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What do we do with Claudia Gadelha?

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In a world where Joanna Jedrzejczyk does not exist, Claudia Gadelha is probably the UFC’s dominant strawweight champion. It is a point that Gadelha made apparent once again in Sao Paulo on Saturday night when she controlled Cortney Casey over three rounds to win a comfortable decision.

Through 16 professional fights, Jedrzejczyk is the only fighter to ever defeat the Brazilian. Unfortunately for Gadelha, it has happened twice.

In truth, their first fight could easily have been scored differently on a different night with different judges. Jedrzejczyk won by split decision, with two judges scoring 29-28 in her favour. Gadelha outlanded her opponent in two of the three rounds, and took Jedrzejczyk down seven times throughout the course of the fight. Of the notable media scores collated on MMA Decisions, 10 out of 12 scored the bout for Gadelha.

It was a win that catapulted Jedrzejczyk into title contention, and would have done the same for Gadelha had she won. That would have meant a title fight against the UFC’s inaugural strawweight champion Carla Esparza. It is a fight that Gadelha would have stood a great chance of winning. What might have been.

By the time Gadelha got her rematch, Jedrzejczyk was the UFC strawweight champion and had been making easy work of everyone she had faced since. Once again Gadelha pressured the Polish warrior in a way that nobody else has been able to. Gadelha dropped Jedrzejczyk early in the fight and comfortably won the first two rounds before Jedrzejczyk mounted a scintillating comeback to retain her title.

That defeat put Gadelha in an unenviable position. Far and away the second best fighter in the division based on record, and ability, another shot at Jedrzejczyk for the title now seems a long way off. Which raises the question. What exactly do they do with Claudia Gadelha next?

Fun Fights and Former Challengers

The fight with Cortney Casey on Saturday in Brazil was a banana skin that she avoided with relative ease. Casey is a natural flyweight who dwarfed Gadelha, and had displayed her power in previous wins over Cristina Stanciu and Randa Markos. Gadelha dispatched her comfortably and answered any questions asked regarding her ability to come back after the five round war with Jedrzejczyk.

Yet that performance was a reminder of the awkward position UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby now finds himself in. Joanna Jedrzejczyk needs a pipeline that produces new challengers. Matching Gadelha against anyone on the verge of a title shot is a risk.

Jessica Aguilar had been considered the number one strawweight in the world before Jedrzejczyk’s emergence. In three long rounds in Rio de Janeiro she saw her title aspirations destroyed by Gadelha. The problem that night was not only that Gadelha beat Aguilar, but that she made her look far worse than she really is. Any excitement surrounding Aguilar’s debut with the company dissipated in a hurry. Nobody talked about Aguilar as a title threat after that fight was done.

The Brazilian would remain a favourite against anyone else in the division, and it is a position the UFC have found themselves in before. It has been rumoured many times that the UFC’s initial plan was to have Jessica Eye challenge Ronda Rousey for the bantamweight title, before Holly Holm was given the shot. They unwisely matched Eye with Miesha Tate in a title eliminator, only for Tate to get the win and ruin their plans. It left the UFC opting to fast-track Holly Holm into a championship fight instead.

That is largely why Gadelha was matched with Casey in the first place. Nobody saw Casey as a future title threat, and Gadelha beating her posed no problem for future matchmaking in the division. That’s not to say that Casey posed no threat to Gadelha. Her size and power is a problem for anyone in the opening stages of a fight, and had she pulled the upset the UFC would have had a surprise contender added to the mix.

Gadelha vs Casey UFC

Gadelha takes Casey down during their bout at UFC Sao Paulo

There remain a bunch of similarly fun rather than relevant fights for her at 115 pounds. Upcoming prospects such as Alexa Grasso, Paige VanZant and Rose Namajunas are likely to be kept well away from Gadelha for the foreseeable future.

Former title challengers with no clear route back, present the most obvious solution. Carla Esparza was beaten so decisively by Jedrzejczyk in their title bout back at UFC 185 that a rematch would be an almost impossible sell. It was the sort of defeat that made people forget that Esparza is one of the top strawweights on the planet, which she is. A fight with Gadelha feels like the most obvious next step in the careers of both fighters.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz was also outclassed against Jedrzejczyk in their recent title bout. That Kowalkiewicz rocked Jedrzejczyk for one brief moment in the fourth round was wildly misinterpreted as the challenger posing the champion her toughest test to date.

In reality Jedrzejczyk won all but a couple of minutes during the five round tussle. The champion outlanded Kowalkiewicz 171 to 50 in significant strikes overall. Bar the fourth round, where Kowalkiewicz briefly made it a contest, the challenger landed no more than eight significant strikes in any one round, with Jedrzejczyk outlanding her 43 to 5 in the final frame.

These are the sort of opponents that lie in Gadelha’s UFC future until she is able to beat enough of them to force another title shot.

Whether an opportunity arises because Jedrzejczyk loses the title, as it did for Miesha Tate when Ronda Rousey lost to Holly Holm, or because the UFC open up a flyweight division and Jedrzejczyk moves up to fight for that title, the possibilities are still there.

Or maybe Gadelha will keep beating fighters so convincingly, as she did Cortney Casey on Saturday night in Sao Paulo, that everyone’s hand is forced and a third fight with Jedrzejczyk is made. Until then fans get to buckle up and enjoy the ride, because fights with the likes of Esparza and Kowalkiewicz are truly mouthwatering prospects.

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Ovince Saint Preux Steps in to Face Corey Anderson at UFC 217

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UFC 217 just got even more interesting. Earlier this week, Patrick Cummins pulled out of his light heavyweight matchup with Corey Anderson due to a Staph infection. Corey “Overtime” Anderson was not happy with his opponents decision, even calling out his opponent on Instagram asking how Cummins could, “call it quits so far from fight night”.

The UFC left Anderson on the card, and he found an opponent through the magic of Twitter. Ovince Saint Preux tweeted out directly to Anderson stating:

It didn’t take long for Anderson to respond agreeing to the fight, tagging Mick Maynard and Dana White in his response.

Only a few short hours later, the fight announcement came from the official UFC twitter account.

 

This top 10 Light Heavyweight matchup should add to an already amazing card coming in November at Madison Square Garden. Saint Preux is coming off of back to back wins both due to the very rare von flue choke, he finds himself ranked #7th in the latest edition of the 205-pound rankings. Corey “Overtime” Anderson is 4-2 in his last 6 fights, but is coming off a brutal first round knockout loss to Jimi Manuwa in March.

With such a exciting fight added to this card, what do you see happening November 4th?  Will Corey Anderson bounce back and look to jump into the top 5 of the rankings, or will Ovince Saint Preux go for a third straight von flue choke? Let us know.

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*Watch* Bellator 185 Weigh in: Live Stream, Results

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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)

Main Card:

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)

Preliminary Card:

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)

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Bellator 185 Fight to Watch: Heather Hardy vs. Kristina Williams

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Heather Hardy will compete in MMA for the second time at Bellator 185 on Friday night, as she faces Kristina Williams in a strawweight contest. The fight takes place on the main card at the Mohican Sun Arena in Connecticut.

Potentially, what Bellator have in Heather ‘The Heat’ Hardy is a major draw that they can build their 125 pound division around. While relatively new to the organisation she is fast becoming one of the more popular names on the roster. Her career is in the early stages, but many have already started to draw comparisons with former boxer turned MMA star, Holly Holm. Holm’s UFC success partly inspired the native New Yorker to make the switch from boxing.

Hardy is already an established world champion in the land of the ‘sweet science’, holding a 21 fight undefeated professional record. She made her MMA debut in June this year with a victory over Alice Yauger, at Bellator 180. At 35, Hardy is a late starter in the sport, but proved at Madison Square Garden against the credible Yauger that she has a bright future.

Hardy’s first outing in the cage was disciplined and composed. Despite a slow start in round one, Hardy grew in confidence as the fight progressed and her cardio never faltered. She mixed in plenty of kicks that complimented her boxing and looked at ease in the clinch, even defending a couple of takedown attempts in the process.

Despite looking on course for a decision win, Hardy forced the TKO stoppage with just thirteen seconds remaining in round three. Even a large cut that required seven stitches from an accidental head clash could not deny her victory.

Hardy was fighting an experienced professional, competing for the tenth time in MMA, which makes the win over Yauger more impressive. However, her upcoming opponent Kristina Williams will be making her professional debut.

There is little known about Williams except that she is 3-0 at amateur level. One of those wins came by way of submission so there may well be a threat to Hardy if the fight goes to the ground. More importantly for Williams is how she copes on the big stage against a popular opponent, who is more familiar competing in high pressure combat situations. If Williams can produce an upset it will be a huge boost in her young career.

But in all honesty, this fight is about Hardy. It’s about getting the win and gaining valuable experience. The boxing career is on hold while MMA takes centre stage. Beating Williams will mean she likely continues fighting inside a cage rather than a boxing ring.

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