Ryan Benoit vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian added to UFC Fight Night 121 in Australia

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Two flyweights have been added to the UFC’s upcoming return to Australia.

Officials announced on Tuesday that Ryan Benoit (9-5 MMA, 2-3 UFC) and Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) are set to meet at UFC Fight Night 121.

UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Nov. 19 (but airs in the U.S. on Nov. 18 due to time difference) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It’s expected to air on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

Benoit, a 27-year-old, made his UFC debut in 2013 and suffered a submission loss to Josh Sampo in a “Fight of the Night” performance. He’s since experienced uneven results and has alternated wins and losses during his UFC tenure. Most recently, he followed up a split-decision win over Fredy Serrano with a split-decision defeat to Brandon Moreno in December.

He now meets Mokhtarian, a 31-year-old Iranian-Australian fighter who won six straight fights to earn a UFC contract earlier this year. However, in his promotional debut, the veteran of the Australian regional circuit, who has 12 stoppages in 13 career wins, suffered a one-sided decision loss to John Moraga at the UFC’s June event in New Zealand.

The latest UFC Fight Night 121 card now includes:

  • Mark Hunt vs. Marcin Tybura
  • Rashad Coulter vs. Tai Tuivasa
  • Ryan Benoit vs. Ashkan Mokhtarian

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC-Auckland's 10 memorable moments, including Derrick Lewis' bombshell

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UFC Fight Night 110 started off slowly. The first four fights went the distance, but when things picked up steam, the card moved along rather nicely with all but one of the final six bouts ending in a finish. Those finishes included the heavyweight main event between Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis.

Lewis entered the FS1-televised headliner on a six-fight winning streak, but despite his best efforts, he was unable to extend that streak to seven, and instead, he tasted defeat for the first time in almost two years. During the four-round contest, Lewis went deep into his bag of tricks, attempting high kicks, flying knees and even thinking about a spinning kick, but Hunt calmly took everything he had to offer. And when his opponent’s gas tank hit empty, Hunt closed the deal with strikes against the fence.

In the co-main event, another winning streak came to a close as fan favorite Daniel Kelly fell to Derek Brunson via knockout in less than 90 seconds.

UFC Fight Night 110 took place Saturday at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand.

Here are 10 memorable moments from the event.

1. Sticking around

The Hunt (13-11-1 MMA, 8-5-1 UFC) and Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) bout lasted longer than many expected, grinding along until late in the fourth round. The end came when an exhausted Lewis put his hands on his hips and backed into the fence, where Hunt delivered a few strikes before referee Marc Goddard waved off the contest.

The finish was more whimper than bang, but it showed that even at 43, Hunt remains a force in the UFC heavyweight division.

After his victory, Hunt, the oldest fighter in the UFC, said he plans on sticking around until he fights out the reported six-fight deal he signed in April 2016.

“I like to get beat up,” Hunt told MMAjunkie. “Shucks, there’s nothing else I’m good at. But I’ve got a couple of fights I want to finish. Why not see the contract out and then retire?”


2. Somebody’s watching me

“It’s probably my last fight,” Lewis told UFC commentator Brian Stann after his loss to Hunt. “I’m getting married next week, and I don’t like to put my family through this. That will be my last fight.”

We all know MMA retirements have a tendency not to last, especially when they come seconds after a loss in a big fight. That didn’t stop two of Lewis’ fellow UFC heavyweights from commenting on his possible retirement via social media.

Travis Browne, whom Lewis knocked out in February, questioned Lewis’ heart in an Instagram post and offered to run back their fight, while up and coming Francis Ngannou tweeted that Hunt beat Lewis “like a baby.”

3. Back on track

Between August 2014 and September 2016, Brunson ran off five straight middleweight wins, with four victories coming via first-round knockout. Brunson’s stock took a hit after he dropped his next two fights, losing to Robert Whittaker and Anderson Silva. Expect a market correction when it comes to Brunson (17-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) after his first-round knockout win over Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC).

Brunson faced criticism for his style in the Whittaker and Silva fights. He was reckless against Whittaker and not aggressive enough against Silva. Brunson found a middle ground vs. Kelly by throwing out jabs and kicks to measure distance and timing, and when he saw an opening, he threw a hard left that dropped Kelly. A few hammerfists later, Brunson was back in the win column while bringing an abrupt end to Kelly’s four-fight winning streak.


4. Move pays off

Dan Hooker joined the UFC’s featherweight division following a run as the Australian Fighting Championships lightweight titleholder. Three years into his UFC tenure, Hooker’s record stood at 3-3, and he decided to give lightweight another shot, starting at UFC Fight Night 110. That move paid off in a big way.

Moments after his corner implored their fighter to find his range, Hooker (14-7 MMA, 4-3 UFC) connected with a knee to the chin that sent Ross Pearson (19-14 MMA, 11-11 UFC) to the mat while simultaneously launching his mouthpiece into the air. That perfectly timed strike, which ended the fight at the 3:02 mark of Round 2, earned Hooker a $50,000 “Performance of the Night” bonus.

After the contest, Hooker told MMAjunkie he will be sticking around at lightweight.


5. Say goodnight

Ion Cutelaba was a bit belligerent at the weigh-in, where he refused to shake the hand of light-heavyweight opponent Henrique da Silva and lunging toward him. Cutelaba (13-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) upped his aggression on fight night, marching across the cage during introductions and dragging his thumb across his throat as he got in da Silva’s (12-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) face.

Cutelaba backed up his pugnaciousness once the fight began, throwing his punches with fight-ending intentions. Cutelaba knocked down da Silva early and didn’t let up once his opponent was hurt. He landed heavy rights from inside da Silva’s guard and ended the fight in 22 seconds.

After the victory, Cutelaba told Stann he was in a hurry to end the contest so he could say goodnight to his infant daughter, who was home in Moldova.


6. That’ll change your mood

Ben Nguyen was bummed out when he lost his chance to face Joseph Benavidez at UFC Fight Night 110. After his “Performance of the Night” winning effort against late replacement Tim Elliott, Nguyen’s mood improved significantly.

Nguyen’s aggressive striking had Elliott (14-8-1 MMA, 3-6 UFC) looking for takedowns early. After some scrambling on the mat, Nguyen (17-6 MMA, 4-1 UFC) slipped in the hooks and sank in a rear-naked choke that ended the flyweight fight in 49 seconds. The loss was Elliott’s first submission defeat since Benavidez stopped him via guillotine choke in April 2014.

The quick stoppage will keep Nguyen in the mix to face a top-five opponent in his next outing, maybe even Benavidez if he heals up in time for that booking.


7. No power outage

Alexander Volkanovski displayed some mean ground and pound in his UFC debut in November, earning a second-round TKO win over Yusuke Kasuya in a lightweight bout. Volkanovski dropped to featherweight for his UFC Fight Night 110 fight against Mizuto Hirota, and he brought his heavy hands with him.

Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) was dominant in every facet of this fight, cruising to a unanimous-decision win over Hirota (14-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC). While he wasn’t able to get the finish, it wasn’t for lack of trying, as Volkanovski came close to ending Hirota’s night in the first round after knocking him down with a right and following up with ground strikes.

The win puts Volkanovski’s winning streak at 12, with 10 stoppages.


8. Rust? What rust?

Most UFC fighters don’t go more than three years between fights, but that’s the situation Vinc Pichel found himself in heading into UFC Fight Night 110. Pichel, who had been sidelined by what he called a “steamroll ball of (expletive)” since his May 2014 win over Anthony Njokuani, stepped into his lightweight fight against Damien Brown anxious to prove he still belonged in the UFC. He did just that.

Brown’s (16-10 MMA, 2-2 UFC) game plan was to pressure Pichel (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC), and for most of the first round he was successful. He put Pichel on his heels. But with less than 90 seconds left in the first stanza, Pichel, backing into the fence, delivered a crisp combination that brought the fight to an abrupt end.

After the fight, Pichel informed the division of his plans.

“I ain’t stopping,” Pichel told Stann, “I’m going to go on a rampage.”


9. He needed that

John Moraga knew he was facing questions heading into his flyweight matchup with Ashkan Mokhtarian. The former title contender hadn’t won a fight in more than two years and was in the midst of a three-fight losing streak. Had Moraga (17-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) lost to Mokhtarian (13-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC), a UFC newcomer, his run with the promotion would have likely come to an end.

Moraga put on a clinic against the overmatched Mokhtarian, dominating the fight in every way and earning a unanimous decision. Now back in the win column, Moraga is sure to be tested by tougher competition the next time he steps into the octagon.


10. That’s better

J.J. Aldrich came into her second UFC fight with a full camp behind her, and it showed. Aldrich represented herself much better against Chanmi Jeon than she did in her short notice debut vs. Juliana Lima.

Aldrich (5-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) pressured Jeon (5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) throughout the strawweight fight, showing solid technical striking ability on her way to a unanimous-decision win.


For more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 110 post-event facts: Derek Brunson is the 1st-round king at middleweight

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The UFC’s second visit to New Zealand took place Saturday when Spark Arena in Auckland hosted UFC Fight Night 110, which aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, local hero Mark Hunt (13-11-1 MMA, 8-5-1 UFC) continued to be an ageless wonder when the 43-year-old methodically broke down and eventually stopped Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) for a fourth-round TKO win in front of a jubilant crowd.

The heavyweight headliner won “Fight of the Night” honors, but it was far from the only memorable moment. Several spectacular performances occurred at UFC Fight Night 110, and for more on the numbers behind them, check out 40 post-event facts to come out of the UFC’s latest visit to Oceania.

* * * *


Alexander Volkanovski

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $110,000.

Debuting fighters went 1-2 at the event.

Hunt, Lewis, Dan Hooker and Ben Nguyen earned $50,000 UFC Fight Night 110 fight-night bonuses.

UFC Fight Night 110 drew an announced attendance of 8,649 for a live gate of $830,000.

Betting favorites went 8-3 on the card.

Total fight time for the 11-bout card was 1:47:57.

Main card

Mark Hunt and Derrick Lewis

Hunt has earned all 10 of his career stoppage victories by knockout. That includes seven of his eight wins under the UFC banner.

Hunt’s seven fight-night bonuses for UFC heavyweight bouts are tied with Travis Browne for second most in divisional history behind champ Stipe Miocic (eight).

Lewis had his six-fight winning streak snapped for his first defeat since June 2015.

Lewis has suffered all three of his UFC losses by stoppage due to strikes.

Derek Brunson’s (17-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC) eight UFC victories since 2012 in middleweight competition are tied for most in the division.

Derek Brunson and Daniel Kelly

Brunson has earned six of his eight UFC victories by stoppage.

Brunson’s six first-round stoppage victories in UFC middleweight competition are most in divisional history.

Brunson’s six UFC stoppage victories since 2012 in middleweight competition are tied for most in the division.

Daniel Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has suffered both of his career losses by knockout.

Hooker (14-7 MMA, 4-3 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his seven-fight UFC career.

Dan Hooker and Ross Pearson

Hooker has earned 13 of his 14 career victories by stoppage. That includes all four of his UFC wins.

Ross Pearson (19-14 MMA, 11-11 UFC) suffered his fourth consecutive loss to extend the longest skid of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since March 2016.

Pearson fell to 6-7 (with one no-contest) since he returned to the UFC lightweight division in December 2012.

Ion Cutelaba (13-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) has earned 12 of his 13 career victories by stoppage. He’s finished 10 of those wins by knockout.

Ion Cutelaba

Cutelaba’s 22-second knockout victory is the seventh fastest in UFC light-heavyweight history.

Cutelaba earned his eighth career victory in 30 seconds or less.

Henrique da Silva (12-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Ben Nguyen (17-6 MMA, 4-1 UFC) has earned 14 of his 17 career victories by stoppage.

Ben Nguyen

Nguyen’s 49-second submission marked the second fastest finish in UFC flyweight history behind Fredy Serrano’s 44-second win at UFC Fight Night 79.

Tim Elliott (14-8-1 MMA, 3-6 UFC) fell to 1-2 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in December.

Elliott has suffered both of his UFC stoppage losses by submission.

Alex Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) extended his winning streak to 12 fights. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since May 2013.

Mizuto Hirota (18-8-2 MMA, 1-3-1 UFC) has suffered seven of his eight career losses by decision.

Preliminary card

Vinc Pichel

Vinc Pichel (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) returned from a career-long layoff for his first victory since May 2014.

Pichel has earned eight of his 10 career victories by knockout.

Damien Brown (16-10 MMA, 2-2 UFC) suffered his first knockout loss since Nov. 19, 2011 – a span of 2,030 days (more than five years) and 19 fights.

Dominique Steele (14-9 MMA, 1-4 UFC) suffered his third consecutive loss to extend the longest skid of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since November 2015.

John Moraga

John Moraga (17-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) snapped a three-fight losing skid for his first victory since December 2014.

Moraga’s six victories in UFC flyweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind champ Demetrious Johnson (12) and Joseph Benavidez (10).

Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) suffered the first decision loss of his career.

Zak Ottow

Zak Ottow (15-4 MMA, 2-1 UFC) has earned his past three victories by decision after stopping his opponent in his first 12 career wins.

Kiichi Kunimoto (18-7-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) suffered his first decision loss since March 11, 2012 – a span of 1,917 days (more than five years) and nine fights.

Chanmi Jeon (5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) had her five-fight winning streak snapped for the first defeat of her career.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 110, 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.

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

UFC Fight Night 110 Athlete Outfitting pay: Ross Pearson receives top payout in KO loss

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand – Fighters from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 110 event took home UFC Athlete Outfitting pay, a program that launched after the UFC’s deal with Reebok, totaling $110,000.

UFC Fight Night 110 took place at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. The card aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Despite coming out on the wrong end of one of the year’s most memorable knockouts courtesy of Dan Hooker, Ross Pearson (19-14 MMA, 11-11 UFC) was the payout leader. “The Real Deal” received a maximum non-title payout of $20,000 for his 23rd octagon appearance.

The full UFC Fight Night 110 UFC Athlete Outfitting payouts included:

Mark Hunt: $10,000
def. Derrick Lewis: $10,000

Derek Brunson: $10,000
def. Daniel Kelly: $5,000

Dan Hooker: $5,000
def. Ross Pearson: $20,000

Ion Cutelaba: $2,500
def. Luis Henrique da Silva: $2,500

Ben Nguyen: $2,500
def. Tim Elliott: $5,000

Alex Volkanovski: $2,500
def. Mizuto Hirota: $2,500

Vinc Pichel: $2,500
def. Damien Brown: $2,500

Luke Jumeau: $2,500
def. Dominique Steele: $2,500

John Moraga: $10,000
def. Ashkan Mokhtarian: $2,500

Zak Ottow: $2,500
def. Kiichi Kunimoto: $2,500

J.J. Aldrich: $2,500
def. Chanmi Jeon: $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: $2,472,500
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Program-to-date total: $12,795,500

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of UFC Fight Night 110, spanning Kendrick Lama to AC/DC

Filed under: News, UFC

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 110 in Auckland, New Zealand, went with as their backing tracks.

* * * *

Mark Hunt def. Derrick Lewis via TKO (punches) – Round 4, 3:51

Mark Hunt: “Wickedest Man Alive” by Naughty by Nature

Derrick Lewis: “Umm Hmm” by ABN

Derek Brunson def. Daniel Kelly via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 1:16

Derek Brunson: “Humble” by Kendrick Lamar

Daniel Kelly: “Run to Paradise” by The Choirboys

Dan Hooker def. Ross Pearson via knockout (knee, punch) – Round 2, 3:02

Dan Hooker: “Runnin” by David Dallas

Ross Pearson: “Wonderwall” by Oasis

Ion Cutelaba def. Henrique da Silva via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 0:22

Ion Cutelaba: “Doina Haiducului” by Zdob si Zdub

Henrique da Silva: “Back in Black” by AC/DC

Ben Nguyen def. Tim Elliott via submission (rear-naked choke) – Round 1, 0:49

Ben Nguyen: “Inner Light” by Shocking Lemon

Tim Elliott: “Karate” by Kennedy

Alexander Volkanovski def. Mizuto Hirota via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

Alex Volkanovski: “Game of Thrones” Theme

Mizuto Hirota: “Eat the Rich” by Aerosmith

Vinc Pichel def. Damien Brown via knockout (punches) – Round 1, 3:37

Vinc Pichel: “Bad Company” by Five Finger Death Punch

Damien Brown: “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC

Luke Jumeau def. Dominique Steele via unanimous decision (29-28, 29-28, 29-28)

Luke Jumeau: “Gangsta’s Paradise” by Coolio

Dominique Steele: “DOA” by Jay-Z

John Moraga def. Ashkan Mokhtarian via unanimous decision (30-25, 30-27, 30-27)

John Moraga: “Thuggish Ruggish Bone” by Bone Thugs-n-Harmony

Ashkan Mokhtarian: “Blood on the Leaves” by Kanye West

Zak Ottow def. Kiichi Kunimoto via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Zak Ottow: “Gimme Shelter” by The Rolling Stones

Kiichi Kunimoto: “Immortals” by Fall Out Boy

J.J. Aldrich def. Chanmi Jeon via unanimous decision (30-27, 30-27, 30-27)

J.J. Aldrich: “The Warrior’s Code” by Dropkick Murphys

Chanmi Jeon: “Victory” by Yolanda Adams

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 110 results: John Moraga outclasses newcomer Ashkan Mokhtarian to end skid

Filed under: News, UFC

Former UFC flyweight title challenger John Moraga quickly exposed Ashkan Mokhtarian’s shortcomings in grappling, and spent the rest of the fight reminding the UFC newcomer.

Although Mokhtarian (13-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) managed to avoid a submission, at no point was Moraga (17-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) in danger of losing control when the fight was on the mat, leading him to a unanimous decision.

The flyweight bout was part of today’s UFC Fight Night 110 prelims, which took place at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. It aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

The final scorecards were 30-27 twice and 30-25 for Moraga, who snapped a three-fight losing streak that led him to the matchup with Mokhtarian, an imposing figure with an equal number of submissions and knockouts on his record.

Mokhtarian’s recent record indicated he might try to slug it out with Moraga, but instead, he shot early for a takedown. That’s quickly where the fight went south as Moraga trapped him in a guillotine that looked very close to finishing. Mokhtarian showed off his toughness for the first time, powering his way to his feet. But given the opportunity to pursue a different avenue to victory, he surprisingly returned to the takedown game, and Moraga capitalized in every position, sneaking in elbows and punches before taking mount position. An armbar had Mokhtarian scrambling at the bell.

It took Moraga a lot longer to get the fight to the floor in the second, with Mokhtarian wisely keeping his distance and trying out his kicks for the first time in the bout. Impatient with the delay, Moraga opened up with a hard right hand and flying knee. Mokhtarian reset, only to get taken to the mat on a leg-kick. And from there, it was all Moraga again. By the end of the second, Mokhtarian was again locking his arms to prevent the armbar.

Advised by his corner to go for the TKO over a submission, Moraga took the fight to the mat early by using the cage to execute a suplex. Instead of looking for a limb, he let loose with elbows and punches, seeking capitulation from Mokhtarian. When that didn’t come, Moraga tried again for the armbar and took mount when Mokhtarian defended. Moraga tried one last time to take home a tap, but couldn’t finish a rear-naked choke and wound up on bottom by the final bell.

Mokhtarian’s octagon debut marks the end of a six-fight win streak earned on the international circuit.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 110 results:

For more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

John Moraga enters UFC-Auckland starving for win over newcomer Ashkan Mokhtarian

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – When John Moraga steps in the octagon at UFC Fight Night 110 it will be just shy of 30 months since he last had his hand raised.

That might as well be a lifetime for the former UFC flyweight title challenger. And with three consecutive losses, he could be fighting for his spot on the roster.

Moraga (16-6 MMA, 5-5 UFC), who welcomes newcomer Ashkan Mokhtarian (13-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) to the promotion on Saturday’s FS1-televised card following prelims on UFC Fight Pass at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, almost thought his time was over with the UFC once before. He said he was informed of his release, but then the latest opportunity came up.

“There was concern (I would be released). There was even a point where they called me and told me I was going to be let go,” Moraga told MMAjunkie. “I took the last fight (against Sergio Pettis in January) on short notice. I don’t know if that had anything to do with it. They gave me another chance, and I’m going to make the most of it.”

Although the record shows a three-fight skid, Moraga, No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings, has largely lost to elite opposition. He’s fallen short against the likes of Pettis, Joseph Benavidez, John Dodson, and current pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson. Regardless of the level of competition, dropping multiple fights in a row is never a positive.

Moraga said the only way to break out of the slump is to continue to train hard and put forth a maximum effort in the octagon. He can’t completely brush off the reality of what another loss would do to his career, but Moraga said he expects the pressure to bring out his peak form.

“I can’t dwell on it, but I know what it is,” Moraga said. “At the end of the day, we go out there and fight, and this guy better be ready for a fight. … I haven’t won in three years, so when I don’t win I’m not very easy on myself. I think I do my best when I’m under pressure, when my back’s against the wall.”

After fighting a long line of the top names at 125 pounds, Moraga takes what appears to be a needed step back in competition against a debuting fighter. Despite the fact he’s never fought in the UFC, Moraga said he’s taking Mokhtarian as seriously as any other opponent.

Given what both men have experienced to this point in their careers, “Chicano” said he’s confident in his chances.

“I didn’t know anything about him; there’s not much to research about him,” Moraga said. “He hasn’t fought anybody like me. He hasn’t fight anybody that’s really up there in the world that’s also fought the other guys. I don’t think he knows what to expect, either. Unless you’re really in there with the top guys, and they’re fighting you back and things might not be going your way, we don’t know how he’s going to react or how he’s going to adjust. We’ll find out.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Ashkan Mokhtarian reflects on life struggle from 'bottom of the pit' to UFC debut

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AUCKLAND, New Zealand – For someone who’s seen the bottom of the pit, a caged octagon doesn’t seem all that scary after all.

At 31, Ashkan Mokhtarian enters UFC Fight Night 110 at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, bringing in a solid 13-1 professional record and an intense life story. Before discovering MMA at the somewhat late age of 25, the flyweight led a troubled life that involved substance abuse, homelessness and prison.

Mokhtarian (13-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) meets John Moraga (16-6 MMA, 5-5 UFC) this Saturday in what will be his UFC debut. And while octagon jitters are certainly a real concern for some, this newcomer has gotten through worse to even make it up there.

“I’ve gone through hard times in my life,” Mokhtarian told MMAjunkie. “(I) lived on the street, I’ve been in jail. I’ve been there, done that. So the ride to the top, the top run, that’s nothing. It’s just starting now. Hard times have always been good for me.

“I take that upon my shoulders and the stress and everything like that. I’m pretty good with it.”

As told in a video series run by Fight News Australia, Mokhtarian was born in Iran, but spent the vast majority of his life in Australia. Unlike many of his colleagues, who practiced a specific martial art from an early age and made the migration to cage-fighting, the flyweight got his late start after watching MMA on television.

When he, back then deep into his drug addiction, told his 16-year-old brother that it looked like something he could do, the sibling scoffed. That was the wake-up call he needed to change his life.

Instagram Photo

Now, as he readies to begin the UFC road, Mokhtarian has no problem being labeled MMA’s bad boy if that’s what people prefer. And he’ll be the first to tell you he’s not proud of his past struggles. But he understands he can also inspire others to turn their own lives around.

“I do have a lot of guys (at Australian Top Team) looking up to me,” Mokhtarian said. “The reason why I got into this point is to prove to everyone that it can be done. As you know, I started this sport at 25 years old. So me being 31 years old, I’ve turned my life around.

“Anyone who knows MMA, they know it’s not an easy sport. It’s not something that you can come into – I’ve worked hard, I’ve put everything aside and I’ve dedicated myself.”

Picking up on the fundamentals of MMA at such a relatively late stage of his life wasn’t easy. In fact, it took a lot of “stubborness” and drive to prove it to himself. And while Mokhtarian thinks the “work starts now,” he’s certainly come a long way.

“I was at the bottom of the pit, and I had to change my life,” Mokhtarian said. “I looked to this sport, and I said to myself – dedication, heart, motivation, that’s me. I pushed through it.”

While Mokhtarian has overcome many battles with himself to get to what he considers “the Olympics” of MMA, on Saturday he’ll have a hungry opponent who won’t think about any of this. In fact, looking to break a three-fight skid, one would expect to see a particularly motivated Moraga in action.

As far as that goes, however, the newcomer has a message.

“He deems to be the banger of the flyweights; I’m going to show him how to bang,” Mokhtarian said. “He deems to be the bad boy; there’s a new kid on the block.”

To hear more from Mokhtarian’s on his troubled past, his UFC future and – why not – his face tattoo, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

10 reasons to watch UFC Fight Night 110, with a behemoth of a heavyweight headliner

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The majority of the UFC’s top heavyweight talent doesn’t come all that close to hitting the maximum allowable weight limit for the division. For instance, champion Stipe Miocic checked in at 246 pounds for his latest title defense, which came against former champ Junior Dos Santos, who tipped the scales at 245.

The headliners in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 110 main event, on the other hand, are the exception to that rule. Both Derrick Lewis and Mark Hunt came in at the 265-pound limit.

These are big dudes who do big-dude damage when they step into the octagon.

Combined, Lewis and Hunt have gone the distance three times in their UFC careers, so it’s probably safe to assume only one of these two behemoths is going to be standing at the conclusion of this fight.

In the co-main event, perennial underdog Daniel Kelly looks to extend his unlikely winning streak against Derek Brunson, who hopes to end a two-fight skid.

UFC Fight Night 110 takes place at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. A beastly streak

Since losing to Shawn Jordan in June 2015, Lewis has won six straight fights, which gives him the longest active winning streak in the UFC’s heavyweight division. That streak, and the fact that five of those wins have come via knockout, have Lewis ranked No. 7 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings. At UFC Fight Night 110, he faces No. 11 Hunt (12-11-1 MMA, 7-5-1 UFC), who has put together a 2-1 record with one no-contest during Lewis’ (18-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) winning streak.


This is a fight that could put Lewis in line for a title shot. With the future of former champion Cain Velasquez still up in the air, the division needs a marketable opponent for Miocic’s next title fight, and Lewis fits the bill. As for Hunt, despite his ongoing legal battles with the UFC and company president Dana White, he remains a fan favorite, and a win in his home country would be huge for Hunt and the UFC’s future in the New Zealand/Australia market.


2. Finding the right balance

Kelly, the man seemingly held together with reinforced box tape, is in the midst of a four-fight winning streak, which includes a split-decision victory over former light heavyweight champion Rashad Evans. At UFC Fight Night 110, Kelly (13-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC), an honorable mention in the middleweight rankings, tries to break into the top 15 when he faces No. 12 Brunson (16-5 MMA, 7-3 UFC).


Meanwhile, Brunson looks to avoid the first three-fight skid of his career. Brunson needs to find a balance between the ultra-aggressive style that cost him in a TKO loss against Robert Whittaker and the more passive game plan he used while dropping a close decision to Anderson Silva.


3. A former ‘TUF’ winner feels the heat

Dan Hooker did his best to keep his most recent opponent, Jason Knight, at distance. But Knight had none of that and pushed forward and left Hooker (13-7 MMA, 3-3 UFC) unable to mount any sustained offense. Hooker, who lost to Knight via decision, could have better luck when he moves up to lightweight to fight Ross Pearson (19-13 MMA, 11-10 UFC), who likes to be the aggressor in his fights, albeit at a more controlled pace than Knight.


The stakes are high for Pearson, and that could change the way he approaches the bout. He’s 1-4 in his last five fights and could be fighting for his UFC spot against Hooker, who has alternated wins and losses since joining the UFC in 2014.


4. Short notice, big fight

Tim Elliott washed out of the UFC in 2015 after going 2-4. Shortly after his release, he won the Titan FC flyweight title and defended it twice. Elliott then joined Season 24 of “The Ultimate Fighter,” winning that competition to earn a shot at flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson.

Elliott took Johnson five rounds, dropping a unanimous decision. He followed that loss with a “Fight of the Night” decision victory over Louis Smolka in April. Despite earning a $50,000 bonus, Elliott was disappointed with his performance.


Now ranked No. 15 in the division, Elliott (14-7-1 MMA, 3-5 UFC) steps in on short notice to face Ben Nguyen, an honorable mention in the rankings. Nguyen (17-6 MMA, 3-1 UFC) was originally booked to face No. 2 Joseph Benavidez before an injury knocked the formr title challenger from the event. Nguyen is coming off a decision win over Geane Herrera.


5. Looking for a repeat performance

There was a lot to like about Alexander Volkanovski’s UFC debut. He displayed good clinch work and strong takedowns, but where he stood out was his striking, especially on the ground. Volkanovski earned a second-round TKO win over Yusuke Kasuya in November thanks to those strikes.

It was his sixth straight stoppage and 11th consecutive victory. At UFC Fight Night 110, Volkanovski (14-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) gets to test himself against a fighter with a similar style in former DEEP lightweight champion Mizuto Hirota (18-7-2 MMA, 1-2-1 UFC), who is coming off a win over Cole Miller.


6. Been a long, long time

Vinc Pichel’s last fight was so long ago, his last two opponents are no longer with the UFC.

In his first fight since May 2014, Pichel faces Damien Brown at lightweight. Injuries inside and outside the cage have kept Pichel (9-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) on the shelf. Before his prolonged absence, he was on a two-fight winning streak. Brown (17-9 MMA, 2-1 UFC), who did not debut with the UFC until March 2016, is 2-1 with the promotion and most recently earned a split-decision win over Jon Tuck.



7. Staying alive

In 2013, John Moraga, then ranked in the top five in the flyweight division, fought champion Johnson, who won by submission in the fifth round. Since then, Moraga has gone 3-4, losing his last three fights by decision. Currently ranked No. 12, Moraga is likely more worried about getting back in the win column than he is about his rankings.


Moraga (16-6 MMA, 5-5 UFC) welcomes Ashkan Mokhtarian to the UFC. Mokhtarian (13-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) enters the UFC with 12 finishes in his 13 victories.

8. Tough test in debut

Luke Jumeau’s last two losses came back in 2013 to Li Jingliang and Jake Matthews before they each made the jump to the UFC. Since those submission defeats, Jumeau has run off six straight wins, most recently earning a TKO over former UFC fighter Vik Grujic.

Jumeau spent most of the first round of the Grujic matchup fighting off a rear-naked choke. He ended the contest in the second round after a left to the back of Grujic’s head ended the fight in a somewhat controversial TKO stoppage.

Jumeau has his work cut out for him in his UFC debut, where he meets Dominque Steele. Jumeau (12-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) tends to fight flatfooted while throwing single strikes. Grujic also easily took him to the mat. This welterweight bout could allow Steele (14-8 MMA, 1-3 UFC) to continue to work on his developing striking while going back to his wrestling base if he finds trouble on the feet. Steele is on a two-fight losing skid, most recently dropping a decision to Court McGee.


9. You’re the next contestant

Chan-Mi Jeon is the latest entrant in the when-the-UFC-calls-you-say-yes sweepstakes, agreeing to face strawweight J.J. Aldrich on short notice. The 19-year-old Jeon has very limited MMA experience against opponents you’ve heard of, with the exception being her recent win over 44-year-old Megumi Yabushita, whom she defeated in September.

Against her overmatched competition, Jeon (5-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC) has looked good, racking up four knockout victories. But does she have a chance to upset Aldrich (4-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC)? Sure, but the more likely outcome is that Jeon will learn what she needs to work on to compete in the UFC.

Aldrich enters the fight coming off a decision loss to Juliana Lima.

10. Short notice, bright prospects

If you were paying attention, you’d know that up until May 31, only 10 fights were announced for UFC Fight Night 110. The number increased to 12 that day, when a main-card bout between light heavyweights Ion Cutelaba (12-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) and Henrique da Silva (12-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) and a lightweight prelim matchup of Dong Hyun Kim (14-8 MMA, 1-2 UFC) vs. Thibault Gouti (11-3 MMA, 0-3 UFC) were added to the card.

Despite some late shuffling to get the card finalized and announced, UFC Fight Night 110 could have a major impact on the organization’s future plans in Australia and New Zealand, where UFC executives are bullish on the market.


If the crowd and the local fighters deliver at UFC Fight Night 110, expect the organization to return Oceania a little more often.

For more on UFC Fight Night 110, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie