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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Don’t Sleep On This – UFC Phoenix Edition

UFC is finally making its main card debut on ESPN this weekend, and on paper, it shouldn’t disappoint. The main card features the return of one of the greatest heavyweights in the sport, facing a former title challenger looking to get back to the top. In the co-main event; after being booked to fight this summer and then having it fall apart, a lightweight bout between James Vick and Paul Felder was rescheduled to the delight of many fans. Kron Gracie will also be making his UFC debut against ‘Bruce LeroyAlex Caceres. The prelims also offer a lot of great style matchups, and that’s what I’ll be taking a look at.

On the ESPN prelims, Ashlee Evans-Smith, who was originally scheduled to face Lauren Murphy, now faces former LFA flyweight champion Andrea ‘KGB’ Lee. Lee is looking for her sixth straight win and second with the UFC after being successful in her debut back in May. Evans-Smith is looking for her second in a row after besting Bec Rawlings in April. These two match up very similar, with Evans-Smith usually having the advantage with her wrestling background, but doesn’t seem to rely on it often. My pick: Andrea Lee gets the nod after three rounds

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Headlining the prelims on ESPN are bantamweight contenders Jimmie Rivera and Aljamain Sterling. Rivera is coming off a win over John Dodson, which helped with the sting of his first defeat since 2008 by Marlon Moraes last June. Rivera came into the UFC on a 15-fight win streak and continued with five more straight against Marcus Brimage, Pedro Munhoz, Iuri Alcântara, Urijah Faber and Thomas Almeida. Sterling also suffered a defeat to Moraes, but since then has won two straight against Brett Johns and Cody Stamann. This could very well be a precursor to a title fight – if T.J. Dillashaw fights Moraes next, whoever wins this could be next in line. My pick: Jimmie Rivera by unanimous decision

Kicking off the main card will be featherweights Andre Fili and Myles Jury. Fili is coming off the wrong end of a split decision loss to Michael Johnson, but before that had reeled off two straight against Artem Lobov and Dennis Bermudez. Jury had taken two years off and when he came back had won two straight as well, against Mike De La Torre and Rick Glenn. Back in July, Jury welcomed Chad Mendes back from his suspension and lost the fight via first round TKO. My pick: I love this matchmaking, but I think the more well-rounded fighter will get it done, Myles Jury

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In what will be the UFC‘s 5000th fight (if nothing changes), Kron Gracie, the son of Rickson Gracie and the grandson of Hélio Gracie, will be making his UFC debut. Gracie will come in with a 4-0 record (all submissions), but hasn’t fought since December of 2016. ‘Bruce Leroy’ Alex Cacares will have the task of dealing with the submission specialist. Caceres is coming off a win against Martín Bravo, but is only 4-6 in his last 10. My pick: This is a classic striker-versus-grappler, Gracie by (no surprise) submission

The third and final strawweight bout of the night is Cortney ‘Cast Iron’ Casey versus Cynthia Cavillo. Casey has been on the wrong end in two of her last three fights, all split decisions; losing to Felice Herrig and Michelle Waterson, but picking up the win against Angela Hill in August. Cavillo was on a roll coming into the UFC, winning her first three (two by submission) against Amanda Cooper, Pearl Gonzalez and Joanne Calderwood. Calvillo then lost to former champion Carla Esparza at UFC 219 along with being suspended for marijuana metabolites, but returned in November with another submission win against Poliana Botelho. Casey has the height and reach advantage, but Calvillo will most likely want to take this fight to the mat where she has excelled. My pick: Calvillo

In the co-main event, a fight that was supposed to happen in the summer is finally set to take place. James ‘The Texecutioner’ Vick faces Paul ‘The Irish Dragon’ Felder. Vick has been on a tear during his UFC run, going 8-1 from 2013 to 2017. Vick kicked off last year with a win over Francisco Trinaldo before getting the main event slot at UFC Fight Night 135 in Lincoln, Nebraska against former WSOF lightweight champion Justin Gaethje. After all the back-and-forth, bad blood and dust had settled, Gaethje had knocked Vick out in under two minutes. Standing in his way of trying to put that loss behind him is Paul Felder. Felder had won three straight and was set to face Vick at UFC Fight Night 133, but Vick was pulled in favor of said matchup against Gaethje. Felder then stepped in on short notice and moved up to welterweight to fight Mike Perry at UFC 226 – a decision loss, but Felder suffered a broken arm early on in the fight. Both fighters have something to prove, and a win could help them move up that crowded lightweight ladder. My pick: Felder via TKO

In the first main event on ESPN, Cain Velasquez makes his much anticipated return to the cage against Francis Ngannou. Ngannou had taken the heavyweight division by storm, winning six straight with highlight reel knockouts along the way and earning himself a title shot against then-champion Stipe Miocic. Miocic exposed the flaws in Ngannou’s game and that carried over in his next fight against Derrick Lewis. In a rematch against Curtis Blaydes at UFC Fight Night 141, Ngannou surprised a lot of his critics with a first round TKO of the National Champion wrestler. It’s been almost four years since Cain Velasquez has fought; a TKO win against Travis Browne at the historic UFC 200. Velasquez is still hailed by many as the greatest heavyweight of all time even though has a hard time staying active, but one of the advantages he has by training at American Top Team are his training partners – two of which are current champions and one being a former champion. All that being said, even with his knockout power, I can’t see Ngannou shoring up his lack of a ground game against the best wrestler in the heavyweight division. My pick: Cain Velasquez is victorious in his octagon return

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Don’t Sleep On This – UFC Fortaleza Edition: Charles Oliveira Vs. David Teymur

The UFC is back in Brazil for the first time under the ESPN banner. UFC Fight Night: Assunção Vs. Moraes 2 will air exclusively on ESPN+, so if you haven’t already subscribed, now is the time. Apart from the rematch that will be more important than their first matchup, there’s an undercard full of outstanding matchups. One of which is the always dangerous vet Charles ‘Do Bronx’ Oliveira against TUF vet David Teymur.

Charles Oliveira is a 22-fight veteran with the UFC, which includes 12 submission victories; the most in the history of the organization. Since returning to lightweight in 2017, Oliveira has gone 4-1, including a three-fight submission win streak (which all came last year) against Clay Guida, Christos Giagos and Jim Miller – Oliveira broke the record for most submissions against Giagos and extended it against Miller. All four of his most recent lightweight wins have come with a performance bonus as well.

David Teymur lost his first professional fight in 2013. Since then, he has reeled off eight straight, including five with the UFC. After losing in the quarter-finals of the Ultimate Fighter’s 22nd season, Teymur had a successful debut against Martin Svensson and followed that up with wins over Jason Novelli, Lando Vannata, Drakkar Klose and most recently Nik Lentz this past June.

After claiming that he wants to go back down to featherweight soon, Oliveira has been very impressive back at lightweight. Teymur has yet to be figured out at lightweight and wants to make it nine in a row. In a stacked lightweight division that is currently at a standstill with the suspension of champion Khabib Nurmagomedov, strides have to be made, and both of these fighters have been on hot streaks. Coming from a kickboxing background, Teymur hasn’t really been tested on the ground yet, and there’s no question Oliveira will look for that takedown quick and try to extend his submission record. Either way, a win for either fighter should propel them into the top 15.

UFC Fight Night: Assunção Vs. Moraes 2 streams live on ESPN+ with the main card starting at 8:00PM ET/5:00PM PT.

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Sabina Mazo set to make her UFC debut against Maryna Moroz at UFC Philadelphia

LFA women’s flyweight champion Sabina Mazo will make her UFC debut against Maryna Moroz at UFC on ESPN 2.

The second event to be broadcast on ESPN will get another marquee women’s matchup. On a card that already features Karolina Kowalkiewicz, Michelle Waterson and Alexa Grasso, top prospect and LFA flyweight champion Sabina ‘Colombian Queen’ Mazo will make her much awaited octagon debut against veteran Maryna ‘Iron Woman’ Moroz.

Since being signed by the UFC in early December, fans have been waiting for undefeated prospect Sabina Mazo to be booked to fight. Putting together a 6-0 record, including four in LFA where she captured the flyweight title, Mazo was put on the map after two back-to-back head kick knockouts in 2017.

11-fight veteran Maryna Moroz hasn’t had a win since August of 2016. After starting her UFC career with a 3-1 record, including wins over Joanne Calderwood, Cristina Stanciu and Danielle TaylorMoroz has dropped two in a row to former strawweight champ Carla Esparza and former Invicta FC champ Angela Hill.

This will be Mazo’s biggest test yet in her young MMA career and Moroz will be searching for her first win in almost three years. This striker-versus-striker matchup will be a fun one to watch and to see if Mazo has what it takes to hang in a surging flyweight division.

UFC Fight Night: Barboza Vs. Gaethje will on air live on ESPN Saturday, March 30th from the Wells Fargo Center in Philadelphia, Pennsylvania.

Darren Till & Jorge Masvidal agree to terms for UFC on ESPN+ 5 in London

Jorge Masvidal returns to the octagon for the first time since November 2017 to face England native Darren Till in London.

Two highly competitive strikers will meet on March 16th across the pond as welterweights Darren Till and Jorge Masvidal are both looking to get back into the win column. Till, fresh off his loss to champion Tyron Woodley and Masvidal, looking to shake off the rust of not fighting for 16 months.

Darren Till will enter the cage for the first time in March and not have an undefeated record under his name. That 0 was taken from him by welterweight champion Tyron Woodley back in September. After starting out his career 17-0-1, wins against tough veteran Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone and former title challenger Stephen Thompson garnered Till a title shot, his first fight in the states, and it didn’t go according to plan. After mulling over moving up to light heavyweight after the loss, it looks like Till has at least one more fight at welterweight.

Jorge Masvidal hasn’t fought since losing a decision to Stephen Thompson at UFC 217 in November 2017, couple that with a loss to Demian Maia months earlier, and I’m sure Masvidal wants to get the taste of that losing streak out of his mouth. Before that, Masvidal was riding a different kind of streak that included wins over Ross Pearson, Jake Ellenberger and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone before falling short of a title shot bid against Maia.

Masvidal is a friend and training partner of Colby Covington, the interim welterweight champion at the moment. Till had lobbied for a fight with Covington, but it looks like Masvidal’s request worked out better. It will be interesting to see if Masvidal’s time off shows, because Till is eager to get back in there and learn from his mistakes, as he’s back on his quest to become a champion.

UFC Fight Night: Till Vs. Masvidal will air on ESPN+ Saturday, March 16th from The O2 Arena in London, England.

Junior dos Santos Vs. Derrick Lewis to headline UFC on EPSN+ 4 event in Wichita, Kansas

Derrick Lewis will look to rebound from his loss to heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier in November against former champion Junior dos Santos.

Lewis and dos Santos are set to throw down as the main event on March 9th in Wichita, which will be the promotion’s first visit to Kansas. Lewis is coming off his UFC 230-saving loss to champion Daniel Cormier, as dos Santos is riding a two-fight win streak.

Derrick Lewis had won nine of his last 10 dating back to October 2015, knocking out his opponents in all but two matchups (his lone loss coming from Mark Hunt in Auckland, New Zealand).  After ripping off three straight after that (Marcin Tybura, Francis Ngannou and comeback of the year nominee against Alexander Volkov), Lewis was called upon to save UFC 230 by challenging Daniel Cormier for the heavyweight title after just fighting 28 days prior. Lewis was submitted in the second round.

Junior dos Santos is currently riding a two-fight winning streak, his first winning streak since joining the UFC where he won nine straight from 2008 to 2012 and captured the heavyweight gold. After alternating wins and losses, JDS is coming off wins against former WSOF heavyweight champion Blagoy Ivanov and former undefeated Australian prospect Tai Tuivasa in Adelaide just over a month ago.

Lewis is looking to get back on track after some time off and dos Santos is eager to get back in the title picture. This should be a classic stand-up war, where Lewis packs tremendous power that can put your lights out at any time and JDS’ boxing is one of, if not the best, in the heavyweight division. With Cain Velasquez and Francis Ngannou set to meet in February, we could see a couple rematches materialize while the heavyweight division figures itself out for the new year.

UFC Fight Night: Lewis Vs. dos Santos will air on ESPN+ Saturday, March 9th from Intrust Bank Arena in Wichita, Kansas.

Thiago Santos, Jan Blachowicz set to headline UFC’s first visit to the Czech Republic

The UFC has found it’s main event for the promotion’s first visit to the Czech Republic – #4-ranked Jan Blachowicz will take on #7-ranked Thiago Santos at UFC Prague on February 23rd, 2019.

Jan Blachowicz is currently riding his first winning streak in the UFC since he debuted in 2014. After losing a majority decision to Patrick Cummins at UFC 210 in April 2017, Blachowicz  has reeled off four straight; taking out Devin Clark, Jared Cannonier, getting revenge in the rematch against Jimi Manuwa and most recently spoiling Nikita Krylov’s return to the UFC with an arm-triangle choke on enemy soil just three months ago.

Thiago Santos signed the agreement for this bout fresh off a knockout win against Jimi Manuwa that took place just 13 days ago, in which many considered to be fight of the night at UFC 231. ‘Marreta’ will be searching for his third 4-fight win streak with the UFC. 7-1 in his last eight bouts (six being stoppages), Santos has taken out Eryk Anders and the aforementioned Manuwa since moving up to light heavyweight, leapfrogging in the rankings after his latest win.

Blachowicz seems to be in the prime of his fighting career, and with the light heavyweight division starting to heat up, a win here could propel him into talks for a title shot. Santos is also in his prime, and a win here against a higher ranked opponent like Blachowicz can also do the same.

UFC Fight Night: Blachowicz Vs. Santos will air on ESPN+ from the O2 Arena.

Opinion: ‘Don’t Sleep On This’ – UFC Milwaukee Edition: Jessica-Rose Clark Vs. Andrea Lee

‘Don’t Sleep on This’ is a new segment I’m going to pump out leading up to every card about a fighter and/or matchup that should not be missed (a/k/a slept on).

On this weekend’s FS1 prelims, we’ll get a marquee women’s flyweight matchup that should certainly have title implications for the winner. #10-ranked Jessica-Rose Clark will face #15-ranked Andrea ‘KGB’ Lee, two of the division’s most talked about fighters. Clark is looking to bounce back from her first loss since she ripped off a three-fight winning streak; as Lee is looking to continue her five-fight winning streak after winning her UFC debut in May.

InvictaFC vet Jessica-Rose Clark a/k/a Jessy Jess joined the UFC in November of last year and debuted with a split decision win over fellow Aussie Bec Rawlings at UFC Fight Night 121; two months later she came away with an impressive win against Paige VanZant. This past June, Clark dropped a decision against flyweight upstart Jessica Eye. Clark has decided to switch up camps for this fight, leaving Syndicate MMA, a decision that also prompted her to quit alcohol.

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Andrea Lee is also a former InvictaFC fighter, as well as being the former LFC and LFA women’s flyweight champion. Lee made her debut at UFC Fight Night 129 this past May and picked up a fairly dominant unanimous decision win against Veronica Macedo. 

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In August, Lee was a victim of domestic violence, and addressed the incident, looking forward to getting back in the cage. As someone who experienced domestic violence herself, Jessica-Rose Clark offered Lee ‘sanctuary’ after the incident, even though she doesn’t know Lee personally herself. This fight also comes up not too long after another domestic abuse incident involving fellow UFC fighter Rachael Ostovich surfaced. On top of these ladies being world-class athletes and training nearly all year round, you have to admire their strength in these unfortunate situations. I’m looking forward to this fight for many reasons, but mostly because they’re going to go out there and put on a great fight. Warriors.

UFC on FOX 31: Lee Vs. Iaquinta 2 prelims air on Fox Sports 1 @ 5:00PM ET/2:00PM PT.

Opinion: ‘Don’t Sleep On This’ UFC Argentina Edition – Neil Magny vs Santiago Ponzinibbio

‘Don’t Sleep on This’ is a new segment I’m going to pump out leading up to every card about a fighter and/or matchup that should not be missed (a/k/a slept on). The UFC will visit Argentina for the first time in the promotion’s history, as native Santiago Ponzinibbio will face off against Neil Magny in the main event.

Continue reading “Opinion: ‘Don’t Sleep On This’ UFC Argentina Edition – Neil Magny vs Santiago Ponzinibbio”

Opinion: “Don’t Sleep On This” UFC Moncton Edition – Volkan Oezdemir Vs. Anthony Smith

“Don’t Sleep on This” is a new segment I’m going to pump out leading up to every card about a fighter and/or matchup that should not be missed (a/k/a slept on).

This weekend the UFC is back after the drama that unfolded 3 weeks ago at UFC 229. This is the promotion’s first time in Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada, and the fans there will get to see a main event involving two of the UFCs heaviest hitters. Former title challenger and #2 ranked Volkan ‘No Time’ Oezdemir will take on former middleweight and #10 ranked Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith.

Anthony Smith is a journeyman. With over 40 professional fights to his name, including bouts with promotions Strikeforce, Bellator, CFFC, RFA and others, Smith’s first stint with the UFC only lasted one fight. Smith found his way back to the UFC after going on 7-fight win streak and finishing 6 of those 7 opponents. Since returning, Smith has gone 6-2 with 5 finishes, taking out Ultimate Fighter winner Andrew Sanchez (which was a great comeback fight), former Bellator champ Hector Lombard and former champions and future HOF’ers Rashad Evans and Shogun Rua. Smith’s two fights at light heavyweight ended in the first round, and were devastating knockouts.

Volkan Oezdemir seems like he came out of nowhere when he was picked up by the UFC. A former kickboxer and Bellator fighter, Volkan made his debut last year and won a split decision against former title challenger Ovince Saint Preux. In his next fight, he stopped the hype train and 8-fight win streak of Misha Cirkunov and then dropped title contender Jimi Manuwa. Both of those fights ended in under a minute, which explains the nickname ‘No Time’. In January, Volkan challenged the champion Daniel Cormier, but was stopped in the 2nd round.

If you’re a betting man, count on this fight not making it to a second round. Smith has been more active, this will be his fourth fight this year and third fight in the last five months, while Volkan is nine months removed from his last fight due to Visa issues. Will ‘Lionheart’ keep his body count going or will Volkan finish him in ‘No Time’? Don’t blink.

UFC Moncton begins on UFC Fight Pass @ 6:30PM ET/3:30PM PT and continues with the prelims on Fox Sports 2 @ 8:00PM ET/5:00PM PT followed by the main card on Fox Sports 1 @ 10:00PM ET/7:00PM PT.