Jimmie Rivera: Ex-champ Dominick Cruz's style 'not practical,' makes him 'really accident-prone'

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Jimmie Rivera had some concern about Dominick Cruz’s injury woes when he accepted a UFC 219 matchup with the former bantamweight champion. Ultimately, his reservations proved justified.

With less than two months remaining until the Dec. 30 pay-per-view vent at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) was forced to withdraw due to an injury. “The Dominator” reportedly suffered a broken arm in training, a mishap that continues a disturbing trend for the former titleholder.

Cruz has spent the better part of the past five years on the sidelines with a bevy of injuries. Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) was more than aware of that fact when he accepted the fight, but given the matchup likely would’ve been a title-eliminator in the 135-pound division, he accepted and focused on the task at hand.

“At the beginning I was like, ‘I hope he doesn’t get hurt,’” Rivera told MMAjunkie. “Then day after day, I forgot about it because I have to focus on getting ready for a fight. I can’t train and have it in the back of my mind – ‘What if he gets hurt?’

“I have to train balls to the walls and assume he’s not going to get hurt and we’re going to fight Dec. 30. Now about five weeks out this happens.”

Whether Cruz is simply a victim of dumb luck or just that injury-prone is tough to determine. However, Rivera had some theories about why Cruz finds himself in this situation so often. He said Cruz has a very physically demanding style due to his use of movement and awkward techniques. Rivera said he noticed how much of a hindrance Cruz’s style can be while preparing for UFC 219, so he’s not necessarily stunned by the setback.

“I’m not trying to be a dick about it or anything like that, but he’s out, he’s hurt, and he’s really accident-prone,” Rivera said. “He always gets hurt; it’s always one thing or another. It comes down to his style of fighting. My coach and I sat down and studied it getting ready for this fight, and it’s not practical. He’s more injury-prone than he realizes with his style of fighting.”

With the fight off the table for UFC 219, Rivera said he wants the next shot at current bantamweight champ T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC). He hopes it happens but admitted his situation is somewhat uncertain because Dillashaw might be dropping to flyweight to challenge pound-for-pound king Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC).

Rivera said he was disheartened to lose the opportunity to fight Cruz. He may have rubbed some salt in the former champ’s wounds after the fight cancellation, but he said he wishes nothing but the best for Cruz and hopes they can still share the octagon in the future.

“I have nothing against him,” Rivera said. “It’s a game, and I know I have to go out there and talk smack on Twitter, but I hope he has a speedy recovery.

“No one likes to be hurt. It sucks to be hurt, and I’ve been there. It sucks. Hopefully he has a speedy recovery.”

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Jimmie Rivera: 'Mighty Mouse' blocking my deserved title fight with T.J. Dillashaw

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Jimmie Rivera said he’s the obvious next candidate to challenge UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. There’s a roadblock in his way, however, and his name is UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson.

Rivera’s (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) future was thrown into uncertainty this week when his scheduled UFC 219 matchup with Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) was called off when the former titleholder suffered an injury. The bout was likely a title eliminator in the 135-pound division, but after “The Dominator” pulled out, Rivera said there’s no question he should be fighting new champ Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) next.

The twist, however, is that Dillashaw appears to be moving down to 125 pounds for a champion vs. champion showdown with pound-for-pound king Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC). The fight has been discussed since earlier this year, and after Dillashaw reclaimed bantamweight gold with a knockout of Cody Garbrandt at UFC 217 this past weekend, UFC President Dana White said he wants to see it happen.

That leaves Rivera as the odd man out, and he said he’s not sure what’s going to happen.

“I’m kind of in limbo now,” Rivera told MMAjunkie. “I’m not sure what’s going to happen. I don’t know where it leaves me. You’ve got Cruz who is hurt. You’ve got Cody who is getting hand surgery. That leaves T.J., but the thing with T.J. is, will Demetrious take the fight against him?

“It’s up to Demetrious if he’ll take the fight with T.J. If he takes the fight, it pushes me back, if not it’s fair game.”

Rivera, No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, said he’s not upset at No. 1-ranked Dillashaw for chasing a potentially historic fight against “Mighty Mouse.” He understands why the champ and UFC brass would be compelled to book the fight, but he’s just disappointed with where it leaves him.

The New Jersey-based fighter is frustrated the 125-pound champion is the one who will determine his immediate future, and he said he really has no idea whether Johnson will accept the fight.

“I honestly don’t know what will happen,” Rivera said. “It comes down to money. Are they going to give him the money he wants? I don’t really care about the money and all that. I just want to fight for the belt. I got in the UFC to fight for the belt, and that’s the main goal. I’m waiting to see what’s going to happen. I want that strap around my waist, and it sucks I have to keep waiting for on people for it.”

“I run a business so I know how a business works,” he continued. “Obviously, the UFC is a business, and they want to push that fight because it’s going to have an impact. I understand why. It’s a good business move for T.J. and Johnson, but I don’t know if Johnson is going to get the number he wants for that fight. It might not be the best situation for Demetrious Johnson. There’s a lot on the line – losing his title – and he could lose his winning streak. There’s a lot on the line for that. I don’t know what’s going to happen with that. It’s kind of crazy that a title shot at 135 is held up on Demetrious Johnson, who is the champion at 125.”

At this point, Rivera’s not sure if he will still fight at UFC 219. Brazilian bantamweight John Lineker (30-8 MMA, 11-3 UFC) has offered his services, and a grudge match with Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is also a potential option.

Rivera, though, said those fights simply don’t make sense to him.

“I tried to fight (Sterling) as I was coming to the UFC and when I was in the UFC, and he said no,” Rivera said. “Now I’m ahead of him, and I’m in a better position, and now he wants to fight me?

“A win over Sterling – everyone says I’m going to run through him, and I am going to run through him. He’s not going to help me get the belt. He’s not a No. 1 contender fight. It’s not going to work out with him at all. The one thing I said numerous times is that once I am champ, I’m not going to turn down a fight. I will fight whoever they want me to fight because I’m the champ, and that’s an obligation. Now I’m not the champ, and I’m trying to work for it. A fight with him doesn’t make sense. He beat a nobody and he beat a washed-up (Renan) Barao.”

With an incredible 20-fight winning streak to his credit, Rivera is adamant that it’s essentially title shot or bust at this point. He’s aware of the reality of his situation, though, and said if Dillashaw ends up dropping to flyweight and fighting Johnson, he will either be forced to take another fight or experience an extremely long layoff.

Rivera said his team is going to work with the UFC in the coming days to help gain clarity on his future, but at this point, he knows exactly what he wants.

“Who am I going to fight? The only three fights that makes sense are Dominick, Cody or T.J., and Dominick and Cody are both out,” Rivera said. “I have nothing against anybody else in the division but no one is as established as I am. No one is on the winning streak I am, and no one is doing what I’m doing. The Cruz fight was going to settle the No. 1 contender, but Cruz is out, so now I’m the No. 1 contender. That’s what it means. That’s the only way I see it.”

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

 

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Dominick Cruz out of UFC 219 fight with Jimmie Rivera

Dominick Cruz’s return to the octagon will have to be pushed back and, as a result, UFC 219 has lost a significant bout.

Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) has been ruled out of his fight with Jimmie Rivera after suffering a broken arm, according to a report from MMAFighting.com. Rivera  (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) confirmed Cruz’s withdrawal from the bout when reached by MMAjunkie via text message.

UFC 219 takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Cruz, No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, dropped the 135-pound belt to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207 last December. Cruz opted to take time off and was originally angling for a fight against the winner of Garbrandt vs. T.J. Dillashaw, who knocked out “No Love” last Saturday to reclaim the title at UFC 217.

After losing his second MMA fight in November 2008, No. 5 Rivera has rattled off 20 consecutive wins, including five in the UFC. He’s coming off a unanimous decision over Thomas Almeida at UFC on FOX 25 in July.

It remains unclear if the UFC will attempt to find Rivera a replacement opponent.

The latest UFC 219 card includes:

  • Edson Barboza vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov
  • Jimmie Rivera vs. opponent TBD
  • Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza
  • Matheus Nicolau vs. Louis Smolka
  • Carlos Condit vs. Neil Magny
  • Khalil Rountree vs. Gokhan Saki
  • Rick Glenn vs. Myles Jury
  • Emil Meek vs. Kamaru Usman
  • Marc Diakiese vs. Dan Hooker

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Twitter Mailbag: Does Michael Bisping feel like UFC champ yet? Conor McGregor co-promoter?

Does the UFC middleweight champion really feel like the division’s best fighter heading into UFC 217? Will the transitive property tell us which way the co-main event will go? And is the UFC ready to consider co-promotion now that its biggest star demands it?

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

* * * *

Did you “believe” that Luke Rockhold was the champ? I’m guessing yes, since we all saw him finish Chris Weidman, who himself had knocked out the greatest middleweight of all time to claim the title in the first place. Then Michael Bisping knocked out Rockhold, so the line of succession is about as clear and unambiguous as it can be.

But I know what you mean. Bisping has been at this for so long, hovering in that good-but-not-great zone for years, so it’s hard for people to suddenly think of him, at 38, as the best middleweight in the world. It feels like we already made up our minds about where he fits in the division, and it’s not at the top.

That part is on us. As MMA fans, we’re sometimes too quick to form conclusions and too rigidly stubborn to revise them in the face of new information. If we weren’t, we might be willing to consider the explanation that Bisping himself favors: He was always the best clean middleweight, but it took the USADA anti-doping program to create the conditions under which he could prove it.

Still, Bisping hasn’t done much as champion to change our pre-conceived notions. At a time when the division is clogged with legit contenders, he’s defended his title against none of them.

You can understand why. The title means money, and he’s trying to get paid before this ride ends. But if he wants people to accept him as the true champ, he needs to defend his belt against a true challenger. Sadly, it’s not going to happen this Saturday night, even if he beats Georges St-Pierre.

It depends what co-promoting means to Conor McGregor. Does he just want to put his name on the canvas? Does he want to go down as a promoter of record for the event? Does he want an ownership stake in the UFC? Is there a clear, tangible goal here, or does he mostly want to make the UFC bend to his will and give him something no other fighter has ever gotten?

Some of those wishes are easier to fulfill than others, but now is the right time to make some big demands. The UFC needs McGregor. By every meaningful metric, he’s the biggest star in the history of the sport. If you want to sell pay-per-views (and the UFC needs to sell pay-per-views, especially right now), then you’d better do what it takes to get him back in the cage.

To make his negotiating position even stronger, McGregor is coming off a monster payday. If his fight with Floyd Mayweather really did top six million buys, as Dana White has claimed, he can afford to put his feet up for a long while. For once, time is on the fighter’s side – not the UFC’s.

If I’m McGregor right now, I start reeling off my list of demands in alphabetical order. And I don’t stop until every single one of them has been met.

An open disregard for merit-based matchmaking hasn’t historically been a major dealbreaker for fight fans, so I’m not sure that’s it. But you’re right that, with Bisping-GSP, demand originated with the fighters and not the fans, which doesn’t tend to create a ton of momentum.

We all know why St-Pierre wanted to make his comeback now, and why he wanted to do it at middleweight. He saw a champion who perceived as: a) very beatable, and b) very promotable.

We also know why Bisping liked the pairing more than he liked the idea of defending his belt against the top contender. It’s because he wanted the PPV riches that GSP used to carry with him wherever he went, and, to a lesser extent, he also liked the idea of being able to say he’d beaten the two greats of his era – GSP and Anderson Silva.

Those are the fighters’ reasons for wanting this bout. But that alone is not enough of a sales pitch for fans. It’s like telling people they should go see a movie because the studio and the actors all crunched the numbers and decided this film would make them richer without making them work too hard.

Which is not to say that fans won’t watch this event. It’s got three title fights on it, plenty of names people care about, and it’s the only thing even close to that big fight feel since Mayweather-McGregor.

But even while this will probably end up being at least a moderate success, it does highlight some of the shortcomings of the “money fight” approach to MMA matchmaking. Just because someone thinks it’ll result in a mountain of cash, that’s not always a good enough reason for us to want to contribute to it.

You’re seriously going to ask me that before a fight card that includes Johny Hendricks? I mean, really?

Anything, as they say, can happen. But I have to admit that I’m having a hard time picturing it.

Rose Namajunas is a game fighter and a good athlete, and her opportunistic submission game works well when she can put opponents where she wants them.

But how’s she going to do that against Joanna Jedrzejczyk? The champ is tough to take down, and even tougher to keep down. Meanwhile, every moment you’re standing up with her is another chance for her air out your face with punches, elbows and kicks.

I’m not saying Namajunas can’t solve the puzzle or even just catch Jedrzejczyk slipping. All I’m saying is that when I try to picture it in my mind, I draw a blank.

Noooooooo. The last thing we need is the UFC handing out scripts and acting coaches. If anything, the trend of MMA fighters borrowing pro wrestling schticks to hype fights just proves that it’s tougher than it looks.

Even Colby Covington isn’t particularly good at it. What saves him is that he’s just awkward enough, yet still somehow aggressively and supremely confident that he is absolutely killing it, so he comes off as unintentionally comedic in a way that we (or, well, some of us) can enjoy without having to take too seriously.

(And the thing about him calling Brazil “a dump” and its citizens “filthy animals,” it’s obviously not complimentary. But I ask myself: Would he have done the same thing if he’d fought GSP in Montreal? Or Nick Diaz in Stockton? Yeah, I think so.)

The people who don’t enjoy Covington’s gimmick? They mostly end up hating him for it. Which is, of course, exactly what he wants. So either way it (kind of) works. I just don’t think it’s something we’d want to see night after night. Or maybe I’m just speaking for myself.

Generally, the transitive property has a poor track record in MMA. But since there is some legitimate similarity between T.J. Dillashaw’s style and Dominick Cruz’s, you’re right that it’s worth asking if the same guy who styled on Cruz will go right back out there and breakdance all over Dillashaw’s face.

One added variable is that Dillashaw’s seen the same tape we have. He knows now how Cody Garbrandt approached and defeated that style. He doesn’t know if the UFC bantamweight champ will try to do it the exact same way this time, but he at least has more information to work with than Cruz had.

I still think the toughest thing for Dillashaw to account for is Garbrandt’s power. Afighter who can move and evade like that and still hit you back hard? That’s a tough person to game plan for. I’ll be interested to see how Dillashaw looks to solve that problem.

If the winner is St-Pierre, I doubt it. I think he wants to win the UFC middleweight title, but I don’t think he actually wants to be the UFC middleweight champion.

Plus, since he’s a natural welterweight he has something of a built-in escape pod. He says there’s a clause in his contract that says he has to defend the belt, but it’s not hard to picture him convincing the UFC that a fight with McGregor would be a smarter financial move for all involved.

If Bisping wins, however, I think the chances of a Robert Whittaker showdown improve. As tortured as his relationship with MMA fans might be at times, Bisping longs for respect. You can hear it as he’s reeling off his accomplishments, vowing to prove the haters wrong.

And you know Bisping’s never suffered for a lack of confidence. He believes he can beat “Bobby Knuckles,” even if he’s in the minority on that one. You really think he could bring himself to retire rather than try, willingly giving up the belt he’s spent years chasing, and all without a literal fight? I’m not so sure.

As for the second question: For me, the best fight on the card is Garbrandt-Dillashaw. After that, it’s a little bit of a struggle for second place.

You don’t think Donald Cerrone has enough sense to wait it out until Senator Rock runs for president and needs a VP pick who can carry the Western states? My friend, you underestimate this man.

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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Source: MMA Junkie

Dominick Cruz-Jimmie Rivera, Cynthia Calvillo-Carla Esparza on tap for UFC 219 in Las Vegas

Two former champions are set to return to the octagon at UFC 219, which marks the organization’s final event of the year.

Former UFC bantamweight titleholder Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) will see action for the first time since losing the title to Cody Garbrandt, when he takes on the 20-fight winning streak of Jimmie Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC). Also, former strawweight champ Carla Esparza (12-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is set to clash with rising star Cynthia Calvillo (6-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC).

The UFC made the fights official today.

UFC 219 takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Cruz, No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, dropped the 135-pound belt to Garbrandt at UFC 207 last December. Cruz opted to take time off since and was originally angling for a fight against the winner of November’s title fight between Garbrandt and T.J. Dillashaw.Cruz will have to get a win under his belt first, though.

Beating No. 5 Rivera has proven to be no easy task, however. After losing his second MMA fight in November 2008, Rivera has rattled off 20 consecutive wins, including five in the UFC. He’s coming off a unanimous decision over Thomas Almeida at UFC on FOX 25 in July.

No. 5-ranked Esparza, meanwhile, has been up and down down since losing her title to Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 185 in March 2015. She won her most recent bout, though, using a takedown-heavy game plan to top Maryna Moroz by unanimous decision at UFC Fight Night 112 in June.

Esparza will attempt to avoid becoming a signature win for No. 12-ranked Calvillo, who has been on a tear since making her UFC debut on short notice at UFC 209 in March. Calvillo has gone 3-0 inside the octagon in short order and will attempt to become the first and only UFC fighter with four victories in 2017.

Also set for UFC 219, per the Las Vegas Review Journal, is a flyweight contest between Louis Smolka (11-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) and Matheus Nicolau (12-1-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC).

The UFC 219 currently includes:

  • Dominick Cruz vs. Jimmie Rivera
  • Cynthia Calvillo vs. Carla Esparza
  • Matheus Nicolau vs. Louis Smolka

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Paul Felder discusses Saturday's commentary-booth debut at UFC Fight Night 116

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid4621179066001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAABvaL8JE~,ufBHq_I6FnxR-PQW_F3sm5QdUbP7D6E9&bctid=5573580016001
Filed under: News, UFC

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The UFC’s fifth event in Pennsylvania takes place Saturday when UFC Fight Night 116 goes down from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, and it’ll featured the UFC commentary-booth debut of a current UFC fighter.

The card airs on FS1 following an early prelim on UFC Fight Pass, and it features a middleweight headliner between former UFC champion Luke Rockhold (15-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) and former two-division WSOF champion David Branch (21-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC).

MMAjunkie today confirmed with a FOX Sports official that UFC lightweight Paul Felder (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) will call the opening four main-card fights from cageside alongside Jon Anik and former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC).

Analysts for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116 weigh-in show on FS1, as well as Saturday’s pre- and post-events shows, will be former multi-time UFC title challenger Kenny Florian and retired UFC veteran Yves Edwards. Karyn Bryant serves as the anchor for the programs while Heidi Androl is set to conduct backstage interviews.

Felder, a nine-fight UFC veteran who is coming off a first-round knockout win over Stevie Ray at UFC Fight Night 113 in July, will join the UFC commentary team for the first time after a run in the booth during Dana White’s Contender Series events on UFC Fight Pass. He told MMAjunkie in an exclusive interview that he’s ready for the platform but doesn’t want to intrude on the chemistry of the existing commentary team.

“I want to play my role,” Felder said. “I’m the new guy on the block. I definitely don’t want go get in there my first time and step on Dominick’s shoes or Jon’s shoes and get in their way. These guys are veterans, and they’re pros, so when they need my analysis or need my opinion, they’ll get it.”

Felder will call four of the six main-card fights, with the exception of the night’s main event between Rockhold and Branch and the co-headliner between Thiago Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC) and Mike Perry (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC).

“The Irish Dragon” said he’s familiar with the talent that will appear at the event, which is a welcomed change of pace from lesser-know fighters competing on local shows and DWCS.

“Most of these guys, almost 95 percent of them, I’ve seen fight before,” Felder said. “I know who they are. That’s actually a first. At CFFC and the Contender Series, these guys are virtually unknown. … It will actually be nice to talk about fighters who I’ve actually seen fight a ton of times.”

The UFC Fight Night 116 lineup includes:

MAIN CARD (FS1, 10 p.m. ET)

  • Luke Rockhold vs. David Branch
  • Thiago Alves vs. Mike Perry
  • Hector Lombard vs. Anthony Smith
  • Gregor Gillespie vs. Jason Gonzalez
  • Sergio Moraes vs. Kamaru Usman
  • Zu Anyanwu vs. Justin Ledet

PRELIMINARY CARD (FS1, 8 p.m. ET)

  • Tony Martin vs. Olivier Aubin-Mercier
  • Anthony Hamilton vs. Daniel Spitz
  • Uriah Hall vs. Krzysztof Jotko
  • Felipe Arantes vs. Luke Sanders

PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC FIGHT PASS, 7:30 p.m. ET)

  • Gilbert Burns vs. Jason Saggo

For more on UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Jon Jones and a history of 2-time UFC champions

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid4621179066001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAABvaL8JE~,ufBHq_I6FnxR-PQW_F3sm5QdUbP7D6E9&bctid=5525891367001
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

5 thoughts to ponder after UFC on FOX 25

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UFC on FOX 25 is in the books, and while the card apparently didn’t attract much interest by drawing the lowest overnight ratings in the history of the series, there were some compelling moments and storylines coming out of Saturday’s FOX-televised event at NYCB LIVE in Uniondale, N.Y.

Here are some takeaways from UFC on FOX 25, which saw former UFC middleweight Chris Weidman (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) snap a three-fight losing skid with a third-round submission of Kelvin Gastelum (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC) in the main event.

* * * *

Chris Weidman is still very good.

It was fairly surprising a fighter of Weidman’s caliber was sitting on three consecutive losses, but rough patches happen in MMA, and the “All-American” never gave up hope despite more than two years of disappointment.

Although he’s already being discredited for beating “a bloated welterweight,” Weidman’s performance against a rising star like Gastelum showed he has more left to offer. Weidman never let outside noise trickle in and always felt he would reestablish himself, which he did with the submission win.

There are fair questions about Weidman’s chin after getting dropped by Gastelum and taking considerable damage from Luke Rockhold, Yoel Romero and Gegard Mousasi. However, if that flaw forces Weidman to transition into a more grappling-heavy style, that probably caters best to his skillset going forward, anyway, because there are few in the division capable of hanging with him on the mat.

Kelvin Gastelum probably belongs at welterweight.

It was only four months ago that we were pleading for Gastelum to drop the talk of a return to welterweight after his destruction of Vitor Belfort, but the loss to Weidman showed he was probably onto something, after all.

Gastelum can be a serviceable fighter at 185 pounds, but at welterweight his ceiling is likely a lot higher. He struggled madly with the size and strength of Weidman, and as he moves further up in competition in the weight class, those factors will be even more prominent.

“The Ultimate Fighter 17” winner said the loss will change him for the better. If he lives up to his word and gets his act together on diet and discipline, he should get one final chance to see what he can do 170 pounds, but there’s going to be no room for error.

Darren Elkins and Team Alpha Male deserve more credit.

The emergence of Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-4 UFC) as a true featherweight threat has been an interesting storyline to follow, and it’s no coincidence the success coincides with his move to Team Alpha Male in Sacramento, Calif.

Team Alpha Male has had its turbulent moments, but the corner crew of Justin Buchholz, Danny Castillo and Chris Holdsworth have had many more successes than failures of late, and Elkins’ five-fight winning streak, capped off by a split-decision win over Dennis Bermudez, should be one of their prouder achievements.

Elkins’ style won’t ever have fans lining up at the box office, but his ability to ware opponents down through any situation is commendable. How far he can take this run remains to be seen, but the fact he has the second most wins in UFC featherweight history behind only champ Max Holloway means he can’t be ignored as a threat.

Patrick Cummins wears it like few others.

When Patrick Cummins’ (10-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) career is done someone needs to compile an album of his face after every fight. Win or lose, Cummins leaves the octagon looking like he just came out of a car wreck, and that was no different in his split-decision win over Gian Villante.

Cummins’ chin hasn’t always held up, but it did against Villante, and actually led him into a situation where he was able to out-strike his opponent, which was a surprise.

The inconsistent nature of Cummins’ career makes his fights hard to predict, but the common theme is that it’s not going to be an easy night for anyone when “Durkin” steps in the cage.

Dominick Cruz is an excellent broadcaster who still needs work.

Going through a nearly seven-hour broadcast without flaw is an impossible feat. No other sport requires such endurance in the broadcast booth, and while Dominick Cruz has quickly become of the best to do it, his latest work alongside Brian Stann and Jon Anik showed he needs to better round out the ideas he presents to viewers.

Cruz is as knowledgeable and insightful as anyone in the sport from a technical perspective, but his attempt to juggle commentary with fight scoring revealed flaws in his ideologies. Perpetuating the dated idea that a late, ineffective takedown from a fighter losing a round can “steal” it for them is wrong, especially under the new scoring criteria.

It’s nitpicky, but fight commentary is a huge influence of the narrative viewers take away. Cruz, Stann, Joe Rogan and all the rest provide brilliant analysis, but when it comes to the (admittedly confusing) rules and regulations, there needs to be greater caution.

For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 25, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Chris Weidman and UFC on FOX 25's other winning fighters?

http://link.brightcove.com/services/player/bcpid4621179066001?bckey=AQ~~,AAAABvaL8JE~,ufBHq_I6FnxR-PQW_F3sm5QdUbP7D6E9&bctid=5518198987001
Filed under: News, UFC

(ALSO SEE: Sean Shelby’s Shoes: What next for UFC on FOX 25’s losing fighters?)

Saturday’s UFC on FOX 25 main event had an important impact on the middleweight division. Former champ Chris Weidman (14-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) put himself back in the mix as a relevant player in the weight class with a third-round submission of Kelvin Gastelum (13-3 MMA, 8-3 UFC)

“All-American” wasn’t the only one to get a meaningful victory at NYCB LIVE in Uniondale, N.Y. In the FOX-televised co-main event, Darren Elkins (23-5 MMA, 13-4 UFC) strengthened his featherweight contender status, Patrick Cummins (10-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC) won another grueling fight, and Jimmie Rivera (21-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) shut down a hyped up-and-comer in the network-televised opener.

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 on FOX 25’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Jimmie Rivera

Dominick Cruz

Should fight: Dominick Cruz
Why they should fight: Rivera pushed his winning streak to a remarkable 20 consecutive fights when he defeated bantamweight prospect Thomas Almeida by unanimous decision.

Rivera’s nearly nine-year run without a loss continued when he handed a rare defeat to the Brazilian, providing the 135-pound division with further notice that he’s coming for the title. Rivera has had some bad luck with injuries and fight cancellations, but he hopes the latest win secures no less than a No. 1 contender fight.

Immediately following his win, Rivera targeted former UFC champ Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC), who was calling the action from cageside. “The Dominator” hasn’t fought since losing the 135-pound belt to Cody Garbrandt at UFC 207, and with Garbrandt pegged to defend against T.J. Dillashaw next, setting up a fight between Rivera and Cruz would be perfect for the advancement of the division.

Patrick Cummins

Jared Cannonier

Should fight: Jared Cannonier
Why they should fight: Cummins’ up-and-down UFC career once again took an upward turn when he scored a split-decision win over Gian Villante in a hard-fought light heavyweight matchup.

Until Cummins can put together a big run, he’s going to remain relegated to mid-tier 205-pound matchups. That’s a perfectly fine role for now, especially because he’s likely to get more chances to break into the elite going forward.

Cummins’ wrestling is going to be a big threat against any opponent he fights. He’s struggled against hard hitters, though, and Cannonier (10-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) matches the power of anyone in the weight class. Cannonier has had difficulty with grapplers during his career, so the danger of the matchup would go both ways.

Darren Elkins

Ricardo Lamas

Should fight: Winner of Ricardo Lamas vs. Jason Knight at UFC 214
Why they should fight: Elkins once again pulled off a huge victory when he went into hostile territory and defeated Dennis Bermudez in a crucial featherweight bout.

Elkins pushed his winning streak to five when he earned a split-decision win over Bermudez in the co-main event affair, setting himself up for more big things in the future.

With the top of the division locked up with a number of potential title-fight scenarios, Elkins is going to need to put in even more work to get in the conversation as a realistic challenger to champ Max Holloway. He’s already on the best run of his UFC tenure, and a victory over the winner of the UFC 214 bout between Lamas (17-4 MMA, 8-3 UFC) and Knight (17-2 MMA, 4-1 UFC) would elevate his position even more.

Chris Weidman

Should fight: Ronaldo Souza
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Weidman should fight Ronaldo Souza (24-5 MMA, 7-2 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC on FOX 25, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Announcers, analysts set for UFC 213 pay-per-view, The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale on FS1

The UFC’s sixth annual International Fight Week festivities take place next week in Las Vegas.

Back-to-back fight cards sit atop the schedule, with The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale set to take place July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and UFC 213 slated to go down on July 8 from the same location.

The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass and features a lightweight main event between Michael Johnson (17-11 MMA, 9-7 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (17-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

MMAjunkie today confirmed with a FOX Sports official that Todd Grisham and Brian Stann will call the fights cageside, with Bruce Buffer serving as ring announcer.

Analysts for Thursday’s The Ultimate Fighter 25 weigh-in show on FS2, as well as the pre-fight and post-fight shows on FS1, will be former UFC bantamweight champion Dominick Cruz (22-2 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and former multi-time UFC title challenger Kenny Florian (14-6 MMA, 12-5 UFC). Karyn Bryant serves as anchor for the programs.

The same group will serve as analysts for Friday’s UFC 213 weigh-in show on FS2, as well as the pre-fight and post-fight content on FS1.

Calling the action at UFC 213, which is headlined by a women’s bantamweight title rematch between Amanda Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) and Valentina Shevchenko (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, will be a three-man booth featuring Jon Anik, Joe Rogan and Stann.

Megan Olivi will serve as the backstage reporter for both International Fight Week events.

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale and UFC 213, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie