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

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UFC on FOX 8 Predictions

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Lets see how utterly specious, Ill informed and just plain wrong our predictions are this week.

The card in question is UFC on FOX 8 where we are predicting the winners, style of victory and time of stoppage in all four main card matches and the undercard main event of Jorge Masvidal vs. Michael Chiesa.

Here’s how the predictions went…

Jorge Masvidal vs. Michael Chiesa

Iain – Masvidal via Split Decision
Chris – Chiesa via Sub Rd. 2
Ross – Chiesa via Sub Rd. 3

Liz Carmouche vs. Jessica Andrade

Iain – Carmouche via Sub Rd. 1
Chris – Andrade via Sub Rd. 2
Ross – Carmouche via TKO Rd. 2

Robbie Lawler vs. Bobby Voelker

Iain – Lawler via KO Rd.1
Chris – Voelker via Split Decision
Ross – Lawler via KO Rd. 2

Rory MacDonald vs. Jake Ellenberger

Iain – Ellenberger via KO Rd. 1
Chris – Ellenberger via KO Rd. 3
Ross – MacDonald via Split Decision

Demetrious Johnson (c) vs. John Moraga for Flyweight Title

Iain – Johnson via Unanimous Decision
Chris – Moraga via KO Rd. 3
Ross – Johnson via Unanimous Decision

After three events we’re stacked up like this…

1- Iain = 69 pts
2- Ross = 60 pts
3- Chris = 46 pts

…with five points for picking a winner, three pints for how they win and a bonus one point if you get the round of stoppage.

I (Chris) am falling behind, which has led me to my batch of contrary picks this week…

…wish me luck. Better yet, wish Ross luck ’cause its his birthday.

Live tweeting tonight will be covered by our Norwegian buddy Anneli who usually occupies @SubLevel28 on Twitter but will be rocking the @TeamKumite colours tonight, so check out her thoughts, for they are insightful and honest.

I cannot guarantee that pictures of debauchery, inebriation and worse will not be posted by Ross, myself or anyone who has our phones. You have been warned…

UFC on FOX 7: Henderson vs. Melendez Results & Reaction

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UFC on FOX 7: Henderson vs. Melendez
Sat, 20 Apr 2013
San Jose, California

This one felt really special coming in, with a stacked card and an inbuilt Strikeforce invasion storyline, we were all set for what could be one of the cards of the year.

It didn’t disappoint.

Yoel Romero set the tone for the evening with a flying knee knockout of Clifford Starks only 32 seconds into his UFC debut. That put the former Strikeforce fighters 1-0 for the evening and earned Romero a $50k bonus. It wouldn’t be the last knockout bonus of the night…

Former WEC fighter Anthony Njokuani can be relied upon for a striking masterclass but was pressed hard by another SF import, Roger Bowling. Bowling’s aggressive style probably earned him the first round, but Njokuani found his range in the second and Bowling pretty much ran straight into a short right hand than dropped him instantly. Stunning knockout, great performance from both men.

Bowling drops to a 0-2 streak but I’m sure we’ll see him again, given the gameness of his performance.

Incidentally, that’s Strikeforce imports at 1-1.

The FX prelims continued the theme of knockout victories, but this portion of the show could be called the Team Alpha Male KO party as TJ Dillashaw, Joseph Benavidez and Chad Mendes all scored TKO wins that placed them (back) in title contention in their respective divisions. I guess that Duane Ludwig is a pretty good striking coach, then?

We also saw the train that is Myles Jury continue it’s impressive run, advancing to 12-0 at the expense of Ramsey Nijem’s chin and another pair of Strikeforce imports split close decisions as Jorge Masvidal gutted out a win over Tim Means and Lorenz Larkin dropped an even closer call to Francis Carmont.

That’s 2-2 for the evening.

We move onto the main card with Matt Brown in the form of his life, facing a hype train in the shape of Jordan Mein (who despite actually being in his second UFC match, is still a recent Strikeforce import and will be counted as such for the purposes of my score.)

Wow. We have a fight of the year contender on our hands here. Both guys started up at a real pace, both landing good shots but Mein got the first real highlight, dropping Brown with body shots and swarming , looking for the TKO. Brown responded by luring Mein into a super tight Triangle choke that the youngster somehow escaped from and the round ended with both guys trading blows and busted open.

THAT is how you kick off a major broadcast.

The second round saw Brown take charge, landing some heavy knees and backing Mein against the fence. As Jordan started to crumble, Brown kept up the pressure with elbows to the back which drew the TKO.
Stunning performance for ‘the Immortal’ to go 5-0, really making him a contender at the sharp end of the 170lb division. We’ll see Mein again. He can only learn from experiences like this…

3-2 UFC.

Our next bout has a story all it’s own, as Josh Thomson‘s contentious trilogy with Gilbert Melendez could be seen as giving him something to prove against Cesar Gracie JJ, here represented by Nate Diaz who hasn’t ever been in a dull fight at Lightweight.

Diaz started in classic fashion, pressing the action while Thomson adopted a stick and move game, trying to score leg kicks off the back foot while not getting dragged into Diaz’ preferred scrappy brawl. As Diaz began to get frustrated, Thomson started standing his ground more, landing a few high kicks and having Nate walk into some hard straight lunches.

As Diaz tried to press him against the cage, Thomson landed a nice trip to end the round on top, 10-9 Thomson on my card.

Diaz was more aggressive in the second, but it cost him momentum as he landed a (rather deliberate looking) groin shot that gave Thomson a minute to recover. Thomson busted Nate open with elbows before Diaz got a takedown and tried to impose his submission game, but to no effect. Back on the feet, Thomson returned to the high kicks which had landed nicely in the first frame and was rewarded with a sweet shin to forehead contact that staggered Nate and Josh followed up with some punches that turned the lights out.

Following his contentious split decision loss to Melendez, this is a real vindication for Thomson and it makes him the first man to EVER stop Nate Diaz with strikes, an achievement that rightly won him a $50k bonus.

3-3.

The co-main event between Frank Mir and Daniel Cormier was plenty heated with the pair exchanging some real fighting talk in the run up. Mir looked in great shape, but Cormier’s confidence shine through.

Sadly the match didn’t really live up to expectations as a slobber knocker, as despite Mir showing an expanded range of kicking in the early exchanges, Cormier largely stuck to a gameplay of backing him against the cage, controlling him with wrestling and wearing him out with body shots.

Aside from a Cormier spinning kick at the start if the second and another Mir flurry at the start of the third, that was the story of the match. Grindingly effective, but not the explosive show that the San Jose crowd (or us) were really wanting.

Despite his new training camp, Mir had no answer for Cormier’s quickness or wrestling and he really seemed to tire through the fight. On the other hand, Cormier lost a real opportunity to win the fight in more impressive fashion as he spent the bulk of the bout holding Mir in a position very reminiscent of where Shane Carwin uppercutted Frank into oblivion back in 2010.

Now, if I could see that, don’t tell me that DC or Dave Camarillo couldn’t.

Anyways, DC advances to 12-0 and has some decisions to make as he is de facto no.1 contender in the heavyweight division (depending on how Fabricio Werdum does against Big Nog) but that could well mean facing his teammate, Cain Velasquez.

Another option is dropping to 205lbs and making a run at the Light Heavyweight title, but with Cormier’s history of near fatal weight cuts, that’s not an option I’d recommend lightly…

Oh, 4-3 Strikeforce, for those counting.

Last but by no means least, we have our champion vs. champion main event. Would Benson Henderson or Gilbert Melendez make a real statement about who was the #1 lightweight in the world and would we be left with an undisputed champion?

No, and no.

I’ll be honest, it was 3am here and play by play and round for round scoring was a little beyond me, but these two took each other to the wire and my instinct was that Melendez won the fight by being the more ‘front foot’ fighter.

Nonetheless, Henderson retained the belt by split decision (48-47, 48-47, 47-48) to the great displeasure of the crowd, and incredulity of most folks on Twitter.

I’m going to rewatch the bout at a reasonable hour and try and watch it with my judging hat on, because I couldn’t make a concerted point either way at this time.

This throws open the usual controversy about judging, rematches and arguably some grand illuminati conspiracy to keep Benson as champion (it’s his third wafer thin decision victory in four title matches)… OK, scratch that last one as having more to do with me being REALLY tired. What really matters is that Benson moves forward as champion, once again.

In any case, what scion of a shadowy New World Order could propose to his girlfriend, on national TV, after a successful title defence?

Benson’s lady said yes, and we wish them all the happiness.

Oh, and that contentious decision saved the UFC from losing on the night to the Strikeforce imports, tying the score at 4-4.

I’ll just throw that one last log on the conspiracy fire….

In all seriousness, this was a GREAT card and the highlight reel knockouts from the prelims as well as the Brown-Mein, Thomson-Diaz and Henderson-Melendez fights are required viewing for MMA fans if you missed them.

One last thought. But for the opinion of two judges, Josh Thomson could so very easily be the UFC Lightweight champion right now. How mad is that?

MAIN (FOX, 8 p.m. ET)
• Benson Henderson def. Gilbert Melendez via split decision (47-48, 48-47, 48-47) – retains lightweight title
• Daniel Cormier def. Frank Mir via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Josh Thomson def. Nate Diaz via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 3:44
• Matt Brown def. Jordan Mein via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 1:00

PRELIMINARY (FX, 5 p.m. ET)
• Chad Mendes def. Darren Elkins via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 1:08
• Francis Carmont def. Lorenz Larkin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Myles Jury def. Ramsey Nijem via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 1:02
• Joseph Benavidez def. Darren Uyenoyama via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:50
• Jorge Masvidal def. Tim Means via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• TJ Dillashaw def. Hugo Viana via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 4:22

PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 4 p.m. ET)
• Anthony Njokuani def. Roger Bowling via TKO (punch) – Round 2, 2:52
• Yoel Romero def. Clifford Starks via knockout (strikes) – Round 1, 0:32

UFC on FOX 7 Undercard Preview – Cormier v Mir, Diaz v Thomson, Brown v Mein

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UFC on FOX 7: Henderson vs. Melendez
Sat, 20 Apr 2013
San Jose, California

Aside from the title match we dealt with yesterday, this weekend’s UFC on FOX card has a host of other compelling matches that deserve our attention.

The fact that every main card match involves a Strikeforce alumnus and the show emanates from that promotion’s backyard in San Jose gives a curious theme to the broadcast that we’ll look at tomorrow, but for today I want to concentrate on the match ups themselves.

First, lets look at the co-main event, which features former UFC champion Frank Mir (16-6) welcoming undefeated Olympian, Daniel Cormier (11-0) to the biggest stage of the sport.

Mir has been at the top of this sport for a decade but comes into this bout off the back of a decisive TKO loss to then-champion Junior dos Santos last May which snapped a 3-0 streak and caused Mir to change up his training and join the illustrious Jackson-Winklejohn gym.

Former captain of the US Olympic wrestling team, Daniel Cormier boasted an 8-0 record in Strikeforce and came to prominence when he stepped into Alistair Overeem’s injured shoes to knock out Antonio Silva and take a unanimous decision victory over Josh Barnett to become the Strikeforce Grand Prix champion.

Stylistically, this is an interesting matchup as Mir has long been one of the top jujitsu guys in MMA (he’s subbed Rodrigo Nogueira, which says it all) but also has a well developed Muay Thai and classic boxing game, boasting KO wins over Nogueira (again), Mirko Filipovic in recent years.

Cormier is of course an excellent wrestler, but has complemented that base with some fearsome power in his hands with seven of his eleven victories being earned with his fists (although two of those are listed as submissions).

Basically, the question is who’s overall game is better? Mir has the edge in top level experience (in MMA at least) and is the larger man, but Cormier has disposed of experienced and larger fighters before and Mir cannot be looking forward to trading strikes with him or be at all sure he can win a grappling battle.

A win for Cormier would make him the de facto #1 contender at Heavyweight, especially if Antonio Silva dethroned Cain Velasquez while Mir could use the momentum to throw himself back into contention (especially as he has never yet faced Velasquez or Silva.)

This is a high stakes match, between two of the most skilled heavyweights on the planet, and it’s not even the main event…

Our next match will be a real contrast in terms of pace, as Nate Diaz (16-8) looks to recover from his failed title shot against newcomer Josh ‘the Punk’ Thomson (19-5) who had a storied history against Diaz’ teammate, Gilbert Melendez, competing for the Strikeforce belt three times, each taking a unanimous decision victory and Melendez winning their last meeting by a contentious split decision.

There’s plenty motivation on both sides to prove a point, methinks…

Both of these guys are submission wizards with good striking and neither man has been finished in over six years. Expect a high pace, awesome displays of grappling and probably a little typically Diaz provocation. Definite contender for fight of the night.

The first bout on the main card was to feature Dan Hardy, but his unexpected diagnoses with a ‘wolf heart’ has led to his whole MMA career being thrown into jeopardy.

Stepping into the breach against TUF veteran Matt ‘the Immortal’ Brown (16-11) is highly touted youngster Jordan Mein (27-8).

Thirty two year old Brown is never in a dull fight and has married his warrior spirit to a career best 4-0 streak, while Mein steps up to make his second UFC appearance and thirty sixth professional fight at the age of 23 riding a 3-0 streak.

Brown is the veteran here, but faces a very different opponent to the one he started preparing for. An exciting and dangerous striker, ‘the Immortal’ has never been stopped with strikes and his real kryptonite seems to be a well developed submission game.

However, with a very successful 2012 including underdog wins over Stephen Thomson and Mike Swick behind him, Brown stands on the edge of the top ten of the division for the first time in his career.

Mein is very much the next big thing, who earned a real crack at a jump up the ladder with his first round TKO win over veteran Dan Miller last month and willingness to face an opponent like Brown on relatively short notice.

Despite his tender years, Mein is far from inexperienced and boasts wins over the likes of Josh Burkman, Marius Zaromskis and Evangelista Santos en route to the UFC, so he is unlikely to be overawed by suddenly being on the main card against a name fighter.

Both fighters first plan is to out strike their opponent, so this has all the ingredients for a fun fight and whoever wins, it heralds the arrival of a serious contender in the 170lb division.

On the undercard another Strikeforce veteran, Lorenz Larkin (13-0, 1NC) makes his debut against Francis Carmont (20-7) in a compelling Middleweight battle, while Chad Mendes (13-1) faces off with Darren Elkins (16-2) and Joseph Benavidez (17-3) fights Darren Uyenoyama (8-3) in bouts with real significance for the top of the Featherweight and Flyweight rankings respectively.

Its a stacked card, and the Facebook, FX (UFC.tv in the UK) and FOX (ESPN) all deserve your attention.

MAIN (FOX, 8 p.m. ET)
• Benson Henderson vs. Gilbert Melendez – for lightweight title
• Daniel Cormier vs. Frank Mir
• Nate Diaz vs. Josh Thomson
• Matt Brown vs. Jordan Mein

PRELIMINARY (FX, 5 p.m. ET)
• Darren Elkins vs. Chad Mendes
• Francis Carmont vs. Lorenz Larkin
• Myles Jury vs. Ramsey Nijem
• Joseph Benavidez vs. Darren Uyenoyama
• Jorge Masvidal vs. Tim Means

PRELIMINARY (Facebook, 4 p.m. ET)
• T.J. Dillashaw vs. Hugo Viana
• Roger Bowling vs. Anthony Njokuani
• Clifford Starks vs. Yoel Romero

MMA Monday – 10th December 2012

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Featuring Cage Warriors, UFC on FOX, Bellator and the new UFC Women’s champion…

Wow, what a weekend of MMA action. In truth, your writer is still a bit wired from Saturday’s marathon of watching Cage Warriors Fighting Championship live in my adopted home town and then going home to watch the most stacked UFC event in recent memory, and given my possible eye strain and the onset of caffeine overdose, please forgive me if I concentrate primarily on those shows.

There’s really only one place I can start…

Cage Warriors 50 – the Night of the Ninjas

Saturday was the high water mark of Scottish MMA to date as Europe’s #1 promotion came to Glasgow for the first time. A cast of Scottish fighters took on quality opposition from down south and overseas, backed up by a brace of matches featuring Cage Warriors stalwarts like Denniston Sutherland (facing unbeaten Scott Askham) and Bellator vet and BJJ champion Wilson Reis facing Irish up and comer Owen Roddy.

Glasgow’s Dinky Ninja Fight Team had six fighters on the professional card, posting a stunning 5-1 result with a debut win for Alex Davidson followed by impressive decision wins by Mark Connor (who got a smile from my by using Satyricon as his entrance music) and Dan Hope.

Graham Turner continued his awesome run, following on from winning titles in Vision FC and On Top by stopping the very capable Nathan Beer in the first round – he’s surely in contention for a crack at the Conor MacGregor’s Cage Warriors Featherweight title sometime in 2013.

Scott Askham brought a vocal support and unbeaten record into his bout with the always game Denniston Sutherland and proceeded to dominate the majority of the match with some heavy hitting, although he couldn’t put the game veteran away.

Another Dinky Ninja, Alan Johnston took the opportunity of his career by grabbing a gutsy unanimous decision victory over former Ultimate Fighter contestant Aaron Wilkinson to signal his arrival as one of Britain’s top Welterweights.

The co-main event always looked like being the fight of the night as fast rising Irishman Owen Roddy faced bona fide international MMA star Wilson Reis and that’s exactly what happened. A back and forth battle took place largely on the feet, with Reis struggling to overcome Roddy’s longer reach. From our seats, we had a tough time scoring some closely fought rounds but it all became academic when Reis dropped Roddy with a counter punch and swarmed him, laying in some nasty ground and pound before reverting to type and sinking in the rear naked choke.

The main event saw Paul McVeigh, the chief exponent of ‘Dinky Ninjitsu’ face off with quality American Brandon Hempleman in a 130lb catch weight bout as he makes his way down to Flyweight. Sadly, McVeigh couldn’t seem to consistently get past Hempleman’s reach to score with his quality Muay Thai and similarly couldn’t close the distance to make his wrestling and BJJ advantage tell. Thus, despite landing a SWEET front kick to Hempleman’s face, Paul was on the wrong side of a unanimous decision.

I have every faith that Paul will bounce back and achieve his aim of becoming Cage Warriors Flyweight champion while I wouldn’t be at all surprised to see Hempleman in he UFC before long, as that seems to be the reward for a win over McVeigh these days…

All in all, Cage Warriors 50 was a great night of fights as we’re more than used to from this promotion, but it was also a standout night for Scottish MMA that when taken along with the big wins for James Doolan and Steven Ray last week at BAMMA 11 and Joanne Calderwood’s upcoming sophomore appearance at Invicta 4 can mean only one thing.

The Scots have arrived, and they’re feeling punchy…

Cage Warriors 50
Glasgow, Scotland

MAIN (MMAjunkie.com)
• Brandon Hempleman def. Paul McVeigh via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Wilson Reis def. Owen Roddy via submission (rear-naked choke)
• Alan Johnston def. Aaron Wilkinson via unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 29-28)
• Scott Askham def. Denniston Sutherland via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)
• Graham Turner def. Nathan Beer via TKO (strikes)
• Dan Hope def. Avi Jack via unanimous decision (29-27, 29-27, 29-27)

PRELIMINARY (Untelevised)
• Alex Enlund def. Ahsan Gilani via TKO (strikes)
• Mark Connor def. Andy Young via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
Alex Davidson def. Sean McDonald via TKO (strikes)

UFC on FOX 5 – Henderson vs. Diaz

I got home from Cage Warriors just in time to brew a massive pot of coffee and catch the main card of arguably the best MMA show ever sent out on free TV.

Annoyingly, it seems we missed some top action on the prelims with a double ‘of the night’ bonus winning effort from Scott Jorgenson, a massive performance from Dennis Siver possibly inserting himself into Featherweight title contention and massive KOs from Daron Cruikshank and Yves Edwards all on the preliminary action. Ho hum, that’s what fight video sites are for…

As predicted the main card kicked off with a great battle between Matt Brown and Mike Swick. The first round was back and forth with some awesome scrambling and BJJ on show and we had it as Matt Brown taking the frame. That was academic in the second as Matt Brown scored the biggest win of his career to date with a beautiful KO.

The next match was the first of two bouts with the potential to be a passing of the torch as young star Rory MacDonald faced living legend BJ Penn. Much of the pre-match hype centred on how fired up BJ would be and whether he would be able to live with the significantly larger MacDonald.

The answer was BJ was plenty fired up and did OK in the first round, but MacDonald’s reach, strength, youth and sheer calmness came through with a supremely dominant second round and almost effortless supremacy in the third. It seemed to us that Rory could have finished the fight any time after the mid point of the second round, but chose not to rush in and finish BJ.

Rory’s calmness and clinical attitude, both in the Octagon and during pre and post fight press conferences seem to have turned him into a heel, especially given that he may well have retired a great fan favourite in the shape of BJ.

To be honest, I don’t want to see BJ fight at welterweight again – for as much as I love him, I don’t need to see him get beaten up by younger guys who’ve got thirty pounds in weight on him. If BJ fights again, it needs to be at lightweight but given he’s 1-4-1 in his last six fights, I think it might be time…

The co-main event between Gustafsson and Shogun was a similar story, although not nearly as clear cut. While Alex clearly outstruck Shogun, he nearly got caught in a few leg locks and while I had that as a solid 30-27 for Alex, I had Rory with a 30-25 win over BJ.

Some cynical folks may cite Gustafsson’s lack of ability to finish Shogun (or Thiago Silva in his last fight) as a case for him no deserving his putative status as no.1 contender but its worth remembering that apart from his title loss to Jones, which came after a year out injured, Shogun hasn’t ever been finished by strikes.

In my eyes, back to back decision wins over two of the most dangerous strikers in the division, coming on the back of four stoppage wins are a great case for Gustafsson being no.1 contender, even though he himself says he’d like to stay active rather than wait until summer for a shot at the winner of Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen.

The main event always looked to be a case of Nate Diaz’ aggression and finishing ability vs. Benson Henderson’s strength and wrestling and the winner was very definitely Henderson. To be true, Diaz pushed Henderson into deep water and caused him to be more active and exciting than has sometimes been the case and if it hadn’t been for Benson scoring a solid shot that obscured Diaz’ vision in the first frame, the result could have been much closer.

For all that Diaz was his usual confrontational self in the cage (it’s a tactic, and it works against most folk) both he and Benson showed real class after the bout and in the post fight press conference, and while Benson coming of age as a UFC ambassador is not all that unexpected, the honesty and maturity displayed by Diaz was encouraging. This isn’t his last main event.

Another issue to arise from this match is the almost-confirmed reveal of Ben Henderson fighting with a toothpick in his mouth. Now, when Nate Diaz says you do something weird, then you are doing something WEIRD.

As far bizarre fight habits go, it’s right up there and is deeply illegal. While the risk is mostly to Benson himself, I’m pretty sure athletic commissions across the nation will be taking extra care to inspect his mouthpiece in future…

On the back of such an impressive card containing three perfectly serviceable main events, it’s no surprise that the ratings for this issue of UFC on FOX seem to be the best since the first issue a year ago. Hopefully this trend continues for UFC on FOX 6 which has the Flyweight title bout between Demetrious Johnson and John Dodson and a grudge bout between Rampage Jackson and Glover Teixeira.

UFC on FOX 5 – Henderson vs. Diaz
Seattle, Washington, USA

MAIN (FOX)
• Benson Henderson def. Nate Diaz via unanimous (50-43, 50-45, 50-45) – to retain lightweight title
• Alexander Gustafsson def. Mauricio Rua via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26)
• Rory MacDonald def. BJ Penn via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-26, 30-27)
• Matt Brown def. Mike Swick via KO (punches)

PRELIMINARY (FX)
• Yves Edwards def. Jeremy Stephens via KO (punch and elbows)
• Raphael Assuncao def. Mike Easton via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
• Ramsey Nijem def. Joe Proctor via unanimous decision (30-27, 29-28, 29-28
• Daron Cruickshank def. Henry Martinez via KO (kick)
• Abel Trujillo def. Marcus LeVesseur via TKO (knees)
• Dennis Siver def. Nam Phan via unanimous decision (30-24, 30-25, 30-26)

PRELIMINARY (Facebook)
Scott Jorgensen def. John Albert via submission (rear-naked choke)

Bellator 83

This card suffered the ignominy of having its main event, the featherweight tournament final between Rad Martinez and Shahbulat Shamhalaev being called up immediately before it was due to begin on account of Shamhalaev getting food poisoning and spending the whole day with his head in a bucket. Quite rightly, the bout was cancelled by the athletic commission and will now take place next week at Bellator 83.

The best action on this card came from the women’s bout between Jessica Eye and Zoila Gurgel where Eye scored arguably the most impressive win of her career. If you didn’t see it, then I advise you to check it out.

In fact, here’s the link so you have no excuse http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_embedded&v=ipOjOWg6lAA.

Bellator 83
Atlantic City, New Jersey, USA

MAIN (MTV2)
• Anthony Leone def. Zach Makovsky via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Jessica Eye def. Zoila Frausto Gurgel via technical submission (standing arm-triangle choke)

PRELIMINARY (Spike TV)
• Mike Wessel def. Alexei Kudin via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Jimmie Rivera def. Jesse Brock via unanimous decision (29-28, 30-27, 30-27)
• Darrel Horcher def. Chris Liguori via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Terrell Hobbs def. Brylan Van Artsdalen via submission (rear-naked choke)
• Tuan Pham def. Matthew Lozano via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
Claudio Ledesma def. Bo Harris via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
OTHER NEWS

Im sure there’s something else….

Oh yeah, Ronda Rousey has been confirmed as the first UFC Women’s (Bantamweight) champion and has her first defence booked against Liz Carmouche at UFC 157.

Rousey of course has a 6-0 record of first round submission victories and allied to her Olympic judo pedigree, looks and tendency to talk trash that has made her the de facto face of Women’s MMA.

Carmouche (7-2) is perhaps a surprise first opponent for Rousey as matches against Cristiane Santos and fellow Olympic medallist Sara McMann had been touted. Nonetheless, Carmouche is more experienced than Rousey, brings a well rounded MMA game with both TKO and submission wins and is riding a 2-0 streak earned in Invicta FC so she’s no can being brought in to lose to Ronda.

Indeed, the choice of Carmouche means that not only will this be the first women’s match in UFC history, but it will be the first UFC match to feature an openly gay fighter. MMA may actually be entering the 21st century and not before time!

I maintain a healthy skepticism over the UFC’s apparent decision to have a Women’s division of Ronda plus challenger of the season but I’ve got a little theory as to how this could be improved while not asset stripping Invicta FC in the process. This isn’t the place for that so I’ll come back to that in an editorial later in the week.

That’s about it for this week, we’ve got a brace of Ultimate Fighter finales coming up next weekend, so you can expect our usual previews later in the week and our Know the Score column tomorrow, concentrating on octagon control and effective aggression.

UFC on FOX 5 – Main Event Preview – Benson Henderson (c) vs. Nate Diaz for the UFC Lightweight Championship

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A year on from the UFC’s debut on FOX, championship gold is on the line once again in a matchup that few would have predicted at this time in 2011.

Pitting two of the most characterful personalities and exciting fighters in a lightweight division that isn’t lacking in either department against each other smells like a Match of the Year candidate to me. Even more compelling are the road that led these competitors to this match.

Our champion, Benson Henderson (17-2) came up through the WEC where he rode a 7-0 streak to an interim title bout with Donald Cerrone in 2009 which he won, very much as an underdog. Unifying the belt with a win against Jamie Varner and defending against Cerrone in 2010, he was all set to enter the UFC as champion and de facto #1 contender to the UFC belt when the big show swallowed the WEC at the start of 2011.

However, a speed bump in the name of Anthony Pettis had other ideas and one epic match and a Showtime kick later left Henderson without his belt, without his momentum and entering the UFC as ‘just another WEC guy.’

Not one to buckle to adversity, Henderson set about rebuilding his status and high octane displays of his wrestling, submission and workrate abilities against Mark Bocek and Jim Miller earned him a chance at a title shot if he could get past Clay Guida at UFC on FOX 1.

Another slick display of grappling and cardio earned Henderson the win, a fight of the night bonus and a crack at Frankie Edgar’s Lightweight title.

That fight would take place in Tokyo, Japan and was one of the closest fights in UFC history as while Henderson took the unanimous decision and the belt, there were plenty who saw Edgar as the victor.

As is so often the case when a title changes hands in controversial fashion, a rematch was ordered and Benson again walked away with the decision (albeit a split one this time) and was available to face new challenges.

In his UFC run, Henderson has showcased his cardio and his excellent ground skills, out wrestling celebrated grapplers in all five of his UFC bouts en route to decision victories. This might lead someone viewing Benson’s record to think he was a dull fighter incapable of finishing matches but its worth remembering that his four opponents have been finished by strikes ONCE across their combined records and none are in the habit of losing by submission either.

Given the insanely close and undeniably elite level of competition in the UFC Lightweight division, it’s a testament to Benson’s skills that he has put together a 5-0 run and won two Night of the Night honours on the way.

At the risk of hammering this home, Benson is an elite level grappler, and no slouch when it comes to striking or submissions, with the only criticism of him being that he is perhaps over cautious, too calm and always has one eye on not getting hit with another Showtime kick…
His opponent on Saturday, our challenger Nate Diaz (16-7) couldn’t be more different in that regard. Diaz enters every single bout as if it’s a fight to the death, like his opponent’s mere existence is a personal affront to him. Make no mistake, the concept of a points victory by playing the percentages is the furthest thing from his mind, and it’s an approach that’s payed dividends for him of late.

It hasn’t always been that way, however. From an opening 5-2 run, he won the Ultimate Fighter season 5 final over Manny Gamburyan and followed up with a streak of four victories in a row. Yep, that’s right – all the way back in 2008, Nate Diaz was pretty damn close to a UFC title shot.

However as he butted up against the top of the division, his next four fights produced a 1-3 run with the near obligatory rear naked choke victory over Melvin Guillard spoiled by a pair of split decision losses to Clay Guida and Gray Maynard and a UD loss to Joe Stevenson (in what was a memorable grappling contest) which prompted Diaz to shift up into the Welterweight division.

In hindsight, that was a funny choice given that he’d only been beaten by good grapplers who were physically larger than him. None of them at Welterweight, no…

In any case, it originally looked like a good choice as a TKO win over Rory Markham and a submission over Marcus Davis put the Diaz train back on the road. Moving into 2011 and Diaz was booked against the other rising stars at 170lb and found the stifling grappling and gap in sheer size and strength too much to overcome and suffered demoralising back to back losses to Dong Hyun Kim and Rory MacDonald (which is nothing to be ashamed of, the only guy who’s done better against those two is Carlos Condit.)

Dropping down to Lightweight again, the Diaz which appeared in September of 2011 to face the legendary Takanori Gomi was a wholly refocused animal and he treated the PRIDE veteran with something approaching contempt as he waded through him and took home a memorable submission win.

Such was the manner of his victory, that he was instantly inserted into the business end of the division and matched with WEC veteran Donald Cerrone who was riding a title shot worthy 6-0 streak at the time. 15 minutes with Nate, and that wasn’t true anymore. I’ve simply never seen Cerrone made to look so pedestrian in a striking matchup before. Nate had made a statement of intent and served notice on the whole division.

However, with the lightweight division backed up by the need for a third successive title rematch, Nate had more business in the meantime and was faced UFC mainstay Jim Miller in May. Despite fitting all the criteria to beat Diaz – an experienced, top notch grappler, unlikely to be phased by Nate getting in his face – Miller succumbed to his first ever submission loss in the second round.

That placed Nate Diaz on a three-nil streak since returning to Lightweight and had set himself ahead of all other contenders for the title shot, although I’m sure that his record of five ‘fight of the night’ and five ‘submission of the night’ honours in his 16 UFC bouts had something to do with it.

As befits a member of Cesar Gracie Jiujitsu, Nate has exceptional grappling skills but he also backs that up with next level boxing that has overwhelmed more than a few of his opponents, leading him to swarm them, take their back and score the submission win.

So, we have a champion who has been criticised for being over cautious and a challenger who is brusque beyond the point of rudeness. Both are exceptional, exciting grapplers and quality pan-discipline strikers and both are out to prove a point, Benson to prove he deserves to be champion after two narrower than narrow victories over Edgar and Diaz to step out of his brother and teammates shadow and become the first from his camp to taste UFC gold.

Pressed for a prediction, I’d say the wrestling edge is with Benson, the striking edge is with Nate and they are pretty equally matched when it comes to rubber limbed submission skills. Despite being younger, Nate actually has more experience BUT I would say that Benson has the calmer head. What that boils down to is…

…I have no idea. Benson fits the mould for beating Nate, but Nate also fits the aggressive, versatile Pettis (except more so) mould to beat Benson. In theory a Nate victory would come from the more compelling match as Benson’s safest bet comes from using his size and wrestling to get the decision while Nate is going to look to punch him a hell of a lot and either score a TKO or find an opening for a submission.

It’s poised on a knife edge, and the one thing that is certain is that we are in for a great scrap on Saturday night.

Check http://www.ufc.com for viewing information where you stay and follow @TeamKumite on Twitter for live coverage from our own Ross Stevenson and we’ll keep you up to date with all the UFC on FOX and Cage Warriors 50 action on Saturday night.

UFC on FOX 5 – Preview 3 – Alexander Gustafsson vs. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua

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The co-main event of Saturday’s UFC free TV super card is another bout that pits an up & comer, knocking on the door of title contention against a veteran who’s been there, worn gold on multiple occasions and remains beloved across the world.

In my view, Alexander Gustafsson (14-1) has been conspicuous by his absence when contenders for the UFC Light Heavyweight title have been discussed in recent times.

While he’s never yet defeated a bona ride superstar, anyone who can get stoppage victories over Cyrille Diabate, James te-Huna, Matt Hamill and Vladimir Matyushenko all in a row, then follow up with a professional decision victory over Thiago Silva deserves to be in the conversation.

This match with the legend that is ‘Shogun’ in front of what is sure to be a MASSIVE TV audience (surely an order of magnitude more than saw him defeat Silva in his FUEL TV headliner earlier this year) is Gustafsson’s opportunity to make his case for being a genuine top five ranked light heavyweight, deserving of title contention and a credible threat to Jon Jones’ belt.

The one blot on ‘the Mauler’s record is a 2010 submission loss to ‘Mr Wonderful’ Phil Davis, who was himself undefeated until facing Rashad Evans earlier this year and the manner in which he has embarked on his 5-0 streak since, overcoming celebrated grapplers and strikers, finishing notoriously tough guys and also showing the professionalism to stick to a game-plan when necessary makes him the de facto rising force at Light Heavyweight in my eyes

Gustafsson is young, has height and reach unparalleled in the division by anyone but Jon Jones and his celebrated boxing ability is backed up by a calm mind and good jiujitsu skills, as you’d expect from someone who’s Stateside home is at Lloyd Irvin’s Alliance MMA. His time is now… if he can get through Shogun.

While not quite as embedded in the UFC canon as BJ Penn, seeing as his name was made in PRIDE FC and he took his time to find his feet in the Octagon, Mauricio ‘Shogun’ Rua (21-6) has to be considered an MMA Hall of Famer when he retires, especially as one of the select few to win titles in PRIDE and the UFC.

While his UFC record is a bit spotty, weighing in at five wins and four losses, it’s worth remembering that he’s only fought top tier guys in that time, and if it wasn’t for some dubious judging, that record would stand at six wins and three losses, seeing as everyone bar the officials thought he beat Lyoto Machida in their first match.

Rua has competed at the very top level for an almost unbelievable amount of time and the list of guys he’s knocked out, including Alistair Overeem (twice), Quinton Jackson, Mark Coleman, Chuck Liddell, Lyoto Machida and Forrest Griffin is beyond compare and while it seems his game was seriously affected by the move from PRIDE to the UFC, with his trademark soccer kicks being removed from play and the tighter confines of the Octagon theoretically favouring wrestlers, he’s still been able to adapt enough to win gold and score big wins over big names.

Aside from a shock loss to Forrest Griffin in his debut, (which was revenges in style last year) Shogun has only been soundly beaten once in the UFC when Jon Jones utilised his reach and capitalised on a year’s worth of ring rust to wrest the title from Rua. You have to believe that Shogun wants nothing more than a chance to win that title back and a win here would put him right back in that equation.

Both of these fighters have scored the bulk of their wins via knockout and are justifiably celebrated as top notch strikers, but both are more than capable of pulling off submission wins, even though that will always be a Plan B. I think we can pretty much rule out any possibility of a grappling based match…

If I have to pick a winner (and I’ve made a habit of predictions that I feel I must continue) I’d be inclined to flip a coin. Shogun has the advantage of experience and his incisive Muay Thai based striking is capable of causing immense damage in a short period of time, with his punches and leg kicks dangerous from the outside and his knees from the clinch a game ending factor up close.

On the other hand, Gustafsson has reach on his side and probably the more polished technical boxing. Given his disciplined performance against Thiago Silva, he may be tempted to points box Shogun to a decision victory. That may seem a prudent decision, but Rua can change a fight in a second and is dangerous until the end, as his late wins over Mark Coleman and Brandon Vera show.

Of course, he’s more renowned for his sixteen first round finishes, so I’d imagine Gustafsson will try and maintain distance for the first frame at least.

For me, this fight comes down to who finds their range first, with Shogun most dangerous when stepping in from distance or alternatively in the clinch and Gustafsson having a marked advantage at middle distance, if he can keep Shogun in the pocket with good movement.

You are going to press me for a prediction aren’t you?

Ok, while we are loath to ever go against a fighter as beloved and exciting as Shogun, we have to back Gustafsson here, on account of his having more momentum and the fact that we’ve been on his bandwagon for a long time, never mind it would be nice to have some fresh blood challenging for the 205lb title.

Either way, if this fight produces a decisive winner (and I expect it will) the man who stands tall will surely be considered next-but-one for a shot at Jon Jones, obviously behind opposing TUF coach, Chael Sonnen (for made for TV rather than fighting reasons) in the queue and in a conversation with Dan Henderson, Lyoto Machida and Glover Teixeira..

This match is guaranteed fireworks, and in my eyes a perfectly acceptable main event for a pay per view card, but it’s only the co-main event here, so we’ll be back later with the preview for the headlining match.