On Saturday night Paige VanZant and Michelle Waterson meet in a network television main event on FOX. For the fighters involved it is an important bout. For their respective fans it means plenty. The impact it will have on the strawweight division’s immediate title picture is minimal.
At different points in their careers, neither fighter is expected to immediately challenge for the title with a win. Neither VanZant or Waterson reside in the current 115 pound top ten.
In the co-main event in Sacramento, Mickey Gall and Sage Northcutt meet with only 12 professional fights between them. Gall’s perfect 3-0 record includes a win over a journalist and a win over a pro wrestler. Every one of Gall’s three wins have been against fighters making their professional debuts.
While Northcutt is more experienced, with nine professional fights on his resume, he is still nowhere near the top ten in either the lightweight or welterweight divisions he has been bouncing between. Nor is he anywhere near the top 20, or even the top 50. Tapology has Northcutt ranked at 87 at lightweight. Fight Matrix has him ranked at 156.
What does this say about the UFC’s marquee television show as we approach 2017? While Saturday’s event is the clearest example of elite-level championship irrelevance, it is part of a trend that has been noticeable all year.
When the UFC signed their seven-year broadcasting deal with the FOX network in 2011, the “big FOX” events were seen as a major opportunity to increase the popularity of the sport. Long time UFC fans waited with baited breath for another “Griffin vs Bonnar” moment that would draw new fans to the sport overnight. In reality the UFC had already grown beyond the point where that was ever a realistic possibility, but that did not stop the company attaching huge importance to the FOX events and using them to grow the sport gradually.
The following figures do not include interim titles, or fights which were promoted as title eliminators but did not actually see the winner fight for the title in their next fight.
In the first full year on FOX we saw four major events. In total they hosted one title fight, produced four immediate title challengers, and included five former UFC champions. Fast forward to 2016 and the picture splattered across the events in garish paint is quite different.
No title fights. No title eliminators. Even the total of four former champions is unimpressive when you consider that one of those is Josh Barnett who held the heavyweight title all the way back in 2002, and has not been considered a realistic title threat since returning to the UFC in 2013. If we are being brutally honest, Rashad Evans is viewed in much the same way now too.
On top of that, unlike previous years where the UFC promoted four FOX events, the VanZant vs. Waterson headlined show in Sacramento on Saturday is the fifth of 2016.
2017 is a pivotal year for the UFC on network television. New owners WME-IMG have included a much improved TV deal as part of their projected plans for the company going forward. The current deal with FOX runs until 2018, where WME-IMG will be hoping other networks will be fighting for a seat at the negotiating table.
The first FOX event of 2017 is already scheduled with a potential title eliminator in the main event slot. Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena fight with both women hoping to secure a bantamweight title shot. Even that is not guaranteed however. Miesha Tate and Jessica Eye was announced as a title eliminator on FOX in 2015. That was until Tate won and the UFC and then champion Ronda Rousey cooled on the idea, opting instead to promote a bout between Rousey and Holly Holm.
With Holm now fighting Germaine de Randamie to become the inaugural women’s featherweight champion, and Ronda Rousey challenging bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 at the end of this month, the winner of Pena and Shevchenko’s FOX main event might not be getting a title shot any time soon either.
Holm has already made comments regarding her desire to move back to 135 pounds and reclaim the bantamweight title she lost earlier this year, once she has fought for the featherweight strap. If that means a second fight with Rousey — should Rousey defeat Nunes at UFC 207 — then the chances of Pena or Shevchenko being forced to wait are increased tenfold. Especially when you take into account UFC President Dana White’s comments regarding a champion vs champion rematch should everything fall into place.
Meanwhile Saturday’s event in Sacramento has become a dumping ground for popular fighters with no top-five credibility. Even Urijah Faber, whose retirement bout against Brad Pickett is on the main card, is there because of his popularity in Sacramento rather than his ability to make an impact on the upper echelons of his division. Even if Faber were not on the verge of retirement, he would not be considered a potential title challenger at this stage in his career.
If we see more of the same in 2017, the UFC will be banking on their popular fighters doing enough inside the cage to retain their fanbases. After all, there is a TV deal waiting to be renegotiated that hinges on it.
*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results
Watch the live weigh-ins for Bellator 185 here.
Gegard Mousasi takes on Alexander Slemenko live this Friday night October 20th at the Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville CT. This is the first appearance for Mousasi in the Bellator cage as he looks to secure a title shot with a win over the very tough former Bellator champion Slemenko. Joining these men of the main card will be a pair of welterweights as Neiman Gracie from the famous Gracie BJJ family takes on Zak Bucia in the co-main event.
Full Weigh-in Results: (Updated in real time)
Gegard Mousasi (185) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (186)
Neiman Gracie (170.5) vs. Zak Bucia (170)
Heather Hardy (126) vs. Kristina Williams (126)
Ryan Quinn (155.5) vs. Marcus Surin (155)
Ana Julaton (125.5) vs. Lisa Blaine (122)
Jordan Young (200) vs. Alec Hooben (194)
Costello van Steenis (185) vs. Steve Skrzat (186)
Vinicius de Jesus (170) vs. Joaquin Buckley (171)
John Beneduce (154.5) vs. Dean Hancock (155)
Timothy Wheeler (144) vs. Pete Rogers (144)
Don Shainis (150) vs. Matthew Denning (149)
Frank Sforza (149) vs. Vovka Clay (150)
Kevin Carrier (156) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (153)
John Lopez (126) vs. Billy Giovanella (125)
Bellator 185- How to Watch, Times and Fight Card
Bellator is once again heading to Mohegan Sun in Uncasville Connecticut, and this time they are bringing with them one of the most anticipated former UFC fighter turned Bellator stars’ debut. Gegard Mousasi will be making his first appearance in the Bellator cage against a former Bellator champion in Alexander Shlemenko. Although this event has lost some of its star power over the last several weeks, it is still stacked and you can bet that the main event will bring some fireworks.
Earlier in the month, it was announced that King Mo had suffered an injury that had forced him out of his co-main event fight with former middleweight champion Liam McGeary. Bellator worked quickly to secure a replacement opponent for McGeary in Bubba McDaniels. Unfortunately for McDaniels and the fans alike, McGeary had later suffered an injury of his own and the fight was removed from the card.
This left a spot open in the co-main event slot, which would be filled by a welterweight matchup between Brennan Ward and David Rickels. Just four days out from the fight, Bellator announced that Ward had also become injured and the fight has been removed from the card as well. The main card has been shuffled around and the welterweight bout between Neiman Gracie and Zak Bucia will now serve as the co-main event.
Main Card- Spike TV (US/Canada) Spike UK (UK)- 9 pm EDT, 6 pm PDT, 2 pm UK
- Middleweight Main Event: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs. Alexander Shlemenko (56-9, 1 NC)
- Welterweight Feature Bout: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs. Zak Bucia (18-8)
- Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs. Kristina Williams (Debut)
- Lightweight Feature Bout: Ryan Quinn (13-7) vs. Marcus Surin (4-0)
- Women’s Flyweight Feature Bout: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs. Lisa Blaine (1-0)
Preliminary Card- Live Stream (MMA Latest New)- 7 pm EDT, 4 pm PDT, 12 pm UK
- 195 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Jordan Young (6-0) vs. Alec Hooben (5-3)
- Middleweight Preliminary Bout: Costello van Steenis (8-1) vs. Steve Skrzat (8-9)
- Welterweight Preliminary Bout: Vinicius de Jesus (5-1) vs. Joaquin Buckley (7-1)
- Lightweight Preliminary Bout: John Beneduce (2-1) vs. Dean Hancock (2-1)
- Featherweight Preliminary Bout: Timothy Wheeler (1-4) vs. Pete Rogers (2-4)
- 150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Don Shainis (3-1) vs. Matthew Denning (5-6)
- 150 lb. Catchweight Preliminary Bout: Frank Sforza (6-0) vs. Vovka Clay (3-2)
- Lightweight Preliminary Bout: Kevin Carrier (Pro Debut) vs. Jose Antonio Perez (Pro Debut)
- Flyweight Preliminary Bout: John Lopez (6-4) vs. Billy Giovanella (9-5)
EXCLUSIVE: Jack Shore talks Cage Warriors 87 Opponent Change, Pressure and Being Ready for A Big Opportunity
Jack Shore, a promising up and coming Welsh Featherweight who will be fighting on his fourth main Cage Warriors card in only his sixth professional fight. Despite his opponent, Federico Mini, dropping out days prior to the event, Shore isn’t concerned ahead of the opponent change. “Just another fight, I’m ready for anything come fight night and I’m looking forward to the challenge”. Cage Warriors have confirmed that Shore will now be fighting Italian, Mattia Galbiati.
Shore last fought at the Newport Centre, Wales at Cage Warriors 83, defeating his opponent Konmon Deh convincingly with a first-round submission. The crowd was electric for both his entrance and when his opponent tapped due to armbar, “I have a massive following and they like to make themselves heard on fight night, it’s getting bigger and bigger every time!”
Whilst using his extensive grappling to win the fight, the Tillery Combat MMA Academy fighter was very aggressive with his strikes on the ground, “I believe my grappling style is very different to what people are used to seeing and that’s why it’s entertaining to watch. I’m always looking to advance and put the pressure on, but I also try to use punches and elbows to set up my transitions.”
Being undefeated throughout his amateur career (including winning the IMMAF European Championships), to then continue being undefeated throughout his early professional career, Shore has a mature mindset for such a young fighter to how the sport works, “Obviously no one wants to lose but you have to be aware that it’s a possibility because anything can happen in this sport. But by being aware it allows me to train and prepare correctly to do everything I can (do) to prevent that from happening.”
Whilst growing up, Shore states that he wasn’t the most confident of people, “As a kid growing up I was never the world’s most confident person.” Cage Warriors being on BT Sport within the UK, being the biggest European MMA promotion, and having the following Shore has, he feels no pressure of fighting, “But as far as MMA is concerned I don’t feel any pressure at all. There’s obviously the fight day nerves but anyone will tell you I deal with them very well and am more than comfortable in that environment.”
With the current revolution of MMA in Wales occurring, former Cage Warriors fighters Brett Johns, Jack Marshman and John Philips all in the UFC, Josh Reed who has just come off a title shot with Cage Warriors Bantamweight champion Nathaniel Wood, Lewis Long being the best Welterweight in the UK. It brings a realistic opportunity of making the UFC, “Definitely. Since the first bunch of Welsh guys have been signed to the UFC it’s shown for guys like me, Lewis Long and Josh Reed that what we are pushing for is no doubt achievable. I believe that if we keep doing what we are doing then that dream won’t be too far away.”
Whilst having such a successful start to his professional career, and with the attention, this young Welshman is bringing, Shore is in no rush for the Cage Warriors belt, but is prepared if the opportunity arises. “I’m just taking one fight at a time. I’m aware that I’m still young in terms of my pro career so I will continue to fight whoever Cage Warriors put in front of me. Should a big opportunity like that present itself I’ll make sure I’m ready.”
Shore seems to be mature for someone of the age of just 22, the future seems bright for the young Welshman. Jack Shore fights on the up and coming Cage Warriors 87 card Saturday, 14th October at the Newport Centre, Newport, Wales. The event will be free-to-air on UK sports channels FreeSports, as well as be on UFC FightPass and via the red button on BT Sport.
Check the main card out for Cage Warriors 87 below:
Lewis Long vs Roberto Soldic (Welterweight)
Craig White vs Matt Inman (Welterweight)
Jack Shore vs Mattia Galbiati (Featherweight)
Aiden Lee vs Ludovit Klein (Featherweight)
Aaron Khalid vs Ross Houston (Welterweight)
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