International fight week has lived up to expectations once again, we had two great UFC events as two more fighters won The Ultimate Fighter, and the coaches went head to head to decide who would become the baddest man on the planet and obtain the UFC heavyweight title. In this article, I’m going to take you through some of the key highlights of the week and I plan on making this a weekly article to keep everyone updated on whats going on in the world of MMA.
The Ultimate Fighter season 28 Heavy Hitters will begin filming next week, and after plenty of speculation, it has been announced that the current UFC middleweight champion Robert Whittaker and Kelvin Gastelum will be the head coaches as sports toughest tournament sets to take off once again. Gastelum’s wishes of a title shot have finally come true as coaches are scheduled to fight later this year.
There are some incredible fights coming up in 2018 and we are surely in for some wars. Times have never been more exciting for MMA fans around the world, the new breed of talent is more improved than ever, and it is for this reason we have some amazing undercard fights coming up. Fighters who are trying to make their way up the ladder in their respective divisions, and are ready to put it all on the line in MMA’s greatest proving grounds. Let’s take a look at 5 must watch fights that are coming our way very soon!
Despite cruising his way to a dominant victory Kevin “Trailblazer” Holland was not given a UFC contract by president Dana White. Despite Holland’s best efforts, Will Santiago was able to cling on as the fight when to the judges to confirm that Holland was the superior fighter on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series. I have been fortunate enough to catch up with the man himself to see his thoughts on what the future holds for one of the brightest prospects at 185 pounds.
Today it has been announced that Englands own Brad “One Punch” Pickett will return to fighting under the ACB banner. Pickett hasn’t fought since laying down his hat in the octagon March of last year after three straight defeats inside the UFC.
Marlon “Magic” Moraes out boxes boxers, out grapples wrestlers, and submits Gracie level Jiu-jitsu practitioners. No matter where the fight takes place, Moraes is not only competent, but he is also confident he can emerge the better man and finish the fight regardless of his fighters skill set. Post the biggest win of his career, lets take a look back at the career of the Brazilian and see how he became the assassin that he his today.
Moraes started training in martial arts with Thai boxing at seven years of age, and began training in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu at the age of 15. He found national success in Thai boxing in his native Brazil, earning two Muay Thai National Championships before transitioning to mixed martial arts full time. Moraes did not have the best start to his pro career in MMA, and switching through different Brazilian organisation Moraes achieved a 7-4-1 record before signing with World Series Of Fighting.
In just four years, Moraes set the WSOF a blaze as he won all 11 of his fights, including becoming the bantamweight champion, and successfully defending his belt six times. With five K.O/TKO wins, and two submission wins, Moraes got his call up for the UFC. Were we about to see Renan Barao 2.0?
So on a 13 fight win streak Moraes got his debut in the UFC, it did not go to plan as he lost a tough split decision to Raphael Assuncao, but eager to return to action fast the Brazilian faught John Dodson just five months later. Moraes won that fight by decision and was back in the winning column. One month later the Brazilian was back in the octagon and where he knocked out Aljamain Sterling with one of the most brutal knee knockouts we have ever witnessed inside the UFC. The rest of the bantamweight division was on watch now, and if they were not, they should of been!
Moraes then got his toughest test yet, a fight with Jimmie Rivera, whom was on a 20 fight win streak and seemed destined for a title shot. But the Brazilian had other ideas. Despite being the underdog, Moraes was calm and collective as he became the first man to ever knock out Rivera in mixed martial arts. It took the 30-year-old only 33 seconds to record the biggest win of his career. And now it seems that Moraes will surely be the next opponent to face the winner of TJ Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt for the UFC’s bantamweight strap!
In 13 years and 27 series’ of The Ultimate Fighter, we have been treated to some great fights and all-around entertainment. The majority of the castmates never achieve their aspirations, but every now and again a real gem is born who takes the UFC by storm and proves that they belonged there all along. Now let’s take a look at the top 10 fighters to ever come out of MMA’s greatest reality show.
10. Matt Brown
Matt “The Immortal” Brown has been ever-present inside the UFC for the past 10 years. Brown was on season 7 of The Ultimate Fighter and reached the quarterfinals, but lost to Amir Sadollah. Despite this, Brown got his shot on the finale card and made the most of the opportunity by knocking out fellow contestant Matt Arroyo in the second round. That performance was enough for “The Immortal” to gain a UFC contract. Since then Brown has earned victories over the likes of Stephen Thompson, Jordan Mein and Diego Sanchez. Thus cementing his well-deserved place on this list.
9. Diego Sanchez
Diego “The Nightmare” Sanchez is a fan favourite for good reason. You know as soon as the octagon door closes, if Sanchez is present inside the cage, you’re going to be treated to an all-out war. “The Nightmare’s” fighting style of bite down on your mouthpiece and swing for the fences has done the longevity of his career no favours, but nobody can name a boring fight which Sanchez has taken part in, and he will forever be remembered for his sheer determination to entertain everyone who was lucky enough to watch his fights.
8. Rashad Evans
Rashad “Suga” Evans won season 2 of The Ultimate Fighter as a heavyweight despite being much smaller than his counterparts. However, Evans moved back down to light heavyweight after winning the competition and has been present inside the UFC for 13 years and is still competing at the highest level of mixed martial arts. The pinnacle of “Suga’s” career has to be when he won the UFC light heavyweight title after knocking out Forrest Griffin at UFC 92 in 2009, but notable wins over Chuck Liddel, Tito Ortiz and Michael Bisping are all massive high points of Evans’ incredible career inside MMA’s greatest proving ground.
7. Ryan Bader
Ryan “Darth” Bader first appeared on our screens on The Ultimate Fighter season 8. He made light work of the other competitors on the show and proved that being the No.1 pick was the right decision as Bader cruised through the competition to lift the trophy. Since winning the show, Bader has picked up many notable wins against Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, Quinton Rampage Jackon and Rashad Evans just to name a few. Bader never got to taste title glory in the UFC, but since signing for Bellator and making his debut in 2017, he has become their light heavyweight champion. He is also partaking in the grand prix tournament where the winner will be crowned the heavyweight titleholder. Bader won in his first round fight against Muhammed Lawal where it took only 15 seconds for the American to knockout his opposition.
6. Forrest Griffin
Winner of the first ever series of The Ultimate Fighter, Forrest Griffin has to be given a spot on this list. Griffin had given up on his hopes of being a mixed martial artist, but UFC President Dana White was able to convince the American to take part, and thank god he did. Griffin beat Stephen Bonnar in the finale in what was voted the 2005 fight of the year. He went on to become the UFC light heavyweight champion when he beat Quinton Rampage Jackson at UFC 86. Griffin ended his career with a 19-7 pro record and was rightfully inducted into the UFC hall of fame.
5. Nate Diaz
Nate Diaz competed in Pancrase, Strikeforce, and the WEC before winning season 5 of The Ultimate Fighter. The second degree BJJ black belt under Cesar Gracie has been present in the UFC for 11 years now and has some impressive wins on his resume. Stockton’s own Diaz has never won UFC gold but wins over Donald Cerrone, Gray Maynard, Michael Johnson and a certain Conor McGregor, are all incredible highlights in the 33-year-old’s career.
4. Tony Ferguson
Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson applied countless times to be on The Ultimate Fighter but constantly got knocked back. Finally in 2010, after becoming the welterweight champion for PureCombat, “El Cucuy” got his call-up to feature on season 13 of The Ultimate Fighter. Ferguson found his feet fast with the step up of class of his opposition and was able to win the season in impressive fashion. Since winning the contract, Ferguson has had 13 UFC fights and has only lost one. Sitting on a 10 fight win streak “El Cucuy” is one of the top lightweights in the world, and the former interim lightweight champion will surely be in for a title shot when he comes back from injury.
3. Rose Namajunas
Since losing to Carla Esparza in the finale of season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter, “Thug” Rose Namajunas has been on a mission. Despite a close split decision loss to Karolina Kowalkiewicz, the 25-year-old has won every other fight she’s been in. “Thug” Rose’s ability to finish fights no doubt played a huge part in her getting a title shot against the Polish assassin Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Namajunas beat the champion twice and is now the queen of the UFC’s strawweight division.
2. TJ Dillashaw
It seems like an age ago, but it was only season 14 of The Ultimate Fighter we got our first glimpses of TJ Dillashaw. At the time Dillashaw seemed unsure of his own abilities and was quite picky about his opponents. Despite this, the American still made it through to the finale but lost to John Dodson. Since then, he has had a well-documented change of fight camps, and we have really seen Dillashaw blossom into one of the greatest fighters we’ve ever seen at 135lbs. Dillashaw has had two spells as the champion of the division, firstly beating Brazilian mastermind Renan Barao in spectacular fashion, and again by defeating Cody Garbrandt. A rematch has been scheduled between Dillashaw and Garbrandt and we can only hope its half as entertaining as their first encounter.
1. Michael Bisping
Michael “The Count” Bisping won season 3 of The Ultimate Fighter and has been one of the most active fighters inside the UFC for 12 years. Bisping suffered knock-back after knock-back in title eliminators throughout his career but never was he distracted from his goal of becoming a UFC champion. Finally, in 2016, Bisping got his title shot in a short notice fight against the champion Luke Rockhold, which he won by first-round knockout. Bisping announced his retirement last week and hung up his gloves with a 30-9 pro record. The Hall Of Fame surely awaits England’s own Michael Bisping.
Over the last 25 years, we have been lucky enough to see some of the planet’s best mixed martial artists compete under the UFC banner, but to achieve the ultimate dream of becoming a UFC champion is a sweet feeling not every fighter can achieve. Join us as we dive down and look at the five greatest fighters, who despite their best efforts, failed to ever carry the torch for their respective weight classes.
5. Chael Sonnen
Chael “The American Gangster” Sonnen definitely deserves his place on this list, despite an impressive 31-15-1 pro record, Sonnen was never able to get his hands on UFC gold. During 2009-2010 Sonnen seemed unstoppable as he defeated Dan Miller, Yushin Okami and Nate Marquardt, but “The American Gangster” fell short when faced with Anderson Silva. Sonnen fought Silva twice for the middleweight strap and fought Jones once for the light heavyweight, but he failed to capitalize on making him 0-3 on UFC title attempts.
4. Wanderlei Silva
Wanderlei “The Axe Murderer” Silva is a legend in mixed martial arts and everyone knows exactly who he is. Despite featuring in many wars, the former Pride middleweight champion never got his hands on UFC gold. Silva was feared in Pride and the highest parts of his career featured in Japan, when he signed for the UFC 2007 it was clear the Brazilian’s best years were behind him. But, he still featured in some of the best wars in UFC history which means he occupies a place on this list.
3. Alexander Gustafsson
Alexander “The Mauler” Gustafsson belongs on this list. The Swede has been at the top of the rankings in the UFC’s light heavyweight division for years, and will surely get another opportunity to fight for the belt soon. But as for now, “The Mauler” has never been a champion in MMA’s greatest proving ground. Gustafsson has fought for the strap on two occasions, firstly against Jon Jones, but fell short and lost by decision. Many make a strong argument that the European won that fight but the judges gave the decision to Jones. His second attempt was against the current light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier, Gustafsson once again lost by decision.
2. Uriah Faber
Many would argue that Uriah “The California King” Faber belongs at the top of this list, despite being the champion for KOTC and long-term champion for WEC, Faber was never able to achieve his true dream of becoming a UFC champion. “The California King” fought for the belt on four occasions but fell short everytime and could never get the better of the current champion. Faber retired with a 34-10 record which he can be proud of, but finishing second best will surely haunt Faber for many years to come.
1. Dan Henderson
Dan Henderson takes the top spot, a legend in MMA who laid down the law on so many occasions during his 19-year professional career. Henderson claimed champion status for both Strikeforce and Pride but fell short in the Ultimate Fighting Championship. Henderson fought for the biggest prize in MMA on three occasions, but lost in all three attempts to Anderson Silva, Rampage Jackson, and on the final fight of his career, he lost to Michael Bisping. Henderson will no doubt be inducted into the UFC Hall of fame and will always be remembered for his famous H-Bomb
Renan “The Baron” Barao is, without doubt, one of the greatest mixed martial artists we’ve ever seen grace the octagon. He held one of the longest win streaks in MMA history and was a formidable champion in the UFC bantamweight division. In this article, we’re going to look at “The Barons” early career and how he ruled his division for many years, and then take a look at what went wrong for the Brazilian.
Barao was born in Natal, Brazil. He grew up in the rough slums of Brazil and no doubt had to learn to defend himself from a very young age. Barao trained at the infamous Nova Uniao (with fellow Brazilian hitman Jose Aldo) where he slept on a bed which was made out of a board laid across a stack of bricks. The Brazilian would go to bed early and sleep in late so he only had to afford lunch. Times were very hard for Barao and his family. “My grandmother, my mother and aunt are the people who took care of me. I had a tough childhood,” Barao said in a UFC interview. “My mom was too young. She couldn’t really take care of me, so my aunt helped and my grandparents raised me. They still care for me today.” Despite these struggles, the Nova Uniao standout remained solely focused on becoming the greatest mixed martial artist on the planet, at whatever cost!
In 2005 Barao made his professional debut at Heat FC, he lost the fight to Joao Paulo Rodrigues by a decision. Not deterred by this minor hiccup Barao only grew more hungry for success. Nobody would have expected from that performance that Barao would go on to win his next 32 fights in a row and become one of the greatest fighters of all time. After the defeat, Barao fought in various Brazilian organisations, punching holes through, and tapping out every poor soul that stood in front of him.
Then a great opportunity presented itself to the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt, a contract with Shooto, one of the biggest MMA Promotions to come out of Brazil. Barao continued to knockout and submit everyone in Shooto, he also had a few fights in different organisations, but he mainly dominated Shooto. And in 2010 Sherdog named him number one on their “top 10 Brazilians to watch in the future” list, they sure weren’t wrong.
In 2010 with a 24-1 record, Barao made his debut for WEC and although it was only a short stay, “The Baron” made an impact and submitted both Anthony Leone and Chris Cariaso in spectacular fashion. Then Barao got the call he’d always dreamed of. The UFC wanted him to fight under their lights, and without a second thought, the Brazilian accepted with open arms.
Barao made his debut at UFC 130 where he beat Cole Escovedo by decision. He then went on to tap out Brad Pickett in front of his beloved English hometown fans, then a decision victory over Scott Jorgensen earnt Barao a shot at the Interim bantamweight belt. This would not come easily though, as it was against Uriah Faber who was also in decent form. Barao managed to beat Faber by decision and was scheduled to fight the champion Dominick Cruz, but a second ACL tear meant Cruz was expected to be out for a long time, so the Brazilian was crowned the official UFC bantamweight champion.
Barao defended the belt three times in style. He submitted Michael Mcdonald, knocked out Eddie Wineland with a spinning back kick, and then knocked out Uriah Faber. Barao was feared, his opponents didn’t know if they would have their heads punched or kicked clean off, or whether Barao would linch onto a limb and try and break it. Either way, it wasn’t going to be pretty for anyone who got in “The Barons” way. Confident on his win streak, the Brazilian said in an interview with UFC Espanol: “I’m very relaxed with this winning streak issue; sometimes it’s mentioned by my teammates regarding the number of fights I have won one after other, but I don’t think on it”.
At UFC 170 Barao was scheduled to fight Raphael Assuncao, but Assuncao was ruled out due to a rib injury sustained in his previous fight which didn’t heal as expected. This left the door open for the American TJ Dillashaw. The Californian was a heavy underdog in the fight and was coming up against his toughest test yet, the formidable Renan Barao. In a fight that shocked the world, TJ Dillashaw absolutely kicked the living stuff out of Barao. Dillashaw was first to every punch and was able to dictate the fight completely. In the fifth round Barao could take no more, Dillashaw landed a head kick of beauty and followed it up with some punches, the referee was forced to stop the fight. The 32 fight unbeaten streak over nine years had come to an end. The UFC bantamweight division had a new king, and there was absolutely nothing Barao could do to change it.
“The Baron” went on to submit Mitch Gagnon and won another performance of the night bonus, the impressive display given by Barao gave him another shot at champion Dillashaw. But history was sure to be repeated. Dillashaw emerged victorious for the second time proving that the first fight was no fluke and that he was, in fact, the real deal!
Since then Barao has gone downhill massively, Barao even tried stepping up in weight to reignite his fire but has only managed to accumulate a 1-3 record. Losing to Jeremy Stephens, Aljamain Sterling and Brian Kelleher.
It’s no surprise that Barao is still fighting as he knows nothing else, “The Baron” has been fighting for so long theirs nothing else in the world he wants to do, despite his body telling him otherwise. Barao has got nothing more to prove and if he did decide to retire, I’m sure it’s a decision even his biggest fans would respect. The Brazilian built up an outstanding legacy and will surely be inducted into the UFC’s Hall Of Fame. Barao doesn’t have a fight booked at the present time and is silent on his future plans. But we can all admire what a legend the Brazilian is and it’s been an honour being able to watch “The Baron” lay down the law in mixed martial art’s greatest proving ground.
Since coming off the back of two straight losses, Michael “The Count” Bisping has toyed with the idea of one final fight in front of his home fans. However, yesterday on his Believe You Me podcast, the former UFC middleweight champion announced that he has officially retired from the sport following more complications with his eye.
“So obviously I’ve teased this for a long time now, I might fight again, I might not. And unfortunately, it’s not a fight that I’m announcing. I am going to announce my official retirement from mixed martial arts,” Bisping said.
In light of this latest news lets take a look back at the career of the 39-year old Englishman.
Bisping grew up in Clitheroe, Lancashire. He began training Ju-jitsu at the age of eight, and at the age of 15 he competed as an amateur in Britains first “no holds barred” competition, a precursor to modern MMA, called Knock Down Sport Budo. But at the age of 18, Bisping quit martial arts in order to pursue a normal life and tried to hold down a regular job.
As you probably guessed this did not last long, not even a year after quitting martial arts the Englishman took up boxing, kickboxing, and karate, on the advice of Allan Clarkin – owner of Black Knights Kickboxing gym, who saw the bags of potential that Bisping possessed. “The count” endured a short but successful career in kickboxing, winning the North West Area title then the Pro British light heavyweight kickboxing title. After again, briefly quitting competition in 1998, Bisping made another return to kickboxing to take the Pro British light heavyweight title for a second spell. But all pressures of family and no financial gain from fighting, “The Count” once again stepped away from fighting full time and began regular jobs as an upholsterer, postman, tiler, plasterer, salesman and multiple factory jobs. But none of these jobs felt right for Bisping who then searched for greener pastures in fighting.
Bisping started his pro mixed martial arts in style and in just 18 months he gained a 10-0 pro record, became the Cage Warriors light heavyweight champion, and successfully defended his belt five times. In his 10 fight win streak, Bisping won six fights by knockout and four by submission. No other Englishman was surrounded with so much hype in mixed martial arts, and everybody was excited to see what was next for “The Count”.
Bisping got called up to take part in season three of The Ultimate Fighter, three straight finishes and the Englishman was crowned the winner of the series in the light heavyweight division. Bisping was now in the UFC, the dream was becoming real. “The Count” won his next three fights before losing a controversial split decision to Rashad Evans. Many MMA experts said they thought Bisping was too small to fight in the 205lb division, so with the support of Dana White, the Brit moved down to the middleweight division.
Bisping started off strong at 185lbs and won three straight fights – defeating Charles McCarthy, Jason Day and Chris Leben before losing to Dan Henderson in a title eliminator fight. Bisping followed this up with a fight of the night performance over Denis Kang before fighting and losing to Wanderlei Silva. Bisping then won four straight wins over Dan Miller, Yoshihiro Akiyama, Jorge Rivera and Jason Miller but then lost to Chael Sonnen in another title eliminator. Bisping kept getting so close to a title shot, so close to his dream coming true, but losing the key fight before a title shot it seemed this would be the story of Bisping’s career. Bisping went 3-3 on his next 6 fights, beating Brian Stann, Alan Belcher and Cung Le and losing to Vitor Belfort (where Bisping sustained his initial eye injury) Tim Kennedy and Luke Rockhold.
Bisping sitting on a 25-7 record and struggling to procure any sort of win streak knew he had to change something if he was going to fulfil his destiny of lifting the UFC belt he so heavily desired. “The Count” fought C.B Dollaway and beat him convincingly, then he went on to beat Thales Leites. Bisping then fought former UFC middleweight king Anderson Silva. Bisping was hungry for this fight and dreamed of fighting the Brazilian mastermind for many years and the Brit beat him too on English Soil despite a flying knee which exploded Bispings face at the end of the third round. Then while on set filming a movie, Bisping got the call he had always dreamt of, Chris Weidman was injured and was unable to fight the champion, Luke Rockhold. So without a second thought, Bisping accepted the fight on only 17 days notice. He immediately flew home and began training and cutting the necessary weight to meet the 185lb weight limit for title contention.
At UFC 199, Bisping got his shot at the belt and revenge over Luke Rockhold who had beaten him just 14 months prior. Rockhold seemed arrogant and did not respect the presence and power that Bisping possessed. In the first round “The Count” landed a hook over Rockhold’s shoulder which dropped him, every Brit that stayed up past 4AM was up off their seat as Rockhold scrambled back to his feet, but Bisping landed yet another hook before landing three final strikes to the face of the American and the ref stopped the fight. Bisping had done it, all the blood, sweat, and tears were worth it. Michael Bisping was the UFC middleweight champion of the world!
Bisping defended his belt and got a rematch with Dan Henderson at UFC 204 in Manchester and Bisping emerged victorious from that fight, but later lost the belt to Georges Saint Pierre at UFC 217. Just three weeks later Bisping stepped in at short notice to fight the young and hungry Kelvin Gastelum but Bisping didn’t seem himself as he gained another loss.
But now Bisping has retired we can all look back and admire the career he has had. Bisping will always be remembered as a warrior and his legacy will always be talked about around the UFC. A place on the Hall of Fame surely awaits the 39-year-old, but this is not the last we will see of “The Count”. He is still ever present on the UFC shows and his face will pop up more and more in Hollywood movies as time goes on.
Thanks for the funny lines, rivalries and great fights Michael!