In The Spotlight
As rampaging Australian middleweight contender Robert Whittaker edges closer and closer to a UFC title shot, Elliot Worsell checks in with George Sotiropoulos, a former lightweight contender from Melbourne who made his first UFC appearance some ten years ago. ¬† Few names in mixed martial arts are as difficult to pronounce or spell as Sotiropoulos. It's pou not po. It ends with los and not lous. Yet, for a while, between, say, 2008 and 2010, the name Sotiropoulos was on the very tip of MMA fans' tongues. It was one said often, written often. It was one entered into the UFC lightweight title challenger sweepstakes. It even threatened to one day become a household name ‚Äď well, in his native Australia at least. ¬† ‚ÄúI once heard a comedian from Australia say if America can learn Schwarzenegger they can learn a Greek name,‚ÄĚ says George Sotiropoulos. ‚ÄúHe was right.‚ÄĚ ¬† Sotriopoulos is spoken and written less these days. That's because George has been MIA from MMA since August 2014 and because his hot streak from 2008 to 2010, though promising and memorable, ultimately failed to deliver him the UFC title shot many had started to believe was inevitable. Not only that, Sotiropoulos, a globetrotter who for nine years resided Stateside, is now back home in Melbourne about to open a gym, which is to say slowing down, coming full circle. ¬† ‚ÄúI'm at a point in my life where I'm looking to settle down,‚ÄĚ Sotiropoulos, 39, explains. ‚ÄúI travelled for so many years training and competing. I had this goal where I just wanted to train in as many different places as I could that were renowned. And I did. It was a bit of the good, the bad and the ugly. ¬† ‚ÄúBut I don't need to do that anymore. I think I'm as experienced as I'm going to get. I mean, you always learn new stuff, but it makes sense for me to have my own place. When it came to opening a place, I think I realised I wanted to come back to Australia and do it. But it took me a while to find a building and go through all the negotiations and the rigmarole. It's a fun time for me now, though. It's a new venture and I'm looking forward to starting it.‚ÄĚ ¬† That Sotiropoulos remains attached to something that has defined him and lifted his name comes as no real surprise. Nor is it a shock to hear of a return to the place where, at the age of 19, his mixed martial arts journey began on a random Friday night. ¬† ‚ÄúI was at my friend's house, doing our thing,‚ÄĚ he recalls, ‚Äúand my friend says, 'George, I've got these fights from America. These guys fighting in cages.' I'm like, 'Put it on.' He put it on and as soon as he put it on I was like, 'What the fuck is this? It's amazing.'‚ÄĚ ¬† Sotiropoulos, at the time, was doing a degree in banking and international trading. He was, therefore, about as far removed from being a fighter as an Australian teenager can be. Not that it mattered. Upon setting eyes on Royce Gracie and his unconventional way of manhandling bigger opponents and forcing them to tap, George was sold. Education, something he valued and continued, soon faded into insignificance. ¬† ‚ÄúIt was like the clouds parted, the heavens opened and God shone his light on me and that was it,‚ÄĚ he explains. ‚ÄúI didn't share it with too many people because they would have thought I was crazy, but I literally decided there and then, at 19, what I was going to do with my life. ¬† ‚ÄúA couple of weeks later I walked to this Brazilian jiu-jitsu academy, only one of two in the country at the time, in my hometown. I thought, wow, this stuff is everywhere. Anyone can do it. ¬† ‚ÄúI was at university and training jiu-jitsu. My schooling took precedence and I was working towards a degree. It was important to me to achieve that goal. But when I did it just didn't compare to the goal of fighting. I was obsessed with that. It was all I could think about.‚ÄĚ ¬† Sotiropoulos wouldn't turn professional as a mixed martial artist until 2004. Opportunities, he says, were anything but rife; early fights in Queensland led to assignments in far-flung places like Guam, Tokyo and Seoul. Indeed, it wasn't until he emerged on season six of The Ultimate Fighter that the name Sotiroupoulos started to resonate among mixed martial arts aficionados. ¬† Yet, such is the mind of the well-travelled, high-performing athlete, it's not memories of time spent on The Ultimate Fighter or even subsequent UFC victories that linger. Instead, when asked to specify career highlights, Sotiropoulos' mind goes back further. Much further. It goes back to quieter, purer times; times few people witnessed, much less remember. ¬† ‚ÄúI don't think people saw my best in the UFC,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúThere were fights I had that nobody saw. I had fights outside of the UFC where I performed really well. ¬† ‚ÄúMy two fights with Kyle Noke, for example, stand out. We spent a total of eight rounds fighting. That's eight five-minute rounds. That's forty minutes fighting. It was fun. He's a very tough, durable fighter. With him, I basically displayed every facet of the game. I did things in that fight and fought in a way people haven't seen from me since. I respect him. He showed me how durable he is. He's one of the strongest guys I've fought. That guy is tough as nails. ¬† ‚ÄúMy other favourite fight was against a gentleman by the name of Sergio Lourenco. He was a Brazilian guy. I think he was a Royler Gracie student. He trained with Cesar Gracie, the Diaz brothers and Jake Shields. All that crew. He was tough. I fought him in Guam in January 2006. We had a really good fight. I really liked that fight because it brought out the best in me. I was in some trouble, some of the toughest positions I was ever in, but I proved a lot to myself. It was definitely a fight that left an impression on me. It was a battle, a fun fight. Enson Inoue was impressed. I met him that night and as a result of that fight he invited me to Japan to fight two Japanese guys. One was Shigetoshi Iwase and that was a good fight. I performed well. He was a tough guy. As Enson said, 'He is no tomato can.' ¬† ‚ÄúThen there was the fight with Shinya Aoki. That fight was kind of anticlimactic because it ended in a disqualification. He caught my foot, there was some battle to escape the foot-lock, and it ended as an anticlimax. There was a build-up and then nothing. I remember it feeling like a let-down.‚ÄĚ ¬† One thing Sotiropoulos did take from sharing a ring with Aoki, though, was a love of the rubber guard. It was something he saw his esteemed Japanese foe employ ‚Äď many times, in fact ‚Äď and something which would stay with George beyond their damp squib of a scrap in 2006. ¬† ‚ÄúI had first seen Eddie Bravo using his guard techniques in 2001 when I attended Jean Jacques Machado's academy in Los Angeles,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúHe was still in the formative stages of his jiu-jitsu but it looked very unorthodox and that appealed to me.‚ÄĚ ¬† The rubber guard was to become synonymous with Sotiropoulos due to his frequent use of it while on the UFC roster; it was a branch of his aggressive, suffocating grappling style, a style which saw him secure impressive wins against the likes of Joe Stevenson, Kurt Pellegrino and Joe Lauzon. ¬† In 2010, during the UFC's first venture into Australia, Sotiropoulos utilised a Stevenson takedown attempt in round two of their lightweight fight to showcase, in all its glory, the virtues of the rubber guard before a sold-out crowd of 17,000. Put on his back, George immediately reached for his left foot with his right hand, pulling it towards the shoulder of Stevenson, thus restricting the American's wriggle room and chances of posturing up. Seconds later, George turned it into an omoplata attempt, a move soundtracked by a great roar, and was soon punching Stevenson in the face. Finally, with momentum now on his side, Sotriopoulos used the cage to reverse position and wind up on top of Stevenson in side-control. ¬† Just. Like. That. ¬† ‚ÄúI did very well during that period,‚ÄĚ says George, who recorded six straight wins in the UFC. ‚ÄúI was in a very good frame of mind. I had great dedication and focus and was on a rise. I worked very diligently. I really enjoyed that period. ¬† ‚ÄúI read the synopsis to this movie, Vision Quest, about a wrestler, and that was kind of what I was doing ‚Äď I had a vision quest. I didn't see the movie, I might have just read the synopsis, but the phrase stuck with me.‚ÄĚ ¬† He had a vision quest. He did very well. Emphasis on past tense, the assumption when a fighter begins to speak in these terms is that they are moving on with their life and that their new venture, be it the opening of a gym or something else, will herald the arrival of life phase two, three or four. This is true of Sotiropoulos, too. But what also becomes clear is how reluctant he is to leave phase one behind. ¬† ‚ÄúI'm a martial artist for life and this is just another part of my martial arts journey,‚ÄĚ he says. ¬† ‚ÄúDo you consider yourself retired?‚ÄĚ I ask. ¬† ‚ÄúNo,‚ÄĚ he says, sounding almost affronted. ‚ÄúI don't.‚ÄĚ ¬† Evidently, three years for Sotiropoulos constitutes an interval rather than the end credits and a run of five consecutive defeats serves to represent a dip in form as opposed to an indication of a fighter on the slide. It's a positive, optimistic outlook, I suppose. The outlook of a fighter, some might say. ¬† ‚ÄúIf opportunities don't arrive, preparation meets opportunities,‚ÄĚ George continues. ‚ÄúThat's how I've always approached it. I've never had someone say, 'Hey, do you want to fight for ten grand?' That's a very bad mindset. It doesn't work that way. It works the other way round. You prepare, you prepare, you prepare. You go looking and those opportunities present themselves. That's more my mindset. ¬† ‚ÄúI would never go into anything underprepared. I wouldn't accept anything if I wasn't prepared. It wouldn't even be a question. Well, unless Mr. (Dana) White came knocking on my door and said I'll give you a hundred million dollars to fight so and so. That would be the exception to the rule. You'd have to be a fool to say 'no'.‚ÄĚ ¬† It seems sensible to suggest that if a fighter wants to get out ‚Äď truly get out ‚Äď they need to create distance, essentially run away, from the sport to which they are drawn. But Sotiropoulos, suitably obsessed, a mixed martial artist, as he says, for life, is still immersed. The gym, the practices, the techniques, the students. For as long as this is his lifestyle, his universe, the thirst to fight will presumably remain unquenched. ¬† ‚ÄúI love martial arts, I love fighting, I love training,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúIt's something I got used to doing. Even before I was fighting I was always training for a fight and staying active. It's definitely always on your mind. I exercise, I run, I lift, I do technique, I work on stuff. Not to the extent I once did ‚Äď not to death ‚Äď but it's hard to stop completely.‚ÄĚ ¬† Keen to get down to it, keen to put a number on it, I ask Sotiropoulos, 14-7, how likely it is we'll see him in a cage or ring again. ¬† ‚ÄúVery possible,‚ÄĚ he says. ‚ÄúVery, very possible.‚ÄĚ ¬† ‚ÄúA seventy-five percent chance?‚ÄĚ I say. ¬† He laughs. ‚ÄúThat's a good wager.‚ÄĚ
Full credit to UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson. He's doing everything in his power to become a star. Tonight, in Kansas City, Missouri, the fighter known as 'Mighty Mouse' not only successfully defended his title¬†against Brazilian Wilson Reis, he did so in spectacular, eye-catching fashion, submitting the Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt with an arm-bar in round three. ¬† Nobody would have begrudged Johnson, 26-2-1, cruising to a decision win over Reis. Nobody would have marked him down for that. But it's testament to his progress and his efforts to stand out from the crowd that he went after a man he had dominated for 12 minutes, stepped into his comfort zone and seemingly wouldn't let up until he had become the first man to ever submit Reis. It was that aspect, more than the actual result, and the fact he has now equalled Anderson Silva's records of ten straight UFC title defences, that was most impressive. ¬† As it so often the case with Johnson's title defences, the pace and pattern was set early. The pace was dictated by the champion and was, of course, frantic. Reis did his best to keep up but soon into the bout realised he'd have to secure a takedown if he had any hope of landing so much as a blow on his fleet-footed opponent. He tried. He failed. He caught a Johnson kick in round one, secured a takedown, but could then only watch helplessly as Johnson sprung back up almost immediately as if nothing ever happened. ¬† From there, Johnson was perpetual motion, never standing still for even a second, and was also now wise to Reis' game plan. This meant that when Reis attempted a second takedown in the final minute of round one it was greeted by counter-strikes from Johnson; Reis was punished for his attempt. ¬† Panic starts to set in when a fighter cannot find their range and touch their opponent, be it with strikes or takedowns, and this rang true for Reis in round two. Unable to get to grips with Johnson, he resorted to just aimlessly following the champion, dancing to his beat, and swinging wildly in blind hope more than anything. Johnson, on the other hand, was a picture of composure and confidence. He not only landed punches with ease from the orthodox fighting stance, he also did the same from the southpaw stance, too. He switched seamlessly between the two stances, in fact. On a whim, whenever he felt like it. He was having fun in there. ¬† Eight minutes into the fight Reis finally connected with something ‚Äď a solid southpaw left hand ‚Äď but moments later Johnson went one better in the form of a hurtful body kick. It was yet another sign he was too quick for the challenger; he'd land shots from the outside and then get away before Reis even had time to register what had landed, let alone prepare a counter. ¬† These weren't just pokes and prods, either. Johnson might be a flyweight but his attacks are damaging and belie his tiny physique. Take, for example, the right knee he sank into Reis' body with 20 seconds left in round two. The impact of the knee stunned Reis as he prepared a takedown and sent him to the ground, after which Johnson jumped on him and landed a succession of hammer fists and elbows before the buzzer sounded. ¬† Reis, 22-7, was saved. ¬† The Brazilian wouldn't last much longer, however. By now he was desperate ‚Äď desperate to land something, even more desperate to get Johnson to the floor. It was why he dropped to his back whenever the opportunity presented itself. It was why he beckoned Johnson to join him there. Reis knew he had to make something happen. Rounds were being lost, damage was being done. ¬† Johnson, though, landing over 50% of his strikes, was still doing his own thing. He'd tell Reis to get up whenever he invited him to the ground. If they were going to go there, it was going to be on his terms, his expression seemed to suggest. ¬†¬† So it proved. A sneaky right hand from Johnson set up a takedown, which he executed, and from there he decided to stick around. The time was now. He worked from side control, landing elbows and hammer fists, cutting Reis with one particular blow, and then eventually softened his opponent up and climbed into mount. After that, it was a wrap. It happened so quickly, too. Elbows, mount, arm-bar. The only thing quicker was Reis' decision to tap. ¬† ¬† UFC on Fox 24 results: ¬† Women's Strawweight: Rose Namajunas defeated Michelle Waterson via submission in round two (2:47) ¬† Middleweight: Robert Whittaker defeated Ronaldo Souza via TKO in round two (3:28) ¬† Featherweight: Renato Moicano defeated Jeremey Stephens via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) ¬† Heavyweight: Alexander Volkov defeated Roy Nelson via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) ¬† Bantamweight: Tom Duquesnoy defeated Patrick Williams via TKO in round two (0:28) ¬† Lightweight: Rashid Magomedov defeated Bobby Green via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28) ¬† Flyweight: Tim Elliott defeated Louis Smolka via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) ¬† Bantamweight: Aljamain Sterling defeated Augusto Mendes via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28) ¬† Light-heavyweight: Devin Clark defeated Jake Collier via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-26) ¬† Middleweight: Anthony Smith defeated Andrew Sanchez via KO in round three (3:52) ¬† Welterweight: Zak Cummings defeated Nathan Coy via submission in round one (4:21) ¬† Women's Bantamweight: Ketlen Vieira defeated Ashlee Evans-Smith via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27). ¬†
According to some, the best pound-for-pound mixed martial artist on the planet is fighting this Saturday (April 15) at the Sprint Center in Kansas City, Missouri. They, the some, the minority, mean UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, of course, yet the majority won't be aware of Demetrious 'Mighty Mouse' Johnson's existence, let alone be conscious of the fact he's defending his 125-pound title for the tenth time against Brazil's Wilson Reis. And therein lies the problem both for DJ and the UFC in a year crying out for stars. ¬† To start, some positivity. One thing that's undeniable is Johnson's brilliance in the eyes of anyone who has seen the champion in full flight. Small on stature but big on talent, the five-foot-three Johnson goes into Saturday's fight with Reis having not lost for some six years. In that time he has mostly dazzled and dominated. He has defeated the likes of John Dodson, John Moraga, Ali Bagautinov and Kyoji Horiguchi, essentially clearing out a weight class, and almost redefined what it means to be all-action (and quick) inside the Octagon. ¬† Regrettably, though, he has done all of this to little or no fanfare. It's why many seem embittered if not surprised whenever Johnson is positioned way down mythical pound-for-pound lists or considered some kind of pay-per-view poison. To them, the 'Mighty Mouse' supporters, his diminutive size is not a turn off. Nor are they dissuaded by his penchant for a longer fight. All this means, they say, is more action, and Johnson, whatever his faults, absolutely provides that. Moreover, there are finishes on his record, too, first round ones against the likes of Henry Cejudo and Joseph Benavidez, which serve to exemplify the drama his naysayers accuse his fights of lacking. ¬† In terms of the bigger picture, no other UFC champion, aside from women's strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk, has more than two successful title defences to their name. Jedrzejczyk has four. Johnson has nine. If you can't respect and put a value on that, there's probably no hope for the man from Madisonville, Kentucky. ¬† Maybe it's a size thing. In many ways Johnson, 25-2-1, brings to mind former world minimumweight and light-flyweight boxing champion Ricardo Lopez, the great Mexican who retired undefeated in 2001 with a staggering record of 50 wins from 51 fights. No losses, one draw. 'El Finito', like Johnson, was a grandmaster of his craft. Technically superb, as close to perfect as a pugilist can get, Lopez could also excite and punch and score knockouts and do all the things other fighters in other weight classes could do. In most cases, far better. ¬† But none of this could change the fact Ricardo Lopez's height was five-foot-five and his prime fighting weight was just 105-pounds, and none of this could change the fact he rarely headlined major international events, was routinely hidden away on pay-per-view cards, appearing early, like a dirty secret, the appetiser to bigger names, and is hardly known outside of boxing circles despite retiring undefeated with a record that surpasses that of even Floyd Mayweather. ¬† Johnson's feeling some of this today. He's the 'Finito' Lopez of mixed martial arts; all perpetual motion and technical brilliance; eleven straight wins; the riddle nobody can seemingly suss, much less conquer. ¬† The encouraging news for Demetrious, however, is that his foundations (and therefore chances) are exponentially better than a minimumweight boxer from Mexico City; meaning, he speaks English, for one, and he is also backed by the promotional muscle of the UFC. That counts for something. Or at least it should count for something. ¬† For now the 30-year-old champion can only continue doing what he has been doing since 2012: winning UFC title fights and hoping something, somehow, catches fire along the way. ¬† Whether Wilson Reis, his next challenger, is equipped to help bring a title reign to the boil remains to be seen, but the Brazilian has at least won five of his six fights since cutting down to 125-pounds and was scheduled to fight Johnson last July. He has known about the title shot, then, for a while, and has had ample time to get his head around the exam he's about to sit. Better yet, Reis, 22-6, has trained alongside Dominick Cruz, the only man to defeat Johnson in the UFC, for the best part of seven years. ¬† ‚ÄúIt helps a lot because Dominick Cruz talked to me about openings in his game, things that happened,‚ÄĚ Reis, 32, told MMA Fighting. ‚ÄúHe shares that with me. He fought (Johnson) for five rounds and he knows a lot about his strength and cardio. But the good thing about it is that Dominick gives us so much confidence. Training with him every day is such an advantage for us.‚ÄĚ ¬† Wilson Reis may or may not be able to replicate Dominick Cruz and become the man to snap the lengthy run of Demetrious Johnson. If he isn't, which is more than likely, Johnson will match Anderson Silva's record of ten consecutive UFC title defences and simultaneously eradicate another flyweight in a division fast running out of names to appear alongside the champion on a fight poster. ¬† Perhaps then, once he's the last man standing, 'Mighty Mouse' will be seen.
A risky knee, a referee's call, a time-out, a stubborn doctor and, in summary, a series of unfortunate events combined to deliver Gegard Mousasi a wholly unsatisfying second round TKO victory over Chris Weidman last night in Buffalo, New York. ¬† Nobody went home happy. Not Mousasi, the victor; certainly not Weidman, the man who felt most hard done by; not the officials, confused by a flashpoint and left exposed by the New York State Athletic Commission's ruling on replays (replays are off-limits for officials); not the fans, those¬†who paid good money to watch what was otherwise a fascinating crossroads fight at middleweight. ¬† From Gegard Mousasi's point of view, he did very little wrong. In round two, with Weidman in a crouch, one hand on the floor, the other hovering, the Dutchman landed a knee to the American's head, after which Weidman dropped his other hand to the floor to remove the possibility of a repeat dose. Exploiting the rule, it was an intelligent move on Weidman's part. It should have made Mousasi hesitate, think, call off the onslaught. It guaranteed protection, a momentary respite. ¬† But Mousasi went one better. He hoisted Weidman ever-so-slightly, thus removing the former champion's hands from the floor, and then, timed to perfection, reacquainted his knee with Weidman's head, a shot perfectly legal yet one in the heat of the moment considered¬†illegal in the view¬†of both Weidman and, more importantly, referee Dan Miragliotta. ¬† Time was called, Mousasi was admonished, Weidman was given five minutes to recover. All seemed to be in order. ¬† Moments later, however, a series of replays told the truth; shown on the big screen, they revealed just how well-timed Mousasi's knee had been and how ill-timed Miragliotta's subsequent intervention had been. ¬† All of a sudden the picture changed. Weidman was no longer hurt by illegal means but had instead been hurt and sent to the floor legally. What's more, the doctors who had entered the Octagon and deemed a protesting Weidman unfit to continue, were now the ones responsible for the fight ending and Weidman heading home with a defeat as opposed to a disqualification win. ¬† As the picture changed, so too did the faces. Weidman, once seemingly in control, carried a look of panic, one mimicked by Miragliotta, whereas Mousasi, once apologetic, now felt wronged to have been interrupted in his pursuit of a finish. The discomfort was palpable. ¬† The result, meanwhile, after it was established Weidman couldn't continue, was recorded as a Mousasi stoppage win three minutes and thirteen seconds into round number two. ¬† Gegard, 41-6-2, never one for emotion at the best of the times, could do little but shrug¬†at the end of it all. He said, ‚ÄúThat's not my fault. I wanted to continue. He can have his rematch, no problem. I think he could have continued but he was stalling. I apologise to Weidman ‚Äď I like the guy.‚ÄĚ ¬† Weidman, on the other hand, a New Yorker currently prone to catching knees rather than breaks, appeared on the brink of tears when he said, ‚ÄúI think that was an illegal knee. Both my hands were 100% down.‚ÄĚ ¬† It was then Weidman, 13-3, coming to terms with his third straight defeat, was shown the replay and his face changed once again; gone was the look of indignation, replaced instead by a why-always-me? look of exasperation. ¬† They needed replays in Buffalo. That much is certain. And now, as a consequence of not having that luxury, the fight itself needs a replay.¬† ¬† ¬† Other UFC 210 results: ¬† Women's strawweight: Cynthia Calvillo defeated Peal Gonzalez via submission in round three (3:45) ¬† Welterweight: Thiago Alves defeated Patrick C√īt√© via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27) ¬† Lightweight: Charles Oliveira defeated Will Brooks via submission in round one (2:30) ¬† ¬† Prelims ¬† Featherweight: Myles Jury defeated Mike De La Torre via TKO in round one (3:30) ¬† Welterweight: Kamaru Usman defeated Sean Strickland via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26) ¬† Featherweight: Shane Burgos defeated Charles Rosa via TKO in round three (1:59) ¬† Light-Heavyweight: Patrick Cummings defeated Jan Blachowicz vis majority decision (29-8, 29-28, 28-28) ¬† Lightweight: Gregor Gillespie defeated Andrew Holbrook via KO in round one (0:21) ¬† Lightweight: Desmond Green defeated Josh Emmett via split-decision (28-29, 29-28, 30-27) ¬† Women's Bantamweight: Katlyn Chookagian defeated Irene Aldana via split-decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28) ¬† Flyweight: Magomed Bibulatov defeated Jenel Lausa via unanimous decision (29-26, 29-26, 29-26) ¬† ¬† ¬†
Ahead of UFC Fight Night: Manuwa vs. Anderson in London, England, Fighters Only caught up with rising welterweight Leon Edwards to get his take on his fight with Brazilian finisher Vicente Luque.
Holly Holm, the former UFC women‚Äôs bantamweight champion, gets the opportunity to make MMA history this weekend in the main event at UFC 208, yet admits she‚Äôll be performing like it‚Äôs the last bout of her illustrious fighting career when the Octagon door closes in Brooklyn.
ACB 54 headliner Luke Barnatt has defended the decision by a host of the UK‚Äôs leading officials to boycott the Russian promotion, as reported by Fighters Only earlier today, but insists he‚Äôs still sure the event at the Manchester Arena will go ahead.
Now 23 seasons into MMA¬†reality show,¬†The Ultimate Fighter, the UFC will be catching up with some old faces from past seasons in¬†a brand new online documentary.¬†Where Are They Now?¬†will begin May 26th and will be available exclusively on UFC Fight Pass.
After¬†introducing mandatory MRI\MRA scans for all fighters, BAMMA has made the decision to move their upcoming BAMMA 26 event from June 4th to¬†September 10th. The event is expected to take place at the 3Arena in Dublin, Ireland.
Bellator have announced that fans will have the chance to meet and get autographs from some of MMA's best-known figures at the upcoming Bellator Fan Fest, which takes place¬†at¬†Dave & Buster‚Äôs in¬†Milpitas, California on¬†Friday May 13th at 8pm (PT).
Matt White breaks down Saturday's (April 8) UFC 210 action ‚Äď Cormier vs. Johnson II as well as Weidman vs. Mousasi ‚Äď with a little help from 5Dimes. ¬† ¬† Daniel Cormier vs. Anthony Johnson II UFC light-heavyweight title ¬† Despite winning the belt almost two years ago, in the first booking of this fight, UFC 210 marks the only the second defence for Daniel Cormier. Cormier defended against Alex Gustafsson in October 2015 in a fight he barely won, holding on by contentious split decision. Since then injuries, and an untimely positive test for Jon Jones, have rendered the title stagnant. When Jones was pulled from the UFC 200 headliner, Anderson Silva stepped in as a late replacement, but the belt was not on the line. Since becoming the champion, Cormier has seen his AKA teammates suffer the indignation of winning and losing their titles, leaving him as the last man standing in San Jose. ¬† Anthony Johnson is enhancing his reputation with each passing fight, and his power shows little sign of dissipating. The first encounter with Cormier was AJ's first loss since 2012, a defeat which marked the end of his experiment at 170 and 185lbs (which resulted in him being cut from the promotion). Since then he has gone 13-1 and his last five wins have all come by KO or TKO, with only Jimi Manuwa surviving the first round. As he showed in the first fight, he has the power to end any opponent with a single punch, and the punch Cormier absorbed when the pair first met in 2015 would have likely finished any other light-heavyweight. ¬† This fight is extremely difficult to call and it really comes down to two variables. Firstly, has Johnson's cardio dramatically improved since the first fight? For most of the three rounds Cormier was like a backpack on Johnson and it clearly showed as he finally submitted to DC's rear-naked choke. If his cardio has improved, or he is able to avoid the clinch, then it could be his night. Secondly, how has Cormier's chin aged? The chin doesn't age particularly well and, although DC ate a power shot previously, he has recently turned 38 and been relatively inactive. ¬† I went with AJ first time round and I'm taking him again. I think he could legitimately finish Cormier, becoming the first man to do so. But it's all about those variables. ¬† Recommendation: Anthony Johnson ‚Äď 2 units at -125 (4/5) @ 5Dimes ¬† Gegard Mousasi vs. Chris Weidman ¬† Gegard Mousasi is certainly a man on a mission. The former Strikeforce and Dream world champion, not to mention a veteran of Pride, had a rather inauspicious of starts to his career in the UFC; going 2-2 in his opening four bouts, it wasn't clear whether this was a Mousasi on the decline or a Mousasi that simply hadn't bothered to show. By all accounts it appeared to be the latter as he tasted defeat just one more time, to Uriah Hall in a fight he was comfortably winning, in his next seven bouts. In his last three fights Mousasi has rediscovered the ruthless aggression of his early years and has once again taken to finishing fights, something that will get the attention of his bosses and other suitors alike. This is the last fight of his current contract and, Gegard being Gegard, he isn't too shy when it comes to openly discussing his perceived lack of financial compensation. ¬† Once hailed as the undisputed future of the 185lb division, it is shocking to realise Chris Weidman is winless in almost two years. Granted, in that time injuries have taken a substantial toll on him, but back-to-back defeats to Luke Rockhold and Yoel Romero were not exactly a surprise. Rockhold managed to overpower Weidman, taking his title along the way, while Romero knocked him cold with yet another flying knee. ¬† Weidman had his moments in both fights, but never did he look particularly convincing. Since taking the belt from Silva he has stuttered to a decision over Lyoto Machida and survived being busted open against Vitor Belfort. None of those fights are legend-making, and it could now be argued that it was Silva's time to lose, rather than Weidman's time to win. ¬† This has the makings of a classic and it could be a crying shame that we are denied the opportunity to watch this over five rounds. Where Weidman has declined, Mousasi has exceeded and I feel the Dutch-Armenian holds the edge over the native New Yorker. Mousasi has the power to finish this on his feet, on his back or safely by decision. Either way, I‚Äôm with Gegard. ¬† Recommendation: Gegard Mousasi ‚Äď 4 units at -110 (5/6) @ 5Dimes ¬† ¬† ¬† ¬†
As seems to now be an annual pilgrimage, the UFC returns to London, England to once again take up residence at The O2. The UFC have filled this card with top British talent; they occupy slots in 10 of the 13 booked fights, as a nod to the hometown faithful.
The UFC heads back to Fortaleza, Brazil with a card packed with local favourites in each of the 13 booked bouts, which should ensure a rabid reception from the fans. Top to bottom the card isn‚Äôt the strongest so I've focused on the main and co-main event for betting purposes. My thoughts are below, along with odds provided by 5DimesLines.com. ¬† Edson Barboza vs. Beniel Dariush Barboza gets another opportunity to continue his rise back up the ranks of the 155lb division here. Sidelined for a few months after his win over perennial challenger Gil Melendez, which followed a win over former divisional kingpin Anthony Pettis, the Muay Thai specialist will be looking for opportunities to unleash those trademark devastating leg kicks. Since recording a series of high profile finishes, Barboza has allowed his game to develop, and is far more patient in his approach these days. The result has been a series of clear decision victories, although interspersed amongst a couple of losses, albeit against legitimate contenders. This is the blueprint of a fighter getting ready to reach his prime and uncovering his fight IQ. Dariush is a fighter who's flirted with the top 10, but never quite cemented his place or gave the impression he really belonged there. This was demonstrated when he took a highly contentious split decision from Michael Johnson. Although clearly undeserving of the 'W', Dariush was unable to capitalise on his good fortune and was submitted by Michael Chiesa next time out. His stock rose slightly with a convincing performance against James Vick, and an underdog victory against Rashid Magomedov, but a win over Barboza would see his stock rise exponentially. Although I heavily favour Barboza in this matchup Dariush does carry a submission game that could give the Brazilian nightmares. Barboza has been relatively easy to submit when getting hit in the face, a glaring chink in an otherwise solid armour, meaning this could be another chance for Dariush to cause the upset. If Barboza has truly matured, as I feel he has, then he should be able to use his kicks to keep Dariush at range and take a comfortable and clear decision. That fight IQ is always suspect though and it‚Äôs the one thing that stops me pulling the trigger on him for a bigger stake. Recommendation: Edson Barboza ‚Äď 3 units at -170 (3/5) @5Dimes ¬† ¬† Vitor Belfort vs. Kelvin Gastelum Belfort is a fighter who requires no introduction. A certainty for the UFC Hall of Fame, a legend of Pride and a man who made his promotional debut almost 200 PPV‚Äôs ago at UFC 12. He's faced the very best MMA has had to offer and beaten a large portion of them. That was then, however, and this is a man on a decline, only three weeks away from his 40th birthday. Since 2013 Vitor has fought sparingly, making just four appearances with a single victory. His defeats have been relatively early finishes, all of which ended in brutal fashion. After UFC 204 in Manchester, England, there was a sense we'd seen the last of Belfort. But with a home date fast approaching this could well be ‚ÄėThe Phenom‚Äôs big sign-off from competition. Gastelum made his name by defeating one of the most hyped fighters ever to appear on The Ultimate Fighter, Uriah Hall. In the finale Gastelum was a 5/2 (+250) underdog, winning by split decision for his first official UFC bout. Other than a pair of contentious split decisions, one to the reigning welterweight champion, his only professional defeats have come via the scales. With a little more development he could be the best prospect to ever graduate from the TUF house. The manner with which he dismantled Tim Kennedy, putting the US Army Ranger into retirement no less, was as impressive as it was brutal and it has showed the world that the 185lb Gastelum is even more destructive than his rarely seen 170lb alter ego. This is very much a case of the new breed meeting the old. Gone are the troubling weight cuts of Gastelum's past, and it doesn‚Äôt take a lot of foresight to see him as a legitimate contender ‚Äď he's top 10 at 185lb for sure. As for Belfort, he hasn‚Äôt looked anywhere near the athlete he did while on TRT and his time must surely be almost up. Belfort can still deliver a first round flurry, but all Gastelum needs to do here is weather that storm and then comfortably run away with the fight. There's not a chance this goes the distance. Recommendation: Gastelum inside the distance ‚Äď 4 units at -350 (2/7) @5Dimes