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.

MMA Monday – 19th August 2013

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In which Chris picks five things from this last week’s MMA to talk about…

– Matt Brown

On Saturday night, Matt ‘The Immortal’ Brown advanced his record to 18-11 and increased his live streak to 5-0 with an awesome first minute KO of veteran Mike Pyle.

To put that in context, Pyle has an 8-4 UFC record (25-9-1 in total) with the losses coming in his debut to then-promising Brock Larson and top level fighters Rory MacDonald, Jake Ellenberger and now Matt Brown.

Beating Mike Pyle is a big deal. He’s slammed the door to the top ten in the face of John Hathaway, Ricardo Almedia and Rick Story and before he was in the UFC he scored wins over legit guys like Dan Hornbuckle and Jon Fitch.

So Brown now has the most impressive win streak at 170lbs by anyone not named GSP or Johny Hendricks. That makes him next, right?

Not yet. He’s not yet beaten a bona fine top ten guy and I’d like to see him face the winner of next week’s Carlos Condit vs. Martin Kampmann fight.

C’mon, don’t tell me you don’t wanna see that fight?

The winner of that bout would join Rory MacDonald and the winners of the upcoming Demian Maia vs. Jake Shields and Dong Hyun Kim vs. Erick Silva bouts in genuine title contention.

Tasty times at 170lbs.

– Conor McGregor

Also on Saturday, ‘the Notorious’ Conor McGregor had his sophomore outing in the UFC and I can safely say, I’ve never felt such a surge of justified hype for a fighter. As those of us who enjoy being Cage Warriors fans have known for a while – he’s gonna be a big star.

His opponent, Max Holloway fought gamely, but Conor stylishly out struck him in the first round and then spent the remainder of the bout in near total top control, earning a dominant 30-26 win on my scorecard.

Conor has now fought twice in the UFC, with a first round knockout and solid all round performance against opposition that cannot be discounted as ‘cans.’ Add in his charisma and the sheer weight of public affection for him and he’s on a fast track to the top of the featherweight division.

Depending on timescales, I’d love to see him face someone like Charles Oliveira or Darren Elkins or maybe even Akira Corassani on the next Sweden card (assuming his potential knee injury keeps him out until early 2014).

I have no doubt that Conor will fight for a UFC title before the end of 2015 but there’s no need to rush the boy. He’ll be ready.

– Pedro Munhoz

At RFA9 on Friday, Pedro Munhoz took a split decision win over veteran Jeff Curran, lifting the RFA Bantamweight belt and retiring Curran at the same time.

Still undefeated at 9-0 and now with a win over a well known and much respected fighter as well as holding gold in a promotion which prides itself on developing talent by challenging them, Munhoz can legitimately be seen as one of the top 135lb fighters outside of the UFC.

It seems like a matter of time till he’s on the big show, but he won’t be rushed or have his record spoon fed to him by RFA in the meantime. I’d love to see him on a Cage Warriors card at some point too…

You have to expect that the next stop for him is a defence against his originally scheduled opponent this weekend, Keoni Koch (5-0) in a much anticipated fight, now twice postponed. I wanna see that.

– Heavyweight Stoppage

The heavyweight co main event of UFC Boston on Saturday featured an all action first round where Alistair Overeem first had Travis Browne on the back foot, knocking him down and landing over a dozen shots before Browne lurched to his feet. Overeem kept up the pressure and landed something like another 30+ unanswered shots before Browne managed to bully his way free of the cage.

Should the fight have been stopped?

Given that Browne then managed to knock Overeem down with a sweet front kick and followed up with two HEAVY shots on the ground that drew the stoppage.

Some folks have said the fight should have been stopped when Overeem was winning and some say Overeem should have been given more time to recover, as Browne took three hits to win the fight, while Overeem landed dozens.

For my money, the stoppage was good. Browne took a lot of shots at the start of the fight, but kept moving, working his way to his feet and at no point did he look glazed or did his legs tremble. He also ate an illegal knee from Overeem that the referee let slide, possibly giving Travis a little longer than he otherwise would to improve his position on account of that.

When Browne levelled Overeem with the kick, his first follow up blow snapped the Dutchman’s head off the canvas and his arms came up in what looks (to me at least) like an involuntary spasm, such as you’d make when you were knocked out, however briefly.

So, good reffing – apart from the fact that the match should have been stopped when Browne took the illegal knee and restarted in the middle of the cage. Browne managed to get there himself in the end, so no harm done.

– Chael Sonnen

Lastly, Chael Sonnen put in a great performance, subbing Shogun Rua in the first round. It was classic Sonnen, going for the takedown from the start and sticking with that plan, even when Shogun initially got back to his feet.

Rua’s ground game is much underrated and Sonnen controlled him excellently. The eventual guillotine submission was indisputable and unexpected – if anyone bet on a Sonnen victory via submission in the first round, I would have expected the odds to be rather good.

Sonnen breaks his losing streak and has already called out Wanderlei Silva – I’d pay good money to see that fight, and it fits nicely into my concept of the UFC Masters Division where well established fighters who shouldn’t really be anywhere near a title shot at this point face off for their ego gratification and our entertainment. I’m sure there’s money involved the somewhere too.

Shogun loses back to back fights for the first time in his UFC tenure, and while his popularity and legend remain undimmed, he’s a long way from a return shot at his title at this time. I’d love to see him fight someone like James Te Huna or Fabio Maldonado, that would be fun to watch but also give Shogun a chance at someone who is behind him in the rankings, as much as behind him in name power.

UFC Fight Night 26: Shogun vs. Sonnen Preview

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Sat, 17 Aug 2013
Boston, Massachusetts

The first time I wrote a preview for this, it ran to over 3000 words and I ran out of positive adjectives long before I’d finished covering the main card. It lost all impact, so I’m trying again.

Let me put it simply. This is one of the most stacked MMA cards ever put together, never mind limiting it to free TV or the UFC.

All it lacks is a title match (or two) and when it features five legitimate former world champions, a further two fighters who have competed for UFC gold, a clutch of TUF winners and finalists and is composed almost entirely of fighters known for their entertaining fighting style, that seems like a small thing to be missing.

Five of these fights could easily produce the next no.1 contenders in their respective divisions, three fighters here can already account themselves as legends in the sport with half a dozen more either well on the way or certainly with the potential to do so.

I don’t even have the will to break the matches down individually. It’s more than my tiny heart can bear. We have fighters who are notionally strikers and grapplers, but what EVERYONE on this card is, is a damn warrior.

If anyone here embarks on a lay n pray game plan, it will be DEEPLY out of character.

Look at the names below. Shogun Rua. Chael Sonnen. Alistair Overeem. Urijah Faber. Matt Brown. Joe Lauzon. I’m sold already. The real competition is gonna be which one of these studs takes home the most hotly contested Fight of the Night award in living memory…

Let’s not forget that John Howard, Mike Pyle, Uriah Hall and Travis Browne are all well known for bringing it, even if casual fans might struggle to mark the names.

Hell, even the PRELIMINARY card features the best Bantamweight in Europe, Brad Pickett against the last no.1 contender for that division’s title, Michael McDonald.

There’s also the small matter of Connor McGregor’s sophomore UFC box against the impressive Max Holloway, with awesome matches featuring former WEC champ Mike Brown against Steven Siler and TUF winner Diego Brandao facing Daniel Pineda.

It’s even starting a bit earlier than usual, which means there’s a fair chance that a UK fan like me might not pass out midway through the co-main event.

You want stats, background all that usual stuff? Nope. Check on Sherdog if you must but for this card, I just want to sit back and let the sheer joy of being a fan wash over me.

If you ever have a UFC party at your house, if you ever want to nudge a pal or family member to get into this sport – get them in front of the TV for this card.

It is going to be biblical. I guarantee it.

MAIN
• Mauricio Rua vs. Chael Sonnen
• Travis Browne vs. Alistair Overeem
• Yuri Alcantara vs. Urijah Faber
• Matt Brown vs. Mike Pyle
• Uriah Hall vs. John Howard
• Michael Johnson vs. Joe Lauzon

PRELIMINARY
• Michael McDonald vs. Brad Pickett
• Max Holloway vs. Conor McGregor
• Mike Brown vs. Steven Siler
• Diego Brandao vs. Daniel Pineda

PRELIMINARY (Facebook)
• Manny Gamburyan vs. Cole Miller
• Cody Donovan vs. Ovince St. Preux
• Ramsey Nijem vs. James Vick

Fighting in the Shade – Matt ‘the Immortal’ Brown

Fighting in the Shade – Matt ‘the Immortal’ Brown

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Ever since his appearance on the Ultimate Fighter season 7, Matt Brown has been a fan favourite with fans who appreciate a competitor who comes to fight, who leaves it in the cage, who goes out on his shield and insert further sound bytes.

Another thing that endears Brown to us is his no nonsense attitude, his straight talking confidence, the fact that he doesn’t employ cunning smack talk, and just radiates a calm assurance in himself and willingness to go in and get the job done.

Brown’s early UFC career was very successful with a 4-1 record marred only by a split decision loss to then unbeaten Dong Hyun Kim and more than made up for by his fun fights and stoppage victories.

However, it all went a bit wrong in 2010 and 2011 as Brown suffered a 1-4 streak with only a decision win over the ever-game John Howard breaking up a series of humbling submission defeats.

It’s been suggested that personal issues led to a lack of focus in training, but I don’t know what caused it. It’s not my place to comment.

However, it is an acknowledged side effect of a willingness to go to war, to take a punch to give two, to eat your opponent’s best shot and smile at them that sometimes, it doesn’t work and that level of aggressiveness can lead to mistakes which will be capitalised upon at this level.

Kept in a job by his tendency to be in fun fights and with a record hovering just above even at 12-11, Brown was at a crossroads. How did he respond?

He rolled up his sleeves and got back to work.

A TKO victory over the outmatched Chris Cope was followed by Brown spoiling the momentum of young wunderkind Stephen Thompson, handing him his first defeat.

On a winning streak for the first time in three years, Brown stayed on his bike and racked up a other exciting TKO win over Luis Ramos.

The upswing in his form earned him a shot on the main card of UFC on FOX 5 against one of the UFC’s most beloved sons, Mike ‘Quick’ Swick.

With Swick having once been on the edge of a title shot, before injury left him on the bench for almost two years and fresh off an impressive win over Damarques Johnsonn, Brown was very much the underdog coming in to the fight.

Shows how much the bookies know.

Brown looked a step quicker and meaner than Swick from the start and kept the pressure up into the second round, earning a KO win for the biggest scalp of his career.

That in itself led to another shot on a FOX broadcast, against British star Dan Hardy who shared a similar renaissance story having been very close to his pink slip.

Unfortunately, Hardy was sidelined from the bout with a previously un diagnosed heart defect and was replaced by surging young gun, Jordan Mein.

Sound familiar?

Brown was once again the underdog as Mein had a very fashionable reputation as the next big thing at Welterweight, and for a moment in the first round he looked all that as a brutal body shot folded Brown up like a cheap suit.

Mein failed to capitalise and Brown rallied, coming close with a triangle choke and was the more aggressive fighter towards the end of the round.

In the second round, it was all Brown as he battered Mein into submission, showing his experience by resisting the urge to knee the crumpling Canadian as he placed his hands on the mat.

Big John McCarthy stepped in and all of a sudden, Matt Brown was on a 5-0 win streak, with four of them by stoppage and at least three of them very much against the predictions of the bookies.

In the post fight press conference, Brown asserted that he’s very much interested in a title shot – after all, it’s why you lace up in the first place, isn’t it?

A great many MMA journalists scoffed, with terms like journeyman and brawler being dismissively tossed around but it’s not only a future I’d like to see, it’s one that I think is more than possible.

You see, I feel that Brown is not only a grossly underrated fighter – he has cardio to burn, very dangerous submission and striking games, as hard a chin as you’re going to find at 170lbs and despite his reputation as a brawler, he’s a canny ring general – but he has CHARACTER.

Of course, anyone who fights at the top level has character, but few have endured such a roller coaster career as Brown, especially in such steadfast ‘I’m not changing’ fashion.

Never once has Matt Brown played safe, never once has Matt Brown stopped to crying about referee calls, opponents being on drugs or that he had been concealing an injury.

He comes to fight, and doesn’t make excuses when he loses.

Some fighters enjoy the unrelenting praise of the mainstream MMA media, and others like Brown end up in the shade – as evidenced by the fact that he STILL hasn’t cracked the media-voted UFC top ten rankings.

That doesn’t bother Matt overmuch, because he’s looked into himself and sees more than they do.

Of course, he’s going to need a win over a top five fighter to get that call – Carlos Condit isn’t booked and I’d LOVE to see that fight.

I’m not saying I think Matt WILL be the champion, I’m just saying that he could well do it.

The measure of immortality is not necessarily in the manner of your victory, but in the way you face defeat with bravery, the way you stand up to a seemingly hopeless task. Against such odds are made legends which echo in eternity.

By that reckoning, Matt Brown more than lives up to his nickname of ‘the Immortal’. That’s more than you can say for most fighters…

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 – 21 January 2013

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Featuring all the results from this weekend’s major MMA action as well as a heap of match announcements and what we’ve got lined up for this week…

Match Announcements

The Strikeforce invasion of the UFC is on! We’ve had announcements that Gilbert Melendez will challenge for Benson Henderson’s Lightweight title at UFC on FOX 7 on April 20th. They’ll be joined on that card by Daniel Cormier making his Octagon debut against UFC veteran Frank Mir and Dan Hardy getting the match he asked for against Matt Brown.

That’s turning into a hell of a card.

We’ve also had confirmation that Alexander Gustafsson will welcome Gegard Mousasi to the UFC at an event in Stockholm on April 6th, likely to be UFC on FUEL TV 9. That’s another awesome match, although I just hope the UFC give Gegard some promotional backing so that casual fans appreciate his quality.

Elsewhere, we still have no confirmation as to whether Josh Barnett will sign with the UFC, Luke Rockhold seems to be angling for a match with Costa Phillipou and following Saturday’s UFC card, Khabib Nurmagomedov has called out Nate Diaz. I want to see all of these matches…

Closer to home, Cage Warriors have announced the main event of CW52 in London as being a Welterweight title fight between Gael Grimaud and Cathal Pendred in what should be a fantastic bout.

Event Results

Bellator 85: Chandler vs. Hawn
Thursday 17 January
Irvine, California

Arguably the biggest MMA card if the week didn’t come from the UFC as Bellator produced two compelling title matches and a pair of upsets in their debut show on Spike.

As predicted, Pat Curran and Patricio Friere out on an excellent advert for MMA in a bout that lacked nothing but a finish. The split decision win for Curran was probably about right but you’ve got to feel for Friere who has twice fallen short in title matches by the slimmest of margins. Curran will go on to face last season’s tournament winner, Daniel Straus.

I expected Michael Chandler to get the win over Rick Hawn, but I didn’t expect him to submit the judoka. Hawn is no joke and Chandler is easily the best lightweight outside the UFC at this point in time, to the point that its hard to see anyone on Bellator’s roster toppling him.

In the LHW tournament, name fighters Renato ‘Babalu’ Sobral and Seth Petruzelli were eliminated by the relatively unheralded Mikhael Zayats and Jacob Noe respectively. Zayats in particular impressed and is just another one of the coming crowd of Russian sambo practitioners making a real impact in US MMA.

MAIN CARD
• Jacob Noe def. Seth Petruzelli via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 2:51 – light-heavyweight tournament opening round
• Michael Chandler def. Rick Hawn via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 3:07 – to retain lightweight title
• Mikhail Zayats def. Renato Sobral via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 4:49 – light heavyweight tournament opening round
• Pat Curran def. Patricio Freire via split decision (48-47, 47-48, 48-47) – to retain featherweight title

PRELIMINARY CARD
• Aaron Miller def. Joe Camacho via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Jason Lambert def. Hector Ramirez via submission (armbar) – Round 1, 3:59
• J.J. Ambrose def. Brian Warren via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 0:50
• Emanuel Newton def. Atanas Djambazov via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 2, 2:21 – light-heavyweight tournament opening round
• Savant Young def. Mike Guymon via KO (punch) – Round 2, 0:48
• Joe Williams def. Jamie Yager via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 4:02
Cleber Luciano def. Mario Navarro via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Resurrection Fighting Alliance 6
Fri, 18 Jan
Kansas City, Missouri

Just to remind everyone that there is a vibrant MMA scene in the US that isn’t on network television, RFA offered up a compelling card which had notable wins for UFC veteran Brock Larsen and fighters who’ve had a handshake with the big time James Krause and Dakota Cochrane.

RFA are one of many nascent MMA organisations in the states and its always worth keeping an eye on the alphabet soup to see if anyone is making a real name for themselves.

• James Krause def. Toby Imada via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Brock Larson def. Eduardo Pamplona via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Kevin Croom def. Brian Davidson via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 0:42
• Dustin Ortiz def. Aaron Ely via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Dakota Cochrane def. Deivison Ribeiro via TKO (strikes) – Round 3, 4:32
• Mark Dickman def. Aaron Derrow via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 4:35
• Bobby Cooper def. Nick Compton via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)
• Cody Peterson def. Tyler Stokes via submission (armbar) – Round 2, 2:06

UFC on FX 7: Belfort vs. Bisping
Sat, 19 Jan
Sao Paulo,Brasil

The UFC’s first card of the year served up the usual mix of shocks and confirmations of what we already knew.

Michael Bisping fell at the last hurdle for the THIRD time, losing by TKO2 to Vitor Belfort who showed a more varied kicking game than we’ve ever seen before. Bisping was gracious in defeat, but must know he needs to string a few good wins together and actually beat a gatekeeper for once if he is ever going to get the title shot the UFC are so keen to give him. Mind you, losing hasn’t stopped the likes of Nick Diaz and Chael Sonnen from getting shots, so stranger things have happened…

Belfort then proceeded to call out Jon Jones, in what I’m going to assume was an act of bravado designed to get cheers from the Brazilian crowd, who would happily cheer Vitor against Jones, or Chael Sonnen but not so much against the almost deified Anderson Silva.

Elsewhere, Gabriel Gonzaga continued his career resurgence with a submission win over Ben Rothwell and Khabib Nurmagomedov continued the Russian invasion with a first round stoppage of Thiago Tavares – having already antagonised the Brazilians by inferring that jiujitsu is inferior to Sambo.

Nurmagomedov is now 19-0 and 3-0 in the UFC and is knocking on the door of the top level at 155lbs. He’s called out Nate Diaz next, and I’m all for that…

The most controversial moment of the night came when Yuri Alcantara took Pedro Nobre’s back and started reigning down blows. Nobre turned his head and referee Dan Miragliotta warned Alcantara about hitting the back of the head, only to stop the bout a second later with only one more blow thrown – a blow that really didn’t hit the back of the head.

Nobre lay there, clutching the absolute centre of the back of his head and saying he couldn’t continue, compelling the referee to call the match off as a no contest due to an accidental foul.

Now, I’m off the mind that Alcantara’s blows were legal, that Nobre tried to move his head so he got hit in the back and he could escape without a loss on his record and reinforced that by groaning and holding his head in a place where he hadn’t been hit. What is this, football?

Basically, Nobre stole a win from Alcantara via gamesmanship which is expressly outlawed in the unified rules. Not cool.

MAIN
• Vitor Belfort def. Michael Bisping via TKO (strikes) – Round 2, 1:27
• CB Dollaway def. Daniel Sarafian via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
• Gabriel Gonzaga def. Ben Rothwell via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 1:01
• Khabib Nurmagomedov def. Thiago Tavares via TKO (strikes) – Round 1, 1:55

PRELIMINARY
• Godofredo Castro def. Milton Vieira via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)
• Ronny Markes def. Andrew Craig via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)
• Nik Lentz def. Diego Nunes via unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-26)
• Edson Barboza def. Lucas Martins via submission (punches) – Round 1, 2:38
• Yuri Alcantara vs. Pedro Nobre via ruled a no-contest (accidental punches to back of head) – Round 1, 2:11
• Ildemar Alcantara def. Wagner Prado via submission (kneebar) – Round 2, 2:39

PRELIMINARY
Francisco Trinaldo def. CJ Keith via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 2, 1:50

Incoming

It never stops! This week, we have UFC on FOX 6 and Bellator 86 previews for you as well as some articles on whether its acceptable to boo at MMA events and if I can get it started, our beginners guide to MMA.

Hope you’ll check it out.

Chris