Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Brian Ortega and UFC Fight Night 123's other winning fighters?

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Brian Ortega dazzled on Saturday when he joined the queue of UFC featherweight contenders with an impressive victory over Cub Swanson in UFC Fight Night 123’s main event.

Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) has long been one of the best at 145 pounds. That’s still the case, but Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) proved he also belongs in the discussion with a second-round submission win to close out the FS1-televised lineup at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif.

Although Ortega’s performance garnered most of the spotlight, five other main-card winners also got the job done. Gabriel Benitez (20-6 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Marlon Moraes (20-5-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC), Scott Holtzman (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Eryk Anders (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) and Benito Lopez (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) all emerged on top in their respective fights.

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 123’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Benito Lopez

Aiemann Zahabi

Should fight: Aiemann Zahabi
Why they should fight: Although the decision was somewhat questionable, Lopez delivered an exciting performance in his promotional debut when he picked up a unanimous-decision victory over Albert Morales.

Lopez, who got a UFC roster spot after a win at a Dana White’s Contender Series event, used a high-action style against Morales and nearly paid for it several times. Despite the close nature of the bout, it’s clear he’s an exciting addition to the bantamweight division.

At just 23 Lopez has tremendous upside. It remains to be seen what he can do with it, but growing up in the UFC isn’t going to be easy. Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) may have fewer fights than Lopez, but he has more time in the sport and comes from a good team at Tristar Gym that would prepare him well for the proposed matchup.

Eryk Anders

Trevin Giles

Should fight: Trevin Giles
Why they should fight: He got a lot of resistance from UFC newcomer Markus Perez, but Anders ultimately was able to have his way with a unanimous-decision win to stay unbeaten.

Anders jumped on the UFC scene earlier this year with a promotional-debut knockout of Rafael Natal. His sophomore performance against Perez was solid, but it also revealed some aspects of Anders’ game that need improvement and that the hype around him should probably slow a bit.

The former college football standout has all the tools, but he just needs more experience in the octagon. He called out former UFC champ Lyoto Machida in his post-fight interview, but it didn’t generate much buzz. The same could be said for Giles (11-0 MA, 2-0 UFC), who picked up a third-round knockout of Antonio Braga Neto on the preliminary card, would be a more fitting next opponent.

Anders and Giles are a combined 21-0 with 17 stoppages. They both have tremendous upside, and matching them out would provide a good indication of who is ready to jump to the next level at 185 pounds.

Scott Holtzman

Marcin Held

Should fight: Marcin Held
Why they should fight: The physicality of Holtzman is a lot for many lightweights to deal with. Darrell Horcher wasn’t equipped to do it, and Holtzman left the octagon with a unanimous-decision win.

With a stifling top game, Holtzman needs to find someone who can either avoid his takedowns or present a serious threat from the bottom. Held (23-7 MMA, 1-3 UFC), who has 12 career submissions and is coming off a victory over Nasrat Haqparast at UFC Fight Night 118 in October, has that skill set and could make “Hot Sauce” think twice about going for takedowns.

Marlon Moraes

Dominick Cruz

Should fight: Dominick Cruz or Bryan Caraway
Why they should fight: Former WSOF champ Moraes had his UFC coming-out party when he picked up a “Knockout of the Year” contender courtesy of a brutal knee to the chin of Aljamain Sterling.

Moraes is finding his comfort zone in the octagon. He lost his UFC debut by narrow decision to Raphael Assuncao, but he rebounded with wins over John Dodson and Sterling in a 28-day span to put him in the discussion of bantamweight contenders.

The Brazilian hasn’t received any easy fights since coming to the UFC, and that’s certainly not going to change after what he did to Sterling.

Matchups with either Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) or Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) would be fitting for Moraes going forward. Both men were recently forced to pull out of high-profile fights due to injuries, but they’re hoping to get back in the octagon next year. Former UFC and WEC champ Cruz is, of course, the more significant matchup, but Caraway would be a good backup option if “The Dominator” can’t go.

Gabriel Benitez

Teruto Ishihara

Should fight: Teruto Ishihara
Why they should fight: It was an upset special for Benitez in his unanimous-decision win over Jason Knight, and now the Mexican featherweight is one to watch.

Benitez outworked his opponent over the course of three rounds and upset Knight, who came into the fight on the cusp of the top 15 in the UFC’s official rankings.

He may not get someone ranked at 145 pounds, but Benitez at least deserves a notable next opponent. Ishihara (10-4-2 MMA, 3-2-1 UFC) is another fan favorite who would surely be willing to mix it up with “Moggly.”

Brian Ortega

Should fight: Winner of Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett at UFC on FOX 26
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Ortega should fight the winner of Lamas (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) vs. Emmett (12-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at UFC on FOX 26 next weekend.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC 217 medical suspensions: Georges St-Pierre, Stephen Thompson receive 45 days

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Georges St-Pierre’s triumphant return at UFC 217 earned him the middleweight title and a 45-day medical suspension, likely from some nasty cuts courtesy of Michael Bisping.

St-Pierre’s (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) former training partner, Stephen Thompson (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC), walked away from the event with a unanimous-decision win over Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) and the same 45-day term.

MMAjunkie today received a full list of medical suspensions stemming from this past Saturday’s event, which took place at Madison Square Garden in New York and was regulated by the New York State Athletic Commission.

Citing medical privacy laws, the commission said it does not release details on the nature of the suspensions.

Thompson reported a thumb injury in the wake of his win, leading to speculation about his readiness to return for a proposed fight with Darren Till at a UFC event scheduled for Feb. 24. After UFC President Dana White confirmed the matchup, Thompson told MMAWeekly.com he had not received or accepted an offer to face Till.

All fighters received a minimum 7-day suspension.

The full list of medical suspensions from UFC 217 include:

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Ricardo Ramos: UFC 217 spinning elbow knockout of Aiemann Zahabi my hardest hit ever

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NEW YORK – UFC bantamweight Ricardo Ramos didn’t bring out his spinning (expletive) for Aiemann Zahabi. But when Zahabi started to pressure him, he was ready to let it go.

“It was not something I was planning especially for him, but that’s something that we train a lot,” Ramos told MMAjunkie backstage after a highlight-reel knockout of Zahabi in the UFC Fight Pass-streamed opener at UFC 217. “I had some secret weapons for him, and I always have these weapons.

“When Aiemann is pressuring, he attacks, and that’s what happened.”

Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) had availed himself relatively well in rounds one and two, cutting off many of Ramos’ unconventional attacks with straight counters of his own. Although he appeared to be struggling to stay mobile, his feet flat-footed, he sent Ramos (11-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) reeling backward in the third and final frame.

The spinning elbow that sent Zahabi unconscious to the mat surprised just about everyone at Madison Square Garden. That includes Ramos.

Asked whether his fight-ending strike was the hardest he’d ever hit a man, he let out a squeal of joy.

“This was the hardest,” Ramos said.

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC 217 post-event facts: Record set as 3 new champs crowned in historic night

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UFC 217 will go down in the history books as one of the most memorable fight cards in UFC history. Underdogs reigned supreme as three new champions were crowned and a remarkable nine of 11 fights ended inside the distance.

With memorable action from beginning to end, the fact all three title bouts changed hands will be the cornerstone of UFC 217, which took place Saturday at Madison Square Garden in New York with a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, Georges St-Pierre (26-2 MMA, 20-2 UFC) returned from a four-year hiatus to take the middleweight title from Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC). T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) knocked out former teammate and rival Cody Garbrandt(11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) to take back the bantamweight title in the co-headliner, and in the most unexpected outcome of all, Rose Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) dethroned Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) of strawweight gold with a quick knockout.

The biggest UFC event of the year lived up to the hype, and it showed on paper. Check below for 50 post-event facts and footnotes to come out of UFC 217.

* * * *

General

UFC 217 became the first event in UFC history to have three new champions crowned.

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $315,000.

St-Pierre, Dillashaw and Namajunas earned $50,000 UFC 217 fight-night bonuses. Ovince Saint Preux and Ricardo Ramos received $25,000 bonuses.

UFC 217 drew an announced attendance of 18,201 for a live gate of $6.2 million.

Betting favorites went 5-6 on the card.

Total fight time for the 11-bout card was 1:46:17.

Main card

Georges St-Pierre

St-Pierre became the fourth fighter in UFC history to win titles in two weight classes. Randy Couture, B.J. Penn and Conor McGregor have also accomplished the feat.

St-Pierre’s 13 victories in UFC championship fights are the most in company history.

St-Pierre’s 20 victories in UFC competition are tied with Bisping for most in company history.

St-Pierre’s 13-fight UFC winning streak is tied with champ Demetrious Johnson for longest among active fighters in the company. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since April 2007.

St-Pierre’s 13-fight UFC winning streak is tied with Johnson and Jon Jones for second longest in company history behind Anderson Silva (16).

St-Pierre earned his first submission victory since Dec. 29, 2007 – a span of 3,598 days (nearly 10 years) and 11 fights.

St-Pierre’s 87 takedowns landed in UFC competition are most in company history.

Michael Bisping

Bisping had his five-fight winning streak snapped for his first defeat since November 2014.

Bisping has suffered his past two losses by submission after going his entire career without being submitted.

Dillashaw’s 11 victories in UFC bantamweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Dillashaw’s 11 victories in UFC/WEC bantamweight competition are tied with Urijah Faber for second most in divisional history behind Dominick Cruz (12).

Dillashaw’s seven stoppage victories in UFC bantamweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Dillashaw’s six knockout victories in UFC bantamweight competition are most in divisional history.

T.J. Dillashaw

Dillashaw’s seven knockdowns landed in UFC bantamweight competition are second most in divisional history behind Garbrandt (eight).

Dillashaw’s seven fight-night bonuses for UFC bantamweight bouts are the most in divisional history.

Garbrandt became the first UFC bantamweight champion to lose the title before making a successful defense.

Garbrandt had his 11-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.

Garbrandt’s eight knockdowns landed in UFC bantamweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Rose Namajunas

Namajunas became the third UFC strawweight champion.

Namajunas’ five victories in UFC strawweight competition are tied with Tecia Torres for second most in divisional history behind Jedrzejczyk (eight).

Namajunas’ four stoppage victories in UFC strawweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Namajunas earned the first knockout victory of her career.

Jedrzejczyk had her 14-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of her professional career.

Stephen Thompson’s (14-2-1 MMA, 9-2-1 UFC) nine knockdowns landed in UFC welterweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Thiago Alves (13) and Jake Ellenberger (11).

Jorge Masvidal (32-13 MMA, 9-6 UFC) fell to 4-4 since he returned to the welterweight division in July 2015.

Masvidal has suffered 10 of his 13 career losses by decision. That includes all five of his UFC defeats.

Paulo Costa

Paulo Costa (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has earned all 11 of his career victories by stoppage.

Costa has earned 10 of his 11 career victories by knockout. That includes all three of his UFC wins.

Johny Hendricks (18-8 MMA, 13-8 UFC) fell to 1-2 since he moved up to the UFC middleweight division in February.

Hendricks fell to 1-5 in his past six fights.

Hendricks has suffered all three of his career stoppage losses by knockout.

Preliminary card

Joseph Duffy (16-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Walt Harris (10-7 MMA, 3-6 UFC) suffered his second UFC loss in a 28-day stretch.

Harris fell to 3-3 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in April 2016.

Ovince Saint Preux

Ovince Saint Preux (22-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC) earned his second UFC victory in a 42-day stretch.

Saint Preux’s three-fight UFC winning streak in light-heavyweight competition is tied with Mauricio Rua and Volkan Oezdemir for the longest active streak in the division.

Saint Preux’s eight stoppage victories since 2013 in UFC competition are most in the light-heavyweight division and tied with Derrick Lewis and Max Holloway for second most in the company behind Donald Cerrone (nine).

Saint Preux has earned 17 of his 22 career victories by stoppage. That includes eight of his 10 UFC wins.

Corey Anderson (9-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) has suffered all three of his career stoppage losses by knockout.

Mickey Gall

Mickey Gall (4-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) had his four-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of his career.

Curtis Blaydes (8-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has earned seven of his eight career victories by stoppage, all by knockout.

Aleksei Oleinik (52-11-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) suffered his first knockout loss since July 22, 2011 – a span of 2,297 days (more than six years) and 15 fights.

Ramos (11-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) has earned nine of his 11 career victories by stoppage.

Ramos became the second fighter in UFC history to earn a knockout victory stemming from a spinning back elbow. Dong Hyun Kim also accomplished the feat The Ultimate Fighter China Finale.

Aiemann Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) had his seven-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of her career.

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC 217 Athlete Outfitting pay: 3 title fights help move 2017 payout past $5 million

NEW YORK – Fighters from Saturday’s UFC 217 event took home UFC Athlete Outfitting pay, a program that launched after the UFC’s deal with Reebok, totaling $315,000.

UFC 217 took place at Madison Square Garden in New York City, and the main card aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Leading the way were the three fighters who entered – but did not exit – the event as champions. Michael Bisping (30-8 MMA, 20-8 UFC), Cody Garbrandt (11-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) and Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) all received a maximum program payout of $40,000 as reigning champions coming into the card.

Those three title fights pushed the UFC 217 payout total to the second-highest mark of an event in 2017 and pushed the year’s total north of $5 million.

The full UFC 217 UFC Athlete Outfitting payouts included:

Michael Bisping: $40,000
Georges St-Pierre: $30,000

Cody Garbrandt: $40,000
T.J. Dillashaw: $30,000

Joanna Jedrzejczyk: $40,000
Rose Namajunas: $30,000

Stephen Thompson: $10,000
Jorge Masvidal: $15,000

Paulo Costa: $2,500
def. Johny Hendricks: $20,000

James Vick: $5,000
def. Joseph Duffy: $5,000

Ovince Saint Preux: $15,000
def. Corey Anderson: $5,000

Mark Godbeer: $2,500
def. Walt Harris: $5,000

Randy Brown: $5,000
def. Mickey Gall: $2,500

Curtis Blaydes: $2,500
def. Aleksei Oleinik: $5,000

Ricardo Ramos: $2,500
def. Aiemann Zahabi: $2,500

Under the UFC Athlete Outfitting program’s payout tiers, which appropriate the money generated by Reebok’s multi-year sponsorship with the UFC, fighters are paid based on their total number of UFC bouts, as well as Zuffa-era WEC fights (January 2007 and later) and Zuffa-era Strikeforce bouts (April 2011 and later). Fighters with 1-5 bouts receive $2,500 per appearance; 6-10 bouts get $5,000; 11-15 bouts earn $10,000; 16-20 bouts pocket $15,000; and 21 bouts and more get $20,000. Additionally, champions earn $40,000 while title challengers get $30,000.

In addition to experience-based pay, UFC fighters will receive in perpetuity royalty payments amounting to 20-30 percent of any UFC merchandise sold that bears their likeness, according to officials.

Full 2017 UFC-Reebok sponsorship payouts:

Year-to-date total: $5,077,500
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Program-to-date total: $15,400,500

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of UFC 217, including one the UFC got wrong

While it takes intense training, world-class skills and maybe even a bit of luck to register a UFC win, picking the right song to accompany you to the cage is a key talent, as well.

See what the fighters of Saturday’s UFC 217 in New York City, went with as their backing tracks – though we later found out new strawweight champion Rose Namanjunas intended to have a different tune, only to have a production error end up with the result listed below.

* * * *

Georges St-Pierre def Bisping via technical submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 3, 4:23

Georges St-Pierre: “Afro Trap Pt. 7 (La Puissance)” by MHD

Michael Bisping: “Song 2” by Blur

T.J. Dillashaw def. Cody Garbrandt via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 2:41

T.J. Dillashaw: “Can’t Stop” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Cody Garbrandt: “We Will Rock You” by Queen

Rose Namajunas def. Joanna Jedrzejczyk via KO (punches) – Round 1, 3:03

Rose Namajunas: “Supersonic” by Oasis

Joanna Jedrzejczyk: “Przejmij Ster Swoje Dlonie” by Rena Gosx Gutek

Stephen Thompson def. Jorge Masvidal via unanimous decision (30-26, 30-27, 30-27)

Stephen Thompson: “Wonderboy” by Tenacious D

Jorge Masvidal: “Tony Montana” (Scarface Theme Song)

Paulo Costa def. Johny Hendricks via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 1:23

Paulo Costa: “2026” by Lagum

Johny Hendricks: “I’ll Sing About Mine” by Josh Abbott Band

James Vick def. Joe Duffy via TKO (punches) – Round 2, 4:59

James Vick: “Bring Em Out” by T.I.

Joseph Duffy: “Oro Se Do Bheatha Bhaile” by Sean Mor

Mark Godbeer def. Walt Harris via disqualification (illegal kick) – Round 2, 4:29

Mark Godbeer: “Supersonic” by Oasis

Walt Harris: “Smells Like Teen Spirit” by Nirvana

Ovince Saint Preux def. Corey Anderson via knockout (head kick) – Round 3, 1:25

Ovince Saint Preux: “Push It” by Rick Ross

Corey Anderson: “My Time” by Fabolous

Randy Brown def. Mickey Gall via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-27)

Randy Brown: “Broad Daylight” by Vybz Kartel

Mickey Gall: “Hey Mickey/Woke Up This Morning” by Toni Basil/Alabama 3

Curtis Blaydes def. Aleksei Oleinik via TKO (doctor’s stoppage) – Round 2, 1:56

Curtis Blaydes: “Encounter The Ultimate (Mortal Kombat Theme)” by The Immortals

Aleksei Oleinik: “Ballad For The Suppression” by Vladimir Vysotsky

Ricardo Ramos def. Aiemann Zahabi via knockout (spinning elbow) – Round 3, 1:58

Ricardo Ramos: “Get Your Walk On” by Xzibit

Aiemann Zahabi: “Still Crusin” by Eazy E feat. The Game

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Watch Ricardo Ramos' insane spinning elbow KO at UFC 217

NEW YORK – UFC 217 opened with a bang courtesy of a perfect spinning elbow from Ricardo Ramos.

Ramos (11-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) scored just the second spinning back elbow knockout in UFC history when he floored Aiemann Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) with the vicious blow in the third round of their bantamweight bout.

After a back-and-forth two rounds, Ramos landed the incredible strike to take away Zahabi’s undefeated record in the UFC Fight Pass-streamed bout at Madison Square Garden in New York City.

Relive the finish that’s sure to exist on UFC highlight reels for years to come (via Twitter):

Ramos joined Dong Hyun Kim as the only fighters in UFC history to finish a bout with the technique. Kim stopped John Hathaway at The Ultimate Fighter: China Finale in March 2014.

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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UFC 217 results: Ricardo Ramos lands sickening spinning back elbow to KO Aiemann Zahabi

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In a close fight, Ricardo Ramos fell back on a technique he tried earlier – and got it to land for an emphatic knockout win that will be on highlight reels for a long time to come.

Ramos (11-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) brutally knocked out Aiemann Zahabi (7-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) with a spinning back elbow at the 1:58 mark of the third round. The thunderous finish knocked Zahabi from the ranks of the unbeaten and came as Zahabi was unleashing combinations on Ramos against the fence.

The bantamweight bout opened up the preliminary card of today’s UFC 217 event at Madison Square Garden in New York. It streamed on UFC Fight Pass ahead of additional prelims on FS1 and a main card on pay-per-view.

Zahabi tried to get an early started and pushed Ramos back with a combo. He ducked a high kick, then again pushed Ramos back and clinched up. But Ramos was able to get on top on the canvas after a takedown. But Zahabi scrambled out, avoided a leglock, and got back to his feet. But on the feet, Ramos drilled Zahabi twice in his lead left leg and started to cause him problems. Zahabi landed an uppercut midway through, then landed another when Ramo moved in. With two minutes left, Ramos, landed a takedown, but Zahabi was quickly back to his feet. There, Zahabi landed a combination and a right hand may have hurt Ramos. Zahabi tied him up on the fence. Late in the frame, Ramos tripped Zahabi to the canvas and closed strong on top.

Ramos tried some uppercuts early in the second, and a high left kick was just off the mark. A minute in, he went back to a kick to the lead leg, then just missed a spinning back elbow. Zahabi landed a right, and 30 seconds later he landed a solid right, and another right after it. A left jab was on the mark, and midway through he caught a Ramos kick and briefly took him to the canvas. Zahabi’s right uppercut found a home again right after. With a minute left, Zahabi again landed an uppercut. And with 30 seconds left, a jab popped Ramos’ head back. Another one landed right before the bell.

Ramos started active in the third, pushed on by his cofner in between rounds. But 30 seconds in, Zahabi started to fire back despite a cut above his right eye. A minute in, Zahabi landed yet another right uppercut.

But as the midway point of the around approached, Zahabi started unloading on Ramos along the fence. And suddenly, Ramos threw a spinning back elbow and it was on the money. Zahabi went down in a thud and was out cold. The spinning technique he tried earlier finally found a home to give him the win.

“I train for everything, and it just so happened this time around was what solved the problem,” Ramos said through a translator.

Ramos won for the third straight time, including a win in his promotional debut in February. Zahabi suffered the first setback of his pro career after winning his UFC debut in February.

Up-to-the-minute UFC 217 results include:

  • Ricardo Ramos def. Aiemann Zahabi via knockout (spinning back elbow) – Round 3, 1:58

For complete coverage of UFC 217, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan, Mike Bohn, Ken Hathaway and Abbey Subhan contributed to this report on site in New York.)

Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

10 reasons to watch UFC 217, where everyone seems to be beefin' in a big way

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

The UFC made its debut at Madison Square Garden a year ago with UFC 205. Like the first event at the venerated arena, Saturday’s UFC 217 lineup features three title fights at the top of the card.

Trash-talk has been at a premium ahead of the trio of championship bouts. Middleweight champion Michael Bisping chided his opponent, Georges St-Pierre, by saying the former welterweight champ “hasn’t got the balls to fight anyone that he doesn’t think he can beat.”

Not to be outdone, bantamweight champion Cody Garbrandt dismissed former champ T.J. Dillashaw as nothing more than a distraction ahead of a desired fight with flyweight kingpin Demetrious Johnson.

Strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk got more personal in her attack. She called her challenger, Rose Namajunas, “mentally unstable” in the lead up to their contest.

UFC 217 takes place in New York City. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. It’s about more than gold

St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC) knows there’s a lot more on the line than a title at UFC 217. After four years away from the sport, the surefire UFC Hall of Famer returns to the octagon to put his legacy on the line against middleweight champ Bisping (30-7 MMA, 20-7 UFC).

There are UFC fans out there who never saw St-Pierre compete during his historic run through the 170-pound division. If he fails in his quest to become the fourth UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight divisions, those fans could look at St-Pierre as nothing more than a has-been, a diminished competitor who should have stayed away from the game. For a proud fighter like St-Pierre, that would be heartbreaking.

As for Bisping, who’s No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middle rankings, he would love nothing more than to bloviate about adding another UFC legend to his list of recently vanquished opponents.

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2. Good, clean hate

Garbrandt has been one of Dillashaw’s fiercest critics. He claims his former teammate lacks loyalty. At times the current bantamweight champion has come across as almost obsessed with his former teammate.

Garbrandt (11-0 MMA, 6-0 UFC) has taken Dillashaw’s (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) departure from the Team Alpha Male camp extremely personally. His preoccupation with No. 3-ranked Dillashaw could help or hurt him in this, his first title defense.

If Garbrandt brings too much emotion into this fight, he might become unfocused and over-aggressive. On the flip side, if he’s able to focus his anger, Garbrandt could prove to be a big problem for Dillashaw.

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3. The memory remains

Ronda Rousey’s presence looms over the fight between Jedrzejczyk (14-0 MMA, 8-0 UFC) and Namajunas (6-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC).

In 2014, UFC President Dana White implied Namajunas had the potential to be a Rousey-like presence. Namajunas, who is currently ranked No. 6 in the strawweight division, fell short of that prediction when she dropped a title fight to Carla Esparza that year.

At the time White made his claim about Namajunas, Jedrzejczyk was 1-0 in the UFC. Today, the Polish star is the unbeaten strawweight champion. With a victory at UFC 217, Jedrzejczyk will tie Rousey’s UFC record of six consecutive title defenses for a female champ and extend her UFC unbeaten streak to nine.

It’s hard to see anyone replacing Rousey in the minds of mainstream fans, but with a victory at UFC 217 – and a big marketing push – one of these women could become the dominant face of female fighting in the UFC.

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4. Sometimes things just work out for everyone

In June, welterweight title hopefuls Stephen Thompson and Jorge Masvidal both appeared at a fan Q&A. During that appearance, they were asked about a possible fight between them.

“We definitely want it, to get together and get out there in the octagon and face off,” Thompson said. “Obviously, you saw him in his last fight, which I thought he won against Demian Maia. (Masvidal is) a very good striker, and I think it’s going to be fireworks.”

Not long after, the UFC booked the fight between No. 2-ranked Thompson (13-2-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) and No. 9 Masvidal (32-12 MMA, 9-5 UFC).

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With both fighters anxious to get back in the win column after losses in their most recent bouts, this matchup could be a sleeper pick for “Fight of the Night.”

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5. Prospect vs. former champ

Rising middleweight prospect Paulo Costa (he’s no longer going by Paulo Borrachinha) has never been past the 6:06 mark in his 10 professional fights. The rankings honorable mention meets Johny Hendricks at UFC 217.

Costa, the former Jungle Fight middleweight champ, has devastated his two UFC opponents, stopping both Garreth McLellan and Oluwale Bamgbose with powerful strikes.

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Hendricks’ best bet in this fight might be to return to his wrestling roots and test Costa (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) on the ground. Hendricks (18-7 MMA, 13-7 UFC) is mired in the worst run of his professional career. The former welterweight champion is 3-7 in his past 10 fights. He lost his most recent contest, to Tim Boetsch via second-round TKO.

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6. First fight on new deals

Two lightweights who recently signed new contracts meet in the featured prelim. James Vick secured a four-fight deal after his first-round knockout of Marco Polo Reyes in May. In July, Joseph Duffy earned a seven-fight pact after a brief time on the free-agent market. Duffy defeated Reza Madadi by decision in the last fight of his previous deal.

While both of these fighters are well-rounded, they prefer to do most of their work standing. Duffy (17-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) has a very good boxing game while rankings honorable mention Vick (11-1 MMA, 7-1 UFC), who is 5 inches taller than Duffy, uses his height and reach to employ more of a kickboxing style.

If these two can deliver the striking battle this booking suggests, the winner could be in line to face a ranked opponent in his next bout.

7. Ambitious plans

With his placement on this card, it looks like Corey Anderson’s star has fallen a bit. Anderson recently fought in UFC Fight Night 107’s main event, where Jimi Manuwa knocked him out in the first round. Despite the devastating loss, Anderson remained upbeat.

“I’m in this sport to be the best, eventually. I’m not the best right now, but eventually I will be,” Anderson told MMAjunkie. “I plan on it before I leave this sport, and wherever it is, I’ve got to go, I’m willing to go.”

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Anderson (9-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), a light heavyweight rankings honorable mention, faces No. 10 ranked Ovince Saint Preux (21-10 MMA, 9-5 UFC), a short-notice replacement for Patrick Cummins. Saint Preux has won his two most recent bouts via Von Flue choke.

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8. A fourth ‘title’ fight

Mickey Gallrecently crowned himself the “Dana White: Lookin’ For a Fight” champion. Gall signed with the UFC after winning his pro debut during the filming of the first episode of that show. In his most recent bout, the New Jersey-based fighter submitted Sage Northcutt, who signed with the UFC during the filming of the pilot of the reality show.

At UFC 217, Gall (4-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) fights for the first time in nearly 11 months. His opponent, Randy Brown (9-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC), was signed to the UFC after the same “Dana White: Lookin’ For a Fight” episode in which White watched Gall compete, hence the fictional title Gall is defending.

Brown lost his most recent bout to Belal Muhamad by decision.

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9. Some differences

There’s a vast difference in experience between heavyweights Aleksei Oleinik and Curtis Blaydes.

Blaydes, who made his debut in 2014, has nine bouts under his belt. He was 6 when Oleinik made his debut in 1997. The Russian has fought 63 times since then.

The gap between the two in the rankings is much smaller. Blaydes (7-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is No. 15 in the division while Oleinik (55-10-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) is an honorable mention.

Blaydes has looked better in each of his four UFC fights, but he showed an inability to adjust when things went sideways in his most recent bout, a decision win over Daniel Omielańczuk. In that contest he attempted takedown after takedown even though he was unable to put his opponent on the mat. That could be a problem against a veteran like Oleinik.

Oleinik submitted Travis Browne in his most recent bout.

10. Be in your seat

Rising bantamweights Aiemann Zahabi and Ricardo Ramos meet in UFC 217’s opening bout.

Zahabi is a good technical fighter who prepares well for his opponents. That should be expected considering he is the younger brother of famed trainer Firas Zahabi. The one knock against Zahabi in his UFC debut was that he was a little too patient. His six first-round finishes indicate he can step up the aggression.

Ramos (10-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC), like Zahabi (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), likes to fight at distance. He’s good with his counters, but he too was reluctant to work in close during his UFC debut. Ramos is an outstanding ground fighter with six submission wins to his name. He could have trouble getting this fight to the ground as Zahabi defended 11 of 13 takedown attempts in his sole UFC fight.

There is the possibility that this could be a snoozer, but there’s also the chance these two will be anxious to show how they’ve developed since their promotional debuts.

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For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Aiemann Zahabi has some questions for Sean Shelby after UFC 217

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Aiemann Zahabi has waited eight months for his second UFC fight. After UFC 217, he doesn’t expect to wait that long again.

Aiemann Zahabi, the younger brother of famed Tristar head coach Firas Zahabi, scored a decision victory over Reginaldo Vieira in February in his promotional debut.

Then he sat. And waited. And wondered why his phone wasn’t ringing. He plans to have a chat with UFC matchmaker Sean Shelby to give him a gentle nudge and assure the fight executive that he wants to remain busy.

“I understand Sean Shelby,” Zahabi recently told MMAjunkie. “He’s got a lot of work. I would just like to know how they’re deciding who to pick and put on what card and why I got such a layoff. I don’t understand eight months.”

Zahabi (7-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) is now slated for a fight with fellow bantamweight Ricardo Ramos (10-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in Saturday’s UFC 217 curtain-jerker. UFC 217 takes place at Madison Square Garden in New York, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

After such a long wait, it’s a pretty major card to land on for Zahabi, whose bout kicks off the UFC Fight Pass online stream.

“I didn’t ask to be on the New York City card, but he put me on that card,” Zahabi said of Shelby. “I had a long wait, but I appreciate I’m on such a big card because it will help promote. He made up for it in a big way. He’s a great guy. He took care of me.”

Still, he has questions about why he should be doing.

“That’s what I want to ask Sean: Should I be calling people out?” he said. “It’s not my style. Not that I don’t want to offend anybody, because I’m not afraid of anybody in my weight class or anything like that, but there’s no point in me being disrespectful. That’s just not who I am. I don’t want people thinking, ‘Oh, he just thinks he’s a hotshot.’ It has nothing to do with that.

“I would like to fight three times a year, and I want to ask Sean Shelby what’s the best way to get the fights I want.”

Check out the full interview above.

For more on UFC 217, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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