A battle of top-ranked Welterweights took center stage at UFC Fight Night 89 in Ottawa on Saturday night. Rory “The Red King” Macdonald (18-3) returned to the octagon for the first time since his epic war with champion Robbie Lawler almost one year ago at UFC 189. While there had been talks among fans and media about a rematch with Robbie Lawler, it appeared that the UFC wanted at least one fight in between in order for Macdonald to secure another shot at the belt. Standing in his way would be Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson (12-1). Thompson is easily one of the biggest rising stars in the 170 lb weight class, riding a six-fight win streak, including an incredible first round knockout of former champion Johny Hendricks in February at UFC Fight Night 82. With a diverse striking attack and great movement, many saw a “Wonderboy” title shot as an inevitability, but he’d have to get past Rory Macdonald first.
Both men touch gloves in the center of the octagon and begin sizing each other up, looking for openings. Side kick from Thompson that Macdonald stays away from before also dodging a leg kick. Macdonald goes for a rolling heel hook but can’t secure it and gets back to his feet as Thompson steps away. Thompson throws a 1-2 combo but gets grazed by a head kick from Macdonald in the middle. Macdonald goes for the roll again but Thompson easily dodges it. Thompson snaps off a front kick to the body and follows it with a leg kick. Macdonald counters with a kick of his own. A spinning kick from Thompson just misses and they return to circling. Thompson lands a side kick to the body and then they clinch and exchange punches. Thompson pushes Macdonald against the cage and they exchange on the break. Macdonald goes for a head kick and it’s blocked as the round comes to an end.
They touch gloves once again and then Macdonald throws a side kick to the body. Thompson counters with a jumping head kick that is blocked and they exchange punches. Macdonald seems to want to get in close while Thompson is utilizing distance to open up his striking. They exchange kicks and punches but nothing significant lands. Macdonald briefly gets the clinch and lands a knee from the thai clinch before Thompson pushes him away. They exchange punches again. Macdonald again attempts the roll but Thompson steps to the side and avoids it. Thompson just misses with a hook kick to the head of Macdonald. Macdonald shoots for a takedown and gets Thompson against the cage and lands a big elbow off of the break. Thompson has his hands very low and is darting in and out with a jab. Macdonald throws a head kick that is blocked. Thompson lands another side kick to the body and another. They circle again as the round comes to a close and the crowd seems to be getting restless.
A lot of respect being shown by both men as they touch gloves again to start the round. Macdonald eats a kick to the body but presses forward, trying to close the distance and lands a right hand. Thompson lands a body kick and a quick left hand before dodging a right from Macdonald. Macdonald lands a left and is doing a better job of closing the distance. They clinch and Thompson takes Macdonald down with a trip and briefly has a mount. Macdonald tries to sink in a heel hook but Thompson escapes and they’re back to the feet. Thompson lands a left hand and Macdonald answers with a right. They circle and exchange again as Macdonald lands a few clean right hands. They trade kicks to the body and Thompson lands a short right hand. They exchange strikes as Macdonald attempts to close the distance again but Thompson keeps him at bay. Thompson lands a short right and both men miss with kicks as the bell sounds and they touch gloves with a smile as they go to their corners.
The now standard glove touch starts the round and Macdonald throws a combination but Thompson strafed to the side. A side kick from Thompson and then dodges some shots from Macdonald before landing two clean punches. The clinch and exchange with Macdonald landing a knee before they break. Macdonald is able to get close in but can’t seem to maintain that distance. Thompson is bouncing on his toes and throwing well but he gets caught with a solid kick. Thompson responds with a few jabs and an uppercut. Thompson is still keeping his hands very low, landing clean shots every time Macdonald attempts to step in. A solid kick to the body from Thompson and they resume circling. Thompson misses with a punch but lands a body kick. Macdonald lands a big jab but Thompson responds with a right hand. Thompson lands two counterpunches as Macdonald steps in and then immediately moves away. A brief exchange of strikes closes out the round.
A little bit of blood is coming from the nose of Macdonald at the start of the round as they touch gloves again. Macdonald continues to try and close the distance but Thompson lands a side kick to push him away. They exchange big shots but neither fighter seems fazed. Thompson is never still, always moving and Macdonald catches him with a big right hand. Both fighters start swinging for the fences and land some big shots. Thompson throws a spinning wheel kick that catches Macdonald with a glancing shot. Macdonald goes for another takedown but Thompson ends up on top and in side control. Thompson throws a couple of short elbows to the face of Macdonald before getting to his feet. They exchange and it looks like Macdonald might be hurt. Thompson is picking his shots now and making them count. Macdonald is constantly moving forward, egging Thompson on and trying to brawl. Thompson is consistently staying just out of range, darting in and out with jabs and kicks. Both fighters miss with head kicks as the final round ends.
Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson def. Rory MacDonald via Unanimous Decision (50-45, 50-45, 48-47)
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Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg
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.
THIS. CARD. pic.twitter.com/bc4AyNncqy
— UFC (@ufc) October 13, 2017
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
Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions
- 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.
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.
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.
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.
James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury
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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