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WSOF 29 – Gaethje vs. Foster Preview

Iain MacMillan

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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 WSOF.com. 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.

Prelims:
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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Fight Announcements

Aldo vs. Lamas 2 and Ponzinibbio vs. Perry Added to UFC Winnipeg

Harry Davies

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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.

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
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Why the UFC Needs to Introduce 165 and 175-pound Weight Divisions

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  • 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.

Former UFC lightweight Donald Cerrone has looked spectacular since making the move up to 170-pounds.

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.

The UFC’s official website only lists four fighters in the women’s featherweight division.

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.

Could we see the current welterweight champion Tyron Woodley compete at 175-pounds in the future?

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.

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James Gallagher out of Bellator 187 in Dublin due to injury

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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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