Nestled nicely between UFC 201 and UFC 202 was the promotion’s venture to Salt Lake City, Utah for a free night of fights, headlined by two of the most exciting strikers in the game, regardless of weight class. This card was set up to be a showcase for the featherweight born in Parral, Chihuahua, Mexico, Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez, but his opponent Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres wasn’t about to roll over for anybody.
On paper, the pre-fight social media consensus was “this card sucks,” which fortunately for those fans who aren’t hyper-critical, usually means the card plays out to be an absolute banger. Filled with mid-card talent and a few prospects, this was the perfect opportunity for someone to leave their mark in the minds of fans. For the first half of the evening, that seemed to be the case with all six preliminary fights delivering exciting finishes and close decision battles.
Featherweights ruled the evening as an early Fight of the Night candidate took place in the Fight Pass prelim headliner between Cub Swanson and Tatsuya Kawajiri. Coming into the fight ranked fifth with his eyes set a run at the title, Cub, who is allergic to boring fights, needed to get past one of the most durable men in the sport in impressive fashion. An early finish could not be found on the night, but the back and forth clash left us all wishing the fight was scheduled for five rounds instead of three. The result creates an interesting question for the featherweight division: What do you do with Cub Swanson now? Conor McGregor is still technically king of the division, although who knows if he will actually return to the weight class. Jose Aldo earned the right to be called Interim Champion at UFC 200 by defeating Frankie Edgar. Max Holloway has been on an absolute tear and has to be considered for a title shot soon after knocking off the only other man ranked ahead of Swanson, Ricardo Lamas. The problem for Cub is that prior to his current two-fight win streak, he lost to Edgar and Holloway in succession. The top of the featherweight division will take quite some time to play out, which could leave Swanson just outside of the title picture for the time being. Perhaps shortly after UFC 202 is complete, we’ll know if Jose Aldo’s Interim title will be upgraded to the real belt, and the division can resume full-speed ahead.
Speed was also something noticeably missing from the Salt Lake City card, which is commonplace for UFC on FS1 events. Normally the complaints about the pacing of the card seem like petty gripes from entitled fans, however, last night, those complaints were legitimate. A better balance must be found to fit in adequate advertisements from sponsors while keeping a steady flow of fights. No, it didn’t help that the event hit a serious lull once it reached the main card with lackluster fights resulting in decision after decision, draining the energy out of the crowd that was once very lively during the prelim bouts. Five of the six main card matchups required a judge’s decision. Even the lone finish reached the final round. The lengthy breaks between fights due to heavy advertising and ensuring the allocated television timeslot was filled, had most of us were reaching for caffeine to get us through to the main event.
Alex “Bruce Leeroy” Caceres is much more than an eccentric character with a huge afro. He’s a dangerous striker who will throw various spinning attacks and his signature double-punch that is usually only seen in cheesy old school martial arts movies. Well, so is Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez, who may be the only man in the entire division who could throw more “spinning sh*t” than Caceres. What happens when you pit two guys who look like they’re mashing buttons in the latest rendition of Street Fighter? Well, quite simply, they look like they were mashing buttons in the latest rendition of Street Fighter. It’s incredible that dizziness didn’t set in for either fighter as they both threw more spinning attacks over five rounds than perhaps the entire sport has seen all year. The fight was incredible to watch, but El Pantera was clearly the victor at the conclusion of the fight, landing more significant strikes while keeping his foot on the gas pedal from bell to bell. Yair Rodriguez solidified his claim as one of the hottest prospects in the sport with that performance. However, one judge didn’t see it that way and subsequently delivered one of the worst scorecards of 2016 with a 49-46 score in favor of Bruce Leeroy. Let’s just assume, for sanity, that he was confused by the ridiculous design of the Utah Athletic Commission’s scorecard, which resembled a sudoku board rather than a score sheet. Seriously, look at this thing:
The winners in Salt Lake City stood next to Jon Anik in the cage for their opportunity to sell fans on their next fight. More often than not, the post-fight interview is just as important as the physical performance in the cage. You have to get fans excited about seeing you enter the cage again, ideally with a direct callout of another fighter. Some of the post-fight interviews were interesting, to say the least, as some guys nailed it while others missed the mark. Sage Northcutt found himself on the receiving end of a call out from David Teymur, which has become a common theme among lightweights as Sage represents a “money fight” for the unranked competitors. Court McGee mentioned Conor McGregor’s name during his post-fight interview, which came off a little strange. It wasn’t a call out, though, it was intended to be a nod to the crowd’s support that rivaled The Notorious’ Irish following. Aside from Teruto Ishihara’s expected shout out to the ladies of Salt Lake City, the golden microphone goes to Dennis Bermudez for his mic-drop call out of Frankie Edgar after his co-main event victory. It was simple, strong, and to the point. He wants Frankie Edgar at Madison Square Garden. Who cares if he shouted out the wrong date? We all knew what he meant and it was the best call-out of the evening, without a doubt.
The promotion sets its eyes back to Las Vegas for the next Pay-Per-View event, UFC 202, for the rematch of Conor McGregor versus Nate Diaz. If the media conference call from earlier in the week is any indication, the mutual respect showed by the pair this time around means we’re in for an intense fight to close out the evening on August 20, 2016. Who knows what will happen in the aftermath? Will there really be a man who’s able to call himself a Champion after losing his last two fights? Win or lose, does Conor he really bring himself to the brink of death to make the 145-pound limit to defend his belt? For Nate, where does he land in the rankings at 155 with another win over Conor? If he loses, does it set up a trilogy? Stay tuned because this situation could go in many different directions, but one thing is for certain, both men will follow the money.
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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.”
UFC 219: Cyborg vs Holm recap
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.
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.
Invicta 27 Officially Announced
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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