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UFC 212 Fight to Watch: Moraes vs. Assunção

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We are only a day away from UFC’s return to Brazil for UFC 212 where the UFC Featherweight strap will be unified at last in the highly anticipated match-up between Max Holloway and Jose Aldo. As with all of the PPV cards we are treated to an abundance of outstanding fights and this card no different, from the off we have cracking fights to look forward to. Now when there is so many high quality fights some get forgotten about or maybe even overshadowed by other fights. So in this article, I’m going to give you my fight to watch for the night.
Since the Main Event and Co-Main Event are the 2 big fights on the card and the major draw for the card I won’t pick any of them as they are already in the spotlight, instead, I’m going to choose a fight elsewhere on the card which has the potential to be a barn burner. Looking at this fight card there is one fight in particular that stands out to me and that is the clash of the Brazilians in the Prelim headline fight between Raphael Assunção and Marlon Moraes. Both these guys are high profile fighters that are aiming to climb the 135lb ladder and earn a shot at the belt and could possibly do so with a 2 or 3 more wins.
Marlon Moraes will be making his highly anticipated debut in the UFC at this event and has not been given an easy task for his first fight. Prior to signing with the UFC Moraes enjoyed success in WSOF, winning the inaugural Bantamweight championship followed by successfully defending the belt on 5 consecutive occasions. His dominance over the division led many to believe he was the best 135lb fighter outside of the UFC and without a loss in over 6 years it will be interesting to see how he fairs against a new flock of talent in the UFC.
Moraes is a very aggressive style fighter who likes to keep the fight standing, his striking is superb and where he flourishes the most, his kickboxing game is almost Dutch like in its execution and his vicious leg kicks have resulted in finishes themselves. What to look out for with Moraes is his counter kicks and leg strikes as well as the use of his hips to stuff a takedown. His takedown defence will be vital in his efforts to keep the fight standing. However, his ground game is not to be ruled out, holding a brown belt in BJJ and 5 submission victories he poses a threat in every area possible.
Assunção, on the other hand, has been around the UFC for year tallying together 10 fights in total under the promotion only losing 2 of those match-ups. He currently sits at #3 in the UFC Bantamweight rankings and is coming off a split-decision victory over Aljamain Sterling.
Assunção is an overall good fighter, however, his submission game is his strong point, his prowess on the mat has earned him 10 of his career victories to date. His patience and timely submission are what to look for here as his technique in that department is where he shines the most. Despite not having many finished in the UFC he has proven to be a tough task for many, grinding the fight out and bringing it the distance.
This fight has the potential to be the fight of the night and hopefully, it lives up to the hype. You can watch this bout live on Saturday on the UFC 212 Prelim card.
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Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams

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Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.

Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.

Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.

Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.

Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.

There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.

But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.

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Fight to Watch

UFC 215 Fight To Watch: Gilbert Melendez vs Jeremy Stephens

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After weeks of promotion, MayMac is finally behind us, and the mixed martial arts community turns its attention towards Canada, where Demetrious Johnson aims to create history at UFC215.

While “Mighty Mouse” may not capture the minds of the public like Conor McGregor, his story should be widely celebrated. If he manages to claim an eleventh consecutive title defense at the expense of challenger Ray Borg, DJ will break the record held by both himself and Anderson Silva and cement his name in the pantheon of MMA greats.

While DJ’s potential crowning achievement is rightfully at the top of the bill, Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko will also battle for the women’s bantamweight title.

This is an intriguing contest, a rematch of a closely fought first fight at UFC196. The rematch, originally scheduled for the main event of UFC213, fell apart due to Amanda Nunes falling ill the day of the fight. With Nunes’ healthy she will look to build on her December dismantling of Ronda Rousey and finish Shevchenko this time around.

However, this is undoubtedly her toughest test at bantamweight. Valentina has displayed her world class striking throughout her UFC career, but it was her rapidly improving grappling credentials that earned her a shot at the belt, a second round submission victory over Julianna Pena in January.

The two title fights at the top of the card are reason enough to watch UFC215, however, the rest of night features plenty of exciting fights, in particular, the featherweight contest between Jeremy Stephens, and former Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

After three consecutive defeats at lightweight, Melendez makes the cut ten pounds south to featherweight. Although he is thirty-five years old the Skrap Pack member decided to make the move to position himself for one last title run. It will be extremely intriguing to see whether or not Melendez, can make the weight and perform to his optimum ability on fight night.

Melendez sought out an opponent at featherweight who would emulate his aggressive style and engage in a war

“I’d like to prove I’m one of the toughest in the division with a solid opponent who is willing to fight me and not stick and move,” he told MMAJunkie.com in January

In Jeremy Stephens, he has found just that. Coincidently “Lil Heathen” also moved from the lightweight division to featherweight on the back of three straight losses back in 2013. Since then he has alternated wins and losses at 145, with defeats coming at the hands of top contenders such as Cub Swanson and current featherweight champion Max Holloway.

In spite of the losses, Stephens’ is still one of the most exciting fighters in the featherweight division. The Alliance MMA fighter has brutal knockout power in his hands and legs. Stephens showcased this fight ending force in his knockout victories over Dennis Bermudez and Rony Jason.

Melendez called for this type of opponent, and it is hard to imagine Jeremy Stephens not obliging him in a back and forth striking battle. Gilbert usually fights at a hellacious pace, while Stephens loves nothing more than stalking forward to try and land that lights out shot.

Having fallen short against the likes of Edson Barboza and Eddie Alvarez in his past couple of fights, one wonders whether it is wise for Melendez to immediately test himself against a top ten opponent right away. However he has only been finished once in his career, a submission loss to Anthony Pettis and has yet to be knocked out as a professional.

Can Melendez still hang with the best? A win would vault him immediately into the top ten, reinvigorate his fighting career and propel him towards higher profile fights in the near future.

Conversely, Stephens is under pressure to perform as a loss on Saturday night would mean another three fight losing skid in his career. Having only won two of his previous seven fights this is a massive night for “Lil Heathen.” A loss may see him lose his place in the top ten of the rankings, or worse he may find himself under the UFC’s ruthless chopping block.

The stylistic clash, the high stakes involved and both men’s propensity for violence make this fight a must see on a strong card. After a relatively bare month of August for the UFC, it is good to be back to normality.

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Fight to Watch

UFC Long Island Fight to Watch: Jimmie Rivera vs. Thomas Almeida

Harry Davies

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Kicking off a great main card this weekend at UFC Long Island, two bantamweights with a combined 41-2 MMA record will look to enter into their division’s title picture.

Jimmie Rivera has been on the sidelines for almost ten months now, last fighting at UFC 203 where he cruised past Urijah Faber despite suffering a nasty eye poke that impaired his vision in the third round. ‘El Terror’ was planned to fight against Bryan Caraway this January, but after Caraway withdrew, Rivera saw no interest in the replacement opponent Marlon Vera, so the fight was scrapped.

After having his 21-fight winning streak snapped by Cody Garbrandt last year, Thomas Almeida bounced back by beating Alberto Morales in November to pick up a Performance of the Night bonus, taking home an extra $50,000 for his impressive stoppage victory.

Can Rivera Make It 20 in a Row?

Although Rivera had won three consecutive fights in the UFC prior to facing Faber last September, it was the win against the ‘California Kid’ that really allowed Rivera to assert his presence in the upper echelon of the bantamweight division.

Faber, who before facing Rivera fought Dominick Cruz in a trilogy for the bantamweight title, has been a long time pioneer of the lighter weight classeses in MMA and retired in December of last year after defeating Brad Pickett in his hometown of Sacramento.

But ‘El Terror’ blazed through the veteran Faber making it look like the roles had been flipped, Rivera was the teacher and Faber was the student. There is nothing remarkably spectacular about Rivera’s performances, both his stand-up and ground game are very stable. It’s been so far so good for him in the UFC, and no-one has really been able to exploit any holes in his game.

The Thrilling ‘Thominhas’

On the other end of the spectrum, Almeida defines flashy. The Brazilian hasn’t seen the judges scorecards in well over two years, and his exciting style that provides fans with entertaining knockouts from all angles has meant he has become a fan favourite in the UFC.

Perhaps his most jaw dropping performance inside the octagon was back at the historic UFC 189, when he faced Brad ‘One Punch’ Pickett. Being dropped by a left hook in the first round, Almeida was visibly hurt and was down on the judges scorecards by a round. Then, just under 30-seconds into the second round, Almeida unleashed a picture-perfect flying knee to score a walk-off knockout, beautiful stuff.

A win against Rivera would be huge for Almeida. He hasn’t fought since defeating Morales last year, and there would be no better way for ‘Thominhas’ to silence those who refer to his impressive record as ‘padded’, by stopping Rivera in Almeida-like fashion this weekend.

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