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TUF 23 Finale Fighter to Watch: John Moraga

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Can you really have too much of a good thing? With the growth of MMA, driven largely by the growth of the UFC, that is a question fans of the sport have debated time and again in recent years. With MMA available on so many platforms, from so many promotions, fight free weekends are a thing of the past. For some, there is a fine line between fun indulgence and over-saturation. With three UFC events in three days, International Fight Week should serve as the perfect test of where that line sits.

Thankfully the events are good. Really good. So good that it is hard to remember everything that is in store. To anticipate every last joyous fight that the UFC are promoting this week is a tough ask for even the most hardcore mixed martial arts fan. With so many emerging prospects and crowd-pleasing veterans in the mix, well-matched scraps can get lost in the shuffle. One fighter who could, but shouldn’t, is John Moraga. The former flyweight title challenger is set to face Matheus Nicolau at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale.

The bout could easily have been our Fight to Watch, and Nicolau could as easily have ended up in this Fighter to Watch spot himself. But he hasn’t, because John Moraga is the sort of visual treat that we might all be craving by the time we get halfway through the UFC’s back-to-back-to-back events. A first-team member of Sherdog’s All-Violence squad in 2013, Moraga is rarely in boring fights. More than that, when facing opponents who are not quite at the very top of the UFC’s 125-pound pile, Moraga usually finds his way to an impressive finish.

The only defeats on the fighter’s record are against arguably the three best in the world at flyweight, Demetrious Johnson, Joseph Benavidez, and John Dodson – before Dodson made the move up to bantamweight. Opponents who fall anywhere below that level? They’ve all been taken out, only Dustin Ortiz able to take Moraga the distance in a split decision defeat.

That is Matheus Nicolau, a talented prospect who provides an intriguing test for Moraga, but who cannot yet lay claim to being a Joseph Benavidez or Demetrious Johnson level fighter. That probably leads to an exciting Friday night undercard fight. And while this can be viewed simply as a chance to enjoy Moraga bringing the thrills, it also means much more besides. These are the fights Moraga wins, and usually impresses in doing so. A slip up here against a fighter on his way up would tell us plenty about where Moraga stands in the division, and what the future holds for him at 125 pounds.

Defeats to Dodson, Johnson and Benavidez come with no shame attached, especially for a fighter who has beaten every other opponent he has faced in a 20-fight-career. Yet that belief that Moraga could still one day move to the next level and beat the very best in the world becomes much harder to hold onto with a loss to Nicolau on Friday.

The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale takes place Friday, July 8 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, and is headlined by the strawweight title fight between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Claudia Gadelha.

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Jake Collier Re-Signs with the UFC

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UFC light heavyweight, Jake Collier (11-4, 3-3 UFC) , took to twitter yesterday, announcing a four fight contract renewal with the promotion.

The Missouri-born, Collier, amassed a 7-1 professional record fighting exclusively in his home state. Following his next fight, a 1st round submission victory over Gabriel Checco in the RFA promotion, Collier signed with the UFC.

Originally, Collier signed as a middleweight. His promotional debut took place in December of 2014 at, UFC Fight Night 58. A bout which he lost to Vitor Miranda via TKO (Head kick and punches) with only one second remaining in the opening round.

In 2017, “The Prototype”, moved to the light heavyweight division. The move came after a three-year stint at middleweight that saw him go 2-2. Losing to the likes of Dongi Yang, while defeating Ricardo Abreu. His final fight at the lower weight earned him a performance of the night bonus in his, UFC Fight Night 88, TKO win over Alberto Uda.

Upon moving to light heavyweight, Collier has the same .500 win percentage with a record of 1-1. His debut at the weight originally scheduled him against John Stansbury. Unfortunately, Collier withdrew from the card due to injury. Devin Clark replaced him on, The Ultimate Fighter Finale: 24, and defeated John Stansbury by unanimous decision. Clark then fought Collier next, defeating him by unanimous decision. “The Prototype”s most recent bout, a victory over Marcel Fortuna in November at, UFC Fight Night 120.

According to, UFC.com, Collier is booked to fight UFC-newcomer, Marcin Prachnio at, UFC on Fox 28, in Orlando, Florida. The only bout booked to the February 24th card, of next year.

Prachnio, holds a record of 13-2, with 10 knockouts. He most recently fought for the Asian-based promotion, One Championship. The Karate practitioner comes to the UFC on an eight fight win streak, the previous four in One Championship. At twenty-nine, Prachnio is another, in his prime, European light heavyweight signed to the UFC this year (Volkan Oezdemir being the other).

 

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Fighter to Watch

Chris Wade Blasts UFCs Matchmaking Process

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Chris Wade (12-3, 5-2 UFC) is not happy with Sean Shelby and Dana White. The UFC fighter took to social media to air a long-winded grievance with his employer.

Wade won his most recent bout against Frankie Perez by unanimous decision on the July 22nd card, UFC on Fox 25.

With statements like these, it seems Wade is in a peculiar position. Obviously, he lacks the good graces of the UFC. In addition, lightweight is an extremely deep division in the UFC. In reality, a long while may pass before a portion of talented fighters gain rankings. There is a massive backlog of talent in the division. Not too long ago, James Vick was in the same position.

The Texas native earned a record of 8-1 before being awarded the #14 ranking. It took three consecutive finishes to get him there. Finishes over Joe Duffy, Marco Polo Reyes and Abel Trujillo. Vick not only had to flash inside the cage but also, make his voice heard.

Wade is in a similar position but, not an identical one. James Vick was a guy whom a lot of people were keeping an eye on. Even before the “Texacutioner”, made his case against the rankings clear, talk spread about his skills. Unfortunately, the same can not be said of Chris Wade. His record of 5-2, is very respectable. Yet, the reasons why he sits unranked and a fighter like Vick does not, are more than numbers.

Losses to Rustam Khabilov and Islam Makhachev are certainly a factor in this equation. Makhachev and Khabilov are two more lightweights who could have the same grievance as Wade. Especially Khabilov, whom currently rides a five-fight win streak. Wade would garner greater footing in his division with high stakes match up.

The New Yorker does not look to be in the position of picking fights. Yet, the only way to advance in the one hundred and fifty-five-pound division is beating prospects. Not necessarily young fighters but, unranked fighters who have developed a profile within the MMA community. Lando Vannata is one of a few whom fit the description.

Although Vannata’s UFC record shows mixed success, his potential is well-known. His record, 1-2-1, includes a lost bout taken on short notice against, current, interim Lightweight champion, Tony Ferguson.

This fight would be an ideal matchup for Wade. The hype behind Vannata is growing, and his exciting style will draw an increasing amount of eyes every time he enters the octagon. Assuming Wade’s statements on social media are true, and he is on thin ice with management, he needs those eyes.

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Fighter to Watch

Can Darren Till fill Michael Bisping’s role of being the UK’s MMA golden boy?

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After his explosive TKO finish of UFC legend Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone at UFC Gdansk, Darren Till is the name on everyone’s lips.

Am I surprised? Absolutely not. Prior to the fight Till had 15 professional MMA wins to his name and 44 kickboxing wins. And although he was relatively unknown to some, there is no denying the talent the Liverpudlian has, in fact, he oozes class.

The UK MMA community is buzzing with the level their homegrown talent is performing at and there have already been calls to have Till main event a UFC fight night in his home town of Liverpool. With rumours circulating that Michael Bisping could soon retire, could Till be the man to fill his boots when it comes to being the poster boy for British MMA?

Next stop Echo Arena Liverpool ? 👀 @danawhite @ufc 🦍

A post shared by Till (@darrentill2) on

It’s no secret that Bisping is brilliant at marketing himself, but at times his nationality and popularity in the UK alone would be enough to sell out any arena in the UK.

But with Bisping currently holding the middleweight title, he has many PPV match ups and big fights in the US ahead before his impending retirement.

That leaves a big question mark over the future of the UFC in the UK. After all, 3 out of 4 of Bisping’s most recent main event fights have been in the UK and have all pulled in impressive ticket sales with very flattering gate numbers. 9 of Bisping’s 27 UFC fights have taken place on this side of the pond, showing how valuable he has been in selling tickets and growing the sport in the UK.

With the sport growing rapidly in the UK & Ireland thanks to a certain charismatic Irishman, the UFC must keep up this momentum by putting on solid cards with good main event fights and local talent.

With Marc Diakese, Jimi Manuwa and Gunnar Nelson all losing in their last fights respectively we are unlikely to see them main event a UK event for sometime.

So who’s better to trust than the man who just demolished Cerrone in one round? With Dana White calling Till the “the future” then surely he must be the future of UK MMA and the man to step in ready to fill Bisping’s boots when he eventually throws in the towel on his remarkable career.

He is perfect to become the next face of UK MMA, he has the back story, the physical attributes and most importantly the talent.

Who knows maybe it could be Darren Till vs Mike Perry in early 2018, to start his reign as the new boss of UK MMA. But one things for sure, he’s certainly capable of filling Michael Bisping’s role as the UK’s primary main event star.

Agree? Disagree? Let us know your thoughts below!

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