UFC Fight Night 161: Jedrzejczyk Routes Waterson by Unanimous Decision
By: Jesse Donathan
The main event of UFC 161 between Michelle Waterson and Joanna “Champion” Jedrzejczyk may not have proven to be a fight of the year candidate Saturday night, but it does serve as a great example of how pressure from above can come with little to no consideration or regard for the best interests or wellbeing of the athletes themselves. The combat sports industry only cares about dollars and cents, a fact which underscores the value and necessity for a fighter to have a good team and management in their corner. Jedrzejczyk dominated Waterson Saturday night, taking home a five-round unanimous decision victory, though one unfortunately marred by a weight controversy and the resulting speculative fallout that saw the Waterson camp reportedly pressured into accepting a catchweight bout.
In an October 10, 2019 MMAMania.com article titled, “Joanna Jedrzejczyk has a message for her weight-cutting critics: Stay quiet, you’re not important,” author Jesse Holland touched based on some of the highlights from Jedrzejczyk’s UFC Fight Night 161 open workout scrum with MMAFighting.com prior to her Saturday night showdown against Michelle Waterson (17-7, 3 KOs) in Tampa, Florida.
“There are always some troubles with the weight cut, there’s always some risk, Jedrzejczyk said. I know people are smart and think it’s that easy to, ‘Hey, go run for 10 hours or don’t eat,’ but it’s not like this, you know? So, people who are not important who don’t know a lot about it should just stay quiet and just wait until the end, the results,” writes MMAMania.com.
Photo Credit: UFC Twitter Account
The story of the week leading up to UFC Fight Night 161 was the controversy surrounding reports Jedrzejczyk had informed the UFC brass well ahead of time that she would not be able to make the 115-pound strawweight limit. As BoxingInsider.com previously reported, Waterson’s camp held their ground in insisting Jedrzejczyk make the 115-pound strawweight division limit (116-pounds), reportedly having received ultimatums from the UFC to either accept a catchweight against Jedrzejczyk or face Jessica Andrade at UFC 244. Thankfully, Jedrzejczyk (16-3, 4 KOs) made weight at Friday’s weigh-in, coming in at a reported 115.5-pounds.
“I’m trying to unpack Joanna not champion here,” said ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen in his October 11, 2019 YouTube video titled, “Joanna not champion’s weight cut struggles….” According to Sonnen, “She calls the promotion and she says, ‘I can’t make weight.’ Now don’t forget, this is a feature fight with Michelle Waterson that has implications for top contender status, ultimately implications for title contender status in the division. She calls up three days early and says, ‘Hey, I can’t make weight.’”
“There is a certain amount of honor that comes with calling ahead of time, notifying the promotion, notifying the media and notifying your opponent, regardless of the deal that we had,” said Professor Sonnen in his classic reverse psychology critique of how the story unfolded. “I must tell you that I am going to break that deal,” said Sonnen, stepping into the role of the honorable Jedrzejczyk. Continuing, Sonnen went on to add, “So, instead of surprising you and dropping this in your lap, making you panic, making the commission panic, double-crossing my opponent who is going to go and get her weight off, I’m just going to tell you right up front I need a new deal, we got to make a new deal.”
“And, a couple of things here,” added the Bad Guy Inc. CEO. “First, is she going to get teased? Yeah. Was that unprofessional? Yeah. Does that beg question what the hell have you been doing this entire training camp that you can’t make weight? Yeah, it does,” said Sonnen who was no doubt roasting Jedrzejczyk in the face of a potentially disastrous situation for the UFC and ESPN should a last-second opponent substitution have taken place, or perhaps even worse yet, the main event itself cancelled altogether. Which was no doubt the genesis of reports surfacing from the mixed martial arts media of an ultimatum having been served up to the Waterson camp.
To give you an idea of how the actual fight went, by the 4th round the call must have come from upstairs for fight announcers Michael Bisping and guest coach Trevor Wittman to discuss the tremendous heart Waterson was displaying and to remind the audience both fighters were top level strikers despite the fact Waterson was bloodied and getting pieced up throughout the bout. As far as striking goes, Waterson was never really in the game throughout the duration of the match, her offensive mindset and killer instinct seemingly having taken a back seat to her team’s game planning and the realities of a five-round contest.
Michelle found it hard to navigate the distance with her taller, longer opponent as Waterson either looked to tie Jedrzejczyk up in the clinch along the fence or take her down throughout the five-round affair, which is a commendable strategy, but unfortunately one Waterson failed to capitalize on despite having her moments late in the third when she briefly took a standing Jedrzejczyk’s back, threatening with a rear naked choke before ultimately losing the position and submission not long before the end of the round.
Meeting the bell at the beginning of the fifth and final round, Jedrzejczyk’s right foot was badly swollen, her cornermen treating the injury with ice in between rounds, the result of repeated leg kick attacks from the Muay Thai specialist. Both fighters appeared well conditioned as the beginning of final five minutes began to count down, the two meeting in the center of the Octagon and embracing before Jedrzejczyk went back on the offensive. The two would tie up along the fence in the clinch for a meaningful period of time, with Bisping noting that Joanna had dominated Waterson thus far in the contest as the clock was winding down.
With just over two minutes left in the round, Waterson managed to briefly drag Jedrzejczyk to the mat before again taking a standing Jedrzejczyk’s back along the fence. Joanna eventually managed to peel Waterson off, receiving a thank you from Bisping in the process who had just finished explaining to the audience how to defend Waterson’s submission attempt, which coincidentally enough, Jedrzejczyk had just demonstrated beautifully. The round would come to a close with Jedrzejczyk on a bloodied Waterson’s back, the two warmly embracing each other after a hard fought 25-minute battle after the final bell rung.
With the story of UFC Fight Night 161 being Jedrzejczyk’s reported difficulty in making the 115-pound strawweight limit of 116 pounds, the fact she dominated the fight is unfortunately overshadowed by the controversy surrounding her weight and the reported ultimatums levied to the Waterson camp in accepting a catchweight bout. Jedrzejczyk was the bigger woman in the cage Saturday night, she had a height and reach advantage, her length posed significant problems for Waterson and Jedrzejczyk’s top level Muay Thai kickboxing was on full display for the world to see.
Yet, despite all of those advantages, unfortunately there were those who wanted to see Waterson concede even more ground to Jedrzejczyk in accepting a catchweight bout despite being dominated under the originally agreed upon terms. While this bout may not have been a fight of the year candidate, it does stand as perhaps one of the best examples of how pressure from above can come with absolutely no consideration for the best interests or well-being of the athletes themselves, underscoring the necessity and value of a good team and proper management in a fighters corner in a combat sports industry that only cares about dollars and cents.
UFC Fight Night 161: Jedrzejczyk vs. Waterson
By: Jesse Donathan
“You’ve got to know when to hold ’em, know when to fold ’em, know when to walk away, and know when to run. You never count your money, when you’re sittin’ at the table, there’ll be time enough for countin’, when the dealin’s done.” – “The Gambler” by Kenny Rogers.
UFC Fight Night 161 is taking place on Saturday, October 12, 2019 at the Amalie Arena in Tampa, Florida live on ESPN+ and will feature a scheduled women’s strawweight bout between Joanna Jedrzejczyk (15-3-0, 4 KOs) and “The Karate Hottie” Michelle Waterson (17-6-0, 3 KOs). The evenings co-main event will feature a featherweight showdown between mixed martial arts veteran Cub Swanson (25-11-0, 11 KOs) and Brazilian Jiu-jitsu prodigy Kron Gracie (5-0, 0 KOs). Kron is the son of legendary Brazilian Jiu-jitsu master Rickson Gracie, who of course is the brother of mixed martial arts legend Royce Gracie.
According to Ken Pishna of MMAWeekly.com, “Reports surfaced on Wednesday that Saturday’s UFC on ESPN+ 19 main event between former strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk and top contender Michelle Waterson was in danger of being canceled because of Jedrzejczyk struggling to make weight,” writes Pishna in his October 9, 2019 Yahoo Sports article titled, “Joanna Jedrzejczyk rebukes rumors of possible UFC Tampa main event cancellation.”
Citing an ESPN report by Ariel Helwani, the Yahoo Sports article went on to note that, “Multiple unnamed sources said that Jedrzejczyk informed UFC official(s) more than a week ago that she would be unable to make the 116-pound limit for the fight.” According to Pishna, “Waterson’s camp refused to accept a catchweight bout.”
“Did I miss something?” Jedrzejczyk told ESPN’s Brett Okamoto. “Was the weigh-in today? It’s Friday, right? Today is Wednesday. There’s nothing to be stressed about. I should be the one stressed, and I’m not,” said Jedrzejczyk.
Digging deeper into the equation, according to an October, 9, 2019 Andrew Whitelaw YouTube video titled, “Michelle Waterson REACTS to reports that Joanna Jedrzejczyk will MISS WEIGHT!” Whitelaw would interview Waterson in an attempt to get to the bottom of the UFC Fight Night 161 main event controversy. Referring back to the original ESPN report, Whitelaw asked Waterson for her take on the situation as it presently stands.
According to Waterson, “You know what, um, that is something that my management team is working on currently. It’s not something that I am focused on, I’m focused on fighting Joanna Saturday, that is my main focus and I hope that she is professional enough to make weight and put on a show for the people who came to watch.”
“We knew this was going to be hard for her to make the weight,” Waterson explained. “Coming from 125 after fighting Shevchenko, putting muscle on, and not just like, not just regular weight, actual muscle,” said Waterson. “And with the extent of how long it’s been since she’s fought, we knew it was going to be rough for her. But we figured if she wanted to have the advantage of being the bigger girl, that she would sacrifice and make the weight.”
Cutting right to the chase, Whitelaw asked Waterson point blank, “Would you fight her, if she can’t make the weight, would you fight her at a catch weight?”
“It depends,” said Waterson with a smile. “You know, like, I think that is the most frustrating part, because you know, her claim to the UFC is the strawweight queen. So, if you’re the strawweight queen, make strawweight weight,” a clever Waterson said with a laugh.
Interestingly, according to an October 9, 2019 Twitter social media post from TSN Sports UFC reporter Aaron Bronsteter, “Combate have updated the story and report that the UFC have given Michelle Waterson two choices: Face Joanna this weekend at a catchweight or face Jessica Andrade at UFC 244.”
In response to the Combate report, Showtime combat sports analyst Luke Thomas weighed in on the latest developments in the on-going saga with Jedrzejczyk’s alleged weight issues. “Imagine training for a particular fighter with specific skills and body type for weeks,” writes Thomas. And, “By no fault of your own, they come to you last minute & say ‘fight her heavy now or her opposite soon.’ This is one of those areas where fighters having less leverage than boxers is glaring,” opined Thomas.
With Waterson’s hand seemingly forced into a damned if you do, damned if you don’t situation at UFC Fight Night 161, a glimpse of how promotions can ultimately make or break fighters is gleaned through questionable ultimatums and threats of unfavorable matchups should they not bow to the promotions demands.
While a cancelled main event would be disastrous for the Ultimate Fighting Championship and its affiliates, one cannot help but wonder if there was another way to approach this situation beyond ultimatums to athletes who have did absolutely nothing wrong in this equation beyond train to meet their contractual weight requirements.
If Joanna Jedrzejczyk has lost her strawweight queen crown, it should not be incumbent on Michelle Waterson to help her find it by conceding the size, strength and weight advantage to appease an opponent who did not walk the line. Michelle Waterson is playing with a stacked deck of cards with a free trip behind the woodshed as a consolation prize Saturday night. Unless Friday’s weigh-in yields a 116-pound strawweight limit Joanna Jedrzejczyk, Waterson’s knowledge of knowing when to hold ‘em, when to fold ‘em, when to walk away and when to run is going to be tested.
UFC 243: Adesanya Stops Whittaker to Claim Undisputed UFC Middleweight Title
By: Jesse Donathan
According to multiple sources, UFC 243 in Melbourne, Australia saw approximately 56,000 fans in attendance to watch the UFC middleweight title unification bout between Israel “The Last Stylebender” Adesanya and Robert “The Reaper” Whittaker in the evenings main event. Adesanya, fighting out of New Zealand by way of Nigeria and Whittaker, a Sydney, Australia native are both hometown boys in the eyes of the Australian crowd who obviously turned out in mass to support their mixed martial arts heroes at the beautiful Marvel Stadium in downtown Melbourne.
Adesanya came into his UFC 243 middleweight title unification bout against Whittaker with a six-and-a-half-inch reach advantage at 6-foot-4-inches tall, at least a full four inches taller than his opponent. Nonetheless, the reigning, defending UFC middleweight champion Whittaker came into the fight a -105 betting favorite to hand the undefeated Adesanya his first career mixed martial arts loss.
“The Reaper” would come out strong right out of the gate, meeting Adesanya in the middle of the Octagon and pressing the action on the interim champion who displayed excellent footwork in measuring up the aggressive Whittaker. Taking a page out of UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones playbook, Whittaker immediately looked to land oblique kicks to the side of Adesanya’s knee. It was a war of low kicks early, with Whittaker bouncing up and down on the balls of his feet, periodically lunging in with powerful jabs and left hooks in an attempt to mitigate the reach and distance management of the experienced kickboxer Israel Adesanya.
Just over half way through the bout, the fighters would briefly clinch up with one another in the Octagon, and on the break, Whittaker miffs an open-handed strike passed Adesanya which rakes the interim champions eye, briefly bringing a halt to the action as referee Marc Goddard assesses the situation. After momentarily wiping his eye on Goddard’s shirt, Adesanya would collect himself despite the increasingly common eye gouging technique that seems to enjoy the benefit of the doubt all too often anymore.
The fight would resume with Adesanya momentarily pressing forward on Whittaker before “The Reaper” would turn the tables, launching a failed superman punch that got Adesanya backing up. With both fighter’s head hunting, high kicks would launch numerous times from both athletes, Adesanya coming dangerously close to connecting on Whittaker at one point during the contest.
With just under 10-seconds left in the round, Whittaker would explode with a final volley of punches that ended up seeing Adesanya clobber Whittaker with a huge right hand just as the bell sounded that sent Robert crashing to the canvas, the champion potentially saved by the bell as “The Reaper” looked noticeably hurt returning back to his corner. It was a 10-9 round for the interim champion Adesanya who looked poised, calm and collected in the first stanza of the bout.
In between rounds, Whittaker looked calm and collected on his stool, the champions conditioning no doubt playing a huge role in his ability to recover from such a powerful blow. The two fighters would again meet each other in the middle of the Octagon, with Whittaker going back to the oblique kicks and his lunging style of attack against Adesanya in part credited by the fight announcers to the hard-fought success Kelvin Gastelum found against Adesanya in his losing effort to capture the interim title against Israel. In critiquing Adesanya’s game plan, former two-division champion Daniel Cormier, calling the evenings fight in Melbourne, would note that Adesanya was looking to counter Whittaker with a hook throughout much of the fight, an observation which would soon turn out to be a prophetic.
Whether through the fog of war, a lapse in focus and concentration, fatigue or perhaps even injury, Whittaker would begin to noticeably slow down half way through the second round. His footwork, in and out movement and overall mobility began to cease as the flatter footed, stationary Whittaker looked more and more like a target for the dangerous Adesanya. This was the beginning of the end for Robert Whittaker whose right leg seemed to be injured and giving him problems.
With under two minutes remaining in the round, Whittaker would launch a multiple punch combination against Adesanya who managed to connect with a huge left hook in the middle of the sequence which sent Whittaker crashing to the canvas with Adesanya and Goddard in close pursuit.
Swarming the obviously hurt Whittaker, referee Marc Goddard had decided he had seen enough, waiving off the contest with Israel Adesanya claiming the undisputed UFC middleweight championship in impressive fashion.
Like the true champion that he is, Robert Whittaker came to compete Saturday night and went out on his shield like many legendary warriors before him. “The Reaper” came to bang against a dangerous, seasoned kickboxer in a fight he could have easily chosen to take a completely different path in game planning against. Hindsight being 20/20, perhaps Whittaker should have looked to execute a more takedown based, ground oriented style of attack against Adesanya but the UFC middleweight title is now unified and Israel Adesanya has put his name on the map as someone to be respected and reckoned with in the middleweight division. Next up for Adesanya, a potential clash with middleweight juggernaut Paulo Costa or perhaps better yet, even a superfight with UFC light heavyweight kingpin Jon Jones in a fight the UFC has been looking to put together for quite sometime now.
UFC 243 Middleweight Title Unification: Whittaker vs. Adesanya
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 243 will air Saturday, October 6, 2019 at the Marvel Stadium in Melbourne, Australia live on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV) with the main event slated to take place between the UFC Middleweight Champion Robert Whittaker (20-4, 9 KOs) and the UFC Interim Middleweight Champion Israel Adesanya (17-0, 13 KOs). The evenings co-main event will feature a lightweight showdown between Al Iaquinta (14-5-1, 7 KOs) and New Zealander Dan Hooker (18-8, 10 KOs). For those interesting in watching the big boys go to town, Australia’s own heavyweight Tai “Bam-Bam” Tuivasa (8-2-0, 7 KOs) will meet Sergey Spivak (9-1-0, 4 KOs) in a battle of Octagon supremacy.
“I never have any expectations with fights,” Whittaker told MMAJunkie.com in an October 2, 2019 social media report. The champion would go on to state, “I prepare for a war and you know, I am pleasantly surprised if anything else. So, I am prepared to go to war with this guy, I am prepared to drag it and make it dirty, make it messy for five rounds, for 25-minutes. Every second of being hard, I am prepared for that. And you know, I am happy to take it there if that’s where he wants it to go. But as far as I am concerned, I have 25-minutes to try and put him away and I am going to use every minute to try and do that.”
“Look, (expletive) the belt,” Adesanya told TheMacLife in their October 3, 2019 interview on YouTube.com titled, “Israel Adesanya: “He’s not the first Maori I’ve fought, trust me” | UFC 243 Open Workout.” According to “The Last Style Bender,” who captured the interim title at UFC 236 in April against Kelvin Gastelum, “For me, the real goal is beating him because he is a warrior. He’s got that Maori blood in him and he’s not the first Maori I’ve fought, trust me. So, Sunday, October 6th, if you don’t have your tickets, don’t steal, don’t do nothing crazy, just make sure you get your tickets because trust me, we are going to blow that place up.”
Unfortunately, perhaps the biggest story of UFC 243 is the increasingly common seepage of political dogma into combat sports. “In many ways, the UFC took a few pages out of boxing’s book when it came into existence nearly 26 years ago,” writes BloodyElbow.com’s Milan Ordonez in his September 11, 2019 article titled, “Melbourne politician wants Octagon girls out of UFC 243: ‘It’s surely time to move on’.” According to Ordonez, among the pages the UFC took out of boxings playbook were, “the 10-point must system, the three judges scoring the fight, and ring girls.”
But if Australia’s politicians would have their way, the UFC’s Octagon girls could be replaced with Fight Progress Managers. “During the controversial boxing match between Jeff Horn and Michael Zerafa in Bendigo, Australia in late August, ring card girls were replaced by men referred to as Fight Progress Managers,” writes BloodyElbow.com.
“It’s 2019, do we really still need scantily-clad women to wander around the middle of a fighting ring between rounds,” Lord Mayor of Melbourne Sally Capp told the Herald Sun. “Grid girls are no longer part of Formula One; walk-on girls are no longer part of professional darts — surely it’s time to move on,” suggested Capp.
In a September 26, 2019 MMAMania.com article titled, “Dana White reacts to ‘ridiculous’ ban on UFC Octagon girls — ‘Nobody treats women better than we do,” author Jesse Holland quotes UFC President Dana White’s comments to The Daily Telegraph in response to the Lord Mayor’s political wrangling into combat sports. “Our Octagon girls, they’re as much a part of the UFC brand as anyone, they’re ambassadors for our sport,” said White. “So, for someone who has absolutely no education whatsoever about who these girls are – about what they do, what they mean to the UFC – to start going off, it’s ridiculous.”
While it may be ridiculous, mixed martial arts has a long history with political red tape interfering with an otherwise enjoyable evening of fights dating back to nearly the inception of the sport itself. With the No Holds Barred era of MMA essentially stamped out of existence due to overzealous politicians and the implementation of the unified rules system, this latest dustup from Australia’s elected officials is only the beginning of a political platform that is sure to grow louder in the coming years as the desire for change reverberates throughout a combat sports community with a sympathetic ear to lobbying interests and radically shifting cultural and social norms. For those who are just fine with the way things currently are now in MMA, tune into the UFC 243 pay-per-view event live on ESPN+ Saturday night to catch all the evenings best fights.
MMA Street Fighting Legends Who Could Have Been UFC Champions
By: Jesse Donathan
There was always something spiritual involved in perfecting my jump shot from nearly every conceivable angle on the basketball court, spending countless hours in my youth on the make shift court behind my parents’ house dreaming of becoming an NBA sharp shooter. And while my NBA dreams ultimately gave way to mixed martial arts, the sport will forever hold a special place in my heart and among the most endearing topics in the game today are the seemingly endless tales of streetball legends who, for one reason or another, never managed to make it to the big leagues. Legends like Earl Manigault, Demetrius Mitchell and Jackie Ryan just to name a few, occupy a trail of shattered hoop dreams in an all too familiar tale.
In the world of combat sports, there are a handful of individuals who fit this same bill as incredible athletes in their own right, yet who, like their street basketball legend counterparts, never made it the leap in mixed martial arts stardom for one of any number of reasons of why a combat sports athlete would be hesitant to sign up for an exclusive trip behind some brutes woodshed. In this article we are going to examine a small handful of fighters from mixed martial arts history who are said to be some of the baddest dudes who ever walked planet earth who you’ve likely never heard of.
According to a September 21, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “The toughest man I ever met…,” former UFC middleweight contender and ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen went on to relay a fascinating story about Les Gutches, the first combat sports athlete on our list who is a mixed martial arts equivalent to a street basketball legend.
“The toughest guy I ever met in my life,” reminisced Sonnen, who has either trained with or fought a who’s who list of the very best fighters in mixed martial arts, “was a guy by the name of Les Gutches, and Les Gutches was a multiple time national champion, a world champion, and he was right up the street, he went to Oregon State University and he would train everyday with Randy Couture, they were training partners.”
“And when they went to compete, Les would go in Freestyle and Randy in Greco, and they’d come back and work out together all the time. And when we got together with Team Quest, there was Dan Henderson and Randy Couture, they started, boom, I went in when I found out about these workouts, I’m in there and then Matt Lindland comes and joins, so we got a pretty good four, I mean I’m name dropping right now with a lot of other guys, but we had some … this is hard, right? Les Gutches is right up the road and we never even invited him. Not one day was he even invited to come in, as bad as those four guys I just told you (about), throw myself, Dan, Randy, Matt, we knew there was no point. If Les comes up here we knew we don’t have a spot anymore, thats how tough this guy was,” said Sonnen.
In explaining just how tough of a competitor Gutches actually was, Sonnen went on to explain, “And some of his training room stories, so Matt Lindland was a very good practice room guy, just because he was such a competitor, he didn’t want to lose even in the practice room, right. This is a world, this is an Olympic medalist, the number one ranked middleweight of all-time, but he would show up every single day raring to go and he would do great in practice.”
According to Chael, “He goes and does a workout with Les, and this is according to Matt, Matt told me this story. The way the workout works is there were no coaches there, Les set the workout up, so Les is in charge, whatever he says they’re doing, they’re going to do. And Les goes great, here’s what we are going to do, we are going to set the clock for 60-minutes and we are going to go hard for 60-minutes, one hour later we’re done and we’re going to go home. So, Matt says for like 55-minutes Les just throws him around. And don’t forget, Matt is an Olympic medalist, he says he can’t do anything, Les is throwing him around. And at the very end they body lock each other and Matt steps in and throws him to his back.”
“So, Les jumps up and just goes again and Matt forces the same position and Les goes right back to it, he wants to solve the problem and Matt steps in, throws him right back on his back. So, they get back to their feet, same position, Les forces it and he wants to work, Matt throws him a third time, boom, clock goes off, out of time. Les sprints to one side of the room, then he sprints back to Matt, and there’s nobody else in the room, it’s the two of them and Matt’s standing there and Les sprints right to him and stops on a dime, puts his hand out and says thanks for the work out,” recounted Sonnen, who is a virtual Atlas of mixed martial arts information.
Continuing, Sonnen would go on to elaborate that, “I’ve always appreciated that story because I didn’t see the workout, but I know I haven’t seen anybody get over on Matt Lindland. Now that’s not a literal statement, but it’s awfully close and the fact Matt admitted somebody got over on him for 55-minutes of a 60-minute workout, I just know it was true.”
“And whenever you have a guy that is the toughest guy you know, but he has a guy that is the toughest guy he knows, and allow me to insert myself into this,” said Sonnen.
“If Les Gutches did to me what he did to me, and I wasn’t a consenting adult and we were not in the practice room, he would have been arrested, for sure. Like, if we were out on the street and we got into it, the cops would pull up, they would pull their guns, they would put him in handcuffs and they would take him away,” said Sonnen in a glimpse of just how brutal training with the most elite combat sport athletes in the world can truly be.
According to Sonnen, in recollecting tales of Gutches’ own hardships on the mat, “He would tell me stories about the baddest guy he knew, and the baddest guy he knew was a guy named Mark Schultz. And Mark Schultz was a three-time NCAA champion, Olympic champion, World champion, Schultz even went on and fought in the UFC, undefeated, 1-0, did one fight and never did it again. You might have seen the movie Foxcatcher, they made it about Mark Schultz.”
As recorded on the March 21, 2018 edition of the Joe Rogan Experience MMA Show #18 UFC Hall of Famer Pat Miletich relayed a few stories along very similar lines to Sonnen’s gym hero tales of Les Gutches being the toughest guy he had ever met. Miletich, a former UFC champion who has trained some of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history, has been around the block a time or two and is as respected of a mixed martial arts mind as there is in the sport today.
“Bernard Hopkins was getting his ass kicked by Antwun Echols (32-22-4, 28 KOs) who trained at Pena’s Boxing Gym in Iowa where I trained,” Miletich recalled to Rogan on his widely popular JRE internet podcast in early 2018. According to Pat, “Antwun was scary dude, scary, he got side tracked and derailed by horrible management, they really screwed his career up. But he was the scariest boxer that I have ever seen and been in the gym with. He’s looking like he is punching at half speed and just crushing people with 16-oz sparring gloves on, destroying people.”
According to Miletich, “Antwun went down to South America, Ecuador or wherever the hell it was, that was when Norris was fighting … Simon Brown? Michael Nunn was defending his title there, and Antwun got on the card because Michael Nunn was the pound-for-pound best fighter in the world and he was out of Davenport, Iowa also.”
“So, they were doing a bunch of sparring, they were training down there getting use to the altitude and Antwun walked into the gym and he started sparring with three-time world champions and beat the shit out of all of them,” Miletich said.
“When you were running your gym,” said Rogan, “The Miletich Fighting Systems was THE gym. I mean you guys were the kings, you got to think about who came out of your gym. Matt Hughes, Robbie Lawler, I mean, Jens Pulver, Tim Sylvia and then a host of other killers that people just forgot.”
“You know, we had a lot of people obviously who would come and train with us,” said Miletich. “Rich Franklin, Dave Menne, who was a 185-champ for a while, he was one of the best martial artists that I’ve ever seen, people don’t even know about him, the guy was incredible. Trained with Greg Nelson for a good portion of his career obviously, but I think we had 92 people (who) made it to televised careers and I think 30 or so made it to the UFC,” Miletich said.
On the topic mixed martial arts legend Mark Coleman, Miletich would go on to recollect that, “He was ungodly strong when I trained him for the Pride Grand Prix right, he called me up and he goes, ‘I want I come there and train with you.’ And he had lost two or three fights in a row at that point, so he was kind of cannon fodder put into that Pride Grand Prix, he was just a name at that point. ‘And I go, alright, but if you come here, you have to do everything that I tell you to do, we’re going to train hard. I’m gonna torture you,’ and he’s like that’s fine.”
“And he wanted to come there I think because I had so many scary dudes there at the time, like Steve Rusk, who wasn’t even a fighter, could kill every fighter I’ve ever trained. I mean, he would just walk in the room, take off his fatigues from hunting, beat the shit out of everybody in the room and then go back out hunting,” said Miletich.
“Lindland, after we fought, he came to my gym to train for one of his fights and (laughs) Steve Rusk is there that day. And Rusk was a great Greco-guy and now it’s the Olympic Silver medalist Greco guy going against a guy who is an unknown, and Rusk ragdolls him. We’re doing winner stays on the mat and Lindland gets taken down, and Lindland won’t leave the mat, and he can’t believe he’s getting taken down by a no name, right? So, Rusk does it to him again, does it to him again, does it to him again, and finally the whole team goes, Lindland gets off the mat, get the (expletive) off the mat. Lindland comes over and sits next to me and he goes, ‘Who the (expletive) is that guy?’”
That guy, according to former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia in a March 14, 2014 FightLand Vice report titled, “WHAT IT WAS LIKE TO SPAR AT MILETICH FIGHTING SYSTEMS BACK IN THE GLORY DAYS – PART 2,” was, “Steve Rusk, a three-time All-American, (who) is just a beast who ended up being my wrestling coach and he’s still today one of my best friends. But he would just get so heavy on my head and just hold my head down, and I couldn’t pick it up. We were in the wrestling room and I tried to get him to stop, and he wouldn’t stop, and he just put me in a pile in a corner and I started crying,” said the 6-foot-8-inch, 265 pound plus Sylvia.
“I couldn’t pick my head up. I couldn’t do anything. I was just mentally broke. He broke me. And after he did that, I said to myself, “I will never ever allow that to be done to me again.” And I didn’t. And now I do it to everybody. I actually just did it today.”
Its said iron sharpens iron, knowing that to be the case the Les Gutches and Steve Rusks of the world have played a pivotal role in helping to sharpen some of the greatest fighters the sport of mixed martial arts has ever seen, yet, to this day remain unknowns, mixed martial arts equivalent to street basketball legends. Athletes whose hand-to-hand combat abilities were elite, but who are forever destined to remain side notes, known to only the sport’s most elite historians. But using the “greatest middleweight of all-time,” Matt Lindland as a measuring stick, it sure sounds like Les Gutches and Steve Rusk could have been UFC champions.
Main Event of UFC Fight Night 159 in Mexico City Ends in No Contest
By: Jesse Donathan
All hell broke loose Saturday night immediately following the main event of UFC Fight Night 159 between Yair Rodriguez and Jeremy Stephens that saw the featherweight showdown end in a no contest (NC) after just 15-seconds in due to an eye poke from Rodriguez that unfortunately saw Stephens unable to continue much to the dismay of the fans in Mexico City. Following referee Herb Dean waving the fight off, the crowd immediately began pelting the Octagon with bottles and whatever else they found handy. It was an ugly scene that saw security and event staff form a human shield as they protected the fighters who were immediately ushered into back rooms of the arena with beer and debris raining down over top the entourage.
In comparison to the very respectful crowds regularly found at mixed martial arts events in Japan, or the grateful MMA fans in Australia, the crowds behavior in Mexico City Saturday night was downright disgraceful, with the crowd targeting UFC fighter Jeremy Stephens, the victim of Yair Rodriguez’s eye poke, with derogatory anti-homosexual slurs in the wake of the fight being called off. Stephens, who appeared to have great difficulty opening his left eye as the ring side physician examined him, is reported to have spent $30,000 in the lead up to Saturday nights fight against Yair Rodriguez and arrived in Mexico City well in advance to this weekends contest in order to acclimate himself to the city’s 7, 380 feet above sea level altitude where the thin-air is a known threat to the cardiovascular fitness of the unprepared.
UFC Fight Night 159’s no contest is at least the third such NC this month alone to end due to an inadvertant eye injury, with UFC Fight Night 158’s clash between Todd Duffee and Jeff Hughes ruled a no contest due to an eye poke and Bellator 226’s main event between two-division champion Ryan Bader and Cheick Kongo ruled a no contest after Kongo suffered an accidental eye poke of his own, an incident that nearly sparked a post-fight brawl between Bader and Kongo’s teammate Quinton “Rampage” Jackson who insisted the move was intentional. Though upon instant replay, the ultimate sequence of events remains unclear and open for debate with Bader insisting there was no eye poke at all, a sentiment many fans seem to be in agreement with.
While attending professional sporting events is an increasingly costly affair and the amount of time spent in these arenas, sometimes under less than ideal conditions while waiting for the evenings main event to kick off can lead to anxious and perhaps even contentious situations when unfortunate events such as Saturday nights main even being ruled a NC occur, the behavior of the crowd in Mexico City Saturday night was simply reprehensible and not likely something that is going to be forgotten anytime soon by a mixed martial arts community who revere their fighters and sport with great passion and defensive flare.
Reading Between the Lines with ESPN MMA Analyst Chael Sonnen
By: Jesse Donathan
There is an old proverb commonly known throughout much of the United States that states you should only believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. There are no truer words that exist in the world of mixed martial arts, where determining fiction from reality has become an increasingly difficult task to undertake due to the realities of the sports entertainment industry. With the well known choreographed and rehearsed nature of pro wrestling, many mixed martial arts fans point to their own sport of choice as the antithesis of modern-day professional wrestling. But there are well known and respected personalities within the mixed martial arts community who are saying wait a minute, not so fast!
According to a November 21, 2018 YouTube video from former UFC middleweight contender and ESPN MMA analyst Chael Sonnen titled, “Ronda Rousey understood aggression, but she was not a fighter…” the Bad Guy Inc. CEO had a number of very interesting talking points to consider in the midst of his underhanded roasting of Rousey that contained a masterful blend of reverse psychology, truth and innuendo that no doubt was designed to provoke and stimulate intellectual debate from not only Rousey herself, but anyone else capable of critical of thought with even the most remotest of familiarity with some of the many overlapping terms used in professional wresting and mixed martial arts.
In referencing an August 18, 2016 complex.com article titled, “The Secret Language of Pro Wrestling, Decoded, “ author Kevin Wong defines 20 terms in professional wrestling that may be eye opening to some, old news for others, but are nonetheless as relevant today as they will be a hundred years from now. A babyface, according to Wong, is the good guy where as the heel, as they are affectionately known, is the bad guy, you can never have a story without a bad guy. Heels, described by Wong as “scary monsters” or even “super cocky and arrogant,” are characters that fill a particular role, kind of like Conor McGregor for example, who are the stars the fans love to hate.
A jobber is a wrestler who is paid to lose; their job is to get other wrestlers over on the audience, to make them look good in a convincing fashion and thus, according to Wong, “Any successful professional wrestler owes his career to jobbers.” Replace the terms professional wrestler with mixed martial arts fighter and the relevance and direction in which Sonnen is ultimately going with this should become readily apparent later.
Marks, as they are known in the business, are those fans, observers and even pundits alike who actually believe what they are seeing is real. In professional wrestling circles, true marks are said to be few and far between in the modern age. Whether or not the same can be said to be true in mixed martial arts is “another” matter entirely, and one the reader will be left to their own devices to figure out.
And finally, the term “work” is defined by the report as, “A show incident that appears to have been unplanned, but was actually scripted. This is increasingly difficult to pull off successfully, wrestling fans are a suspicious bunch, and are more likely to assume any event, however tragic, is part of the show.” As opposed to the term “shoot,” which is an unplanned, unscripted, real-life event which is the opposite of the Hollywood-esk “works” which make up the vast majority of content witnessed within the modern day professional wrestling ranks. If you were to shoot on an opponent in a match, you’ve essentially broken script and decided to make a pre-rehearsed, scripted event a real life physical encounter.
As Sonnen would lead off the video to explain, “Ronda Rousey is in some verbal dustup with some jobber wrestler that is accusing her, accurately, bringing real life into the story line, accusing her of hiding under her blanket and taking her ball and going home as soon as she had a defeat in mixed martial arts … and I think that’s a really good story line,” said Sonnen as he laid the foundation for the ultimate message he was about to deliver to Ronda Rousey and everyone else fortunate enough to receive his transmission.
“But whenever you have a worker, and I would provide you with her name if I had the foggiest idea of what it was,” continued Sonnen on MMA turned WWE superstar Ronda Rousey’s “dustup” with another professional wrestling actress, “But whenever you have a worker that starts to bring in real life and reality, it is usually incumbent of the other worker to have to answer for it with a truthful answer. When one person shoots on you its very hard to work back, if they shoot on you, you got to shoot on them, that’s the general rule. So, if Ronda is going to be forced to answer for her departure from MMA, she’s going to have to tell the truth.”
The professional wrestling terms worker, work and shoot prominent throughout Sonnen’s message as he focused on the former women’s mixed martial arts icon’s wise decision to leave MMA in pursuit of a professional wrestling career. The masterfully crafted message expertly woven between professional wrestling and mixed martial arts by Sonnen as to leave the reader left to their own devices to distinguish between which circumstances that are an inherent, known commodity of the two professional sporting disciplines.
So, what exactly is the truth surrounding Ronda Rousey’s departure from mixed martial arts? Stepping in as a substitution for the everyday fan, the truth, according to Chael Sonnen’s perspective is that, “The fans wanted it made very clear that Ronda was never a good fighter, she was never the best in the world, she was a flash in the pan in a division that was forming.”
“She was taking out girls who were called number one contenders that never had to prove it, because it was too new. And as soon as people started to settle into the division, and as soon as we started to see who the top fighters were, put them opposite Ronda, they ran through her. For some reason the fans want that said by Ronda and I think that is asking a little bit too much,” explained the ESPN MMA analyst from West Linn, Oregon.
“Ronda never did anything wrong; Ronda took the fights that Ronda was asked to take, without turning them down. And there is a bit of a rewriting of history that Ronda turned down Cyborg, that absolutely never happened. Ronda has said yes to Cyborg repeatedly, she just said you have to come to my weight class. Which to remind you guys historically, was the only female weight class, which was 135-pounds. There was no 145-pounds, there was no 125-pounds for that matter.”
The substance of Sonnen’s claims being debatable at best, likely intentionally designed with holes big enough to drive a truck through as to suggest some sort of mixed martial arts Jedi mind trick at play according to a September 19, 2015 Fox Sports article by author Damon Martin titled, “Misha Tate hints Ronda Rousey fled 145 to avoid ‘Cyborg.’
“’I just know from her whole career it was 145 and 145 only at the beginning,’ Tate said recently. “It seemed like when the talks of ‘Cyborg’ became more serious it was like ‘No, I’m dropping to 135.”
“So historically, Ronda never ducked anybody,” said Sonnen in a liberal interpretation of the events purposely designed in my opinion to contribute to Sonnen’s overall roast of Rousey. “She went in there and did the heavy lifting but she was caught up in it as much as the media and the promotion and all of the fans were, in she really didn’t know.”
Didn’t know what, Chael Sonnen? That Ronda Rousey wasn’t a “real fighter?” And that she was in fact a “flash in the pan?” What are we to make of all the talk of workers, shoots and super cocky heels from the former UFC middleweight title contender and ESPN MMA analyst?
“All she knows is the reality that she has,” said Sonnen. “Which (is) she walks out there and girls can’t even make it through the first round, most couldn’t make it through the first minute.
“So, what did Ronda know? She wasn’t wrong to believe she was the best in the world, they said she was. She fought in a world title fight and she left with a belt and got her hand raised, what the hell did she do wrong?
“The other side of it was, yeah, she was a good fighter, she understood aggression. She understood to punch and kick, and stretch, and strangle, aggressively, something that wasn’t punching, kicking, stretching you back. When she dealt with that, now she’s in a fight, big difference, big difference,” explained Sonnen.
If what Sonnen is saying is true, a number of the sports babyfaces and heels owe their success to works and shoots enabled by some of the best jobbers in the industry today and some of these stars were simply not aware that they were in fact marks themselves. In other words, the biggest names in the sport have been involved in worked, predetermined, illegitimate matchups which have been used to create the stardom and hype surrounding these babyface stars and heel bad guys.
With the reality of the sports entertainment industry, it is wise to keep in mind that one should only believe half of what you see and none of what you hear. The number of variables that can be corrupted or exploited through various means in the world of professional prize fighting ultimately means the man behind the curtain is far busier than the general public presumes to be the case. While nobody wants to be thought of as a complete fool, mixed martial arts fans are destined to remain true marks as long as they refuse to draw the curtains and expose the truth.
UFC Fight Night 158 Preview: Donald Cerrone vs. Justin Gaethje
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC Fight Night 158 will take place at Rogers Arena in Vancouver, British Columbia, Canada Saturday, September 14, 2019 live on ESPN+ and will showcase a main event fight between Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone and Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje. In many ways this is a new blood versus old blood matchup, with the exciting Gaethje being a relative newcomer to the Octagon sporting a 3-2 record overall and Cerrone having competed more times in the UFC alone than Gaethje has fights total, highlighting just what kind of career the crafty veteran from the BMF Ranch in Colorado has had in the worlds premiere mixed martial arts organization.
Donald “Cowboy” Cerrone is a veteran mixed martial artist (36-12, 10 KOs) who has fought in the UFC an astounding 32 times coming into Saturday night’s lightweight contest against Justin Gaethje (20-2, 17 KOs). The very definition of a company man, Cerrone has alternated between the 155-pound lightweight and 170-pound welterweight divisions where he regularly steps up to the plate when the organization finds itself in a tight situation. Considering the frequency Cerrone fights, his willingness to alternative divisions and fight opponents who themselves likely belong in the 185-middleweight or even 205-pound light heavyweight divisions, Donald Cerrone is a member of my First Team All-Violence selections for being a fighter’s fighter in an era where cutting weight to be the bigger man in the Octagon is the road most well-traveled.
“Just two years ago we were all asking ourselves if “Cowboy” was destined to spend the rest of his UFC career being fed to an increasingly violent pack of up and coming wolves. Now, refocused and back at 155 pounds where he belongs, he is once again the hunter stalking his prey,” writes author Ryan Harkness in his May 25, 2019 MMAMania.com article titled, “Donald Cerrone earns new records, pulls ahead of the pack at UFC Ottawa.”
The keys to victory for Cerrone will be remaining mobile in the cage and maintaining distance against the aggressive Gaethje. Donald cannot afford to be caught flat footed in the Octagon, his tendency to wait for his opponents to make the first move could cost him dearly in this fight. It won’t be hard to find Gaethje in the Octagon, his plan will be to knock Cerrone out cold with his devastating Muay Thai based style of attack. This kind of fan friendly aggressiveness from Gaethje all but guarantee’s opportunities will be available to exploit if the veteran Cerrone is still sharp enough to capitalize on them at this point in his career. If Cerrone is able to prevent the surging Gaethje from effectively closing the distance on him, this is likely Cowboy’s fight to lose.
Justin Gaethje is as game of a fighter as you’re going to find in the UFC, this guy comes to bang and is not afraid to wade into the danger zone under heavy fire in order to bomb his opponents into unconsciousness. A former Division 1 All-American wrestler from the University of Northern Colorado, Gaethje is a fierce striker on his feet who throws devastating leg kicks and has a right hand that has taken more than one high level mixed martial artist out. Among the regular criticisms levied against Gaethje is his lack of defensive mindedness as he looks to bang with his opponents and his near utter refusal to his use his collegiate wrestling background for anything other than defensive purposes.
Not afraid to jump right into the deep end of the pond, Gaethje is going to have to weed through Cerrone’s long, piston like jab and teep front kicks in order to close the distance. The keys to victory for Gaethje will be to utilize his speed, athleticism and explosiveness in order to turn this fight into a brawl. “Cowboy” Cerrone is not hard to find in the Octagon himself, he has a rather slow, patient and methodical approach to fighting in the cage that can be exploited by a more athletic, explosive fighter. If Gaethje wants to make this a kickboxing match, it is entirely possible he will come out on the wrong end of this contest. Constant pressure, leg kicks and attempting to close the distance with athleticism and explosive power are exactly how Gaethje gets it done in the Octagon this weekend, anything less and its quite likely he walks away from this fight on the wrong end of a decision.
This fight is going to come down to whether or not Cerrone has an answer for a Justin Gaethje who is simply not afraid to wade into heavy fire in order to display his own lethal arsenal of brutal leg kicks and thunderous power shots. Gaethje is going to need to be cognizant of Cerrone’s proficient head kicks and ever-present jab, and if “Cowboy” fails to maintain a comfortable striking distance and remain mobile throughout much of the fight it’s very possible he goes to sleep Saturday night. In a battle of experience versus youth and unbridled violence, its anyone’s guess who is going to come out the ultimate victor Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 158 but it’s going to be a fight well worth watching to find out.
UFC Lightweight Champion Nurmagomedov Submits Dustin Poirier
By: Jesse Donathan
The lightweight unification bout between the champion Khabib Nurmagomedov and interim champion Dustin Poirier went off without a hitch Saturday afternoon, with Nurmagomedov dominating Poirier in route to a third-round rear naked choke submission victory over the American Top Team representative from Coconut Creek, Florida. Nurmagomedov, who captured the title at UFC 223 in April of 2018 against Al Iaquinta before defending the title some six months later against Conor McGregor at UFC 229 has firmly solidified himself as a superstar in one of the sports most exciting divisions.
At lightweight, grappling with Khabib Nurmagomedov is like falling victim to an avalanche to his opponents as Nurmagomedov convincingly shutdown Poirier’s offensive arsenal from start to finish. With the sheer dominance of a tidal wave, Nurmagomedov was all over the now former interim champion like white on rice in the first round of their UFC 242 main event at The Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on ESPN+ PPV.
It was a dominant display of grappling by the Dagestani champion, not just simply the boring, blanket variety of wrestling where one fighter lays on the other like a busted can of biscuits either.
Nurmagomedov outclassed and bullied Poirier on the mat in route to a convincing 10-9 round on my judges score card, looking every bit the undefeated force of nature that he is billed as. In between rounds, a disorganized and unprepared scene unfolded on camera as Poirier’s camp appeared excited in comparison to the calm and collected demeanor of other notable camps in the business of mixed martial arts generalship and strategizing.
By the start of the second round, Poirier already appeared to be winded, the high pace Nurmagomedov is famously known to put on his opponents noticeable in Poirier’s body language. In a testament to what kind of physical condition “The Diamond” is actually in, he would turn up the heat in the offensive department throughout the second round, controlling the stand-up throughout much of the time the two fighters spent on their feet as he chased the elusive Nurmagomedov around the Octagon who appeared to respect the kickboxing ability of Poirier enough to not engage in any kind of reckless manner.
Eventually however, Khabib would push Poirier up against the chain link fence, securing another takedown in route to clearly controlling Dustin on the canvas. Poirier would eventually make his way to his feet several times, only to be pinned against the cage and manhandled back to the mat pretty much at will by the American Kickboxing Academy representative out of San Jose, California by way of Dagestan. The second round was another clear cut 10-9 round for Nurmagomedov who is simply a dominant grappling force in the lightweight division that Poirier struggled to find an answer for.
Within a minute of the third, Nurmagomedov had again attempted to put Poirier up against the chain link fence in hopes of yet another takedown only to be met with a guillotine choke submission hold by Poirier which he threatened Nurmagomedov with for a rather meaningful period of time. Poirier would ultimately abandon the hold altogether as Nurmagomedov immediately moved to take Poirier’s back in what would prove to be a pivotal moment in the fight.
Threatening with a rear naked choke, Nurmagomedov would soften Poirier up with punches before again seizing Poirier’s neck and sinking in the rear naked choke, coaxing the tap from Poirier and bringing an end to the most anticipated fight of the evening at UFC 242. Immediately following his victory, Nurmagomedov would scale the Octagon fence and embrace UFC President Dana White in the crowd in a gesture that seemed to bring a smile to the surprised White’s face.
“Khabib Nurmagomedov admits Dustin Poirier’s guillotine was “close” to putting him away,” writes USA TODAY Sports Mike Bohn in a September 7, 2019 social media recap of UFC 242 on Twitter. As Boxing Insider previously reported, the undisputed UFC lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov has a propensity to lead with his head up, leaving his neck exposed as he looks to close the distance and initiate takedowns from a variety of different angles, leaving himself potentially vulnerable for submission in the process. Though Poirier ultimately failed in bringing Nurmagomedov down in the opening moments of the third, it’s a dangerous game Nurmagomedov is playing and he may not fair as well in the future under a different set of circumstances unless he mends this hole in his game up.
A dominating force in the Octagon, its small details about Nurmagomedov’s overall game such as this that have the potential to mean the difference between a perfect professional mixed martial arts career and one married with a hard to swallow blemish on Khabib’s overall record. This detail, likely one of many, was exactly what the Dustin Poirier camp attempted to exploited at UFC 242 and by all accounts he nearly succeeded in doing so at that.
In the UFC post-fight media scrum, the champion Nurmagomedov expressed interest in a charity superfight at lightweight with UFC legend and former two-division champion Georges St. Pierre in Africa, specifically mentioning Congo by name multiple times at the presser. A multiple time defending welterweight champion at 170-pounds not so long ago, St. Pierre came out of retirement in 2017 to capture the UFC middleweight title against the champion Michael Bisping before relinquishing the title not long after.
It was a fight St. Pierre received by in large based off his longtime dominance in the 170-pound welterweight division and his obvious drawing power as one of the most popular fighters in the sport of mixed martial arts today. Where as the layman might mistakenly presume Georges St. Pierre had worked his way through the UFC’s middleweight division in order to have earned the right to have faced Michael Bisping; the actual fact of the matter is that it’s a different era in professional prized fighting today and the conventional hierarchical model has been completely thrown out the window.
If a superfight with Nurmagomedov were to materialize, Georges St. Pierre would be thrust into the driver’s seat of making history as quite possibly the UFC’s first three-division champion. St. Pierre would likely come into the fight with a size, strength and experience advantage against Nurmagomedov as a betting favorite to dethrone the UFC lightweight champion even though, again, St. Pierre will be inserted into a title picture he did not earn through traditional means.
“I want to do something that … at 155, I never did it before,” writes Milan Ordonez of a conversation Georges St. Pierre had with Joe Rogan on the JRE MMA Show in a May 24, 2018 bloodyelbow.com article titled, “Georges St-Pierre on drop to 155: I want the title or to beat a guy that’s on the rise.” St. Pierre would go on to explain that he wants, “The title, or beating a certain guy that’s on the rise. It could be Khabib Nurmagomedov, (or) if there’s another guy that is unbeatable.” Purely conjecture on my end, but perhaps St. Pierre is even jockeying for a 155-pound showdown with Conor McGregor himself as the mystery other guy?
A St. Pierre move to lightweight has been on the table as far back as 2011, with St. Pierre’s coach Firas Zahabi telling Sherdog.com’s TJ De Santis on the “Beatdown” show that from a starting point of 175-pounds, St. Pierre could cut to 155-pounds “easily” according to an October 25, 2011 mmamania.com article title, “Coach prefers Georges St. Pierre cut to 155, not bulk up for middleweight superfight,” by author Jesse Holland.
Unfortunately for St. Pierre, the Khabib Nurmagomedov sweepstakes includes a couple other viable contenders waiting in the wings for their chance to vie for Nurmagomedov’s UFC lightweight throne. “The fifth time might be the charm in the seemingly cursed fight between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson,” writes author Damon Martin in his September 8, 2019 MMAFighting.com article titled, “Dana White: Tony Ferguson next but if he turns down fight, Khabib vs. Conor McGregor 2 makes sense.”
According to Martin, “After four previous attempts to put the fight together fell apart due to injuries and weight-cutting errors, UFC president Dana White declared Ferguson as next in line to face Nurmagomedov for the lightweight title following Nurmagomedov’s win over Dustin Poirier on Saturday night.”
With the Nurmagomedov lottery including Tony Ferguson, Conor McGregor and Georges St. Pierre, it’s a safe bet the UFC is holding their cards close to their chest as negotiations continue to be on going with all parties involved. For the time being, Ferguson is next in line to fight Khabib Nurmagomedov until he isn’t. “But” with the Nurmagomedov camp talking St. Pierre, the UFC talking Ferguson or maybe Conor McGregor, its likely a matter of dollars and therefore sense as to what the future ultimately holds. While Tony Ferguson is the lightweight divisions rightful number one contender, I won’t hold my breath until that cage door closes behind him that he is Nurmagomedov’s next opponent.
UFC 242 Khabib “The Eagle” Nurmagomedov vs. Dustin “The Diamond” Poirier
By: Jesse Donathan
On Saturday, September 7, 2019 UFC 242 is slated to go take place at The Arena in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates on ESPN + pay-per-view (PPV) with the main event featuring a UFC lightweight unification bout between the UFC Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (27-0, 8 KOs) and the UFC Lightweight Interim Champion Dustin Poirier (25-5, 12 KOs). This is among the most anticipated main events of the year and one that may have superfight implications on the line with UFC legend Georges St. Pierre according to Nurmagomedov’s manager Ali Abdelaziz.
This is controversial and problematic information for former Interim Champion Tony Ferguson and his legions of fans, many of whom believe “El Cucuy” to be the rightful number one contender and next in line for the UFC lightweight throne. Stripped of his interim title by the UFC back in 2018, Ferguson never actually lost his belt in the Octagon and has been left on the outside looking in ever since.
Though there is some hope for Tony Ferguson fans, with UFC President Dana White claiming he is next in line should he prove to be ready however contradictory the two separate, but credible reports may appear to be in conjunction with one another.
The current Interim Champion Dustin Poirier is a game fighter, not afraid to stand in the pocket and trade with his opponents, he can dish it out just as well as he can take it. Poirier possesses an effective left hand for an orthodox fighter and a devastating leg kick-based attack, both of which we can expect to see this weekend on full display against the Dagestani champion. Poirier trains out of American Top Team (ATT) in Coconut, Florida and has some of the best coach’s in the game today. The results of which are obvious in the Octagon; Dustin Poirier is an outstanding kickboxer who is not to be taken lightly on the feet.
Poirier would be best suited to remain elusive in the cage, floating like a butterfly and stinging like a bee in an effort to keep Nurmagomedov from closing the distance where he does his best work. Speed, footwork and avoiding certain key positions in the fight where Nurmagomedov shines are crucial in effectively game planning to defeat the undefeated champion.
“Look, if you can keep your back off the fence, you are very likely to not be taken down by Khabib,” explained ESPN MMA analyst and former UFC middleweight contender Chael Sonnen’s in his September 3, 2019 Bad Guy Inc. YouTube video titled, “INTANGIBLES: Khabib Nurmagomedov vs Dustin Poirier.”
In critiquing the main event fighters ahead of UFC 242, in Sonnen’s view of Nurmagomedov, “Okay, he’s not Georges St. Pierre, where he is going to come across the ring, two steps later hit you with a flash double that you never saw coming and run your ass down. Khabib is a little bit more methodical, he gets his hands and pushes you into the fence. He’s got some tricks, he’s got some step overs, behind the knee’s, ways to pull you off the fence, ways to get you down. “
“And I can tell you as a guy who lived on ground and pound, who trained with Randy Couture, and Randy Couture and Mark Coleman are the two guys who coined the phrase, literally, of ground and pound, who had the best training in the world, Khabib is doing stuff on top that I have never even seen shown. I have never even seen it in competition or practice until I saw Khabib doing it,” explained Sonnen.
That is high praise coming from “The Bad Guy,” who famously beat the breaks off UFC legend Anderson Silva for approximately 23 minutes before succumbing to a come from behind Triangle Armbar submission hold from Silva at 3:10 in the fifth and final championship round that forced Sonnen to tap.
The only fighter in the world to have stepped into the cage with Anderson Silva, Fedor Emelianenko and Jon Jones, three fighters widely considered the best to have ever competed in the sport of mixed martial arts; Sonnen fought a murderer’s row of competition throughout his career that his overall record simply does not accurately do justice in reflecting his true overall skillset and position in the hierarchy of all-time greats. For Sonnen to sing such high praise of Nurmagomedov is an indication of just what kind of uphill battle Poirier faces this weekend in dealing with a fighter nobody thus far has been able to defeat, though Gleison Tibau did give Khabib a run for his money in a widely disputed controversial decision victory that is likely not soon to be forgotten.
If Poirier did not train extensively in takedown defense and dealing with the absolute worse case scenarios on the ground with Nurmagomedov in the lead up to this fight then I would be very surprised, because there is a high probability that is exactly where Poirier is going to find himself come Saturday night, perhaps for a significant amount of time at that.
There are opportunities here for Poirier to submit Nurmagomedov, who has a tendency to lead with his head up, neck exposed and a propensity to sit in top position with his arms prime for the taking from a competent Jiu-jitsu practitioner. Though if Poirier is unable to stop Nurmagomedov from taking him down and immobilizing his base with Khabib’s patented leg ties it’s going to be a long night for the American Top Team representative.
Historically, Nurmagomedov has struggled to make the 155-pound lightweight limit which is an indication that Khabib is a large framed lightweight who is going to enjoy a size and strength advantage in the evenings main event. Coming off a long long lay-off due to a suspension stemming from a post-fight brawl at UFC 229, Nurmagomedov is dominant wrestler in the Octagon who smashes opponents with a relentlessly high pace. If the past is any indication of the future, Poirier is going to have his work cut out for him this weekend if he hopes to unify the belts and become the divisions undisputed UFC lightweight champion.
The betting man is going to take Nurmagomedov in this fight for these reasons alone, but Poirier is a game stand up fighter who is not afraid to step into the pocket to create the opportunities necessary to win the fight. Its going to be do or die Saturday night in a classic striker versus wrestler matchup with a potential superfight looming on the horizon with former two-division champion Georges St. Pierre for who is no doubt looking to make history as the UFC’s first three division champion. There is a lot riding on the line Saturday night, tune into UFC 242 on ESPN+ for all the action and live results.
UFC Fight Night 157: Weili Zhang Stops Jessica Andrade to Claim UFC Strawweight Title
By: Jesse Donathan
For many fans in North America, UFC Fight Night 157’s 3 am EST preliminary card start time didn’t exactly tap into the hearts and minds of the mixed martial arts community. With a roster packed full of fighters many casual fans simply have never heard of, more than a few followers of the faith were at home, in the bed, dreaming of next week’s UFC 242 Nurmagomedov vs. Poirier showdown.
It only took Black Tiger Fight Club representative Weili “Magnum” Zhang 42-seconds to become the UFC’s new 115-pound Strawweight Champion in dispatching Jessica Andrade by technical knockout in front of an ecstatic Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre crowd in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China this weekend on ESPN+. It was a historical moment for Zhang and the Chinese people and a potentially lucrative one for the UFC later down the line as Asia’s largest martial arts market was just given a reason to go all in and celebrate.
The fight started off with the pugilists finding each other easily, Zhang landing a pair of inside leg kicks before circling out to re-adjust. Zhang would again work the inside leg kick, flicking her jab out in order to maintain distance and give the advancing Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade something to think about. The two would briefly stand in front of each other and trade shots, the distinct audible sound of punches finding their mark noticeable to those perceptive enough to pick up on it.
Pressing forward, looking for the kill shot, Andrade would recklessly blitz Zhang with her chin up and hands down in an ill-fated attempt to make the challenger fight off of her backfoot in retreat, catching a right hook in the process that rang the now former Brazilian champions bell.
With her back against the cage and a stunned Andrade attempting to catch her bearings, Zhang would land a knee followed up with a number of stinging elbows before securing the Muay Thai clinch and expertly transitioning between repeated knee and elbow strikes to her trapped opponent. In trouble, Andrade would attempt to flee the onslaught with Zhang giving chase in an offensive onslaught reminiscent of Vitor Belfort versus Wanderlei Silva at UFC 17.5 – Ultimate Brazil in 1998.
Chased across the Octagon with Zhang in hot pursuit, it wouldn’t take long before Andrade ran out of real estate and found herself trapped against the fence with “Magnum” looking for the finish. With Andrade helplessly crumbled on the canvas, referee Leon Roberts was forced to intervene, calling a halt to the contest and preventing the former Brazilian champion from taking any further damage in route to Weili Zhang becoming the UFC’s first Chinese champion.
For a country of 1.4-billion people that has a culture that revers martial arts like China, Weili Zhang’s victory at UFC Fight Night 157 has tremendous implications for the Ultimate Fighting Championship organization who recently opened a UFC Performance Institute in Shanghai billed as one of the largest and most advanced in the word.
China is a tremendous financial market for the organization to dip into in their quest to become a global mixed martial arts organization and with Zhang’s victory this past weekend the UFC is well on their way to dominating the Asian market. Weili Zhang offers the Chinese people a foot in the door to the world of mixed martial arts and in the process, it is entirely possible Zhang is on her way to Ronda Rousey and Conor McGregor-esk superstar status should she manage to defend the belt for any meaningful period of time.
Following her UFC Fight Night 157 TKO victory, UFC President Dana White expressed an interest to have Zhang fight stateside in the U.S., prompting the newly minted champion to openly discuss the VISA problems many of her cornermen are facing in coming to the United States in a small glimpse of the red tape involved in being a professional mixed martial arts fighter. Not the first or last time such problems have surfaced in MMA, with the obligations facing UFC champions Zhang will likely be operating on a skeleton crew until the problems are ultimately ironed out for good which could take some months or even years in some cases.
UFC Fight Night 157: Jessica Andrade vs. Weili Zhang on ESPN+
By: Jesse Donathan
In the minds of many, Asia is the birth place of martial arts as we know it today. With China being the home to kung fu and birth place of the mixed martial arts visionary Bruce Lee, it’s only natural the world’s premiere MMA organization takes steps to break into one of the largest martial arts markets in the world. UFC Fight Night 157 is scheduled to take place Saturday, August 31, 2019 live on ESPN+ at the Shenzhen Universiade Sports Centre in Shenzhen, Guangdong, China at 6 am EST. The main event will feature a UFC strawweight title fight between the champion Jessica Andrade (20-6, 7 KOs) and China’s own Weili “Magnum” Zhang (19-1, 9 KOs).
Jessica “Bate Estaca” Andrade claimed the UFC strawweight title by slamming the former 115-pound champion Rose Namajunas into unconsciousness at UFC 237 back in May of this year. It was a fight that saw Andrade get thoroughly out kickboxed on her feet, with “Bate Estaca” at times resembling a punching bag as she plodded forward ever so slightly, pressing the attack, but doing little in terms of offense beside catching leather with her face.
Namajunas looked good on her feet while Andrade stayed determined and disciplined, with early indications of Andrade’s ultimate game plan showcasing themselves in the first with two slam attempts against the defending champion. Though it was a clear 10-9 round for the champion Namajunas, in retrospect, it was a harbinger of things to come.
In between rounds, Andrade’s corner could be heard commending their fighter for sticking to the game plan and commenting that Namajunas was tiring in a small glimpse of how championship teams strategically plot their way to victory. In the second round, Andrade would come out noticeably more aggressive as she chased the champion around the cage; it would go on for some time like this with Namajunas exerting quite a bit of effort in circling out to create distance, keeping the aggressive Andrade off of her who was pressing the action like white on rice.
Namajunas would again find Andrade on the end of her punches, although the Brazilian showed relentless aggression in attempting to close the distance. Eventually the Brazilian’s game plan in tiring the fleet of foot Namajunas out would succeed, as the reigning champion was found with nowhere to run with her back against the cage, enabling Andrade to pick to her opponent up into the air and slam Namajunas on her head, knocking the now former champion unconscious and bringing yet another UFC championship title back home to Brazil.
It is clear Andrade possesses the ability to force her will upon her opponents in order to create the situations necessary to ultimately execute the game plan she and her team have pulled from their offensive play book. She is an intelligent fighter who can compete anywhere the fight may find itself with a nearly even spread between TKO, submission and decision victories in her professional mixed martial arts career.
While Weili Zhang may have 19 straight mixed martial arts victories to her record, she is still a relative new comer to the Octagon, with her first fight with the promotion coming just over a year ago in August of 2018. Since that time, she has rattled off three straight victories as she walks into a championship bout with a 15-time UFC veteran in the champion Jessica Andrade. “Bata Estaca” has faced the superior competition throughout her career and is the vastly more experienced fighter coming into the cage Saturday night despite Zhang having a perceived physical advantage in the size department.
With the biggest test of Zhang’s career just over the horizon, some big names in the world of women’s mixed martial arts (WMMA) have weighed in on this weekend’s coming main event. Current WWE and former UFC superstar Ronda Rousey recently took to social media in praise of the state WMMA and mentioned Zhang by name in her remarks.
“I feel like a proud mama watching how women’s MMA has grown. Women from all walks of life, from all over the world are rising to the challenge and showing the world what it means to fight like a girl. Weili Zhang is a prime example of overcoming adversity – fighting not just through the ranks, but to also get noticed and stand out. I’ve definitely taken notice.”
Anything can and often does happen in the cage. On paper, Zhang is the larger, more powerful competitor in the Octagon and it would naturally be wise to utilize those assets in game planning for championship success. While Zhang does possess the foresight and technical ability to stay mobile in the cage, she is not particularly fleet of foot and does show a propensity to become stationary at times much like a deer stuck in headlights.
With the kind of aggressiveness and pressure Andrade is capable of applying to opponents, it would be wise of Zhang to avoid situations where she is caught flat footed in the cage and thus susceptible to quick, powerful offensive attacks which have the very real possibility of the changing the face of the fight. This is a very winnable matchup for both fighters, it will ultimately come down to a battle of wits in the Octagon in a contest of who can enforce their will and game plan upon the other in the more timely and dominant fashion.
About the author: Jesse Donathan is the UFC correspondent for BoxingInsider.com and owner and editor to MMAPressRoom.com. With over 25-years following mixed martial arts, Jesse’s first published MMA reports were in 2009 and more recently his work can be found at BoxingInsider.com, Boxing.com and FightPost.co.uk. Follow Jesse on Twitter at Jesse Donathan @The_MMAPress and MMA Press Room @MMAPressRoom for his latest published works and current events.
Three Takeaways: What Dana White could do for boxing
By Jonah Dylan
It was – wait for it – another slow weekend in boxing. Emanuel Navarrete defended his 122-pound title in an easy knockout, Jessie Magdaleno got a nice win and there were a couple minor cards all over the place. Eh. I’m ready for some big fights. But how do we get to those big fights? Read on.
1. I don’t know what Dana White plans to do when he gets into boxing. But I’m excited.
Dana White has said he’s planning on getting into boxing, he’s hired a person (and has somehow kept it under wraps) and is going to make an announcement in October. Not much to go off of.
Why is this good for boxing? First, look at the UFC, which has dominated in headlines in the combat sports world as of late. The UFC had a massive card at the Honda Center Saturday night, where the best fought the best and the result was a number of great fights. In the main event, Stipe Miocic reclaimed the heavyweight title with a come-from-behind knockout of all-time-great Daniel Cormier.
So there you go. Cormier is great, but Miocic is the champion, no doubt about it. Now, think about when a casual sports fan asks you “who’s boxing’s heavyweight champion of the world?” By the time you finish answering the question, they’ve completely lost interest. If someone asks you the same question about the UFC, or about MMA as a whole?
I have no idea what Dana White has planned. But he believes the best can fight the best and there can still be enough money to go around to everyone. He’s proven that with the UFC, where in general there’s way less money than in boxing. Maybe his plan won’t work, but I don’t think boxing can get much more diluted than it already is. I hope he has something good planned.
2. We might not be getting unifications, but junior featherweight is pretty exciting.
We learned nothing about Navarrete on Saturday. So far, we’ve learned that he’s an awful matchup for Isaac Dogboe, who is otherwise a very good fighter. I’m intrigued by his style and his physical capabilities, but I really don’t know what to make of him. I’d like to see him in with a real challenger, but it’s hard to find one that Top Rank has ready for him. Speaking of which, Top Rank should make a deal with Roc Nation and line up a fight between Navarrete and Tramaine Williams. That would be a great test for both guys.
Elsewhere, though, there’s some good stuff happening. Danny Roman has two belts and is defending them against his mandatory challenger, Murodjon Akhmadaliev. At first glance, maybe you’re groaning because this looks like another nonsense mandatory fight, but Akhmadaliev is a legit prospect and has a chance to be the first man from the 2016 Olympics to win a world title. If Roman wins, I’d feel a lot more comfortable putting him at No. 1 in the division.
Rey Vargas needs to find some opponents, and Guillermo Rigondeaux needs to find someone to fight. That fight makes too much sense for it to actually happen, although Rigondeaux is his mandatory challenger. Maybe there’s a chance. T.J. Doheny is also a fantastic fighter who could give any of these guys a run for their money. If they can figure it out, we could have some great fights here.
3. Terence Crawford should fight Errol Spence.
Just a friendly reminder.
Follow me on Twitter @TheJonahDylan.
Stipe Miocic Reclaims UFC Heavyweight title in Fourth Round TKO of Cormier
By: Jesse Donathan
Stipe Miocic is the new UFC heavyweight champion of the world, scoring a fourth-round technical knockout victory over Daniel Cormier at UFC 241 in the Honda Center of Anaheim, California Saturday night. The final volley an impressive display of pure boxing technique that left no doubt who the baddest man in the world truly is.
Cormier was supposed to be retired by now, having previously vowed to hang his gloves up by the age of 40 before somehow finding the inspiration to fight on. Prior to Saturday night, Cormier would have walked away from the sport the defending UFC heavyweight champion who had captured the title against the sports only three time defending UFC heavyweight champion in Stipe Miocic, while simultaneously having held the UFC light heavyweight title prior to relinquishing the belt at UFC 232 to his eventual successor Jon Jones.
Just after Cormier’s crushing defeat Saturday night, the longtime Cormier nemesis Jones, who has a storied history with the now former champion, took to social media to praise the victorious Miocic, stating, “Stipe is hands down the greatest heavyweight of all time. I have nothing else to say.” Apparently changing his mind, looking to kick Cormier whilst he is down, Jones would later going on to remark, “I guess losses don’t matter when you’re getting paid so much on the front end.”
The front end of course, an apparent response to an August 12, 2019 social media post from Cormier whom had stated, “Of course he (Jones) wants to fight me, he’s fought 3 times this year and I’m gonna make more this weekend than he will even if he fights again this year lmao. O, how times have changed!”
Cormier was reportedly paid $4 million dollars for his lone title defense against challenger Derrick Lewis at UFC 230 in 2018 according to an MMAMania.com report, meaning even though Cormier sacrificed immense bragging rights and pride in defeat Saturday night the American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) representative must feel he is well taken care of by the organization.
In an August 18, 2019 MMAFighting.com article titled, “UFC 241 salaries: Stipe Miocic wins back heavyweight title, cashes biggest payday on entire card,” author Damon Martin writes, “Following a fourth-round knockout against Daniel Cormier in the main event, Miocic was paid an event high $750,000 according to salaries released by the California State Athletic Commission in a message to MMA Fighting on Sunday.” According to Martin, “Miocic didn’t receive a win bonus but rather a flat $750,000 fee while also taking home an additional $50,000 for ‘Performance of the Night’ for his stunning comeback victory to reclaim the UFC heavyweight title.”
Martin would go on to write, “Daniel Cormier left with the second biggest payday on the card as the now former heavyweight champion (and) was paid $500,000 as a flat fee for his performance.”
Incidentally, MMAFighting.com’s Damon Martin reported back in July of this year that Jones was set to receive an event high $500,000 for his split decision victory over Thiago Santos at UFC 239. With sponsorship opportunities inside the Octagon limited according to MMAFighting.com’s Marc Raimondi, Daniel Cormier may not be teaching Calculus anytime, but he is apparently bringing home the bacon. With both Jones and Cormier reportedly receiving $500,000 pay days at UFC 239 and UFC 241 respectively, Cormier’s algebraic expressions on social media are food for thought and unfortunately only leave more questions than answers.
The first round at UFC 241 Miocic vs. Cormier 2 started off with both fighters exchanging leg kicks, if it wasn’t for the fact the 5-foot-11 Cormier actually came into this fight six pounds heavier (236.5) than Stipe (230.5), I wouldn’t blame some fans from being under the mistaken impression the 6-foot-5 Miocic appeared to be the much bigger man in the Octagon. The fighters would exchange powerful leg kicks before Cormier fired off another leg kick that grazed Miocic’s cup, momentarily bringing a halt to the action as both fighters acknowledged the low blow in fair play by touching gloves.
In what was likely part of the game plan coming into the fight, Cormier would again return back to the leg kicks, scoring a powerful blow that noticeably buckled Miocic. Attempting to fight his way into the clinch, Cormier would lunge in with a failed attempted over hook, the same technique Daniel had chained together in finishing Miocic in their original matchup back in 2018. Unsuccessful as Miocic circled out, Cormier would club Stipe with a pair of hooks that got the firefighters attention.
Cormier would again hit with Miocic with a straight right that was all business before fighting for a single leg takedown attempt, eventually securing the hold and lifting Miocic up into the air, carrying the former heavyweight champions weight for 8-10 seconds before dumping Stipe to the mat and landing in dominant top position.
Immediately looking to improve his position to pound Miocic into unconsciousness, Stipe would grab Cormier’s wrists, two hands on Cormier’s one lone limb, stifling the champions ability to strike. Displaying his Brazilian Jiu-jitsu chops, Miocic would go on to make his way to guard, Cormier content to lay in top position pounding away at Stipe’s body as just over a minute remained in the round.
Cormier would work the body, occasionally mixing in head shots before eventually standing up and looking to attack, creating a scramble which enabled Miocic to make his way back to his knees, eventually standing himself before the bell sounding to mark the end of the first five minutes of action. It was a 10-9 round for Cormier in a high paced competitive fight that saw both fighters put in work as the end of the round drew to a close.
The second round would initially start off tentatively with both fighters exchanging leg kicks before Miocic began to open up with superior boxing technique against the American Kickboxing Academy representative, looking rather impressive in the stand-up department early on. The two would begin to open up, both fighters landing on one another in an entertaining affair that Stipe must have been getting the better of because out of nowhere Cormier lands an open gloved technique that raked Miocic’s eye, which referee Herb Dean apparently ruled legal, as he refused to intervene, the fight continuing despite Miocic being noticeably concerned with the apparent foul.
Upon instant replay, the technique appeared to be deliberate and with malicious intent, an attempt to eye gouge Miocic’s eye in a very reminiscent scene to their first encounter at UFC 226, which directly led to Miocic losing his title to Cormier by knockout.
Miocic appeared to even put his hand out in another good will gesture in acknowledgment of a foul, only to be answered with a stiff one, two for his efforts. With his back to the wall, Miocic would land an uppercut and fight his way out of a tight situation along the fence against a Daniel Cormier who was prepared to win at all costs.
The fighters would again begin to slug it out, the crowd noticeably enjoying the action in a competitive fight between the two elite heavyweights. The horn would sound to mark the end of the second round in a very entertaining main event showcase that saw Cormier edge Miocic in a close 10-9 round by my judges score card.
The third round would initially start off slow once again, reminiscent of the previous round, before Stipe would begin to touch Cormier up with well placed, surgically placed strikes. Cormier would again begin to advance with an open gloved approach on Miocic, at one point even drawing a warning from referee Dean about the seemingly on-going issue. Cormier would begin working the jab, scoring with alarming regularity and effectiveness, Miocic noticeably bothered by his right eye as he checked it mid-fight. With three minutes left in the third, Miocic would pin Cormier up against the cage for a meaningful period of time in a surprising show of physical dominance and wrestling ability. Eventually making their way off the fence, the fighters would duke it out along the perimeter of the cage.
With under a minute in the third, the fighters made their way to the center of the Octagon exchanging blows tit-for-tat, too exhausted to do much else but stand in front of one another and bang away. The horn would sound marking the end to another close five minutes of action, unfortunately for Miocic, perhaps another 10-9 round once again for Cormier.
If this wasn’t a five round championship fight, Daniel Cormier would have won a three round unanimous decision victory over Miocic, but unfortunately for the now former heavyweight champion it just wasn’t to be. Marking the start of the championship rounds in round four, Miocic would stalk Cormier around the outside of the cage before the predator-prey like scenario would momentarily switch roles with Cormier going on the hunt. Making their way back to the center of the Octagon, the action noticeably slowing from both fighters, the two would paw at each other throughout much of the round with Miocic looking to work the body on the tiring Cormier with repeated left hands that seemed to find their mark with increasing regularity.
Continuing to work the body and remaining elusive, seemingly finding his second wind, Stipe would begin to force Cormier to chase him around the Octagon. With Miocic’s superior conditioning beginning to shine through, his boxing technique appearing crisp and his legs fresh, Stipe would begin piecing the former two-time Olympian and UFC heavyweight champion up with skull numbing shots.
The end ultimately coming after another surgically placed left hook smashed into Cormier’s fire hydrant like body, followed up with a stinging one-two down the middle that found their mark. Miocic would turn the corner as Cormier was sent fleeing for safety, only to be trapped against the chain link fence with Stipe giving chase, sending the now former champion crashing to the canvas in a heil of punches. The referee, Herb Dean, rushing in to force a halt to the action before Cormier took any further damage. Miocic was the new heavyweight champion of the world, even dancing in a very Valentina Shevchenko like fashion in celebration of another impression performance by the most elite fighter in the UFC heavyweight division.
The main event at UFC 241 was a serious fist fight that saw Daniel Cormier bring everything and the kitchen sink into the Octagon in an effort to maintain his seat at the UFC heavyweight throne. A reality in combat sports, despite Cormier vs Miocic 2 being a highly competitive fight, there are inevitably going to be winners and losers. With the series tied at one win a piece, its not out of the question to suggest a rematch may be on the horizon despite Cormier taking note of his second career stoppage loss at the UFC 241 post-fight press conference in reflection of defeat. The option of hanging his gloves up for good and retiring clearly on the table.
UFC 241 on ESPN+ PPV: Cormier vs. Miocic 2
By: Jesse Donathan
UFC 241 is set to take place on Saturday, August 17, 2019 at the Honda Center in Anaheim, California and will be available for purchase on ESPN+ pay-per-view (PPV). On paper, this event is going to be one of the best fight cards of the year, featuring a rematch in the main event between UFC heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier and former reigning UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic. The co-main event will feature the return of Conor McGregor nemesis Nate Diaz vs. former UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis in a welterweight showcase. The card will also include the long-awaited clash between middleweight titan Yoel Romero and the bruising Paulo Costa in what should prove to be a pivotal middleweight showdown.
The real question on everyone’s mind coming into UFC 241 is how Stipe Miocic is going to rebound coming off a loss by knockout to the man who took his title just over a year ago at UFC 226 in Daniel Cormier. Miocic had captured the belt against former UFC champion Fabricio Werdum, defending the title a record three consecutive times before losing to Cormier in mid-2018. Since that time, Miocic has begrudgingly sat out from competition awaiting a rematch while Cormier successfully defended the title at UFC 230 against challenger Derrick Lewis.
UFC 241 Stipe vs. Cormier 2 has been such an anticipated UFC event that fans on social media virtually overlooked last week’s UFC Fight Night 156 Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2 card, with the mixed martial arts Twitter communities’ timelines spammed with UFC 241 promotional material well ahead of the Shevchenko vs. Carmouche 2 showdown. A curious phenomenon to consider from a community who by in large prides itself on being the antithesis to the dreaded “casual fan” stigma so often tossed around by today’s new generation of fans.
Which begs the question, exactly who is behind some of these social media accounts and just how devoted to the sport are they, really? One would think their free promotional work, based at the grassroots level of mixed martial arts fandom would be devoting their promo efforts to Valentina Shevchenko and Liz Carmouche instead of overlooking these accomplished warriors completely in light of next weekend’s event. Casuals … aren’t we all, though?
At UFC 241 in July of 2018, Stipe Miocic stood 6-foot-4 and weighed in at 242.5 pounds in his first match against Cormier that ended in disaster for Miocic and put Cormier firmly in the driver’s seat as one of the greatest fighters in mixed martial arts history.
The then challenger, Daniel Cormier came in at 5-foot-11 and weighed 246 pounds as the reigning UFC light heavyweight champion. When the bell sounded for round one, the two fighters casually met in the center of the Octagon, their gloves touching in one final show of respect before the champions got to work. The two would begin circling each other in the cage, the feeling out process underway as Miocic slowly began to cut off the cage by walking Cormier down.
Nearly from the start, Cormier looked to work the over hook in the clinch, a dangerous technique UFC legend Randy Couture used to great effect throughout his storied mixed martial arts career. The fight would soon make its way to the fence, with Miocic surprisingly trapping the former two-time Olympic wrestler against the cage in a show of strength and dominance not generally seen from opponents in a Daniel Cormier fight.
Its around this time Cormier noticeably switched to using an open gloved approach after fighting his way out of the clinch with Stipe. When a fighter’s fingers become extended, as opposed to closed in a clinched fist, the risk of accidentally or otherwise eye-gouging an opponent increases exponentially; a technique that has long since been prohibited in mixed martial arts competition though justifiably receiving renewed scrutiny in recent years.
The fighters would make their way to middle of the cage with Stipe noticeably getting the better of the striking exchanges early on. With some spunk still left in him, Cormier began to fire back on Miocic before his opened gloved approach brought a halt to the action from referee Marc Goddard. An instant replay would show Cormier lunging at Stipe with an open-handed strike resulting in his fingers raking into Miocic’s eye. This was a turning point in the fight where everything began to go wrong for the now former reigning UFC heavyweight champion.
Mentally, Stipe appeared to be out of the fight, his rhythm broken. Cormier would immediately begin to turn the fight around, looking quite a bit better in the standup department after the referee break in the action. Clinching up with Miocic, Cormier would expertly switch from an over hook used to control Stipe’s head and posture to an under hook, freezing Miocic and preventing him from escape as Cormier bombed Stipe with a right hand into unconsciousness. Referee Marc Goddard rushed in to save Miocic from any further damage as Daniel Cormier became both the UFC light heavyweight and heavyweight champions of the world, cementing his place among the sports all-time greats in the process.
With Miocic well in control of the Cormier fight until he wasn’t, baring a quick finish from the AKA representative early on in the rematch things will likely begin to unfold in a similar fashion this time around as well too. While anything can and does happen in mixed martial arts, if the first fight is any indication of how the second fight will play out we can expect Miocic to get the better of Cormier from early on, the only question being how much dog is left in the 40-year old UFC HW champion to game plan his way to victory once again. Cormier is an intelligent fighter, not one simply prone to operate on instinct and overdrive, there is a method to his madness. An outstanding wrestler with a will to win, Cormier may once again reach deep into his offensive playbook and put the mixed back into mixed martial arts.