News: Mackenzie Dern confirms she will continue to fight at strawweight

Much has been said about Mackenzie Dern’s dramatic failure to make weight at UFC 224 last month, with the overwhelming opinion being that the 25-year-old should consider moving to flyweight for her next UFC appearance.

Speaking after the event during the post fight press conference, the Jiu-Jitsu protege confirmed that the UFC had invited her to utilise the UFC Performance Institute (UFC PI) in Las Vegas, to help her better manage her nutrition and weight management moving forwards.

Continue reading “News: Mackenzie Dern confirms she will continue to fight at strawweight”

Opinion: What’s next for Amanda Nunes?

On Saturday night, we were treated to one of the most dominant, complete and composed title defending displays in recent octagon memory, as hometown hero Amanda ‘The Lioness’ Nunes retained her bantawmeight championship in a one sided beat down of the talented Raquel Pennington, over five rounds.

The victory marked the Brazilian’s third successful title defence. Nunes’ previous outing was a narrow, decision victory over two time former foe Valentina Shevchenko, which followed a dramatic knock out of former bantamweight division queen Ronda Rousey at UFC 207.

Struggling with a broken nose between rounds four and five, Raquel, despite her initial unwillingness and under eventual corner orders, began the fifth and final round. In the early exchanges, which were again dominated by Nunes, the Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt scored an outside trip and established both hooks on a defense less ‘Rocky’ Raquel. With Nunes pounding on the challenger from back mount, the referee had no choice but to step in with Pennington’s nose decorating the cage with claret.

After another dominant and almost routine win for Nunes on the biggest of stages, who can challenge her next?

Cris Cyborg featherweight superfight

The only logical step forward for Brazil’s two biggest stars is an eventual, exciting Superfight. Featherweight champion Cris Cyborg continued her similarly dominant reign over the albeit shallow division with a late notice knockout victory over promotional debutante Yana Kunitskaya at UFC 222. Were it not for the untimely injury to Max Holloway ahead of UFC 222, we may have originally had Cyborg vs. Nunes for the 145lbs gold at UFC 224 last weekend.

Initially, it seemed Justino had no intention of meeting her compatriot in a defense of her strap, but after her win over Kunitskaya, Cyborg admitted that if the UFC, the fans and Nunes herself were interested in a bout, she would entertain it. Both women are arguably #1 and #2 in terms of natural striking ability with former strawweight queen Joanna Jedrezjczyk coming in a close third in terms of the female ranks, not to mention both Brazilian’s are excellent grapplers. Expect this title tilt to finally get the green light toward the tail end of 2018.

Ketlen Vieira clash

Another all Brazilian affair, would see Nunes pitted against talented grappler and undefeated phenom Ketlen Vieira in search of her fourth successful title retention. The Manaus native burst onto the UFC scene in April, 2017, with a decision win over Ashlee Evans-Smith and extended her unbeaten run with a submission victory over Sara McMann at UFC 215. Her most notable career win to date came against former title challenger ‘Alpha’ Cat Zingano at UFC 222, utilizing her Judo black belt to out score the returning striker over three rounds. The split decision victory more than likely earned her a potential shot at Nunes’ throne. Vieira offers an interesting match up for Nunes, particularly with her grappling prowess, but in terms of striking, they are oceans apart.

Cat Zingano vs. Marion Reneau winner

While this may be the least likely of all of these meetings, it would be a hugely dangerous match up for Nunes, particularly if former foe Zingano emerges victorious against Reneau. Nunes suffered her lone UFC defeat against Cat back in 2014, finding herself on the receiving end of some brutal elbows from the Minnesota fan favorite.

Zingano will of course meet wily BJJ player Reneau this summer at UFC Fight Night Boise, and a notable finish for either contender could catapult the winner toward a shot at the Bahia bruiser Nunes, especially considering the slim pickings within the division’s top five. Number one ranked contender Holly Holm is currently exploring the featherweight division and will meet Invicta FC great Megan Anderson at UFC 225. Number two ranked Pennington just had her siege halted while top three challenger Julianna Peña is coming off a surprising submission loss to now flyweight title chaser Valentina Shevchenko, and recently gave birth to a baby girl in January so a return in the current climate is on hold.

 

Words by Ross Markey.

Opinion: After a dominant victory over Raquel Pennington, what’s next for Amanda Nunes and the other UFC 224 winners?

UFC 224 is in the books and more than a few people will be feeling sheepish as they scroll through social media this morning. Many fans had publicly written this event off for lack of star power, but when all was said and done, UFC 224 was one of the more entertaining cards in recent memory. Even the UFC themselves took the time to reference the criticism they had received in the lead up to the event.

On the main card alone we were treated to walk off KO’s from Lyoto Machida and John Lineker, as well as a knockdown followed by a swift submission from Mackenzie Dern. Not to mention there were also two outstanding 5 round fights with Kelvin Gastelum and Jacare Souza needing the judges to separate them and Amanda Nunes putting an end to a rough night for Raquel Pennington before the fifth round was over.

Let’s take a look at what could be next for Amanda Nunes and the other main card winners, following an entertaining night of action in Rio de Janeiro.

Lyoto Machida (24-8-0)

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Photo – Jason Silva, USA Today Sports

Kicking off the main card, former champion Lyoto Machida sent fellow Brazilian Vitor Belfort into retirement in dramatic fashion after just one minute of the second round. The spectacular knockout win gives Machida his first two fight win streak in a little over four years and while one final run at the title is unlikely, he proved that he still has plenty to offer the sport, 15 years on from his professional debut.

In his post fight interview, Machida admitted he had someone in mind for his next outing and joined the lengthy queue of middleweights and light heavyweights calling out former champion Michael Bisping (30-9-0).

Bisping has recently confirmed that he is “probably retired” and only a significant offer would entice him back into the cage. He also explained that offer would likely need to be at 205lbs rather than at middleweight. Would a light heavyweight match up between the two future hall of famers be enough the draw him into the octagon for one last hurrah? Only time will tell.

John Lineker (31-8-0)

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Photo – Jason Silva, USA Today Sports

John “Hands of Stone” Lineker lived up to his name on Saturday night with a stunning one punch KO of American bantamweight Brian Kelleher. While a win over unranked Kelleher is unlikely to do much for Lineker’s number six ranking, the 27-year-old knockout artist is likely to be looking for an opponent above him in the bantamweight rankings for his next fight.

With everyone above him in the rankings already booked to fight in the coming months, Lineker is somewhat short of options. The fight which makes the most sense, would be for him to face whoever picks up a loss when Jimmie Rivera (21-1-0) faces Marlon Moraes (20-5-1) in June.

Mackenzie Dern (7-0-0)

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Photo – Jason Silva, USA Today Sports

Arguably the biggest talking point heading into UFC 224 was Mackenzie Dern’s weight. Coming in a little more than 7 pounds above the strawweight limit, Dern received a significant amount of criticism from both her colleagues and fans around the world. Just 2 minutes into her second UFC appearance, Dern landed a huge over hand right which knocked her opponent, former amateur golden gloves winner Amanda Bobby Cooper, to the canvas. Dern was quick to take advantage, bringing the fight to a close via rear naked choke just seconds later.

Putting the weigh in to one side, it was an impressive performance from the BJJ world champion. Certainly a marked improvement on her UFC debut just eight weeks prior. Unfortunately for Dern, the win will forever be marred by her missing weight by such a significant amount and the damage to her professional reputation which comes with that.

Dern addressed her disappointing performance on the scales during the post event press conference.

“On Friday, at 9 a.m. I wasn’t cutting anymore weight, I was in the sauna and there’s no more water coming out, I wasn’t sweating. I couldn’t walk anymore and the commission said you can’t keep going. Thankfully, Amanda accepted the fight. I’m ashamed at that. I don’t want that to happen again but it’s a mistake.” Dern said. “The UFC is investing in me and I’m going to work with them not to happen ever again.”

Dern went on to confirm that she had been informed that the UFC wanted her to move up to flyweight following the failed weight cut.

“My manager said that the UFC would want me to move up in weight. I believe that they won’t,” Dern said. “On Friday, [UFC matchmaker] Mick [Maynard] called me and said we have in institute here in Vegas and we’re going to invest in you, we want you here, we’re going to work with you so I said I’m going to work with you guys. I can’t lose that opportunity to get all this help from this organization that is so big and it’s going to help me make weight.”

With the BJJ star seemingly intent on remaining in the strawweight division, it’s time to consider the next step in her development. Juliana Lima (9-5-0) sits just outside the top 15 at 115lbs. With twice as many professional fights as Dern, Lima would provide a stiff test for the 25-year-old. Lima fell short in her last two bouts against Tecia Torres and Randa Markos and a victory over Dern would provide a quick change in career trajectory for the 36-year-old Brazilian. For Dern, this would be her final chance to prove she is capable of hitting her mark at strawweight and should she be victorious, a ranked opponent would be likely for her next fight.

Kelvin Gastelum (15-3-0, 1 nc)

Kelvin Gastelum Jacare Souza MMAMotion
Photo – Jason Silva, USA Today Sports

Kelvin Gastelum continued his mission for gold on Saturday night, doing enough to earn an extremely close fought split decision win over number 2 ranked middleweight Jacare Souza. It was a mature performance from the 26-year-old. It’s notoriously difficult to earn a split decision win as an underdog when fighting someone in front of their home crowd, but Gastelum managed it.

Having beaten the former champion and the number two contender in his last two fights, there is only one viable fight for Gastelum. He needs to face the winner of Yoel Romero (13-2-0) vs Robert Whittaker (19-4-0) and get his shot at the gold he covets so much. The UFC middleweight division is in a transition phase at the moment with a number of veterans reaching the end of their careers and it has provided the perfect environment for Gastelum to make his rapid climb to the top of the pile. With Luke Rockhold contemplating his future at 185lbs and former champion Chris Weidman recovering from injury, like it or not, Gastelum is next in line for a run at the belt.

Amanda Nunes (16-4-0)

Amanda Nunes Raquel Pennington MMAMotion

Amanda Nunes finally seems to be getting the respect she deserves. In a dominant display she outgunned a game Raquel Pennington over the course of four rounds, leading to Pennington telling her corner that she was done. Her corner ultimately talked her down and sent her back out for the fifth round, a decision which has led to an overwhelming amount of criticism from professional fighters everywhere. As expected, Pennington had little left to give and was finished by a flurry of Nunes strikes halfway through the final round.

The win fires Nunes into the record books with more finishes (7) than any other female fighter in UFC history.

With Pennington safely dispatched and her third title defence in the bag, focus will naturally shift to what might be next for the bantamweight queen.

With the number one ranked 135lb fighter Holly Holm enjoying some time at featherweight, and number three ranked Julianna Pena on maternity leave, there are limited options for Nunes in her own division. The obvious choice for her next title defence would be the number four ranked contender, Ketlen Vieira (10-0-0). The 26-year-old Brazilian is yet to taste defeat in ten professional fights and most recently earned a hard fought split decision win over perennial contender Cat Zingano.

There is, however, an alternative path for Nunes to tread should everything fall into place. Prior to booking the title defence against Pennington, there had been extensive talk of Nunes stepping up to 145lbs to take on arguably the most feared women in MMA, Cris Cyborg (20-1-0). The reigning women’s featherweight champion seemed to have reluctantly come around to the idea of putting her belt on the line against Nunes before the Pennington fight was announced. It now seems highly likely that those conversations will be rekindled in the coming weeks, perhaps targeting a fight before the year is out.

 

Opinion: What’s next for Mackenzie Dern after UFC 224

A controversial weigh in attempt unfortunately overshadowed a near picture perfect trip to Rio de Janeiro for grappling ace Mackenzie Dern at UFC 224. She secured her second UFC victory and remained undefeated in her professional career after submitting Amanda Cooper in the opening round of their catchweight contest.

Initially, both women were slated to compete in a three round strawweight clash until Friday morning, with decorated Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu practitioner Dern, stepping onto the scales weighing an astonishing 7lbs higher than the strawweight limit at 123lbs. Arizona born Dern subsequently gave up 30% of her fight purse to Cooper and the contest was allowed to go ahead.

Mackenzie showed an obvious striking improvement from her flat footed, stiff and rudimentary display against Ashley Yoder. Part way through the contest, Dern ducked under a shot from Cooper throwing a big overhand right, setting up the eventual submission victory. Diving straight into mount, Mackenzie began raining down ground and pound, forcing “ABC” to her back, where she secured both hooks and locked up a vice like rear-naked choke. After some resistance, Cooper relinquished her pride and tapped in a timely fashion. So, what’s next for the BJJ player? Here are some legitimate options below.

MMA: UFC 224

Move to flyweight: Regardless of her next opponent Mackenzie Dern, in my opinion, should seriously consider a return to her former home of flyweight. Dern originally competed at 125lbs against Mandy Polk during her time in Legacy Fighting Alliance, argueably looking her most impressive and comfortable to date in her early MMA career.

According to the 25 year-old, her diet for this fight against Cooper led to her overall weight-cut mishap, and a combination of missed flights and careless nutrition resulted in a 7lbs discrepancy. Realistically, unless Dern hires a reputable nutritionist, a move to flyweight is a realistic possibility. Three failed weight cuts only furthers her need for a move in weight division.

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A fight with Paige VanZant: As above, a move to flyweight is more than likely on the horizon for Dern, especially under a UFC demand due to her potential future in the sport and her marketing prospects. A meeting with the recently struggling, but still game Paige ’12 Gauge’ VanZant is truly a prospect versus prospect match up, something hugely marketable for the promotional side of the UFC. Paige is already a notable figure due to her appearance on Dancing With The Stars and her enormous social media following – pairing her alongside the talented Dern furthers both of their pedigrees.

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VanZant is a legitimate striker, evident from her stoppages of Kailin Curran and Bec Rawlings. A meeting with Dern represents an opportunity to snap a two fight slide which includes decision defeats to Aussie Jessica Rose-Clark, and a rear-naked choke defeat to Michelle Waterson. A potential victory over VanZant gives Mackenzie a legitimate big name win, the biggest of her naive run to date.

A fight with Angela Hill: If Dern decides to bring a reputable nutritionist into her team come fight camp time, a stay at strawweight should be met with an opportunity to crack the top 15. A former champion, Angela Hill would be a great shout for all parties involved. The former Invicta FC best is a dangerous Muay Thai practitioner, so she obviously give’s grappling ace Dern her toughest test to date in terms of striking exchanges. The classic striker versus grappler bout also allows Hill to build on her unanimous decision win over Maryna Moroz and halt the progression of a promising up rise.

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Whatever arises next for Dern, the UFC’s marketing machine must be careful not to throw a hugely promising, bilingual star away in search of a quick buck (unfortunately something that has become somewhat of a norm in this era of mixed-martial arts).

– Ross

UFC 224: The MMA community reacts to Oleynik’s 11th Elekiel Choke

40-year-old UFC heavyweight Alexey Oleynik (53-11-1 MMA) has done it again, and it seems the MMA community is amazed as he picked up the eleventh Ezekiel choke submission victory of his career. UFC 224 sees Alexsey submitting his opponent Junior Albini in the very first-round.

“The Boa Constrictor” is the only man to ever record an Ezekiel choke submission win in UFC history, and tonight he showed it was not a case of a fluke. The first time Oleynik pulled off the slick finish was over Viktor Pesta at UFC Fight Night 103 which took place January 2017.

Here is how the mixed martial arts community reacted to Oleynik’s sensational submission win over Junior Albini at tonight’s UFC 224 event in Brazil.

Opinion: Mackenzie Dern vs. Amanda Cooper – what will go down?

Renowned Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu player Mackenzie Dern makes her Octagon return this weekend at UFC 224 in here adopted home of Brazil. She faces UFC stalwart Amanda ‘ABC’ Cooper in Rio de Janeiro.

Multiple time World BJJ Champion, Dern narrowly scored a decision victory over Ashley Yoder in her promotional debut to extend her professional record to 6-0, but left an awful lot to be desired in terms of her striking, incredibly rudimentary. On the other hand, boxing ace Cooper impressively dispatched Angela Magana in her most recent walk, at UFC 218.

Arguably the most decorated grappler in the UFC already at this early stage of her career, Dern is an multiple time World Cup, Asian Open, European, and Pan American champion, and maybe most impressively in 2015, claimed gold at the ADCC Jiu-Jitsu tournament in Sao Paulo. With her grappling lineage tracing back to her father ‘Megaton’ Dias and Royler Gracie. Dern is one of the most promising prospects in MMA today. Before her Octagon debut, Dern secured her most impressive win to date back in Invicta FC, submitting the experienced Kaline Medeiros via a nasty third round armbar.

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Also an accomplished Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu purple belt, Amanda ‘ABC’ Cooper is similarly experienced to Dern, but with half the successful record. Currently 3-3 throughout her 4 year career, Cooper has a tendency to get caught in submission, losing via armbar to Aspen Ladd, rear-naked choke to Cynthia Calvillo, and in The Ultimate Fighter 23 tournament finale, gave up a D’arce to eventual victor Tatiana Suarez. ‘ABC’ also has experience in the boxing ring, winning two of her three professional bouts.

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I believe Dern will be challenged much more thoroughly on the feet this time round considering Cooper’s boxing pedigree, but the Michigan native’s tendency to get caught in submission scrambles poses a huge opening path for success this weekend for the Arizona youngster Dern.

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The bout will now subsequently be contested at a special catchweight after Dern missed the Strawweight limit of 115lbs, coming in at 123lbs at yesterday’s weigh ins. A move to flyweight is likely for the submission specialist, given this is the third separate occasion she has missed weight.

Mackenzie Dern via submission.

Betting breakdown: UFC 224 Underdog Betting Pick

Disclaimer: any betting advice given here is for entertainment purposes only. If you choose to gamble on fights, please do so legally and responsibly and understand that it is at your own risk.

UFC 224 takes place May 12, at Jeunesse Arena, in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. Today we will be taking a in depth look at my underdog pick for the card.

Kelvin Gastelum ITD +195 (Bovada)

I really like Gastelum here. Jacare is a legend and he has the skill to submit anyone should the fight go to to the ground, however I think he will struggle to get Kelvin down. Souza is elite on the ground, but doesn’t necessarily have elite takedowns, unlike D1 All American Chris Weidman, who was able to take Kelvin down relatively easy.

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In the striking department, while Souza is still dangerous(evidenced by his spectacular headkick KO of Derek Brunson in January) I expect Kelvin to have a significant speed advantage, in addition to some of the best boxing in the division, if not the entire UFC. I expect Gastelum to be patient, avoid the takedown early and use his speed and crisp combinations to put Souza away in the first round.

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At 38 years old Jacare is nearing the end of his career, while Kelvin at 26 is still coming into his prime, as inevitably happens in this sport, I believe we will witness another changing of the guard Saturday night in Rio.

UFC 224 Fight Preview: Jacare vs Gastelum

One of the biggest fights right now in the middleweight division will take place when #2 ranked middleweight Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza faces off against #5 ranked Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 224 in Brazil this Saturday night. Prior to the event, let’s take a closer look at the two warriors who occupy the co-main event spot on the first PPV event in Brazil since June of last year.

Jacare is the definition of a complete mixed martial artist. He has countless Brazilian jiu-jitsu accolades and has been a professional MMA fighter since 2003. Despite being so dominant on the ground, Souza has developed a fantastic wrestling base and has a tip-top stand up game to match. The former Strikeforce middleweight champion has a 25-5 record and has fought, and beaten, some of the best fighters in middleweight’s MMA history, names include Robbie Lawler, Gegard Mousasi and Vitor Belfort. But despite multiple performances of the night awards, the sixth-degree black belt has never fought for a UFC belt. But he’ll be hoping with the right result over Gastelum he will finally get his chance to carry the torch for the UFC’s middleweight division.

Kelvin Gastelum knocks out boxers, submits legit BJJ practitioners, and outwrestles all Americans. Gastelum has surpassed expectations since moving up to middleweight after a troubling time at welterweight cutting weight. Critics always thought that Gastelum seemed too small to trouble the guys at the top of the middleweight division, but the 26-year-old is proving them all wrong. Gastelum has a 14-3 pro record but he possesses all the tools to make it a difficult night for his Brazilian opposition. The Californian impressed in his last fight when he knocked out former UFC middleweight champion Michael Bisping in an impressive fashion, earning him this fight with the #2 contender of the division.

A few people have asked me who I believe is going to take this fight, I have a sneaky suspicion that Gastelum might upset the apple cart a little bit. I think the Californian has it in him to knock out Jacare early and get the job done inside two rounds. But the unknown outcomes are what makes mixed martial arts so appealing. This fight is there for the taking for both of these gentlemen.

Ryan Cambridge

Opinion: John Lineker vs. Brian Kelleher – what will go down?

A hugely interesting meeting at 135lbs finds it’s way to the main card of UFC 224 this weekend in Rio de Janeiro, as home town striker John ‘Hands Of Stone’ Lineker faces surging American contender Brian ‘Boom’ Kelleher, with possible title implications on the line for the emerging victor this Saturday night.

The heavy handed Lineker returned from a legitimate outclassing by T.J. Dillashaw, in which his entire striking arsenal was shut down by the now champion. Following that, Linekar came back to score a unanimous decision victory over Marlon Vera at UFC Fight Night Sao Paulo.

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Rivaled by maybe only Cody Garbrandt at bantamweight in terms of stopping power, Paraná boxer John Linker has trail blazed the 135lbs ranks since his move from Flyweight back in 2015. A couple of weight cut issues forced the 27 year-old to move division’s scoring an eye catching guillotine over Francisco Rivera after lighting him up in the standing exchanges in his premier bantamweight bout.

The returning and now Bellator challenger Michael McDonald was KO’d stiff by Lineker in his most impressive performance in his recent run, with the stoppage sandwiched between decision wins over Rob Font and two time title challenger John Dodson. His heavy striking power is also matched by his almost ridiculous ability to take a shot, somewhat relying on his chin to walk through Dillashaw during their three round bout and seeming unfazed throughout any striking exchanges, something he may have to rely on once more against Brian Kelleher.

MMA: UFC Fight Night - McDonald vs Lineker
Jul 13, 2016; Sioux Falls, SD, USA; Michael Mcdonald (red gloves) fights against John Lineker (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Denny Sanford Premier Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Rempel-USA TODAY Sports

New York native Kelleher on the other hand, managed his most notable career victory to date in his most recent octagon walk, taking a decision victory over one time division best and pound-for-pound great Renan Barao.

UFC Fight Night: Barao v Kelleher
ORLANDO, FL – FEBRUARY 24: (R-L) Brian Kelleher punches Renan Barao of Brazil in their bantamweight bout during the UFC Fight Night event at Amway Center on February 24, 2018 in Orlando, Florida. (Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

A talented striker with a slick Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu game, warranted by his purple belt and his tendency to wrap up a tight guillotine from the bottom, Brian Kelleher can really trouble some of these upper echelon contenders at 135lbs, if he finds a way past ‘Hands Of Stone’. 3-1 since his 2017 promotional bow, Kelleher secured a nasty guillotine over fellow grappling ace Iuri Alcantara before losing via submission to Marlon Vera. Returning against Damian Stasiak just last October, Kelleher displayed his underrated boxing prowess to stop the Pole in the dying embers of the final round.

Brian-Kelleher

The result of this meeting entirely depends on if Lineker can land a patented one hitter quitter clean on Kelleher who is yet to be finished by strikes in his seasoned career, but also if Kelleher can survive long enough to possibly secure a takedown and utilize his BJJ base to tie up a victory off his back inside the distance. Lineker is certainly no slouch in terms of grappling either, but seldom displays his brown belt status due to his brawling and terrifying stopping ability.

Official pick: John Lineker via unanimous decision.

Profile: A Closer Look At UFC 224 Challenger, Raquel Pennington

At UFC 224 in Brazil, Amanda Nunes will have a new challenger for her crown in Raquel Pennington. Prior to the event, we’re going to dive in and look at the lady we know as Raquel “Rocky” Pennington. Continue reading “Profile: A Closer Look At UFC 224 Challenger, Raquel Pennington”