Aljamain Sterling needs new opponent for UFC-Fresno with Rani Yahya forced out

Bantamweight contender Aljamain Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) is in need of an opponent willing to step up on a little more than four weeks’ notice.

UFC officials today told MMAjunkie that injury has forced Brazilian jiu-jitsu ace Rani Yahya (24-9 MMA, 9-3 UFC) to withdraw from the planned UFC Fight Night 123 meeting, and the promotion is currently seeking a new opponent.

Featuring a featherweight contest between Cub Swanson and Brian Ortega, UFC Fight Night 123 takes place Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. While the official bout order has yet to be revealed, the card airs on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Sterling, who is currently ranked No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, brings a two-fight winning streak to the cage after picking up decisions over former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao and top Brazilian prospect Augusto Mendes. Six of his 14 career wins have come by way of submission, including four by rear-naked choke, though all of those were prior to his UFC run.

Meanwhile, Yahya has spent a decade fighting under the UFC and WEC banner and has earned an astounding 18 of his 24 career wins via submission. Most recently, he picked up a kimura win over Enrique Briones at UFC Fight Night 114 in Mexico City. Yahya stands at 5-1 in his past six appearances.

A timetable for his return wasn’t immediately established.

With the change, UFC Fight Night 123 now includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Eryk Anders vs. Markus Perez
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders
  • Merab Dvalishvili vs. Frankie Saenz
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales
  • Aljamain Sterling vs. opponent TBA

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Aljamain Sterling: 2 more UFC wins makes me an 'appealing fight' for bantamweight title

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GDANSK, Poland – Aljamain Sterling is confident about where he stands in the UFC bantamweight division, and he sees a clear path to the title over the next year or less.

Sterling (14-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC), who faces Rani Yahya (24-9 MMA, 9-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 123 on Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center in Fresno, Calif. (the card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass), believes he’s just a couple of wins away from becoming a viable contender for the title in the deep 135-pound weight class.

Currently bantamweight champ Cody Garbrandt is lined up for a title defense against T.J. Dillashaw at UFC 217 on Nov. 4. After that, the winner of December’s UFC 218 matchup between former titleholder Dominick Cruz and the streaking Jimmie Rivera is likely next in line. “The Funkmaster” thinks he’s right behind those names, though, and if he can beat Yahya and then take out another notable name, he said it would be tough to deny him a crack at the gold.

“I think two more,” Sterling told MMAjunkie of his path to a title shot. “This one, and I think I fight one more in 2018, and I think that should be the No. 1 contender fight. I think just the landscape of everything, with (Raphael) Assuncao fighting Matt Lopez, the winner of that is going to be one step closer. Really, I don’t think they want Assuncao to fight for the belt. He split decisions everybody. (Bryan) Caraway, that guy doesn’t fight. He’s finally fighting on the same card as me. Then you have Cruz vs. Rivera, the winner will get the next title shot, that’ll be in 2018.

“After that we’ll see how that shakes out. John Dodson, if he gets another win, that could be an interesting fight for me. This next one, I have to get a win, I’ve got to get a finish, and I think I go out there and fight one more in 2018. I go out there and solidify the next shot at the belt.”

Sterling, No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings, has a realistic understanding of the division. He knows it all comes down to the timing of matchmaking and who is a viable contender at a given time. Right now he’s simply not in that position.

Although he’s coming off a unanimous-decision win over former UFC champion Renan Barao at UFC 214 in July, Sterling recognizes he’s currently short on momentum. The performance against Barao snapped a two-fight losing skid and got Sterling back on track after a rough patch in his career.

Sterling said he’s happy to have momentum on his side again, but it’s not the type of momentum he wants to bring into a championship fight. He wants to make sure he’s firing on all cylinders when he challenges for the gold, and that means stringing together consecutive wins against elite competition.

“I don’t think it’s the right time (to fight for the title),” Sterling said. “I think I need one more fight. I think I go in there with a three-fight win-streak, a four-fight win-streak. That makes it a more appealing fight for the masses to want to watch. Nobody wants to see a guy coming in off one or two wins and fighting for the title. Maybe, unless you’re a Conor McGregor or someone like a polarizing figure like a Ronda Rousey. If she came back she could immediately fight for a title. I’m in a different space right now. I’m still building my brand, building my career. Wins matter, especially in my weight class. I want to bring something to the table where I bring in some solid momentum.”

Sterling hopes a victory over Yahya at UFC Fight Night 123 will move him closer to his desired position. The fight pits two of the best grapplers in the bantamweight division against one another, and if the action hits the mat, viewers could be in for a treat.

There’s plenty to respect about Yahya, who has made 20 UFC/WEC appearances dating back to June 2007. Sterling said he holds the Brazilian in high regard, but believes he has the advantage if the fight hits the floor. Sterling views Yahya’s grappling style as “basic” and “traditional,” and said if the fight ends up on the mat, his more dynamic approach is going to make the difference.

“He’s definitely an elite-level grappler, but which one of these grapplers is doing the stuff I’m doing?” Sterling said. “Who is going for inverted triangles off their back? Who is going for banana splits? Who is doing stuff like that? No one is doing that kind of thing. I don’t think these guys have shown their versatility in their grappling arsenal as I have. A lot of these grapplers are high-level, but it’s very basic, very traditional.

“I don’t know what Rani Yahya has for me except traditional grappling. He doesn’t have anything unorthodox. I’m willing to go out there and throw a flying triangle. Is he willing to do some (expletive)’ like that? I have no idea. But I’m willing to do some crazy stuff.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

Tickets for UFC's debut in Fresno go on sale today

The UFC will debut in Fresno, Calif., in December, and tickets for the event go on sale today.

Featuring a pivotal clash of top-10 featherweights between Cub Swanson (25-7 MMA, 10-3 UFC) and unbeaten Brian Ortega (12-0 MMA, 4-0 UFC) in the main event, UFC Fight Night 123 takes Dec. 9 at Save Mart Center and airs on FS1 with prelims on FS2 and UFC Fight Pass.

Tickets are priced at $125, $90, $75 and $50. They go on sale to the general public Friday at noon PT on Ticketmaster.com.

UFC newsletter subscribers have access to a special pre-sale beginning Thursday at 10 a.m. PT, while UFC Fight Club members can purchase tickets Wednesday at 10 a.m. PT.

In addition to the main event, UFC Fight Night 123 features the return of Bryan Caraway (21-7 MMA, 6-2 UFC) , who takes on Luke Sanders, after more than a year away from the octagon.

The UFC Fight Night 123 card currently includes:

  • Cub Swanson vs. Brian Ortega
  • Bryan Caraway vs. Luke Sanders
  • Aljamain Sterling vs. Rani Yahya
  • Carls John de Tomas vs. Alex Perez
  • Liz Carmouche vs. Alexis Davis
  • Eryk Anders vs. John Phillips
  • Scott Holtzman vs. Darrell Horcher
  • Trevin Giles vs. Antonio Braga Neto
  • Chris Gruetzemacher vs. Davi Ramos
  • Benito Lopez vs. Albert Morales

For more on UFC Fight Night 123, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie

Rani Yahya hopes Henry Briones isn't hurt after he says ref took too long to intervene

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MEXICO CITY – On Saturday, Rani Yahya needed approximately two minutes to bounce back from his first loss in more than three years and bring his record to a 5-1 in his past six outings.

It was a somewhat breezy win for Yahya  (24-9 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who was quick to get fellow bantamweight Henry Briones (16-7-1 MMA, 1-3 UFC) where he wanted and seamlessly flow through submission positions before locking in the fight-ending kimura.

In a finish-heavy night at Mexico City Arena, the first-round submission wasn’t enough to earn Yahya a post-fight bonus. But who knows – maybe it earned him a little more respect.

“I think it’s more like – the trash-talking thing,” Yahya told MMAjunkie after the FS1-televised UFC Fight Night 114 preliminary card bout. “It’s not really my profile, to talk trash about a lot of people. But bro, I’m right there, man. This is my ninth win in the UFC (and) my 13th win under the Zuffa banner overall, since the WEC times.

“(Briones) fought Cody Garbrandt, and the fight went three rounds. They both got damage from that fight, a lot of blood. And I just came and beat that guy in two minutes, with no damage. So. I’m sure I’m right there.”

Briones did in fact fight champ Garbrandt to a decision, at UFC 189 in July 2015. Garbrandt, who then had a 1-0 octagon record, went on to knock out his following three opponents before the decision over Dominick Cruz that earned him the 135-pound title. Briones has gone on a three-fight losing skid since.

Yahya, in turn, is now recovered from a unanimous decision loss to Joe Soto at UFC Fight Night 106 in March. The Brasilia native switched things up for this camp, which he did at American Top Team. The decision paid dividends, as Yahya credits ATT’s Conan Silveira with advising him not to spend too much energy fixated in a single position and go with the flow of the fight.

The result of his willingness to look for other submissions when one – like an anaconda choke – wasn’t all the way there resulted on the perfect kimura. It’s a finish that Yahya is rather fond of, but hopes didn’t cause too much damage after being locked in for too long.

“I had his arm, he was already screaming and the referee took so long to stop the fight,” Yahya said. “But before, he went to the locker room, and said, ‘Just stop the fight when I put my hands on you.’ And it was there, like two or three seconds. I hope he doesn’t get injured or anything, but I think he will be OK.”

While he didn’t have a specific target in mind for his next fight, Yahya used his post-fight speech as an opportunity to ask for a spot in the upcoming UFC Fight Night 117 – which takes place Sept. 23 in Japan. Backstage, he explained why.

“I just want to fight in Japan because Japan is part of my career,” Yahya said. “I fought there seven times. I’ve had maybe like 10 Japanese opponents during my career. I think it’s a good opportunity for me.

“Most of the fighters in Asia – Japan, Korea, around that area – they’re light people. So, I think (UFC matchmaker) Sean (Shelby) can get a fight for me. If not, I will talk to my coaches to see what’s the best thing to do.”

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

And for complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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Source: MMA Junkie

UFC Fight Night 114 results: Rani Yahya nearly flawless in submission win over Henry Briones

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Henry Briones hardly had a chance to get in a fight before he was tapping to Rani Yahya.

Yahya (24-9 MMA, 9-3 UFC) wasted little time taking Briones (16-7-1 MMA, 1-3 UFC) to the mat, where he kept trying submissions until he found one that worked, finishing with a kimura in the first round.

The bantamweight bout was part of the preliminary card of today’s UFC Fight Night 114 event at Mexico City Arena in Mexico. It aired on FS1 following additional prelims on UFC Fight Pass and ahead of a main card on FS1.

The official time of stoppage was the 2:01 mark of the opening frame, putting Yahya back in the win column after a decision loss to Joe Soto snapped a four-fight streak.

It was no accident that Yahya got the takedown early. Against Soto, he tried to slug it out for a more fan-friendly fight and wound up short on points.

This time, the submission specialist fired off one leg kick and used the cage to get Briones to the mat. The first try was a guillotine choke, which Briones escaped only to find himself in trouble with the second, a north-south choke.

Eventually, Yahya realized he didn’t have the perfect position, so he settled into half-guard and started arm hunting. Briones tried to save his limb but failed to close his half-guard, allowing Yahya to step over and crank his arm. A tap was the only choice.

Briones now has lost three straight after a UFC debut win over Guido Cannetti in 2014.

Up-to-the-minute UFC Fight Night 114 results include:

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

(MMAjunkie’s John Morgan contributed to this report on site in Mexico City.)

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Source: MMA Junkie

How UFC vet Rani Yahya prepared for Mexico City's notorious altitude

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It’s no surprise why UFC officials stacked tonight’s UFC Fight Night 114 lineup with lighter-weight fighters like Rani Yahya.

The event takes place at Mexico City Arena in Mexico, and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

The city, which sits more than 7,000 feet above sea level, has burned the lungs and sapped the energy of many MMA fighters who have visited the Mexican capital. So ahead of his bout with fellow bantamweight Henry Briones (16-6-1 MMA, 1-2 UFC), Yahya (23-9 MMA, 8-3 UFC) – like many of the lighter-weight fighters on the card – took some precautions.

“I arrived in Mexico City over a week ago,” he told MMAjunkie. “I’ve already been training and adapting. Last week, I did specific training looking to adjust to the altitude – a lot of the physical aspects, running, sprints.

“On the weekend, a went to a city that’s twice as high as Mexico City in order to adjust. I’m feeling very good here. I don’t think the altitude will be a problem.”

The 32-year-old Brazilian was riding a four-fight winning streak and looking to break into the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA bantamweight rankings and official UFC rankings. However, in his most recent bout, he started strong but ultimately faded against former title challenger Joe Soto. With one loss resulting in such a setback in the UFC’s stacked 135-pound division, Yahya didn’t want to take any chances this time.

“Joe Soto beat me,” he said. “He surprised me at some points, especially with his takedown defense. I had an excellent first round; I won the first round. But I couldn’t keep the pace.

“But I’ve fixed a lot of things. I’ve changed many things in my training. I started training right after my last fight, already thinking about my next one. I didn’t know when it was going to be, but when it was scheduled I came to American Top Team, where I did my camp. They’re taking care of everything. I’m putting a lot of trust in their work and in mine. So, I’ve changed a lot since that fight.”

That’s also met a lot of prep work for Briones, a 36-year-old Mexican vet who took current champ Cody Garbrandt to a decision in 2015.

“I’ve studied (Briones) a lot,” he said. “People at American Top Team have also studied him. Even Din Thomas helped me study him.

“He’s a brawler. He likes the standup. He has good boxing. He uses a lot of jabs and straight rights. He has a good counter-cross. He counters well with his right hand. I’ve studied a lot. But there are many, many flaws in his game. And I intend to exploit that.”

With what he called a “pretty easy” weight cut, a filling diet and a pleasant few weeks in Mexico City heading into tonight’s fight, Yahya, who also did some training with RKT in Brasilia in addition to his work with ATT, expects a win tonight. But he’s not looking past his current foe.

“The only thing I have in mind right now is Briones,” he said. “There’s nothing else on my mind other than Briones right now. This fight is very important for me. I think it’s the most important fight I’ve had, at the moment. At the same time, it’s just another fight, as well.

“Mentally, I’m calm. My goal is to go in there as calm as possible, so I can have the best performance possible.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 114, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Filed under: News, UFC
Source: MMA Junkie