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The Rise of the Europeans

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The Ultimate Fighting Championship is an organization which has primarily been dominated by champions from the United States, and Brazil. Currently there are six champions from the United States, and two champions from the country of Brazil. Could it be possible we see a switch of this in the near future?

European countries have had difficulty obtaining belts in the past. In the history of the UFC there have been a total of four champions from Europe, two of which are current UFC champions today. The UFC has always had a presence of Elite Mixed Martial Artists from Europe. However, only two had been able to cross the threshold to become the champion prior to 2015 (Bas Rutten from the Nederlands, and Andrei Arlovski from Belarus).

The two current European champions have made a quick, and highly impressive ascension to stardom. The European takeover starts with Women’s Strawweight Champion, Joanna Jędrzejczyk from Poland. She holds an impressive record of eleven wins and no losses (5-0 in UFC). Her most impressive victory came in March of 2015, she entered her first title fight under the UFC against The Ultimate Fighter winner Carla Esparza, the first ever UFC Strawweight Champion. Joanna Jędrzejczyk entered the fight as the slight underdog, however, she laid an absolutely beautiful striking clinic against Esparza, finishing the fight in the 2nd round via technical knockout. Joanna Jędrzejczyk would go on to defend her belt two times in 2015, winning both of those fights, by technical knockout, and a dominating decision, respectively. Displaying she may be one most relentless strikers gracing the Octagon today.

The second European Champion in 2015 is the most polarizing character to ever compete in mixed martial arts. The “Notorious” Conor McGregor. He not only became one of the most popular people in the Octagon, but he is also one of the most colorful personalities on a celebrity level. So how did he achieve this in one years time? McGregor has another nickname aside from “Notorious” and that is “Mystic Mac”; a name in which he acquired by predicting the rounds in which he will finish his opponent. McGregor holds a record of 19 wins and 2 losses (7-0 in UFC, 1 decision, 6 knockouts). His most impressive win came in December 2015 when he faced Brazilian pound-for-pound king, Jose Aldo. Conor McGregor had been telling anyone and everyone that he would defeat Jose Aldo at UFC 194. He exemplified his Mystic Mac nickname, predicting the fight would end in one round. Thirteen seconds, that is how long it took Conor McGregor to defeat the man who had held the Featherweight belt for 1,848 days (over five years). Now for the celebrity status you ask? Aside from him starting his movie career, driving a flame spitting Lamborghini, and wearing a $1200 dollar Versace shirt to a press conference, Conor McGregor has made a celebrity out of himself by sheer confidence. McGregor is one of the most outspoken people to ever step into the cage, and he talks the talk, while backing every word to this point.

These are the European challengers, and contenders that could potentially obtain the title in the near future.

Heavyweight: Current Champion- Fabricio Werdum (Brazilian)

Fabricio Werdum notably won the Heavyweight belt by submitting former champion, and Heavyweight Kingpin Cain Velasquez. He did so in the third round of their unification bout. The two are slated for a title rematch at UFC 196 on February the 6th. What could be in store for the winner? Below the top two Heavyweights, stand three European wrecking machines, one of which has already been mentioned as potentially the next title shot. The #2 Ranked Heavyweight Stipe Miocic is of Croatian heritage, and appears to be getting the next title shot after a devastating finish over Andre Arlovski, who is a fellow European. The #3 ranked Heavyweight contender hails from the United Kingdom with both Dutch and British ethnicity, though he fights out of the Nederlands. He just knocked out the former Heavyweight Champ Junior Dos Santos. Alistair Overeem is no stranger to the fight game holding a professional record of 40 wins and 14 losses. He is also no stranger to being a world champion, as he has won multiple Grand Prix’s, including a K1 Grand Prix championship, and the Pride Grand Prix Championship. Aside from those, he has also held both the Strikeforce belt, and the Dream interim title. Coming off a loss to Stipe Miocic sits the #4 contender and Belarus native Andrei Arlovski. One of the four Europeans to ever hold a UFC belt, Arlovski is always a force to be reckoned with although he got knocked in the first round against Miocic, in the Heavyweight division you are always one, or two big punches from being back in title contention.

This belt stays away from the Europeans through February 6th, after that expect a strong push from them in trying to win this belt in 2016.

Light Heavyweight: Current Champion- Daniel Cormier (American)

Jon Jones is officially back from suspension, and will be granted an immediate title shot against current champion Daniel Cormier. Cormier has one title defense to his name thus far, against a European in #3 Ranked, Swedish native, Alexander Gustafsson. It was a fight almost as exciting as when Jones vs. Gustafsson did battle. Currently Alexander Gustafsson has the best chance to win the belt for the Europeans, as the next ranked European fighter sits at #9, that being Jimi Manuwa. Following Manuwa is the recently un-ranked Swede, Ilir Latifi at #15. Don’t count Manuwa and Latifi out of title contention in the future as they both posses true knockout power that could propel them to a number one contender fight with two, or three more notable wins.

Right now Gustafsson has the best chance to win this belt for the Europeans. However, do not count out Manuwa and Latifi out in the next year. It remains to be seen what transpires for Gustafsson, pending the Cormier vs. Jones fight, as #2 contender Anthony Johnson sits ahead of him in the rankings.

Middleweight: Current Champion- Luke Rockhold (American)

Luke Rockhold became the first man to defeat former champ Chris Weidman inside the Octagon at UFC 194. So what is next for the current champion? Yoel Romero appeared to be the number one contender after defeating Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza via Split decision. Romero is now in hot water with USADA for testing positive for a banned substance post fight, and will be reprimanded pending a NSAC hearing. Immediately after obtaining the belt, Rockhold called out to Vitor Belfort, wanting to avenge his only loss inside the Octagon, though Belfort was just given a fight against Jacare Souza instead. There is plethora of #1 contender fights taking place in the coming months. One of which contains the #6 ranked fighter who happens to be European. Michael Bisping gets to fight for a potential #1 contender fight in his home country of England. He meets Anderson Silva in his return to the Octagon from a suspension, and the winner may get a crack at Rockhold pending the results, as he will be in attendance to the event.

As it stands right now, a win over former Middleweight Champion Anderson Silva could vault Bisping right in the talks for the title fight. The only other ranked European in this division is Gegard Mousasi at #8, however he is coming off of a devastating loss to Uriah Hall, and likely needs to string two, to three impressive outings together to get a contender fight. It is likely that Chris Weidman gets an immediate rematch, and if Bisping loses, this belt will stay out of reach from the Europeans in 2016.

Welterweight: Current Champion- Robbie Lawler (American)

The top ranked European in this division is Tarec Saffiedine, who is coming off of a year and a half layoff. A win over Jake Ellenberger at UFC on Fox 18, taking place on January 30, 2016 will likely not do much for the Belgian’s title aspirations.

Given the Juggernaut that is the Welterweight division, it is unlikely a European contends for the belt in 2016. A promising prospect at #14 in Gunnar Nelson has the potential to make a future run at it, although that seems to be distant, as the Icelandic fighter is coming off a dominating defeat against Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu legend Demian Maia.

Lightweight: Current Champion- Rafael Dos Anjos (Brazilian)

Rafael Dos Anjos rose to fame in 2015 with a dominating win over Anthony Pettis to obtain the Lightweight belt. Dos Anjos would go on to defend it once in 2015, defeating Donald Cerrone in the first round in December. Out of those two fights, no fight is more important to Rafael than his next, he has scheduled for UFC 197 to attempt to halt history, as the featherweight champion is attempting to also capture Dos Anjos’ lightweight title, becoming the first ever simultaneous two division champion. His opponent is European Conor McGregor. McGregor looks to become the first multi divison champion since B.J. Penn achieved it in 2008.

It is difficult to bet against McGregor in this scenario, yet it is hard to discount what Rafael Dos Anjos has achieved in one year. Conor McGregor provides the European’s best chance at capturing the Lightweight belt.

Featherweight: Current Champion- Conor McGregor (Irish)

The current Featherweight champion Conor McGregor is the one, and only European ranked within the top 15 of the division. If the belt wants to stay with the Europeans, then it is in excellent hands. McGregor is quickly staking his claim to make a run at the #1 Pound For Pound ranking, and a win of the Lightweight belt would definitely further strengthen that claim.

Although McGregor has to put his first Featherweight defense on hold, pending something unforseen, Frankie Edgar would challenge for the title next.

There is a healthy amount of hungry contenders in this division, many of which McGregor has already defeated. It will be difficult to pry the belt from his grasp for the foreseeable future.

Bantamweight: Current Champion- Dominick Cruz (American)

There are currently no European fighters ranked in the top 15 of the division. The bantamweight title will stay out of Europe for this year at least.

Flyweight: Current Champion- Demetrious Johnson (American)

It goes without saying that Demetrious Johnson is one of the most well rounded mixed martial artists to ever grace the UFC’s octagon. Dominant in all aspects of the sport, it is difficult to imagine him losing the belt anytime in the near future, especially against the number 10 ranked Russian Ali Bagautinov, an opponent whom Johnson has already beaten.

Defeating top contenders consistently such as Ian McCall, and Joseph Benavidez, don’t expect a European, let alone anybody dethrone the Flyweight kingpin. Demetrious Johnson has toyed with the idea of moving back up a weight class to attempt to avenge one of his only losses of his career, against new Bantamweight Champion Dominick Cruz.

Women’s Bantamweight: Current Champion- Holly Holm (American)

Holly Holm landed the kick heard around the world, the kick that dethroned the perceived Women’s MMA Queen, Ronda Rousey. Although there are two ranked Europeans in this division, it is unlikely that the 11th ranked Valentina Shevchenko (Russian) and the 14th ranked Germaine de Randamie will contend for the Bantamweight belt in the near future based on the state of the division. Holly Holm will defend her belt on the “mega card”, against perennial contender, Miesha Tate at UFC 197. Ronda Rousey is likely to draw the winner of that contest. This leaves little, to no room for a European bantamweight challenger this year.

Women’s Strawweight: Current Champion- Joanna Jędrzejczyk (Polish)

Joanna Jędrzejczyk became the first European Champion in nearly ten years after defeating Carla Esparza in 2015. Jędrzejczyk has not looked in her rear view mirror since putting on two dominating performances against Julianna Peña, and Valerie Letourneau respectively. Aside from Joanna Jędrzejczyk there are three other top fifteen ranked Europeans, including #8 Joanne Calderwood (Scottish), #9 Maryna Moroz (Ukranian), and #12 Karolina Kowalkiewicz (Polish). All three women hold impressive records in their professional careers, however all need to string a multiple wins together to break into the top five of this stacked division. Joanna Jędrzejczyk will face #1 contender Claudia Gadehla following their coaching stints on The Ultimate Fighter.

Should Joanna lose the belt, the four ranked Europeans will give the belt a likely opportunity to be in Europe at the conclusion of 2016.

The quick ascension to fame by Conor McGregor, and Joanna Jędrzejczyk have started the movement for the rise of the Europeans. With strong showings from the Heavyweights, Alexander Gustafsson, Michael Bisping defeating Anderson Silva, and the Lightweight possibilities, there is a strong likelihood there could be six European Champions by early 2017. One of them potentially holding a belt in two divisions.

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EXCLUSIVE: Jack Shore talks Cage Warriors 87 Opponent Change, Pressure and Being Ready for A Big Opportunity

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Jack Shore, a promising up and coming Welsh Featherweight who will be fighting on his fourth main Cage Warriors card in only his sixth professional fight. Despite his opponent, Federico Mini, dropping out days prior to the event, Shore isn’t concerned ahead of the opponent change. “Just another fight, I’m ready for anything come fight night and I’m looking forward to the challenge”. Cage Warriors have confirmed that Shore will now be fighting Italian, Mattia Galbiati.

Shore last fought at the Newport Centre, Wales at Cage Warriors 83, defeating his opponent Konmon Deh convincingly with a first-round submission. The crowd was electric for both his entrance and when his opponent tapped due to armbar, “I have a massive following and they like to make themselves heard on fight night, it’s getting bigger and bigger every time!”

Whilst using his extensive grappling to win the fight, the Tillery Combat MMA Academy fighter was very aggressive with his strikes on the ground, “I believe my grappling style is very different to what people are used to seeing and that’s why it’s entertaining to watch. I’m always looking to advance and put the pressure on, but I also try to use punches and elbows to set up my transitions.”

Being undefeated throughout his amateur career (including winning the IMMAF European Championships), to then continue being undefeated throughout his early professional career, Shore has a mature mindset for such a young fighter to how the sport works, “Obviously no one wants to lose but you have to be aware that it’s a possibility because anything can happen in this sport. But by being aware it allows me to train and prepare correctly to do everything I can (do) to prevent that from happening.”

Whilst growing up, Shore states that he wasn’t the most confident of people, “As a kid growing up I was never the world’s most confident person.” Cage Warriors being on BT Sport within the UK, being the biggest European MMA promotion, and having the following Shore has, he feels no pressure of fighting, “But as far as MMA is concerned I don’t feel any pressure at all. There’s obviously the fight day nerves but anyone will tell you I deal with them very well and am more than comfortable in that environment.”

With the current revolution of MMA in Wales occurring, former Cage Warriors fighters Brett Johns, Jack Marshman and John Philips all in the UFC, Josh Reed who has just come off a title shot with Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion Nathaniel Wood, Lewis Long being the best Welterweight in the UK. It brings a realistic opportunity of making the UFC, “Definitely. Since the first bunch of Welsh guys have been signed to the UFC it’s shown for guys like me, Lewis Long and Josh Reed that what we are pushing for is no doubt achievable. I believe that if we keep doing what we are doing then that dream won’t be too far away.”

Whilst having such a successful start to his professional career, and with the attention, this young Welshman is bringing, Shore is in no rush for the Cage Warriors belt, but is prepared if the opportunity arises. “I’m just taking one fight at a time. I’m aware that I’m still young in terms of my pro career so I will continue to fight whoever Cage Warriors put in front of me. Should a big opportunity like that present itself I’ll make sure I’m ready.”

Shore seems to be mature for someone of the age of just 22, the future seems bright for the young Welshman. Jack Shore fights on the up and coming Cage Warriors 87 card Saturday, 14th October at the Newport Centre, Newport, Wales. The event will be free-to-air on UK sports channels FreeSports, as well as be on UFC FightPass and via the red button on BT Sport.

Check the main card out for Cage Warriors 87 below:

Lewis Long vs Roberto Soldic (Welterweight)
Craig White vs Matt Inman (Welterweight)
Jack Shore vs Mattia Galbiati (Featherweight)
Aiden Lee vs Ludovit Klein (Featherweight)
Aaron Khalid vs Ross Houston (Welterweight)

By Ieuan Thomas.

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Battle Arena 47 Preview: Five Title Fights in Bedfordshire

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Battle Arena fight cards almost always provide us with some of the most entertaining amateur MMA bouts you will see.

This Saturday’s Battle Arena 47 card in Houghton Regis, Bedfordshire promises to continue the trend with five… yes five title fights.

Mathieu James, fighting out of MD Fight Club, takes on the Norweigan Johane Stromsnes in a featherweight bout to kick off the card. Followed by a lightweight fight with Max Pearson from Rising Crane MMA taking on Birmingham’s Bahtar Oryakhil. Pearson’s last appearance on Battle Arena was a split decision win back in February and he looks to take his Battle Arena record to 2-0-0.

Skipping through the undercard, Erland Limanduik Myhr vs. Lee Anthony certainly raises an eyebrown. Anthony, who is moving up to lightweight after two previous featherweight bouts, looks to shake off a decision loss last time out in April and regain the form he showed in his Battle Arena debut where he knocked out his opponent after just 38 seconds. Anthony who stands well over 6 foot will look to use his height advantage to out strike his opponent.

Callum Birkenshaw from SLKMMA in Bedworth puts his undefeated 3-0 record on the line against Liam Hardy from Mcleods MMA in a welterweight fight. In his last fight, Birkenshaw used his kickboxing skills to perfection, showing off 101-varieties of kicks and effective takedowns to stroll to a decision win over a resilient and super tough Jack Lake.

Now… time for the title fights! Our first of the evening sees Molly Lyndsey fight Megan Norman for the European title at 63kg. After a dominant display in her Battle Arena debut showing, Lyndsey was then outclassed on the canvas against Magdelina Giec, who’s very credible judo and jiu jitsu eventually led to her dislocating Lyndsey’s elbow.

Giechas now gone on to represent Poland at the World Games in jiu jitsu, so Lyndsey shouldn’t grade herself too harshly as she looks to take the European belt against Norman.

Next up is the bantamweight European title as Rob Masters defends his belt again, this time against Badar Khalid from Prime MMA in Dunstable.

Masters, who likes to start quickly, came back from a long lay off with a split decision win over Ollie Southam to retain his belt last time out, however Masters himself said via his Instagram.

Masters fights Badar Khalid who trains with Battle Arena featherweight champion Duncan Djillali. This should benefit Khalid mentally with the champions mentality oozing out at sessions looking at that belt hanging in the gym. Khalid is moving down a weight class for this bout and it looks to be an extremely exciting fight.

Two more title fights follow as Fred Sjolie defends his European lightweight title against the Irishman Shane Geraghty who fought just 4 weeks ago, choking out his opponent in the process.

The co-main event sees a regional title fight in the bantamweight division which is bursting with talent as George Caruna takes on Tom Gibbs for the belt. Both fighters will be high on confidence as they fight off the back of wins so expect to see an explosive bout.

Finally, the main event. Jaye John vs Duncan Djillali, for the British bantamweight title.

Another title fight from the bantamweight division? How good is this weight class in Battle Arena?

Djillali started the year brightly racking up three wins before suffering an extremely controversial decision loss. Feeling that he deserved another chance at a title, Battle Arena gave this to him. In comes Jaye John.

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John fought and was defeated just two weeks ago, so as you can imagine his bravery is admired for stepping back into the cage so soon with the chance to win the British title. We expect Duncan to keep the fight standing up to show off his extremely credible boxing skills.

Battle Arena is renowned for being one of the biggest amateur MMA shows in Europe so expect fireworks, expect finishes and expect some stars to break out.

Full fight card below:

Mathieu James (MD Fight Club) vs Johane Stromsnes (Front line academy) – 66KG
Max Pearson (Rising Crane MMA ) vs Bahtar Oryakhil (Counter Combat) – 70KG
Attila Hanzel (SBJMMA ) vs Tyler Thomas (Hells Pit) – 84KG
Louise Dempter (BMAC) vs Anna Askvik (Pancrase Stokholm) – 52KG
Harvey Stacy (RGA Bucks) vs Lionel Alexis (Bedford MMA) – 77KG
Erland Limanduik Myhr (ILA MMA) vs Lee Anthony (Elite TC) – 70KG
Hanna Ingram (5 Elements) vs Danielle Hutton (Team Walhead) – 66KG
Liam Hardy (McLeods MMA) vs Callum Birkenshaw (SLKMMA) – 77KG
Mark Kelly (Rising Crane MMA) vs Melvin Galdal (Frontline Academy) – 70KG
Jack Fletcher (RGA Bucks) vs Elijas Paknys (Frontline academy) – 84KG
Molly Lyndsey (5 Elements) vs Megan Norman (Hells pit) – 63KG – European Title
Rob Masters (Rising Crane MMA) vs Badar Khalid (Prime MMA) – 61KG – European Title
Shane Geraty (Samsons Martial Arts) vs Fred Sjolie (Frontline Academy) – 70KG – European Title
George Caruna (Mcleods MMA) vs Tom Gibbs (Elite TC) – 61KG – Region Title
Jaye John (Combat & Exercise) vs Duncan Djillali (Prima MMA) – 61KG – British Title

Written by Jack Wright

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Cage Warriors 84: Results

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Cage Warriors returns to the Indigo @ The O2 Arena in London, England with Nathaniel Wood headlining the card against Marko Kovacevic for the vacant bantamweight title.

The card also features a light heavyweight co-main event between Kenneth Bergh and Norman Paraisy as well as Matt iNman taking on Brad Wheeler in the welterweight division.

Stay tuned to our Twitter for live coverage!

Main Card (Live on BT Sport and UFC Fight Pass)

Cage Warriors Bantamweight Title: Nathaniel Wood def. Marko Kovacevic via TKO (punches) after 3:41 of Round 1.

Light-heavyweight: Kenneth Bergh def. Norman Paraisy via submission (guillotine) after 2:13 of Round 2.

Welterweight: Matt Inman def. Brad Wheeler via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-25, 30-26)

Lightweight: Alexander Jacobsen def. Tom Green via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)

Welterweight: Craig White def. Hakon Foss via submission (guillotine) after 1:18 of Round 1.

Prelims (Live on SPORTbible Facebook)

Lightweight: Steve O’Keeffe def. Sean Carter via submission (heel hook) after 2:10

Catchweight (177lbs): Thomas Robertsen def. Phil Wells via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Middleweight: Mirko Jurkovic def. James Webb via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27).

Flyweight: Sam Creasey def. Iurie Bejenari via submission (rear-naked choke) after 3:41 of Round 1.

Bantamweight: Darren O’Gorman def. Bryan Creighton via submission (rear-naked choke) in Round 2.

 

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