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The UFC’s Divisional Dark Horses

Derek Bowe

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An underdog, wild card, or dark horse is someone, or something which has an outside chance of accomplishing a certain feat based on likelihood or odds given to or placed against that entity. In the UFC, there are fighters with a high level of skill which may be on the outside looking in on their ultimate goal. This special bunch has the ability to knock on the door of the top of the heap and potentially burst into the scene in a big way should their next two to three upcoming bouts go their way. A couple of these fighters can be viewed as top prospects with bright futures. A couple can also be viewed as veterans of the sport who have put together a nice string of victories to place themselves within striking distance. Nonetheless, the list of each fighter deemed as a dark horse to their respective division.

Flyweight (125 pounds)

It can possibly be difficult to imagine a fighter who just fought for a title, and lost as a participant on this list. However, the case can be made for Kyoji Horiguchi. Though he showed an impressive array of talents in his bout with champion, Demetrious Johnson, he still finds himself slotted at the seven spot on the UFC’s official rankings behind fighters who have fared less favorably or do not look to be in contention for a title shot. Despite being submitted in the very last second of the fight against Johnson, Horiguchi looked impressive throughout the fight. His ability to manage distance was apparent, as well as his technical execution of his strikes. In a division which does not have many defined challengers to the belt, it would be difficult to say he cannot be right back in the top challenger spot with a victory versus other top-five opponents. With his unique set of skills, that chance is highly likely.

Bantamweight (135 pounds)

Thomas Almeida is 18-0 in bid professional mixed martial arts career, and personalities close to the sport are raving over this young prospect’s talent. At 23 years of age, the young Almeida has everything going his way at the moment. It was revealed this week that he would be opposite Brad Pickett at UFC 189 in Las Vegas. A good test for the Brazilian bantamweight. Almeida is a vicious striker on the feet with power and speed. He recently finished Yves Jabouin via technical knockout which showed just the kind of talent the Muay Thai striker possesses. Should Almeida pass the test in July with flying colors, expect to see a rapid rise through the ranks, with a booking against a top five opponent at year’s end not out of the question.

Featherweight (145 pounds)

Conor McGregor is the name synonymous with this division at the moment, the Irishman burst onto the scene and has ascended more rapidly than any before him. There is another Irishman which made his debut back in March at UFC 185, a man who once defeated McGregor in the promotion Cage Warriors in 2010. Joseph Duffy is a force to be a reckoned with as he took Jake Lindsey apart just a minute and forty-seven seconds into the first round. Duffy is enormous as the featherweight division, standing at 5’10, his size makes his one of the largest fighters in the division. His Taekwondo black belt was shown in the precision of his kicks and his Japanese Jiu Jitsu black belt in his dominant grappling victories throughout his career. Duffy was just announced to be facing off against Brazilian Ivan Jorge on July 18th on a Fight Night card taking place in Glasgow, Scotland. If Duffy continues to finish fighters in this way, he may very well find himself against his fellow countryman in the near future for a rematch.

Lightweight (155 pounds)

Iranian star Beneil Dariush, is on a four fight winning streak, all four victories have come within the past calendar year, as his string of wins began in August 2014. Each time out Dariush has faced stiffer competition and has looked increasingly more impressive in his dominance. His most recent victory over Jim Miller, a perennial stalwart of the top fifteen and a tough test for any fighter at lightweight. Jim Miller had absolutely nothing for Dariush on the feet or the ground, the kind of performance against Miller which few have been able to replicate as Miller is a tough draw for anyone. Dariush has brilliant grappling and executes transitions with flawless ease, and quickness. His striking game is potentially the surprise as the growth has been exponential under the tutelage of Master Rafael Cordeiro training out of Kings MMA in Southern California, the same stable current lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos calls home. Training with the champion is never a bad idea, and Dariush has been a benefactor of such a competitive environment. Expect Dariush to be ranked near the top of the division by year’s end should be continue his winning ways.

Welterweight (170 pounds)

Neil Magny has essentially flown under the radar like a stealth bomber, unable to be detected, yet no less effective in execution. Magny is on an impressive six-fight winning streak and recently tied UFC alum Roger Huerta for most wins in a calendar year at five in 2014. The Ultimate Fighter television series veteran will be attempting to continue his string of victories on the UFC Fight Night 66 card, May 16th in Manila, Philippines opposite Hyun Gyu Lim. Magny is a striker who relies on his range, attacking with his long limbs, using primarily a boxing attack on the feet. On the ground, Magny has displayed slick submissions as he most recently finished Kiichi Kunimoto by rear naked choke in the third round after being dominant throughout the fight. Magny continues to win move into contention with each victory. He will be mentioned amongst the top welterweights in the division as long as his performances keep with the trend of getting his hand raised upon conclusion.

Middleweight (185 pounds)

A long way removed is Thales Leites from his title challenging bout against former champion Anderson Silva. However, based on how that fight played out that is a great thing. Leites has looked like a reborn fighter ever since reappearing back in the Octagon. Five of his long streak of eight consecutive victories have come under the UFC’s banner since his return, and they have come by variety, two decisions, two knockouts, and a submission his last time out in a win over Tim Boetsch. Fighters having a reemergence in their careers is not uncommon, and Leites seems to be enjoying such a run at the moment.
The Brazilian can grapple with anyone in the division, and has enough tools and power on the feet to pose a threat. It will be interesting to see where Leites stands at the close to 2015.

Light Heavyweight (205 pounds)

Ryan Bader can be seen as a puzzling selection to this list, due to the fact he is currently in contention, more than ever since the legal troubles of Jon Jones have left the division up for grabs. The case to be made for Bader is simply, he poses the most unknown factor out of any others in striking distance of the belt. Bader is also the furthest removed from a loss, and has three of the better wins in the division coming over Phil Davis, who recently departed to Bellator, yet is a top ten talent, Ovince Saint Preux, the number seven ranked fighter, and Rampage Jackson, the eleventh ranked fighter in the UFC respectively. Bader has gone back to his roots of imposing his strength in the wrestling department and not falling into the trap of a fire fight against dangerous strikers. With careful game planning, and execution of such, Bader is riding a four fight win streak and looking at a potential title shot versus the winner of Anthony Johnson and Daniel Cormier for the vacant light heavyweight strap.

Heavyweight (206-265 pounds)

Todd Duffee is another fighter who spent some time away from the UFC, only to return and look quite refreshed and ready to challenge anyone in the division. Duffee rode much hype when he debuted under the promotional banner knocking out Tim Hague in seven seconds. His muscular physical imposing stature aided that backing as well. He suffered a knockout loss to Mike Russow in his second outing and seemingly began a spiral downward, medical troubles factored in to a rough few years for the talented heavyweight. After Duffee knocked out Phil De Fries in 2012. After recovering from Parsonage Turner Syndrome, Duffy returned to knock out Anthony Hamilton at UFC 181 in December of 2014, looking as explosive, and impressive as ever. The performance earned him a shot at former champion, and UFC veteran Frank Miller who is coming off his own finish of Bigfoot Silva. The two square off at UFC Fight Night on July 15th in San Diego, California. Should Duffee secure a victory over Mir, he would likely find himself awarded a contender relevant fight in a rather shallow heavyweight division.

Women’s Strawweight (115 pounds)

A fighter that wasn’t thrown around as others in the division, Maryna Moroz thrust herself into the discussion as well as into the top ten, ranked at number eight with her victory over Joanne Calderwood, an Ultimate Fighter alum, and a fighter who was seen by many as one of top strawweights. Moroz snatched up an arm and cranked an armbar over Calderwood who was forced to submit. The victory was the fifth such victory by submission out of an unblemished six total for the young strawweight. Upon completion of the fight Moroz showed her bold promotional ability, calling out newly minted champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk who was sitting cageside. Should Moroz show more of what was seen in Poland, the UFC may be looking at its next challenger to the new division’s champion.

Women’s Bantamweight (135 pounds)

With a dominant champion such as Ronda Rousey sitting atop the pile, every fighter throughout the top fifteen is seemingly contesting for the chance to be Rousey’s next victim. Rousey has essentially nearly cleared the division. Enter Marion Reneau. Reneau was denied competing on the Ultimate Fighter because she was seen as too old, something Dana White personally has taken the opportunity to publicly apologize for after her victory over Alexis Dufuesne at UFC 182. Reneau has solid striking as anyone in a division largely containing grapplers, yet her grappling has shown to be very impressive in her two outings in the UFC. She is very physically strong as well, it showed in her submission win over Jessica Andrade her last time out. Reneau is talented, and she will have the opportunity to continue to rise in a division which in wide open at the moment.

It’s possible every single one of the aforementioned names ascends into divisional prominence in the very near future, it is also possible that none of them do, that is why they are the dark horses, the wild cards. The fighters that could possibly spark into a blazing fire or simply fizzle out before achieving their potential. The next six months, to a year will go a long way to determining such.

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*WATCH* DaveNoseMMA – Aljamain Sterling Knockout Aftermath

Harry Davies

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In this video, MMA Latest’s Dave Noseworthy shares his thoughts on Marlon Moraes’ brutal knockout of Aljamain Sterling that took place this past weekend at UFC Fresno.

Check out Dave’s thoughts below:

 

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Fight Announcements

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou Official for UFC 220

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UFC 220 in Boston, Massachusetts has its main event. Stipe Miocic (17-2) will put his belt on the line for the third time against rising heavyweight star, Francis Ngannou (11-1)

Rumors surrounded the match-up for UFC 220 after Ngannou’s first round knockout over Alistair Overeem, at UFC 218. The Cameroonian heavyweight called for the fight himself. In his octagon interview proceeding his most recent victory, Ngannou stated:

“I’m feeling good… I’m on my way to a title shot”.

The heavy handed Ngannou has finished all of his opponents in all of his six UFC bouts. A streak which includes a kimura submission over Anthony Hamilton and a TKO victory against former UFC heavyweight champion, Andrei Arlovski. Overall, he holds a ten fight win streak. His only defeat came by way of unanimous decision to Zoumana Cisse, in his second professional MMA fight.

If victorious, Ngannou would become the first African-born champion in UFC history.

Not to be diminished, Stipe Miocic rides his a streak of his own into the beantown match-up. Five consecutive wins, five knockouts and the past four of which, ended in the first round. A victory in Boston for the champ would make him the longest reigning heavyweight champion in UFC history. Currently, Miocic is one of three heavyweights, in the promotions entirety, whom has successfully defended the belt twice.

UFC 220 will be held at the TD Garden in Boston, Massachusetts on January 20th, 2018. The pay-per-view (PPV) card will also feature light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, as he faces challenger Volkan “No Time” Oezdemir.

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Events

Ladies Fight Night 7: “Double Trouble” Preview

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Polish women’s federation Ladies Fight Night is going to celebrate their second birthday this year on the 15th to 17th of December. Two days, two events with a lot of great bouts.

LFN in Poland is being titled the new Invicta FC. The Polish owners created this federation to give European women a chance to fight on a big platform.

Hosting their first ever event in December 2015, LFN will hold two great cards next week, that will feature women who have fought under many prestigious promotions, such as the UFC, Invicta, Bellator, Glory, and Kunlun.

Two days of fantastic fights, intensified by a double dose of sports impressions. The name is not accidental, LFN 7 / LFN 8 combines two events, during which the best Polish fighters will be shown, as well as the best fighters from Europe (including France, Sweden, Italy, the Czech Republic and Romania)

The stakes are high, and we are electrified by the clashes between warriors such as Żaneta Cieśla vs Silvia La Notte and Patricia Axling vs. Cindy Silvestri. Mainly due to their vastness of their experience in the cage.

In the fight of the evening, the talented Romanian Cristina Stanciu will face Magdaléna Šormovádo. Stanciu fought twice in the UFC, but she was unfortunately cut from the promotion after suffering consecutive losses to Cortney Casey and Maryna Moroz.

Judyta Rymarzak vs Marta Waliczek is an amazing fight between two experienced kickboxers. Both making their pro MMA debuts on the night, we will witness a one-of-a-kind duel between two kickboxing perfectionists, as they look to transcend their skills into the MMA world.

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