Bellator 191 headliner Michael McDonald: Insane to think I could have another 10-15 years in MMA

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Filed under: Bellator, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

As he prepares to make his Bellator debut, now is probably a good time to remind you that UFC and WEC veteran Michael McDonald is just 26.

Crazy, right?

“To think about the fact that I could have another 10-15 years (in MMA) if I wanted it is pretty insane,” McDonald told MMAjunkie Radio. “I’ve already been doing this for over 10 years now, professionally, and that’s a good thing – as long as I can keep my body intact. I’ve got a lot of miles, but I’m learning to take good care of my body.”

McDonald debuted in the WEC in 2010 as a teenager and then immediately transitioned to the UFC, earning a “Fight of the Night” bonus in a decision win over Edwin Figueroa in his promotional debut. He was victorious in his first four UFC fights before coming up short in a bid against Renan Barao for the UFC’s interim bantamweight title in 2013.

Injuries and contract disputes slowed McDonald’s output for the next several years, and he ultimately elected to leave the UFC in favor of a fresh start with Bellator.

In Friday’s Bellator 191 headliner at Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, McDonald (17-4 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) faces Frenchman Peter Ligier (8-1-1 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) in a bout that airs on Spike via same-day tape delay.

It’s a fresh start for McDonald, who could still have plenty of upside remaining in his fighting career. With plenty of top-level experience already under his belt, he knows what it takes to compete against the world’s best. His only regret is that he faced top competition so early in his career that it was difficult to have his compensation match the difficulty of the challenges.

“There’s positives and negatives to it,” McDonald said of the early start to his career. “I fought such high competition so quick while I was on my first UFC contract, and that kind of sucked. I fought Miguel Torres on my very first UFC contract. It’s hard to fight someone according to my pay grade when I’ve just beaten Miguel Torres, and I’m still on my first contract after that. There are complications business-wise. But professionally, when it comes to the competitor in me, I’m very happy with it.”

It’s been nearly 17 months since “Mayday” last stepped in the cage, and he said the time away has done him wonders. At such a young age, McDonald still has plenty of time to deliver on the potential he’s long possessed.

But the first step comes Friday, when McDonald can prove his decision to walk away from the UFC was a wise one.

“I’m really excited, man,” McDonald said. “This is the most focused I’ve been in a very long time. Not only that, it’s the best shape, the best technical-wise, best strength, best cardio I’ve ever had in my entire life. Part of me wishes I felt this way for my UFC fights, particularly my title fight in the UFC, but it happens the way that is is.

“God is sovereign over what’s going on, and I’m positive that what happened was good, but I think still this is the greatest I’ve ever felt in my life, and I’m really excited to see how that translates to performance.”

For more on Bellator 191, check out the MMA 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: Bellator, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Cris Cyborg: UFC 219 title fight vs. Holly Holm could go beyond just stand-up

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC, Videos

On paper, the UFC 219 headliner between Cris Cyborg and Holly Holm offers a clear stylistic narrative.

Champ Cyborg (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who was most recently seen conquering the UFC’s women’s featherweight belt at UFC 214, has used her notorious, hyper-aggressive muay Thai to knock out her three UFC opponents and 13 of the 16 that came before.

Former 135-pound champ Holm’s (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) knockout rate in MMA is slightly more modest – eight in total. But Holm, who’s also an ex-kickboxer, conquered multiple titles in boxing throughout a decade-long career in which she lost just twice.

What is apparently a striker vs. striker battle, though, might just be the chance for Cyborg to shine in lesser-known aspects of her game.

“She’s had a lot of experience in boxing. She had more than 300 rounds,” Cyborg told MMAjunkie ahead of the Dec. 30 headliner, which airs on pay-per-view from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. “And she had a lot of sparring time. I think it’s going to be a great fight. I think she’s gonna have a lot of things to challenge myself. And it’s MMA.

“Maybe this fight, I can show (another) Cyborg, too. Not just in the stand-up, (but on) the ground, and then takedown and submit. Let’s see.”

A submission win would be the first for Cyborg. The only time one of her fights ended that way was, incidentally, her first and sole MMA loss. That was over 12 years ago. Holm, too, never has won a fight via submission – though it was a choke, by Miesha Tate, that ended Holm’s short 135-pound reign.

In any case, this could always just be a decoy. Cyborg, who’s recruited some high-level assistance in multiple-time boxing champion Cecilia Braekhus, has talked about her desire to try her hand at boxing. Outworking someone with Holm’s credentials on the feet would certainly be a nice way of setting that in motion.

Few would disagree this was the match to make. Amid Cyborg’s somewhat slim pickings in the UFC, a former champion who permanently left her mark as the first person to defeat Ronda Rousey – via knockout, no less – is certainly a good call.

There’s also the fact that, this time, Cyborg won’t be carrying a considerable size advantage as she goes up against a highly technical striker who narrowly lost to Germaine de Randamie in a bid for the UFC’s inaugural 145-pound belt (de Randamie was stripped of the title shortly after, due to her refusal to fight Cyborg).

Will that translate to numbers, though?

Cyborg, who’s fought tooth and nail to claim her place among the UFC’s hot commodities, is optimistic.

“I think I’ve already proven I can be a draw,” Cyborg said. “I think people have really (been following me) for a long time. And, after the opportunity I had to fight at 140 in Brazil. I think people who didn’t know Cyborg just met me there.

“Let’s see. December, I think, will be an amazing time, an amazing match. I think people are going to be very excited to buy the pay-per-view and watch me and Holly.”

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

And for more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

UFC 219 test run for AI-inspired glove sensors approved

Big data is coming to the octagon.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission today approved a test run for a new UFC-approved product that uses analytics and artificial intelligence to tell the story of a fight.

At UFC 219, select fighters will be equipped with glove sensors that measure everything from punch strength to stress. The data from those sensors will then be interpreted in real time using analytics and artificial intelligence.

The UFC’s hope is to give fight fans a better understanding of what’s really happening inside the octagon with a new set of stats that can be shown during broadcasts. But first the promotion needs to make sure the data is accurate – and useful.

Today during an NSAC hearing in Las Vegas, the UFC pitched the program as a way to potentially improve fighter safety, including concussion protocols and training methods. The commission was optimistic about its potential, though concerns were expressed about how the data is stored and used.

NSAC Chairman Anthony Marnell likened the program to the use of Sabermetrics in baseball but cautioned the data could sway judges if displayed on their cageside TV monitors during a fight. He said the UFC should work behind the scenes with the commission to determine the best rollout.

Before the initial findings are released, the commission also wants to sign off. Commissioner Raymond “Skip” Avansino noted that previous attempts to place sensors on fighters resulted in data being distributed without permission.

The collaboration that resulted in the new product came together in 2016, when Endeavor CEO and UFC co-owner Ari Emanuel brokered a deal between analytics company AGT International and consumer platform company HEED. A live demonstration took place this past month at the tech conference “AWS re:Invent 2017.”

After a mock sparring session between UFC fighters Edson Barboza and Mark Diakiese, HEED co-founder Mati Kochavi said the sensors used to collect data produce 70 new insights about what happens during a fight. The sensors on the gloves alone, he said, produce 12 different “stories.” There are sensors in the octagon canvas to measure movement and range, and even sensors monitoring a fighter’s cornermen and his family members.

Kochavi said all of the data is interpreted by a highly complex “AI agent,” which works from a detailed “world graph” of different data points. They include the attributes a fighter displays in the cage such as his style, emotion, and energy, as well as the surrounding environment made up of the fans, referee and media.

The AI agent can beam all that information to fans via smartphone, and fans can tailor the information they want to see based on their preference for particular stats.

“Those insights are covering entire aspects of the fight between Diakiese and Barboza,” Kochavi said. “They cover their passion, the power of the fight, the resiliency, the strategy. All of those things happen in the octagon.

“Shouldn’t we tell the story of sport that way? Shouldn’t sport be told in real time, with real data, with real information, and with real insights, and the real emotions? We are a company which is trying to revolutionize the way we’re going to (broadcast) sports and live events.”

Fans won’t immediately see the changes when they watch UFC 219, which takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. But every time they see a punch, a new line of data will get collected.

What becomes of that data is the next big question.

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

UFC's Joseph Benavidez on initial pain, isolation, helplessness of injury recovery: 'I cried every day'

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Scrolling through Joseph Benavidez’s Instagram account, you’ll see a few things: pictures of him with wife Megan Olivi, snapshots of movies, and cute selfies with their dog, Benny.

What you won’t see are too many pictures of his recovering knee.

That doesn’t mean that the two-time UFC flyweight title challenger isn’t going to the UFC Performance Institute every day. Or that he isn’t training. Or that he isn’t powering through every rough stage of rehabilitation after surgically repairing a torn ACL.

In the more than six months that have passed since Benavidez announced that an injury had forced him out of a scheduled bout with Ben Nguyen, he’s done all those things.

We just haven’t since much of it.

“It was only me going through it, and that’s the way I thought about it,” Benavidez told MMAjunkie Radio. “Like, no one else is going to care. That’s why I’m not like, ‘Hey guys, I’ll be back soon. Check it out. I just bent my leg to 30 degrees or whatever.’ In this sport, there’s such a short memory. There’s always something happening. Someone getting injured, a fight that weekend.

“I’m just like, ‘People are not even going to know I’m injured by the time nine or 10 months comes. And I’m going to win, and I’m going to fight. So they’re not even going to remember that, anyway. So I’m not going to start with everybody else, so I’m going through it myself.’”

For those interested in updates of his recovery, though, Benavidez will gladly give them.

“It’s coming along,” Benavidez said. “You can get places faster banding and lateral and stuff. But it takes a certain amount of time for the tendons and everything to heal properly. I’m like at a six-, six-and-a-half-month mark right now. I’m training and stuff. Nothing live – anything where an injury can happen.

“Just like you would a week before a fight or something. Something you would do where you couldn’t get injured? That’s kind what I’m doing. Going through the mitts, the motions, the drills and stuff.

“I’m getting there. Hopefully shooting for a March, April return next year.”

Benavidez has been “good” for months now. But that’s after what often felt like a very slow process that had him relying heavily on others for basic things. For two months, he had to use at least one crutch. He was stuck with an ankle-to-hip cast. His wife, who’s also a host and reporter for the UFC, had to skip trips to help him.

For the first week, Benavidez had to sleep in the couch because couldn’t even go up the stairs in his home. After that, he could go up slowly, with Olivi’s help, to do basic things like taking showers.

“It was miserable, of course,” Benavidez said. “And I know Megan wouldn’t be doing anything else, but she was in there helping me shower, you know. I cried every day. On my couch, like – it was just terrible to have something taken away from you like that.

“I would cry all the time, and Megan would go down and sleep with me on the couch because I couldn’t go up the stairs. And I’d have to wake her up because I was just crying. Just breaking down and just kind of – I don’t know. It was just a long road. And then the pain and everything as well. There were times when I was crying naked with my dog on my lap.”

With time, it got better. Eventually, Benavidez could walk. Then he could drive. And now, possibly three or four months away from an octagon return, the flyweight is looking ahead to what’s currently an interesting division.

Since Benavidez had to withdraw from his UFC Fight Night 110 meeting with Nguyen, 125-pound kingpin Demetrious Johnson has cruised past yet another challenger at UFC 216, pulling off a crazy submission win over Ray Borg to break Anderson Silva’s previous record of 10 consecutive title defenses.

Benavidez, who’s suffered two losses to Johnson in the past, has made no secret of his desire for a third stab at the belt. And, considering he’s coming off six straight victories, the No. 2 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA flyweight rankings isn’t exactly crazy to feel that way.

If it does come to fruition, however, that shot might involve peculiar circumstances. While nothing’s been officially announced, there’s a strong push to make Johnson’s (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) next fight against bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw (15-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC) – a matchup that Benavidez thinks is “awesome.”

The specifics of that are also up in the air. Would it be at flyweight? Bantamweight? Somewhere in between? But if it ends up being Dillashaw going down to the 125-pound division, and becoming a two-division champ in the process, that could lead to Benavidez going up against a former Team Alpha Male stablemate and friend.

When talks of a Johnson-Dillashaw fight first started, Benavidez figured he’d have time to see the whole thing unfold. But Johnson had other plans. And Benavidez was always aware, as small as it was, as much as he knew both ex-teammates would tried to get around it, of the possibility of fighting Dillashaw.

Now that it seems more real than never?

“I’ll fight the best guy in my weight,” Benavidez said.

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

And 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: Featured, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos
Source: MMA Junkie

Today in MMA history: Conor McGregor knocks out Jose Aldo, going from jester to king in 13 seconds

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Months of buildup. Dozens of interviews. Thousands of miles traveled and multiple countries visited on a press tour that seemed to go on forever. Then 13 seconds in the cage.

That was how the saga of Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo finally ended on Dec. 12, 2015. You couldn’t have missed the months of pre-fight hype if you tried. But the fight itself came and went in less time than it would take you to run to the kitchen and get a fresh beer out of the fridge.

Just like that, one era ended and another began. The jester had become king, and the king had become the past. After that, the featherweight division – and arguably the UFC itself – would never be quite the same.

Somehow, this all started with Dennis Siver. In January 2015, McGregor traveled to Boston to meet the stoically inoffensive German featherweight in the main event of UFC Fight Night 59.

Did this seem like it was even intended to be a serious challenge to the streaking McGregor, who’d stormed into the UFC two years prior and reeled off four straight wins while his fame snowballed into an unstoppable force? Not really.

What it seemed like was a setup. Especially after the Irishman had proven his drawing power in a win over Diego Brandao at a UFC Fight Pass-only event from Dublin, the UFC clearly wanted to be all the way in the McGregor business. So it booked him opposite Siver, a good-but-not-great featherweight who seemed to be slowing down in his mid-30s.

“This fight in Boston,” UFC President Dana White said a couple weeks prior, “if (McGregor) wins, he’s going to fight for the title.”

Of course he won. That was the whole point. But a second-round TKO of Siver didn’t make quite enough noise to please McGregor, so after the fight he leapt over the octagon fence and made a beeline for UFC featherweight champion Aldo, who was sitting at cageside.

The confrontation was brief, but tense. With beefy security types quickly intervening between the two men, McGregor leaned toward Aldo’s face with the wide-eyed stare of a madman. Aldo couldn’t stop grinning. The whole thing was just so funny, he explained later.

“He is a fool, and just kept opening his mouth,” Aldo said. “It just made me laugh.”

This would become Aldo’s standard response to McGregor’s many provocations.

At the event, he showed off a poster depicting McGregor as a court jester. “Go Joker, Go…” it read. “Make me laugh.”

Jose Aldo

After four years as the only featherweight champion the UFC had ever known, it hardly even needed to be said that, at least for the purposes of this metaphor, Aldo was the king.

The fight was set for UFC 189 in July. To promote what it expected to be a blockbuster affair, the UFC took both fighters on a two-week media tour that traveled from Brazil to the U.S. to Ireland, all so fans could work themselves into a frenzy as the two men jawed at one another from opposite sides of a dais.

Jose Aldo and Conor McGregor

Aldo may have started out trying to dismiss McGregor’s antics as harmlessly idiotic, but by the end, he was nearly boiling over. In Dublin, McGregor reached over the podium and seized Aldo’s UFC title belt, holding it over his head as the Irish fans cheered and Dana White tried to restrain the enraged Aldo.

With that image alone, the media tour seemed to have served its purpose.

White later claimed the UFC had spent more money promoting that fight than any other in UFC history. That made it sting all the more when, a few weeks before UFC 189, Aldo withdrew with a rib injury.

The UFC president didn’t take the news well. He accused Aldo and his camp of overplaying the injury, making a bruised rib sound like a broken one. He appeared on ESPN’s “SportsCenter” alongside McGregor to criticize Aldo’s record of pulling out of title fights. Instead, White said, former title challenger Chad Mendes would step in on short notice to fight McGregor for the interim featherweight title.

As for Aldo?

“If a man is scared for his life, we cannot force him to step in and face me,” McGregor said on ESPN. “I feel he is afraid. The doctors have cleared him to fight. It’s a (rib) bruise, but he has still pulled out.”

Even with the late change of opponents, UFC 189 was an unqualified success. The UFC pulled out all the stops with its production, both on pay-per-view and in the arena, with Sinead O’Connor singing McGregor’s entrance music live inside MGM Grand Garden Arena.

Conor Mcgregor and Chad Mendes at UFC 189. (USA TODAY Sports)

And, after a shaky first round in which he was easily taken down by Mendes and bloodied on the mat, McGregor rebounded to knock out an exhausted Mendes in the final seconds of Round 2.

Now the Irishman was the interim champ, and to the tune of more than 800,000 pay-per-view buys, according to reports. The live-gate figures also broke a U.S. record for MMA, according to UFC officials, with just north of $7 million flowing in through ticket sales.

But the fight with Mendes left some doubts. Yes, McGregor had finally defeated a strong wrestler, but one who took the fight on short notice. Plus, his takedown defense was clearly lacking. After being given such a well-manicured path to the title, was McGregor really ready for a focused and prepared champion like Aldo?

We finally got the chance to find out that December. Atop a star-studded fight card that featured Chris Weidman defending his middleweight title against Luke Rockhold (while Yoel Romero and Ronaldo Souza battled beneath them to see who had next), Aldo-McGregor was the unquestioned headliner.

Before the event, White predicted another record-breaker, saying that UFC 194 was on track to be “the biggest thing we’ve ever done.” Sure enough, live gate figures topped $10 million, according to UFC officials, breaking the U.S. record set by McGregor’s previous fight.

At the weigh-ins, a grinning Aldo and a skeletal McGregor had to be separated by White. The arena practically shook with the raucous cheers of the Irish fans, and all with still a day to go before the fight itself.

Asked for prediction before the fight, McGregor explained that he saw himself slipping Aldo’s right hand and coming back with his own powerful left.

“I see him KO’d inside one (round),” McGregor said.

More than 16,000 fans packed MGM Grand Garden Arena in Las Vegas that night. More than a million more watched on pay-per-view.

McGregor entered first, grinning his madman’s grin as he draped himself the Irish flag. A tense and serious Aldo followed a few moments later. The longtime champion looked especially nervous as he waited in his corner, head down, swaying from side to side.

Only referee John McCarthy, standing quietly with his arms crossed, seemed capable of underplaying the magnitude of the moment. When McCarthy gave the pre-fight instructions and offered the fighters the chance to tough gloves, neither man moved.

“Conor looks extremely loose,” UFC commentator Joe Rogan said, as McGregor crouched in his corner, mouthing words that were immediately lost in the din of the crowd. “And Aldo looks like he’s feeling the pressure of this moment.”

At the signal to fight, McGregor bounded out to the center of the cage, his lead right hand extended as Aldo stalked forward. McGregor fired a straight left, and Aldo replied with a counter left hook that came up short. McGregor stabbed a kick at Aldo’s thigh, forcing him back, but only for a moment.

Then it was if Aldo had had enough. He came forward pumping his left, missing with his right and landing his left – just as he walked directly into McGregor’s stiff left hand.

The instant the punch landed, it was as if Aldo’s feet stopped working, while his forward momentum carried his upper body on ahead. He crashed to the mat, rolling onto his side as McGregor stood over him and pounded at his unguarded head with two straight left-hand hammerfists.

Conor McGregor and Jose Aldo

By the time McCarthy shoved him off to stop it, only 13 seconds had gone by.

“Unbelievable,” Rogan said. “The first punch he threw. Slept him.”

As Aldo was being helped to his feet, McGregor celebrated atop the cage before jumping down and jogging around the perimeter, once again draped in his flag.

“The first man to beat Aldo in over a decade,” UFC commentator Mike Goldberg said. “The fastest title fight finish ever, bettering Ronda Rousey’s 14-second armbar.”

Aldo could only stalk the cage, covering his face with a towel as he shook his head. When he came to the center of the cage for the official announcement, he traded a few words with McGregor before standing with his hands on his hips, staring at the mat while blood leaked from a cut on the bridge of his nose.

“He’s powerful, and he’s fast,” McGregor said of Aldo in the post-fight interview. “But precision beats power, and timing beats speed. And that’s what you saw there.”

By the time the post-fight press conference rolled around, McGregor was already talking about his next goal – the UFC lightweight title. His coaches later admitted that the cut to featherweight was a brutal one for him, and one they might prefer him never to make again. But in the immediate aftermath, McGregor was adamant about becoming – and staying – a two-division champion.

“I’ll tell you one thing that won’t be happening,” McGregor said. “If I got up to that lightweight division, there is no way in hell that I am vacating my belt. That is not happening. There will be a belt on one shoulder and a belt on the other shoulder.”

And there was, at least for a time. By then, no one was laughing at the joker anymore.

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

“Today in MMA History” is an MMAjunkie series created in association with MMA History Today, the social media outlet dedicated to reliving “a daily journey through our sport’s history.”

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

UFC on FOX 26 main-event breakdown: Can Rafael dos Anjos survive Robbie Lawler's initial storm?

MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC on FOX 26’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the main event.

UFC on FOX 26 takes place Saturday at Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, and the main card airs on FOX following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Robbie Lawler (28-11 MMA, 13-5 UFC)

Robbie Lawler

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 35 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 74″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Donald Cerrone (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Combat Club (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC welterweight champion
+ EliteXC middleweight title
+ 20 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 12 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Solid footwork
+ Dangerous left hand
+ Deceptively accurate right hook
+ Hard left Thai kicks
^ Variates well from the body to head
+ Strong inside of the clinch
+ Underrated wrestling
^ Good getup ability
+ Effective butterfly guard
+ Deceptive ground striker
– Someitmes subject to acitvity lulls
+/- 2-2 against UFC southpaws

Rafael dos Anjos (27-9 MMA, 16-7 UFC)

Rafael dos Anjos

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 33 Weight: 170 lbs. Reach: 70″
  • Last fight: Submission win over Neil Magny (Sept. 9, 2017)
  • Camp: RVCA/Gracie Barra (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC lightweight champion
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple Brazilian jiu-jitsu accolades
+ 5 KO victories
+ 9 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ Disciplined pace and pressure
^ Aggressive but intelligent stalker
+ Hard and accurate Thai kicks
^ Variates well to the body
+ Good takedowns against the fence
^ 10-2 when scoring at least one
+ Strong postional grappler
^ Smashes and pashes effectively
+ Improved getup ability
+/- 4-1 against UFC southpaws

Summary:

The main event in Winnipeg features a battle between two former champions when Robbie Lawler and Rafael dos Anjos collide.

Lawler, a former welterweight champion, is attempting to reassert his position as the division’s warlord with a potential win under the spotlight.

Dos Anjos, a former lightweight champion, looks to continue his successful campaign at 170 pounds en route to his desired goal of another gold belt.

Starting off on the feet, we have a rare pairing of southpaw strikers.

Although this type of matchup typically presents some problems in the form of discomfort and defense (given that most southpaws predicate their games against orthodox opposition), I don’t suspect it will be a sizeable factor for either fighter considering their style and experience.

What I do suspect to be a factor is the fact that both men are pressure-based fighters by trade.

A more traditional pressure fighter, dos Anjos steadily stalks his opponents, working behind feints until finding an opportunity to unleash. Whether dos Anjos is throwing his hard left hands or Thai kicks, the Brazilian usually counterbalanced his attack with a dangerous right hook.

Despite moving up a weight class, dos Anjos is accustomed to having to slip-and-rip on taller opposition. And considering that dos Anjos likes to follow his opponents retractions into the pocket, the Brazilian’s power will be most potent inside of these spaces.

Still, dos Anjos has some tendencies of his own that may make him vulnerable when looking to strike inside. Often planting his heels to hold his ground, dos Anjos tends to get wide on his strike retractions as he wings his shots from left to right.

And although dos Anjos usually has the upper hand in these equations (being that he is bombing from below), he will still need to be mindful of the potential brutality coming back at him.

Lawler, one of the heavier-handed fighters in the division, has steadily sharpened his craft over the years.

Similar to Anthony Johnson (a former pupil of Lawler’s newfound striking coach, Henri Hooft), Lawler will steadily march down his opposition, cutting off the octagon while shifting his weight from left to right.

Fueled by an excellent awareness of angles, Lawler symbiotically moves his head defensively as his feet set up offensive onslaughts. This approach allows Lawler to stay on balance when attacking, while seemingly encouraging head movement as well.

Known for his devastating left hands and power kicks, Lawler’s right hook is usually the quiet killer in exchanges.

Whether he’s coming forward with it or throwing it as a check, Lawler’s right hook is a deceptively accurate weapon. And whenever he can get his opposition to back up in between the cage and inner-black octagon lines, you can throw all activity-lulling accusations out the window since Lawler attacks with impunity here.

In fact both men do their best work when able to get their opponents into this zone. Conversely, each fighter has also suffered his worst defeat when being the one who is pressured toward the fence, making this matchup’s dynamic a clear one.

Should dos Anjos get his pressure game going, expect takedown attempts to accompany his strikes anytime he can corral Lawler near the cage. Despite Lawler being the bigger man with underrated takedown defense to boot, I suspect these stanzas to remain competitive from both sides.

If the former lightweight can ground the former middleweight, then we could see a few different developments.

A strong positional player, dos Anjos could surprise some by ceasing control via his high-percentage pressure game and passes. Although Lawler has long possessed a serviceable butterfly guard from the bottom, his last fight was a reminder that he is not beyond being outmaneuvered by a lighter man.

I am not sure if I can see dos Anjos submitting a sober Lawler in these scenarios, but I do see him having his chances whenever Lawler tries to get back to his feet. Typically electing to tripod or turtle to stand, Lawler can sometimes make himself vulnerable to back takes or front headlocks.

Coupled with the recent trend of dos Anjos getting back to his Brazilian jiu-jitsu roots, this could spell potential trouble for the former welterweight champ. That said, if dos Anjos ends up on bottom or against the fence, then he could ultimately be subjected to the harsher weather.

The oddsmakers and public do not seem to feel too strongly one way or the other, and the betting lines are still at a near pick’em as of this writing.

I am somewhat surprised to not see Lawler listed as the slight favorite, given that he is the bigger, stronger and more experienced pressure fighter in a five-round affair. Nevertheless, it can be hard to overlook Lawler’s propensity for activity lulls and lackadaisical kick defense in this particular matchup.

Ultimately, if dos Anjos can survive Lawler’s initial storm and power shots, then I can see his consistent arsenal of attack stacking up points and momentum en route to a competitive decision win.

Official pick: Dos Anjos by decision

For more on UFC on FOX 26, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Referee and judges set for UFC 219's Cris Cyborg vs. Holly Holm title headliner

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Filed under: News, UFC

Veteran MMA referee Herb Dean will oversee Cris Cyborg’s first title defense as UFC women’s featherweight champion.

The Nevada State Athletic Commission today voted unanimously to appoint Dean as the third person in the cage for Cyborg’s (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) fight with former bantamweight champ Holly Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC), which serves as the headliner for UFC 219.

UFC 219 takes place Dec. 30 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. The main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Dean, who’s refereed countless PPV headliners, will receive $1,900 for his work. The three judges assigned to the title fight are veteran officials Derek Cleary, Dave Hagen and Chris Lee, who each receive $1,600.

Cyborg makes her fourth overall appearance in the octagon and first as the UFC’s 145-pound champ. She and Holm circled each other for several months before signing a contract to fight, with Holm’s management at one point declaring negotiations “dead.” Cyborg, meanwhile, conditioned her participation on a new UFC contract that reflected her value to the promotion.

Cyborg is so far unmatched in the cage while decimating the ranks at 145 pounds and a pair of 140-pound catchweight fights in the UFC.

Holm, meanwhile, attempts to pull off the second major upset of her career after knocking out Ronda Rousey in 2015 to win the bantamweight title.

In June Holm halted a title-losing skid with a knockout of onetime title challenger Bethe Correia. One month later, Cyborg stopped Invicta FC bantamweight champ Tonya Evinger to win the featherweight title, which was left vacant after inaugural champ Germaine de Randamie turned down a bout with Cyborg.

For more on UFC 219, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Danny Castillo, Eryk Anders, Andre Soukamthath, Alex Perez

Filed under: News, UFC, Videos

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Danny Castillo, Eryk Anders, Andre Soukamthath and Alex Perez.

Semi-retired UFC and WEC vet Castillo is also a Team Alpha Male coach. Anders, Soukamthath and Perez were all victorious this past Saturday at UFC Fight Night 123.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTubepages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

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

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2580 with Ricardo Lamas, Paul Felder and Glover Teixeira

Stream or download Friday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with guests Ricardo Lamas, Paul Felder and Glover Teixeira.

Lamas, who faces Josh Emmett on Dec. 16 at UFC on FOX 26, called into the show to talk about his upcoming fight. Felder, a UFC lightweight and color commentator, stopped by the show to unpack his most recent fight with Charles Oliveira at UFC 218, as well as his experiences calling the action at UFC Fight Night 123. Teixeira, who faces Misha Cirkunov at UFC on FOX 26, called in to talk about his matchup this weekend.

You can listen below or stream the entire episode on AudioBoom.com.

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

Bellator 191's Valerie Letourneau looks to ex-UFC champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk as proof she made right move

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Filed under: Bellator, News, Radio Highlight, UFC, Videos

Six-time UFC fighter Valerie Letourneau struggled tremendously to reach the 115-pound strawweight limit during her octagon run and ultimately decided to move to flyweight upon signing with Bellator.

Letourneau (8-6 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) debuts for the promotion against Kate Jackson (9-2-1 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) at Friday’s Bellator 191 event. Ahead of that matchup, which airs on Spike (via same-day tape delay) from Metro Radio Arena in Newcastle, England, Letourneau said she’s confident the change in divisions was absolutely necessary.

“I feel like I’ve been waiting for this forever,” Letourneau told MMAjunkie Radio. “It’s been a very long year of negotiating contracts and training and training and training. Nothing was going on, so I’m very impatient. I cannot wait for this fight, especially this week when we cut weight. I’m just so grateful, so happy that I can finally fight at 125. I feel strong. I feel healthy. I’m still cutting weight, but in a normal way, so I can really focus on performing.”

Letourneau’s UFC run started in fine fashion after she earned a UFC 174 win in the bantamweight division before making a move down to the strawweight division and posting victories over Jessica Rakoczy and Maryna Moroz.

But Letourneau’s weight cuts got increasingly difficult, and she lost her final three UFC appearances, starting with a failed bid to unseat then-champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) and then subsequent losses to Joanna Calderwood and Viviane Pereira.

Jedrzejczyk is now a teammate of Letourneau’s at American Top Team, and “Trouble” said she’s amazed that the Polish standout can still get her body down to 115 pounds. However, she said that watching the process is a stark reminder of her own desire to compete at flyweight instead.

Letourneau heard secondhand of Jedrzejczyk’s weight cut at this past month’s UFC 217 event, where the Polish fighter lost her UFC belt, and knows she doesn’t want to deal with similar difficulties.

“Well, definitely we had that talk with Joanna, even the week before the fight, just before she left – how much it hurt her body, how much it affects us even sometimes a month and two months after the fight; we’re still paying the price for the weight cut,” Letourneau said. “It’s so hard to explain. There’s so many steps that are – it’s not healthy, but at the same time, this is what we have to do. I’m so impressed with how good (Jedrzejczyk is) because she’s pretty much cutting the same same amount of weight. We have different bodies, but it works pretty much the same.

“When we start training, we gain weight because we put muscle on, and then everything is a struggle of not putting too much muscle, going down in weight and performing. She’s been doing so great. She always had really good cardio going to those five-round fights. But these weight cuts she’s doing are brutal. People have no clue because also her attitude is so positive. She always looks like she’s good, she’s strong, but look at her body. You can tell the girl is sucked up when she gets on the scale. She’s sitting there smiling, but there’s nothing left. She’s completely drained, and there’s a price to pay.”

Letourneau said it was this experience that forced her to move up a division, especially when her body made things harder and harder for her in progressive weight cuts.

The Canadian import said it’s natural for the body to fight against the cuts no matter how frustrating it might be.

“Every time you do those weight cuts, the second time is harder,” Letourneau said. “Your body knows, and sometimes what was working the first time is not working this time. It’s like your body is protecting itself. You’re not going to lose as much water as easily, and we kind of need to switch a couple things. It’s just, your body doesn’t want to go through this. It’s not healthy, and it just gets harder and harder, and I think this weight cut (for Jedrzejczyk) – from what I’ve heard, I wasn’t there – but we have the same coach. Mike Brown was with me when I fought in Australia, so he saw her cutting weight for this fight, and he said it was a pretty similar weight cut.

“And we have no IV, also, to rehydrate. It’s hard to have 24 hours so dehydrated. You don’t just drink water and Pedialyte, and everything is going to be fine. It’s more than that, especially for your brain.”

The UFC instituted the women’s flyweight division shortly after Letourneau left the promotion, but she said she’s not upset at that turn of events. Instead, she’s simply anxious to get in the cage and said plenty of talented female flyweights are capable of stacking rosters in both the UFC and Bellator.

“I think it’s going to be the perfect mix of both – very athletic girls, very fast, and still strong, strong women, like we see at 135 and 145,” Letourneau. “And also, (we’ll be) seeing women fight at their full capacity.”

For more on Bellator 191, 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 www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

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