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UFC Fight Night: McDonald vs. Lineker Preview

Vinny Craig

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After the biggest weekend in UFC history, and a sale of the company being announced, UFC Fight Night 91 in Sioux Falls, South Dakota turns into a bigger event than ever. The UFC’s first stop in South Dakota sees plenty of big name talent on the card, including a Bantamweight main event between Michael ‘Mayday’ McDonald and John Lineker. The event will end a seven-day stretch with four events, a total of 46 fights in just one week.

Main Card- Fox Sports 1 (9 PM EDT, 6 PM PDT, 2 AM BST)

  • Bantamweight- Michael McDonald vs. John Lineker
  • Lightweight- Tony Ferguson vs. Landon Vannata
  • Middleweight- Tim Boetsch vs. Josh Samman
  • Heavyweight- Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Oleksiy Oliynik
  • Welterweight- Kyle Noke vs. Keita Nakamura
  • Flyweight- Louis Smolka vs. Ben Nguyen

Preliminary Card- Fox Sports 1 (7 PM EDT, 4 PM PDT, 12 AM BST)

  • Women’s Bantamweight- Lauren Murphy vs. Katlyn Chookagian
  • Middleweight- Eric Spicely vs. Sam Alvey
  • Strawweight- Cortney Casey vs. Cristina Stanciu
  • Lightweight- Scott Holtzman vs. Cody Pfister

Early Preliminary Card- UFC Fight Pass (5:30 PM EDT, 2:30 PDT, 10:30 BST)

  • Bantamweight- Rani Yahya vs. Matthew Lopez
  • Middleweight- Devin Clark vs. Alex Nicholson

Louis Smolka vs. Ben Nguyen

This Flyweight bout between Louis Smolka (10-1 MMA; 4-1 UFC) and Ben Nguyen (16-5; 2-0 UFC) promises to be a must-watch fight. Nguyen was expected to face Justin Scoggins at UFC Fight Night 85 in March, but Scoggins had to pull out and Nguyen was rescheduled for this bout.

Smolka is currently on a three-fight win streak with finishes of Richie Vaculik and, in his last fight, of Paddy Holohan. The Hawaiian has one UFC loss to former title challenger Chris Cariaso at UFC Fight Night 40, where he took Cariaso to a split decision. He last fought in the main event of UFC Fight Night 76 in Dublin, Ireland where he finished Irish native Paddy Holohan by Rear-Naked choke in the second round. His aggressive style is shown in his stats as he steps in with 4.39 Significant Strikes Landed per Minute (SLpM) and 1.9 Submission Attempts per 15 min.

Nguyen was born in Sioux Falls, the only fighter on the card who can say that. He made it to the UFC off a KO win over Julian Wallace after a weigh-in video that went viral, due to the overconfidence of his opponent. Nguyen made his debut in Adelaide at UFC Fight Night 60 with a KO win over Alp Ozkillic. His sophomore fight also came in Australia at the famed UFC 193 event where Dana White also let his wife be an Octagon girl. He only needed one round to finish Ryan Benoit by Rear-Naked choke. Nguyen has landed a total of 38 Significant Strikes and attempted two submissions in the Octagon.

Daniel Omielanczuk vs. Oleksiy Oliynik

A Heavyweight battle of difficult to pronounce names lands on the main card as Daniel Omielanczuk (18-5-1, 1 NC; 3-2 UFC) and Oleksiy Oliynik (50-9-1; 2-0 UFC) fight in a not-quite top 15 battle.

Omielanczuk is a Polish fighter where he spent the first three years of his career. He debuted the UFC at UFC 166 with a third round KO win over Nandor Guelmino. He hit a rough patch with two consecutive losses to Jared Rosholt and Anthony Hamilton, both by decision. However, he bounced back to win his last two fights with a TKO win over Chris De La Rocha and a Technical Decision over Jarjis Danho. He is one of the most accurate strikers in the division with 65% Striking Accuracy to go along with his 3.36 SLpM.

Oliynik hasn’t fought since November 2014 at UFC Fight Night: Edgar vs. Swanson. He currently sits on a 11 fight win streak overall, all by finish, with the last two coming in the UFC. The fight right before his UFC debut was a scarf-hold headlock submission win over Mirko Cro Cop. His UFC debut came by the same submission, the first of its kind in the UFC as he beat Anthony Hamilton in the first round. His last fight in Austin, Texas was another first round finish as he KO’d Jared Rosholt.

Michael McDonald vs. John Lineker

The main event takes place in the bantamweight division as former title challenger Michael McDonald (17-3; 6-2 UFC) takes on heavy hitter John Lineker (27-7; 8-2 UFC). The original main event was expected to be a lightweight bout with title implications between Tony Ferguson and Michael Chiesa. Chiesa had to pull out of the bout and was replaced by newcomer Landon Vannata. The bout was then switched to the co-main event and McDonald vs. Lineker was installed as the main event.

McDonald made his return to fighting in January after over two years off, beating Masanori Kanehara by Rear-Naked choke in the second round. McDonald started his UFC career with with wins over Edwin Figueroa (decision), Chris Cariaso (decision), Alex Soto (KO), and Miguel Torres (KO). Those wins earned him an interim title shot against Renan Barao, where he lost for the first time in the UFC by fourth round Arm-Triangle choke. He returned to beat Brad Pickett by Triangle choke in his next fight to earn Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors. ‘Mayday’ is tied for the most Knockdowns in the division’s history with 5 alongside former champion TJ Dillashaw and Francisco Rivera.

Lineker made the move to 135 last year at UFC 191. After going 6-2 in the Flyweight division, and missing weight on four occasions, ‘Hands of Stone’ made the step up in weight. He made an immediate impact as he fought Francisco Rivera in a Fight of the Night that lasted just over two minutes with 44 strikes being thrown in that short time. Lineker won the fight by Guillotine choke after the punches flew and the fight went to the ground. He last fought at the big Brazil card of UFC 198 against Rob Font. He beat Font by decision, out landing his opponent 80 to 40 in Significant Strikes. Lineker owns the most Knockdowns in Flyweight history with 7 while at 125 and comes in tenth on the active roster with 5.57 SLpM in the UFC.

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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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