UFC 189 Co-Main Event & Undercard Preview

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Given the relentless hype for the main event, it’s been easy to forget that there is actually an undercard to UFC 189 on Saturday but that undercard would probably be amongst the best PPV cards of the year even if both Conor McGregor and Chad Mendes suddenly got injured.

The co-main event itself is a fight worthy of headlining any MMA card as Robbie Lawler (25-10, 1NC) looks to make the first defence of his UFC Welterweight title against Rory MacDonald (18-2).

Robbie Lawler’s career would make an excellent movie trilogy, all the way from the youthful prodigy through his journeyman years in the wilderness to his triumphant UFC return and title victory.

6-1 since returning to the UFC and dropping back down to Welterweight, Lawler seems to have reached a point in his career where natural talents, coaching, experience and a maturity have moulded him into a complete martial artist where his always dangerous striking is fully in accord with his grappling game, cardio and mentality.

By contrast, Rory MacDonald has seemed like the heir apparent to the welterweight throne for years. A protégé of former champion Georges St-Pierre, it seemed that MacDonald was always the new big thing at 170lbs even as losses to elite fighters Carlos Condit (losing to a late KO after dominating the fight for three rounds) and Lawler (via split decision) checked his progress towards the seemingly inevitable title shot.

Nonetheless, MacDonald rebounded from both losses by becoming a more dangerous, more complete martial artists and in the five years since first tasting defeat in that fight against Condit.

Now, one of the sports most beloved and skilled veterans faces off with one of the preeminent examples of a modern, well rounded, cerebral and above all, professional MMA fighter with the belt on the line. What more could you ask for?

Well, a promoter would ask for one of them to be a bit mouthier and turn a credible sporting contest into a bit more of a media sensation, but a certain Irishman seems to have pegged the market in that field. In any case, for true fans of mixed martial arts as a sport, this is as credible a title matchwith as compelling a sporting narrative as any you are likely to find.

The main card is filled out with a few excellent fights, all of which could be expected to headline a Fight Pass card in their own right. Firstly, a featherweight contest between two guys who are no stranger to ‘of the night’ bonuses and had been on the outer edge of title contention before some recent losses in the shape of Dennis Bermudez (14-4) and Jeremy Stephens (23-11). A win for either man really places them back in the mix.

Next we have two rising welterweight prospects who met defeat in their last bout against experienced opposition as the exciting Brandon Thatch (11-2) meets smooth Icelander, Gunnar Nelson (13-1-1) looking to recover from losses to Benson Henderson and Rick Story respectively. Both are highly regarded by UFC brass, the media and the fans so the winner here could find themselves a win or two from a title shot.

Opening the main card, Brad Pickett (24-10) returns to 135lbs following a disappointing 1-3 run at Flyweight and is rewarded with the dubious honour of facing undefeated prospect Thomas Almeida (18-0). Pickett would be the biggest scalp of Almedia’s career to date, while a win over the impressive youngster would immediately rehabilitate Pickett to his former spot in the top ten of the bantamweight rankings.

The preliminary card also has it’s share of great fights as ‘Immortal’ Matt Brown (19-13) faces the surging Tim Means (24-6-1) and with a hefty 28 knockout wins between them I don’t think anyone is expecting a dull fight…

We’ve also got former Cage Warriors champion Cathal Pendred (17-2-1) looking to impress after a lukewarm start to his UFC career when he faces the ever-game veteran John Howard (22-11) and Neil Seery (15-10)continues his UFC fairytale against Louis Smolka (8-1) knowing that a win would likely place him in title contention given the shallow waters in the flyweight division.

For once this is a card which actually seems worth staying up late for so let’s hope it lives up to the hype.

UFC 189 Main Event Preview: Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes

UFC 189 Main Event Preview: Conor McGregor vs. Chad Mendes

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Subtitle:  A Hell of a Plan B

Like most MMA fans, I was eagerly awaiting the scheduled collision between Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor, with the extended promotional campaigning combining with the excitement at the meeting of one of the greatest mixed martial artists of our time and the fastest rising star in the sport.

Then Aldo got injured and the UFC had to look for a replacement. My immediate preference would have been for Frankie Edgar to get the call, firstly as he’s one of the biggest stars in the lighter weight classes.   Secondly as he has only lost to Aldo once and has put a top notch 5-0 streak together since, he makes a more compelling potential interim champion than the eventually chosen Chad Mendes who has twice lost to the champion, with the most recent encounter coming less than a year ago.

Howevr, the more I think about it, the more I’m liking the McGregor-Mendes matchup.

Conor ‘Notorious’ McGregor (17-2, 5-0 UFC) was celebrated in Europe before ever being called up to the UFC, winning the Cage Warriors championships at both Featherweight and Lightweight to earn his call up.

Since coming to the UFC, his exciting style and personality have catapulted him up the rankings with a 5-0 UFC streak including four TKO finishes and with the one decision victory came with McGregor injured and against a fighter who has since gone 6-0 to stand close behind the Irishman in the rankings – Max Holloway. That’s a fight I’d like to see again…

McGregor’s fighting style is based around movement and angles, using a wide variety of kicks and punches to disorient his opponent before finding an opening and swarming in to earn the TKO. McGregor also displayed high level grappling skills in his bout with Holloway and in his CWFC tenure showed a Donald Cerrone like ability to translate striking dominance into a submission victory.

On the other hand, McGregor is unproven against a top level wrestler, with the likes of Darren Elkins, Tatsuya Kawajiri and Clay Guida all bypassed en route to title contention. McGregor is also willing to take a punch in pursuit of his opening and has been tagged and dropped several times in his UFC tenure (especially in his recent bout against Dennis Siver) even if he has quickly recovered and gone on to win.

Both of these potential flaws in McGregor’s arsenal are likely to be questioned by his opponent on Saturday.

Chad ‘Money’ Mendes (17-2, 8-2 UFC) started his MMA career with credentials as an All American wrestler and his initial 11-0 streak was characterized by decision victories where those wrestling skills earned the win, especially once swimming in the deeper waters of the WEC & UFC.

That led to his first challenge at Jose Aldo’s title which was lost via a highlight reel head kick knockout in the first round.

Undaunted, Mendes sought to improve his skills and the addition of Duane Ludwig as coach at Team Alpha Male had a profound affect on Mendes’ striking skills, with the power which had always informed his wrestling now turned towards knockouts and complemented by a wider variety of strikes and combinations.

The new, improved Mendes went on a 5-0 streak including four knockouts – most impressively against the tough-as-nails duo of Darren Elkins and Clay Guida – to earn a second title shot.

That title shot saw him press Aldo more than any challenger before, losing out to a decision in what proved to be the Fight of the Year for 2014 and while Mendes dropped to 0-2 against the champion and with a third title shot seeming contingent on Aldo losing the belt, he won a lot of fans in the process.

Bouncing straight back, Mendes rebounded by knocking out Ricardo Lamas – another grappler who had lost a decision to Aldo – in the first round. At that point, it was expected that Mendes would go back into the mix at featherweight, looking to face top ten fighters such as Frankie Edgar, Max Holloway or Charles Oliveira while the Aldo-McGregor showpiece went ahead as planned.

However, the injury bug and UFC brass had other plans and Mendes now finds himself close to championship gold faster than he could possibly have hoped as the decision was read out in Aldo’s favour last October.

Mendes’ main strength is his wrestling which combines a wide array of takedowns with positional sense, strength and excellent level changing to make him capable of taking down or smothering any opponent. Over the past few years this has been augmented with a dangerous striking game, with high level boxing augmented by tactical use of leg kicks and tuned to take advantage of his natural wrestling talents.

Mendes now uses the level change that was once all about the takedown to close distance for striking and force his opponent to drop their guard and if he secures the takedown his ground & pound is more effective than ever.

On the face of things, we have a striker vs. grappler matchup here, but both men possess well rounded mixed martial arts games so it’s not simply a case of McGregor getting a TKO win or decision if he keeps the fight standing or Mendes getting the win if he can get McGregor down.

I would not be surprised to see Mendes score a TKO victory or (less likely) McGregor submitting Mendes from the bottom, or even a tightly contested five round split decision…

The stakes here are huge. A win for McGregor could finally elevate the Featherweight division to the box office realms enjoyed by heavier weight classes and justify the UFC’s investment in him, while also silencing the critics who doubt his top class credentials.

A win for Mendes would be a vindication of all McGregor’s naysayers and a personal triumph for the Team Alpha Male fighter, booking a third bout with Aldo with more momentum and star power in his corner than ever before.

However it pans out and despite the late change of opponent, this is THE big fight of the summer and I can’t wait.

Cage Warriors 68: Wallhead vs. Roberts Preview

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Saturday 3rd May
Echo Area, Liverpool

Simply put, this is most likely going to be the best & biggest single UKMMA card of the year (discounting CWFC’s teased Super Saturday dual card…)

That’s not hyperbole, just look at the fights!

The headliner sees CWFC veteran ‘Judo’ Jim Wallhead (25-8) return after a spell alternating between Bellator and BAMMA and is indisputably one of England’s top welterweights not contracted to the UFC, while across the cage we have in-form hometown boy Danny ‘Hot Chocolate’ Roberts (10-1) who is riding a four fight win streak.

Both men are in clear contention for the Welterweight belt now held by Nicolas Dalby and should provide a heated and competitive climax to the evening’s fights.

Experience is clearly on Wallhead’s side, but Roberts has the greater momentum and such advantage as comes from fighting with the crowd in your corner.

With both fighters being finishers (72% for Wallhead, 80% for Roberts) capable of ending a fight on the feet and each in possession of some excellent grappling skills this is sure to be a great fight to watch.

Backing up that main event we have exciting and accomplished English fighters Ronnie Mann (23-6-1) and Matt Inman (13-5) facing international opposition in Marcelo Costa (8-2-1) and Mauro Chimento Jr (15-10) respectively.

Not enough? OK, how about a middleweight contest between ex-UFC fighter Che Mills (15-7) and the popular Leeroy Barnes (12-13, 1NC) both looking to break losing streaks?

The undercard also features Dinky Ninja’s John Cullen (17-8-2) and Dean Reilly*(6-5) so we’ve got more than a little local interest in the event as well.

*Sadly Dean’s match was cancelled due to his opponent pulling out due to injury. 😦

It’s a cracking card and we can’t wait for Saturday.

Viewing Details:

LIVE STREAMING

MMAjunkie.com | USA and Canada only
http://www.IrishMMA.tv | Ireland only
Viaplay | Scandinavia only
CageWarriors.tv | Rest of the world

LIVE TV

Premier Sports | United Kingdom
Setanta Sports 1 | Ireland
TV 10 | Sweden
Fight Now TV | USA
The Fight Network | Canada, Portugal, Belgium, Turkey, Middle East
Fight Klub | Poland
Setanta Action | Africa
ESPN | Caribbean, Latin America, Pacific Rim

MAIN CARD | 9pm BST local time (4pm ET, 1pm PT)

Danny Roberts vs. Jimmy Wallhead
Marcelo Costa vs. Ronnie Mann
Mauro Chimento vs. Matt Inman
Steve Dinsdale vs. Matt Hallam
Leeroy Barnes vs. Che Mills
John Cullen vs. Dean Garnett

FACEBOOK PRELIMS | 7.50pm BST local time (2.50pm ET/11.50am PT)

Conrad Hayes vs. Paddy Pimblett
Dez Parker vs. Charlie Watts
Ant Phillips vs. Adam Ventre

UNAIRED PRELIM | 7.30pm BST local time

Ellis Hampson vs. Azi Thomas

UFC on FOX 11: Werdum vs. Browne Preview

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Sat, 19 Apr 2014 – Anway Center – Orlando, Florida

The UFC are billing the eleventh edition of UFC on FOX as the most exciting card yet aired in the network and that hyperbole could well be proven true on fight night.

Headlining the card, we have a heavyweight title eliminator between Travis Browne (16-1-1) and Fabricio Werdum (17-5-1) to decide a fresh challenger for Cain Velasquez (who’s last five fights have been against the same two fighters.)

Werdum had been a fixture near the top of the heavyweight rankings for over a decade and all of his losses have come to elite fighters who were at the peak of their powers at the time. Now riding a perfect 3-0 streak since his return to the UFC he has added an accomplished Muay Thai game to his always dangerous jiujitsu and is a clear and present threat to anyone in the division.

Oh, and he’s the guy who gave Fedor his first clean defeat. That was kind of a big deal.

Across the cage, Browne has been steadily climbing the ladder in the UFC, overcoming some huge names and galling setbacks (such as his only loss which was more down to a freak leg injury than Antonio Silva beating him up) and coming off three first round knockouts over super-tough veterans, he couldn’t have better momentum.

Browne has youth, reach and an edge in the striking game on his side, while Werdum has experience and a superior ground game in his corner.

However it works out, it should be a top notch bout between two supremely talented fighters.

The co-main event sees former title contenders Miesha Tate (13-5) and Liz Carmouche (9-4) face off with both looking to reinsert themselves into the title picture.

Tate is just coming off her second defeat to Ronda Rousey but the vehemence of their rivalry and her (perplexing, to me at least) popularity means she’ll always be just a win or two from another shot.

Carmouche has gone 1-1 since her loss to Rousey, handily defeating Jessica Andrade before dropping a tight decision to Alexis Davis back in November.

Both women are well rounded with good wrestling, submission and striking skills and while Tate will be the favourite, Carmouche is not to be discounted.

The rest of the main card looks plenty fun as entertaining strikers Edson Barboza and Donald Cerrone look set to engage in a gunfight while accomplished wrestler/boxers Yoel Romero and Brad Tavares meet with the top ten of the middleweight division in wait for the winner.

Even the undercard is stacked, with Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov both bringing significant win streaks into their match, this is a clear indication of the preliminary headliner being a bigger match than half the main card bouts.  The winner could well be in line for a title shot, or an eliminator bout at least.

We’ve also got the long awaited return of Thiago Alves facing Seth Baczynski alongside veterans Pat Healy and Jorge Masvidal facing off.

It’s a great card. We’ll be staying up to watch (you don’t need to get up early on Easter Sunday, do you?) and we’d advise you to do the same.

MAIN – BT Sport – midnight GMT
• Travis Browne vs. Fabricio Werdum
• Liz Carmouche vs. Miesha Tate
• Edson Barboza vs. Donald Cerrone
• Yoel Romero vs. Brad Tavares

PRELIMINARY – BT Sport – 10pm GMT
• Rafael dos Anjos vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
• Thiago Alves vs. Seth Baczynski
• Pat Healy vs. Jorge Masvidal
• Estevan Payan vs. Alex White
• Caio Magalhaes vs. Luke Zachrich
• Jordan Mein vs. Hernani Perpetuo

PRELIMINARY – UFC Fight Pass, 8:30pm GMT
• Ray Borg vs. Dustin Ortiz
• Mirsad Bektic vs. Chas Skelly
• Derrick Lewis vs. Jack May

Cage Warriors Fight Night 11 Preview

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April 18, 2014 | King Hussein Youth City Boxing Arena | Amman, Jordan

Didn’t we do this just a few weeks ago? I’m not complying, I love the CWFC events from the Middle East…

Despite sadly losing the original main event of Phil Harris vs. Kurban Gadzhiev to injury, this is a tidy card which promises some awesome action.

Stepping up to headline the card, Cage Warriors mainstay Jack ‘the Stone’ Mason (26-13) looks to put his March loss to Ben Alloway behind him and recover some of the form that saw him go 9-2 between March 2012-14.

In the way stands France’s Patrick Vallee (10-5-1) who has tangled with some of the best and has amassed an impressive collection of submission victories along the way.

It’s an interesting clash of styles, with Mason’s offensive ground & pound and Vallee’s canny eye for a submission implying we are in for a competitive and explosive encounter.

The other match that jumps out to me sees Norway’s Jack Hermansson (6-2) make a quick return following his entertaining win over Enoc Solves Torres in March to face the heavy handed Ion Pascu (8-4).

With the pair boasting 10 knockout victories in a combined sixteen professional wins, my only advise would be…don’t blink.

Elsewhere we have a tasty bout between Marat Pekov and Brian Moore, Arnold Allen looking to continue his excellent form against Tobias Huber and a lot more.

As usual, it looks like well worth checking out to wind down from your work week.

Broadcast Details

Internet Streams
MMAjunkie.com | USA and Canada only
http://www.IrishMMA.tv | Ireland only
Viaplay | Scandinavia only
CageWarriors.tv | Rest of the world (excluding UK)

TV
Premier Sports | United Kingdom
Setanta Sports 1 | Ireland
TV 10 | Sweden
Viasat | Norway
The Fight Network | Canada, Portugal, Belgium, Turkey, Middle East
Fight Klub | Poland
Setanta Action | Africa
ESPN | Caribbean, Latin America, Pacific Rim

Main Card 9pm local time (7pm GMT, 2pm ET, 11am PT)

Jack Mason vs. Patrick Vallee
Brian Moore vs. Marat Pekov
Jack Hermansson vs. Ion Pascu
Tahar Hadbi vs. Mike Johnson
Arnold Allen vs. Tobias Huber
John Redmond vs. Craig White

Unaired Prelims
Steve Aimable vs. Waek Korked
Ihab Janeb vs. Michael Ravenscroft

UFC Bisping vs. Kennedy / TUF Nations Finale Preview

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April 16, 2014 | Colisee Pepsi | Quebec City, Quebec, Canada

Despite being for a lesser TUF series and being held midweek (which really sucks for those of us who are not in the Americas and are working on Thursday…) this card is damn fantastic, to the point where I’m going to break my rule of talking about one match other than the main event and have a wee chat about two of them.

Headlining the show are middleweight contenders Michael Bisping (24-5) and Tim Kennedy (17-4) who face off in what must count as neutral territory with Bisping being your archetypal ‘mouthy Brit’ in many Americans eyes, while Kennedy’s ‘Ranger Up’ persona is well established I guess that French-speaking Canada is as appropriate a venue as any.

Bisping is the perennial ‘one win away from a title shot’ guy, while Kennedy is riding a 3-0 streak that showcases his well rounded skills and his KO of Rafael Natal was exactly the kind of thing that boosts you closer to a title shot than a mundane win, so whoever gets their hand raised is right in line for a crack at the winner of Chris Weidman vs. Lyoto Machida for the Middleweight gold.

Both guys are well rounded, with quality striking and grappling skills, so in many ways this fight is a really tough one to predict. That said, Bisping has the clear edge in experience, both in terms of number of fights and the calibre of opponents he’s faced, which could prove decisive

Basically, this is a match worthy of co-main eventing a pay per view, which is pretty good going for a midweek TUF finale…

… which is just as well seeing as I don’t think many folks paid much, if any attention to TUF Nations at least outside of Canada & Australia. I know I didn’t.

With that in mind, I’ve got pretty much nothing to say about the tourney finals or even the coaches bout except that Patrick Cote & Kyle Noke are both fun fighters and should produce an entertaining matchup.

Much more interesting to me are some of the supporting fights, with Akira Corassani (12-3) getting his biggest matchup to date against perennial contender & top ten fixture Dustin Poirer (15-3).

Corassani is undefeated in the UFC with wins over Andy Ogle, Robbie Peralta and Maximo Blanco, while Poirer is currently on a 2-0 streak with wins over former #1 contender Erik Koch and TUF winner Diego Brandao.

Both fighters are well rounded and experienced and a bump in terms of rankings, paydays and quality of opponents is the prize for both of them. This should be a cracking fight.

The last fight I really want to concentrate on features Canada’s Sarah Kaufman (16-2, 1NC) taking on late replacement Leslie Smith (6-4-1).

Kaufman remains one of the top bantamweights in the world, despite her (overturned) decision loss to Jessica Eye and fast loss to Ronda Rousey. Across the cage, Smith’s record does not reflect her skills and entertainment value and with an eye to redress a prior loss to Kaufman

This is sure to be a competitive, action packed fight between two ladies who deserve more acclaim than they have received.

Throw in some potentially very fun matches between Sam Stout and KJ Noons as well as George Roop and Dustin Kimura and this is one of the most solid and overlooked cards the UFC has put together in a while.

The only question that remains is ‘dare I risk falling asleep at work on Thursday to stay up and watch the fights?’

I just might.

Main CARD – BT Sport 12 midnight
Michael Bisping vs. Tim Kennedy
Patrick Cote vs. Kyle Noke
Elias Theodorou vs. Sheldon Westcott – “TUF Nations” middleweight final
Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Chad Laprise – “TUF Nations” welterweight final
Akira Corassani vs. Dustin Poirier

Preliminary CARD – BT Sport 10 p.m.
K.J. Noons vs. Sam Stout
Sarah Kaufman vs. Leslie Smith
Ryan Jimmo vs. Sean O’Connell
Dustin Kimura vs. George Roop

Preliminary CARD – UFC Fight Pass, 8:15 p.m.
Mark Bocek vs. Mike De La Torre
Vik Grujic vs. Nordine Taleb
Chris Indich vs. Richard Walsh
Mitch Gagnon vs. Tim Gorman

Cage Warriors 67: Johns vs. Brum Preview

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Sat, 12 Apr 2014
Swansea, Wales
The LC Arena

In the middle of an ambitious run, Cage Warriors return to British soil tomorrow with a solid card topped by an insanely compelling main event.

That headline match sees hometown boy Brett ‘the Pikey’ Johns (9-0) make the first defence of his Bantamweight title against James ‘Job Done’ Brum (14-2).

Johns won the title back in September, defeating David Haggstrom and plucky alternate Jordan Deesborough in the final to lift the belt after the winner if the other semi final, James Pennington was injured.

Undefeated, well rounded, with cardio to burn and still only 22 years old, the possibilities for Johns career at this point are infinite.

However, this first defence comes against one of the most consistent, entertaining and dominant Bantamweights in the world.

In the 2 1/2 years since his decision loss to Erik Perez (who’s gone 5-1 since, with four UFC victories to his name), Brum has amassed an eight fight win streak including victories over Martin McDonough, James Saville and Olivier Pastor and was Cage Warriors’ fighter of the year for 2012.

Long considered the uncrowned champion by many, Brum now faces the younger belt holder to see who really belongs on top of the mountain. It’s gonna be epic.

My plus one pick has to be the flyweight encounter between Martin ‘Mr Pink’ McDonough (11-4) and Shaj Haque (4-1).

McDonough drops from bantamweight on the back of a five fight streak of submission victories and only missed out on a place in the tournament that crowned Johns as champion through injury.

Haque, despite his relative inexperience is one of the best flyweights in Europe, ranked #7 by us and #14 by FightMatrix and given that he has always gone the distance in his fights, while McDonough has only won by stoppage means something has to give.

With Neil Seery off to the UFC and the likes of Phil Harris and Marcin Lasota appearing in Cage Warriors, both fighters will be looking to impress and put down a marker for the vacant title.

With bouts of such significance at the top of the bill and an undercard full of interesting bouts, this event should continue Cage Warriors awesome run. Get it watched.

MAIN CARD | 9pm local time BST (4pm ET/1pm PT)

Brett Johns (c) vs. James Brum – CWFC bantamweight title bout
Sean Carter vs. Mario Saeed
Shaj Haque vs. Martin McDonough
Jamie Pritchard vs. Phil Raeburn
Gemma Hewitt vs. Agnieszka Niedzwiedz
Simas Norkus vs. Stu Tyrie

UNAIRED PRELIM | 7.30pm local time BST

Mark Handley vs. Paul Rogers

BROADCAST DETAILS

LIVE STREAMING

MMAjunkie.com | USA and Canada only
http://www.IrishMMA.tv | Ireland only
Viaplay | Scandinavia only
CageWarriors.tv | Rest of the world

LIVE TV

Fight Now TV | USA, Carribbean
The Fight Network | Canada, Middle East
TV 10 | Sweden
Viasat | Norway
Fight Klub | Poland
Setanta Action | Africa
ESPN International | Latin America, Pacific Rim