prospects who are not currently signed by the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

Top 5 Outside the UFC:

1. Hakeem Dawodu

Record: 4-0
Fighting out of: Champions Creed MMA
Promotion: WSOF
Last Fight: WSOF 18 vs. Tristan Johnson (Won via TKO)
Next Fight: WSOF 21 vs. Chuka Willis

While many people may believe that Dawodu is still to unproven to be on the top of this list, I believe the young 23 year old fighter from Calgary, Alberta has the skill and talent to be Canada’s next MMA Super Star. Dawodu has (T)KO’d all 4 of his opponents, with each of his contests taking place with the WSOF.

His combination of freakish athleticism and power, as well as his use of effective counter-punching, makes this fighter one intimidating opponent. His rise in the MMA ranks will continue this friday as he, along with the next two men on this list, will compete on this Fridays WSOF card that takes places in his home province of Alberta.

2) Smealinho Rama

Record: 9-1
Fighting out of: Goldenstars boxing / Goncalves BJJ Team
Promotion: WSOF
Last Fight: WSOF 14 vs. Derrick Mehman (win via TKO)
Next Fight: WSOF 21 vs. Blagoi Ivanov

The man who is considered by many to be Canada’s top heavyweight has only lost once so far in his young career, and it was to current UFC fighter Anthony Hamilton. He has proven that he’s got a well balanced attack, as he has 5 wins by (T)KO and 3 by Submission.

He has won both of his bouts so far in the WSOF, and he hopes to continue that trend as he takes on Blagoi Ivanov (11-1) at WSOF 21 on Friday. In a UFC heavyweight division that is starving for young talent, don’t be surprised if you see this young 23 year fighting inside the octagon sometime soon.

3) Chris Horodecki

Record: 21-5-1 1NC
Fighting out of: Adrenaline MMA
Promotion: WSOF
Last Fight: WSOF 14 vs. Luis Huete (Win via UD)
Next Fight: WSOF 21 vs. Lance Palmer

Horodecki is an experienced fighter (28 fights), but he is also relatively young at only 27 years old. After defeating Luis Huete in his WSOF debut, Horodecki has earned himself a world title fight vs. Lance Palmer for the promotions featherweight strap. If he can pull off the upset over Palmer, Horodecki will launch himself near the top of the list of fighters who belong in the UFC.
Horodecki has been around the block, having fights in Bellator as well as WEC. He has both submission skills and the ability to knock you out. His fight this Friday vs. Lance Palmer will be the biggest of his career.

4) Jeremy Kennedy

Record: 7-0
Fighting out of: Team Quest Thailand
Promotion: Battlefield Fight League
Last Fight: BFL 34 vs. Mario Pereira (Win via UD)
Next Fight: N/A

This young 22 year old has had an impressive start to his MMA career, with 7 wins and no losses. He has only gone the distance twice in his career, while boasting 3 KO/TKO’s, as well as 2 Submissions. He is the featherweight champ with Battlefield Fight League, which he has been fighting in since his days as an amateur.

A little over a year ago, Kennedy responded to a facebook ad which sent him to the other side of the world to train MMA in Thailand. While training and learning there, he earned three of his wins before returning to Canada. He spent around a year in the Asian country, and contributes a lot of his current success to his time spent there. With the talent, work ethic, and experience this fighter has, he’s definitely earned his spot as one of Canada’s top MMA prospects.

5) Josh Hill

Record: 11-1
Fighting out of: House of Champions
Promotion: Global Warriors FC
Last Fight: GWFC vs. Josh Rettinghouse (Win via SUB)
Next Fight: N/A

Coming off a huge submission win just a few days ago (May 30th) vs. Josh Rettinghouse, this 28 year old fighter is better than ever. Hill lost a unanimous decision to Marlon Moraes for the 135 pound WSOF strap in February, but has learned from the experience as he showcased tremendous growth vs. Rettinghouse as a result of it.

The Hamilton, Ontario native has 5 finishes on his record (3 T/KO’s, 2 Submissions). He has tremendous talent and could be a nice addition to the UFC’s 135 pound division in the very near future.

Top 5 Inside the UFC:

1) Elias Theodorou

Record: 11-0
Fighting out of: Mecha MMA
Last Fight: Win vs. Roger Narvaez (TKO)
Next Fight: N/A

Since winning the Middleweight division of TUF: Nations, Theodorou has continued to solidify himself as Canada’s top young prospect. At 27 years old, he is undefeated while finishing 2 of his 3 UFC opponents via TKO. His athleticism may be his most defining quality, as he’s able to combine all aspects of Mixed Martial Arts with ease, and utilizes every skill he has inside the octagon.

The Mississauga, Ontario native is the former ECC Middleweight Champ, as well as the former NAAFS middleweight Champ. If he continues his rise through the ranks in the UFC, he may be the first Canadian to get a shot at the Middleweight title since Patrick Cote fought Anderson Silva back in 2008.

2) Chad Laprise

Record: 10-0
Fighting out of: Adrenaline Training Center
Last Fight: vs. Bryan Barberena (Win via UD)
Next Fight: N/A

Laprise had an impressive showing on the TUF: Nations, as he won the welterweight tournament while also securing bonuses for Fight of the Season as well as Performance of the Season. He is undefefated with a 10-0 record, which includes 4 T/KO’s and 1 Submission. He has returned to lightweight since competing as a Welterweight for the duration of TUF.

Laprise won his first Fight of the Night bonus in his latest bout as he defeated Bryan Barberena via Unanimous Decision at UFC 186 in Montreal this past April. He also has two wins with Bellator, as he fought for the promotion twice back in 2012.

3) Mitch Gagnon

Record: 12-3
Fighting out of: Team Shredder
Last Fight: vs. Renan Barao (Loss via SUB)
Next Fight: N/A

Gagnon is the fighter with the most UFC experience on his list, as he has already fought against one of the best bantamweight fighters in the world, Renan Barao. While many people didn’t give Gagnon much of a chance, he looked impressive during the first couple of rounds vs. Barao, but the Brazilian heat took a hold of him as he eventually succumbed to an arm triangle slapped on by the former champ.

Gagnon is 4-2 in the UFC with three of those wins coming via Submission. With a little bit more experience and a couple more wins, look for Gagnon to be right back near the top of the UFC’s bantamweight division. If he can build on his fight vs. Barao and continue to improve, an eventual title shot may not be completely out of the question for this Sudbury, Ontario born fighter.

4) Olivier Aubin-Mercier


Record: 6-1
Fighting out of: Tristar
Last Fight: vs. David Michaud (WIN via SUB)
Next Fight: N/A

After losing via Split Decision to Chad Laprise in the welterweight final of TUF nations, Olivier Aubin-Mercier has looked nothing but impressive. He returned to lightweight after being a welterweight throughout TUF, and received performance of the night for his beautifully executed inverted triangle kimura vs. Jake Lindsey at UFC Fight Night: Macdonald vs. Saffiedine.

This 26 year old is an aggressive BJJ artist, with all 6 of his professional wins coming via submission. He also has his black belt in Judo. While he is still young and in need of more experience inside the octagon, he is set up perfectly to be one of Canada’s top prospects as he continues to grow while being apart of the top gym in the country; Tristar.

5) Jason Saggo

Record: 10-2
Fighting out of: Wulfrun MMA
Last Fight: vs. Paul Felder (LOSS via Split Decision)
Next Fight: N/A

If this man had a little better luck with the judges, he may very well be at the top of this list. The 29 year old from Bolton, Ontario has only two losses on his record, with both of them coming via split decision. His UFC debut was as impressive as any other as he TKO’d Josh Shockley at UFC 174.

Saggo is a finisher with an aggressive submission game, as all 10 of his wins came inside the distance (2 T/KO’s, 8 SUB’s). With more fights coming the UFC, comes more opportunities to showcase his talents. Look for him to build on his success and soon become one of Canada’s top fighters at 155 pounds.

Thus concludes our list of the Top 5 MMA prospects in Canda, both inside and outside the UFC. Join us next week as I take you through the top young phenoms that the German MMA scene has to offer.

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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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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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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child

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Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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