With Paige VanZant’s bout against Joanne Calderwood canceled, many were surprised to see strawweight contender Rose Namajunas jump at the opportunity. Fresh off of an October 3rd victory against fellow TUF alumni Angela Hill, Namajunas wants to get back into the cage to build momentum for another winning streak.
In a recent interview with Ariel Helwani on the MMA Hour, Rose discussed her take on a bout with VanZant. A fight she was given, only a day prior the UFC’s public announcement of the matchup.
“This is great,” said Rose. “This is the perfect opportunity for me. I get to be back in a high profile fight… with an opponent that I can definitely be ready for and I’m in the best shape of my life.”
The most surprising aspect of this fight is just how quickly Rose has taken it after already having fought in October. Rose isn’t typically known as a back to back fighter, having only fought once in 2014. Rose talked about the awkwardly long layoff period and why the change of heart at this time in her career.
“After my last vacation – after the Carla fight – I just took a long time off,” conceded Rose. “I kind of realized that that was the time that I needed off… mentally I’m more motivated than ever.”
Another surprise was the seeming disparity in the comparative division rankings between the #6th ranked VanZant and the #3rd ranked Namajunas. Though the criticism in VanZant’s abilities is a small minority, the fighter has been arguably mischaracterized as Reebok’s golden girl. Some consider Paige a PR project of the UFC, a fighter who’s career has been allowed to be groomed gradually through her division despite her sudden popularity. Much of this criticism comes from higher ranked fighters who are enraged at the notion of a Reebok sponsorship being handed to a newer and younger fighter.
Many people think that the bump up to a match with Rose is a bit too soon for Paige. Rose disagrees since Paige was initially supposed to fight the #8 ranked Joanne Calderwood anyways. From Rose’ perspective, this matchup falls right in line with Paige’s natural progression through the strawweight division.
“I think [this match] is a really natural progression,” explained Namajunas. “I think that we were going to be lined up right after [her planned fight with Calderwood] or maybe one more fight after that. I view her as a high-level opponent even though there’s a lot of criticism around saying that maybe she was brought up slowly… but I think it’s a very natural progression the way that we’ve kind of matched up right now.”
Despite Rose’s compliments towards her opponent, she’s still not slighting herself or her abilities. For many, Paige VanZant is still just the Reebok poster girl just breaking the top ten of a still new division. VanZant’s attempt to crack the top five is still a steep curve in skill and quite frankly a test that many have been waiting for Paige to take.
“Obviously this is a jump up in competition for her,” continued Namajunas. “That’s the test that everybody’s been waiting for, and that she’s been waiting for as well. I’m more than welcome to bring it to her.”
With Paige VanZant’s popularity and Rose’s notoriety, this is sure to be a high-profile fight for the women’s strawweight division. A win here would also set either fighter onto a direct path for title contention making the stakes immensely high despite the fighter’s rankings. For Rose, she feels a newfound maturity in her training and her fighting. She feels as if she’s in her prime, that she’s reached a new milestone and is ready to really kick this next phase of her career into perpetual motion.
The fight is planned as the headlining bout for December 10th’s UFC Fight Night 80 card in Las Vegas. It’ll be interesting to see how soon Rose intends to fight after December 10th, and whether or not this newfound momentum is a side effect of winning or whether or not a loss will derail her into another long hiatus. Rose is adamant though that she’s turned a new leaf and that fighting is much more than a sprint to a title shot. That for her fighting has become an expression of her character.
“It’s weird. Losing wasn’t even a possibility,” contemplates Rose. “Losing [wasn’t] even a reality in my life. Even though [losing] has happened before, you forget that real quick when you’re on a roll. For me, that’s the main thing [now], is keeping myself humble, keeping myself happy and loving the fights – the way I have all my life – and using it as a way to express myself rather than just trying to be cocky and overly dominant.”
Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
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.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
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
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
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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