The UFC heads back to Australia this Saturday, but will be in the state of Victoria when UFC 193 lands in Etihad Stadium in Melbourne. The event features 13 fights in eight weight classes and TWO title fights. Here’s the time and where to watch (for US only).
Early Prelims- UFC Fight Pass(6:15 PM EST, 3:15 PST, 11:15 BST)
Flyweight: Ben Nguyen vs. Ryan Benoit
Middleweight: Dan Kelly vs. Steve Montgomery
Welterweight: Richard Walsh vs. Steve Kennedy
Welterweight: Anton Zafir vs. James Moontasri
Preliminary Card- Fox Sports 1(8 PM EST, 5 PM EST, 1 AM *BST)
Flyweight: Richie Vaculik vs. Danny Martinez
Light Heavyweight: Anthony Perosh vs. Gian Villante
Welterweight: Kyle Noke vs. Peter Sobotta
Lightweight: Jake Matthews vs. Akbarh Arreola
Main Card- PPV (10 PM EST, 7 PM EST, 3 AM* BST)
Heavyweight: Stefan Struve vs. Jared Rosholt
Middleweight: Robert Whitaker vs. Uriah Hall
Heavyweight: Mark Hunt vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva
Women’s Strawweight: (c)Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valerie Letourneau
Women’s Bantamweight: (c)Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
So why do you need to make sure you tune into UFC 193? Well here are 5 fights you simply shouldn’t miss and why …
Stefan Struve vs. Jared Rosholt
The main card starts with a Heavyweight fight between Stefan Struve (26-7 MMA; 10-5 UFC)* and Jared Rosholt (13-2; 5-1). This will be the first time for either guy fighting in Australia.
Struve is the tallest active UFC fighter on the roster. He last fought at UFC 190 where he won a decision over legend Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira. ‘Skyscraper’ has wins over Paul Buentello, Pat Barry, Stipe Miocic and Nogueira in his career. Struve depends on his long reach and grappling to win fights with his 3.59 Significant Strikes Landed per Minute (SLpM)**, 75% Takedown Accuracy and 2.9 Submission Attempts per 15 min.
Rosholt is a winner of five of his first six UFC fights. His style dictates him to grind other fighters to dominant decision wins. His lone UFC loss came in a first round KO to Oleksiy Oliynik at UFC Fight Night 57. He has wins over Walt Harris, Daniel Omielanczuk, Soa Palelei, Josh Copeland and Timothy Johnson. ‘The Big Show’ dictates the fights with his wrestling as he brings 1.76 Takedowns per 15 min. and 70% Takedown Defense (TDD). Rosholt is tops actively with only 1.14 Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute (SApM), which is also good for second all-time behind Pete Spratt with 1.04 SApM.
Robert Whitaker vs. Uriah Hall
In the Middleweight division is a fun scrap between Robert Whitaker (14-4; 5-2) and Uriah Hall (12-5; 5-3). The original fight was expected to be Whitaker against Michael Bisping, but Bisping dropped out of the contest citing an elbow injury and was replaced by Hall.
Whitaker is The Ultimate Fighter: The Smashes winner after beating Brad Scott in the finale. Since that fight, he is 4-2 with wins over Colton Smith, Mike Rhodes, Clint Hester and Brad Tavares. Whitaker will fight in his home country for the 11th time. Whitaker is a striker bringing who throws punches in bunches and gets hit as well. He comes into the fights with 4.83 SLpM and 4.29 SApM in addition with 66% Striking Defense. His grappling is catching up as he has 75% Takedown Accuracy and 91% TDD.
Hall is the owner of some of the best kick KO’s in the game. It started when he was on The Ultimate Fighter 17 and he hit a spinning hook kick to knock Adam Cella out cold. Hall rode that high all the way to the finals before losing a Split-Decision to winner Kelvin Gastelum. He is 5-2 since that with four of the wins coming by KO/TKO. His last fight was a TKO due to a spinning back kick, flying knee and punches against top 10 guy Gegard Mousasi. Hall hits the big kick/punch, but also throws strikes effectively evident by his 3.21 SLpM. His wrestling has started to catch up to his striking as he has been able to get up from takedowns.
Mark Hunt vs. Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva
Another Heavyweight bout headlines your non-title fight portion of the event as Mark Hunt (10-10-1; 5-4-1) and Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva (19-7-1; 3-4-1) are scheduled for a rematch. Their first fight ended in a draw as they headlined UFC Fight Night 33 in Brisbane. The fight has been given many accolades as the best Heavyweight fight of all time and a 2013 Fight of the Year candidate.
Hunt will fight in his adopted home country of Australia for the fourth time in his career. Hunt had a career resurgence starting at UFC 127 with four straight wins with three coming by KO/TKO. He fought for the Interim title at UFC 180 where he was KO’d in the second round by a flying knee. Hunt has been the owner of many great walk-away KO’s with his wins over Stefan Struve, Cheick Kongo and Roy Nelson. ‘The Super Samoan’ does not throw a ton of punches, but lands the big shot when needed.
‘Bigfoot’ is the former EliteXC Heavyweight Championship. He fought for the UFC title at UFC 160 where he was punched for what seemed like an eternity. Silva has struggled after jumping to the UFC, never winning more than two fights in a row. He last fought in his home country of Brazil at UFC 190 where he got back in the W column after 4 straight non-winning performances by beating Soa Palelei by TKO in the second round. Silva has no specific strengths or weaknesses and comes into the fight with 2.90 SLpM, 45% Striking Accuracy and 65% TDD.
(c)Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Valerie Letourneau
The co-main event of the star-studded night is a Women’s Strawweight title fight between the champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk (10-0; 4-0) and the challenger Valerie Letourneau (8-3; 3-0). The fight was expected to follow the main event to whatever event it landed on.
Jedrzejczyk was expected to face #1 contender Claudia Gadelha after the champ beat Jessica Penne and Gadelha beat Jessica Aguilar. The fight was pushed back as Gadelha injured her hand in her fight at UFC 190 and the UFC gave the shot to Letourneau. Jedrzejczyk won the belt at UFC 185 with a dominant 2nd round TKO win over then-champion Carla Esparza. She has defended her title once since then with a Fight of the Night third round TKO victory over Jessica Penne. Joanna Champion was also a Muy-Thai champion with an impressive striking arsenal. She landed 126 Significant Strikes in 14 minutes of cage time in her last fight and 179 in 23 minutes in title fights. She boasts 4.90 SLpM and only 1.38 SApM with a 71% Striking Defense. She has shown good TDD as she has only allowed one Takedown in the last 28 attempts.
Letourneau earned her title shot with a dominant decision win over surging prospect Maryna Moroz at UFC Fight Night 74. She tried out for The Ultimate Fighter Season 18 and lost in the round of 32 to Roxanne Modafferi by Rear-Naked choke in the Bantamweight division. She made her UFC debut at Bantamweight at UFC 174 with a Split-Decision over Elizabeth Phillips. She made her Strawweight debut at UFC 186 in her hometown of Montreal with a win over fellow TUF 18 contestant Jessica Rakoczy. Letourneau lands a lot of strikes as she comes into the bout with 4.69 SLpM and 68% Striking Defense and her grappling has come along with 87% TDD.
(c)Ronda Rousey vs. Holly Holm
The main event, which is expected to get 55,000 fans to the event, puts the Women’s Bantamweight title on the line. Champion Ronda Rousey (12-0; 6-0) and challenger Holly Holm (9-0; 2-0) completes the all female main and co-main event.
Rousey has been the only Women’s Bantamweight champion in the UFC when she was handed the title before UFC 157. She has defended her title six times equaling a total cage time of 18 minutes and five seconds with the last three coming in just over a minute COMBINED. Rousey’s stats are off the charts as she brings a strong sense of grappling into her game. Her 8.00 Takedowns per 15 min. and 6.2 Submission attempts are tops in the UFC among active fighters.
Holm was very highly touted before joining the UFC and was always looked at as a threat to the current champion. She finally made her debut at UFC 184 as the co-main event against Raquel Pennington where she won a close Split-Decision. She got back in the Octagon five months later with a dominant decision over Marion Reneau. Holm is a former world champion boxer who has put kicks into her game as she has five wins due to kicks. ‘The Preacher’s Daughter’ has brought her striking with her to the UFC as she has 3.63 SLpM and 2.20 SApM and has never been taken down inside the Octagon.
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 metro.uk, 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”.
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 MMAFighting.com and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.
— UFC (@ufc) February 8, 2018
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.
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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