Cleveland is turning into a city with a championship pedigree. For a town that was desperate for a winner for decades upon decades, it finds itself with two Champions: the 2015-16 NBA Champion Cleveland Cavaliers, and the reigning, defending, undisputed UFC Heavyweight Champion of the world, Stipe Miocic. On Saturday evening, the heavyweight title was successfully defended for the first time since Cain Velasquez defeated Junior dos Santos at UFC 166. We didn’t get to the chants of “O-H!, I-O!” without controversy, though, as is the norm for a mixed martial arts event, regardless of promotion.
“Me, and you, your mamma and your cousin too,” are not just lyrics from the hook of Outkast’s classic hip-hop song “Elevators,” they also describe the number of people and then some, who had issues with the real elevators at the hotel during fight week. Reports of multiple fighters being stuck in an elevator surfaced across social media, but even more importantly, the incident caused an injury to CB Dollaway just hours after the ceremonial weigh-ins. An eleventh hour scratch due to an injury sustained by a faulty elevator? That’s a new one. Although, everyone seemed to be in good spirits at the time…
The only thing falling faster than a broken elevator was CM Punk in his Octagon debut against Mickey Gall. After the referee signaled for action to start in the bout, Punk darted across the cage and was instantly put on his back from a takedown by Gall. Two minutes and ten seconds was all it took for Gall to slap on a submission and get a tap. The bigger surprise here was that Punk lasted over two minutes. This isn’t a Punk-bashing session, but let’s be honest for a moment – you cannot walk into the UFC Octagon and expect to be successful with zero fighting experience. That’s not how this works.
Professional wrestling experience? Cool. CM Punk was comfortable in front of tens of thousands screaming fans, which would help with Octagon jitters of being under the bright lights. That’s where Punk’s advantages began and ended. Mickey Gall is a legitimate young, talented prospect with real fighting credentials. He went through the amateur fighting paces, won his first two professional fights, and looked very good in the process. Saturday’s win over Punk didn’t prove anything we already know about Gall. He’s the real fighter, and real fighters emerge victorious when facing someone who is not.
You can applaud CM Punk for fulfilling a dream of his, and it should serve as a point of motivation to pursue your goals. He at least did that much. He made the walk, got tapped, and now knows how real the skill gaps are in the cage. Punk said after the fight he would be returning to the cage in the near future. Bravo for wanting to pursue the dream further, but if that second fight is in the UFC, who could possibly be brought in to face a 0-1 fighter? The UFC’s Punk experiment should be considered complete until he gets some W’s on his record. On the evening, admittedly, it was a fun distraction. We were intrigued by the unknown, but it’s time to get back to the regularly scheduled programming of elite level fighters.
Among those elite taking full advantage of their time in the cage on Saturday was Jessica Andrade. The former bantamweight continued her strawweight run against Joanne Calderwood, with size and strength advantages on full display. Andrade lifted and slammed Calderwood to the canvas with vicious force a couple of times before ultimately slapping on a guillotine to get the win.
Andrade looks very good since making the drop to 115 pounds. While she’s currently ranked sixth, the top of the division would all have difficulties dealing with her power. With Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Karolina Kowalkiewicz nearly set to face off, let’s see how fights against Gadelha, Esparza, or Namajunas turn out. You can pick out flaws in each of the previous names mentioned, but largely, any matchup at the top of the strawweight division will be straight fire.
Tempers were certainly on flaring at the conclusion of the Travis Browne versus Fabricio Werdum fight. Edmund Tarverdyan, Browne’s coach, tried to get in the face of Werdum before Bruce Buffer officially announced the winner. The former heavyweight champion wasn’t having it, and sent a crisp teep towards the chest of Edmund, almost sparking a post-fight rumble in the cage. Edmund was a bit too animated after Browne’s lackluster performance. Perhaps he was worried about retaining his job as Browne’s coach? Edmund’s track record as an MMA coach speaks for itself – he’s terrible. Outside of Ronda Rousey, Edmund has had virtually zero success as a coach. Travis Browne left Jackson-Wink to train at Glendale Fighting Club under Tarverdyan, a move that (unsurprisingly) hasn’t panned out too well. Maybe it’s time to explore other options, especially after the antics Saturday night. Hopefully, Edmund addresses the incident with some reasonable explanation.
Luckily for the fans in attendance, and the city as a whole, the UFC Heavyweight strap stays home, leaving everyone on a high note. It wasn’t easy for Miocic, though. He was knocked on his ass and ate a few other hard strikes, but still got the job done. The UFC titles are passed around like a hot potato as of late, but after a strange evening, it’s nice to see the strap defended every once and a while too.
Next weekend the UFC heads to the Texas/Mexico border for a Fight Night card in Hidalgo, Texas featuring Michael Johnson versus Dustin Poirier, a hell of a lightweight matchup. Until then, let’s watch that replay a few more times to see if we can find the tap from Stipe.
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Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223
UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.
Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.
After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.
A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.
Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.
Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.
A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.
Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet
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.”
Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April
MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.
The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.
Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.
An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.
His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).
Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.
PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.
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