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Preview – ONE Championship: Warrior’s Quest (Part 1)

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This upcoming Friday, ONE Championship will have its third show of the year in Singapore with 11 bouts, including 2 title fights – Shinya Aoki will defend his lightweight belt against Koji Ando and the scrap between undefeated Thai Dedjadamrong Sor Amnuaysirichoke and Roy Doliguez for the vacant strawweight belt.

Here are part 1 of the fight breakdown:

Ali Yaakub (0-1) vs Jianbing Yang (3-0)
Yaakub, a decorated Muay Thai practitioner in his home country Malaysia, have shown to be able to stand toe to toe against the now-title contender Amnuaysirichoke in his last outing. Unfortunately, it also showed his lack of ground game, and he’s paired up against Yang who got 2 out of his 3 wins via submission, all of which was obtained after a series of grappling exchanges.

On the flipside, nothing much can be said on Yang’s standup, which thus far only intended to set up clinches and has not been effective even against opponents with a combined record of 1-8 to this day. Yang is likely to face the best striker in his fighting career in this match, and given the little progress that Yang made between his fights, this fight may look to be more competitive than what it seemed to be.

However, Yang’s durability may hold the key in this fight. While Yaakub may defend Yang’s takedown attempts early in the game and landing shots, Yang has so far proven to be resilient in weathering shots to close the distance and get the takedown. I see Yaakub defending the takedowns early in the fight with Yang maintaining the pressure and ultimately getting the fight to the ground to finish it.

Prediction: Yang by R2 Sub

Angela Lee (0-0) vs Aya Saied Saber (3-5)
Saber has shown her ability in a competitive fight against Ana Julaton, where she managed to stand toe-to-toe against the boxing champion and outwrestle the Filipino fighter until the third round where she made a mistake and ended on the bottom of mount, Julaton pounding away. However, she seemed powerless against a more skilled grappler in Ann Osman, where she was quickly taken down and submitted within the opening round.

Lee may only have 3 wins on the amateur scene, but have finished all her opponents within the first round. She was not afraid to stand and bang, and rightfully so given the competition she was in, but it is when the fight went to the ground is where the BJJ purple belt finishes her opponents.

While Saber may have more experience on paper and likely to have the size advantage (Lee fought her last fight at 115lbs), Lee’s standup should be sufficient for her to close the distance and end the fight on the ground – where Saber is at greater disadvantage.

Prediction: Angela Lee by R1 Sub

 

Benedict Ang (0-0) vs Waqar Umar (3-2)
Ang will be the first out of 2 amateurs making their debuts in the night’s card. The undefeated 19-year old have been dominant in his past outings, winning all three matches with his ground game. His standup game has so far adequate to implement his game plan against the level of competition he had faced, but untested against higher level of competition.

His opponent, Waqar Umar, is on a 2 fight losing streak on ONE, but it is worth noting that both came with asterisks. The first time around, he was faced with a visa issue that only allowed him to weigh in in the morning before the fight, while his second loss was marred with a low blow and an elbow to the back of Umar’s head that should’ve ended the fight with a DQ.

So far, Umar have shown that he is capable to stand and trade with the bigger striker in Davis, but he has proven to be more comfortable on the ground and attacking with submissions. His takedown defense, however, remain questionable, and at times he seemed to be getting too comfortable fighting off his back, both of which key points to fight against a grappler with strong top game like Ang.

Prediction: Ang wins by UD

 

Amir Khan (3-1) vs Shannon Wiratchai (3-1)

Originally slated for Manila show, Amir Khan finally faced Shannon Wiratchai in Singapore.

Khan showed dangerous he is on the clinch, particularly on his last fight against Bashir Ahmad, where Khan controlled the fight with his clinch, pick apart the Pakistani with his knees, and take him down at will. Striking-wise, Khan showed an powerful and accurate standup in his ONE debut, where he picked apart Jian Kai Chee with his boxing en route to an opening round KO.

The level of striking shown by Wiratchai, however, is a notch above Khan, particularly when he took apart Mitch Chilson on both of their fights. On the clinch and on the ground, Wiratchai will be at a disadvantage against Khan. Wiratchai have shown the shortcomings on these positions on his past fights, particularly on his loss against Bashir Ahmad 2 years ago.

Expect to see Wiratchai’s advantage on striking getting neutralised, as Khan grind his way to a decision win.

Prediction: Khan by UD

 

Stephen Langdown (2-1) vs Heili Alateng (3-4)

Langdown may only have less than 8 minutes of effective cage time, but in that short period of time has shown a great deal of power, accuracy, and aggression in his wins. His defense, however, is a suspect. He got caught with clean shots and knocked down in his last 2 fights, and his weakness on the ground was apparent against a stronger grappler like Suire, where Langdown was unable to recover after the fight went to the ground.

Alateng may have more experience on paper, but his MMA game seem a bit raw. His game so far revolved around swinging for the fences or shooting for takedowns with little set up. Even when he gets the takedown, his top control is not as strong as what is expected from a wrestler.

Expect to see Langdown, to keep the fight standing and picking apart Alateng from the outside and ultimately finish him in later rounds

Prediction: Langdown by R2 KO

 

Eddie Ng (7-2) vs Ariel Sexton (9-3)

Sexton may have lost his ONE Championship debut against Kamal Shalorus, but he proved to be a stiff opposition against the Iranian; reversing, even taking the lightweight title contender down and threatening him from the back several times during the three round bout. A BJJ black belt, Sexton all but two of sexton’s 9 wins are achieved through submission, and he has shown to have a strong transitions and reversals from the bottom. Standing up, sexton may not be too technical standing up, nor a sufficient KO power for this level of competition, but Sexton made it up with his intensity, and this is enough to bring the fight to the ground where he is more dangerous.

Ng may just had his first loss in ONE a year ago against Vincent Latoel when Latoel knocked him down and referee Yuji Shimada prematurely stop the contest. In his past outings, Ng have always been touted as a skilled grappler, and rightfully so, but he is equally dangerous standing up, having scored quick KO finishes in early years of ONE against 2 standup artists.

Sexton is definitely in a class above all Ng’s previous opponents, and this will be the first time Ng fought against a more decorated grappler under MMA ruleset, which may affect his confidence in going to the ground. Standing up, Ng have may have shown more power on his strikes than the Costa Rican, but Sexton have more variety on his striking repertoire and this may turn the tide in the likely event that the fight goes to the distance.

Prediction: Sexton by UD

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Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg

Harry Davies

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The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.

The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.

Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.

Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.

Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.

Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.

With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:

  • Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
  • Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
  • Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
  • Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
  • Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
  • Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
  • Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
  • John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
  • Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
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Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions

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  • The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.

More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.

Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.

There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.

While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.

With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.

Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.

Former UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone has looked spectacular since making the move up to 170-pounds.

However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.

At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.

The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.

So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.

The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.

The UFC’s official website only lists four fighters in the women’s featherweight division.

Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.

Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.

Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.

The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.

From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.

Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.

Could we see the current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley compete at 175-pounds in the future?

If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.

As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.

However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.

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James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury

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Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.

The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016.  James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.

After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.

Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.

Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”

His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.

 

 

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