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Pre-Fight

UFC 221 Pre-Fight Notes

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Despite what has transpired in accordance with the UFC’s Australian pay-per-view (PPV), the show goes on. While the cards stayed intact from middle to bottom, the same cannot be said for the main event.

If by chance you recently awoke from a deep two month coma, do not be confused. The headlining bout for the Perth, Australia event does not feature an Aussie, but it wasn’t planned that way. New Zealand born fighter, Robert Whittaker, the first and only Australian champion in the promotions history, planned to defend his Middleweight belt for the first time in Western Australia.

As you can imagine, disaster struck the heart of the Aussie fans when Whittaker withdrew from the PPV card. Many were upset but a serious case of staph infection is not a condition conducive for competing.

The second disaster struck so recently, the wound is fresh and smelly.

When Whittaker withdrew, the promotion did its usual prowl in order to find a suitable short-notice replacement. Yet, the circumstances for replacing a PPV main event are much more complicated than re-working a ‘Fight Night’, i.e. UFC 222. The UFC needed a title fight, and an interim match was the best they could get. They booked Yoel Romero to face Luke Rockhold for the interim Middleweight championship.

Now, we could make the argument; bestowing another interim belt upon the deep UFC Middleweight division was another disaster within itself. Yet, unfortunately something far worse happened Friday (Saturday in Australia). Yoel Romero failed to make-weight.

The Cuban fighter originally missed weight by three pounds, stepping on the scale at 188. After missing weight on his first attempt, Romero recieved an additional two hours to make the 185 lb. championship limit, he failed. His second attempt saw him weigh, 187.7.

Romero’s opponent and originally scheduled title challenger, Luke Rockhold made weight. It is one of the few circumstances in which fulfilling a contractual obligation further complicated matters. Consider this, it is not as if the promotion is in unfamiliar territory. At UFC 206, a similar scene played out when Anthony Pettis failed to make-weight for a contest against Max Holloway to determine an interim featherweight champion. Just like that situation, one athlete will fight for the interim title while the other will not.

Oh well.

UFC 221 is one of the most diverse fight cards we’ve seen in one way but not so much in another. The PPV event hosts fighters from 11 different countries. While the lineup may have a great spectrum of cultures, the gender-diversity is lacking in comparison. No women are scheduled to fight in Perth.

Looking at the recent success of fighters booked to tonight’s card, only four athletes hold losing records in their last three. Jake Matthews, Damien Brown, and Teruto Ishihara went 1-2 in their previous three, Ross Pearson is 0-3 in as many bouts.

A deeper look into the records of UFC 221 fighters reveals a few more interesting facts. The entirety of the PPV card, have a total of 143 knockout victories. Of the twenty-four athletes set to compete, only one failed to earn a knockout victory in his career, Jussier Formiga. Inversely, fighters scheduled for tonights PPV lost by knock out a combined, 32 times. Nine fighters of the twenty-four, never lost by KO/TKO. Of the nine, four are undefeated.

The beautiful Perth Arena plays host for tonight’s PPV. Perth Arena holds a max capacity of 15,000. The venue becomes the first Western Australian city to host a UFC event. In the past, the promotion held 11 events in the country. UFC 221 marks the fourth PPV held in Australia, the first since UFC 193 and the infamous head kick heard round the MMA world. Not only was UFC 193 one of the most notorious moments in the modern era of the UFC, it was the highest attended event in the promotions history. UFC 193 squished 56,214 people into the Ethihad Stadium in the city of Melbourne, hauling a live gate of $6.8 million. If expectations are correct, UFC 221’s number will resemble smurfs, in comparison.

One final fact brings us back examining the fighters. Veteran of the sport, Ross Pearson fought five times in Australia. UFC 221 is his sixth appearance in the country. In those six fights, Pearson went 3-2. Back in December of 2012, Pearson headlined a UFC on FX card, pitting him against George Sotiropoulos. Six years later, Pearson is back in Australia but instead of headlining the main card, he is set to headline the early prelims airing on UFC Fight Pass.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena. The early prelims air on UFC Fight Pass and begin at 6:30 pm ET (3:30 pm PT).

Main Card (PPV) 10:00 pm ET/ 7:00 pm PT

Yoel Romero (12-2) vs. Luke Rockhold (13-3) [Catchweight (187.7 lbs)]

Mark Hunt (13-11, 1 NC) vs. Curtis Blaydes (8-1, 1 NC) [Heavyweight]

Tai Tuivasa (8-0) vs. Cyril Asker (9-3) [Heavyweight]

Jake Matthews (12-3) vs. Li Jingliang (14-4) [Welterweight]

Tyson Pedro (6-1) vs. Saparbek Safarov (8-1) [Light Heavyweight]

Preliminary Card (FS1) 8:00 pm ET/ 5:00 pm PT

Damien Brown (17-11) vs. Dong Hyun Kim (15-8-3) [Lightweight]

Rob Wilkinson (11-1) vs. Israel Adesanya (11-0) [Middleweight]

Jeremy Kennedy (11-0) vs. Alexander Volkanovski (16-1) [Featherweight]

Jussier Formiga (20-5) vs. Ben Nguyen (17-6) [Flyweight]

Preliminary Card (UFC Fight Pass) 6:30 pm ET/ 3:30 pm PT

Ross Pearson (21-12, 1 NC) vs. Mizuto Hirota (19-8-2) [Lightweight]

Teruto Ishihara (10-4) vs. José Alberto Quiñónez (7-2) [Bantamweight]

Luke Jumeau (12-4) vs. Daichi Abe (6-0) [Welterweight]

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Pre-Fight

UFC on Fox: Emmett vs. Stephens, Pre-Fight Notes

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This Saturday the UFC touches down in Orlando, Florida for UFC on Fox 28: Emmett vs. Stephens. The twenty-eighth edition of the Fox broadcast from afar may look underwhelming. Despite that immediate urge, the card is ripe with important and fun match-ups. 

        Orlando, Florida

The Amway Center hosts the UFC’s eleventh event in the state known as Florida. The last time the promotion touched down in Florida, April of 2016. UFC on Fox 19: Teixeira vs. Evans at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida was the last event for the state. Nine years ago, to the month, Jeremy Stephens headlined UFC Fight Night 17. Otherwise known as UFN: Lauzon vs. Stephens, the card took place in Tampa, Florida, at the USF Sun Dome. The match-up was Stephens first time making the walk to the octagon as the final pair. As chance has it (And a massive roster), the previous UFC event in Florida hosted Tecia Torres in its co-main event. Florida has been kind to Torres, to most of the fighters on the card, the state has been distant and unfamiliar.

                        Photo Credit: Dave Mandel-Sherdog

Only six of the twenty-four athletes previously fought in the state. Combined, the six hold a 12-3-2 record. Florida natives, Ben Saunders and Mike Perry are undefeated while competing in their home state.

Two fighters make their promotional debut Saturday. Local Boston fighter, Manny Bermudez, and Marcin Prachnio make the walk to the octagon for the first time. Both highly touted, they have a combined record of 24-2 (both losses belonging to Prachnio). Besides the two newcomers, the cards fighters have a 128-71 record in UFC competition. 

For Jeremy Stephens, the main event booking is his second consecutive and fourth overall. His opponent, Josh Emmett, will headline for the first time in his UFC career. A loss for Stephens puts his UFC record at 14-14, (.500 win percentage). Not that his status with the promotion is in jeopardy, the record is interesting from afar as well as upon deeper examination. Besides Stephens, 7 other fighters could potentially see their win percentage with the promotion fall to or below, .500 percent; Max Griffin (1-2), Sarah McMann (5-4), Maryna Moroz (3-2), Eric Shelton (1-2), Russell Doane (3-4), Brian Kelleher (2-1), and Angela Hill (2-4). 

Moving away from the negative, a win for Emmett makes him an early candidate for ‘Fighter of the Year’. Although, his breakout performance, (1st rd. KO of Ricardo Lamas) took place in December of 2017, a win over Stephens aligns Emmett for big things, possibly a #1 contender bout. 

A win for Stephens puts him in a similar title contending place. After losing two straight to Frankie Edgar and Renato Moicano, respectively, Stephens won his past two fights. He first defeated Gilbert Melendez with brutal leg kicks, and then followed that up by adjusting from a close opening round to TKOing ‘The Korean Superboy’ Doo Ho Choi, in the second.

Two women’s bouts hold hard significance. The first bout; Sarah McMann and Marion Reneau, both, veterans of the UFC’s women’s Bantamweight division. This match-up represents an opportunity to climb back into the title contention conversation. A win for either won’t bring either a title shot in the UFC’s deepest women’s division. Yet, it opens the door to the bottom of the top 5, and a fight against a top contender or a fight for the ceremonial #1 contender ranking. But really, who knows how the rankings work for any division let alone the women’s bantamweight division whose champion recently pursued a “Money Fight” against featherweight champion, Cris Cyborg before settling for an in division opponent, Raquel Pennington.

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breakdown

UFC on Fox: Emmett vs Stephens – Breakdown and Predictions

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UFC returns to Fox with an exciting card full of up-and-coming talent, crafty veterans, and a main event featuring two of the featherweight division’s most powerful punchers. While the card seems to lack some star power, it holds some interesting and exciting match-ups. The co-main event features two of the best women’s 115ers in the world both vying for a shot at the title as Jéssica Andrade takes on Tecia Torres. In the main event, knock-out artist and division staple Jeremy Stephens takes on the young and hungry Team Alpha Male product Josh Emmett. A great main event to head off a solid Fox card, and now onto the breakdown.

Mike Perry vs Max Griffin

This fight should be fun for as long as it lasts, but don’t bet on it lasting too long. Mike Perry is one of the hardest hitters in the UFC’s welterweight division. Griffin can bang too, but Perry’s just a different animal in that department. The good news for Griffin is that there’s already a pretty decent blueprint on how to beat Perry; pick him apart from the outside and don’t brawl with the guy. The bad news is Griffin is a brawler at heart, which isn’t gonna do him any favors against a superior striker like Perry.

Mike Perry is one of the most marketable guys in the UFC’s crowded 170 pound division. Priority number 1 for the UFC is to get Perry back on the winning track. And Max Griffin is the perfect man for the job. Both men will come forward throwing heaters until someone goes down, and chances are that someone is gonna be Griffin. Perry is just too powerful, and unless Griffin can keep Perry on the outside early it’s gonna be a short night for ‘Pain’.

Prediction: Mike Perry by 1st Round KO

Ovince Saint Preux vs Ilir Latifi

Nobody has ever beaten Ovince Saint Preux. OSP beats himself. He’s sloppy, has terrible technique, and is almost always behind on the scorecards. Yet somehow he continues to score victories over the 205’s elite, most of the time in spectacular fashion. It is insane. Latifi is a more complete fighter, with solid boxing and a strong wrestling game to fall back on. Latifi tends to favor the stand-up, but against a big, powerful guy like OSP, that might not be the best idea.

The big question here is; how is Latifi going to approach this one? Striking with the big man is risky due to his monstrous power and 7 in. reach advantage. Wrestling is a safer option, however Ovince is not an easy man to hold down. Latifi’s best bet is to make it ugly. Grind Ovince up against the fence and dirty box the s**t out of him. Then once he’s good and tired, take him down to ice the round. Sure it’s not the most entertaining style, but if it works it works.

Prediction: Ilir Latifi by Decision

Jessica Andrade Joanna Jedrzejczyk

Jéssica Andrade vs Tecia Torres

After seeing her completely demolish two-time title challenger Cláudia Gadelha, I was confident picking Andrade over anyone in the division (not named Joanna of course). But after giving it some serious thought, I think Torres might just be the one to bring down the Brazilian brawler, think about it. Joanna was able to keep Andrade away with her jab for the better part of 25 minutes. And while Torres is no Joanna, she’s still an excellent striker with wins over some solid opposition.

Andrade has made vast improvements since her loss to then champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk. This was evident in the Gadelha fight. The same can be said for the ever-improving Torres, whose only loss in mma was to current champion Rose Namajunas (a woman she’s beaten in the past). This truly is one of the most high-level women’s match-ups in recent memory, but I believe the kickboxing of Torres will be enough to keep Andrade on the outside, securing Torres her fourth straight win and possibly a title shot.

Prediction: Tecia Torres by Decision

Josh Emmett vs Jeremy Stephens

Josh Emmett made waves last year, knocking out perennial contender Ricardo Lamas on short-notice in Winnipeg. While impressive, it’s worth noting that this was the first finish of Emmett’s UFC career and he missed weight for the bout (weighed in at 148.5). Stephens on the other hand just scored a vicious knock out over featherweight prospect Doo Ho Choi. This was Stephens’ first finish since July of 2015 when he flying knee KO’d Dennis Bermudez. On paper, this looks like it will be a barn-burner, on paper.

Stephens has struggled against good wrestlers in the past, most recently Frankie Edgar at UFC 205. And Frankie is small for the weight class, unlike Emmett who fought the majority of his career up at lightweight. I give Jeremy the edge in the striking department, but Emmett has some wicked power at 145. If it stays on the feet it’s anyone’s guess what will happen. But if Emmett does the smart thing and takes Jeremy down often, we just might have a new top contender in the UFC’s stacked featherweight division.

Prediction: Josh Emmett by Decision

 

 

 

 

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Bellator

Bellator 194, Nelson vs. Mitrione Pre-Fight Notes

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Bellator takes over the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut later tonight. The promotion hosts, Bellator 194: Nelson vs. Mitrione from the venue, beginning at 6:30 pm (ET). Bellator 194 marks the 17th trip to the Mohegan Sun Casino. Their last trip, took place a little more than a few months ago in October of 2017, Bellator 185. The first trip to the Connecticut casino, occurred all the way back in April of 2009, and the second ever event held by the promotion, Bellator 2.

Twenty four fighters will make the walk later tonight, giving fans 12 bouts to watch from prelims to main event. Of the 24 athletes set to compete, five make their professional debuts. Peter Nascimento, Mike Kimbel, Pat Casey, Ross Richardson, and Ronnie Leon all fight for the first time, professionally. As amateurs, the group holds a combined record of 18-12. Only Ross Richardson maintained an undefeated amateur record (3-0).

In recent cards past, only some full broadcasts brought forward newly professional fighters. Events such as Bellator 191, 190, and 187, only broadcast short main card. While events like 193, 192, 189, 188, and 186 broadcast full fight cards. Since November of 2017, 15 fighters made their pro debuts with the Bellator promotion. Including Khonry Gracie in his unanimous decision loss to Devon Brock (Bellator 192), and Ty-wan Claxton, in his amazing KO finish of Johnny Bonilla-Bowman in the first round of Bellator 186. Claxton makes his second pro appearance tonight at Bellator 194 against Jose Antonio Perez, whom also fights for the second time professionally.

Upon completion of Bellator 194’s broadcast, 50% of the promotions first round matches in their Heavyweight Grand Prix will be decided. It is nearly impossible to choose, one match-up more interesting than the others. Yet, the Mitrione vs. Nelson match up is not only puzzling to fans and media alike. One half of the main event, at least, was once annoyed by the prospect of fighting his former TUF cast mate. Mitrione spoke to MMAJunkie about his reaction to the match-up, “Well, I asked them, how does that make sense? Roy is arguably the #2 guy in the division… Explain that to me, is there any seeding?…” He continued, “But the more I thought about, the less I really cared. Either I beat Roy when I have the strap, or I beat Roy to get the strap. What the hell difference does it make?”

In one bit of event news, fan favorite flyweight, Heather Hardy missed weight, in what turned out to be an odd set of circumstances. According to Hardy, she believed she made weight, without stripping down and using the towel. It was her understanding that the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation gave her a weight allowance for the bikini top and bottom she wore while on the scale. Hardy weighed in at 126.25 lbs. with the aforementioned bikini top and bottom.

This understanding was not shared by president of Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, Mike Mazzulli. The president made the decision to record Hardy’s weight without allowing her to disrobe, or take use the extra two hours allotted to make weight. It was his understanding upon examining and attempting to communicate with Hardy whilst she stood on the scale that brought him to the decision. After renegotiation of the bout agreement, Hardy was fined 20% of her purse which goes to her opponent Ana Julaton.

 

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