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.
*Live Updates* UFC Winnipeg Official Results
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
- #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)
Gilbert Burns vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier Added to UFC Orlando
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.
— UFC Canada (@UFC_CA) December 14, 2017
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.
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida Officially Headlines UFC Belem
Eryk Anders vs. Lyoto Machida is officially booked to headline UFC Belem in Brazil.
Following his unanimous decision victory over Markus Perez on last weekends, UFC Fight Night: Ortega vs. Swanson, undefeated middleweight, Eryk Anders, called for the match-up with former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida. The UFC heard, and obliged.
First reported by The MMA Kings (@mma_kings.)
EXCLUSIVE: My sources tell me that Eryk Anders (@erykanders) has gotten his wish. He'll headline UFC Fight Night: Belem against Lyoto Machida (@lyotomachidafw) in Brazil. Ask and you shall receive. #UFC pic.twitter.com/qX62A9qH6k
— The MMA Kings (Nolan King) (@mma_kings) December 14, 2017
Anders holds a 2-0 undefeated record in the UFC. The Alabama native made his promotional debut against Rafael Nata in July of this year. A bout he took on short notice, replacing Alessio di Chirico whom withdrew from the fight due to a neck injury. Anders defeated Natal by knockout in the first round that night at UFC Long Island.
Prior to his indoctrination to MMA, the undefeated middleweight played for the University of Alabama football team, between 2006-2009.
Machida recently returned to the UFC roster after an 18-month suspension handed down by USADA, stemming from a failed out-of-competition test leading up to his April 2016 contest against Dan Henderson.
In his return to the octagon, Machida faced Derek Brunson in the main-event of the UFC Fight Night: Brunson vs. Machida, in Sao Paulo, Brazil. “The Dragon” lost the bout via first round KO.
UFC Belem, Brazil is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018, at the Mangueirinho Arena. The card will also feature the flyweight debut for Valentina Shevchenko as she faces Priscila Cachoeira.
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