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Rose Namajunas Views #6 Ranked Paige VanZant as a High Level Opponent

AJ Camacho

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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.”

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Fight Announcements

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220

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UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)

Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:

“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.

The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.

If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.

Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.

UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.

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Events

Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview

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Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.

LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.

Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.

Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)

The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.

In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.

Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.

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Invicta

Mackenzie Dern victorious in Invicta debut 

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Late Friday night, Mackenzie Dern (5-0, 1-0 Invicta FC) won her co-main event booking, defeating Kaline Medieros (8-6, 2-2 Invicta FC), at Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzwiedz, via submission (armbar) with only fifteen seconds remaining in the fight.

Much of the fight was controlled by Dern. The heralded prospect displayed her power, visibly damaging her opponent with multiple overhand rights. Striking is an under-developed aspect of her attack, only when compared to the twenty-four-year-olds black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. Above all, she showed a progression of her striking skills. Dern looked to be bigger and physically stronger than her veteran opponent. She utilized forward pressure and found the proper timing for her overhand right throughout.

The veteran Medeiros showed her toughness throughout the fight. She defended and scrambled out of some bad positions during the grappling exchanges. Ultimately, she tapped when caught in a deeply planted armbar.  While Medeiros did earn a few hard trip takedowns, it factored minimally in the result as she refused to follow Dern to the mat. The Boston native suffered her second straight loss, Friday night. Her first was to, former Invicta strawweight champion, Angela Hill.

Dern made her professional debut in July of 2016 with Legacy Fighting Alliance (previously: Legacy Fighting Championship). In her debut, she defeated Kenia Rosas by unanimous decision. The Phoenix-born fighter won her next three bouts. Before her MMA career began, Dern won the ADCC (Abu Dhabi Combat Club) championship at 60 kg. She was the first American born female to become champion at the weight. Her grappling resume boasts many more incredible accomplishments. Justifiably, a growing spotlight now hangs over her, her skills, and potential in the sport of MMA.

Elsewhere on the Invicta 26 card, Jennifer Maia defeated Agnieszka Niedzweidz by unanimous decision. Maia retained her Invicta flyweight belt, defending it for the second time. Invicta FC 26: Maia vs. Niedzweidz, took place at the Scottish Rite Temple in Kansas City, Missouri.

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