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“Top of the Food Chain Series” Volume 8: Best Cardio

Derek Bowe



Cardio, the all important factor of maintaining energy throughout the fight. A fighter can posses all the skills in the world, but if they exhaust all resources in the first few minutes of a fight, those skills are no longer any good to them. Cardio, or lack there of can be a major detriment to a fighter, as it can take away the frightening power which makes them the dangerous fighter they are. Speed will be gone, grappling technique thrown out the window, and the overall mentality and fight IQ will not be at the pinnacle of effective operation. In short, not possessing a high level of cardio can force a fighter to become a shell of what fans, and themselves are accustomed to seeing. For those fighters which do own an expendable gas tank, it is a weapon, one which is not overshadowed with skill, seemingly getting stronger as the fight continues in some cases. This list compiles the machines, the fighters who can seem super-human in their energetic output, and ability to maintain such an output over the course of their contests. The best cardio in mixed martial arts.

#5 Rafael Dos Anjos, Lightweight, UFC

4 years ago, it would have been very hard to imagine Dos Anjos would be sitting wrapped in UFC gold at this very moment. Dos Anjos looked like a solid fighter, good standup, good jiu jitsu, and average wrestling, yet certainly nothing to jump on the horn about. This was when Dos Anjos decided to make a change, a change that would eventually lead him to the path of the newly minted champion oft the 155 pound lightweight division. Dos Anjos changed everything, changed the where he trains, changed how he trains, what he eats, and even where he resides after coming stateside in a complete reinvention of his life. Dos Anjos has looked completely changed and has displayed a relentless pace in his bouts enroute to the title, as well as his title winning bout. Dos Anjos has used his pace to overwhelm his opponents, as well as execute his precise, and refined technique over the course of his bouts. A transformed man, a transformed fighter, now the lightweight champion of the world.

#4 Nick Diaz, Welterweight, UFC

Ask someone about Nick Diaz, and it is likely you will receive a plethora of separate opinions on the welterweight from Stockton, California. Some positive, some negative, some confused by the polarizing figure. One consistent opinion which is likely to be unwavering among the masses, Nick Diaz has great cardio. Diaz is an interesting character, sometimes he will flat lay down in the cage, as seen against Anderson Silva his last time out, yet when he does come to fight he is relentless in his pursuit of his opponent, with a very high output of punches from his boxing style of striking. Diaz is a triathlete in his downtime, competing in regular events in the sport.The degree of energy to complete such an event is held in high regard in the form of cardio energy as it requires biking, swimming and running multiple miles. Diaz’ participation in these such events ensures that he can operate at the pinnacle of physical conditioning, a perfect candidate for this list.

#3 Fabricio Werdum, Heavyweight, UFC

Fabricio Werdum exemplified just how essential being able to maintain your energy level throughout a fight can be, especially when placed against the elements of seven thousand foot altitude in his heavyweight title bid when he won via submission in the second round over another fighter who can be made an argument for inclusion in this list, Cain Velasquez. Fabricio Werdum has looked outstanding since being back in the UFC, he has gone undefeated in his return, and as previously mentioned, is the newly crowned heavyweight champion of the world. At the heavyweight division, much success is based on the ability to land the huge power strike, which at this weight, they all possess, yet Werdum goes about his dominance slightly different. Werdum employs a very high output style which is also very technically precise. His Muay Thai attack on the feet is very high volume and sets up his bread and butter, his jiu jitsu ability. Fighters often succumb to the pressure on the feet, then attempt to take the fight to the floor, exactly where he enjoys his best ability. Werdum’s high output style is only made possible by his abundance of cardio, a rare sight for a man his size.

#2 Dominick Cruz, Bantamweight, UFC

Dominick Cruz is known for his exceptional movement in his navigation of the cage. He frequently moves in to land strikes, then out of range, dipping and dodging any potential threats simultaneously. It truly is a sight to see. The frequent nature of his movement is what makes him so unpredictable, he just does not stay in front of his opponents. What makes this movement possible however, is his cardio. Cruz, while moving constantly, never seems to grow tired, keeping his output in line with what it was from the opening bell, to the end of the fifth round. Cruz’ speed never takes any sort of noticeable dip, thus keeping the effective nature of his striking game at its premium potency. Cruz could be made an argument for the top spot of his list, though his injury stints have not made him available for competition as the fighter who holds the top spot.

#1 Demetrious Johnson, Flyweight, UFC

Another champion makes this list, and it is hard to argue his spot. Demetrious Johnson has made his title defenses look like a glorified sparring sessions, seeming only to ever break a sweat in his fight against Dodson, also the fight which gave the best example of his extraordinary cardio, Dodson came out early and fast, matching the champion Johnson in most aspects of the bout, even knocking down Johnson two times. It was in the later rounds when Johnson came alive, each intermission between rounds seemingly emerging a new fighter coming out for his first round of action. it overwhelmed the challenger Dodson, (also Johnson’s upcoming opponent) and left him without an answer in rounds four and five. Johnson has been able to break his opponents with his flawless technique, speed, and pressure. The champion’s cardio may possibly be his very best asset.

Honorable Mentions: Frankie Edgar, Cain Velasquez, Uriah Faber, TJ Dillashaw, Rashad Evans, Jon Jones

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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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