Elias Theodorou happy he gets to haunt Daniel Kelly's dreams after UFC-Sydney

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SYDNEY – Elias Theodorou was no stranger to Daniel Kelly before they threw down at UFC Fight Night 121 on Saturday.

But after his unanimous decision win, Theodorou (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) went into some detail about an altercation he had with Kelly (13-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) a couple days before their middleweight fight at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. Their fight aired on the main card on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

“In some of the media, he was calling me two-faced,” Theodorou said after the fight. “After (media day), we said, ‘Is it OK if we take the elevator with you?’ After the door shut, he says, ‘You know what, mother(expletive)?’ and starts cussing at me.

“He goes, ‘You’re gonna act all two-faced and say you’re gonna be my friend? None of this stuff.’ And he goes, ‘It doesn’t matter. We’re gonna fight and I’m never gonna see you again.’”

Theodorou and Kelly were in the house together on the UFC’s “Nations” season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which pitted fighters from Canada (Theororou) against fighters from Australia (Kelly).

But with his win in the books, it sounds like Theodorou isn’t harboring any hard feelings with the 40-year-old Kelly, who was a four-time Olympian in judo for Australia.

“Now I get to haunt him in his dreams,” Theodorou said. “But the important thing is, I have no animosity toward him. It’s a true honor stepping in the cage with him. … I didn’t shake his hand in the beginning (of the fight), but I did in the third round because it was a true honor.”

Theodorou won that aforementioned “TUF: Nations” season with a TKO of Sheldon Westcott in April 2014, then won two more fights for a perfect 11-0 start to his career and 3-0 in the UFC. After a loss to Thiago Santos, he got back on the right track with wins over Sam Alvey and Cezar Ferreira.

But in July, he dropped a decision to Brad Tavares. So the win over Kelly was huge to keep Theodorou from the first skid of his career, but also to get him back toward putting together another streak if he wants to be a middleweight contender.

“I’ve still got to go back to the drawing board,” he said. “For now, I’m happy I won against a really tough guy and I’m back on a win streak. Obviously, there’s things I could’ve done better.

“… He’s resilient. He’s a true warrior – especially someone in his fourth decade. He’s been doing judo longer than I’ve been on this earth. As someone that’s only been doing martial arts for eight years in any capacity – and six of those years I’ve been professional – I’m always growing and I’m learning. And I have to do that from this fight.”

For more from Theodoroou, check out the video above.

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

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

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

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

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

After every event, fans wonder whom the winners will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC Fight Night 121’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Alex Volkanovski

Jeremy Kennedy

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

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

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

Elias Theodorou

Anthony Smith

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

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

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

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

Jake Matthews

Shinsho Anzai

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

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

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

Belal Muhammad

Warlley Alves

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

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

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

Jessica-Rose Clark

Joanne Calderwood

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

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

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

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

Fabricio Werdum

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

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

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UFC Fight Night 121 results: Elias Theodorou outworks Daniel Kelly for unanimous decision

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No matter how much Elias Theodorou kicked Daniel Kelly, Kelly wouldn’t go away – and even put Theodorou in trouble a time or two.

But ultimately, Theodorou (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) just had too much output for Kelly (13-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) on his way to a unanimous decision win. The Canadian topped the Australian home fan favorite with scores of 30-28, 30-27, 30-26.

The middleweight bout was part of the main card of today’s UFC Fight Night 121 event at at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Theodorou kicked at Kelly’s lead leg right away – a lead leg that was wrapped in a brace. Theodorou then kicked to the body and circled outside. But Kelly pushed forward offering up the potential for heavy hands. Theodorou landed another body kick, then ducked away from a looping punch from Kelly. When Kelly tried to push forward, Theodorou kicked up the middle. Two minutes in, they tied up – and Kelly just missed a left hand.

Theodorou stayed outside and tried to make Kelly chase him down. When Kelly got close, Theodorou tried to jump off the cage for a kick. Theodorou kept kicking to the body, then up high, but Kelly kept stalking. They tied up with 30 seconds left, but Kelly couldn’t get Theodorou to the ground.

Kelly aggressively came forward in the second and got a tie-up early in the round. Theodorou kicked on the break and always seemed just barely out of range of potential danger from Kelly. But 90 seconds in, Kelly finally got his judo to work. He tripped Theodorou to the canvas, though he couldn’t keep him there long. Two minutes into the round, Theodorou landed a kick too low and Kelly got a break.

On the restart, Theodorou landed a kick to the leg, then two to the body. Midway through, Kelly again tried to tie him up and landed a left hand just before the break. But Theodorou kicked him several times in the head, all partially blocked, before returning to kicks at the lead leg. With 90 seconds left, another left hand from Kelly found the mark and he clinched him up again. Kelly tried to throw Theodorou again with a minute left, but couldn’t finish it.

In the third, Theodorou landed to the lead leg once more, then to the body. It looked like Kelly was starting to be bothered by the leg kicks, but he fired back with his own heavy body kick and got a roar from his homd fans. The two exchanged wildly near the fence, and Kelly tied Theodorou up and dragged him to the ground. Kelly wrapped up a rear-naked choke, but Theodorou fought it off and popped his head off. He used it to nearly take Kelly’s back midway through the round. He landed a pair of knees, then kept Kelly clinched up.

Kelly got the break with two minutes left, then had to eat some more kicks from Theodorou. Theodorou did his best to stay out of Kelly’s range in the final minute and cicrled outside, but with 40 seconds left Kelly tied him up again looking for one final takedown. He couldn’t get it, and Theodorou cruised to the horn.

“I am proud to get a win over such an accomplished martial artist,” Theodorou said. “He’s been practicing judo since before I was born and is a skilled technician. I had to take him very seriously. I knew that the guys who he’s beaten tried to stand and box with him, so I decided to use my reach advantage and my kicks to control the tempo of the fight.”

Theodorou is back in the win column after a decision loss to Brad Tavares in July. He has won three of his past four. Kelly lost for the second straight time, which includes a 76-second knockout loss to Derek Brunson in June. It’s the first skid of his MMA career.

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

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

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

How is ol' man Daniel Kelly dealing with 'massive, massive disappointment'?

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SYDNEY – After a four-fight winning streak came to an abrupt end, how is 40-year-old Daniel Kelly dealing with the setback?

With his trademark optimism and fortitude, as usual.

Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who meets fellow middleweight Elias Theodorou (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 121, was inching up the 185-pound ladder with a solid winning streak, but in his most recent bout, he suffered a 76-second knockout loss to Derek Brunson.

How’d it feel to deal with such an untimely setback?

“Massive disappointment – massive, massive disappointment,” the fan favorite told MMAjunkie. “We were on a really good run. We won like four in a row, something like that. And everything was good.

“(The loss) was my fault. I made mistakes. So, you can’t make mistakes at that level. You saw what (Brunson) did to (Lyoto) Machida that next fight. And Brunson is an awesome, awesome competitor. So, it was very disappointing. All you can do is get back to the drawing board.”

He looks to do just that when he meets Theodorou in an FS1-televised main-card bout at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. For the four-time Australian Olympic judoka, he’s likely going to be a massive crowd favorite.

But Kelly also knows he has a tough challenge in Theodorou, a fellow vet of “The Ultimate Fighter.” After all, Theodorou has defeated the two of the three opponents who have beaten Kelly since the Australian turned to pro MMA in 2006 – Sam Alvey and Sheldon Westcott (in a “TUF” exhibition bout).

And sure, some folks close to him may have preferred that Kelly call it a career after the Brunson loss. But despite a couple decades of combat-sports experience and Father Time peering over his shoulder, Kelly isn’t quite ready to call it quits.

“At the end of the day, I think I’m a good representation for the sport and how I conduct myself and all of that,” he said. “So, there’s still a little but of gas in there, in the tank. So I’ll get going for a little bit longer.”

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Check out all the picks above.

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

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

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

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

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

Staple info:

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

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

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

Staple info:

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

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

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official pick: Werdum inside the distance

Official outcome: To be determined

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

UFC Fight Night 121 media day face-offs: Sorry, there were no boomerangs

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SYDNEY – While former UFC heavyweight champion Fabricio Werdum has been involved in the biggest headlines surrounding this week’s UFC Fight Night 121 event in Australia, “Vai Cavalo” was a bit more subdued on stage today when standing across from opponent Marcin Tybura.

UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Saturday (Sunday locally) at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Standing in stark contrast to this week’s hotel-lobby clash, Werdum (22-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC) and Tybura (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) were respectful during a quick meeting on stage at a ballroom inside this week’s host hotel. The same stood for the session’s other featured athletes, including Elias Theodorou (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) vs. Daniel Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), Alex Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC) vs. Shane Young (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and Rashad Coulter (8-2 MMA, 0-1 UFC) vs. Tai Tuivasa (7-0 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

Check out the video above to see this week’s media day face-offs.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

MMAjunkie reader predictions: Make your picks for UFC Fight Night 121 in Sydney

We want your predictions for Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 121 event in Australia.

Our staff picks feature includes the consensus picks from MMAjunkie readers. Simply cast your vote for each bout below, and we’ll use the official tallies that are registered by Thursday at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).

Those MMAjunkie MMA reader consensus picks will be part of the UFC Fight Night 121 staff picks we release Friday ahead of the event. UFC Fight Night 121 takes place Sunday (but airs live on Saturday in North America due to the time difference at Qudos Bank Arena in Sydney. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Fabricio Werdum vs. Marcin Tybura

Records: Fabricio Werdum (22-7-1 MMA, 10-4 UFC), Marcin Tybura (16-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC)
Past five: Werdum 3-2, Tybura 4-1
Division: Heavyweight
Rankings: Werdum No. 3, Tybura honorable mention
Odds (as of 11/13/17): Werdum -360, Tybura +300

Take Our Poll
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Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Bec Rawlings

Records: Jessica-Rose Clark (7-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC), Bec Rawlings (7-6 MMA, 2-3 UFC)
Past five: Rawling 2-3, Clark 2-2 (one no-contest)
Division: Women’s flyweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/13/17): Rawlings -150, Clark +130

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Tim Means vs. Belal Muhammad

Records: Tim Means (27-8-1 MMA, 9-5 UFC), Belal Muhammad (12-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC)
Past five: Means 3-1 (one no-contest), Muhammad 3-2
Division: Welterweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/13/17): Means -260, Muhammad +220

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Jake Matthews vs. Bojan Velickovic

Records: Jake Matthews (10-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), Bojan Velickovic (15-5-1 MMA, 2-2-1 UFC)
Past five: Matthews 2-3, Velickovic 2-2-1
Division: Welterweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/13/17): Matthews -150, Velickovic +130

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Daniel Kelly vs. Elias Theodorou

Records: Daniel Kelly (13-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), Elias Theodorou (13-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC)
Past five: Kelly 4-1, Theodorou 3-2
Division: Middleweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/13/17): Theodorou -260, Kelly +200

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Alex Volkanovski vs. Shane Young

Records: Alex Volkanovski (15-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC), Shane Young (11-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC)
Past five: Volkanovski 5-0, Young 5-0
Division: Heavyweight
Rankings: None
Odds (as of 11/13/17): Theodorou -260, Young +200

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Will Michael Bisping really retire? Would Georges St-Pierre really defend?

In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, is the UFC middleweight champ really considering retiring, or just playing us for a few extra pay-per-view buys? Plus, is the UFC Fight Night 117 headliner the weakest in recent memory? And should we care why someone failed a drug test, or is it the fighter’s responsibility to test clean no matter what?

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

I believe that multiple people in Michael Bisping’s life are telling him to retire after the Georges St-Pierre fight, and why wouldn’t they?

He’ll be 39 in a few months. He’s taken a lot of damage over the course of his very memorable career. And the other top 185-pounders who are gunning for his spot? They are a group of terrifying individuals. If Bisping wins this fight and has to defend his UFC middleweight belt against actual UFC middleweight contenders, there’s no way he doesn’t end up in tougher fights for less money than he’ll make at UFC 217.

If there was a time to take the money and run, brother, it’s now.

But Bisping’s savvy enough to know a good sales angle when he sees one. He knows that a large number of MMA fans always want to see him get beat up, which is why he’s teasing retirement now. He wants those people to think that soon they won’t have Michael Bisping to kick around anymore, so they better pay their money and enjoy this last ride.

Will he really do it? I have my doubts. Bisping is a stubborn and fiercely competitive person, which is a big part of how he’s made it this far in his career. If he beats GSP, could he admit to himself that he’s better off not testing himself against the likes of Bobby Knuckles? Could he turn down that one extra payday? Could he walk away as the middleweight champ who never defended his title against a single middleweight contender?

Seems like he’s spent his whole career trying to get to this very spot. I have a hard time believing he’ll give it up without being forcibly ejected.

That’s easy: Elias Theodorou, who also happens to be one of my favorite fighters on social media. You’re telling me you don’t want to see a polite Canadian roll in there with his wavy locks and put the hurt on some Twitter troll who way overreacted to his reasonable opinions? Of course you do. Watching him kick the Mtn Dew out of an online hater would be pay-per-view material.

 

That is one thing that might hurt interest in the Bisping-GSP fight. When Luke Rockhold said that St-Pierre wouldn’t fight any top middleweights even if he does win, it had the ring of truth. And Bisping is already talking about getting out, win or lose, after UFC 217.

So how excited are we supposed to get for a middleweight title fight that might end up meaning nothing at all for the middleweight division?

If you ask me who you’d have to beat to become the top middleweight in the world right now, without question I say it’s Robert Whittaker. But if his interim title morphs into the real thing just because no actual champ will fight him, that’s bound to feel a little anti-climactic.

If it’s not, it’ll do until the weakest gets here. But let’s be honest, it’s not like any of us were that heartbroken to hear that Ovince Saint Preux vs. Mauricio Rua II was off. That rematch made no sense and mattered not at all to the light heavyweight division. It was an attempt to throw the Japanese fans a bone.

Hey, you guys used to like “Shogun,” right? Well here he is again, held together by duct tape and chewing gum, back to fight for your nostalgic pleasure.

Is it really so much different to go from Rua to a hometown figure like Yushin Okami? Yes, the fight itself is silly and doesn’t mean much. (The UFC decided Okami wasn’t worth keeping as a middleweight, and now he’s back as a light heavyweight?) Then again, the fight it’s replacing was silly and didn’t mean much, albeit for different reasons. It might be weak, but at least it’s not here in place of something strong.

The changes to the USADA rules announced earlier this year make it easier for replacement fighters to slide in without a long testing period, which seems both practical and about as fair as it can realistically be. If you need a replacement on six days’ notice, you’re probably going to have to go outside the UFC to find one. If the USADA policy didn’t allow for that possibility at all, we’d seen even more canceled fights.

Does it open the door to potential dopers sliding into a fight without having faced the same vetting their opponents did? Sure. But if you know you’ve been doping and getting away with it thanks to minimal or even non-existent testing in another organization, and you also know that USADA will be waiting for you in the UFC, wouldn’t that make you less likely to accept a short-notice fight? You won’t have time to clean out your system, and even if you get through the fight before getting popped, then you’re faced with a long suspension.

It’s not a perfect system, but when you take into account the practical realities at work, it seems like a reasonable compromise.

Sure, no problem. When I’m done with it, should I go ahead and solve crime next? How about unhappiness?

Look, we can’t set the bar for anti-doping success at complete eradication. We will never get there. As long as steroids work and winning fighters earn more money than losing ones (whether in the short or the long term), someone will be willing to take the risk.

The best we can hope for is that the testing is good enough and the punishments strong enough to act as a deterrent. I suspect that’s already happened to some extent. I’m sure somewhere out there is a UFC fighter who would have doped, who seriously considered it, but decided that the chances of being caught were too great, and the consequences too severe to make it worth it.

If we get to a point where no one is getting caught, we shouldn’t take that as a sign that the battle has been won. We should take it as a sign that the testing probably isn’t working.

First of all, GSP’s been out of the sport for that long, but not out of the public eye. In a way, it feels like he’s been back in our lives for at least a year now, because he wouldn’t stop talking about this fight while he was on the very slow train to Comebacktown. If you gave Conor McGregor a year to talk before fighting, I feel like he’d do just fine. So would Ronda Rousey, I expect.

But it is worth wondering how the former “king of pay-per-view” will draw in his return. This feels like a different era for the UFC. It’s the era where “money fight” came into our lexicon. It’s when we learned that shirts are actually optional at press conferences, and energy drink cans are pretty aerodynamic.

Can you still be the star of the show as the clean-cut French-Canadian who’s super polite to the point of being kind of boring? And what if St-Pierre loses, which is a real possibility going up a weight class after such an extended layoff? Will a lot of newer fans just write him off as someone who used to be good according to a bunch of old fogies?

The good news is, right now the UFC doesn’t have a whole lot else planned for the coming months. If you want in on a big fight, you’ve pretty much got to show up for this one. So at least the payday should be worth it.

Is it too late to get Brian Stann back? Could we sprint to the train station just in time and run along the platform, shouting at him that we can change before we run face first into a pole?

Then again, I guess it depends what we want out of a president. Dana White has his flaws, but for many years he also had the virtues of his faults. Those media scrums he used to do after press conferences? Those were so popular precisely because he was so unguarded, so free with the news nuggets, so likely to say something worth reporting. That’s the upside of the same personality defect that leads to him getting on Twitter and telling his customers that they’re fat, ugly idiots.

But White was definitely what the UFC needed for a long time. He was a loud, bombastic carnival barker who could shepherd people into the tent when the show was about to start. And maybe the UFC still needs that more than it needs a buttoned-up professional-type like Stann, but you don’t see White doing nearly as much of it. These days it’s not even a given that he’ll show up to his own events.

I pick Demian Maia, for sure. Because if I get choked out by Maia, at least I can go tell the story to all my jiu-jitsu buddies and maybe even trick them into buying me lunch in the process. If I get flattened out by Rockhold, I might end up drinking that lunch through a straw.

Definitely the best boxing movie, one of the best sports movies, even one of the best biopics. How could it not be? It’s a Martin Scorsese film about a tragic figure, and it’s got Robert De Niro and Joe Pesci in it. The death of Jake LaMotta is as good an excuse as any to go back and watch it. If you’d prefer to do some reading, I’d also recommend this story on LaMotta.

I’m old enough to remember when Carlos Condit said he was unsure of his future due to concerns about head trauma, so it’s tough to be totally enthusiastic about seeing him come back for more. Still, Condit’s so much fun to watch. If he feels up to it, how can I not get hyped to see him jump back into the fire?

Who he should fight is a tough question, though. You look around the welterweight class and you see a lot of young hitters who’d love a chance to make their name off a potentially rusty Condit. That’d be a little depressing, even if the cannibalization of yesterday’s heroes is something of a sad tradition in combat sports. Plus, Condit has fought most of the guys at or near the top, so what else can you do with him if he really wants to fight within a few months?

Just saying, if the MMA gods won’t give us Mike Perry vs. Robbie Lawler, then “Platinum Mike” vs. The NBK would be a very acceptable substitute.

For the most part, yes, I agree. But if we can do so with a reasonable degree of certainty, it is worth the effort to distinguish the intentional dopers from the careless pill and supplement-takers. That’s especially true when the supplement industry is so unregulated that you could conceivably buy a new batch of the same product you took without incident six months ago and still end up with banned substances in your system. It doesn’t make you blameless, but it also doesn’t quite make you a cheat.

For more on MMA’s upcoming schedule, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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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The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale salaries: Justin Gaethje banks event-high $200k

Justin Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) earned the largest disclosed payday at this past Friday’s The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, taking home a disclosed $200,000 purse in addition to the $100,000 he earned in post-fight bonuses for a “Fight of the Year” candidate against Michael Johnson (17-12 MMA, 9-8 UFC).

MMAjunkie today obtained the list of official disclosed salaries from the Nevada State Athletic Commission.

The TUF 25 Finale took place at T-Mobile in Las Vegas. The bulk of the card aired on FOX Sports 1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

The next highest earner on the card was two-time title challenger Gray Maynard (13-6-1 MMA, 11-6-1 UFC), who took home $102,000 for a unanimous decision over Teruto Ishihara (9-4-2 MMA, 2-2-1 UFC) on the UFC Fight Pass-streamed prelims.

The total disclosed payroll for the event was $1,028,000.

Official TUF 25 Finale payouts included:

Justin Gaethje: $200,000 (includes $100,000 win bonus)
def. Michael Johnson: $47,000

Jesse Taylor: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus)
def. Dhiego Lima: $15,000

Drakkar Klose: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Marc Diakiese: $24,000

Jared Cannonier: $100,000 (includes $50,000 win bonus)
def. Nick Roehrick: $12,000

Brad Tavares: $68,000 (includes $34,000 win bonus)
def. Elias Theodorou: $24,000

Jordan Johnson: $24,000 (includes $12,000 win bonus)
def. Marcel Fortuna: $14,000

Angela Hill: $36,000 (includes $18,000 win bonus)
def. Ashley Yoder: $12,000

James Krause: $48,000 (includes $24,000 win bonus)
def. Tom Gallicchio: $10,000

C.B. Dolloway: $86,000 (includes $43,000 win bonus)
def. Ed Herman: $54,000

Tecia Torres: $60,000 (includes $30,000 win bonus)
def. Juliana Lima: $17,000

Gray Maynard: $102,000 (includes $51,000 win bonus)
def. Teruto Ishihara: $21,000

Now, the usual disclaimer: The figures do not include deductions for items such as insurance, licenses and taxes. Additionally, the figures do not include money paid by sponsors like Reebok, which can oftentimes be a substantial portion of a fighter’s income. They also do not include any other “locker room” or special discretionary bonuses the UFC sometimes pays.

For example, as previously reported, UFC officials handed out additional $50,000 TUF 25 Finale bonuses to Gaethje, Johnson and Torres who all earned “Performance of the Night” awards.

In other words, the above figures are simply base salaries reported to the commission and do not reflect entire compensation packages for the event.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie