Category Archives: Francis Ngannou

No 'JDS'? No problem. Francis Ngannou says bring on Alistair Overeem at UFC 215

Francis Ngannou got the bummer news Friday that he suddenly was without an opponent for UFC 215, just three weeks away.

Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) was supposed to fight former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) at the event. But Friday, “JDS” was taken out of the fight due to a potential U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) violation.

Ngannou’s initial response? He tweeted that he was “very, very angry.” (A rep for the ex-champ said the Brazilian tested positive for Hydrochlorothiazide, a banned diuretic, and that his team hopes to find just how it got into his system.)

But after apparently hearing from Dos Santos and getting an apology, Ngannou already is focusing his attention on remaining part of the show at UFC 215, which takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Today, Ngannou took to Twitter to say he wants to fight former Strikeforce champion and recent UFC title challenger Alistair Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC), seeing as how Overeem has been name-dropping him.

“@Alistairovereem been mentioning my name everywhere. I’m now open and free for you guy. Let do this at #ufc215,” Ngannou posted.

He even included a trio of fireball emojis, seemingly to indicate he thinks a matchup between the two of them would be, as the kids say, “lit af.”

Ngannou is about the hottest thing going in the UFC’s heavyweight title picture. He has nine straight wins, including his first five in the UFC. All 10 of his career wins are by stopppage. His most recent two wins against arguably his toughests tests yet in Anthony Hamilton and former champ Andrei Arlovski were first-round bonus winners, and he has three straight wins in less than two minutes of work.

Overeem has back-to-back wins after losing his shot at UFC champ Stipe Miocic nearly a year ago at UFC 203 in Miocic’s home city of Cleveland. He knocked out Mark Hunt at UFC 209 and took a majority decision from ex-champ Fabricio Werdum earlier this year to get back in the title picture. He has won six of his past seven with four finishes.

So what say you? Is this the fight to make on short notice? Vote in our poll below.

And for more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors 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, News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Junior Dos Santos notified of potential doping violation, pulled from UFC 215

Former UFC heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) has been pulled from a planned fight with Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) due to a potential doping violation.

UFC officials today revealed the news after being notified by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency, the independent administrator of the UFC Anti-Doping Policy.

Dos Santos was flagged after an out-of-competition drug test conducted Aug. 10. Per standard USADA procedure, details on the nature of his anti-doping violation are being withheld during the results management process.

“Because of the proximity to Dos Santos’ upcoming scheduled bout at UFC 215 in Edmonton, Canada against Francis Ngannou, Dos Santos has been removed from the card and the UFC is currently seeking a replacement,” the UFC’s statement read. “Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, there is a full and fair legal process that is afforded to all athletes before any sanctions are imposed. Additional information will be provided at the appropriate time as the process moves forward.”

Dos Santos’ representatives issued a statement to MMAjunkie insisting the heavyweight has never taken performance-enhancing drugs and remains adamantly against their use in the sport.

“We are still trying to understand the test results, so that we can investigate and determine what happened,” the statement read. “What we know as of now is that Junior Dos Santos has never taken PED’s, has never knowingly used any banned substances, and has always supported USADA’s policies and efforts to keep the sport clean. If ever there was a fighter who made his position on this issue unequivocal, it’s Junior. We are confident that that we will be able to figure out what happened, and will provide an explanation once we have one.”

Ngannou immediately took to Twitter to post his frustration with the scrapped contest.

Dos Santos is currently ranked No. 5 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, while Ngannou sits at No. 9.

Dos Santos last saw action in May, when he suffered a first-round knockout loss to current champ Stipe Miocic at UFC 211 in a failed bid to regain the title. Despite the result, the Brazilian slugger was anxious for a quick return to the cage.

Featuring a pair of championship matchups, UFC 215 takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The night’s main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

UFC 215: Latest fight card and trailer – with champ Demetrious Johnson chasing a major record

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Sure, another major event has captured the spotlight, but the UFC soon returns with a pay-per-view event.

UFC officials have largely cleared their August schedule to throw their promotional muscle behind the Aug. 26 boxing mega-fight between UFC lightweight champion Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and Floyd Mayweather (49-0 boxing). But on Sept. 9, the UFC hosts UFC 215, a championship doubleheader.

The PPV event takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada, and the main card follows prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Check out a preview of the event – and its top three fights – above.

In the main event, flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson (26-2-1 MMA, 14-1-1 UFC) looks for his record 11th consecutive title defense when he takes on challenger Ray Borg (11-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC).

Johnson, who’s No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings (and No. 2 pound-for-pound), could break middleweight great Anderson Silva’s longstanding title-defense record if victorious. “Mighty Mouse” is currently a 10-1 favorite to beat No. 5-ranked Borg, who’s won two straight and five of his past six, though he missed weight on two occasions.

In the co-headliner, women’s bantamweight titleholder and No. 1-ranked female 135-pounder Amanda Nunes (14-4 MMA, 7-1 UFC) rematches No. 2-ranked Valentina Shevchenko (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC). Nunes, who took the title from Miesha Tate during her current five-fight winning streak, also defeated No. 2-ranked Shevchenko via unanimous decision during her current run. Shevchenko has since rebounded with wins over ex-champ Holly Holm (decision) and Julianna Pena (submission).

UFC 215 also features a major heavyweight clash as ex-champ and No. 5-ranked Junior Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) takes on No. 9 Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC). Although Dos Santos lost to champ Stipe Miocic in his most recent bout, a title shot could be on the line for him or Ngannou, who’s won nine straight, including five in the UFC (four knockouts and one submission).

The latest UFC 215 lineup includes:

    • Champ Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg – for flyweight title
    • Champ Amanda Nunes vs. Valentina Shevchenko – for women’s bantamweight title
    • Junior Dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou
    • Gilbert Melendez vs. Jeremy Stephens
    • Rafael dos Anjos vs. Neil Magny
    • Sara McMann vs. Ketlen Vieira
    • Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro
    • Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis
    • Rick Glenn vs. Gavin Tucker
    • Arjan Bhullar vs. Luis Henrique
    • Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Sarah Moras
    • Kajan Johnson vs. Adriano Martins
    • Mitch Clarke vs. Alex White

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Is this McGregor-Malignaggi thing a feud or a plan for the future?

Is a sparring partner feud just an attempt to set up another boxing match down the road for MMA’s biggest star? After years of pushing for it, why don’t fighters want to work in New York anymore? And will UFC 215 bring a return to normalcy, even if that’s bad for the box office?

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

* * * *

I’m not going to say that the gym feud between Conor McGregor and Paulie Malignaggi is fake, exactly, but it sure seems like both sides are determined to milk it for every last ounce. Malignaggi can’t seem to stop talking about his brief time as McGregor’s sparring partner, whether it’s on social media or in multiple interviews. Team McGregor naturally has a conflicting account of the saga, which has served to keep this a top news story all week.

For promotional purposes, that’s all great news. After the press tour and the subsequent shock and awe that follows four days of loud, inane swearing, this fight needed a new kick to fuel headlines as Aug. 26 creeps closer. McGregor vs. Malignaggi provided that kick, and right on time, which ought to make us at least question what we’re seeing here.

Will it result in an actual fight? A lot will depend on how McGregor does against Floyd Mayweather. If he gets thoroughly schooled by Mayweather, I’m not sure how interested people would be in seeing him fight a lesser opponent for the sake of a grudge.

If McGregor hangs tough against Mayweather, but ultimately loses, that would still surprise enough people to generate some continued interest in him as a boxer. Of course, at some point the UFC is going to get less supportive of McGregor’s boxing career, but a contractual challenge to his right to box could potentially force an Ali Act showdown, which the UFC might rather avoid.

Then there’s the least likely scenario, which is a McGregor victory over Mayweather. If that happens, why fight a recently retired former champ like Malignaggi next? Why do anything except an immediate rematch, and for literally all the money that exists in the world?

First would be, don’t overdo it all at once. Remember the old Jon Jones, the one who wanted us to see him as a nice, polite choir boy even while he was partying his way through training camp? People didn’t buy it because it was so clearly an image he was trying to project rather than a life he was trying to actually lead. Eventually the dissonance between the two erupted in a way that was impossible to miss, which is bound to breed some skepticism going forward.

It’s not going to be as simple as fan giveaways or gracious interviews. That’s the stuff we can all see, and we know that he knows it. His problem in the past has been the stuff he says and does when he thinks we can’t see.

If Jones wants to change his image, he’ll have to do it over a longer timeline. It won’t just be what he does, but what he doesn’t do. Because, yeah, we see you being nice to fans and enemies alike. We’re also wondering if there’s not more police bodycam footage in your future. You’re going to have to convince us the same way you convince your insurance company: slowly, over time, and with the absence of notable events.

Any sport where people are hitting each other in the head repeatedly and on purpose is bound to be bad for the brain. Helmets won’t save you, as NFL players have discovered. And while more rest and greater training precautions could probably help fighters, you’re never going to completely remove the risk of brain trauma from combat sports like MMA and boxing.

MMA and its fans will have to find one way or another to make their peace with that, just like with the NFL. One thing that makes it tougher in our sport is that fighters will likely face many of the same health challenges as they age, but without all the money and ongoing care that comes largely as a result of the NFL Players Association.

If you think it can’t get worse than former sports heroes freezing in their cars because they can’t remember to put a coat on, just imagine them doing that with less money and fewer resources to help them when they need it. My guess is MMA has a lot of depressing GoFundMe campaigns in our future.

I’m worried about Johny Hendricks. It was a little over a month ago that he came in heavy at middleweight, then got knocked out by Tim Boetsch. He didn’t look good at any point in that outing, whether before or during or immediately after. Frankly, he looked like a guy who might need to take some time and get his act together before he thinks about fighting again.

So what’s he do? He turns right around and signs to fight Paulo Borrachinho at UFC 217 in November. If Borrachinho’s name doesn’t ring a bell, he’s the guy who knocked out Oluwale Bomgbose at UFC 212. He’s undefeated powerhouse of a middleweight, and he’s a scary dude to face if you’re not completely focused and prepared.

Just as concerning is what this booking says about how the UFC views Hendricks right now. He’s 2-5 since winning the vacant UFC welterweight title, and he hasn’t looked like he really wants to be there in a very long time.

I don’t get the sense that the UFC is throwing him in against Borrachinho because it wants to halt the young Brazilian’s momentum. Seems more likely that the goal here is to give the unbeaten prospect a win over a former champ, making Hendricks the wet rag that the UFC is intent on squeezing every last drop of value from before it tosses him aside. That ought to worry him. The possibility that it’s still not motivating enough for him at this point is what worries me.

First, take a day off and try not to think about what size gloves McGregor and Mayweather will wear, or whether the two megalomaniacs threatening each other with nuclear fire will actually pull the trigger and doom us all. Just mental health-wise, you need a break.

But if it’s going to be a true break, you need to get away from anything that might alert you to what’s happening on the internet/world. For this, I suggest a book, like maybe this one, in which Elmore Leonard spins a fictional yarn about a U.S. Marshall and a bunch of captured Nazi soldiers. Or how about this one, a nonfiction tale about the sinking of the Lusitania, which may or may not have been part of a conspiracy to pull the U.S. into World War I.

What’s that you say? You can’t actually read? In that case, watch a movie or something. Have you seen the documentary “Tickled”? Because that is straight-up bananas. And if you don’t like movies, I don’t know, go see a play or something, you weirdo.

The good news for New York fight fans concerned about a fighter-led boycott is that most fighters don’t have the pull that Jones does, and therefore can’t avoid the Empire State so easily. Also, plenty of them are still starstruck enough by the idea of fighting in Madison Square Garden that they’ll overlook the tax burden that comes with it.

But honestly, I’m weirdly glad to see some fighters getting a little smarter about their tax situation. Pro athletes who work as independent contractors in several different states over the course of any given year face a tricky deal come tax time. If this is how we end up with Jones defending his title exclusively on floating barges in international waters, so be it.

UFC 215 might be a good barometer of the general MMA pay-per-view market in the year 2017. As we saw in Anaheim last month, the UFC can still do big numbers on pay-per-view without McGregor or Ronda Rousey. It just has to offer something special, like a much-hyped rematch between two of the best in the world, plus two extra title fights in support, in order to make up for the loss of the two most famous fighters on the roster.

But UFC 215 is a bit of a throwback. It’s got two title fights featuring zero famous people. The two champions – Demetrious Johnson and Amanda Nunes – aren’t exactly beloved even inside the MMA bubble right now. History tells us that sales should be dismal.

But wait, the undercard for this one is actually really compelling. Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos? Jeremy Stephens vs. Gilbert Melendez? Rafael dos Anjos vs. Neil Magny? When you lump them all together, you get a pretty good value for your money.

The question is whether fans will care. The surest path to breaking through on pay-per-view is with a name-brand star. But those are tough to come by, and the problem for the UFC has been that such stars quickly look to leverage their drawing power in some other field, like boxing or movies, because even big paydays for MMA are relatively small paydays for those other endeavors.

That’s something the UFC will have to figure out if it wants to continue basing so much of its business on pay-per-view in a changing media landscape.

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

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

Sean Shelby's shoes: What's next for Yoel Romero and UFC 213's other losing fighters?

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

UFC 213 took place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, with a five-fight main card on pay-pay-per-view.

Yoel Romero (12-2 MMA, 8-1 UFC) fell short of the interim UFC middleweight title in the headliner when he suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Robert Whittaker (19-4 MMA, 10-2 UFC) to experience the first blemish on his previously unbeaten UFC career.

Some other fighters suffered notable losses, as well, with Fabricio Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC), Daniel Omielanczuk (19-8-1 MMA, 4-5 UFC) and Jim Miller (28-10 MMA, 17-9 UFC) falling short on the scorecards, while Douglas Silva de Andrade (24-2 MMA, 2-2 UFC) was stopped inside the distance.

After every event, fans wonder whom the losing fighters will be matched up with next. And with another night of UFC action in the rearview mirror, it’s time to look forward, put on a pair of Sean Shelby and Mick Maynard’s shoes, and play UFC matchmaker for UFC 213’s key losing fighters.

* * * *

Jim Miller

Should fight: Abel Trujillo
Why they should fight: Although Miller fell short against a former UFC champion in Anthony Pettis, there’s no taking away from his status as one of the most decorated names in UFC history who should keep a place on the roster as long as he sees fit.

Miller tied the record for most appearances in UFC history in the unanimous-decision loss to Pettis. He was once considered a contender, but at this point in his career his position on the roster is fairly clear, and he should be allowed that position until he either completely falls off the map or retires.

Miller has almost exclusively lost to top tier opponents. A step back is necessary if he wants to keep his career in a safe position, and Trujillo (15-7 MMA, 6-3 UFC) is just that. Although Trujillo is not an easy fight, he’s winnable for Miller and also a name which would not be viewed as a write-off.

Daniel Omielanczuk

Should fight: Winner of James Mulheron vs. Justin Willis at UFC Fight Night 113
Why they should fight: Omielanczuk was pegged as the biggest betting underdog on the card and unfortunately that rang true when he fell short against Curtis Blaydes in a heavyweight fight.

Omielanczuk suffered a unanimous-decision loss to fall under .500 over the course of his nine-fight UFC career. He’ll need to go back to drawing board, but his hope of keeping a UFC roster spot is not yet lost.

A win for Omielanczuk would have potentially pushed him into top 15 matchups in the heavyweight division. The loss keeps him paired against fighters of a similar stature, though, and the winner of the July 15 fight between Mulheron (11-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) and Willis (4-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 113 would be right in his wheelhouse.

Fabricio Werdum

Should fight: Loser of Junior Dos Santos vs. Francis Ngannou at UFC 215
Why they should fight: Werdum’s chance to break back into heavyweight title contention was harshly derailed with a majority-decision loss in his trilogy fight with Alistair Overeem.

With his 40th birthday rapidly approaching, it’s difficult to gauge whether the Brazilian will be eager to make another run in the division. The upside is that he’s a former champion, has a name and could be just a few wins and a couple good breaks from becoming a pertinent contender again.

Werdum needs to beat a key name, though, and the loser of September’s UFC 215 bout between Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) and Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) would be a solid target.

Werdum has history with Dos Santos after he suffered a stunning knockout loss to the then-UFC newcomer in 2008. The rematch has been long in the making and frankly should have already been done. If Ngannou comes up short, however, a showdown with Werdum would be another big chance after the Frenchman’s first octagon defeat.

Yoel Romero

Should fight: Luke Rockhold
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Romero should fight Rockhold (15-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC 213, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Francis Ngannou meets ex-champ Junior Dos Santos at UFC 215 in Edmonton

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

A heavyweight bout between Francis Ngannou and former champion Junior Dos Santos is the latest addition to September’s UFC 215 lineup.

UFC officials today announced the bout between Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) and Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC) following an initial report from the Edmonton Journal.

UFC 215 takes place Sept. 9 at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, though the bout order hasn’t been finalized.

Ngannou is riding a divisional best five-fight UFC winning streak. He’s finished all of his octagon victories inside the distance, with his most recent performance a 92-second TKO of another former UFC champion, Andrei Arlovski, at UFC on FOX 23 in January.

Although Ngannou was pushing for a fight against either Cain Velasquez or Alistair Overeem, he gets another prominent name in Dos Santos.

Despite coming off a first-round knockout loss to Stipe Miocic in a heavyweight title fight at UFC 211 in May, Dos Santos was eager to make a quick turnaround to action. He had a 13-month layoff prior to the encounter with Miocic and wanted to engage in a more active schedule in the fallout.

The former champ makes a dangerous play by fighting a rising star, but “Cigano” has never lost back-to-back fights and surely won’t want to start at UFC 215.

Also added to the card was a light heavyweight bout between Ilir Latifi (12-5 MMA, 5-3 UFC) and Tyson Pedro (6-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC).

The latest UFC 215 lineup includes:

  • Francis Ngannou vs. Junior Dos Santos
  • Ilir Latifi vs. Tyson Pedro
  • Henry Cejudo vs. Wilson Reis
  • Rick Glenn vs. Gavin Tucker
  • Ashlee Evans-Smith vs. Sarah Moras
  • Arjan Bhullar vs. Luis Henrique

For more on UFC 215, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Derrick Lewis responded to Travis Browne and Francis Ngannou in 'Black Beast' fashion

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Derrick Lewis appeared to be an easy target following a loss in this past Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 110 headliner, but the retiring heavyweight had a few final shots.

Following a fourth-round TKO loss to vet Mark Hunt (13-11-1 MMA, 8-5-1 UFC) in the FS1-televised headliner at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand, Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) provided a surprise by suggesting he’s done fighting.

“It’s probably my last fight,” the 32-year-old said after the bout. “I’m getting married next week, and I don’t like to put my family through this. That will be my last fight.”

The announcement prompted a few reactions from fellow UFC heavyweights. They included Travis Browne, who suffered a knockout loss to “The Black Beast” earlier this year. In the buildup to the fight, Lewis mentioned Browne’s alleged past domestic violence – something Browne called “fake news.” Well, following Lewis’ loss on Saturday, Browne post a message saying he “just watched you quit” and told Lewis he should retire. However, “if you have the balls,” Browne stated he’s open to a rematch.

Additionally, fellow contender/potential future opponent Francis Ngannou also took a shot at the “baby” following the Hunt loss.

Well, this morning, Lewis, who’s one of MMA’s better social-media stars, responded (via Twitter):

Although he may be done fighting in the cage, it appears Lewis’ social-media game will remain in full effect.

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

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Francis Ngannou rips ‘baby’ Derrick Lewis after UFC Fight Night 110 loss to Mark Hunt

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Although the seemingly inevitable collision course between heavyweights Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou may have hit a delay after “The Black Beast” lost to Mark Hunt in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 110 headliner, the talk between the two hasn’t stopped.

Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) was shooting up the divisional rankings prior to his fourth-round TKO loss to Hunt in the FS1-televised main event at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) has been doing the same with a five-fight winning streak, and all the while fans have speculated about a potential matchup between the two powerhouse fighters.

On more than one occasion the pair have traded barbs through the media, with, among other things, Lewis stating he would be open to some “black-on-black” violence and Ngannou dismissing a fight because Lewis is “too slow.”

Considering there’s been no hesitation to take shots at each other in the past, it was no surprise “The Predator” pounced when an exhausted Lewis fell short against Hunt at UFC Fight Night 110.

Ngannou also retweeted this post.

With both fighters still young in the UFC heavyweight division, a matchup between the two is still conceivable. The biggest snap, however, could be the fact Lewis said he is “most likely” going to retire from the sport in his post-fight interview. Whether that holds remains to be seen, but it’s clear Ngannou took joy in seeing his rival falter.

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

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

Derrick Lewis: Ngannou 'can get this work,' but Overeem and Werdum are 'punch drunk'

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AUCKLAND, NEW ZEALAND – Heavyweight slugger Derrick Lewis certainly isn’t looking past Mark Hunt. In fact, he’s looking forward to their UFC Fight Night 110 meeting. But “The Black Beast” has a few other plans, as well.

“Hopefully after this fight, they give me the title fight, and then I can make the money that I want, what I need,” Lewis told MMAjunkie at today’s UFC Fight Night 110 media day.

Lewis (18-4 MMA, 9-2 UFC) and Hunt (12-11-1 MMA, 7-5-1 UFC) meet in the headlining bout of the event, which takes place Sunday (but airs live in the U.S. on Saturday due to time difference) at Spark Arena in Auckland, New Zealand. It airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Lewis, who’s No. 7 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, enters the contest on a six-fight winning streak. Meanwhile, No. 11-ranked Hunt is just 2-3 in his past five official outings, but Lewis said the matchup is sound.

“I believe that Mark is the toughest guy in the division,” Lewis said. “I wanted to fight the toughest. … I call out guys that I believe are the toughest that’s going to give me a chance. I don’t call out guys that I believe I could whoop real easily. I don’t do that. I believe that it’s just going to be a tough fight.”

Should Lewis prove victorious, he’d find himself in an interesting position in the division. It seems a UFC 213 fight between Alistair Overeem (42-15 MMA, 7-4 UFC) and Fabricio Werdum (21-6-1 MMA, 9-3 UFC) could serve as a de facto No. 1 contender fight, but Lewis isn’t convinced they’re worthy, especially since both have lost to (current UFC heavyweight champ Stipe Miocic) in relatively recent outings.

“Those guys, they’re punch drunk.” Lewis said. “You blow on their chin, they drop. They don’t got a chin like they used to anymore, especially Overeem. Since he’s been off the juice, he hasn’t been having nothing, so, we’ll see.”

Another potential matchup involves Cameroonian-born prospect Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), who has looked virtually unstoppable while racking up five stoppage wins under the UFC banner. Lewis said he’s a bit intrigued.

“I don’t blame him,” Lewis said. “I wanted to fight him before I called out Mark. If he wants to get this work next, he can come on. He can get this work.”

Ultimately, though, Lewis has his eyes on a title shot. Mind you, the belt, itself, seems to hold little significance for the powerful puncher. But the financial rewards that come along with the championship do seem to appeal, and Lewis said he matches up well with the current champ.

“I love the way I match up with Stipe,” Lewis said. “I believe Stipe is going to come out and try to wrestle me, just play right into my game. I like guys that try to come out and wrestle me. It’ll just be a boring fight, but I believe I can still come up with the win.”

First, though, is Hunt, a native New Zealander capable of knocking out anyone with a single blow. At 43, he may not necessarily be in peak form, but he also hasn’t lost an ounce of his legendary power.

Lewis said it will be something special, but he knows he’ll walk away with the win.

“It will be a slugfest,” Lewis said.

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

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