UFC's Gilbert Burns discusses tough, but needed reassessment after painful loss a year ago

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

When Gilbert Burns suffered his first loss in professional MMA, he took it hard. Very hard. But still, somehow, the second time topped it.

Having just rebounded from a decision setback to Rashid Magomedov, which snapped a three-fight octagon winning streak, Burns was beaming with confidence when he entered a UFC Fight Night 95 appointment with Brazilian countryman Michel Prazeres.

“I thought I was going to kill him,” Burns told MMAjunkie.

The tough Prazeres, however, had other plans. And, once more, Burns saw himself landing on the losing end of the judges’ scorecards. You’d think that, having already gone through the process of a setback, this time things would have been easier, right?

Wrong.

“This one was actually worse,” Burns said. “I was really down. I was very depressed. It was something that made me really stop and assess what I wanted and what I had to change. There was a lot of self-analysis to see what I needed to improve.

“Because I didn’t want to be that average fighter who wins one, then loses one, then wins one. Either I do this right, or I won’t do it. Either I do it right so I can rise, win fights and become a top-five fighter and a title contender, or I’ll stop. That was my feeling.”

But, for the ever-optimistic Burns, there seems to be very little that can’t be spun under a positive light. The loss, he says, served as a wake-up call. For one, it showed him not to underestimate his competition. But, more importantly, it forced him to make some much-needed reassessment.

“I changed a lot in my training,” Burns said. “I took it more seriously, trained harder. I did some serious self-analysis to see what was missing, because I didn’t want to be on that see-saw of results. I already thought I was very professional in the way I trained and conducted things. But, this time, I took it even more seriously. I got even more professional.

“I took notes in training, I set goals even during the training sessions, and I think that helped me evolve even more. The loss showed me that there was room for improvement.”

It’s not exactly uncommon for fighters to come to these types of conclusions after losses. But Burns (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has results to show for them. One year after the setback, he returned against Jason Saggo (12-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC), at UFC Fight Night 116, not only with a win, but also with the first knockout of his UFC stint.

The long layoff wasn’t exactly welcome: Burns, in fact, went right back into training after UFC Fight Night 95 looking to get a quick turnaround. The booking he’d been anxiously awaiting finally came in December, but then an elbow injury forced him to cancel. And more waiting ensued.

Conversely, the Brazilian lightweight had more time to tweak things in a few fronts. On the technical side, “Durinho” invested heavily in his boxing and wrestling. He also changed things up geographically: instead of doing the entirety of his training in the U.S., he started laying out the foundation for it in his home country, in Brasilia, with UFC welterweight Vicente Luque.

But, for the lauded grappler, a particularly important addition was made to help with another aspect of his game.

“Something else I did was intense work with a sports psychologist,” Burns said.

The psychologist, who also works with Olympic-level athletes from Brazil’s national judo team, assessed Burns with tests and helped him organize and set goals for his training sessions and beyond. More than that, though, it helped him cope with expectations and pressure.

That definitely came in handy in his last octagon outing. As if the stakes weren’t high enough already, the bout carried the added weight of being the last one in Burns’ UFC contract. Taking it all into account, he ponders, the Saggo meeting was supposed to be the most daunting one of his career.

But, somehow, it wasn’t.

“This was my first fight in the UFC that I entered pressure-free,” Burns said. “I went into it very, very hungry to fight – which I didn’t feel going into the Prazeres fight.”

Now back in the winning column, Burns is hoping to get a new deal and a fight locked in quickly. While he has yet to sit down with promotion officials, the 155-pounder is hoping for a December return – UFC 218 on Dec. 2, for instance, would suit him just fine.

As for possible competition, Burns has a few ideas – judo-based Olivier Aubin-Mercier, who won his fight against Tony Martin on the same Pittsburgh card, and Scottish standout Stevie Ray, whom Burns has already responded to on Twitter, come to mind.

But “Durinho” sees so many options of opponents in the stacked 155-pound division that he doesn’t even want to start naming them all. Not to mention that, at this point, his plans are not that much about the “who” as they are about the “how” and “how many.”

“I want to get a bunch of wins in a row now,” Burns said. “I’m not going to go around picking big names, or cards. I just want to get three, four, five consecutive wins now.”

With that in mind, regardless of getting his desired December booking, Burns is already looking to start working on the basis for his camp shortly – that’s another thing, he says, that has changed. Instead of jumping right into his peers’ fight-specific preparation, he wants to work on the fundamentals first and build up from there.

“Another thing I’ll do is, I’ll watch the fight again and write down every little thing I did wrong,” Burns said. “I have notes from the entire camp.

“So I’m going to go over everything that I did wrong, everything that I can improve on. I think that will also help me a lot in my next fight.”

Isn’t this level of diligence sort of exhausting, though?

“I go psycho,” Burns responded with a laugh. “But that’s just how upset I get when I lose.”

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

After first UFC knockout, Gilbert Burns wants lightweights to know he's dangerous everywhere

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PITTSBURGH – Jiu-jitsu world champion Gilbert Burns has some serious grappling skills, but after Saturday he’s happy to show he’s got the hands to go with them.

Burns’ (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) second-round finish of Jason Saggo (12-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) in UFC Fight Night 116’s opening bout meant recovery from the second loss of his pro career. But, more than that, Burns believes scoring the first knockout of his UFC run also served to show he’s not a one-trick pony.

“One of the things that I started to put on my game is – a lot of guys, they just have the jiu-jitsu,” Burns told MMAjunkie after the lightweight bout, which aired on FS1 from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. “You just saw (welterweight contender) Demian Maia fight for the belt. And if he’s not able to take the guy down, that’s it. He can’t win the fight.

“And I always have that Plan B. I want to do my jiu-jitsu, but if something happens and I cannot take you down, I want to be able to strike with you.”

It might have taken him a while to get there, but at least Burns did it with style points. In what until that point had been quite an even match, he found a huge overhand right that sent Saggo straight to the mat. Burns even threw in a walk-off for good measure.

With three knockout wins to his name prior to the UFC, Burns knew his overhand packed power. In fact, his coaches reminded him of that in the locker room before he walked out. Now that there’s visual proof, however, he’s hoping the rest of the 155-pound division took notice.

“They’ve got to know I’m a danger everywhere,” Burns said. “On the ground, on the stand-up, the beginning of the round, the end of the round. I’m training so hard, I want to get to the next level in the UFC.”

While Burns doesn’t know the specifics of what this next level might entail, he’s hoping it means a quick turnaround, especially after sitting out an entire year following a UFC Fight Night 95 loss to fellow Brazilian Michel Prazeres.

“I’m ready to go,” Burns said. “I had a big layoff. My last fight was in September of last year. It was a loss, so I learned so much. I improved all my game. And I want to get back in there at the end of the year. December would be a great date.

“I saw a couple of guys that want to fight. Jim Miller, a lot of guys want to fight. I’m here. I’m ready. Anyone. December would be a great date for me.”

To hear more from Burns on his big win – and the solution he found to evade the hurricane chaos with his family – check out the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Fight 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 116 post-event facts: Mike Perry's power gaining a reputation

The return of Luke Rockhold was a triumphant one on Saturday when the former UFC middleweight champion defeated David Branch in the UFC Fight Night 116 main event.

After a more than 15-month layoff, Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) added another stoppage to his historically illustrious resume in the 185-pound division when he forced Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) to tap out to strikes in the second round on the FS1-televised fight card at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

Rockhold’s victory capped off an event which featured eight stoppages out of 10 fights. For more on the numbers behind the card, check below for 40 post-event facts about UFC Fight Night 116.

* * * *

General

The UFC-Reebok Athlete Outfitting payout for the event totaled $92,500.

Debuting fighters went 0-2 at the event.

Mike Perry, Uriah Hall, Gregor Gillespie and Jason Gonzalez earned $50,000 UFC Fight Night 116 fight-night bonuses.

UFC Fight Night 116 drew an announced attendance of 7,005 for a live gate of $396,190.75.

Betting favorites went 7-3 on the card.

Total fight time for the 10-bout card was 1:20:40.

Main card

David Branch and Luke Rockhold

Rockhold has earned 14 of his 16 career victories by stoppage. That includes all six of his wins under the UFC banner.

Rockhold’s 13 stoppage victories in UFC/Strikeforce middleweight competition are the most in combined divisional history.

Branch had his 11-fight winning streak snapped for his first defeat since May 2012.

Branch fell to 1-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in March 2017.

Branch fell to 13-2 since his original release from the UFC in March 2011.

Branch absorbed 58 significant strikes in his loss. He had absorbed just 56 significant strikes in his previous five UFC appearances combined.

Branch suffered his first knockout loss since July 3, 2010 – a span of 2,632 days (more than seven years) and 18 fights.

Mike Perry

Perry (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) has earned all of his career victories by knockout. He’s earned seven of those wins in Round 1.

Perry has landed seven knockdowns in five UFC appearances.

Perry averages 2.58 knockdowns per 15 minutes of fighting in UFC competition, the third-highest rate in company history.

Alex Reyes (12-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) had his 10-fight winning streak snapped for his first defeat since November 2007.

Reyes suffered his first knockout loss since his MMA debut on Sept. 15, 2007 – a span of 3,654 days (10 years) and 14 fights.

Hector Lombard and Anthony Smith

Anthony Smith (27-13 MMA, 4-2 UFC) is 4-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in February 2016.

Smith improved to 11-2 since his original release from the UFC in June 2013.

Smith has earned 25 of his 28 career victories by stoppage.

Smith has earned all three of his UFC stoppage victories by knockout.

Hector Lombard’s (34-8-1 MMA, 3-6 UFC) four-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He’s on a five-fight winless skid and hasn’t earned a victory since March 2014.

Lombard fell to 0-3 since he returned to the UFC middleweight division in June 2016. He hasn’t earned his first victory in the weight class since December 2012.

Lombard has suffered all three of his career stoppage losses by knockout.

Gillespie (10-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) has earned eight of his 10 career victories by stoppage.

Gonzalez (11-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) has suffered all four of his career losses by stoppage.

Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) extended his winning streak to 10 fights. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since May 2013.

Usman’s six-fight UFC winning streak in welterweight competition is the longest active streak in the division.

Usman did not attempt a takedown for the first time in his UFC career.

Sergio Moraes (12-3-1 MMA, 6-2-1 UFC) suffered his first knockout loss since Oct. 17, 2009 – a span of 2,891 days (nearly eight year) and 10 fights.

Justin Ledet (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) improved to 4-0 with one no-contest since he returned to MMA competition after a nearly four-year layoff.

Ledet’s three-fight UFC winning streak in heavyweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Stipe Miocic (five) and Francis Ngannou (five).

Preliminary card

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (10-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) has completed at least one takedown against seven of his eight UFC opponents.

Anthony Hamilton (15-8 MMA, 3-6 UFC) suffered his third consecutive loss, the longest skid of his career.

Hamilton has suffered five of his six UFC losses by stoppage.

Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) snapped his three-fight losing skid for his first victory since September 2015.

Hall has earned 11 of his 13 career victories by stoppage. That includes five of his six UFC victories.

Krzysztof Jotko (19-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

Gilbert Burns (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has earned 11 of his 12 career victories by stoppage.

Jason Saggo (12-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) suffered the first knockout loss of his career.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Fight Tracks: The walkout songs of UFC Fight Night 116

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While it takes intense training, world-class skills and maybe even a bit of luck to register a UFC win, picking the right song to accompany you to the cage is a key talent, as well.

See what the fighters of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116 in Pittsburgh, went with as their backing tracks.

* * * *

Luke Rockhold def. David Branch via submission (strikes) – Round 2, 4:05

Luke Rockhold: “The Rain” by DMX

David Branch: “The 3 Lyrical Ps” by Sean Price

Mike Perry def. Alex Reyes via knockout (knee) – Round 1, 1:19

Mike Perry: “Welcome Back” by Young Jeezy

Alex Reyes: “Alpha Omega” by Machine Gun Kelly

Anthony Smith def. Hector Lombard via TKO (punches) – Round 3, 2:33

Anthony Smith: “I’m Gonna Make It” by Sanders Bohlke

Hector Lombard: “Victory” by The Notorious B.I.G. feat. Puff Daddy

Gregor Gillespie def. Jason Gonzalez via submission (arm-triangle choke) – Round 2, 2:11

Gregor Gillespie: “Ain’t No Grave” by Johnny Cash

Jason Gonzalez: “Hail Mary” by Tupac

Kamaru Usman def. Sergio Moraes via knockout (punch) – Round 1, 2:48

Kamaru Usman: “Wo!!” by Olamide

Sergio Moraes: “Happy” by Pharrell Williams

Justin Ledet def. Zu Anyanwu via split decision (28-29, 29-28, 29-28)

Justin Ledet: “The Moon and The Sky” by Sade

Zu Anyanwu: “Valley of Death” by Rick Ross

Olivier Aubin-Mercier def. Tony Martin via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)

Olivier Aubin-Mercier: “Bam Bam” by Sister Nancy

Tony Martin: “Last Breath” by Future

Daniel Spitz def. Anthony Hamilton via TKO (punches) – Round 1, 0:24

Daniel Spitz: “Thunderstruck” by AC/DC

Anthony Hamilton: “Only Fear of Death” by Tupac

Uriah Hall def. Krzysztof Jotko via knockout (punches) – Round 2, 2:25

Uriah Hall: “Mama Said Knock You Out” by LL Cool J

Krzysztof Jotko: “Streets of Siam” by Stan Bush

Gilbert Burns def. Jason Saggo via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 4:55

Gilbert Burns: “Medley” by Buchecha

Jason Saggo: “Kung Fu Fighting” by Carl Douglas

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 116 Athlete Outfitting pay: Program payout total nears $14.5 million

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PITTSBURGH – Fighters from Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116 event took home UFC Athlete Outfitting pay, a program that launched after the UFC’s deal with Reebok, totaling $95,000.

UFC Fight Night 116 took place at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh. The card aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Leading the way were middleweights Luke Rockhold (16-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) and Uriah Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC), who each received a third-tier payout total of $10,000. Rockhold defeated David Branch in the main event, while Hall beat Krzysztof Jotko on the prelims.

The full UFC Fight Night 116 UFC Athlete Outfitting payouts included:

Luke Rockhold: $10,000
def. David Branch: $5,000

Mike Perry: $5,000
def. Alex Reyes: $2,500

Anthony Smith: $5,000
def. Hector Lombard: $5,000

Gregor Gillespie: $2,500
def. Jason Gonzalez: $2,500

Kamaru Usman: $5,000
def. Sergio Moraes: $5,000

Justin Ledet: $2,500
def. Zu Anyanwu: $2,500

Olivier Aubin-Mercier: $5,000
def. Tony Martin: $5,000

Daniel Spitz: $2,500
def. Anthony Hamilton: $5,000

Uriah Hall: $10,000
def. Krzysztof Jotko: $5,000

Gilbert Burns: $5,000
def. Jason Saggo: $5,000

Under the UFC Athlete Outfitting program’s payout tiers, which appropriate the money generated by Reebok’s multi-year sponsorship with the UFC, fighters are paid based on their total number of UFC bouts, as well as Zuffa-era WEC fights (January 2007 and later) and Zuffa-era Strikeforce bouts (April 2011 and later). Fighters with 1-5 bouts receive $2,500 per appearance; 6-10 bouts get $5,000; 11-15 bouts earn $10,000; 16-20 bouts pocket $15,000; and 21 bouts and more get $20,000. Additionally, champions earn $40,000 while title challengers get $30,000.

In addition to experience-based pay, UFC fighters will receive in perpetuity royalty payments amounting to 20-30 percent of any UFC merchandise sold that bears their likeness, according to officials.

Full 2017 UFC-Reebok sponsorship payouts:

Year-to-date total: $4,145,000
2016 total: $7,138,000
2015 total: $3,185,000
Program-to-date total: $14,468,000

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 116, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Gilbert Burns shot a selfie video as his brutal UFC-Pittsburgh knockout win was being announced

Gilbert Burns had a big moment thanks to his thunderous second-round knockout of Jason Saggo at UFC Fight Night 116, and apparently he wanted to make very sure he captured it on video.

As Bruce Buffer announced the details of Burns’ win, the Brazilian fighter celebrated by shooting what looked to be a selfie video on his cell phone.

First of all, that’s kind of weird, since the fight was already televised on FS1, so there really wasn’t much danger that images of the post-fight scene would be lost forever. Second of all, when you do that, suddenly you’re the guy looking at his phone while everybody else is looking at you, and nobody looks cool doing that.

Still, when you knock someone out cold with a single punch on live TV, maybe you get to celebrate more or less however you want in the immediate aftermath.

And if he’s willing to go to this length to capture a big moment in his life, maybe Burns’ Instagram will prove to be worth following.

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

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

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC-Pittsburgh results: Gilbert Burns scores thunderous walk-off KO of Jason Saggo

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Gilbert Burns and Jason Saggo were expected to engage in a grappling contest, but the bout instead ended in a highlight-reel knockout.

The lightweight bout kicked off the FS1-televised prelims of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116 from PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh.

The two grapplers traded kicks to open, with Burns holding the center but both men moving well and setting up strikes. Burns started to find success with counterpunches, as well, as the two men maintained a solid pace to start. Burns was the first to shoot in earnest for a takedown, coming up short but landing a knee as Saggo pulled away. Saggo actually worked to top position shortly after by catching a kick and pushing his opponent down, but Burns stayed active from his back, returned to his feet and scored a more traditional takedown of his own.

Saggo started quickly in the second, lashing out kicks and becoming the aggressor. Burns answered with his own kicks to the body, but Saggo caught one of the blows and briefly sent his opponent to the floor. Perhaps surprisingly though, he declined to follow, and Burns was brought to his feet. The two continued to trade on the feet for a bit before Burns aggressively drove forward with a takedown, though Saggo was able to work back to a standing position relatively quickly. It didn’t exactly work to his advantage, with Burns landing a huge overhand right, flattening Saggo just before the bell for a one-punch walk-off finish with five seconds left in the round.

The win was Burns’ (12-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) first knockout in his UFC run. Menawhile, the loss handed Saggo (12-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) the first two-fight losing streak of his professional career.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 116 results include:

  • Gilbert Burns def. Jason Saggo via knockout (punch) – Round 2, 4:55

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

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

10 reasons to watch UFC-Pittsburgh, including a clear gameplan, and a clear moment to shine

Two former champions with something to prove face off in the main event of Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116.

In one corner, former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold returns to action for the first time since losing his title to Michael Bisping in June 2016. Opposite Rockhold, former two-division WSOF champ David Branch looks to rebound from a lackluster split-decision win over Krzysztof Jotko in May.

Rockhold is anxious to get back to action and put the Bisping loss behind him.

“I’m (expletive) tired of waiting,” Rockhold told MMAjunkie Radio. “I’m not (expletive) around. I’m tired of this (expletive). I’m tired of talking about it. I’m coming with a vengeance.”

Branch is also motivated to return to the octagon.

“Yo, Lucas, man – the (expletive) is you talking, man? Huh? I heard your little punk-ass (expletive) interview on Ariel Helwani,” Branch said in a Twitter video. “Hmm? Mother(expletive), what the (expletive) is you talking about, man? I ain’t lost a fight in five mother(expletive) years. You can’t box, and you ain’t got no (expletive) chin. You getting in a mother(expletive) cage with me? You stupid? Man, you cold fronting man. I’m going to beat you like you stole something. Watch what I do to this mother(expletive).”

In the co-main event, rising welterweight powerhouse Mike Perry looks to add a fourth knockout win to his UFC record against late replacement Alex Reyes.

UFC Fight Night 116 takes place Saturday at PPG Paints Arena in Pittsburgh, and it airs on FS1.

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. Don’t look back

After losing to Bisping, Rockhold fell to No. 2 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA middleweight rankings. In those same rankings, Branch was at No. 11, while then up-and-coming Robert Whittaker held the No. 12 spot.

Today, Whittaker is the interim champion and ranked No. 2, Rockhold (15-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) is No. 4, and Branch (21-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) comes in at No. 7.

Neither Rockhold nor Branch were happy with their most recent performances. After his loss, Rockhold said he took Bisping “for granted.” Branch, who returned to the UFC after six years outside the organization, said he felt he performed at “about 20 percent” of his capabilities in the Jotko fight.

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Expect Rockhold and Branch to be very motivated to put their recent disappointments behind them.

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2. You know the gameplan

Three days before UFC Fight Night 116, Thiago Alves withdrew from his fight against Perry. A few hours after news broke that Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC) was out, Reyes (12-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) agreed to face Perry (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC).

The good thing for Reyes, who usually fights at lightweight, is he knows precisely what Perry brings to this contest. Perry’s gameplan is to walk forward, take whatever his opponent has to offer and come back with strikes of his own. Defense is an afterthought when it comes to Perry, whose throwback style has made him a fun fighter to watch, despite some questionable behavior outside the cage.

Between them, these two have only heard the final bell twice. All of Perry’s wins have come by knockout, while Reyes has 12 consecutive stoppage victories.

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3. Big name hunting

Anthony Smith had a one-fight stint in the UFC in 2013. He lost that bout by submission. After his release, Smith ran up a 7-1 record and claimed the Victory FC middleweight title with a TKO win over former UFC fighter Josh Neer.

Now back in the UFC, Smith is 3-1 with knockout victories in his two most recent fights.

Smith (27-12 MMA, 3-2 UFC) gets the biggest opportunity of his career in Pittsburgh, where he faces former Bellator middleweight champion, Hector Lombard (34-5-1 MMA, 3-3 UFC), who is currently on the worst run of his career. He’s lost three straight since he served a one-year suspension after he tested positive for desoxymethyltestosterone, a designer steroid.

Smith and Lombard are both powerful punchers, combining for 32 knockout victories. The key to this fight may be Smith’s seven-inch height and five-inch reach advantages. If Smith uses those physical assets effectively, he has a chance to extend Lombard’s losing skid.

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4. More than a wrestler

Gregor Gillespie is a former four-time All-American wrestler. That background showed in his UFC debut. In that bout, Gillespie attempted 19 takedowns on his way to a decision win over Glaico Franca. In his second UFC contest, Gillespie didn’t need to attempt any takedowns: He knocked out Andrew Holbrook in 21 seconds.

The unbeaten Gillespie (9-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) faces Jason Gonzalez in Pittsburgh. Gonzalez (11-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) earned a submission victory over J.C. Cottrell in his most recent outing.

The odds indicate this lightweight matchup should be a showcase fight for Gillespie. Gillespie, the self-proclaimed, “best fisherman in MMA,” has been working a lot on his striking. Expect Gillespie to showcase his development in that department. If his striking fails, Gillespie can always rely on his high-level wrestling.

5. Overflowing with confidence

Five fights into his UFC career, Kamaru Usman thinks he is “one of the top two, top three best in the world right now.” Before he gets the opportunity to prove that, Usman (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) must get past Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Sergio Moraes (12-2-1 MMA, 6-1-1 UFC).

The ultra-confident Usman is a well-rounded fighter despite his limited experience. Usman has excellent takedowns, and his strength allows him to control opponents both against the cage and on the mat with relative ease. The one knock against Usman is his four straight decision victories. However, Usman has shown significant progress in his striking, so finishes might be on the way for the rankings honorable mention.

If Moraes, unbeaten in seven fights as a UFC welterweight, does manage to defeat Usman, it will be the biggest upset of the night.

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6. From snubbed to signee

UFC president Dana White passed on signing heavyweight Zu Anyanwu after he saw Anyanwu earn a TKO win during the filming of an episode of “Lookin’ for a Fight.” White also passed on Anyanwu after he stopped Greg Rebello on a “Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series” card. Despite those snubs, the UFC signed Anyanwu this week to step in to face Justin Ledet as a late replacement.

Anyanwu (14-4 MMA, 0-0 UFC), the winner of seven of his last eight fights, has his work cut out for him against the unbeaten Ledet (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC), who has gone the distance once in his career.

Ledet, a promising young heavyweight, submitted Mark Godbeer in November. Ledet’s long break between fights was due to an injury and a four-month USADA suspension.

7. Looking for a breakthrough

The bout between Olivier Aubin-Mercier and Tony Martin is an excellent matchup between two unranked lightweights. Aubin-Mercier has a strong ground game. He has eight submission wins, seven via rear-naked choke. However, Martin’s (12-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) reach advantage and striking may present a problem for Aubin-Mercier (9-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC).

Aubin-Mercier and Martin have both shown progress in their recent fights. Martin might have a slight edge in his overall MMA game thanks to his recent strides in the striking department. Aubin-Mercier has the advantage on the ground, but he may find it difficult to get Martin to the mat.

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8. Let’s try it with a full camp

Daniel Spitz took a short notice fight against Mark Godbeer at UFC 209. The lanky Spitz looked good early, but as the fight progressed, he ran out of gas and ended up on the wrong side of a decision.

At UFC Fight Night 116, the largely unproven Spitz gets a chance to show what he can accomplish with a full camp behind him.

Spitz (5-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) faces Anthony Hamilton in this heavyweight bout. Hamilton (15-7 MMA, 3-5 UFC) has been on the losing end of two consecutive “Performance of the Night” fights. Hamilton has solid wrestling, but his striking can be over-aggressive and sloppy at times. With a UFC record of 3-5, it’s going to be interesting to see how Hamilton approaches a fight against an opponent who has a massive experience disadvantage.

9. Time to get it right

Uriah Hall has been one of the more enigmatic UFC fighters. At times Hall has looked like a world-beater; on other occasions he’s been average, at best. Currently mired in a three-fight losing streak, and with a 2-4 record dating back to mid-2015, Hall has never been in a worse position.

That said, Hall has handled his losing skid with aplomb.

“I have a lot of kids that are looking up to me, so what kind of example would I set by just quitting? I’m going to keep doing it until I get it,” Hall told MMAjunkie after his most recent loss. “I’m going to fail sometimes, but I’m going to keep doing it until I get it.”

Hall (12-8 MMA, 5-6 UFC) faces No. 9-ranked Krzysztof Jotko in this middleweight bout. Jotko (19-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) lost a split decision to David Branch in his most recent fight.

10. Hard times

Gilbert Burns began his UFC career with three victories. Burns, a world champion in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, earned “Performance of the Night” bonuses in two of those bouts. Those wins gave Burns a record of 11-0 and earned him some buzz in the lightweight division, but things have not gone well for Burns recently. He’s dropped two of his past three fights. Both of those losses came at the hands of strikers.

The good thing for Burns is that he faces fellow Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt Jason Saggo in Pittsburgh. Like Burns (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Saggo (12-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) lost his last fight.

This is Burns’ first bout in a year. It would not be a surprise if Burns used that time to shore up his striking game and his takedown skills. A win over Saggo won’t reestablish Burns as a fighter to watch, but it will be a step in the right direction.

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

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UFC Fight Night 116 pre-event facts: Which headliner is least-hit fighter in UFC history?

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The UFC hosts its fifth event in Pittsburgh with Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 116 event, which takes place at PPG Paints Arena and airs on FS1 following an early prelim on UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, former UFC middleweight champion Luke Rockhold (15-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) finally returns to the octagon after losing the title more than a year ago when he fights former two-division WSOF champion David Branch (21-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC), who is unbeaten over the past five years.

The card also features a number of others notables. For more on the numbers behind the third of four UFC events in September, check below for 50 pre-event facts about UFC Fight Night 116.

* * * *

Main event

Luke Rockhold

Rockhold returns to competition for the first time since losing the UFC middleweight title to Michael Bisping at UFC 199 in June 2016.

Rockhold has earned 13 of his 15 career victories by stoppage. That includes all five of his wins under the UFC banner.

Rockhold’s nine first-round stoppage victories in UFC/Strikeforce competition since the inception of the five-minute round are most in the combined history of the two organizations.

Rockhold’s nine knockdowns landed in UFC/Strikeforce middleweight competition are tied for third most in combined divisional history behind Anderson Silva (12) and Cung Le (10).

Rockhold’s seven submission victories in UFC/Strikeforce middleweight competition are tied with Ronaldo Souza for most in combined divisional history.

Rockhold’s 126 significant strikes landed against Chris Weidman at UFC 194 are the second most ever in a UFC middleweight fight behind Rich Franklin’s 127 against David Loiseau at UFC 58.

Branch is 13-1 since he was released from the UFC in March 2011. His only defeat in that stretch came to former UFC title challenger Anthony Johnson at Titan FC 22.

Branch enters the event on an 11-fight winning streak. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since May 2012.

Branch has earned all three of his UFC victories by decision.

Branch absorbs just 0.87 significant strikes per minute in UFC competition, the lowest rate in UFC history.

Co-main event

Mike Perry

Mike Perry (10-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) has earned all of his career victories by knockout. He’s earned six of those finishes in Round 1.

Perry has landed six knockdowns in four UFC appearances.

Thiago Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC) competes in his 22nd UFC welterweight bout, the fourth most appearances in divisional history behind Josh Koscheck (24), Matt Brown (23) and Matt Hughes (23).

Alves’ 14 victories in UFC welterweight competition are tied with Koscheck for third most in divisional history behind Georges St-Pierre (19) and Hughes (16).

Thiago Alves

Alves’ 13 knockdowns landed in UFC welterweight competition are the most in divisional history.

Alves’ 13 knockdowns landed in UFC competition are tied for fifth most in company history behind A. Silva (17), Jeremy Stephens (16), Chuck Liddell (14) and Donald Cerrone (14).

Alves’ eight knockout victories in UFC welterweight competition are second most in divisional history behind Brown (nine).

Alves’ four knockout victories stemming from knee strikes in UFC competition are most in company history.

Alves has landed 280 leg kicks in UFC competition, the second most in company history behind Cerrone (307).

Alves’ 52 leg kicks landed against Seth Baczynski at UFC on FOX 11 are the second most landed in a three-round UFC fight. Former champ Benson Henderson, who landed 53 kicks against Cerrone at UFC Fight Night 59, holds the single-fight record.

Remaining main card

Hector Lombard

Hector Lombard’s (34-7-1 MMA, 3-5 UFC) three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He’s on a four-fight winless skid overall and hasn’t earned a victory since March 2014.

Lombard is 0-2 since he returned to the UFC middleweight division in June 2016. He hasn’t earned a victory in the weight class since December 2012.

Anthony Smith (27-12 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is 3-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in February 2016.

Smith is 10-2 since his initial UFC release in June 2013.

Smith has earned 24 of his 27 career victories by stoppage.

Gregor Gillespie’s (9-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) 21-second knockout of Andrew Holbrook at UFC 210 marked the sixth fastest knockout in UFC lightweight history.

Jason Gonzalez (11-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) has earned all of his career victories by stoppage.

Kamaru Usman

Kamaru Usman (10-1 MMA, 5-0 UFC) enters the event on a nine-fight winning streak. He hasn’t suffered a defeat since May 2013.

Usman’s five-fight UFC winning streak in welterweight competition is the longest active streak in the division.

Usman has completed 20 takedowns in his five UFC appearances.

Usman out-lands his opponents by +2.66 significant strikes per minute in UFC welterweight competition, the best rate in divisional history.

Usman absorbs just 1.34 significant strikes per minute in UFC welterweight competition, the second-best rate in divisional history behind Pete Spratt (1.04).

Sergio Moraes

Sergio Moraes’ (12-2-1 MMA, 6-1-1 UFC) seven-fight UFC unbeaten streak in welterweight competition is the longest active streak in the division. He hasn’t suffered a loss since June 2012.

Moraes is one of six fighters in UFC history to earn a mounted-triangle-choke submission win. He accomplished the feat against Neil Magny at UFC 163.

Justin Ledet (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) is 3-0 with one no-contest since he returned to MMA competition after a nearly four-year layoff.

Ledet’s 113 significant strikes landed against Chase Sherman at UFC Fight Night 92 are tied for the second most by any debuting UFC heavyweight behind Tim Sylvia’s 138 at UFC 39.

Preliminary card

Olivier Aubin-Mercier

Olivier Aubin-Mercier (9-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) has earned eight of his nine career victories by submission.

Aubin-Mercier has completed at least one takedown against six of his seven UFC opponents.

Aubin-Mercier landed just three significant strikes in his decision victory at UFC Fight Night 74, a record low for a winner of any three-round UFC fight to go the distance.

Anthony Hamilton’s (15-7 MMA, 3-5 UFC) 14-second knockout of Damian Grabowski at UFC 201 marked the second-fastest knockout in UFC heavyweight history behind Todd Duffee’s seven-second win at UFC 102.

Hamilton holds the single-round UFC record for most significant body strikes landed with 49 in the second round against Ruan Potts at UFC 177.

Krzysztof Jotko (19-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) defends 86.8 percent of all opponent takedown attempts in UFC middleweight competition, the highest rate in divisional history.

Uriah Hall

Uriah Hall’s (12-8 MMA, 5-6 UFC) three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since September 2015.

Hall is 2-4 in his past six UFC appearances.

Hall is one of two fighters in UFC history to earn a knockout stemming from a spinning back kick to the head. Bantamweight Renan Barao also accomplished the feat.

Felipe Arantes (18-8-1 MMA, 5-4-1 UFC) is 2-1 since he dropped to the UFC bantamweight division in August 2015.

Gilbert Burns (11-2 MMA, 4-4 UFC) has earned 10 of his 11 career victories by stoppage.

Burns’ three armbar victories in UFC competition are tied for second most in company history behind Royce Gracie (four).

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

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

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Think ex-UFC champ Jose Aldo is down and out? Check out these messages

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In the days that have passed since Jose Aldo’s title loss in Saturday’s UFC 212 headliner, the former featherweight kingpin’s countrymen have been taking to social media to issue messages of support.

Aldo (26-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) suffered a third-round TKO loss to Max Holloway (18-3 MMA, 14-3 UFC) in their pay-per-view scrap at Rio de Janeiro’s Jeunesse Arena. While this wasn’t Aldo’s first octagon loss – he suffered a title-costing 13-second knockout to lightweight champ Conor McGregor – it carried the weight of taking place in front of the passionate fans of his adopted home of Rio.

Among those who stepped up to speak on behalf of Aldo’s legacy are colleagues who have felt firsthand the sting of losing UFC gold.

Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos, for instance, posted a video on Instagram talking about the importance of family at these times. He went on to say his fellow Brazilian ex-champ, who went on a staggering decade-long undefeated run before the McGregor loss, has “nothing to prove to anyone” (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “I hope you see this video, Aldo – to tell you that only you and your team know how hard it is. People who are criticizing now, saying you should have done this or that, this type of people have never been punched in the face. They have no idea what they’re talking about. And only the true fans will be by your side now. And you, your wife, your family know your sacrifice. And your coaches. At the end of the day, brother, when you get home and rest your head on your pillow, it’s you, your family, your wife, your daughter. That is your biggest treasure. I’m sending this message to say that you’re an example for many – for me. A great champion, not only in the octagon but in life too. You have nothing to prove to anyone.”

Former middleweight champion and all-time great Anderson Silva was one of the first to issue his support on social media. Silva stressed Aldo’s part as a role model in the sport. Under a picture that featured Aldo’s daughter, Joana, and wife, Viviane Pereira, Silva called his fellow countryman a “giant” and a “hero” (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “My brother. You are much bigger than any battle. Your story gives us the full assurance that you are a great hero, a great champion, I am and I will always be your fan, brother. What you have most precious goes far beyond. Of course we were all rooting for you and for your victory, but do not cover yourself or let anyone charge you brother, because you are fantastic in what you do and do with love and with your heart. Do not forget who you are and how much you make a difference in this sport. You have changed the lives of many people. You are cause for victory and overcoming by the example that has become. Always keep your head up God is always in control. You are a great champion, no one can take this story from you, no one; battle is won and other losses, but never war. You are a giant, did not come to this world by chance. You are Ze Aldo. Our Ze Aldo. Do not forget brother, GOD bless you always warrior.”

Former UFC interim heavyweight titleholder and current UFC Hall of Famer Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira also used the word “hero” to describe the former 145-pound kingpin (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “Our warrior. You’re our Brazilian hero, bud.”

Members of the newer octagon generation have also stepped up. Undefeated UFC welterweight Alberto Mina, for instance, published an inspired statement that takes aim at the public’s “ungrateful” attitude toward the fall of the longtime champ.

The message, which featured a “Whomever roots for me, roots for Aldo” hashtag, was shared by fellow UFC up-and-comers such as welterweight Elizeu Zaleski dos Santos (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “What’s going to happen to us, the ‘new generation of the UFC?’ Once the Brazilian fans can show so much ungratefulness with our champion who spent (and still is) over 10 years at the top? You watch your team lose, get downgraded, and you still root for them. Your favorite singer misses a show, cancels it, gets sick, wakes up with a bad voice or just didn’t sing what you wanted to hear… And then? You’re no longer a fan? What about your politician? Who you carried on your shoulders? Wore his jersey and even fought family members for him…. He let you down and certainly next year you’ll vote for him once again… Our profession is cruel, from hero to villain in the blink of an eye. The fan who can’t understand the greatness of Aldo for us fighters really isn’t apt to push the new generation.”

Check out other messages of support for Aldo:

Pedro Rizzo – Aldo’s coach, heavyweight legend, UFC and PRIDE vet (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “Everything passes, the bad and the good, what stays is our history and how people will remember you. Your life story is beautiful and victorious, keep writing it. No matter what happens, I’ll always be here, as I’ve always been, by your side and ready for everything.”

Leonardo Santos – UFC lightweight, “TUF: Brazil 2” winner and Aldo’s Nova Uniao teammate

Santos shared a comment from an aspiring fighter who sees the ex-champ as a role model in overcoming his own struggles to make it away from his family, sleeping at a gym, much like Aldo did (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “Today I had no words to describe something that diminished the pain of the loss for my friend @josealdojunioroficial. Something that made him see how important he is to all of us, how big of a part we play in his life. How much he managed to transform our lives. And just by being him, @josealdojunioroficial! So I got this… An example of how beloved he is and how much he has and still inspires us all.”

Bethe Correia – former UFC women’s bantamweight title challenger (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

Her message: “You were a warrior. Eternal people’s champ.”

Gilbert Burns – UFC lightweight (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

His message: “We’re #TeamAldo in victory and defeat. You represent me in and outside of the octagon.”

For more on UFC 212, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie