Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura targeted for UFC Fight Night 126 in February

A heavyweight showdown is on the horizon in Texas.

The UFC is targeting Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura for UFC Fight Night 126, two people with knowledge of the situation told MMAjunkie. They requested anonymity because an announcement has yet to be made.

UFC Fight Night 126 takes place Feb. 18 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. It will air on FS1 following prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Both Lewis  (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC) and Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) will aim to rebound from losses. In the case of Lewis, he’ll be looking to show he’s 100 percent healthy.

Lewis, No. 12 in the current USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, was supposed to fight title contender Fabricio Werdum in October at UFC 216. Lewis, however, withdrew on the day of the fight because of issues with his previously injured back.

Lewis last fought in June, losing the “Fight of the Night” to Mark Hunt via TKO at UFC Fight Night 110. The loss snapped a six-fight winning streak for Lewis, who said immediately afterward he would retire before changing his mind.

Tybura, meanwhile, will be coming off a five-round unanimous-decision loss to Werdum in the UFC Fight Night 121 headliner earlier this month. That snapped Tybura’s three-fight winning streak.

With the addition, the UFC Fight Night 126 lineup includes:

  • Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Actually, Fabricio Werdum totally (but only briefly) considered not fighting at UFC 216

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

LAS VEGAS – Surely Fabricio Werdum wanted to fight at UFC 216. Surely he’d take a last-minute opponent change – especially one who seemed easier on paper, right?

Not exactly, the former UFC heavyweight champion said.

Just three hours before Saturday’s fight at UFC 216, where Werdum (22-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC) was slated to meet fellow contender Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC), the bout was scrapped due to Lewis’ back injury.

Then Werdum’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, told the ex-champ that another opponent was available: the less-heralded Walt Harris (9-6 MMA, 2-5 UFC), who was slated to fight Mark Godbeer (12-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) on the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. Just three hours before his fight was slated to air on pay-per-view from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Werdum had a decision to make, and he had to make it quickly.

“It was such a hard decision,” said Werdum, who’ No. 3 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings. ” … Imagine that you prepare your body for everything, your strategy, for Derrick Lewis for three months. And then the three hours change everything. It’s such a hard decision, man.”

His initial reaction? He was “very sad,” 40-year-old Werdum said.

But Werdum went through with the opportunity. He crammed as much study and video footage as possible into just 30 or 40 minutes. Sure, Werdum had commentated some of Harris’ past fights, but he still wasn’t too familiar with the hard-hitting 34-year-old, who was on a solid 3-1 run as part of his second and current UFC stint.

Harris, though, didn’t prove much of a challenge, and Werdum tapped him out in 65 seconds with a quick and efficient armbar. For a guy who had a lot to lose and little to gain, Werdum said he gave the type of performance that should earn him his long-awaited next shot at the belt, especially when considering his overall career.

“I showed again I’m ready for the title shot,” said Werdum, who went from fighting No. 12-ranked Lewis to unranked Harris. “I think my performance was an amazing performance – like a one-minute fight, just one minute. He didn’t give one punch – nothing, zero. (I took him) down, mount, take his back and armbar. I think it was a perfect fight.

” … For the next one, I think I deserve (a title shot) not because of this fight. I think my whole career (warrants it). I’ve fought for 20 years. I think I deserve it.”

Lewis, who expects a fairly quick recovery from his back injury, said he’d still like to fight Werdum, possibly before year’s end on one of the organization’s upcoming major PPV cards. Werdum didn’t totally dismiss the idea – he said it’s up to UFC officials – but right now, his focus is solely on reigning champ Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC).

“I don’t know the UFC’s decision,” said Werdum, who’s 2-1 (with a majority-decision loss to Alistair Overeem) since losing the belt to Miocic in May 2016. “I told you, my big goal is the belt. … It depends on the UFC’s decision. I think I deserve (a title shot) again.

“I want to fight Stipe Miocic. This is my big goal.”

For more on UFC 216, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Francis Ngannou was willing to fight Fabricio Werdum last minute after Derrick Lewis withdrew

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LAS VEGAS – Francis Ngannou attempted to save the day at UFC 216, but unfortunately an unanswered phone call prevented that from happening.

Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) said he had a gut feeling something would happen to derail tonight’s UFC 216 heavyweight bout between Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC) and Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC). The worst happened just minutes before the event was scheduled to begin, when news broke Lewis’ lingering back issues would prevent him from competing.

Ultimately the UFC managed to cobble together a scenario that saw Walt Harris moved up from the undercard into the matchup with Werdum, but Ngannou said he wanted that spot.

“It’s a good matchup. Definitely this is a good matchup that I would never dodge it,” Ngannou said backstage. “I knew I was going to fight Alistair Overeem one day. I’ve been waiting for this fight and got ready for it since a long time ago.

“I got no answer, but I called when I saw the news. I tried to contact the matchmaker (Mick Maynard). He was busy. If I call, and he picks up, I say, ‘OK, I’m ready for him.’ … Honestly I would take the fight. I’ve been preparing for this, maybe something was going to happen between Werdum and Lewis. I’ve been preparing for this in case somebody pull out of this fight. I feel like something was going to happen. I got ready for it. … It was last minute, there was no way to change with the commissions.”

UFC 216 took place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card aired on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Ngannou hasn’t fought since a knockout of Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 22 in January. He’s been eager to get back in the octagon since, especially after his planned UFC 215 matchup with Junior Dos Santos was called off just weeks prior to the September event.

“The Predator” said he would have stepped in on fight day at UFC 216 if red tape from the commission wouldn’t have made it impossible, but fortunately, Ngannou still has a massive fight ahead of him.

Ngannou is scheduled to meet Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) in December’s UFC 218 co-main event. If he were to win, he would be on a divisional-best six-fight winning streak and in perfect position to challenge current heavyweight titleholder Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC). Although he hasn’t been promised a title shot with a win against Overeem, there’s no doubt from Ngannou that it’s going to happen.

“I think after the fight there is no way to deny me the title shot,” Ngannou said. “I’m sure I’ll beat Alistair and get a title shot. I still haven’t fought the champion. There’s no way not to give me the title shot after this fight.”

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

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

The stages of grieving a last-minute UFC fight scratch, in GIF form

It happened again.

One of UFC 216’s most anticipated bouts fell apart just before the event’s start time, as Derrick Lewis withdrew from his fight with Fabricio Werdum due to a back injury.

We’ve been here before, sadly. We’ve been here 14 times this year, in fact. We know how it goes.

It starts with this fight you really want to see. From the moment it’s first announced, all you can do is pray that it doesn’t get canceled or postponed. Both have been known to happen with some regularity in MMA. A broken hand here, a tweaked knee there, and the fight you’re looking forward to can vanish in an instant. It’s nerve-wracking.

But then weigh-in day comes and, what do you know, both fighters actually made weight. Nobody binged on late-night desserts. Nobody showed up looking sick and ghostly and barely ambulatory while still being five pounds over. This fight is really going to happen.

Then it’s fight day. We’re in the clear. Everyone is rehydrated, sitting around hotel rooms watching TV and eating. What could go wrong there? We made it. All we have to do now is sit back and wait.

Wait, what’s this? Why is everyone tweeting about this fight four hours before it’s supposed to happen? And why do they seem so mad? Don’t … don’t tell me. It can’t be …

Are you kidding me with this? On fight day this happens? How?! We were almost there! Why can’t we have nice things?

It … just … it’s not fair. Why couldn’t it have been one of these other fights? Preferably one of the fights between two people without Wikipedia pages. I’d give three of those to get this one back! Please?

You know what, though? This is crap. No other sport deals with this. You don’t buy tickets to see the Patriots vs. Steelers, only to show up and be told that the Steelers couldn’t make it so the Calgary Stampede will be filling in. Broadway plays don’t even pull these kinds of last-minute switcheroos with this kind of frequency. Why do we have to live this way?!

Fine. So this is just how’s it going to be, isn’t it? It’s our fault for ever getting our hopes up. We should have known that no fight is truly official until the fighters are in the cage with the door locked behind them. Maybe we deserve to have our hearts broken for ever forgetting that.

Wait, what did you say? The co-main event is still on? Or at least, it hasn’t been canceled yet, so maybe we should go ahead and get hyped for that now, knowing full well that there’s still time for it, too, to be yanked out from under us?

It’s not easy being an MMA fan. And yet, what else are you going to do with your Saturday night? Go out and live a normal life?

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

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

Twitter reacts to Derrick Lewis' late withdrawal from UFC 216 vs. Fabricio Werdum

The UFC 216 lineup took a serious blow just minutes before the event when news broke that Derrick Lewis was forced to withdraw from his matchup with Fabricio Werdum due to a lingering back injury.

Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) has made no secret about the ongoing issues with his back. After going through all of fight week, he decided just hours before his scheduled heavyweight matchup with Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC) that he wasn’t fit to compete.

Although UFC 216 still features two championship fights, the clash between Lewis and former UFC champ Werdum was one of the most anticipated on the card. The event now proceeds with 11 fights.

There was universal disappointment after the news broke. Check below for the top Twitter reactions to Lewis’ injury and withdrawal from UFC 216.

* * * *

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

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

Derrick Lewis injured, UFC 216 fight vs. Fabricio Werdum canceled last minute

LAS VEGAS – Just minutes before UFC 216 was slated to begin, a key matchup was pulled from tonight’s lineup.

Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) suffered a last-minute injury and was forced to withdraw from his heavyweight showdown with Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC) on tonight’s card, which takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas with a pay-per-view main card following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

It’s believed Lewis’ previously injured back flared up on him this week. He made weight Friday without issue but realized today he wouldn’t be able to fight through the back pain.

A heavyweight matchup between Walt Harris (10-5 MMA, 3-4 UFC) and Mark Godbeer (12-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) is expected to be moved up to the main card.

Lewis was set to return following a fourth-round TKO loss to Mark Hunt in June. After that fight, Lewis said he’d injured his back in training camp and suffered through the fight. He was also visibly in pain as he walked back to the locker room that night. Lewis announced his retirement to the shock of many after the loss.

But that was set to end tonight vs. Werdum. The former champion was hoping an impressive performance against “The Black Beast” would propel him back to a title shot.

Lewis’ training camp was disrupted for roughly two weeks as he endured Hurricane Harvey and its aftermath in his hometown of Houston.

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

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

'UFC 216 Embedded,' No. 4: Kevin Lee resists the lure of cookies and chips

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

The UFC returns to Las Vegas this week, and the promotion has rolled out its “Embedded” treatment for a preview of Saturday’s UFC 216 event.

UFC 216, which features two title fights, takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

In the headliner, Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) takes on Kevin Lee (16-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) for an interim lightweight title. The winner will stay in line for a potential unification bout against champion Conor McGregor.

In the co-main event, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) looks for a UFC-record 11th straight title defense when he meets challenger Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC). That fight was pushed back from UFC 215 in September in Edmonton due to a Borg illness on fight day.

In the fourth episode of “Embedded,” Johnson goes suit shopping and visits an art store. Borg gets in a workout at the UFC Performance Institute. Derrick Lewis and Fabricio Werdum make their own arrivals. Ferguson tries on his new fight shorts, and Lee heads to a children’s hospital to visit with young cancer patients – where he is offered chips and cookies from basically the cutest kid ever.

Check out the full episode above.

Also see:

For more on UFC 216, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

UFC 216 staff picks: Does anyone dare pick against all-time great Demetrious Johnson?

Ferguson
vs.
Lee
Johnson
vs.
Borg
Lewis
vs.
Werdum
Borella
vs.
Faria
Dariush
vs.
Dunham
MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2017: 91-66
ferguson2017
Ferguson
(80%)
djohnson2017
Johnson
(90%)
werdum2017
Werdum
(62%)
borella2017
Borella
(59%)
dariush2017
Dariush
(78%)
Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2017: 100-57
klee2017
Lee
djohnson2017
Johnson
werdum2017
Werdum
faria2017
Faria
dunham2017
Dunham
Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2017: 100-57
trophy copy 2015 Champion
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
werdum2017
Werdum
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
Ben Fowlkes @BenFowlkesMMA
2017: 98-59
trophy copy 2016 Champion
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
dlewis2017
Lewis
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
Steven Marrocco @MMAjunkieSteven
2017: 97-60
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
werdum2017
Werdum
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2017: 96-61
klee2017
Lee
djohnson2017
Johnson
dlewis2017
Lewis
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
Fernanda Prates @nandaprates_
2017: 93-64
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
werdum2017
Werdum
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
2017: 91-66
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
dlewis2017
Lewis
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
George Garcia @MMAjunkieGeorge
2017: 90-67
klee2017
Lee
djohnson2017
Johnson
dlewis2017
Lewis
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
Mike Bohn @MikeBohnMMA
2017: 90-67
trophy copy 2014 Champion
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
werdum2017
Werdum
faria2017
Faria
dariush2017
Dariush
Matt Erickson @MMAjunkieMatt
2017: 90-67
ferguson2017
Ferguson
djohnson2017
Johnson
dlewis2017
Lewis
borella2017
Borella
dunham2017
Dunham

The UFC returns to its Las Vegas home base this week, and a pair of titles are on the line.

UFC 216 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

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

In the main event, Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and Kevin Lee (16-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) fight for an interim lightweight title and the chance to potentially move on to a title unification bout against Conor McGregor. Ferguson is about a 2-1 favorite, and he’s the pick of seven of our 10 MMAjunkie editors, writers and radio hosts.

In the co-feature, dominant flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) takes on challenger Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) in a fight delayed from UFC 215. Johnson is a 12-1 favorite, and to little surprise he’s the lone unanimous pick on this week’s card.

Also on the main card, Derrick Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) takes on former heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC). And even though Lewis is a 2-1 favorite, the fight is split down the middle at 5-5 with our pickers. Mara Romero Borella (11-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and Kalindra Faria (18-5-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) are a pair of promotional newcomers fighting at strawweight. Faria is a 2-1 favorite, and only one of our 10 pickers has the courage to go against her with the underdog.

And to open the main card, Beneil Dariush (14-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) meets Evan Dunham (18-6 MMA, 11-6 UFC) at lightweight. It’s a runaway for Dariush, who is an 8-2 pick over Dunham.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Ferguson, Johnson, Werdum, Borella and Dariush are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC 216, 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 216, including Demetrious Johnson’s 1,841-day title reign

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

The UFC is back in its hometown of Las Vegas for the first time in three months for UFC 216. Two title fights sit atop Saturday’s event.

In the headlining bout, highly ranked competitors Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee meet to determine the interim lightweight champion – and hopefully earn a shot at current lightweight kingpin Conor McGregor. No one’s sure what’s next on McGregor’s dance card, but you can bet the winner of this fight will have some choice words for the man who has yet to defend the title he won in November.

In the co-main event, the only flyweight champion in UFC history, Demetrious Johnson, looks to make his record-breaking 11th consecutive UFC title defense. Ray Borg is the man who hopes to put an end to Johnson’s 1,841-day title reign.

UFC 216 takes at T-Mobile Arena. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. Settle those differences

Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee

The sniping between Ferguson and Lee started in June, and it hasn’t let up since. Shortly after Lee submitted Michael Chiesa via rear-naked choke, Ferguson, working as a commentator for FS1 that night, asked Lee a question he didn’t appreciate. That launched a verbal back-and-forth between the two.

That feud culminates in the main event of UFC 216 with the victor leaving Las Vegas as the interim 155-pound champion.

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Ferguson, the No. 3 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, has been itching for a title fight for a while. His nine-fight winning streak, the longest in UFC lightweight history, and five consecutive fight-night bonuses say he’s earned his shot.

Lee (16-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC), ranked No. 8, wasn’t the UFC’s first choice to face Ferguson, but his five-fight winning streak, two fight-night bonuses and beef with Ferguson (22-3 MMA, 12-1 UFC) earned him his shot.

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2. Find the flaw

Johnson captured the flyweight title on Sept. 12, 2012. One month earlier, Borg competed in his first professional MMA fight. That means Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has effectively spent his entire career training and preparing to beat one man: Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC).

You would think the ability to focus on a single opponent for several years would give Johnson’s challengers an advantage. It hasn’t. The most recent contender who turned pro around the time Johnson became champion was Henry Cejudo, who had more than three years to prepare for Johnson. When the two met in April 2016, the champ claimed a TKO victory in the middle of the second round.

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Borg, the No. 5-ranked flyweight, has had five years to try to find one flaw he can exploit, one way to succeed where previous title contenders failed. If he does it, he can keep Johnson from taking sole possession of the UFC’s most prestigious record.

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3. Keep off the ground

After briefly contemplating retirement following his June loss to Mark Hunt, Derrick Lewis returns to the octagon at UFC 216. Lewis, ranked No. 12 in the heavyweight division, faces No. 3-ranked Fabricio Werdum, who enters this contest on the heels of a July loss to Alistair Overeem.

This fight could put Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) to the test. Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC) is arguably the most dangerous ground fighter in the division. If Lewis, a heavy-handed striker, drops Werdum and follows him to the mat, he could find himself in deep waters. What makes things even trickier is Werdum sometimes exaggerates strikes and falls to the mat to get his opponent inside his guard.

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With champion Stipe Moicic without a fight due to a contract impasse, a dominant win could put the victor in the mix for a title shot when Miocic returns.

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4. Looking for breakthrough

In September, Evan Dunham won his fourth straight fight. The last time he had a UFC winning streak that long was more than seven years ago, when he was victorious in his first four bouts with the promotion.

Dunham faces No. 1-ranked lightweight Beneil Dariush, an opponent Dunham expressed interest in fighting when he spoke to MMAjunkie Radio in June.

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Dunham, known for his ground game, has developed his striking over the past few years. During his current winning streak, he’s has out-landed his opponents in significant strikes 449-163.

If Dunham (18-6 MMA, 11-6 UFC) scores a win against Dariush (14-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC), who enters this fight following a loss to contender Edson Barboza, he’s likely to break into the rankings post-UFC 216.

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5. Second act

Tom Duquesnoy

Tom Duquesnoy didn’t disappoint in his UFC debut. The former two-division BAMMA champion knocked out Patrick Williams early in the second round with a crisp elbow. The bantamweight victory extended Duquesnoy’s unbeaten streak to 12.

After the fight, Duquesnoy said, “Step by step, I will do everything to get the belt as soon as possible.”

Duquesnoy (15-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) jumps to featherweight for his second UFC fight. His opponent, Cody Stamann, also won his most recent fight. Stamann (15-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) defeated Terrion Ware by decision – his eighth straight.

This could be a fun striking battle. Both fighters landed more than six significant strikes per minute in their UFC debuts.

6. Former champ looks for break

Will Brooks

When former Bellator lightweight champion Will Brooks signed with the UFC, he was ranked No. 11 in the division and on an eight-fight winning streak. After his hand was raised in his promotional debut, Brooks climbed to No. 10. Today, he is unranked.

The reason for the former champ’s precipitous slide? He lost his two most recent fights by stoppage. Brooks was more than a 3-1 favorite in each of those contests – to Alex Oliveira and Charles Oliveira.

When he signed with the UFC, Brooks told MMAjunkie, “I believe I have everything it takes to be a UFC lightweight champion.”

Brooks (18-3 MMA, 1-2 UFC) hasn’t looked especially competitive in either of his UFC losses. He doesn’t get a break at UFC 216, where he faces the gritty and always competitive Nik Lentz (27-8-2 MMA, 11-5-1 UFC), who lost his most recent fight via decision.

If Brooks has any hopes of working his way back into the mix, he needs a definitive win here.

7. Collecting more bonuses than wins

Lando Vannata

Lando Vannata has been better at collecting fans and fight-night bonuses than he’s been at winning fights during his three-fight UFC run. The Jackson-Wink MMA fighter is 1-2 with the promotion, but he’s earned a fight-night bonus check in each of those contests.

Vannata is one of the more exciting fighters to join the UFC in the last year or so. He employs an aggressive and flashy striking style that finds him landing as many power strikes as he absorbs. Vannata expends a lot of energy, and as his fights progress, he tends to fade. That allows his opponents to find their target with more accuracy over time.

Vannata (9-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) faces Bobby Green in this lightweight bout. Green (23-8 MMA, 4-3 UFC) was on a roll for a few years, running up eight straight wins between September 2011 and July 2014. But he’s fought only three times since then, and he’s lost each of those matchups.

8. Long wait comes to end

Poliana Botelho (photo by Anchell Fotografia)

The UFC signed Poliana Botelho in mid-2016. An injury prevented the former XFC flyweight champion from making her scheduled promotional debut at UFC 206.

In Botelho’s (5-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) first fight in more than two years, she faces Pearl Gonzalez (6-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in a strawweight scrap.

Botelho, a member of Nova Uniao, is a powerful striker. She isn’t particularly aggressive in the open, but when she traps her opponent against the cage, she unleashes wild combinations. All of Botelho’s wins have come by knockout. Her only loss is a five-round decision defeat to No. 13-ranked Viviane Pereira.

Cynthia Calvillo submitted Gonzalez in the third round of her UFC debut. The loss ended her six-fight winning streak.

9. A rising star with some baggage

Magomed Bibulatov

If you’re looking for a non-ranked flyweight to keep an eye on, Magomed Bibulatov might be your guy. In his UFC debut, the former WSOF flyweight champion showed an excellent array of striking techniques, good takedowns and a strong top game on his way to a dominant decision win over Jenel Lausa.

At UFC 216, Bibulatov (14-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) looks to move into the rankings at the expense of No. 11-ranked John Moraga (17-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC), who ended a three-fight losing skid with a decision win over Ashkan Mokhtarian in his most recent bout. The victory was the first since 2014 for the former title challenger.

Bibulatov does carry some baggage. In his UFC.com profile, he lists Ramzan Kadyrov, the controversial leader of the Chechen Republic, as his “hero.” He also told “The Buffalo News” that he “supports Ramzan fully.”

10. Keep your distance

Thales Leites

You can look at Thales Leites’ most recent fight, a decision win over Sam Alvey, as safe or smart. Against the powerful counterstriker, Leites relied heavily on leg kicks. That strategy worked well. The former middleweight title contender landed almost 90 percent of his leg strikes, which allowed him to rack up points while avoiding Alvey’s counters.

No. 13-ranked Leites might be wise to employ a similar tactical approach against rankings honorable mention Brad Tavares, who is a bit more active than Leites on the feet. Another reason Leites (27-7 MMA, 12-6 UFC) might use his leg kicks is Tavares (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has good takedown defense, which could negate Leites ground advantage. Tavares has wins in his two most recent fights.

For more on UFC 216, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

In depth main-card breakdown: 'UFC 216: Ferguson vs. Lee'

Tony Ferguson (22-3 MMA, 12-1 UFC)

Tony Ferguson

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″ Age: 33 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 76″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Rafael Dos Anjos (Nov. 5, 2016)
  • Camp: 10th Planet Jiu-jitsu (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance / Kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ 2x All-American wrestler
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu purple belt
+ 11 KO wins
+ 7 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ Relentless pace and pressure
^ Well conditioned / consistent stalker
+ Dynamic striking assault
^ Shifts stance and variates timing
+/- Aggressive in exchanges
^ Counter availabilities
+ Solid wrestling ability
^ Superb hip, grip and lever awareness
+ Excellent from front-headlock
^ Chokes, transitions, back-takes
+ Active and attacking guard

Kevin Lee (16-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC)

Kevin Lee

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 25 Weight: 155 lbs. Reach: 77″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Michael Chiesa(May 13, 2017)
  • Camp: Xtreme Couture MMA (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA titles
+ Collegiate wrestler (division 2)
+ 1 KO victories
+ 8 submission wins
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ Improved footwork and movement
+ Works well when coming forward
^ Hard kicks and solid punches
+ Strong inside of the clinch
^ Effectively chains from body-lock
+ Excellent offensive and reactive shots
^ Has taken down 10 /11 UFC opponents
+ Intelligent transitional grappler
^ Positionally aware / fights hands
+ Dangerous back-taker
^ Heavy hips and crushing chokes

Summary:

Serving as the main event for UFC 216 is a showdown between Tony Ferguson and Kevin Lee for the interim lightweight title.

Arguably the division’s No. 1 contender, Ferguson will finally get his shot at a belt after multiple failed attempts to sort things out with Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Standing in Ferguson’s way is Lee, one of the brighter standouts the weight class has to offer. Despite not yet reaching his prime, Lee feels he is right on track with destiny by fighting for a title at just 25.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between two strikers who are different in style, but do their best work coming forward.

Walking the line between forward-mover and voracious marauder, Ferguson can seldom be found taking a back step in his fights. Whether he is feinting or throwing, Ferguson consistently puts pressure on his opponents, looking to either slice-and-dice his was inside, or half-step his way into kill shots off of his accurate jab.

However, it is in these instances of advancement where Ferguson is most hittable, and or susceptible to being countered.

Despite not being known for his counter-striking game, Lee has quietly made improvements to his footwork, displaying an understanding of defensive and offensive angles, as his time spent working with Dewey Cooper and Mayweather’s gym is certainly showing.

With improved head movement typically accompanying upgraded footwork, Lee has also demonstrated much more discipline in rolling his head offline with his punches.

Still, the developing talent may not want to test his striking skills too much in this matchup. Even though Lee was able to stun Francisco Trinaldo standing (which is no easy feat), Ferguson has shown an uncanny ability to absorb punishment and haunt his opposition, living up to the moniker of “El Cucuy.”

Ridiculous durability aside, Ferguson does a deceptively good job of rolling with punches and coming back with heat of his own. Albeit a risky proposition, it is one that Ferguson gets positive returns on due to his persistence to stay poised and play the long game.

Regardless of how striking stanzas shakeout, I suspect that the grappling exchanges may be what decides this fight’s fate.

Inside the clinch, Ferguson is the fighter who offers more offense via his strikes and submission setups, but I believe that Lee may be the better wrestler in this space.

From his superb technique to his natural gifts of athleticism and reach, Lee has a knack for finding the hips of his opponents. Working particularly well from the body-lock, Lee does a good job of chaining off his takedown approaches.

That said, Lee will be facing a unique counter-wrestler who can also counter with submissions.

An enthusiast of the granby roll, Ferguson can counter the deepest of takedown attempts, as we have seen him hit these rolls in mid-air. For that reason, it will be interesting to watch how Lee’s takedown transitions playout with Ferguson’s creation of chaos in mind.

Typically rolling for a variety of leg-locks and entanglements, Ferguson has shown the ability to chain from position-to-position, even when hurt and under fire. Nevertheless, Ferguson could still find himself in the proverbial frying pan should he elect to look for submissions from here, especially considering that failed leg-locks often lead to back-takes – a specialty of Lee’s.

A phenomenal wrestler who seemingly embraced the submission arts early, Lee displays a preternatural ability to take the back. Fueled by slick transitions and heavy-hips, Lee arguably crushes as much as he attempts chokes, dominantly closing off airways in a way that reminds me of a vintage B.J. Penn.

If Ferguson loses his respect or sense for the position, he could find himself steadily going to sleep should he allow Lee onto his back.

Though that could be a real possibility for Lee, the problem – in my opinion – lies within the process that he will need to go through to get Ferguson to where he wants.

Whether Lee is shooting in for a double-leg or changing his level inside of clinch space, his head will inherently have to travel through a neighborhood Ferguson refers to as “snap-down city.”

With a “snap-down” being a wrestling term that refers to the pulling down of an opponent’s head to break their posture, Ferguson has seemingly made his money from this position, using it to transition to back-takes and chokes alike. Should Lee fail on his shots, we will likely see his submission defenses tested.

Under the tutelage of Robert Follis, I am sure that Lee’s defensive prep is on point as the two have proven to be an excellent pairing of coach and fighter. Still, we have seen Ferguson show the ability to hit both strikes and submissions that his opposition arguably knew was coming.

Not only does Ferguson seem to have the unshakeable confidence to help this effort, but he also has a style that I like to refer to as “presenting.”

Similar to the process of a good magician, the true magic happens when you can successfully stage an environment for your trick to work. This principle also exists in the poker arena, as the poker room is often won by the best presenters –– not necessarily the best poker players.

Whether he is presenting a false target or setting a high pace, Ferguson ultimately fights with a bigger purpose in mind. As we saw in his victory over Lando Vanatta, Ferguson used these principles to put himself in a position to finish a submission that Vanatta knew was coming.

Initially presenting the threat of a guillotine choke, Ferguson forced Vanatta to fight hands and defend, knowing it would inherently create enough space between the lats and triceps for his arm to slide through for his patented D’Arce choke.

The oddsmakers seem to agree with the potency of Ferguson’s pathways – opening him up as a moderate favorite over Lee.

As someone who has trained at Xtreme Couture for some time, matchups like these feel like a lose-lose scenario in regards to making a pick. With that in mind, I would be lying if I said that I wasn’t rooting for Lee here.

However, as an analyst, I have to be unbiased. If Lee cannot successfully score takedowns and capitalize early, then I worry for his chances given that Ferguson is built to get stronger as the fight goes on. Despite forecasting championship gold in Lee’s future, the dynamic of this matchup makes it hard not to favor Ferguson, who I see posing problems if he achieves his preferred cooking temperature.

Official pick: Ferguson inside the distance

Official outcome: To be determined

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