Suarez Vs. Ansaroff/Chookagian Vs. Calderwood set for UFC 238

UFC 238, which will be headlined by women’s flyweight champion Valentina Shevchenko and challenger Jessica Eye, just got some more marquee women matchups. In what could be #1 contender bouts, dominant strawweight prospect Tatiana Suarez finally found an opponent in Nina Ansaroff and in the flyweight division, Katlyn Chookagian faces Joanne Calderwood.

Undefeated prospect Tatiana Suarez is 4-0 in the UFC with three finishes and was having trouble finding her next opponent. After taking out former Invicta FC standout Alexa Grasso and former strawweight champ Carla Esparza, Suarez wanted a step up in competition, and she will draw #3 ranked Nina Ansaroff. Ansaroff, who is the fiancé of double champ Amanda Nunes, is riding a 4-fight win streak since starting 0-2 in the UFC. Ansaroff has picked up big wins over former Invicta FC champion Angela Hill, Randa Markos and most recently former title challenger Cláudia Gadelha back in December at UFC 231. Will Ansaroff be the answer for the Suarez who seems to have ‘future champ’ written all over her?

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Pennsylvania native and #3 ranked flyweight Katlyn Chookagian will be looking to bounce back from her second professional loss after putting together a 3-fight win streak. Chookagian came into the UFC undefeated and went 4-1 before she dropped a split decision to Jessica Eye, who will challenge for the title on this very card. Chookagian draws Joanne ‘JoJo’ Calderwood who has found new life after moving up to the flyweight division. Calderwood is 3-0 in the division, most recently picking up wins over Kalindra Faria and former KSW standout Ariane Lipski. With her move to Syndicate MMA, Calderwood looks to be a threat in the division.

UFC 238: Shevchenko Vs. Eye will air live on PPV Saturday, June 8th from the United Center in Chicago, Illinois.

Report: Yoel Romero vs. Jacaré Souza II confirmed for UFC Fight Night Florida

2019 will really provide a huge reshuffle of the upper tier in the Middleweight division. The UFC are reportedly landing a massive rematch between Yoel Romero and Ronaldo ‘Jacaré’ Souza on the UFC Fight Night Florida card.

The former three time title chaser, Romero was widely expected to meet another Brazilian in the main event slot, with Paulo Costa replaced by compatriot Souza late last night. The pair originally clashed back in 2015 at UFC 194, with Romero picking up a narrow decision victory after scoring an all important and ultimately tied turning spinning-back fist knockdown on the grappling ace.

Long regarded as one of the most imposing athletes in the promotion, freestyle wrestler Yoel ‘Solider Of God’ Romero brings more to the Octagon than just his incredible grappling ability. The Olympian has incredible power in both hands and hold two flying knee stoppage wins in his UFC career.

Losing both title clashes with current champion Robert Whittaker, the rematch in quite questionable circumstances it has to be noted. Yoel was successful in the Interim Middleweight title clash with former division front runner Luke Rockhold, but his vicious third round knockout was marred by a botched weight cut, subsequently leaving him title-less in Perth.

Questions have been asked regarding the Cuban’s conditioning in the past, case in point his contentious win over Tim Kennedy. Romero’s grappling and transitioning is high level of course, look back to his set ups against Chris Weidman and eventual trip and elbow finish of Lyoto Machida.

A 6th degree black belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, similarly to Yoel, Souza excels in one specific martial art but brings so much more to the Octagon.

Another heavy handed striker with a knack for a knockout, Jacaré has 22 stoppage wins in his storied career. A more traversed mixed-martial artist than Romero, Souza began his professional career all the way back in 2003 and has featured in promotions such as DREAM, Jungle Fight and Strikeforce where he held the Middleweight strap.

Yet to ‘earn’ his premier UFC title tilt even after a recent stoppage win over Chris Weidman, the alligator found himself on the wrong end of a rather dubious split decision to Kelvin Gastelum which may have resulted in his installment into the Interim Middleweight clash between Israel Adesanya and Gastelum at UFC 236. The 39 year old doesn’t differentiate between joint or choke submissions per say, with arm triangles, armbars and kimuras aplenty on his eye catching résumé.

Taking place on April 27th from the BB&T Centre, UFC Fight Night Florida features clashes like Glover Teixeira’s return versus streaking contender Ion Cutelaba, a Bantamweight meeting of perennial contender John Lineker and upstart Cody Sandhagen, while the highly controversial former Dallas Cowboys defensive end Greg Hardy makes his second Octagon walk after a disqualification against Allen Crowder.

Don’t Sleep On This – UFC Wichita Edition: Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos Vs. Curtis Millender

UFC is back this weekend after the eventful 235 event and heavyweights will take center stage. Derrick Lewis is set to face Junior dos Santos in Wichita, Kansas, but the co-main event is something to look out for – welterweights Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos and Curtis Millender haven’t suffered a loss since 2015 and with both fighters riding 5+ win streaks, this is a fight you do not want to miss.

Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos or ‘Capoeira’ as he’s known in Brazil, is riding a 6-fight win streak with the UFC. Capoeria hasn’t lost since his promotional debut, a split decision that didn’t go his way. Since then he has stopped Omari Akhmedov, Sean Strickland and most recently Luigi Vendramini in September. Capoeira had been buried on the prelims (save for one preliminary headliner) but now he will serve as the co-main event, and much deserved so.

Curtis Millender was making waves in LFA, ending back-to-back fights with highlight reel head kicks that finally landed him in the UFC. The former Bellator vet is riding an 8-fight win streak and is 3-0 since joining the promotion, debuting with a knockout of Thiago Alves and taking decision victories over Max Griffin and most recently Siyar Bahadurzada in December.

These are two fighters who are capable of highlight reel finishes, riding very impressive win streaks and looking to climb higher in the rankings. Capoeira will get his chance to show he deserves to be on a main card and Millender will continue to get a push from the UFC. I’m curious to see if this fight goes to the ground, which I believe dos Santos will have the advantage; Millender does hold a 5″ reach advantage and with slightly similar styles, a first round finish for either fighter isn’t out of the question. Book this for fight of the night.

UFC Fight Night: Lewis Vs. dos Santos streams live on ESPN+ with the main card starting at 8:00PM ET/5:00PM PT.

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MMAMotion Exclusive: Jason ‘The Kid’ Knight – “I’m finna’ put knuckles all up side Artem’s head and cut his face up”

The Bare Knuckle Fighting Championship received a further bump in it’s already surging popularity when two former UFC fighters, Jason Knight and Artem Lobov, engaged in a  recent twitter spat and through dialogue alone, sealed the deal for a Bare Knuckle fight in early April. I caught up with ‘The Kid’ to talk about the upcoming battle with Lobov along with a number of other exciting things coming up in his sights.

Continue reading “MMAMotion Exclusive: Jason ‘The Kid’ Knight – “I’m finna’ put knuckles all up side Artem’s head and cut his face up””

MMAMotion Exclusive: Gillian Robertson – “I feel like Paige Van Zant is someone who you know for a fact that I’ll be able to finish”

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A lot has happened recently in women’s MMA: new champions have been crowned, former champions have gotten back into the win column and new stars have risen to stake their claim for a shot at UFC gold.

Last weekend was no exception with the Czech Republic’s first ever UFC event. Coming off a dominant win in the main card of UFC Prague, American Top Team’s rising flyweight star Gillian Robertson is full of fire and is determined to make her mark at 125lbs. Continue reading “MMAMotion Exclusive: Gillian Robertson – “I feel like Paige Van Zant is someone who you know for a fact that I’ll be able to finish””

Don’t Sleep On This – UFC 235 Edition

UFC 235 has been the most talked about card so far this year. We have the return of Jon ‘Bones’ Jones, who’s looking at his quickest turnaround since 2011, taking on journeyman Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith. Tyron ‘The Chosen One’ Woodley will defend his welterweight title against Kamaru ‘The Nigerian Nightmare’ Usman after negotiations with interim champ Colby Covington never materialized, and ‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler returns to the cage against the newly signed ‘Funky’ Ben Askren. That’s just a few of the fights featured on the main card; I’m taking a look at my fights to look out for and predicting the winners, here we go.

Kicking off the ESPN prelims, Mickey Gall gets his wish and takes on Diego Sanchez. UFC vet since 2005, Sanchez has settled in at welterweight after bouncing around between lightweight and featherweight. Sanchez is coming off a win against Craig White where he dominated for three rounds and is only 5-7 in his last 12, but every time you think he’s done, he’ll surprise you with an impressive win; he’s looking to do the same against the prospect Gall. Gall is also coming off a win, against George Sullivan in August, bouncing back from his first professional loss. All of Gall’s wins have come by way of rear-naked choke. I spoke with Mickey Gall when I was covering PFL 7, you can check it out below. My pick: Mickey Gall via submission

Later on the prelims is a marquee light heavyweight matchup. Misha Cirkunov, who was once on an 8-fight win streak, is fighting an exciting newcomer to the division in Johnny Walker. Walker asked to step in on short-notice once Ovince Saint-Preux had to bow out due to injury, and got his wish. Walker is on an 8-fight win streak at the moment, scoring a UFC contract on Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series Brazil and following that up with wins against Khalil Rountree, Jr. and Justin Ledet. Walker has been quite the personality since joining the promotion, and this one month turnaround is coming off a 15-second knockout win and another performance bonus. Cirkunov was looking to make it nine in a row and put his name in title contention, but Volkan Oezdemir had other plans and finished the Russian in just 28 seconds at UFC Fight Night 109. Cirkunov then suffered another loss to former title challenger Glover Teixeira before getting back in the win column against Patrick Cummins this past October. My pick: Cirkunov wins this fight on the ground and gets the submission

Headlining the ESPN prelims is an exciting featherweight bout between veteran Jeremy Stephens and one of, if not the best prospect in the division, Zabit Magomedsharipov. After riding an impressive 3-fight win streak, Stephens fell to José Aldo this past summer, a loss that stuck with him for while – something he spoke about this week on Ariel Helwani’s MMA ShowZabit came into the UFC on an 8-fight win streak and collected four more wins (three by submission) against Mike Santiago, Sheymon Moraes, a fight of the night with Kyle Bochniak and most recently locking up a rare modified kneebar against Brandon Davis at UFC 228. This will be Zabit’s toughest fight to date, but his awkward fighting style and well-rounded game will be the difference. My pick: Zabit

Kicking off the main card is the return of Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt, who is fighting in his first non-title bout since August 2016. Garbrandt will take on Pedro Munhoz, who is 6-1 in his last seven; with that sole loss being a split decision against John Dodson, a fight many thought should have went the other way. Munhoz is coming off a TKO win against Bryan Caraway at the Ultimate Fighter 28 finale in November and looks to continue making his way to the top, which a win against the former champ will do. Garbrandt is coming off his second straight loss to T.J. Dillashaw; in both fights Garbrandt did have his moments, but seemed to rush the fight and fought more with emotion than with his head. After some time off, we’ll see if he’ll be able to put those fights behind him and get back to a title shot. My pick: This could very well be fight of the night, and if that’s the case, I’m going with Cody Garbrandt

‘Ruthless’ Robbie Lawler will also be making his return to the octagon after injuries have sidelined him since December 2017. In his post-title run, he defeated Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and then lost to Rafael dos Anjos on that December card. Lawler is tasked with welcoming the funky one, Ben Askren, to the UFC. Askren has been talked about by fans for a while, wondering when he’d make the jump to the big show; unfortunately UFC president Dana White wasn’t a fan and had compared Askren’s fights to ‘taking ambien’. Askren to the UFC looked like it would never happen, until the first trade in MMA history was announced in November, shipping flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson to ONE FC for Askren. Askren will now get to test his undefeated record against the best welterweights in the world. My pick: Askren gets it done in his debut

In the co-main event, Tyron Woodley will defend his welterweight title against Kamaru Usman, not the interim champ Colby Covington. It looks like Covington couldn’t make the March date so the UFC moved on. Now that opportunity comes to Usman, who hasn’t lost since 2013 and is riding a 13-fight win streak that includes victories over former title challenger Demian Maia and former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos. Woodley has defended his belt four times (one draw), most recently submitting Darren Till at UFC 228. These two fighters match up pretty similarly, both coming from a wrestling base but the edge in striking and power leaning towards Woodley. My pick: This fight could go all 5 rounds, either way I have Woodley winning a strategic battle and retaining his belt

Jon Jones will make a two month turnaround after coming back and claiming his title at UFC 232 in December. Jones said he wants to fight at least three times this year and is welcome to face anyone who wants to step up. First on that list is Anthony Smith. Smith is a 44-fight veteran of the sport, fighting for promotions like Strikeforce, Bellator, CFFC and RFA before landing back with the UFC in 2016. In his second stint with the promotion, Smith has gone 7-2 with six finishes and is currently riding a 3-fight win streak which includes knockouts over two former champions and most recently a submission win over contender Volkan Oezdemir which earned him his title shot. Smith’s experience is the only advantage he holds over the champion, as this will be the biggest test of his long career. Smith has a puncher’s chance, but there’s a reason Jon Jones is considered the G.O.A.T. in MMA. My pick: Jon Jones via 2nd round submission

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Don’t Sleep On This – UFC Prague Edition: John Dodson Vs. Petr Yan

UFC on ESPN+ 3 will visit the Czech Republic for the first time in the promotion’s history, and it will be headlined by top heavyweights Jan Blachowicz and Thiago Santos. Also on the main card is an exciting bantamweight matchup between John ‘The Magician’ Dodson and Petr ‘No Mercy’ Yan. Dodson is looking to find his footing the division since moving up from flyweight and Yan has been making noise since his debut last summer.

After winning the Ultimate Fighter 14 against current bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw in 2011, Dodson moved to flyweight and went 5-2 in the division, with those two losses coming in title fights against champion at the time, Demetrious Johnson. After the second loss, Dodson moved back up to bantamweight and has alternated wins and losses since. Those wins came against Manny Gamburyan, Eddie Wineland and Pedro Munhoz; while the losses have been against contenders John Lineker, Marlon Moraes and most recently Jimmie Rivera.

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Petr Yan came over from ACB after winning the bantamweight championship while avenging the only loss of his career. At 11-1, Yan has won three straight since debuting with the UFC, besting Teruto Ishihara, Jin Soo Son and Douglas Silva de Andrade.

Yan will have the height and a slight reach advantage, but it’s hard to match the speed of Dodson. This will be the biggest test of Yan’s career, but something he’s welcoming, as he wanted John Lineker after his latest win. Yan signed a new contract with the UFC in the beginning of the year and this will be his fourth fight in just eight months. Dodson is just trying to get some consistency going, as a loss here will land him on the first losing streak of his career.

UFC Fight Night: Blachowicz Vs. Santos streams live on ESPN+ with the main card starting at 2:00PM ET/11:00AM PT.

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Going Deep: Francis Ngannou vs. Cain Velasquez

Saturday night in Arizona see’s the long-awaited return of the former heavyweight division kingpin – Cain Velasquez. The welcome home party, Francis Ngannou, is one of the most imposing figures ever seen at heavyweight with the ability to stop anyone among the top fifteen with one shot.

An NCAA Division 1 All-American and consensus heaviest hitter in heavyweight history clash in Phoenix this weekend, but this match has so many more factors and implications.

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There is no doubt Cain is a slick boxer. This was apparent with his stoppage over Minotauro Nogeuira. But, I think we can all agree his wrestling background is obviously his “meat and potatoes”. Absorbing almost two significant strikes a minute is detrimental when facing the Batié native, Ngannou, but the smothering style of wrestling and top pressure exacted by another former world champion in Stipe Miocic should be the obvious blueprint in order to prevent immediate danger against Francis. ‘The Predator’ was almost stuck to the canvas for the majority of his clash with Stipe, unable to create any space for a scramble or a stand-up.

Dropping another loss in an unmemorable meeting with Derrick Lewis after his premier promotion defeat to Miocic, Ngannou was pitted against former foe Curtis Blaydes in Beijing last November with the Juco national champion looking to avenge a doctor stoppage defeat to the rugged Cameroonian. In desperate need of a win, Ngannou remained composed and unleashed a massive overhand right inside the opening minute staggering the Elevation Fight Team product before follow up shots forced Marc Goddard to call a halt to the action.

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Ngannou rebounded with a solid win and subsequently forced the fellow title surging Blaydes to return to the drawing board with his four-fight winning streak snapped.

Earning a shot at Stipe’s crown as a direct result of a terrifying knockout of Alistair Overeem and an earlier bludgeoning of Andrei Arlovski, Ngannou is still unquestionably one of the favourites to eventually pick up the strap with tweaks to his conditioning eyed at Vegas’ state of the art UFC Performance Institute. His ability to leave his opponent staring at the bright lights above the Octagon canvas early on will be a huge facet of this fight.

A fan favourite within the MMA community, the first Latin-American gold holder Cain Velasquez has dropped from the ranks entirely due to nagging back and neck injuries. Last competing at the monumental UFC 200 card against fellow division drop off Travis Browne, ‘Hapa’ was dispatched with certain ease inside the opening round with Cain’s boxing something to note heading into Saturday’s main event.

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With arguably the most impressive résumé in Heavyweight antiquity, Velasquez has beaten the likes of Brock Lesnar to earn his first title, Junior Dos Santos twice during their legendary trilogy, Antonio ‘Bigfoot’ Silva and former PRIDE FC great Minotauro Nogueira during his career prime. Dropping the title to JDS then currently suspended Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player Fabrício Werdum at high altitude in Mexico, ‘Cardio Cain’ seen his often renowned conditioning diminish severely as he shot for a late takedown and fell into a guillotine as ‘Vai Cavalo’ claimed the Heavyweight crown.

Octagon rust is still somewhat of an open debate in the community, with the likes of bantamweight great Dominick Cruz refuting the theory but we’ve no doubt seen the return of one time promotion best’s suffer from jitters with Conor McGregor, in particular, looking flat-footed throughout his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov at UFC 229 with coach John Kavanagh attributing the defeat to a lack of previous cage time. The theory suffers when studying Ronda Rousey’s return to action against Amanda Nunes as she was picked apart inside one minute, similarly to Brazil’s Cris Cyborg who also fell to the hands of Nunes despite competing only eight months prior compared to Rousey’s year hiatus.

It remains to be seen which Cain Velasquez makes the walk this weekend if he swarms Francis like he’s swarmed Brock Lesnar and the more technical boxer, Dos Santos, expect Ngannou to be forced into fighting from the back foot with a watchful eye on a shoot from Cain. Based on Velasquez’s tendency to eat some significant shots, I pick Ngannou to find his chin sometime in the opening round, he only needs to find it once.

Official Pick: Francis Ngannou via first-round knockout.

Analysis: James Vick vs. Paul Felder – What Will Go Down?

Two established but contrasting strikers clash at Lightweight this weekend in the co-main event of UFC on ESPN 1 when lengthy boxer James ‘The Texecutioner’ Vick meets the kick-heavy ‘Irish Dragon’ Paul Felder in an exciting meeting at 155lbs.

Both men have seen impressive win streaks snapped in their most recent outings. Vick suffered a tough first-round knockout loss to Justin Gaethje, while part-time colour commentator Felder found himself on the wrong side of the judge’s scorecards in a bloody back and forth against a much improved Mike Perry in July.

One of the tallest of the opposition at 155lbs, Texas native James Vick acquired a considerable following after racking up four straight wins throughout the last calendar year. Finishing Abel Trujillo, Polo Reyes and Joseph Duffy garnered a meeting with often overlooked Brazilian Francisco Trinaldo with the 31-year-old out striking the imposing Trinaldo over three rounds, subsequently earning him a clash with former World Series Of Fighting champion, Justin Gaethje.

Fighting on the back foot, Vick was dropped badly near the fence after a slick counter from ‘The Highlight’ but still lays claim to the #10 spot at Lightweight. Vick style contrasts greatly to Felder’s with a boxing heavy approach on display in the aforementioned bouts, but a front kick to the body had been incorporated to good effect to maintain distance recently.

Receiving a warm welcome as part of a three-team commentary booth alongside Joe Rogan and Jon Anik, Paul Felder is juggling both his current fight career and possible life after he hangs up his gloves to decent effect. A popular choice among Octagon fans for analysis, ‘The Irish Dragon’ has somewhat put his career inside the cage on the back burner competing just once last year in his previously mentioned defeat to Mike Perry.

Scoring three consecutive stoppages before clashing with ‘Platinum’, with strikes overwhelming Charles Oliveira, Stevie Ray and Alessandro Ricci. The certain lack of activity has seen Felder fall from the top fifteen rankings and his late notice Welterweight loss to Mike Perry further scuppered a quick turnaround for Felder who suffered a broken forearm during the three-round match. Well traversed in both Taekwondo and Shotokan Karate, Felder utilizes various kicking techniques throughout his fights giving him somewhat of an edge creative wise against the more mobile Vick.

Both men are wily and incredibly gritty so expect a three round back and forth.

Official pick: Paul Felder via split decision.

Analysis: Alex Caceres vs. Kron Gracie – What Will Go Down?

The legendary Gracie lineage makes it’s return to the Ultimate Fighting Championship this weekend, as clan member Kron Gracie makes his fifth professional walk against promotion Featherweight gate keeper Alex ‘Bruce Leeroy’ Caceres on the main card of UFC on ESPN 1.

Kron, the youngest son of the legendary Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu pioneer Rickson Gracie, arrives with big expectations following two submission victories in Japan over UFC alumni Tatsuya Kawajiri and fellow submission specialist Hideo Tokoro bringing a four fight undefeated record with him. The ADCC gold medalist faces a stern yet winnable first test in the Octagon by way of 26 fight veteran Alex Caceres.

Caceres, the Florida native holds a notable victory over recent Flyweight title charger Sergio Pettis but has become unstuck against the likes of Yair Rodríguez and Urijah Faber with ‘El Pantera’ spring-boarding into main event contention with his win over the 30 year old.

Holding the obvious striking advantage over Gracie, Caceres will have his work cut out if Kron lands the all important takedown or decides to pull guard, similarly to another submission grappler Dillion Danis who recently made his mixed-martial arts bow in Bellator, proving successful as he secured a first round toehold finish.

Saturday’s clash with Caceres will be Kron’s first walk in just over two years. Some expect a hesitant start from the Brazilian, but his Judo black belt and grappling expertise should be more than enough for him find a probable finish over ‘Bruce Leeroy’. The 30 year-old has submitted the likes of Gary Tonon, UFC Lightweight contender Beneil Dariush, Otávio Souza and ONE FC mainstay Shinya Aoki during his illustrious submission grappling.

Kron isn’t necessarily biased toward choke or joint finishes with countless variations in his search for the tap on display throughout his five year stint in submission grappling. Expect Kron to finish within the opening round.
Official pick: Kron Gracie via submission.