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WSOF 29 – Gaethje vs. Foster Preview

Iain MacMillan



With the absence of a UFC event this weekend after one of the craziest cards in the promotions history last Saturday, the World Series of Fighting will more than fill your appetite for action-packed cage fighting. WSOF 29 takes place this Saturday in Greeley, Colorado and its main event features a lightweight title fight as Brian Foster challenges one of the promotions most talented and popular fighters: Justin Gaethje.
The three-fight preliminary card kicks off at 8PM EST/5PM PST and will stream live at The four-fight main card starts at 10PM EST/7PM PST and will air on NBCSN in the U.S. and Fight Network in Canada.

Danny Mainus (3-4) vs. Brandon Royval (2-1):
The WSOF 29 prelims kick off with a bantamweight bout between two newcomers to the promotion who are both fighting in their home state of Colorado. Mainus, who previously fought for RFA, is coming off a Unanimous Decision loss to Boston Salmon and will be looking to even out his record at 4-4. All three of his wins so far have come via finish (1 TKO/KO, 2 SUB), while all 4 of his losses have come via decision with three of the four being split. Royval will be fighting for only the 4th time in his professional career. He is coming off of a quick triangle-choke finish as he submitted his last opponent in under a minute. It’ll be interesting to see how these WSOF newcomers will deal with fighting for a higher end promotion.

Josh Huber (15-9) vs. Clay Wimer (6-0):
This featherweight fight features a strong prospect in Clay Wimer who is undefeated while finishing all 6 of his opponents (3 TKO/KO, 3 SUB) so far in his career. He is facing Colorado native Josh Huber who is coming off of 2 straight losses but hoping to get back into the win column. Both of these fighters are new to the promotion. Huber is a long time veteran of the sport as his first professional fight was all the way back in 2006. Tune in to see who comes out on top of this edition of the classic matchup between an experienced veteran and a young prospect.

Ian Heinisch (4-0) vs. Tyler Vogel (2-0):
One of the 0’s has to go in this prelim finale between two young, but undefeated fighters as they square off in a Middleweight bout. This bout has a similar trait to the other two prelim fights as they feature two athletes who are making their World Series of Fighting debut. Heinisch finished 1 out of his 4 opponents (KO/TKO), while Vogel got the TKO finish in both of his professional fights. Heinisch is fighting in his home state so an added pressure of fighting in front of friends and family may be a factor. If one of these fighters can pull off a decisive victory, they will solidify themselves as one of the top prospects in the promotion.

Main Card:
Josh Cavan (11-6) vs. Kris Hocum (7-4):
Colorado based fighters who are making their promotional debut seems to be the theme of the night as Josh Cavan and Kris Hocum square off in their home state in a Welterweight contest. Another common trait between these fighters is that they’re both coming off of a loss, so a win for them would be absolutely essential to getting back on track and making a name for themselves within the promotion. As if these two athletes couldn’t be more similar, they also have an almost identical finishing rate with Cavan finishing his opponents at a rate of 82% while Hocum sports a finishing rate of 85%. Going to the judges score cards doesn’t seem to be very probable in this Welterweight match-up.

Cory Devela (15-6) vs. Louis Taylor (11-3):
It’s WSOF newcomer night as once again these fighters will be making their promotional debuts this Saturday in a Middleweight contest. Both fighters are coming into this fight with a four-fight win streak and a lot of momentum. Chicago native Louis Taylor knows how to finish a fight, 10 of his 11 wins have ended before the final bell as he has submitted 5 of his opponents and KO/TKO’d the other 5. Devela, who hails from Wasington, also knows how to finish a fight as 11 of his 16 wins came inside the distance (3 KO/TKO, 8 SUB). Both of these fighters will be looking to make it five straight wins while making a strong impression with the WSOF brass.

Josh Copeland (11-3) vs. Mike Hayes (19-10-2):
In the evenings co-main event we see two long time veterans face off in a heavyweight bout in what will be (yep, you guessed it) their WSOF debut. Colorado’s Copeland has had a successful career so far in which he has won every fight except for two straight losses in the UFC as well as his most recent loss vs. arguably the best heavyweight in the world in Vitaly Minakov. Copeland is a big signing for WSOF and with a dominant win against Hayes, you may see him in a title fight vs. Blagoy Ivanov in the near future. Mike Hayes has been around the block, he has fought for several promotions including Bellator, Strikeforce, and King of the Cage. He will be looking to get back on track as he has been 1-6-1 in his last 8 bouts. Don’t count Hayes out though, he still has an ability to not only win fights, but to finish them as well with a finishing rate of 74%.

Main Event:
Justin Gaethje (15-0) vs. Brian Foster (25-8):
In the main event of the night, Brian Foster challenges Justin Gaethje for the WSOF Lightweight championship. Gaethje is undefeated and is one of the top fighters in the world outside of the UFC (ranked #5 on our most recent list). His aggressive style is exciting to watch and dangerous for his opponents as he has 12 TKO/KO finishes on his record. Some of the biggest wins in his career include wins over UFC veteran Melvin Guillard, Dan Lauzon, and most recently back-to-back victories over Luis Palomino. Gaethje is without a doubt a world class talent in Mixed Martial Arts.
The challenger, Brian Foster, is a true veteran of the sport and he gets his chance on Saturday to capture WSOF gold. He earned his shot by recently winning the WSOF 8-man lightweight tournament back in November when he defeated Joey Zeferino via KO in the finals. Foster found himself at the bad end of an odd situation when he fought for the UFC back in 2010. After coming off the biggest win of his career vs. Matt Brown, a pre-fight brain scan showed something irregular in his brain and was subsequentially medically released by the UFC. After being cleared by doctors and having numerous brain scans that did not show any further issues, Foster got back to fighting. After a long and painful journey, Foster will have his shot at glory this Saturday night.

Be sure to watch WSOF 29 this Saturday on NBCSN and follow along with us on twitter at @mmalatestnws

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Fighter to Watch

Exclusive: Mike Ekundayo, “He could come with anything, I don’t care”



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, 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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UFC 222 Re-Worked with Cris Cyborg vs. Yana Kunitskaya, and Frankie Edgar vs. Brian Ortega



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 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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UFC Middleweight Champion, Robert Whittaker Announces Birth of Third Child



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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