Alex Volkanovski ready to take on biggest talkers in UFC's featherweight division

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SYDNEY – Alex Volkanovski says you didn’t see the best version of him on Saturday night in Australia, but given the right opponent, he thinks you will soon.

Volkanovski (16-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) outclassed short-notice opponent Shane Young (11-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) for a unanimous decision to open the UFC Fight Night 121 main card. He was a heavy favorite in the fight and picked up a pair of 30-26 scores and a 30-27.

“A win’s a win – 30-26, so it’s still a dominant performance,” Volkanovski told MMAjunkie after the fight. “But I was just playing it a bit too safe. The fact he was making his debut, and I believe I was probably expected to win, I just didn’t want to take too many risks. … But let me start shooting through these ranks, give me one of these top guys, and then I can really perform.”

UFC Fight Night 121 took place at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

The fight was at a 150-pound catchweight instead of featherweight, owing to the short amount of time Young would have to cut weight when he took the fight for an injured Humberto Bandenay.

And Bandenay had been a replacement for Jeremy Kennedy. All Volkanovski wants is for someone to stick around long enough after a booking to make it to a fight with him, which would allow him to have a full camp for the same opponent. And he believes a matchup with a higher-ranked foe will help lead to that.

“It’s not up to me, but at the same time all these people are pulling out (against me),” he said. “Everyone wants a perfect camp whenever they fight me (and) that’s because they worry they’ve got a tough fight ahead of them. … But I believe if I start fighting some of these top guys, we won’t get pullouts and we’ll get the original fight. That’s what I believe will happen.”

With any luck, Australia’s Volkanovski will get to stay in his home country in February for UFC 221 in Perth. That’s where he’d be more than happy to return to try to go to 4-0 in the UFC.

As for who he’d like to fight there, if you’re a bully, feel free to raise your hand.

“Fighting in Australia is always good,” he said. “It’s pay-per-view – I can’t argue with that. It’s around the corner, and I want to fight as regularly as I can. I’m doing this for my family, so I want to make money. And all these bad boys, all these guys that like to talk a lot and try to bully people – as I’ve said many times, try to bully me and see what happens.”

For more from Volkanovski, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC Fight Night 121 post-event facts: A long night leads to a dubious new record

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The UFC’s latest trip to Australia took place Saturday with UFC Fight Night 121, which went down at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney and aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

The heavyweight headliner saw Fabricio Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 11-4 UFC) defeat Marcin Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) by unanimous decision, concluding a 13-fight card that featured 10 fights decided by the scorecards.

It was a lengthy night of fights, but nevertheless the UFC’s 11th event “Down Under” produced some notable results. For more on the numbers to come out of Saturday’s lineup, check below for 45 post-event facts about UFC Fight Night 121.

* * * *

General

Allphones Arena (now Qudos Bank Arena)

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $122,500.

Debuting fighters went 4-1 at the event.

Nik Lentz, Tai Tuivasa and Damien Brown earned $50,000 UFC Fight Night 121 fight-night bonuses. Frank Camacho’s $50,000 bonus was withheld because he missed weight.

UFC Fight Night 121 drew an announced attendance of 10,021. No live gate was revealed for the event.

Betting favorites went 10-3 on the card.

Total fight time for the 13-bout card was 3:04:18, the longest in the UFC’s 418-event history.

UFC Fight Night 121 featured 10 decisions, tied for the most on a single card in UFC history.

Main card

Fabricio Werdum

Werdum earned his second UFC victory in a 42-day stretch.

Werdum improved to 9-2 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in February 2012.

Tybura has suffered both of his UFC losses by decision.

Jessica-Rose Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) improved to 3-3 (with one no-contest) in her past seven fights.

Bec Rawlings’ (7-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC) three-fight losing skid is the longest of her career. She hasn’t earned a victory since March 2016.

Rawlings was unsuccessful in her UFC women’s flyweight debut.

Rawlings has suffered five of her seven career losses by decision.

Belal Muhammad

Belal Muhammad (13-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) has earned nine of his 13 career victories by decision. That includes three of his four UFC wins.

Tim Means (27-9-1 MMA, 9-6 UFC) fell to 7-4 (with one no-contest) since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in May 2014.

Means has suffered four of his six UFC losses by decision.

Jake Matthews (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) was successful in his return to the UFC welterweight division.

Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1 MMA, 2-3-1 UFC) fell to 1-3-1 since he dropped to the UFC welterweight division in July 2016.

Velickovic has suffered all six of his career losses by decision.

Elias Theodorou

Elias Theodorou (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has earned four of his six UFC victories by decision.

Theodorou failed to complete a takedown in a winning performance for the first time in his UFC career.

Daniel Kelly (13-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) suffered consecutive losses for the first time in his career.

Kelly suffered the first decision loss of his career.

Alex Volkanovski (16-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) extended his winning streak to 13 consecutive fights. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since May 2013.

Shane Young (11-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) has suffered all four of his career losses by decision.

Preliminary card

Ryan Benoit

Ryan Benoit (10-5 MMA, 3-3 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his past nine fights.

Benoit has earned eight of his 10 career victories by stoppage.

Benoit earned just the second knockout victory stemming from a head kick in UFC flyweight history. Louis Smolka also accomplished the feat.

Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Nik Lentz

Lentz (28-8-2 MMA, 12-5-1 UFC) improved to 3-1 since he returned to the UFC lightweight division in December 2015.

Lentz earned his first submission victory since March 26, 2011 – a span of 2,429 days (more than six years) and 13 fights.

Lentz’s 18 guillotine choke submission attempts in UFC competition are the most in company history.

Will Brooks (18-4 MMA, 1-3 UFC) suffered his third consecutive loss to extend the longest skid of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since July 2016.

Brooks has suffered all four of his career losses by stoppage.

Tai Tuivasa

Tuivasa (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has earned all six of his career victories by stoppage.

Tuivasa has earned all of his career victories by knockout.

Tuivasa earned just the second knockout victory stemming from a flying knee in UFC heavyweight history. Werdum also accomplished the feat.

Rashad Coulter (8-3 MMA, 0-2 UFC) suffered consecutive losses for the first time in his career.

Coulter has suffered all three of his career losses by stoppage.

Frank Camacho

Camacho (21-5 MMA, 1-1 UFC) was successful in his UFC lightweight debut.

Nadia Kassem (5-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) earned the first decision victory of her career.

Alex Chambers (5-4 MMA, 1-3 UFC) suffered the first decision loss of her career.

Jenel Lausa (7-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has suffered both of his UFC losses by decision.

Adam Wieczorek (9-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) extended his winning streak to eight fights. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since November 2011.

Wieczorek earned the first decision victory of his career.

Anthony Hamilton’s (15-9 MMA, 3-7 UFC) four-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since July 2016.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, 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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Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Fabricio Werdum and UFC Fight Night 121's other winning fighters?

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The octagon doesn’t touch down in Sydney very often, but UFC Fight Night 121 provided plenty of cage time for the Australian fans. All six main-card bouts went to a decision on Saturday’s FS1-televised lineup at Qudos Bank Arena.

Former UFC heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 11-4 UFC) even went all five rounds in the main event, dominating Marcin Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) to a unanimous decision to strengthen his argument for another shot at the title he lost in May 2016.

Prior to the headliner, Jessica-Rose Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Belal Muhammad (13-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Jake Matthews (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) edged their respective opponents by split decision, while Elias Theodorou (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Alex Volkanovski (16-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) earned unanimous nods on the scorecards.

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 121’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Alex Volkanovski

Jeremy Kennedy

Should fight: Jeremy Kennedy
Why they should fight: Volkanovski continued to thrive since joining the UFC roster when he improved to 3-0 under inside the octagon with an utterly dominant performance against short-notice promotional newcomer Shane Young.

Volkanovski had his way with Young en route to a unanimous decision victory and now has won 16 of his 17 career fights. The Australian could be major problem in the featherweight division, but he needs tougher opponents in order to prove exactly where he stands among the best.

Once upon a time, before multiple injury changes, Volkanovski was scheduled to fight Kennedy (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) at the event. The Canadian was forced to withdraw due to a back injury, but if his recovery is on track for a return early next year, it would be interesting to see how the unbeaten fighter approached Volkanovski, who has been a tough riddle to solve.

Elias Theodorou

Anthony Smith

Should fight: Anthony Smith
Why they should fight: “Ultimate Fighter: Nations” winner Theodorou picked up a unanimous decision win over fellow cast member Dan Kelly, much to the dismay of the Australian crowd.

Every time Theodorou has experienced a setback he’s rebounded with a win, and following a defeat to Brad Tavares in July, he did that again by outpointing Kelly over the course of three rounds of middleweight action.

There’s definitely something to be desired with Theodorou’s style visually, but on paper it’s proven effective. He’s won six of eight UFC fights so far and has some notable wins to his credit within that record. The Canadian will surely want to keep the balling rolling, and there’s no shortage of tough competition at 185 pounds.

Theodorou’s faults have come against opponents capable of out-striking him. There’s no guarantee Smith (27-13 MMA, 4-2 UFC) would be able to do that, but “Lionheart’s” height, size and strength has the potential to give Theodorou all sorts of problems.

Jake Matthews

Shinsho Anzai

Should fight: Shinsho Anzai
Why they should fight: It was a bumpy return back to the UFC welterweight division, but ultimately Matthews managed to get his hands raised with a split-decision victory over a gritty Bojan Velickovic.

After a hot start to his UFC career, Matthews has had some struggles of late. He hoped a change in weight class would bring out his best, but he just scratched by against Velickovic in a rather unimpressive manner. The upside for the Aussie, though, is the fact he’s still young at just 23.

Matthews has been given few easy fights to this point, and that’s unlikely to change going forward. Anzai (10-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) is a tough and durable opponent who has back-to-back wins on his UFC record. The Japanese fighter is on approximately the same level of Matthews in the division, so there’s no reason not to pit them against each other.

Belal Muhammad

Warlley Alves

Should fight: Warlley Alves
Why they should fight: Muhammad picked up the biggest victory of her career when he outworked and edged UFC veteran Tim Means by split decision in the card’s featured bout.

Muhammad has shown some solid skills each time he’s stepped in the octagon. He dropped two of his first three fights with the promotion, but since has reeled off three-straight, with the win over Means being the most meaningful yet.

The only thing holding Muhammad back at this point is his low rate of stoppage victories. He need a big finish to take things to the next level, and a fight with an ulna-aggressive, powerful foe like Alves (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) would give him every opportunity to make that happen.

Jessica-Rose Clark

Joanne Calderwood

Should fight: Joanne Calderwood
Why they should fight: After making her UFC debut on just 11 days’ notice against a veteran of the octagon, Clark now finds herself with a winning record inside the octagon and high aspirations for the future in the women’s flyweight division.

Clark may have missed weight, but still picked up a split-decision win over Bec Rawlings to announce her arrival in the UFC. The circumstances were far from ideal, but Clark made the most of them and already has big aspirations for her future, such as fighting for the title.

The women’s 125-pound division is still in its infancy in the UFC. Clark has intentions of being a significant part of the weight class, but will have to see how “The Ultimate Fighter 26” tournament, which will crown the inaugural champion, shakes out.

In the meantime, Clark should look to fight an opponent who is not part of “TUF 26.” Calderwood (11-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC) was originally supposed to face Rawlings at the event but was forced to withdraw on short notice. Clark filled in for her, now she should fight against her.

Fabricio Werdum

Should fight: Alexander Volkov
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Werdum should fight Volkov (29-6 MMA, 3-0 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC Fight Night 121 Athlete Outfitting pay: Yearly payout approaches $5.5 million

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SYDNEY – Fighters from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 121 event took home UFC Athlete Outfitting pay, a program that launched after the UFC’s deal with Reebok, totaling $122,500.

UFC Fight Night 121 took place at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. The card aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Three fighters led with the way with $15,000 payouts, including former UFC champ Fabricio Werdum (23-7-1 MMA, 11-4 UFC), who earned a unanimous-decision victory in the main event.

The full UFC Fight Night 121 UFC Athlete Outfitting payouts included:

Fabricio Werdum: $15,000
def. Marcin Tybura: $2,500

Jessica-Rose Clark: $2,500
def. Bec Rawlings: $5,000

Belal Muhammad: $5,000
def. Tim Means: $15,000

Jake Matthews: $5,000
def. Bojan Velickovic: $5,000

Elias Theodorou: $5,000
def. Daniel Kelly: $5,000

Alex Volkanovski: $2,500
def. Shane Young: $2,500

Ryan Benoit: $5,000
def. Ashkan Mokhtarian: $2,500

Nik Lentz: $15,000
def. Will Brooks: $2,500

Tai Tuivasa: $2,500
def. Rashad Coulter: $2,500

Frank Camacho: $2,500
def. Damien Brown: $2,500

Nadia Kassem: $2,500
def. Alex Chambers: $2,500

Eric Shelton: $2,500
def. Jenel Lausa: $2,500

Adam Wieczorek: $2,500
def. Anthony Hamilton: $5,000

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: $5,445,000
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Program-to-date total: $15,768,000

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of UFC-Sydney with well-timed AC/DC (RIP, Malcolm Young)

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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 Fight Night 121 in Sydney went with as their backing tracks.

* * * *

Fabricio Werdum def. Marcin Tybura via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46)

Fabricio Werdum: “Akhmat Fight Club” by Sharpuddi Ismailov

Marcin Tybura: “40:1” by Sabaton

Jessica-Rose Clark def. Bec Rawlings via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Jessica-Rose Clark: “Only One” by John Butler Trio

Bec Rawlings: “Natural Born Killaz” by Dr. Dre feat. Ice Cube

Belal Muhammad def. Tim Means via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Belal Muhammad: “We Ready” by Archie Eversole

Tim Means: “Ladies and Gentleman” by Saliva

Jake Matthews def. Bojan Velickovic via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Jake Matthews: “Hard as a Rock” by AC/DC

Bojan Velickovic: “I Lived” by OneRepublic

Elias Theodorou def. Daniel Kelly via unanimous decision (30-28, 30-27, 30-26)

Elias Theodorou: “Don’t Forget Me” by Red Hot Chili Peppers

Daniel Kelly: “Most People I Know” by Billy Thorpe and The Aztecs

Alex Volkanovski def. Shane Young via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-26)

Alex Volkanovski: “Game of Thrones” theme (Violin Rock Cover) by Jason Yang & Roger Lima

Shane Young: “Dedicated To” by Home Brew

Ryan Benoit def. Ashkan Mokhtarian via knockout (head kick) – Round 3, 2:38

Ryan Benoit: “What They Want” by Russ

Ashkan Mokhtarian: “Can’t See Me” by Tupac

Nik Lentz def. Will Brooks via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 2, 2:05

Nik Lentz: “Greatest Show Unearthed” by Creature Feature

Will Brooks: “I’m Ill” by Red Cafe feat. Fabolous

Tai Tuivasa def. Rashad Coulter via knockout (flying knee) – Round 1, 4:35

Tai Tuivasa: “A Thousand Miles” by Vanessa Carlton

Rashad Coulter: “Worth” by Anthony Brown

Frank Camacho def. Damien Brown via split decision (28-29, 30-27, 29-28)

Frank Camacho: “Eye of the Tiger” by Survivor

Damien Brown: “Bad Company” by Five Finger Death Punch

Nadia Kassem def. Alex Chambers via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-27, 29-27)

Nadia Kassem: “I Rep That West” by Ice Cube

Alex Chambers: “The Greatest” by Sia feat. Kendrick Lamar

Eric Shelton def. Jenel Lausa via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-26, 30-25)

Eric Shelton: “Bout 2 Blow” by Empire Cast feat. Yazz & Timberland

Jenel Lausa: “Bebot” by The Black Eyed Peas

Adam Wieczorek def. Anthony Hamilton via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Adam Wieczorek: “Beds Are Burning” by Midnight Oil

Anthony Hamilton: “Last Breath” by Future

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, 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 Fight Night 121 results: Alex Volkanovski dominates short-notice opponent Shane Young

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Alex Volkanovski made Shane Young’s UFC debut a pretty unwelcome one on Saturday night.

Volkanovski (16-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) beat Young (11-4 MMA, 0-1 UFC) up for 15 minutes for a dominant unanimous decision. It should be noted Young took the fight on just a week’s notice, and Volkanovski was the heaviest favorite on the card. Volkanovski couldn’t put Young away, but scores of 30-27 and a pair of 30-26s told the story.

The 150-pound catchweight bout opened up the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 121 event at at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Volkanovski kicked high 30 seconds in and just missed. He pressured Young on the outside, then kicked to his body. A big right hand from Volkanovski a minute in was just off the mark, and before he could go off balance, he tied Young up on the fence. There, Volkanovski landed a knee. They tied up again after breaking, and Volkanovski briefly brought Young to the canvas. He stayed glued to his back, though, and kept him frustrated.

Midway through the round, Young managed to break away, but Volkanovski smashed him with a right hand, then got a takedown. Volkanovski worked for an arm-triangle choke, then tried to work around to the back. But Young used that to get back to his feet. With a minute left, Volkanovski started throwing like he wanted to get out of there in the first round. He just missed a spinning back fist with 20 seconds left in the round.

Volkanovski kicked Young’s lead leg early, then drilled a heavy right elbow 30 seconds into the round along the fence. He tied Young up, then just missed a spinning elbow on the break. Ninety seconds in, Volkanovski landed a right hand, then tried to trip Young to the canvas. He got the takedown along the fence, then tried to jump to mount.

When Young rolled out of it and back to his feet, Volkanovski hit him with a right hand. With 90 seconds left, Volkanovski picked Young up after another right hand and dumped him. When Young was back up quickly, Volkanovski dumped him again. He briefly got to full mount, but then had to settle for half-guard when Young recovered.

Volkanovski stayed after the finish in the third round, and Young had very few answers for him. But 90 seconds into the round, he pushed forward out of desperation for a takedown and got it. But Volkanovski reversed and picked him up to dump him over his shoulder, then went to work on top with three minutes left. He never could put Young away, but there never was much doubt about the outcome of the fight from the outset.

“Obviously, I would’ve rather gotten the finish, but I’m very happy with the win,” Volkanovski said. “When someone is making their debut, you want to be a bit more careful, so I didn’t do anything crazy – just stuck to the game plan and got a dominant win.”

Volkanovski ran his winning streak to 13 fights, including his first three in the UFC. Young’s five-fight winning streak came to an end.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 121 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Sydney.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC-Sydney staff picks: Who got unanimous nods in Australia?

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Werdum
vs.
Tybura
Clark
vs.
Rawlings
Means
vs.
Muhammad
Matthews
vs.
Velickovic
Kelly
vs.
Theodorou
Volkanovski
vs.
Young
MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2017: 112-74
werdum2017
Werdum
(79%)
rawlings2017
Rawlings
(62%)
means2017
Means
(66%)
matthews2017
Matthews
(66%)
theodorou2017
Theodorou
(64%)
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
(88%)
Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2017: 117-69
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2017: 116-70
trophy copy 2015 Champion
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2017: 115-71
werdum2017
Werdum
jroseclark2017
Clark
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Steven Marrocco @MMAjunkieSteven
2017: 115-71
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Ben Fowlkes @BenFowlkesMMA
2017: 115-71
trophy copy 2016 Champion
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Fernanda Prates @nandaprates_
2017: 110-76
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
kelly2017
Kelly
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
George Garcia @MMAjunkieGeorge
2017: 109-77
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
kelly2017
Kelly
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
2017: 108-78
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
muhammad2017
Muhammad
matthews2017
Matthews
kelly2017
Kelly
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Mike Bohn @MikeBohnMMA
2017: 106-80
trophy copy 2014 Champion
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
means2017
Means
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski
Matt Erickson @MMAjunkieMatt
2017: 106-80
werdum2017
Werdum
rawlings2017
Rawlings
muhammad2017
Muhammad
matthews2017
Matthews
theodorou2017
Theodorou
volkanovski2017
Volkanovski

The UFC is back in Australia this week and one of the world’s great destination cities: Sydney.

UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

(Click here to open a PDF of the staff picks grid in a separate window.)

In the main event, former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum (22-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC) takes on Marcin Tybura (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC), who is filling in for Mark Hunt. Werdum is more than a 3-1 favorite, and he’s also one of a pair of unanimous picks on the main card from our 10 MMAjunkie editors, writers and radio hosts.

Also a unanimous pick, welterweight Jake Matthews (10-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) fights in front of his home fans in Australia and is a 10-0 choice over Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1 MMA, 2-2-1 UFC). The other unanimous pick comes in the fight that opens the main card. Australian featherweight Alex Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) is as much as an 8-1 favorite over short-notice replacement Shane Young (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC), and to little surprise is a 10-0 pick from our staff.

In the co-feature, a pair of Australian women battle at flyweight when another short-notice fighter, Jessica-Rose Clark (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC), takes on Bec Rawlings (7-6 MMA, 2-3 UFC). The oddsmakers have the fight as a close one, with Rawlings just a slight favorite. But she’s a 9-1 overwhelming choice from our pickers.

Also on the main card, Tim Means (27-8-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC) is an 8-2 choice over Belal Muhammad (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) in their welterweight fight. And Canada’s Elias Theodorou (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) is a 7-3 pick over Australia’s own Daniel Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in their middleweight fight.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Werdum, Rawlings, Means, Matthews, Theodorou and Volkanovski are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

10 reasons to watch UFC-Sydney, none of which include hotel drama

The UFC is in Australia on Saturday for UFC Fight Night 121. Headlining the event is a heavyweight scrap between former champion Fabricio Werdum and Marcin Tybura.

Werdum steps into the octagon having fought 42 days ago at UFC 216. He defeated Walt Harris via first-round submission on that card. Werdum got the nod for the Australia card after the UFC pulled Tybura’s original opponent, Mark Hunt, from the event over medical concerns. Tybura’s most recent fight was in June. He earned a decision over former champion Andrei Arlovski in that contest. There’s no doubt two consecutive wins over former champs would boost his status in the division.

In the co-main event, two Australian fighters meet when Bec Rawlings welcomes UFC newcomer Jessica-Rose Clark to the octagon.

UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. The race is on

With heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic unbooked for his next title defense, the rest of the division is left to jockey for position to be that next opponent. That includes the man Miocic took the title from, Werdum.

Werdum, currently, ranked No. 3 in the division according to the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, has his work cut out for him in that regard since he’s gone 2-1 since his loss to Miocic. Knowing that, Werdum (22-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC) seems to be taking the volume route back to title consideration. He faces Tybura (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in Sydney a few weeks removed from his recent win over Harris.

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Tybura, the man who hopes to play spoiler to Werdum’s plan, is currently an honorable mention in the rankings.

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2. Moving on up

Rawlings is under pressure heading into her first flyweight bout. She’s 2-3 since she joined the UFC, with losses in her past two outings. Rawlings was also one-and-a-half pounds overweight ahead of her most recent fight, a decision loss to Tecia Torres.

Rawlings’ (7-6 MMA, 2-3 UFC) opponent, Clark (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC), steps in as a late injury replacement for Joanne Calderwood.

While Clark might be an unknown quantity, don’t expect her to wilt under the bright lights of the UFC. In her two most recent fights, she faced former Strikeforce bantamweight champion Sarah Kaufman and veteran Carina Damm. She lost to Kaufman and defeated Damm; both fights went the distance.

Clark mostly throws power punches and heavy low kicks with an occasional combination. She struggles if the fight hits the ground and she ends up in bottom position. Expect her to try and keep this one standing.

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3. The repairs are complete

It’s no surprise to see Australia-born Jake Matthews on this card. The 23-year-old has fought seven times for the UFC. Six of those outings took place in his home country or in nearby New Zealand. However, Matthews enters this fight on a two-fight losing skid. His most recent defeat was a November 2016 split-decision loss to Andrew Holbrook.

Healed up after undergoing surgery on both hips, Matthews (10-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) moves back to welterweight, where he began his MMA career, for this fight against Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1 MMA, 2-2-1 UFC). Like Matthews, the Serbian is coming off a loss. He dropped a unanimous decision to Darren Till in his most recent bout.

Early in his career, it seemed the UFC had Matthews pegged as a promotable fighter for its Australian market. His losing skid seems to have dampened that enthusiasm, as he dropped from the co-main event at UFC Fight Night 101 to the middle of the main card in Sydney.

If the added weight and repaired hips get Matthews back in the win column, expect the promotion’s interest in him to revive.

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4. Work with what you’ve got

Daniel Kelly doesn’t have the chiseled body of many UFC fighters. The 40-year-old Australian’s knees appear to be held together by braces and tape. He’s been an underdog in almost all of his UFC fights.

Despite these apparent shortcomings, Kelly went unbeaten between November 2015 and March 2017. His most prominent win was a unanimous-decision victory over former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans at UFC 209. Kelly’s feel-good story then ended in June, when Derek Brunson knocked him out.

Kelly’s opponent, Elias Theodorou, is also coming off a loss. The 29-year-old Canadian dropped a decision to Brad Tavares in July.

Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is a four-time Olympian in judo, so expect him to try to work from the clinch against his younger opponent. As for Theodorou (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), he’s one of the more cerebral fighters at middleweight. He crafts a gameplan specific to his opponents, and he generally sticks with that approach.

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5. High expectations

Alex Volkanovski could become the next big thing out of Australia. He joined the UFC in 2016 with a record of 13-1 and a long list of titles from smaller MMA promotions. Now 2-0 with the UFC, he faces Shane Young at featherweight.

Volkanovski is a powerful striker with good takedown skills, but he excels on the ground. When he gets his opponent to the mat, the Australian likes to posture up and rain down heavy ground strikes. Those ground strikes earned him a second-round TKO in his UFC debut.

Young (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) is the third scheduled opponent for Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) for this card. The New Zealand-born fighter’s two previously booked opponents withdrew due to injury. Young, who is on a five-fight winning streak, stepped up on less than a weeks’ notice to take this fight.

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6. Looking for a foothold

Ryan Benoit has struggled since joining the UFC’s flyweight division in 2013. He’s alternated wins and losses and been unable to generate any momentum, even with a knockout of Sergio Pettis in 2015. His most recent fight was a split-decision loss to Brandon Moreno.

Benoit (9-5 MMA, 2-3 UFC) faces Ashkan Mokhtarian in Sydney. Mokhtarian (13-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) debuted with the UFC in June. He entered that fight against John Moraga with 12 career stoppage victories. The Iranian-born fighter left that matchup with his second career loss.

Like Mokhtarian, when Benoit does win, it’s usually via stoppage. He has seven knockouts and one submission in his eight victories. With their recent losses, expect both of these men to do their best to avoid a second consecutive defeat.

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7. Back meet wall

Will Brooks joined the UFC’s lightweight division with a lot of hype. Before he signed with the promotion, the former Bellator champion ran off eight straight wins. He won his UFC debut, but Brooks has since been stopped in his two most recent bouts by unranked fighters.

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To date, Brooks’ performances with the UFC have been uninspired. That could change when he faces Nik Lentz, who is also coming off a loss. If you recall, the UFC pulled Lentz (27-8-2 MMA, 11-5-1 UFC) from his scheduled fight against Brooks (18-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) at UFC 216 due to “medical issues” on weigh-in day. Brooks had already made weight for the lightweight bout before the promotion scratched the contest. No fighter wants to go through camp and a weight cut only to do the same thing a month later.

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8. Let’s try this in a different hemisphere

Anthony Hamilton and Adam Wieczorek were set to face off at UFC Fight Night 118. However, the heavyweight bout was scratched the day before the event due to security concerns inside Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland. The UFC made that decision after both fighters made weight at the official weigh-ins. The two now meet more than 9,750 miles away in Sydney.

Wieczorek (8-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who makes his UFC debut on this card, is on a seven-fight winning streak. Each of his victories have come by way of stoppage. Wieczorek’s sole loss was a 2011 decision defeat to Tybura. Hamilton (15-8 MMA, 3-6 UFC) briefly toyed with retirement after his most recent fight, his third consecutive first-round stoppage defeat.

9. In a hurry

Nadia Kassem has just four fights to her name. Kassem, who recently turned 22, won each of those bouts by first round knockout. Three of those stoppages came in under 30 seconds. Nicknamed “187,” Kassem’s longest outing was her most recent, when she nearly hit the 90-second mark. Her total fight time is 2:22.

Kassem (4-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets fellow Aussie Alex Chambers in this strawweight contest. The 39-year-old Chambers (5-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has not fought since Paige VanZant submitted her in September 2015. Her opponent has fought three times since then.

Expect Kassem to come out fast and test Chambers’ cage readiness after such a long time away.

10. KO kings

Expect action in the heavyweight opener. Neither Rashad Coulter nor his opponent Tai Tuivasa have ever gone the distance. All eight of Coulter’s (8-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) wins have come by knockout, while Tuivasa (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has five first-round KO victories in five professional fights.

The 24-year-old Tuivasa, who makes his UFC debut in his home country, is a former rugby player. He left that sport five years ago to focus on boxing and MMA. He’s a training partner of Mark Hunt, who he cornered at UFC 209. His brother-in-law is UFC competitor Tyson Pedro.

Tuivasa has been sidelined for more than a year. He underwent knee surgery following his October 2016 win over former UFC fighter James McSweeney. Coulter’s most recent fight, his UFC debut, ended in a second-round knockout loss to Chase Sherman. Coulter displayed an incredibly durable chin in that “Fight of the Night” bonus-winning performance.

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For more on UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Alex Volkanovski wants $50,000 KO at UFC-Sydney, then fight with 'bully' Jeremy Stephens in Perth

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

SYDNEY – With his third UFC fight in less than a year right around the corner, Alex Volkanovski has a pretty clear plan for his future.

Naturally, it starts with Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) taking out short-notice newcomer Shane Young (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) in their featherweight fight at UFC Fight Night 121 – and in a way that gets him a $50,000 performance bonus.

UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Young stepped in for Humberto Bandenay earlier this week, and Bandenay had been a replacement for Jeremy Kennedy. Strangely enough, Volkanovski knows a little about Young.

“We get along with their gym very well,” Volkanovski told MMAjunkie at a media day this week. “I’ve got a guy cornering me who is actually one of his training partners. They haven’t been with each other forever, but it just shows you. At the end of the day, I’m happy for him, but I’ve got to do my thing. I’m looking for that finish and I’m looking for that $50,000.”

But after this weekend, Volkanovski wants to make things a little more regular – like back again in February at UFC 221 in Perth, giving him another fight in front of his home Australian fans.

“I want to fight as regularly as I can,” he said. “I’ll be calling out all these bad boys and these top 15 guys. I’m going to prove why I’m ready for these top guys – I’m getting thrown guys and I’m finishing them, dominating performances, so I’m expecting to do that again. I want a top-ranked opponent, and I want him in Perth.”

Just how top-ranked? For now, how about Jeremy Stephens (26-14 MMA, 13-13 UFC), who despite his .500 UFC record presents a potential opponent with longevity.

“He’s highly ranked, he’s well known, and I’m after these bad boys,” Volkanovski said. “He says he’s a tough guy, he’s a bad boy. I think of him like a bully-type of person. I don’t like bullies. He can try and bully me and we’ll see what happens. I’ve got a job to do on (Saturday), but I’d love to fight him, that’s for sure.”

For more from Volkanovski, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 121, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

UFC-Sydney in-depth breakdown: Stylistic matchups, fight picks, best bets and fantasy studs

MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 121’s main-card bouts.

UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 40 Weight: 242 lbs. Reach: 77″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Walt Harris (Oct. 7, 2017)
  • Camp: Kings MMA (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC heavyweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 6 KO victories
+ 11 submission wins
+ 10 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Dynamic attack arsenal
+ Deceptively effective showman
^ Baits/taunts opposition into game
+ Dangerous from Thai plum
+/- Aggressive in exchanges
^ Counter availabilities
+ Superb submission and ground game
+ Excellent sweeps and scrambles
+ Thrives and capitalizes in chaos

Marcin Tybura (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 32 Weight: 243 lbs. Reach: 78″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Andrei Arlovski (June 6, 2017)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Multiple heavyweight MMA titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Improved striking combinations
^ Good economy of movement
+ Accurate kicks and knees
^ Works well off of lead leg
+ Strong inside of the clinch
^ Sneaky elbows and solid defense
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Well-timed takedowns
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Floats, rides, finds way to back

Summary:

The main event in Sydney features a heavyweight showdown between Fabricio Werdum and Marcin Tybura.

Coming off of an impromptu matchup against Walt Harris last month, Werdum, the former champion, will step in for Mark Hunt and attempt to take out another young gun.

Seeking to stop the Brazilian is Tybura, a Polish prospect who is riding a three-fight winning streak, most recently defeating another former champ in Andrei Arlovski.

Despite being criticized early on for his lack of striking presence, Tybura has steadily developed a kickboxing game since coming into the UFC.

Actively prodding with a jab, Tybura will casually add in his right hand, variating between casting punches or hammerfists. Like many Eastern European and Russian kickboxers, Tybura typically punctuates combinations with kicks off of his lead leg.

When using strikes to mask his clinch entries, Tybura has shown a good sense about where potential danger may be coming from, as he now does a better job of moving his head appropriately with his punches. And considering that the Pole has spent this training camp stateside at Jackson-Wink MMA, I can only imagine that his game has continued to grow.

But regardless of Tybura’s potential growth, his counterpart – though a grappling champion – may be his stiffest striking test to date.

Under the care of Rafael Cordeiro, Werdum has steadily parlayed his sporadic showmanship into more of a pressure-fighting process. Putting together his punches more fluidly, the Brazilian will finish his combinations with hard kicks or knees in the clinch.

However, when not throwing in combination, he has a tendency to throw his kicks naked and without setup, as Werdum has been dropped in four of his last nine outings due to right hands finding their mark. That said, many of the former champion’s falls may have been arguable flops given that he is known for his in-cage baits and showmanship.

Akin to a basketball player trying to draw an offensive foul, Werdum will deceptively roll with punches as he relinquishes to his back. Although this may not win Werdum favor with the fans and judges, there is a method to his madness.

Presenting the ambush known as his guard game, Werdum offers up a unique predicament to all who approach.

As we’ve seen time-and-time-again, the Brazilian can submit world champions here – but more importantly, he creates situations to sweep and scramble his way topside, often utilizing deep-half and X-guard variations to escape out the back door.

If Werdum’s opposition decides not to pursue him into deep waters, then they inherently let him off the hook if he is in fact hurt, or give him a breather to recover at the very least. This tactic has stifled the best of killer instincts and has allowed the former champion back into many of fights.

Nevertheless, Werdum cannot get too comfortable in his comfort zone, as Tybura is no novice.

An accomplished brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Tybura has translated his grappling game seamlessly into MMA. Doing his best work when on top, the Pole utilizes positioning fundamentals and shoulder pressure to help persuade opposition into giving their back.

Once Tybura can establish some form of mount, he will quickly get to work with strikes to help set up his submission efforts. And though this type of route is highly unlikely against a competitor the caliber of Werdum, Tybura still has the skills to perhaps strategically score points on top, making any potential grappling stanzas even more compelling.

If neither man is successful in getting to the mat on their terms, then crucial parts of this contest will take place in the clinch.

Inside of close quarters, Tybura offers slick elbows off of forearm frames and a solid awareness of hip positioning and underhooks. Still, I side with Werdum in this space, as the Brazilian has developed a devastating Thai clinch since his second run with the promotion.

Currently, the oddsmakers and public have Werdum pegged as the clear favorite to win. But as recent UFC cards have proven, 3-1 odds in a heavyweight matchup can be a tricky and treacherous thing.

Even though Werdum is the better on-paper fighter who has a higher finishing potential both standing and on the floor, I could easily see a scenario where Tybura catches him at the end of a combination. The problem – in my opinion – is that Tybura ultimately allows for too much of the fight’s flow to be decided by his opponent.

For this reason, Tybura can be subject to making fights closer than they arguably should, as he often finds himself stuck against the fence and or short on initiative (and possibly gas). Should Tybura allow for Werdum to establish his pressure and presence, then I see the former champion steadily picking apart the Pole on the feet, and eventually finding his finish on the floor.

Official pick: Werdum inside the distance

Official outcome: To be determined

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