Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Jose Aldo and UFC 218's other losing fighters?

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(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 218’s winning fighters?)

Saturday’s UFC 218 event at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit delivered plenty of entertainment value. That won’t matter to the five losing fighters from the pay-per-view main card, though.

In the main event, Jose Aldo’s (26-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) aspirations of a third UFC featherweight title reign were crushed by Max Holloway(19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC). Alistair Overeem (43-16 MMA, 8-5 UFC) suffered a brutal knockout loss in the co-headliner. Additionally, Sergio Pettis (16-3 MMA, 7-3 UFC), Justin Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) and Michelle Waterson (14-6 MMA, 2-2 UFC) were all topped by their foes.

After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters 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 218’s losing fighters.

* * * *

Michelle Waterson

Cortney Casey

Should fight: Cortney Casey
Why they should fight: Waterson suffered consecutive losses for the first time in her career when she came out of the wrong end of a unanimous decision against Tecia Torres in an important strawweight bout.

After falling short against now-champ Rose Namajunas in April, Waterson faltered against the streaking Torres, who put herself in solid standing to challenge for the title with the win.

Waterson is one of the bigger names in the 115-pound division, and as a result, she’s going to get tough competition nearly every fight. Casey (7-5 MMA, 3-4 UFC), who lost to Felice Herrig on the UFC 218 preliminary card, is a lower-ranked opponent but never an easy out.

Justin Gaethje

James Vick

Should fight: James Vick
Why they should fight: The remarkable winning streak of Gaethje was finally brought to an end courtesy of former UFC and Bellator lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez in their anticipated fight.

Gaethje suffered a third-round knockout loss to fellow “The Ultimate Fighter 26” coach Alvarez. Gaethje knows his fighting style comes with great risk, and the former WSOF titleholder finally paid the price.

Gaethje’s still a very fresh face to the UFC, and there are countless fights ahead that could bring entertainment. Surging contender Vick (12-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), who’s riding a three-fight winning streak, is clamoring for a top-ranked opponent. Perhaps Gaethje would be a willing adversary.

Sergio Pettis

Ray Borg

Should fight: Ray Borg
Why they should fight: After putting together a solid run that put him in a title-eliminator, Pettis’ run toward the UFC flyweight title experienced a hiccup courtesy of Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo.

Pettis suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Cejudo that will put him back to the drawing board in terms of making a run at the 125-pound belt. At 24 he’s still got plenty of time to progress, and there’s no doubt Pettis will go right back to work.

Given his character, Pettis will search for the biggest challenge available to help him rebound. Fighting another young flyweight in Borg (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC), who is coming off a title-fight loss to champ Demetrious Johnson at UFC 216 in October, would provide him with an opportunity to make a statement.

Alistair Overeem

Cain Velasquez

Should fight: Cain Velasquez
Why they should fight: Overeem’s latest climb to the UFC heavyweight title suffered a critical blow courtesy of a violent Francis Ngannou knockout, and now it’s difficult to determine where “The Reem” goes from here.

Overeem is still incredibly dangerous and skilled, but the first-round loss to Ngannou is a tough setback for the former Strikeforce champ. Overeem has said the UFC belt is the one thing missing from his mantel, but after a failed title shot against now-champ Stipe Miocic at UFC 203 in September 2016, then the loss to Ngannou three fights later, he’s in a tough spot.

If Overeem has the fortitude to make another run at the belt, he could certainly do that within a few fights. It would be understandable if he weren’t up for it more than 20 years after his debut, but assuming he is, a matchup with ex-champ Velasquez (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC), who recently said he’s aiming for a return next year, could get him right back on track.

Jose Aldo

Should fight: Anthony Pettis
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Aldo should move up to lightweight to fight Pettis (20-7 MMA, 7-6) next.

For complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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UFC President Dana White: Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou winner gets next shot at champ Stipe Miocic

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LAS VEGAS – Although most assumed it as a title eliminator, UFC President Dana White has officially gone on record and named UFC 218’s co-headliner between Alistair Overeem and Francis Ngannou as a No. 1 contender fight in the heavyweight division.

Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) and Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) meet tonight at UFC 218, which takes place at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit, with a main card on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass. With less than 24 hours until they step in the octagon, the stakes have been officially raised.

White said whoever emerges from the anticipated matchup will next step in the octagon with reigning heavyweight titleholder Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC).

“Whoever wins is going to fight Stipe,” White told reporters during a media scrum, which MMAjunkie attended, following tonight’s The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale event in Las Vegas.

There’s been some questions about Miocic’s status over the past few months after he revealed he was seeking a better contract with the promotion. Miocic last competed at UFC 211 in May, where he earned his second consecutive title defense with a first-round knockout of Junior Dos Santos.

Although it’s been a longer-than-usual layoff for Miocic, White said everything has been sorted with his champion and he will be ready to fight the Overeem vs. Ngannou winner, likely sooner than later.

“We get (expletive) done,” White said. “We always figure it out. We’re in a good place.”

If Ngannou wins the fight, there would be little resistance to him getting a title shot considering he would be riding a 10-fight winning streak, including six straight under the UFC banner. If Overeem comes out on top, though, that could be slightly more problematic.

Miocic defeated Overeem by first-round knockout at UFC 203 in September 2016, and although “The Reem” came close to winning the fight when he dropped the champ, he couldn’t get the job done. The promotion would be running the fight back likely less than 18 months after the initial meeting, but White doesn’t appear to have any issues with that possibility.

Former two time UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) is still lingering in the weight class, but he hasn’t fought since July 2016 and has been dealing with consistent injury issues for the better part of the past five years.

When healthy, Velasquez has proven to be as good as any heavyweight in MMA history. White said he’s not currently part of the conversation to fight Miocic, though, and even once Velasquez is cleared for competition, the UFC boss expects he will take another fight before moving into a title bout.

“Cain? When’s the last time you saw Cain fight?” White said. “Cain hasn’t fought in forever. Cain’s going to have to come back and fight somebody to even think about that spot. I’m sure Cain doesn’t want to come back and jump right in the fire. He’s been out for a while.”

For more on UFC 218, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Twitter Mailbag: Where's the hype for UFC 217?

Is UFC 217 getting the promotional push the card deserves? Say we end up with a new UFC middleweight champ, then what? And just how far-fetched is it to think that Bellator could one day become the second Scott Coker-led venture to be acquired by the UFC?

All that and more in this week’s Twitter Mailbag. To ask a question of your own, tweet to @BenFowlkesMMA.

* * * *

Outside of the Michael Bisping and Georges St-Pierre Public Shoving Tour 2017, I haven’t seen a ton of promotion for the event in general, which surprises me.

This ought to be a big event for the UFC. The return of GSP at Madison Square Garden? Fighting to become a two-division champ? And on the same card as two other title fights, one of which in (Cody Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw) may be the best pure talent matchup that we’ll see all year? That should feel like a huge deal. A little over a week out, the hype should be inescapable.

I don’t know about you, but I can’t say I feel that. If you’re in the MMA bubble and reading all the usual websites, sure, you see stories and videos about the two headliners. You even see some about the other two title fights if you’re really paying attention.

As for a hard push outside the bubble, I don’t see it. You could hardly draw breath on this planet without knowing about Floyd Mayweather vs. Conor McGregor weeks before it happened. But the former “king of pay-per-view” returns to the sport he dominated after four years away, and it almost feels like the UFC can’t be bothered to get out there and make a case for our money.

Is it complacency? Entitlement? Have the powers that be concluded that all the people who care to know about this event already do? Are they waiting for fight week to power up the big spotlight? I don’t know. But if I were counting on pocketing a piece of that pay-per-view, it might concern me just a little bit. If I were one of the champions getting almost ignored outside the main event, it might even piss me off.

Hahahahahahaha, no. Have you seen how much trouble the UFC has keeping regular old fight cards together? Injuries and illnesses and weigh-in disasters and day-of withdrawals. A one-night tournament is like packing all those usual troubles into a phone booth and then also adding a hive of angry bees. Nobody down at UFC headquarters wants that stress.

Whoa there. Let’s take this one step at a time. If St-Pierre beats Bisping, then he’s the UFC middleweight champ, and with a pack of hungry contenders waiting in line to get at him. How deeply unsatisfying would it be for him to decide, you know what, he’s actually all done being middleweight champ now?

I know it’s what some people (including Luke Rockhold) expect, but it would also make this whole thing feel like a pointless waste of time. So, what, we’re supposed to then turn around and get excited about seeing him face Tyron Woodley? Not bloody likely.

But then there’s the Irish elephant in the room. You can’t pay any sort of attention to how the UFC does business in 2017 and not at least consider the possibility of a GSP vs. Conor McGregor fight at some point down the road. It’s silly and sort of illogical, but when you have two pay-per-view stars within 30 pounds of each other, you don’t have to be a UFC accountant to see the potential value in throwing them in a cage together.

But what would they fight over, exactly? Bragging rights? The UFC equivalent of “The Money Belt”? At what point would fans rebel against this just-to-get-into-your-wallet matchmaking? And even if that point never comes, fights like that don’t lead anywhere. It’s just a one-off cash grab that leaves you lost and searching for the next payday.

For St-Pierre, the problem for the moment is Bisping. In a lot of ways, his future options open up more with a loss. Because if he wins and doesn’t defend the belt next, it’s going to get harder to convince us that he came back to do anything that matters.

Must I restrict myself to UFC history? Because I’m enough of a mark for the late-2000s era of MMA to still feel like Randy Couture vs. Fedor Emelianenko is the one that got away. Then again, I also still remember the year of the superfight that never was, so GSP vs. Anderson Silva feels like a lingering promise unfulfilled.

But if I can really do anything, and just treat the entire history of the UFC roster like my personal video game? Give me Jon Jones vs. (sea-level) Cain Velasquez. And when Velasquez pulls out of the fight injured, go ahead and sub in pre-diverticulitis Brock Lesnar.

For me, almost as important as who the documentary is on is who makes it and why. Is it a vanity project to cater to some fighter’s ego? Is it a glorified commercial produced by his management? Or is it a truly honest and independent effort made by a real filmmaker?

If someone with that kind of focus and access and determination were to follow Jon Jones around during these tumultuous years, I’d be the first in line when the movie came out.

Michael Page is a whole lot of fun to watch, but his focus in MMA and now boxing seems to be finding opponents against whom he can be at his most fun. That makes for great highlights, and I’ll watch the GIFs of the finishes along with everyone else, but don’t expect me to act like it means anything.

As long as the UFC is in court on antitrust claims, purchasing its most significant competitor would probably be a bad idea. Which is not to say that it could never, ever happen. The NFL got around antitrust laws by working with a players association, and the current lawsuit against the UFC has very similar goals. You could even argue that a fighters association becomes more workable with one major organization than with two.

Would that result in a better product for fans and/or better working conditions for fighters? Maybe. But if you’re the UFC right now, you might feel like you can sit back and wait Bellator out and see how long its parent company Viacom wants to keep plugging away at the maddening business of MMA.

A new spine. Can I borrow yours?

Him and plenty of others, but how are you going to stop him if he wants to keep at it? Fortunately, Artem Lobov seems to be at least considering the possibility of retirement, or so he says when he’s not considering a boxing match with He Who Shall Not Be Named.

A lot of times, these retirements are like break-ups. Mentioning the possibility out loud is the first step, but it usually doesn’t mean you’re there yet. Also like break-ups, sometimes it takes a few tries to really make it stick.

Ben Fowlkes is MMAjunkie and USA TODAY’s MMA columnist. Follow him on Twitter at @BenFowlkesMMA. Twitter Mailbag appears every Thursday on MMAjunkie.

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Today in MMA History: Cain Velasquez dethrones Brock Lesnar, who faces the beginning of the end

UFC 212On a crisp October evening in Anaheim, Calif., the UFC heavyweight champion marched into a packed arena, shoved a police officer out of his way, and then promptly got his behind handed to him by a challenger who shrugged off a 20-pound weight difference to give him the most lopsided beating of his young career.

It was frantic. It was messy. It took just a shade over four minutes.

When it was over, Cain Velasquez was the new UFC heavyweight champion. Brock Lesnar was the big, bloody guy stumbling down the octagon steps with his face split open, his Viking beard stained crimson, staring in numb silence at the former pro wrestling colleague who stood there waiting for him.

Whether anybody knew it or not at the time, this was the beginning of something. Depending on your perspective, that something might have been an ending.

The date was October 23, 2010. For the main event of UFC 121, Zuffa executives had put together the biggest fight possible between the sport’s two top heavyweights. One was a stoic buzzsaw of a man who’d never been beaten. The other was a superstar pro wrestler who had jumped straight into the highest level of a new sport and now made headlines with his every move.

But just a year earlier all that was in jeopardy. After debuting in the UFC with a submission loss to Frank Mir in 2008, Lesnar had rebounded to win the UFC heavyweight title in just his fourth pro fight, beating a severely undersized Randy Couture at UFC 91.

That event would reportedly top 1 million pay-per-view buys, effectively minting Lesnar as the UFC’s newest box office star just as he laid claim to the belt that traditionally came with the title “baddest man on the planet.” Lesnar would defend it again at another million-buy event the following summer, getting his revenge on Mir at UFC 100.

But just as the UFC was angling for a showdown between Lesnar and Shane Carwin, the division’s other terrifying behemoth, illness struck the champion. While on a hunting trip in the Canadian wilderness, Lesnar had to be rushed to a nearby hospital (which he would later claim was so thoroughly incapable of treating him that it nearly caused his death at the hands of the Canadian healthcare system). The culprit was diverticulitis, a painful disorder that would eventually require surgery to remove a foot of Lesnar’s intestine.

By the summer of 2010, however, Lesnar appeared well enough to return to competition. He finally met Carwin, who had become the interim heavyweight champion, that July. After spending most of the first round being beaten to a bloody pulp, Lesnar survived to submit an exhausted Carwin early in the second.

Brock Lesnar and Cain Velasquez before UFC 121.

With that, his comeback story seemed complete. Lesnar was officially the man once again. When the UFC booked him to fight Velasquez some three months later, the champ seemed to be feeling it, too.

Lesnar was never short on confidence, but he seemed to have some extra swagger when he showed up in Southern California that fall. At the pre-fight press conference inside the dizzying walls of the Walt Disney Concert Hall in downtown Los Angeles, the newly bearded Lesnar just chomped his gum and shook his head when asked whether Velasquez was his most dangerous challenger to date.

“I think they’re all the same,” Lesnar said.

The fans ate it up.

Velasquez, meanwhile, was the quiet favorite among many of his peers, even if he was the underdog with the bookmakers. Sure, he’d give up plenty of size against Lesnar, but he also had speed and technique and cardio. He was the rare heavyweight whose motor never seemed to slow, and it became such an omnipresent topic of conversation surrounding his fights that Lesnar seemed already sick of it a few days before the fight.

“That’s the only thing I ever hear about, is Cain Velasquez’s conditioning,” the champion complained.

But Velasquez had power, too. He’d punched his ticket to the title fight with a first-round knockout of former PRIDE heavyweight champion Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira some eight months prior. Before that, he ran through Ben Rothwell in a performance that proved just how effective his method of constant assault could be against a bigger, slower fighter.

At the weigh-ins the day before his big title shot, a grimly resolute Velasquez promised a war. When asked how he saw the fight going down, Lesnar was slightly more assertive.

“Brock Lesnar getting his hand raised,” he said. “That’s exactly how it’s going to go.”

The fight card slated for the Honda Center that night brought a fair amount of firepower in support of the main event.

The undercard included Tito Ortiz dropping a decision to former protege Matt Hamill, who Ortiz believed would be easier to knock out because his deafness had given him “a soft head.” In a welterweight bout, Diego Sanchez and Paulo Thiago earned “Fight of the Night” honors for a three-round battle that ended in a win on the scorecards for Sanchez. The co-main event saw Jake Shields make an unimpressive, but still barely victorious UFC debut against Martin Kampmann after vacating the Strikeforce middleweight title earlier that year.

But it was all preamble to the heavyweight title clash in the top spot.

Velasquez entered first, with a Mexican flag wrapped around his fist. Lesnar strolled out second, brushing aside a cop on his security detail as UFC commentator Joe Rogan chuckled with delight.

“A thousand years ago the only way you saw a guy like this was if he showed up on your shore in a boat,” Rogan told his broadcast partner Mike Goldberg. “And then you ran.”

As the two fighters faced off in the center of the cage, the size difference was impossible to ignore. Lesnar stood a couple inches taller, but his hulking mass seemed to loom over Velasquez. The challenger’s physique did little to indicate his tremendous physical conditioning. In a bodybuilding contest, it was Lesnar in a landslide.

But in a cage fight? That was something different, which quickly became apparent.

Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar at UFC 121.

Referee Herb Dean gave the signal to fight. Lesnar immediately turned and walked off to one side, as if he’d changed his mind and was looking for the door. Then he turned abruptly and bull rushed Velasquez, driving him backward but failing to take him down in the process.

Lesnar kept digging for the underhooks. He clinched up and threw a series of frenetic knees, at one point leaping at Velasquez, and in the process showing off the spry athleticism that you could almost forget such a big man could possibly possess. When he tried again for the takedown moments later, he got it.

But instead of allowing himself to be smothered by Lesnar’s bulk, Velasquez pushed off on the champion’s hips and scrambled back to his feet. Lesnar worked even harder to haul Velasquez down a second time, but that one was even more short-lived. When he had to stand in the pocket and trade punches with the swift challenger, his long arms seemed to slide past Velasquez’s head just as the counters came thumping back in return.

And then something seemed to shift. Lesnar’s punches slowed. Velasquez slipped under and got a takedown of his own off a single-leg. As Lesnar struggled to get up from his knees, Velasquez chipped away at him with short, quick blows. By the time he made it back to his feet, the champion’s face was smeared with blood from a cut under his left eye. Even worse, now he had his back against the fence, and it was Velasquez on offense.

Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar at UFC 121. (Associated Press)

The first sign of real trouble came when Lesnar went lunging for a desperation takedown and then tumbled all the way across the cage as Velasquez shrugged him off. By the time he regained his balance Velasquez was on him, swarming Lesnar with a combination that convinced him to duck his head just in time to catch a hard knee from Velasquez directly to the face. A clearly wounded Lesnar jogged off to one side and caught a hard right hand behind the ear that put him down.

Then it was panic mode. The first round of the Carwin fight all over again, only this time his pursuer was measured and patient. Velasquez didn’t sprint blindly toward a finish. Instead, he hunted calmly for it, peppering Lesnar with short punches and elbows while he lay on his back, then shrugging off the takedown attempt and stinging him with a sharp right once Lesnar got back to his feet.

Bloodied and wincing in pain as he covered up and rolled from one side to the next, trying to escape the storm, Lesnar couldn’t stop the onslaught. With 48 seconds left in the first round, Dean stepped in to shove Velasquez off. No more. That was plenty.

Velasquez walked to the center of the cage, looking up to the sky with his hands first in the air, then resting almost in disbelief on his own head. He even smiled through his Mexican flag mouthpiece, a rare enough occurrence that it had to mean something special.

Lesnar stood up and wavered from one foot to the other as a cutman worked on the gash below his eye. Blood from the wound decorated his enormous shoulder as he lowered himself onto his stool. In the post-fight interview, Rogan would offer his confident opinion that Lesnar would come back stronger as a result of the loss.

Cain Velasquez and Brock Lesnar at UFC 121. (Associated Press)

“That’s what a champion does, right?” Lesnar responded.

As he exited the cage, a fellow pro wrestling star was waiting. Mark Calaway, better known as “The Undertaker” of  WWE fame, was halfway into an interview with Ariel Helwani when Lesnar passed him on the way back to the locker room.

“You want to do it?” Calaway asked.

Lesnar just looked at him and kept walking. Whatever “it” was, he seemed uninterested for the moment. As Lesnar would later explain, the timing could have been better.

“Cain put me on a street that I didn’t know the name of, so I was looking for my way home,” Lesnar said.

In a way, maybe he found it. Lesnar would never again hold a UFC title. After being further hampered by diverticulitis he would only return to the UFC a little over a year later, suffering a quick TKO loss to Alistair Overeem at UFC 141. Then it was back to pro wrestling for him, a stint interrupted only by a brief return to the UFC that lasted all of one fight, which was enough for Lesnar to fail two drug tests and get slapped with a suspension after having his win over Mark Hunt at UFC 200 overturned.

Cain Velasquez after winning at UFC 121. (Associated Press)

While the fight signaled the beginning of the end for Lesnar, it seemed like only the beginning for Velasquez. But when he showed up for his first defense in the very same building the next fall, he was a shadow of his usual self. Hampered by injuries, he was reluctant to pull out of a title fight with Junior Dos Santos that was set to be the only fight on the UFC’s maiden FOX network broadcast.

The fight lasted 64 seconds, ending with Velasquez face-down on the mat, all in front of a network TV audience of nearly nine million people.

He’d get the title back the very next year. He would even take the best two out of three against Dos Santos. But a poor performance at high elevation against Fabricio Werdum in 2015 took the title from Velasquez, and injuries have hampered him ever since.

Victories seemed to come easy when he was healthy. But then? It was like Lesnar himself said at the at press conference just a few days before Velasquez sent him on a downward spiral.

Especially in a sport like MMA, Lesnar said, “if you don’t have your health, you’re not fighting.”

What he couldn’t have known then was just how fleeting good health would be, both for himself and the man waiting on the other side of the podium.

“Today in MMA History” is an MMAjunkie series created in association with MMA History Today, the social media outlet dedicated to reliving “a daily journey through our sport’s history.”

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Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Tony Ferguson, Demetrious Johnson and UFC 216's other winners?

(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What’s next for UFC 216’s losing fighters?)

UFC 216 took place on Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a pay-per-view main card that saw every winner beat her or his opponent by some form of submission.

The two championship fight finishes were especially impressive, with Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) winning the interim lightweight title against Kevin Lee (16-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) in the main event while Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) produced more excellence with his historic flyweight title defense against Ray Borg (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC) in the co-headliner.

Fabricio Werdum (22-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC) and Mara Romero Borella (12-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) forced their opponent so tap out in short order, picking up wins early in the first round. The main card also featured one fight that didn’t produce a winner, as Evan Dunham and Beneil Dariush fought to a draw.

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 216’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Mara Romero Borella

Andrea LeeShould fight: Andrea Lee
Why they should fight: Just the second women’s flyweight fight in UFC history went in the favor of Romero Borella, who earned a main card victory over fellow promotional newcomer Kalindra Faria.

Romero Borella made her UFC debut on less than a week’s notice and managed to top a seasoned veteran in Faria by first-round submission, immediately putting her on the radar in the budding 125-pound division.

She will likely have to wait a little while to get another fight as the UFC rolls out the new weight class with the ongoing season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which will crown the inaugural women’s flyweight champion.

Romero Borella could fight anyone who doesn’t make it to the finals of that show, but giving her a fight with Lee (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who she stepped in for at the event, in the first quarter of 2018 would also be an option that would work.

Fabricio Werdum

Should fight: Cain Velasquez
Why they should fight: Former UFC heavyweight champion Werdum bounced back from his loss to Alistair Overeem over the summer with a crucial first-round submission of outmatched last-minute replacement Walt Harris.

Had he lost, Werdum would be 1-3 in his past four octagon appearances. Instead, he’s 2-2 and can still make the argument he’s one of the top contenders in the heavyweight division.

Although Werdum seems to believe the win over Harris puts him at the top of the line to rematch current UFC champ Stipe Miocic, that’s not likely to be the case. He can strengthen his argument with another win against a contender, and if Velasquez (13-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) can get healthy, it’s the fight to make.

Werdum won the UFC title from Velasquez by submission at UFC 188 in June 2015. The promotion has attempted to set up a rematch several times since, but for one reason or another it hasn’t happened. Velasquez recently said he’s seeking a return to action in early 2018, and that would be a perfect timeframe for Werdum’s return.

Demetrious Johnson

Sergio Pettis

Should fight: Winner of Henry Cejudo vs. Sergio Pettis at UFC 218
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Johnson should fight the winner of the UFC 218 bout between Cejudo (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) and Pettis (16-2 MMA, 7-2 UFC) next for his 12th consecutive title defense.

Tony Ferguson

Should fight: Conor McGregor
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Ferguson should meet McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) next in a lightweight title unification bout.

For complete coverage of UFC 216, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Cain Velasquez praises Stipe Miocic's run as UFC heavyweight champ, expects 2018 return

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

EDMONTON – Former UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez has been out of competition for more than a year, and while his return is starting to loom, he’s reluctant to put an exact date on when he’ll be able to fight again.

The past several years of Velasquez’s (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) career have been nothing short of challenging. Injuries have restricted him to competing just twice in a nearly four-year stretch, with his most recent bout being a first-round TKO of Travis Browne at UFC 200 in July 2016.

Once touted as the man who could rule the heavyweight division for as long as he desired, Velasquez, 35, hasn’t been able to stay consistently healthy. He wants to make sure there’s no doubt when he returns to the octagon, even if it requires putting it off until next year.

“When I come back I want to make sure I’m 100 percent healthy,” Velasquez told MMAjunkie at a Bud Lite Living Rooms event today in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. “I owe it to the fans, and I owe it to me. I can’t mess around anymore. I have to be ready. … I’m about 80 percent. I would say sometime next year I’ll be ready to fight.”

In the meantime, Velasquez, No. 4 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, said he and his wife are expecting their second child in November. He’s enjoying spending his time with family, but he’s also been keeping an eye on happenings in the heavyweight division.

During Velasquez’s absence, current champ Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) has evolved into arguably the most dominant titleholder in divisional history. Miocic has knocked out his past four opponents inside the first round, making quick work of the likes of Junior Dos Santos, Alistair Overeem, Fabricio Werdum, and more.

“The way that he’s gone out there and won (is) definitely impressive,” Velasquez said. “He looks great out there. Good for him.”

Although Velasquez has been impressed with Miocic’s performances, he’s not going to demand a title upon his return. Velasquez would certainly take the fight if offered but said if the UFC brass feels the need to see him prove he’s healthy, he’s understanding of that as well.

“I think whoever the UFC wants to put in front of me (I’ll fight),” Velasquez said. “I’m all for taking those big challenges. Whoever they want to put in front of me, that’s how I’ve always been.”

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

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

Jon Jones and a history of 2-time UFC champions

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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, UFC

Claiming a UFC championship belt is one of the most difficult accomplishments in MMA. Doing it twice, however, is almost otherworldly.

Jon Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC) became the latest to join the short-list of fighters to win a UFC title in the same weight class on two different occasions this past Saturday when he defeated Daniel Cormier (19-2 MMA, 8-2 UFC) by third-round knockout to reclaim the light heavyweight belt in the UFC 214 headliner.

“Bones” became the eighth fighter in UFC history to reign over a division on two occasions, and if his post-fight comments are any indication, the second run is going to be ever better than the first, which was one of the most dominant ever.

Here’s a rundown of the group Jones joined with his third-round knockout of Cormier at UFC 214, which took place at Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., with a main card on pay-per-view following prelims on FXX and UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Randy Couture (heavyweight and light heavyweight)

Randy Couture

Not only was Couture (19-11 MMA, 16-8 UFC) the first to become a two time UFC champion, but he did it twice in both the heavyweight and light heavyweight divisions. “The Natural” first won heavyweight gold at UFC Japan in December 1997. His second reign began at UFC 28 in November 2000. Years later, Couture dropped to 205 pounds where he had title reigns in September 2003 and August 2004. Then he won the heavyweight title again in 2007, making him a three-time heavyweight champ – though one whose first ride with that belt was vacated.

Tim Sylvia (heavyweight)

Sylvia (31-10 MMA, 10-4 UFC) first became UFC heavyweight champion in February 2003. A failed drug test caused him to be stripped of the gold. However, he came back to win the belt more than three years later before he dropped it to Couture at UFC 68 in March 2007.

Cain Velasquez (heavyweight)

Cain Velasquez

The first run of Velasquez (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) as UFC champ came to an abrupt end when he was knocked out by Junior dos Santos in just 64 seconds at the inaugural UFC on FOX event in November 2011. He stormed back to take the belt in the rematch when he battered Dos Santos at UFC 155 in December 2012 to set up his second run as champion.

Jon Jones (light heavyweight)

One can only wonder what Jones’ career would currently look like had he not been stripped of the title following a run eight consecutive title defenses due to a series of outside-the-cage indiscretions. The road back to a second shot at UFC gold was tumultuous, but he made the most of it by beating his biggest rival in Cormier to claim the strap.

Matt Hughes (welterweight)

Matt Hughes

Hughes (45-9 MMA, 18-7 UFC) first became UFC welterweight champion in May 2001 when he took the belt from Carlos Newton at UFC 31 in one of the closest instances of a double knockout in UFC history. He defended five consecutive times before losing it to B.J. Penn. However, when Penn was stripped of the title for leaving the organization, Hughes immediately snatched it back up at UFC 46 in January 2004.

Georges St-Pierre (welterweight)

Georges St-Pierre

The heir to Hughes’ welterweight throne was St-Pierre (25-2 MMA, 19-2 UFC), who forced a changing of the guard at 170 pounds when he beat Hughes at UFC 65 in November 2006. “Rush” would drop the gold to Matt Serra at UFC 69 in April 2007 in one of the biggest upsets in UFC history. The French-Canadian proved he was superior in the rematch, though, taking the belt back from Serra at UFC 83 in April 2008.

Jose Aldo (featherweight)

Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) is the only fighter on this list who had two different UFC title reigns without ever actually winning the belt inside the octagon. He first run at 145-pound champ came when he was promoted from WEC titleholder in November 2010, and his second reign six years later was the result of being promoted from interim champion after Conor McGregor was stripped.

Dominick Cruz (bantamweight)

Similar to Aldo above, Cruz’s (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) first stint as UFC champion stemmed from him being promoted from a WEC titleholder when the division was folded into the UFC late 2010. “The Dominator” had his time as champion completely derailed due to a long series of injuries, and he was forced to finally vacate in January 2014. One of the most spectacular comeback stories in the sport’s history saw him rally from those dark times and reclaim the title with a victory over T.J. Dillashaw in January 2016.

For more on UFC 214, 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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Filed under: Blue Corner, Featured Videos, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Mark Hunt and UFC Fight Night 110's other winners?

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Filed under: Featured, Featured Videos, News, UFC, Videos

The UFC made its second stop in New Zealand on Saturday with UFC Fight Night 110, which took place at Spark Arena in Auckland. The event, which aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, saw five of six main-card fights end in a stoppage.

In the main event, heavyweight veteran Mark Hunt (13-11-1 MMA, 8-5-1 UFC) dazzled once again when he stopped Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) by fourth-round TKO in a “Fight of the Night” affair.

Derek Brunson (17-5 MMA, 8-3 UFC), Dan Hooker (14-7 MMA, 4-3 UFC), Ion Cutelaba (13-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC), Ben Nguyen (17-6 MMA, 4-1 UFC) all put their opponents away in memorable fashion, which left Alex Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) as the only main-card fighter who needed the judges to get his hand raised.

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 110’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Alex Volkanovski

Chas Skelly

Should fight: Chas Skelly
Why they should fight: Volkanovski has burst onto the UFC scene with consecutive wins, the latest a unanimous-decision triumph over veteran Mizuto Hirota.

A winner in 15 of his 16 pro fights, Volkanovski has displayed some solid skills in his two UFC outings, but how that will play out against a higher level of competition remains to be seen.

Volkanovski is still an unknown to many fans and won’t get a truly big fight until he establishes himself more in the featherweight division. Skelly (17-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) is not ranked in the weight class, but he has the experience and name value to help get Volkanovski there.

Ben Nguyen

Jussier Formiga

Should fight: Jussier Formiga
Why they should fight: Nguyen pulled off his biggest UFC victory to date when he shocked former flyweight title challenger Tim Elliott by submission in just 49 seconds.

Nguyen was originally scheduled to fight Joseph Benavidez, but when an injury occurred, a game Elliott stepped in on short notice. He came flying out of the gate, but Nguyen was ready for it and locked up the quick rear-naked choke for his fourth victory in five UFC appearances.

The fact Nguyen has been booked against the likes of Elliott and Benavidez prove UFC matchmakers consider him one of the best prospects on the 125-pound roster. He validated that status with the big win, which should put him in line for another marquee fight.

It’s one thing to find a way to submit Elliott, but repeating the feat against a grappling ace such as Formiga (19-5 MMA, 5-4 UFC) would be an entirely different task. Along with Nguyen, the Brazilian is one of few ranked 125-pounders who has yet to share the octagon with champion and pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson. Both men want their shot, and the winner of a potential fight would help build a legitimate claim to making it happen.

Ion Cutelaba

Josh Stansbury

Should fight: Winner of Josh Stansbury vs. Jeremy Kimball at UFC Fight Night 112
Why they should fight: The once-dead UFC light-heavyweight division has begun to thrive again in recent months, and Cutelaba added himself to the excitement when he scored a 22-second knockout victory over Henrique da Silva.

Cutelaba has split results over his four-fight UFC career, but at just 23, there’s a lot to like about “The Hulk.” His performance against da Silva was further evidence of why. There’s still room for development, but in each fight, the Moldovan fighter has shown growth.

The 205-pound weight class is unquestionably top-heavy, which is both a positive and a negative for a fighter such as Cutelaba. He would have to do something dramatic to be thrown in the octagon against one of the division’s biggest names, so he will continue to be pitted against fighters positioned in a similar spot.

Whoever wins the scheduled bout between Stansbury (8-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) and Kimball (14-6 MMA, 0-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 112 on June 25 would be coming off his first UFC win and would be a suitable next opponent for Cutelaba.

Dan Hooker

David Teymur

Should fight: David Teymur
Why they should fight: Hooker’s move up to the lightweight division after spending his first six UFC fights at featherweight proved wise when he defeated longtime UFC vet Ross Pearson by second-round knockout.

Hooker has shown flashes of brilliance with some spectacular UFC wins, and the crushing finish of Pearson was another example. He’s failed to be consistent, though, while alternating wins and losses over his seven-fight tenure with the organization. Pearson is by far the biggest win of his career, but Hooker’s main focus should be finding a wave of momentum.

It remains to be seen if the jump to 155 pounds will mark a turning point for Hooker, but Pearson has been slumping, and a win over “The Real Deal” isn’t quite as significant as years prior. Nevertheless, Hooker put himself in a spot to fight another fan-friendly name in his new division. Teymur (6-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who is coming off an impressive “Fight of the Night” win over Lando Vannata at UFC 209 in March, is just that.

Derek Brunson

Chris Weidman

Should fight: Winner of Chris Weidman vs. Kelvin Gastelum at UFC on FOX 25
Why they should fight: After a two-fight losing skid that resulted from poor fight IQ and lousy judging, Brunson got back on track when he snapped the surprising winning streak of Daniel Kelly with a thunderous first-round knockout victory.

Around this time in 2016, Brunson was riding a five-fight winning streak and considered a rising threat in the 185-pound division. A first-round knockout loss to Robert Whittaker and controversial decision defeat to Anderson Silva derailed his momentum, but “The One” proved that was only a bump in the road with the 76-second destruction of Kelly.

Brunson has been booked in several notable fights over the past few years, and after beating Kelly, there’s no reason that should change. The winner of July’s UFC on FOX 25 headliner between Weidman (13-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) and Gastelum (14-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) would be coming off a high and represent a step up in competition from Kelly.

Beating a former champion in Weidman would be a massive statement for Bruson, and taking out a rising star in Gastelum would also be significant. There’s upside regardless of who wins – more so than a matchup with Antonio Carlos Junior, whom Brunson specifically called out post-fight.

Mark Hunt

Should fight: Cain Velasquez
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Hunt should fight former UFC champ Velasquez (14-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC) next.

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

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