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Top 5 Bouts to Watch This Weekend: 5/26-5/28

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This week MMA fans are in for a treat with spectacular events taking place from Friday through to Sunday as some of the World’s best promotions put on some cracking fights. From ONE Championship on Friday to the colossal event held by KSW on Saturday topped off by UFC Stockholm on Sunday, it is fair to say fans are in for a treat.

When there are so many great match-ups on offer, many get forgotten about or even go unnoticed, so here are my five bouts to watch in the coming days.

1. Borys Mańkowski vs. Mamed Khalidov

Up first is the catchweight bout headlining the KSW Colosseum card on Saturday between Borys Mańkowski vs. Mamed Khalidov. Both men have been tearing apart their respected divisions in KSW and have finally agreed to meet at 180lbs in a non-title battle between arguably the most dominant champions in the promotion. Mańkowski is currently on a 6 fight tear, overpowering every fighter that has stepped in front of him at 170lbs. His last loss came in 2012 and at that, it was due to an injury, since that loss he came back stronger than ever to avenge that loss and take home the title. His outstanding ground game will be what to look out for as goes up against the 185lb king, Khalidov.

Khalidov is arguably the best Middleweight outside of the UFC making easy enough work each opponent that has stepped in front of him. With a strong all round game he is dangerous regardless of the situation he is put in. Having never lost in Poland and his most recent win being a 21 second knockout over Luke Barnatt, he will be fun to watch as always as he tests himself at a lower than usual weight in this super fight.

2. Alexander Gustafsson vs. Glover Teixeira

It’d certainly be rude not to have the headline of the UFC Stockholm card on this list, especially with it being such an interesting match-up that could send the winner into title contention. Having only fought once in the last year, Gustafsson could possibly find himself in a 3rd title fight with a win here. His impressive return in 2016 saw him bounce back from that narrow title loss against Daniel Cormier.

Teixeira, on the other hand, has been pushing for a title shot for quite some time now and is currently ranked at 2 in the official UFC rankings an upset win over Gustafsson in the swede’s home country may finally get him a shot at the winner of Jones/Cormier.

3. Angela Lee vs. Istela Nunes

The headline fight of the ONE Championship card is one not to be missed as the highly touted prospect Angela Lee puts her title on the line in what could be a real test for her against Istela Nunes. Lee has one of the most dangerous and creative ground games in women’s MMA with the majority of her fights ending in submission only going the distance once. Her twister submission victory is what she is best known for as it showcases her grappling ability perfectly.

Nunes is probably Lee’s toughest fight to date, having impressed in her promotional debut Nunes believes she spoiled the promotion’s plans for a rematch between Lee and Yamaguchi by defeating Yamaguchi via decision. Nunes is planning to hand Lee her first loss in impressive fashion stating in an interview with mmafighting.com, “I really want a knockout,”.

4. Marcin Wrzosek vs. K. Koike Erbst

Current KSW Champion Marcin Wrzosek, also known as “The Polish Zombie”, is best known to MMA fans for competing on TUF 22 and reaching the semi-final before losing to Saul Rogers. His lone UFC fight saw him lose a very tight decision to fellow cast member Julian  Erosa, he was cut from the roster shortly after. Following the disappointment of being cut, Wrzosek returned to the cage with back to back fights, winning the 145lb title in his last fight via TKO. The 145lb polish sensation will put his belt on the line in the promotions biggest ever show and hope to steal the show against his Japanese opponent Koike Erbst.

Koike Erbst is heading into this fight riding a 3 fight win streak that has all come via submission. The submission specialist has an incredible ground game and will look to utilize this to his advantage and pull off an upset win in front of a Polish crowd.

5. Shinya Aoki  vs.  Garry Tonon

This grappling-only matchup at ONE Championship puts two of arguably the best grapplers in the world to the test. After losing the lightweight strap in ONE, Aoki called for the match and his wish was granted. Aoki is a world renowned grappler with 25 MMA wins coming via submission.  Across from him will be Tonon, who holds various tournament title wins whilst competing in competitions such as EBI and Polaris. For lovers of the ground game, this will be a fantastic bout to watch as it will arguably be one of the most competitive match-ups to take place this weekend. There are my 5 bouts to watch this weekend anyway, there is no shortage of action as plenty more good fights join the ones above on their respected fight cards. 

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Interviews

UFC 219’s Jimmie Rivera to TJ Dillashaw “Defend Your Belt or Vacate.”

Harry Davies

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MMA Latest had the chance to talk to #4 ranked UFC bantamweight Jimmie “El Terror” Rivera ahead of his fight at UFC 219 against John Lineker.

Rivera (21-1) extended his unbeaten run to twenty when he defeated Thomas Almeida at UFC Long Island in July. Originally scheduled to face former bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz, we began by asking Rivera how the opponent change had affected his preparation for UFC 219.

The only thing that’s changed is the game plan, everything else stays the same. Cruz is more of an irritating fight because he just doesn’t stop moving, but with Lineker, he’s going to stay in the pocket and bang, and I love that.

Recently, Rivera posted a video to his Twitter account of him sparring with the recently crowned bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw. He told us about the context of this video, and how the sparring went down between them.

It was 3 or 4 years back. I think TJ had just lost to (John) Dodson on TUF. My teammate Louis Gaudinot was actually fighting Tim Elliott at the time, and we were in Milwaukee so I got to train with (Urijah) Faber and Dillashaw.

I just sent it to TJ to say, don’t forget what happened. I was getting the best of him, and I don’t really brag about it. But he wants to leave the weight class and fight DJ for the money fight, and I want to fight for the belt, so it’s defend your belt or vacate.

After briefly referencing the potential superfight between Demetrious Johnson and TJ Dillashaw, I asked Rivera about his thoughts on the somewhat flawed UFC rankings system, and title fights being put together purely for entertainment value.

It sucks. When I become champ I won’t be like a TJ or McGregor, I’m going to be like Demetrious Johnson and defend my belt against people coming up, it’s the right thing to do. If you want to win the belt and leave the division straight away, it’s kind of bullshit.

Rivera concluded by telling me that although he isn’t looking past Lineker at 219, “the only fight that makes sense after this one, is fighting TJ for the belt.”

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Announcement

Mark Hunt Returns to Fight Curtis Blaydes at UFC 221

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UFC 221 in Perth has officially added a another Australian to the main card. Joining Robert Whittaker is the knockout legend Mark Hunt.

The Daily Telegraph first reported that Hunt will be stepping into the octagon to face #9 Curtis Blaydes. Some weren’t sure if we would ever see Hunt fight again after he was pulled from the main event in UFC Fight Night 21 against Marcin Tybura. The UFC removed him due to “medical concerns” while Hunt was stating he was perfectly fine.

After getting evaluated and cleared to fight by Australian and American doctors, it looks like his time has come to return.  Hunt’s last fight was back in June when he derailed the Derrick Lewis hype train with a 4th round TKO win.

Hunt had been adamant about calling out #3 ranked heavyweight Fabricio Werdum and trying to get that rematch booked, labelling Werdum a “chicken shit” and a “coward.”

Curtis “Razor” Blaydes who has an 8-1 record, is coming off a TKO victory due to doctor stoppage at UFC 217 in November. Since losing to now title challenger Francis Ngannou in April of 2016, Blaydes has rattled off three straight wins over Alexey Oleynik, Daniel Omielanczuk, and Cody East.

With all this momentum from the win streak, Blaydes looks to capitalize and win the biggest fight of his career against Hunt.

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News

Valentina Shevchenko vs. Priscila Cachoeira Officially Booked for Belem, Brazil card

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The wait is over. Valentina Shevchenko (14-3, 3-2 UFC) will make her highly anticipated flyweight debut when the UFC returns to Brazil. She will face Priscila Cachoeira (8-0) on the February 3rd card scheduled for Belem, Brazil. Luciana Andrade was the first to report the match-up last week. On Tuesday, the UFC posted an article which stated the bout had been set.

Now that the flyweight tournament is over and the inaugural champion has her crown, many women shall migrate from the strawweight and bantamweight ranks in search of a more suitable weight class. The division is so infantile means a lot moving parts in the rankings. Yet, only women who fought at one hundred and twenty-five lbs. are ranked. Such practices muddy the title picture for the time being. Essentially ruling out the idea of Montano vs. Shevchenko for the first defense of the belt, illogical. An idea that floated around the internet until today’s confirmation of the newest female flyweight match-up. The TUF 26 winner, Nicco Montano called it, “kinda silly”, earlier this week while on The MMA Hour. Montano believes her first title defense, as it stands, should pit her against the original finalist of the flyweight tournament, Sijara Eubanks. Although Eubanks withdrew from the title fight, she is still ranked as the #1 contender in the division.

Shevchenko explained her desire for the flyweight belt on The MMA Hour, a week earlier than Montano, “For me it’s number one, to fight for the title… It doesn’t matter for me, if I have to have one fight before it, okay I will do it… my main goal is to be the champion… It doesn’t matter I move from one thirty-five to one twenty-five. My goal is still the same, to be the champion”. The Russian fighter is coming off an unsuccessful title shot in the bantamweight division against the current reigning champ, Amanda Nunes. The bout went to a decision after close five rounds, Nunes ultimately defeated Shevchenko via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47).

Her opponent, Priscila Cachoeira, is not only new to the UFCs female flyweight division but the promotion’s roster as well. Cachoeira originally was scheduled to make her promotional debut against veteran Lauren Murphy at The Ultimate Fighter Finale 26. The Brazilian fighter withdrew from the bout due to visa issues. As a professional, she is undefeated with four knockouts in her eight fights.

UFC Belem is scheduled for February 3rd, 2018. The card will feature Timothy Johnson vs. Marcelo Golm in the heavyweight division. It will also have Thiago Santos taking on Anthony Smith in the middleweight division.

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