Weekend Breakdown & Preview Doubleheader: Bellator 185 & UFC GDansk

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Live from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Connecticut, USA on Spike TV and Bellator.Spike.com, Fri, Oct 20, 2017

 

--- Main Card (Spike TV: 9pmET/6pmPT) ---

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Gegard Mousasi (42-6-2) vs Alexander Shlemenko (56-9)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Neiman Gracie (6-0) vs Zak Bucia (18-8)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Heather Hardy (1-0) vs Kristina Williams (0-0)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Marcus Surin (4-0) vs Ryan Quinn (13-7-1)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Ana Julaton (2-2) vs Lisa Blaine (1-0)

 

--- Prelims (Bellator.Spike.com: 7pmET/4pmPT) ---

Catchweight - 195 lbs: Alec Hooben (5-3) vs Jordan Young (7-0)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Costello Van Steenis (8-1) vs Steve Skrzat (8-9)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Vovka Clay (3-1) vs Frank Sforza (6-0)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: John Beneduce (2-1) vs Dean Hancock (2-1)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Pete Rogers (2-4) vs Timothy Wheeler (1-4)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Joaquin Buckley (7-1) vs Vinicius de Jesus (5-1)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Don Shainis (3-1) vs Matthew Denning (5-6)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: John Lopez (8-4) vs Billy Giovanella (8-5)

---

Hardy vs Williams

Undefeated WBC Boxing champion, Heather "The Heat" Hardy makes her sophomore appearance in MMA after a successful debut back in June at Bellator 180. This time around, Hardy will be welcoming Kristina Williams to the pro ranks of MMA. Williams, who was 3-0 as an amateur and will be looking to derail The Heat hype train.

Worldwide, the female Flyweight division can very easily be acclaimed as the best division among the ladies. And it continues to grow and show exactly why with the acquisition of the multi-sport talented, Hardy. In her debut against Alice Yauger, the Brooklyn native displayed her championship boxing skills along with a variety of kicks mixed in. Primarily leg kicks and teeps, it was still enough to see that Hardy was quickly grasping all elements of striking. The biggest surprise for me personally in that fight was that Yauger didn't once try to test Hardy's ground game with any takedowns. There were minimal clinch exchanges, but no threats to advance. Therefore making that the biggest question mark for this fight and so on if Hardy can avoid the mat.

Prediction: Hardy RD2 (T)KO

 

Mousasi vs Shlemenko

You don't often get fights between two veterans like these. Combining each man's record equals out to 115 total fights...that's a lot. The biggest free agent signee as of late, Gegard Mousasi will be making his Bellator debut in the main event against former Middleweight champion, Alexander Shlemenko. It can be argued that Mousasi has never looked better than he does at this current stage. Winning seven of his last eight bouts, it came as a pretty big surprise to see him depart from the UFC. As for former Bellator king, Shlemenko, he has won nineteen of his last twenty two...not much losing going on there.

In Shlemenko's most recent loss, he was submitted under a minute by Brandon Halsey. He avenged this loss in his last outing with a TKO also under a minute. Before that loss, he lost to Tito Ortiz in a Light Heavyweight fight. Shlemenko was as you would expect...outsized by the Light Heavyweight legend, Ortiz. Many have said that Shlemenko could make Welterweight if he wanted to...but why exactly would he? He's had plenty of success at Middleweight and a majority of his losses have only come to those who have been substantially bigger than him(like Ortiz).

The only problem with that is, Mousasi also fits this bill and on top of that, is possibly the most talented fighter that Shlemenko has ever fought. Mousasi can do it all, from his lightning accurate jab to his phenomenal ground escapes. Shlemenko will have his work cut out for him. Shlemenko's best path to victory may be to try and stick and move and avoid constantly being within the range of the longer, Mousasi. While doing that he can mix in distance closing power shots. All easier said than done. Shlemenko's best weapon is his body kicks. He's a very powerful fighter when throwing strikes so he can definitely put Mousasi away with the right shot. It's just hard to imagine it happening to such a smart and technical wizard like Mousasi has become.

Prediction: Mousasi RD1 (T)KO

 

---

 

UFC Fight Night 118

Live from Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland on UFC Fight Pass, Sat, Oct 21, 2017

 

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

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Donald Cerrone (32-9) vs Darren Till (15-0-1)

Strawweight - 115 lbs: Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2) vs Jodie Esquibel (6-2)

Light Heavyweight - 205 lbs: Jan Blachowicz (19-7) vs Devin Clark (8-1)

Light Heavyweight - 205 lbs: Jonathan Wilson (7-2) vs Oskar Piechota (9-0-1)

 

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

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Marcin Held (22-7) vs Nasrat Haqparast (8-1)

Heavyweight - 207-265 lbs: Adam Wieczorek (8-1) vs Anthony Hamilton (15-8)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Brian Kelleher (17-8) vs Damian Stasiak (10-4)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Sam Alvey (31-9) vs Ramazan Emeev (15-3)

Featherweight - 145 lbs: Andre Fili (16-5) vs Artem Lobov (13-13-1)

Welterweight - 170 lbs: Warlley Alves (10-2) vs Salim Touahri (10-1)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Lina Lansberg (7-2) vs Aspen Ladd (5-0)

Bantamweight - 135 lbs: Felipe Arantes (18-8-1) vs Josh Emmett (11-1)

---

UFC Fight Night 118 in Gdansk, Poland will mark down as the UFC's second-ever event in the country. The event's headliner features a UFC staple vs a young prospect looking to catapult himself to the next level.

 

Lansberg vs Ladd

Lina Lansberg has had one of the more unique starts to a UFC career that one could have. In her debut, she main evented in a 140 lb Catchweight bout against the current UFC Featherweight champion, Cris Cyborg. I don't need to tell you what happened if you don't know...let's just say it wasn't good for Lina. In her follow up bout, she was expected to take on Veronica Macedo at 135 lbs but Macedo was forced out due to injury. In comes Lucie Pudilova to replace her, a woman that Lansberg had met before and defeated previously in her career. The fight happened and it was close and competitive but Lansberg came out on top despite the horrendous punishment it had appeared her face had taken in the third round.

Lansberg was supposed to make her third octagon appearance back in July against Leslie Smith but had to pull out herself this time. Now we're here and she finds herself welcoming in the undefeated 22-year-old newcomer and Invicta FC standout, Aspen Ladd. Ladd has finished four of her five opponents(3 KO/TKO, 1 Sub). Ladd is a very strong and well-rounded wrestler. Her striking is definitely good enough to hang with "The Elbow Princess" Lansberg but obviously, it wouldn't be as wise a choice as it would be to try and get things to the ground. Which is likely how things will go since Ladd has shown she has a solid fight IQ to attribute her skillset. If Lansberg can keep herself off her back in this one, she should be able to really shine when having a full camp for one specific opponent this time around.

Prediction: Ladd RD2 Sub

 

Fili vs Lobov

Andre Fili has been on an up and down roller coaster ride to start out his UFC career as he has gone 4-4 without earning any victories back to back. In his most recent victory, he put on the best performance of his career vs Hacran Dias at UFC Fight Night 96. What followed was a shocker from the debutant, Calvin Kattar who defeated Fili via unanimous decision. He next finds himself up against Artem Lobov who stands at 2-3 in the UFC with all five fights going to decision.

In Lobov's last fight, he competed against perennial top Featherweight, Cub Swanson in what was the biggest fight of his career. He was unable to come out on top, so now he finds himself taking on Fili with each man looking to make a statement. Stylistically, this should be a stand-up battle for the most part. But if it goes to the ground, it favors Team Alpha Male's Fili. Both have fairly unorthodox striking, but Lobov is much more of a counter striker than Fili which could cause disaster for him. Thus making a balanced gameplan a good idea against the confident, Lobov. Regardless, if you follow the pattern it's time for Fili to get another win...right?

Prediction: Fili UD

 

Blachowicz vs Clark

The last two times we saw Jan Blachowicz, he was getting bested by the better wrestlers in Patrick Cummins and Alexander Gustafsson. The matchmakers don't seem to be too fond of poor Jan as he could be in for more of the same when he locks horns with Devin Clark.

Jan Blachowicz is a very powerful striker. Most everything he throws has bad intentions behind it which makes him rather lethal in said area. This is also why a majority of his opponents tend to try to avoid striking with him as much as possible. Devin Clark has shown to be developing a striking game of his own but going toe to toe with someone like Blachowicz could be getting ahead of one's self. Expect Clark to try and smother Blachowicz and pound him out on the ground while Blachowicz looks to land a crushing finishing blow throughout.

Prediction: Clark UD

 

Kowalkiewicz vs Esquibel

One of Poland's native daughters returns home on Saturday as Karolina Kowalkiewicz looks to right the ship and snap her two-fight losing streak. Standing across from her will be JacksonWink product, Jodie Esquibel who makes her UFC debut. The Invicta FC veteran, Esquibel has been one of the better fighters outside of the UFC fighting south of 125 lbs since she began her career. Holding notable victories over DeAnna Bennett and Jinh Yu Frey, Esquibel also competed in an elimination fight for season 23 of The Ultimate Fighter against Ashley Yoder in a fight she very arguably should have won.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz has been notorious for starting somewhat slow. Despite losing in round one of her last fight, she came out a bit more aggressive than usual. But it was hard to tell if she had worked on that specifically or not because her opponent was Claudia Gadelha who generally forces the pace herself...potentially causing Karolina to keep up with her early on. Esquibel, who isn't known for her finishing abilities with five of her six wins coming by way of decision, will need to capitalize early on if possible. Similar to how Gadelha was able to. Esquibel is a well-rounded fighter and has one of the best game planning teams in all of MMA in her corner. Funny enough, it's the same team that Karolina faced when against Gadelha.

All that in mind, it might not be as crazy as one would imagine for Esquibel to pull off the upset but still a bit far-fetched. Karolina has proven to have some of the very best striking and takedown defense at 115 lbs which is the perfect kryptonite to a fighter who doesn't exactly excel in any specific area. When you also factor in that this will be Karolina's first UFC fight in Poland and her back is against the wall after losing two straight, she should be more motivated than ever to get a dominant victory.

Prediction: Kowalkiewicz RD3 (T)KO

 

Cerrone vs Till

Everyone knows how skilled Donald "Cowboy" Cerrone is, but very few know how skilled Darren Till is. Primarily a striker, with very "flowy" movement and strong jabs, counters and elbow strikes, Till looks like he could be a part of the next generation of Welterweight stars. It's just a matter of whether or not he's ready to take on the big dogs or not.

Cowboy Cerrone does not get enough credit for how of a high a fight IQ that he has. Probably because he doesn't really train for specific opponents. He just trains to get better. Which I think might make it even more impressive. The main reason I say this is because...especially at Welterweight, Cerrone has mixed up his attack beautifully. From his combos alone to the utilization of his wrestling. He has taken down all of his Welterweight opponents except for Jorge Masvidal and Matt Brown. So that includes the likes of Robbie Lawler, Rick Story, Patrick Cote and Alex Oliveira. Most impressive are the first two, more so Story due to his wrestling background.

That is what will be the key in this fight. If Cerrone decides to take it down to the ground or not, which I think he will. Once there, Till is in Cerrone's world and Cerrone will work his Jiu-Jitsu magic on route to a submission victory. If Till can avoid being taken down, we get a super intriguing and fun striking battle on the feet. Old school vs new school in a way. Despite the massive experience gap, Till has legitimate skill and belief in himself to where he can make it not matter. Whether he can hang with Cerrone on the feet at all is to be determined, he has shown to be fairly hittable in his short UFC career but in the end, this fight will still come down to whether or not Cerrone wants to take business to the mat.

Prediction: Cerrone RD1 Sub

 

 

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

10 Rematches You Didn't Know Were So Compelling

Everybody loves a good rematch or trilogy. Hell, some of the greatest fights of all time have been in rematches or a part of trilogies. The build-up to a good rivalry is often times unparalleled and a promoter's dream come true. Like catching lightning in a bottle, finding two fighters who's styles clash in the most exciting of ways isn't always as easy as we would expect. But when it happens, there's nothing else quite like it in combat sports. So let's take a look at some of the most compelling rematches in MMA that you didn't quite know were so compelling. (and no, Frankie Edgar vs Gray Maynard 4 is not mentioned outside of this sentence... Admit it though, you thought it would be didn't you?)

 

10. Anderson Silva vs Chael Sonnen 3

This entry is just kind of me being silly and nostalgic. But think about it, they're both much older now...seven years older than their first fight to be exact... Insane isn't it? Chael Sonnen has drastically improved his submission defense and offense since both of the first two meetings as well as fighting in a higher weight class and will always be a fantastic wrestler. Silva, on the other hand, has still proved to be just dangerous enough to survive against top level fighters in both the Middleweight and Light Heavyweight divisions. You know this would be fun to run back one final time and you would definitely watch it if the opportunity presented itself.

 

9. Alexander Gustafsson vs Phil Davis 2

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2fTl4H6

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2fTl4H6

A rematch of the 2010 encounter between Alexander Gustafsson and Phil Davis at UFC 112 is compelling enough just because of when it took place. Both guys were complete prospects at the time with very little exposure. Nowadays, they're both top 5 fighters in their division and stars for their organizations. Obviously improved greatly are each since then, the biggest question in this rematch would be if Davis could take Gustafsson down as easily as he did the first time when it led to a submission victory in the very first round. It's pretty hard to imagine that now since Gustafsson has developed some of the best takedown defense at Light Heavyweight since then as evidenced by fending off many attempts from both Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier. There's also the fact that he began training with Davis to improve his wrestling right after they fought... It also wouldn't be crazy to imagine Gustafsson taking Davis down a second time around as he was able to do so against both Jones and Cormier(he's actually the only fighter to take them both down). Davis' striking has continually improved but not at a fast enough pace to be anywhere near Gustafsson's level. It might not seem so interesting to most as it's essentially a "one of two ways" kind of fight, but anything can happen in MMA.

 

8. Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs Jessica Andrade 2

Yes, this one is a very fresh thought right after Andrade's complete domination of perennial #2 Strawweight, Claudia Gadelha, as well as Joanna's outclassing of Andrade back at UFC 211...but hear me out. Gadelha had only lost to Joanna until she fought Andrade. Not even Joanna, the dominant reigning champion could beat Gadelha as easily as Andrade did...and Joanna fought Gadelha twice! Now surely this could be just a case of styles making fights, especially when you look at how all these fights played out. But with some tweaks to her game plan...Andrade could be much, much more competitive with Joanna a second time around.

There were three key reasons as to why Andrade lost against Joanna in their fight. 1. Joanna's distance control. She is much longer with her height and reach making it that much easier for a striker of her caliber to keep the tank-like fighter, Andrade at bay. 2. Joanna was just faster. Simple as that. That plus her length made her even more of a problem. 3. Andrade was putting on non-stop pressure. That's what she does, but that also made it very easy for Joanna to counter her and pick her a part moving away.

Andrade had brief moments of success and even landed some power shots in round one and took her down later on in the fight. What she needs to change is her constant pressure... Problem is, that's how Andrade fights. That's practically her entire game plan for every fight. The smart thing to do would be to back down a bit. Fight more counter oriented herself. She has incredible power and strength for her division when it comes to her punches and grappling and if she were to let Joanna come at her...just at all, it would leave Joanna more open to counter takedowns, thus giving Andrade the opportunity to have some great success. What makes this potential rematch so interesting is if Andrade can realize this is what she needs to do to have a better chance at dethroning the Strawweight queen.

 

7. Jose Aldo vs Cub Swanson 2

This possible rematch comes in more towards the back end of the list due to being one that more fans know about being a compelling rematch...hardcore fans anyway. Realistically, these two guys haven't actually even "fought". I mean come on, the fight started and Aldo ran straight at Cub and bicycle kneed his face into another dimension. It only took seven seconds. It was more like one of those scenes you see in a coming of age movie where the main character has to finally stand up to the bully and then when he does it goes WAY better than they expected it to. Don't tell me that's not a great comparison. But like I was saying...

Since that fateful day back in June of 2007, both men have gone on to become legends of their division and for Aldo, one of the greatest fighters of all time. But recently, Aldo has finally shown to be beatable and Cub is still kicking ass against the better half of the top 10. There is little to no chance that this wouldn't be a fun rematch as we just know Cub has been dying to get that one back and sometime soon could be his best chance at doing so.

 

6. Demetrious Johnson vs Kyoji Horiguchi 2

When they fought at UFC 186 in 2015, Kyoji Horiguchi was the young and hungry title challenger that many thought may have been getting a title shot far too soon. For the most part...they were very right. Johnson took Horiguchi down a walloping fourteen times before finishing him by armbar with one second left in the fight(the UFC record for latest finish). In the striking department, things were a lot closer than people remember. Even directly after the fight, I remember fans talking about it and saying how Horiguchi was dominated from bell to bell. But Horiguchi held his own on the feet and essentially made the fight a stalemate in that area. Horiguchi's lateral movement and speed that matched Johnson's evened things out so much more than any other of Johnson's opponents could do prior. So much so that Johnson had to resort to wrestling his way to a victory. It really makes you wonder how a refined, more experienced Horiguchi with improved takedown defense would hold his own in a rematch.

 

5. Conor McGregor vs Joe Duffy 2

This is one of those fights that all hardcore fans know about and have at least some interest in. Despite the obvious notoriety level difference, this matchup is still one of the most intriguing especially when it comes to that "then vs now" feel that a rematch can have. 

Joe Duffy defeated Conor McGregor back in November of 2010 only 38 seconds into the first round via arm triangle choke. Since then, each man has improved greatly and only lost twice(that's including Conor's boxing match with Floyd Mayweather Jr.). Obviously, the difference in the level of competition has been pretty big but it's still clear that Duffy has all the potential in the world and can be one of the very best at Lightweight one day, he just hasn't gotten as much a chance to show it yet compared to how Conor did during his rise.

Looking at each of their losses in MMA, they've all been from getting bested in the grappling department. For the most part, they've outstruck all their opponents. Duffy, a one-time boxer himself, actually has most of his MMA wins coming by way of submission(10 out of 17). As great a striker he is, people forget he can fall back on his ground game or throw it into the mix after he hurts you...which is generally what happens.

In a rematch, we know there would be no wrestling from McGregor and he would remember what happened the last time they met...and he just likes to strike in general. Each has great striking, but Duffy still holds the submission and grappling edge. It would be interesting to see how it would unfold seven-plus years later on the biggest stage.

 

4. Tyron Woodley vs Kelvin Gastelum 2

Since UFC 183, it could be argued that Kelvin Gastelum has actually improved more than UFC Welterweight champion, Tyron Woodley has. A fight that The Ultimate Fighter season 17 winner, Gastelum arguably won, Gastelum has been refining his game and improving with every bout showing why he's regarded as one of the most talented young fighters in UFC at either Welterweight or Middleweight. Problem is, reoccurring weight issues have held Gastelum from consistently making 170 lbs. Despite this, he says he would still like to go back down to the division at some point.

A back and forth battle for three rounds the first time, providing these two with five instead would make things very, very interesting. Especially now, seeing how much Gastelum has grown as a fighter and Woodley as a champion. In their fight, Kelvin was the aggressor and had Woodley backed up as he is often times in his fights, but Woodley was more aggressive than usual with his back against the cage and landed multiple big shots on the enforcing Gastelum who was landing as well. The footwork and head movement improvements that Gastelum has made since then, plus the additional two rounds make the idea of this rematch just awesome. Especially when it appears that Woodley may be running out of challengers already.

 

3. Amanda Nunes vs Germaine de Randamie 2

Both fighters have obtained UFC gold since they met in the Octagon back in November of 2013...despite how you feel about de Randamie's run/victory...there's a pun there...unintentional, I swear. Anyway, regardless of how you feel about her or her situation when she became the inaugural women's UFC Featherweight champion, Germaine de Randamie is one of the truly elite female strikers in MMA today. Her biggest issue has always been her takedown defense as seen in her fight with Amanda Nunes who took her down the first chance she got and pounded her out from there.

It wasn't much of a fight, more of a beating... But now we're in 2017, Nunes is one of the best if not the best female fighter in the world and continues to show why. But GDR is up there too. She's continually worked on her grappling defense as we saw vs Holly Holm...who...to be fair isn't exactly a strong grappler, but it still showed that she's been working on it thoroughly. If GDR kept a potential rematch with Nunes on the feet, we could end up with one of the most explosive and exciting fights we've ever seen at women's Bantamweight. That or an incredible technical battle with some beautiful clinch work thrown in. Either way, I hope we get to find out soon.

 

2. Jorge Masvidal vs Paul Daley 2

The only reason that this isn't listed at #1 is that it's not close to possible right now. Well...I guess #1 isn't either but there isn't a promotional difference between that one! Daley will likely be locked up in Bellator for the rest of his career. Masvidal...he could jump ship at some point, crazier things have happened. But back to the idea of a rematch... How many people even knew or remembered that these two fought once before? The event was Shark Fights 13 back in 2010...almost a careers amount of fights ago for each fighter(21 for Daley, 18 for Masvidal). A counter heavy and trigger shy, Masvidal took on the pressuring Daley. Masvidal took Daley down multiple times throughout, mostly in round two but it wasn't enough to earn the victory.

Each fighter has gained so much more experience than they already had back then. Masvidal has loosened up, growing incredibly confident in his abilities and finally found out when to pull the trigger and Daley just remains constantly lethal in every aspect of striking. He just knocked out Lorenz Larkin after all...no easy task. Daley remains weak in the grappling department but Masvidal has gotten so confident overall that I can't imagine it going anything like the first fight. This rematch would be a true fight fan's delight nowadays.

 

1. Robert Whittaker vs Stephen Thompson 2

It's kind of crazy to remember that this fight happened even though it actually wasn't all that long ago. Only three years ago, Stephen Thompson, the man who should arguably be the current UFC Welterweight champion was the last man to hand current UFC Interim Middleweight champion, Robert Whittaker a loss. Whittaker was apart of Thompson's 7-fight win streak at the time whereas Whittaker began his tear of 8 straight wins after.   

A fight that took place at Welterweight, Whittaker only had one more in the division after the Thompson fight before moving up to his true home. He has since said he can't believe he ever fought at 170 lbs...which makes sense when we've seen how great he's been at 185 lbs. Thompson is one of the bigger fighters at Welterweight when looking at his frame, but he comfortably makes the 170 lb mark. That doesn't mean he would be undersized at Middleweight... In fact, he may even be better there just like Whittaker.

When they first clashed, Whittaker was the dictator of pace for the most part with Thompson working a strong counter game attacking from just about any angle you can think of and finding great success with whatever the strike. But this isn't to say Whittaker didn't find success as well. He landed multiple good hooks when Thompson was on the escape but not as often as Thompson was landing with his counters which ultimately led to Whittaker's downfall. 

There are very few fighters who fight like Stephen Thompson and he is no easy puzzle to solve. Whittaker has gained much-needed and valuable experience since then and improved immensely. And for whatever my opinion's worth, Whittaker is the best Middleweight on the planet. A rematch between the two at either weight would be interesting in every aspect all the way down to who's the betting favorite over who. Unlikely that Whittaker will ever go back down to Welterweight, maybe Thompson will make the jump up one day and we can get all our questions answered for good.

 

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

Weekend Breakdown & Preview: UFC 216

Live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Nevada, USA on PPV, FXX and UFC Fight Pass, Sat, Oct 7, 2017

 

--- Main Card (PPV: 10pmET/7pmPT) ---

(IC)Lightweight - 155 lbs: Tony Ferguson (22-3) vs Kevin Lee (16-2)

Flyweight - 155 lbs: (C)Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1) vs Ray Borg (11-2)

Heavyweight - 207-265 lbs: Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1) vs Derrick Lewis (18-5)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Beneil Dariush (14-3) vs Evan Dunham (18-6)

 

--- Prelims (FXX: 8pmET/5pmPT) ---

Bantamweight - 155 lbs: Tom Duquesnoy (15-1) vs Cody Stamann (15-1)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Will Brooks (18-3) vs Nik Lentz (27-8-2)

Lightweight - 155 lbs: Lando Vannata (9-2) vs Bobby Green (23-8)

Strawweight - 115 lbs: Pearl Gonzalez (6-2) vs Poliana Botelho (5-1)

 

--- Fight Pass Prelims (UFC Fight Pass: 6pmET/3pmPT) ---

Heavyweight - 207-265 lbs: Walt Harris (10-5) vs Mark Godbeer (12-3)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Magomed Bibulatov (14-0) vs John Moraga (17-6)

Middleweight - 185 lbs: Brad Tavares (15-4) vs Thales Leites (27-7)

Flyweight - 125 lbs: Matt Schnell (10-4) vs Marco Antonio Beltran (8-5)

---

With UFC 216 coming October 7th, it's the perfect time to give my thoughts, breakdowns and picks for this up and coming event! In the main event, you have Tony Ferguson taking on Kevin Lee for the Interim Lightweight Championship. In the Co-Main Event, Demetrious Johnson has been re-booked against Ray Borg for the Flyweight Championship.

 

 

 (1) Tony Ferguson vs (7) Kevin Lee

 Oh boy! What else can we say about the Lightweight Division besides this is a cluster. On one hand, we were supposed to have Ferguson take on Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 209. Khabib obviously made the weight but was hospitalized after I believe a terrible weight cut but the story goes that he had some bad tiramisu. The fight was called off but the UFC tried to the fight for the summer, ultimately Khabib said no because Ramadan goes through summer and didn't want to interrupt his beliefs for a title fight. That being said, Kevin Lee has stepped up and wants to take on Ferguson for a shot at the belt. This is a huge step up in competition for Kevin, there have only been two big names that he has fought and that was Michael Chiesa, which he won in controversial fashion and Al Iaquinta who beat Kevin in his first UFC fight. Lee has a vicious ground game, he uses his wrestling to tire his opponents out and relentless cardio. The bigger issue is though, Tony Ferguson is no normal Lightweight at all. Personally, I believe Tony, is one the best fighters that has not won a UFC title yet. He is on a nine-fight streak, beaten countless contenders and pretenders. His Boxing and Muay Thai are crisp and his leg kicks make him very dangerous. If you try to wrestle him, it's not that easy, he was champion at the NCWA for 165 Lbs. His only loss in the UFC came at the hands of Michael Johnson, but since then he's taken out people such as Edson Barboza and former champion Rafael Dos Anjos. I expect the fight to be very fast paced, this should not end in a decision. Kevin Lee picked a great time to fight for a title but the wrong opponent as hungry as in Ferguson.

Verdict : (1) Tony Ferguson: 2nd round (TKO) 

 

(C) Demetrious Johnson vs (3) Ray Borg

I broke this fight down in my last article for UFC 215, of course, most of us didn't anticipate, Borg pulling out of the fight due to illness before weigh-ins. By no means, am I blaming anybody for Borg's weight issues. I personally know how bad weight cuts can be for the body, your immune system can start to shut down and can make you more accessible to different types of sicknesses; even the slightest sneeze or a cough can cause a bad cold. I believe now that Ray shouldn't have to cut as much weight due to this being closer to a month away from the previous PPV card, Borg's made a step in the right direction by letting go his former nutritionist. I just don't see him getting past DJ at all, he has earned a Flyweight Title weight by being the only guy that hasn't fought the champ. If Demetrious wins he will have broken the record that Anderson Silva's title defenses with eleven. I really think DJ should have a super fight with the winner of Gardbrandt and Dillashaw. It's going to be a very interesting couple of months.

 

 (1) Fabrício Werdum vs (6) Derrick Lewis

This has all the makings of a three round war if this says on the feet. Derrick Lewis has been a real dark horse in this division and faced his toughest opponent in Mark Hunt. He obviously contemplating retirement after the fight but ultimately decided against it. He has showcased the unique charisma in his promos and interviews, has a killer right hand that would send any normal human being to the canvas. For a big guy, he's very athletic, but he has to have the gas tank to against Werdum. When Fabrício beat Cardio Cain, it sent shockwaves throughout the Heavyweight Division, although he's dropped two of his last three fights against Alistair Overeem and losing the title to Stipe Miocic. He's still a title contender, and with a win against the Black Beast, he could be looking at another fight with Stipe. Although, Derrick Lewis hasn't been known for his Jiu-Jitsu, when he takes someone down, he uses his body weight to hold them and basically uses his athletism and strength to move and manipulate his ground and pound. With, Werdum's black belt in Jiu-Jutsu, he's not going to have a hard time to work off his back, but he will have some issues with the black beast's weight to move around. 

Verdict: (6) Derrick Lewis: 2nd Round TKO 

 

Paige Van Zant vs. Jessica Eye (CANCELLED)

With, The Ultimate Fighter 25 now crowning the new Women's Flyweight Title, the UFC has now started to introduce new divisions that I believe will dissolve within 2-3 years in time. Both fighters are in must-win situations with this new Flyweight Division. Jessica Eye has one win in the UFC, out of her seven fights she's competed in. The only thing I can think of is that she has faced better competition than herself and has been outclassed in every way. Her grappling is very good, and she showcased it during a grappling match with Meisha Tate. I believe this will be good fight standing up, but for the most part, will be nothing but grappling, Jessica will be looking for the clinch and use her wrestling to her advantage. Paige has come out about her weight cutting issues in the Strawweight Division. She has blossomed into a better fighter than she first started in the UFC. Her striking has been her biggest improvement in the last two years since her first lost against Rose Namanjunes. Although most people do see her for her looks than anything else, she's a real dark horse for this division and could rival any competitor in the Flyweight Division. 

Verdict: Paige Van Zant: Unanimous Decision 

 

(12) Beneil Dariush vs (13) Evan Dunham 

This has Fight of the night written for me, this a great fight to see where Dariush's striking has improved or not. I remember I was at Beneil's first UFC fight in Duluth, Georgia and the first punch he threw against Charlie Brennenman echoed, through the arena. His grappling has been very good, although it is easy to telegraph his takedown when he does have a hold of you it's hard to get him off of you. On the other hand, Evan Dunham isn't an easy fight for anyone. I have to say, his striking is really underrated and always draws you into a bloodbath with his elbow strikes and cardio. Dunham is on a four-fight win streak, will hope to keep that alive against Dariush. Beneil recently lost to a vicious knee by Edson Barbosa, if he can weather the storm from Dunham's clinch work and elbows. I think he can out grapple and submit Dunham.

Verdict: (13) Evan Dunham: Unanimous Decision. 

 

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):

- Alexander Volkov continued his winning ways at UFC Fight Night 115 when he went into enemy territory and defeated Stefan Struve via RD3 TKO.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xswNXh

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xswNXh

(Overall Changes: Dos Santos(previously #5) exits, Volkov enters

UFC Changes: Dos Santos(previously #5) exits, Oliynyk enters

1.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Werdum vs Lewis at UFC 216

Oliynyk vs Blaydes at UFC 217

(C)Ivanov vs Caio Alencar at PFL: Washington D.C.

Overeem vs Ngannou at UFC 218

Hunt vs Tybura at UFC Fight Night 121

 

 

Light Heavyweight(205 lbs):

- It happened again. Jon Jones failed yet another drug test this time for the PED turinabol. His recent title reclaiming victory over Daniel Cormier has since been overturned to a no contest and a suspension of at least four years is expected to be initiated upon Jones.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2y51na8

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2y51na8

Overall & UFC Changes: Jones(prev. #1) exits

Overall Changes: Krylov enters

UFC Changes: Latifi enters

2.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Davis vs Leo Leite at Bellator 186

(C)Bader vs Linton Vassell at Bellator 186

Anderson vs Patrick Cummins at UFC 217

Teixeira vs Cirkunov at UFC on Fox 26

 

 

Middleweight(185 lbs):

- The former UFC & Strikeforce champion, Luke Rockhold finally made his return to the octagon this September & did so in an entertaining fashion as he defeated former WSOF Middleweight & Light Heavyweight champion, David Branch via RD2 Submission.

IMG Source: http://dailym.ai/2wPZpu1

IMG Source: http://dailym.ai/2wPZpu1

Overall Changes: Jotko(prev. #10) exits, Carvalho enter

UFC Changes: Jotko(prev. #8 exits), Gastelum enters

3.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Leites vs Brad Tavares(NR) at UFC 216

Mousasi vs Alexander Shlemenko at Bellator 185

Brunson vs Lyoto Machida(NR) at UFC Fight Night 119

Silva vs Gastelum at UFC Fight Night 122

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

 

 

Welterweight(170 lbs):

- Former Lightweight champion, Rafael Dos Anjos has made his presence felt at 170 lbs. He easily dispatched Neil Magny at UFC 215 via RD1 Submission.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xxoeIq

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xxoeIq

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

UFC Changes: Covington(prev. #10) exits, Dos Anjos enters, Usman(prev. #9)

4.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Cerrone vs Darren Till(NR) at UFC Fight Night 118

Thompson vs Masvidal at UFC 217

(C)Lima vs MacDonald at TBD

(C)Askren vs Shinya Aoki at ONE Championship: Immortal

 

 

Lightweight(155 lbs):

- The Lightweight division will finally get back to moving forward at UFC 216 when Tony Ferguson & Kevin Lee clash with an interim title on the line.

IMG Source: http://dailym.ai/2fuZQCO

IMG Source: http://dailym.ai/2fuZQCO

Changes: None

5.PNG

Upcoming fights:

(IC) - Ferguson vs Lee at UFC 216

Trinaldo vs Jim Miller(NR) at UFC Fight Night 119

Poirier vs Anthony Pettis(UFCO #13) at UFC Fight Night 120

Alvarez vs Gaethje at TBD

 

 

Featherweight(145 lbs):

- It was recently announced that a Featherweight championship rematch between Patricio Pitbull and Daniel Weichel will go down at Bellator 188. Pitbull came back to win in the first encounter with a RD2 KO victory.

http://bit.ly/2xEz5So

http://bit.ly/2xEz5So

Changes: None

6.PNG

Upcoming fights:

(C)Pitbull vs Daniel Weichel at Bellator 188

 

 

Bantamweight(135 lbs):

- Rescheduled for one of the biggest cards of the year & one of the greatest matchups in recent memory, Cody Garbrandt vs TJ Dillashaw will co-main event in Madison Square Garden at UFC 217 on November 4.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2yG7I8T

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2yG7I8T

Changes: None

7.PNG

Upcoming fights:

(C)Garbrandt vs Dillashaw at UFC 217

Lineker vs Marlon Vera(NR) at UFC Fight Night 119

Moraes vs Dodson at UFC Fight 120

Assuncao vs Matt Lopez(UFCO #14) at UFC Fight Night 120

Cruz vs Rivera at UFC 219

(C)Dantas vs Darrion Caldwell at Bellator 184

 

 

Flyweight(125lbs):

- Henry Cejudo put on the greatest performance of his career at UFC 215 when he dominated recent title challenger, Wilson Reis on route to a RD2 KO victory.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xECOzm

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xECOzm

Overall & UFC Changes: Reis(prev. #5)

8.PNG

Upcoming fights:

(C)Johnson vs Borg at UFC 216

Elliott vs Justin Scoggins(NR) at UFC on Fox 26

 

 

Women's Featherweight:

- Champion, Cris Cyborg continues to campaign for a title defense against former Bantamweight champion, Holly Holm at UFC 219. Meanwhile, Megan Anderson waits in the wings hoping to be cleared & ready to come back around the end of the year if not then, then the beginning of 2018. What will happen next at 145?

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2yGRUDd

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2yGRUDd

Overall Changes: Tweet(prev. #5) exits, Blencowe enters

9.PNG

Upcoming fights:

None

 

 

Women's Bantamweight:

- Ketlen Vieira scored a huge upset at UFC 215 over division staple, Sara McMann with a RD2 Submission & proved that she is a potential threat to the title.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xEOGkV

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2xEOGkV

Overall Changes: Yana(prev. #10)

Overall & UFC Changes: Rousey(prev. #6) exits, Vieira enters

10.PNG

Upcoming fights:

None

 

 

Strawweight(115lbs):

- Jessica Andrade did what no one else has been able to do so far in the Strawweight division & that being dominating perennial #2, Claudia Gadelha from bell to bell on route to a unanimous decision victory at UFC Fight Night 117.

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wTzHoy

IMG Source: http://bit.ly/2wTzHoy

Overall Changes: Souza & Herrig swap

Overall & UFC Changes: Gadelha & Andrade swap

11.PNG

Upcoming fights:

Kowalkiewicz vs Jodie Esquibel(NR) at UFC Fight Night 119

Hill vs Nina Ansaroff(NR) at UFC Fight Night 120

(C)Jedrzejczyk vs Namajunas at UFC 217

Herrig vs Casey at UFC 218

Esparza vs Calvillo at UFC 219

 

 

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

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!

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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!