Posts Tagged ‘future’

If you want to see the future of the UFC’s bantamweight division, you’re going to want to catch Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 88 event.

In the main event, Thomas Almeida and Cody Garbrandt put their unbeaten records on the line in a fight that should provide plenty of fireworks. These two young bantamweights have a similarly aggressive style that usually results in their opponents staring up at the lights well before regulation time expires.

In the co-main event, former bantamweight champion Renan Barao tries his luck at featherweight and moves up to face featherweight Jeremy Stephens.

As for the other bantamweight fight you have to see, that one pits Aljamain Sterling against Bryan Caraway. Like the main event, this one will have some serious repercussions in the 135-pound rankings.

If you have Memorial Day-themed cookouts to attend on Sunday, you’ll want to schedule your day accordingly; UFC Fight Night 88, which takes place at Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas, is an event you’re going to want to see. Things get underway on UFC Fight Pass before moving to FOX Sports 1 for the remainder of the card.

Here are 10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 88.

1. Phone a friend

Thomas Almeida

Thomas Almeida

What we have in the main event are two 24-year-old fighters with a combined record of 28-0 and 26 stoppages between them. Almeida (20-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), No. 12 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, is the more experienced fighter, but that doesn’t mean Garbrandt (8-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who’s an honorable mention and just outside the top 15, isn’t a threat.

These two are ultra aggressive and confident. They trust their striking as much as they trust their chins.

Almeida has earned a fight-night bonus in each of his four UFC fights, and at least on paper, he looks like a favorite to make it five.

If you have friends, neighbors or even casual acquaintances who think they’re not interested in MMA, give ’em a call and implore them to watch this fight.

2. Two vets with something to prove

Renan Barao

Renan Barao

What some tend to forget is that before May 24, 2014, Barao was 32-1. He’s lost two of three since then, both losses coming to T.J. Dillashaw in bantamweight title fights. So, the idea that he’s washed up or, as Stephens claims, “mentally broke” is questionable.

Barao’s (33-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) first bout at 145 pounds won’t be easy. He’s going up against a man with 19 career stoppages – a man confident he’ll make it an even 20 on Sunday.

This fight is important for Barao, who is ranked No. 4 at bantamweight, but it may be more important for Stephens (24-12 MMA, 11-11), the No. 11 ranked featherweight who’s 1-3 in his last four fights, with that win coming in a fight in which he missed weight by almost five pounds.

3. Looking to get back in mix

Tarec Saffiedine

Tarec Saffiedine

In January, Tarec Saffiedine returned from a layoff of close to 16 months. In that fight, he defeated Jake Ellenberger by unanimous decision. Saffiedine’s (16-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC) opponent at UFC Fight Night 88, Rick Story (18-8 MMA, 11-6 UFC), attempts to replicate Saffiedine’s feat when he comes back from a layoff of almost 18 months.

Both of these welterweights are relatively young; Saffiedine is 29, and Story is 31, so they do have time to get back in the mix, but lengthy layoffs never help.

A win for Story will give him three straight victories, but the time off has hurt him and left him out of the rankings. Saffiedine is currently an honorable mention; a win would give him two victories in the first five months of 2016.

4. Time is now

Vitor Miranda

Vitor Miranda

Vitor Miranda has been hot since dropping to middleweight. He’s won each of his three fights at 185 pounds by TKO. At UFC Fight Night 88, he faces the most recognizable name of his career: Chris Camozzi. This is a good matchup for Miranda (12-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC). Camozzi (21-10 MMA, 8-7 UFC), like Miranda, is an aggressive striker.

Miranda is 37, and if he wants to make moves (and it sounds like he does), he needs to capitalize on fights like this one. If he can put away Camozzi like he did his three most recent opponents, it’ll mark the first knockout loss of Camozzi’s career, and that could earn Miranda a top-15 opponent next.

5. Checking gauges

Jorge Masvidal

Jorge Masvidal

Here we have two relative newcomers to the welterweight division attempting to make a name for themselves at 170 pounds. In one corner, Jorge Masvidal (29-10 MMA, 6-3 UFC), who decided to head up to welterweight after a lengthy and relatively successful run at lightweight. In the other corner? Lorenz Larkin (16-5 MMA, 3-5 UFC), who dropped to welterweight after fighting at light heavyweight and middleweight.

Both men are coming off losses, Masvidal to Benson Henderson and Larkin to Albert Tumenov. This fight is a good gauge to see where each stands in the division.

6. Weighty issue

Josh Burkman

Josh Burkman

“I had to lose 18 pounds in 24 hours. So that was a lot. (It was) probably the toughest weight cut of my career, but I’ll get better and better at it.” That was Josh Burkman after his first career fight at lightweight.

Burkman (28-12 MMA, 6-7 UFC) won that fight with K.J. Noons, but his cardio was never tested. You can bet the ultra aggressive Paul Felder (11-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who is coming off a submission win over Daron Cruickshank in his last outing, will surely test that aspect of Burkman’s game.

7. Uncertain times

Sara McMann

Sara McMann

Sara McMann (8-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) and Jessica Eye (11-4 MMA, 1-3 UFC) are both 1-3 in their last four fights and 0-2 in their last two. Despite those records, both fighters remain ranked in the top 10 in the women’s bantamweight division, with McMann No. 8 and Eye No. 10. Some of that has to do with talent level; some of it has to do with the lack of divisional depth.

If the UFC has plans to add new fighters to the division, that growth may be at the expense of the loser of this bout.

8. Do you remember?

Erik Koch

Erik Koch

Four years ago Erik Koch, 13-1 at the time, saw two scheduled title fights against then-featherweight champion Jose Aldo disappear due to injury.

Since then, Koch (13-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC), who never got a chance to fight for the title, has gone 1-3 and moved to lightweight. He’s also been injured on a few occasions, which has kept him from fighting since a May 2014 TKO loss to Cruickshank.

Koch, still only 27, looks to re-familiarize fight fans with his name when he faces Shane Campbell (12-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC), who is coming off a unanimous decision loss to James Krause in February.

9. Settle up

Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling

Aljamain Sterling and Bryan Caraway have been sniping back and forth for a while, and on Sunday they’ll get to settle whatever differences they have.

Sterling (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC), ranked No. 9 at bantamweight, is going to hope that a win over a name opponent will be enough to propel him into a fight against a top contender. Caraway (20-7 MMA, 5-2 UFC), an honorable mention in the rankings, hopes the same.

Everyone loves a little animosity between fighters, just like everyone loves a fight that has tangible stakes. Happily, this one has both.

10. New guy

Chris de la Rocha

Chris de la Rocha

The UFC has been aggressive in signing heavyweights. One of those new signings, Adam Milstead, makes his debut at UFC Fight Night 88. Milstead hasn’t lost a fight since his pro debut, with each of his seven wins has come via stoppage.

Milstead works with a solid training partner: newly crowned heavyweight champion Stipe Micoic, who’s helped Milstead develop into a well-rounded fighter who isn’t afraid to throw hands and go for the quick finish.

Milstead’s (7-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) debut comes against Chris de la Rocha (3-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC), who lost his UFC debut to Daniel Omielanczuk by 48-second knockout.

For more on UFC Fight Night 88, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

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MMA Fighting
Robert Whiteford 'f–king devastated' by UFC release, unsure of fighting future
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The mixed martial arts world is unpredictable no matter your station or vantage point. That's not a lesson lost on Robert Whiteford, necessarily, but one he was reminded of this week. The one-time UFC featherweight was given his walking papers over the …

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For all intents and purposes, Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) color commentator Joe Rogan is the voice of mixed martial arts (MMA).

With a plethora of fight knowledge and grappling experience, Rogan is vastly appreciated among hardcore MMA fans. To casual fight fans, the 48-year-old Octagon commentator is better known for his comedy standup and ongoing podcast The Joe Rogan Experience.

Either way, Rogan is a valued member of the MMA world. While other color commentators like Brian Stann and Kenny Florian have done a nice job by filling in on FOX Sports 1 cards and international events Rogan is incapable of attending, they simply don’t stack up in comparison.

In a recent interview with Rolling Stone, Rogan discussed his future with the UFC as his current contract is due to expire this August.

“I’m not working for anybody else. If the sale goes through I’m outta there,” said Rogan in response to a recent rumor that UFC is currently up for sale. “I’m already wondering whether or not I can continue doing this as it is. I will always be a fan, I’ll always love it, but sh*t, I’ve been working for the UFC on and off for almost 20 years. And that’s more than I’ve done anything in my life. I’d like to move on.”

It’s understandable that Rogan may feel burnt out after years up traveling the world to call fights, but it’s likely that the promotion will do everything in its power to retain the MMA personality.

“The only other thing I’ve done longer than that is stand-up comedy, but you know, with stand-up comedy I’m constantly writing new material, I’m traveling, I do it out of my schedule, I do it whenever I want,” added Rogan. You know, it’s a very different thing calling fights rather than just being a fan. I’ll always be a fan, for sure, but as far as calling fights…boy, I don’t see that going on very much longer.”

Of course, it was impossible to sit down with Rogan and not ask him about the ongoing rumor that UFC Featherweight champion Conor McGregor will one day fight boxing great Floyd Mayweather Jr.

“If it does happen, I’ll be shocked,” said Rogan. “I mean, if that’s what they’re meeting about, if Conor says, “I can make a lot of money,” and they get together and they decide they’re gonna make 100 million bucks, who knows? I mean, maybe the UFC co-promotes it with Floyd Mayweather and Conor goes in there and gets lit up, and then says, “Hey, I realize this is not my sport, I gotta go back to MMA,” then that’s possible too. I just can’t imagine a world where he’s quitting.”

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A knee injury might have kept him from his long-awaited title shot this time, but Ronaldo Souza has vowed to “destroy” whoever comes out of the UFC’s next middleweight title fight.

A day after news broke announcing Chris Weidman (13-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) would have to withdraw from UFC 199’s title fight against Luke Rockhold (15-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) due to a neck injury, UFC President Dana White revealed that “Jacare” (23-4 MMA, 6-1 UFC) would have been the promotion’s first choice to take the spot.

This, of course, had the Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialist not been sidelined by his own injury.

Ultimately, it was Michael Bisping (28-7 MMA, 18-7 UFC) who ended up taking the position. Souza, who has

Souza, who has long been clamoring for a shot at 185-pound gold, then issued a statement updating his health status – and used the opportunity for a quick stab at the competition.

“I want to face the winner of this fight soon,” the statement read. “No matter who wins, I will be ready to destroy him and become the new middleweight champion.”

Souza explained he had already been feeling discomfort in his right knee one week prior to the UFC 198 bout against Vitor Belfort. He came away with a TKO win in the first round but left the octagon limping. Exams later revealed a minor meniscus injury requiring an arthroscopy.

Bisping now rematches Rockhold in UFC 199’s pay-per-view headliner, which takes place June 4 at The Forum in Los Angeles. The main card follows prelims on FOX Sports 1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Read Souza’s full statement below:

“I got an offer from the UFC to replace injured Chris Weidman in a middleweight title fight at UFC 199, on June 4, against Luke Rockhold, the current champion. Everybody knows my desire to fight for the title and, if possible, in a rematch with Rockhold. However, I can’t let the emotion superimpose the reason.

One week before my fight with Vitor Belfort, I felt a pain in my right knee, but still went to battle. I fought well, but was limping as I left the Octagon. The next Monday, I was examined by doctor Alexandre Campello, who recommended me a MRI to better analyze the situation. While I was waiting for the results, I heard about Weidman’s injury. I would only be able to answer the UFC’s offer when I knew what I had in my knee. On Wednesday afternoon, with the MRI results, it was decided that I would go through an arthroscopy on Thursday as part of the recovery process for a minor meniscus injury.

Thereby, I can’t be fit for such an important fight on June 4. Michael Bisping is the new challenger, and I wish him and Rockhold a great fight. I want to face the winner of this fight soon and, no matter who wins, I will be ready to destroy him and become the new middleweight champion.
I would also like to thank the love from my fans, in person or on social media. I got thousands of messages every day, always supporting me and congratulating me for my work. I’m happy to know that. I also thank the UFC for understanding, and also say thank you to every member of my team.
See you soon in the Octagon!”

For more on UFC 199, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site

Filed under: News, UFC

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The Bottom Line: More Questions than Answers on Cyborg's UFC Future
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The most dangerous fighter in women’s MMA announced her presence with authority Saturday.

Then, moments later, she seemed to downplay her own future inside the Octagon.

Cris “Cyborg” Justino made short work of Leslie Smith at UFC 198, battering her underdog opponent with a few crisp punching combinations and one lightning-quick flurry en route to a first-round TKO stoppage.

It was a victory years in the making for Justino. She has long been regarded as the most dominant women’s fighter in the world, but the UFC has no weight class where she might easily fight. Her journey to this bout was arduous and sometimes ugly.

Just seeing her sprint to the cage, high-fiving the fans in her hometown of Curitiba, Brazil, felt like a watershed moment, both for her and the UFC. But when the fight was over, Justino hedged her bets a bit on what she’ll do next.

She didn’t call out current UFC women’s bantamweight champion Miesha Tate, former champ Holly Holm or longtime nemesis Ronda Rousey. Instead, she indicated she’ll go back to the independent, all-female organization InvictaFC where she is the 145-pound champion.

“I’m the Invicta champion and I want to defend my belt,” Justino told UFC color commentator Brian Stann through an interpreter. “I can also fight at a catchweight in the UFC, but I’m the champion [there].”

So that—along with her easy, one-minute, 21-second starching of Smith—made her long-awaited UFC arrival seem a tad anticlimactic.

Cyborg and the UFC have long gone back and forth about whether she can safely make the bantamweight limit of 135 pounds. Along with strawweight (115 pounds), those are the only weight classes the world’s largest MMA promoter offers for its female athletes.

This fight against Smith was contested at 140 pounds, and, though Justino weighed in at 139 pounds, it still felt like a long way off from bantamweight.

Now that we’ve seen her in action in the Octagon, however, it seems silly for the two sides to continue to quibble over weight. Justino could be a force of nature inside the UFC, if she were allowed to be.

There’s no one else quite like her in women’s MMA. No one with her blend of size, speed and ferocity. It’s obvious the UFC must find a weight class where Justino, Rousey (assuming she returns), Holm and Tate can all fight each other.

If it can do that, there will be a lot of interesting options on the table, including this one from Ariel Helwani of

If it can’t, then it might just keep serving Justino with one-off catchweight fights like this one against Smith, which all along felt contrived to make Justino look good.

Prior to Smith’s own arrival in the Octagon in 2014, she fought in Invicta’s flyweight (125 pounds) division. She probably still would if the UFC offered that weight class. Meanwhile, Justino is a natural 145-pounder.

So what you had here, essentially, was Smith coming up a weight class and a half to meet Cyborg, who was coming down just to make 140 pounds. Against a fighter the caliber of Justino, it all meant that Smith never really had a chance.

Smith seemed undaunted during most of the week’s pre-fight festivities. It had been just 55 days since her last UFC fight, a win over Rin Nakai in Australia. Once the actual bout began, however, Smith appeared a bit tentative.

Justino came out of her corner aggressively, flicking out a leg kick and firing off combinations with her hands. Smith offered very little in response. The first time Justino let her offense open up, she stunned Smith with a left hook and then dropped her to the mat with a right.

She followed up with a series of punches and hammerfists that forced the referee to step in and call a halt to the action. Smith protested the stoppage, but she was clearly in a lot of trouble on the ground.

“This is a dream come true,” Justino said when it was over. “Many people who have followed me since the beginning were waiting for me to come to UFC. I’m very happy.”

What happens next, however, remains a mystery. Either the company must convince one of its other three female stars to meet her at a catchweight, or Justino will have to make the bantamweight limit.

Otherwise, she’ll go on being MMA’s bloody queen, with no place for her to rule.

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Conor McGregor’s next UFC appearance has not yet been finalized, but Dana White expects to meet with the featherweight champ next week to discuss his future.

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A lot of UFC fighters seem to have difficulty charting their own future in those precious moments after a win when the floor is theirs and the entire MMA world waits to know what – and who – they want next.

UFC heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem (41-14-1 MMA, 6-3 UFC) does not have that problem. While other fighters shrug and go mute when a UFC commentator all but begs them to say a name, any name, in their post-fight interviews, Overeem is the guy who needs no prompting to lay out a very specific vision for his future.

After his second-round TKO win over Andrei Arlovski (25-12 MMA, 14-6 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 87 in Rotterdam, Netherlands, Overeem calmly explained that, for his next trick, he will fight and defeat the winner of next Saturday’s UFC heavyweight title fight. What’s more, he even named the location and date – UFC 205 in New York City on Nov. 12 – for his next triumph.

And if you think he’s not already planning an encore, well, you obviously haven’t been paying attention.

“(UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio) Werdum (versus) Stipe (Miocic), may the best man win,” Overeem said in his post-fight interview. “But I’m going to take on that winner. I’m going to beat that winner, and then next year, 2017, we’re going to be defending the belt here in Amsterdam Arena.”

You know what they say: If you want to make the MMA gods laugh, tell them your plans for the UFC heavyweight title.

This is the division where the champions have been hit by cars and downed by diverticulitis. It’s the division where staying healthy is considerably more than half the battle. It’s the division where washed-up and over-the-hill are often just temporary stops on the way to resurgent and refocused.

It borders on hubris to claim you know where the UFC heavyweight title will be in three months. Saying you know where it will be next year is just begging to be wrong.

Thing is, this wasn’t Overeem getting swept up in the moment. This is a thing he does, mapping out his future as if he’s already been there and is merely reporting back.

After he beat Kazuyuki Fujita at the Dynamite!! New Year’s Eve show in Tokyo in 2009, I remember him telling reporters that he’d fight in K-1 that spring, then take on Fedor Emelianenko in May or June. When I asked if this was just his hope for the future, or if it was something he’d actually discussed with the people who had the power to make the fight and draw up the contracts, he gave me a quizzical look.

K-1 in spring, he repeated. Fedor in May, possibly June. The fact that he was even willing to be that flexible on the month was, he seemed to think, a great compromise.

Of course, Overeem never got that fight with Emelianenko. He did go on to win the K-1 World Grand Prix that year, and the next year he was in the UFC, where he won one fight before his dreams of another heavyweight title were undone by his own drug test failure. When he finally came back, it was to lose three of his next four – all defeats coming by way of knockout.

For a guy who seemed to think he could see into the future, he was getting caught by surprise an awful lot.

But now, at 35, Overeem appears to have found something resembling a groove.

He’s won four straight in the UFC. He’s settled into a body that’s an improvement from the soft-around-the-edges version he debuted after his drug test failure, yet no quite so suspiciously bulky as his Übereem days in Japan. He looks and fights like a more believable version of the monster he used to be: competent and conditioned, though by no means superhuman.

The Overeem who beat Arlovski was a careful one, a patient one. He knew how to throw his bulk around without depending on it. He smirked at the cheering crowd both before and after the fight as if he were the only one in the building who knew exactly what was going to happen all along.

And maybe, after all this time, he should. He’s had over 50 professional fights in MMA alone. He fought for just about every promotion that mattered, from PRIDE to Strikeforce to the UFC. If he hasn’t learned the way this sport works by now, he probably never will.

Which is why you can’t help but wonder whether he truly believes his own predictions, even after all this time.

Maybe, if you’re Overeem, you might as well go on telling yourself that you know what’s coming. When he went two years without a win and the conventional wisdom pegged him as a man whose best years had come from a syringe, he probably needed that unshakable faith in the truth according to Overeem.

Now he’s back where he started with the UFC, on the verge of a likely title shot, just waiting for a few things to go his way first, hoping not to get hit with any unfortunate surprises.

After planting his big toe under Arlovski’s chin, he’s handled the parts he can control. And as long as you’re waiting for the future to unfold, why not tell yourself that it’s all going to go just how you planned? Even if you’re in the one division where it almost never does.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 87, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

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