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The Morning After UFC 199

Matthew Wells

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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.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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UFC 219: Cyborg vs Holm recap

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In yearly tradition , the UFC hosted a pay per view fight card at the T-Mobile Arena  in Las Vegas once again and for the second year in a row, the card was headlined by two females fighting for the title of the baddest woman on earth. Cristine Cyborg Santos was looking to defend her featherweight title for the first time since capturing the title last summer in a tko victory over Tonya Evinger.  Her opponent would be Holly Holm, the woman who shot into stardom after knocking out Ronda Rousey to become the bantamweight champion in 2015 and was fighting for the featherweight title for the second time after being unsuccessful in a controversial loss to Germaine De Radamie in Brooklyn.

In the co main event, The UFC welcomed one of the most feared lightweights and beloved contender Khabib Nurmagomedov who returned to the cage after a year layoff after failing to make weight earlier this year in a title eliminator with Tony Ferguson . Welcoming Nurmagomedov to the cage was exciting Brazilian striker Edson Barboza who was on a 3 fight win streak after losing to interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson in 2015. The winner would guarantee a title shot for themselves against either Tony Ferguson or the winner of the title unification fight between Conor McGregor and Tony Ferguson if it happens.

The rest of the card had other stories that intrigued the fans with the return of former UFC interim welterweight champion Carlos Condit taking on Neil Magny, Cynthia Carvillo looking to go 5-0 in 2017 with a win over Carla Esparza and an exciting lightweight fight between Marc Diakiese and Daniel Hooker.

 

The Main Event

UFC Women’s Featherweight championship

Christine ” Cyborg” Santos vs Holly ” The Preachers Daughter” Holm

When the UFC announced it’s intentions to start a featherweight division for females in the UFC, a fight between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm was the most logical fight to start the division. It took almost a year to come into fruition but on Saturday night, we finally had the answer of who would be the most feared female fighter in the world.

The fight started off with Holm tripping Cyborg after a kick and started the clinch game for Holly , who overpowered Cyborg against the cage. A move that would slow down Cyborg’s attacks in the later rounds but this was not the case tonight. Cyborg, who was known as a devastating berserker like striker in her earlier has become a more patient striker under the guidance of Jason Parillo. Cyborg caught Holly with a variation of counter strikes throughout the fight which swelled Holm’s left eye. Holm had her moments in the fight and gave Cyborg her toughest fight to date.

As we moved into the later rounds, the counter strikes were landing more often for Cyborg and started to dictate to fight. The final bell rang and although many scores were thrown around on twitter all in favor for Cyborg. Cris Cyborg won a unanimous decision with one judge scoring the fight 49-46 which had Cyborg winning four rounds and the other two judges scoring the fight a lot closer 48-47.

What’s next for Cyborg? She asked for Meagan Anderson in Australia , the last Invicta featherweight champion who has yet to make her debut for UFC after signing last summer. With the card in 6 weeks, its unlikely she will get her wish but Cyborg vs Anderson should be next in the shallow and confusing 145 division for females.

 

The Co-main event

Khabib ” The Eagle ” Nurmagomedov vs Edson Barboza

A fight that in many people’s eyes was the true main event with fan favorite Khabib Nurmagomedov putting his unbeaten 24 fight win streak on the line against fellow top contender Edson Barboza.

What can you say about Nurmagomedov that hasn’t been said already. He was nothing short of perfection.

Implementing his game early, Nurmagomedov took the fight to the ground early in round 1 after failing on the first attempted takedown on Barboza. Once the takedown was secured, the Russian posture to his feet and landed devastating ground and pound on Barboza. It took a minute to see Barboza would be in for a rough night as by the sound of the bell ending for the first round, Barboza was bloodied up and looked defeated.

The second round was even more devastating when Khabib had Barboza on the ground for the entire round. The commentators in awe of Khabib’s abilities began to sound concerned that Barboza took too much damage as no matter who much punishment Nurmagomedov would deliver to Barboza, Barboza continued to be in the fight and looked for the knockout whenever the fight would go back to standing which ultimately ended in the brazilian being taken down again.

Barboza had a chance to end the fight in the third when he landed a head kick on Nurmagomedov who showed a granite chin and walked through the shot like T-1000.

The fight went to the judges and the judges scored the fight in favor of Khabib Nurmagomedov ( 30- 25, 30-25,30-4) which just highlights the one-sided victory for the Russian who moves to 25-0 and will likely take on Tony Ferguson next year.

The rest of the card

Although not the most exciting run of fights in the lead up to the main and co main. The main card hosted the return of Carlos Condit who after returning to the cage following a 16 month hiatus only to suffer a decision loss to an impressive Neil Magny who used his wrestling to take down the former champ on numerous occasions.

Speaking of former champs, former strawweight champion Carla Esparza scored a big win beating undefeated Cynthia Carvillo, who impressed in round 1 before Esparza turned the tides and finished the fight with a flurry of strikes to secure the victory.

Daniel Hooker used the ” McKenzietine” guillotine choke to submit the Brit Marc Diakiese in the third round after winning the first two rounds with his ground game. In what many anticipated to be a stand up war, the fight was quite the opposite and Hooker sinked in the choke after an attempted takedown by Diakiese.

Preliminary cards

We won’t be ringing in the new year celebrating the prelims this year as every fight on the FS1 portion of the card went to a decision.

Michal Oleksiejczuk got the biggest underdog win on the night upsetting Khalil Rountree Jr in a decision in which both fighters gassed early after Rountree held on the a guillotine which gassed the American when he failed to get the submission. The other decision victories went to Myles Jury looking impressive at featherweight against Rick Glenn and  Matheus Nicolau who knocked down Louis Smolka three times in the first round to win a one-sided decision.

Omari Ahkmedov and Marvin Vettori went to a majority draw in what seemed like the longest fight in history and finally Tim Elliot scored a submission victory over Mark  De La Rosa and dedicated the victory to the late great Robert Follis who sadly took his own life this month.

Overall UFC 219 wasn’t a great card but a masterclass by Khabib Nurmagomedov was worth every penny.

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Invicta 27 Officially Announced

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The all-women promotion, Invicta FC, returns to Kansas City, Missouri on January 13th, 2018 for Invicta 27. The promotion announced on their website, the promotions inaugural 2018 event will start the new year off with a fan-friendly main event, Sarah Kaufman (18-4 1 NC) vs. Pannie Kianzad (8-2).

Kaufman returns to Invicta FC after a three-year stint with the UFC. The Canadian athlete fought once prior, in the female-only promotion, defeating Leslie Smith via split decision. Both women earned Fight of the Night honors for their efforts. In her previous three bouts, Kaufman posted a record of 1-2. The former Strikeforce bantamweight champion lost her final two UFC bouts against Alexis Davis and Valentina Shevchenko. Her most recent bout was a victory over Jessica Rose-Clark, in the Battlefield FC promotion.

The veteran Kaufman made her debut in 2006, nearly six years before her opponent. Pannie Kianzad made her professional debut with the Estonian promotion MMA Raju, in 2012. Kianzad began her career undefeated in eight bouts. On the way, capturing the Cage Warriors bantamweight championship. The Iranian-Swede holds an identical record to Kaufman in her previous three bouts, 1-2. Currently, she finds herself on a two-loss skid.

In the co-main event, Vanessa Porto (19-8) faces Mariana Morais (12-5). The Brazilian, Morais, is coming off a disappointing title challenge in the flyweight division of the KSW promotion. Ariane Lipski submitted her in 58 seconds. Porto, however, is fresh off her Invicta 26, TKO victory over, Milana Dudieva.

Porto is an Invicta FC veteran, having fought in seven of the promotions twenty-six held events. Throughout her career, the veteran faced the best women the world had to offer. The thirty-three-year-old has fought the likes of Roxanne Modafferi (twice), Agnieszka Niedzwiedz, Barb Honchak, Tara LaRosa, Jennifer Maia (twice), Tonya Evinger, Germain De Randamie, Amanda Nunes, and Cris “Cyborg” Justino.

The first card of 2018 for Invicta holds a plethora of inexperienced women. Of the 17 women booked for the card, only four women hold ten or more professional fights on their record. Another four women will make their professional MMA debut: Loma Lookboonmee, Jade Ripley, Helen Peralta, and Akeela Al-Hameed. The Invicta 27, the card will feature nine bouts. The event will take place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri on January 13th, 2018. The card will proceed as follows:

Pannie Kianzad (8-2) vs. Sarah Kaufman (18-4 1 NC) – Bantamweight Division

Vanessa Porto (19-8) vs. Mariana Morais (12-5) – Flyweight Division

Sharon Jacobson (4-2) vs. Ashely Nichols (3-1) – Strawweight Division

Ashley Cummings (5-4) vs. Stephanie Alba (3-2) – Atomweight Division

Brogan Walker-Sanchez (4-0) vs. TBA – Flyweight Division

Felicia Spencer (3-0) vs. Akeela Al-Hameed (0-0) – Featherweight Division

Mallory Martin (1-2) vs. Tiffany Masters (2-1) – Strawweight Division

Melissa Wang (1-0) vs. Loma Lookboonmee (0-0) – Atomweight Division

Jade Ripley (0-0) vs. Helen Peralta (0-0) – Strawweight Division

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