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Stipe Miocic Wins the Heavyweight Title, Who Will He Defend Against First?



The UFC and Dana White, in particular, do not like to talk match-making immediately after a fight. But the MMA fans and Media do, so here it goes. Now that the prestigious UFC Heavyweight Championship has changed hands once again, who will be the first to challenge Stipe Miocic for the belt? The following discussion will address the 3 most deserving contenders that will possibly emerge in the coming months.

Alistair Overeem

Bottom line, up front, Alistair Overeem is the most likely to secure the next fight with Miocic, and for good reason. Though he has had a few ups and downs in his UFC tenure, “The Reem” has returned to his winning ways and currently rides a 4-fight win streak.

Among those 4 victories, Overeem has finished the only 2 men to defeat Stipe Miocic: Junior Dos Santos and Stefan Struve. Overeem’s most recent victory was an impressive knockout of former UFC Champion and legend Andre Arlovski. As expected, the Dutch kickboxer used his post-fight win speech to campaign for a title shot and no one made an argument against it.

If someone tries to make one, it should be ignored and dismissed as invalid. Not only does Overeem make a compelling match with the new champ, his track record over the last year and a half earned his rightful position as number one contender.

Junior Dos Santos

As previously mentioned, JDS is one of only 2 people to beat Stipe though it was not without controversy. Many people (who are all wrong), including Miocic himself, thought that the current Champion did enough to earn a decision when he fought Dos Santos in 5-round Fight of the Night war in late 2014.

Certainly that is one loss which Stipe Miocic would like to get back and there is something to prove on his end, especially considering Junior has consistently been far more dominant in the UFC’s Heavyweight division. JDS knocked out Stefan Struve, again the only other man to beat Miocic. Given those circumstances, he makes a compelling match for the title as well.

It is not probable that he will be next in the chute for the title match, however. Most likely he will have to fight another contender and stay on deck as a possible late injury replacement if the UFC does in-fact make a match with Overeem and Miocic. If either goes on the shelf for a long period of time, Junior could find himself fighting for the title, or the interim belt.

Dos Santos’ recent TKO loss to Overeem is the biggest detriment to his case for a rematch with Stipe, but he dominated Ben Rothwell, who KO’d Overeem and that win answered many lingering questions since Junior Dos Santos has not looked in rare form over his last 3 losses.

Winner of Cain Velazquez and Travis Browne

The former Champion, Cain Velazquez handed 2 of those aforementioned losses to JDS in violent fashion and Travis Browne KO’d Alistair Overeem in 2013. So why include JDS and “The Reem” above Velazquez and Browne? Well, for one thing, these 3 title contender positions are all so close that are barely in order of precedence.

But mainly, it is because the UFC takes the Janet Jackson “What Have You Done For Me Lately?” approach when it comes to matchmaking. Velazquez was supposed to fight Werdum for the belt before Stipe Miocic came into the picture, but Velazquez spent more time sidelined with injury than he did training during his tenure as champion.

With Dana White’s highly critical and publicly stated disdain for the infamous overtraining and perhaps too-hard sparring that Cain’s camp is known for (American Kickboxing Academy) it is no secret that the UFC is not too keen on reliving that drama.

As for Travis Browne, check the expiration on that defeat of Alistair Overeem and also refer to the aforementioned Janet Jackson hook. If those two were to fight today it could be a completely different outcome. Or Browne could very well knock him out again. That is the beauty of the Heavyweight Division. And UFC 198’s main event showed everyone once again why it has always been the most prestigious division.

Honorable Mention: Fabricio Werdum

No one can take away what Werdum has accomplished in his recent resurgence, from a submission of the great Fedor Emelianenko to his triumphant UFC return and the 6-fight win streak which culminated in a submission win over Cain Velazquez to become Champion. No one can take away what he accomplished, except for the belt, and Stipe Miocic took that away.

At the post-fight Werdum, did as one would expect and lamented for his lost title, proclaiming himself deserving of an immediate rematch. Getting faceplanted in his home country to lose the title to a foreigner is probably the most bitter pill anyone could ever swallow, especially for the nationalistic and prideful Brazilians.

Werdum’s wish is not likely to be granted. Could he possible wear the UFC title again? Absolutely. Will he have to fight another contender or 2 in order to get the opportunity? Probably. This game is unforgiving. Losing the belt in the 1st round of his 1st title defense is one of the most definitive ways to guarantee that an immediate rematch will not happen.




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Fight Announcements

Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224



Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.

The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.

Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).

In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.

UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.

*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224

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Fighter to Watch

Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”



In a little less than a week, Rise of Champions crowns its inaugural bantamweight champion. The crowning of the first 135 lb. champion marks the young promotions first champion. It makes sense why the promotion owned and operated by UK MMA star, Brad Pickett, and Team Titan head coach, Mickey Papas plan to crown the promotions first champion in the bantamweight division. Pickett competed in the division throughout his tenure with the WEC, and ultimately the entity which absorbed the light weight promotion, the UFC. Even more-so, two young and rising prospects of the division. One undefeated in his professional and amateur career, the other riding a seven consecutive victories, five by submission. The two meet February 17th, Mike Ekundayo puts his career unbeaten streak up against Jonas Magard’s at ROC 5, for the aforementioned, inaugural bantamweight championship.

Speaking to the undefeated Ekundayo before his fight, he believes this opportunity to be inevitable. Born in Hackney, (a borough of London) early in life, Ekundayo was no stranger to cramming his belongings into large cardboard boxes. At the age of 7, he moved from Hackney to Herne Hill, a district located in South London. Two years later he found himself in similar situation, moving from his vaguely new home in Herne Hill to Brixton. A road trip in the car to his new home, took approximately 5 minutes.

It is admittedly, not an easy life. In a harrowing article describing the horrors of gang life in London by the, former gang member turned community activist, made the claim, “When you are from Brixton, from Peckham, west London, anywhere in London, you are seeing hardship where a lot of communities can’t reach their full potential”.

In his own words, Ekundayo describes his home as, “not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing”. But that couldn’t matter any less for him. Not only does the London resident consistently work to grow his potential, he gets to see it every day. His coaches Brad Pickett and Mickey Papas hold the knowledge as well as first-hand experience, increasing his limits with every session. “We’re all close”, speaking of his coaches and team. “My head coach is Mickey Papas, he’s very knowable in the game. He’s been around for a very long time. He teaches me a lot, I can learn a lot of stuff from Mickey Papas. Sometimes I just think, how does he know all of this? Where did he get this information from?”

He continued, “While I was coming up through amateur, Brad (Pickett) was still an active fighter, but nowadays he’s taken a coaching approach. So he’s coaching us prospects getting us to where he got to and further… He’s been through it all, gotten to the top, and stayed at the top”.

Further discussing his coach, “For UK MMA, you could definitely call Brad a legend. He’s done a lot in his career, and someone who I rate highly as an MMA fighter is Demetrious Johnson, and of course Brad has got a win over (him). I feel like just being surrounded by someone like Brad, you’re working towards the right things. When he passes information onto you, you respect it that bit more because of far he got in his career. He’s definitely given me the right guidance, I trust his guidance”.

When it comes to the upcoming title fight, confidence poured out from where praise and respect had once been. “I just think it’s my time, to be honest. I really do believe it’s my time for all of this. The work I put in, certain things become inevitable”, he said. “I actually called this after I won my third fight, I called for belts and big shows. I spoke it to existence”. He continued, “It’s my time to finally to get a strap of some sort. All the straps is what we’re going for, all of them. We’re going for every one”.

“Rise of Champions is my show… That’s how I feel when I’m performing on ROC, it’s just my show, it’s my time to shine. Everyone knows who there here to see, there not really there to see the other guys. It’s my time, it’s my show and I’m going to put on a show on February 17th and I’m going to win that belt”.

The infectious nature of his positive attitude was palpable. Although we only spoke through small rectangular devices, I could feel his energy in the room. His attitude shined brightest when talking about what it would mean to be the first ever ROC Bantamweight champion. Ekundayo claimed, “It just means a lot to have my first belt in anything to be honest… Within myself, I call myself a champion, every day. But now, other people would have to call me a champion because I’ve got a belt… And one thing I really want to do is, which sounds a bit weird, I just want to take the belt home to my area, to Brixton.”

“I just want to take it to my area, and just show the people of that area what hard work can achieve… I want to just take it to my people and show them that not for nothing, we are from Brixton, it’s not the best start to have in your life. It’s not the best upbringing but you can rise above it and you can achieve your goals and that’s what the belt will mean”.

When the conversation shifted to the topic of his opponent, Ekundayo had less encouraging words rolling off his tongue. Jonas Magard, the second half of the ROC 5 main event, holds a record of 7-4. Currently he owns a seven fight win streak after starting his career 1-3. Ekundayo thought, “He did fight quite decent guys in his three loses… but in the seven fight win streak, none of his opponents have been of caliber”.

He elaborated further, “What’s in my thoughts is more me, then it is of him. So, he could come with anything, I don’t care. I’m just focused on how I’m going to be picture perfect. How I’m going to paint a masterpiece, how I’m going to make it a beautifully perfect performance. That’s what my primary focus is on, so what he does to me is irrelevant, I’m just going to focus on how I’m going to be perfect on the night of February 17th”.

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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega



UFC 222 has been saved, and it didn’t take a superhero to lift the burning boulder which was Max Holloway’s injury and withdrawal. All it took was a female named Cyborg and a man with a demeanor so smooth, he could be mistaken for an alter-ego. Cris Cyborg now serves as the UFC 222 main event when she defends her featherweight belt against Yana Kunitskaya. Frankie Edgar bumped down to the co-main event to face Brian Ortega in what is likely a title eliminator. The news of the UFC 222 revival originally stemmed from a report by and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

Over the course of the week, reports surrounded the Las Vegas card and whether it would survive. Multiple options were reportedly being mulled over; cancelling the card outright, changing the pay-per-view (PPV) to a ‘Fight Night’ with an Edgar vs. Ortega main event, Dillashaw vs. Garbrandt 2 main event, among others. Ultimately, the promotion landed on Cyborg vs. Kunitskaya as the new main event, while also booking Brian Ortega.

This adjustment of the card places their women’s Featherweight champion in the second PPV main event in three months. Cris Cyborg recently put her undisputed Featherweight title on the line against Holly Holm at the year ending card, UFC 219. She successfully defended her belt by unanimous decision, in what was an amazing technical display from the Brazilian. In her octagon career, Cyborg is undefeated in her four appearances with three KO/TKO stoppages.

The second half of the new main event, Yana Kunitskaya, makes her UFC debut against the scariest women on the roster. If the 145 lb. champion was not enough of a challenge, Kunitskaya also makes her first appearance in the division since defeating Cindy Dandois in December of 2010. Of Russia descent, her most recent performances came inside the Invicta FC cage. At the female-only promotion, she posted a record of 1-1, with 1 No Contest. Her loss and no contest, both came at the hands of former UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger.

Turning to the co-main event, both fighters have been relatively inactive but, for good reason. Brian Ortega amazingly forced perennial men’s Featherweight contender, Cub Swanson, to tap in the second round of their ‘Fight Night: Fresno’ contest. Ortega fought twice in 2017, but more-so stayed inactive following his stoppage victory over Swanson. The Californian contender announced his desire to wait in line for the next title shot following the recent victory.

For Frankie Edgar, his last fight took place at UFC 211 when he absolutely demolished young and rising star, Yair Rodriguez. A card which took place last May. While Ortega holds an undefeated record, Edgar is undefeated in his previous 9 fights, excluding people named Jose Aldo.

UFC 222 takes place at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada on March 3rd.

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