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PREVIEW: Dana White Tuesday Night Contender Series Week 7



UFC Fight Pass is a God-send for the most loyal fans of mixed martial arts. Whether one’s viewing preference is The Ultimate Fighter, Invicta, Titan FC or the archive of hundreds of fights throughout WEC, Pride, Strikeforce and UFC there is no shortage of choices. Fight Pass does an excellent job of not only providing a seemingly endless catalog, but has also consistently developed Zuffa’s digital imprint by providing fresh, original content.

One such is example is “Dana White’s: Lookin’ For a Fight” which chronicles the world’s best combat sports promoter in his travels with UFC-veterans-turned-world-class-MMA-coaches, Din Thomas and Matt Serra. The show documents the trio as they tour the country, scouting up and coming MMA talent on the regional level; which is a return to Dana White’s roots in the sport.

The latest original programming features a similar concept, only on this particular show White leaves the scouting to his matchmakers and the traveling to the fighters. “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series,” is filmed each week, when fighters from around the world converge in the UFC’s backyard to throw down at the Ultimate Fighter Gym in Las Vegas.

Here is a quick user’s guide to Week 7 of the show (#DWTNCS):

LIGHT HEAVYWEIGHT: Anton Berzin (5-1) vs Kennedy Nzechukwu (2-0)

A pair of Light Heavyweights with less than 10 pro mma fights combined between them will collide in the main event of week 7. The promotion does not typically showcase individuals with less than 10 pro fights (each) but the perpetually shallow 205lb division is always hiring.

There are plenty of young, up and coming prospects at Light Heavyweight, but the UFC always needs more. Berzin had a stint on TUF 19 but lost a decision in his first fight in the tournament. He spent the next 2 and a half years on the shelf, returning to the cage in last April earning a submission win.

A May 2017 knockout victory brings his win streak to 2-0 since returning to competition. Kennedy’s  2-0 represents the totality of his professional fight record. Despite limited experience, he comes in highly touted as the #8 Light Heavyweight from the state of Texas. An interesting fact about Nzechukwu: he made his pro debut at Heavyweight (where he also fought his only amateur fight) against a fighter with 18 professional fights (9-9) and put his opponent away in the 2nd round. Expect fireworks, as Berzin is no slouch at striking either.

BANTAMWEIGHT: Benito Lopez (7-0) vs Steven Peterson (15-5)

The UFC’s Bantamweight division has more attention on it than ever with stars like Cody Garbrandt, TJ Dillashaw and Dominick Cruz at the top of the division. The rest of the top-10 boasts a handful of fan favorites as well, but none of them are truly household names. This division is deeper than it has ever been, but still desperate for stars to fill its ranks. Either one of these men would make a welcome edition to the Bantamweight roster.

MMA Latest News caught up with Steven Peterson, who said he does not anticipate the phenomenon known as “Octagon Shock.” In fact, Peterson told MMA Latest News he prefers the challenge of the bigger stage, “I tend to thrive in the high pressure situations, I enjoy it. The more pressure, the better.” Winning big is the name of the game. A contract is not guaranteed to all the winners, so at the conclusion of the show, UFC President Dana White signs each of the fighters with the best wins.

When prompted, Peterson quickly named his poison, “I prefer a TKO. I like to break my opponent. That’s what I forsee on Tuesday night. I’m going to push the pace. By the second round, he’ll be broken and I’ll finish him.”

Benito Lopez is an undefeated Team Alpha Male prospect. Though he has considerably less experience in the cage, there is something to be said for the company he keeps. The UFC Bantamweight Champion, Cody Garbrandt and UFC Hall of Famer Urijah Faber are certainly two of the best mentors and training partners that an up and coming Bantamweight can surround themselves with.

FLYWEIGHT: Joby Sanchez (10-2) VS JP Buys (4-1)

Jackson-Winklejohn prospect Joby Sanchez gets a second chance to fight in the UFC after posting a 1-2 record across three fights in the promotion. Sanchez suffered his 1st professional loss at the hands of Wilson Reis back in 2014, but currently rides a 3-fight win streak since being cut from the UFC roster in 2015. He is opponent, JP Buys, comes all the way from South Africa for his chance at a spot on the coveted roster. With minimal experience as pro, at 4-1, he is currently riding a 3 fight win streak, including a submission victory that avenged the only loss on his record.

LIGHTWEIGHT: Mike Santiago (20-9) VS Mark Cherico (11-1)

This Lightweight fight is not to be missed! Santiago has won 10 in a row (7 submissions, 2 KO’s and 1 Unanimous Decision) and is ranked as the #1 Lightweight AND Featherweight in both Indiana and New Jersey. Cherico is ranked #1 at Lightweight in the state of Pennsylvania and has only one loss in his pro career, adding to an impressive amateur record of 9-0 (all by finish – 8 submissions and 1 KO).

FLYWEIGHT: Nick Urso (10-3) vs Jordan Espinosa (10-5)

Urso is another product of New Mexico’s Jackson-Winklejohn and he is ranked as the #1 Flyweight in his home state, as well as in Colorado. Espinosa also fights out of Albuquerque, but trains with a different camp – of course. This fight is actually a rematch from a 2016 bout that resulted in a no contest.

Urso appeared to be in control of the fight and revealed in a post-fight interview with Combat Sports Weekly  that he thought the ref stoppage was the result of a TKO; believing he had won the fight until the ref ended the action for illegal blows to the back of the head.

This is by far the only true grudge match on the lineup for the evening. With both men still verbally sparring in interviews they are looking to settle the score once and for all, with a possible UFC contract at stake. Follow the action on @MMALatestNws via Twitter or watch with a Fight Pass subscription, the event will be streamed live on Tuesday evening.

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Fighter to Watch

Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”



In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega



UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child



Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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