Sean Shelby's Shoes: What's next for Nicco Montano and TUF 26 Finale's other winning fighters?


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“The Ultimate Fighter 26” came to a conclusion on Friday with the crowning of a new UFC champion.

The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale took place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas, and it aired on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass. In the headliner, Nicco Montano (4-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) won the “TUF 26” tournament and the inaugural women’s flyweight crown with a unanimous-decision vivctory over veteran Roxanne Modafferi (21-14 MMA, 0-2 UFC).

While Montano’s win was the most significant on the card, other fighters, including Sean O’Malley (9-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), Lauren Murphy (10-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC), Gerald Meerschaert (27-9 MMA, 3-1 UFC) and Brett Johns (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC), also picked up victories. Meanwhile, DeAnna Bennett (8-3-1 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) and Melinda Fabian (4-3-2 MMA, 0-0-1 UFC) fought to a majority draw.

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 The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale’s winning fighters.

* * * *

Brett Johns

Pedro Munhoz

Should fight: Pedro Munhoz
Why they should fight: It was clear after his first two UFC fights that Johns is a talent to watch in the bantamweight division. His 30-second submission victory over Joe Soto, however, legitimized the Welshman in a whole new light.

Johns quickly finished Soto with just the second calf-slicer submission in UFC history. It was a major statement against the former Bellator champ and UFC title challenger, and with 15 straight wins, Johns appears ready for the next level of competition at 135 pounds.

A showdown with Munhoz (15-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), who’s also on the cusp of breaking through to the next level of the division thanks to a four-fight winning streak, could be just what the doctor ordered to give Johns his biggest test to date.

Gerald Meerschaert

Vitor Miranda

Should fight: Winner of Vitor Miranda vs. Julian Marquez at UFC on FOX 26
Why they should fight: Meerschaert delivered in the final fight of his UFC contract when he scored a thunderous body-kick knockout of Eric Spicely in their middleweight bout.

After fending off Spicely’s early submission attacks, Meerschaert found a home for his body kicks. He finally put his opponent down midway through the second round, and now Meerschaert enters free agency with three wins in four UFC fights, all of which came by stoppage.

Meerschaert excites every time he steps in the octagon, and that’s seemingly the type of talent the UFC would want to keep around. The promotion has let a variety of free agents walk over the past few years, though, so it’s no guarantee Meerschaert stays under the UFC banner for his next fight.

Assuming he does, there are some compelling bouts ahead at 185 pounds. The winner of the UFC on FOX 26 bout between Mirada (12-6 MMA, 3-3 UFC) and Marquez (6-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC) would be suitable because, like Meerschaert, both men have a high finishing rate.

Lauren Murphy

Mara Romero Borella

Should fight: Mara Romero Borella
Why they should fight: It came by the skin of her teeth in the form of a split decision, but Murphy managed to get the job done in her official UFC flyweight debut against fellow ex-Invicta FC champ Barb Honchak.

After going 1-3 in her UFC bantamweight run, Murphy got the fresh start she was looking for after a frustrating “TUF 26” stint. She has championship aspirations, and though the bout could have easily gone the other way, Murphy beat a fighter who was once considered No. 1 in the weight class.

If Murphy wants the belt, though, she will need to produce more convincing victories going forward. Borella (12-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made a splash in her promotional debut at UFC 216 in October with a first-round submission of Kalinda Faria. Murphy could take that momentum away from her – or, oppositely, Borella could move to 2-0 in the UFC against another notable name.

Sean O’Malley

Patrick Williams

Should fight: Patrick Williams
Why they should fight: The first edition of “The Suga Show” in the UFC went off without any major hitches. O’Malley pushed his undefeated record to 9-0 with a unanimous-decision win over Terrion Ware in a fun bantamweight scrap.

O’Malley had high expectations entering the octagon after earning a UFC contract with a spectacular knockout at a Dana White’s Contender Series event. He didn’t produce the same type of finish against his most experienced foe to date in Williams, but he got a solid win that will only help the 23-year-old grow moving forward.

At such a young age and with tremendous potential, O’Malley should be getting a slow build from the UFC brass. Williams (8-5 MMA, 1-2 UFC) is certainly no pushover, but he’s been used in the past of gauge the ability of similar 135-pound prospects, including Tom Duquesnoy. He should be put in a similar spot for O’Malley.

Nicco Montano

Should fight: Valentina Shevchenko
Why they should fight: Watch the video above to see why Montano should fight Shevchenko (14-3 MMA, 3-2 UFC) in her first title defense.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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A proud Lauren Murphy discusses weight of short-notice win over top flyweight Barb Honchak


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LAS VEGAS – It was an uncertain road up leading up to Friday’s The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, but for Lauren Murphy, it was also a valuable learning experience.

After some late visa issues forced her opponent out of their scheduled bout on Friday, Murphy (10-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) was in the often-nerve-wrecking position of staying on weight and being ready to jump in as an alternate. The wait paid off when a shakeup prompted by “TUF 26” finalist Sijara Eubanks’ withdrawal left Barb Honchak (10-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) without a dancing partner.

In came Murphy.

It helps that it ended well for Murphy, who walked away with a split-decision win. But, ultimately, she was glad for the entire ride.

“For me, mentally, to just roll with the punches and focus on what I can control, which is me, and be the best me I can be – this was such good practice for that,” Murphy said after the FS1-televised main-card bout at Park Theater in Las Vegas. “And when we went into this week, I was like, ‘I’m just going to practice not worrying about stuff I can’t control.’ And it was awesome. It worked out great.”

That, it did. Not only did Murphy get back on the winning path, after a loss to Katlyn Chookagian at bantamweight in July, she did so by stopping a serious force in Honchak. A former Invicta FC champ, Honchak made it all the way to the “TUF 26” semifinals before suffering an upset loss to eventual season winner and recently crowned champ Nicco Montano. In official pro bouts, she was riding a nine-fight winning streak into Friday’s bout.

Staying on weight as she waited wasn’t a problem for Murphy, who’s always been disciplined with her diet. But given the circumstances, she knows what she pulled off on Friday was no small feat.

“We didn’t know who we were going to fight or even if we were going to fight,” Murphy said. “So to step up and fight Barb? Barb Honchak, on one day’s notice? To me, it just says a lot to me about me.

“And I’m proud of that. We didn’t have a camp for her. We didn’t have time to prepare for her. And she’s one of the best flyweights in the world, so I think that says a lot.”

After a difficult “TUF 26” taping that forced her to be away from her family, not to mention the rocky lead-up to the TUF 26 Finale, Murphy’s immediate plan is simply to take a scheduled trip to Thailand and sip out of a coconut.

After that, the former bantamweight is set on returning to the newly inaugurated women’s 125-pound division. Where exactly she stands there after such a big win remains to be seen.

Sure, edging out someone like Honchack is big. But does Murphy think it was meaningful enough to set her up for a title shot?

“It’s hard to say,” Murphy said. “There are a lot of really good girls at flyweight. I think it puts me on the way. Coming off a win over Barb Honchak, I think that says a lot – especially to do it on one day’s notice. If we’d had a full camp for her, that might be something else.

“But we stepped up literally on 26 hours’ notice to fight her and came out with the win. So I at least want to start talking about that.”

To hear more from Murphy, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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TUF 26 Finale results: Lauren Murphy edges Barb Honchak in three-round thriller

LAS VEGAS – Stepping in on the shortest of notices, Lauren Murphy (10-3 MMA, 2-3 UFC) took advantage of the spotlight and scored a hard-fought split-decision win over former Invicta FC champ Barb Honchak (10-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC).

The women’s flyweight bout, which saw Murphy step in just one day prior due to a late card shuffle, was part of the main card of today’s The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale event at Park Theater in Las Vegas. It aired on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Murphy was the aggressor to open, moving forward and looking to strike. But Honchak looked comfortable on her feet, returning fire with bad intentions. Back and forth on the feet, both women were content to stay in close quarters and trade hands. Both women showed damage early from each other’s right hand, but neither moved out of the pocket. Occasional smiles from both women punctuated some entertaining striking sequences, though it seemed Murphy was the one landing the heaviest blows in addition to being the one moving forward. Either way, it was a heck of an opening round.

Honchak was a little quicker to the punch in the second, not settling for counter opportunities. Honchak added in a few kicks, as well, but Murphy answered by continuing with her relentless flow of punches. Both fighters continued to find the target, but neither blinked in the face of the power shots. Murphy’s face began to show more visible damage, but both women were unquestionably having their moments. With one minute left, Murphy drovve inside and brought the fight to the floor, eventually moving to her opponent’s back when Honchak rose quickly to her feet. Honchak tried to use the cage to peel her opponent away, but they toppled to the canvas, and Murphy tried for an armbar that was halted by the bell.

Neither fighter could really feel confident about the scores heading into the third, and it appeared both women still had plenty in the tank as they moved forward. Murphy perfectly timed a takedown attempt early in the frame and quickly established top position. Murphy worked from her opponent’s guard, and an active Honchak was able to maneuver into an earnest armbar attempt. Murphy showed fantastic defense, but Honchak adjusted and set up a triangle choke with an absolutely gorgeous and gutsy transition. When that didn’t work, Honchak adjusted again and spun for the belly-down armbar. Murphy survived tense moments to get free from the hold and actually countered by spinning around to her opponent’s back. With hooks set in the final minute, Murphy sought out the choke that just wouldn’t come. Still, she finished the round in the dominant spot, closing out a thrilling three-round affair. In the end, two judges scored it for Murphy, who walked away with a split-decision win.

Up-to-the-minute TUF 26 Finale results include:

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan and Ken Hathaway contributed to this report on site in Las Vegas.)

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'TUF 26' finalist Sijara Eubanks breaks silence on weight miss that scrapped UFC title shot


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“The Ultimate Fighter 26” finalist Sijara Eubanks has released her first public statement in the wake of a crushing weight miss that scrapped her shot at the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight title.

Eubanks (2-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) declared she previously had “cut more weight than most male fighters,” yet admitted to “miscalculations” during her weight cut that prevented her from making the 125-pound limit required for title bouts.

Eubanks also revealed she suffered kidney failure while trying to make weight for the headliner of The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, explaining her trip to a local hospital in the hours prior to weigh-ins for Friday’s FS1-televised event at Park Theatre in Las Vegas.

“No excuses, I worked my ass off and went out on my shield,” Eubanks wrote on Instagram. “I was hospitalized early this morning for kidney failure but best believe I’ma be right back training and right back after that belt.”

Stepping in Eubanks place for the finale is Roxanne Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-1 UFC), whom she beat in the semifinals of the reality show tournament. Modafferi faces finalist Nicco Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) while Modafferi’s originally scheduled opponent, Barb Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), meets “TUF 26” contestant Lauren Murphy (9-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC), who was on a standby as a potential replacement fighter for the event.

Here is Eubanks’ full statement (via Instagram):

Instagram Photo

“First of all, I’m a champion. Point blank. I will be UFC champion, but it’s God’s will that it won’t be Friday night. I’m a gangster and I’ve cut more weight than most male fighters, and unfortunately there were some miscalculations this cut, no excuses, I worked my ass off and went out on my shield. I was hospitalized early this morning for kidney failure but best believe I’ma be right back training and right back after that belt. This game is full of ups and downs, true champs know that and bounce back. Nicco and Roxanne I’m sure will have a great fight, and best wishes to both those ladies. True class, those two. Nothing changes, I’m still the queen and I will claim my throne.
Thank you to all my coaches, friends and family and the wonderful staff at UFC.
God is good and I am truly blessed.”

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Roxanne Modafferi replaces Sijara Eubanks in TUF 26 Finale's inaugural title fight


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The UFC’s inaugural women’s flyweight title fight has a new challenger.

After “TUF 26” tournament finalist Sijara Eubanks (2-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) failed to weigh in for her fight with Nicco Montano (3-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), tourney semifinalist Roxanne Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-0 UFC) today was named the replacement.

Their fight headlines the TUF 26 Finale, which takes place at Park Theatre in Las Vegas. The majority of the card, including the Modafferi vs. Montano title fight, airs on FS1 following one early prelim on UFC Fight Pass.

According to UFC officials, the change follows Eubanks’ hospitalization earlier today as she was cutting weight for the bout, which determines the UFC’s first 125-pound female champion.

MMAjunkie’s John Morgan was on scene at today’s official weigh-ins (watch Modafferi weigh in above) in Las Vegas and reported the switch. (via Twitter):

Here’s a statement from the UFC:

“Due to medical issues, Sijara Eubanks, was hospitalized Thursday morning and has been pulled from her bout against Nicco Montano at Friday’s The Ultimate Fighter Finale. Stepping in for Eubanks to fight in the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight championship bout will be Ultimate Fighter 26 semifinalist Roxanne Modafferi.”

Modafferi (21-13 MMA, 0-0 UFC), whom Eubanks defeated in the semifinal round of the tournament, was scheduled to fight Honchak (10-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the main card of Friday’s TUF 26 Finale. With Modafferi elevated to tourney final/title fight, Honchak now meets UFC vet Lauren Murphy (9-3 MMA, 1-3 UFC), who was eliminated in the first round of the tourney. Murphy was in Las Vegas this week and on standby at as a possible replacement fighter.

Following news of her unexpected title shot, Modafferi, a 14-year pro who’s gone 6-2 in official pro bouts since a one-and-done first UFC stint in 2013, wished Eubanks a quick recovery (via Twitter):

Eubanks, the No. 12 seed in the tourney structure, struggled to make weight during the duration of the 16-woman “TUF 26” tourney, which recently concluded its regular-season run on FS1. However, the former Invicta FC fighter had more than a month to prepare herself for the latest weigh-in and the planned title fight.

Her replacement, No. 1 seed Modafferi, who also had a brief run on “TUF 18,” now meets No. 14 seed Montano for a UFC belt.

For more on The Ultimate Fighter 26 Finale, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Episode No. 8 recap: 'The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion'

Episode No. 8 of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” opens with fight preparation for No. 9 seed Christina Marks of Team Alvarez, who fights No. 8 Emily Whitmire of Team Gaethje in the final opening-round tournament bout.

With Team Gaethje ahead 4-3 in wins so far in the tourney, it’s up to Marks to get a victory and even the playing field for Team Alvarez going into the next round.

Coach Eddie Alvarez has high praise for Marks’ striking but admits that, similar to several other fighters in the tournament, she doesn’t have much grappling or ground skills. Nevertheless, Alvarez said he can guide his fighter to victory.

Back at the “TUF” house, Team Alvarez’s Lauren Murphy is still fuming over her negative interactions with her head coach following her loss earlier in the season. She is debating putting in a request to switch teams and start training with Team Gaethje.

The next day, Murphy arrives at the gym and announces she wants to be part of Team Gaethje. Coach Justin Gaethje and his staff immediately welcome Murphy with open arms, and training gets off to a smooth start.

As Whitmire begins to turn up the intensity in training, she’s also being cautious not to agitate a rib injury that’s been lingering since early in the competition. Whitmire has the support of her good friend and former UFC champion Miesha Tate, who is in the gym as a guest coach. Tate agrees to corner Whitmire for her fight.

Once Team Gaethje finishes training and Team Alvarez arrives at the gym, Murphy takes coach Alvarez aside for a personal conversation. She tells him she’s been frustrated and thinks it would be better for her situation to move to the other team. The news doesn’t sit well with Alvarez, and he tells the rest of his fighters that a “cancer” and “disease” was just cut out of the team.

With that drama aside, it’s time for one of the most anticipated events of each season: the coaches’ challenge. For the first time in the history of the reality series, the coaches will face off in a swimming competition. Coaches Alvarez and Gaethje will have to swim 16 lengths in a 50-meter pool (Olympic-size). The winner gets $10,000, and $1,500 for each member of his team.

Both men are concerned about how they will perform in the race. Gaethje gets off to a quick start while Alvarez opts to pace himself. His strategy begins to pay dividends, and Gaethje slows down significantly after just a few laps. Alvarez takes over and wins in lopsided fashion, but Gaethje is determined to finish the race despite being blown out.

At the weigh-in, Marks and Whitmire come in under the 126-pound flyweight limit. An intense staredown follows, and the eighth opening-round tournament bout is official.

Fight day arrives. Marks and Whitmire head to the TUF Gym for their fight. They finalize preparation in the locker rooms with their respective coaching staffs before making the walk to the octagon. They enter the cage, and the next tournament fight is underway.

No. 8 Emily Whitmire (2-1) vs. No. 9 Christina Marks (8-8)

Round 1 – Whitmire open by faking an overhand right then immediately shooting in for a takedown. She puts Marks on her back less than five seconds in and establishes half guard. Whitmire attempts to advances while Marks is looking to scramble and give up her back. Whitmire gets too high and falls over the top, but before Marks can escape, Whitmire locks on an armbar. She adjusts position and forces Marks to verbally submit, ending the shortest fight of the season.

Emily Whitmire def. Christina Marks via verbal submission (armbar) – Round 1

“There’s no words to describe the emotion I’m feeling right now,” Whitmire says afterward. “I couldn’t be happier with myself and with the team. Everything just worked out perfect.”

Team Gaethje takes a 5-3 lead in the competition with Whitmire’s victory. The opening round of the tournament has come to its conclusion, meaning the quarterfinals are up next. The quarterfinal matchups are set, and the field shakes out as follows:

Bracket A

  • No. 1 Roxanne Modafferi (Team Gaethje) vs. No. 8 Emily Whitmire (Team Gaethje)
  • No.  4 DeAnna Bennett (Team Alvarez) vs. No. 12 Sijara Eubanks (Team Alvarez)

Bracket B

  • No.  2 Barb Honchak (Team Alvarez) vs. No. 10 Rachael Ostovich (Team Gaethje)
  • No. 6 Montana Stewart (Team Gaethje) vs. No. 14 Nicco Montano (Team Gaethje)

Also see:

Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1. MMAjunkie recaps each episode of the reality series.

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Eddie Alvarez talks 'TUF 26' gripe with Lauren Murphy – and lack of heat with Justin Gaethje


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Eddie Alvarez has no qualms with fellow “The Ultimate Fighter 26” coach Justin Gaethje, who he thinks is a “hell of a human being.” But that’s not to say his “TUF” stint has been beef-free.

Rather than fellow lightweight Gaethje (18-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), whom he’s set to meet at UFC 218, Alvarez (28-5 MMA, 3-2 UFC) had some drama with “Team Alvarez” team member and UFC flyweight Lauren Murphy. That much was clear on episode No. 5, in which the coach was clearly peeved by Murphy’s decision to not show up for morning practice following a loss to Nicco Montano.

That did take place. But the real reasons for the riff, Alvarez later told MMAjunkie Radio, went far beyond that particular disagreement.

“The story that’s being told in the media is basically: I’m a bad guy because I wanted someone back in the gym immediately after their fight,” Alvarez said. “And that was barely my gripe with that girl, in particular. That was the smalls thing that I didn’t like that was done that she did. I would also have to agree with you guys, to give somebody time off.

“I did want everyone back in the gym just to keep – personally, I did. But that was barely my gripe. My real gripe with that girl was that at that the first day, almost, she conspired against (Sijara Eubanks). Immediately, she was like, ‘We don’t care if ‘Sarj’ is 150 pounds.’ We – she’s speaking for the whole team now. And we just created the team.

“She goes, ‘We don’t care if ‘Sarj’ is 150 pounds. You can put her out first. It’s her fault she’s not prepared.’ So I was like, ‘Wow.’ Coach Marlon (Moraes) came to me and said, ‘Lauren said she don’t care if we put out ‘Sarj.” And this is in the mist of me, Mark and Marlon trying to put together a solid roster and win this thing. So I’m like, ‘No, that ain’t going to happen.’ I understand maybe she feels threatened by ‘Sarj,’ but ‘Sarj’ is on our team.”

And that wasn’t the last time Alvarez was under the impression that Murphy was “conspiring” against her teammates. A few days later, when the bracket went up, he said the flyweight came “in a panic” looking for advice on how to prepare for fellow Team Alvarez member Barb Honchak.

“She starts, ‘Hey, can you help me with a takedown, to take Barb down?’” Alvarez said. “I’m like, ‘Lauren, slow down. You have to fight Team Gaethje first.’ She still hasn’t fought her first fight against Nicco, and she’s already conspired twice or three times against everyone from Team Alvarez.

“I understand it’s Team Lauren Murphy because only one girl can win this, but it’s got to be one step at a time. Let’s beat Team Gaethje. Let’s get to the semifinals. Even then it’s bad to conspire, but let’s conspire then. Let’s take one thing at a time. There was a lot of bad energy, bad vibes when I’m trying to create a team.”

As for the missing practice thing that seemed like such a big deal on TV?

“(Expletive), it was a good thing she missed practice,” Alvarez said. “Her attitude sucked. It was probably a good thing, at the end of the day. I could care less about the practice.”

Talking to, Murphy denied conspiring against her teammates, saying Alvarez assumed “I was being an (expletive), because he’s an (expletive), and that’s the way he thinks.” She also blogged about the missed-practice situation, throwing some shade in the process.

“Besides, I’m pretty sure Eddie didn’t go running to the gym the day after Conor McGregor knocked him out so he could help his teammates get ready for their fights,” Murphy wrote (via Twitter):

Although things got rocky with one of his team members, Alvarez had no issues with the man he’s supposed to fight on Dec. 2 at UFC 218. The former UFC and Bellator champion, who’s hopped around promotions throughout his career, had become familiar with ex-WSOF champ Gaethje a few years ago – when he was considering fighting for the organization (now referred at as PFL).

A few months ago, when Gaethje joined the UFC, Alvarez said they shared a friendly conversation. And while it’s common for tempers to flare between rival coaches after a few weeks of competition, Alvarez said the amicable relationship continued throughout taping.

“He’s always been a cool cat,” Alvarez said. “I wish I could bring up some beef for you guys and say I smacked him in the face or I shoved him. But there wasn’t much drama to be told on that level.

“He’s actually a hell of a human being. And he fights like a demon. So it was all good on that level.”

It doesn’t take getting to know Gaethje on a personal level to agree with the “fighting like a demon” bit. After tearing through his competition at his former WSOF home, the aggressive lightweight put on a wild scrap with Michael Johnson to kick off his UFC stint.

While Alvarez has also been known to engage on a few barnburners, he’s also shown he can show some restraint should the occasion call. So which one can we expect to square off against Gaethje?

Well, Alvarez has some encouraging news.

“What I’m trying to do is not let a couple of punches go by before that comes out,” Alvarez said. “I’m going to do a full round in the back, and I’ll be out hot. I’m going to come out of the tunnel hot. And we’re going to get right to it, right from the gate.

“More than jiu-jitsu, striking, boxing, whatever aspect of this game you want to talk about. More than anything, that’s the aspect I’ve been working on. If I can explain it, just not giving a (expletive). That’s what I’m working on.”

To hear from Alvarez, check out the video above.

And for more on UFC 218, 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 and producer Brian “Goze” Garcia. For more information or to download past episodes, go to

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Episode No. 5 recap: 'The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion'

Episode No. 5 of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” opens with a still-emotional No. 3 Lauren Murphy riding back to the TUF house with the rest of Team Alvarez following her upset loss to Team Gaethje’s No. 14 Nicco Montano on the previous episode.

Murphy says she expected to reach the finals and be one half of the inaugural UFC women’s flyweight title fight, but she admits some moments of self-doubt began to creep into her mind just moments before the bout. Back at the TUF house, Murphy is upset she can’t get the comfort of her family after the disappointing result.

The next morning, Murphy is feeling better but decides to skip practice. She says she hopes coach Eddie Alvarez doesn’t give “some big speech at the gym about how, like, I should be back in there already.” That’s exactly what happens, though.

“She lost, and you’re not here? You’re probably not built for this,” Alvarez tells his fighters at the next Team Alvarez training session. “I appreciate you being here. Shana (Dobson) did the same. She came in, she lost, took it on the chin, came out and started training again. It’s not what happens, it’s how we react to it. So let’s react properly today. Thoughts and feelings mean nothing here. Zero, zilch. They’re not going to win you a fight here, your thoughts and feelings. I just need you girls to fight.”

Focus shifts to preparation for the next fight, where No. 12 Sijara Eubanks of Team Alvarez will fight No. 5 Maia Stevenson of Team Gaethje. Coach Alvarez says he believes Eubanks’ seeding in the tournament is way off, and her power and well-rounded ability are going to become advantageous in the upcoming bout.

At the second Team Alvarez training session of the day, Murphy returns to practice. She’s greeted by Alvarez and the rest of the coaching staff. They have a discussion about Murphy’s loss, and coach Alvarez attempts to lift Murphy’s spirits. She doesn’t say much at first but in confessional vents a lot of frustration in Alvarez’s direction.

The TUF gym is later overtaken by Team Gaethje. Stevenson, who is the wife of 16-fight UFC veteran and “TUF 2” winner Joe Stevenson, is feeling some pressure to make her own name in the sport. She doesn’t want people to think she’s only in the competition because of her husband and says it’s a “mental game” to get it out of her mind, but coach Justin Gaethje believes she’s capable.

As the fight approaches, there is some concern within Team Alvarez regarding Eubanks’ weight cut. She still has 10 pounds to cut, but believes, “everyone else is more concerned about my weight than I am.” At 126.5 pounds, though, Eubanks runs into a wall with her weight loss. She’s having difficulty ridding herself of the final half-pound, and the drama begins.

Instead of putting herself through anymore physical strain, though, coach Alvarez suggest Eubanks cuts off a sizable portion her lengthy dreadlocks. Eubanks takes it in stride and says, “My girlfriend is not going to be happy.”

The official weigh-ins for the fight take place, and both fighters hit the 126-pound women’s flyweight limit. A tense staredown follows.

Fight day arrives, and the fifth tournament bout is nearly underway. Stevenson and Eubanks finalize preparation with their coaches, and the athletes walk to the cage.

#5 Maia Stevenson (6-4) vs. #12 Sijara Eubanks (2-2)

Round 1 – Eubanks pumps the jab to begin the fight and tags Stevenson with a left hand. Eubanks shoots for a takedown, but it’s easily stuffed. Stevenson comes in with some combinations and is tagging Eubanks with clean shots. Stevenson’s jab is on point early, and Eubanks shoots for another takedown. She gets Stevenson down and immediately spins to the back. Stevenson works up to her feet slowly but Eubanks is working her with her with hard, short strikes. Stevenson is pinned against the cage and struggling to deal with Eubanks’ strength. Eubanks is landing shots at will against the fence then decides to change to a single leg and drag Stevenson back to the canvas. Eubanks postures up and batters Stevenson with some heavy strikes until the end of the round.

Round 2 – Eubanks misses on two big punches and eats a counter combination. She shoots for a takedown and Stevenson defends until her back is against the fence. Eubanks drops for the single-leg takedown and gets Stevenson down again. Eubanks advances to half guard and applies an americana. Stevenson squirm her arm free but Eubanks easily controlling her. She switches to the kimura and wrenches Stevenson’s arm behind her back, forcing her to tap out and end the one-sided fight.

Sijara Eubanks def. Maia Stevenson via submission (kimura) – Round 2

“The fight went really well,” Eubanks says after her victory. “It felt like all the suns and stars and stuff aligned for me, because it was a rough day yesterday, but we doubled down and had a super great day today.”

Team Gaethje’s lead is cut to 3-2 in the competition with Eubanks’ win for Team Alvarez, who take control of fight selection. With his choice, coach Alvarez selects No. 2 Barb Honchak to go up against No. 15 Gillian Robertson of Team Gaethje next.

Also see:

Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1. MMAjunkie recaps each episode of the reality series.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Episode No. 4 recap: 'The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion'

Episode No. 4 of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” opens with focus on No. 3 Lauren Murphy, who is fighting No. 14 Nicco Montano in the fourth opening-round tournament bout later in the episode.

Team Alvarez’s Murphy admits she’s had to stop and catch herself from looking too far ahead in the tournament when the most important fight is right ahead of her with Team Gaethje’s Montano. Murphy tells teammate Barb Honchak that she was already thinking about a fight between them prior to the start of the tournament, which creates some awkwardness.

During preparation, coach Eddie Alvarez calls Murphy a “coach’s dream.” He believes her four fights of UFC experience, which is more than all the rest of the tournament field combined, is a great advantage. Murphy says her well-rounded game is going to be too much for Montano to handle.

At the “TUF” house, Murphy, a former Invicta FC champion, opens up with some of her teammates about her troubled past. She discusses how her father passed away in a plane crash when she was young. That led her to a downward spiral of drug and alcohol abuse which resulted in an overdose. Murphy eventually got past her addiction and turned to a career in MMA.

Team Gaethje has its next training session, and Montano continues preparation for her upcoming fight. Despite only five pro bouts, Montano won a championship in the King of the Cage organization. UFC President Dana White calls Montano a “dark horse” in the tournament. Coach Justin Gaethje says the goal for Montano to turn it into a “dog fight.”

The official weigh-ins for the fight takes place, and both fighters come in under the 126-pound women’s flyweight limit. A tense staredown follows.

Fight day arrives, and the fourth tournament bout is nearly underway. Murphy and Montano finalize preparation with their coaches, and the athletes walk to the cage for the debut contest of the season.

#3 Lauren Murphy (9-3) vs. #14 Nicco Montano (3-2)

Round 1 – Murphy presses the action to begin the fight and is throwing combinations. Montano attacks with leg kicks and counter strikes. Montano is landing the better shots early, but Murphy is starting to settle in. Murphy works the jab, but Montano is coming at her with body and leg kicks. Murphy gets the clinch, but Montano pressures her against the fence. Montano misses with an elbow on the break, and Murphy takes the center of the cage. Montano lands a hard body kick followed by a grazing kick to the head. Murphy is struggling to find her range and is consistently being tagged with kicks. Murphy catches one of the kicks and turns it into a clinch situation. She attempts to drag Montano to the mat, but her takedowns are well defended. Montano is keeping busy with short punches and knees to the body before turning Murphy in the clinch. She works for a body-lock takedown of her own but has no success. They continue to battle in the clinch before separating. Murphy is starting to land some better shots before the end of the round.

Round 2 – Murphy is throwing with bad intentions to begin the round. Montano is keeping a solid range, but eventually they fight into the clinch. Murphy drops for a takedown. Her initial entry is stuffed, but she partially gets Montano down. Montano hammers Murphy with elbows before fighting her way back up to the feet. They are still in the clinch, and Montano is landing some good knees. Murphy refuses to disengage and is still fighting for takedowns. Montano refuses to go down and cuts Murphy open with a knee to the head. Montano lands more solid blows before turning Montano around. They finally separate from the clinch, and Montano lands a left kick to the body followed by a right hand. Murphy shoots for another takedown, but Montano has it easily scouted. Murphy is pressuring from the clinch, but she can’t get Montano down before the round ends.

Nicco Montano def. Lauren Murphy via unanimous decision (20-18, 20-18, 20-18)

“I did what I had to do to get the win,” Montano says after her stunning upset victory. “‘Whatever it takes’ is our team motto, and I think I demonstrated that pretty well tonight.”

Murphy, who is the first higher seed to fall so far in the tournament, becomes emotional back in the locker room.

“I’m tired of losing,” Murphy says. “I’m so (expletive) tired of losing. I was already coming off a loss coming into this showm and I thought maybe dropping to 125 was going to be the answer to all my problems, and clearly it’s not. I’m away from my family and I just miss them so much. It’s hard to go through a loss like this and be the upset in the show and not have them here to comfort me.”

Team Gaethje takes a 3-1 lead in the competition with Montano’s victory. Team Gaethje takes control of fight selection, and with his choice, coach Gaethje selects No. 5 Maia Stevenson to go up against No. 12 Sijara Eubanks of Team Alvarez next.

Also see:

Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 26: A New World Champion” every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1. MMAjunkie recaps each episode of the reality series.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Twitter Mailbag: Demetrious Johnson chases UFC history, makes a questionable nickname change

Should the UFC flyweight champ be worried about his challenger making weight for a potentially historic bout? Are we buying “Mighty” as a new nickname? Is Reebok finally taking some strides in the right direction?

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

In order for Demetrious Johnson to “fix” it, he’d first have to care about it. If we can believe anything he’s said in the past, he doesn’t. He feels like he’s made his case, he does what he does, and either you want to watch him or you don’t.

So sure, if we need to assign blame, we can give him his portion based on that. Then again, if you’re paying close attention you’ll see he gives us a lot of the stuff we say we want from fighters.

Finishes? He put away two of his last three challengers, and six out of 10 overall. Mic skills? Here he is explaining how pretty he looks after a successful title defense, and here he is calling out Chael Sonnen and Conor McGregor. You want an aggressive mean steak? Here he is telling Herb Dean to get out of the way so he can keep beating up John Dodson even after being kicked in the junk.

Anyone who has interviewed the man can tell you, Johnson is not boring to listen to. One problem might be that, aside from his social media presence, which is great if you’re into video game streaming stuff and maybe not so much otherwise, we don’t get a chance to hear from him that often. The only time he really gets the mic is right before and right after his fights, then he goes back to being ignored.

Still, that doesn’t explain it all. Part of it is his size. The same way people will watch even garbage heavyweights, just because they’re so mesmerized by the spectacle of all that power, they’re less interested in the smallest fighters, even when they’re basically modern-day ninjas.

Part of it is also the entrenched narrative surrounding him. The story with him is always that he’s so good, yet so few people seem to care. Even UFC President Dana White has complained about it. It’s a guaranteed discussion point before every title defense, and it kind of has to be, but it doesn’t exactly make people want to check out his fight.

As for what he could do to fix it, clearly winning a bunch of fights isn’t enough. Neither is dominating and finishing people. Neither is straight-up telling us how great (and pretty) he is. Unless he feels like gaining roughly 100 pounds, I’m at a loss.

Ray Borg has missed weight for two of his last four flyweight fights, so yeah, it has to be a concern. But unlike T.J. Dillashaw, Borg has also made the flyweight limit many, many times in his career. As in, way more times than he’s missed it. So at least we know he’s capable of it, which we didn’t know about Dillashaw.

Sorry, no, I just can’t sit here and pretend like that’s his nickname now. I get that “Mighty Mouse” is a copyright-protected character, but if he’s going to change up, he needs to change all the way up. A lot of people can go by “Mighty.” People with the last name Johnson are not among them.

Personalized gear is a huge improvement. Ideally, it wouldn’t be something reserved for champions and headliners, since it’s usually those lower down on the totem pole who are most in need of a way to stand out, but still.

You might recall that personalized merchandise was one of the early promises of the Reebok deal. Then we watched a bunch of fights between one dude in white-with-black shorts against another dude in black-with-white shorts, and gradually we lowered our expectations.

Things have improved since then, and it looks like they’re improving still. Hopefully that trajectory holds, because if you actually want to sell this stuff to fans of these individual fighters, you probably need to do more than just spell their names right.

Gilbert Melendez fought for the WEC back when it was still in single digits in terms of events. He fought for Shooto back when it was cool. He fought in PRIDE. He fought in the very first Strikeforce event. He fought in one of the last Strikeforce events.

The point is, Melendez had a whole well-traveled career’s worth of fights before he even got to the UFC. Now he’s 35, riding a three-fight losing streak, and the main question is how much longer he’ll try to hold on.

If he loses to Jeremy Stephens at UFC 215 on Saturday, that’s four straight, at which point it would make some sense to let him go. Of course, his old pal Scott Coker would probably love to reunite with him in Bellator, so there’s that to consider, too.

What I’m curious about is which Melendez we’ll see here. He can put his head down and brawl when he wants to. But then, Stephens would love that more than anything. Typically, the alternative for Melendez is to wall-and-stall, and that’s no fun to watch. But then, if your future might be on the line, maybe you don’t care so much what we want to see.

One of the things that I secretly like about MMA is that it will never get so mainstream or so corporate and professional that we won’t be able to find a bizarre event somewhere in the world filled with all manner of ridiculousness.

And, be honest, if I told you that a fighter in the UFC had jumped out of the cage after trading fouls with his opponent, you’d have to at least check a few websites before you felt sure enough to call me a liar.

Barb Honchak was the Invicta FC champ. Lauren Murphy’s been in the UFC since 2014. Roxanne Modafferi has fought all over the place, seemingly forever.

My point? There are some legit fighters on this season of “The Ultimate Fighter.”

But, OK, there are also some with far less experience. That’s par for the TUF course though, isn’t it? You can never accuse the producers of forgetting that it’s reality TV and not just an athletic competition. On every season there are people who are there to win and move on, and then there are people who are there to make things interesting. It’s been that way since the beginning, and it’ll be that way until TUF is finally cancelled in the year 2098.

Give it a few more months and it might turn out to be USADA’s sample cup.

Oh boy, where to even begin with this. First of all, does pointing out that someone is one of the best fighters in the world really count as “defending” him? Because apart from that, I can’t see what there is to defend Johnson from. He doesn’t run around committing crimes or failing drug tests. He doesn’t say a bunch of stupid stuff on Twitter. He doesn’t need much defending, as far as I can tell.

But then there’s the unstated premise of your question, which is that the MMA media should limit itself to covering only those topics that “mainstream fans” care about. So, basically, just wall-to-wall coverage of Conor McGregor and Ronda Rousey, with a sprinkling of Jon Jones and Brock Lesnar.

And the thing is, there are already is tons of coverage of all those subjects. Any excuse to write about them, we do. But the media’s job isn’t just to accumulate clicks. The media has a responsibility to pursue and report relevant, meaningful stories. They won’t always be the most popular or profitable stories, but they’re still important, even if they occasionally get in the way of rehashing whatever was on McGregor’s Instagram page today.

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