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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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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