RFA 12 Highlights Video

Last night saw the ever excellent Resurrection Fighting Alliance put on their first card of 2014 and it was an absolute cracker, as seen by these highlights from the AXS TV broadcast.

RFA is always worth keeping an eye on for the next generation of top talent, and on this showing we’ll be seeing the likes of Keoni Koch and Pedro Munhoz in the UFC sooner rather than later.

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KUMITE European MMA Rankings, January 2014

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The first few weeks of the year are usually quite quiet so we’ve not had too much movement with the most significant event easily being Cage Warriors year-end show with some moves occurring on more regional shows and the Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye end of year show.  So for the most part, these are the rankings as would have been if I’d done them in the first week of January after all the Hogmanay shows.  Ho-hum, let’s see where we stand as it all starts moving again…

Let’s get into it…

Heavyweight

1- Vitaly Minakov (Russia) 13-0, Bellator
2- Andrei Arlovski (Belarus) 21-10, WSOF
3- Stefan Struve (Netherlands) 25-6, UFC
4- Cheick Kongo (France) 20-8-2, Bellator
5- Alistair Overeem (netherlands) 36-13
6- Damian Grabowski (Poland) 19-1, IND
7- Alexander Volkov (Russia) 19-4, Bellator
8- Sergei Kharitonov (Russia) 21-6, IND
9- Alexey Oleinik (Ukraine) 53-9-1, IND
10- Magomed Malikov (Russia) 7-2, M-1

No movement due to inaction, but Phil DeFries and Konstantin Erokhin both moved closer to the top ten with late December wins over Brett Rogers and Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou respectively.

Light Heavyweight

1- Alexander Gustafsson (Sweden) 15-2, UFC
2- Jimi Manuwa (England) 14-0, UFC
3- Attila Vegh (Slovakia) 29-4-2, Bellator
4- Mikhail Zayats (Russia) 22-7, Bellator
5- Gegard Mousasi (Armenia) 34-3-2, UFC (*returning to Middleweight in February)
6- Jan Blachowicz (Poland) 17-3, KSW
7- Victor Nemkov (Russia) 19-4, M-1
8- Linton Vassell (England) 12-3, Bellator
9- Jason Jones (Netherlands) 20-10, BAMMA
10- Cyrille Diabate (France) 19-9, UFC

No movement due to inaction, although February and March already have five of our ranked fighters booked to compete in UFC events.

Middleweight

1- Michael Bisping (England) 24-5, UFC
2- Mamed Khalidov (Poland) 28-4-2, KSW
3- Frances Carmont (France) 22-7, UFC
4- Alexander Shlemenko (Russia) 49-7 IND
5 – Luke Barnatt (England) 7-0 UFC
6 – Vyacheslav Vasilevsky (Russia) 23-2 M-1
7 – Michal Materla (Poland) 19-4 KSW
8 – Tom Watson (England) 16-6 UFC
9 – Ramazan Emeev (Azerbaijan) 11-2 M-1
10 – Faycal Hucin (France) 10-3 Cage Warriors NR

Several ranked fighters set to compete in February & March, while Andrey Koreshokov is removed due to his entry in the upcoming Bellator Welterweight tournament, proving his middleweight tenure was a one-off. He is replaced by Faycal Hucin.

Welterweight

1- Tarec Saffiedine (Belgium) 15-3, UFC def. Huyn Gyu Lim 1/4
2- Martin Kampmann (Denmark) 20-7, UFC
3- Gunnar Nelson (Iceland) 11-0-1, UFC
4- Cathal Pendred (Ireland) 13-2-1, Cage Warriors
5- Adlan Amagov (Russia) 13-2-1, UFC
6- Gael Grimaud (France) 19-6, Cage Warriors
7- Nicolas Dalby (Denmark) 11-0 Cage Warriors
8 – Paul Daley (England) 34-12-2 BAMMA
9 – Jim Wallhead (England) 25-8, BAMMA
10 – Aslambek Saidov (Poland) 15-3 KSW

Win for John Maguire at Cage Warriors on 12/31 moves him back towards to rankings contention following his losing streak and UFC release.

Lightweight

1- Khabib Nurmagomedov (Russia) 21-0, UFC
2- Rustam Khabilov (Russia) 17-1, UFC
3- Alexander Sarnavskiy (Russia) 26-2 Bellator def. Alexander Butenko 21/12
4- Ross Pearson (England) 15-6, UFC
5- Musa Khamanaev (Russia) 13-3, M-1
6- Norman Parke (Norther Ireland) 19-2 UFC
7- Ivan Buchinger (slovakia) 25-4 Cage Warriors (c) def. Steven Ray 12/21 UP 2
8- Piotr Hallmann (Poland) 14-2 UFC UP 1
9- Mansour Barnaoui (France) 11-2 BAMMA UP 1
10- Ramazan Esenbaev (Russia) 6-1 IND NE def. Satoru Kitaoka at Inoki Bom-Ba-Ye on 31/12

Steven Ray drops out from #7 with his title loss to Buchinger, but given that he beat him up for three rounds only to fall into a submission, he’s a solid #11 and only held out of the rankings by Esenbaev’s win over Kitaoka in Japan.

Featherweight

1- Dennis Siver (Germany) 22-9, UFC – UP 2 def. Manny Gamburyan 28/12
2- Conor McGregor (Ireland) 14-2, 10-1 UFC DOWN 1
3 – Tom Niinimaki (Finland) 21-5-1 UFC DOWN 1
4- Magomedrasul Khasbulaev (Russia) 21-5, Bellator
5- Shabulat Shamhalaev (Russia) 12-2-1, Bellator
6- Joni Salovaara (Finland) 14-7 IND
7- Sergei Greicho (Lithuania) 15-5-1 OC
8- Chris Fishgold (England) 10-0 Cage Warriors
9- Akira Corassani (Sweden) 12-3, UFC
10– Marat Gafurov (Ukraine) 8-0 IND NE

Dennis Siver’s win on the undercard of UFC boosts him back to the top spot at the expense of injured Conor McGregor and Tom Niinimaki. Graham Turner’s loss to Jim Alers drops him from the rankings, bumping everyone below him and allowing Marat Gafurov into the #10 slot.

Bantamweight

1- Brad Pickett (England) 23-8, UFC
2- Brett Johns (Wales) 8-0, Cage Warriors ©
3- James Brum (England) 14-2, Cage Warriors
4- Ronnie Mann (England) 23-6-1 Cage Warriors
5- Timo-Juhan Hirbokangas (Finland) 8-2 Cage FC
6- James Pennington (England) 9-1 Cage Warriors
7- Martin McDonough (Wales) 11-4, Cage Warriors
8- Sirwan Kakai (sweden) 9-2, IND
9- David Haggstrom (Sweden) 7-2-1 IND
10 Ruslan Abiltarov (Ukraine) 15-4-1 IND

No movement due to inactivity of ranked and near-to-ranked fighters.

Flyweight

1- Ali Bagautinov (Russia) 12-2 UFC
2- Neil Seery (Ireland) 13-9 Cage Warriors ©
3- Phil Harris (England) 22-11 UFC
4- Pietro Menga (England) 10-0 FCC ©
7- Paul Marin (Romania) 7-3, Cage Warriors
8- Shaj Haque (England) 4-1 Cage Warriors
5- Mikael Silander (Finaland) 8-3 IND
6- Paul McVeigh (Northern Ireland) 19-8 Cage Warriors
9- Chris Miah (England) 5-0 IND
10- Rany Saadeh (Germany) 5-1 BAMMA

No movement due to inactivity of ranked and nearly ranked fighters.

Women’s P4P

(Due to the less developed state of Women’s MMA we’re ranking our top ten female fighters from across the weight classes – we hope to expand this section in future.)

1- Joanne Calderwood (Scotland) 8-0 Invicta FC
2 – Marloes Coenen (Netherlands) 21-6 Invicta FC
3 – Katja Kankaanpaa (Finland) 8-1-1 Invicta FC
4- Rosi Sexton (England) 13-4 IND
5- Aisling Daly (Ireland) 12-5 Cage Warriors – UP 4 def. Karla Benitez 13/12
6- Milana Dudieva (Russia) 8-3 ProFC DOWN 1
7- Maria Hoegaard Djursa (Denmark) 5-4 IND DOWN 1
8- Shiela Gaff (Germany) 10-6-1 UFC DOWN 1
9- Pannie Kianzad (Sweden) 4-0 IND DOWN 1
10- Joanna Jedrzejczyk (Poland) 4-0 IND

European National Rankings
(Each ranked fighter scores points for their nation, with a no.1 ranking earning 10 points, down to a 10 ranking earning 1 point. This is just for fun.)

1 – Russia – 109 pts
2 – England – 105 pts
3= Finland – 31 pts
4= Ireland – 31 pts
5 – Poland – 28 pts
6 – Netherlands – 25 pts
7 – France – 24 pts
8 – Sweden – 19 pts
9 – Denmark – 17 pts
10 – Germany – 14 pts

 

5 Rounds – Bellator vs. WSOF

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Recently, WSOF threw down a challenge to bellator to see who was best in a cross-promotional PPV which has been completely ignored by the scared/superior (delete according to opinion) promotion.

Given that WSOF have increasingly become a promotion who’s cards I look forward to and Bellator have gone down in my estimation, I figured it would be interesting to see how they compare when viewed objectively.

So we can tally this up as if it were a championship match, I’ve split the criteria down into five handy categories – resources, roster, reach, credibility and x-factor.

Seconds out, round one…

1- Resources

While WSOF are clearly not short of cash, sponsors, committed and talented staff etc. it’s clear that they are nowhere near what Bellator can command given they can call on the resources of Viacom.

10-8 Bellator

2- Roster

With well over ten times as many events, five years of a head start, a more active schedule and a more established brand, you can hardly doubt the fact that Bellator have a deeper roster, boasting top ten talent in most divisions.

However – what WSOF have built in a year is impressive and their roster continues to improve, snapping up some of the choice ex-UFC talent some good free agents and building up some new talent of their own.

Throw in the fact that Bellator’s roster has been losing top players for a while, either by being poached, dropped via promotional madness or just plain getting pissed off with the company (Hector Lombard, Ben Askren, Cole Konrad, their entire women’s division) and this one isn’t as clear cut as it might once have been.

Bellator have the advantage in depth, but pit the cream of each promotion’s roster against one another and it’s a coin flip…

10-9 Bellator (20-17)

3- Reach

Bellator are on a major TV channel in the US and have some international distribution deals. WSOF are also on a major channel, if not quite as far ranging but crucially, they make their shows available online for free to fans from around the world which Bellator have never done (a week’s tape delay on a channel I usually do my best never to watch? Great job guys…)

10-9 WSOF (29-27, Bellator)

4- Credibility

Once upon a time, Bellator’s tournament model would have earned them a solid win here, but of late they have displayed contempt for the format, shortening the tournaments, repeatedly giving big stars as clear a route to a title shot as they can manage and handing out title shots to folks who haven’t won tournaments out of pure expedience and favouritism.

Across the cage, WSOF have rightly fielded accusations of being a ‘low impact’ promotion, subsisting on the fading allure of stars who washed out of bigger promotions.

While there is some truth to that, you have to look at how they’ve booked those stars. Jon Fitch got a tough match on his debut and lost, Andrei Arlovski and Anthony Johnson haven’t exactly been given squash matches (even if it’s sometimes ended up that way) and Jessica Aguilar was given the hardest match that WSOF could provide.

For me, credibility is more about doing what you say you’re going to…

WSOF give you ‘fun fights, building something new’ while Bellator have sold out on their boast ‘where title shots are earned, not given.’

WSOF 10-8 (37-37)

5- X-Factor

Both promotions interest and excite me. WSOF for the new talent, the almost guaranteed knockouts from journeyman fighters , the redemption stories being acted out by more than a few of their fighters and a sense of it being something different.

Bellator holds my interest for it’s conveyor belt of new talent, and the entertainment level of their established stars.

However this is tainted but the mismatched booking, the way the promotion has sold out it’s USP by demeaning the tournaments and seemingly has no faith in the fighters and format that brought them to the consensus #2 position.

10-10 Draw

Final Score

47-47 DRAW

So, in the final reckoning what should on the books have been an easy win for Bellator is a drawn contest, with WSOF’s freshness, openness and fun combining with the sense of Bellator being jaded, corrupt and increasingly uninteresting to pull the upstart promotion level.

In my eyes, that is practically a win for WSOF, and I reckon with a draw in a title match the only thing we can do is have a rematch, say at the end of the Summer?

Five Fighters To Watch in 2014

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January is always a time where MMA journalists, bloggers and forum trolls opine as to who they think will make waves in the upcoming year and we’re no different, so here’s our selections.

Amanda Kelly (1-0)

There’s already one female, Scottish kickboxing champion in the UFC but another could easily be on the fast track to follow.

Despite a limited MMA record, Amanda showed her quality with a first round knockout win on her pro debut and her striking credentials are second to none.

A leading contender for CWFC’s breakthrough fighter of the year and sure to be a big part of that promotion’s expanding women’s diviions, the sky is the limit.

Next fight – vs. Laura Howarth, CWFC 64, Feb 15th

Follow @AmandaKellyMT on Twitter.

Emil Weber Meek (5-1)

Recommended to us by our good friend Anneli, Meek had a stunning 2013, going 4-0 and all via TKO finishing up with a win over Per Franklin on Scandinavia’s biggest show, Superior Challenge in November.

With the UFC seemingly committed to regular visits to nearby Sweden, Cage Warriors also expanding into Scandinavia not to mention the fact that his native Norway finally seems to be moving towards legalising combat sports, the future seems bright for ‘Hulk’.

Meek was named as MMA Viking’s Prospect of the Year for 2013 and we’re only to happy to agree with them.

Connect with Emil on Facebook.

Mike ‘Biggie’ Rhodes (6-1)

Recently signed by the UFC as the reigning RFA Welterweight champion, Rhodes is following in the footsteps of a production line of exciting talent to take the same path.

A well rounded fighter training out of Roufusport, Rhodes has already shown an ability to win via knockout, submission or grinding out a five round decision.

Like the rest of the RFA graduates, I can’t see him freezing on the top stage and if any debutant looks capable of swimming in the UFC’s insanely deep Welterweight division, it’s him.

Next fight – vs. George Sullivan, UFC on FOX 10, January 25th

Tweet Mike @TeamRocBiggie

Mizuki Inoue (7-1)

19 years old with eight pro fights under her belt, a successful Invicta FC debut over a fighter who is now signed to the UFC and currently sitting on a 5-0 win streak, it seems Inoue is destined for stardom.

The fact that she is one of the few top ranked Straw-weights not hoovered up the UFC almost makes her prop sects more interesting.

Not destined for the Ultimate Fighter house, she could just as easily be competing for the now-vacant Invicta belt or being called over to World Series of Fights to face the likes of Jessica Aguilar or Ailda Gray in 2014. Interesting times.

Keep up with Mizuki’s fight announcements on Facebook.

Toni Tauru (7-1-1)

The pick of Cage Warrior’s latest batch of signings, submission specialist Tauru looks to extend his seven fight win streak on a bigger stage, entering a stacked division with the prospect of compelling bouts against the likes of David Haggstrom, James Pennington, James Brum and Ronnie Mann all very possible.

Give Toni a follow on Twitter.

Bellator at the Crossroads (or, the problem with tournaments)

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In the past few days, Bellator have been receiving a metric fucktonne (that’s slightly less than an imperial fuckton but more comparable to other measurements of internet bile, being exactly ten times later than a trollocaust) of criticism for their decision to award Pat Curran an immediate title rematch with Daniel Straus for the Featherweight title despite there being two tournament winners, Patricio Freire and Frodo Khasbulaev waiting for a shot.

 

This is even more rage inducing as a year ago, Curran narrowly beat Freire via split decision, leading to many calls for a rematch, but Bellator then stuck with the format, compelling Freire to re-enter the tournament. The Freire-Curran match was MUCH closer and more entertaining that Curran-Straus, yet Freire (never mind Khasbulaev & Straus) is the guy left feeling undervalued by the company.

 

I’ve seen quote a few respected MMA journalists opining that this criticism is an example of how the tournament format is holding Bellator back and they should dispense with the format if they intend to truly compete with the UFC.

 

To me, thats an insane notion.

 

Bellator attained #2 status on being markedly different from the UFC, scouting wider, growing their own stars and being slavishly devoted to the understandable, promotable concept that title shots are earned through tournaments, not just awarded willy nilly as in most promotions.

 

That is an idea which works brilliantly in sport, as shown with the major soccer tournaments, Wimbledon and even in contact sports with the enduring success of kickboxing tournaments (K-1, Glory) and the much beloved PRIDE FC grand prix events.

 

Of course, Bellator have had troubles with the format, with injuries delaying tournaments and scheduled title shots or a lack of tournaments compelling a champion to go years without defending their belt

 

Hector Lombard is a great example. He was the Bellator champion for 2 1/2 years between 2009 and 2011 and between his title win and leaving the company for the UFC he fought ten times, only five of them under the Bellator banner and only once in defence of his title.

 

Now, tournaments seem to have become an annoyance to Bellator’s brain trust, with them preferring to give relatively big names like Eddie Alvarez and Pat Curran rematches for the belt without the indignity and uncertainty of having to go through a tournament first.

 

I understand that. They want to compete with the UFC by keeping their most bankable stars in main event/title matches. Thats understandable, and it’s the M.O. of almost every promotion on the planet.

 

However, it sells out their unique selling point, effectively shits on the rest of their roster, devaluing their tournaments and effectively shooting themselves in the foot.

 

Bellator need to grow stars and they do that via the tournaments. Now, if a tournament win doesn’t lead to a title shot and there is nobody in the tournaments who is already considered a bit of a star, then what’s the point?

 

What made Pat Curran a star? Winning a tournament, losing a close fought title match and then winning another tournament to go and win the title. What made Alvarez a star? Winning a tournament and then defending his belt against tournament winners.

 

The same is true of Mike Chandler, Ben Askren, Hector Lombard – fighters who made their name via Bellator’s transparent and compelling platform.

 

The fact that Bellator have fighters who they built up via the tournaments who are now considered by the promotion to be exactly the guys they want in main events is a testament to the success of the format.

 

The problem with tournaments, isn’t that they restrict a promotion’s booking, that they can be delayed by injuries or that they can result in champions having nobody to defend their belt against or just as likely having a backlog of challengers…

 

…it’s that promotions so easily lose faith in them.

 

Fans understand injuries, they understand champion vs. tournament winner, they will wait for the RIGHT match and rail against a fighter cutting to the front of the queue, reeking as it does of murky back room deals, favouritism and hypocrisy.

 

Tournaments provide a narrative, a structure, a credibility that the usual (UFC-esque) model of MMA promotion just doesn’t have.

 

Bellator have spent over a year trying to get away from the model that brought them to the dance, shortening tournaments to two fights instead of three, placing big name fighters in situations where they are clearly intended to progress (Emanuele Newton is one of my heroes of 2013 for twice upsetting Bellator’s preferred story of Mo Lawal cruising to the gold), and offering big stars rematches for titles that weren’t earned through the tournament format.

 

Combine that with the reversal of their policy to not sign former name UFC stars as Tito Ortiz, Rampage Jackson and Cheick Kongo being signed in 2013 and their nonsensical decision to cut their women’s divisions just as WMMA starts drawing and it all seems a little reactionary, a little desperate…

 

There is a cautionary tale here – if there is a big dog in an entertainment industry, you don’t compete by imitating everything about them because you will inevitably come across as a cheap knock-off.

 

Look what happened to WCW when they started trying to win back the Monday Night Wars with increasingly car crash TV, trying to out-Attitude the WWF.

 

Yeah, that company doesn’t exist anymore, it’s name an a byword for failure, hubris and waste.

 

If I was Bellator, I would stick with the tournament format, but eliminate the problems of yesteryear by using their now greater TV footprint, budget and schedule.

 

Basically, if you have a champion in a division, you run a tournament in that division. If a champion leaves the company or is injured, the two backed-up tournament winners face off for the (interim) belt.

 

If there are no fit challengers, the champion should have to spend no more than one season on the shelf as a new challenger will and could easily face a former champion in a non-title main event ‘super fight.’ The key phrase there is NON TITLE.

 

This model allows Bellator to produce an ongoing stream of episodic television, building stars and eliminating any concept of a glass ceiling or favouritism.

 

Perhaps they could arrange their PPVs around their TV schedule, with mid-season and end-of-season pay per views, with the tournament finals, perhaps some title bouts (although these should be sprinkled through the free TV cards as well) and even some one-shot big stars, who are ‘above’ the tournaments but are worth the buck to add meat to the PPV card.

 

WWE have been doing exactly this with some success for over twenty years…

 

As things stand, by promoting fallen UFC stars over home grown talent, devaluing their tournaments gaining bad press via disputes with fighters, releasing dominant champions and playing fast and loose with their own stated booking conditions – not to mention running scared of World Series of Fighting’s challenge to a cross-promotional pay per view, Bellator are starting down the barrel of irrelevancy, apathy and a demise that could come faster and more completely than you might imagine.

 

I’d prefer not to see that. The MMA world is big enough for variety, for more big companies, indeed MMA NEEDS Bellator and it’s formerly distinct nature on the scene. they could so easily be the Yin to the UFC’s Yang and be a major, credible and well received player on the MMA scene for the foreseeable future.

 

They just need to take a step back, cut away the more parochial elements of their broadcast, go back to basics and promote events on the model they first came to the dance with, but taking advantage of their greater profile.

 

Then again, I’m not Bjorn Rebney or a Viacom executive, just an idealistic blogger watching on from afar…

 

Cage Warriors 2013 Awards – Get Your Votes In (For The Scots!)

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Voting is now open in the 2013 Cage Warriors Fighting Championship awards and we’d ask you all to vote, not only because CWFC is Europe’s #1 promotion but because stacks of Scots are on the list.

As a wholly impartial media source, we would in no way urge you to vote for Dean Reilly or Joanne Calderwood for best KO, for James Doolan as best coach, for Stevie Ray as Breakthrough Fighter of the year or for his part in the match of the year against Ivan Buchinger or the Dinky Ninjas as Best Team because that would be unprofessional.

In fairness, it’s a stunning field of contenders with plenty deserving winners.  If you’re not persuaded by our subtle push towards rabid pro-Scottish voting, you could do worse than vote Jim Alers for fighter of the year, Martin Buschkamp vs. Matteus Lahdesmaki as Fight of the Year and Brett Johns or Sean Carter as Breathrough Fighter of the Year.

Or actually, pretty much anything that is nominated because the nominees are wall to wall awesome, which is a testament to all involved in Cage Warriors and reinforces the promotion’s status as one of the world’s top promotions.

Make your votes known here and if you need a refresher, Cage Warriors have kindly posted all of 2013’s fights on their YouTube channel, so check them out and while you’re there, subscribe as well, just to make them feel appreciated.