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MMA Latest’s Bold Predictions for 2017

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MMA Latest Predictions

For MMA fans everywhere, 2016 has been one of the most ridiculous years in the sport’s young history.

The Fertitta Brothers walked away from the sport, selling the UFC to WME-IMG for somewhere in the region of $4bn. The United States Anti-Doping Agency ran riot through the UFC roster, turning up at gyms, fighter’s homes, and even their local convenience stores to run on-the-spot tests. Japanese MMA became a thing again, with RIZIN promoting major shows and hosting a fan-favourite openweight grand prix.

We saw one of the greatest feuds ever emerge from nowhere, as Conor McGregor and Nate Diaz locked horns in two classic encounters, and threw a load of bottles at each other along the way.

Then there were the incredible fights. From Carlos Condit vs. Robbie Lawler at the start of the year, to Doo Ho Choi vs. Cub Swanson at the end of it, the UFC have been promoting crazy good in-cage action throughout the year. So have a bunch of other places. Angela Lee vs. Mei Yamaguchi under the ONE Championship promotional banner; Erson Yamamoto vs. Kizaemon Saiga for RIZIN; and at least five Absolute Championship Berkut fights should all be in contention for fight of the year when awards are dished out following UFC 207 and RIZIN’s end of year shows.

And while each of these told its own tragic story, we lost more fighters this year than ever seemed fair or right. Kimbo Slice, Josh Samman, Kevin Randleman, Ryan Jimmo and Jordan Parsons were all taken from us in 2016. Rest in peace, each and every one.

So on we move to 2017, with memories that will stay with us forever, both good and bad. Topping the intrigue that 2016 bought will be a tough ask, but the MMA Latest team have come up with some bold predictions for the year ahead. The sort of picks that rarely come off, but make you look like a genius when they do.

Here is our list of the more ridiculous and unexpected things you might see in 2017.

Tom Fretwell (@tomfretwellmma)
Holly Holm will snatch a title from Ronda Rousey for the second time
Holm’s destruction of the seemingly untouchable champion in 2015 was one of the most incredible moments in MMA history. Could history repeat itself in 2017? With Rousey set to challenge for the bantamweight title at UFC 207, and Holm now fighting for the newly created featherweight title at UFC 208 in February, the right results could create a high profile rematch. One more perfectly timed headkick and we’re there.

Graeme Harper (@graemeharp)
Lando Vannata will become a top-three lightweight
When 2016 began, Jackson-Wink fighter Lando Vannata had fought once in 12 months, and was looking forward to an April bout at Rocky Mountain Rubicon 2. Things changed in a hurry, taking a UFC debut on short notice against Tony Ferguson in July. Vannata ultimately came up short, but got heads turning with his fearless performance. A picture perfect head kick knockout of John Makdessi in his sophomore UFC outing impressed even more. Now Graeme believes that Vannata can put himself in the mix with the likes of Conor McGregor, Khabib Nurmagomedov, Eddie Alvarez and Tony Ferguson (again) at the top of the division.

Stephen Rivers (@stephenjrivers)
The UFC will have promoted less than ten women’s featherweight fights all year
The addition of a women’s featherweight title came out of nowhere. With no division, and only one real 145 pound fighter on their roster, the UFC booked Germaine de Randamie vs. Holly Holm for the inaugural title at UFC 208. Fans began to speculate about which other featherweights would be signed to grow the new division. It is possible however that what we actually get is merely a title being fought for by a handful of fighters already under contract, and not a whole lot else going on.

Kevin Jones
Francis Ngannou will become UFC heavyweight champion
The talent pool at heavyweight is shallow, with few prospects emerging who have a shot at making it to the top end of the division. Francis Ngannou is looking to change that, and he has been nothing but impressive so far in his UFC career. That said, moving from wins over Curtis Blaydes and Bojan Mihajlovic, to facing elite heavyweights such as Stipe Miocic, Cain Velasquez and Fabricio Werdum, is a big ask. If Ngannou can get that done over the next 12 months, Kevin will be breaking out the ‘I told you so’s.

Rodney James Edgar (@RodneyJames138)
Conor McGregor vs. Floyd Mayweather WILL happen
Speculation has existed for what seems like forever. From “Money” Mayweather, to “Money” McGregor, there has been posturing on both sides. While 2016 was the year that McGregor became far and away the UFC’s biggest star, and a two-weight world champion, it was also the year that the Irish warrior was issued a boxing licence in the state of California. Undoubtedly the biggest stretch of all our predictions, could any form of sanctioned fight between McGregor and Mayweather really take place in 2017?

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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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