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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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UFC 216's Fabricio Werdum: I deserve title shot with impressive win over Derrick Lewis

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LAS VEGAS – With the UFC heavyweight title picture growing increasingly crowded, Fabricio Werdum believes he can get the next crack at champion Stipe Miocic with a win over Derrick Lewis at UFC 216.

Werdum (21-7-1 MMA, 9-4 UFC), who meets Lewis (18-5 MMA, 9-3 UFC) in the featured bout on UFC 216’s pay-per-view main card, which takes place at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass, is only two fights removed from losing the heavyweight belt to Miocic by first-round knockout at UFC 198 in May 2016.

Despite the fact he’s also coming off a loss to Alistair Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who is scheduled to fight Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) in a crucial contender bout at UFC 218 in December, Werdum believes he can slide into the No. 1 contender spot vs. Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) with an impressive performance against Lewis.

“I deserve (a title shot),” Werdum told MMAjunkie at today’s UFC 216 media day. “Stipe (hasn’t fought) for a long time. I don’t know how long, but he don’t fight for a long time. I think all three. Me, Overeem and Francis can go for the title shot. I think maybe, maybe, if Derrick Lewis beats me (he can get one). But he doesn’t deserve it at this moment to go for the title shot.

“I think a good fight, a good submission, a good knockout, fans will say, ‘Werdum, you’re the next one.’ … I believe I should go for the title shot again.”

At 40, Werdum’s timeframe to regain heavyweight gold is seemingly shrinking with each passing day. He said he’s healthy and injury-free going into UFC 216, though, and intends to deliver a performance that shows exactly what he’s capable of.

Werdum, No. 3 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, has never lost consecutive fights during his career, and after the setback against Overeem at UFC 213 in July, he wants to use No. 12-ranked Lewis as a platform to not only bounce back, but prove he should be the one fighting Miocic next.

“I want to beat Derrick Lewis,” Werdum said. “I respect him a lo,  because I know he’s a top fighter. He has a good punch, he has good kicks too. He’s in my way. My goal is the title shot again.”

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

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Twitter Mailbag: Why are we talking about McGregor-Diaz III like it's a done deal? There's a reason

In this week’s Twitter Mailbag, are we really all-in for McGregor-Diaz III, or are we just desperate for a big fight to look forward to? Also, what happens if GSP becomes UFC middleweight champ? And is it better for fighters to be deep thinkers or non-thinkers?

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

* * * *

Want to know how easily manipulated the MMA media news cycle is these days, now that there’s not much going on and very little of immediate interest to discuss? All it takes is for Conor McGregor’s longtime coach John Kavanagh to throw a coin in the wishing well with a date and location attached, and suddenly we’re all talking about this Nate Diaz fight in March like it’s practically a done deal.

It’s not. That’s just fantasy matchmaking, and Kavanagh’s the first to admit that he has almost no power to make it happen. But we’re desperate. What else are we supposed to get excited about, interim title fights and the UFC’s debut in Gdansk, Poland? It’s tough out there, and we’ll take any port in a storm.

Yes I do, barely, but does it even matter? The sole reason to do this fight again (instead of, say, an actual UFC lightweight title fight against an actual lightweight contender, of which there are several) would because it would likely make a bunch of money. That’s the hope, anyway. And that hope is based on the pay-per-view numbers from the first two fights, which combined to give the UFC a monster financial year in 2016.

As you may have noticed, 2017 is not shaping up to be quite as monstrous on PPV. The new UFC owners paid a fortune for this thing, and now there’s debt to be paid but precious few superstars to bring in the kind of money that might help pay it. In times like these, no one in the position to make decisions at the UFC cares about the scorecards in McGregor-Diaz II.

Brother, if we can convince the MMA gods to accept Paige VanZant vs. Jessica Eye in return for keeping their malicious mitts off Francis Ngannou vs. Alistair Overeem, let’s just say we’ll have made one excellent trade.

That said, I have to favor Ngannou in this fight. He’s a big, young, athletic guy who hits hard and with plenty of confidence. Overeem has looked a little chinny in recent years, and when people get in his face and stay there he sometimes struggles. I don’t see him taking Ngannou down and beating him there. If he can’t keep Ngannou at kicking range, trouble abounds for “The Reem.”

Then again, these are heavyweights we’re talking about here. I’d sooner bet on a literal coin flip.

Chaos. Mass hysteria. Dogs and cats living together. You know, the usual.

First of all, I think it’s unlikely that Georges St-Pierre beats Michael Bisping. He’s just been out of action so long, and his style isn’t well-suited to beating a bigger man with good cardio and high work rate, who also happens to be a pretty sound defensive wrestler.

But GSP is still GSP, and Bisping is an aging middleweight with plenty of miles on the odometer, so it’s not unthinkable for St-Pierre to become the new UFC middleweight champ.

What happens then, you ask? One thing I don’t see St-Pierre doing is turning right around and defending his belt against Robert Whittaker. I think it’s more likely he looks around for another money fight (maybe against someone whose name rhymes with Bonor McEgger…) outside the division. Maybe he even decides that he’s proven what he had to prove and made the money he came back to make, so he returns to the solace of retirement.

Where would that leave the middleweight division? More or less where it is now, with everyone feeling pretty certain that “Bobby Knuckles” is the man to beat.

You’re asking the wrong question. It’s not a matter of smart vs. dumb, in part because there’s all different kinds of smart, just like there’s all different kinds of dumb. The real mental difference between fighters, according to my observations, is thoughtful vs. not thoughtful.

What I mean by that is, some fighters are very self-aware and introspective and honest with themselves. Others are very not. And while one hates to generalize, yeah, there does seem to be a difference in success rate, and it often favors the less thoughtful fighters – up to a point.

Take somebody like Uriah Hall, for instance. He’s been open about his struggles to get out of his own head at times, which is a problem that most of us would have if our jobs were entirely dependent on one brief physical performance every few months. An introspective person could drive themselves crazy in this business.

But then you have other fighters who rarely seem to struggle with doubt, as if their success is somehow preordained. They are confident almost to the point of being delusional. They don’t even think about all the negative “what if” questions, and it’s not because they’re intentionally avoiding them. Those possibilities just don’t occur to them, because they can only think one way about this stuff.

Greg Jackson likes to say that fighters have to be optimists. You can see his point, because if you get too honest with yourself about this sport and all the ways it can go, you probably wouldn’t ever set foot in the cage.

The problem is, those who manage to stay out of their own heads often have trouble being honest with themselves when they need to be. They can’t or won’t perform necessary risk-versus-reward calculations. They just go. Even when they should stop.

We’re not quite there yet, but such a test might soon be a reality. (You can read more about that here.)  If and when that does happen, it could change how we think about violent sports, but I suspect it will have a much greater impact on football than on MMA.

Think about it: Football is an extracurricular activity in America. It’s a game. We grow up playing it in school, as kids, which feeds our fandom as adults. If we become so collectively horrified at the consequences of it that we stop supporting it as this vast American institution, it can’t help but harm the future of the sport and leagues like the NFL.

Fighting, on the other hand? It doesn’t have so far to fall. It’s always been looked at as this brutal fringe of sports culture. You can still put kids in helmets and shoulder pads, but if you throw them in a cage to punch each other you’re likely to be branded a madman.

Most parents already don’t want their kids to take up full-contact mixed martial arts fighting. They don’t view it as an after-school activity. You don’t get a college scholarship that way; you break bones and lose teeth.

If people find out that tackle football is inherently bad for brain health, they might rethink a giant piece of American culture. If they find out the same about fighting, they might just see it as confirmation of what they already suspected.

But if he retires, how is Nick Diaz going to rematch both Anderson Silva and Takanori Gomi in the same night of some insane Rizin FF tournament on New Year’s Eve 2019? Dammit, man. You’ve got to think this stuff through.

I doubt it, because what do Benson Henderson’s and Lorenz Larkin’s losses really tell us? What, that Bellator fighters aren’t pushovers? Seems like that should be obvious to pro fighters who are capable of looking past the brand name and recognizing skill when they see it.

Also, if your main consideration is finding the easiest fights possible, that’s not a great argument for sticking with the UFC, where the talent pool is deeper in just about every division. Free agency is about money, and sometimes also respect and freedom. You don’t make it far enough to be in that conversation if you’re only interested in easy fights.

Henderson is definitely a good fighter, but at this point he’s pretty set in his ways. When he’s getting beat up, you’ll see him pull off (or at least attempt) some fun stuff. When he thinks he’s winning, however, he gets a lot more risk-averse.

The result is that, when it’s close, he tends to feel like he’s already winning. He fights like he doesn’t want to screw around and lose, rather than fighting like he wants to make absolutely certain that he wins.

If there’s any good news, is that at this point he has more to gain than lose by going out there and taking some risks. It’s just a question of whether can really just his approach this far into his career.

First of all, thank you for illustrating what a bad idea the expanded Twitter character count is. I think we can all look at the terrifying example you have provided and conclude that this is not a world we want to live in. So, um, good work?

Second, Rashad Evans is far from the first fighter to ever feel this way. It’s the dilemma of the former champion in decline. He doesn’t want to quit on a loss, but a win would only convince him that he can still do it.

And sure, there are light heavyweights he could beat. There’s probably easier prey at the bottom of that division than there is at middleweight. But is that really what would make this easier for him, just hunting around for a warm body he could beat, for the sole purpose of having a W next to his name at the very end of his career? I suspect that it wouldn’t give him the peace he’s looking for, but I don’t expect that to stop him now.

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

Alistair Overeem vs. Francis Ngannou booked as UFC 218 co-headliner in Detroit

UFC heavyweight prospect Francis Ngannou won’t get a title shot, but he will get an ex-champion.

Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), who lost a spot on UFC 215 when Junior Dos Santos was flagged for a potential anti-doping violation, will meet the man he called out as a fill-in: Alistair Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC).

The UFC today announced the bout between Ngannou and Overeem, which will take co-headline UFC 218. The Dec. 2 event from Little Caesar’s Arena in Detroit will air on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Ngannou called out Overeem on Twitter after Dos Santos fell off the UFC 215 card. Overeem responded in kind.

“I heard someone is trying to skip the line,” he wrote, adding a nifty graphic. “Can’t allow such a thing to happen. So @francis_ngannou let’s go!”

The battle is certain to have title implications.

Ngannou has won nine straight fights, including a knockout of ex-champ Andrei Arlovski. Overeem, meanwhile, is on the rebound after a failed title bid at UFC 203, winning fights against ex-champ Fabricio Werdum and Mark Hunt.

Overeem, a former Strikeforce, DREAM and K-1 champ, is No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, while Ngannou is No. 9.

Ngannou didn’t exactly get his wish after calling to fight champ Stipe Miocic at UFC 218. But he definitely got a tough replacement.

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

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC
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Twitter Mailbag: Is this too high a price to pay for a clean(er) UFC?

The UFC’s anti-doping program can be a bummer for fans, but does that mean we’d be better off without it? Plus, did we all get what we deserved, in one way or another, with the main event scratch at UFC 215?

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

Those are all pretty frustrating, though when you group them together like that it does make the “money fight” phenomenon seem a lot less annoying, because at least that one results in a fight.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency thing is a different matter. With some of the recent suspensions, I think a lot of people have started to wonder just how clean they really need this sport to be. We don’t want to feel like every main event is a glorified science experiment, but would that be better than no main events at all?

Plus, people are starting to wonder whether USADA is really catching dopers and cheats, or just a bunch of careless supplement shoppers. Of course, then we’d have to ask ourselves why it is that MMA fighters seem so prone to accidentally ingesting steroids, when other sports don’t seem to have the same problem, or at least not this often.

It really comes down to a simple question: Do we care about fighters doping or not? If we do, then I’m not sure we really want to complain that USADA is doing too good a job at catching them. Whatever you think of how that turinabol got in Jon Jones’ system, the positive B sample tells us that it was there. Until there’s a test developed that can tell us if someone actually meant to cheat, we have to accept that result and move on.

Unless you’re in the camp that says we shouldn’t care about doping. And, honestly, I can see how some people might be feeling that way right now. Wouldn’t it be more fun for fans if a bunch of awesomely doped-up fighters smashed each other with all manner of spinning stuff well into their forties?

And, yeah, that would probably be fun to watch, at least as long as you could ignore the human costs associated with it. A sport where doping is allowed will quickly become a sport where doping is required. Some drugs might speed your recovery time from nagging injuries, but they won’t do a thing to protect your brain from the consequences of all this trauma.

That’s exactly what has happened in the hours since you asked this question, although it wasn’t necessarily an automatic move. The outcome of the fight is handled by the commission, but the belt is the UFC’s. The promotion can do what it likes with it, as California State Athletic Commission executive director Andy Foster confirmed when I spoke to him last week.

The options here were limited. Either you give the light heavyweight belt back to Daniel Cormier, or you leave it vacant until someone can officially win it.

But does Cormier feel like the champ? Maybe, if you can convince yourself that Jones only beat him (both times) with some help from performance-enhancing drugs. If you’re more willing to buy any combination of tainted supplement defenses, it gets a little tougher.

The real problem for Cormier’s title legitimacy is that there’s almost nothing he can realistically do about it. He’s already beaten most of the other top 205-pounders, so any victory over a light heavyweight not named Jon Jones will just feel like rehashing old arguments rather proving something new. That’s a tough spot to be in, especially when you’re the one who didn’t do anything wrong.

Ha, good one. As if Dana White could “make” Conor McGregor do anything he doesn’t want to do right now.

via GIPHY

Seems like Demetrious Johnson vs. Ray Borg is slated for UFC 216 now, assuming Borg can steer clear of viral illnesses in the meantime. If that holds, it’ll mean the top three bouts look like this:

  • Tony Ferguson vs. Kevin Lee
  • Johnson vs. Borg
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Fabricio Werdum

I don’t know about you, but that’s enough for me. Now we just have to hope all those fights are still on the card come Oct. 7.

It’s tricky, because one of the first questions we have to ask is who would issue the ban.

The penalties under the UFC’s current anti-doping program are pretty stiff, with suspensions potentially doubling after each offense. But if the ban came from USADA and the UFC, then the UFC would pretty much have to release the fighter from his contract. If that happened with someone like Jones, you know Bellator would be blowing up his phone trying to cut a deal.

Even if a lifetime ban came from an athletic commission and made it impossible to get a license, that wouldn’t stop someone like Jones from ending up in Tokyo on New Year’s Eve, fighting a sumo wrestler in a one-night tournament (and the wind whispered: “Baruto…”).

Try, for a moment, to imagine that as a bad thing rather than a good one.

If you’re referring to this explanation, it leaves a little to be desired. Amanda Nunes repeatedly extended the fingers of her outstretched hand while fighting Valentina Shevchenko. John McCarthy would warn her, she’d stop for a little while, then she’d do it again.

I can see how someone might argue that as long as there’s no problem as long as there’s no actual eye poke, but that seems flawed to me. If you’re standing there with your fingers outstretched in the general region of my face, I have to weigh the possibility of getting poked when I consider coming forward.

And if I do get my retinas jabbed, hey, you might lose a point, but I might lose full vision for a few minutes or more. That could be enough of an advantage for you that the penalty on the scorecards doesn’t matter.

Maybe a little, but close fights always seem to bring out the worst in us. Georges St-Pierre was super popular when he won that decision over Johny Hendricks in his last UFC fight, and still we had to watch Dana White’s head change colors as he called for the governor of Nevada to look into the state athletic commission.

Shevchenko can be mad if she wants, but if she’s watched this sport for any length of time I don’t see how she can be surprised. She spent most of the fight trying to counter with her back nearly touching the fence. I’m not saying you can’t win a decision that way, but you can just as easily lose one if you don’t make it super clear that you’re the one doing the damage.

Francis Ngannou. He’s a heavyweight, and fans love the big guys. He’s also relatively young (31), so you could still get some mileage out of him. Plus he’s never lost in the UFC, so Dana White can’t claim that he’s on the way down and Bellator’s only reviving the rejects.

Ngannou is a huge dude who puts people away and dresses like a particularly rad Bond villain. If properly hyped, you could do a lot with a guy like that.

What, you didn’t hear? It was a “viral illness.” Nothing at all to do with the weight cut. It just so happened to hit him as he was cutting weight, which is itself a process that hasn’t gone well for him recently. What a coincidence.

People have jumped on this turn of events as proof that Johnson should have fought T.J. Dillashaw instead. What they forget is that Dillashaw has never made 125 pounds in the UFC, whereas Borg has at least proven that he can do it some of the time.

Also, let’s not forget that Johnson was willing to take the fight if the UFC would give him certain financial guarantees in the event that Dillashaw didn’t make the weight. That’s probably because Johnson was smart enough to anticipate a situation just like this, where he trains but doesn’t get paid, and now has to do it all over again a month from now.

My prediction for this one was that we’d all complain until the fight got closer, in part because it feels like we’ve been hearing about this fight for years now, but once fight time arrived we’d get at least a little bit hyped. I still think that’s what will happen, and you’re right that the complete lack of other big fights on the horizon has a lot to do with it.

Is this a kind of silly fight? Yes. Are there much better things that the middleweight champ could be doing, now that we have a wealth of middleweight contenders? Absolutely. Does that mean I’ll sit out the return of GSP? Not on your life.

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

Alistair Overeem, graphic designer extraordinaire, accepts Francis Ngannou challenge

A potentially violent battle between two dangerous strikers has apparently been arranged with the help of a few boxy cartoon figures.

Former Strikeforce and DREAM champion Alistair Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) today took to Twitter to accept a recent challenge from fast-rising heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC), suggesting the Cameroonian native is “trying to skip the line.”

Ngannou was supposed to compete at this weekend’s UFC 215 event against former heavyweight champion Junior Dos Santos, but the Brazilian was ruled out due to a potential doping violation. Ngannou later challenged Overeem to step up on short notice, but Overeem declined.

However, it appears he’s now ready to take the fight at a later date.

Overeem is currently ranked No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, while Ngannou sits at No. 9.

So let’s hear it – if this matchup does come together, who ya got?

Take Our Poll
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For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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

Check out Reebok's redesigned UFC fight kit, which includes customized walkout shirts

Fighters will look a little different starting at UFC 215.

Reebok and the UFC today announced “a holistic update” to the fight kit, which includes new designs for octagon uniforms, walkout jerseys, walkout hoodies, and walkout hats. It’s the first overhaul of the fight kit since the UFC’s Athlete Outfitting Policy with Reebok started in Dec. 2014.

A highlight of the new kit is what’s being dubbed the “Legacy Series,” which allows all pay-per-view headliners and championship bout fighters to work with Reebok to co-design a custom walkout jersey. That begins with this Saturday’s UFC 215, which takes place at Rogers Place in Edmonton, Alberta, Canada.

Check out photos below of UFC fighters – including three current champions – in the new threads, as well as the first installment of “Legacy Series” walkout shirts designed by UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson, Ray Borg, UFC women’s bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, and Valentina Shevchenko.

UFC strawweight champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

UFC featherweight champion Max Holloway

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

Francis Ngannou

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

Paige VanZant

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

Michelle Waterson

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

Rose Namajunas

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

Jorge Masvidal

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

Claudia Gadelha

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

UFC 215 ‘Legacy Series’ walkout shirts

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

(Courtesy photo: Reebok)

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

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie‘s official blog and is edited by Mike Bohn.

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

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Alexander Volkov and UFC-Rotterdam's other winning fighters?

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UFC Fight Night 115’s main event didn’t go well for the hometown crowd.Alexander Volkov defeated Dutchman Stefan Struve in the heavyweight headliner, which took place at Ahoy Rotterdam in the Netherlands.

In a matchup of fighters looking to move up the rankings, Volkov (29-6 MMA, 3-0 UFC) managed to halt Struve (28-9 MMA, 12-7 UFC) for a third-round TKO win in the UFC Fight Pass-streamed contest to remain perfect inside the UFC octagon.

Other main-card winners included Siyar Bahadurzada (23-6-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Marion Reneau (8-3-1 MMA, 4-2-1 UFC), who finished their opponents inside the distance with strikes, as well as Leon Edwards (14-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who picked up a win 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 115’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Leon Edwards

Should fight: Alex Oliveira
Why they should fight: With four consecutive UFC victories in the welterweight division, Edwards’ request for a top-15 opponent should be granted following his unanimous-decision win over Bryan Barberena.

Aside from a few missteps, the Brit has been solid throughout his UFC career. His current run is not to be taken lightly, especially if he continues to improve going forward. “Rocky” wants an opponent of note, and fortunately for him, Oliveira (17-3-1 MMA, 7-2 UFC) is available.

Oliveira is riding a five-fight unbeaten streak inside the octagon, which includes back-to-back finishes of Ryan LaFlare and Tim Means. The Brazilian may be interested in someone more highly ranked at 170 pounds, but given the current landscape of the division, he might have to settle for someone slightly below him in Edwards.

Marion Reneau

Should fight: Germaine de Randamie
Why they should fight: All credit goes to Reneau for her willingness to accept and win a risky matchup with newcomer Talita Oliveira after a much more high-profile fight with ex-champ de Randamie fell through on short notice.

Reneau lost the matchup with de Randamie (7-3 MMA, 4-1 UFC) on less than two weeks’ notice, which was surely a disappointment. Moving from a former UFC champion to a promotional newcomer would be tough for most fighters to get motivated for, but Reneau still showed up and handled her business in the form of a third-round TKO win.

Despite some criticism of her own performance, Reneau should be rewarded for her handling of the entire situation and give her the big fight that was originally intended. Unless de Randamie is out for an extended period with her injured hand, the UFC should make it right with Reneau and give her a fight with “The Iron Lady.”

Siyar Bahadurzada

Should fight: Jake Ellenberger
Why they should fight: Bahadurzada hopefully put his years of injury woes behind him with a successful return to the octagon with a second-round TKO of UFC newcomer Rob Wilkinson.

Bahadurzada showed his power is still as prevalent as ever when he overwhelmed Wilkinson with strikes until the referee waved off the fight. When healthy, Bahadurzada’s hands are as difficult as any to deal with, be it at middleweight or welterweight. The issue, though, is that he can’t seem to stay healthy.

With just three fights in four-plus years, Bahadurzada’s main priority should be getting back in the cage as soon as possible to get some momentum going. It’s been far too long since he’s had a quick turnaround, and that should happen soon.

Bahadurzada could fight pretty much anyone, but with a planned return to 170 pounds for his next fight, a bout with a fellow hard-hitter like Ellenberger (31-13 MMA, 10-9 UFC) has highlight-reel potential.

Alexander Volkov

Should fight: Francis Ngannou
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Volkov should fight Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 115, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Francis Ngannou: Since Alistair Overeem can't fight, how about Stipe Miocic at UFC 218?

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Filed under: News, UFC

UFC heavyweight contender Francis Ngannou hoped to get a fight with Alistair Overeem when his originally scheduled opponent Junior Dos Santos was ruled out due to a potential doping violation.

But Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) isn’t available, according to Ngannou.

“Alistair said his foot is still injured and can’t fight as soon ! so I don’t have a replacement for #UFC215,” Ngannou (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) wrote today on Twitter.

That leaves the heavyweight standout again “lost” – not a great place to be if you’re looking to summit the division.

Next month’s pay-per-view was thought by many to be Ngannou’s last obstacle before a title shot. But being a pragmatic guy, the Cameroon native figures with current events, he might as well cut to the chase.

He followed up his original injury report on Overeem with a proposition for UFC brass: Why not throw out UFC 215 and pair him against heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic?

“Stipe doesn’t have an opponent for December 2nd at Detroit ! I’m here @ufc @danawhite @Mickmaynard2 let me do this fight 🔥🔥🔥,” Ngannou tweeted.

Miocic (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC), it was recently revealed by UFC President Dana White, was penciled in for UFC 218 against UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones (23-1 MMA, 17-1 UFC), who’d signaled his desire to move up for a money fight with ex-champ Brock Lesnar. The potential booking was so tentative, apparently, that even Miocic didn’t know about it.

But with Jones now embroiled in his second potential doping violation, the UFC now has an opening, and Ngannou figures the promotion might as well use him to plug the gap when UFC 218 takes place Dec. 2 at Little Caesars Arena in Detroit. With five straight octagon wins, it’s not an unheard of request. These days, lesser experienced fighters have gotten bigger opportunities.

Will the promotion accept Ngannou’s pitch? We’ll see.

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

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Francis Ngannou 'lost' after UFC 215 fight scratch, knows suitable replacement unlikely

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LAS VEGAS – Francis Ngannou is disappointed with the current state of his career after losing out on a big-fight opportunity at UFC 215.

Just three weeks before next month’s event, news broke that Ngannou’s (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) scheduled UFC 215 opponent, Junior Dos Santos (18-5 MMA, 12-4 UFC), had been removed from the contest due to a potential U.S. Anti-Doping Agency violation. Through no fault of his own, Ngannou lost an opponent who could elevate his place in the heavyweight title picture, and he’s not pleased about it.

“Every day of my life right now was about the fight, focus about the fight,” Ngannou told MMAjunkie. “I feel like I’m lost. I don’t know what to do, I don’t know what to say. That was not good news.”

Although Ngannou, No. 9 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, is frustrated, he’s not yet willing to assign the entirety of the blame on Dos Santos. He said he had a conversation with the Brazilian after the fight had been called off, and “The Predator” believes Dos Santos’ story of a potentially tainted supplement could turn out to be credible.

“I think anything is possible,” Ngannou said. “I could not judge him because I know that problem exists. … Some manufacturers use illegal products to make it be more – to make it work more. But for us fighters, it’s no good, so I never take it.”

Regardless of whether Dos Santos’ test results stick or he is ultimately proven innocent, the fight is off the table for 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.

That leaves Ngannou, who hasn’t fought since a first-round TKO of ex-UFC champ Andrei Arlovski at UFC on FOX 23 in January, in a difficult situation. Ngannou said he would like a top name to step in as a replacement, but with the window before UFC 215 rapidly shrinking and few logical opponents available, Ngannou knows his odds of fighting are growing thin.

Ngannou called out No. 2-ranked Alistair Overeem (43-15 MMA, 8-4 UFC) to replace Dos Santos, but “The Reem” has not provided a formal response. All that together creates the feeling of being “lost,” and while the UFC is still actively looking for a replacement, Ngannou isn’t getting his hopes up.

“For the top 10, Alistair Overeem is the only one who is free, who is open right now,” Ngannou said. “The last time I spoke to (UFC matchmaker) Mick (Maynard) he told me they were still looking for something. I don’t think they will have something because I checked the heavyweight division, and I see that all of the top-10 fighters have a fight coming up.”

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

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