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Top 5 Grapplers At UFC: Hunt VS. Miocic




In a little over two weeks UFC Fight Night – Hunt VS. Miocic will be hosted in Adelaide, Australia and its a card with some stand out grapplers from around the world. At first glance, it may seem like the grappling talent is few and far between. When you look a little deeper we have a few exceptional ground players to indulge in the coming weeks.

1. Daniel Kelly

The Australian native has represented his nation four times at the Olympics in Judo. He most recently competed in the 2012 Olympics for Australia but had his professional debut six years prior. Kelly maintained a six-year hiatus to focus on Judo. Following his last Olympic tournament in 2012 he made the full turn to MMA. Since then Kelly has gone undefeated in eight bouts, finishing all but two of them. There is no question he is an elite Judoka with a proficient ground game. Admittedly he is 37, but he has held up well and taken decently to striking. With his strong base, it takes a powerful wrestler or fellow Judoka to bring him down while he is susceptible to leg takedowns his movement combats them pretty actively. Off his back, he is not the most dangerous but has pretty solid scrambling if he ends up there and a dominant top game. He can be a bit timid at times, but he is smart and should be fun to watch compete against Sam Alvey who is going to look to take his head off.


2. Jake Matthews

The darkhorse of this list and one of the youngest fighters ever to join the UFC ranks is worthy of this list. You may be wondering what accolades he has out of MMA and he does not have any. He is apart of the next generation of kids being brought up that are incredibly well rounded. With that said, there is no discounting his grappling. Matthews is undefeated and in his two fights in the UFC has finished both his opponents by submission. The most impressive was his last opponent, Vagner Rocha a decorated black belt in BJJ under the renown Pablo Popavitch.  Matthews submitted him early in the second round via RNC. Matthews is incredibly athletic, dynamic and self-aware. These things will take you far in MMA and only adds to his grappling. He has a tough test against James Vick who has been notoriously hard to takedown, but Matthews has the tools to beat him on the feet or on the mat.


3. Alptekin Ozkilic

The Turkish-American wrestler enters the cage for the fourth time against Ben Nguyen. Ozkilic was a successful wrestler in Turkey in his youth, a strong nation for wrestling. He moved to America in his teens and wrestled at the famous Nassau Community College which has had MMA royalty come through in past years. This list includes Jay Hieron, Phil Baroni, Ryan LaFlare, and current middleweight champion, Chris Weidman. A standout and solid wrestler, Ozkilic has been able to implement a style of sprawl and brawl on his opponents that can be quite hard to deal with. Over the last few fights, his striking has shored up a good bit especially his boxing, but his wrestling that allows him to do so much. Especially his Greco techniques. Ozkilic has gone toe to toe with some of the divisions more dangerous opponents. Expect his throws, and shots to be on display against the dynamic Ben Nguyen.




4. Stipe Miocic

The Croatian-American heavyweight has some of the best boxing in the division, but what gets forgotten is how good is grappling is a lot of the time. Miocic was a D1 wrestler at Cleveland State. Miocic usually uses his grappling in a defensive manner to keep it standing and knock out his opponents. Against the late Shane del Rosario and Junior Dos Santos, Miocic was able to implement his wrestling in offensive ways to mix it up. Stipe tends to like throws against the cage or low singles against his opponents and turning the corner to take them down. Stipe has a solid style of pressure passing he uses to gain position and do damage to his opponents. Stipe’s sprawl is his best weapon, but against Hunt expect his shot to be on display to throw the Super Samoan for a curve.

(not a whole lot in this highlight for his wrestling, but a little)

5. Hatsu Hioki

The Japanese wonderboy has fallen on hard times. Hioki has lost four of his last five bouts in the UFC. For the most part, it has been his grappling which has looked a bit weak. More so he has looked stiff since joining the UFC ranks. There is no doubting his grappling acumen though. Hioki is one of the most technical grapplers to come out of Japan in recent years. If anything he has been physically outmatched and it not unreasonable as he looks smaller than most of his opponents. Against Daniel Hooker he will again have a size disadvantage, but should have a clear grappling advantage in such a way that he makes quick work of the New Zealand prospect. Hooker had some trouble with the much smaller Ian Entwistle for a bit before winning by TKO. Hoki can use his solid wrestling and great technical passing to get to a dominant position on Hooker and finish it with a nice submission. Hooker is no slouch but matches up nicely with Hioki if he is not able to implement his striking. Hioki could be looking at walking papers so expect a fired up Hioki for this match.

Expect a lot of great grappling exchanges from the fighters listed here and others. It is these cards that usually end up having some of the most dynamic scrambles and jumped submissions.

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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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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child



Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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