Opinion: Shevchenko vs. Jedrzejczyk – What Will Go Down?

Our first of two title fights this weekend at UFC 231 in Toronto, sees two of the most technical strikers in women’s mixed martial arts history clash for the vacant flyweight title as former professional Muay Thai foes, Valentina Shevchenko and Joanna Jedrzejczyk meet.

Shevchenko acts as the welcoming party for Joanna who makes her division return after two straight defeats to Rose Namajunas at strawweight and a decision win over Tecia Torres, while ‘Bullet’ Valentina made the drop to flyweight from bantamweight after a rematch loss to Amanda Nunes. Kyrgyzstan native Shevchenko was tipped to reign supreme at 125lbs and exacted a brutal first and second round beat down on Brazilian newcomer Priscila Cachoeira at the beginning of the year to earn an immediate title shot.

Despite this being the first time these women have clashed in mixed-martial arts competition, they are more than familiar with each other’s striking pedigree – Shevchenko picked up two decision victories over the Pole during they’re Muay Thai careers back in 2007.

A seamless transition to MMA displayed Valentina’s incredible striking and distance management to a wider audience and earmarked her as a potential world champion. Notable wins against the likes of former Bantamweight queen Holly Holm, top contender Julianna Pena and a one-sided victory over Cachoeira flaunted leaps in her grappling. The Judo black belt scored multiple takedowns over Holm and submitted both Pena and Priscila and landed her trademark counter right hand at will, something the more aggressive volume striker Jedrzejczyk must be wary of.

Before her first-round knockout defeat to ‘Thug’ Rose Namajunas back in 2017, Joanna was regarded as one of the most formidable forces in Octagon history. An undefeated 14-0 pressure fighter who had dispatched each and every one of her opponents with relative ease, this undefeated record led to some considerable bravado and almost a feeling of invincibility, something Namajunas exploited.

On paper, Joanna was expected to steamroll Rose but was dropped twice in the exchanges of a frantic paced first round and in a mere three minutes, her Strawweight throne was over. A redemption story followed a much more collected Jedrzejczyk into her rematch with ‘Thug’ Rose and despite a much-improved showing, she lost a close decision to Namajunas. An incensed Joanna was convinced she regained her crown and disagreed with the judge’s unanimous decision ruling. Tecia Torres was next in line for Jedrzejczyk and despite some cagey exchanges, Joanna scored a three round decision win.

Olsztyn native Jedrzejczyk has made the 125lbs limit before, amassing a 5-0 record at the weight and a return to Flyweight will more than likely benefit Joanna, with her well-documented struggle to meet the Strawweight limit leaving her compromised, although it would be hard to notice given her dominance over the division for such a long time.

Shevchenko is the better grappler in this one but Joanna has been tested before in wrestling exchanges and has come out on top. Joanna’s pace pushing, volume striking style could bare the key to Valentina’s success with her distance control and counter striking ability second to none. Expect a highly significant and total strike count come to the culmination of this one with Valentina landing quickest.

Valentina Shevchenko via unanimous decision. 

Report: UFC lightweight elite set to clash as McGregor vs. Poirier II and Khabib vs. Ferguson targeted

It seems 2019 will bring some clarity to the very top of the UFC lightweight rankings with promotion president, Dana White eyeing two high profile clashes among the top three contenders. Continue reading “Report: UFC lightweight elite set to clash as McGregor vs. Poirier II and Khabib vs. Ferguson targeted”

Report: Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw official for UFC 233

Despite the recent rumblings speculating that the UFC is poised to dissolve the promotion’s men’s flyweight division before the end of the year, we are set for an apparent “Bon Voyage” fight between recently crowned champion, Henry Cejudo and bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. It is confirmed the two champions will fight for the 125lbs title at UFC 233, with Dillashaw attempting to join Conor McGregor and Daniel Cormier as the organisation’s only other “Champ Champ”. Continue reading “Report: Henry Cejudo vs. T.J. Dillashaw official for UFC 233”

News: Paulo Costa injured, Yoel Romero calls for Anderson Silva instead

Once again, a reported middleweight clash between perennial contender Yoel Romero and rising challenger Paulo Costa has fallen out.

Both behemoths at 185lbs were scheduled to meet at the recent UFC 230 event in Madison Square Garden, with Cuban wrestler Romero opting to recover from multiple injuries sustained against Robert Whittaker, leaving the undefeated Belo Horizonte native without a dance partner in New York.

The promotion were believed to have eyed an eventual clash between the pair at their premier ESPN+ 1 event on the 19th of January in the new year, but Paulo Costa has picked up an injury, ruling him out of the expected headlining slot.

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Romero sustained a nasty broken orbital bone in his rematch with current middleweight best Robert Whittaker in the second round of their back and forth clash. After yet another botched weight cut to 185lbs, the now 41 year-old former Olympian was widely expected to make the leap to a more comfortable home of 205lbs, with a clash alongside Alexander Gustafsson momentarily suggested for an Interim crown at UFC 230 failing to materialize.

Romero has seen weight issues prevent him from clinching a UFC title on multiple occasions, namely his UFC 221 Interim middleweight title knockout win over Luke Rockhold and his UFC 224 split decision loss to Whittaker in which many had the Pinar del Rio favourite narrowly edging out the Aussie. In both match ups, #1 ranked Yoel failed to make weight successfully.

Fast approaching the top five of 185lbs, Paulo Costa has so far displayed unparalleled striking power at middleweight maybe only matched by Romero himself in his first four walks to the Octagon. The Brazilian made hard work of the hot and cold Uriah Hall in his most recent fight, eventually finishing the flashy kickboxer in the second round, earning him the #8 rank in the murderers row that is 185lbs.

In a somewhat bizarre ply to earn a fourth tilt at championship honours, the explosive Romero has issued a challenge to the iconic former division king Anderson Silva who recently served a reduced suspension after a USADA test returned positive for hydrochlorothiazide and methyltestosterone, later discovered to be present in a contaminated substance consumed by the Curitiba counter striker. This subsequently allowed him to return to active competition in November 2018.

‘The Spider’ last competed at the controversial UFC 208 in Brooklyn, scoring a unanimous decision win over Derek Brunson.  Silva, who will turn 44 next April, has recently dropped losses to Daniel Cormier on short notice and a razor thin decision defeat to Michael Bisping, which ultimately earned the British striker his successful siege of the middleweight crown against Luke Rockhold.

UFC Fight Night 143 takes place at the Barclays Centre in Brooklyn, New York on January 19th, and currently features a welterweight match up between Belal Muhammed and Geoff Neal, and a Women’s flyweigth clash between prospects Paige VanZant and Rachael Ostovich-Berdon.

News: Paige VanZant and Rachael Ostovich meet at UFC on ESPN

An interesting women’s flyweight clash makes its way onto the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s premier event of 2019 and their ESPN network debut. The exciting Paige VanZant features alongside The Ultimate Fighter competitor Rachael Ostovich on January 19th in Brooklyn. Continue reading “News: Paige VanZant and Rachael Ostovich meet at UFC on ESPN”

In-depth: UFC 229 – The fight and the fallout

On October 6th, Khabib Nurmagomedov exacted a one-sided beating of Conor McGregor over four rounds to make his premier defence of the lightweight championship, but unfortunately, it’s the Dagestani’s actions after Herb Dean peeled him off McGregor that will forever take away from his incredible performance. I will break down the fight specifics, and then detail the confirmed events after the final bell, and what implications and next steps will be on the cards.

The Fight

McGregor, in my opinion, looked almost too tentative to pull the trigger on Khabib. When he wasn’t on his butt at the fence, it was clear he was obviously wary of Nurmagomedov’s incredible wrestling pedigree. However, it was Conor who landed the first real shot of the bout, circling Khabib onto a left hand in the opening seconds. An early, low single dive from Khabib seen him lock onto Conor’s ankle to counteract any immediate danger. McGregor initially defended well, keeping his balance but Khabib eventually elevated his leg and scored his first takedown after scuttling to the fence. Conor was initially controlling the posture of Khabib to prevent his devastating ground and pound. Khabib spent the remainder of the round in Conor’s half guard, with the Dubliner unable to scramble as expected by many.

Conor looked a tad wild with his striking at the beginning of the second, and his usual creative movement was scarce. After a brief exchange between the two, Conor searched for that stiff uppercut implemented against Nate Diaz in their first meeting, but Khabib managed to evade the shot, forcing Conor to the mat for the second time courtesy of a high crotch single leg.

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Real trouble set in once again for Conor, as Khabib, now working from a stacked guard, began raining down heavy shots on his opponent forcing him to give up his guard momentarily. Herb Dean watched closely as Conor began to cover up with the finish in sight. Khabib then transitioned to half guard once more, looking to step over into side control where he ate an illegal knee from the Irishman. Pointing out the illegal shot to Dean, the renowned referee called for the action to continue.

The second round again went in Khabib’s favour based on activity, with Conor sneering after defending a single leg before the klaxon.

The third round approached with Khabib bizarrely electing to stand with Conor for the opening exchanges. Conor looked incredibly tentative to throw as Khabib kept inside the pocket where Conor stuffed a double leg attempt before landing an elbow and a knee to the body in the resulting clinch.

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Conor was once again forced to defend against the fence, doing so admirably and again found a home for a knee to the body. Khabib then ate an uppercut, showing a granite chin and calling Conor forward after landing a left hand of his own upstairs. Forced to the ground for a moment via an outside trip, Conor eventually got back to his feet and scored another illegal shot, this time landing to the back of Khabib’s head.

Khabib’s decision to stand with the counter striker, ultimately seen his thirty round’s of dominance snapped as McGregor took the third on all three scorecards.

Conor started the fourth (and soon to be fight-ending round) on the front foot, forcing Khabib onto a left hand from the Dubliner. Khabib was certainly affected by those stabbing teep kicks to the solar plexus by McGregor, finding his target early in the fourth, but another solid entry from the Sambo specialist resulted in yet another demoralizing takedown against McGregor.

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Unable to find a way under the neck, Khabib tightened a neck crank with McGregor tapping. Eventually releasing after some prying from Herb Dean, Khabib began talking to a seated McGregor…

The Fallout

After his back and forth with Conor, Khabib fired his mouthpiece towards the fence where McGregor’s corner was seated as he was insulted by McGregor’s BJJ partner, Dillon Danis. The Russian then scaled the Octagon and leaped toward the former Marcelo Garcia prodigy, with a scuffle breaking out among the pair.

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Rising back to his feet, McGregor attempted to follow suit and hopped onto the Octagon fence where he was restrained by security, before throwing a left hand at Abubakar Nurmagomedov. Conor then found himself at odds with two more members of the Nurmagomedov camp as an unknown assailant made an attempt to confront the Dubliner, but was met with a left hand.

During this exchange, UFC Featherweight Zubaira Tukhugov made his way over the fence and landed a couple of shots to the back of a defenceless McGregor, who was then eventually tackled by the second member of Team Khabib. Coach John Kavanagh managed to cause some separation.

Khabib’s fellow AKA members, Luke Rockhold and Daniel Cormier looked to defuse the delicate situation with Khabib, who was now demanding his UFC lightweight championship, something promotion president Dana White refused to avoid any further fracas within the hatred and alcohol-fuelled Vegas crowd. In the meantime, McGregor was escorted out of the Octagon and backstage, opting to miss the post-fight interview.

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Khabib eventually left the cage under high-security scrutiny, although without his title with Dana White expecting a raining of objects into the Octagon if the Dagestani was presented with the title, especially due to the large Irish contingency. Instead, Bruce Buffer announced the official decision as the crowd and trio of commentators tried to wrap their head’s around what they had just witnessed.

The Aftermatch and Opinion

As of Monday, Khabib’s cheque has been frozen by the Nevada State Athletic Commission, while Conor has been paid his fight purse in full. Three members from Nurmagomedov’s entourage have been arrested and subsequently released after McGregor elected against pressing charges.

However, the NSAC are currently reviewing footage of the incident inside the T-Mobile Arena with a strict punishment expected to be trashed down to Nurmagomedov, particularly after the commission governor was escorted from the building.

Going off my gut feeling, I believe the commission will issue Khabib with some sort of ban and financial sting. A VISA to enter the United States, the home of his occupation has been called into question, with many wondering if the Russian will have his current one revoked or will struggle to receive one in the future.

On the other hand, I fully expect Khabib to be stripped of his lightweight crown – disappointing considering his spur of the moment post-fight antics may have just cost him his well-deserved legacy and the accolade he strived since his Octagon bow.

The next legitimate contender emerged from the fold on Saturday night as well as the former interim king, Tony Ferguson sliced up Anthony Pettis to extend his win streak to eleven straight fights. With a spine-tingling and fight of the night winning performance that had the Vegas masses on their feet, it would be difficult to refuse “El Cucuy” a legitimate shot at the official strap. He will be no doubt held in high regard by the UFC brass after such a positive performance on the opposite side of the UFC 229 spectrum. Don’t be surprised if the UFC book Ferguson vs. McGregor for a vacant title if Khabib gets stripped, a dire straits of a matchup for Conor in my opinion.

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At this stage in his career, with two losses in his last four Octagon appearances, a trilogy bout with Nate Diaz regardless of the Stockton son’s outcome against Dustin Poirier at MSG in November, not only offers a considerable paycheck, a chance for Conor to ignite the fire that once was before the Mayweather meeting. But not to mention, it would offer also a safer route to UFC immortality.

On reflection, the UFC was undoubtedly dragged through the mud by the incident after the UFC 229 main event. On arguably their biggest stage yet, the promotion may have lost a chunk of hard-earned legitimacy on the world stage, and will feel a dent in the commodity for their lightweight stars should the commission follow through with the strictest punishments possible. In a year of struggle for star power, it will be interesting to see how the next few months play out.

How do you think this will end? Is there light at the end of the tunnel?..

Opinion: Ferguson vs. Pettis – What Will Go Down?

The stacked card what is UFC 229 not only features arguably the biggest main event in UFC history as Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor finally throw leather, but another pair of stud title challengers at 155lbs will meet in the co-headliner. Grappling ace Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson returns from his April knee injury against exciting striking specialist Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis.

Looking to add another notch to his incredible ten-fight win streak, longtime division mainstay, Ferguson secured an interim crown against the dangerous Kevin Lee in his most recent UFC outing. After slapping a triangle on Lee, Ferguson earned a unification clash for the vacant championship against Khabib at UFC 223. Unfortunately, this was not to come to fruition as Ferguson tore his LCL after tripping over a monitor cable whilst carrying out media obligations ahead of his Barclays Centre appearance.

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On the other hand, after enduring the toughest stint of his professional mixed-martial-arts career in recent years, one-time WEC and UFC Lightweight kingpin Anthony ‘Showtime’ Pettis recently returned to winning ways with an eye-catching triangle armbar victory over Michael Chiesa.

The Roufusport product has an immense, often overlooked Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu base, but in fights alongside Joe Lauzon, Danny Castillo and veteran ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone, the Milwaukee native used his sublime Taekwondo ability to dispatch the trio. Both Pettis brothers feature at UFC 229, with younger sibling, Sergio Pettis meeting Brazil’s Jussier Formiga in an important flyweight three-rounder.

Pettis

Despite Ferguson’s tendency to fight “long” and stick with a lengthy jab used in the Rafael dos Anjos fight, I believe “Showtime” may hold the trump card in any striking exchanges, particularly in the pocket. Pettis is arguably the more creative and dynamic between the pair with a wide array of kicking techniques in his arsenal.

One thing Ferguson will bring on Saturday night is his constant offensive pressure and long combinations. While both possess a resounding offensive grappling background, 10th Planet Jiu-Jitsu protege Ferguson holds a wicked guard.

Bravo

Another posing question in this one is the current condition of Ferguson’s knee. Returning for the first time since April, I’d imagine Pettis to target calf kicks, particularly on the inside to buckle Ferguson’s recently healed knee, united with the incorporation of oblique kicks which will hyperextend and eventually halt forward pressure from the Oxnard native.

I think Pettis manages to get the job done against Tony and continue his resurgence to a potential second title tilt.

Anthony Pettis via split decision.

Report: Khabib vs. McGregor Press Conference Heading To NYC

UFC 229 will have host it’s premier media day press conference next Thursday in New York City ahead of it’s fast approaching October 6th date. Event headliners Khabib Nurmagomedov and Conor McGregor will meet face to face for the first time since their highly publicised fracas at the Barclays Centre last April.

ESPN reporter Brett Okamoto offered an update on what feels like a genuinely mismanaged promotional campaign as he confirmed the first official press event at Radio City Music Hall next Thursday evening. A McGregor media tour usually offers a merry-go-round of insults and memorable catchphrases, but also a masterclass of mental warfare in which the Dubliner often tends to beat his opponent before they meet in the Octagon.

Khabib and McGregor are sworn rivals dating back to their backstage clash at UFC 205. Dagestani Khabib, called out the SBG product after a dominant win over Michael Johnson, attempting to comprehend how McGregor was at the time warranted a title shot despite losing to Nate Diaz earlier in the year and making his lightweight debut that night. McGregor secured the Lightweight crown that same night in November, stopping Eddie Alvarez convincingly in the second round.

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A 2017 expedition into the boxing world against Floyd Mayweather extended McGregor’s hiatus from the cage, followed by the birth of his son, Conor Jr. October will mark his return to the sport after a two-year absence.

Expect a huge security presence at next Thursday’s media day presser. Both fighters are known to travel with hefty entourages which have been chomping at the bit to get into it with each other in the recent months. I would imagine the UFC will be pulling out all of the stops security-wise, as this is a precious and highly anticipated fight.