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UFC Fight Night Dublin Prelims Preview

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The UFC returns to Ireland on Saturday, October 24th and will be available exclusively on UFC Fight Pass. While this card doesn’t hold many “big names” in the sense that many of the UFC’s recent cards have, it does have some quality fights throughout, including some potential wars on the prelims. The prelims for the card begin at 1 pm Eastern Time and consists of 7 fights between fighters who all possess fairly impressive records going into the fights.

Garreth McLellan vs Bubba Bush

The first fight of the card is a middleweight bout between two fighters who are stepping into the Octagon in the UFC for only the 2nd time in their careers. Gareth “Soldier Boy” McLellan (12-3) is coming off a unanimous decision loss to Bartosz Fabinski at UFC Fight Night 64 but prior to that, the South African fighter had put together a 6 fight win streak which included 5 submission victories, 4 of which had come in the 1st round. McAllen will seemingly be looking to get this fight to the ground early.

Bubba Bush (8-2-1) suffered a brutal TKO loss at the hands of Kevin Casey at UFC 175 in his UFC debut, however that loss was changed to a no contest after Casey tested positive for anabolic steroids. Prior to that fight, Bush had put together a 4 fight win streak, finishing all 4 fights in the 1st or 2nd round. With 4 KO/TKO wins and 3 submission wins to his name, Bush seems to be comfortable no matter where the fight ends up, although he may try to keep it standing against a dangerous submission fighter like McLellan

Darren Elkins vs Robert Whiteford

In a battle of featherweights, the 14th ranked Featherweight Darren Elkins (18-5) will be looking to get back on the right track following a decision loss to Hacran Dias at UFC Fight Night 58. With 12 fights in the UFC Elkins is one of the more seasoned octagon veterans with a record of 8-4 inside the octagon. He is 2-3 in his last 5 fights however and hasn’t finished a fight since a TKO victory in 2013 over Antonio Carvalho. Elkins will be trying to return to his winning ways and will most likely be looking to send a message over a fighter looking to break into the rankings in the featherweight division.

Robert Whiteford (12-2) is 2-1 in the UFC, winning his last 2 fights including a 1st round KO of Paul Redmond at UFC Fight Night 72 earlier this year. The Scottish fighter has looked good in his last 2 fights but faces a major step up in competition against Elkins. While Elkins seems to be fairly comfortable anywhere the fight takes place, Whiteford will most likely attempt to keep the fight standing as half of his wins have come by way of KO/TKO. If Whiteford is able to come away with a win he may just get that jump into the rankings that he’s been searching for.

Cathal Pendred vs Tom Breese

Probably the most recognizable name on the prelims, Cathal “The Punisher” Pendred (17-3) will return to his home country looking to rebound from his 1st UFC loss, a split decision loss to John Howard at UFC 189. This will be Pendred’s 4th fight in 2015 and his 6th fight in 2 years, so he is anything but inactive as far as fighters go. Pendred hasn’t finished a fight since his UFC debut at UFC Fight Night 46 however and has taken some flack from fans for being a “boring” fighter. Pendred has been quoted lately as saying that he agrees with the fans to an extent and that he is working to rectify that view point. He’ll get that opportunity in front of his home crowd.

Tom Breese (8-0) is stepping into the UFC octagon for the 2nd time following a 1st round TKO victory over Luiz Jorge Dutra Jr at UFC Fight Night 67. The undefeated Englishman has finished every fight he’s been in with only 3 of those fights getting past the 1st round. The Tristar fighter has shown that he possesses knockout ability but seems to be most comfortable on the ground with 6 of his 8 wins coming by submission. He faces his biggest test yet in Pendred, but a win against The Punisher could propel him into the thick of the welterweight division contender hunt.

Scott Askham vs Krzysztof Jotko

Scott Askham (13-1) returns to the octagon for a 3rd time following his 1st round KO of Antonio Dos Santos Jr at UFC Fight Night 69. With a 1-1 record inside the Octagon, the English fighter has shown himself to have impressive striking as well as a decent ground game. With his only loss coming by decision to Magnus Cedenblad at UFC Fight Night 53, Askham is looking to make a name for himself in the Middleweight division.

Krzysztof Jotko (15-1) will step into the octagon for his 4th UFC fight after a unanimous decision over Tor Troeng at UFC Fight Night 53. Jot has a 2-1 record in the UFC, with his only loss also coming at the hands of Magnus Cedenblad via guillotine choke at UFC Fight Night 41. The Polish fighter has shown the ability to win fights whether standing or on the ground but hasn’t finished a fight since 2012. He will seemingly be looking to alter that fact on Saturday as long as he can keep Askham from landing any of his significant knockout shots.

Aisling Daly vs Ericka Almeida

The women’s strawweight division will see some action in Ireland as well. Aisling Daly (15-6) is a former North American Allied Fight Series champion and has fought in nearly every major promotion before entering the UFC. This will be her 3rd fight inside the UFC, with a 1-1 record in the octagon, Daly will be looking to rebound from her decision loss to Randa Markos at UFC 186. With 13 of her 15 wins coming by either KO/TKO or submission, Daly is capable of finishing the fight no matter where it ends up.

Stepping into the octagon for the 2nd time, Ericka Almeida (7-1) will be looking to come back from her 1st ever loss, a decision loss to Juliana de Lima Carneiro at UFC Fight Night 67. A dangerous submission artist, the Brazilian fighter has finished all of her fights except 1 inside of the 1st round and 6 of them by submission. A victory over the #14 strawweight in the UFC will go a long way towards making the case that she is a legitimate threat in the division.

Neil Seery vs Jon Delos Reyes

Irish fan favorite Neil Seery (15-11) returns to Ireland attempting to return to the win column after dropping his last fight to Louis Smolka at UFC 189. The well-rounded flyweight is 2-2 in the UFC and was on a 2 fight win streak prior to the decision loss to Smolka. He hasn’t finished a fight since 2013 but has shown that he is more than capable of finishing the fight whether on the feet or on the mat. The 36-year-old is always entertaining and will be looking to continue that trend of exciting fights with a victory in front of his hometown Dublin crowd.

Jon Delos Reyes (8-4) makes this his 4th fight in the UFC, he is 1-2 in the UFC with his last fight ending with him choking out Roldan Sangcha-an in the 2nd round at UFC Fight Night 66. Reyes isn’t a fighter that likes to let fights go to decision, win or lose, only 1 of his fights have gone the distance and he has shown that he can easily finish a fight via strikes or submissions. When you combine Seery’s never say die attitude in fights with Reyes’ proclivity for finishing fights, this match up has all the makings of an all out war.

Stevie Ray vs Mickael Lebout

Stevie “Braveheart” Ray (18-5) is stepping into the octagon for the 3rd time riding a 4 fight win streak, including 2 tko victories in his 2 UFC fights. With 14 of his 18 wins coming by way of KO/TKO or submission, Ray has proven to be a well rounded finisher who likes to end fights quickly. The Scottish fighter will be looking to add Lebout to his highlight reel of finishes and make a name for himself in the UFC Lightweight division.

Mickael Lebout (14-4) will also be in his 3rd UFC fight on Saturday following a unanimous decision win over Teemu Packalen at UFC Fight Night 72. Lebout is 1-1 in the UFC and has proven himself to be a danger on the ground with 6 wins by submission to his name. While he’s only finished 1 of his last 5 fights, he has proven to be a tough fight for opponents and will look to be so for Ray. Ray would seem to be the favorite in this fight but you can’t count Lebout out.

While there isn’t as much name recognition for the casual fan, the prelims for UFC Dublin provide a variety of interesting and exciting match ups full of up and coming fighters looking to prove themselves to the UFC brass. Be sure to tune in to UFC Fight Pass at 1 pm ET on Saturday, October 24th for the prelims and at 4 pm ET for the main card of UFC Fight Night: Dubli

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Jacare Souza vs. Kelvin Gastelum Official for UFC 224

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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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Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”

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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”.

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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega

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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.

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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