Felice Herrig happy to be 'graced with' opponent she asked for, reportedly Karolina Kowalkiewicz

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ST. LOUIS – Felice Herrig asked and, finally, it looks like she shall receive.

After her latest win, a split decision over Cortney Casey at UFC 218, Herrig expanded her winning streak to four in the UFC. This was months after the strawweight veteran delivered an emotional post-fight speech, in which she opened up about what she perceived as difficulties getting opportunities with the promotion.

Speaking to MMAjunkie Radio shortly after the Casey fight, Herrig said she didn’t see significant improvement in that department. But she did say that, given her momentum, there was no reason why she shouldn’t get matched up with top-10 competition next.

It appears she got it.

While she wouldn’t reveal who her next opponent is, Herrig said she’s already signed a bout agreement and should be in camp soon.

“This is actually the opponent I asked for,” Herrig told MMAjunkie backstage at Scottrade Centre in St. Louis, where she attended UFC Fight Night 124. “I’m not saying I asked for it publicly. But I asked (UFC matchmaker) Mick Maynard for the fight, and he graced me with it.”

According to a report by MMANytt, which MMAWeekly later confirmed, that opponent is former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The reports say the 115-pound bout is expected for UFC 223 on April 7. Although not announced by the promotion, the event is rumored to take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

If that turns out to be the case, Herrig did kind of ask for it publicly. During that same interview with MMAJunkie Radio, the strawweight said she believes the ex-title-challenger, who sits five spots above her in the official UFC rankings, could be both an exciting fight and a “good gauge” for her.

At 33, Herrig (13-6 MMA, 5-1 UFC) has found quite the groove in the octagon, having recovered from a loss to Paige VanZant with wins over Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Casey.

Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), in turn, has recently recovered from a two-fight losing skid (which included a title effort) with a unanimous-decision win over Jodie Esquibel.

While we’ve yet to receive official word on Herrig’s opponent, fact is that it’s someone she requested. And that, in itself, seems like a good start to a year that could be big for Herrig.

“18 is my lucky number, so it would be really bad if 2018 wasn’t good for me,” Herrig said.

That, of course, rides on being able to keep her momentum going. And, while  there are always adjustments to be made, the strawweight believes the key to making sure that happens lies in sticking to the system that’s been paying dividends.

“I don’t really have a plan. I just hope to keep doing everything the way I’ve been doing it,” Herrig said. “As every fight, obviously I plan on winning. But I think, too, I’m trying not to put as much pressure on myself.

“Because every fight, I felt like I had to top myself. So, ‘OK, now I have to be in camp longer,’ even though it would maybe burn me out. ‘Last time, I did 10 weeks, but this time I’ve got to do 12.’ I’m just trying to keep everything the same. The system has been working, and I’m trying not to mess with that.”

To hear from Herrig, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 223, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Felice Herrig: It 'doesn't really make sense' to keep fighting lower-ranked UFC opponents

Filed under: News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

Surging women’s strawweight contender Felice Herrig is getting tired of calling her shot.

After an emotional interview following a win earlier this year, Herrig got plenty of support from fellow fighters but saw little change in the way she was promoted.

She plans to simply wait for her opportunity to arise, whenever that might be.

“I don’t really want to talk that much any more,” Herrig told MMAjunkie Radio. “I was vocal, and that was raw emotion, and have things really changed significantly? Not really.”

With four straight wins now under her belt – thanks to a recent split-decision victory over Cortney Casey (7-5 MMA, 3-4 UFC) at UFC 218 – Herrig (13-6 MMA, 4-1 UFC) thinks her success stands on its own. She sees no reason to take a step back in opposition after facing many of the toughest fighters whose rankings didn’t reflect their toughness.

“Aside from (former UFC women’s strawweight champ) Joanna (Jedrzejczyk), I’m the only strawweight who’s gone on a four-fight winning streak,” Herrig said. “That’s a fact. At this point, I want to fight someone in the top 10. It doesn’t really make sense for me to keep fighting girls that are ranked below me. That’s the whole point. If I want to keep working my way up. I fight the most dangerous girls outside the top 10.”

Asked about potential opponents who would make sense, Herrig named onetime title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) as a desired opponent.

When she gave the interview, Kowalkiewicz was unbooked despite calling out Jessica Andrade (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in a post-fight interview after a recent win. But now, Kowalkiewicz is expected to face the fellow onetime title challenger at UFC on FOX 28, which takes place Feb. 24 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla. The Kowalkiewicz-Andrade winner appears poised to step into the No. 1 contender’s spot.

“For whatever reason, I really want to fight Karolina,” Herrig said. “I just think that would be an exciting fight. I think it would be fun. Stylistically, I really like that fight. She’s ranked above, and it may be a good gauge for me.”

Opportunity to advance appears closer than ever for standouts in the women’s strawweight division following the title loss of Jedrzejczyk to new champ Rose Namajunas at UFC 217. Herrig was under the impression Andrade would fare well against Namajunas, and she liked the Brazilian’s chances against the new champ.

“I don’t necessarily think if Rose fought Andrade, I don’t think it’s as good of a matchup for Rose,” Herrig said. “Rose does good with people who will stay on the outside and go tit for tat. I’m not here to talk (expletive), but I really do feel the belt could be mixed up.”

Whether the Andrade vs. Kowalkiewicz booking indicates Jedrzejczyk will get a chance to win back her belt, or another title contender will rise, Herrig is cautiously optimistic that her time is coming.

“I think it gives hope, and it opens up the division and makes it exciting again,” she said. “Rose is the one that did it. You can’t take anything away from her. You’ve got to give props to Rose for taking out Joanna.”

And while she would have liked to have been the catalyst for change, Herrig will wait until her time arrives. She just won’t beg to expedite it.

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

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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Filed under: News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

After UFC 218 win, Tecia Torres wants rubber match with new champ Rose Namajunas

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

Tecia Torres won her third straight fight with a unanimous-decision victory over Michelle Waterson on Saturday at UFC 218, which leaves the question of what should come next for “The Tiny Tornado” in a suddenly wide open women’s strawweight division.

Fortunately, Torres (10-1 MMA, 6-1 UFC) has some ideas on the matter. As she told reporters after she outlasted Waterson (14-6 MMA, 2-2 UFC) in Detroit’s pay-per-view opener on Saturday in Detroit, she could see herself in a fight with fellow contender Claudia Gadelha (15-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), or maybe even taking on the eventual winner of the slated bout between Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Jessica Andrade (17-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who are expected to fight in February at UFC on FOX 28.

“But really, I’d like a title fight,” Torres said. “I’d like that grudge match. I think it’s a fight that fans want to see.”

Of course, fans already have seen it. Twice, in fact. Current UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) split a pair of bouts with Torres, with Torres claiming the decision victory in the first meeting at Invicta FC 6 in 2013, and Namajunas winning the UFC rematch via the same method last year.

What’s more, the two young fighters each had the honor of giving each other the first professional losses of their respective careers, so already there’s plenty of history between them.

“I think the story is there,” Torres said. “And I think it would be a great fight for the fans and for myself. Nothing against Rose, business is business. I want that title fight, and I’ve been wanting it for a long time.”

Namajunas is fresh off her upset victory over longtime champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk at UFC 217, where she stunned the MMA world with a first-round TKO of one of the UFC’s most dominant champions. And while Jedrzejczyk has vowed to reclaim her title, no future plans have been announced regarding the division’s next title fight.

According to Torres, the quick win by Namajunas was an impressive one, but didn’t leave a lot of opportunities for film study.

“I was totally impressed by Rose in her last fight, but I mean … there wasn’t really much to see out of that,” Torres said. “You’ve seen Rose as a fighter. She’s very unpredictable. She’s very good at her jiu-jitsu, very good striker, well-rounded fighter. Every fight presents something new, so I wouldn’t be able to pick something out of there. It would just be me and her fighting.”

Fortunately for Torres, she has plenty of experience there with two fights against Namajunas already. If she could face her for a third time, she said, and this time in a five-round fight rather than a three-rounder, she’s confident that her cardio and fast pace would become an advantage.

“I know how she hits,” Torres said. “I’ve taken her hits for six rounds, so it’d be a fun fight, and I’d be very comfortable and just excited about it. She’s a true representation of the strawweight division, and it’d be an honor to fight her a third time for a title.”

For complete coverage of UFC 218, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Darren Till and UFC Fight Night 118's other winning fighters?

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A potential star was born in Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 118 headliner when Darren Till added a most noteworthy win to his undefeated record against fan favorite and former UFC title challenger Donald Cerrone.

Till (16-0-1 MMA, 4-0-1 UFC) bludgeoned Cerrone (32-10 MMA, 19-7 UFC) for a first-round TKO in the UFC Fight Pass-streamed welterweight main event at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, adding more credibility to those touting him as the next big thing from England.

Prior to Till’s impressive win, Karolina Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), Jan Blachowicz (20-7 MMA, 3-4 UFC) and Oskar Piechota (10-0-1 MMA, 1-0 UFC) all made impressions for various reasons with key victories.

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 118’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Oskar Piechota

Should fight: Trevor Smith
Why they should fight: He didn’t have a thrilling fight or decisive finish, but as far as UFC debuts go, Piechota turned in a solid performance with his unanimous-decision victory over Jonathan Wilson.

The former Cage Warriors champion admitted post-fight that he probably wasn’t as physically prepared for his first octagon appearance as he should have been. His conditioning showed, but he vowed to come back in better shape for his next fight.

Piechota is another solid European to join the UFC roster, and in a middleweight division filled with opportunity, the unbeaten fighter has some potential to flourish. Smith (15-7 MMA, 5-4 UFC) is a tested veteran who has a lot of experienced in the UFC, Strikeforce and various other notable organizations. “Hot Sauce” was forced out of a fight on the same card due to injury, but as soon as he recovers, a matchup with Piechota would work for his comeback.

Jan Blachowicz

Should fight: Jared Cannonier
Why they should fight: With his UFC career likely on the line, Blachowicz delivered in a key moment when he scored a slick second-round submission of Devin Clark in their light heavyweight bout.

Blachowicz entered the UFC several years ago with a lot of hype behind him. He’s struggled against top competition, but perhaps his strong effort against Clark will represent a turning point.

The Polish fighter needs to continue his rebuild process, and a matchup with Cannonier (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) is fitting. Cannonier just lost his UFC on FOX 26 opponent Antonio Rogerio Nogueira due to a potential USADA violation. and Blachowicz is in position to be a suitable replacement.

Karolina Kowalkiewicz

Should fight: Jessica Andrade
Why they should fight: Former strawweight title challenger Kowalkiewicz rebounded from a two-fight skid with a unanimous decision win over promotional newcomer Jodie Esquibel to get her career back on track.

Kowalkiewicz is still one of the top contenders in the 155-pound division, and now that her rough patch is a thing of the past, she can return to fighting fellow elite names in her weight class.

During her post-fight interview Kowalkiewicz mentioned a showdown with Andrade (17-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who is coming off a dominant win over Claudia Gadelha at UFC Fight Night 117. The Brazilian named Kowalkiewicz as someone she wants to fight, and with all sides apparently on board, the matchup makes itself.

Darren Till

Should fight: Winner of Santiago Ponzinibbio vs. Mike Perry at UFC on FOX 26
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Till should fight the winner of the UFC on FOX 26 bout between Ponzinibbio (25-3 MMA, 7-2 UFC) and Perry (11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) next.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Karolina Kowalkiewicz ready for Jessica Andrade after 'f*cking awesome' UFC-Gdansk win

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

GDANSK, Poland – UFC women’s strawweight Karolina Kowalkiewicz was overcome with emotion after her dominant win against Jodie Esquibel at UFC Fight Night 118.

Fighting in her home country, Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) couldn’t contain her tears. After a unanimous decision over Esquibel (6-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC), she couldn’t contain her language.

“It was (expletive) awesome,” she told reporters in English backstage at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, which hosted the UFC Fight Pass-streamed event.

Although some fighters freeze with the pressure to perform in front of a hometown crowd, Kowalkiewicz said it energized her. But in any event, she doesn’t get rattled like that.

“I never feel pressure before the fight, because I love what I do,” she said via translator. “I feel pressure when I’m on a diet, and I can’t eat a cookie.”

Now, she’ll get on to the next item of business in her career. Kowalkiewicz is targeting a fight with fellow one-time title challenger Jessica Andrade (17-6 MMA, 8-4 UFC), who took aim at her prior to Saturday’s event.

“Jessica Andrade said I declined a fight, but that never happened,” Kowalkiewicz said. “I was never offered a fight with Jessica. So let’s just do it now.”

Andrade is a perfect bridge opponent if Kowalkiewicz is trying to get back into the title picture. Just this past month, Andrade put a beatdown on fellow Brazilian countrywoman Claudia Gadelha, who has twice fallen to her rival, champion Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Gadelha also submitted Kowalkiewicz in her previous outing, but Kowalkiewicz isn’t in to MMA match. Her goal is more short-term – to silence a critic.

“I don’t want to look that far into the future,” Kowalkiewicz said. “So far, I would like to enjoy training and living, and it would be nice if my next opponent is Jessica. Now, I need three days for vacation. After that I want to fight Jessica Andrade.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

Twitter reacts to emotional Karolina Kowalkiewicz victory over Jodie Esquibel at UFC-Gdansk

Karolina Kowalkiewicz got back on track today when she defeated newcomer Jodie Esquibel in the UFC Fight Night 118 co-main event.

Former UFC strawweight title challenger Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) snapped her two-fight losing skid when she picked up a unanimous-decision victory over Esquibel (6-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) in the UFC Fight Pass-streamed bout at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland.

Check below for the top Twitter reactions to Kowalkiewicz’s victory over Esquibel at UFC Fight Night 118.

* * * *

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 118 results: Karolina Kowalkiewicz overwhelms in emotional win Jodie Esquibel

Karolina Kowalkiewicz used constant pressure to overwhelm Jodie Esquibel on the feet, and nearly finished the fight at one point on the mat.

In the end, Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC) had to settle for a win on the scorecards, beating Esquibel (6-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) via unanimous decision.

The women’s strawweight bout was the co-main event of today’s UFC Fight Night 118 event at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland. It streamed on UFC Fight Pass.

Kowalkiewicz was the aggressor in the fight from the opening seconds, backing Esquibel down and putting combinations together to keep her opponent on the defensive.

After taking the first round on the feet, Kowalkiewicz really put Esquibel in trouble when the fight hit the floor. Locking up an armbar late in the round, Kowalkiewicz narrowly ran out of time before she could finish the submission, which allowed Esquibel to see the third round.

That frame, too, was all Kowalkiewicz, who never slowed her pace enough to let Esquibel back into the fight. The result was a clean sweep on the scorecards, as all three judges gave the fight to Kowalkiewicz with scores of 30-27 across the board.

Kowalkiewicz’s win, which included an emotional post-fight interview and a callout of Jessica Andrade, snaps a two-fight losing skid, resulting in the former title challenger’s first victory since July 2016. The loss in Esquibel’s UFC debut is her second defeat in her last three fights.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 118 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan and Abbey Subhan contributed to this report on site in Poland.)

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

UFC Fight Night 118 staff picks: How many are picking unbeaten Darren Till to upset 'Cowboy'?

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Cerrone
vs.
Till
Esquibel
vs.
Kowalkiewicz
Blachowicz
vs.
Clark
Piechota
vs.
Wilson
MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2017: 94-66
cerrone2017
Cerrone
(74%)
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
(96%)
blachowicz2017
Blachowicz
(63%)
piechota2017
Piechota
(68%)
Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2017: 102-58
trophy copy 2015 Champion
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2017: 101-59
till2017
Till
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Ben Fowlkes @BenFowlkesMMA
2017: 100-60
trophy copy 2016 Champion
till2017
Till
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Steven Marrocco @MMAjunkieSteven
2017: 99-61
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2017: 97-63
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Fernanda Prates @nandaprates_
2017: 95-65
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Matt Erickson @MMAjunkieMatt
2017: 93-67
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
blachowicz2017
Blachowicz
piechota2017
Piechota
John Morgan @MMAjunkieJohn
2017: 93-67
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
Mike Bohn @MikeBohnMMA
2017: 92-68
trophy copy 2014 Champion
cerrone2017
Cerrone
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
dclark2017
Clark
piechota2017
Piechota
George Garcia @MMAjunkieGeorge
2017: 91-69
till2017
Till
kowalkiewicz2017
Kowalkiewicz
blachowicz2017
Blachowicz
piechota2017
Piechota

The UFC returns to Poland this week with a fun welterweight scdrap in the main event.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place Saturday at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland, and the entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass.

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

In the main event, former lightweight title challenger Donald Cerrone (32-9 MMA, 19-6 UFC) continues his run at welterweight against unbeaten British up-and-comer Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC). Cerrone is a slight betting favorite and is trying to snap the first two-fight losing skid of his career. He’s the pick of seven of our 10 MMAjunkie editors, writers and radio hosts.

In the co-feature, former women’s strawweight title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz (10-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) fights for her home fans in Poland against Jodie Esquibel (6-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), who will be making her UFC debut. Kowalkiewicz is the biggest favorite on the card at more than 4-1, and to little surprise she’s a unanimous pick from our staff members.

Also on the main card, Jan Blachowicz (19-7 MMA, 2-4 UFC) fights in front of his home fans in a light heavyweight bout against Devin Clark (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC). But it’s Clark who has the nod from eight of our 10 pickers. And unbeaten promotional newcomer Oskar Piechota (9-0-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) will try to thrill his home fans when he takes on Jonathan Wilson (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) at middleweight. Piechota is a 2-1 favorite and is our second unanimous pick on the card.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Cerrone, Kowalkiewicz, Blachowicz and Piechota are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Karolina Kowalkiewicz aims to rebound from skid at UFC-Gdansk – and celebrate with a cookie

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Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

GDANSK, Poland – Karolina Kowalkiewicz returns to action at UFC Fight Night 118 as relaxed as ever, despite her recent run of poor form.

Kowalkiewicz (10-2, 3-2 UFC) unsuccessfully challenged Joanna Jedrzejczyk for the UFC strawweight title at UFC 205 in New York last year. Then Kowalkiewicz suffered the first stoppage loss of her career when she was submitted by Claudia Gadelha at UFC 212.

The back-to-back losses are the only blemishes on Kowalkiewicz’s record, and she took a philosophical view when she chatted with MMAjunkie at UFC Fight Night 118 media day at Ergo Arena, site of Saturday’s UFC Fight Pass-streamed event.

“What can I say? Shit happens!” Kowalkiewicz said with a laugh. “We’ve changed a few things in my training. Now I’m really prepared for this fight, and you’ll see everything on Saturday.”

Kowalkiewicz takes on UFC debutant Jodie Esquibel (6-2, 0-0 UFC), who brings an eight-fight record into the octagon, including a win over current “The Ultimate Fighter 26” contender DeAnna Bennett in her last outing.

“She’s a newcomer in the UFC,” Kowalkiewicz said. “But we were all newcomers (once) in the UFC. Jodie is a great striker. She’s very tough. She’s a good and complete MMA fighter.”

The fight also marks Kowalkiewicz’s return to her homeland to compete in front of her own fans for the first time in her UFC career. When asked whether fighting on home soil brought more pressure or more fun, she was adamant.

“More fun,” Kowalkiewicz said. “I never feel pressure before fights. I feel pressure when I am hungry, and I can’t eat a cookie because I’m making weight. This is a great experience, I (get to) fight in the UFC in my home. This is great.”

And if Kowalkiewicz is successful on Saturday night, she already knows what post-fight treat she’ll indulge in as she celebrates victory.

“Chocolate cookie!”

For more on UFC Fight Night 118, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

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

MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 118’s main-card bouts.

UFC Fight Night 118 takes place Saturday at Ergo Arena in Gdansk, Poland and streams entirely on UFC Fight Pass.

UFC 216 takes place Saturday at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FX and UFC Fight Pass.

Donald Cerrone (32-9-1 MMA, 19-6-0 UFC)

Donald Cerrone.

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 34 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 73″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Robbie Lawler (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox / Muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Multiple Muay Thai titles
^ 28-0 as a pro kickboxer
+ 8 KO victories
+ 16 submission wins
+ 13 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Intelligent strike setups
^ Feints, reads, reacts
+ Devastating head kicks
+ Accurate and intercepting knees
+ Hard leg kicks
^ Most landed in UFC history
+ Underrated wrestling ability
+ Excellent transitional grappler
+/- 4-7 against UFC southpaws

Darren Till (15-0-1 MMA, 3-0-1 UFC)

Darren Till.

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’0″” Age: 24 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 74″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Bojan Velickovic (Sept. 2, 2017)
  • Camp: Team Kaobon (England)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw / Muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ K-1 European title
+ Luta Livre purple belt
+ 9 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 4 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Good feints and footwork
+ Accurate left hand
^ Coming forward or off the counter
+ Hard Thai kicks
^ Works well to the body
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Dangerous elbows and knees
+ Underrated grappling ability
^ Shows good positional awareness

Summary:

The main event on UFC Fight Pass features a muay Thai maelstrom between Donald Cerrone and Darren Till.

A top-ranked welterweight who is looking to recover from a two-fight losing skid, Cerrone is in Gdansk to get his redemption. There, the American will find Till, an undefeated Englishman who is seeking to steal the spotlight and further state his arrival.

Starting off on the feet, we have two Thai-style strikers who ply their craft in different ways.

Till, the southpaw, will work behind subtle feints and solid footwork, creating angles that allow him to capitalize and counter on his opponent’s reactions. Favoring his heavy left cross, Till possesses a pull-counter that bears a slight resemblance to Conor McGregor, typically stunning his opposition when landing cleanly.

However, Till’s one-sided ways have often drawn criticism and questions about his game as a whole, something he will likely have to answer for in this matchup. With that in mind, it will be interesting to see if Till makes the adjustments and displays the proficiency of his right hand, especially considering that right hands have typically been Cerrone’s common culprit against both stances.

I will also be curious to see how Till’s kicking arsenal of playing, prodding and picking his places for power will play out with Cerrone, who never seems to shy away from trading shots.

Embracing his frame and kickboxing base, Cerrone does an excellent job of using leg kicks and teeps from a distance. Mixing in punches appropriately, Cerrone will draw out his opponent’s defenses to set up the fight-ending head kicks that comprise his highlight reel.

And though those head kicks could tax Till’s low-handed leans, I see Cerrone getting much more mileage in this matchup with his leg kicks.

Till typically utilizes a wide stance to facilitate his power shot and pull-counter agenda, something that usually makes his lead leg available, as we saw Bojan Velickovic exploit in Till’s last outing.

Still, Till has displayed the composure and craft to work through this opening, inviting opponents to kick his leg as he keeps counter crosses at the ready. But against the fighter who has landed the most leg kicks in UFC history, the Englishman will most certainly be playing with fire if he fails to make adjustments.

Cerrone will also provide much more than kicks and knees. He’s made strides in his overall striking in recent years, particularly inside the pocket or when throwing in combination. Under the care of Brandon Gibson, this most recent iteration of Cerrone has him moving his head and torso offline and at angles, unloading his punches with different mechanics than before.

Often punching his way out of exchanges with his left-hook, Cerrone will feed his newfound flow into his patent head kicks, as his arsenal is now much more symbiotic –– which in turn makes him more dangerous.

Another potential linchpin in this matchup resides inside the clinch.

Both men are unabashedly offensive in this space, but I believe Till is quietly the better defensive fighter, as Cerrone has been surprisingly hittable from here for much of his career. Furthermore, Till also appears to be technically competent and comfortable in the clinch – which coupled with being the naturally bigger man – could pay potential dividends.

Nevertheless, Cerrone is not reliant on the clinch to get off his strikes or offensive grappling. Keeping an excellent reactionary shot in his holster, Cerrone will usually use it to throw off an opponent early, or go to it when he is under heavy fire.

Should Cerrone get the Englishman to the floor, he will surely have the on-paper advantage. Whether he is attacking off of his back or plotting his next move from a topside half-guard, Cerrone is a natural, gifted transitional grappler. But on-paper advantages can often be misleading, as I do believe Till is an underrated grappler to boot.

Coming from a Luta Livre background (a style more synonymous with catch wrestling than jiu-jitsu), Till demonstrates excellent positional awareness and disciplined hand-fighting, a technique that allows him to unleash unforgiving elbows when on top.

From the bottom, Till displays craft and composure, but will smartly not stick around long to see how things play out. Instead, the Englishman will typically elect to turtle-out to his base and work to stand from there. If Till can continue this approach while protecting his back, then I do not see ground stanzas lasting for large portions of the round.

With the betting lines being closer than expected, it seems that the oddsmakers and public either have high faith in Till – or fleeting faith in Cerrone.

As for me, it is easy to see why Cerrone is favored to win. He has more experience in big fights and has a much more diverse arsenal. But on the other hand, I can also see why Till is a live dog in this spot.

From his southpaw stance, brutal body attacks and confident attitude, he carries all the intangibles that have traditionally troubled Cerrone. All of the intangibles –– minus a high pace.

Like many traditional muay Thai fighters, Till can arguably be too comfortable in outclassing his opponent on a micro-level, which can be dangerous considering that MMA judges have trouble interpreting striking from a macro-level. If Till cannot significantly change the course of this fight with his power, then I see Cerrone having a stylistic edge should this contest go to the cards.

I’m a fan of Till’s game and am rooting for him to do well, but it is ultimately hard to pick him based on the information at hand. For that reason, I suggest keeping your money in your pocket and holding onto your beer firmly –– this fight will likely be a back-and-forth affair that could go long.

Official pick: Cerrone by decision

Official outcome: To be determined

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