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Does UFC have backup plan for Ferguson-Nurmagomedov? Not right now, Dana White says

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BOSTON – Despite three previously canceled bouts between Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov, there currently is no fighter on standby for the UFC 223 headliner.

“We haven’t really thought about that,” UFC President Dana White said today during a press conference for the fight, which takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. “I’m hoping the fourth time’s a charm, and this fight is going to happen. We’ll figure it out. We don’t have anything in place right now.”

White’s statement is a surprise given Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and Nurmagomedov’s history. The rivals were supposed to fight for the interim title this past March at UFC 209 until Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) was forced to withdraw due to a botched weight cut. Ferguson went on to beat Kevin Lee six months later at UFC 216 to claim the interim strap.

RelatedFerguson-Nurmagomedov will crown new UFC lightweight champ; McGregor status in limbo

Behind the scenes, the UFC has touted its ability to rebook canceled fights. Double main events, backup fights and fighters put on retainer in case of injury withdrawal were all cited as strategies to mitigate the impact of last-minute cancellations, according to investor documents for the promotion’s $4 billion sale in 2016.

Now, Ferguson and Nurmagomedov are fighting for the undisputed title, even though White refuses to publicly strip champ Conor McGregor of the belt. And yet, it appears the promotion is again gambling both will make it to UFC 223, which airs live on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

On two other occasions, the rivals have been forced to withdraw from scheduled non-title bouts, putting them on parallel paths as they climbed up the lightweight ranks. Of course, both rivals have given encouraging signs they’re on track for the current showdown. Nurmagomedov, in particular, went to the UFC’s Performance Institute to learn more about proper weight-cutting and made weight without issue for a bout against Edson Barboza this past month at UFC 219.

The other good news is there appears to be no shortage of participants willing to step up if one fighter is scrapped from April’s title fight.

“You’ve got a (145-pound) champion that will gladly take that spot after March 3,” UFC featherweight champ Max Holloway interjected during today’s presser.

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

Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Khabib Nurmagomedov celebrates his victory over Pat Healy (not pictured) during their Lightweight bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Apr 19, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Rafael dos Anjos (red gloves) fights Khabib Nurmagomedov (blue gloves) in their lightweight fight during UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports Apr 19, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Rafael dos Anjos (red gloves) fights Khabib Nurmagomedov (blue gloves) in their lightweight fight during UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports Apr 19, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Rafael dos Anjos (red gloves) fights Khabib Nurmagomedov (blue gloves) in their lightweight fight during UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2014; Orlando, FL, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov poses during a weigh-in for UFC on FOX 11 at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: David Manning-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Khabib Nurmagomedov celebrates his victory over Pat Healy (not pictured) during their Lightweight bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Khabib Nurmagomedov (right) kicks Pat Healy during their Lightweight bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Khabib Nurmagomedov (right) fights Pat Healy during their Lightweight bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports May 25, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov is taken down by Abel Trujillo during UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports May 25, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov reacts to his victory during UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports May 25, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov sits over Abel Trujillo at the end of round three during UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports May 25, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov strains to lift Abel Trujillo during UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports May 25, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov holds down Abel Trujillo during UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports May 25, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Khabib Nurmagomedov during UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports May 24, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) squares off with Abel Trujillo during the weight-in for UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports May 24, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) squares off with Abel Trujillo during the weight-in for UFC 160 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Bruce Fedyck-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov (left) hugs his trainer after defeating Gleison Tibau during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Khabib Nurmagomedov (right) hits Gleison Tibau in the face during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jan, 20 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; UFC lightweight Khabib Nurmagomedov celebrates after defeating Kamal Shalorus during a bout in the UFC on FX 1 event. Nurmagomedov beat Shalorus. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-USA TODAY Sports Jan, 20 2012; Nashville, TN, USA; UFC lightweight Kamal Shalorus boxes with Khabib Nurmagomedov during a bout in the UFC on FX 1 event. Nurmagomedov beat Shalorus. Mandatory Credit: Don McPeak-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) 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 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/Ykxp7fHPs9TUGBXLFRygQd/297553", customAnalytics: true, title: "Khabib Nurmagomedov", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

USADA hands Francisco Rivera four-year suspension

Former UFC bantamweight Francisco Rivera is the second fighter since the UFC formed its relationship with the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) to get a four-year suspension.

USADA today announced the news after Rivera’s (11-7 MMA, 4-6 UFC) case and subsequent suspension were reviewed by an independent arbitrator. Rivera tested positive for the banned substance clenbuterol during an out-of-competition urine sample collected on July 23, 2016.

More from USADA’s statement on Rivera’s situation:

After a thorough investigation into the circumstances of Rivera’s case, USADA concluded that the clenbuterol levels detected in his sample were inconsistent with what could be expected from meat contamination. Furthermore, Rivera was unable to provide independently verifiable evidence to support his claim that he had traveled to Northern Mexico and ingested meat in the days leading up to the relevant sample collection. Thereafter, Rivera opted to have his case submitted to a neutral arbitrator for resolution.

In advance of the arbitration hearing, USADA’s ongoing investigation revealed that several pieces of evidence presented by Rivera to USADA and the arbitrator had been falsified to support the athlete’s claims that the substance had originated from contaminated meat in Mexico.

Under the UFC Anti-Doping Policy, deceitful or obstructive conduct intended to avoid the detection or adjudication of an anti-doping policy violation may be regarded as aggravating circumstances, which can lead to an increased period of ineligibility. In this case, the independent arbitrator concluded that Rivera’s conduct warranted an increase from the standard two-year period of ineligibility for a first offense, to the maximum four-year period of ineligibility due to aggravating circumstances.

According to USADA, Rivera’s four-year ineligibility period began on Aug. 17, 2016. “Cisco” last competed at UFC 201 in July 2016 where he suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Erik Perez. He’s currently on a three-fight losing skid and will be almost 40 when his suspension is complete.

In December 2017, Rivera announced he was a free agent. Whether he will choose to accept fights in a region which does not adhere to USADA’s oversight remains to be seen.

For complete documentation on Rivera’s case, provided by USADA, click here.

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

Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) competes against Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Francisco Rivera (red gloves) reacts after being defeated by Erik Perez (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-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/UAqbZrZQHjfY6hUY2WM7hP/297549", customAnalytics: true, title: "Perez def. Rivera, UFC 201", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Video: Watch the first Bellator heavyweight grand prix face-offs

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LOS ANGELES – The Bellator MMA World Grand Prix 2018 gets underway Saturday night, with Quinton Jackson taking on Chael Sonnen in an opening-round bout at Bellator 192.

“Rampage” and Sonnen have engaged in a few staredowns in the build-up to their headliner at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., which airs on Paramount (formerly Spike) following prelims streamed on MMAjunkie.

RelatedCheck out Bellator grand prix trailer No. 2, with roaring Matt Mitrione making a bold claim

The rest of the field came face to face today at the Sheraton Gateway host hotel in Los Angeles, with Matt Mitrione and Roy Nelson, Fedor Emelianenko and Frank Mir, and Ryan Bader and Muahmmed Lawal all squaring off.

You can check out the full highlights in the video above.

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

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UFC 220 ceremonial weigh-ins highlight: Daniel Cormier gets in close on Volkan Oezdemir

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BOSTON – UFC 220 ceremonial fighter weigh-ins took place today, and MMAjunkie was on the scene.

The weigh-ins took place at TD Garden in Boston. The same venue hosts Saturday’s event, which has a main card on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

In the co-main event, Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) meets Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the first defense of his second reign as light heavyweight champion.

Cormier has often said Oezdemir will be entering another level against him and repeated that sentiment after having to be restrained during their face-off.

“Sometimes you can go into a tournament, and you win matches you’re not supposed to, and you get just too deep,” Cormier told Joe Rogan. “Volkan Oezdemir is too deep. He gets his ass whipped tomorrow at the TD Garden arena and goes back to the undercard.”

You can check it out in the video above.

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

<p>Gleison Tibau</p> <p>Islam Makhachev</p> <p>Enrique Barzola</p> <p>Matt Bessette</p> <p>Julio Arce</p> <p>Dan Ige</p> <p>Alexandre Pantoja</p> <p>Dustin Ortiz</p> <p>Abdul Razak Alhassan</p> <p>Sabah Homasi</p> <p>Brandon Davis</p> <p>Kyle Bochniak</p> <p>Thomas Almeida</p> <p>Rob Font</p> <p>Francimar Barroso</p> <p>Gian Villante</p> <p>Shane Burgos</p> <p>Calvin Kattar</p> <p>Volkan Oezdemir</p> <p>Daniel Cormier</p> <p>Francis Ngannou</p> <p>Stipe Miocic</p> 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/J4U9Lyef5Per8y63BmzajC/297544", customAnalytics: true, title: "UFC 220 Official Weigh-ins", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Who ya got?! Fighters predict Miocic-Ngannou, Cormier-Oezdemir title fights at UFC 220

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BOSTON – The UFC is back in Boston on another big weekend for the New England Patriots. But it’ll be a big night before that in the octagon Saturday, too.

In the UFC 220 main event, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) puts his title on the line against Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC). The co-feature is another title fight: Light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) meets Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) in the co-feature.

The oddsmakers have instilled Miocic as an underdog, despite being the champ. And Cormier is a solid favorite. But who are the real experts – other fighters – picking in the two title tilts?

Check out the video above to get the predictions from their fellow fighters.

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

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

<p>Gleison Tibau</p> <p>Islam Makhachev</p> <p>Enrique Barzola</p> <p>Matt Bessette</p> <p>Julio Arce</p> <p>Dan Ige</p> <p>Alexandre Pantoja</p> <p>Dustin Ortiz</p> <p>Abdul Razak Alhassan</p> <p>Sabah Homasi</p> <p>Brandon Davis</p> <p>Kyle Bochniak</p> <p>Thomas Almeida</p> <p>Rob Font</p> <p>Francimar Barroso</p> <p>Gian Villante</p> <p>Shane Burgos</p> <p>Calvin Kattar</p> <p>Volkan Oezdemir</p> <p>Daniel Cormier</p> <p>Francis Ngannou</p> <p>Stipe Miocic</p> 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/J4U9Lyef5Per8y63BmzajC/297449", customAnalytics: true, title: "UFC 220 Official Weigh-ins", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start(); if(typeof(jQuery)=="function"){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)}; jwplayer('jwplayer_oHqgdmwP_RbnemIYZ_div').setup( {"playlist":"http:\/\/content.jwplatform.com\/feeds\/oHqgdmwP.json","ph":2} );

Rose Namajunas to defend title vs. Joanna Jedrzejczyk in rematch at UFC 223

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Joanna Jedrzejczyk will get a chance to win back the belt she lost two months ago with an immediate rematch against UFC women’s strawweight champ Rose Namajunas.

Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC) and Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) will serve as the co-headliner of UFC 223, which takes place April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. UFC 223’s main card airs live on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

BREAKING!! @RosenNamajunas vs. @JoannaMMA 2 is on for #UFC223!! pic.twitter.com/KX1aEL71ej

— UFC Europe (@UFCEurope) January 19, 2018

The UFC’s official European Twitter account made the news official just before UFC President Dana White announced it during a press conference for UFC 222 and UFC 223 in Boston.

The rematch had been widely reported from multiple outlets prior to the presser, but White confirmed the fight serves as the co-main event.

RelatedChamp Rose Namajunas expects Joanna Jedrzejczyk rematch, says mind games won't work again

Namajunas delivered a stunning upset at UFC 217 when she stopped Jedrzejczyk via first-round TKO. The loss denied Jedrzejczyk a sixth defense of the women’s strawweight title, which would have tied former women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey’s mark. Namajunas earned “Upset of the Year” honors for her work and silenced Jedrzejczyk after plenty of personal attacks in the event buildup.

Jedrzejczyk, who previously was undefeated as a professional, made no excuses for her loss and said she would be back better than ever. She’ll now have a chance to test that statement on a big stage.

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

Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) celebrates with the belt after defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (left) faces off with Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) fights Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) reacts after her fight against Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Nov 4, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Rose Namajunas (blue gloves) celebrates with the belt after defeating Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-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/PRfxKkNk5hxschbqceYpyk/297523", customAnalytics: true, title: "Namajunas def. Jedrzejczyk", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Ferguson-Nurmagomedov will crown new UFC lightweight champ; McGregor status in limbo

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BOSTON – Conor McGregor has not been stripped of his UFC lightweight title … yet.

But the next lightweight title fight, which will be between interim lightweight champion Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) and undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC), will be for the undisputed lightweight belt.

That belt currently is held by McGregor (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC). And presumably between today’s announcement and the Ferguson-Nurmagomedov headliner at UFC 223, McGregor no longer will be the UFC’s 155-pound champ.

UFC President Dana White made the announcement today at TD Garden in Boston to kick off a news conference promoting the upcoming UFC 222 and UFC 223 pay-per-views. The news conference preceded the ceremonial weigh-ins for Saturday’s UFC 220 pay-per-view.

Tony Ferguson and Khabib Nurmagomedov

But White told MMAjunkie that McGregor has not yet been stripped, that an announcement on his status will be forthcoming.

“I’ve been in this business a very long time,” White told MMAjunkie when asked for an update on McGregor’s status. “When you make an obscene amount of money like that, who knows if they’ll ever come back? And right now, the position we’re in, Conor’s saying, ‘Maybe I’ll come back in August. Maybe I’ll come back in September.’ Well, that’s almost two years. It’s not fair to the rest of the guys in the division.”

That response was near verbatim what he said on FS1’s UFC Fight Night 124 post-fight show earlier this week.

White put the shine back on Ferguson and Nurmagomedov after a follow-up, refusing to say outright that McGregor has been stripped or that he without question will be stripped.

“This fight is ridiculous, and after this fight happens, whenever Conor does decide to come back, I think it will be massive,” White said.

McGregor has yet to defend the 155-pound title he won in November 2016, opting in the time since then to focus on the birth of his first son, as well as a highly lucrative boxing match with Floyd Mayweather this past August. Since his time frame for a possible return to the UFC would put him at close to two years of MMA inactivity, White’s stance is the promotion is left with little choice but to strip him of his title – likely, anyway, since today’s news conference provided nothing definitive.

The new champion will come in the form of either Ferguson or Nurmagomedov, who will headline UFC 223 to determine the new champion. Should McGregor return not long after that winner is crowned, the inference from White is he’ll get first crack at winning back the title.

UFC 223 is set for April 7 at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. The main card will air on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

When McGregor won the lightweight title, he became the first fighter to hold belts in two weight classes at the same time in the UFC. He was the featherweight champ when he beat Eddie Alvarez in the UFC 205 main event to win the lightweight crown. But two weeks after that, the UFC stripped his 145-pound belt to leave him to focus on lightweight. That focus has yet to actually happen thanks to McGregor taking the Mayweather boxing match, instead.

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 at UFC 209 in March 2017. The fight for the then-vacant interim title fell apart on weigh-in day when Nurmagomedov was hospitalized after a failed weight cut.

Ferguson subsequently beat Kevin Lee for the interim 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.

UFC 220 main-card breakdown: Three non-title bouts provide close matchups

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 rest of the main card.

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:

Calvin Kattar (17-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC)

Calvin Kattar.

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 29 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 72″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Andre Fili (Jul. 29, 2017)
  • Camp: Carlos Netto BJJ (Boston, MA)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA title
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu blue belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 8 first-round finishes
+ Good feints and footwork
^ Switches stances, changes levels
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Works well off left hand
+ Solid wrestling ability
^ Defensively and offensively
+ Shows serviceable grappling
^ Positional awareness and fundamentals
+ Active ground striker

Shane Burgos (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC)

Shane Burgos.

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’11” Age: 26 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 75″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Godofredo Castro (July 22, 2017)
  • Camp: Team Tiger Schulmann (New York)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Team Tiger Schulmann black belt
+ Amateur MMA accolades
+ 4 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 5 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent awareness inside of the pocket
^ Moves head well
+ Accurate shot selection
^ Favors left hook
+ Solid wrestling ability
+ Shows well-rounded ground game
^ Good fundamentals and positional awareness

Summary:

In a fun featherweight matchup, Calvin Kattar will square off with Shane Burgos.

Coming off of an impressive win over Andre Fili last summer, Kattar will now get a showcase spot in his home state of Massachusetts. Looking to crash the party is Burgos, an undefeated talent who is seeking his fourth straight win under the UFC banner.

Starting off on the feet, we have a battle between two skilled strikers.

Quietly crafting his skills on the regional scene for the last 11 years, Kattar enters with some fundamentally sound striking. Whether he is coming forward or sticking and moving, Kattar keeps his feet underneath him, occasionally shifting when he finds his groove.

Usually working behind a high standing guard, Kattar maintains solid shoulder and head position, protecting his chin from the majority of harsh weather coming his way.

Kattar also does well at diversifying his shot selection. From slipping offline to changing his level, he offers options to both the body and head. In this case, however, he may be better served in going to the legs of his opponent, who tends to operate out of a more boxing-centric stance.

Regardless of the offensive approach Kattar ends up taking, he will need to be careful in not letting his guard down for the counters that will likely come.

Burgos, a Team Tiger Schulmann product, shows more skills than perhaps his resume suggests. As mentioned above, Burgos will conduct business from more of a boxing-style stance.

Working behind solid fakes and feints, Burgos will typically come forward with almost an unnerving low-handed guard. And though it may seem questionable to most, there is a method to Burgos’ madness.

Possessing an excellent awareness inside of the pocket, Burgos will pressure his way forward persistently with the goal of drawing out his opponent’s offense. When fighters take this bait, their attacks usually act as flint lighters that fuel the firestorm that is Bugros’ layered counter-striking game.

Leaning heavily on his head movement, Burgos does a deceptively good job at keeping his eyes open and rolling with punches. Showing off his sharp triggers, the 5-year pro slips and rips with impunity, punctuating his presence with cleanup hitting left hooks.

Although hooking with a fellow hooker can be dangerous, I don’t suspect to see Burgos throw many kicks given Kattar’s knack for catching and countering them. And if this fight plays out as tightly as it reads on paper, then grappling efforts could play a role in deciding a victor.

Both men show the base, balance, and fundamentals that tell me that their wrestling is better than their resumes or style stereotypes represent.

Offensively, I believe that Kattar may be more likely to engage in grappling, as the 29-year-old displays a propensity for late-round takedowns. And once he hits the floor, Kattar shows a solid positional game that he uses to get off strikes whenever possible.

That said, taking down Burgos likely won’t be easy considering that defense seems to be his strong suit wrestling-wise. Whether he is sprawling in the open or defending from the fence, Burgos demonstrates an impressive awareness in small spaces, smartly using levers and frames to escape bad spots or reverse fortunes.

The oddsmakers and public both seem to agree that we have a competitive fight on our hands, listing Burgos -190 and Kattar +165.

Anyone who has followed these fighters’ careers knows this will likely come down to a tooth-and -ail effort from each party. Though I could see Kattar exercising a slightly deeper skill set to edge out close rounds, I ultimately believe that Burgos’ pressure and more layered ability to counter will make the difference, leaving the lasting impressions on a tight 29-28 scorecard.

Official pick: Burgos by decision

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Before he defends at UFC 220, relive Daniel Cormier's 10 most memorable moments

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Daniel Cormier got a late start in MMA. The former All-American and Olympic wrestler didn’t debut in the sport until he was 30.

Cormier has packed a lot into his eight years of fighting, including winning and defending the UFC light heavyweight title. Saturday, Cormier puts that belt on the line against Volkan Oezdemir in the UFC 220 co-main event.

During his MMA career, Cormier has experienced the highest of highs and the lowest of lows. He’s gone from fan favorite to someone who regularly hears boos during his octagon appearances. He won the title after a loss to then-champion Jon Jones after the UFC stripped Jones of the belt. He defended his title twice before losing to Jones this past July. He regained the championship in September when the UFC once again stripped Jones of the light heavyweight crown. Throughout those ups and downs, Cormier has remained true to his team at American Kickboxing Academy, and most importantly, to himself.

Before Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) and Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) meet at TD Garden in Boston, here are 10 of the most memorable moments of the light heavyweight champion’s fast-paced rise in the world of mixed martial arts.

10. Recovering from tragedy

Cormier was 24 when his 3-month-old daughter died in a car accident in Texas in June 2003.

The tragedy sent the former Oklahoma State wrestler into seclusion for a few weeks. When he returned to the mat in August, the former NCAA All-American won a gold medal at 96-kilograms for the U.S. at the Pan Am Games.

Less than a month after he captured that medal, Cormier visited Madison Square Garden with the goal of becoming a world champion. He made it to the quarterfinals before running into former world champ Alireza Heidari, who defeated Cormier 6-3. Heidari would go on to win the silver medal. Cormier placed fifth.

Cormier later represented the U.S. at the 2004 and 2008 Olympic games in wrestling.

9. Wasting no time

Cormier could not compete at the 2008 Olympics after he was forced to withdraw due to a horrific weight cut that left him hospitalized. Cormier returned to Oklahoma after that disappointment and was working for a television station when his friend, Muhammed Lawal, convinced him to give MMA a shot.

Cormier was not in the best shape when he began training at American Kickboxing Academy, but with just five weeks of gym work, he accepted his first professional bout against Gary Frazier at Strikeforce Challengers 3.

While Cormier was obviously a neophyte to the MMA game, he looked comfortable and confident on his way to a second-round TKO win.

Cormier was busy early in his career. He racked up seven fights during his first 15 months as a pro fighter.

8. Emerging from the pack

When Strikeforce announced its first heavyweight tournament, Cormier was part of “the field.” As such, if you dared to put some money on him before the tournament, you would have received odds of 35-1.

Cormier got his opportunity to join the grand prix when Strikeforce pulled Alistair Overeem from his semifinal bout against Antonio Silva. At the time, Cormier was 8-0. His most significant win was a unanimous decision over Jeff Monson.

Cormier earned an upset knockout victory over Silva in the first round.

In the final fight of the tournament, Cormier defeated former UFC heavyweight champion Josh Barnett by unanimous decision to become the grand prix winner. In the process of earning that title, Cormier staked his claim as a heavyweight contender.

7. His own toughest critic

Cormier made his UFC debut in April 2013 against former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir at UFC on FOX 7. When the fight ended, Cormier earned scores of 30-27 from each of the judges. He also extended his record to 12-0. Despite the win, Cormier was unhappy.

“I’ve had a very long athletic career, and I’ve competed at the highest levels of all my sports,” Cormier told MMAjunkie.com after the fight. “I always kind of laughed at (UFC President) Dana (White) when he said there were jitters and nerves that come with this.

“… But man, I was nervous. I felt so nervous. It’s almost like you want it so bad and you want to do so well, and then you just kind of lay an egg a little bit. I didn’t fight the fight I wanted to.”

Statistically, Cormier did well. He landed 61 percent of his significant strikes and 73 percent of his total strikes, but those numbers provided no solace. That’s a mark of a man who expects the best from himself; anything less will always be a disappointment.

6. And new …

Four months after Jon Jones defended the light heavyweight title with a unanimous decision win over Cormier, the UFC stripped the champ of the belt due to his involvement in a hit-and-run accident. With the title vacant, Cormier agreed to step in on short notice to face Anthony Johnson, who had been booked to face Jones at UFC 187.

Early in the first round, Johnson dropped Cormier with an overhand right. Cormier was able to recover, and he used his wrestling to wear Johnson down over the rest of the stanza.

Johnson’s energy reserves waned in the second round when Cormier used elbows to open a cut on the head of his grounded opponent.

Cormier was the fresher fighter in the third stanza. With 2:30 left in the round, Johnson’s corner could be heard shouting, “Don’t give up!” Shortly after that, Cormier took Johnson’s back and locked in a rear-naked choke that brought a tap from Johnson.

With teammates Cain Velasquez and Luke Rockhold looking on, Cormier was awarded the light heavyweight belt.

5. One for the ages

You could argue Cormier has been in three of the 10 best light heavyweight fights in UFC history. Cormier lost two of those historic bouts to Jones. He won the other matchup, earning a split-decision victory over Alexander Gustafsson at UFC 192.

The contest was Cormier’s first title defense. During the 25-minute war, Cormier learned the axiom that “It’s easier to win than defend” is not an empty phrase.

Cormier was effective with his wrestling and ground fighting in the first round, but for the remaining four rounds the two fighters mostly battled on their feet. Cormier did his best work in the clinch with short uppercuts while Gustafsson scored using his length and with a brutal knee that dropped Cormier to the mat in the third round.

“Thank you, Alexander Gustafsson,” Cormier said after the bloody and exhausting bout. “You made me a better man and fighter tonight. I will forever be indebted to you and your performance tonight. Alex, thank you.”

4. Throwing down

During his time with Strikeforce and the UFC, Cormier has landed 27 takedowns. That’s not surprising considering his background. What has been a little shocking is the ease with which he’s been able to ragdoll some of his opponents.

In the third round of his fight against Barnett, Cormier used strikes to set up a high-crotch takedown attempt. In deep on Barnett’s left leg, Cormier completed the maneuver with an impressive head-over-heels slam.

Against Dan Henderson at UFC 173, Cormier shot in on a single leg, adjusted his position and then lifted Henderson to his shoulder before he slammed the two-time Olympic wrestler to the mat.

In his title defense against Gustafsson, Cormier scored a single takedown, but it was an impressive one. Early in the first round, Cormier shot in on a high-crotch against the fence, the champion then spun his opponent toward the center of the octagon and launched him into the air, throwing Gustafsson head over heels to the mat.

3. Bitter rivalry

When UFC 214 came to an end, a frustrated, disoriented and heartbroken Cormier watched as UFC President Dana White wrapped the light heavyweight title around Jones’ waist.

After he reclaimed the title from Cormier with a third-round head kick knockout, Jones had only praise for his opponent.

“I want to take this time to thank Daniel Cormier for being my biggest rival and motivator,” Jones told UFC commentator Joe Rogan. “Daniel Cormier, guys, he has absolutely no reason to hang his head. He has been a model champion, a model husband, a model father, a teammate, leader, and I aspire to be more like that man because he is an amazing human being. Unfortunately, we’re opponents, but outside of that, he is a true champion for the rest of his life.”

With that it seemed like the bitter rivalry that began with a backstage conversation at UFC 121 when Jones told Cormier, “I bet you that I could take you down,” had been put to rest – something Cormier tearfully acknowledged during his brief interview with Rogan.

“I don’t know, man,” Cormier said. “I guess if he wins both fights, there is no rivalry. I don’t know.”

The UFC returned the belt to Cormier less than two months after UFC 214. Jones was stripped of the title after the California State Athletic Commission declared the fight a no-contest due to Jones failing an in-competition drug test after he weighed in for the matchup.

The United States Anti-Doping Agency will determine Jones’ future. Depending on the punishment, the Cormier vs. Jones rivalry could live to see another day.

2. Quick on the mic

Cormier has always been comfortable on the mic. Maybe it has something to do with him being a big professional wrestling fan. Maybe it’s his gregarious personality. Whatever the reason, Cormier has had his fair share of quotable moments in the octagon.

Here are some of the best.

“Jon Jones,” Cormier said after his UFC 173 win over Henderson. “You can’t run away from me forever. I’m the kind of the wrestling tournament that’s always in your bracket. No matter where you go, boy, I’m coming. You better hurry, because I’m always getting better.”

“Jon Jones, get your (expletive) together. I’m waiting for you,” Cormier said after he defeated Johnson at UFC 187.

“When he gets his academics in order he can come back to the classroom,” Cormier said while he looked at the suspended Jones, who was cageside for Cormier’s UFC 210 win over Johnson.

1. The raw emotion

Jones has been responsible for three of the most heartbreaking moments of Daniel Cormier’s career. For better or worse, we’ve been privy to each of those.

After Cormier lost a decision to Jones at UFC 182, the vanquished challenger was briefly consoled by Velasquez in a moment the UFC captured via Vine.

A second raw moment occurred when White informed Cormier that Jones had failed a drug test and was off the UFC 200 card. Cormier, the champion at the time, was despondent. The UFC cameras were there to capture him trying to process what White told him.

Most recently, after Jones knocked him out at UFC 214, Cormier stood in the octagon and wept while being interviewed by Rogan.

All three moments were incredibly raw and emotional, which Cormier discussed with former UFC fighter Mike Swick.

“If you’re not willing to cry for something that you failed to achieve, then it really didn’t matter all that much,” Cormier said. “I commit myself so completely to these goals that if I don’t accomplish them, it makes me sad and I get emotional.”

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/nSWP6AjXdehwFnqPirqHH5/297474", customAnalytics: true, title: "Daniel Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Alliance of necessity sends trio of New England fighters into battle together at UFC 220 in Boston

The way Tyson Chartier saw it, fighters in New England had a problem. He’d seen it in action, both during his own fighting days and when he transitioned into management.

“I think there’s a lot of talent here in New England,” Chartier told MMAjunkie. “But what happens is, they just kill each other before they can get anywhere, and they do it for pennies on these local shows.”

Take what happened with Rob Font and Calvin Kattar, for instance. Here were two fighters from Massachusetts, both climbing up the ranks on the New England MMA scene at around the same time, and local promoters saw the potential to match them up against each other.

But Chartier managed both fighters, and he knew they both had their sights set on the UFC. He also knew that both were suffering from a common problem in New England MMA: a lack of elite training partners who could prepare them for the competition at the next level.

“We were both going back and forth as No. 1 and 2 in the region, so of course we wanted to fight each other,” Font said. “Tyson talked us out of it, and at first we didn’t see it his way. We wanted to fight. But he was right. He explained that we could get more out of training together than we could from fighting each other on a local show.”

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Now Font (14-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) and Kattar (17-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) train together several times a week, along with UFC featherweight Kyle Bochniak. They all still officially represent different teams – Kattar comes from 617 Fight Sports, Font from New England MMA, and Bochniak (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) from Broadway Jiu-Jitsu – but they’ve formed a sort of informal alliance to help one another get the training and support they need.

At UFC 220 on Saturday, all three will get the chance to show their friends and families the fruits of that labor when the UFC visits Boston for the first time since 2016.

The hometown UFC event brings with it a different kind of pressure, but it helps that they’ve gotten the chance to prepare together with the same date in mind. According to Kattar, it also makes a difference to have other UFC fighters to work with – especially in New England, where many fighters cobble together their training from several different sources.

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“You can’t be afraid to get in the car to go get your work in here,” Kattar said. “It helps to have someone right there with you, but it’s also getting that work with someone else who is there in the UFC with you, who knows what it takes, and who understands what you’re going through trying to get ready for that.”

That’s something a lot of fighters in the New England scene were missing, according to Chartier.

“It’s not like (American Top Team) where they have 50 UFC fighters on the mats every day,” Chartier said. “The goal was, let’s get these high-level guys in the same room training together and let them make each other better.”

Chartier was able to forge this alliance thanks to his work as the manager for all three, but it took cooperation from all the individual coaches to make it work.

“The thing is, you just can’t have egos,” Chartier said. “Everybody has to be able to work together and communicate, since that’s what’s best for the fighter.”

Bringing home the right results will be crucial this time out, not only because all three will be fighting in front of their home crowds, but also because two of them – Font and Bochniak – are coming into UFC 220 off losses.

Kattar, the one fighter with a win in his last outing, is looking to extend his overall winning streak to 10 fights, but he’ll get arguably his toughest test yet against unbeaten featherweight Shane Burgos (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) on the main card at TD Garden.

Font faces bantamweight Thomas Almeida (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) on the opening bout of the pay-per-view portion, while Bochniak leads the trio against 145-pounder Brandon Davis (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC) on the FS1 prelims.

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The latter is a role that Bochniak embraces, he said, in part because he knows what it will mean to his new friends and teammates.

“I’m going to go out first, and I’m going to set the tone,” Bochniak said. “When I come back to the locker room, smiling with my hands raised, then they’ll see me and they’ll know.”

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

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar fights against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar moves in with a hit against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar moves in with a hit against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar moves in with a hit against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar moves in with a kick against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar defends against a kick by Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar moves in with a hit against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar moves in with a hit against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar defends against Andre Fili during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Calvin Kattar defends against a kick by Andre Fili 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/VTjfC9XexP2XXhTGKHsxb4/297428", customAnalytics: true, title: "Kattar def. Fili", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

USADA: Josh Barnett headed to arbitration on alleged anti-doping violation

Aug 31, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Josh Barnett reacts after beating Frank Mir (not pictured) during the UFC-164 bout at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports Aug 31, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Josh Barnett gets ready to fight during the UFC-164 bout at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports Aug 31, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Frank Mir (left) fights Josh Barnett during the UFC-164 bout at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports Aug 31, 2013; Milwaukee, WI, USA; Josh Barnett reacts after beating Frank Mir (not pictured) during the UFC-164 bout at BMO Harris Bradley Center. Mandatory Credit: Benny Sieu-USA TODAY Sports Dec 27, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Josh Barnett (left) and Travis Browne face off for their UFC Heavyweight Bout on December 28 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Josh Barnett during his UFC Heavyweight Bout against Travis Browne (not pictured) at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Browne won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Josh Barnett (red gloves) and Travis Browne (blue gloves) during their UFC Heavyweight Bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Browne won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Josh Barnett (red gloves) and Travis Browne (blue gloves) fight during their UFC heavyweight bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Dec 28, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Josh Barnett (red gloves) and Travis Browne (blue gloves) during their UFC Heavyweight Bout at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Browne won the fight. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Josh Barnett (black trunks) fights Ben Rothwell (white trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Josh Barnett (black trunks) fights Ben Rothwell (white trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Josh Barnett (black trunks) fights Ben Rothwell (white trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Sep 3, 2016; Hamburg, Germany; Josh Barnett (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Barclaycard Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 3, 2016; Hamburg, Germany; Josh Barnett (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Barclaycard Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Sep 3, 2016; Hamburg, Germany; Josh Barnett (blue gloves) after defeating Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Barclaycard Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-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/DzeuhbYU8BMkAgKPXRbZBe/297493", customAnalytics: true, title: "Josh Barnett", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

After vowing not to settle with the UFC anti-doping partner, Josh Barnett apparently has had a change of heart.

The U.S. Anti-Doping Agency (USADA) today informed MMAjunkie that the veteran heavyweight is headed to arbitration on his alleged anti-doping violation, breaking a stalemate that arose between the fighter and regulator during the results management process.

Barnett (35-8 MMA, 7-3 UFC) and his rep could not immediately be reached for comment.

In a recent interview with MMAjunkie, Barnett criticized USADA’s actions during his case and anticipated a four-year suspension after declining a settlement offer. The anti-doping agency had proposed an 18-month suspension for a failed out-of-competition drug test that tested positive for ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) that mimics anabolic agents and is banned year-round.

Barnett steadfastly denied taking ostarine – or any other performance-enhancer – and said USADA traced his positive test back to a tainted supplement containing tribulus terrestris, a legal herb purported to boost natural testosterone. Despite acknowledgement from the anti-doping agency that he didn’t knowingly take a banned substance, he was presented with a two-year suspension. After protesting, that offer was reduced to an 18-month term retroactive to his temporary suspension.

“They have a real insistence of trying to mete out punishment,” Barnett said of USADA. “Despite everything we’ve done and the initial process of dealing with them, they at some point turned a corner and became very stringent, hardcore, inflexible, and really, unwilling to continue on the same path they initiated. It seems they want to erect a stake and burn me at it.”

USADA declined to comment on Barnett’s interview, citing his pending case, but stressed that all UFC athletes have the right to go to arbitration under the promotion’s anti-doping policy.

Ostarine repeatedly has shown up in anti-doping cases involving UFC athletes. Fighters have had mixed results attempting to appeal the results. Most notably, UFC welterweight Tim Means received a reduced suspension when his drug-testing failure was tied to a tainted supplement. UFC women’s strawweight Amanda Ribas and Tom Lawlor both received two-year suspensions.

Barnett, the No. 9 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, initially said he didn’t want to go to arbitration. He said the costs and likely outcome were not worth going through the process. But he also said he didn’t want to retire from the sport. He wanted the anti-doping process to be more reasonable considering the circumstances surrounding his case.

“I’m not against the idea and the spirit of USADA, or what an independent drug testing program is for – not at all,” Barnett said. “I don’t have an issue with any of these things, and even though I took a supplement that was tainted, I’m OK with having to go through the process to test the supplements. I’m totally fine with that.

“The only thing I protest to is being hammered after the fact, after finding that I am innocent of any wrongdoing, and instead of moving on and considering the time spent researching and finding the data and appealing my case as enough – the extra efforts to come after me, that’s where I draw the line.”

Barnett’s history with anti-doping violations came into play during his his case. USADA factored into his potential punishment a 2009 drug failure that nixed a fight with Fedor Emelianenko under the now-defunct Afflication banner. Overall, Barnett has been flagged on four occasions for performance-enhancers.

Barnett was most recently seen in the octagon in September 2016, when he submitted ex-UFC champ Andrei Arlovski at UFC Fight Night 93.

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

John Kavanagh predicts Conor McGregor to KO Khabib Nurmagomedov in inevitable 2018 bout

John Kavanagh won’t reveal much about Conor McGregor’s future plans, but he does believe a matchup with Khabib Nurmagomedov is an inevitability for this year.

Nurmagomedov (25-0 MMA, 9-0 UFC) is currently scheduled to fight Tony Ferguson (23-3 MMA, 13-1 UFC) in UFC 223’s pay-per-view main event on April 7 Whether that fight is for Ferguson’s interim belt or an undisputed title (which would be stripped from McGregor) remains to be seen, but regardless, “The Notorious” will be in the thick of that conversation when he opts to compete again.

Kavanagh, who is McGregor’s (21-3 MMA, 9-1 UFC) longtime head coach at SBG Ireland in Dublin, has already predicted Nurmagomedov to beat Ferguson by decision at UFC 223, which takes place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y. That would move the unbeaten Russia into a showdown with McGregor.

RelatedJoe Rogan predicts Conor McGregor will be stripped of UFC lightweight title

Should a McGregor vs. Nurmagomedov fight happen, Kavanagh already think he knows how it unfolds, as he explained on a recent Q&A on the Wimp2Warriors Facebook page.

“I do think this is the immovable object and the unstoppable force,” Kavanagh said. “They’re on a path to meet each other. I’m of course watching everything that he does. In his last fight, I just think when you’re facing somebody with the type of stopping power Conor has in his hands, if you stand very much upright and just kind of walk toward somebody to get a body lock, that’s a risky strategy.

“(Edson) Barboza is a great kicker, but I think trying spinning kicks on somebody who can close the distance quick like Khabib – and has a body-lock heavy grappling game – maybe isn’t the best idea. But for somebody who can make them overextend themselves and has genuine knockout power – and we’ve seen Khabib be wobbled by Michael Johnson, for example.”

Because of what he’s seen out of “The Eagle” in the past, Kavanagh has a bold prediction for a potential showdown with McGregor.

“I find it hard to visualize anything else other than Conor knocking him out,” Kavanagh said. “We have to be ready because he’s shown he can walk through some shots and there will be those grappling exchanges, so we’ve got to be in incredible shape, in great shape. We’ve got to be ready for his chain wrestling and how he puts his takedowns together. But that’s a matchup as a fan I’d love to see. I think it’s an ultimate striker vs. grappler matchup.

“I think Conor’s striking, with his submission game as well, would cause problems. But long story short, within two rounds I think Conor would knock him out. I think it would be a little bit like the Eddie Alvarez fight, and he was stopped in the second.”

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

More details regarding McGregor’s future are expecting to be known sooner than later. Kavanagh is certain he wants to see a fight with Nurmagomedov, though, and said it’s on the hit-list for 2018. And considering the support McGregor brings from his Irish fanbase and what Nurmagomedov brings from Russia, the noted head coach said the matchup would bring the combat-sports world to a halt.

“I can’t see it not happening this year,” Kavanagh said. “And when it does and all the details are finalized, between the build up and the press conference and everything, it’s going to be an absolutely typical Conor McGregor fight, in that it stops the world. It will be incredible, and I really hope it happens.”

For more on UFC 223, 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/297454", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nurmagomedov def. Barboza", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Two fights, including Thiago Alves' return, added to UFC Fight Night 126 in Austin

Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Apr 8, 2017; Buffalo, NY, USA; Thiago Alves (red gloves) competes against Patrick Cote (blue gloves) during UFC 210 at KeyBank Center. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Hoffman-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Jim Miller (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Jim Miller (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Thiago Alves reacts before his fight against Carlos Condit during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 30, 2015; Goiania, GO, Brazil; Carlos Condit (red gloves) fights Thiago Alves (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Goiania 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/jTmsZX5wvus7SPwnTjWfFE/297480", customAnalytics: true, title: "Thiago Alves", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Longtime UFC welterweight standout Thiago Alves begged to get a fight after Hurricane Irma nixed his highly anticipated meeting against Mike Perry.

Alves (22-11 MMA, 14-8 UFC) got his wish and was ready to go, but a last-minute injury scrapped his return earlier this month at UFC Fight Night 124.

Alves will now meet promising newcomer Curtis Millender (14-3 MMA, 0-0 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 126, which takes place Feb. 18 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. The UFC recently made official a duo of bouts for the fight card, which also includes featherweights Humberto Bandenay (14-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) vs. Steven Peterson (16-6 MMA, 0-0 UFC).

UFC Fight Night 126 airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass, though the full fight card and bout order haven’t been finalized.

RelatedDonald 'Cowboy' Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros headlines UFC Fight Night 126 in Austin

Alves hopes to build on a win this past April over longtime veteran Patrick Cote, which snapped a two-fight skid. Millender got the call to sign with the UFC after his second consecutive head-kick knockout in a fight against Nick Barnes at LFA 30 earlier this month. He’s currently on a six-fight winning streak on the regional circuit.

Bandenay makes his UFC return after an impressive debut this past August at UFC Fight Night 114, where he knocked out Martin Bravo in 24 seconds with a knee. He was forced out of a follow-up at UFC Fight Night 121. LFA veteran Peterson arrives in the octagon after an unsuccessful turn at a Dana White’s Contender Series event, where he dropped a split decision to Benito Lopez. He rebounded this past month with a second-round TKO win over Dustin Winter at LFA 28.

The latest UFC Fight Night 126 card includes:

  • Donald Cerrone vs. Yancy Medeiros
  • Derrick Lewis vs. Marcin Tybura
  • Francisco Trinaldo vs. James Vick
  • Jessica Aguilar vs. Livia Renata Souza
  • Sage Northcutt vs. Thibault Gouti
  • Diego Ferreira vs. Jared Gordon
  • Brian Camozzi vs. Geoffrey Neal
  • Joby Sanchez vs. Roberto Sanchez
  • Sarah Moras vs. Lucie Pudilova
  • Ray Borg vs. Brandon Moreno
  • Humberto Bandenay vs. Steven Peterson
  • Thiago Alves vs. Curtis Millender

For more on UFC Fight Night 126, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Scott Coker wants Michael 'Venom' Page more active in MMA, expects April or May return

It’s been more than 14 months since unbeaten welterweight Michael Page entered the cage for an MMA fight. According to Bellator President Scott Coker, that’s far too long.

Page (12-0 MMA, 8-0 BMMA) last fought at Bellator 165 in November 2016, where he earned a split-decision win over Fernanda Gonzalez. He’s kept himself relevant through an ongoing feud with Paul Daley, and he also competed in an October boxing match, which he easily won by third-round TKO.

The flashy style of “Venom” has been noticeably absent from the Bellator cage. Coker said that’s going to change soon, though, and he expects Page to have his next Bellator fight in the first quarter of this year.

RelatedChaos erupts as Paul Daley goes after Michael Page cageside following Bellator 179 main event

“We’re expecting Michael to come back sometime in March or April,” Coker told reporters, including MMAjunkie, at Thursday’s Bellator 192 pre-fight news conference. “I think we’re scheduling right now. Either he’ll be fighting in the U.K. for us, or he might fight on the show in San Jose in May. I’d say April, May we’re going to have him back.”

After much lost time, Coker said it’s a priority to keep 30-year-old Page busy this year. He said the Brit is free to do more boxing in the future if that compels him, but Coker feels MMA needs to be first and foremost, and as long as Page can keep himself free of injury, the Bellator boss expects a big 2018 campaign from one of his most exciting fighters.

“We’re going to keep him busy,” Coker said. “I know he wants to box, which is fine for me. I have no problem with that, but he’s got to pick up his MMA fights because we’ve got to keep that guy busy. The guy is a big star, and he’s extremely talented, and I’d just like to see him fight in the cage more.”

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

Thanh Le, Bobby Moffett hope to unify with champ Kevin Aguilar after tonight's LFA 31 title headliner

LFA will crown an interim featherweight champion tonight when Thanh Le and Bobby Moffett clash for the gold in LFA 31’s headliner.

With champion Kevin Aguilar sidelined with an injury, LFA introduced an interim 145-pound belt. Top contenders Le (7-1) and Moffett (10-2) fight for it at tonight’s event, which takes place at Comerica Theatre in Phoenix and airs on AXS TV.

Although Le and Moffett both admit they would like to be fighting for the undisputed belt, they understand the reality of the situation. Aguilar (13-1) is unable to defend, and in Le’s mind this is the perfect solution.

“LFA, they wanted to put in the interim title so we could battle for it since Aguilar is sidelined,” Le told AXS TV Fights reporter Phoenix Carnevale. “Whenever (Aguilar) is healthy, the winner comes out of this fight and is going to be able to merge those two together and take the undisputed title. I’m excited for that.”

Moffett wants the undisputed LFA title, but he also said the right type of performance at LFA 31 could get him a UFC contract offer, as well. He also mentioned the possibility of Aguilar being signed to the UFC before a title-unification match can happen.

Nevertheless, Moffett said he’s focusing on the task at hand. Le has been beaten only once in professional competition, and “The Wolfman” wants to push that count to two.

“I’m fairly confident in how this fight’s going to go,” Moffett said. “I’m prepared for him to move around the entire time, or strike me. I’m prepared for him to do weird things. I just feel different. I’m a different person than who I was two years ago.

“I think he’s going to get hit a lot,” he continued. “I think he’s going to be surprised by my range. … I’ve been working a lot on using my range and my punches and I’m very confident.”

Le, a tactical striker, views the LFA 31 headliner as a game of inches. The 32-year-old has finished 100 percent of his career wins by stoppage, and he wants that trend to continue at Moffett’s expense.

“He’s a great competitor, strong fighter, strong skills on the ground,” Le said. “We’ll see who will be able to implement their game plan the best. … Obviously we think it’s going to go out way, so we’re excited for that to play out.”

For more on LFA 31, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

LFA 31 is live on AXS TV tonight at 9 p.m. ET (6 p.m. PT). Make sure to tweet along using #LFA31. AXS TV airs new, live fights almost every Friday night in 2018. Find AXS TV on your TV right here: www.axs.tv/fights.

UFC 220 staff picks: One of the two title fights in Boston is unanimous

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Miocic
vs.
Ngannou Cormier
vs.
Oezdemir Burgos
vs.
Kattar Barroso
vs.
Villante Almeida
vs.
Font MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2018: 1-2
Miocic
(62%)
Cormier
(77%)
Burgos
(68%)
Villante
(65%)
Almeida
(81%) Dan Tom
@DanTomMMA
2018: 3-0
Ngannou
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2018: 2-1
2017 Champion
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Barroso
Almeida Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2018: 2-1
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Steven Marrocco
@MMAjunkieSteven
2018: 2-1
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Barroso
Almeida John Morgan
@MMAjunkieJohn
2018: 128-88
Ngannou
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Matt Erickson
@MMAjunkieMatt
2018: 2-1
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Ken Hathaway
@kenshathaway
2018: 2-1
Ngannou
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Ben Fowlkes
@BenFowlkesMMA
2018: 1-2
2016 Champion
Ngannou
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2018: 1-2
2015 Champion
Ngannou
Cormier
Kattar
Villante
Almeida Mike Bohn
@MikeBohnMMA
2018: 1-2
2014 Champion
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida Fernanda Prates
@nandaprates_
2018: 1-2
Ngannou
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida George Garcia
@MMAjunkieGeorge
2018: 1-2
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Font Trent Reinsmith
@TrentReinsmith
2018: 1-2
Miocic
Cormier
Burgos
Barroso
Almeida Abbey Subhan
@kammakaze
2018: 1-2
Ngannou
Cormier
Burgos
Villante
Almeida

The UFC is back in Boston for a championship weekend in multiple sports. The promotion has two titles on the line the night before the Patriots try to get back to yet another Super Bowl, leading to a palpable buzz in “Beantown.”

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

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

In the main event, heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC) is in pursuit of UFC history against challenger Francis Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC). A win would give Miocic a company record three straight heavyweight title defense – yet he’s the underdog to the hard-hitting Ngannou. And for the second straight week to start the new year, our 14 MMAjunkie editors, writers, radio hosts and videographers are split right down the middle at 7-7 between the champ and challenger.

In the co-feature, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) meets upstart challenger Volkan Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC), who tore through his first three UFC opponents, all in 2017, to get a quick title shot. Cormier is a more than 3-1 favorite, and he is the only unanimous pick on the card with 14 of 14 taking him to win.

Also on the main card, Boston’s own Calvin Kattar (17-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) meets Shane Burgos (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) at featherweight, but it’s slight favorite Burgos with a giant 13-1 edge in the picks. Francimar Barroso (19-6 MMA, 4-3 UFC) meets Gian Villante (15-9 MMA, 5-6 UFC) at light heavyweight in a fight that sees the favored Villante with a big 11-3 picks lead.

And to open the main card on pay-per-view, Thomas Almeida (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC) takes on Boston’s Rob Font (14-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in a bantamweight bout. It’s a close fight from an odds perspective, but it’s near unanimous with our staff pickers at 13-1 for Brazil’s Almeida.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Miocic, Cormier, Burgos, Villante and Almeida are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

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

<p>Gleison Tibau</p> <p>Islam Makhachev</p> <p>Enrique Barzola</p> <p>Matt Bessette</p> <p>Julio Arce</p> <p>Dan Ige</p> <p>Alexandre Pantoja</p> <p>Dustin Ortiz</p> <p>Abdul Razak Alhassan</p> <p>Sabah Homasi</p> <p>Brandon Davis</p> <p>Kyle Bochniak</p> <p>Thomas Almeida</p> <p>Rob Font</p> <p>Francimar Barroso</p> <p>Gian Villante</p> <p>Shane Burgos</p> <p>Calvin Kattar</p> <p>Volkan Oezdemir</p> <p>Daniel Cormier</p> <p>Francis Ngannou</p> <p>Stipe Miocic</p> 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/J4U9Lyef5Per8y63BmzajC/297288", customAnalytics: true, title: "UFC 220 Official Weigh-ins", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start(); if(typeof(jQuery)=="function"){(function($){$.fn.fitVids=function(){}})(jQuery)}; jwplayer('jwplayer_5fLBgQH3_RbnemIYZ_div').setup( {"playlist":"http:\/\/content.jwplatform.com\/feeds\/5fLBgQH3.json","ph":2} );

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Matt Brown, Devon Brock and T.J. De Santis

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Matt Brown, Devon Brock and T.J. De Santis.

Veteran UFC welterweight Brown is coming out of retirement for a reported fight with Carlos Condit in April. Brock fights Khonry Gracie on Saturday at Bellator 192. De Santis, who does play-by-play for the Eddie Bravo Invitational and Invicta FC, is also a longtime host on the Sherdog Radio Network.

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

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

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

Bellator 192 live and official weigh-in results (noon ET)

LOS ANGELES – MMAjunkie is on scene and reporting live from today’s early and official Bellator 192 fighter weigh-ins, which kick off at noon ET (9 a.m. PT).

The early weigh-ins take place at Sheraton Gateway Hotel in Los Angeles and precede the ceremonial weigh-ins for the fans, which take place at 8 p.m. ET at the same venue.

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

Related5 reasons to watch Bellator 192, where the road to a heavyweight champion begins

Among those weighing in are headliners Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA), who meet in the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix. Welterweight champion Douglas Lima (29-6 MMA, 11-2 BMMA) and fellow co-headliner Rory MacDonald (19-4 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) also weigh in.

The full Bellator 192 weigh-in results include:

MAIN CARD (Paramount, 9 p.m. ET)

  • Quinton Jackson () vs. Chael Sonnen () – heavyweight grand prix opening round
  • Champ Douglas Lima (169) vs. Rory MacDonald () – for welterweight title
  • Michael Chandler () vs. Goiti Yamauchi ()
  • Shane Kruchten () vs. Aaron Pico ()
  • Henry Corrales (145.8) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (145)

PRELIMINARY CARD (MMAjunkie, 7 p.m. ET)

  • Khonry Gracie () vs. Devon Brock ()
  • Ian Butler () vs. Joey Davis ()
  • Bomba Vasconcelos () vs. Ivan Castillo (169.8)
  • Jose Campos () vs. Haim Gozali ()
  • Tommy Aaron () vs. Roosevelt Roberts ()
  • David Duran () vs. Kyle Estrada ()
  • Jean-Paul Le-Bosnoyani () vs. Isiah Culpepper ()
  • Johnny Cisneros () vs. Marlen Magee ()
  • Arthur Estrazulas () vs. Mike Segura ()
  • Noah Tillis () vs. Jalin Turner ()
  • Gabriel Green () vs. Chris Padilla ()
  • James Barnes () vs. Chad George ()
  • Cooper Gibson () vs. Andrew Lazo ()

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

Nov 16, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chael Sonnen (blue gloves) walks towards the cage before his light heavyweight bout during UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Mar 2, 2014; Avondale, AZ, USA; NASCAR Sprint Cup Series driver Jimmie Johnson greets UFC fighter Chael Sonnen prior to the The Profit on CNBC 500 at Phoenix International Raceway. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Nov 15, 2013; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen participates in the official weigh-in of UFC 167 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen celebrates his win over Shogun Rua (not shown) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen (right) celebrates his win over Shogun Rua (left) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen is congratulated after defeating Shogun Rua during a UFC Light Heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen, left, fights Shogun Rua during a UFC Light Heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen (top) fights Shogun Rua (bottom) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen (top) fights Shogun Rua (bottom) during a UFC light heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Aug 17, 2013; Boston, MA, USA; Chael Sonnen, bottom, fights Shogun Rua during a UFC Light Heavyweight match at the TD Garden. Sonnen won in one round by a knockout. Mandatory Credit: Winslow Townson-USA TODAY Sports Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Chael Sonnen during a press conference after UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Chael Sonnen (right) is interviewed by Joe Rogan after being weighed in for his light heavyweight title bout against Jon Jones (not pictured) at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Jon Jones (left) and Chael Sonnen face off after the weigh-in at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Chael Sonnen weighs in for his light heavyweight title bout against Jon Jones (not pictured) at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen reacts after losing to Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen in the ring prior to his fight against Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen reacts after losing to Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen (left) against Anderson Silva during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jul. 7, 2012; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Chael Sonnen in the ring prior to his fight against Anderson Silva (not pictured) during a middleweight bout in UFC 148 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-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/GuzbemZTMUQNSCBJTDq7Wk/297367", customAnalytics: true, title: "Chael Sonnen", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

10 reasons to watch UFC 220, where Stipe Miocic can do what no heavyweight has

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The UFC is in Boston on Saturday for UFC 220, and the promotion has brought the big boys to Beantown for the pay-per-view event.

The headlining bout is one of the most anticipated heavyweight bouts in recent history, and the matchup is rightfully getting its fair share of hype. Champion Stipe Miocic is poised to set the heavyweight record of three consecutive title defenses with a win. Standing in the way of that record is Francis Ngannou, a powerful puncher who has been training in MMA only since 2013.

In the co-main event, light-heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier attempts to defend his title and put some bad memories behind him when he meets Volkan Oezdemir, who earned his shot at UFC gold after three fights with the promotion.

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

Here are 10 reasons to watch the event.

1. There are questions

We know Ngannou has the power to put away anyone silly enough to give him the smallest opportunity to do so. We also know he’s shown progression each time he’s stepped into the octagon. However, the list of things we don’t know about Ngannou, the No. 2 fighter in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, is pretty lengthy.

We don’t know about his cardio. We don’t know about his wrestling. We don’t know how he handles adversity. We don’t know how he’s prepared for Miocic with such a short amount of time since his most recent fight. We do know about these things when it comes to Miocic (17-2 MMA, 11-2 UFC). We also know he’s faced tougher competition than Ngannou (11-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) has. However, we don’t know if No. 1-ranked Miocic is the man to put Ngannou to the test in the above categories.

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The possibility of getting answers to those questions makes this fight appealing. That and the fact these two men have each stopped their four most recent opponents in the first round.

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Cormier’s (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) top priority at UFC 220 is to retain his title against Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC). The No. 2-ranked 205-pound fighter’s other goal is to erase the memory of his UFC 214 loss to No. 1-ranked Jon Jones, who’s still dealing with a drug suspension.

“I feel like after the fight, there’s a stench, a stink on me from just a bad fight, a bad build-up, a bad result, a bad everything,” Cormier said at a recent press conference. “I have to right that by not only beating Volkan Oezdemir, but really dominating him and smashing him. I’m going to smash him on Jan. 20. That’s the only way I can feel better being the competitor that I am.”

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The Jones fight was later ruled a no-contest and the title returned to Cormier after Jones tested positive for the steroid Turinabol. But that doesn’t mean Cormier the competitor sees the result as anything but a loss.

Oezdemir, who is ranked No. 7 in the division, wants to become the only man other than Jones to defeat Cormier.

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The bout between Shane Burgos and Calvin Kattar is the lone featherweight contest on the main card. The victorious 145-pounders at the recent UFC Fight Night 124 event – Jeremy Stephens and Darren Elkins, who both won fight-night bonuses for their second-round stoppage victories – set the bar pretty high for the division in 2018.

This matchup between the Bronx-born Burgos (10-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) and Massachusetts-born Kattar (17-2 MMA, 1-0 UFC) has the potential to be another bonus winner for the featherweight weight class.

The unbeaten Burgos, who is a rankings honorable mention, is an entertaining fighter. He has powerful and quick counterstrikes and has knocked out three of his five most recent opponents. Burgos is also confident, bordering on cocky at times, and unafraid to enjoy himself in the cage. He looked excellent in dismantling Godofredo Pepey in his most recent bout.

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Kattar took his first UFC fight on two weeks’ notice while being in what he claimed was suboptimal shape. He overcame those impediments to post a unanimous-decision win over Andre Fili, which extended his winning streak to nine.

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Two light heavyweights who have had mixed results in the UFC, Gian Villante (15-9 MMA, 5-6 UFC) and Francimar Barroso (19-6 MMA, 4-3 UFC), meet on the PPV card.

The interesting thing about this matchup is how these two fight. Both throw potent strikes, but they target different body parts and compete at a different pace.

One could describe Villante as a headhunter. He also tends to up his output and get a little reckless when he gets hit or hurts his opponent. While that is a fan-friendly style, it has potentially cost him wins.

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Barroso sets a slower pace and tends to mix up his striking and his targets. Where Villante needs to reign in his aggression, Barroso needs to show more of a sense of urgency.

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It’s not hard to read into the booking between Thomas Almeida and Rob Font. The winner will continue to climb the bantamweight ladder, and the loser is likely to be relegated to gatekeeper status.

Both fighters were on lengthy winning streaks until 2016. Almeida (22-2 MMA, 5-2 UFC), who is currently ranked No. 13 in the division, was unbeaten in 21 fights until Cody Garbrandt knocked him out. Font (14-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) had won 11 straight before he lost a decision to John Lineker. Both are 1-1 since those defeats and coming off losses.

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This should be a high-energy fight. Font’s average fight time of 7:20 ranks him third all-time in the 135-pound division while Almeida’s 7:40 puts him in the No. 4 spot.

Style-wise this is a good matchup. Almeida is aggressive and flashy while Font is more of a tactician.

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The closing bout on the FS1 card pits Kyle Bochniak (7-2 MMA, 1-2 UFC) against Brandon Davis (8-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC). With the styles these featherweights employ, this pick’em matchup has the potential to be a fun fight.

Davis put on an entertaining scrap at the Dana White’s Contender Series 4 event, where he won a decision with a high-output striking attack. Davis was aggressive, confident and unafraid to jaw with his opponent during the bout.

Bochniak is coming off a disappointing performance against Jeremy Kennedy, who took down Bochniak eight times on his way to a decision win.

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If the welterweight matchup between Abdul Razak Alhassan and Sabah Homasi looks familiar, that’s because they fought at UFC 218. If the rematch is anything like the first contest, fans are in for a treat.

Alhassan (8-1 MMA, 2-1 UFC) and Homasi (11-7 MMA, 0-2 UFC) engaged in a spirited slugfest in Detroit that looked like it had the makings of a memorable fight. That changed at the 4:21 mark of Round 1 when Herb Dean waved things off after Alhassan dropped Homasi to the mat with strikes. As soon as Dean broke the fighters apart, Homasi protested. Replays seemed to indicate it was a premature stoppage.

The win gave Alhassan his eighth a first-round knockout victory. After the contest, the Ghanaian said he was up for a rematch.

“I wouldn’t mind fighting him again just to make sure I put him away next time,” Alhassan told MMAjunkie.

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Dustin Ortiz is not known for his power, but in his most recent bout, he set the UFC flyweight record for the fastest finish with a 15-second knockout of Hector Sandoval. His opponent in Boston, Alexandre Pantoja, is coming off a third-round submission win over Neil Seery.

Although he is ranked No. 14 at flyweight, Pantoja (18-2 MMA, 2-0 UFC) hasn’t been tested against top level competition outside of a 2010 loss to Jussier Formiga. He gets that test in No. 12-ranked Ortiz (17-7 MMA, 6-5 UFC).

Ortiz’s style should give a proper assessment of Pantoja’s skill set. If Pantoja can win this fight, he’ll show he’s ready for top-10 competition. If Ortiz is victorious, he’ll earn his first two-fight UFC winning streak since 2014.

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One could argue Enrique Barzola should be 4-0 in the UFC. His sole defeat was a split-decision loss to Kyle Bochniak that could have easily gone the other way. In his fifth fight for the promotion, Barzola faces Matt Bessette in a featherweight contest.

In his three UFC wins, Barzola has earned 22 takedowns, so it’s no secret where his strengths lie. The Peruvian has been working with American Top Team to shore up his striking game. He might test his development in that department against Bessette (22-7 MMA, 0-0 UFC), knowing he can quickly deploy his wrestling if he gets in trouble. In addition to his wrestling game, Barzola (13-3-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) sets a fast pace and has excellent cardio.

Bessette makes his UFC debut in his 30th pro fight. He was the reigning CES featherweight champion before signing with the UFC, and he has also fought with Bellator.

10. Solid opener

The UFC has a developing star on its hands in lightweight Islam Makhachev. The world champion in combat sambo is a teammate of Khabib Nurmagomedov. His only loss is a knockout to Adriano Martins in which Makhachev got a little too aggressive. Since then he’s won two fights by decision. His most recent win came against Nik Lentz.

Makhachev (14-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) faces UFC veteran Gleison Tibau in the opening fight of UFC 220. Tibau (33-12 MMA, 16-10 UFC) makes his return after a two-year suspension due to two failed USADA drug tests related to his UFC Fight Night 77 bout against Abel Trujillo. Tibau won that fight by submission, but it was later ruled a loss.

Makhachev is fantastic at takedowns. On the ground he has an incredibly heavy top game. He racked up nearly 12 minutes of control time against Lentz. The one criticism Makhachev faces is that he is not aggressive enough in going for finishes. But he does have some charisma (via Instagram):

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

<p>Gleison Tibau</p> <p>Islam Makhachev</p> <p>Enrique Barzola</p> <p>Matt Bessette</p> <p>Julio Arce</p> <p>Dan Ige</p> <p>Alexandre Pantoja</p> <p>Dustin Ortiz</p> <p>Abdul Razak Alhassan</p> <p>Sabah Homasi</p> <p>Brandon Davis</p> <p>Kyle Bochniak</p> <p>Thomas Almeida</p> <p>Rob Font</p> <p>Francimar Barroso</p> <p>Gian Villante</p> <p>Shane Burgos</p> <p>Calvin Kattar</p> <p>Volkan Oezdemir</p> <p>Daniel Cormier</p> <p>Francis Ngannou</p> <p>Stipe Miocic</p> 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/J4U9Lyef5Per8y63BmzajC/297381", customAnalytics: true, title: "UFC 220 Official Weigh-ins", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

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