A look at the Bantamweight division with Dominick Cruz as the champion is almost like throwing wood into a slow burning fire. Cruz won his 13th consecutive fight at UFC 199 and defended his title for the second time in his second stint. Young stars are emerging in the division and are hungry to win the belt from one of the P4P best in the world. With young and veteran fighters alike, it’s quickly becoming one of the most exciting divisions in the UFC.
Cruz continues to run the Bantamweight division with an iron fist with another title defense at UFC 199. The trilogy fight with fan favorite Urijah Faber went the way of Cruz as he used the mastery of his movement and all-around skill level. After allowing ‘The California Kid’ to land just 21% of his Significant Strikes and 1 of his 6 takedown attempts. The longtime kingpin atop the 135-pound division has a collection of young talent awaiting their turn at a title shot.
Next In Line
Winner of TJ Dillashaw vs. Raphael Assuncao
The ‘biggest event in UFC history’ is less than a month away and includes a likely Bantamweight title eliminator when former champion TJ Dillashaw rematches Raphael Assuncao at UFC 200. The winner likely gets the next title shot, especially with a good showing. The fight being one month after the last title fight puts the time right in tune for a late summer, early fall return.
Dillashaw won the title at UFC 173 and was able to defend it twice before running into Cruz at Fight Night 81. With spectacular performances against Renan Barao (twice) and Joe Soto, along with a close fight against Cruz, has kept Dillashaw in the thick of things. A win here would likely set up a rematch fight or another big fight with either a Bryan Caraway or Cody Garbrandt.
Assuncao is a winner of seven straight, including a win over Dillashaw and Caraway. A two-year layoff has put a halt on the title train for Assuncao, but a return bout with Dillashaw puts him back on the rails. A loss here would likely kill the hopes for a title shot until another run like this one. A dominant win or finish is the only way ensure a title shot, but a win none-the-less will keep him going forward in this race.
The star power is all on girlfriend Miesha Tate at the moment, but Bryan Caraway is doing alright for himself. After a decision win over Aljamain Sterling at Fight Night 88, Caraway is looking for the stars with a title shot. His wins over Eddie Wineland and Sterling in his last two sets up the Xtreme Couture product for a big fight with title implications. A fight with anyone above him in the rankings such as a Urijah Faber fight or a fight with Cody Garnbrandt at UFC 203 (per the request of Garbrandt) will suffice in moving him forward.
A dominating win over Thomas Almeida in a headlining bout in May put the young prospect on the map. The biggest win of his career couldn’t have come at a better time with contenders dropping left and right, Garbrandt has stood strong and kept up. A fight with Urijah Faber is out of the question as they are close teammates, but fights with Caraway, John Dodson, or Aljamain Sterling could catapult the young phenom into the starlight.
The ‘Funkmaster’ resigned with the UFC to become a champion back in January. His loss to Caraway sent him back a few steps as he’ll need big wins to show he can handle the fighters at the top. With top 15 wins in Takeya Mizugaki and Johnny Eduardo, Sterling should be looking up in the rankings still. Fights with Faber or Garbrandt would be the biggest tests while the safe fights would be a Jimmie Rivera fight. A good match up for both guys would be the one people have been looking forward to with Sterling against Thomas Almeida with both coming off of losses.
The 24-year-old talented fighter needed the win over Garbrandt that would have likely put him with one fight to a title shot. The loss doesn’t set him back much but puts the time back depending on how often he fights. With one marquee win over Brad Pickett, Almeida will have to prove he can hang with the big boys. Above him in the rankings could be fights with Faber or Dodson with guys like Johhny Eduardo and Eddie Wineland below him. The fight to make is Aljamain Sterling as both are coming off of losses, but still have a huge upside for the future.
Can you believe he is just 25 years old still? McDonald has already fought for an interim title with 8 UFC fights under his belt. After returning to action in January, ‘Mayday’ seems to be back in the fight business for good after losing his passion for the sport, along with hand injuries to boot. His fight with John Lineker in July will say a lot about both guys future in the division with Cruz as champion. A win over Lineker and a top 5 victory puts McDonald back in the running for a second shot at UFC gold.
One of the brightest budding stars in the division is Jimmie Rivera. With just one career loss, he holds three straight UFC wins over Marcus Brimage, Pedro Munhoz, and Iuri Alcantara. At 14 in the division rankings, the only people he wants to be looking at is in front of him. Best fights to go forward would be like Thomas Almeida or Aljamain Sterling despite both coming off of losses.
It might be a blessing in disguise that Lineker could not make 125 for so long. In his new home of Bantamweight, Lineker has had better cardio and seems to be healthier come fight day. His two-minute war with Francisco Rivera and destruction of Rob Font are just glimpses of what this guy can likely do at 135. His fight with Michael McDonald means a lot to his title future, possibly leaving him just a few fights away from a title shot.
The oldest one in this group is more of a ‘nowhere else to put him’ kind of place. His highly successful 125 pound run was halted with two losses to the champion, prompting a move up in weight. His speed and accuracy at this weight class will cause issues for anyone, but especially for the bigger Bantamweights. His win over Manny Gamburyan is just the start and should put the rest of the division on notice. Rankings almost don’t apply as of right now, leaving any opponent open for John Dodson
As with the Middleweight division, a guy who has lost his last seven chances at winning a title should be nowhere near a title picture. With his loss to Cruz and his fight career on the back half, Faber will settle into a different role. He is still a talented fighter, and could be used to see if guys can take that next step in their career towards being a champion. Any guy in the top 15 without an opponent could be fair game for him, and a win over Urijah Faber holds some weight to it.
UFC Announces Liverpool Event, Darren Till Main Event
Scousers are drowning in celebration this evening. Earlier today, UFC officials announced the addition of a Liverpool show to their 2018 event calendar. Liverpool’s, Echo Arena, plays host for the event, which takes place on May 27th.
Liverpool’s own, Darren Till made the announcement this afternoon with Dan Hardy at the UFC Fight Night: Werdum vs. Volkov, ceremonial weigh-in. When asked by Hardy what it means to have the UFC in Liverpool, he had this to day, “Words can’t describe it. It doesn’t do it justice, words. So, it’s coming and I’m going to be the first Scousers to ever have done it. In 200 years they’re going to remember my name in combat sports in Liverpool. I’m gonna take someones chin off in Liverpool, that’s what’s happening”.
He was also quoted in an release from the promotion saying, “I can’t believe UFC is finally coming to Liverpool and I’m going to be headlining Echo Arena. My name is going to be remembered in 200 years time for being part of this historical event and I can’t even describe how much that means to me”. Till will headline the card, his opponent is yet to be announced.
In the official release, it quotes David Shaw, Senior Vice President International and Content, claiming, “The stars really aligned for the Octagon to touch down in Liverpool. We have seen such phenomenal demand from fans in the region for a live event. Pair that with having such a rising, local star in Darren Till it made absolute sense to bring our first live event to this historical combat sports city in 2018”.
UFC Liverpool lands on a date speculated for a different venue, in a different country. Reports swirled last month, specifically one from MMAFighting.com, which claimed the May 27th date belonged to the UFCs return to Dublin. A return to Dublin doesn’t seem to fall completely out of the realm of possibility. For now, it remains to be seen.
The UFC also announced two bouts, both in the Middleweight division, booked for the event. Elias Therodorou takes on Trevor Smith, and Daniel Kelly goes up against England’s Tom Breese.
Marco Reyes Flagged for Potential Anti-Doping Policy Violation
Earlier today, UFC officials announced that Lightweight, Marco Reyes was flagged for a potential UFC Anti-Doping Policy violation. The potential violation hails from a sample collected on March 8th, 2018, in an out-of-competition test.
Reyes made his way into the UFC through The Ultimate Fighter Latin America, season 2. Competing in the lightweight bracket, Reyes defeated Christhian Soto by 2nd rd. TKO of a preliminary round bout. He then went onto to face Horacio Gutiérrez, in the semifinals of the tournament. Gutiérrez defeated Reyes in the opening round by TKO.
Following his elimination from the tournament, the Mexican fighter met Cezar Arzamendia on the series finale, The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 2 Finale. Reyes impressively defeated Arzamendia, whom was the first overall pick for Team Gastelum, by 1st round KO.
From there, Reyes defeated Dong Hung Kim (rd. 1, KO), and Jason Novelli (Split Decision) respectively, before falling to rising contender James Vick. Most recently, the Lightweight fighter dispatched Matt Frevola in the opening round, ruining the Long Islanders promotional debut. His bout against Frevola took place at UFC Fight Night: Stephens vs. Choi, on January 14th of this year.
The UFC statement on the matter reads as follows:
The UFC organization was notified today that the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) has informed Marco Reyes of a potential Anti-Doping Policy violation stemming from an out-of-competition sample collected on March 8, 2018.
USADA, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, will handle the results management and appropriate adjudication of this case involving Reyes. Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full and fair legal process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.
Dillon Danis to make Pro debut against Kyle Walker at Bellator 198
Mixed Martial Arts officially adopted another incredibly talented jiu-jitsu practioner today. Bellator officials announced today the long-awaited debut of Dillon Danis, whom the promotion had signed in the year previous. After zero amateur and countless jiu-jitsu matches, Danis makes his debut at Bellator 198: Mir vs. Emelianenko, against Kyle Walker.
Kyle Walker enters the match up also making his Bellator debut. Walker recently made a resurgence in 2016 after taking off, almost exactly, 3 years. Since returning to the professional scene his record is 0-3, losing each fight by stoppage (2 Sub, 1 KO).
Walker looks to snap his streak yet, his opponent could provide a major challenge. In terms of advantages for Walker, he has a massive and obvious one. His experience. Walkers opponent fights for the first time in the sport of MMA. While Danis competed in many top-level jiu-jitsu tournaments and matches, comparing the competition would stop and end upon examining the rule sets. It is quite obvious, the difference. Danis will have a bit of adversity to overcome, in that respect.
In spite of this, Danis’ team, he trains out of the highly regarded SBG Ireland. Even before his MMA training, he trained under Marcelo Garcia. He earned his black belt in April of 2015, following an incredible 2014. In that year, Danis became UAEJJF World Champion, winning gold in the 82 kg (181 lb.) Brown belt category.
The prospect of what that could look like inside the cage is exciting. He may have developed some striking techniques but, the lack of time dedicated to that training in undeniable. Experience and time is required to develop skills of any kind.
Bellator 198: Mir vs. Emelianenko, takes place on Saturday, April 28th from the Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Illinois. Bellator 198 features the third of four preliminary bouts in the promotions Heavyweight Grand Prix, Fedor Emelianenko takes on Frank Mir. It serves as the nights main event. Other bouts on the card feature; Emmanuel Sanchez against Sam Sicilia, Neiman Gracie faces Javier Torres, Rafael Lavato Jr. vs. John Salter, and more.
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