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The Return of the King: UFC 197’s Fighter to Watch

Steven Cavagnino

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Although we are still a few days out, it’s relatively safe to say that former Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones, is officially back. It wasn’t without some scares, however; including a less-than-friendly run in with a local police officer and an injury that threatened to derail the whole main event. With the past year Jones had, it makes the pick for ‘Fighter to Watch’ an easy one this time around as fans have been chomping at the bit to see him return since the day he was stripped of the title. Despite the fact that he is not facing long time foe, Daniel Cormier, for a chance at becoming a two-time champion, Jones has an interesting fight ahead of him.

While we might not receive an answer to all the questions we had coming into this fight, rest assured that the big ones will be answered, namely:  how will Jones look after a year off? He has a monster in front of him in Ovince St. Preux to demonstrate just that. OSP is a fighter whose raw potential ranks among the top of the UFC’s entire roster. You just have to glance at that man to see what kind of athlete he is, and that’s without diving into his previous resume. The fact that he can knock his opponents out so effortlessly it sometimes looks accidental, is a huge hurdle to leap for anyone in 205 pound division, including Jones. OSP’s size is also a big factor in this fight as Jones will not be at the stunning advantage he usually is when it comes to reach and physicality. Put together all of these factors and this fight will be a true test for Jones, make no mistake about it. For those who felt Jones needed to prove himself before receiving a title shot, well, here you go. Beating the #6 ranked LHW in the UFC should be enough proof to the naysayers and who knows, maybe having a warmup fight might actually prove beneficial to Jones seeing as he’s never had to deal with potential ring rust.

The situation for Jones at UFC 197 draws several parallels to the path current bantamweight champion, Dominick Cruz, took on his way back to reclaiming the championship he was forced to forfeit. When Cruz made his UFC return he faced #5 bantamweight, Takeya Mizugaki, and absolutely demolished the veteran fighter, proving he was ready to get his belt back. Now we will see if Jones can do the same against OSP. It’s a litmus test of sorts, fans get a taste of Jones and Jones gets a taste of the Octagon he has been missing from for so long. It’s Jones’ biggest test to date being that the outcome will determine his immediate fighting future. If and how he passes this test is the real question, which is why, if there is any fighter to watch at UFC 197, it is Jon ‘Bones’ Jones.

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Stephen Thompson wants Rafael dos Anjos in contender eliminator bout

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Over the weekend, Rafael dos Anjos defeated Robbie Lawler at UFC Fight Night: Winnipeg, in dominant fashion via unanimous decision. The main event of the Canadian event was Dos Anjos’ third victory in as many fights at welterweight. The former UFC lightweight champion moved up in weight after suffering two consecutive losses. First, relinquishing his championship title to Eddie Alvarez, then falling to current interim lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson. Although the Brazilian had fought at the 155-pound weight limit exclusively in his career, his weight cut in order to reach the lightweight limit is admittedly brutal.

When talking with FloCombat, the top welterweight contender claimed, “It is not worth it [the weight cut] considering the amount I’m earning today. This was one of my motivations to change to welterweight. I don’t need to kill myself and earn this salary.” He further explained the agony of making the weight limit, “I want to avoid those last 15 pounds. That is terror and panic. It’s almost death. I don’t need to face that anymore. I want to fight well and happy, get in there strong and in good shape”.

Now that Dos Anjos has arrived at welterweight with such success, he believes he deserves a shot at Tyron Woodley and the 170-pound belt.

This is a sentiment that UFC president Dana White seems to agree with. At the Toronto press conference, White fielded a question on whether or not the winner of the Lawler vs. Dos Anjos match-up would yield a title contender, “Yup,” he responded. Later in the press event, White further clarified Dos Anjos’ position in the welterweight ranks, “(RDA) just had a great win to get himself back into contention and a win over Robbie Lawler obviously would do it”.

Yet, another top-ranked welterweight does not agree. Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson wants a third crack at welterweight gold, and he believes Dos Anjos is his ticket back to title contention.

What makes this challenge intriguing? The status of current welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley. Last week, Woodley announced on his TMZ show, The Hollywood Beatdown, he would be having surgery. The champion stated, “I’m going to go ahead and get this shoulder repaired. I’ve been saying, ‘You know what, I don’t want to get it cut on, I don’t want to get it repaired.’ But if there’s no fight that really makes a ton of sense for me to take the risk, to not be 100 percent with my shoulder, then I’m going to go ahead and have it repaired. They’re not going to do a full orthopedic rehabilitation, but they’re going to do a scope and they’re going to anchor down some sides. Then I’m going to get some PRP (platelet-rich plasma), some stem cells.” A timetable for his return is not readily available.

As the division stands, the truly deserving of the next welterweight title shot would be either Thompson or Dos Anjos. The recent credentials of both garner such status. Thompson most recently defeated rising contender, Jorge Masvidal at UFC 217. Before his early November victory over Masvidal, the undefeated kick-boxer challenged for the belt twice, consecutively. While he was unsuccessful in both attempts to earn the belt, each fight was extremely close. The first of which, scored a majority draw.

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*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results

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The UFC returns to Canada for the final Fight Night card of 2017. In the cold of Winnipeg, Manitoba, the UFC will host eleven of the originally twelve scheduled fights. Unfortunately, Tim Elliot will not fight in the north country. His scheduled opponent, Pietro Menga, a newcomer to the promotions roster, failed to make weight after taking the bout with just over a weeks notice.

An exciting main card will be capped off with a potential contender eliminator bout featuring, Robbie Lawler and Rafael Dos Anjos. The former champions (Lawler at welterweight, Dos Anjos at lightweight) both put together impressive win streaks which dispatched top contenders in their respective divisions. Elsewhere on the main card, Santiago Ponzinibbio takes on the outspoken Mike Perry.

The card begins on UFC Fight Pass at 4:30/1:30 ETPT.

UFC Winnipeg Official Results:

MAIN CARD – FOX – 8PM/5PM ETPT

  • #2 Robbie Lawler (28-11) vs. #4 Rafael Dos Anjos (27-9) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Rafael Dos Anjos def. Robbie Lawler via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 50-45)
  • #3 Ricardo Lamas (18-5) vs. Josh Emmett (12-1) – Catchweight bout (148.5 lbs)
    • Result: Josh Emmett def. Ricardo Lamas via KO (punch) 4:33 round 1
  • #10 Santiago Ponzinibbio (25-3) vs. Mike Perry (11-1) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Santiago Ponzinibbio def. Mike Perry via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • #3 Glover Teixeira (26-6) vs. #7 Misha Cirkunov (13-3) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Glover Teixeira def. Misha Cirkunov via TKO (punches) 2:45  round 1

PRELIMINARY CARD – FS1 – 5PM/2PM ETPT

  • #14 Jared Cannonier (10-2) vs #15 Jan Blachowicz (20-7) – Light Heavyweight bout
    • Result: Jan Blachowicz def. Jared Cannonier via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
  • Julian Marquez (6-1) vs. Darren Stewart (7-2) – Middleweight bout
    • Result: Julian Marquez def. Darren Stewart via submission (standing guillotine) 2:42 round 2
  • Chad Laprise (13-2) vs. Galore Bofando (5-2) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Chad Laprise def. Galore Bofando via TKO (punches) 4:10 round 1
  • Nordine Taleb (13-4) vs Danny Roberts (14-2) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Nordine Taleb def. Danny Roberts via KO (head kick and punch) :59 round 1
  • John Makdessi (14-6) vs Abel Trujillo (15-7) – Lightweight bout
    • Result: John Makdessi def. Abel Trujillo via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
  • Alessio Di Chirico (10-2) vs Oluwale Bamgbose (6-3) – Middleweight bout
    • Result: Alessio Di Chirico def. Oluwale Bamgbose via KO (knee) 2:14 round 2

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD – UFC FIGHT PASS – 4:30PM/1:30PM ETPT

  • Jordan Mein (29-12) vs. Erick Silva (19-8) – Welterweight bout
    • Result: Jordan Mein def. Erick Silva via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-26)
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Fight Announcements

Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando

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The UFC has now added more bouts to the front end of their 2018 schedule. Gilbert Burns (13-2, 5-2 UFC) will face Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2, 6-2 UFC) in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.

Alongside a few other high-profile fight announcements, is the addition to the UFC Orlando, Florida card. The two lightweights will join Jake Collier and Marcin Prachnio, as the second fight set for the event.

It has been a while since the UFC hosted an event in the state of Florida. Last seen by the Floridians was UFC on Fox: Texeira vs. Evans, on April 16, 2016 in Tampa Bay. The card was a success, despite the cancellation of its planned main event between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov. Drawing a gate of $1.05 million and 2.13 million viewers.

Gilbert Burns signed with the UFC after accumulating an undefeated record of 8-0. His first loss came in his home country of Brazil, as Rashid Magomedov defeated him via unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night: Belfort vs. Henderson 3, in November of 2015.

In his most recent bout, Burns defeated Jason Saggo by KO with five seconds remaining in the second round at UFC Fight Night: Rockhold vs. Branch.

Aubin-Mercier will come into the contest as a winner in his last three bouts. The Canadian fighter trains out of the Tristar gym, alongside legends such as Georges St. Pierre and head coach, Firas Zahabi.

In 2011, Aubin-Mercier was chosen to compete on The Ultimate Fighter: Nations. Competing in the welterweight bracket, he became a finalist by defeating both, Jake Mathews (unanimous decision) and Richard Walsh (rear naked choke). In the finale, Aubin-Mercier lost to Chad Laprise by split decision.

UFC Orlando will take place at the Amway Center in Orlando, Florida on February 24th, 2018.

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