This one was special.
UFC 199 and the weekend of June 4th will go down in the books as a very special moment in time for combat sports. There were ultimate highs, and ultimate lows throughout the weekend that took us on an emotional rollercoaster. Events occurring inside and out of the Octagon made quite the impact on the evening that would see a man’s destiny fulfilled by becoming a UFC Champion.
The night prior to UFC 199, the world lost a legendary figure in Muhammad Ali. Not only was he an incredible combat sports athlete, he was a man who stood up for what he believed was right, even if it meant facing jail time during the prime of his athletic career. Ali’s influence can be seen living through many mixed martial artists in the game today, most notably in regards to this weekend, the pre-fight antics of Michael Bisping.
Selling a fight is just as much of an art as the actual style of fighting you bring into the Octagon. On two week’s notice, Michael Bisping was the perfect opponent to step in to generate interest for a title fight, while also providing the opportunity to write the latest chapter in a Hollywood script. According to the Las Vegas odds, Micahel Bisping had a snowball’s chance in hell to defeat Luke Rockhold, who was supposed to begin his title reign of destruction against all of the monsters at 185 pounds. The Count had other plans. He had a destiny. With a solid left hook, Rockhold began to crumble to the canvas, and after another to seal the deal, Michael Bisping’s dream of becoming a UFC Champion after ten years with the promotion was finally realized. Having kept his record in his home country of England pristine by defeating the greatest of all time in Anderson Silva in February, followed up by winning the title on two week’s notice, what else can be said about Bisping’s career at this point other than simply, “Amazing.” While this is certainly the time for Bisping to enjoy his accomplishments, if the post-fight press conference was any indication, the rivalry between Bisping and Rockhold is far from over.
The week of UFC 199 was filled with incredible back and forth banter from the both sets of champion and challenger, as Dominick Cruz and Urijah Faber looked to complete the latest chapter of their rivalry that dates back to the WEC days. Coming into their third matchup, each man with a win under their belt, the rubber match would also serve as Urijah Faber’s last shot at UFC gold. Having come up short three times in prior title fights, he would have to overcome a wizard of unorthodox movement and incredible footwork to complete his dream of becoming a champion. Dominick Cruz’ ghost-like movement in the Octagon would prove too much for Faber, who simply couldn’t corral the champ long enough to mount any significant offense. Outside of the first round, which was the only round that could have possibly been scored in Faber’s favor, Cruz pitched a near-perfect game to retain his title. While Faber’s dreams were crushed, Cruz’ lives on, as he once thought he would never return to the sport due to multiple injuries. Credit to Cruz for persevering through the tough times must be given, as his story is equally compelling as Bisping’s, albeit completely different.
The entire main card of the event was very special, as each fight proved to be incredibly exciting in its own way. Dustin Poirier continues to shine at 155 pounds and is a serious contender after dispatching Bobby Green with relative ease. Dan Henderson is an American mixed martial arts icon who keeps finding ways to turn the lights out on his opponents. After almost being knocked out by Lombard, Hendo would recover to land a vicious elbow to end the fight, in what may have been his last walk to the Octagon. If Hendo does indeed decide to hang it up, that performance would be an excellent way to close the book on a legendary career. Max Holloway picked Ricardo Lamas apart for three rounds, and in the closing seconds pointed to the canvas in the center of the Octagon, signifying an agreement to stand and trade in full-on “rock ’em sock ’em” mode until either someone fell, or the final horn would sound. It was reckless, dangerous, and somewhat stupid, but it certainly was one of the most memorable occurrences of the evening.
If you were someone who missed this card live, just imagine waking up to the shocking headlines the morning after from not only the events occurring inside the cage, but also announcements that were made throughout the evening. Obviously, “Michael Bisping defeats Luke Rockhold to become UFC Middleweight Champion” is a pretty shocking, yet incredible headline. “Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz 2 set for UFC 202,” was a huge revelation that was announced via promo video during the event. Right after the video concluded, the cameras focused on Nate Diaz sitting cage side who raised his arms above his head and hit the patented Diaz Flex (Coin it.), earning one of the loudest crowd pops of the night. His celebrity has grown exponentially in the past few months and deservedly so. That announcement may or may not have been a game changer for some, as the rematch has been heavily discussed, with Dana White admitting frustration during the negotiation process to get it done. The other announcement caught everyone off guard, and allegedly got a particular journalist and his team in trouble for releasing the story too early. Does the name Brock Lesnar mean anything to you? Yeah, that Brock Lesnar. He’s coming back at UFC 200, as officially announced via the not-so-cryptic message in UFC 200 promotional package. His famous line, “Can you see me now?” was placed at the tail end of the video, followed by a graphic of the UFC 200 lineup which showed “Brock Lesnar vs TBD” in the mix. How’s that for a blockbuster summer event? Let the speculation begin on who he will share the Octagon with on July 9 at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.
Truth be told, an incredible evening of fights and announcements was bruised with the news of Ariel Helwani, Esther Lin, and Casey Leydon’s removal from the arena prior to the main event. While I won’t speculate or point fingers at who’s to blame for what happened, I will simply state that those three are incredibly talented individuals in their respective fields who set the bar for this sport’s coverage. As more details about the situation are revealed in the coming days, I hope that all parties involved can come to terms and resolve any differences.
Looking ahead, the UFC takes its show to Ottawa for a welterweight title eliminator as Rory MacDonald squares off against Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson, and then it’s off to Vegas for International Fight Week. What a time to be involved in this sport.
UFC Announces Liverpool Event, Darren Till Main Event
Scousers are drowning in celebration this evening. Earlier today, UFC officials announced the addition of a Liverpool show to their 2018 event calendar. Liverpool’s, Echo Arena, plays host for the event, which takes place on May 27th.
Liverpool’s own, Darren Till made the announcement this afternoon with Dan Hardy at the UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov, ceremonial weigh-in. When asked by Hardy what it means to have the UFC in Liverpool, he had this to day, “Words can’t describe it. It doesn’t do it justice, words. So, it’s coming and I’m going to be the first Scousers to ever have done it. In 200 years they’re going to remember my name in combat sports in Liverpool. I’m gonna take someones chin off in Liverpool, that’s what’s happening”.
He was also quoted in an release from the promotion saying, “I can’t believe UFC is finally coming to Liverpool and I’m going to be headlining Echo Arena. My name is going to be remembered in 200 years time for being part of this historical event and I can’t even describe how much that means to me”. Till will headline the card, his opponent is yet to be announced.
In the official release, it quotes David Shaw, Senior Vice President International and Content, claiming, “The stars really aligned for the Octagon to touch down in Liverpool. We have seen such phenomenal demand from fans in the region for a live event. Pair that with having such a rising, local star in Darren Till it made absolute sense to bring our first live event to this historical combat sports city in 2018”.
UFC Liverpool lands on a date speculated for a different venue, in a different country. Reports swirled last month, specifically one from MMAFighting.com, which claimed the May 27th date belonged to the UFCs return to Dublin. A return to Dublin doesn’t seem to fall completely out of the realm of possibility. For now, it remains to be seen.
The UFC also announced two bouts, both in the Middleweight division, booked for the event. Elias Therodorou takes on Trevor Smith, and Daniel Kelly goes up against England’s Tom Breese.
Rhode Island Prospect John Douma Booked for CES 49 against Zach Burhans
The New England regional MMA scene has been fairly quiet this month. Such a description won’t be apt one month from now. As the days fade away from the month of March, the two most prominent organizations of this region gear up for early April events. The CES MMA promotion holds CES 49, on the first Friday of April (April 6th). CES 49 takes place in its hub venue, Twin River Casino, in Lincoln, Rhode Island.
Yesterday, CES officials announced John Douma, a highly regarded pro featherweight prospect, makes his third appearance for the MMA promotion, when he faces Zach Burhans at CES 49.
For John Douma, he looks to continue his career with an undefeated record. At 2-0, Douma owns two stoppage victories, both coming in the first round (1 KO/TKO, 1 Sub). Born and raised in Wyckoff, Rhode Island, Douma is the New England regions 18th ranked pro Featherweight (Rankings by Tapology.com). A lofty ranking for a 21-year-old with only two professional fights on his record. Especially so in the regions most prominent professional division.
Zach Burhans comes into next months match with a similar amount of experience. Burhans has four professional fights in his arsenal of experience with a record of 3-1. Twice that of his opponent, but two times a small number is still a small number. The New York fighter makes his promotional debut at next months CES 49.
Surprisingly, Burhans has not fought since his last loss, which came in March of 2011. The loss was the first of his four fight pro career. It also was the first fight for Burhans since August of 2009. At CES 49, he ends his second hiatus from professional mixed martial arts. His second and most recent break from the sport was his longest. Burhans did not compete from March 2011, until next months CES MMA card. Making the span between his most recent and upcoming, around 6 years and nine months.
CES 49 takes place at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, Rhode Island on April 6th. Other bouts featured on the card include, #1 ranked New England Lightweight, Nate Andrews takes on Chris Padilla for the promotions vacant Lightweight title. Kaline Medeiros attempts to bounce back following her 3rd round submission loss to rising star, Mackenzie Dern at Invicta 26, when she faces 11th ranked pound-for-pound New England women’s fighter, Jenna Serio. Also, Chris Curtis goes up against Jason Norwood in a main card Welterweight clash.
Report: Bellator plans Rome event for July
With the news of Bellator 200, turning a bit stale being nearly a week old, comes more international event news for the promotion. According to a report by Raphael Marinho of Combate, Bellator scheduled its third international event of 2018. In the report, it states the promotion booked July 14th as a date for a Rome, Italy event.
It will be the first event held by Bellator in the historic city of Rome, Italy. The first in Rome, but the fifth Bellator event in Italy. Previously, the promotion made stops in Torino and Florence, Italy, holding two events in each location. It also marks the 23rd international held by Bellator. 23 events across 10 cities, and 5 countries.
The previous four Italian events held a mixture of combat sports. Each of the events had a Kickboxing card, serving as the main event and an MMA card, which acted as a main card. News of an accompanying Kickboxing card, most likely, would come following a formal announcement of the event.
Also included in the report, the promotion is working to make Alessio Sakara the headliner of evening. Sakara spent nine years with the UFC (Oct. 2005 – Oct. 2013). Over that span, he earned a record of 6-8. He was cut following four consecutive loses. Before signing with Bellator, Sakara signed with Final Fight Championship, where he went 1-0, 1 NC. His final fight with FFC (Final Fight Championship) was a 1:32 KO of his opponent.
The Italian athlete, Sakara, fought on three of the four previous Italy held Bellator events. Sakara headlined Bellator 190 & 168, while begin the co-main event for Bellator 152. Interestingly, the Middleweights only Bellator competition took place in his home country of Italy. He is 2-1 with the promotion, defeating Brian Rogers and Joey Beltran, respectively, while losing to Middleweight champion, Rafael Carvalho, most recently.
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