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  • UFC 184 live blog: Holly Holm vs. Raquel Pennington - MMA Fighting
    The Sweet ScienceUFC 184 live blog: Holly Holm vs. Raquel PenningtonMMA FightingBig combo from Pennington. More hard punches from Pennington. The crowd is going nuts now. Holm is bleeding out of her nose. They exchange and mostly miss. That's the fight. MMA Fighting has this round for Pennington 10-9 and the fight for Holm 29-28.Holly […]
  • Brock Lesnar attends UFC 184 - MMA Fighting
    MMA NewsBrock Lesnar attends UFC 184MMA FightingThere's no telling what former UFC heavyweight champion Brock Lesnar might do in the next chapter of his career. For now, he's with the WWE and will be for at least a few months more. But there is also widespread speculation when Lesnar's contract with ...Brock Lesnar Cageside At UFC […]
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    Breitbart NewsKimbo Slice plans on sticking around at Bellator MMA. | Dave Mandel/Sherdog ...Sherdog.comWhen Slice went from unsanctioned street fights to the mixed martial arts main stage, it was a ratings bonanza: His Elite XC showdown with James Thompson on CBS drew more than 6 million viewers, while his stint on Season 10 of “The […]
  • Bellator 134 results: Liam McGeary wins title with hard-fought decision over ... - MMAjunkie.com
    SportingNews.comBellator 134 results: Liam McGeary wins title with hard-fought decision over ...MMAjunkie.comThe well-traveled Andre Santos (37-10 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) came into his bout with Paul Daley (36-13-2 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) as a late replacement, stepping in for injured champ Douglas Lima. He proved to be anything other than an easy out, pushing Daley to the ...Bellator […]
  • Josh Koscheck acknowledges it's time for MMA to evolve: 'It's either going to ... - MMA Fighting
    Pro MMA NowJosh Koscheck acknowledges it's time for MMA to evolve: 'It's either going to ...MMA FightingAs a cast member on the first season of The Ultimate Fighter, Josh Koscheck will always be a part of the genesis of mixed martial arts. Ten years later, he believes now is the time for the sport to […]
  • Bellator 134 video highlights: Daley's back, Lawal at heavyweight, new champ ... - MMAjunkie.com
    ScifightingBellator 134 video highlights: Daley's back, Lawal at heavyweight, new champ ...MMAjunkie.comIn the headliner, a new champion was crowned when Liam McGeary (10-0 MMA, 7-0 BMMA) edged by reigning light-heavyweight titleholder Emanuel Newton (25-8-1 MMA, 8-2 BMMA) in a submission-filled five-rounder (check out the full Bellator 134 event ...Paul Daley: 'Scared' Douglas Lima used injury as […]
  • Ronda Rousey: Women's MMA 'plummeted' during 'Cyborg' Justino's era - MMA Fighting
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    Star Local Media'Rampage' Jackson slams 'coward' Muhammed Lawal for performance against ...MMA FightingQuinton Jackson might not be in Bellator anymore, but his rivalry with Muhammed Lawal lives on. "Rampage" blasted Lawal on Twitter for his tactical performance against Jackson's friend Cheick Kongo at Bellator 134 on Friday night at Mohegan Sun.Plano East alum "King Mo" […]
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    Washington Post (blog)MMA veteran pummels Internet heckler who challenged him to a fightWashington Post (blog)Josh Neer has been a professional MMA fighter since 2003, winning bouts in the UFC, among other outfits. He got the nickname “The Dentist” for reasons you can probably imagine. [Ronda Rousey proves to be beauty and beast]. In other words, […]

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Telegraph.co.uk (blog)
MMA: British invasion as Liam McGeary looks to create title history in
Telegraph.co.uk (blog)
British light heavyweight Liam McGeary has the opportunity to become the first British MMA world champion in what could be considered a major title in Connecticut tonight (Friday, Feb 27) when he faces champion Emanuel Newton. McGeary, 6ft 6ins tall, …
Liam McGeary's path from punching out father's teeth to potential Bellator champMMA Fighting
Bellator 134's Linton Vassell hopes to parlay Sokoudjou win into second title shotMMAjunkie.com
Bellator 134: Emanuel Newton vs. Liam McGeary Fight BreakdownLowKick MMA
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Lightweight contender Tony Ferguson puts his four-fight winning streak on the line against veteran Gleison Tibau at UFC 184

“El Cucuy“, which means “The Boogeyman,” has finished the likes of Abel Trujillo and Katsunori Kikuno in that span. His opponent, Tibau, has gone 5-1 in his last six outings, with all five wins coming by decision.

Ferguson isn’t currently a ranked lightweight, but that may soon change. The 31-year-old is as confident as he has ever been and plans on beating the Brazilian bruiser at his own game. He told MMAjunkie’s Steven Marrocco

If he just wants to sit there and lay on me like Danny Castillo did, he can try to play the judges, but it’s just not going to work, man. He’s going to have a barrage of knees, punches, kicks and elbows coming at his face, and with an unlimited supply of conditioning. That’s one of his downfalls right there.

The Ultimate Fighter Season 13 winner is willing to take risks that other fighters aren’t, as touched on by Marrocco. Ferguson is light on his feet and is prepared for all situations. 

Come February 28 at the Staples Center, the former NCAA All-American wrestler from Grand Valley State may surprise the big brute Tibau

Tibau has been known to weigh over 185 pounds on fight night. Ferguson has trained with similarly sculpted wrestlers in his collegiate days and fought multiple weight classes higher than his natural fit at one time.

I used to wrestle at 184 pounds. I bumped up two weight classes, and I was wrestling guys who were 210 pounds, no problem, and I’m barely making 174,” said Ferguson. 

The extra weight Tibau carries is what Ferguson thinks will be the deciding factor in their meeting. 

Tibau won’t wow you with his speed, but his cardio is deceptive. The Florida-based fighter has won 16 fights via decision in his 15-year mixed martial arts career. 

He’s durable and has only been finished twice in his lengthy UFC career, including a December 2013 second-round TKO loss to Michael Johnson. 

Ferguson appears to have done his homework.

“(Johnson) kept on his feet, kept his shots really light, and he took out Gleison Tibau,” he said. “When I go in and watch film, I look at these guys’ mistakes, and I want to make sure I capitalize on them.”

Though his striking has considerably improved over the last eight years, Tibau‘s hands remain one of his weaknesses. Over the course of his last three fights, he has been outstruck 112:149, per FightMetric.

Ferguson is not a high-volume striker, but he picks his shots. The Boogeyman‘s most recent knockout came against the Japanese karate specialist Kikuno.

The California native teed off on Kikuno with endless jabs and crosses. Ferguson’s entire MMA repertoire was on display.

He tossed the Judo black belt to the ground with ease and nearly ended the fight twice with submissions. 

Putting Tibau on his back will be much harder. The Brazilian boasts some of the best takedown defense in the entire UFC. He defends them at a 93 percent clip. 

The winner of this meeting is potentially looking at a berth into the Top 15 of the lightweight division. For Tibau, his journey to lightweight prominence has lasted close to a decade. 

One look at the Brazilian’s tour of duty and it becomes increasingly clear: He has fought the 155-pound division’s toughest men. 

Tibau‘s career has transcended eras—he has been in the cage with everyone from Joe Stevenson and Melvin Guillard, to Rafael dos Anjos and Khabib Nurmagomedov

The 31-year-old Tibau came up short in his fight against Nurmagomedov—or “The Eagle”—but it was much closer than the scorecards indicatedTibau stuffed all 13 of the Russian’s takedown attempts and was the more accurate striker of the two. 

Ferguson’s best chance to win will be on the feet when he can utilize his speed advantage. He will also want to make use of the five-inch reach advantage he possesses. 

His ability to slide in and out of harm’s way will prove pivotal against Tibau

The Brazilian, however, has fared well against foes he was counted out against and is becoming more refined with age. 

Expect a close contest on Saturday night, with The Boogeyman gutting it out for the “W.”

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Antonio Silva is one of the most physically imposing specimens that the UFC heavyweight division has to offer. What you do with that strength is ultimately measured in wins and losses and “Bigfoot” has racked up plenty of “Ls” as of late. 

The No. 8-ranked Silva draws the No. 13-ranked Frank Mir at UFC Fight Night 61 in Porto Alegre, Brazil on February 22. Silva is 0-2-(1) in his last three bouts and has been finished twice against heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and former UFC champion Andrei Arlovski.

In between those Octagon appearances, the former heavyweight title challenger tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone, effectively turning a previous majority draw with Mark Hunt into a no-contest. The pair’s bloody battle in Brisbane, Australia surely added to the legacy of Silva, who is also known for bludgeoning former Strikeforce heavyweight champion Fedor Emelianenko silly. 

An early 2014 ban by the UFC on testosterone-replacement therapy put the then-34-year-old in a bind. TRT, though, was what helped Silva lead a healthy life and what also forced him into a September surgery to remove a tumor on his pituitary gland. 

“The surgery went very well and it really helped me,” Silva told Bleacher Report’s Duane Finley with the assistance of his translator, Alexis Davis. “I’m a lot lighter than I usually am. I’m feeling much better. I have to continue adapting to get better results and continue my career.”

Bigfoot began fighting professionally in mixed martial arts 10 years ago in the famed English fight promotion, Cage Warriors. It was there where he captured two belts, both the heavyweight and super heavyweight titles, before debuting stateside in 2007. 

Silva would later catapult himself into the sport’s most prestigious promotion off the strength of his successful Elite XC and Strikeforce campaigns. Right away, Silva was thrown right into the heap atop the UFC’s 265-pound ladder against then top contender Velasquez in May 2012. 

He would be dismissed in the first frame by the heavy-handed Mexican at UFC 146.

Whereas Silva came into the Octagon with much promise—11 career knockouts and three submissions (one due to strikes) prior to his debutthe 6’7” giant can now forget about lofty expectations. He’s just fighting for job security. 

In fact, he won’t be the only one trying to dodge the proverbial UFC ax come Sunday in Brazil. The pressure will be on both Silva and Mir south of the equator as each looks to stop the bleeding. 

The 35-year-old Mir hasn’t seen his hand raised in over three years. Since his UFC 140 win over Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira in December 2011, he’s dropped four straight in the cage, falling out of the Top 10 in the heavyweight rankings. 

Mir’s once illustrious MMA career was reduced to one-liners on Twitter during fight week.

The former two-time heavyweight champion remains one of the best Brazilian jiu-jitsu specialists in his division and is an underrated striker. 

Mir became the first fighter to knock out and submit the former Pride heavyweight champion Nogueira. He also finished another Pride legend, Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic, with strikes in the UFC. 

Even though his back is against the wall, the Nevada native remains calm, cool and confident ahead of what could be his Octagon swan song.

“Anybody with decent skill, like he has – he’s a black belt in jiu-jitsu – could submit me,” claimed Mir, per The Fight Network (h/t Bloody Elbow). “I’m very much of a scientist. If I was to put money on it, I wouldn’t bet a dollar that he could submit me. Because statistically looking, well, who has he submitted?”

Silva has submitted two foes via his grappling prowess, one being former Sengoku competitor Jim York and the other Elite XC veteran Jonathan Wiezorek. Both have mat experience and boast a total of 13 submission victories between them.

It would be fair to conclude that Mir has the advantage on the ground, especially because he employs his jiu-jitsu quite more often than the Brazilian Silva. Nine men have tapped when caught in his clutches, including notable BJJ black belts Nogueira and Roberto Traven, who is a sixth-degree black belt. 

But to say that Silva can’t defeat Mir at his own game is entirely the wrong conversation to have. The pair’s tussle may not last long enough for that to occur. 

While he dons the same belt as Mir, we all know where Silva’s bread is buttered. He cashes most of his UFC checks due to the massive haymakers he throws. 

It was only two years ago that Silva reeled off two impressive knockouts of top-notch strikers Travis Browne and Alistair Overeem. The latter, a come-from-behind victory against a former K-1 kickboxing champion in Overeem, was eye-opening.

Silva absorbed a barrage of punches and kicks from the Dutchman before capitalizing on an overzealous mistake made by “The Reem.” The victory not only showcased Silva’s will to win but also his strong chin; a definitive trait lacking on the part of Mir. 

“The former UFC champion has suffered many knockout losses in his career. Mir’s FightMetric stat for striking defense is a mere 37 percent, and he absorbs just over 4 strikes per minute. That is not a recipe for success,” Bleacher Report’s Nathan McCarter noted. 

Mir has crumbled against the power of fighters like Shane Carwin, Junior dos Santos and Josh Barnett. He’s also been the far more mistake-prone fighter of the two as of late. 

What this fight comes down to is which fighter will have the easier time imposing their game plan. All signs point towards Silva.

While his takedown defense isn’t the greatest—the Brazilian defends them at a 65 percent clip, per FightMetric—Silva isn’t exactly facing a high-caliber wrestler. Mir doesn’t shoot for takedowns, preferring instead to pursue trips or underhooks against the fence.

As long as Silva stays relatively mobile, and keeps a wide stance, he should remain upright for the duration of the fight. 

While Mir’s striking has evolved gradually throughout his career, it’s not nearly of the same quality that Silva has dealt with. Not to mention he’s a southpaw. Mir will need to be aware of Silva’s right hand at all times.

However, speed kills and this will be the first time, in a long time, where the American has the advantage. 

“He [Mir] will be able to exploit many holes in Silva’s game this weekend because of that. He will be able to be more active on his feet against Silva and have the potential to hurt him,” predicts McCarter.

The fight could very well play out this way, should Mir begin to tee off early with the poise, pressure and trademark right uppercut he has shown in the past. This is where Silva’s intangibles, I believe, will come into play.

If Bigfoot can fend off being finished by equally as dangerous strikers and submission artists such as Overeem and Fabricio Werdum, I think he can handle Mir. 

All statistics courtesy of Sherdog and FightMetric.

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Glory signs deal with CBS Sports Network, looks at Bellator rematch
MMA Fighting
Glory kickboxing, which runs its first show of the year on Friday night on Spike TV, announced a second U.S. television deal. It will be three events with CBS Sports Network to air what they call the "Glory Superfight Series," a two-hour five-fight

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LowKick MMA
UFC 183 looks to be major business success
MMA Fighting
UFC 183 in many ways will go down as a fiasco. Both main eventers failed their drug tests, two fighters missed weight, and a third collapsed the day of the show while warming up, and being hospitalized, forcing the fight to be canceled. The entire week
Photo: Miesha Tate Shows Off Broken Orbital BoneMMA News
Miesha Tate Has Broken Orbital, but Talks Title Shots Post UFC 183 (Video)MMAWeekly (blog)
Miesha Tate post fight broken orbital bone photoMy MMA News.com (registration)
MMAFrenzy.com
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Three-and-a-half years ago, in the early fall of 2011, the present-day reality of the UFC’s light heavyweight title picture would have seemed outlandish, ridiculous and utterly impossible.

“Anthony ‘Rumble’ Johnson will never fight Jon ‘Bones’ Jones,” you would have said. 

Bones was coming off a fourth-round destruction of Quinton “Rampage” Jackson in his first title defense; Johnson was head-kicking natural lightweights while repeatedly struggling to make the welterweight division’s 170-pound cutoff. 

To be fair, you probably wouldn’t have said the words I just unfairly put in your mouth. The mere concept was too outrageous to even consider. 

At the time, that line of thinking would be like saying today, “A banged-up former professional wrestler in his late 30s with absolutely no mixed martial arts experience will never make his fighting debut for the UFC!” 

Wait. What’s that? That actually happened?

Just like CM Punk fighting in the UFC actually became a real thing, so too did Johnson battling Jones for the light heavyweight strap.

This sport is weird, guys, and Johnson’s journey from bloated welterweight to bloated middleweight to perfect light heavyweight represents just another footnote in the book of oddities that is the UFC’s ever-filling history log.

After Johnson found a home at 205 in August of 2012, he’s rattled off seven consecutive victories, becoming increasingly terrifying with each trek to the cage. 

The UFC came calling Rumble’s name early in 2014, asking the former welterweight to take on rising contender Phil Davis at UFC 172. 

“We’re giving you another shot. Don’t mess this one up. Make things right,” they seemed to say. Or maybe they were just bringing in a warm body with some name value to set up Davis’ eventual rise to title contention. 

Either way, Johnson nodded in understanding and marched to battle focused, rejuvenated and reinvented. He felt at home back inside that eight-sided cage, and he marked his territory all over Davis’ face for the duration of their three-round bout. 

A brutal knockout of Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in his next outing, and Rumble was officially a top contender for Jones’ strap. He needed to clear one last hurdle, and the opportunity would be his. 

Unfortunately, that hurdle stood 6’5″ and possessed scary boxing skills that already gave Jones the fright of his life as champ. 

Taking on Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on Fox 14 Saturday evening, Rumble once again faced the odds. 

And once again, he triumphed. 

Now, Rumble is Jones’ newest test, the latest in a line of challengers that consists of the corpses of Rashad Evans, Daniel Cormier, Lyoto Machida and five other downright scary combatants. 

Terrifying as he may be, to avoid joining those names in Jones’ trophy case, Rumble will need to be perfect. He’ll need to be better than he was against Nogueira, Davis and even Gustafsson

He’ll need the performance of his lifetime, and I’m not sure he has it in him. 

Rumble’s big—and perhaps only—advantage in his fight with Jones is his one-shot stopping power. His ability to knock an opponent out with one solid shot has produced some highlight-reel finishes throughout his career, and even though Jones’ chin is phenomenal, there’s no doubt that one good shot from Rumble can close the deal. 

But what does he have after that? When has he fought a wrestler, a master of distance, a diverse, creative striker or a cardiovascular freak like Jones? 

Never. He’s never fought anybody as good as Jones in any one of those areas, and he surely hasn’t fought anybody who owned all those skills at once, because Jones and only Jones can make that claim.

When has Rumble even had to test his gas tank at 205? 

You can point to his decision over Phil Davis, but Davis did not make Johnson work like Jones will. Davis retreated and literally ran away from Johnson at times, allowing Rumble to move forward and to pick his shots. Unless Rumble lands the big shot early, you can guarantee Jones will initiate some clinch wars and force Johnson to carry his weight along the cage. 

Ask Glover Teixeira or Cormier how that worked out for them. 

On the other hand, when has Jones fought a fighter with bigger power than him? 

Plenty of times.

Since capturing the belt, literally every challenger save Chael Sonnen possessed more raw power than Jones. 

Jones has been here several times before, and just because Rumble is the latest and greatest threat to his belt doesn’t mean we should expect anything different than the last six times he fought a man with greater power in his fists and shins. 

Jones’ striking coach, Brandon Gibson, agrees. 

We have faced powerful strikers before like (Ryan) Bader, (Mauricio) ‘Shogun’ (Rua), Rampage and Teixeira,” Gibson told Bleacher Report. “Johnson brings tremendous power and excellent pressure. We have a lot to prepare for, but Johnson and his camp also has their work cut out in preparing for the unique arsenal that Jones carries.” 

With better wrestling, championship experience, a more refined submission game and incredible length (and the know-how to maximize its effectiveness), Jones should take care of Rumble just as he has his last eight challengers. 

The smart money is on Jones’ more polished all-around game, but then again, the smart money in 2011 would have been on Rumble never even approaching Bones’ throne. 

In MMA, there are no certainties, and Rumble’s great equalizer—his power—can erase logic, analysis and yes, even history, in a flash. 

If you’re a betting man and you’re asking my opinion, I’d maintain your money is best spent on Jones in this scenario.

But I’d also walk away from our chat hoping you found the good sense to put your wallet back in your pocket and enjoy the fight. 

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Johnny “Hollywood” Case talked to the media after his big, third-round TKO win over Frankie Perez at UFC Fight Night: McGregor vs. Siver on Sunday night. Case discussed his victory, his past struggles with money and why he painted his toenails black and green.

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Since dropping his first two UFC fights, middleweight Uriah Hall has reeled off two straight victories over Chris Leben and Thiago Santos. 

The 30-year-old fought on Season 17 of The Ultimate Fighter and made a name for himself showcasing his kickboxing skills but fell short of winning the tournament, losing to the show’s last pick Kelvin Gastelum. Hall was expected to get a crack at top-15 middleweight, and former foe, Costas Philippou at UFC Fight Night: Boston, but the latter was forced to withdraw due to injury

Hall, instead, will face off with Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Louis Taylor. The 35-year-old Taylor has looked impressive as of late, winning three straight fights on the independent circuit via first-round guillotine chokes. 

Taylor is a high-level wrestler who has trained with the likes of Matt Hughes and Brock Lesnar. While his knockout power is apparent, he has shown a propensity for telegraphing strikes, as he did against Joe Riggs.

The Reign MMA fighter Hall has already shown improvements to his wrestling, which will complement his striking prowess. His next fight against Taylor could be the one where he eventually puts his entire MMA game together.

Hall’s last win over the former TUF: Brazil 2 competitor Santos was a very close fight, in which his wrestling proved to be the difference-maker, stuffing both of Santos’ takedown attempts and winning a prevailing third round. Hall even continued to throw kicks despite suffering a broken toe in the fight.

An emotional Hall would celebrate the victory post-fight with UFC announcer Joe Rogan and talked about the adversity he has faced in his short UFC career. 

“I was taught to face it. If it comes at you and life takes you down, you get up and say ‘you hit like a b—h,'” exclaimed Hall.

His mental state is what has been criticized by those like UFC President Dana White. Hall could potentially be 4-0 in the Octagon if he had figuratively “flipped the switch” in bouts against Gastelum and John Howard.

On the feet is where Hall, usually, will have the easiest path to victory over Taylor. If he can avoid the power and leg kicks of Taylor, using his six-inch reach advantage and improved wrestling skills, it would give Hall his biggest victory to date. 

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UFC 182 will be Hector Lombard‘s chance to prove his spot in the welterweight rankings.

Everything leading up to the event looked like it would be Rory MacDonald, the UFC’s No. 2-ranked contender, who would be next in line for the championship. However, another close battle between Johny Hendricks and Robbie Lawler has seemingly pushed MacDonald back down the ladder.

Per a report on UFC Tonight by Ariel Helwani, the UFC called to inform MacDonald that he would not be getting his title shot.

With a glance at the official UFC rankings, it would appear that a win on Saturday would set up a Lombard-MacDonald title eliminator in 2015.

Winner of eight of his last nine, MacDonald has cemented his spot near the top of the rankings. Any fight featuring MacDonald would be a title eliminator. He is that close to earning a shot at gold. For Lombard, he is undefeated, 2-0, since dropping to welterweight. He currently sits as the No. 6-ranked contender.

Those ranked above Lombard are not in a position to challenge for the belt, or to challenge MacDonald for that opportunity. No. 5-ranked Matt Brown has not had a fight since losing to Robbie Lawler, No. 4-ranked Carlos Condit is coming off an injury in a loss to No. 3-ranked Tyron Woodley and Woodley has a recent loss to MacDonald.

That leaves Lombard and MacDonald as the only two logical choices, sans a GSP return, for the fighter next in line after Hendricks.

Lombard is very marketable. No, he doesn’t speak out often. He isn’t the super charismatic figure of a Chael Sonnen. Lombard is the fighter who embarks fear in fighters and fans alike. The fighter the fanbase knows brings violence into the cage. That is a very sellable aspect and has worked to elevate combat sports throughout its history.

Getting to the potential showdown with MacDonald will not be an easy task. Talented welterweight Josh Burkman makes his return to the Octagon more than six years after being cut with three straight losses.

Since leaving the UFC, Burkman has improved drastically. He posted a 9-2 record outside of the organization. He will not be a pushover for Lombard.

Burkman has brought his striking along quite nicely, and he has fight-ending power. He also has an underrated submission attack. An attack that turned out Jon Fitch’s lights in less than a minute of work in 2013. This is not a cakewalk for Lombard.

The 170-pound division is not light on contenders. The upper echelon of the division beats up on each other, making it difficult for anyone to earn a title shot. And even when one gets there, as MacDonald has, a title fight rematch forces them into another fight.

Lombard-MacDonald seems to be the next title eliminator on tap.

It is always possible the UFC matchmakers throw a curveball at us all, but if UFC 182 plays out with a Lombard victory, the only logical fight for him is that potential title eliminator with MacDonald. Neither fighter is one to wait, and they are at the same place in the division.

Lombard seemingly has his chance to reach serious title contention on Saturday.

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Former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao will make his return to the Octagon on Dec. 20 against Canadian Mitch Gagnon in the co-main event of UFC Fight Night: Machida vs. Dollaway. It will be quite the step up in competition for Gagnon, who will see an even more motivated and angry Barao on fight night. 

A vengeful Barao is looking to make a statement to the mixed martial arts world after he was thoroughly outclassed, and finished, by current champion T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 173. Things went from bad to worse when Barao fainted on the day of weigh-ins prior to his rematch with Dillashaw just three months later. Now, the Brazilian must regroup and channel his frustration towards Gagnon, who is 4-1 in the UFC.

“My preparation is going great,” Barao told Sherdog.com’s Gleidson Venga. “I train three times a day and hope to give 100 percent so that everybody will keep talking about the fight. I hope they’ll enjoy it.”

Barao, the former pound-for-pound king of the 135-pound weight class, fell from grace just as he was beginning to establish a dominant legacy in the Octagon. The 27-year-old was riding a 16-fight win streak prior to his UFC debut. Barao was thrust into the spotlight with little to no experience fighting in a top promotion—he only fought twice in the WEC—but was a force in his native country of Brazil. 

The Nova Uniao team member’s striking is a spectacle to watch. Similar to his teammate, Jose Aldo, Barao mixes up his punches well with deceptive spinning back kicks and crippling leg kicks. He’s also got the killer instict; when he smells blood in the water, it’s lights out for his opponents. For a 5’6″ bantamweight, Barao‘s reach is an impressive 70 inches. 

His competitors are normally goaded into a stand-up exchange, partly because of his reach, which Barao uses to dictate the pace of the fight, but also because of his elite takedown defense. Prior to his bout with Dillashaw, Barao had stuffed 17 of 17 takedowns coming his way for a whopping 96 percent takedown defense percentage. 

Barao‘s reign at the top of the 135-pound division was short but sweet. After winning the interim title, in Dominick Cruz’s absence against Urijah Faber, Barao went on to defend the strap three times, including once more vs. Faber. His run included finishes of Michael McDonald, Eddie Wineland and Faber. 

Like every human, even a top-level UFC fighter can experience a sudden downfall. While not the most marketable or talkative fighter, Barao was part of the new wave of Brazilian mixed martial artists. Along with former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos and Aldo, Barao was the last of his young countrymen to win a title, and nearly the last one to lose it.

Aldo is the last one left standing, with Barao forced to answer the questions that followed his UFC 177 weigh-in debacle, which cost him an immediate chance of putting the memory of a one-sided title defense loss behind him.

Four months is the amount of time between his missed opportunity and a chance at silencing critics on UFC Fight Night. The man he is up against, Gagnon, has only lost once in the Octagon, which came against bantamweight contender Bryan Caraway in his UFC debut. Since the loss, Gagnon has went on to steamroll his way through the division, with all three of his finishes coming in the first round. 

The 30-year-old, who began his MMA career six years ago, sports solid wrestling and jiu-jitsu skills—he’s a purple belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu—but also displays great power in his hands. A funny fact about Gagnon: he has only fought in his native country of Canada because of his visa issues. The Canadian will be traveling to hostile territory this winter when he heads south of the equator to Barueri, Brazil, to tangle with Barao

Gagnon presents a unique challenge to Barao. He is the first southpaw fighter Barao has faced in the UFC. This can potentially alter Barao‘s game plan for a couple of reasons; one, because he will need to be wary of the well-timed straight left and, two, because of the left head kick. Don’t let his three submission wins fool you; Gagnon is a more-than-capable striker. 

He dropped Walel Watson, via a left hook, before securing an easy rear-naked choke. Note: Gagnon has rarely, if at all, fought in the southpaw stance in the UFC but has prior to his time with the promotion. 

Like Barao, Gagnon possesses excellent takedown defense and striking defense. Make no mistake about it, when the two battle in Brazil, it’s going to be a stand-up affair. With the pair boasting takedown defensive percentages upwards of 85 percent, it’s unlikely this fight will go to the ground.

Barao is a black belt in BJJ and has only been taken down once in his WEC/UFC career. Gagnon was neutralized by the grappler Caraway back in July 2012, but outside of his debut, he has shown great activity while on his back.

“I definitely think I can (submit Barao),” Gagnon told MMAFighting’s Guilherme Cruz. “I will put the pressure on him and if he makes any mistake, I’ll definitely [be] getting a submission.”

If the pressure is on any fighter in this tussle, it’s Barao. Figuratively speaking, if he was to lose this bout against a 15th-ranked bantamweight contender, Barao‘s collapse would rival that of the 2004 New York Yankees. One would start to question his desire, motive to fight and overall work ethic. Thankfully, it’s not Dec. 20 yet. 

A win for Gagnon could rocket him into the top 10 of the bantamweight division, or at least have him teetering on the outside of it. Gagnon has a skill set that can cause problems for the former champion. He has also performed well against fighters who have a 70-inch reach or greater, but he has yet to face anyone who is as fast and as technically sound as Barao.

Barao is now in a logjam atop the bantamweight ladder, with Cruz set to fight for the title next year and Raphael Assuncao waiting for his shot. Assuncao defeated Dillashaw previously at UFC Fight Night: Maia vs. Shields. With a renewed focus and a noticeable mean streak, it’s up to Barao to put away this would-be challenger and assert himself back in the mix. 

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