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Bellator 192's Michael Chandler is in the Michael Chandler business above all else

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Michael Chandler might be up for title shot, but he cares more about the Michael Chandler business.

It has to be that way now, as the ex-Bellator lightweight champ sees things. He can’t wait for others. He has to forge his own path.

Thus, Chandler (16-4 MMA, 13-4 BMMA) won’t make predictions about how things will unfold in his lightweight division. He stopped trying to predict things after a freak accident left him without the title, and a seemingly guaranteed rematch was scuttled.

“It doesn’t really mean anything right now,” he told MMAjunkie in advance of his main-card fight with Goiti Yamauchi (22-3 MMA, 8-2 BMMA) at Bellator 192, which takes place Saturday at The Forum in Los Angeles and airs live on Paramount. “It needs me, I’ll say that much.

“But you’ve got a champion who refuses to defend the belt, for no other reason than he’s part-time fighter and he’s on maternity leave. You’ve got me, who’s the biggest name in the division by far, head and shoulders above everyone else.

“So it’s a precarious situation, and all I can focus on is Jan. 20. I could care less about the lightweight title.”

Bellator President Scott Coker gave Chandler a very good reason to care when he told “The MMA Hour” that the winner of his fight will receive a title shot against champ Brett Primus, who delayed his first title defense in advance of his child being born.

RelatedBellator 192's Michael Chandler: Goiti Yamauchi tougher than 'so-called fighter' Brent Primus

That would give Chandler a chance to avenge a very painful loss to Primus this past June. Chandler, attempting the second defense of his second go-around as lightweight champ, hadn’t really built any momentum when he injured his ankle and hobbled around the cage until a cageside doctor called off the fight.

Chandler assumed a rematch would be on the table when he healed. Instead, he was left hanging.

Now, he leaves the decision about the future of his career to this promoter. He could continue on at lightweight. Ultimately, though, he’s interested in moving up to welterweight regardless of what happens in his division. He wants big fights.

“It’s not up to me; let’s be honest,” he said. “Bellator are the promoters, and they’re very good at what they do. We’ll do this fight and see what’s next. There’s both opportunities.

“The other ‘Pitbull’ brother (Bellator featherweight champ Patricio Freire) has been talking trash, talking about decapitating me for the last couple of years, and he needs to get smacked around. So that’s a guy that’s smaller than me. And then there are guys that are supposedly bigger than me at 170; Paul Daley and some of those guys would be a phenomenal guys for me to go out and smash.”

For more on Bellator 192, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) and Michael Chandler (blue gloves) during their Bellator lightweight world championship fight at the Long Beach Arena. Chandler won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Eddie Alvarez (red gloves ) and Michael Chandler (blue gloves) during their Bellator Lightweight World Championship fight at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Michael Chandler during his Bellator lightweight world championship fight against Eddie Alvarez (not pictured ) at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Nov 2, 2013; Long Beach, CA, USA; Eddie Alvarez (red gloves) and Michael Chandler (blue gloves) during their Bellator lightweight world championship fight at the Long Beach Arena. Alvarez won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Michael Chandler walks out before the fight against Will Brooks during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Will Brooks fights against Michael Chandler during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Will Brooks fights against Michael Chandler during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Will Brooks fights against Michael Chandler during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports May 17, 2014; Southaven, MS, USA; Michael Chandler between rounds against Will Brooks during a Bellator interim lightweight world championship bout during BFC 120 at Landers Center. Will Brooks defeats Michael Chandler by submission. Mandatory Credit: Justin Ford-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) ankle looked at buy doctor during fight against Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) ankle durning the fight against Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Michael Chandler (red gloves) fights Brent Primus (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/ubhrtCYNX7jFAUkbyTTKuK/296962", customAnalytics: true, title: "Michael Chandler", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Dustin Poirier vs. Justin Gaethje targeted for spring showdown

Dustin Poirier won’t get his rematch with Eddie Alvarez just yet, but a pretty nice concession is in the works.

A fight between Poirier (22-5 MMA, 14-4 UFC) and Justin Gaethje (18-1 MMA, 1-1 UFC) is in the works for spring, according to two people with knowledge of the situation, who told MMAjunkie the bout could take place as early as UFC 222 or an event in April. They spoke on the condition of anonymity because the UFC has yet to make the matchup public.

Bout sheets have yet to be signed, but verbal agreements are in place.

RelatedDustin Poirier: I owe Eddie Alvarez 'an ass-whooping,' but he knows it's a bad matchup

UFC 222 is set for March 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and features a Max Holloway-Frankie Edgar featherweight title fight as the main event. The only known event currently scheduled for April is UFC 223, which takes place at Barclays Center, in Brooklyn, N.Y., and features a headliner between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Poirier is two months removed from an emphatic win over ex-lightweight champion Anthony Pettis (20-7 MMA, 7-6 UFC), which put him back in the win column after a controversial no-contest against Alvarez.

Alvarez pivoted on a rematch with Poirier after their UFC 211 bout, opting instead to coach Season 26 of “The Ultimate Fighter” opposite Gaethje. The two delivered a “Fight of the Year” candidate at UFC 218 with Alvarez (29-5 MMA, 4-2 UFC) gutting it out for a third-round TKO. Poirier resumed his campaign for a rematch, to no avail.

With a logjam at the top of the lightweight division soon to cleared, the winner of Poirier vs. Gaethje could be poised for a title shot.

For more info on UFC 222 and UFC 223, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) reacts after beating Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) walks out for the fight against Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) walks out tot he fight against Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) celebrates beating Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Dustin Poirier (red gloves) fights Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. Mandatory Credit: Peter Casey-USA TODAY Sports Nov 11, 2017; Virginia, VA, USA; Anthony Pettis (blue gloves) leaves the fight against Dustin Poirier (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Ted Constant Convocation Center. 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'UFC 220 Embedded,' No. 3: Daniel Cormier is not impressed with what he sees

The UFC kicks off the pay-per-view portion of 2018 this week, and the promotion has rolled out its “Embedded” treatment for a preview of UFC 220.

The event takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the headliner, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC), who’s No. 1 in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, takes on No. 2-ranked Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC). And in the co-main event, Daniel Cormier(19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) meets Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in his first title defense of his second go-round as light heavyweight champion.

Here’s the UFC’s description of the second “Embedded” episode:

On Episode 3 of UFC 220 Embedded, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier keeps the mood light in the hotel gym. Opponent Volkan Oezdemir finishes his training camp in Florida and packs a Swiss flag for the trip. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic makes his way to Bristol, Connecticut, where he and challenger Francis Ngannou do a day of media appearances. UFC 220 Embedded is an all-access, behind-the-scenes video blog leading up to the world heavyweight championship bout at UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou on Saturday, January 20th on Pay-Per-View.

Check out the full episode in the video above.

Also see:

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) defeats Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts before his both against Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (right) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/HEBcogVsJo8qj8t4c4FpL7/297036", customAnalytics: true, title: "Volkan Oezdemir", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

How UFC newcomer Mackenzie Dern is embracing MMA without forgetting her jiu-jitsu roots

When she spoke to MMAjunkie 15 months ago, Mackenzie Dern wasn’t there yet,  but she knew a time would come when jiu-jitsu would have to take a backseat to MMA.

Then two wins into her pro MMA career, the grappling ace said she simply couldn’t yet live off her new sport. Jiu-jitsu remained a passion and something that Dern still excelled at. More pragmatically, it was still what paid the bills.

Now things have changed.

Dern went on to fight three more times, with three wins. The last of them, a submission over Kaline Medeiros at Invicta FC 26, stamped Dern’s ticket to the UFC. She meets fellow strawweight Ashley Yoder on March 3 at UFC 222 in Las Vegas.

And so the time has come for a slight shift in focus.

“It’s very hard, because I really love jiu-jitsu,” Dern told MMAjunkie. “It’s very hard for me to just drop it. But, from the start, I said that when I joined the UFC – which has a much better fight purse than other promotions and is a much higher level – I said I would focus 100 percent in MMA.”

OK, so it’s more like 90 percent.

“I want to keep doing super fights if I don’t have an MMA fight scheduled,” Dern said. “I want to fight the World Championships, ADCC, the major ones. If I don’t have an MMA fight scheduled, I’ll try to do that. Obviously, I won’t fight the smaller championships like I did before.

“But I know that now I have to put 100 percent of dedication into MMA. So the priority will be MMA. Around May or June, I’ll try not to schedule MMA fights in order to be in the World Championships or something. But the priority will be MMA.”

RelatedVideo: Watch Mackenzie Dern get the tap in her Invicta FC debut

Of course, Dern is not just any UFC debutant. A jiu-jitsu practitioner since she was 3, she brings in more than two decades’ worth of mat experience and multiple world titles. As it happens with fighters who have done so much in a previous field, like Bellator’s Aaron Pico, the grappling ace has been watched from her very first time in a cage.

Sure, that means everyone got to watch as Dern scored three submission wins – including a particularly elaborate finish over “TUF 26” alum Montana De La Rosa. But, on the flip side, it also means everyone got to see her missing weight twice.

While some fighters get to grow quietly in the amateur circle, making their mistakes away from the public eye, whatever Dern does – good or bad – gets put under the microscope.

“For sure, there’s a lot of criticism,” Dern said. “Toward my striking or the fact that I missed weight. Maybe a lot more than other fighters who are just getting this experience. I think the thing I hear the most is to not be like Ronda Rousey, who thought she was a striker and fought a girl who had good timing and movement and lost.”

That’s an interesting way to get compared to former 135-pound UFC champion Rousey. A few years ago, the dominant judoka was seen as the ultimate compass for success in MMA. But then, after back-to-back knockout losses to Holly Holm and Amanda Nunes, respectively, her striking ability came under fire – and, with it, a lot of her credibility.

Dern looks at these types of comments two ways.

“It keeps me grounded. It reminds me to not make mistakes other fighters have made,” Dern said. “The fact that everyone is watching, critiquing, making these comments – I think it’s good, even. Because it keeps reminding me that I’m from jiu-jitsu.

“But I also like proving myself. I like proving people wrong – or even proving them right, too. I take it in stride. I don’t see it as a bad thing.”

Dern has been presented with the classic MMA dilemma, which seems particularly tricky considering lifelong grapplers: How to stay true to yourself and stick to your strengths without becoming one-dimensional – or even boring.

It’s a thin line, but so far Dern has been able to toe it.

RelatedUsually the one eating punches in training, LFA's Mackenzie Dern happy to land some of her own

Although most of her wins have stemmed from her area of expertise, she got to showcase her improved striking in her two most recent outings. Against Mandy Polk at LFA 24, Dern set up her submission with punches. Then in her Invicta FC debut in December, Dern rocked Medeiros a couple times before an armlock late in the third round.

“I feel a lot better (about my striking),” Dern said. “In my first fights, I thought a lot before throwing a punch. I thought, ‘I’ll throw a jab and a right hand.’ And, as I took that time to think, I was already a step behind. Now … Of course, I don’t have many combos yet. I have about three combos that are instinctive. But this is evolution.

“I’m getting to a point where I don’t really have to think that much about what I’m going to do. I can see openings. I can see the punches, too, on the defensive bit. When she punches me, I’m not closing my eyes as much. I look at my opponent a lot more.”

To a point, Dern reasons, that’s inevitable. Considering the sheer amount of time and practice that have been put into honing her striking, it would be basically impossible for her not to evolve from her first MMA bout. But it’s also the product of something that she has applied to every aspect of her life.

“I never think that I already know everything,” Dern said. “I’m always open to learning. Even in jiu-jitsu, which is my strong suit and I’ve been training for 21 years, I’m sure there’s a lot to evolve and learn.”

‘I don’t want to get punched in the face forever’

It’s with the same humble, open approach that Dern is preparing for her UFC debut. Sure, she feels absolutely prepared to be at the highest level – and even thinks it could’ve happened sooner if not for surgery earlier this year and her weight misses. But she knows there’s still a way to go before she reaches the likes of champ Rose Namajunas and Joanna Jedrzejczyk.

Even when it comes to assessing her opponent, Dern prefers to take guidance from those who have been doing this longer than she has.

“I’m not at the level yet, where I can study my opponents,” Dern said. “I don’t even know my own game yet. I’m getting to know myself as an athlete, so I leave it up to my team to watch tape and study them.”

Dern is fully aware of the attention that will be on her when she enters the cage at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. And she knows that, while many are supportive, there’s also a portion just waiting to pounce on her should this become her first loss in MMA.

“There have been people saying that I’ll get my ass beat, that I’ll lose like Ronda Rousey,” Dern said. “MMA is a lot more aggressive than jiu-jitsu in that aspect, so it’s something I’m getting used to – focusing on the good, on the people near me.

“I don’t care too much. I’ve been practicing focusing on myself and on my training. I take vacations. I have my life.”

Mackenzie Dern at LFA 6. (Legacy Fighting Alliance)

There’s also the fact that, before, Dern represented women on the mats. Now that she’s on a new stage, she’s taken it upon herself to represent both women and Brazilian jiu-jitsu. In that sense, she ponders, the more attention, the merrier.

Dern’s athletic career has been one to admire. And the strawweight, just like every other UFC athlete, hopes to achieve that same type of success in the octagon, too. Whether she’ll get there, we’ll see. But you might want to get your Dern fix while you can, because she’s not going to be around forever.

“I don’t want to stay in MMA for too many years,” Dern said. “I’ve accomplished a lot in jiu-jitsu. I come from such a big history in jiu-jitsu. I dedicated so many years to this sport. I want a life, too. I want to have kids. I want to get married. I want to do these things. I don’t want to get punched in the face forever. I want to get in there and evolve as an athlete.

“I know what I need to achieve that, to be a UFC champion. How long it’s going to take, I don’t know. I hope it’s not 10 years. I hope it’s more like three years. But that’s just a guideline. I want to keep evolving, as fast as I have been. I don’t think I’m going too fast or too slow.

“I think I’m going at the right pace. I’m 24, and I think I’m at my peak. I think things are happening at the right time. Hopefully I won’t get injured. I want to stay healthy and keep going like this.”

For more on UFC 222, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

UFC 220 co-main-event breakdown: Oddsmakers correct with Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir?

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC 220’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event.

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Also see:

* * * *

Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC)

Daniel Cormier

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 38 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: No-contest against Jon Jones (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: American Kickboxing Academy (San Jose, CA)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ UFC light-heavyweight champion
+ Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix winner
+ 2x U.S. Olympian (wrestling captain)
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 8 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Pressure-fighting approach
^ Forces high work rate
+ Dangerous overhands and uppercuts
+ Deceptive distance closer
^ Slips and rips way inside
+ Strong clinch game
^ Effective dirty boxer
+ Diverse takedown game
^ Favors high-crotch single
+ Transitions intelligently on top

Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC)

Volkan Oezdemir

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age:280 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 75″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Jimi Manuwa (July 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Hard Knocks 365 (Florida)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Kickboxing accolades (5-0 as pro)
+ 10 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 11 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Solid muay Thai technique
^ Seldom out of position
+ Accurate left hook
+ Hard leg kicks
^ Often punctuates combos
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Underrated wrestling/grappling
^ Good offensive and defensive fundamentals

Summary:

The co-main event in Boston features another title affair as Daniel Cormier attempts to defend the light-heavyweight championship against Volkan Oezdemir.

Coming off of a crushing defeat to Jon Jones, Cormier – through a crazy turn of events – would end up back on the throne of the 205-pound division after a failed drug test from Jones. Now looking to reestablish his status of champion, Cormier will be jumping right back in the octagon to fend off another young lion.

Storming the UFC scene in 2017, Oezdemir would earn himself three wins en route to his fast climb up the ranks. Seemingly unshakable in focus, the Swiss-born fighter will get his shot to make a huge statement with a win here.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between two pressure fighters who aren’t afraid to step into the fire.

RelatedDaniel Cormier perplexed how anyone could think he'll lose title to Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220

Hailing from the American Kickboxing Academy, Cormier embodies a similar style on the feet to stablemate Cain Velasquez. Stalking forward with feints, fakes and measuring jabs, Cormier will slip and rip his way inside.

Often punctuating his presence with hooks up high, the champion has no issues finishing down low with leg kicks. In fact, I feel that Cormier has an underrated kicking ability, and I would not be surprised to see him compete in that department with his counterpart.

Nevertheless, the on-paper edge should still reside with the challenger.

A well-trained muay Thai practitioner who’s trained both in Thailand and the Netherlands, Oezdemir implements a bit of both styles into his MMA game. Moving well with his punches and seldom throwing himself out of position, the eight-year pro will punctuate his combinations with crushing kicks that often follow his patented left hook.

Despite typically maintaining a technical and measured approach, Oezdemir has also shown that he is not afraid to stand his ground and return with force when he needs to. And when Oezdemir gets his opponents near the fence, he will get even more aggressive, throwing kicks and combos with impunity.

If things begin to get heated on the feet, I fully suspect Cormier to exercise his advantages on the ground.

A former captain of the U.S. Olympic wrestling team, grappling – to say the least – has come second nature to Cormier.

From his high-crotch hikes to his slick trips in close, Cormier is a formidable force for anyone inside of the clinch. The champion also has good reactionary takedowns, which will likely come in handy against his aggressive counterpart.

Oezdemir, who has yet to have a chance to display much on the ground inside of the octagon, has shown that he possesses competent defensive and offensive wrestling abilities in other organizations.

RelatedIf he beats UFC champ Cormier, Volkan Oezdemir expects Gustafsson or Saint Preux next

From topside, the sturdy base and balance Oezdemir displays as a striker seem to translate well to the floor, and the 28-year-old holds a solid mount, striking and transitioning well along the way.

When taken down, Oezdemir still appears to offer good answers defensively. Demonstrating the wrestling improvements he has made state-side, Oezdemir will immediately turtle or tripod up to his base, fighting hands while making his way to a standing position.

That said, turtling can come at the cost of front-headlocks or back takes. And although those threats are fewer and far between at light heavyweight, Oezdemir will be up against one of most relentless transitional grapplers north of 205 pounds.

Even fellow Olympian Dan Henderson had difficulty in keeping Cormier off of him, and he was privy to a plethora of positional rides that were ruthless and wearing. If Oezdemir allows Cormier to get that far into his groove, then it will likely be a long night for the man from Switzerland.

The oddsmakers and public seem firm in their opinion, listing Cormier -320 and Oezdemir +260 as of this writing.

Although I hate to pick against Oezdemir – a fighter who has a pension for proving people wrong – I have to agree with the oddsmakers above. Cormier may be coming off of a brutal defeat, but he is still one of the sports most proven fighters pound-for-pound.

Ultimately, I believe that Cormier will enact a similar strategy to the one he used in his fight with Oezdemir’s stablemate Anthony Johnson. I see the champion weathering the early storm and sucking Oezdemir into his world, steadily cooking the Swiss fighter underneath him for a fourth-round finish.

Official pick: Cormier inside the distance

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier hold onto one another during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Anthony Johnson (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) enters T-Mobile Arena during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) prepares to fight Anderson Silva during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Anderson Silva (blue gloves) is punched by Daniel Cormier (red gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jul 9, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) reacts after his win against Anderson Silva (blue gloves) during UFC 200 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) competes against Alexander Gustafsson (blue gloves) during their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Oct 3, 2015; Houston, TX, USA; Daniel Cormier (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) after their World Light Heavyweight Championship at UFC 192 at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/nSWP6AjXdehwFnqPirqHH5/296934", customAnalytics: true, title: "Daniel Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC 223 opening odds: Champ Tony Ferguson a firm underdog vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov

Tony Ferguson will enter UFC 223 as the champion but not as the favorite.

UFC President Dana White, who recently said the fight would happen, today announced that interim lightweight titleholder Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) are indeed booked for the event.

UFC 223 takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., with the main card on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

RelatedDana White says UFC fighters should build themselves into stars. Now why didn't they think of that?

Despite entering on a tear and being the much more active competitor, Ferguson opens up as a firm underdog to Nurmagomedov, according to the Oddessa Line. Veteran MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa has set Nurmagomedov at -200 and Ferguson at +165.

At those odds, a winning $100 bet on Nurmagomedov would result in a net profit of $50 (implied win probability of 66.7 percent). A winning $100 bet on Ferguson, meanwhile, would net a profit of 165 (37.7 percent win probability).

Ferguson currently is on a 10-fight winning streak, including an impressive third-round submission of Kevin Lee in October at UFC 216 to claim interim gold. Ferguson’s streak dates back to 2013. In that same time period, the undefeated Nurmagomedov has just four fights, most recently a dominant decision win over Edson Barboza last month at UFC 219.

Khabib’s inactivity has factored into the line.

RelatedKhabib Nurmagomedov after UFC 219 win: Give me Conor McGregor, Tony Ferguson on same night

“I don’t know if Khabib is going to take him down at will, but he’s going to take him down and hold him there long enough to win rounds and win the fight,” Odessa told MMAjunkie. “If there weren’t so many cancellations and inactivity with Khabib, the price would be higher. Out-of-sight, out-of-mind mentality often brings down a guy’s stock in the eye of public opinion but not in Khabib’s case.

“He’s looked even more impressive in his recent limited appearances. He was sitting around the same price when he was forced to pull out of UFC 209, and not much has changed.”

This marks the fourth time that Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been booked against each other after three previous fights failed to materialize. After each pulled out of one scheduled bout due to injury, Ferguson, No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, and No. 3 Nurmagomedov were most recently signed to fight each other at UFC 209 last March. The fight for the then-vacant interim title fell apart on weigh-in day, though, when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a failed weight cut.

For more on UFC 222, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov before fighting Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov fights Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edson Barboza lands a kick as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Edson Barboza moves in with a hit as Khabib Nurmagomedov defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in with a hit against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in with a hit against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov moves in against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov pins Edson Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov pins Edson Barboza to the mat during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov applies a chokehold against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov lands punches against Edson Barboza during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/78MBnsBgMaD7THB69QSSuf/296964", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nurmagomedov def. Barboza", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Today in MMA History: First episode of 'The Ultimate Fighter' hits airwaves

If you were an MMA fan in January 2005, chances are you remember where you were when the first season of “The Ultimate Fighter” premiered.

That’s not just because of what the show eventually became or even because of what it meant for the growth and possible salvation of the UFC, but also because of what it was like to be an MMA fan in North America at the time.

Think of it this way: In 2004, the year before “TUF 1” debuted, the UFC put on just five events. They were all pay-per-view offerings, since there was no such thing as a UFC Fight Night event back then, or even a UFC TV deal.

Which is not to say the UFC never appeared on basic cable. There were sporadic appearances on FOX Sports Net a couple years earlier, plus the occasional TV news show piece about the new sport of MMA, which may have been either barbaric bloodsport or ascendant cultural phenomenon, depending on the timing and the source.

But other than that? MMA was something you saw on VHS tapes and DVDs that you traded with friends. It was something you hunted down on the still somewhat primordial Internet. When the year’s few events rolled around, you pitched in on a pay-per-view or went in search of some bar with a Tito Ortiz poster hastily taped to the wall.

It existed on the margins. You got excited if you met someone else with an interest in it.

RelatedInside 'The Ultimate Fighter 27' tryouts, where more than 100 unbeatens went for their dream

So when a relatively new cable network called Spike TV – billed as “the first network for men,” and anchored by pro wrestling and various iterations of “Star Trek” – starting running ads promising a weekly MMA show, it was something special.

Here was this fringe sport being wrapped up in the warm embrace of reality TV, which at the time was an immediately recognizable form that still felt like it hadn’t yet been done to death. Here, it seemed, was the introduction MMA had been waiting for. A martial arts tournament disguised as a game show, with plenty of the strangers-in-a-house drama that was a staple of the form.

Even the cast of the first season fit perfectly into the reality TV show mold. You had the seasoned coaches, Randy Couture and Chuck Liddell, who each offered different but still compelling versions of what an MMA fighter could look and be like.

As for the contestants, you had serious, college-educated types like Kenny Florian, who could also help dispel the notion that all cage fighters were tattooed skinhead bar bouncers. You had kooky ones like Diego Sanchez, who at one point ran out into a downpour in order to “harness the power” of the storm.

Then there were agents of chaos like Chris Leben – introduced in the credits as “Chris L.” like some contestant on “The Bachelor” – along with guys who clearly didn’t belong, like Jason Thacker.

It was a volatile mix clearly designed to produce typical reality-show antics, and it worked. To help things along, producers made sure that this group of professional athletes had plenty of free booze on hand, because what athletic competition is complete without a little tequila?

But there were other reality TV features that clearly didn’t fit what the show wanted and needed to be, such as the “challenges” that took place in nearly every episode, or the practice of sending fighters “home” once they’d been eliminated from the competition.

The result of the latter was a dwindling cast both in the house and in the gym, which made for fewer and fewer antics and training partners – both problems, but for different reasons.

There was also a near-mutiny when fighters balked at being asked to cut weight and fight for free, which is what precipitated UFC President Dana White’s now famous “do you want to be a f*cking fighter” speech.

For longtime fans of the sport, the true appeal was that almost every episode ended with an actual MMA fight. That’s not so special now – there have been roughly 10,000 seasons of “TUF” since then, or so it seems, and that’s in addition to the almost weekly UFC events of varying caliber.

But in early 2005, that world was a distant dream. Those of us who obsessed over this fringe sport often held our fandom close, like a semi-shameful secret, but we also stubbornly believed that other people might like this stuff if they gave it a chance.

The UFC, in fact, was betting on it. White loves to tell the story of how that first season came to be, how it was the final all-in bet from the Zuffa parent company and the Fertitta brothers who’d been losing money on it. How, even as they were filming what was essentially a weekly ad buy for Spike TV, the network itself was in a state of upheaval.

RelatedDana White, Spike TV offer different versions of 'The Ultimate Fighter 1'

To hear White tell it, it wasn’t until the wildly successful finale, helped along greatly by the epic battle between light heavyweight finalists Forrest Griffin and Stephan Bonnar, that UFC executives even felt confident of the company’s survival.

All that still felt miles away to the average viewer tuning in on that January night in 2005. Back then, most of us were just happy to see the sport we loved on TV. We longed for more of it. We hoped it wouldn’t go away. We thought it might even thrive if only people would sit down to watch.

And if it was the trappings of reality TV that would serve as the bait to lure them in, sure, we could sit through a challenge or two. In a way, the fact that the show has now fallen into a pattern of low ratings and diminished importance in the world of MMA only proves how well it worked. It did its job so well that it eventually became obsolete.

Not bad for a formulaic reality show operating out of a Las Vegas strip mall.

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.”

Vitor Belfort has some thoughts on Michael Bisping's refusal to fight him in London

In today’s installment of “Vitor Belfort airs grievances on Instagram,” we appear to have gotten some type of closure on the Michael Bisping front.

Following a scrapped UFC Fight Night 124 meeting with Uriah Hall that was also to serve as Belfort’s (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC) retirement bout, “The Phenom” was quick to angle for a new matchup. More specifically, he wanted a rematch with also near-retirement Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) – whom Belfort had already met and defeated in a UFC on FX 7 headliner back in 2013.

RelatedDana White: UFC offered Vitor Belfort last-minute fights, but he wants Michael Bisping

Having first met Bisping in Brazil, Belfort was even gracious enough to concede the hometown advantage to his opponent this time. He then urged the former middleweight champion to “stop finding excuses” to turn down a UFC Fight Night 127 meeting in London.

“Let’s make an amazing show for all the fans around the the world and retire in great fashion,” Belfort said.

Well, these are two huge names, about to retire, and there’s a long-running rivalry there. Not to mention Bisping had already talked about his desire to have his swan song in London at the March 17 UFC Fight Pass event. So why not?

Well, first off, they’d be missing one of the fighters.

“I’m not fighting Vitor Belfort in London,” Bisping said on his “Believe You Me” podcast. “I’m not fighting Vitor Belfort in London. I am not fighting Vitor Belfort in London. One-hundred percent, I’m not fighting him. Zero percent chance.”

Judging by a post on Belfort’s Instagram account this morning, the ex-champ has found out the fight is not happening, which prompted some choice words toward the “scared” Brit. Befort now says Bisping will be leaving MMA “through the back door.”

“What a shame, Michael Bisping. The UFC just informed me that you have declined the fight. I understand you are scared. The images above pretty much explain it all. So stop pretending that you are tough and just admit that you are afraid. And I thought you were man enough to step up in the octagon with me again, my mistake. Unfortunately, it looks like we will not be delivering to the fans the fight they want to see. Happy retirement, you must be feeling amazing leaving the sport (through) the back door. To be a legend is not to everyone”

Interestingly enough, the images indeed are a key part of why Bisping does to not want to fight Belfort. Just, perhaps, not exactly for the reasons Belfort thinks they are.

On the podcast, Bisping explained that his head-kick KO loss to Belfort led to a detached retina and, as a consequence, to “lasting disfigurement.” Taking damage, of course, is part of the fight game, but Bisping’s issue there was that Belfort, at the time, was using then-allowed testosterone replacement therapy (TRT).

Or, in Bisping’s words, “He was ‘roided out of his mind.”

Ultimately, Bisping said his ill feelings toward “known drug cheat” Belfort would end up playing a part in the promotional process. And an emotionally charged “typical Michael Bisping performance of trash-talk” is not how he wants to go out of this sport.

“I don’t want to be remembered for being a (expletive), and I feel that Vitor Belfort would bring out that side of my personality” Bisping said. “It’s my last ever fight, so I want to go there and enjoy it. I want to embrace the moment. I want to live in the moment. I want to be respectful toward my opponent and basically thank all the fans of Great Britain for always supporting my career.

“Not lunging and arguing and swearing and going at the guy and acting regrettably because years later, I would look back, and I would regret that.”

For more on UFC Fight Night 127, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) reacts to fight against Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) before the fight against Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Victor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) reacts to fight against Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/JmzjWf3tg9CCuDfPnHnPKj/296937", customAnalytics: true, title: "Belfort def. Marquardt", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC champ Cris Cyborg could generate PPV buys 'in a parking lot,' but unsure about Amanda Nunes

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So the UFC really wants Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes to happen? OK, Cyborg said. But it’s going to take some compromise.

On Sunday UFC President Dana White reaffirmed his desire to have women’s 135-pound champ Nunes (15-4 MMA, 8-1 UFC) as the next challenger to Cyborg’s (18-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) 145-pound belt. Nunes has been favorable to the Brazilian champs leaving “their marks” in the sport – a sentiment mirrored by her coach, ATT’s Conan Silveira.

All the while, Cyborg kept the same stance: she wouldn’t refuse to do it but wasn’t at all keen on the idea for a couple of reasons. Most importantly, because she believed that it was time to give actual featherweights – like Megan Anderson or Pam Sorensen – a shot.

RelatedDana White says UFC working on Cris Cyborg vs. Amanda Nunes: 'The fight everybody wants to see'

White argued that Nunes had competed at Cyborg’s division before – and was, in fact, “brought into Strikeforce” to fight her compatriot. On her end, Cyborg said that Nunes’ 145-pound stint was “a long time ago” and that, despite her achievements at the lighter weight class, she’d like to face women who competed as featherweights in 2017.

“We never had the opportunity to fight each other because (Nunes) never (got) close fights to the belt,” Cyborg told MMAjunkie Radio. “What she did at 135 pounds, it doesn’t matter. It doesn’t change 145 pounds. …

“Amanda wants to jump in front of everybody at 145. But Amanda has a lot of girls (she didn’t) beat. She lost to Cat Zingano. She lost to Alexis Davis, by TKO. She still has a lot of girl she still (can) fight. She’s thinking about a big payday, and I can understand that. But I cannot forget just – I need to help my division grow. If I just beat girls at 135, this is not going to make my 145 division grow.”

Nunes did have her Strikeforce debut at featherweight, which ended in a blistering 14-second knockout of Julia Budd. But her second fight for the promotion, a knockout loss to Davis, was at 135 pounds. At the time, Nunes told MMAjunkie that, while she was ranked at featherweight, she hoped to win and challenge for the bantamweight belt that belonged to Miesha Tate.

In any case, that doesn’t mean Cyborg won’t fight Nunes. With three fights left on her UFC contract, and plans to have at least two completed in 2018, Cyborg said Nunes can be one of them. She just thinks that her compatriot has a lot more to gain from the encounter.

“Amanda barely sold 100,000 pay-per-views in her last fight,” Cyborg said. “She’s no (Conor McGregor). To make 100,000 pay-per-views, I can fight in a parking lot (against) anybody. Of course she wants to fight me. She fought Ronda Rousey, and then she (got) big pay-per-view (points) there because Ronda is a big name. And she (got) paid $3 million to fight Amanda.

“And then other fights (Nunes) fought, too. She fought Miesha Tate, on the card with Brock Lesnar (UFC 200), and Miesha Tate made pay-per-view at the fight too. Of course she wants to fight me. She wants (to get paid), big pay. She knows she barely sold 100,000 pay-per-views.”

RelatedUFC champ Amanda Nunes joins Invicta FC matchmaking, athlete development team

Cyborg, who held titles with Strikeforce and Invicta FC, is fresh off her first UFC title defense – a five-round dominant effort over former 135-pound champion Holly Holm. Nunes, in turn, has twice defended the belt she earned over Tate: first with a knockout over Rousey, and then with a decision victory in a rematch with Valentina Shevchenko.

If White really does believe that it’s “the fight everybody wants to see,” though, the UFC can make it happen. But considering Cyborg doesn’t see what Nunes can do for either her division or her bank account, it’s going to take building some context around it.

“Of course we can do that fight, but we need to do (it) on a big card,” Cyborg said. “It has to be a big event. It has to have more championships for everybody to make money together. If it’s a super fight, you’re supposed to make super money. Of course I can fight her.

“But by herself, only her? This fight (doesn’t) mean anything for my career, and we don’t make money either. But if you put me in a bigger card, for sure. Then I’ll talk to my manager. My manager is going to talk to the UFC.”

Cyborg is quite familiar with the style of Nunes, whom she saw ascend as she was already a champion. And while she maintains Nunes is basically cutting the 145-pound line there, Cyborg thinks the two would end up putting on a good scrap.

“I respect all my opponents,” Cyborg said. “I think she’s a great fighter. She’s an aggressive fighter. I think when I fight her, it’s going to be an amazing fight. But she (hasn’t fought) somebody like me in my division, 145 pounds. Let’s see.”

To hear from Cyborg, 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.

Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is introduced before fighting against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a hit as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg defends against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm moves in with a kick as Cris Cyborg defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg fights against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg moves in with a kick as Holly Holm defends during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg lands a hit against Holly Holm during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Holly Holm lands a hit against Cris Cyborg during UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg celebrates her victory by unamimous decision against Holly Holm and her title defense following UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Dec 30, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Cris Cyborg is declared the winner by unanimous decision against Holly Holm and retains her title followng UFC 219 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/qPrnZ2GMzKchbr2tKPsHvf/296888", customAnalytics: true, title: "Cyborg def. Holm", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Bellator 192 main-event breakdown: Expect a grimy decision – but for Chael Sonnen or Quinton Jackson?

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MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of Bellator’s top bouts, and today, we look at Bellator 192’s main event.

Bellator 192 takes place Saturday at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and the main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

* * * *

Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA)

Quinton Jackson

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 39 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 73″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Muhammed Lawal (March 31, 2017)
  • Camp: Ultimate Training Center (Huntington, CA)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/boxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC light-heavyweight champion
+ Wrestling base
+ 18 KO victories
+ 5 submission wins
+ 16 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Solid boxing technique
^ Slips, rolls, feints and fakes
+ Dangerous hooks
^ Coming forward and off of the counter
+ Physically strong in the clinch
^ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Good takedown defense
^ Heavy base/solid fundamentals
+ Underrated grappler
+ Devastating ground striker
+ Improved submission defense
^ Will still look for slams

Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA)

Chael Sonnen

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’1″ Age: 40 Weight: 205 lbs. Reach: 74″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Wanderlei Silva (June 24, 2017)
  • Camp: Gracie Barra Portland (Portland, OR)
  • Stance/striking style: Southpaw/boxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler
+ Multiple wrestling accolades
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 8 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ Aggressive pace and pressure
+ Underrated striking ability
^ Solid boxing technique
+ Accurate left cross
+ Strong inside of the clinch
+ Excellent takedown ability
^ Favors power-doubles
+ Good transitional grappler
^ Passes, rides and floats well
+ Serviceable submission game
^ Works well from front-headlock
+ Stays busy from topside

Summary:

The main event in Inglewood features the first leg of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix tournament, where we will be privy to a battle between Quinton Jackson and Chael Sonnen.

The tournament will take place throughout 2018 and will ultimately crown a new heavyweight champion for the organization.

Jackson, who has competed at heavyweight (or a catchweight) for his last three bouts, seems to be making himself comfortable north of his usual weight class whereas Sonnen – a man who has competed at light heavyweight for his past five fights – will now be stepping well- above his traditional home of 185 pounds. That said, I doubt these numbers will affect either man’s attitude given their background.

Related'Rampage' Jackson-Chael Sonnen is Bellator 192 headliner over Douglas Lima vs. Rory MacDonald title fight

Starting off on the feet, we have a matchup between two wrestlers who can throw their hands – but do so in much different ways.

Initially storming the scene as a body-slamming wildman, Jackson would quickly make fans from his memorable performances in PRIDE FC. Steadily developing his boxing chops to go along with his already-potent wrestling ability, Jackson would eventually find himself getting the better of strikers on the feet, even ones to the caliber of Chuck Liddell.

By the time Jackson came over to the UFC in 2007, his boxing was at an even higher level, working with then-coach Juanito Perez. Under the care of Perez, we would see Jackson more effectively fake and feint, smoothly slipping and rolling his way into crushing hooks.

Jackson would end up flirting with different training camps throughout his UFC career, but his style remained consistent: Pressure your opposition with authority and make them pay for their reactions.

Despite this style earning him a world title while with the UFC, Jackson’s predictably would cause him issues when it came to fighters who could either stick and move, or match him in the wrestling department. Although he won’t exactly be facing a stick-and-move stylist in Sonnen, the looming wrestling threats could bleed into the striking dynamic of this fight.

A self-proclaimed “gangster” from West Linn, Ore., Sonnen is a southpaw who offers more than just a shot standing.

RelatedChael Sonnen won't retire with Bellator tourney win, will exit MMA 'face down and embarrassed'

Demonstrating solid boxing fundamentals, Sonnen utilizes strong fakes while working behind a pumping jab. And with his patented left cross not far behind, Sonnen will quickly close the distance as he looks to change his level.

This high-percentage approach has served Sonnen well over the years, and it’s even earned him some memorable moments against skilled strikers like Anderson Silva. Still, the striking edge will belong to his counterpart on paper, begging the question: Will Sonnen be able to take down Jackson?

Takedown defense has long been a staple of Jackson’s game, and he’s traditionally been difficult to get down. Possessing a heavy base and balance, the 19-year professional puts his weight to good use when it comes to sprawls in the open of defending inside the clinch.

Nevertheless, top level wrestlers have been able to get Jackson down both in the open and against the fence. Should Sonnen score on Jackson early, he will need to work diligently to keep the larger man down.

Not only will Jackson have a size and strength edge, but he is also no slouch when it comes to getting back to his feet.

Whether he is utilizing an underhook getup in the open or leaning on the cage for a standing assist, Jackson will undoubtedly make Sonnen work hard. But, by that same token, Sonnen will also be making Jackson – who has shown to slow more significantly at this weight – work much harder as well.

Furthermore, Jackson may be at more risk than he realizes when attempting to stand. Sonnen, who wields an underrated submission game, has no issue in turning an underhook getup into a guillotine choke (just ask Mauricio “Shogun” Rua). Also, Jackson – like many wrestlers – will inherently turtle en route to making his way upright.

The problem, however, is that this position could briefly expose Jackson to a grappler who is good from a front headlock like Sonnen, who is also not shy when it comes jumping on a back when it suits the occasion.

That said, the 39-year-old veteran in Jackson has only been submitted by Kazushi Sakuraba and Jon Jones throughout his storied career, so Sonnen will likely have to make something special happen to add his name to the list.

The oddsmakers and public seem to be forming their opinions, listing Jackson -160 and Sonnen +140 as of this writing.

Should Jackson, whose condition has been suspect in recent years, not look good early, then he could quickly find himself in a stimying clinch war or worse – stuck underneath a formidable transitional grappler.

However, Sonnen, who has also struggled against strong wrestlers, will have a sizeable threat before him. Despite not being as mobile at this heavier weight, Jackson still displays the wrestling ability and urgency to stay on task.

Even in his lesser-inspiring performances, Jackson has always come to fight, swinging even harder when he knows the rounds are coming to a close. I don’t see this being an easy bout for either party, but I do see “Rampage” being the victor of a grimy decision, possibly stopping Sonnen should he gain a dominant position early.

Official pick: Jackson by decision

For more on Bellator 192, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Vegas radio vet Steve Cofield

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Money fights? UFC champ Tyron Woodley just wants fights that'll 'cement my legacy'

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Tyron Woodley has insisted on getting an elusive “money fight” for quite some time now.

During the last year, Conor McGregor, Georges St-Pierre and Nate Diaz are names the UFC welterweight champion has tossed around. UFC President Dana White has shot down each mention, leading to some beef between the two. Some fans have rolled their eyes at the notion that Woodley (18-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC) believes he’s deserving of such a high-profile matchup – or, “money fight,” if you will.

Woodley, though, sees things in a different light.

“I just want to fight the fights that are going to cement my legacy,” he said backstage at UFC Fight Night 124 in his native St. Louis.

That seems reasonable enough for a champion who’s repeated his desire to prove he’s the greatest 170-pounder ever. In his mind, the two contenders mentioned most as worthy of challenging him – Rafael dos Anjos and Colby Covington – don’t excite Woodley. But that’s who’s right behind him at No. 2 and 3, respectively, in the official UFC rankings.

RelatedUFC champ Tyron Woodley to Rafael dos Anjos: 'Crap talking ain't your thing'

Which, speaking of rankings, it’s funny to Woodley, 35, how they apply to some but not others – like himself.

“It depends on who it is. It’s a situation-based usage of the rankings,” Woodley said. “I think the ranking is a good thing where you can kind of see (who fought who). But that’s not the rubric anymore. They’re not really going by that. At times it’s convenient. Usually when it’s me it’s convenient to utilize the rankings.”

White has indicated Woodley’s next challenger will be former lightweight champion Dos Anjos (28-9 MMA, 17-7 UFC), who has won three straight since moving up to the division, most recently a dominant decision over ex-champ Robbie Lawler, who Woodley beat for the title in July 2016.

But what about Covington (13-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC), who just can’t seem to stop talking and tweeting about “Tyrone” Woodley? There have been rumors that the two could coach on the upcoming season of “The Ultimate Fighter,” which Woodley says he isn’t down with.

“Definitely not coaching with that buffoon,” he said.

RelatedTyron Woodley willing to vacate UFC belt for GSP, but 'open to any fight' that makes sense

Woodley and Covington used to train together, and “The Chosen One” can’t believe “Chaos,” whose called attention to himself in some ugly ways, is even in the conversation.

“I’ve silence him his entire life. I got a whole phone full of text messages – I’m his big brother, his mentor,” Woodley said. “He just decided to take the WWE route, because he thought that was going to catipult him.”

“He came in at a great time when the sport was quiet,” Woodley added. “Conor McGregor’s (been) out doing something different, Jon Jones is out for a while, Ronda Rousey’s not there. You know, he came in at a time when people were like, ‘You know what? There’s nothing going on, eff it. Let’s listen to this idiot.’ …

“I just don’t want to give him a lot of attention, a lot of talk.”

RelatedDana White says UFC fighters should build themselves into stars. Now why didn't they think of that?

Regardless of who he fights next, though, one thing is for sure: Woodley doesn’t see anyone – “money fight” or not – being able to take his title anytime soon.

“I’ve been blessed at the way I train and the way I think about fighting,” Woodley said. “I’ve thought about being in this position long before I got here. There are no new guys faster than me, stronger than me, more skilled than me. Even though these guys are coming up, I still have two or three things that I do better than they do. So I’ll be able to be champion for a very long time.”

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

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Saturday's UFC 220 broadcasting crew is set, includes Jimmy Smith's UFC debut

The broadcasting crew it set for Saturday’s UFC 220 event, and it includes Jimmy Smith’s UFC debut.

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TG Garden in Boston, and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

FOX Sports officials today told MMAjunkie the fight-night commentators include play-by-play man Jon Anik with color commentators Joe Rogan and Dominick Cruz. Megan Olivi will have on-site interviews throughout the broadcasts.

RelatedJimmy Smith explains departure from longtime Bellator commentary role

The FOX Sports desk in the Los Angeles studio includes former longtime Bellator broadcaster Smith, who recently signed with the UFC. He joins Karyn Bryant, Kenny Florian and Rashad Evans. Smith will also do color commentary for some future UFC broadcasts.

UFC vet Marlon Vera and Victor Davila handle the Spanish language telecast on FOX Deportes.

RelatedJohn McCarthy explains Bellator commentator move, plans to still officiate boxing

UFC 220 features heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) vs. Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), as well as light-heavyweight titleholder Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) vs. Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), atop the card.

In addition to a UFC 220-geared edition of “UFC Tonight” today on FS2 (7 p.m. ET), FS1 airs the ceremonial weigh-ins on Friday at 6 p.m. ET, and a UFC 220 pre-show airs on FS1 on Saturday a 7 p.m. ET. Following UFC 220, a post-event show airs on FS1 at 1 a.m. ET.

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves)celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) greets Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) after their fight in UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (red) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) exits the ring after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/GvaJQaMVwy6DqVjCrq5HfK/296906", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stipe Miocic", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Tony Ferguson vs. Khabib Nurmagomedov a go for UFC 223, Dana White says

Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) punches Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) fights Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) competes against Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) fights Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) fights Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC official Herb Dean separates Kevin Lee (blue gloves) from Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) punches Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the first round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) punches Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the second round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) tackles Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the second round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) punches Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the second round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) competes against Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Kevin Lee (blue gloves) kicks Tony Ferguson (red gloves) during the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) chokes out Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) chokes out Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) chokes out Kevin Lee (blue gloves) during the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) and Kevin Lee (blue gloves) are seen after Ferguson defeated Lee during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Oct 7, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Tony Ferguson (red gloves) reacts after defeating Kevin Lee (blue gloves) in the third round during UFC 216 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/kZysKpDSjUG4B7zroo5zrb/296889", customAnalytics: true, title: "Ferguson def. 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It appears Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov are set for a clash at UFC 223.

UFC President Dana White, who recently said the fight would be booked, today told Boston’s “Toucher and Rich” show that interim lightweight titleholder Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) are indeed booked for the April event (via Twitter):

Dana White on our show confirmed that Khabib vs. Ferguson is indeed on for UFC 223 in Brooklyn. #UFC

— Toucher and Rich (@Toucherandrich) January 17, 2018

“That fight is going to happen,” White said. “It will happen.”

UFC 223 takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y., and the main card airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

As MMAjunkie reported this past weekend, White said following UFC Fight Night 124 that the organization was “working on” booking the fight – and that primary lightweight titleholder Conor McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) would be stripped of his belt as a result. Ferguson and Nurmagomedov are now expected to fight for that undisputed title.

RelatedUFC plans Tony Ferguson-Khabib Nurmagomedov title fight; Conor McGregor would be stripped

“If he comes back in September, that’s almost two years (since his last MMA fight),” White said this past weekend of McGregor, who hasn’t fought since his 2017 boxing blockbuster with Floyd Mayweather. “That can’t happen. It’s not fair to everybody else.

“Love Conor, respect Conor, love everything that he’s done for this company. Everybody knows that. I say it all the time. (But) the belt would have to move on. You do Khabib vs. Tony; we’re working on that fight now. If and when Conor comes back, he would get the first crack at the title.”

Ferguson and Nurmagomedov have been booked against each other three prior times without a fight actually materializing. After each pulled out of one scheduled bout due to injury, Ferguson, No. 2 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, and No. 3 Nurmagomedov were most recently signed to fight each other at UFC 209 in March 2016. The fight for the then-vacant interim title fell apart on weigh-in day, though, when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a failed weight cut.

Ferguson subsequently beat Kevin Lee for the belt. Nurmagomedov, meanwhile, made a successful return to the octagon this past month at UFC 219, where he dominated fellow contender Edson Barboza for a decisive decision victory.

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

Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou: Nice guy meets 'Predator' in hyped UFC 220 heavyweight title fight

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(This story appears in Wednesday’s print edition of USA TODAY.)

A few different things happened in the moments right after Francis Ngannou’s enormous fist crashed into the jaw of perennial heavyweight contender Alistair Overeem in December at UFC 218.

The first was that Overeem, all 247 pounds of him, went flying through the air like a bowling pin. The second was that an eerie quiet settled over Little Caesar’s Arena, with even the UFC’s experienced cageside commentators looking momentarily stricken by the sheer brutality of the first-round knockout.

The third was that Stipe Miocic, the UFC heavyweight champion who will defend his title against Ngannou at UFC 220 this Saturday at TD Garden in Boston, shrugged his shoulders and went about his business.

RelatedUFC 220 main-event breakdown: Can Stipe Miocic upset Francis Ngannou to set title record?

“I thought, ‘Here’s a tough guy, just like everyone else I’ve fought,’” Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) told MMAjunkie. “That’s it. He goes out there and finishes guys, but I finished those same guys like two years ago. I’m not worried about it.”

Maybe that explains why, after sitting out the last half of 2017, Miocic wasted little time agreeing to defend his championship against one of the most terrifying challengers in recent memory. If Miocic is successful, he’ll set a new UFC record for consecutive heavyweight title defenses with three – a number that says a lot about one of the hardest belts to hold in all of combat sports.

But while it would be a historic feat, it’s hard not to get the impression that there are some hoping it goes the other way. Miocic comes across as a nice guy and an excellent fighter, but not an electrifying personality. He speaks in low mumbles, parceling out words like they’re costing him money. Even his string of four straight first-round knockouts hasn’t quite made him a star in the UFC.

RelatedRise of the Predator: Francis Ngannou, from pro debut to 'KO of the Year'

Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC), on the other hand, may have come from humble beginnings, working as a child laborer in his native Cameroon before he fled to Paris with dreams of becoming a pro boxer, but now the challenger is a flashy knockout artist who is dripping with confidence – and he’s not buying Miocic’s nonchalant response to the threat he poses.

“Seeing what happened in the last fight, everyone would be intimidated by it,” Ngannou said. “Even me, when I step back and look at it, it was crazy. If someone says he is not intimidated by that, that’s just a lie.”

This is the heavyweight archetype that fight fans are drawn to. At 6-foot-4 and typically hovering near the heavyweight limit of 265 pounds, Ngannou is the mammoth striker with the look and swagger of a man who might justify the hyperbolic hype of the fight game. That might explain why so much attention is on him rather than on the champion who stands on the precipice of UFC heavyweight history.

RelatedFrancis Ngannou: Stipe Miocic is UFC champ only because I wasn't here yet

“Stipe is quiet,” Ngannou said. “I think that’s the problem. … We both have a different style, and I think mine is the one that most people want to see.”

The UFC may agree with him. Ngannou’s personal highlight reel has been a big part of the pre-fight promotional materials, with little mention of Miocic’s run at a longstanding UFC record.

If any of that bothers Miocic, he’d never admit to it. The same goes for any hint that the masses may be prematurely enamored with the challenger while forgetting about the champion.

“Listen, they can do what they want,” Miocic said. “Whatever they want to do to make themselves feel better, but I’m the champ. And the reason why I’m the champ, they’re going to find out on (Jan.) 20th.”

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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Maryna Moroz vs. Jamie Moyle pulled from Saturday's UFC 220 card

Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) before the fight against Viviane Pereia (red gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Viviane Pereia (red gloves) fights Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Viviane Pereia (red gloves) fights Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Viviane Pereia (red gloves) fights Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Viviane Pereia (red gloves) fights Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Viviane Pereia (red gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Viviane Pereia (red gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) during her fight against Kailin Curran (red gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports Dec 3, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jamie Moyle (blue gloves) fights Kailin Curran (red gloves) during the TUF tournament of champions at Palms Casino. Mandatory Credit: Tracy Lee-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/fq4zLbmW5bPeJ2voXWTq6L/296878", customAnalytics: true, title: "Jamie Moyle", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Saturday’s UFC 220 lineup has lost a preliminary-card fight.

A bout between female stawweights Maryna Moroz (8-2 MMA, 3-2 UFC) and Jamie Moyle (4-2 MMA, 1-1 UFC) has been scrapped.

A UFC official told MMAjunkie that Moyle suffered an undisclosed injury. It’s not clear if a replacement will be sought on such short notice. MMA journalist James Lynch first reported Moyle’s withdrawal.

RelatedUFC 220 main-event breakdown: Can Stipe Miocic upset Francis Ngannou to set title record?

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Moroz vs. Moyle was slated for the early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, so if a replacement isn’t secured, the fight card will likely just start a half hour later with no other card shuffles.

Moyle, a 28-year-old Syndicate MMA member and former Invicta FC fighter, defeated Kailin Curran via decision in her 2016 UFC debut. In her lone 2017 bout, she suffered a decision loss to Viviane Pereira.

The latest UFC 220 lineup includes:

MAIN CARD (Pay-per-view, 10 p.m. ET)

  • Champ Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou – for heavyweight title
  • Champ Daniel Cormier vs. Volkan Oezdemir – for light heavyweight title
  • Shane Burgos vs. Calvin Kattar
  • Francimar Barroso vs. Gian Villante
  • Thomas Almeida vs. Rob Font

PRELIMINARY CARD (FS1, 8 p.m. ET)

  • Kyle Bochniak vs. Brandon Davis
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Sabah Homasi
  • Dustin Ortiz vs. Alexandre Pantoja
  • Julio Arce vs. Dan Ige

PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 7 p.m. ET)

  • Enrique Barzola vs. Matt Bessette
  • Islam Makhachev vs. Gleison Tibau

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Video: Hardy, Gooden break down Stipe Miocic vs. Francis Ngannou at UFC 220

Stipe Miocic is in pursuit of heavyweight history Saturday night.

In the most turnover-happy division in UFC history as far as champions are concerned, Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) will attempt to get his third straight successful title defense when he meets Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) in the UFC 220 main event. The current high-water mark for successive UFC heavyweight title defenses is only two.

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

The oddsmakers have made Miocic the underdog at +150 against the favored Ngannou, who is at -185 and coming off a massive “Knockout of the Year” win over Alistair Overeem at UFC 218 in December.

Ahead of the headliner, UFC broadcasters Dan Hardy and John Gooden step “Inside the Octagon” to break down the fight.

Check out Hardy and Gooden’s breakdown in the video above. And stay tuned for their breakdown of the co-main event title fight between light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) and Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC).

For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

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

May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves)celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) greets Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) after their fight in UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (red) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) exits the ring after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/GvaJQaMVwy6DqVjCrq5HfK/296776", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stipe Miocic", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start(); if(typeof(jQuery)=="function"){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)}; jwplayer('jwplayer_PCyjYwz8_RbnemIYZ_div').setup( {"playlist":"http:\/\/content.jwplatform.com\/feeds\/PCyjYwz8.json","ph":2} );

Co-Main Event Podcast: Download episode No. 289 with Ben Fowlkes, Chad Dundas

Episode No. 289 of the Co-Main Event Podcast now is available for streaming and download.

MMAjunkie/USA TODAY columnist Ben Fowlkes and Bleacher Report lead MMA writer Chad Dundas host the weekly show (also dubbed the “CME,” if you nasty). This week, the fist-fight aficionados recap UFC Fight Night 124 and look ahead to Bellator 192 and UFC 220.

Check it out at comainevent.com, or download the podcast directly.

UFC 220 main-event breakdown: Can Stipe Miocic upset Francis Ngannou to set title record?

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC 220’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the main event.

UFC 220 takes place Saturday at TD Garden in Boston. The main card, which includes two title fights, airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 35 Weight: 246 lbs. Reach: 80″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Junior dos Santos (May 13, 2017)
  • Camp: Strong Style Fight Team (Cleavland, OH)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ UFC Heavyweight champion
+ Golden Gloves winner
+ NCAA Div. 1 wrestler
+ Regional MMA title
+ 14 KO victories
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Aggressive pace and pressure
+ Excellent footwork
+ Good sense inside the pocket
^ Pulls and returns well
+ Dangerous right hand
^ Counters well off of inside parry
+ Solid takedown transitions
^ Favors head-outside singles
+ Good positional rides
^ Active ground striker

Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 31 Weight: 262 lbs. Reach: 83″
  • Last fight: Knockout win over Alistair Overeem (Dec. 2, 2017)
  • Camp: UFC Performance Institute (Las Vegas, NV)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA accolades
+ 6 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Athletic and agile
^ Maintains composure and endurance
+ Solid feints and footwork
^ Manages distance well
+ Accurate left hand
^ Jabs, crosses, shovel/check-hooks
+ Hard knees inside the clinch
+ Improved takedown defense
^ Strong hips and fundamentals
+ Good getup ability
^ Cage and underhook awareness
+ 100 percent finishing rate

Summary:

The main event in Boston features a must-see battle for the heavyweight championship when Stipe Miocic looks to defend his belt against Francis Ngannou.

With the heavyweight division being volatile by nature, the organization has yet to see a champion successfully defend his title more than twice. Miocic will be the next man who is up to bat in that regard, but breaking this record won’t be easy given who is in the champion’s way.

An amalgamation of muscles and skill, Ngannou has forcefully injected new life into a weight class that needs it. Now, after going from homeless immigrant to top prospect in under five-years time, Ngannou will attempt to capstone his incredible journey with a championship belt.

As many now know, Ngannou came from Cameroon with basically nothing and was only introduced to MMA shortly after he arrived in Paris in 2013.

So, with that in mind, it is Ngannou’s fight IQ and rate of technical progressions, not his physique, that impresses me most.

RelatedRise of the Predator: Francis Ngannou, from pro debut to 'KO of the Year'

Whether he is throwing straight shots or variating his patent up-jabs and shovel-hooks, Ngannou seems to prefer conducting traffic from his left hand. Even on the occasion of fighting from a southpaw stance, Ngannou displays comfort and competency in throwing his left cross both coming forward and off of the counter.

Utilizing feints and pivoting well within close quarters, the 31-year-old keeps a good sense of space, managing distance well when he chooses to.

However, as impressive as Ngannou’s movement is, he is not beyond being hit while coming forward, which makes the striking dynamic of this matchup a compelling one.

Enter the champion.

A Golden Gloves boxing winner before he even began his MMA career, we have seen Miocic continue to make improvements to his striking. Although his athletic ability and background in wrestling add an undeniable dimension to his game, it is the work that Miocic does in small spaces that is so impressive.

RelatedTwitter Mailbag: With all the Francis Ngannou hype, have we forgotten about Stipe Miocic?

Akin to a heavyweight version of Frankie Edgar, Miocic will steadily work behind a series of jabs and feints, stepping slightly off angle in search of his counter or follow-up shots.

Moving just as well laterally as he does in and out, Miocic shows a good sense of things inside the pocket, almost preternaturally pulling and returning his punches.

Whether he is using his patent inside-parries or slick step-offs to the side, it is his battering ram of a right-hand that Ngannou will be attempting to avoid. That said, Miocic will need to remain on his best behavior as well, especially considering that his style also allows for oncoming traffic.

Assuming that neither man ices the other in the opening stanzas, then I suspect that the outcome of this fight could hinge within the wrestling and clinch exchanges.

Given the dynamic of this matchup, Miocic will be the man with more of a motive to take this fight to the floor.

Despite somewhat reluctantly leaning on his wrestling abilities in recent years, I have to imagine those skills are still intact for the champion. Whether he is entering off of a double-leg shot or chaining off to a snatch-single, Miocic has shown a good takedown game when he calls upon it.

RelatedFrancis Ngannou: Stipe Miocic is UFC champ only because I wasn't here yet

Nevertheless, grounding Ngannou appears to be a task that has become increasingly difficult. Accustomed to his opposition trying to take him down for some time now, Ngannou has already spent the early portions of his career having to defend takedowns from a fence or barrier.

Spreading out his 6-foot-4 frame into a wide-reaching base, the contender from Cameroon keeps calm and collected, all while utilizing defensive fundamentals in a step-by-step fashion. Ngannou also shows a surprising amount of muscular endurance in these positions despite his build, quietly maintaining crucial underhooks with no signs of giving, nor grief.

When put on his back, Ngannou displays a solid awareness of grips, using wrist-controls and collar ties to fuel his submission attempts or getup transitions.

Even in his first and lone defeat (roughly four months after being introduced to MMA), Ngannou was already showing a subtle understanding of the intricacies regarding groundwork, cleverly defending from armbars and other precarious positions. Since then, the 31-year-old has only improved, as I have to imagine this last year spent training stateside has helped his already astounding trends.

The oddsmakers and public have both seemingly backed the challenger since the line opened, listing Ngannou -190 and Miocic +160 as of this writing.

Though making a champion of Miocic’s caliber an underdog can feel disrespectful on paper, I can see why both public and professional opinions are swaying toward Ngannou. He is a captivating talent who seems to shatter his potential ceiling each time out, and his speed and power edge feel extra palpable given where Miocic likes to make his hay.

RelatedStipe Miocic intimidated by Francis Ngannou? 'I guess so,' champ says

Still, the reminder of Miocic’s wrestling base will be the looming question that many will be waiting to see if Ngannou can answer.

Optimistically, I’d like to think that Miocic can and will dust off his takedown chops after utilizing the first couple of minutes to set things up. The problem, however, is will Miocic be able to keep Ngannou down?

Miocic has never been known as a controlling positional specialist on the mats, as he is more of an opportunistic ground-and-pounder who floats and rides in a conservative but intelligent fashion. And considering that the champion has yet to demonstrate the submission skills to threaten escape routes or set traps in transit, then Ngannous’ getup game of underhooks and athleticism will likely have a lot of play.

For that reason, I believe that establishing half-guard will make the difference between winning and losing for Miocic.

Not only is half-guard a notorious offensive position for wrestlers in MMA (ala Randy Couture), but it is also one the best places to be if you are trying to stop a scramble/slow the fight. Against palpable striking threats like Mark Hunt and the late Shane del Rosario, we would see Miocic go to his half-guard game repeatedly.

Securing a far-side underhook with immediacy, Miocic was able to halt his opponent’s momentum and underhook attempts. From there, Miocic was free to punish his opposition with short elbows that allowed him to do damage without creating big enough spaces for scrambles and escapes to ensue. That said, I am not sure things will progress that far.

Pressure is what makes Miocic’s game work, but it is also what exposes him to harsh weather. Furthermore, Miocic’s common culprit standing has traditionally been left-handed strikes – a specialty of Ngannou. Should the champion fail to punctuate exchanges or ground the challenger in the first, then I ultimately see Ngannou scoring the knockout come the second.

Official pick: Ngannou inside the distance


For more on UFC 220, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) fights Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports May 13, 2017; Dallas, TX, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves)celebrates after he defeats Junior Dos Santos (blue gloves) during UFC 211 at American Airlines Center. Mandatory Credit: Jerome Miron-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) competes against Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) greets Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) after their fight in UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports Sep 10, 2016; Cleveland, OH, USA; Stipe Miocic (red gloves) defeats Alistair Overeem (blue gloves) during UFC 203 at Quicken Loans Arena. Mandatory Credit: John David Mercer-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (red) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) exits the ring after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Stipe Miocic (blue) reacts after defeating Fabricio Werdum (not pictured) during UFC 198 Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/GvaJQaMVwy6DqVjCrq5HfK/296794", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stipe Miocic", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

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