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Throwback Thursday: Tournaments, Heavyweights and Rampage

Vinny Craig



This Week in MMA History

Throwback Thursday is a weekly article written about the events and news that have happened in the world of MMA during this week. The twist, we’ll be going back in time to show you the events that already happened and are forever stitched into our minds. This week we take a look at May 25 to May 31.


UFC 13: Ultimate Force
In Augusta, Georgia, the UFC put on its first event that involved two tournaments. The most important man in the Octagon was back as Bruce Buffer made his return after making his debut at UFC 10. The Light Heavyweight and Heavyweight tournaments involved a four-man tournament with a Light Heavyweight and two Heavyweight alternate bouts. One of the alternate Heavyweight bouts involved a young Vitor Belfort making his second UFC appearance after winning the UFC 12 Heavyweight tournament. He beat David ‘Tank’ Abbott by TKO 52 seconds into the fight. The other alternate bout was a TKO win for Jack Nilson. In the semifinals of the tournament, we saw future two division champion Randy Couture for the first time when he beat Tony Holme by Rear-Naked Choke under a minute into their fight. In the other semifinal fight, Steven Graham also submitted his opponent by armlock. In the final, Couture beat Graham by TKO over 3 minutes in to win the Heavyweight tournament.

In the Light Heavyweight tournament, we saw another future champion and Hall of Famer in Tito Ortiz in the alternate bout. He started his UFC career off right with a TKO win 31 seconds into the contest. In the semifinal bout, Enson Inoue beat Royce Alger by armlock 96 seconds in to move onto the finals. The other Light Heavyweight bout went the distance between Guy Mezger and Christophe Leninger. Mezger won the fight by decision to meet Inoue in the finals. Inoue was unable to continue and Ortiz stepped in to fight the final fight. He would make a good effort, but eventually lose to Mezger by a Guillotine choke.

UFC 60: Hughes vs. Gracie
In a super fight of sorts, we saw then Welterweight champion Matt Hughes fight Hall of Famer and former tournament winner Royce Gracie at a catchweight of 175 lbs. The event was the first to draw greater than 500,000 pay-per-view (PPV) buys and draw $20 million in gross PPV sales. It was the most bought UFC event up to that point with 620,000 PPV buys. The co-main event was a Light Heavyweight contest between Dean Lister and Alessio Sakara. The prelims started with a vicious KO by Melvin Guillard just over 90 seconds in over Rick Davis.  The next fight saw future Heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga beat Fabiano Scherner by TKO. In the final prelim bought, future Middleweight and Light Heavyweight title challenger Chael Sonnen had to replace Evan Tanner in a bout against Jeremy Horn. Horn would win the fight by armbar in the second round.

Starting off the main card was TUF 1 vet Mike Swick. He beat Joe Riggs by Guillotine in the first round for his fourth straight win. The next fight also ended by Guillotine when Brandon Vera beat Assuerio Silva in the first round. In the only decision of the night, Diego Sanchez beat John Alessio by unanimous decision. The co-main event only lasted 2 minutes and 20 seconds when it was ended by a Triangle choke by Lister. The main event almost lasted a full round, but 21 seconds short of the bell was where Hughes won by TKO over Gracie.

UFC 71: Liddell vs. Jackson
At the UFC’s home at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, a Light Heavyweight title fight between champion Chuck Liddell and Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson headlined the bout. It was announced during the event that the winner would fight Pride Middleweight champion, Dan Henderson to unify the belts. The preliminary card saw three straight submission wins to start the night. Din Thomas was one of the three as he beat Jeremy Stephens by Armbar in the second round to take home Submission of the Night honors (and an extra $40,000). In the final prelim fight, Thiago Silva beat James Irvin by TKO for his tenth straight career victory.

The main card started with a middleweight fight between Chris Leben and Kalib Starnes. The fight would go the distance and be exciting, but Starnes would come out victorious. Leben didn’t leave empty handed as the fight was named Fight of the Night. In the co-main event, Welterweight Karo Parisyan took a decision win over Josh Burkman for his second straight win. The main event was a highly anticipated fight between two exciting fighters in Liddell and Rampage. Liddell had defended his belt 4 times previous and looked as though Rampage may have no shot. It was a slugfest through and through with Jackson coming out victorious with a first round KO to win the belt. This started a hot potato of the belt as no one man was able to keep the belt for longer than one defense.

UFC 114: Rampage vs. Evans
A grudge match between two former champions in Rampage Jackson and Rashad Evans would be settled in this event. The fight was scheduled to happen at UFC 96, but Evans was injured and replaced by his teammate Keith Jardine. Rampage won that fight and was expected to face Evans for the title. A jaw injury kept Jackson out of the fight and he was replaced by Lyoto Machida, who would win the fight and the title. After all of that, the drama and feud was still alive, and the UFC scheduled Evans and Jackson to coach on Season 10 of The Ultimate Fighter. The event was just the fifth UFC card ever to reach a million PPV buys.

The preliminary card saw 3 of four fights end before the first bell. The night started when Ryan Jensen beat Jesse Forbes by Guillotine a minute into the fight. In a Light Heavyweight contest, Cyrille Diabate got the TKO win over Luiz Cane. In the final non-televised preliminary fight, Melvin Guillard added another win to his resume with a TKO from knees to the body. On the televised prelims, Efran Escudero and Dong Hyun Kim both picked up decision wins.

The five-fight main card started as it will end. In a Welterweight fight, John Hathaway beat Diego Sanchez in a unanimous decision. In the next fight, Antonio Rogerio Nogueira barely got past Jason Brilz by a hair with a split decision. In the middle of the PPV, Mike Russow picked up the only finish of the main card with a third round KO of Todd Duffee. The co-main was a very underwhelming decision win for Michael Bisping. In the main event, after all the talk was over and the two met in the cage, the outcome was nothing special. Evans cruised for three rounds and won by unanimous decision.

UFC 130: Rampgage vs. Hammill
As per usual, the Memorial Day weekend card happened at the MGM Grand. The main event was a Light Heavyweight fight between Quinton ‘Rampage’ Jackson and Matt Hammill. The original main event for the Lightweight title between Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard was scrapped when both were injured. Then the new main event of Rampage and Thiago Silva was redone when Silva failed a drug test prior to UFC 125. The co-main event was a Heavyweight fight between Roy Nelson and Frank Mir.

On the prelims, which started out on Facebook, we saw future Bantamweight champion Renan Barao for the first time in the UFC. He beat contender Cole Escovedo by decision to keep his unbeaten streak alive. We saw another good Bantamweight in the youngster Michael McDonald when he beat Chris Cariaso by split decision. On the Spike TV prelims, we saw future Flyweight champion Demetrius Johnson at Bantamweight. He would beat former WEC champion Miguel Torres by decision.

On the main card, we started the night with a KO courtesy of Brian Stann over Jorge Santiago. In a Welterweight matchup, vet Rick Story beat another veteran in Thiago Alves by decision. The Knockout of the Night came by way of a superman punch from Travis Browne against Stefan Struve. In the co-main event, the experience of Mir showed as he handled the power of Nelson all night enroot to a decision win. In the main event, the fight was one that would not be added to the KO file of Rampage, but it got the job done. Rampage took a three round decision on all three judges’ score cards.

UFC 146: dos Santos vs. Mir
In the first title defense try for Heavyweight champion Junior dos Santos was former champion Frank Mir. In an all Heavyweight main card, we saw most of the best over 206 pounds. This would set up the next title challenger for whoever walked away with the title. The Facebook prelims saw two submission wins with an Arm Triangle Choke by future Light Heavyweight title challenger Glover Teixeira and a Triangle Armbar by Paul Sass. On the Televised prelim fights, we started with a KO of Duane Ludwig by Dan Hardy. Ending the prelims was a unanimous decision win for Darren Elkins over Diego Brandao.

Staring off the main card was a submission when Stefan Struve put an armbar on Lavar Johnson in the first round. In the next fight, Stipe Miocic beat Shane Del Rosario by TKO due to elbows in the second round. In one of the Knockouts of the Night, Roy ‘Big Country’ Nelson beat Dave Herman by a KO just under a minute in. In the co-main event, former champion Cain Velazquez made a statement when he beat Antonio Silva in a bloody mess. In the main event, champion Junior dos Santos successfully defended his belt when he beat Mir by TKO in the second round. He would get Velazquez again in a rematch of how he won the title.

UFC 160: Velazquez vs. Bigfoot II
With the new (or is it the old) Heavyweight champion in place, the headliner was a rematch of a bloody mess from UFC 146 (see above). Heavyweight champion Cain Velazquez was looking for his first title defense against Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva. The co-main event was another Heavyweight fight between contenders Junior dos Santos and Mark Hunt. The night started with a decision win for Jeremy Stephens over Estevan Payan. The prelims ended with two split decisions as Dennis Bermudez beat Max Holloway and Mike Pyle beat Rick Story.

Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone started off the main card with a decision win over KJ Noons. The fight came after a loss to future Lightweight champion Anthony Pettis. In a knockout of the night effort, TJ Grant beat former title challenger Gray Maynard by TKO in the first round. The next fight was the Submission of the Night as Glover Teixeira beat James Te Huna by a Guillotine choke. In the co-main event (and the Fight of the Night), former champion Junior dos Santos beat contender Mark Hunt with a head kick in the third round. The kick barely grazed Hunt as he went down. The main event was another destruction of Bigfoot as Velazquez needed a little over a minute to win the fight.

Pride 14- Clash of Titans
Pride 14 was the first time we saw Chuck Liddell under the Pride banner. Starting off the night was an armbar by Antonio Schembri. In his Pride debut, Liddell got a KO in the second round against Guy Mezger. It was his sixth win in a row and kept his UFC title chances going. In the next fight, legend Gary Goodridge got a submission by knee. Future Pride champion Dan Henderson continued his brilliance as he beat Akira Shoji by TKO. Then Middleweight champion Wanderlei Silva staked his claim as one of the best fighters in the organization with a 30 second destruction of Shungo Oyama. The last two events ended by submission as Igor Vovchanchyn beat Gilbert Yvel by Rear-Naked Choke and Kazuyuki Fujita beat Yoshihiro Takayama by Arm-Triangle Choke.

Bellator 9
In the second to last event of Season 1, two Middleweight fights headlined the card. On the prelims, a split decision won by Chas Skelly started off the night. A Heavyweight bout between Shawn Jordan and Jayme McKinney lasted only thirty seconds as Jordan won by Rear-Naked Choke. In the final match of the prelims, Nick Ring beat Isidiro Gonzalez by Guillotine in the first round. The main card started with Jared Hess’ TKO win over Yosmany Cabezas. In the main event, up and comer Hector Lombard beat Damien Stelly by TKO just under three minutes in

Bellator 20
You got a little taste of all facets of MMA with Bellator 20. On the prelims, three straight submissions (all by Rear-Naked choke) were right in the middle of the prelim card. Starting off the main card was a chance for Season 3’s Heavyweight tournament. Eddie Sanchez beat Marcus Sursa by TKO and was ultimately matched up with Neil Grove in the quarterfinal. In the Middleweight tournament semifinal, Alexander Schlemenko moved on with a TKO win and Bryan Baker by Triangle choke. In another Middleweight tournament semifinal (and the main event of the night), Bryan Baker made quick work of Eric Schambari with Triangle choke midway through the first round.

Bellator 70
Ending Season 6 for Bellator was the 70th event put on the fighting organization. It had a Bantamweight tournament semifinal, Heavyweight title fight and Lightweight final. Jonas Billstein beat Mike Seal by first round Rear-Naked choke. The next fight was fought at a catchweight of 190 pounds and ended by kimura in the third round. In a Welterweight bout, the fight ended in the second round when AJ Matthews hit Charlie Rader with a soccer kick. The main card started with a Guillotine put on by Derek Campos against Rich Clementi. The Bantamweight semifinal was one by Hiroshi Nakamura with a third round KO to move onto the final. In a Heavyweight title fight, Cole Konrad continued his undefeated MMA streak with a first round kimura on Eric Prindle. We haven’t see Konrad since that fight after he retired to become a commodities broker. In the main event, Rick Hawn won the Lightweight tournament with a unanimous decision win over Brent Weedman. Hawn would get his chance at champ Michael Chandler, but ultimately lose by submission.

Future: UFC Fight Night: Condit vs. Alves

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Bellator: Selecting the Four Alternates for the Heavyweight Grand Prix.



With an 8-man tournament bracket full of legends and former champions, join us as we chose four alternates for the Bellator Heavyweight Grand Prix.

Main Tournament Participants:

  • Fedor Emelianenko
  • Frank Mir
  • Chael Sonnen
  • Quinton Jackson
  • Roy Nelson
  • Matt Mitrione
  • Ryan Bader
  • King Mo Lawal

The alternate tournament bracket will consist of: two opening round fights (semi-final), and then two victorious fighters competing against one another at the finale (final). This will determine a worthy contender to step into the main tournament bracket, in case any of the main bracket fighters are injured in their semi-final bouts.

If a pull-out or injury occurs before the opening bouts, I believe Bellator have to select the most decorated fighter, and a natural heavyweight fighter. So in case of a pull-out occurring before the opening round, I would select my #1 alternate, and so on for any more opening pull-outs.

This structure covers all bases, and keeps the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament intense and prestigious.

So with the structure laid out, here is our selected alternate fighters.

  • #1: Vitaly Minakov
  • #2: Linton Vassell
  • #3: Attilah Vegh
  • #4: Emanuel Newton

Alternate Opening Round [Semi-Final]:

  • Bout 1: #1 Vs. #3
  • Bout 2: #2 Vs. #4

Alternate Final:

  • Victor of Bout #1/#3 Vs. Victor of Bout #2 Vs. #4

Linton Vassell vs. Emanuel Newton would be a trilogy that needs to be completed. Linton dominated on the ground for the most part of their first bout, but felt he gave up positions he felt he could have held longer, and took needless transitions and risks; allowing for a very sneaky Emanuel Newton to escape the clutches of ‘The Swarm’, and when the gas tank begins to empty – a scrambling Emanuel Newton is not what you want!

Fighter bios:

Vitaly Minakov: A former Bellator tournament winner, and former Bellator heavyweight champion. A Judo black belt, and multi time Sambo world champion, there’s no denying this man’s resume as one of the best put forth out of these 4 fighters.

Linton Vassell: A man who really lives up to the moniker – ‘The Swarm’, Linton Vassell has dominated and dispatched various opponents Bellator have put across from him. Having fallen short in two title fights, and a close decision loss to King Mo, Linton has shown that he’s there with the best Bellator has to offer, maybe the Heavyweight Grand Prix might see the dark-horse finally come into the lime-light! Currently contracted to Bellator with a 7-3 record for the promotion.

If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:

Emanuel Newton: Already holding two victories over King Mo, who’s allocated in this Heavyweight main tournament bracket – that alone is just cause to enter Emanuel. An exciting and unpredictable entry this would be. Bellator parted ways with Emanuel in 2016. Currently, Newton is not on the best of runs, but this tournament needs a ‘wild-card’, and Emanuel owns that title.

Attilah Vegh: A former Bellator LHW champion. Not currently signed to Bellator. Was strangely released in 2014 after having a record of 5-1 with the promotion, and some victories over some very reputable names. Currently on a 2 fight win-streak outside of Bellator MMA.

If you would like to follow the Bellator Heavyweight Tournament, you can check out the opening round bouts on the following Bellator MMA events:


Bellator 192 at The Forum – Jan. 20, 2018: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson (37-12) vs. Chael Sonnen (30-15-1)
Bellator 194 at Mohegan Sun Arena – Feb. 16, 2018: Matt Mitrione (12-5) vs. Roy Nelson (23-14)
Bellator at Allstate Arena – April, 2018: Fedor Emelianenko (36-5, 1 NC) vs. Frank Mir (18-11)
Bellator at SAP Center – May, 2018: Ryan Bader (24-5) vs. “King Mo” Lawal (21-6, 1 NC)

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Exclusive: Hisaki Kato: “My priorities are in MMA”



French-Japanese middleweight Hasaki Kato returns to the Bellator cage Friday as he takes on former welterweight Chidi “Bang Bang” Njokuani. Ahead of the high-level striking match-up, Kato took the time out of his busy schedule to speak with MMA Latest.

Rangy striker Njokuani makes his middleweight debut Friday as he looks to erase his loss to Andrey Koreshkov from recent memory. It isn’t lost on Kato just how tall and lanky the 6’3 striker truly is. “Well he’s very tall,” Kato tells MMA Latest. “He was a welterweight but even for a middleweight he’s really tall he’s like 6’2, 6’3 taller than me, longer reach than me. Obviously, I was watching his fights, he’s fighting with range and using his reach to fight so that’s his number one weapon.”

In Njokuani’s last fight, Koreshkov, the former welterweight champion, held Njokuani down and elbowed him until the ref stepped in. So what exactly went wrong in the fight? “Well, first I think Koreshkov is really, really strong,” Kato explains. “Chidi Njokuani normally escapes the ground part or at least he’s on top of his opponent. But Koreshkov has good pressure and good grappling and he could take the top position. Obviously, Njokuani is not comfortable when he is on the bottom. So yeah, I think he couldn’t play his game during the last fight because Koreshkov was putting too much pressure on him.”

Former UFC fighter, Gegard Mousasi, recently made his debut against Alexander Shlemenko back in October. The Dutchman had a tough debut that resulted in a controversial decision win, Kato weighed in on whether or not he’s eyeing a fight with him and what he thought of his Bellator debut. “If I have an offer I will fight him,” he says without any particular enthusiasm. “I will fight everybody in the division. Yeah, for the last fight, well, I think luckily for him it was a three-round fight. I think if it was a five round fight the victory would have gone to Shlemenko. I don’t know maybe he had a bad camp, I don’t know but he was doing terrible.”

Kato also believes a title shot isn’t far away. “I believe I’m really close to that (a title shot),” he says. “After the win, after the Gracie fight, even if it was a decision win, the Gracie is a big family name so I was expecting a title fight. I didn’t have it so I guess if I win this time I have a good chance to have it.”

Whatever you do, don’t expect to see Kato back in a kickboxing ring anytime soon. Does it interest him to return? “Not really,” Kato replies after giving the question some thought. “If the offer is good then why not, for now, I feel more comfortable in MMA so my focus, my priorities, are in MMA.”

Many fans were very disappointed with the way his last fight turned out. Paired up against jiu-jitsu fighter, Ralek Gracie, Kato ended up going to the judges for the first time in his career. “Yeah the fight itself was really frustrating,” Kato admits. “I couldn’t do what I wanted and after two rounds, I knew I had done enough to win, and I knew he would push more. So I decided ‘yeah ok then it’s going to a decision’ but at the very least I had to win that fight.  That’s why I didn’t take too many risks in the third round. During the first and the second, I really wanted to end that fight like I always try but I couldn’t do it.”

So why hasn’t Kato fought since January? “I had an offer in September,” he says. “But I got injured during the training and had to go into surgery, and after the surgery, the process is really long to recover so that’s why.”

So what does Kato predict for the fight? “Obviously his nickname is ‘Bang’ you know, he likes to fight and that’s all I like doing too,” Kato laughs. “I’m really thinking about having a big knockout with my hands.”

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Exclusive: Fernando Gonzalez talks Paul Daley and Michael Page fights



Long-time Bellator welterweight contender, Fernando Gonzalez, has made a career out of fighting the best fighters his promotion had to offer. The always tough Californian has displayed this willingness to fight the best when he took on Paul Daley in a kickboxing match and when he took on Michael ‘Venom’ Page, in what was supposed to be Page’s coming out fight.

The kickboxing match with Daley happened back in 2015 at “Bellator MMA and Glory: Dynamite 1” in an event that featured both Glory kickboxing as well as its fair share of intriguing Bellator MMA fights. Gonzalez would go on to lose the fight in what many fans called a ‘lackluster’ contest. Speaking to MMA Latest, Gonzalez was asked if he had any interest in returning to the kickboxing ring and why he participated in Glory kickboxing.

“No. Honestly, that kickboxing match was more just to get Daley; because they kept trying to give him to me on short notice and one was on an injury,” Gonzalez told MMA Latest. “So I was like, ‘no I don’t want to give him an easy win’, but the only thing they came up with was that kickboxing match in that time. So ever since that fight, I was like ‘listen dude lets do this MMA’. I’m an MMA guy, I know how to kickbox and I’m good with it but I prefer MMA. I love doing MMA. I don’t like to have too many rules put on me. I like being able to go out there and flow freely. Honestly, I want Daley in an MMA fight so he gets the real fight.”

Gonzalez’ fight with Michael Page was booked as the veteran getting fed to the younger up and coming contender. The fight was Page’s opportunity to add another highlight reel knockout to his collection. Obviously, someone forgot to tell Gonzalez. Gonzalez went out and made sure he never gave Page any openings, unfortunately, he would go on to lose the fight by split decision. Fernando explains what went wrong in his only Bellator loss.

Honestly the only thing that went wrong in the fight is how people viewed the fight”, Gonzalez explains. “If you really look at the fight he really didn’t land anything. The whole first round they’re talking him up, how he’s dancing and how it’s putting me into a lullaby and this and that. I was never in danger. He was not throwing a single punch. This is MMA, you cant just take on the fight with one style, you have to fight different styles for different people. If it was just boxing, you would fight a boxer just one way realistically, but Michael Page has the karate style. So you have to come up with a different formula if you’re going to fight somebody like that.”

“So my style with him, I knew that he’s used to everybody rushing him and trying to take him down. I’m a striker so I don’t mind striking. If I’m not in danger then I’m going to keep it striking. So what I did was I circled, I kept him at arm’s length, so he constantly had to throw long arms where he’s having to reach out and grab you. He’s throwing those arms out, that makes him have to basically hold his arms out a lot longer than he’s used to. He’s used to guys rushing in on him. So with me playing that outside game, obviously my legs are a lot longer than my arms, so I had to throw a lot more kicks, there was a lot of head kicks to take away his power-punch where he leaps in. By doing that, that made him work a lot longer in the second and third round where he’s normally finishing guys. By that third round, he was completely exhausted and couldn’t throw. He said his timing was off and this and that, but he was just exhausted. I had already gassed him out and he had just enough to stay away from me.”

“Really it’s just how you see the fight. They automatically assumed I had to take him down to win and that’s not necessarily true. If I’m not in danger, and I’m landing kicks, and I’m landing good shots, and he’s hitting my arms. Realistically most of the shots he landed were on my arms and that really doesn’t count. So it’s really just how you see it and that’s why one judge had it 30-27. It’s just how you’re seeing the fight. If you’re a striker you would know what you’re looking at, but if you’re a ground guy, of course, you’re going to say ‘oh I got to get it to the ground’ which is what the commentators were; two ground guys talking about what I should’ve done.”

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