Weekend Breakdown & Preview: UFC Fight Night 116


Live from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania, USA on Fox Sports 1, Fox Sports 2 and UFC Fight Pass, Sat, Sept 16, 2017

 

--- Main Card (Fox Sports 1: 10pmET/7pmPT) ---

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Luke Rockhold (15-3) vs David Branch (21-3)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Mike Perry (10-1) vs Alex Reyes (13-2)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Hector Lombard (34-7-1) vs Anthony Smith (27-12)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Gregor Gillespie (9-0) vs Jason Gonzalez (11-3)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Kamaru Usman (10-1) vs Sergio Moraes (12-2-1)

Heavyweight - 207-265 lbs: Justin Ledet (8-0) vs Azunna Anyanwu (14-4)

 

--- Prelims (Fox Sports 2: 8pmET/5pmPT) ---

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Olivier Aubin-Mercier (9-2) vs Tony Martin (12-3)

Heavyweight - 207-265 lbs: Daniel Spitz (5-1) vs Anthony Hamilton (15-7)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Krzysztof Jotko (19-2) vs Uriah Hall (12-8)

 

--- Fight Pass Prelims (UFC Fight Pass: 7:30 PM EST/4:30 PM PST) ---

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Gilbert Burns (11-2) vs Jason Saggo (12-3)

---

It has been over an entire year since we last saw Luke Rockhold make a UFC appearance and the last time we saw him, he was the UFC Middleweight champion of the world. Of course, that is until brash Brit, Michael Bisping came along. And we all know how that chapter of Rockhold's career ended... Rockhold was scheduled to compete in November of last year in a rematch with Ronaldo "Jacare" Souza but was forced out after tearing his ACL thus putting him on the shelf all the way until this Saturday.

The man welcoming him back to the octagon will be none other than the highly underestimated by most, WSOF double champ of the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions, David Branch. No stranger to five round fights and oozing confidence, Branch presents a very interesting and tough challenge for the returning Rockhold. Whoever wins this intriguing match up will surely put themselves one or two fights at most away from a title shot

 

 

Jotko vs Hall

It's pretty incredible to see how far Uriah Hallhas fallen since his season of The Ultimate Fighter. He was being hyped up as the new and improved, next generation version of Anderson Silva. Which seemed pretty reasonable if you watched TUF 17. But...most MMA fans that were more than casual viewers knew that Hall may have just been a product of looking stellar against weak competition. Hall has looked pretty great in most of his wins but just seems to falter when facing the best of the division(minus his spectacular spinning back kick on Gegard Mousasi in their first fight).

Krzysztof Jotko fits that bill. Currently ranked at #10 in the division, Jotko will look to rebound off of his five fight win streak halting loss to David Branch back in May. Hall, on the other hand, is riding a three fight win streak and will be hungrier than ever to get back into the win column as he might need it to save his spot on the UFC roster.

Krzysztof Jotko presents a pretty tough challenge for the versatile counter striking heavy, Hall. A very well rounded and rangy fighter, Jotko's biggest key to victory will essentially be to avoid being hit with an explosive counter kick from Hall which is what he's best at. Jotko would also be very smart to try and get Hall to the ground where we've seen Hall be susceptible in the past. As long as he can avoid sneaky submission threats on the ground and big counters from Hall, Jotko should be able to win somewhat handily.

But Jotko can't get reckless with his attacks which is possible considering he was a bit gun shy in his last outing which many think is what cost him the victory. If Hall can take advantage of this, his chances go up significantly. This fight really just depends on how each men approach it in terms of aggression.

Prediction: Jotko RD2 (T)KO

 

 

Usman vs Moraes

Kamaru Usman is among the next wave of top Welterweights breaking their way into the top 10. He has all the potential in the world to be a champion and could be there sooner rather than later. Booking has just been his biggest enemy so far as somewhat seen in this match up with Sergio Moraes. Perhaps it hasn't been so much an "enemy" as the UFC has just been building Usman up slowly. None the less, a true definition of a dark horse, Moraes has quietly amassed a UFC record of 6-1-1 with his only loss coming in his debut bout which was at Middleweight against Cezar Ferreira.

A world champion Jiu-Jitsu practitioner and black belt, Moraes actually holds a first round submission victory over top 10 Welterweight, Neil Magny. Usman is a fantastic, very strong and smothering wrestler so a ground battle could indeed go down which makes the fight super interesting with both styles considered. But as seen in Usman's last fight with Sean Strickland, his striking is continually improving and his power is starting to show. Moraes doesn't have bad striking, but pretty average which could be enough to get by vs Usman but it depends on how much he's continued to improve. Usman has the clear power advantage and with his strength advantage and smothering top game, he should be able to avoid any submissions on route to a ground and pound finish or clear decision victory.

Prediction: Usman RD1 (T)KO

 

 

Lombard vs Smith

Anthony "Lionheart" Smith will be getting the highest profile fight of his career when he takes on former Bellator Middleweight champion, Hector Lombard. In his last fight, Smith pulled off an amazing comeback TKO late in the third against The Ultimate Fighter season 23 winner, Andrew Sanchez so he has all the momentum he could ask for going into this one. As for Lombard, he'll be looking to snap a three fight losing streak and save his job.

Anthony Smith has proven to be a very durable fighter who's never out of the fight. Opponents of Smith may be better off putting him out cold or grabbing a limb for a submission because there's just no quit in this guy. Hector Lombard had all the potential and hype in the world when he came over from Bellator holding a magnificent record of 31-2-1, but has since hit some bumps in the road since and maybe not been as great as he was touted to be. But that doesn't mean Lombard isn't still one of the most dangerous opponents someone can have standing across from them at either Middleweight or Welterweight.

Known primarily for his great combination of speed, strength and KO power, many forget that Lombard is a fourth-degree black belt in Judo. His biggest weakness in his career has been his poor gas tank which gives Smith a very good chance to pull off another upset if he can avoid Lombard's big power hooks. The likelihood of this one going the distance is pretty slim. Anthony Smith has only gone to a decision in 3 of his 39 fights.

A closer fight than many may realize, the biggest factor will be whether or not Smith will start fast or let Lombard dictate the pace. He really has no reason not to with the monstrous length advantage he'll have over Lombard... Smith stands at 6'5" with a 77" reach where as Lombard is 5'9" with a 71" reach.

Prediction: Lombard RD1 (T)KO

 

 

Perry vs Reyes

Thiago Alves was the initial opponent for Mike Perry but complications with his family and the unfortunate events pertaining to Hurricane Irma, he pulled out of the fight. In steps the newcomer, Alex Reyes.

What we know about Alex Reyes: He's the brother of UFC Light Heavyweight prospect, Dominick Reyes. Fights at Lightweight with a 13-2 record and hasn't lost a fight since his second pro fight and has finished his opponent in all of his 13 victories(9 KO/TKOs, 4 Submissions). But Reyes has only fought once since 2016.

Reyes is obviously a dangerous opponent and short notice should favor him as the underdog. He has nothing to lose and everything to gain, unlike Perry. The competition level difference is drastic though. Perry will be the toughest challenge of his young career and Perry has proven that he's one of the more dangerous strikers at 170 lbs.

In fights like these, predicting upsets is just something someone would do on a whim. All we can hope for is a great fight and a solid new addition to the UFC.

Prediction: Perry RD2 (T)KO

 

 

Rockhold vs Branch

Let's just delve right into the match up here. Luke Rockhold has some sensational head kicks, specifically his question mark kick and for my money, the best body kicks in all of MMA. Not many can absorb his left body kick without obvious discomfort on their face afterward. When on the ground, his top control is phenomenal. That topped with his violent ground and pound and various ways to submit, Luke is one of the most talented Middleweights we've ever seen.

David Branch is no joke when it comes to the best at 185 and 205. Branch defended each of the two WSOF titles he held simultaneously and hasn't lost in 11 straight with his last loss coming by decision to Anthony "Rumble" Johnson. A very well rounded fighter, Branch can essentially do it all. His takedowns are hard to defend and when fully committed he rarely doesn't get it. But Rockhold has fantastic counter wrestling as seen in his bout with Tim Boetsch.

A black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, Branch can quickly become trouble once he gets his opponents on the mat. Meaning, we could see some awesome grappling exchanges between the two if the opportunity presents itself. As for Branch's striking abilities, he's very good defensively and utilizes distance quite well with his sharp boxing and sneaky power. In fact, Branch only takes 0.87 strikes per minute in the UFC. That's the lowest all-time according to FightMetric.

The octagon control battle should be interesting to see in this one as both enjoy countering and don't often strike with combos. One of Luke's favorites punches is the counter right hook when backing up. As a Southpaw, this strike lands almost always since Luke's right hand is closer to his opponent than his left and he times it wonderfully.

The factor that most fans and analysts have been discussing is one that isn't related to their in cage abilities. That being, if Rockhold isn't taking Branch seriously enough like many believe was true in his last fight with Michael Bisping where Bisping came in on short notice and shocked the world with a first round KO. Branch has all the talent and confidence to play spoiler and Rockhold is never short on confidence himself so this fight will certainly be a fun one to watch play out.

Prediction: Rockhold UD

 

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Classification: G.O.A.T.

Tomorrow, UFC 215 takes place and reigning UFC Flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson was expected to take on Ray Borg until Borg had to withdraw last night due to falling ill. Only one win away from breaking the all time title defense record, verbal exchanges have been well under way between the MMA community on where a potential record breaking win would rank Johnson amongst the very best of all time.

When it comes to MMA debates and discussions, there are none quite like arguing over who is the very best to ever compete in the sport. Which is normal for fans of any sport. It's something everyone has an opinion on and everyone has their specific reasons for what it is that makes a certain someone that much better than all the others. Whether it be longevity, pure dominance, win streaks, title defenses, finishing ability, quality of competition...or all of the above. What ever it may be, it will always be a fun topic to discuss with friends and fellow fans. But who exactly are some of these athletes receiving the highest of praise when it comes to being classified as one of the Greatest Of All Time...?

Disclaimer: This is the part of the article where things will begin to get heavily opinionated. Also, rankings mentioned below when talking about top 10 victories are according to the UFC official rankings and Sherdog.com's rankings(for the rankings prior to the UFC rankings existence). Stats are according to Fightmetric.com.

Seven men come to mind when I think of the absolute elite of the elite in the history of Mixed Martial Arts. Unfortunately for two of those fighters, they have tested positive for performance enhancing drugs(PED) in the more recent chapters of their careers thus putting a big fat question mark on each of their legacies. Therefore, I can't bring myself to include them in my top five list of GOATs anymore. But if you wanted to give them the benefit of the doubt and say they only did their PEDs when they were caught...or just ignore it completely, they would be among that five.

Jones at a UFC 214 press conference / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wFvrr3

Jones at a UFC 214 press conference / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wFvrr3

Starting with the obvious and freshest of the two positive testings is eight-time UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Jon Jones. He most recently returned from a year long suspension after failing a previous drug test that had already put his career into question. Assuming no conspiracies come true with this recent test...then there will be no question that his legacy is indeed tarnished.

Jones made his return at UFC 214 against bitter rival and champion, Daniel Cormier who he defeated via third round knock out. If Jones wasn't already the #1 in terms of best to ever do it before this fight, this victory in the eyes of many(myself included) had established him as so. The first man at Light Heavyweight or Heavyweight to ever finish the former Olympian, Daniel Cormier as well as just the only man to beat him ever in MMA. It was pretty incredible...I mean...at the time anyway.

Jones' resume speaks for itself and his dominance can't be denied. But his dominance was aided by a little more than strictly just hard work and dedication. Ignore the PED abuse or exclude it, he's likely going down as the best ever. But excluding it would probably make him a different fighter. So in the end, Jon Jones was the greatest cheater to ever do it and truly...truly wasted potential.

Silva at UFC 162 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wJ5pBv

Silva at UFC 162 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wJ5pBv

Anderson Silva in his prime was one of the most mesmerizing and amazingly talented fighters to ever grace the inside of a cage. Which is why it was such an absolute heart breaker for fans around the world when he had tested positive for PEDs after his 2015 bout with Nick Diaz.

From 2006 to 2012, Silva went on an incredible 17 fight win streak with all but 2 of those wins coming by way of finish(11 KO/TKO and 4 Submission). Silva was a human highlight reel and the first man to set the title defense record as high as 10 defenses before finally losing. Not to mention that he took some fights at Light Heavyweight along the way. Most all of his wins were in the most spectacular of fashions. Whether it be front kicks, last second triangles, matrix style counter punches, elbow uppercuts...he has a knock out or submission in practically any way you can think of.

When looking at careers, I can't help but look at them as a whole. What I mean by that is from beginning to end. This may sound obvious to you, but over the years, I've seen many arguments, some of which stating that the end of fighters' careers should be judged less than during their primes(unless they retired in their prime). I have even seen some say it shouldn't even count at all. But my counter argument for that is: Yes, fighters get old, bodies break down and skills diminish, but if they can end it as well as it was during its peak or something close to that, then that just shows how much greater they really were/are. So with that in mind, despite Silva's one hiccup with PED use and it coming towards the end of his career it still becomes a question for me because if he was willing to take it at all he could have been willing to take it earlier on in his career and get away with it. Especially considering the height of his career was before the UFC brought in the USADA. Ignore it all(also ignoring for Jones)...I would have Silva comfortably at #4 on the all time list.

 

Yes! I said the word LIST. Well, let's get on with it then! But first, we'll take a look back at some requirements...I try to take as much as possible into account when doing things like this so repeating what I said earlier: longevity, pure dominance, win streaks, title defenses, finishing ability, quality of competition, performance, adversity overcame and career overall. Yeah, I might have thrown in two more there than were up top but good job for paying attention. Okay, here we go...

 

T-4. Jose Aldo (26-3)

Alright...I know what you're thinking. Starting things off with a tie entry?! Yes, and the reason is primarily for recent results in the fighters that are tied for #4's careers. Because again...looking at careers as a whole. Neither fighter is retired yet and are currently interchangeable entries. But both are legends and one placed over the other is nothing to be ashamed of for who ever is considered lower than the other.

Jose Aldo has been one of the very best over the past decade and at a point was the Pound-4-Pound best to some. He has flawless striking technique, impeccable takedown defense, speed for days and of course, his patented Baseball bat-like leg kicks. During his career defining run, it looked like he would never lose. And after losing for the first time in his eighth professional bout, he didn't really. Aldo went 18-0 after his first career loss and tore through the WEC Featherweight division which eventually became the UFC Featherweight division from 2008 to 2015. Aldo defended his crown twice in the WEC and seven times in the UFC along with a UFC Interim title victory.

Aldo has beaten the who's who when it comes to 145 pounders including names such as Frankie Edgar(twice), Chad Mendes(twice), Mike Brown, Ricardo Lamas, Urijah Faber, Cub Swanson, Kenny Florian, Mark Hominick, Chan Sung Jung and Manny Gamburyan. Adding all these names up equals to 11 top 10 wins, 6 top 5 wins, and 6 top 3 wins. Of Aldo's 26 career victories, 16 have been finishes(14 KO/TKO, 2 Submission).

Aldo posing with his UFC Featherweight title and Brazilian flag / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xbQBhJ

Aldo posing with his UFC Featherweight title and Brazilian flag / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xbQBhJ

The career of Jose Aldo has been a pretty solid blend of dominating to a decision along with putting his opponents away. There have only been a few instances where he received a good challenge through five rounds. Fights that come to mind would be later on in the Hominick fight, Edgar 1, Mendes 2. Most recently, there's his loss to current champion, Max Holloway who gave him a competitive bout until beating him via third round TKO. But on the judge's scorecards, Aldo still won the first two rounds of what was a great fight. Holloway is just a young and incredibly talented fighter himself who's looking to take Aldo spot on everyone's GOAT list one day. Time will tell, but it isn't crazy to imagine.

Losing to Conor McGregor in 13 seconds definitely hurts Aldo's legacy. Possibly more so than the Holloway fight. You can always say it could have been a fluke but just knowing how sneaky good Conor McGregor is and the fact that we'll likely never see this rematch makes it not seem very "flukey". A rematch that a GOAT like Aldo deserved immediately, it's a shame we probably won't get to see it.

Aldo is still one of the very best in the world today and only at the age 30, he still has time to further build onto his great legacy. Even with these two recent losses, he's still in the top 5 of the Greatest Of All Time.

 

T-4. Dominick Cruz (22-2)

The Dominator, Dominick Cruz is one of the most incredible fighters to ever compete. A true innovator and defensive master with his awkward and unique movement that was and still is unlike anyone else in MMA. Cruz at a time had a striking defense percentage as high as 80%. It's at 74% now which is still pretty damn remarkable. That along with his speed, wrestling and arguably the highest fight IQ of any fighter ever, Cruz is the full package.

Owner of the greatest career comeback in all of sports history, there was a time where it looked like Dominick Cruz's career would be stolen from him by injuries. After a few years of build up without doing anything about it, Cruz's knee finally gave out on him. In 2011, he tore his ACL in preparation for a trilogy bout with Urijah Faber at UFC 148. Cruz then ended up requiring a second surgery due to his body rejecting the cadaver tendon that was used to repair his ACL.

After finally healing up, all systems go, and he was booked to defend his UFC Bantamweight title against the Interim champion, Renan Barao. That was...until he ended up tearing his groin and being forced to vacate his title. It took Dominick three years after his last title defense to get back into the cage as he returned in 2014 and when he did, he looked better than ever. Dispatching of rising title challenger and top 5 Bantamweight, Takeya Mizugaki in only 61 seconds, Cruz was ready to get back the belt he never lost. Then disaster struck again. Cruz had now torn the ACL in his other knee and would be sidelined for one more year.

Cruz celebrates his title victory / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2w8OOoQ

Cruz celebrates his title victory / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2w8OOoQ

Cruz would return roughly over a year later to take on the now champion, TJ Dillashaw who he would end up defeating in an incredible fight and regaining his title. It's simply miraculous that Dominick Cruz was even able to fight again let alone return and win at the highest level. There has never been anything like it and it just adds to his legacy. I know you can't factor it in, but imagining if he never got hurt, it's safe to assume he would have just kept racking up title defenses and potentially partaking in super fights at Featherweight. Either way, Cruz was destined to be great.

Entering the WEC at 9-0, Cruz's first fight would be a Featherweight title bout against future long time rival and UFC Hall of Famer, Urijah Faber. Cruz would lose this bout then rattle off 13 straight victories solidifying himself as the greatest 135 pounder of all time. Along the way, he would avenge his loss to Faber(twice) as well as defeating the likes of Joseph Benavidez(twice), Demetrious Johnson, TJ Dillashaw, Brian Bowles, Takeya Mizugaki, Scott Jorgensen, Ian McCall and Charlie Valencia. Equalling out to 9 top 10 wins, 9 top 5 wins, and 6 top 3 wins. Cruz defended the WEC Bantamweight title twice and the UFC title three times(twice during his first reign, and once during his second). I like to say that Cruz had seven straight title defenses to his name since he never lost his belt in a fight during his time on top...but that's just me!

Cruz has never been much of a finisher throughout his career, but he was rather dominant. Cruz has only been out struck once in his entire career as well as only being out wrestled once. Neither by very wide margins. Usually winning his fights in majorly one sided fashion, with a couple competitive outings such as the second Faber fight, the Dillashaw fight then obviously his last fight which was his title losing effort to Cody Garbrandt. A fight that was closer than people like to remember. Now at age 32, Cruz could be argued as slowly slipping out of his prime. But with his smarts and ability to adapt and rebound, he could still be far from done.

 

3. Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1)

I've always had trouble placing Demetrious Johnson above Cruz on the GOAT list after how Cruz manhandled him when they fought(and I do think Cruz would beat him again). But after Cruz's loss to Garbrandt and Johnson's continued success/domination of his division, the swap seems pretty reasonable now. Demetrious Johnson has been mind bogglingly perfect since his departure from the Bantamweight division in late 2011. He started off with a draw at Flyweight then has since gone 12-0 with 10 title defenses and is currently on the cusp of breaking that all time defense record of 10 tied with Anderson Silva.

Demetrious Johnson is unbelievably well rounded. He does everything incredibly well and never tires and never slows down. The guy is the fastest fighter we've ever seen and he knows how to utilize his speed to its maximum potential. He will pressure you landing strike after strike then disappear once you're ready to attack back. It's really just amazing to watch. Two pretty crazy stats that I came across while writing this was that collectively, Demetrious Johnson has out struck all 13 of his Flyweight opponents 1385 strikes to 798 and out wrestled them 49 takedowns to 16.

Johnson probably receives the most criticism compared to his top tier peers. As I've touched on in past articles, primarily for the myth of Johnson having no competition and the Flyweight division is shallow. I have stated many times in the past, the Flyweight division is a good, competitive and talented division...Demetrious Johnson is just that much better. He's on another level and when criticized for not beating any champions he is to blame for that because he hasn't been losing and creating other champions. He was the very first UFC Flyweight champion so that argument has always been silly. Why isn't Joanna Jedrzejczyk judged for not beating champions...? Pretty similar situation.

Johnson posing with his ten UFC world championships / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2eN0ZoS

Johnson posing with his ten UFC world championships / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2eN0ZoS

Regardless...when you take a deeper look he has beaten champions. Ian McCall was the #1 Flyweight in the world and former Tachi Palace champion when Johnson defeated him. Ali Bagautinov and Kyoji Horiguchi(the guy Johnson arm barred with one second remaining before the fight was over) both defended titles in organizations native to their countries Russia and Japan. John Dodson was The Ultimate Fighter season 14 winner at Bantamweight and Tim Elliott was the Titan FC defending Flyweight champion as well as Ultimate Fighter season 24 winner. Henry Cejudo won a damn gold medal in the Olympics! What more do you want? 

Throw in Chris Cariaso, Wilson Reis, and John Moraga at Flyweight, you also can't forget to add the former WEC Bantamweight champion, Miguel Torres who Johnson also defeated when he was 14-2 in the division before dropping down. Little do people remember, Johnson also defeated the much bigger, Torres after breaking his leg in round two. All of these guys give Johnson 12 top 10 wins, 8 top 5 wins, and 7 top 3 wins.

Demetrious Johnson has been virtually unmatched since winning the title minus a brief scare in round one against Tim Elliott. 15 of Johnson's 26 wins have come by finish(5 KO/TKO, 10 Submission). Of his 13 Flyweight bouts, he's ended 6 of them before the final bell. Johnson is only 31 years old and like his fighting style, appears to be far from slowing down. We can only imagine how much longer it will take for him to be universally recognized as the very best. Hell, it could have come tomorrow if he defeated Ray Borg. Others would like to see him return to Bantamweight for a super fight rather than continuing to pile onto his likely to soon be attained title defense record. What ever Johnson decides to do after his next fight, it's hard to imagine it negatively affecting his already dominant legacy.

 

2. Fedor Emelianenko (36-5)

Fedor Emelianenko...The Last Emperor. What a perfect nickname, huh? Fedor to this day is still considered by many as the #1 Greatest fighter Of All Time. He was mine too for as long as I've been watching and covering MMA...and I've been judged for factoring in this part as mentioned earlier... But it was until he fought Fabio Maldonado...a bottom of the barrel Light Heavyweight UFC reject. That might be a little harsh, but anyone who knows a lick about MMA knows that Fabio should not have been anywhere even close to competitive with someone like Fedor, yet he arguably should have beat him.

Sure, this was Fedor coming out of retirement but this was still Fedor. The man that at one time had a mind-blowing record of 31-1 with that one loss coming from a cut he suffered 17 seconds into his first fight with Tsuyoshi Kohsaka. Fedor obviously avenged the loss in their second fight(winning by TKO). And this was all amassed in the Heavyweight division! The hardest division to not get knocked out in. Yet Fedor managed to essentially avoid a loss for practically ten whole years. It's really an incredible feat.

Main criticism for Fedor is always that he never fought in the UFC, his record in America is below .500, and that he wasn't fighting the top guys at Heavyweight(because he wasn't in the UFC). Well, those first two are facts. Fedor didn't ever fight in the UFC and probably won't at this point and his record in America currently stands at 3-4. But it's that third critique that always gets to me because at the time that Fedor was dominating, Tim Sylvia was ruling as the UFC Heavyweight champion and people have always said that Sylvia was, for the most part, defending and beating "nobodies". Which is much more true for Sylvia than it was for Fedor.
 

Fedor being announced before a fight in Pride / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2j5yAvq

Fedor being announced before a fight in Pride / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2j5yAvq

Pride FC, the Japanese organization where Fedor cemented his legendary status, was also home to two more of the greatest Heavyweights of all time if not the division's all time top 3. Those other two being Mirko Cro Cop and Antonio Rodrigo "Minotauro" Nogueira. Fedor defeated both of them(Minotauro twice) soundly. These aren't the only other legends Fedor defeated though... He also beat the likes of Mark Coleman(twice), Kevin Randleman, Mark Hunt, Andrei Arlovski, Tim Sylvia, Semmy Schilt, Heath Herring, Gary Goodridge, Ricardo Arona, Matt Lindland, Pedro Rizzo, Jeff Monson and Kazuyuki Fujita.

Now I'm not saying that every single one of those guys are "legends" but they are all quality names and wins on Fedor's lengthy resume. This isn't even to mention the freak show fights he had as well which were impressive in a different sort of way. The most famous being the bout with 7'2", Hong-Man Choi. Fedor is 5'11" and Choi towered over him. It really was a sight to see. But Fedor overcame like he always did and managed to submit Choi with an armbar in just under two minutes. I will admit, the fact that the much smaller, Minowaman was able to beat Choi as well makes it less impressive...but it is what it is. That was just one of Fedor's 27 career finishes(10 KO/TKO, 17 Submission). Overall Fedor has racked up 13 top 10 wins, 6 top 5 wins, and 5 top 3 wins.

The stoic Russian, Fedor had many amazing attributes whether it be from his incredible ability to absorb punishment as seen when he absorbed the Randleplex from Kevin Randleman to his vicious ground and proud strikes and out of nowhere submissions. Fedor is a master of Sambo and was as durable as they came in his prime. When Fedor began to unleash his violently wild onslaught of hooks, you knew the end was near. There's never been anyone quite like him in any division, Heavyweight in particular. At his best, he was completely unstoppable and I still understand why people have him at #1. The Maldonado fight and his three fight losing streak are just a little too much for me now. Not even the Mitrione loss affects him as much as those. It's just all been rough to watch. Especially when there's this next guy on the list...who when he returns, may very well put all future debates to bed for good.

 

1. Georges St-Pierre (25-2)

Georges "Rush" St-Pierre had been beating and dominating world class competition for his entire career. Hell, his very first fight was against the veteran, Ivan Menjivar! Well...Ivan may not have been a veteran at the time they fought but it was still a tough fight to have for your debut! And GSP finished him with a second to go in the first round. After that, a champion began paving his path. It only took him five fights until the UFC picked him up and the rest was history. Two fights in and St-Pierre had himself his first UFC title shot.

The young St-Pierre would lose his first title fight to the then Welterweight kingpin, Matt Hughes who was much more experienced at the time. GSP would go on a five fight tear on his way back to a rematch in which he won. By this time, Georges St-Pierre had established himself as one of the best in the world by beating the likes of Hughes, BJ Penn, Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg, Jason "Mayhem" Miller and Dave Strasser. All quality adversaries and this was still early in Georges' career. But in his first title defense, he would fall victim to one of, if not the greatest upset in all of MMA history.

Matt Serra won The Ultimate Fighter season 4 thus earning himself a Welterweight title shot. No one gave him a chance but he pulled it off, TKOing St-Pierre in the first round, he was now the champion. Georges would rebound with two wins, including a second over Hughes then reclaim his title by beating down Serra in his hometown of Montreal at UFC 83. With both of St-Pierre's losses now avenged, he would fight until the end of his career without earning another and completely dominating everyone who got in his way until he decided it was time to hang up the gloves.

St-Pierre at UFC 154 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2j5PM3V

St-Pierre at UFC 154 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2j5PM3V

Now really there is only one thing that Georges St-Pierre can be and has been criticized for, and that's his lack of finishes during his second and final title run at Welterweight, in which he racked up nine straight title defenses...all in possibly the deepest MMA division there is and ever has been. It's not like he was fighting the opposition to close decisions either. GSP completely outclassed most all of his opponents after losing to Matt Serra. As a matter of fact, GSP only lost 5 rounds out of 51 to the 12 opponents he fought after Serra the first time. That's just absurd. All at the highest level too. Damn, just damn.

Over St-Pierre's career overall, of his 25 victories, 13 have been by finish(8 KO/TKO, 5 Submission). He's been fighting the best for the entirety of his career and proved he's always been the best at 170...well...until his last fight but we'll get to that. GSP's 27 fight resume includes wins over some of the sports biggest names such as BJ Penn(twice), Matt Hughes(twice), Carlos Condit, Nick Diaz, Johny Hendricks, Jon Fitch, Thiago Alves, Jake Shields, Dan Hardy, Josh Koscheck(twice), Sean Sherk, Frank Trigg, Matt Serra, Mayhem Miller, Jay Hieron, Karo Parisyan and Pete Spratt.

I practically just named all of his opponents, I know...sorry about that. But look at those names! St-Pierre beat all of them at their best, combining for 16 top 10 wins, 16 top 5 wins, and 14 top 3 wins. What do you know...GSP dominates another category! Final stat, I promise: Over St-Pierre's whole career, he's collectively out wrestled his opponents with 99 takedowns to 10. I thought Demetrious Johnson's was impressive...jeez. I can't even do this anymore.

Alright so let's get it out of the way before we're done here. We all know Johny Hendricks was robbed of the win when he fought Georges. But GSP still hung in there and made things competitive. It's not as much of a legacy stain as some of the other legends' losses. Especially considering Hendricks was a legit #2 in the division. If anything it hurt Hendricks' career much more than anything else. He was robbed of being the man to dethrone GSP. Now look at the poor guy... I love Johny, but things have gone south since 2013 while GSP retired on top unlike most.

St-Pierre at a UFC press conference / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wczh7B

St-Pierre at a UFC press conference / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wczh7B

St-Pierre truly was a freak athlete. He was kind of like the Welterweight version of Demetrious Johnson if you think about it. Incredibly well rounded in all areas with virtually no weakness. No one has ever mixed wrestling and boxing together as beautifully as Georges St-Pierre did and it will be a treat to see if he can return to his former glory after a four-year layoff when he challenges Michael Bisping for the UFC Middleweight title at UFC 217. If he wins that fight, you can forget about the debates. He's hands down the best fighter to ever live and he could even further cement that status by potentially beating Interim Middleweight champ, Robert Whittaker afterward. Oh, the possibilities...

 

All of these fighters mentioned are truly spectacular all in their own ways and are key reasons as to why we watch this great sport. In the end, it's really not about how they're ranked or placed over the other, but acknowledging their greatness and understanding what makes them and hand to hand combat so exciting. Isn't this why we watch? To see who ends up earning the classification of Greatest Of All Time...?

 

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs 

Last three IMG Sources: http://bit.ly/2wd4KXi / http://bit.ly/2gQ4z1Y / http://bit.ly/2wOFKYa

My Breakdown, thoughts and picks for UFC 215

This coming weekend on September 9th Demetrious Johnson will be defending his belt against Ray Borg; for the Co-Main Event Amanda Nunes will face off against Valentina Shevchenko for the UFC Women's Bantamweight Championship.  These are my breakdowns and predictions for the fights:

 (C) Demetrious Johnson vs. # 3 Ray Borg

Demetrious Johnson defends his Flyweight title for the historic Eleventh time; as he plans to pass Anderson Silva's record of ten title defenses and will continue to climb on top of the mountain of the Pound for Pound rankings now that Jon Jones's title win has been called into question.  Johnson had a up and down summer with his feud against UFC President Dana White by threatening to close the Flyweight Division, to which DJ replied with "Go ahead and close the division."  His career has flown under the radar of most main stream attention, even him winning ESPN's Fighter of the year, may not even help his marketability for this PPV; his biggest PPV buyrate was 205,000 and was a card he headlined under three weeks.  Originally rumored to fight TJ Dillashaw, he now faces another rising contender in Ray Borg.  Borg is on a two fight win streak, my only troubling issue with Borg is his weight issues.  He's missed weight twice in his seven fights in the UFC, it's not an alarming issue but it's something to keep an eye on.  His hand speed is good and has unorthodox boxing, his fight with Jussier Formiga was a great challenge to see where he stood with the best in the Flyweight Division but I believe it's too soon to throw him in with Demetrious Johnson.  DJ has lightening fast hand speed and out wrestled Henry Cejudo who was Olympic Gold Medalist in the Rio Games. 

Verdict : 2nd Round (TKO) Demetrious Johnson. 

 (C) Amanda Nunes vs. #1  Valentina Shevchenko

The fight we didn't get to see at UFC 213 after Nunes dropped out at the last minute with a sinus issue.  Nunes controlled most of the first fight with her grappling and ground game but I believe was outclassed by Shevchenko in the striking department.  Of course both women have grown a lot since the last time they fought, Nunes is now the Bantamweight champion after it was being hot potatoed.  Shevchenko in her own right hasn't lost a fight since being beat by Nunes.   Shevchenko has shown a vast improvement in her take downs and her ability to control a fight with her striking; that has always been at a world class range.  The bigger question is the weight cut for Nunes; every time I've noticed her at weighin's her face and body look way to shrunk.  This is going to be a challenge for her, because how is her cardio going to be able to handle the five rounds.  Every time I have watched her, she fades around the middle of the 2nd round to even the beginning of the 3rd round.  That will be the bigger problem for this fight, I expect Shevchenko to pressure her with constant leg kicks and her elite kickboxing.

Verdict:  4th Round (TKO) #1 Valentina Shevchenko

 #6 Neil Magny vs #10 Rafael Dos Anjos 

This fight is flying under everyone's radar in the ever exciting Welterweight division.  I foresee this be more of grappling match then an actual MMA fight.  Dos Anjos has really impressive boxing and pressure up against the cage to take you down and apply his world class grappling.  He's looked better since his move to the already stacked Welterweight division and in my opinion is a dark horse for a future title shot.  He wasn't the most polarizing Lightweight Champion, he missed out on a huge opportunity to fight McGregor, even though I believe he would have lost to him.  Neil Magny on the other hand is coming off of an impressive win against the former champion, Johny Hendricks.  His striking has vastly improved over time but the biggest thing that will help him against Dos Anjos is his grappling which is really underrated in my opinion.  He will have to work Dos Anjos in the clinch and use his wrestling to keep him at bay and expend his gas tank.  Other than that, I really think this fight will be mostly grappling.

Verdict: (Spilt Decision) #7 Neil Magny 

  #13 Ilir Latifi vs Tyson Pedro

The ever changing Light Heavyweight Division has another great fight on its hands, Latifi is coming back to the octagon after being KO'd by now the Bellator Light Heavyweight Champion Ryan Bader.  Lafiti has looked good against unknown opponents that wouldn't sniff a title shot but has looked outclassed in every fight when he's given the opportunity to move up in the rankings.  Granted he was a last minute opponent for Gegard Mousasi and that was how he was originally given a UFC contract.  However, when I watch his old fights like against Gian Villante, Sean O'Connell, etc.  He has some serious power in his right hand, and his wrestling is super good, he's just a strong individual that will control and push the pace of the fight.  Tyson Pedro is a newcomer to the UFC, undefeated and looked great in his last fight against Paul Craig.  None of his fights have left the 1st round at all either which shows how dominate he is capable of being, but it's also bad with him not being tested in deeper waters and I believe this fight will go past the 1st round.

Verdict : 2nd Round (Submission) Tyson Pedro 

   #8 Jeremy Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez

This is a make it or break it for both fighters, but I think someone is either getting cut or retiring.  Jeremy Stephens is an elite fighter, who's seriously overlooked by people because of his record.  Even though people do troll him after Conor McGregor's rebuttal at the UFC 205 press conference, he really is one of the hardest hitting featherweights in the division.  He came so close to beating Frankie Edgar after dropping him in the 2nd round and was outpointed by Renato Moicano.  Gilbert Melendez has had a rocky road towards the tail end of his career, he's had two opportunities to capture the Lightweight title but fell short both times.  He should have gone to Bellator and became the Lightweight Champion there because he would have lighter competition and as well wouldn't have had the USADA issues after his failed drug tests.  He's on a three fight losing streak and think his career is done if he doesn't somehow beat Stephens.  I expect him to wrestle and grapple his way to a submission; if not I predict a rough night for Mr. Melendez.

Verdict: 1st Round (TKO) Jeremy Stephens 

Bellator Featherweights, Put Your Shades on Because Cris "Sunshine" Williams Has Arrived

   It was announced today on Chael Sonnen's "You're Welcome!" podcast that the charismatic, undefeated top Featherweight prospect, Cris "Sunshine" Williams has inked a deal with Bellator MMA. 

Williams delivering a left head kick to Atkinson at Rumble at the Roseland 93 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wqSynu

Williams delivering a left head kick to Atkinson at Rumble at the Roseland 93 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wqSynu

The Gracie Barra product, Williams has always had his eye on Bellator and felt the time had come as he began campaigning for his contract right after his most recent victory over Dylan Atkinson last month. Williams was a bit hesitant at first when it came to making the announcement since he has no opponent booked just yet. But that doesn't mean he doesn't have some names in mind.

"I have quite a few people I want to call out." Williams says, "For one, there's this guy named James Gallagher, he is just the absolute worst. Biggest rip off artist I've ever seen." Sonnen asks who he's ripping off and Williams responds, "He's ripping off Conor (McGregor). He's literally doing the entire schtick. Same as Conor, comes out saying things like 'mama we made it!' blah, blah, blah. I mean, he got a chance to reinvent himself in a different promotion, he's young...I think even younger than me. And instead, he goes and does the exact same thing another person in his gym did."

Gallagher has received attention for mostly what Williams says whether people realize it or not. That along with being a fellow young and undefeated prospect in a deep 145 lb weight class. But the talented Irishman isn't the only one on Williams' radar.

"A.J. McKee. I think he's like 8-0 too, you know but he's not very impressive he's always gone to decision with most guys. He gets lucky and will throw a head kick that's sloppy and maybe catch somebody." Williams goes on, "And then we got this other guy, who if we're going to talk about fights, both(Gallagher and McKee) have double the fights that I do so I might not get them right away. But there's this Anthony Taylor kid who calls himself 'Pretty Boy' when he's not that pretty. I should be pretty boy. So when I beat him I'm going to take his nickname. It will be Cris 'Pretty Boy Sunshine' Williams."

Sonnen continues on to praise Williams for his tough choices in call outs and reasonably so. The man known as Sunshine has plenty of confidence to go along with his skills and isn't afraid to take on anyone. "I'll take any of them and humiliate them in one or two rounds tops." Williams finishes up with. 

Cris Williams is 3-0 in his professional MMA career and 8-0 as an amateur. 9 of his 11 total bouts have ended by way of a finish(8 being submissions). One of the most fun personalities at 145 lbs already and one of the more promising stars. Despite what people might tell you...you will definitely want to keep your eyes on Sunshine.

 

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Weekend Breakdown & Preview: UFC Fight Night 115

Live from Ahoy Rotterdam in Rotterdam, Netherlands on UFC Fight Pass, Sat, Sept 2, 2017

--- Main Card (3pmET/12pmPT) ---

Heavyweight - 207-265 lbs: Alexander Volkov (28-6) vs (Stefan Struve (28-8)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Siyar Bahadurzada (22-6-1) vs Rob Wilkinson (11-0)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Marion Reneau (7-3-1) vs Talita de Oliveira (4-1)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Leon Edwards (13-3) vs Bryan Barberena (13-4)

 

--- Prelims (11:30 AM EST/8:30 AM PST) ---

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Darren Till (14-0-1) vs Bojan Velickovic (15-4-1)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Mairbek Taisumov (25-5) vs Felipe Silva (8-0)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Michel Prazeres (22-2) vs Mads Burnell (8-1)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Rustam Khabilov (21-3) vs Desmond Green (20-5)

Light Heavyweight - 205 lbs: Francimar Barroso (19-5) vs Aleksandar Rakic (8-1)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Mike Santiago (21-9) vs Zabit Magomedsharipov (12-1)

Light Heavyweight - 205 lbs: Bojan Mihajlovic (10-5) vs Abdul-Kerim Edilov (16-4)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Thibault Gouti (11-3) vs Andrew Holbrook (12-2)

---

    The UFC's brief hiatus will come to an end this Saturday when they return to Rotterdam, Netherlands for the second time. Returning home will also be the Netherlands native son, the 7-foot tall, Stefan "Skyscraper" Struve who only needed 16 seconds to score a big KO victory in his last appearance at home. Standing across from him will be fellow tall Heavyweight and former Bellator champion, Alexander "Drago" Volkov. Looking to take a big leap up the Heavyweight ladder, the winner will surely be poised for a big fight as they get that much closer to a title shot.

 

Edwards vs Barberena

Riding a three fight win streak including a submission win over Albert Tumenov, Leon Edwards is proving to potentially be a dark horse in the UFC's Welterweight division. His opponent on Saturday will be the gritty fan-favorite, Bryan "Bam Bam" Barberena. Always one to entertain and always dangerous, Barberena will be looking for a big finish in any way that he can get it. Ideally, he will want to keep the fight on the feet to avoid being smothered by Edwards' impressive top game. So essentially, Barberena will want to avoid a repeat of his bout with Colby Covington.

Edwards has solid boxing and can hold his own if need be as he's probably the more technical of the two, but it would definitely not be the smartest approach to go strictly striking against the tenacious and heavy handed, Barberena. Although Barberena isn't bad at grappling either, keeping Edwards off of him will be Barberena's key to victory where as pressure and maximizing the utilization of his wrestling will be the key for Edwards.

Prediction: Barberena RD3 (T)KO

 

 

Reneau vs Oliveira

Marion Reneau was originally supposed to be taking on former UFC Featherweight champion, Germaine de Randamie. That was until de Randamie recently suffered an injury and had to withdraw from the scheduled contest. So in comes promotional newcomer, Talita de Oliveira

A submission specialist with all four of her wins coming by way of submission, it's safe to say that we know what Oliveira will be looking to do. As for Reneau, she can hang on the ground as well as evidenced by a majority of her bouts, whether it be by using her ground and pound or submissions. Reneau can be quite dangerous on the mat if the fight goes there. In striking, she's more calculated and calm as she mixes up her kicks and punches well.

An interesting little factor in this one is that Oliveira trains with a former opponent of Reneau's in Jessica Andrade. An opponent who had great success against Reneau until getting caught in a triangle choke and being forced to tap. Although it was a relatively short fight, any advice or help with preparation could be crucial in a short notice fight and this will be a big opportunity for the debuting Oliveira.

Prediction: Reneau RD2 (T)KO

 

 

Volkov vs Struve

Alexander Volkov is one of the Heavyweight division's most promising fighters on the rise. And for good reason. The former Bellator champ has won four straight since leaving the organization and done so in entertaining fashion. Stefan Struve, on the other hand, has always had an up and down UFC career but still at only the age of 29, he may be coming into his own at just the right time. Riding a two fight win streak of both spectacular finishes, a big win at home over Volkov would be just what Struve needs to launch himself that much closer to his first UFC title shot. That title shot potentially coming against the man he's already knocked out, Stipe Miocic.

Giving this fight five rounds provides a very unlikely chance of it going the distance. Especially with Struve fighting at home, he will have that extra motivation to put on a show. For the most part, this should be a striking battle, barring the possibility of a knock down with either man following the other to the ground searching for the finish. If this happens to be the case for Volkov dropping Struve(or let's say just going for a takedown), he would be very wise not to pursue the finish on the ground as Stefan Struve has proven to be very dangerous with submissions off of his back. Of Struve's 28 wins, 17 have come by way of submission.

Volkov has very precise and powerful strikes, whether it be punches, kicks or knees in the clinch. When he throws, it's usually pinpoint and with plenty of power behind it. This makes his striking flurries and combos all that much more deadly. He doesn't waste his shots what so ever. But as seen in Struve's 16 second KO over Antonio "Bigfoot" Silva, fighters must be careful when rushing in on him blindly as he has more than enough reach to capitalize on his opponents before they can him. Volkov's flurries and blitz' generally follow combos or set ups so he should be able to avoid a loss similar to Bigfoot's.

In summary, this a great Heavyweight match up between two unique fighters for the division and who ever wins may only be one fight away from a title shot afterward.

Prediction: Volkov RD2 (T)KO

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

The Rise & Fall of Ian McCall

    When all is said and done and we look back upon the career of the man known as "Uncle Creepy", it's quite likely that the wrong picture will be painted. That picture being the one-sided illustration of how he could perhaps never consistently make it to fight night for one reason or another or how he was just that guy with the cool mustache. Either would be inaccurate depictions of the charismatic Flyweight pioneer.

In the beginning, Ian McCall kicked off his career with a flawless 5-0 record before getting the call up to the then premier organization for lighter weight fighters, World Extreme Cagefighting. McCall won his debut via round 3 TKO then followed it up with a tough first round loss to veteran WEC Bantamweight, Charlie Valencia. That being the first of his career, led to McCall picking up a win in Total Combat before returning to the WEC for what would be one of the biggest fights of his career. Especially in hindsight. 

McCall and Cruz trade punches / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2gdcuX1

McCall and Cruz trade punches / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2gdcuX1

On January 25, 2009, at WEC 38 in San Diego, California, McCall went toe to toe with one of the very best to ever do it, Dominick Cruz. On the rise himself at the time, it was clear that Cruz might be something special. Especially after just beating Valencia, the man to give McCall his first career loss. But Uncle Creepy was not deterred. In what ended up being quite an outclassing with McCall on the wrong end, he never went away and kept coming at Cruz with all he had despite his minimal success. An achievement that McCall can still claim to this day is that he's the only man to out wrestle Cruz with the two takedowns to none he scored in their bout. An accomplishment no other man has been able to beat in the eleven fights Cruz has had since.

Despite the valiant effort in the cage, Ian had taken a beating mentally more than anything, as he fell victim to an overdosing of Oxycodone, GHB, Xanax and other tranquilizers. Awakening in the hospital two days later, Ian had found out that during this time his breathing and heartbeat had ceased. Fortunately, he recovered in just a few weeks.

McCall posing after winning the Tachi Palace Fights Flyweight title / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2iAqY3M

McCall posing after winning the Tachi Palace Fights Flyweight title / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2iAqY3M

It is often said that after a fighter takes on their first opponent of an elite status that they may receive what's known as "the rub". Safe to say that McCall was affected by this, as he began to truly show his talent to its fullest potential after facing Cruz. Overcoming death doesn't exactly hurt either.

McCall's fight with Cruz would be his last with the WEC and lead him to his final bout in the Bantamweight division...though that wasn't McCall's plan. The fight would come against Jeff Willingham at an MEZ Sports event, where he defeated Willingham by first round submission in just over two minutes. After earning the quick victory, the Costa Mesa native wasn't sure where his career would go from here. That is until he got a call up from the home of the world's best Flyweights, Tachi Palace Fights who inquired if he would want to fill in as the opponent for the then #1 ranked Flyweight in the world, Jussier "Formiga" Da Silva.

McCall being the true fighter he is, would accept and be the clear underdog against the undefeated Formiga. Essentially being fed to Formiga on short notice and expected to lose, Uncle Creepy came out with the big upset victory as he defeated Formiga by unanimous decision with 29-28 scores across the board. Obviously being the largest win of his career and now making him the new #1 king of the Flyweight division, McCall was the uncrowned champ but critics believed he still needed to prove himself and that the win wasn't just a fluke.

His following bout would come against undefeated top 10er at the time and current #11 ranked UFC Flyweight, Dustin Ortiz. McCall took all three rounds on route to a unanimous decision win and his second at 125 lbs. It was now time for some gold to be put on the line. McCall would be set to face champion, Darrell Montague who had his title opportunity presented to him due to McCall's upset over Formiga. Taking Formiga out of the picture and declaring himself the very best, McCall was ready to get the hardware to solidify it and Montague was ready to prove that he was the rightful champion.

McCall and Montague went back and forth until the third round of their championship fight in which McCall began to firmly take over when he got a takedown against the cage, beginning to reign down with ground and pound strikes. McCall eventually found his way to Montague's back and wound up sinking in the rear naked choke for the submission victory and earning that title belt around his waist that he'd long been searching for.

By this point, Ian was on all hardcore fan's radars and had become easily the most popular fighter at 125 for his exciting fighting style and entertaining personality. Helping get a buzz around the division, people started to notice and by people, I also mean the important people... In late 2011, the UFC decided it was time for the Flyweights to make their debut and McCall was on the short list of first fighters to get the call to kick things off.

McCall staring down Demetrious Johnson in the UFC on FX 3 main event  / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wCEHgk

McCall staring down Demetrious Johnson in the UFC on FX 3 main event  / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wCEHgk

The stage had been set. UFC on FX 2 in Sydney, Australia would play host to the UFC's inaugural four man Flyweight title tournament. These four men consisted of top 3 Flyweight, Yasuhiro Urushitani, top Bantamweight contender, Joseph Benavidez, most recent Bantamweight title challenger, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson and of course, Ian McCall. McCall and Johnson would square off in the very first 125 lb fight in UFC history and to this day, the very first UFC Flyweight fight of all time may still be the considered the best the division has seen.

This was the moment McCall had been waiting for. The grandest stage in all of MMA and getting his chance to showcase his world class skills. And that he did. McCall and Johnson went punch for kick in one of the most exciting and competitive fights you'll see at Flyweight. They truly showed the potential of how awesome this division would be and it was just the very first bout. Unfortunately, the fight leaves its lasting impression primarily for its controversy that quickly followed... 

Johnson celebrating what he thought was a victory over McCall at UFC on FX 2 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2gjXypP

Johnson celebrating what he thought was a victory over McCall at UFC on FX 2 / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2gjXypP

After a very close first round, Johnson edged McCall in the second round, out striking him 48-30 and defending 3 of McCall's takedown attempts. By the time the third had rolled around, McCall was all smiles and ready to lay everything on the line in what had already been a great battle. Trading blows on the feet and finding a takedown in favor of McCall, the fight stayed competitive and entertaining. Then the man with the best mustache in the UFC hit his second and final takedown of the round around the one minute mark where he began to reign his patented ground and pound all the way until the final bell.

McCall got up off of the battered Johnson and ran around the cage flipping in the air to land and do some push ups. He even threw in a mustache twirl for good measure. The Team Oyama staple believed he had done more than enough to seal his victory. With a potential 10-8 score in that third round, it was a reasonable assumption. But as it came time for Bruce Buffer to read the decision, this was not the case. Johnson was announced the winner to the crowd's discontent. But this was also not the case... Later on, after the event had ended, UFC officials told us that the judge's scorecards were misread and that the fight was actually scored a majority draw. Since this bout was part of the Flyweight tournament, in the case of a draw there was to be a sudden death fourth round...this obviously never happened.

As time has gone on since the 2012 bout, McCall has said that the moment his life spiraled out of control was when he "lost" to Johnson. When that decision was read, the disappointment on his face was evident as he pulled his hand away from the referee and walked directly out of the cage. If he was skilled enough was never the question with Ian McCall. It was whether or not he could overcome his mental blocks and barriers.

McCall on the scale during the UFC 163 weigh ins / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wjZkvc

McCall on the scale during the UFC 163 weigh ins / IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wjZkvc

Ian would go on to rematch Johnson in the UFC on FX 3 main event four months later. A fight that he would lose decisively this time around. Johnson would go on to solidify himself as the greatest Flyweight of all time and just one of the very greatest overall. On the other side of the spectrum, McCall would go 2-2 since then with a mind boggling ten fight cancellations along the way. Whether it being health issues, injuries or weight issues with his opponents, it just seemed like fighting might not be what fate was wanting McCall to continue doing.

Having not fought in over two years and still signed under an old contract that isn't paying as much as he would now desire, McCall may never step foot inside a cage again. That along with his much more concerning brain trauma issues...it wouldn't be surprising if he wouldn't want to risk receiving further damage for little profit in the world of prizefighting.

To all those that have been following Ian McCall's career, his legacy will be clear. He was the man to help propel a young division to greater heights(no pun intended). Whether it was the plan all along or not, he put the Flyweight division on the map. Ian was one of the best in the world at one point and one of the greatest fighter's of all times toughest rivals and their fights won't be forgotten despite what may overshadow them. We all know that deep down Ian still believes he would give DJ a run for his money. But he has nothing left to prove to anyone. Ian McCall is and was a true modern day pioneer.

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

The Prophecy of Jones 29:1

Jon Jones is undoubtedly, the greatest Light Heavyweight to ever grace the octagon.  His resume speaks for himself; Two time UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, One time Interm UFC Light Heavyweight Champion and a MMA record of 24-1 with the loss coming from Matt Hamill by DQ.  Also, capping off one of the best feuds in MMA history with Daniel Cormier.

Yesterday, August 22nd, his biggest loss came at the hands of himself again; Jones has tested positive for an Oral Steroid called Turinabol, a steroid that was predominately used in the Olympics from the 60's to 80's by the East German teams.  Not only does this raise more questions, the biggest question is at hand, "What is Jon Jones's legacy?" To think just two years ago, everyone thought his legal troubles would end him but he somehow managed to get probation and continued to work to overcome his demons and reclaim his throne at the rightful king of the Light Heavyweight division. What we got was much like King Saul, thrown off of the throne for sacrificing his people for his own selfish reasoning.

Jon Jones has been given multiple chances by the UFC, journalists, fighters and the fans to earn our trust back and just like the last time, we were let down.  

The legacy of Jon Jones is simple, he's a man that has all the potential to be the greatest prizefighter ever but squandered his chances for drugs, alcohol and now PED usage. Jones at first, had the best image "The Christian Athlete."  Jones has always proclaimed that, "God is first, My wife and kids are second," when Jones put himself before his own beliefs and family.  When he finally won back the title from Cormier, I truly believed much like everyone else that we saw a changed human being before our very eyes and that his legacy was saved. 

Jones has proven to me, that we cannot ever trust him, even if his tongue was notarized.  If he does receive another ban from USADA, his career is officially done.  No one is waiting another four years for a Jon Jones come back, UFC will move on, MMA will move on, and more importantly the fans will move on from the shadow that was the curious case of Jon Jones.  

Weekend Breakdown & Preview: Bellator 182

Live from Turning Stone Resort & Casino in Verona, New York on Spike TV and Bellator.Spike.com, Fri, Aug 25, 2017

--- Main Card (Spike TV: 9:00 PM EST/6:00 PM PST) ---

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Andrey Koreshkov (19-2) vs Chidi Njokuani (17-4)

Catchweight - 178 lbs: Brennan Ward (14-5) vs Fernando Gonzalez (26-14)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: AJ McKee (8-0) vs Blair Tugman (10-6)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Veta Arteaga (3-1) vs Bruna Ellen (3-1)

 

--- Prelims (Bellator.Spike.com: 6:30 PM EST/3:30 PM PST) ---

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Georgi Karakhanyan (26-7-1) vs Daniel Pineda (22-12)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Sinead Kavanagh (4-1) vs Arlene Blencowe (9-6)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Henry Corrales (13-3) vs Noad Lahat (11-2)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Ricky Rainey (12-4) vs Marc Stevens (22-10)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Chris Honeycutt (9-1) vs Kevin Casey (9-5-2)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Colleen Schneider (11-7) vs Kate Jackson (8-2-1)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Matt Secor (8-4) vs TJ Sumler (5-6)

Light Heavyweight - 205 lbs: Philipe Lins (10-2) vs Vadim Nemkov (7-2)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Tom Regal (1-0) vs Kastriot Xhema (1-0)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Brandon Polcare (1-1) vs Michael Taylor (0-0)

Catchweight - 175 lbs: Joey Davis (1-0) vs J.T. Roswell (1-1)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Talita Nogueira (6-0) vs Amanda Bell (5-4)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Josh Ricci (3-0) vs Billy Windrum (0-0)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Kristi Lopez (2-0) vs Jessica Sotack (1-1)

---

     Just one day before the biggest event in combat sports history goes down, Bellator MMA will host their own event.  While it may not be all that big when it comes to the magnitude, it will definitely be a loaded night of great action as Bellator 182 plays host to a whopping eighteen total bouts.  If you are a true die hard MMA fan, you will not want to miss this one.

 

Schneider vs Jackson

Veterans of The Ultimate Fighter will collide at Flyweight when Colleen Schneider and Kate Jackson meet in the cage.  Schneider, who lost to a fellow veteran, Shayna Baszler in the elimination round of season 18 will be making her second appearance in the Bellator cage after a successful debut.  Schneider has gone 5-1 since the beginning of 2015 with her only loss being to the then Invicta FC Bantamweight champion, Tonya Evinger, making it the best run of her career to this point.

As for the TUF 23 contestant, Jackson, the eventual winner of her season, Tatiana Suarez would be the one to defeat her on the show.  That loss being her only loss in her last eight bouts.  Her last before that coming to current UFC Strawweight champion, Joanna Jedrzejczyk.  So it's fair to say that neither lady has lost to easy competition lately.

Being the more natural of the two at Flyweight should give Jackson somewhat of an edge since she will be more comfortable at 125.  But she will also be facing a size disadvantage since Schneider has fought most of her career at 135 and even missed weight for her last bout at 125.  Jackson has also competed in the 115 lb Strawweight division before.

On the feet, Jackson should have the slight advantage when it comes to her technique as she's primarily a striker but that's not to say that Schneider can't mix it up either. Her size advantage should be a pretty big factor in this one as Schneider can hang with Jackson on the feet but her easiest path to victory will be on the ground as we saw when Suarez fought Jackson and just from watching Schneider in the past and knowing that she's bigger.  If they were more similarly sized, this could be a better match up but because of the difference, it's hard to imagine Jackson pulling it off.

Prediction: Schneider RD2 Sub

 

Arteaga vs Ellen

Rising stars in the Bellator Flyweight division will go at it to kick off the main card. Veta Arteaga has quickly become a fan favorite since her exciting battles with fellow rising stars in Anastasia Yankova and Brooke Mayo. Arteaga didn't come out with the victory on that night vs Yankova, but it was a close affair and many believed she should have. 

Arteaga is a very scrappy fighter who never backs down which stylistically can make this a very fun fight. Bruna Ellen is very aggressive off of counters as she usually follows up with multi strike combos that have caused trouble for her opponents in the past. As seen in Ellen's last fight against Carmella James, she is also great at timing her takedowns on the end of punch combos or when countering her opponent.

If Veta finds herself on her back she shouldn't be in too much trouble when it comes to submission threats but Ellen has shown to have some relentless ground and pound when she has the chance to unleash it. Veta's durability and toughness can help her out in this scenario but she would obviously like to avoid that. Something she very well can avoid with her great scramble ability as seen against Mayo when she found herself with Mayo on her back on multiple different occasions throughout the fight. No matter who comes out on top, it should be fun while it lasts.

Prediction: Ellen SD

 

Ward vs Gonzalez

Brennan Ward has proven to be one of the most exciting prospects in Bellator's Welterweight division. His opponent Fernando Gonzalez will be more than happy to help him put on a show. In Gonzalez' last seven fights he has gone 6-1 with his lone loss coming to young phenom, Michael "Venom" Page. In what was a rather uneventful bout, Gonzalez still earned a vote from one of the judges in the split decision loss.

Page is a counter heavy striker. Gonzalez enjoys countering himself...unlike Ward who generally starts most exchanges and does so fearlessly. There's no way this fight turns into a ground war and a KO should very well be expected. That is unless Ward gets hurt and looks to get it to the mat. Gonzalez should have the edge in this match up just for his ability to take big shots...something Ward finds himself having trouble with more and more lately. But it may not matter if he can land the right punch as he's shown to have legitimate power with 9 of his 14 wins coming from KO/TKO.

Prediction: Ward UD

 

Koreshkov vs Njokuani

Another Welterweight showcase takes place in the main event with former Bellator champion, Andrey Koreshkov taking on younger brother of WEC and UFC veteran, Anthony Njokuani, Chidi Njokuani. Coming off a title losing effort to current champion, Douglas Lima, Koreshkov will be looking to rebound with a big win and Njokuani will look to extend his win streak to eight and potentially fight for the title next.

Both men are very powerfully precise and diverse with their striking arsenals. Every kick Njokuani throws is with ill intent and he favors the right straight followed by a left body kick. A combo of his that very rarely doesn't find success. His leg and head kicks are also very strong. Koreshkov is equally as diverse with his attacks if not more so. He often throws awkwardly accurate flying knees as well as spinning wheel kicks generally several times a fight and has knocked out opponents with both strikes.

Koreshkov's aggression cost him in his last bout with Lima as he jabbed and uppercutted his way right into a big left hook against the cage that shut the lights out. This was on the defensive for Lima and since Njokuani favors the right hand Koreshkov shouldn't have to worry too much about a repeat in results. But that doesn't mean he couldn't get caught again. Closing the distance on Njokuani will be a big key to victory for Koreshkov. Both Njokuani and Koreshkov have great killer instinct and will pursue a finish when they smell blood. Each has put opponents away with heavy ground and pound after hurting and dropping opponents. 

When it comes to the striking battle, this should be a fantastic display of kickboxing. As for the ground games of each, Koreshkov has a clear advantage due to his Pankration background. Koreshkov actually won gold at the 2010 World Combat Games in Beijing as well as gold at the World Championships in Krakow. The question is just whether or not Koreshkov will want to take it to the ground. This is truly one of those times that I really wish Bellator's main events were five rounds.

Prediction: Koreshkov UD

 

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Malignaggi & McGregor Have Heated Exchange At Vegas Press Conference

Today, at the press conference in Las Vegas promoting his fight with Floyd Mayweather, Conor McGregor had a heated exchange with his former sparring partner and former 2x boxing World Champion Paulie Malignaggi.  Video of the exchange can be seen here.

If you are unfamiliar with the situation, Malignaggi was brought into McGregors camp to help him prepare for the Mayweather fight.  However, after two sparring sessions Malignaggi left McGregors camp amid controversy over a knockdown in the second sparring session.  Since then, Malignaggi has put the McGregor camp on blast for the way he was treated during his time there.  However, today was the first time the two have come into contact in person with one another since Malignaggi departed his camp a little over two weeks ago.

With the heat these guys have generated there has been some talk of them stepping in the ring with one another depending on how McGregor looks on Saturday against Mayweather.  Personally, I would rather see McGregor go back to MMA.  However, McGregor would likely be in line for a nice pay day in a potential Malignaggi fight.  So, while I wouldn't find it ideal, it wouldn't shock me either.

 

The Realistic Future of Conor McGregor

Next Saturday, August 26th, will go down as one of two things; the greatest upset in combat sports history or one of the worst money fights in boxing history.  Recently, footage of the spar session between Paulie Malignaggi and Conor McGregor has raised more questions then answers.

Can McGregor, really out box one of the greatest defensive boxers of all-time?  No, simply put he cannot box a man that has spent his entire career on the defensive.  The bigger issue is that; following the fight, will McGregor retire from all combat sports?  One thing is for certain, his boxing future is definitely in limbo.  The truth is, fans, journalists, fighters and others, understand that this fiasco of a fight is only for money and has been stated as such by promoters. 

There are two ways I see this playing out and how his future will change.

If McGregor loses, nothing really changes at all to most people's delight. McGregor who has zero professional boxing fights, fought one of the greatest defensive fighters of all time.  He will still be a big asset to the future of MMA, and the success of the UFC.  The only thing he really should do is to make a star out of his opponent; look at how Nate Diaz was treated by the UFC brass with Dana White stating that "he's not a needle mover".  Now look at him, McGregor arguably made Diaz into a bigger star with his feud against him.  

If McGregor somehow wins, not only does he become the biggest star in combat sports history but all around the biggest star in any major sport.  Mayweather will campaign for a rematch and that will be the BIGGEST fight ever in boxing or MMA.  McGregor will take his name and brand like he has started doing with "McGregor Sports and Entertainment".  He will also holdup the UFC Lightweight Division up and will still be the only champion that has never defended his belt.

Mark my words, come August 26th someone's life will change and the future of boxing and MMA will be different.

The Middleweight Circus May Only Get Worse

     One of the greatest fighters of all time is set to make his return to the sport that he long dominated upon entering the UFC from 2004 to 2013.  Two-time Welterweight title holder and nine-time defending champion, Georges "Rush" St-Pierre will headline UFC 217 in New York City as he challenges for current UFC Middleweight champion, Michael "The Count" Bisping's belt.  Whether or not GSP with a win would stay in the 185 lb weight class he'll be jumping up to has been debated since he and Bisping were very first rumored to fight.  But now it appears that he will have no other option.

     In a recent appearance on The MMA Hour with Ariel Helwani, St-Pierre stated that if he defeats Bisping and becomes the new Middleweight champion that he contractually has to defend his belt against the current Interim champion, Robert Whittaker.

“That wasn’t my initial plan, but I understand the UFC’s point of view,” St-Pierre said. “They want to protect their titles. They don’t want to delay the defense of their titles because they don’t want to make people wait.”

      Obviously, defending is the most logical next thing to do when one becomes champion.  But St. Pierre has been vocal about possibly going back down to his original home of the Welterweight 170 lb weight class or even attempting to go as far as 155 lbs at Lightweight after his Middleweight title pursuit.  Which isn't something that should be hard for us to imagine St-Pierre wanting to do.  The man is a multiple time champion and has a terrific career spanning almost a decade.  He wants to make history in other ways now.  But he may have yet to realize that he will still be making quite a good bit of history with a potential win over Bisping and defense against Whittaker.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2uZwCNY

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2uZwCNY

    All of course not to overlook current champion, Bisping because he absolutely should not be overlooked.  This fight should be one of if not St-Pierre's toughest to date with all factors considered.  St-Pierre hasn't fought in four years and has had knee surgery to repair a torn ACL during this time.  This will be his very first fight at Middleweight and he will very surely be out sized by the bigger Bisping who is a former Light Heavyweight.  Already possessing great takedown defense, the size on Bisping's side will make it that much harder for GSP to get him down where he may want him.  Not that he can't do it of course...this is Georges St-Pierre we're talking about.  Lastly, Bisping is a volume striker and one of the best.  Someone who is always active on the feet and never fades when it comes to cardio.  St Pierre has never fought someone like this before so seeing how he handles it will be very interesting.  St Pierre has overcome ring rust in the past like after his fight with Jake Shields where he needed surgery to repair a torn ACL only to dominate the then Interim Welterweight title holder, Carlos Condit.  But that wasn't as long a period of time as it has been currently and had much less intriguing factors...GSP really can't be looking past Britain's finest in Bisping.

     If Georges can return to the form we've been accustomed to seeing over the years when he competed, it wouldn't be far-fetched to imagine him pulling off this incredible feat.  There just aren't many out there like GSP.  Very few have dominated world class competition as often as he did.  Beating Bisping would further cement him as of the greatest fighters of all time if not the greatest as he would become only the fourth UFC fighter to hold world titles in two different divisions joining Randy Couture, BJ Penn and Conor McGregor and it would also make St Pierre the first to do it with four plus title defenses already on his resume.  Potentially defeating Whittaker would thus add another defense, making him the first to defend each of the two division titles he'd have held in the UFC.

    Neither possibilities are any easy task, but we've seen crazy things happen many times in this sport so one never truly know.  Even if GSP can pull off the win over Bisping, despite being contractually obligated to defend his new Middleweight crown, could he still just vacate the belt if he decided?  Perhaps making it a similar situation to that of former UFC Featherweight champion, Germaine De Randamie's.  That would then turn Whittaker into the new undisputed Middleweight champion despite never actually fighting to become it... If GSP did even just attempt to defend, the rest of the division's contenders will be even further held up.  No matter how things shake out, we've seen somewhat of a circus in the UFC's 185 lb weight class this past year and it will be interesting to see how much longer it may go on for.

Feel free to share your thoughts in the comments below and follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Paulie Malignaggi is on the defensive..

His tweets are getting kind of ridiculous now..





Dana White Releases Video of Conor McGregor knockdown of Paulie Malignaggi

Oh and by the way, if you ever want to see a great twitter rant, go see Paul's twitter right now .... lol. 


Is It Too Late For the UFC to Get Serious About the Women's Featherweight Division?

     At UFC 214 in Anaheim, California, Cristiane "Cyborg" Justino finally captured the one piece of hardware that had eluded her for her twelve-year career: a UFC title belt. Cyborg has long been touted as the best Featherweight on the planet for many years as well as the baddest woman on the planet while she has held and defended world titles in both Strikeforce and Invicta FC. It was only until recently this year that the Ultimate Fighting Championship decided to open up their third female weight class...but did they wait just a little too long?

     When the UFC decided to create their women's Featherweight division, it was already after Cris Cyborg had fought twice in 140 lb Catchweight bouts. Expected by everyone to be in the inaugural title fight...Cyborg declined the offers as she required more time to recover from her brutal weight cuts. The UFC decided not to wait for her and put former UFC Bantamweight champion, Holly Holm vs decorated Muay Thai striker and UFC/Strikeforce vet, Germaine de Randamie as the UFC 208 headliner, giving either lady the opportunity to make history. 

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2fsJ3Qh

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2fsJ3Qh

     Regardless of the outcome and the turmoil that followed, both Holm and de Randamie were Bantamweight fighters and the only other fighters who now competed at Featherweight outside of Cyborg that were in the UFC. By this time, Bellator had already snatched up a majority of legitimate 145ers including former Strikeforce champion, Marloes Coenen along with their current champion and #2 ranked worldwide in the division, Julia Budd. Since Holm and de Randamie are now back at Bantamweight...and recent UFC Featherweight title challenger, Tonya Evinger will be going back down as well, as it stands right now, Bellator has five and a half times more fighters on their roster than the UFC does. Which...still isn't a lot considering the UFC have two...but that's damn sure a lot better than only two fighters in your division.

     Yes, it has been said for quite some time that the shallowest division in MMA is most likely the women's Featherweight division. But that's no excuse for the UFC to have dropped the ball as hard as they have to this point. They've had Cyborg under contract for over two years now yet waited until just last month to make only their SECOND signing of a legitimate 145er in Invicta FC Champion, Megan Anderson. Which brings me to Invicta, an organization that has a partnership with the UFC thus being how the UFC was able to pull up Anderson and Evinger so easily as well as many other fighters in the past. Invicta has the other deepest roster of 145ers along with Bellator. You're not going to find another group else where. The UFC literally has a full division that it can absorb at any moment yet has not for what ever reason. A move...or lack there of...that has left many fans and fighters confused and questioning the UFC's commitment to the division all while letting their main competitor(Bellator) get the upper hand on something once more. 

     Even when the UFC had a possible Featherweight contender brought on over, they signed her as a Bantamweight...despite the fact she was more than willing to compete at 145. Why? Who knows. Then last week they release her after only one fight. Yes, Cindy Dandois has an incredibly large hole in her game with her striking, but she still fought a very close fight in her only UFC bout with Alexis Davis and has proven how legit her ground skills are at both 135 and 145 lbs. Not even giving her a fight at Featherweight is just a big time head scratcher. I guess it could be the new era we're in that just cares about "standing and banging" and super fights that could be a little to blame...but even then. How the UFC has managed their women's 145 lb weight class has been every bit of unpredictable along the way. Even now, there is talk of Cyborg's first UFC title defense coming against Holly Holm who lost her only fight at Featherweight and is 1-3 in her last 4 with her last fight being at Bantamweight. Even though they now have another real Featherweight in Megan Anderson apart of the roster.

    At the current rate, and how things appear to be going...Cyborg will just defend against the back of the Bantamweight's top 10 since the girls at the very top have no reason to move up since they're working towards the title in the division they already participate in. Something that really hurts the Bantamweight division as they will be losing fighters to an above division and not to mention with the arrival of the women's 125 lb Flyweight division they will be losing fighters down a division too. There's just no sense left to be made here when it comes to the UFC's female Featherweight plans and it just might be too late for it too.

 

You can follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Drake's Top 10 MMA Rankings

 I have continually been attempting to construct the perfect set of MMA rankings for years now and the goal has always remained the same: To find the very best and most accurate rankings possible by comparing with the UFC's official ranks also while looking at the best in the world overall. Everyone will always have some different opinions which is why feedback is ALWAYS welcome to help better improve and find the most agreeable and accurate rankings we can together as MMA fans. I update them monthly. Enjoy!

-----

Notes:

+ (C) = champion & title fight

+ UFCO = UFC Official Ranking

+ Fighters who have yet to fight in a new division stay ranked in old division until fight in new division happens.

+ Fighters who failed a drug test will be eliminated from the rankings once given their suspensions or due to inactivity.

+ The UFC's official rankings are not included into the divisional changes.

+ The women's Featherweight division is only a top 5 because of the UFC's lack of official rankings/fighters.

 

Click here for: Previous Rankings

 

Heavyweight(207-265 lbs):

- One of if not the tallest fight in UFC history takes place in the main event of their next event as they return to Rotterdam for UFC Fight Night 115 and Stefan Struve takes on Alexander Volkov.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2hBDRu8

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2hBDRu8

Overall & UFC Changes: Werdum & Overeem swap

HW.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Volkov vs Struve at UFC Fight Night 115

Dos Santos vs Ngannou at UFC 215

 

 

Light Heavyweight(205 lbs):

- The king reclaimed his throne at UFC 214. The second meeting between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones took place in the main event and it took until the third round for Jones to land the finishing blow via headkick followed by punches on the ground thus becoming champion once again.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2vES0fi

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2vES0fi

Overall & UFC Changes: Oezdemir & Manuwa swap, Jones enters

Overall Changes: Nikita Krylov(prev. #10) exits

UFC Changes: Ilir Latifi(prev. #10) exits

Upcoming fights:

Latifi vs Tyson Pedro(UFCO #13) at UFC 215

Shogun vs Saint Preux at UFC Fight Night 117

Teixeira vs Cirkunov at UFC Fight Night 119

 

 

Middleweight(185 lbs):

- Luke is back. The former champion will be returning to action for the first time since losing his title at UFC 199 to current UFC champion, Michael Bisping. But he's not getting any "gimme" fight. His opponent will be former WSOF Middleweight and Light Heavyweight champion, David Branch.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2ufLZCq

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2ufLZCq

Overall & UFC Changes: Whittaker(prev. #4)

UFC Changes: Mousasi(prev. #5) exits, Brunson enters

MW.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Jotko vs Uriah Hall(UFCO #14) at UFC Fight Night 116

Rockhold vs Branch at UFC Fight Night 116

Leites vs Brad Tavares(NR) at UFC 216

Mousasi vs Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 185

(C)Bisping vs St-Pierre(NR) at UFC 217

 

 

Welterweight(170 lbs):

- In one of the more forgettable title fights we've ever seen... Champ, Tyron Woodley successfully defended his title for the second time at UFC 214 as he defeated Demian Maia by way of unanimous decision.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2uhPWdN

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2uhPWdN

Overall Changes: Condit(prev. #10) exits, Larkin enters

UFC Changes: Condit(prev. #7) exits, Ponzinibbio enters, Nelson(prev. #9) exits, Covington enters

Upcoming fights:

Usman vs Sergio Moraes(NR) at UFC Fight Night 116

(C)Askren vs Zebastian Kadestam at ONE: Heroes of the Empire

Magny vs Rafael Dos Anjos(UFCO #10) at UFC 215

 

 

Lightweight(155 lbs):

- Former longtime WSOF champion, Justin "The Highlight" Gaethje finally made his highly anticipated UFC debut back in the beginning of June at The Ultimate Finale 25 as he defeated Michael Johnson via RD2 TKO in the potential Fight of the Year.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2vEMOrU

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2vEMOrU

Overall & UFC Changes: Khabib & Ferguson swap, Gaethje(prev. #10)

Upcoming fights:

Boxing - Floyd Mayweather Jr. vs McGregor at Showtime Boxing: Mayweather vs McGregor

Alvarez vs Gaethje at TBD

 

 

Featherweight(145 lbs):

- UFC 214 was somewhat of a showcase for the division as it featured two high profile, top 15 bouts. In one that could have provided a big shake up, Ricardo Lamas decided he wasn't going to let that happen as he finished top prospect, Jason Knight by RD1 TKO.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2uhzkTu

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2uhzkTu

Overall Changes: Bermudez(prev. #7) exits, Pitbull enters, Ortega(prev. #9), Elkins(prev. #10)

UFC Changes: Bermudez(prev. #7), Elkins(prev. #9), Ortega(prev. #8)

Upcoming fights:

Stephens vs Gilbert Melendez(UFCO LW #15) at UFC 215

 

 

Bantamweight(135 lbs):

- At UFC on Fox 25, we were treated to a fantastic clash between top 10ers, Jimmie Rivera and Thomas Almeida. Both able to hurt one another and have their moments to shine, but it ended up being Rivera who came out on top as he solidified his top 5 status with a unanimous decision victory.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2vwwauJ

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2vwwauJ

Overall & UFC Changes: Rivera(prev. #7)

Upcoming fights:

(C)Dantas vs Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 184

 

 

Flyweight(125lbs):

- The battle of top Flyweight prospects took place this past Saturday in Mexico at UFC Fight Night 114 as Sergio Pettis took on Brandon Moreno in the main event. After an early scare on the ground in round one, it was Pettis who quickly took over on the feet as the second round hit and the fight went on. Headkicking and picking apart Moreno on route to a unanimous decision victory.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2ujZN2B

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2ujZN2B

Overall Changes: Formiga(prev. #10) exits, Pettis enters

UFC Changes: Magomed Bibulatov(prev. #10) exits, Pettis enters

Upcoming fights:

Cejudo vs Reis at UFC 215

(C)Johnson vs Borg at UFC 215

 

 

Women's Featherweight:

- It finally happened. Cris Cyborg got her UFC title fight and won the UFC Women's Featherweight title. She took on fellow former Invicta FC Champion, Tonya Evinger and picked up the victory by way of RD3 TKO at UFC 214.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2hCYpSJ

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2hCYpSJ

UFC Changes: Dandois(prev. #4) exits

Upcoming fights:

BW - de Randamie vs Marion Reneau(UFCO #11) at UFC Fight Night 115

 

 

Women's Bantamweight:

- Originally scheduled to compete at UFC 214, Sara McMann and Ketlen Vieira now find themselves headed to Edmonton for UFC 215.

IMG Source: http://dpo.st/2uAAHYy

IMG Source: http://dpo.st/2uAAHYy

Changes: None

Upcoming fights:

de Randamie vs Marion Reneau(UFCO #11) at UFC Fight Night 115

McMann vs Ketlen Vieira(UFCO #13) at UFC 215

(C)Nunes vs Shevchenko at UFC 215

(C) - Kunitskaya vs Raquel Pa'aluhi at Invicta FC 25

 

 

Strawweight(115lbs):

- Some have been calling it controversial, regardless...at UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City, Randa Markos and Alexa Grasso battled it out for three straight rounds in what should have been rewarded as the fight of the night. Grasso walked away with the split decision victory in a closely contested affair.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2ujIkDp

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2ujIkDp

Overall & UFC Changes: Torres(prev. #9), Joanne Calderwood(prev. #10) exits, Herrig enters, Markos(prev. #6) exits

Overall Changes: Souza enters

UFC Changes: Casey enters

Upcoming fights:

Gadelha vs Andrade at UFC Fight Night 117

Souza vs Janaisa Morandin at Invicta FC 25

 

 

Follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Where does the Light Heavyweight Division go from here?

A little less than a week has passed since Jon Jones regained the throne of the Light Heavyweight Division.  Jones comes back, into a division that has been severely on the decline with fighters jumping ship to Bellator, poor marketing from the UFC and older fighters holding on and clinging to the stardom they once held.

Let's take a look at the past of the division before we can look at the present.  When we look back at Jon Jones, winning the title in 2011 from Shogun Rua, the title was bouncing around with two people successfully defending the title one time a piece, Quinton Rampage' Jackson and Lyoto Machida; all of which Jon successfully defended his title against.  Each one of the competitors besides Alexander Gustafsson are over the age of 35.  Now, why do I bring up the age of the division into question?  If you look at the the entire UFC LHW rankings system today, you'll see that four of the top 15 in the Light Heavyweight Division are under or at the age of 30 while the rest of the division is 31 and above.  Phil Davis and Ryan Bader were originally in the top 15 but since jumping to Bellator and being the two fighters that would give credit to that division and title, it's hard to say how they would've fared against Daniel Cormier let alone a rejuvenated and serious Jon Jones.

Now after reading that last paragraph, you are most likely saying; "What does age have to do with anything about Jones winning his title back?"  The Light Heavyweight Division isn't the murder's row like it really used to be.  Jones had to face UFC fighters that had way more experience in fighting in combat sports than him.  Jones would have no one else to face but honestly two people that come to mind for the title; Gustafsson and Volkan Oezdemir.  The Gustafsson fight makes the most sense of the two fighters; even though in his six fights that includes his epic title fight against Jones he's gone (3-3) in his six fights with a failed title fight against Cormier.  Without rehashing the past of the fight, the entire MMA community has waited for this rematch since 2013.  I feel like the UFC should give Oezdemir, one more fight against Glover Teixeria.  If he has another strong performance like he did against Jimi Manuwa then he deserves a title shot.

Time will tell, but with Jones back, things are going to be very exciting in the upcoming future!

Weekend Breakdown & Preview: UFC Fight Night 114

Live from Arena Ciudad de Mexico in Mexico City, Mexico on Fox Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass, Sat, Aug 5, 2017

--- Main Card (Fox Sports 1: 10pmET/7pmPT) ---

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Sergio Pettis (15-2) vs Brandon Moreno (14-3)

Strawweight - 115 lbs: Randa Markos (7-4) vs Alexa Grasso (9-1)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Alan Jouban (15-5) vs Niko Price (9-0)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Martin Bravo (11-0) vs Humberto Bandenay (13-4)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Rashad Evans (19-6-1) vs Sam Alvey (30-9)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Alejandro Perez (17-6-1) vs Andre Soukhamthath (11-4)

 

--- Prelims (Fox Sports 1: 8pmET/5pmPT) ---

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Brad Scott (11-4) vs Jack Hermansson (15-3)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Dustin Ortiz (16-7) vs Hector Sandoval (14-3)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Rani Yahya (23-9) vs Enrique Briones (16-6-1)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Diego Rivas (7-0) vs Jose Alberto Quinones (5-2)

 

--- Fight Pass Prelims (UFC Fight Pass: 7pmET/4pmPT) ---

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Joseph Morales (8-0) vs Roberto Sanchez (7-0)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Jordan Rinaldi (12-5) vs Alvaro Herrera (9-4)

---

   Back to Mexico we go! When the UFC lands down in Mexico City on Saturday it will be for their fourth event in the country, all of which have been hosted by the Arena Ciudad de Mexico. The headliner features two young potential Flyweight stars who are looking to leap into title contention as Sergio Pettis takes on Brandon Moreno. Already a huge fan favorite after how he performed on season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter and after his huge upset victory at UFC Fight Night 96 over Louis Smolka, Brandon Moreno will look to keep the victory train rolling with a big win in his homeland. Sergio Pettis, currently riding a three fight win streak, will look to play spoiler.

Alvey vs Evans

Did you forget or not know that The Ultimate Fighter season 2 winner and former UFC Light Heavyweight champion, Rashad Evans was fighting this weekend? Understandable if you did in fact forget or just didn't know... In all but 2 of Rashad Evans' 21 UFC appearances he has either fought in the main or co-main event of the card that he was apart of. The longest this streak reached was 16 straight which ranged from UFC 63 back in September of 2006 all the way until his last bout with Daniel Kelly at UFC 209. This upcoming clash with "Smile'n" Sam Alvey will make it his third UFC appearance not partaking in the main or co-main event.

It has been a rough time coming back from injury for the former 205 lb champ, Evans as he's currently on the longest losing streak(3) of his 26 fight career. Evans is heading into his second fight at Middleweight and looks to get his first win since 2013. Sam Alvey on the other hand has fought a whole 13 times since 2013 and gone 9-4 in doing so. 6 of those bouts being from 2016 to now(4-2 since 2016). Alvey prides himself on his activity and tries to fight as much as possible. Already holding some solid wins over the likes of Nate MarquardtCezar Ferreira and the man to last beat Evans, Daniel Kelly... A win over a former UFC champion like Evans would surely be the biggest name added onto his resume.

Despite picking up a loss in his last outing, Rashad Evans put on his best performance since his last win in 2013. Now, it was his 185 lb debut so perhaps he was just getting a feel for the division but Kelly forced Evans to go back and forth leading to an exciting split decision victory for Kelly. Generally not one to be the most aggressive throughout fights, Sam Alvey has kind of been known to just relax for the first couple minutes of round one then randomly explode and find the finish as evidenced by his 2014-15 win streak over Dylan Andrews, Cezar Ferreira and Daniel Kelly. A pattern we haven't seen as frequently from Alvey since then, this could be a perfect stylistic match up for Evans to get back in the winners circle. If he can implement that great NCAA Division 1 wrestling that he used during his championship run and beyond, he could really wear down Alvey in the high altitude of Mexico City.

Something that will very surely play a factor in more fights than just this one is just that...the altitude. Alvey is very good at picking his shots regardless of the altitude changes so he should be able to conserve his energy throughout and still be dangerous where as Evans(the former Light Heavyweight) may have more trouble in this environment. Thus being the reason that Evans' wrestling will be his biggest key to victory. Of course, while mixing in his boxing is a must he will need to be wary of the counter hooks, straights and just big shots overall that Alvey will be looking to land. Either man may come out more aggressive than usual so that they can get out of there quick and avoid any potential cardio issues.

Prediction: Alvey UD

Jouban vs Price

Niko Price made an immediate impact upon entering the UFC as he debuted on short notice at UFC 207 and submitted the once surging prospect, Brandon Thatch with an arm triangle choke in an entertaining bout while it lasted. After that, Price took on fellow hot prospect, Alex Morono at UFC Fight Night 104 where the two really battled it out for two full rounds until the final 10 second warning and Price decided it was time to get things over with and unloaded in a flurry of punches dropping Morono against the cage right as the bell sounded(this win was later overturned to a no contest due to Price failing a drug test for marijuana).

Model turned fighter, Alan Jouban returns to the octagon for already his tenth UFC appearance. Coming up short in his last outing against Gunnar Nelson in London, Jouban looks to avoid going on what would be the first losing streak of his 20 fight career. Both fighters have proven to have fan friendly styles and this fight should be nothing short of entertaining. With only six decisions between the two, there's a very good chance we'll be getting a finish in this one.

Often one to create plenty of action sequences, the Louisiana native, Jouban has shown in his last two performances some much smarter approaches as he's utilized his movement and footwork to pick his shots more often than just coming forward aggressively. This worked against Mike Perry but not as well vs Nelson. The big question will be if Price can catch Jouban assuming he continues his recent stylistic trend. If he can, then there's a very good chance he could put Jouban out where as Price has so far shown to be more durable thus far in his undefeated career. This isn't to say that Jouban has bad striking defense...it's more so that his ability to recover after being hurt has just shown to be a bit poor even when he survives the attack. Price was relentless with his finish of Morono and this could spell trouble at some point for Jouban if he gets cornered. Submission and or takedown threats shouldn't be too strong in this match up unless a participant has been hurt/knocked down. If you have this fight as your sleeper pick for fight of the night...I would not disagree with you!

Prediction: Price RD2 (T)KO

Markos vs Grasso

Riding high off the momentum of the biggest win of her career over former UFC Strawweight champion, Carla Esparza, Randa Markos is now set to fight in her very first co-main event. Squaring off across from her in the octagon will be Mexico's own and former Invicta FC standout, Alexa Grasso. As one of the brightest young stars in the division, a win for Mexico's Grasso would be huge for her after coming off her first career loss to Felice Herrig and then earning a top 10 victory over Markos.

Grasso's boxing has been what has caught most people's attention when watching her perform. She is very fast and crisp when she attacks and able to pack on damage in just a matter of moments. That is when she attacks... In her last fight with Herrig, we saw a rather gunshy Grasso who thought she still won despite the clarity of the first two rounds not going in her favor before turning it up in the third. Randa is one of the most durable and tough fighters in the division and will take advantage of any hesitance whether it be with her pressure wrestling or improved boxing. Grasso will need to create space and strike actively throughout while avoiding being taken down if she wants her best chances at victory. No easy task, as Markos has taken down all but one of her UFC opponents(that one being the established wrestler in her own right, Esparza).

It's clear that this is Grasso's biggest fight in her young career and she will have some pressure on her as she'll be fighting at home and coming off a loss. Though being still so young, a loss to a top 10 opponent will not hurt her as much as it would for Randa who with a loss would make it to an unranked opponent. Always a risk that creates pressure of it's own but something that Randa should be able to overcome as she's fought in higher pressure situations before such as in her previous bout or during season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter

The key to this fight will be how offensive Grasso decides to play it on the feet. An area Randa Markos has continually and drastically improved upon and worked on since her time on The Ultimate Fighter. In Markos' last performance, she wasn't as aggressive and in her opponent's face as we usual see her due to the takedown threats of Esparza. With Grasso she wont have to worry about that and may even welcome it thus leading to the likelihood of a classic Randa performance mixed in with some new tricks from the help of her "nomad" style training. For Grasso she will need to stick and move along with avoiding being taken down otherwise it could be a rough night for the hometown girl.

Prediction: Markos RD2 Sub

Pettis vs Moreno

Quickly becoming one of the hottest prospects at 125 lbs if not the hottest prospect, Brandon "The Assassin Baby" Moreno was a contestant on season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter. The season that was dubbed "the Tournament of Champions" and featured champions from other organizations around the globe all fighting for a shot at UFC champion, Demetrious Johnson. Moreno being the World Fighting Federation champion at the time got the call up to compete on the show and was seeded at #16. He ended up fighting in the first fight of the season against the #1 seed, Alexandre Pantoja and put up a valiant effort in a fantastic back and fourth war but inevitably ended up falling short. Impressing everyone with how well he did against the top ranked guy, the potential in the 23 year old Moreno was obvious. He now finds himself undefeated in the UFC and riding a three fight win streak as he gets ready for his first main event inside the octagon.

Sergio "The Phenom" Pettis has been on most hardcore fan's radars for quite some time now. Garnering enough attention just from being clearly quite talented as is, it doesn't hurt to have your big brother be the former WEC and UFC Lightweight champion, Anthony "Showtime" Pettis. Also being 23 and riding a three fight win streak of his own, it too will be Sergio's first main event in the UFC. 

Looking at the match up, it's clear who the more dangerous of the two fighters is...and that's Moreno. Finishing 11 of his 14 victories(10 by submission), Moreno has shown great killer instinct throughout his young career thus far. Compared to Pettis who has 9 decision wins out of his 15 career wins. Sergio is the more tactical of the two and mixes up his approaches well, while Moreno throws most strikes to hurt you and will jump on any submission that presents itself(as seen in his recent victories over Louis Smolka and Dustin Ortiz). Despite Moreno's career finish numbers coming primarily from submissions, you can't dismiss his striking abilities which have hurt his opponents leading to submissions on multiple occasions in the past.

Circling back to the altitude factor of Mexico City, style wise this favors Pettis since he fights more strategically and conserves his energy better than Moreno who is more wild and often looking for the knockout. As the rounds go on this could wear on Moreno's gas tank. But being a native to Mexico, Moreno should be well prepared for the environment as he's fought and lived there before. Pettis would be smart to try to come in with a wrestling heavy game plan to further tire out Moreno but all while being very cautious of the guaranteed submission threats. A tough fight for Pettis early on and assuming he doesn't tire out himself, his chances of coming out with the W will improve as the fight goes on.  With the winner potentially earning a title shot, this is one fight between young talents that you will not want to miss.

Prediction: Moreno RD2 Sub

Follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

Why The Flyweights Aren't Going Anywhere...

   Besides the fact that the UFC is literally bringing in a whole new division of Flyweight women.  There have been recent rumors stating the potential selling of the UFC's entire men's Flyweight division.  According to the ever so inconsistent UFC President, Dana White, the removal of the division has been talked about for awhile now.  However, what the UFC is actually doing with the division at the moment indicates otherwise. 

     Currently, the Pound-4-Pound best fighter in the world today and just one of the very best to ever compete in MMA overall is the UFC's only Flyweight champion, Demetrious "Mighty Mouse" Johnson.  In Johnson's next bout at UFC 215 against challenger, Ray Borg, he will be looking to break Anderson Silva's all time title defense record which stands right now at 10 defenses.  If you've been following all of the recent turmoil in regards to the 125 lb weight class you would know that former UFC 135 lb Bantamweight champion, TJ Dillashaw was campaigning for his shot at the man known as Mighty Mouse.  That obviously is not coming to fruition has now left us here with the fight we originally expected between Johnson and Borg.

     An interesting match up and one of the very few remaining challengers for the champion, Borg will also be the youngest fighter that Johnson has ever defended against.  Borg is only 23 which is just one year younger than Kyoji Horiguchi was when he attempted to dethrone Johnson back at UFC 186 in 2015.  The style difference between Borg and Horiguchi makes the youth more of a factor for Borg as he's a much better wrestler than Horiguchi.  Not to say that it's bad (because it isn't), but it's always been fair to say that wrestling has been Johnson's weakest part of his game.  Repeat...that's not saying that his wrestling is bad because the guy just does everything incredibly well.  That area has just been a common place of success for some of his opponents.  The big question is always if they can get a hold of Mighty Mouse or not due to his mind boggling speed.  We'll just have to wait and see if Borg himself can once September 9th rolls around.

     Outside of next challenger Ray Borg, there are only two or maybe three real challengers left on the horizon for Johnson.  Some may even argue that there are already none left.  The most obvious next option being the winner of UFC Fight Night 114's headliners between Sergio Pettis and Brandon Moreno.  Leading me into one of my indications that the Flyweight division will be sticking around: Pettis and Moreno are the main event.  If the UFC was planning on getting rid of the division, wouldn't it feel like a waste of time to place two 125ers in a headline slot?  "Well Fight Night 114 is in Mexico City and Moreno is Mexican."  Yes, this is true, tapping into certain markets has always been something the UFC has tried to do.  But really how popular is Moreno in Mexico?  Especially being in a division that the UFC more often than not ends up putting on the prelims rather than main cards.  It just doesn't make a lot of sense other than to keep trying to build up the division and the potential next title challengers which are definitely Moreno and or Pettis.

     Aside from the obvious indication in UFC Mexico City's main event, there have been much smaller ones as of late that could be the most notable.  Dana White's Tuesday Night Contender Series is well under way and five UFC contracts have already been given out to winners so far.  None of those five being Flyweight fighters but there have been Flyweight bouts on the first two of three installments of the series with another already scheduled to come during this week's event.  So, at the moment this means there's only one chance for one Flyweights to possibly get to jump up onto the big stage here despite two fights already happening with no contracts being awarded.  What this really tells us is that the UFC/Dana White are still looking to expand the division which is what this Contender Series is all about.  Unless they want to add onto a division for sales purposes there should be no point in scouting for new fighters at 125 lbs when you're planning on doing away with the division all together.

     The 125 lb weight class has always been one that fans have had split emotions towards.  Whether claiming that they're the most technical fighters in MMA or just too small to care about, there seems to be very little middle ground.  Some of the blame for this can go on the champion, Demetrious Johnson, but not for the reasons you may be thinking.

     Demetrious Johnson is great!  He is one of the greatest fighters of all time!  People have claimed he has had no competition and the division is shallow and weak which has always been a huge myth.  The fighters at Flyweight are good, Johnson is just that much better.  It has created a real illusion for a lot of fans.  Especially once it's broken down, it shows how good the division really is and has been.  Take Joseph Benavidez for a prime example.  Benavidez has a 25-4 pro MMA record and has beaten just about everyone at Flyweight not named Demetrious Johnson.  In fact, Benavidez's only four losses have came to just two of the greatest ever in Johnson and former WEC and UFC champion, Dominick Cruz.  Benavidez won 14 fights at Bantamweight which include wins over former WEC champions, Miguel Angel Torres and Eddie Wineland before dropping down to Flyweight.  Similar to Johnson who was 14-2 at 135 lbs (also holding a win over Torres).

      There are many other fighters whom you can use these examples on.  Whether it be the last title challenger, Wilson Reis who has had a solid career at Bantamweight too, grabbing wins over Ivan Menjivar or current UFC top 10 135er, Bryan Caraway not to mention he's only lost 2 of his 7 bouts at 125 (to Johnson & Jussier Formiga).  Or you can look at Olympic Gold Medalist, Henry Cejudo who has only lost to Johnson and Benavidez (in an arguable decision) during his career.  As for other recent signs of Flyweight's depth, look no further than when Tim Elliott took on Ben Nguyen at UFC Fight Night 110.  Elliott won season 24 of The Ultimate Fighter thus earning his title shot.  Elliott went in and gave Johnson his toughest fight in a long time and even had the champion in some danger early on in round one.  Showing he had improved to top 5 status since his first UFC stint, Elliott defeated Louis Smolka then took on Nguyen.  In just a matter of 49 seconds, Elliott found himself submitting to a tight rear naked choke and catapulting the unranked Nguyen into the top 10.

      Anything can happen in MMA, but it's clear to anyone who's been paying attention that the Flyweights are a fun and very talented bunch and it would be a shame to see them go.  Fortunately, for the time being, they don't appear to be going anywhere!

Follow me on Twitter: @Dre_Kriggs

My Breakdown of the fights for UFC 214

With UFC 214 coming this Saturday, this is my breakdown, thoughts, and outcomes of each fight that July 29th weekend:

(C) Daniel Cormier vs (#1) Jon Jones: UFC Light Heavyweight Championship

Finally, we get the long awaited, second fight to one of the best feuds in MMA history. Last time we saw Jones in the cage was UFC 197, when he fought the late replacement of Ovince St. Preux; he very much answered the critics that wondered where his head was after the legal trouble he was constantly getting himself into. Nothing has changed in this, Cormier is still the champion after fighting Anthony Johnson for the second time and beating him soundly. Jones is coming off another year long lay off after his failed drug-test per UFC 200. I went back and watched the first fight between them, the fight with Jones vs OSP, and Cormier vs Johnson 2. This is what I can interpret, Jon Jones can become the UFC Light Heavyweight Champion again by using his clinch and stand up to his advantage again. When watching the first fight, Jones won rounds one, three, four and five; he used his reach, excellent grappling and clinch work on the cage and got in Cormier's head. On the other side of that, Cormier has the best chance of beating Jones by using his strength, dirty boxing and ground work. He also will have to take advantage of Jones's absence of the cage and will have to cut him off from the middle of the cage. 

Prediction: Jon Jones by decision. 

  (C) Tyron Woodley vs  (#1) Demian Maia  : UFC Welterweight Championship

This is a very interesting match up, two reasons. Woodley is easily coming off one his worst performances in his career and Maia is coming off a lackluster performance against Jorge Masvidal. Now, the timing seems weird with GSP and Bisping fight being off and throwing a title fight this late on the card. Tyron will need to use his striking more, than wrestling him to the ground; he doesn't want to make this into a Jiu-Jitsu or scramble fight. More importantly, Damian Maia has 12 submissions in his career and outgrappeled some of the best MMA fighters, Black Belt's in Jiu-Jitsu, and Wrestlers. Maia only uses his striking to grab a hold of you and grind you out until he submits you. The issue with this is that, Tyron has some knockout power in his hands. He's knocked out Robbie Lawler, who has a granite chin, knocked down Stephen Thompson twice who was clearly the more superior striker. If we all forget his two fights with Thompson and remember him as the KO artist we have seen, Maia is in a world of hurt.

Prediction: Tyron Woodley by (TKO): 3rd Round. 

 

Cris Cyborg vs. Tonya Evinger: UFC Featherweight Championship

After months of waiting, we finally get to see a title fight with Cyborg in the mix. By far, Cyborg has the striking credibility, and championship pedigree to be in this situation. She has mauled through the paper weightclasses of the UFC, Strikeforce and Invicta Featherweight divisions. Her last fight against Landsberg was the farthest she has gone, since she fought Marloes Coenen in 2013. On the flip side, Evinger isn't no scrub at all, her grappling is very efficient, she does stand in the pocket and strikes with you. She has to wrestle Cyborg down and use her ground game against her. Cyborg's ground game is nothing to count out, two gold medals in Grappling and Jiu-Jitsu tournaments, when she pulls guard off her back is really something to behold and her strength will also be a benefit.

 Prediction: Cyborg by (TKO): 1st Round

  (#2) Robbie Lawler vs. (#5) Donald Cerrone

This is a fight of the year candidate by the thought of these two entering in the cage. Lawler is coming on the cusp of his career, before the Woodley fight, his chin has gone through, back to back to back Fight of the year winners. When Robbie lost the title in one punch, you have to seriously ask yourself "How much more can he take?". This is the perfect fight to see where these two stand in one the most stacked divisions in the UFC. Cerrone is also coming off of a loss against to Jorge Masvidal, and in my opinion was absolutely looking past Masvidal. His chin has absorbed some damage through the years. He has to be focused, more focused than he fought for the Lightweight title. I truly expect this fight to be a standup duel, there will be no grappling or wrestling. 

Prediction: Donald Cerrone by (KO): 3rd Round 

  

(#3) Jimi Manuwa vs.  (#4) Volkan Oezdemir

This is a big fight to see who will be fighting the future LHW Champion, although if I was Manuwa I would have waited for his title shot. Both fighters are on two fight win streaks, and oddly enough fought Ovince Saint Preux. Manuwa has some serious power in his hands, his boxing is crisp and for a guy his age, is quicker then anybody in the division. Oezdemier I feel like was thrown into this fight, he's 2-0 in the UFC right now, but with Gustafsson inactive right now, Rumble retired. The Light Heavyweight is seriously really thin right now. 

 

Prediction: Jimi Manuwa by decision. 

Regional MMA Review: Top Shelf Entertainment - Rubicon V

      On a blistering day in Pueblo Colorado, Top Shelf Entertainment (TSE), put on Rubicon V at Massari Arena.  Normally, gymnasium style arenas aren't ideal for MMA, but TSE pulled it off, making the basketball gym have the feel of a big auditorium.  With a live DJ and constant action it was the place to be on Saturday night.  TSE also uses their events to raise awareness for certain charities.  This time, TSE is using Rubicon V to raise awareness for the "Look Twice, Save a Life" campaign.  This is in memory of Jordan Munoz who passed away due to a motorcycle crash.  The campaign wants to remind people to be safe on the road, and be aware of your surroundings.  At the beginning of the event they introduced Jordan Munoz mother, and they told the crowd that buckets would be passed around to raise donations for "Look Twice, Save a Life."  So if you come to one of their events not only are you in for an exciting night of fights, it is for a good cause as well.

     This is a great promotion that is exciting and gives tons of local fighters a chance to get a start in the world of MMA.  They’ve had talented fighters come through their promotion such as Jeremy Kimball who recently debuted in the UFC, and Ramico Blackmon a former WSOF veteran.  They had a great turnout, especially for a night when the UFC was having a free card on FOX.  They were able to fill the Massari arena and the crowd was into the action the whole night.  Overall, it was a great experience and I would recommend if you ever have the chance to catch one of Top Shelf Entertainment’s fights that you find yourself some tickets.

Results:

Amateur:

Jon Nelson def. Nnick Graziano, Rear-Naked Choke, 1:55 Rd 1

Ben Mesteth def. Jerome Manning, Triangle Choke, 1:39 Rd 1

Nate Cullison def Joseph Quinta, Rear-Naked Choke, 1:18 Rd 1

Cole Griego def. Hector Leon, Rear-Naked Choke, 1:46 Rd 2

Caleb Crump def. Tyler Arvin, Unanimous Decision  

Bryan Romero def. Austin Brown, Unanimous Decision

Dylan Stubblefield def. Fernando Sanchez, TKO, 2:31 Rd 1

Professional:

Phil Gonzales def. Cody Hoffstatter, KO, Rd 1

Robert Fraterelli def. Levi Lucero, Rear-Naked Choke, 3:32 Rd 1

Jordan Titoni def. Jake Mendez, Unanimous Decision

Adam Martinez def. Kandale Young, Corner Stoppage, 5:00 Rd 1

Eric Grant def. Manuel Gallardo, Rib Injury, 5:00 Rd 1

Adam Virgil* def. Travis Aragon. TKO, 0:13 Rd 1

*Adam Vigil climbed to 3-0 and was one of the most impressive prospects on the cards. Look for him to land with a big promotion one day.