On Sunday night, the Mandalay Bay Events Center plays host to UFC Fight Night: Almeida vs Garbrandt. It is a card packed with intriguing contests, from the main event between two of the bantamweight division’s fastest rising stars, all the way down to the Fight Pass prelims where Aljamain Sterling finally gets to fight Bryan Caraway. With Renan Barao vs Jeremy Stephens, Tarec Saffiedine vs Rick Story and Jorge Masvidal vs Lorenz Larkin all crammed into the middle, this is a card with significant hardcore fan appeal.
With so much interest held by the main card and the aforementioned Sterling vs Caraway bout, it would be easy to overlook the FOX Sports 1 preliminary headliner. Tucked away neatly in that spot is a 135-pound scrap between Sara McMann and Jessica Eye that will tell us plenty about the career trajectories of both fighters. More than that, it says a lot about where the women’s bantamweight division is at right now.
While the official UFC rankings list McMann at #6 and Eye at #7, in truth, neither would be ranked in the top ten at 135 pounds based purely on recent win/loss records, and that’s even before you include current Invicta FC champion Tonya Evinger above them. Both fighters have gone 1-3 in their last four.
McMann’s defeats have come against three of the four best fighters in the division. Ronda Rousey, Miesha Tate, and Amanda Nunes. While there is no shame in that, her lone win during that run was a less than impressive and highly contentious split decision victory over Lauren Murphy in August 2014.
Eye’s recent record is comparable. Defeats to Alexis Davis and Miesha Tate came with no shame attached. A unanimous decision defeat to Julianna Pena last time out suggested Eye had a lot of work to do if she was to get back into title contention. And that is where both women have come from.
McMann fought then “Queen of MMA” Ronda Rousey back at UFC 170 for the bantamweight title. Billed as a clash between single discipline standouts, two Olympic medallists who knew what it was to compete at the very highest level, the highly anticipated contest ended in anti-climax when a Rousey knee to the body forced McMann to double over and the fight was stopped.
Many believed the stoppage was premature and that there was life in a rematch. At the very least, for the minute and six seconds that it lasted, McMann had managed to avoid being taken down by Rousey. Had McMann been able to beat Miesha Tate at UFC 183, a fight she was winning comfortably in the early going, the Olympic silver medallist may have got that second shot at the champ.
The same could be said for Jessica Eye. Often talked about as a threat to Rousey’s divisional dominance, with her slick footwork and fast hands, she was one fight away from a title shot in 2015. When she fought Miesha Tate at UFC on FOX 16, the bout had been tagged as an official number one contender’s fight. The winner would get a crack at the UFC championship. As it turned out Tate won and did not get a title shot, but the general feeling was always that had Eye emerged victorious she was very much a part of the championship matchmaking plans.
Following their recent losses both fighters now seem a million miles away from the title shots they craved. At 29-years-old Eye still has time to work her way back into contention. At 35, McMann might not. Should she lose to Eye on Sunday night, that might become a near-certainty, and then new questions are asked and the thought of seeing McMann’s name on a dreaded “roster cuts” post is anything but far fetched. A defeat for Eye isn’t doing her any favors in that department either. Three straight losses isn’t a good look for anyone.
And that’s really what this fight is telling us. The bantamweight division, and with it women’s MMA as a whole, has moved on. The often used quantifier is that women’s MMA is 10 years behind the men. At this point, that gap has probably closed, but it certainly hadn’t when McMann and Eye broke through as two of their division’s standout performers.
In 2013 when McMann improved her professional record to 7-0 with a first round stoppage of Sheila Gaff at UFC 159, we were still at a point where elite single discipline fighters could carve a quick path to the top. Just look at Ronda Rousey’s meteoric rise at the same time based on little more than world class judo and overwhelming aggression.
By 2015, the landscape had changed, with Rousey’s title defeat against Holly Holm serving as proof. By 2016, when Holm made her first title defense against Miesha Tate, we were given the single best example of how far women’s MMA had come. Like never before, here were two phenomenal fighters in a fluid contest that pulsed back and forth. Nearly five rounds of top class championship action, adjustments made mid-fight by both, as they reacted to the shifts in momentum and the success of their opponent. Something Rousey herself had been unable to do against Holm.
Now McMann’s wins over Sheila Gaff and Lauren Murphy inside the UFC’s octagon seem even less impressive. Eye’s ability to compete with Sarah Kaufman and Alexis Davis has not held the test of time either, partly because Kaufman was subsequently beaten by another of the new breed in Valentina Shevchenko, and partly because Eye suffered the same fate against another, Julianna Pena.
When Jessica Eye and Sara McMann meet on Sunday night in Las Vegas they will be fighting to stay on a path that both women once believed led to Ronda Rousey and UFC gold. More than that, they’ll be fighting to prove that they still have a place at the top end of a division that is developing at pace. The loser might just get left behind for good.
Exclusive: Derek Brunson: “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up”
Derek Brunson fought Anderson Silva back in February of this year, at UFC 208. Brunson would go on to lose the fight by controversial unanimous decision. However, the controversies didn’t stop at the questionable decision, Brunson also claims Silva was greasing during the fight. The Wilmington, North Carolina native, posted about it on Twitter a few days ago:
Just make sure you don’t put cooking oil all over your body like Anderson did so it’ll be easy to grab ahold of you @lyotomachidafw 👌
— Derek Brunson (@DerekBrunson) October 17, 2017
Speaking with MMA Latest, Brunson explained why he believes Silva was greasing during the fight. “Anderson was definitely a little lubed up. Every time I grabbed him he was just slipping out of everything, and his takedown defense was really good that night. I was definitely curious to know why he was very slippery, which I definitely think he had some kind of substance on his body. He knows I’m a wrestler obviously, he’s an old, savvy veteran, so he was definitely trying to play all the rules and be very strategic, and make it harder for a wrestler to grab him.”
Brunson is set to face Lyoto Machida come October 28, when asked about whether he was worried about Machida greasing, considering Gegard Mousasi accused him of doing so in their fight, Brunson admitted he wasn’t too worried.
“Well I’m not too worried, but like I said, I put it out there because I know they’re friends and I know, obviously, that’s kind of what the guys do when they know they’re fighting a wrestler. They want to lube their body up really good to make it hard to grab hold, Anderson did a great job defending my takedowns. It’s because he was all greased up so he was able to stop a lot of them. When I grab guys in the clinch, it’s very tough for them to get away and I’m pretty good with my Greco takedown. He was pretty much pulling through my clinch when I had a tight grip on him and if you have some kind of substance on your body it’s easy to pull them.”
Neither Silva nor his management have commented on the greasing allegations. Anderson Silva makes his return against Kelvin Gastelum later this year, in China. While Brunson makes his return to the Octagon on October 28th, in Brazil, where he looks to add Lyoto Machida’s name to his impressive list of victories.
Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217
UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.
The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:
— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) October 19, 2017
It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.
Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.
Fight News update!!
— UFC (@ufc) October 19, 2017
This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.
With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th? Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
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