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UFC Fight Night 72 Preview

Vinny Craig



After having various events around the United Kingdom, the UFC makes its first stop in Scotland in Glasgow. The promotion is putting one its biggest European draws to get the fans to attend and watch the event. Michael Bisping did not know his opponent for quite some time before the UFC announced that he would be taking on Thales Leites. The event will be at the SSE Hydro and has plenty of star power to back up the hype.

Steven Ray vs. Leandro Mafra

To start off your main card is a Lightweight bout between the Scotsman Steven Ray (17-5 MMA; 1-0 UFC)* and the Brazilian Leandro Mafra (12-2; 1-2). Ray starts off a main card where every fight has a European on it.

Ray made his UFC debut in April and beat Marcin Bandel by TKO in the second round. In the six and a half minutes of cage time, ‘Braveheart’ landed 31 of 42 Significant Strikes** and held off all five of his opponents’ takedown attempts. He passed the guard of his opponent five times before the fight ended in the second round. Before joining the UFC, Ray had 12 of his 16 wins end by stoppage (7 by KO/TKO and 5 by Submission).

Mafra is a two fight UFC vet. He got a tough test in his first fight as he faced Rick Story at UFC Fight Night: Cerrone vs. Miller. He would be defeated by Arm-Triangle choke in the second round. His first promotional victory came in March when he beat Cain Carrizosa by decision. ‘Macarro’ lands 4.2 Significant Strikes per Minute (SLpM) and gets 2.28 Takedowns per 15 min. He has an 83% accuracy when trying to take down his opponents.

Leon Edwards vs. Pawel Pawlak

The Welterweight divisions Leon Edwards (9-2; 1-1) and Pawel Pawlak (11-1; 1-1) will face off in Glasgow. Pawlak is Polish while Edwards fights out of England. Neither guy is very experienced and will look to make their rounds in the UFC.

Edwards, like most people on this card, last fought at UFC Fight Night: Gonzaga vs. Cro Cop II. He picked up a win with a knockout of Seth Baczysnki just 8 seconds into the fight. That came after a Split-Decision loss to Claudio Silva back in November for his debut. ‘Rocky’ will look to shave a couple of seconds off his knockout time and have the fastest KO in UFC history,

Pawlak has gone almost the same route as his counterpart. He would lose his debut by decision at UFC Fight Night 41 and then come back with a win the same night as Edwards. In his 30 minutes of fight time, ‘Plastinho’ has landed 51 Significant Strikes with all three of his takedowns coming in his second fight. He also passed the guard of his opponent five times in his victory.

Joanne Calderwood vs. Cortney Casey-Sanchez

In her home country, Joanne Calderwood (9-1; 1-1) will try and please her fans with a win over Cortney Casey-Sanchez (4-1; 0-0). Calderwood was expected to face Bec Rawlings but an injury left her unable to compete and was replaced by Casey-Sanchez

Calderwood was a contestant on TUF 20. She made it to the quarterfinals as the #2 seed before losing to Rose Namajunas by Kimura. She would face Seehoe Ham at the finale in December and earn her 9th straight professional victory. She was expected to get a title shot at this event with a victory over

Maryna Moroz. Moroz spoiled that party with a first round armbar. ‘Jojo’ will try and get back to contention with a win in front of her hometown fans.

Casey-Sanchez steps in on short notice to take on one of the best fighters in the division. She last fought under the PXC banner in March and won her fight by TKO. The Phoenix native they call ‘Cast Iron’ has a pro record of 4-1 with all five fights ending with a stoppage. She won two of her PXC fights by TKO and one by submission.

Joseph Duffy vs. Ivan Jorge

At Lightweight we get a matchup between surging Joseph Duffy (13-1; 1-0) and up-and-coming Ivan Jorge (26-4; 2-1). Both have seen action in 2015 already and will look to be active while continuing their success. This is an Ireland (Duffy) vs. Brazil (Jorge) matchup.

Duffy made his UFC debut at UFC 185 in March. He got a TKO victory over Jake Lindsey in the second round to be victorious. Before joining the promotion, the Irishman had won 12 of his first 13 fights including wins over now Interim-Featherweight champion Conor McGregor and Norman Parke. Duffy landed 15 total strikes (all Significant Strikes) in the minute and 47 seconds that his first fight lasted.

Jorge has 3 UFC fights under his belt. He started off with a decision win over Keith Wisniewski at UFC Fight Night: Teixeira vs. Bader then followed that with a loss five months later to Rodrigo Damm. He fought in February against Josh Shockley and got the nod by decision. Before joining the UFC, 10 of his past 11 fights had ended in a submission. ‘Batman’ averages 3.49 SLpM and 1.67 Takedowns per 15 min.

Ross Pearson vs. Evan Dunham

Another Lightweight bout takes place as the co-main event when the Brit Ross Pearson (17-8, 1 NC; 9-5, 1 NC) faces the American Evan Dunham (15-6; 8-6). This will be the seventh straight main/co-main event slot for Pearson.

Pearson is The Ultimate Fighter Season 9 winner for the Lightweight division. He was coached by the headliner for this event in Michael Bisping. He started out his time with the UFC at 3-0 before he started trading losses for wins over the next six fights. He’s 3-2 with a No-Contest in his last six, all co-main/main event appearances. His last fight was a victory over Sam Stout at UFC 185 with a second round KO. Pearson is a striker with 3.98 SLpM and only 3.02 SApM to go along with his 69% Striking Defense.

Dunham last fought at UFC 182 where he beat Rodrigo Damm by decision. He was in a co-main event slot before that where he lost to Edson Barboza by TKO. After starting out in the UFC with 4 wins, he has since gone 4-6 with tougher competition. He does have three Fight of the Night bonuses, two in losing efforts. Dunham is a busy fighter with his 5.42 SLpM and only 3.60 SApM. He also comes in with 63% Striking Bonus and 78% Takedown Defense (TDD).

Michael Bisping vs. Thales Leites

In the main event we have British star Michael Bisping (26-7; 15-7) and Brazilian Thales Leites (17-4; 10-2) square off at The Hydro. Both are still in contention for a title run and have had success previous in the UFC. They’re 40 combined UFC fights is the most on the card.

Bisping is The Ultimate Fighter Season 3 winner. After winning the show, he went on a three fight win streak before losing to Rashad Evans. He moved to Middleweight and won three straight to start out there before being KO’d for the first time by Dan Henderson. After losing to Wanderlei Silva two fights later, another win streak (this time of 4 wins) saw him in a title-eliminator fight. He would lose yet again, this time to Chael Sonnen. Starting at that fight, he alternated losses for wins for his next 8 fights. He last fought at UFC 186 where he beat CB Dolloway by decision. Bisping is number 1 all time in the Middleweight division for Significant Strikes Landed (987) and Striking Defense (69.6%) to go along with his 4.39 SLpM and 2.47 SApM.


Leites is a former Middleweight title challenger. After starting out in the UFC 5-1, he faced then champion Anderson Silva at UF C 97 for the belt. He would lose the fight and his next and be cut by the promotion. After going 6-1 while not in the UFC and was re-signed to the biggest MMA promotion. Since rejoining, he has won five straight with the last three coming by stoppage. He last fought at UFC 183 where be submitted Tim Boetsch by Arm-Triangle choke. Leites is a strong grappler who averages 2.59 Takedowns per 15 min and 1.6 Submission Attempts per 15 min.

*All records from

**All stats from

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Fight Announcements

Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224



Brazils second UFC event of the new year added another middleweight contest. UFC officials announced, Kelvin Gastelum will face Jacare Souza in Rio de Janeiro at UFC 224.

The inevitable main card booking of Souza comes after headlining UFC on Fox 27. The Brazilian fighter is 3-2 in his last 5. His recent contests only look worrisome in comparison to the entirety of his long career. Prior to his past 5, Souza held an eight fight win streak. In that period of time, he defeated Gegard Mousasi, Derek Brunson (for the first time), and Chris Camozzi twice. Despite the drama words and numbers on screens create, his recent record is nothing to have concern over. A split decision loss to Yoel Romero in 2015, and a 2017 TKO loss to division champion, Robert Whittaker is manageable. Defeating Derek Brunson in the opening round of their main event bout kept him deep in the milky opaque froth that is the middleweight title picture. Clearly his position in that photo lies upon the upcoming match up.

Looking ahead for Jacare Souza, assuming he wins, becomes interesting, just as it devastating for Kelvin Gastelum. Gastelum is 3-1 since returning to middleweight, technically his record sits at 2-1 and 1 No Contest. He tested positive for marijuana in a sample collected the night of his bout against Vitor Belfort by USADA in March of 2017. Originally, the outcome of the bout read the way viewers remembered it; a 1st rd. TKO in favor of Gastelum. On May 7th, 2017, the win was officially overturned and changed to a No Contest. He also received a 90 day suspension, adjusted to the day of the failed test (March 11th).

In the aftermath of the failed test, his scheduled contest against Anderson Silva. He then split his next two contests, losing to Chris Weidman and defeating Michael Bisping emphatically, yet under odd circumstances. A win for Gastelum certainly muddies the waters of middleweight contenders, while adding to a good 185 lb. resume.

UFC 224 takes place in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil on May 12th, 2018 at the Jeunesse Arena. A battle betwen Brazilians is set for the date as Lyoto Machida takes on Vitor Belfort. Other featured bouts include; Aleksei Oleynik vs. Junior Albini*, Cezar Ferreira vs. Karl Roberson*, Alberto Mina vs. Ramazan Emeev, and Davi Ramos vs. Nick Hein*.

*Bouts reportedly set for UFC 224

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Fighter to Watch

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, 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”.

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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 and confirmed later in the evening by the UFC.

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.

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