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WHO YA GOT: UFC FIGHT NIGHT: EDGAR vs FABER

John Michael Edwards

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The UFC’s version of the Thrilla in Manila is going down this weekend, headlined by what could be considered a dream fight between former WEC featherweight champion and bantamweight title challenger, Uriah Faber and former UFC lightweight champion Frankie Edgar.  The co-main event is a striker delight as Gegard Mousasi takes on Costas Philippou.  The rest of the card is filled hometown heroes Mark Munoz and the returning Philippe Nover against Luke Barnatt and Yu Chul Nam respectively, the streaking Neil Magny taking on Hyun Gyu Lim and Mark Eddiva versus Levan Makashvili.

Uriah Faber vs. Frankie Edgar

John Michael Edwards:  I’m going to go out on a limb and pick Faber.  It’s a long shot, but I could see him catching Edgar at some point and Uriah is probably one of the best finishers in MMA history.  Faber by TKO.

Brice Schroeder:  This main event pits two of the more popular and well-rounded fighters in the UFC. I see Frankie utilizing his takedown defense to keep the fight standing where he will use his footwork and boxing to out point faber on his way to a hard-fought decision.

Dom Tutino:  I called it a year ago and I still believe that this is possibly one of the greatest matchups in UFC history. Both of these men are at the highest level of the sport and so well rounded that neither of them have any obvious weaknesses. Frankie may have more technical striking, but Faber has more power, both have tenacious wrestling, very strong jiu-jitsu and can fight for 10 rounds. This fight is so well matched and for that reason it is very hard to pick between them but in the end I see Edgar’s technique just edging out Faber for a split decision win.

Dominic Whittall:  Both fighters have relentless cardio and both have their fair share of experience in 5 round fights. I see the fight starting at a frantic pace with Edgar looking to control the opening rounds with combos and takedowns. I anticipate Faber will expect this and look for the finish early. On the other hand neither of these guys are easier to be put away (Despite Faber having most finishes in UFC/WEC divisional history) and I can see the fight going to the judges scorecards. Faber will win via Split Decision.

Derek Bowe:  Definitely two of the bigger names in mixed martial arts squaring up here. Edgar vs Faber is nearly a can’t miss in the appeal factor, that being said should this fight play out how I believe it will, it should be a one sided affair in Frankie winning this fight wherever it is contested. I believe Frankie is slightly better than Uriah everywhere, except I would say Uriah has more one-punch power. Outside of a timely shot landed, I expect Edgar to control the action and win a decision rather easily

Luke Leasure:  Frankie Edgar versus Uriah Faber has the potential to be a fight of the year candidate. I give Uriah the advantage in punching power and the submission game, but Edgar gets the advantage nearly everywhere else. He throws much more volume, combines his takedowns with his striking better than anyone in the world not named Demetrius Johnson, and is nearly impossible to finish. Due to the toughness of both guys Faber’s superior finishing ability will likely not matter, Edgar wins via decision by utilizing more combinations, angles, and takedowns, but Faber will have one or two near finishes in a competitive fight. Frankie Edgar by decision 49-46.

Jordan Killion: Will Frankie actually have a size advantage? Barring Faber landing a clean one, I don’t see a way he wins this fight. Frankie via UD.

Jim Edwards: I really should learn not to submit my picks last as the guys above have almost said it all. Frankie looked a lot bigger at the weigh-ins and I would naturally pick him over Faber. Ruling out Uriah though in a non-title fight is nigh on ridiculous mind you – meh – I’m still on #TeamEdgar for this. Lets just hope it’s a decent fight.
Gegard Mousasi vs. Costas Philippou

John Michael Edwards:  Mousasi SUB

Brice Schroeder:  Mousasi KO

Dom Tutino:  Mousasi SUB

Dominic Whittall:  Mousasi UD

Derek Bowe:  Mousasi via 2nd round TKO

Luke Leasure:  Mousasi by TKO

Jordan Killion: Mousasi via SUB

Jim Edwards: Philippou SD (just to be different!?)
Mark Munoz vs. Luke Barnatt

John Michael Edwards:  Munoz TKO

Brice Schroeder:  Munoz UD

Dom Tutino:  Barnatt KO

Dominic Whittall:  Barnatt UD

Derek Bowe:  Barnatt via 2nd round submission

Luke Leasure:  Munoz by Decision

Jordan Killion: Barnatt KO

Jim Edwards: Barnatt TKO
Neil Magny vs Hyun Gyu Lim

John Michael Edwards:  Lim UD

Brice Schroeder:  Magny UD

Dom Tutino:  Magny UD

Dominic Whittall:  Magny UD

Derek Bowe:  Magny via 3rd round submission

Luke Leasure:  Magny by unanimous decision

Jordan Killion: Lim via KO

Jim Edwards: Magny UD
Phillipe Nover vs. Yuri Chul Nam

John Michael Edwards:  Nover SUB

Brice Schroeder:  Nover SUB

Dom Tutino:  Nover SUB

Dominic Whittall:  Nover UD

Derek Bowe:  Nover via 1st round TKO

Luke Leasure:  Nam by KO

Jordan Killion: Nover UD

Jim Edwards: Nover SUB

 

Mark Eddiva vs. Levan Makashvili

John Michael Edwards:  Makashvili UD

Brice Schroeder:  Makashvili UD

Dom Tutino:  Makashvili UD

Dominic Whittall:  Makashvili UD

Derek Bowe:  Makashvili via decision

Luke Leasure:  Makashvili by Unanimous Decision

Jordan Killion: Makashvili via UD

Jim Edwards: Makashvili TKO

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Fight Announcements

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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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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