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UFC 189’s Fighter to Watch: ‘The Dirty Bird’ Means’ Business

Steven Cavagnino

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One of the most anticipated events in recent memory is finally upon us. The Notorious Conor McGregor will finally get a shot at the title belt he has been talking about for years. With a featherweight headliner, UFC 189 has set a few unprecedented trends that steer away from the norm in regards to PPV events. Firstly, a lighter title belt will be the main event over a heavier weight class. Second, the PPV buys for this event are off the chart, with millions beings sold even before the event was close.

But not only are there two of the most popular titles on the line at UFC 189, but the entire card, top to bottom, is one of the strongest the UFC has ever put on. Every single fight on this card is an eye opener, and not one to be missed. This makes my job harder when determining which single fighter on this card is the one to pay the most attention to. With superstars like McGregor on the card one would think it’s an easy decision. The fighter to watch is the fighter people HAVE been watching for years, isn’t it? Sure, McGregor is a hype and media machine, quick witted, stylish, and dangerous, but I’m going to try to look past the obvious and dive deeper into the less charismatic, but just as entertaining, portion of the card.

Set to headline the prelims is a welterweight bout between Matt Brown and Tim Means. The moment this fight was announced, there were many dropped jaws and concerned gasps. Is the UFC even allowed to put a fight together that has the potential for such violence!? But on a more serious note, this fight is majorly flying under the radar. Headlining the prelims is an honor in itself as it will be seen on free TV by millions; but it does lack the allure the fighting on the main card has.

The non-main card placement may come from the lack of star power when it comes to names in this fight. Although these men are two of the best fighters in the world, it’s no secret that neither have huge star power. In fact, Tim Means is a relative unknown, and that’s exactly why he should be watched on Saturday. Means has been on a tear recently but facing Matt Brown is without a doubt the biggest fight of his career. Brown was just recently in a title eliminator match, which reflects how highly touted he is in a tough division. In turn, a victory of Matt Brown would skyrocket Means’ stock, perhaps even putting him in the top 10 of the division.

In truth, this is Means’ fight to win. There are moment in fighters’ careers that can be identified as a turning point. A fight in which a win could make them contenders or a loss could set them off track for the rest of their careers. Of course every fighter has their career ups and downs but make no mistake about it, this is Means’ time. He’s an incredibly technical fighter who has a true shot at the upset. His knockout power and technical Muay Thai skills have been on point in his recent fights and the career momentum he is riding is nothing to sneeze at.

When it comes down to it, the fighter to watch on a card isn’t always the one that everyone is already looking at. In the case of Tim Means, it’s a fighter who has superb talent, the opportunity of a lifetime, and the skills to pull it off. This fight has hardcore and casual fans alike chomping at the bit to see it. It will tell us a lot about both fighters, but more so about how Means’ will fare at the top of the division that he has so steadily been putting on notice. It’s do or die time for Means, but this is the fight business where nothing is handed out; and he has a mountain to climb in Matt Brown. With the world as his stage and Brown as his dance partner, my pick for UFC 189’s Fighter to Watch is Tim ‘The Dirty Bird’ Means.

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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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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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