Title fights usually aren’t head-scratchers when it comes to the pairing of Champion and Challenger. The usual argument is which fighter ranked number one through five deserves the next opportunity to fight for the title. What happens when number thirteen jumps the line in a division that is very, very top heavy? Surely that guy holding down the thirteen spot must have some serious skin in the game, and/or a deep-seeded history with the Champ. All of that applied to Dan Henderson.
UFC 100 will forever be one of the best cards in the history of mixed martial arts, and Dan Henderson’s knockout of Michael Bisping was probably the most memorable moment of that evening. Not just the fact that the H-Bomb detonated on Bisping’s chin, it was the follow-up elbow from a diving Henderson, who might as well have been jumping off the top turnbuckle of a WWE ring to deliver that extra blow. Time almost stood still as we anticipated the impact. It was an epic moment. One that the most unlikely Champion of 2016 would love to avenge.
Michael Bisping filling in on short notice to face Luke Rockhold for the title was a culmination of sorts. It was the opportunity for one of the most storied UFC runs that never got the shot at the title to fulfill the dream of becoming a UFC Champion. When one man goes down, another will raise their hand to take advantage of an opportunity, and Michael Bisping capitalized in the most incredible way possible. A first-round knockout of Luke Rockhold was the least likely scenario heading into UFC 199. “Left Hook Larry” shocked the world and the Brit earned the right to be called Champion in the most decisive way possible.
Just as Bisping’s shot at the title was a culmination of a solid career, Dan Henderson’s shot at UFC 204 was one in the same. There is no better way to go out than going out on top, and Hendo had the chance to retire as a Champion, albeit an extremely unlikely one. In this instance, due to their history, throwing out the rankings for a chance at redemption perhaps could be allowed.
Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira, Ricardo Arona, Renzo Gracie, Wanderlei Silva, Renato Sobral, Carlos Newton, Vitor Belfort, Anderson Silva, Quinton “Rampage” Jackson, Rich Franklin, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Mauricio “Shogun” Rua, Fedor Emelianenko, and Daniel Cormier. This isn’t a random list of the greatest fighters in the history of the sport, this is a list of men who have stood across the cage from Dan Henderson throughout his career, and this is just a few. A Pride Champion, Strikeforce Champion, and an American Olympic wrestler – Dan Hendo is a legend. The only thing missing from his trophy case will be the UFC strap, as he came up on the wrong end of the judge’s cards on Saturday evening (or morning for the local crowd).
Did he really, though?
In the first round, the H-Bomb was detonated again on Bisping. As he fell to his back, Hendo followed up with a diving elbow. Wait, was that live action, or did the production crew insert a replay of UFC 100 in the middle of the round? It looked just like the ending to the first fight. Surely Bisping’s worst nightmare couldn’t happen. This time, though, Bisping wasn’t completely out of it when the elbow landed and was able to survive until the bell. The argument in round one isn’t if Henderson won the round, it’s if it should have been scored a 10-8. No other round in the fight looked like the first, and that’s why 10-8 must be considered.
Some have scored the second round in favor of Bisping because of his higher output for over four minutes. However, if you believe a 10-8 was warranted in the first, then the second frame must be scored in favor of Henderson to the tune of 10-9. Another huge knockdown occurred that caused Bisping to scramble for recovery while avoiding the big follow up shot to put him away. Bisping was largely effective for most of the round up to that point, but certainly, the most significant moment was the knockdown.
There is very little argument that rounds three and four were 10-9’s for Bisping, which were rounds that were won by pace, pressure, and selective shots while avoiding the big power blow from Hendo. Neither round looked like round one, though, which begs the question, how can all of those rounds be equally scored a 10-9?
Going by this score, you would have a card reading 38-37 in favor of Henderson going into the final round. The fifth round was the toughest round to score. Bisping kept the pressure up and chose his shots well, but Henderson landed a few more strikes and also secured a takedown with a beautiful knee tap. Aside from some ground control time, nothing significant came from the takedown. So who earned the fifth round? The three judges that mattered scored it for Bisping. All of them. None of the three officials dished out a 10-8 in round one, either.
The final scores would read 48-47, 48-47, and 49-46 – all in favor of Michael Bisping.
All things considered, it didn’t feel like an outright robbery of Henderson. Bisping displayed miles and miles of heart and determination throughout the fight. He certainly has a Champion’s will and perseverance. That much cannot be questioned. However, the score of 49-46 in favor of Bisping is certainly the worst possible scorecard anyone could come up with. We have judge Andy Roberts to thank for that gem.
On an evening in which Bisping had a lot riding on his shoulders – first title defense, trying to avenge the UFC 100 knockout, and trying to remain undefeated on his home soil, he certainly gave his best effort to retain the title. While this should have zero bearing on determining the winner, at least we know the man still holding the strap will be defending it again, and not retiring with it. While Dan Henderson riding off into the sunset with the belt over his shoulder would have been the perfect storybook ending to his career, it would have created a mess of things in determining who would be fighting for the vacant belt.
Of course, the main event wasn’t the only fight that went down on a Saturday evening, and it would be extremely short-sighted to not mention some of the other incredible performances that occurred at UFC 204. Jimi Manuwa put everyone in the light heavyweight division that he’s a legitimate threat to the top tier of contenders with an incredible knockout of Ovince Saint Preux. Iuri Alcantara displayed slick, slick BJJ skills with a beautiful armbar to triangle choke transition to get a tap from Brad Pickett. Not only were these impressive displays, they both earned performance bonuses, and rightfully so. Gegard Mousasi absolutely steamrolled Vitor Belfort, who looked like a shell of his former self. No, that’s not a shot at PED use…or was it?
UFC newcomer Marc Diakiese has a lot of promise in this sport, and more than likely will be a champion in the future. His performance on the prelims showed a little bit of everything – flashy striking ability, a lot of poise, and the ability to change the gameplan to something more effective. If you’re looking for a prospect to watch climb the ladder to the top, look no further than Diakiese.
With UFC Manila’s cancellation due to “injuries,” we now have just under a month until the next UFC card, which takes place on November 5 in Mexico City. UFC 204 as a whole was an amazing night of fights, with only two of the eleven bouts requiring the services of the judges. Now that Bisping’s grudge match has been settled, it’s time to get back to the top of the division where names like Rockhold, Weidman, Souza, and Romero are eagerly awaiting their opportunities for a crack at UFC gold.
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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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