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One Defining Moment: The Ultimate Fighter Finale 23

Peyton Wesner

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Unlike many popular professional sports associations, the UFC has no off-season. 365 days a year, from January to December, the best mixed martial artists are training and honing their craft to climb up the rankings and experience their “One Shining Moment.” However, for most, before enjoying his or her “One Shining Moment,” a fighter must establish and prove he or she belongs among the best. This is called the “One Defining Moment.” So without further ado, let’s check out the One Defining Moments of those stepping into the octagon at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 23.

Ross Pearson (21-10, 11-7 in UFC) vs. Will Brooks (17-1, 0-0 in UFC)
***Co-Main Event – Lightweight Bout

Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson

When Ross “The Real Deal” Pearson returned to lightweight and knocked out George Sotiropoulos, he threw his name into a hat of great fighters within the division. Yet, in the always competitive UFC, one simply cannot put his or her name into consideration. Really, he or she must make a statement. This is exactly what he did on April 6, 2013, against Randy Couture. Right out of the gates, it was Couture who initiated a clinch and started working his opponent’s body with strikes and nasty knees. Moreover, the aforementioned brawler landed sharp elbows while gradually bringing the target of his knees higher and higher. As far as Pearson, he simply couldn’t get into the necessary boxing range to fully showcase his talent. Due to Couture’s smothering approach, he successfully landed a takedown around the mid-way point in Round 1. Though, The Real Deal slipped out of the cage mauling and commenced to find his groove in the late stages, which was displayed by a brutal left knee and a left hook. Although there was no doubt the initial round was the property of Couture, Pearson weathered the storm and was set for a strong 2nd. The Real Deal, starting to take more control of the octagon, caused more and more damage with his left hook through the first minute. Couture answered his opponent’s strikes by blanketing him with another clinch and connecting with several kicks and punches combinations. Thus, slipping behind 20-18 on the scorecard started to look more likely for the Englishman. Yet, who would have thought a caught left kick would change the result? Throughout the first 8 minutes, Randy Couture experienced great success with his kicks. Unfortunately for him, it proved to be his downfall. Pearson, catching a left body kick from Couture, caused a trip from the American. Like a shark with blood in the water, The Real Deal presented a real threat by jumping all over his opponent and unleashing hard left hooks. Couture, looking to only survive, was somehow able to get back to his feet. Meeting him as he turned around was nothing less than bombs in the form of Pearson’s right and left hooks. Couture was hurt as he tried to circle to his right. Then, his lights went out. Pearson finished the job with a brutal left hook that ended the fight quicker than it started. It is never safe to leave it to the judges, and Ross Pearson proved his perseverance will never do so, on that April evening.

Will “Ill Will” Brooks

Set to partake in one of the most highly anticipated UFC debuts to recent date this Friday, Will “Ill Will” Brooks enters the best MMA promotion in the world as an already established fighter. More specifically, his “One Defining Moment” can be identified as Bellator 131 on November 15, 2014, when he re-matched Michael Chandler for the vacant lightweight belt. Following a feel out process by both fighters, the former champion Chandler began his execution of cutting his opponent off from the rest of the circle. Yet, Brooks had the more successful strike game, for he was landing flush with a very fluid kick, punch combos. Around one minute in, Chandler attempted a single leg takedown. Despite Brooks getting to the side of the cage, his opponent inflicted much damage in the clinch and took the back of the interim champion (with Brooks on his knees). Quickly scrambling, Ill Will hopped back to his feet prior to drilling Chandler with more kicks and his right jab. The former champion had no significant strikes in the final 90 seconds of Round 1, leading viewers to believe Brooks was ahead 10-9. Unlike the 1st, the two lightweights were aggressive coming out of the physical reprieve. Chandler induced another clinch around the same time as the round prior. However, he was only able to record an Ill Will slip from his efforts as the super athletic now UFC fighter escaped. But, in the next exchange Chandler drilled his adversary with a hard right hook and proceeded to land a kick. There was just one problem with the kick; it was a hard groin shot to Brooks. The interim champion, face to the ground in pain, was allowed a minute to regather his thoughts and continued his pursuit. After resuming, Ill Will had a stingy sidekick land. Moreover, he persisted in working the outside of the cage and slipping out of harm’s reach. Though, he wouldn’t the next time. Sprawling and blocking a Chandler takedown, Brooks got back to stand-up, but in the worst place possible as he had no room to manoeuvre and his back was against the cage. The former champion took advantage of the aforementioned and started teeing off with multiple big blows from his right hand. The bout could have been over, yet Will Brooks has a great chin, which allowed him to stay upright and offer uppercuts in return. After escaping, Ill Will shot for a takedown. What a mistake this was. The interim champion literally put his head right into the lap of Chandler, allowing him to attempt a guillotine choke. Granted, with his hips out of position, Chandler was unable to get the guillotine initially; yet, transitioning the position to stand-up, he had the choke tight and began cranking on Brooks’ neck. The crowd exploded as the finish looked imminent. Not this time! Ill Will, staying calm, slipped out of the hold and ended the round with a plethora of big blasts that caught the former champion with his hands down. In the 3rd, Brooks was by far the fresher of the two fighters. From landing jabs and moving out of danger to stuffing deep takedown attempts and unloading short knees, the interim champion rebounded fantastically by putting together a no-doubt 3rd round victory. The championship rounds were next, and only one would be needed to crown a champion. Starting with a jab and continuing to miss fists, Ill Will looked to be pulling away. Although a Chandler flying knee took some of the winds out of his sail, it was not too much as the interim champion stuffed another takedown attempt and proceeded to circle. At this moment, Brooks would cause a mouse to surface under one of his opponent’s eyes. Yet, that’s not all! Furthermore, a Brooks’ right hook to the temple disoriented Chandler and caused him to put his hands up in surrender. Will Brooks would follow up with a few strikes for good measure, ending the fight and solidifying his status as the best Bellator lightweight in the world

#C Joanna Jedrzejczyk (11-0, 5-0 in UFC) vs #1 Claudia Gadelha (13-1, 2-1 in UFC)
***Main Event – Women’s Strawweight Championship

Joanna Jedrzejczyk

No women’s strawweight has been more active since the division was conceived than current champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk. In fact, this Friday’s fight will be her sixth in less than two years. Though, to make a name in this business, she only needed three opportunities and a title shot to display the talent and heart of a champion. The Poland native was facing, at the time, the only champion the division had ever seen, Carla Esparza. In the first exchange, Esparza eyed an immediate takedown but was met with a sprawl and a hard elbow leaving the exchange. The first toe-to-toe standoff could be scored to Jedrzejczyk; however, Esparza soon tried again and trapped her opponent’s left leg before solidifying a takedown. Granted, the pride of Poland escaped out the back door, but she soon found herself against the side of the cage and eating a hard right hook. Following the break, Jedrzejczyk, again, was unable to have time or room to strike, for the opposition shot for a second takedown in the centre of the octagon and ended up landing it along the side. Constantly desiring to get back to stand-up, the now champion shook off Esparza and executed a stingy right hook, which actually staggered the then belt holder. Jedrzejczyk, known for pressing forward while on the feet, became more and more effective in landing strikes. Moreover, whether it was a right hook, left jab, or a straight from either side, she was landing flush while stuffing four takedowns in just over two minutes. At the end of the 1st, Jedrzejczyk took her dominance to a new level by teeing off with five very significant strikes as Esparza was trapped against the cage. Meeting Esparza on her side of the octagon to commence the 2nd, Jedrzejczyk stayed aggressive in the next round. Furthermore, she landed a formidable right hook prior to scrambling against the cage to defend another takedown attempt. Less than a minute later, Esparza persisted to execute her wrestling game plan but was sprawled upon before absorbing a left straight, right hook combination. Jedrzejczyk administered, even more, damage with a right hook, right elbow two-piece. The end of Esparza’s reign was inevitable as the Polish striker continued to batter her opponent. A Jedrzejczyk right-hand, a left-hand straight combo led to a plethora of right-hand hooks, ultimately stopping the bout with less than a minute left in the 2nd. Striking and takedown defence, if you have both, you will have a spot at the top for a very long time.

Claudia Gadelha

How a fighter bounces back from his or her first professional loss, tells a lot about the longevity and future success of the individual. Hence, Claudia Gadelha did more than prove herself and her potential when compiling a masterful performance last August at UFC 190 in Rio de Janerio, Brazil. Gadelha, wasting no time to feel out her opponent, immediately attacked Jessica Aguilar with a nasty left knee in the clinch as well as a series of jabs and hooks. She later caused more damage thanks to a follow-up left-right-left hook combination. Even when Gadelha was hit, she was unfazed and proceeded to land hooks and deadly Thai clinch knees. The never ceasing attack of Gadelha bloodied up the nose of Aguilar and slammed the latter to the canvas for her fourth takedown. When the dust cleared after the 1st five minutes; there was no question Gadelha had won the round and was up 10-9. And soon, the 2nd would be her’s too. Showcasing the same aggressiveness as the segment prior, the top women’s strawweight contender cracked her opponent with a right hook and transitioned to a hard one-two. Immediately after, a right hook didn’t just rock Aguilar but cracked her. Gadelha followed up with a right body kick while looking for the finish. Aguilar induced a clinch to stay alive; however, all it did was give Gadelha a moment to get a hold and score another takedown. Once back on the feet, Gadelha pounded the opposition with combinations, uppercuts, and kicks. Moreover, she shot and completed an end of round takedown, just for good measures. Unlike some who would have coasted in the 3rd, Claudia Gadelha came out with a desire to finish the fight. Despite Aguilar getting off some sharp leg kicks, the top contender answered with heavy blows that sent the American backwards. To seal the victory and great performance, the Brazilian enjoyed her fourth takedown of the evening. Although her ground and pound barrage for the finish fell short, Claudia Gadelha’s next bout was sealed and an attempt for UFC gold was next.

More One Defining Moments:

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Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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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.

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Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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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.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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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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