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UFC 184 One to Watch: Former 16-Time Boxing World Champion Holly Holm Finally Enters the UFC

Steven Cavagnino

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After providing some massive hype, only to subsequently provide some massive let down, UFC 184 is finally upon us. With Ronda Rousey at the helm taking on a battle-ready Cat Zingano, it will be the woman who bring us war this Saturday. Not only is this fight one of the most highly anticipated Women’s Bantamweight title fights, but for the first time ever UFC 184 is being both headlined and co-headlined by female fighters and that’s where my choice for UFC 184’s fight to watch comes in.

Before Rousey and Zingano attempt to tear each other apart, UFC newcomer Holly Holm and TUF 18 veteran Raquel Pennington will do battle in what could possibly be the most telling fight of the night. It’s not the the Holm/Pennington fight has major star power or is sure to be a barn burner, the fight is intriguing because the outcome could potentially determine the future of an entire division.

Enter Holly Holm, a ferocious female who has been at the top of own her sport; 16 times over. That’s right, a 16 -time professional boxing world champion, Holm easily has the most impressive standup resume in the division, and perhaps the entire UFC. Having been nominated for awards like fighter of the year alongside the likes of Floyd Mayweather and Georges St. Pierre, Holm is no stranger to both fame and recognition. Her resume speaks for itself, and if that’s not saying enough for you, let her training partners in Jon Jones, Donald Cerrone, Jon Dodson, Carlos Condit, and Alistair Overeem tell you some more about her.

With that all said, Holm is 7-0 in MMA with 6 knockouts, her striking is lethal and she has the ‘big show’ experience. At this point in her career her kicks and punches have starched her opponents and to see if she’ll be able to do it against UFC-calibre fighters is yet another reason to tune in. But she is only one half of the fight. Raquel Pennington, who, at this point in her career is really a journeyman (journeywoman?) fighter has posted an underwhelming 5-4 record to date. She is tough as nails, comes to brawl, and certainly won’t back down from Holm no matter how successful she was in professional boxing. But it’s pretty evident that Pennington is the technically inferior fighter and will have to beat the odds to win. In short and in reality this fight is a test for Holm to see where she stands in the division and if she’ll receive a #1 contender matchup. It’s also a long shot for Pennington, who will certainly open some eyes, whilst causing some headaches for the UFC matchmakers if she manages to get past Holm.

It is fitting that Holm is fighting on the same show the Rousey is as many people view Holm as being one of the last women who has a legitimate shot at dethroning Ronda Rousey, and this is why the fight between Holm and Pennington is so important. A win for Holm could breathe some life into a Woman’s Bantamweight division that is the most shallow in the UFC. Beating Pennington could easily give Holm a #1 contender fight seeing as she is sitting behind those who Rousey has already vanquished, and, let’s get real, Holm vs. Rousey is one of the few marketable fights the UFC has left without going the route of rematch; or rubber match. Through no fault of her own, Ronda Rousey’s dominance has provided the UFC with a “Now what?” scenario, they have their top fighters knocking each other out of title contention and even then, most of them have already lost to Rousey.

The Holm vs. Pennington matchup and outcome could single handedly either progress or stagnate an entire division. It’s one of the most important fights in recent events, even if it is being downplayed by the Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano matchup. Add Holm’s ability to cause massive damage and end a night with one strike and Pennington’s inability to back down from a challenge, and there is plenty reason to watch this fight, thus making it the UFC 184 fight to watch.

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Announcement

Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz in the works for UFC 223

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UFC 223 looks to add a variety of intriguing bouts. With Paul Felder vs. Al Iaquinta reportedly set for the unannounced UFC 223 card, the promotion looks to add a high stakes female flyweight match-up. According to MMANYTT.com, sources confirmed a bout between Felice Herrig and Karolina Kowalkiewicz, is in the works for the pay-per-view card.

 

Assuming the match-up does come to be, both women have much to gain from a victory. For Herrig, she currently sits on a four-fight win streak. A streak in which the strawweight contender defeated Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Cortney Casey. The MMA veteran, Herrig, began fighting professionally in 2009. As of late, her issues with the marketing machine that is the UFC have intensified.

After demonstrating her technical prowess over Justine Kish at UFC Fight Night 122: Chiesa vs. Lee, Herrig put her emotions on display. She stated at the post-fight media scrum, “Sometimes, I feel like, I’m not young and beautiful enough for the UFC to want to promote me. And it’s sad because I’ve really worked so hard to be here and it’s hard to see these people who’ve not been through what I’ve been through. Who just got into the UFC at the right time. They’re getting all these opportunities and I see how hard I work to get here and it’s just like, it doesn’t matter. I just feel like, ‘I’m not pretty enough and I’m not getting any younger'”.

A frustrated Felice Herrig then spoke to MMAJunkie.com in December. She claimed, “Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak. That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10”. The #9 ranked women’s flyweight has a point. In her UFC career, she recorded one loss in six appearances. Yet, she has one co-main event booking, while fighters like Michelle Waterson, booked the main event in her second UFC bout. In Waterson’s third bout, she received a co-main event scheduling. Understandably, Felice Herrig is upset with her situation.

Later in her interview, Herrig brought up Kowalkiewicz as a potential next opponent. “For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina. I just think that would be an exciting fight… Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above (me), and it may be a good gauge for me,” she stated. Right now, it looks like Herrig is close to getting what she wants.

Kowalkiewicz last fought in her native country of Poland on the UFC Fight Pass card, UFC Fight Night 118: Cowboy vs. Till, in October. The Polish star defeated Jody Esquibel, after losing consecutive contests to former UFC female strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejcyk and Claudia Gadelha, respectively.

A win for either makes a good case for the next or an eventual title challenger. Kowalkiewicz holds a victory over current division champion, Rose Namajunas. While a win for Herrig would further establish her impressive win streak and undoubtedly give her the boost in the rankings she deserves.

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Bellator

Douglas Lima found out about change to co-main event at Bellator 192 from the internet

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Bellator 192 fight card has gone through a shake-up over the past week. Bellator president Scott Coker revealed last week that the scheduled welterweight title fight between Rory MacDonald and champion Douglas Lima will now be serving as the co-main event and the heavyweight matchup between Chael Sonnen and Rampage Jackson would instead take top billing. At the time no explanation was made for the change. Monday Douglas Lima was a guest on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani to discuss this change.

“I was little bummed, but it is what it is, it’s business you know. I was pretty excited you know? Being the main event, having Rampage fight as the co-main event, I was happy there. Then I was bummed out that they changed it back to the co-main event. It’s not going to change a thing for me, I’m just focusing on the fight.”

Lima has been notoriously looked over in the eyes of fight fans. A longtime member of Bellator and a two-time champion has not gotten the notice he deserves and hopes to get.

“I found out through the internet, nobody tells me anything, I didn’t know. the same thing happened in New York, I thought my fight would be before the two main events there, but it ended up being the first fight of the night on Pay-Per-View. Hopefully, it doesn’t take anything away from the fight, you know spotlight and stuff.”

Lima is looking to make all the naysayers take notice at Bellator 192 that takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Califonia on January 20th.

“This is the fight I’ve been waiting for for a long time. To get my name out there, to get people to know who I am. I’ve been delivering a lot of good fights, fights fans like to watch but no attention yet. I’m hoping though that after a win over Rory this week it will really put my name out there and show all these welterweights out there that I am for real.”

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Fight Announcements

Al Iaquinta vs. Paul Felder rescheduled for UFC 223 in April

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MMA fans around the world wept in deep sorrow when Al Iaquinta withdrew from a bout scheduled for UFC 218 against Paul Felder. Weep no more, for Paul Felder faces Al Iaquinta at UFC 223. Rumblings behind the match-up, first reported by FloCombat.com, came Sunday night before MMAFighting.com confirmed the bout scheduled for unannounced pay-per-view card, later in the evening.

 

The original bout fell through due to a severe knee injury to Iaquinta. He spoke to BJ Penn Radio about the injury nearly a week before the December 2nd, PPV event in Detriot. The Long Island real estate agent claimed, “I tore my PCL and my MCL maybe three or four months ago… for me to really put in a full training camp and do what I need to do, I would’ve had to just focus on fighting and physical therapy… it was the kind of thing where all roads led to me not kind of taking a risk and fighting on December 2nd”.

Iaquinta went on to say, “I kind of accepted the fight, but I never signed a bout agreement… I was kind of told I had to give them an answer pretty quick. It was a fight I thought I really wanted. I thought it was a good stylistic match-up for me, so I accepted the fight, and then thinking about it over the course of a day, we realized it probably wasn’t a smart decision for my health, for everything”.

An outspoken lightweight, he is not the first of his kind. Al Iaquinta is no stranger to idly waiting on the sideline for the UFC to make a move. Contract disputes and other bad strokes of luck left the Serra-Longo with three octagon appearances since 2015. The feud between Iaquinta and the promotion comes as a surprise when looking at the credentials of the aforementioned fighter. With an octagon record of 8-2, he earned notoriety as one of the best lightweights in the world. During his time in the UFC, he defeated Kevin Lee, Ross Pearson, Joe Lauzon, Jorge Masvidal, and most recently Diego Sanchez.

His opponent, “The Irish Dragon”, Paul Felder, holds an impressive UFC record of his own. At 7-3, Felder defeated tough competition as well. His record notes wins over Daron Cruickshank, Jason Saggo, Stevie Ray, and Charles Oliveira. Even more impressive than his record, his knockout ratio. At this stage of his career, Felder knockouts 55% of his opponents (10 knockouts in 18 career pro bouts).

Like his opponent Iaquinta, Paul Felder has a separate career outside of fighting. As many should notice, Felder found a role as a color commentator with the promotion he fights for. Following the footsteps in a long line of fighters before him, Felder announced multiple events alongside another new addition to the UFC broadcast team, Brendan Fitzgerald.

PPV card, UFC 223 and its location are not official yet. Despite a lack of an announcement, the event takes place in Brooklyn, New York at the Barclays Centre, according to multiple reports. Currently, the card features no official bouts. Reports state Felice Herrig vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz (per Jim Edwards), and Evan Dunham vs. Mairbek Taisumov (per Farah Hannoun) are both in the works for UFC 223.

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