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The Ultimate Fighter 20: Finale Re-Cap

AJ Camacho

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I’m loaded on Dos Equis and cough syrup so lets just get to the damn re-cap.

Main Card (on FOX Sports 1)

Carla Esparza DEFEATS Rose Namajunas
BY REAR NAKED CHOKE in the 3rd Round

Rose kept Esparza against the fence with a myriad of spastic spinning strikes, flying round head kicks, and stiff side kicks. Esparza clearly wanted to close the distance but couldn’t cover that much ground without taking damage. Spinning sh!t for days. Esparza begins to time her takedowns at the end of Rose’s combination riding out top position on the squirmy and spastic Namajunas. Finally, in the third round Rose would lazily kick and feed her foot to the takedown hungry Esparza, getting taken down. Esparza would grind her way to the back to ear the win by Rear Naked Choke.

Charles Oliveira DEFEATS Jeremy Stephens
BY UNANIMOUS DECISION 29:28/29:28/29:28

From the outset of the bout Oliveira would sit out and deploy his closed guard against the forward pressing Stephens. A third of the first round would be spent by Stephens, trying to pull out of Oliveira’s constrictive arm bar attempt. Oliveira did well controlling the distance only engaging at long range with his kicks or lunging in for his double leg takedowns, carefully staying out of the kill range of Stephens. His strategy would be rewarded earning him the back control transition to a hyper extended arm bar, until he released his leg pressure from Stephen’s body allowing Stephens to barrel back over onto the top position. Ultimately Stephens would evade 3 arm bars and 1 guillotine throughout the fight. Stephens would earn some solid ground and pound damage when he was on top but none of it was enough to win. Charles Oliveira Wins by Unanimous Decision.

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Stephens v Oliveira

K.J. Noons vs Daron Cruickshank
Deemed a NO CONTEST due to eye poke in the 2nd Round

KJ Closes distance ducking down to hit Daron off of his shoulder rolls. Cruickshank tries to time his knees and uppercuts against KJ’s duck unders while getting backed into the fence. For the most part, they come out of the first round even. For the second time in the fight, KJ would throw an open hand into Cruickshank’s eyes stalling the match. Big John seems tolerant of the penalty but it’s clearly being caused by KJ’s framing with his lead hand. Cruishank can’t see out of his left eye and the doctor stops it. Big John calls it, No Contest.

Yancy Medeiros DEFEATS Joe Proctor
BY GUILLOTINE CHOKE in the 1st Round

Both fighters came out, working away on the body and the lead leg on each other. Medeiros, setting up combinations off his jab while Proctor his looking to throw bombs. Medeiros would walk Proctor down into the fence and hit the spinning back kick on Proctor’s liver as he came bouncing off of the fence. Proctor collapsed and Medeiros pounced on his neck to get the Guillotine Choke Win.

Jessica Penne DEFEATS. Randa Markos
BY SPLIT DECISION 28:29/30:27/29:28

Surprisingly, Penne’s Judo would out throw Markos’ wrestling, repeatedly landing in top position. Markos adjusts in the second round choosing to try and keep the fight standing. The third round would decide the winner as Markos would be unable to retain distance, getting taken down and smothered by Penne. Penne would do enough to win the Split Decision.

Preliminary Card (on FOX Sports 1)

Felice Herrig DEFEATS Lisa Ellis
BY ARM BAR in the 2nd Round

Lisa Ellis blitzed Herrig out of the gate turning the fight into a brutal grappling match. Ellis, known more for her wrestling, really demonstrated some solid Jiu Jitsu in this match… until she decided to repeatedly sit back on her @ss instead of pushing for the single leg. Ellis’ passivity gets steam rolled by Herrig’s aggression. Ellis reverses but gets caught, earning Herrig the Arm Bar Win from the bottom.

Heather Jo Clark DEFEATS Bec Rawlings
BY UNANIMOUS DECISION 29:28

Clark immediately smothered Rawlings with the clinch, trying to negate Bec’s brawl and sprawl game. For the most part, Rawlings was not able to keep Clark off of her. Clark demonstrated a much improved wrestling game, since her time in the TUF house, dominating most of the clinches and ground exchanges. The fight turned inside out in the third, Bec able to better retain distance and unload damage loaded boxing combinations but it was too late to win the fight. Clark Wins by Unanimous Decision.

Joanne Calderwood DEFEATS Seo Hee Ham
BY UNANIMOUS DECISION 30:27/30:27/30:26

Both fighters with high pure kickboxing stances, no fear of a takedown happening here. Ham was unable to decode Calderwood’s defenses and close the distant. Ham continued to circle preventing herself from being walked down into the cage but despite a handful of clinch exchanges Calderwood is able to keep the fight a long range exchange. Ham wears down in the third round and Calderwood took her down to finish strong on top for the Unanimous Decision Win.

The Ultimate Fighter Finale: Calderwood v Ham

Tecia Torres DEFEATS Angela Magana
BY UNANIMOUS DECISION 30:27/30:27/30:26

Toress kept the pressure on Magana for all 3 rounds, tenaciously walking Magana back with flurries of combinations, stiff side kicks, and rapid foot work. Magana stayed in the fight early on, getting her own share of strikes, but her non committal kicks and loose guard (chin up, hands down) just gave too many striking opportunities for Torres. Tecia Torres Win by Unanimous Decision.

Preliminary Card (on UFC Fight Pass)

Aisling Daly DEFEATS Alex Chambers by ARM BAR in the 1st Round
Angela Hill DEFEATS Emily Kagan by UNANIMOUS DECISION

I’m going to pass out now.

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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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Announcement

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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Announcement

UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child

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Times seem dull and dreary for the UFC’s Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker. The New Zealand born fighter withdrew from the promotions event debut in the eastern region of his residence, Australia. UFC 221, which takes place this Saturday, booked Whittaker to defend his title for the first time against former division champion, Luke Rockhold. His withdrawal was due to mistreatment of a serious staph infection inside of the Australians stomach.

It couldn’t get much worse, having to disappoint fans, and missing the first UFC event in eastern Australia. As it turns out, it could not get worse for Whittaker. Life only got better, as he had the pleasure of announcing the birth of his third child.

His new child is the champions third and first girl. Information regarding his child is limited as this moment is a tender and special time for the Whittaker family.

UFC 221 takes place in Perth, Australia at Perth Arena on February 11th. The cards main event features Whittakers short notice replacement, Yoel Romero taking on Luke Rockhold. Much to the satiety of fans, an interim belt is not in the equation in this instance.

Thank God. Excuse me, thank Dana White.

UFC 221 also features the ‘Super Samoan’ Mark Hunt vs. Curtis Blaydes, Tai Tuivasa faces Cyril Asker, Alexander Volkanovski vs. Jeremy Kennedy and more.

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