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Moving Brackets: The Good, Bad and Ugly of Changing Weight Divisions

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What factors come into play when a fighter loses? Sometimes it’s injuries, sometimes it’s mental and sometimes the man or woman just wasn’t good enough. But one major element that can completely sway an entire career is weight class. For some fighters moving weight class is an act of desperation, and sometimes it is the missing piece of the puzzle. Here is a look at some of the most famous weight class changes, for better and for worse.

Good

Chael Sonnen – 11-5-1 LHW, 18-9 MW

Joe Rogan himself said Chael Sonnen was the best talker in combat sports history, and you’d be hard-pressed to find someone better than ‘The American Gangster’, but it wasn’t until his move to middleweight in the UFC that the true and brash Chael P. came into our consciousness.

Despite an admirable record at 205lbs, Sonnen shined at the lower 185lb weight class where he was able to utilize his size and strength advantage much better. When comparing his Light Heavyweight performances against Jon Jones, Rashad Evans and Forrest Griffin against his Middleweight dominance against Brian Stann, Yushin Okami and Anderson Silva (up until he got submitted) it is apparently obvious that he was able to implement his wrestling-based game plan much better at 185lbs.

At 185lbs Sonnen was much stronger than his opponents, which usually made up for the skill differences between him and the best in the division. This strength advantage brought him all the way to two middleweight title shots.

Upon returning to Light Heavyweight in 2013 we saw exactly what happened when Chael came across the bigger and better men at 205lbs; he fell in two of his three fights that year.

Chael may have retired on a loss at Light Heavyweight, but every MMA fan knows that he never belonged in the cage with the top dogs at that weight class, and, that in his prime at 185 pounds, Chael Sonnen was a wrestling force not to be messed with.

Anthony Johnson- 1-0 HW, 7-0 LHW, 9-2 WW, 2-2 Catchweight

From missing weight by 12lbs and being cut by the UFC to now fighting for the light heavyweight title, Anthony Johnson has certainly been through the MMA ringer; and he owes his new lease on UFC life to his change of weight class.

From the first moment we saw Anthony Johnson in the UFC there were calls for him to move up in weight class. Walking around at well over 200lbs and cutting down to 170 was never a feat Johnson could sustain, and the toll it took on his body showed early in his career. Yes, Johnson had some sensational performances at welterweight such as his KO’s of Tommy Speer and Kevin Burns, but he was never an elite fighter at 170lbs. His loss against Josh Koscheck pretty much solidified Johnson’s welterweight career as a gatekeeper. To the relief of his many fans, Rumble took the final fight of his first UFC run against Vitor Belfort at middleweight, thinking that the extra 15lbs would provide what he needed to see the resurrection of his earlier form. After missing weight for the fight by a record 12lbs and, frankly, putting on a terrible performance, Johnson was cut by the UFC. Some thought Anthony was done with the premier MMA organization, but they would be mistaken. Rumble moved training camps to the Blackzilians and made the best decision of his whole career; to take his weight seriously.

After being cut from the UFC, Johnson missed weight yet again in his first post-UFC fight at Middleweight. Johnson then made his move from Middleweight’s 185lbs limit to Light Heavyweight’s 205lbs cap. It was yet another attempt to try and kick start his fighting career one last time. This would become the saving grace for Johnson as he is now undefeated since January 2012 as a Light Heavyweight, and is on a nine fight win streak.

From starting as a middle of the road competitor at Welterweight, Johnson is now one of the best in the 205lbs division, beating some of the best fighters on the planet along the way. At Light Heavyweight, Johnson has knocked out Alexander Gustafsson and Rodrigo Nogueira and dominated Phil Davis.

Now that Johnson doesn’t have to spend half his training camp cutting weight through harsh dieting and water loss, his cardio, strength and KO power is better than ever. Rumble arguably boasts the best one punch power in the UFC and some of the best takedown defense in his division, making him a true nightmare for any light heavyweight on the planet.

Robbie Lawler –11-5-1 MW, 14-3 WW, 0-2 Catchweight

The truest Cinderella story MMA has ever seen. From Strikeforce gatekeeper to UFC champion, Robbie Lawler’s 10 year journey to the UFC title all came to fruition when he moved down a weight class.

What’s unique about Robbie Lawler is that he started his career at his proper weight class of welterweight where he became a promising prospect in the early 2000’s. This all unravelled at UFC 47 when Lawler was KO’d by Nick Diaz in highlight-reel fashion, prompting his move up to middleweight in 2004.

From 2004 to 2013 Lawler competed as an undersized middleweight, having some success with some great KO’s, but always coming up short when he faced a higher level of oppositon. At middleweight, Lawler would simply get out muscled and out grappled by bigger and more technical fighters, suffering submission loses to strong grapplers in Ronaldo Souza, Jake Shields and Mayhem Miller during his tenure at 185lbs.

It would seem Robbie Lawler was destined to be just another good fighter, until his contract with Strikeforce was bought out by the UFC. Now a UFC fighter once again, Robbie realized that it was now or never for him, and decided to move back down to welterweight for his return to the UFC, nine years after his last fight in the promotion.

Lawler’s move back down to welterweight would give him back the size advantage he so sorely missed at middleweight and that, mixed with his insane KO power and aggressiveness, brought him all the way to the UFC welterweight title. What is next on the agenda for Robbie may be the biggest test of his career in the young phenom, Rory MacDonald. Despite his opponent’s impressive resume, Lawler has never been better than he is right now and regardless of how the bout goes, we all know Ruthless Robbie Lawler won’t go down without a fight.

Bad

Nate Diaz –1-2 WW, 15-7 LW, 1-1 Catchweight

Nate Diaz may be a fan favourite who has formerly fought his way to a lightweight title shot, but it was his ill-advised move to welterweight that got him a spot on this list.

At the start of his UFC career, Nate Diaz had won TUF 5 and was a legitimate lightweight contender, beating out many of the best in the division. But Diaz was never a top guy; falling to the likes of Clay Guida and Gray Maynard, a shot at the title was kept out of his grasp.

Frustrated with is ranking at Lightweight, Nate decided to move up to 170lbs where he would be bulkier and stronger, making it easier to fend off the wrestlers that had often beaten him at Lightweight. Unfortunately for Diaz, he just didn’t have the body for welterweight and was again falling to much bigger 170lbs fighters like Dong Hyun Kim and Rory Macdonald, who rag-dolled Diaz for 3 rounds.

Despite going back down to 155lbs In 2012 and earning a title shot, when Diaz came up against champion Benson Henderson, history repeated itself as the massive Henderson out grappled him for the entirety of their contest.

At 155lbs Nate Diaz was once a great fighter, but his problem has always been his size. Whether he was matched against bigger lightweights or tried his luck with a move to welterweight, Nate Diaz has been continuously out-sized throughout his career. Currently on a two fight losing streak, I hope Nate can find his former glory, let’s just hope he doesn’t try to move up to 170lbs again to achieve it.

Diego Sanchez – 1-0 MW, 20-4 WW, 3-3 LW, 1-0 Catchweight

From the highs of a 17-0 record to having not finished an opponent since 2008, Diego Sanchez has been on both ends of the UFC spectrum. While he is still one of the most beloved fighters in MMA, one of the biggest problems of his career has been fighting guys who are just too big for him.

After winning TUF 1 at middleweight, Sanchez moved immediately down to welterweight for his UFC debut. After starting his UFC career 6-0, Sanchez met his first two losses back to back against two of the biggest and best wrestlers in the welterweight division in Jon Fitch and Josh Koscheck.

These losses showed that, while Sanchez was successful at 170lbs, he just didn’t have the strength and size to deal with the best in that division. After winning two more times at welterweight against lower tier competitors, Sanchez dropped to 155lbs.

Despite the drop in weight, Sanchez was still an average sized Lightweight. This was the best period of his career, though, fighting his way to a title shot against BJ Penn. Despite losing that fight, Diego showed that 155lbs was a much better weight for him and many of us thought he would bounce back more aggressive than ever and fight for the title again.

Instead of continuing to fight at Lightweight, Sanchez moved back up to Welterweight. Despite winning some fights against Paulo Thiago and Martin Kampmann after going back to welterweight, Sanchez was ultimately outmatched and outclassed by the top of the division such as Jake Ellenberger and John Hathaway.

Diego again moved to 155 in 2013, but missed weight in another highly disputed win over Takanori Gomi. He would go on to loss two in a row against Gilbert Melendez and Myles Jury but halt that skid with a win against Ross Pearson in a decision that is thought of as the worst of all time.

Despite some key wins at both welterweight and lightweight, Diego has never really been the right size for either class. That, combined with his less-than-technical fighting style, he has been beaten consistently when it comes to fighting the top of either division.

Recent underground rumblings suggest Sanchez is planning a move to featherweight, which could well put him on the other side of this list as a great decision for his career. At 145lbs Sanchez would be the bigger and stronger fighter more times than not, which plays right into his style. The only question is at 33 years old, and with 32 fights to his name, is it too late for The Nightmare?

BJ Penn – 2-0 MW, 3-5-1 WW, 11-3-1 LW, 0-1 FW,0-1 Catchweight

There are not many fighters in the world who can fight on the same level of BJ Penn, but to do it in as many weight divisions as he has is nearly impossible. Despite BJ Penn’s wide array of weight classes, he will always been considered the king of the 155lbs Lightweights.

BJ started his career at lightweight, destroying anyone that stepped before him. A loss to Jens Pulver followed by a draw to Caol Uno halted his enormous progress, though. It was after the draw to Uno that BJ moved up to Welterweight and shocked the world when he defeated Matt Hughes and earned the title. Despite being at Welterweight, this was one of Penn’s greatest performances, and, in retrospect, seemed to give him the confidence to fight in many other weight classes, most of which he had no business fighting in.

What followed was a Coney Island-esque sideshow period of his career, fighting the likes of Rodrigo Gracie at middleweight and a 225lbs Lyoto Machida during his short stint in K-1.

BJ returned to the UFC in 2006 at welterweight and was beaten in his first two fights by Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre. Now, it is hard to criticise BJ’s performance in these two fights, as they were against two of the best 170lbers in the history of the sport. Nonetheless, Penn showed that welterweight was not the weight class for him as he was out grappled by the bigger and much more athletic wrestlers.

After these hard losses, BJ moved back down to his original weight at lightweight and put forward a streak of wins that would solidify him as the greatest lightweight of all time. BJ finished Jens Pulver, Sean Sherk and Joe Stevenson, picking up the lightweight title in the latter of the three. On this incredible hot streak in which he showed his full arsenal of skills, BJ took a super fight again at welterweight and again against Georges St. Pierre. In this Welterweight rematch, it was the bigger, stronger, more athletic Georges St. Pierre that eventually got the stoppage victory over Penn when Penn couldn’t continue past the 4th round.

BJ returned to defend his lightweight strap and record two more sensational stoppage wins over Kenny Florian and Diego Sanchez, bringing his overall lightweight record to 11-1-1. It was at this time that BJ was argued to be the best fighter on the planet, that is, until he came across the relatively unknown New Jersey wrestler Frankie Edgar.

Frankie would put an end to BJ’s streak, taking his title and beating him again in an immediate rematch. At 32 years old, and knowing he wasn’t going to beat Edgar, BJ moved back to 170lbs where he flash KO’d Matt Hughes in 20 seconds and drew with Jon Fitch. These two performances were decent, but they were not the BJ we had grown to love at 155lbs, and it seemed the years of abuse were finally catching up with the once great Hawaiian. In his last two fights at welterweight, he came up against the cream of the crop in Nick Diaz and Rory MacDonald and was destroyed by both men.

Contemplating retirement, BJ wanted one more shot at greatness and asked for one more shot at Frankie Edgar, only this time it was at Frankie’s current division of 145lbs. It was at this new weight class where his career would make its final turn and Penn would take his final bow. Upon reflection, BJ should have never taken the featherweight fight against Edgar. He forced himself to cut down to the lightest he had ever been at 35 years old to take on one of the top 5 featherweights in the world. Not only did he take on one of the best, but he fought a man in Edgar who had previously beaten him twice. This fight had disaster written all over it from the moment it was announced, and the contest was completely one sided for Edgar, who stopped Penn in the third round.

BJ Penn will forever go down as one of the pioneers of MMA, but the only question is, what if BJ stayed at lightweight his entire career? This is where we saw the most dominant Penn. He had some minor success at any other division he fought, but was ultimately beaten by the best. Lightweight is where BJ belonged and it’s a shame we didn’t see more of him there.

 

Honourable Mentions

Kenny Florian -0-1 MW, 4-1 WW, 9-3 LW, 1-1 FW

Michael Bisping – 14-1 LHW, 12-6 MW

Hector Lombard – 6-0 (1NC) LHW, 24-4-1 MW, 2-0 Catchweight, 2-0 1(NC) WW

Lyoto Machida – 17-4 LHW, 3-2 MW, 2-0 Catchweight

Demetrious Johnson- 14-2 BW, 8-0-1 FLW

 

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FURY FC 17 Preview: UFC Veteran Roger Narvaez Set to Fight For Gold

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Deep in the Hill Country of Texas, there is a storm of MMA action brewing on the horizon in the historic city of San Antonio.

In 1836 the most iconic siege ever to take place in the American West was waged between Santa Anna’s Mexican forces and a small band of Texans fighting for their independence at the Battle of the Alamo. On June 10th that tradition of never backing down continues as Fury Fighting Championships 17 takes place at the Shrine Auditorium with a card that was originally slated to have 20 bouts of MMA action. At the top of the bill, there will be a familiar face as former UFC fighter, Roger “The Silverback” Narvaez, looks to capture his first championship in the sport when he faces Antonio “Doomsday” Jones for the vacant middleweight title. The event will also feature a hot prospect, a kickboxing champion, and a grudge match.

Fury FC 17 will be broadcast live on FloCombat.com.

While the 33-year-old Narvaez (8-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has already realized his ultimate goal of getting to the highest level of MMA, fighting for a title has always eluded him. The 6’3″ fighter nicknamed “The Silverback” due to his abnormal 79.5″ wingspan, or monkey arms as he calls them was twice scheduled to fight for the Legacy Fighting Championship Middleweight Title against then champion Bubba Bush who now fights in the UFC. An injury caused the first fight to be canceled. Then a call up to the UFC to fight an unknown opponent on short notice put an end to plans for the another scheduled title fight.

Theodorou vs. Narvaez at UFC 185 (photo: Matthew Wells – MMA Latest)

 

To Roger, the secret to grabbing the attention of the world’s biggest MMA promotion is fighting for several different promotions. He fought for six different organizations winning all of his fights before getting a call from the UFC’s former matchmaker Joe Silva to ask if he was ready to make the move. Narvaez feels that fighting for multiple shows tells the UFC that a fighter is ready to fight whoever and whenever. His first fight for the promotion was a loss to Patrick Cummins at UFC Fight Night 42 in Albuquerque where he fought at an altitude of over 5300 feet sea level, something he says will not do again unless he is training at altitude. To put it bluntly, he plainly states “the altitude in Albuquerque sucks.” After a win against Luke Barnett, he faced Elias Theodorou. In that fight, he broke his arm before ultimately losing, and was then cut by the UFC.


At this point in Narvaez’s career, his goals now are different:

“The next goal for me, to be realistic, is to make as much money as I can. I love fighting, but at the same time, I have a family that I am trying to support. That is always first and foremost now…[and] Fury is doing a pretty good job of taking care of me…This is a really big deal for me. I am probably training harder for this fight than I have ever trained before. Part of that is with age comes knowledge and experience and I am doing everything I need to do the right way to get ready to come home with that strap, but that strap means ever thing…I didn’t quit fighting with a broken arm, it is going to take something pretty drastic to get me stop. I don’t think the guy I am fighting is going to be able to break my will or test my heart to where I am not going to be able to pull through…coming home with that title is a big deal.”

That home is one of a fighting family. Narvaez’s wife Brandi is also a fighter who recently made her professional debut at Legacy Fighting Alliance 7. His stepson is a gray belt who competes in Jui-Jitsu year round, his daughter also trains in the sport. They understand the hard work that their dad puts in more so than the average fighter’s family. As he puts “it’s not normal, but it is normal to us.”


The prospect to keep an eye on is Two-time Alabama state wrestling champion turned lightweight MMA fighter, Alec Williams (5-1 MMA) from Birmingham. Williams will be looking to rebound from his first professional loss as he takes on Travonne “Prince Scorpion” Hobbs. In his last fight, Alec relied on his wrestling and got it in his head that he did not want to stand and trade with his opponent. That mentality ultimately not only cost him his undefeated record but also to sustain four broken bones in the right side of his face.

“I didn’t get knocked out, I still got the takedown after I broke those four bones. I know it is going to be pretty difficult to knock me out…Honestly, the loss kind of took any pressure off. Before I was undefeated, that loss was going to be a big change and now a loss is just another loss.”

For this fight, Williams says he has been working with MMA legend and former UFC fighter Pete Spratt on his stand up and will not make the same mistake twice.


Also featured on the card is the first Brazilan World Cup Kickboxing Champion, welterweight Washington “Washingthai” Luiz. Originally slated to fight Nickolay Veretennikov, “Washingthai” Luiz will now take on lesser known Danny Ageday. With a new opponent on just four days notice, the man who has aspirations to become a champion in GLORY Kickboxing is not fazed.

“I did my whole camp studying my first opponent who is a striker like me, but I do not feel harmed by the change. I’m ready for this war…The main reason for my change to the USA is the opportunity to be in the biggest events in the world I have already fought the biggest events in Brazil in kickboxing and MMA. I have fought in big events in Europe and now my challenge is the biggest event of kickboxing, GLORY. But I also love MMA and when a fight appears for me, I do not refuse.”


The grudge match at Fury FC 17 comes to us from the flyweights division’s Mark “The Sparrow” Plata and David “Gallito” Miramontes. These two men were scheduled to fight previously but Plata had to pull out due to his wife giving birth to twins. According to Plata, that is where the beef began.

“The day my twins were born he was messaging me talking about how this was not a good reason not fight and that I just did not want to fight him. My kids were in ICU at the time and he just keeps messaging me over and over…it upset me at the time because they were dying, they were trying to survive, but it just added more fuel to the fire. Then he kept asking promoters to fight me. He asked two or three different promoters to set it up. I got tired of him asking for me. So then I was like, alright cool if you want it that bad, let’s do it…His fighting style matches his personality. He tries to be a bully, and that’s cool, I don’t mind shutting bullies down.”

Titles, champions, prospects, legitimate bad blood…what more you could ask for in a local card?

This is an event not to miss and thanks to Fury FC having a deal with FloSports, you do not have to.

Tune in for all the action live at 6:00 PM CST on FloCombat.com this Saturday.

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*VIDEO* Francis Ngannou has his eyes on the UFC Heavyweight Title

Matthew Wells

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UFC Heavyweight Francis “The Predator” Ngannou has taken the heavyweight division by storm.

Currently 5-0 in the UFC and riding a 9 fight win streak, the native of Cameroon possesses vicious power and has shown improvements each time he steps inside the cage.

Hear Ngannou talk about his journey and plans for the future:

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The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

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Korean Zombie UFC

The featherweight division has become one of the most exciting in the UFC in the last few years. With the arrival of Conor McGregor, and an influx of exciting talent, new life has been breathed into a division that was suffering due to Jose Aldo’s dominance.

A notable absentee during this rise has been “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, who returns for the first time in three years against Dennis Bermudez on Saturday. The fight features as the main event of UFC Fight Night 104, and Jung is making his long awaited return after serving his mandatory military service duty for the South Korean Army.

With the fight with Bermudez fast approaching, the buzz for Jung’s return is noticeable throughout the MMA community. With a return of this magnitude, it is always fun to look back at the career of the fighter and relive the moments in his career that make the fan in all of us excited for his return.

The humble beginnings of the Korean Zombie

Chan Sung Jung was widely considered to be one of the best prospects to emerge from the far east when he was signed by WEC to face Cub Swanson in 2010. An injury forced Swanson out of the contest and Leonard Garcia stepped in as a replacement.

The fight between the two would take place on the preliminary card of Jose Aldo Jr. vs. Urijah Faber for the WEC featherweight championship. The event was the first and only WEC pay-per-view card and with Zuffa on board, the event was treated as such with Mike Goldberg and Joe Rogan on commentary.

That night, MMA fans were treated to one of the greatest fights in mixed martial arts history and widely regarded as the best fight ever in the lighter weight classes. Many fans call a fight “a war” in an exciting contest between two fighters, but the fight between the Zombie and Garcia was more like a demolition derby.

Both men threw their strikes with wreckless intent and dropped each other on numerous occasions. The fight went to a split decision with Garcia getting the nod from the judges. Many considered Jung the winner, but the fight received praise from every media outlet in the days following the card. Dana White would wear a shirt with the now famous “Korean Zombie” logo at the following UFC PPV weigh ins in support of the epic fight.

Jung returned to the cage to face George Roop in his next outing in the WEC and lost the fight by a vicious head kick. This would be his final fight in WEC as the UFC went on to absorb the WEC’s featherweight and bantamweight divisions and bring both into the UFC.

Jung was scheduled to make his promotional debut for the UFC against Rani Yahya at UFC Fight Night 23, but was forced out of the fight with an injury. Ironically Leonard Garcia’s opponent Nam Phan would suffer an injury before their scheduled fight. It seemed like fate that Jung and Garcia would do battle once more. The Korean Zombie came in as a late replacement for the injured Phan. The rematch between the two was highly anticipated and the UFC was promoting the fight as the rematch to the greatest fight ever.

The fight was set as the opener to the main card for UFC Fight Night 24. What came next was history in the making. Both fighters were tentative in the early exchanges in the fight and didn’t have the same enthusiasm to brawl as the previous encounter, but in the final few minutes of the opening round, Jung took the back of Garcia.

In an unorthodox position on the ground, Rogan said on the desk, “Looks like he is setting up for a twister”. The twister was not seen in the UFC at this point and with the clock ticking, Jung stretched Garcia in a position where his spine was turned into a pretzel and Garcia tapped. Jung stated in the post-fight interview with Rogan that he had learned how to do the submission watching videos of Eddie Bravo doing the move. The win won multiple awards for submission of the year.

After that win, Chan Sung Jung was set to face Mark Hominick at UFC 140 in Toronto. Hominick, who fought Aldo for the title at UFC 129 in his hometown, came into the fight as the underdog, but in seven seconds that all changed. Jung cracked Hominick, tying the record for the second fastest knockout in UFC history. A win over a former title challenger launched the South Korean into title contention.

Following another historic win, Chan Sung Jung was now set to take part in his first ever main event against rising star Dustin Poirier with the winner receiving a title shot against UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo at a later date.

Jung went on to put on another fight of the year that night. The one-man zombie horde overwhelmed Poirier in the early rounds with his aggressive style. Numerous submission attempts and transitions by Jung frustrated Poirier. As Poirier became more aggressive and careless in the fight, Jung launched a flying knee in the third round and rocked his opponent. Poirier attempted to take Jung down, but the Zombie caught Poirier in a D’Arce choke in the third round to get the win.

Multiple injuries, and scheduled title fights between Jose Aldo and Frankie Edgar; and Aldo and Anthony Pettis, delayed Jung’s title shot. After Pettis was forced out of the title fight with Aldo because of an injury, Jung was called up as a late replacement and finally get the title shot he earned by defeating Poirier a year earlier.

The fight would take place in Brazil and was surprisingly lacklustre. Both fighters were sizing each other up for the majority of the contest. Jung suffered an injury during the fight when he dislocated his shoulder and in typical zombie fashion, Jung attempted to put his own shoulder back in place. Aldo used this time to attack, winning the title fight by TKO.

This would be the last time we saw the zombie in the cage as he would be drafted by the South Korean Army to do his two-year mandatory military service. Jung has not fought in three and a half years.

Now the burning question is how will the Korean zombie look after such a long absence. One thing is sure though, fans are extremely excited to see his return and on Saturday, The Zombie Apocalypse could be on the cards if the South Korean comes out of the cage with a win.

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