UFC Fight Night 149: Oleynik vs Overeem in St. Petersburg, Russia
By: Jesse Donathan
“If he dies, he dies.” These are the haunting words of Ivan Drago from Rocky IV and the classic image of how Russian fighters are still portrayed in the United States today. Ruthless, formidable opponents who represent a direct threat to the western way of life. And just like on the big screen, Russian fighters are on the cusp of making big waves in the arena of combat sports in real life. Enter UFC Fight Night 149 which goes down Saturday night, April 20, 2019 at the Yubileyny Sports Complex in St. Petersburg, Russia on ESPN +. The headlining event will feature two longtime mixed martial arts veterans pitted against one another in 41-year old Moscow native Alexey Oleynik (57-11-1) versus the 38-year old Dutchmen Alistair Overeem (44-17).
Alexey “The Boa Constrictor” Oleynik is a very dangerous man. A heavyweight with an impressive arsenal of submission hold victories, Oleynik has the skillset to submit opponents from a variety of different positions including his back where fighters are often considered to be at their most vulnerable. Oleynik is a seasoned, crafty veteran who has been in the cage with some of the worlds best stand up fighters, feared strikers who are respected the world over for their particular brand of violence and Oleynik has come out on top against virtually all of them including former K-1 kickboxing and mixed martial arts legends Mark Hunt and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic.
And with a submission victory over the likes of the great Jeff Monson, a two-time ADCC Submission Wrestling World Champion, Alexey Oleynik is a fighter who has been there and done that. Having defeated some of the worlds best grappling and striking experts in the field of mixed martial arts sporting competition. Oleynik is a true mixed martial artist with a wealth of experience against the very best the sport has to offer across a variety of disciplines.
Alistair “The Demolition Man” Overeem is a fighter who possesses the ability to defeat virtually anyone on the planet on any given night. Not someone you want to tangle with, Overeem is a dynamic striker who at various points in his career has looked virtually unstoppable against a deaths row of striking experts. A popular and controversial fighter, Overeem once failed a performance enhancing drug test with an eye popping 14:1 testosterone-to-epitestosterone ratio.
To put that into perspective, in an April 5, 2012 mmafighting.com article titled “Alistair Overeem’s T/E Ratio was 14:1 in Failed PED Test” author Mike Chiapetta writes, “The average male produces a T/E ratio around 1:1. The World Anti-Doping Agency (WADA) uses a 4:1 standard for positive tests, and the NSAC uses a 6:1 as its cutoff.”
Overeem is a former K-1 World Grand Prix Champion, an elite mixed martial artist who is also the former Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion and interim DREAM Heavyweight Champion who has went on to smash some of the biggest names in the sport today including Mark Hunt, Junior Dos Santos and even WWE superstar Brock Lesnar. If you’re a fan of strikers who look for the finish, Alistair Overeem is a fighter whose record is littered with a trail of unconscious bodies in its wake. On any given night, against any fighter on the planet Alistair Overeem possesses the ability to defeat him in convincing, devastating fashion.
While enjoying a reputation as a feared striker, Overeem is also a crafty submission artist in his own right with a legendary guillotine choke that can easily introduce his opponents to the sandman if they are not prepared to deal with the tricks the seasoned veteran has up his sleeve. Unfortunately for Overeem, in what comes with the territory when you live and die by the sword, “The Demolition Man” is susceptible to being stopped by strikes to those crafty enough to exploit the holes in the veteran mixed martial artists game.
On paper, this is a classic striker versus grappler matchup. Though this is mixed martial arts and anything can happen, the keys to victory for each fighter are relatively clear cut and dry. By looking at their respective records alone it is clear that Oleynik is going to want to take this fight to the mat where he can utilize his submission grappling ability to put Overeem in a compromising position. Unfortunately for Oleynik, he is going to have to close the distance with Overeem in order to drag the Dutchmen to the canvas. Which is going to put “The Boa Constrictor” in striking range with the former K-1 champion though it isn’t like Oleynik hasn’t been here before.
It will be essential for the Russian to keep his hands up, conscious of his own head position as he looks to bring Alistair to the mat for fear of being caught in the Dutchmen’s own web of sticky submission techniques. The good news is that it won’t be hard to find Overeem in the cage, but the bad news is Oleynik is going to have to weather the storm from a straight up killer in order to make it a grappling contest.
Conversely, “The Demolition Man” should avoid going to the ground with Oleynik at all costs, keeping the Russian at the end of his punches, kicks and knee’s. Overeem is going to need to conduct a symphony of destruction while conscious of closing the distance with the Russian submission ace. Overeem needs to be an athletic, dynamic and mobile striker who makes his opponent pay for coming into striking range while maintaining sufficient enough range to minimize Oleynik’s grappling based offensive attack.
There are no mysteries in this fight, the only unknowns are which fighter is going to be able to impose his will over the other first. This is a fight where fighter IQ and the better game plan will mean the difference between victory and defeat. “The Boa Constrictor” will either catch Overeem in an ambush like assault or “The Demolition Man” is going to blow Oleynik right out of the water in a classic grappler versus striker matchup that will only continue to fuel the debate on which style of fighting is best.
Top Rank on ESPN PPV Preview: Crawford vs. Khan, Stevenson vs. Diaz
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night the famed Madison Square Garden in New York City will be the host site of Top Rank Promotions’ latest Pay Per View (PPV) offering. Terence “Bud” Crawford, one of the sports pound for pound greats, is slated to face off against international star Amir Khan.
This card will be distributed by Top Rank Promotions in conjunction with ESPN.
The undercard will feature several of Top Rank’s brightest prospects. The co-main event will be between Shakur Stevenson and battle tested veteran Christopher Diaz in the featherweight division. Other Top Rank prospects such as Teofimo Lopez, Felix Verdejo, and Carlos Adames will be featured on Saturday’s card.
The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the evening.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
Shakur Stevenson (10-0) vs. Christopher Diaz (24-1); Featherweight Division
Shakur Stevenson is probably the best prospect to come out of the United States Olympic team since Errol Spence Jr.
Stevenson is only twenty one years old and has never faced an opponent with a losing record. However, he will be facing the toughest test of his career when he squares off against Christopher Diaz on Saturday night.
Diaz is three years older than Stevenson and is in the midst of his athletic prime. Stevenson will have a two inch height advantage and a four inch reach advantage over Diaz.
Both boxers are known for having some pop in their punches. Stevenson has six stoppage victories and has stopped four of his past five opponents. Diaz has sixteen stoppage victories, and four of his past five fights resulted in a stoppage victory.
Stevenson has never been defeated and has beaten the likes of Jessie Cris Rosales, Viorel Simion, and Carlos Ruiz. He’s also been extremely active. He fought once in 2019, five times in 2018, and four times in 2017.
Diaz has defeated the likes of Braulio Rodriguez, Bryant Cruz, and Angel Luna. His lone loss was to Masayuki Ito in July of 2018. He fought three times in 2018 and three times in 2017.
Stevenson does have a significant edge in amateur experience. Diaz has no notable international amateur accomplishments, while Stevenson was a former US National Amateur Champion as well as a silver medalist in the 2016 Summer Olympics.
This should be a good test for Stevenson. He may be distracted with his latest legal issues with pending assault charges, but he’ll be fighting near his hometown of Newark, New Jersey and hasn’t shown many signs of weakness in the ring since his professional debut.
Stevenson should emerge victorious, but Diaz will likely not get stopped.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
Terence Crawford (34-0) vs. Amir Khan; WBO Welterweight Title (33-4)
Terence Crawford is currently the best pure boxer that Top Rank has under contract. However, it’s his drawing power as a pay per view star is debatable. But Top Rank should have a better idea of his ability to draw pay per view buys after Saturday’s fight.
Crawford is 31 years old and still in his athletic prime, and Amir Khan is only one year older and also still in the middle of his prime. Khan will have a very slight half an inch height advantage over Crawford, while Crawford will have about a three inch reach advantage.
Crawford does have an edge in power over Khan. He has twenty five stoppage victories, and has stopped his past five opponents. Khan has twenty stoppage wins, but he also has three stoppage losses.
Crawford has been fairly active recently. He fought twice in 2018 and twice in 2017. Khan has not been very active. He fought twice in 2018, but did not fight at all in 2017 and has only fought four times since 2015.
Khan does have an edge in amateur experience. He was a silver medalist in the 2004 Summer Olympics, while Crawford has success as an amateur in the US National Circuit, including a US National PAL Championship.
Crawford has beaten the likes of Jose Benavidez Jr., Jeff Horn, Julius Indongo, Felix Diaz, John Molina Jr., Viktor Postol, Henry Lundy, Thomas Dulorme, Raymundo Beltran, Yuriorkis Gamboa, Ricky Burns, and Breidis Prescott. Prescott is a common opponent that was able to stop Amir Khan.
Khan has defeated the likes of Samuel Vargas, Phil Lo Greco, Chris Algieri, Devon Alexander, Luis Collazo, Julio Diaz, Carlos Molina, Zab Judah, Marcos Maidana, Paul Malignaggi, Dmitriy Salita, and Marco Antonio Barrera. His losses were to Breids Prescott, Lamont Peterson, Danny Garcia, and Saul Alvarez.
Khan’s speed can give many boxers problems, but Crawford is an exceptional counter puncher who’s hand speed can match Khan. Additionally, Crawford’s knockout power will likely give Khan’s questionable chin issues.
This may be the last time we see Amir Khan in a big meaningful pay per view fight. Expect Crawford to emerge victorious with another stoppage victory.
ESPN+ Boxing Results: Lomachenko and Ramirez Dominate In Victory
By: Hans Themistode
As expected, Vasyl lomachenko (13-1, 10 KOs) absolutely destroyed Anthony Crolla (34-7-3, 13 KOs). The contest took place at the Staples Center in Los Angeles.
No one expected Crolla to stand a chance and that is exactly how it played out tonight. Lomachenko started off fast. In the opening round he came out aggressive, landing big shots while not giving Crolla a chance to land something in response. In the following round it was much of the same. Crolla just couldn’t get his offense going. Round three was an utter beating. Lomachenko forced his opponent to the ropes and unleashed a barrage of punches. What followed shortly after was a bizarre sequence.
Lomachenko landed a ton of shots which had Crolla in serious trouble. The referee looked on closely as though he wanted to stop the fight. Crolla did not throw a punch in return but he did manage to block the majority of shots coming his way. Shortly after Lomachenko continued dishing out his beating the referee stepped in and seemed to wave off the contest. Lomachenko jumped on the ropes and celebrated. To the surprise of many the match was not over. Instead the ref was simply giving Crolla a standing ten count. It confused many fans in the crowd as it seemed as though Crolla’s gloves never actually touched the floor. It was a confusing sequence but Crolla was given another chance to continue the fight.
The following round Lomachenko wasted no time finishing off his man. Another strong attack by Lomachenko resulted in Crolla hitting the canvas face down. The referee immediately called off the match.
There is no sugar coating what took place tonight, it was a mismatch, non-competitive, just a terrible fight. Lomachenko didn’t prove anything tonight. What happened tonight was expected.
Anthony Crolla was not the only one who was overwhelmed tonight. Tommy Carpency (29-7-1, 18 KOs) was dominated tonight in the co main event by Gilberto Ramirez (40-0, 26 KOs). It was the first fight for Ramirez at Light Heavyweight and he proved that he can become a force in the division. From the start Ramirez dictated the pace of the fight.
It took Ramirez only four rounds to stop Carpency. After the contest it seemed as though Carpency was in a car wreck. That isn’t just hyperbole either. Ramirez dominated the action. He could be knocking on the door of a title shot in his new division in the not to distant future.
It was a night filled with mismatches. Both Gilberto Ramirez and Vasyl Lomachenko looked impressive tonight. Let’s all hope that we will see both of these fighters back in the ring soon but this time against much better opposition.
Dubai Fight Night Results: Joyce Stops Tiffney In 7; Lasisi Decisions Blandon
By: Ste Rowen
In the heat of the Dubai Friday night, in the Emirates Golf Club, decked out in glorious white armchairs for the attendees, David Oliver Joyce, now 10-0 (8KOs) stopped Stephen Tiffney in brutal fashion inside seven rounds. The co-main event saw Aliu Lasisi score a unanimous decision victory over Ricardo Blandon to claim the vacant WBC ‘International’ belt.
Tiffney, 10-1 (4KOs) heading into tonight, suffered a small cut to his right eye in the first two rounds after a positive start from both men. Joyce was clearly targeting the body of the Scot at every opportunity, unleashing vicious hooks that would help his as the fight drew on.
Photo Credit: MTK Global Twitter Page
Past the halfway mark there wasn’t much between both boxers, in terms of scoring shots and in the closeness of their fighting styles in the ring. Tiffney was having more success with counters, but Joyce’s swift hooks continued to punish his foe’s body. Then with 30 seconds left of round 7, the Irishman landed a wonderful flurry of pin-point punches to drop the Scot. Tiffney rose but David went in for the finisher, and as the bell rang for the end of the round, the referee waved it off as Stephen headed back to his corner. The correct call, if a little late.
The victor and now WBO European featherweight champion, draped in the Irish tricolour, spoke post-fight,
“It was an unbelievable performance…I’ve lived like a professional for the first time ever. The right meals, right training, right speed. I have to give props to my team.
I can mix it with the best. I boxed Valdez in the amateurs in 2009 and they all know I can mix it with them…To all the featherweights out there; David Oliver is in town!’’
The co-feature for the night saw the vacant WBC ‘International’ super-flyweight belt on the line for Nicaraguan, Ricardo Blandon and Aliu Bamidele Lasisi of Nigeria.
Scheduled for 12 rounds, Lasisi was the unbeaten fighter heading into tonight, but it was the 10-1 (6KOs) boxer, Blandon that tried to claim the middle of the ring early. The Nigerian responded well though, stepping off for a moment and firing his own accumulation of jabs. At the end of round 3 Blandon landed an overhand right, not cleanly, but enough to force the flash knockdown and set Lasisi behind on the scorecards.
A round later, the Nigerian was deducted a point for a headbutt which quite clearly seemed to be accidental. But the Dubai resident continued to push on, forcing the Central American to take a back foot and struggle at distance, as the bout headed past the halfway mark. Both men continued to battle it out in a scrappy but fairly quick-paced bout as it drew on into the championship rounds.
Then at the beginning of the 10th, Lasisi landed a quick-fisted uppercut to drop Ricardo and put Aliu into the ascendency. But Blandon then shook up the unbeaten fighter with a thudding right hand at the end of the 11th. Lasisi arguably being saved by the bell. Both men put it on the line for the final three minutes and it was close heading to the judge’s scorecards.
The three scores were announced as, 114-111 all for Lasisi who improves his record to 13-0 (9KOs). Tonight’s victory puts Aliu into a strong position to fight the winner of Sor Rungvisai vs. Estrada 2, next for the WBC world title proper, and he spoke immediately after,
‘‘Blandon is a good fighter, I thought I’d knock him out, but it didn’t o like that. He’s a tough guy. It was great to fight in Dubai.’’
Emirati lightweight, Majid Al Naqbi did his best to impress on his debut bout in front of his home fans with a frenetic but dominant 4th round stoppage over 0-2, Vladimir Lytki.
Southpaw lightweight, Sultan Zaurbek beat up Chenghong Tao before finishing the bout with a thudding hook and add to his now 6-0 (4KOs) pro record.
Debutant Shakhobidin Zoirov of Uzbekistan unleashed two hammer-like left hands to despatch with Indonesian journeyman, Anthony Holt.
Cesar Mateo Tapia scored a final round stoppage over Gaganpreet Sharma. The super-middleweight left it till the 8th to add his 6th professional KO to his record, moving to 10-0 (6KOs).
Home-crowd favourite and Dubai resident, Larry Abarra picked up a six-round decision win to improve to 8-3-1 (5KOs), over super-bantam, Raymond Commey, whose record now stands at 19-8 (10KOs).
Born in Saudi Arabia, raised in England, super-lightweight, Zuhayr Al-Qahtani earnt a 40-36 (x2), 39-37, unanimous decision win over SK Saheb, 2-1. It was the first time the Saudi-Southpaw, now 6-0 (0KOs) was fighting an opponent with a winning record since turning professional n 2017.
The first stoppage of the night saw 154lber, Ablikhaiyr Shegaliyev, 2-0 (1KO), from Kazakhstan drop the Georgian, Teimuraz Abuladze three times en route to a simple 1st round KO.
Armenian, Anahit Aroyan, moved to 3-0 (0KOs) with a 40-36 decision over fellow female bantamweight, Nongnun Sor Praithong.
Super-bantamweight, Hasibullah ‘The Kalashnikov’ Ahmadi, of Afghanistan improved to 4-0 (0KOs) with a split decision victory over Thai-journeyman, Manot Comput.
ESPN Boxing Results: Gvozdyk Wins By TKO After Ngumbu Hurts Leg
By: Sean Crose
ESPN’s boxing broadcast from Philly on Saturday opened with the 24-3 Ray Robinson facing the 21-0 Egidijus Kavaliauskas in a scheduled 10 round welterweight affair. Lithuania’s Kavaliauskas stalked his man throughout the first two rounds. The next two rounds showcased more of the same, with Kavaliauskas landing with a degree of effect.
The middle rounds saw Robinson picking up the pace a bit. The problem for Robinson was that his opponent hit harder and was able to cut off the ring with some success. The second half of the fight was engaged closer to the center of the ring than the first half. Still, both fighters were cautious, something that was noted (without pleasure) by ESPNs broadcast team. By the last round, Robinson was able to effectively flick his jab, and actually displayed a bit of aggressiveness.
The fight was ruled a majority draw.
Soon it was time for the main event. The last time the world had seen Oleksandr Gvozdyk, the 16-0 fighter had taken the crown from longstanding WBC light heavyweight champion Adonis Stevenson by beating the aging titlist into what would eventually become a coma. Still in the shadow of that tragic event, the Teddy Atlas protege slipped between the ropes to face the 38-8 Doudou Ngumbo.
Gvozdyk appeared to be the significantly bigger man right from the opening bell. Gvozdyk patiently worked his way through the 1st, while the awkward Ngumbo found his moments. The 2nd round was interesting, with Gvozdyk trying to work the body. The 3d was fairly close, with Ngumbo throwing off the champion’s timing. Ngumbo began to showboat at the end of the 4th. One could be forgiven for feeling the man might have started to dominate, should he have thrown more punches.
The fight was abruptly halted in the fifth, when Ngumbu seemed to hurt his leg with no help from the champion. Oddly enough, the fighter was given five minutes to recover…but the bout was officially stopped after a few minutes, regardless. Gvozdyk was given a TKO victory as the result of a very strange turn of events.
ESPN Boxing Preview: Gzozdyk vs. Ngumbu, Kavaliauskas vs. Robinson
By: William Holmes
On Saturday night Oleksandr Gvozdyk will defend his WBC Light Heavyweight Title against Doudou Ngumbu in the main event of a Top Rank Boxing on ESPN telecast.
This bout will air live on ESPN from the 2300 Arena in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.
The co-main event will be between Egidijus Kavaliauskas and Ray Robinson in the welterweight division. The winner of this bout could have bigger bouts on the horizon against either Amir Khan or Terence Crawford.
Photo Credit: Top Rank Boxing Twitter Account
The undercard will feature fighters such as Kudratillo Abdukakhorov, Frederick Lawson, Jose Lopez, Christian Mbilli, and Cassius Chaney.
The following is a preview of the co-main event and main event of the night.
Pulev Defeats Dinu on ESPN
By: Sean Crose
A Bloodied Pulev Conquers Dinu On ESPN Top RankCard
Kubat Pulev literally jumped into the ring at the Hangar in Southern California Saturday night to make himself familiar to American audiences. Although well known among hard core fight fans as a man who challenged, and lost to, Wladimir Klitschko while the Ukrainian was still king of the heavyweight division, the 26-1 Pulev was still essentially obscure in among American sports fans. An impressive performance against the 18-1 Bogdan Dinu in front of ESPN cameras would surely change all that. And so Bulgaria’s Pulev answered the opening bell for ESPN’s live Top Rank broadcast on Saturday night determined to shine.
The scheduled 10 round affair began with both men firing jabs at each other. Pulev, however, quickly, if subtly, established himself as the more aggressive of the two, walking his man down and making Dinu fight off the back foot. An active policeman in his home country of Romania, Dinu was coming off a loss to Jarrell “Big Baby” Miller, who will face heavyweight king Anthony Joshua this spring at Madison Square Garden. The 6’5 Dinu hurt his man badly in the fourth round. Sure enough, Pulev, who was bleeding profusely, appeared to look in real trouble. Needless to say, Pulev fought back bravely towards the end of round, perhaps even desperately.
The doctor stepped into the ring at the beginning of the fifth, but Pulev assured him he was okay to continue. Needless to say, ESPN’s broadcast team made it clear that the cut would be very hard to contain as the fight continued. Still, Pulev fought quite effectively throughout the round. Pulev continued to fight hard in the sixth. Pulev then began the seventh in ferocious fashion, sending his man to the canvas less than a minute after the opening bell. The problem was that Pulev landed a hard shot on the back of Dinu’s head after the Romanian had hit the mat.
The ring doctor was called in, but Dinu said he couldn’t get up. The man did indeed get up seconds later, however, after the referee ruled the late blow accidental, and was cleared to continue. Pulev was deducted a point. A few seconds later, Dinu was down again. He got up at the count of nine, but then went down for a third time later in the round. The fight was wisely stopped.
Earlier in the evening, Jessie Magdalano, 26-2, bested the 30-6 Rico Ramos in a ten round featherweight affair via unanimous decision.
ESPN+ Boxing Preview: Bowen vs. McCorry
By: Oliver McManus
Saturday night sees, British champion, Sam Bowen in the first defence of his title as he fights Jordan McCorry. Taking place at the Leicester Arena, newly rebranded as ‘Morningside’, the contest headlines Frank Warren’s second show of 2019.
Bowen, aged 26, claimed the British belt last April with a convincing victory over Maxi Hughes in which he dropped his opponent on two occasions – an emphatic display in which everything seemed to piece together nicely. Carl Greaves’ protégé had to learn his trade on the off-beat small hall scene of Yorkshire and the Midlands. Off the back of that victory, however, he has secured the backing of Warren and BT Sport to really progress his career.
Scheduled to fight Ronnie Clark last October and, more recently, on February 23rd, the Scotsman has withdrawn on both occasions resulting in this, relatively late notice, fight against McCorry. The Ibstock man managed to stay busy in October with a comfortable victory over Horacio Alfredo Cabral, for the WBO Intercontinental belt, in which Bowen mercilessly targeted the Argentine’s body.
Up against McCorry, then, Bowen has a real opportunity to showcase the best of his abilities with his deceptive, energy sapping, punch power hidden behind constant shuffling footwork and a firm jab. Get the win on Saturday and Bowen can start to set his sights higher than his domestic contenders as the push for more titles continues.
McCorry, of course, isn’t coming into the fight as a knock-over job and will be confident his experience should be enough to see off the threat of Bowen. The Cambuslang resident is a two-weight Scottish Area champion having held the lightweight version between 2014 and 2015 before adding the featherweight belt in 2017.
The last two years have seen McCorry picking up the wins to advance his record to 17-4-1. An impressive showing against Jamie McGuire, in which he recovered from a first round knockdown, saw a 98-93 decision go the way of Jordy. A double helping of second round knockouts over, usually durable, Rafael Castillo and Reynaldo Mora give credence for his confidence.
His last fight, however, was a gravely disappointing display out in Switzerland against Patrick Kinigamazi. Losing a unanimous decision over 12 rounds for the World Boxing Federation crown, McCorry’s technique was lacking against an unknown quantity of opponent. He’ll be hoping to rediscover his previous form if he is to upset the odds against a formidable Sam Bowen.
Nathan Gorman will be looking to move to sixteen wins on the trot since turning professional, on Saturday night. Confusion surrounds quite who he’ll be facing with, scheduled opponent, Fabio Maldonado seemingly drafted in to fight Oleksandr Teslenko. Teslenko, for clarity, was originally meant to fight a returning Ian Lewison. Christopher Lovejoy then declared to the world, via Instagram, that he had accept “100 bands” to step in, on five days’ notice, and face Gorman.
I’m told, by people with better knowledge of slang than me, that 100 bands is around $100,000 so that figure seems highly questionable. As it happens Lovejoy has since reneged on his statement and confirmed it won’t be him in the opposite corner. Currently the official line is that Maldonado will be in Leicester come Saturday evening though it seems increasingly unlikely the former UFC fighter will turn up.
Should the Brazilian opt to proceed with the bout then it’ll be his first contest since an uninspiring loss to Oscar Rivas last December. The Steel Hillbilly has built a padded record to now sit 26-1 in the heavyweight division with 25 of those victories coming via knockout. Only six of those have had winning records and 14 were winless.
Sam Maxwell, on the other hand, has got a definite fight in the form of Sadbri Sediri. The unbeaten French fighter, 10-0-1, steps up to the plate after Kelvin Dotel withdrew from the contest earlier in the week.
Maxwell, himself unbeaten in ten professional fights, has built a burgeoning reputation with the distinguished amateur settling into the paid ranks with ease. Imperiously heavy handed, the Mersey-man has seen off eight of his opponents inside the distance. In December he became only the second man to knockout Jamie Quinn and did so with menace and spite – a mini statement but a statement, nonetheless.
Sediri will be stepping up to super lightweight for this fight, with the WBO European belt on the line, but has been inactive since June. His contests have come across the gymnasiums of eastern France against your archetypal journeyman. Against Maxwell he’ll be in the biggest fight of his career – past or, probably, future.
ESPN+ Boxing Preview: Yarde vs. Reeves, Dubois vs. Cojanu
By: Oliver McManus
Frank Warren kick starts his promotional operations of 2019 at Royal Albert Hall with two cracking British title fights.
There’s a sensational match-up for the British Middleweight title as Liam Williams looks to defend the belt against Joe Mullender. Williams returns to the ring off the back of his peerless victory over Mark Heffron, in December, but is guaranteed to face more fire on the 8th.
In that fight it was the Welshman who dictated the pace of the fight with a lovely jab and sharp footwork to keep Heffron at bay; Mullender will be a far different challenge as he looks to get right in the face of the champion. Smokin’ Joe has made no bones as to the approach he’ll take with the fight, in simple terms, just ‘punch him more than he punches me’. A tactic that the 32 year old has taken throughout his career and one that consistently produces entertainment.
That all out aggression has produced serious results against genuine fighters with two bruising encounters against Lee Markham for the English title, as well as Lee Churcher and Ben Capps over the last two years – though the result of the Churcher bout was later overturned due to an anti-doping violation.
Not looking past Mullender, who will prove to be more than just a plucky puncher, Williams has stated his intentions to drop back down to super-welterweight and re-establish on the world scene at the lighter division. I am eager to see how far he can go at middle, though, with the Ingle Gym fighter a breath of fresh air in the division. Against Smokin’ Joe we’re guaranteed to see a fight that’ll go up in flames.
Drop down to welterweight and Johnny Garton looks to defend his belt against Chris Jenkins. Garton outclassed Gary Corcoran in a bloodied and battered war last October to claim the vacant title. Jenkins, meanwhile, has had mixed fortunes over the last 12 months with two of his three fights resulting in technical decisions.
Likewise with Williams-Mullender there is no chance of this being a quite encounter and I expect Jenkins to actually come out and try to be the more aggressive over the opening couple rounds. We saw against Corcoran the stamina and the work-rate that Garton possesses so you want to get some early rounds in the bag should the fight end up going the distance.
Jenkins, however, has a tendency to cut over the eyes and the skin around that area is getting weaker with every fight. There might be a reluctance, therefore, to fully commit and engage from inside the pocket. Garton, another one who is susceptible to cuts, has really hit his stride over the last five, six fights with the 31 year old starting to produce consistently polished performances at the right tempo.
Now with that consistency it is time to capitalise on the natural ability that Garton has to fight and maximise the rewards for when he finishes his career. Opportunities haven’t always been available for the Peckham-fighter what with, gym-mate and friend, Skeete holding the British belt. Garton now, though, is the man at the domestic scene so let’s see where he goes from here – it’ll be entertaining, that’s for sure.
Away from the Lord Lonsdale fights you have Anthony Yarde facing Travis Reeves in a contest that bears resemblance to the frustrations of last year – yet another opponent that few people will have heard of.
It’s become increasingly clear that while Yarde possesses considerable punching power, he isn’t this one-punch knock-out artist that can end a fight with the turn of a screw. At least not from what we’ve seen so far. Instead he tires out his counterparts, wearing down their bodily resistance and mental resilience throughout a number of rounds. Yes he drops opponents from well timed, accurately placed, shots but rarely do bouts come round to any thunderous conclusion.
Initially set to face Mehdi Amar on February 23rd, the Frenchman withdrew three weeks prior and then the whole show was cancelled, Reeves stepped up to the plate. Two years older than Amar and eleven more than, 27 year old, Yarde, Reeves will enter the ring with a record of 17-3-2. Nicknamed Seveer – purely for the reason it is his surname background – the American intended to turn professional in 2004 with a fight scheduled in Philadelphia. That bout fell through and Reeves’ career fell into extended disarray with the Baltimore man eventually debuting in 2013. Seven fights in a year saw Reeves sitting with a record of 3-2-2 before returning to Baltimore to string some wins together.
By no means a big puncher, Reeves boasts no wins over recognisable names. Indeed his best performance came against Aaron Quattrocchi in November 2016 when the 38 year old knocked his opponent out within two rounds to claim the USBO Light Heavyweight title. Against Karo Murat last March, Reeves struggled to find a foothold in the contest, taking place in Hamburg, before succumbing to a 12th round TKO – a mercy rule finish, if ever there was one.
A fight that could be the straw to break the camel’s back, Yarde needs a performance more than he ever has before.
The final main fight of the card will see Daniel Dubois up against Razvan Cojanu. Having been postponed from December 15th, Dubois will be looking to make up for lost time and, indeed, lost time to his closest rival Nathan Gorman.
Dynamite heads into his 10th professional contest off the back of a disappointing performance against Kevin ‘Kingpin’ Johnson. That contest, back in October, was a case of repetition throughout the 10 rounds with the American reverting to the ropes whilst Dubois fought fairly one-dimensionally. It was, arguably, the first fight where you Dubois’ youth and inexperience came to the fore – you suspect the process coming at such an early stage will stand him in good stead, though.
Cojanu, on the other hand, returns to UK shores for the second time in just under three months with the Romanian having fought Nathan Gorman on December 22nd. In that bout, 12 rounder, Gorman started off sprightly before fading in the latter half of the contest. Cojanu, to give him credit, recovered from a relatively shaky start to hold his own. Well, when I say ‘hold his own’, he didn’t look like getting knocked out but was a comprehensive second-best. Now with a record of 16 and 5, Cojanu’s most recent trio of losses have come to Razvan Cojanu, Luis Ortiz and Gorman. Only Ortiz has stopped him.
Starting off 2019 with a shared opponent, of the calibre of Cojanu, will be a great yardstick for measuring up Warren’s two heavyweight prospects.
It is March 8th that sees the start of Frank Warren’s promotional adventures – a delayed beginning but one that promises excitement. It’s a Royal Rumble but not as you know it…
Fury Catches Fight World By Surprise, Aligns With Top Rank Promotions
By: Sean Crose
In a move that has clearly taken the boxing world by surprise, Tyson Fury, the man many still consider to be the lineal heavyweight champion of the world, has signed on with Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions. What makes this decision by Fury particularly surprising is the fact that discussions for a rematch between he and WBC heavyweight titlist Deontay Wilder, who Fury fought to a wild draw last December, have reportedly been going quite well. Now that Fury has aligned himself with Arum, who arguably is the arch rival of Wilder adviser Al Haymon, the rematch situation appears cloudy – at least for now. Also curious is the fact that Arum has no other top heavyweight in his stable.
“Tyson Fury, one of the world’s most dynamic and popular heavyweight boxers, and Hall of Fame promoter Frank Warren are joining forces with Hall of Fame promoter Bob Arum’s Top Rank,” ESPN claimed in a press release. “The agreement will mean that Fury will be a headline part of the boxing lineup under the historic, long-termTop Rank on ESPN relationship.” Fury’s management company, Mack the Knife, or MTK as it’s more commonly known, also weighed in on the matter. “After intense negotiations between MTK Global, Queensberry Promotions, Top Rank and ESPN,” the company claimed, “Fury’s future fights will be co-promoted across BT Sports in the UK and ESPN networks and ESPN+ after landmark agreement was penned by Top Rank and Queensberry Promotions.”
Fury, an enormous, colorful Englishman, has stunned the fight world before. At the end of 2015, he bested long standing champion Wladimir Klitshcko in Germany, to wrest the heavyweight crown off the Ukranian’s head. It was a fight few felt Fury could win, but his awkward, frustrating style clearly baffled Kltischko and ended up carrying the day the for the outspoken contender. After his great victory, however, Fury delved into a world of booze, drugs, food, and depression…only to finally emerge after two years and two tuneup fights to face the hard hitting American, Wilder. Even in the Wilder fight, Fury managed to stun people. He was dropped by a thunderous shot in the final round…only to get up off the mat and to close the bout in competitive fashion.
With this latest news dropping, Fury once again has fans and analysts scratching their collective heads. Top Rank, however, is an esteemed, and powerful promotional outlet, helmed by the iconic, controversial, and wildly successful Arum, so it’s not as if Fury has gone off and signed with an obscure entity. Time will tell the tale.
Top Rank on ESPN Preview: Rob Brant vs. Khasan Baysangurov
By: Sean Crose
WBA “Regular” Middleweight Champion Rob Brant, 24-1, will defend his title against the 17-0 Khasan Baysangurov at Minnesota’s Grand Casino on Friday night, headlining a card to be aired lived as part of ESPNs Top Rank Boxing programming. A native of Minnesota himself, Brant will be making his first defense in front of what is essentially a local audience. Brant won his title by besting then-titlist Ryoto Murata last October in Last Vegas. The undefeated Baysangurov will be making his first attempt at a major title. Brant is clearly the Ukrainian fighter’s biggest test to date.
Without doubt, he may have his hands full. For Brant will be making his 12th appearance at the Grand Casino on Friday. Considering the fact that Baysangurov has only knocked out roughly 40% of his opponents (scoring just two stoppages in the six fights he has engaged in during the past two years) he may not be able to rely on a knockout. The Brant-Baysangurov match is scheduled for 12 rounds.
Chicago’s 19-1-1-Joshua Greer Jr will be on the card, as well. The bantamweight will be facing the 19-3 Giovanni Escaner in a scheduled 10 round contest for a stepping-stone belt, the World Boxing Council Continental Americas Bantamweight Title. Escaner, who hails from the Philippians, hasn’t lost since 2014. The only loss on Greer Jr’s record came courtesy of a majority decision being handed to Stephen Fulton in 2015. The man stopped all four of his opponents in 2018, along with three of his four opponents in 2017. This will be Escaner’s fight bout in the US. All of his previous 17 fights have occurred in the Ukraine, Russia, and Azerbaijan respectively.
The first match on the televised card will feature the 9-0 2016 American Olympian Mikaela Meyer, as the Colorado native faces the 13-1-1 Yareli Larios of Mexico in the second defense of her NABF Female Super Featherweight Title, which she won via unanimous decision over Vanessa Bradford last October in Omaha, Nebrasksa.
The televised portion of the card will begin at 9 PM Eastern Standard Time on ESPN and ESPN Deportes, while the preliminaries will be aired live on ESPNs streaming service, ESPN+ starting at 6 PM, Eastern Standard Time. A total of twelve fights are scheduled to go down on the card, which his being presented by Bob Arum’s Top Rank Promotions, which has a lucrative broadcast deal with ESPN.
UFC on ESPN 1: Velasquez vs Ngannou
By: Jesse Donathan
Very respected people in the mixed martial arts community consider Cain Velasquez (14-2) to be greatest heavyweight fighter the sport has ever seen. The former Arizona State collegiate wrestler is known for his relentless pace, incredible cardio and stifling pressure inside the cage. A former two-time UFC Heavyweight champion, Velasquez’s career has been marked with injuries which has left fans and pundits alike questioning what could have been rather than what actually was unfortunately. Velasquez last competed in July of 2016, defeating Travis Browne by TKO.
Few fighters will ever know what it means to have a promotion completely behind them, in the not too distant past Francis Ngannou (12-3) was thought to be a world beater who enjoyed the UFC’s complete backing all the way up to meeting Stipe Miocic for the UFC Heavyweight title and getting dominated in convincing fashion. Ngannou possesses incredible power, in a sport marked with athletes Ngannou is the type of mixed martial artist who could clean house in the roughest of neighborhoods. Unfortunately for Ngannou, the same problems he faced against Stipe Miocic are going to be the same problems he will have to face in Cain Velasquez, which is an athletic, wrestling based big man who has the ability to stand with Ngannou or take him down virtually anytime he wants too.
The good new for Ngannou is that Velasquez won’t be afraid of him and will be willing to stand and trade punches with “The Predator.” What this means for Ngannou is opportunities, opportunities to do what Ngannou does best and that is lay people out. The bad news is Velasquez has proven to be athletic enough with a high enough fight IQ to weather the storm and bulldoze his way right through Ngannou. They key’s to victory for Ngannou will be to put his hands on Velasquez, maintain proper striking distance and to avoid the takedown.
Ngannou cannot afford to allow Velasquez to close the distance, failure to stop what is surely the inevitable will mean Ngannou will likely suffer PTSD based flashbacks of how badly Stipe Miocic beat him up. This means Ngannou will need to improve his foot work, ensure he makes Velasquez pay for closing the distance on him and work hard to stuff any takedowns coming his way which will almost assuredly be chained in combinations. Ngannou will absolutely need to rely on an offensive based game plan, developing a momentum stopping jab would go a long way in making opponents think twice about exploiting his lack of grappling acumen and takedown defense.
For Velasquez, he has been here before. The ankle pick or any other number of takedowns will be there for Velasquez essentially anytime he wants them to be. Using his athleticism to close the distance, applying a pace and pressure Ngannou will find difficult to maintain for any meaningful amount of time and bringing the hurt in classic Velasquez fashion are his keys to victory. Ngannou has incredible power, it is not in Cain’s best interest to test the waters but should he find his way through the absolute bombs sure to come his way Velasquez can be expected to ragdoll Ngannou and showcase a violent all-around mixed martial arts game.
The blueprint to defeat Ngannou has already been written, he is going to need to close the holes in his game and develop additional tools such as a jab and solid takedown defense in order to compete in the UFC Heavyweight division. Other fighters in the past such as former UFC fighter Cheick Kongo were able to successfully add a wrestling based offensive attack to their arsenal in addition to being feared strikers so it is entirely possible for Ngannou to continue to evolve as a mixed martial artist. For Velasquez, expectations are high for the former champion. Anything short of getting Ngannou out of there convincingly will be viewed with disappointing eyes. This fight will not be a repeat of Ngannou vs Lewis, which was a real snooze fest. The forecast on Sunday night the 17th on ESPN will be violence.
UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ Results: Aldo Emerges Victorious
By: Jesse Donathan
There didn’t appear to be an empty seat in the house Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 144 in Fontaleza, Ceara, Brazil. The main event saw Raphael Assuncao (27-6) lose to the surging Marlon Moraes by submission in the first round of the 135-pound bantamweight division featured contest. “Magic” Moraes (22-5) has won four in a row, bringing an end to Assuncao’s own four fighting winning-streak, securing victory in front of the packed house with a mounted guillotine choke. The finish was set up by some vicious striking from Moraes, creating a scramble with Assuncao that culminated in the fight hitting the mat and Moraes wrapping up his opponent like an Anaconda, constricting his opponents will to fight. Resistance proved to be futile, coaxing the tap at 3:17 into the first round.
As reported in a cbssports.com article titled, “UFC Fight Night 144 results, highlights: Marlon Moraes makes quick work of Raphael Assuncao” by Brian Campbell, “Magic” went on to state after the bout, “You almost lost the main event. I had diarrhea all week bad.” According to Moraes, “I caught the mosquito here and it messed me up bad. “It was a very tough week for me. I was really tested and it was really God that made me come here tonight.”
Catching the mosquito, an apparent allusion to Malaria perhaps? Bringing into focus some of the hurdles professional fighters face beyond just having to worry about another trained killer attempting to separate them from consciousness in the ring or cage. If true, the fact Moraes was able to secure victory Saturday night is no small feat to have accomplished, bordering on the incredible in fact.
The Co-main event saw mixed martial arts legend Jose Aldo compete against Renato “Moicano” Carneiro in what was reported to have been the originally planned main event for UFC Fight Night 144 before Aldo is said to have declined to participate in the mandatory five round affair. Round one proved to be a feeling out process for Aldo, who remained rather disciplined in his approach, pumping the jab throughout the round in an attempt to control the distance against the lengthier “Moicano” who was the far more active fighter throughout the first five minutes.
Round two saw the former UFC champion turn up the volume. Ditching the more disciplined approach from round one, Aldo went right after Carneiro with a blitzkrieg style offensive barrage of punches and knees. “Moicano” was overwhelmed, unable to turn the tide of Aldo’s relentlessly high pace, referee Jerin Valel was forced to intervene and call an end to the contest at just 44 seconds into round two. The crowd was ecstatic with the victory, the atmosphere very reminiscent of a World Cup soccer event, with Aldo himself overwhelmed with joy as if a great burden had been lifted off his shoulders.
Leaping over the cage and into a sea of a thrilled spectators, shades of the UFC lightweight champion Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov infamously taking flight up and over the chain link fence at UFC 229 flashed before my eyes. Only Aldo’s intentions were anything but nefarious, showing and receiving great love from those in attendance. This was the true main event at UFC Fight Night 144 and if the crowd’s reaction to Aldo’s TKO victory was any indication of success, the UFC knocked it out of the park with Saturday night’s co-main event.
In other news from UFC Fight Night 144, Demian Maia (26-9) proved to be too much for Lyman Good, who falls to 20-5 overall, succumbing to a rear naked choke at 2:38 into round number one to the Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master. In victory, the 41-year-old Maia snaps a three-fight losing streak, having lost to a deaths row of competitors in the welterweight division to include the champion Tyron Woodley, former interim champion Colby Covington and the divisions number one contender Kamaru Usman back-to-back-to-back.
An immense amount of recognition and respect needs to be given to an almost pure Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master for competing at the sports highest level in mixed martial arts competition with what is an almost purely submission-based plan of attack. In an era where conventional wisdom holds that the Royce Gracie’s of the world are a thing of the past, Demian exists to show the experts that Brazilian Jiu-jitsu is sill a force to be reckoned with in the modern era. For this reason alone, Demian Maia is a modern-day Brazilian Jiu-jitsu, mixed martial arts hero.
UFC Fight Night 144 on ESPN+ Preview
By: Jesse Donathan
The UFC returns to ESPN+ Saturday night, February 2nd as bantamweights Marlon Moraes (21-5-1) and Raphael Assuncao (27-5) collide in the main event. Both fighters are vying for an opportunity to face bantamweight champion TJ Dillashaw (16-4), in their way oddly enough is flyweight champion Henry Cejudo who recently bested Dillashaw in a failed attempt to claim Cejudo’s 125-pound title. In the co-main event, former longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo (27-4) faces Renato “Moicano” Carneiro (13-1-1) in a three-round 145-pound featherweight contest.
According to Bellator light heavyweight fighter and ESPN host Chael Sonnen stated via his January 31, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “Jose Aldo said publicly what a lot of fighters say privately…” Aldo was offered the main event slot but declined, preferring to take a three-round fight over a lengthier five round war of attrition. Sonnen would go on to add, “Jose has been the first one to put his foot down and push back and a lot of the fighters are going, ‘hey, this is weird, why are we doing that?’ Why do we have to go on for 70% longer?”
Aldo has had his problems with cardio in the past, with his tendency to put a high pace on his opponents the very real possibility of gassing out can have the effect of changing game plans and the way fighters approach the fights. Without an additional two rounds to worry about, Aldo has more freedom to practice his particular brand of violence which has served him well throughout his legendary career. Considered by some to be the greatest featherweight of all time, anytime you get a chance to watch Aldo compete the very real possibility of a stoppage exists win or lose making him a perennial fan favorite.
Renato Moicano has other plans however, with a lengthy, piston like jab the 5’11” Moicano enjoys a 75-inch reach, a full five inches greater than the 5’8” Aldo. Fighting tall and long will be the keys to victory for Moicano, something easier said then done against an opponent like Jose who is great at closing the distance and with deadly kicks and offensive barrages. Aldo is the more experienced and technical fighter, but the years of consistently fighting some of the best fighters in the world have taken their toll on the once dominant champion. The 32-year-old champion has twice as many fights as his younger, 29-year-old opponent and that kind of mileage will begin to break down even the best of fighters. We will find out if Aldo has what it takes to turn back ‘Moicano’ Saturday night.
Miguel Berchelt-Francisco Vargas Rematch Set, 3/23 on ESPN; Winner Could Get Lomachenko
By Jake Donovan
Miguel Berchelt and Francisco Vargas are prepared to do it all again—and this time, with even more at stake than just the 130-pound title.
A rematch to their Jan. ’17 thriller—which Berchelt won by 11th round knockout to dethrone the previously unbeaten Vargas—is set for March 23 at The Forum in Inglewood, California. The bout will air live on ESPN, with the event to be presented by Berchelt’s U.S. promoter Top Rank, who’ve already teased a loftier prize for the winner.
“It’s very possible that the winner of this terrific rematch will go on to face lightweight champion Vasiliy Lomachenko later this year,” promoter Bob Arum said of the bout.
Berchelt (35-1, 30KOs) has exploded onto the 130-pound scene, beginning with his systematic dismantling of Vargas in their first meet. The bout was competitive early and befitting their all-action styles, but with Berchelt eventually wearing down his battered countryman in lifting the title.
Four defenses have since followed, most recently scoring a 9th round knockout of countryman Miguel Roman in an entertaining—if not one-sided—ESPN+ streamed bout this past November in El Paso, Texas.
With the historic Forum playing host to the rematch, Merida, Mexico’s Berchelt plays the California circuit for the third time in his two-plus year title reign. His title win over Vargas took place in Indio, Calif., while The Forum itself played host to his first defense, a points win over former titlist Takashi Miura in July ’17.
Miura was responsible for the all-action title reign of Vargas (25-1-2, 18KOs), who overcame a 4th round knockdown to drop and stop the reigning champ from Japan in the 9th round of their unforgettable Nov. ’15 war.
The savagely brutal war not only stole the show from the evening’s far more prolific headliner—Saul ‘Canelo’ Alvarez’s historic World middleweight championship win over Miguel Cotto—but would go on to gain universal recognition as 2015 Fight of the Year.
It also appeared to take quite a bit out of Mexico City’s Vargas, who was sidelined for much of the first part of 2016 to allow several cuts to heal.
His ring return was hardly a let-up in competition, once again thrown the wolves in fighting former two-division titlist Orlando Salido to a 12-round draw in June. Once again, Vargas managed to produce a Fight of the Year-level performance, but the back-to-back wars showed its effect by the time he got to Berchelt.
Two wins have followed for the 34-year old slugger, scoring a technical decision win over veteran contender Stephen Smith in Dec. ’17 and—in his lone ring action of 2018—slaughtering overmatched Rod Salka in six rounds last April.
Given his lofty ranking among the World Boxing Council—whom recognizes Berchelt as its 130-pound champ—it was a matter of time before Vargas found himself back in the title picture. Still, it took for rival promoters to put aside their differences for the sake of reaching a deal as Top Rank (Berchelt’s co-promoter), with whom Vargas began his career before eventually moving onto Golden Boy Promotions in 2011.
“Look what’s happening in boxing. All the other promoters are cooperating with each other, Arum said of doing business with Golden Boy, while also taking a shot at another rival in adviser Al Haymon. “This show, we have our kid, Miguel Berchelt against Oscar de la Hoya’s fighter, Francisco Vargas.
“To survive at this level and in today’s market, you have to work with other promoters. We have a commitment to deliver the best fights in the world to ESPN and that’s what we’re doing here. The winner will have another big fight to look forward to, as we’d love to match (whomever is victorious) with our lightweight champion, the great Vasiliy Lomachenko.”