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UFC 201 Preview

Vinny Craig

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Atlanta, Georgia has not seen a UFC event since UFC 145 in 2012 when Jon Jones beat Rashad Evans for his third title defense. Future stars like Rory MacDonald, Matt Brown, Stephen ‘Wonderboy’ Thompson, and Travis Browne all fought at that event. But UFC 201 is not just a return to Atlanta, but a start of something of new. It’s the first PPV event since the sale of the UFC. It’s the first ‘numbered’ event after the famed UFC 200 where we get to see if the new fans that were brought on by the big event will stick around.

Main Card- PPV (10 PM EDT. 7 PM PDT, 3 AM BST)

Welterweight: (c)Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley- for the UFC Welterweight title

Strawweight: Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Welterweight: Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger

Bantamweight: Frankie Rivera vs. Erick Perez

Flyweight: Ian McCall vs. Justin Scoggins

 

Preliminary Card- Fox Sports 2 (8 PM EDT, 5 PM PDT, 1 AM BST)

Light Heavyweight: Ed Herman vs. Nikita Krylov

Welterweight: Ross Pearson vs. Jorge Masvidal

Heavyweight: Anthony Hamilton vs. Damien Grabowski

Flyweight: Wilson Reis vs. Hector Sandoval

 

Early Prelim Card- UFC Fight Pass (6:30 PM EDT, 3:30 PM PDT, 11:30 PM BST)

Welterweight: Michael Graves vs. Bjoan Velickovic

Flyweight: Ryan Benoit vs. Fredy Serano

Lightweight: Cesar Arzemedia vs. Damien Brown

 

Ian McCall vs. Justin Scoggins

Top ten Flyweights Ian McCall (13-5-1 MMA; 2-3-1 UFC) and Justin Scoggins (11-2; 4-2) start off the main card for UFC 201. Scoggins was originally expected to face Ben Nguyen back in March before an injury sidelined him.

McCall hasn’t fought since January of 2015 after being sidelined by a series of nerve related injuries. McCall fought in the inaugural Flyweight tournament to crown their first champion. He went three rounds with current P4P #1 Demetrious Johnson at UFC on FX 2 to a draw. The two rematched in a headliner bout on UFC on FX 3 where Johnson took the decision. ‘Uncle Creepy’ has won two of his last three with wins over Illiarde Santos and Brad Pickett after consecutive losses to Johnson and Joseph Benavidez. He last fought at UFC 183 losing by decision to now Bantamweight contender John Lineker.

Scoggins is a winner of his last two over Josh Sampo and Ray Borg. After defending his Warfare FC title twice, the UFC came calling for a fight at UFC Fight Night 33. He picked up a win over Richie Vaculik and followed that up with a win over Will Campuzano. After two losses to Dustin Ortiz and John Moraga, ‘Tank’ took some time off to rethink his game. He returned at UFC 187 with the win over Sampo and followed that up with the win over Borg. Scoggins is the all-time Flyweight leader in Significant Strikes Absorbed per Minute (SApM) with 1.48.

Matt Brown vs. Jake Ellenberger

With a Welterweight title main event, two other top Welterweights get a main card slot in Matt Brown (20-14; 13-8) and Jake Ellenberger (30-11; 9-7).

Brown hasn’t been on the sideline long as he just fought in May at UFC 198. After starting off his career as a middle-of-the-pack fighter following TUF, he found his groove starting at UFC 143 with a TKO of Chris Camozzi. That started a streak of seven straight wins with six coming by TKO/KO in that span. A title eliminator bout with now champion Robbie Lawler was set for Fox in the main event slot in July 2014. Lawler beat and battered Brown for five rounds for a decision win, the first loss for Brown in almost three years. Since his streak ended, he is 1-3 with losses to Lawler, Johny Hendricks, and Demain Maia. Brown has had a successful Welterweight career coming in sixth in the active division in Knockdowns (7) and Significant Strikes Landed (734) while being second in Striking Accuracy (54.1%).

Ellenberger had his own run with six straight wins starting in 2010 which included a TKO over Jake Shields and a decision over Diego Sanchez. His hype was slowed down by a TKO loss to Martin Kampmann but came right back with wins over Jay Hieron and Nate Marquardt. After proving himself as a threat to the division’s elite, he has been put through the ringer of opponents with four of his last six coming against top ten guys. He is 0-4 against them and 1-5 in his last six. With his great run and career, Ellenberger checks in at second all-time in the division with nine Knockdowns and fifth in Takedown Defense with 85.7%.

 

Rose Namajunas vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz

With Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk’s win at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale, this Strawweight co-main event between Rose Namajunas (5-2; 3-1) and Karolina Kowalkiewicz (9-0; 2-0) is likely a title-eliminator bout.

Namajunas made her UFC debut on the TUF 20: Finale along with the majority of the Strawweight division. After entering the TUF house on a loss to fellow competitor Tecia Torres, she went on a tear in the house with three consecutive submission wins to meet Carla Esparza in the final. Despite the loss in the final, ‘Thug Rose’ has impressed since the show with three straight wins, two by submission. Rose has used her grappling while in the UFC, despite having great standup credentials to show for. She steps in with 3.49 Takedowns per 15 min. and 1.4 Submission Attempts per 15 min., both rank among the top in her division.

Kowalkiewicz is undefeated in her young career at 9-0. She was the KSW Flyweight champion with one title defence and two non-title bouts with submission finishes in both of her title bouts. She joined the UFC at UFC on Fox 17 with a decision win over Randa Markos. Her next fight was closer to her home country of Poland as she fought Heather Jo Clark at UFC Rotterdam. She showed off her striking skills as a Krav Maga and Muay-Thai practitioner as she landed 119 Significant Strikes in her decision win.

 

(c)Robbie Lawler vs. Tyron Woodley

The main event is for the Welterweight belt as champion Robbie Lawler (27-10, 1 NC; 12-4) takes on Tyron Woodley (15-3; 5-2). It will be the 35th UFC Welterweight title bout and fourth straight involving Lawler.

Lawler fought for the title at UFC 171 for the vacant belt when Georges St. Pierre retired. The fight against Johny Hendricks was a five-round back-and-forth battle that ended with Hendricks the winner. Lawler got right back at it, winning two straight fights to earn a rematch against Hendricks at UFC 181 nine months later. Another five-round Fight of the Night decision ensued, but this time, Lawler being the winner. He has since defended his belt twice more in two Fight of the Night, and one  Fight of the Year, victories over Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit. ‘Ruthless’ is second all-time in the division with 9 Knockdowns, and combining his time at Welterweight and Middleweight has the highest Takedown Accuracy in UFC history (80%). He has absorbed a lot of punishment in the past two years as he’s absorbed 642 Significant Strikes in his last six fights.

Woodley has not fought in over a year since his Split-decision win over Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 183. The former collegiate wrestler was a standout in Strikeforce, going 8-1 in his three-year tenure. He joined the UFC officially at UFC 156 with a knockout of Jay Hieron just 36 seconds into the fight. ‘T-Wood’ has won four of his last five to earn the title shot with wins over Josh Koscheck, Carlos Condit, Dong Hyun Kim, and then Gastelum. He was scheduled to face Johny Hendricks at UFC 192 in Houston before Hendricks was pulled due to weight cut issues. Woodley has the highest Takedown Defense of anyone in the division (95%) only being taken down once by Rory MacDonald. Despite great wrestling credentials, Woodley doesn’t use his wrestling as a main offensive weapon, instead using his powerful strikes and speed.

 

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Fight Announcements

Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg

Harry Davies

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The UFC has added Jose Aldo vs. Ricardo Lamas 2, and Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry to their UFC Winnipeg card on December 16th.

The two fights were announced as official today on the UFC’s Twitter account.

Aldo (26-3) last fought at UFC 212 in June, where he lost by third round TKO to Max Holloway. After being promoted to the undisputed 145-pound champion last November, he was looking to make the first defence of the title against Holloway.

Lamas first faced Aldo back in 2014 at UFC 169. Aldo, who was again featherweight champion at the time, defeated Lamas with ease winning by unanimous decision (49-46) on all scorecards. Lamas is on a two-fight winning streak after defeating both Charles Oliveira and Jason Knight with impressive finishes.

Since his last UFC loss to Lorenz Larkin back in 2015, Ponzinnibio (25-3) has won five consecutive fights. His most recent victory was a upset win over Gunnar Nelson in July at UFC Glasgow. There was some controversy after the fight, as replays seemed to show a short grab and several eyes pokes from Ponzinnibio before knocking out Nelson in the first round.

Mike Perry has taken the UFC by storm since making his debut for the promotion last August. Picking up four wins all by knockout, the only loss ‘Platinum’ suffered was too Alan Jouban by decision. Ranked at #9 in the welterweight division, a win over Ponzinnibio could definitely propel Perry into the top ten at 170-pounds.

With the additon of these two fantastic fights, the lineup for UFC Winnipeg is as follows:

  • Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos – Welterweight bout
  • Glover Teixeira vs. Misha Cirkunov – Light heavyweight bout
  • Antônio Rogério Nogueira vs. Jared Cannonier – Light heavyweight bout
  • Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins – Flyweight bout
  • Chad Laprise vs. Galore Bafondo – Welterweight bout
  • Alessio Di Chirico vs. Oluwale Bamgbose – Middleweight bout
  • Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez – Middleweight bout
  • John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo – Lightweight bout
  • Nordine Taleb vs. Sultan Aliev – Welterweight bout
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Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions

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  • The debacle that were the UFC 216 weigh-in last Friday further highlighted current weight cutting problems in mixed martial arts.

More specifically in this case it was in the UFC’s lightweight division. A fight between Nik Lentz and Will Brooks was pulled due to Lentz having ‘medical issues’ according to a UFC statement, hours before he was due to weigh-in.

Title challenger Kevin Lee then took to the scale seconds before the deadline and was over the limit by a pound. Fortunately he made weight after being given an extra hour. But these are not isolated cases, especially at 155-pounds.

There isn’t necessarily a solution to this problem but there may be a short term fix in the form of new weight classes approved by the ABC (Association of Boxing Commissions and Combative Sports) in July 2017. These include 165 and 175-pound divisions.

While not specific to the lightweight division, the problems with weight commonly occur there. In March this year, Khabib Nurmagomedov was rushed to hospital during fight week when cutting down for his title contest with Tony Ferguson. Subsequently the UFC 209 main event was cancelled. Khabib has been regularly discussed as a title challenger but he’s often struggled to make weight and failed on numerous occasions.

With drastic dehydration it is still unknown what health implications may effect him and other mixed martial artists in the future.

Some top ranked fighters such as Donald Cerrone, Jorge Masvidal and Rafael Dos Anjos have moved up to the welterweight division to preserve their health from these strenuous cuts, and have all been relatively successful.

Former UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone has looked spectacular since making the move up to 170-pounds.

However, many fighters are still reluctant and insist on dropping 10-20% of their bodyweight in the hours and days leading up to a bout. For example, Kevin Lee was rumoured to be 19 pounds over the day before he stepped on the scales.

At 170 pounds, welterweight is fifteen pounds more than lightweight which is a noticeable difference between relatively low weight classes. Especially when you consider that the divisions increase ten pounds from as low as 115 up to 155. There are many fighters who find themselves too big to be a lightweight, yet too small to compete at welterweight.

The incidents last Friday should hopefully be a wakeup call to the UFC, who can also set an example for other organisations such as Bellator, One FC, and Cage Warriors.

So far in 2017 the UFC has lost 14 fights in 48 hours or less before they were due to take place. That is one fight every two cards. While weight cutting is not always to blame, more often than not it plays a big role. These situations leave the UFC at a loss, fighters without opponents and a pay check, and fans disgruntled. Not to mention the health implications for the athlete involved.

The UFC must recognise these common patterns, remove the 170 pound welterweight division and create 165 and 175 pound rosters instead. Some may see an additional weight class as devaluing UFC titles even further but this would not be the case.

The UFC’s official website only lists four fighters in the women’s featherweight division.

Recently the women’s featherweight title was created without having a roster of women to fill it. However, the difference with lightweight and welterweight is that they are comfortably the two deepest, most talent stacked divisions in the organisation.

Admittedly, there is a lot of history attached to the welterweight title since Pat Miletich first won it back in 1998. The likes of Matt Hughes and Georges St Pierre have also added prestige to the belt over the years.

Even so, the sport has changed since then and it’s in a transitional phase. We are in the era of USADA, the era of banned IV drips and certain commissions tightening their regulations on how much they allow fighters to safely cut. Everyone is accountable and aware of the dangers, yet steps still need to be taken.

The athletic commissions and the UFC in particular must act by introducing super lightweight (165lbs) and super welterweight (175lbs) divisions. Perhaps from a fighter’s perspective it seems like a no-brainer that their health should be the main priority.

From a fans point of view there is plenty of talent that could be used in those two divisions. The novelty of fighters blending into these classes would also have the feeling of a superfight. The likes of Nurmagomedov, Lee, Masvidal, Cerrone and Dos Anjos would certainly fit well into a 165 pound division.

Similarly, at 175 pounds, Tyron Woodley could transition from welterweight champion to super welterweight champion. Top talents such as Robert Whittaker, Stephen Thompson, Demian Maia and Robbie Lawler would be perfect matches for this weight.

Could we see the current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley compete at 175-pounds in the future?

If this was a success then super middleweight (195lbs) and cruiserweight (225lbs) divisions could be an option in future too.

As previously mentioned this won’t necessarily fix the issues of weight cutting but it gives martial artists another option and is a positive step towards fighter’s safety. Currently there has been no mention by the UFC about introducing these new divisions.

However, with fighter safety being of upmost importance these new divisions must be given serious consideration.

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James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury

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Irish fans will have to wait a little longer to see James Gallagher fighting on home soil after Gallagher suffered a knee injury in preparation for his main event fight with Jeremiah Labiano in Dublin next month. This bad news was first reported by MMAFighting.com.

The 20-year-old from Strabane co. Tyrone who trains in the famous SBG gym with Conor McGregor and Gunnar Nelson among others has set the featherweight division alight since joining Bellator in 2016.  James “The Strabanimal” Gallagher has gone 3-0 with all three of his wins coming by rear naked choke.

After submitting Chinzo Machida, the brother of former UFC light heavyweight champion, Lyoto Machida in Madison Square Garden Gallagher has become a budding star for Bellator.

Due to the youngster’s attitude and potential, many comparisons between Gallagher and UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor have been made by the fans and media which has made Gallagher one of Bellator’s most recognizable names. This notoriety has ultimately led to the young Irishman getting a chance to headline in Dublin this November but this injury has delayed his rise for the time being.

Gallagher on social media Thursday stated that he has suffered an injury to his PCL and LCL in his knee and would be out for the remainder of the year. He has assured fans we would return next year and carry on where he started with “The Jimmy show.”

His longtime rival AJ McKee, who has engaged in a Twitter war with Gallagher after his last fight, will now headline Bellator 187 in the 3 Arena in Dublin on November 10th against Gallagher’s SBG teammate Brian Moore. Moore will be making his third appearance for Bellator in this featherweight clash.

 

 

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