MMA Junkie News

UFC's Amanda Ribas accepts two-year suspension for anti-doping violation

Women’s strawweight fighter Amanda Ribas will have to wait a long time to fight in the UFC.

Ribas (6-1 MMA, 0-0 UFC), 24, accepted a two-year suspension by UFC anti-doping partner USADA for a failed drug test conducted prior to her octagon debut, which was slated for The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale in May.

In a press release, USADA announced Ribas failed a out-of-competition test for ostarine, a selective androgen receptor modulator (SARM) that’s banned year-round. Her suspension is retroactive to June 7, 2017, the day her test was performed.

Ribas denied taking performance-enhancers after the UFC announced her potential anti-doping violation, which canceled her octagon debut against Juliana Lima (9-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) on July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

RelatedAmanda Ribas claims innocence after potential anti-doping violation, vows to be UFC champ

“I have been competing at a high level in judo and BJJ since I was very young,” Ribas told MMAjunkie. “Recently, I have achieved my dream of fighting in the UFC. I’m completely against any form of cheating in sports, as the use of PEDs. During my whole career I have never made use of any illegal substance, and I did not use anything now.

“I have no idea as to the origin of my positive test with USADA. I am working with USADA along with my managers and trainers to find out how this happened. I will prove my innocence. I will fight in the UFC and I will become UFC champ!”

Two UFC fighters previously have been suspended for ostarine. Middleweight Tom Lawlor (10-6 MMA, 6-5 UFC) received a two-year term after failing an out-of-competition test, and welterweight Tim Means (25-7-1 MMA, 8-4 UFC) received a six-month term after tracing the substance back to an over-the-counter supplement.

Ribas, a product of American Top Team, has won six of her seven pro bouts with three knockouts and two submissions.

For complete coverage of The Ultimate Fighter 25 Finale, check out the UFC Events section of the site.


Filed under: News, UFC

UFC 222 opening odds: Champ Max Holloway favored big against Frankie Edgar

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

It’s the story of Frankie Edgar’s career: Everybody underestimates him.

That isn’t about to change.

As MMAjunkie first reported and was later announced by the UFC, Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC) is set to challenge featherweight champion Max Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) in UFC 222’s pay-per-view main event, which takes place March 3 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

It’s a rebooking of a bout that originally was supposed to happen in December at UFC 218, but Edgar withdrew roughly four weeks out because of a broken orbital suffered during training camp. Holloway went on to defeat Jose Aldo by third-round TKO at UFC 218 in a rematch of their June title fight, which ended in the same manner.

In the grand scheme of things, veteran MMA oddsmaker Joey Oddessa sees this bout as a matchup of two underdogs.

RelatedUFC champ Max Holloway wants to 'make everyone believe the hype' with multiple title defenses in 2018

“People have been betting against both Edgar and Max their entire careers,” the told MMAjunkie, “and now they’re forced to pick between the two.”

While that might be true, Oddessa believes the choice is clear as the Oddessa Line has set Holloway at -300 and Edgar at +235, making the champion a sizeable favorite.

That means a winning $100 bet on Holloway would result in a net profit of $33.33 (with an implied win probability of 75 percent). A winning $100 bet on Edgar would come with a profit of $235 (win probability 30 percent).

It’s not hard to see why the odds are this way. Holloway, MMAjunkie’s “2017 Male Fighter of the Year,” is on a phenomenal 12-fight winning streak, just the fifth fighter in UFC history have a streak that long. He hasn’t lost since 2013, and he has the most overall wins and stoppage wins in UFC featherweight history at 14 and nine, respectively.

There’s also the fact that Holloway twice dominated Aldo last year to win the title and in his first defense. Aldo, of course, twice defeated Edgar by unanimous decision in title fights, most recently in July 2016 at UFC 200.

“Max has shined in the underdog roll and steamrolled recent opponents as a betting favorite,” Oddessa said. “He was a 3-to-1 favorite against two-time Edgar conqueror Jose Aldo. If Edgar doesn’t put the younger Holloway on his back and keep him there during the five rounds, it’s going to be a long night for him. People who lay the 3-to-1 on the champ should get the money.”

But then again …

“Frankie has been left for dead throughout his career,” Oddessa said, “and turned out to be maybe the biggest overachiever who is still active on the UFC roster.”

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

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Aaron Pico, Jordan Rinaldi, Curtis Millender, Ron Kruck


Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Bellator, News, UFC, Videos

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Aaron Pico, Jordan Rinaldi, Curtis Millender and Ron Kruck.

Pico meets Shane Kruchten on Jan. 20 at Bellator 192. Rinaldi fights Gregor Gillespie on Jan. 27 at UFC on FOX 27. Millender headlines LFA 30 on Friday against Nick Barnes, and Kruck serves as the play-by-play man on AXS TV.

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.

Filed under: AXS TV Fights, Bellator, News, UFC, Videos

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2596 with Jorge Masvidal, Michael Johnson

Stream or download Tuesday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with guests Jorge Masvidal and Michael Johnson.

Masvidal called into the program to talk about his fighting future, sharing his thoughts on Michael Bisping and more. Johnson, who faces Darren Elkins on Jan. 14th at UFC Fight Night 124, called into the show to talk about his upcoming matchup in a new weight class.

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


Filed under: News, Radio, UFC

After 7-year UFC run, retired Rafael Natal now taking on management role

Jul 22, 2017; Long Island, NY, USA; Rafael Natal (red gloves) fights Eryk Anders (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Nassau Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jul 22, 2017; Long Island, NY, USA; Rafael Natal (red gloves) fights Eryk Anders (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Nassau Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jul 22, 2017; Long Island, NY, USA; Rafael Natal (red gloves) fights Eryk Anders (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Nassau Coliseum. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Rafael Natal (red gloves) in his corner before his fight against Tim Boetsch (blue gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Tim Boetsch (blue gloves) fights Rafael Natal (red gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Tim Boetsch (blue gloves) fights Rafael Natal (red gloves) during UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Nov 12, 2016; New York, NY, USA; Tim Boetsch (blue gloves) hugs Rafael Natal (red gloves) after their fight in UFC 205 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Adam Hunger-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) competes against Rafael Natal (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) competes against Rafael Natal (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) competes against Rafael Natal (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Robert Whittaker (red gloves) greets Rafael Natal (blue gloves) after their fight during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Rafael Natal (white trunks) fights Kevin Casey (black trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Rafael Natal (white trunks) fights Kevin Casey (black trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Rafael Natal (white trunks) fights Kevin Casey (black trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Jan 30, 2016; Newark, NJ, USA; Rafael Natal (white trunks) fights Kevin Casey (black trunks) during UFC on Fox 18 at Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-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/CEhV7BbfFVXKVYTT6aQmBU/295341", customAnalytics: true, title: "Rafael Natal", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

When Rafael Natal announced his retirement as an MMA fighter, he said he’d remain involved with the sport in some capacity.

That capacity, it turns out, is management. After his own seven-year stint in the UFC, the former King of Combat champion has been announced as the president of Dominance MMA in Brazil, and the 35-year-old will now help his fellow Brazilian fighters build their own careers.

Dominance MMA CEO Ali Abdelaziz posted the news on Instagram, which “Sapo” re-posted, saying it “will be a way to give Brazilian fighters the support that they really deserve” (via Instagram):

Abdelaziz said he believes that Brazil holds “some of the best talent in the world” and that Natal, a native of Minas Gerais who lived in New York City for the better part of a decade, has a lot to contribute to his compatriots.

“He’s a great guy,” Abdelaziz told MMAjunkie. “He gave me the opportunity. And he’s very smart. He moved back to Brazil full time, and I want to give him an opportunity back. He speaks English. I want him to show a lot of Brazilian fighters about taxes, how to manage their money. He lived in America for eight years. He understands the system. I think it’s a great idea.”

Natal (21-9-1 MMA, 9-7-1 UFC) retired after 17 fights under the UFC banner. The Brazilian grappling ace announced he was hanging up his MMA gloves in October, on the heels of a three-fight skid. Despite his love for the sport, Natal said, the 15 years of dedication took a toll on him and, amid pleas from his loved ones, he thought it was time to retire.

“It was a long journey,” Natal said. “I love MMA. I love training, cutting weight. But I’ve had some surgeries on my retina, on my eye. I’ve focused on that 100 percent of my life, during these 15 years. It’s time to step back. My mom’s asked this from me for a long time. It was a hard decision, but it’s what we have. I think it was a smart one.”

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


Filed under: News, UFC

Interim flyweight title fight headlines 'ONE Championship 68: Global Superheroes'

An interim flyweight title will be up for grabs in this month’s “ONE Championship 68: Global Superheroes” main event.

Officials today announced the fight and rematch between ex-champion Kairat Akhmetov (21-1) and former title challenger Geje Eustaquio (9-6).

ONE Championship 69 takes place Jan. 26 at SM Mall of Asia Arena in Pasay, Manila, Philippines, and it streams as an online pay-per-view in North America following prelims on Facebook.

Eustaquio, a 28-year-old Filipino fighter, and Akhmetov, a 30-year-old Kazakhstan fighter, first met in September. Akhmetov, who lost his belt a fight prior to current champ Adriano Moraes in a title-eliminator, won the bout via narrow split decision.

Check out the highlights:

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In the co-headliner, Pongsiri Mitsatit (9-0) meets fellow strawweight contender Joshua Pacio (10-2).

The latest ONE Championship 68 card includes:

For more on ONE Championship 68, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.


Filed under: News

UFC champ Rose Namajunas remembers when her dog was her best friend

You could say UFC women’s strawweight champion Rose Namajunas has always been a dog person.

Before becoming the sport’s top 115-pound female fighter – and earning MMAjunkie’s “Female Fighter of the Year” and “Upset of the Year” honors for 2017 – Namajunas was often seen with her pooch, Mishka.

Before an April 2017 victory over Michelle Waterson (which earned her the right to fight – and ultimately dethrone – Joanna Jedrzejczyk), 25-year-old Milwaukee native Namajunas brought Mishka to open workouts.

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“We’re always going at it in the gym, so when we’re not training, we like to keep our mind off of the fight, and we like to not overthink things too much,” Namajunas said while discussing her beloved dog. “Mishka keeps it light, and she keeps it fun, just like my coaches do.”

In a new profile by the “Milwaukee Journal Sentinel” (via jsonline.com), Namajunas discusses her rough upbringing and how her four-legged friends were often her best ones.

From the story:

… Rose Namajunas, the UFC strawweight champion who grew up in a tough neighborhood in Milwaukee, witnessed violence far too often and has talked about being sexually abused. Her parents were Lithuanian immigrants and her father, a schizophrenic, died when she was 16.

“Yeah, I had my angry moments,” Namajunas said. “I wasn’t always the nicest person, either. I definitely have always been one for being to myself and trying not to let my negativity affect other people. I was kind of a loner growing up.

“A lot of times my best friend was my dog.”

The whole story is worth checking out. It explores her childhood and the reasons she turned to martial arts and how her biggest struggles were often mental, not physical. She also discusses how she’s now found some peace.

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

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

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) celebrates after beating Joanna Jedrzejczyk (red gloves) during UFC 217 at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Noah K. Murray-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Rose Namajunas (red) and Michelle Waterson (not pictured) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Rose Namajunas (Red Gloves) fights Michelle Waterson (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Rose Namajunas (Red Gloves) react to fight against Michelle Waterson (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Rose Namajunas (Red Gloves) react to fight against Michelle Waterson (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Rose Namajunas (Red Gloves) react to fight against Michelle Waterson (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Rose Namajunas (red gloves) competes against Karolina Kowaliewicz (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports Jul 30, 2016; Atlanta, GA, USA; Rose Namajunas (red gloves) competes against Karolina Kowaliewicz (blue gloves) during UFC 201 at Phillips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Butch Dill-USA TODAY Sports December 10, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Rose Namajunas pins Paige VanZant against the mat during UFC Fight Night at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports December 10, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Rose Namajunas applies a hold against Paige VanZant during UFC Fight Night at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports December 10, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Rose Namajunas celebrates her victory against Paige VanZant during UFC Fight Night at The Chelsea at the Cosmopolitan. 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/rNggmrWSQD86qukgYof4Vm/295332", customAnalytics: true, title: "Rose Namajunas", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Blue Corner, News, UFC

Best Bellator photos from November-December 2017: Globetrotting title fights

Nov 3, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Ilima Macfarlane (red gloves) reacts after defeating Emily Ducote (not pictured) during Bellator 186 at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-USA TODAY Sports Nov 3, 2017; University Park, PA, USA; Ryan Bader (red gloves) hugs Linton Vassell (blue gloves) following the competition of the match during Bellator 186 at Bryce Jordan Center. Mandatory Credit: Matthew O'Haren-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/AFn7yKZezjEPJNAKv2FdKn/295302", customAnalytics: true, title: "Best Bellator Photos of 2017: November-December", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Bellator continued to make noise in the MMA world in 2017, putting on a number of high-profile and notable events which captured the attention of fight fans more so than ever before.

Although it wasn’t its busiest years in terms of volume of events, Bellator put on arguably more big fights over the past 12 fights than any year prior. Now it’s time to relive some of those moments in picture form.

The flourishing organization closed out the year with a high volume of events. Six shows went down between November and December, including Bellator 186 in University Park, Pa.; Bellator 187 in Dublin; Bellator 188 in Israel; Bellator 189 in Thackerville, Okla.; Bellator 190 in Italy; and finally, Bellator 191 in England.

Naturally, the promotion had a photographer posted cageside for every bout at every event. However, USA TODAY Sports Images photographers Dave Mandel and Matthew O’Haren attended, as well. To see the best snapshots from Bellator’s November and December fight cards, check out the photo gallery above.

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


Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

MMAjunkie's '2017 Female Fighter of the Year': Fighting the good fight in and out of the cage

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

There’s rising to the occasion, and then there’s what Rose Namajunas did in 2017.

The year didn’t start off that auspiciously for Namajunas. In her last effort of 2016, “Thug Rose” saw the momentum she’d built with three consecutive wins go down the drain with a split call that went Karolina Kowalkiewicz’s way in a UFC 201 title eliminator.

Kowalkiewicz went on to get her shot at UFC glory in a UFC 205 meeting with long-reigning champ Joanna Jedrzejczyk (14-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC). Namajunas (7-3 MMA, 5-2 UFC), in turn, sat it out until April 2017, when a UFC on FOX 24 encounter with Michelle Waterson (14-6 MMA, 2-2 UFC) offered her a chance at recovery.

Much like what happened in her meeting with Paige VanZant, Namajunas wasn’t the one with the hype when she met Waterson – who was then fresh off her own win over VanZant. But again, none of it mattered when Namajunas secured a fight-ending choke.

Meanwhile, Jedrzejczyk continued on her path of destruction. After besting a game Kowalkiewicz en route to an unanimous decision, the then-champ defended the title for a fifth time with yet another dominant showing over the heavy-handed Jessica Andrade.

The dominant win over Waterson, aided by the unique state of the Jedrzejczyk-dominated 115-pound division, was enough to grant Namajunas her second stab at the belt. But the betting odds reflected a general sentiment that it was unlikely she would take it.

The habitually low-key Namajunas soon saw herself under the bright lights that accompany a title shot, but with an added component: Jedrzejczyk’s aggressive energy. Sure, having your skills diminished by your foe comes with the territory. But the pre-fight banter was taken to a new realm when Jedrzejczyk questioned Namajunas’ mental stability – a sensitive subject that, given Namajunas’ family history, hit a little too close to home.

Namajunas, however, took Jedrzejczyk’s best shots with poise. Rather than let her past fuel others against her, she owned it. She used her platform to openly talk about the demons that had haunted her life in hopes that they would help change the lives of others.

Then she walked into the cage at Madison Square Garden.

Beating a champion who had never been beaten before, with the odds overwhelmingly against her, would have been quite the accomplishment in itself. But Namajunas took it one step further: She stopped the surgical, vicious striker in the first round … with strikes.

We’d have been impressed enough already. But, overachiever that she is, Namajunas made sure to top it all off with her post-fight interviews. At a time when it’s the angry, expletive-filled tirades that seem to get people title shots, money fights and headlines, Namajunas made herself memorable simply by opting out of it all.

“Just with the rest of the world, I think there’s a lot of negativity everywhere you look,” Namajunas said. “It’s just negativity all the time. I’m just trying to be that positive light as much as possible. I’m not perfect, either. But maybe we’ll figure out how to make this world a better place.”

For what Namajunas did in the cage that night, she won MMAjunkie’s “2017 Upset of the Year.” But it’s for all that she brought with it that Namajunas gets Women’s Fighter of the Year.

Honorable mention: Cris Cyborg

Cris Cyborg

It’s frankly impossible to have discussions about women in MMA without listing Cris Cyborg. While she has been an unstoppable force both in and outside the cage for several years now, 2017 was the year in which we finally saw her claim and defend a UFC belt. And not just any belt: the one of a division created around her.

The UFC 219 title defense against former 135-pound champ Holly Holm (11-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC) may have been a little closer than many expected. But, rather than a demerit to either, that’s a testament to two things: Holm’s own skills and Cyborg’s (19-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) history of plowing through her competition.

Whether you’re on board with all of Cyborg’s outside-the-cage actions or not, fact is that the UFC’s 145-pound champion had to put up with a lot to get to where she is. Whether you like all of her demands or not, it’s absolutely admirable that she has both the guts – and, finally, the leverage – to make them.

In a world where compliance is still widely expected from women, Cyborg has been brave enough to stand up for herself, call her own shots and consistently make her voice heard.

Namajunas got the nod here because she shocked the world in 2017. But the fact Cyborg has looked so consistently impressive that we’re not even surprised anymore couldn’t go unnoticed.

Also see:

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/295083", customAnalytics: true, title: "Namajunas def. Jedrzejczyk", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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Volkan Oezdemir pleads not guilty in assault case, free for UFC 220

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) fights Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Volkan Oezdemir (blue gloves) defeats Ovince Saint Preux (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts before his both against Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) fights Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (right) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports May 28, 2017; Stockholm, Stockholms Lan, Sweden; Volkan Oezdemir (red gloves) reacts after defeating Misha Cirkunov (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ericsson Globe. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir moves in with a hit against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Volkan Oezdemir reacts following his knockout victory against Jimi Manuwa during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/HEBcogVsJo8qj8t4c4FpL7/295312", customAnalytics: true, title: "Volkan Oezdemir", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir today pleaded not guilty to a felony battery charge and requested a jury trial for allegedly knocking out a man at a bar last August.

Oezdemir (15-1 MMA, 3-0 UFC) was arraigned today in Broward County (Fla.) Seventeenth Judicial Circuit Court and entered his formal plea. His attorney, Bruce A. Zimet, told MMAjunkie the fighter will not miss his title shot against champ Daniel Cormier (19-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) at UFC 220, which takes place Jan. 20 at TD Garden in Boston.

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

Oezdemir posted a $10,000 bond following his arrest in November. He remained free after Zimet successfully reversed a request from the state prosecutor’s office to issue a no-bond arrest warrant.

Prior to his arraignment, Oezdemir’s assault charge was downgraded from an aggravated battery charge to felony battery, which carries a potential prison sentence of five years instead of 15 years.

MMAFighting.com initially reported the news of Oezdemir’s plea, which stems from an alleged fight at a bar in Fort Lauderdale, Fla. A bar patron, Kevin Cohen, claims Oezdemir knocked him out and sent him to the hospital with concussion symptoms and lacerations.

RelatedDaniel Cormier wants to erase Jon Jones 'stench' by smashing Volkan Oezdemir at UFC 220

At a previous court appearance, Zimet claimed Oezdemir was not the aggressor in the alleged incident.

Oezdemir, MMAjunkie’s 2017 “Breakout Fighter of the Year,” earned his title shot against Cormier after three straight wins to open his UFC tenure, including back-to-back quick knockouts. Cormier was re-crowned light heavyweight champ when Jon Jones failed a drug test for a steroid in their rematch at UFC 214, prompting the promotion to strip him of the title for a second time.

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

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

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Jimmy Smith’s move from Bellator set in motion John McCarthy’s return to color commentating. A chokehold also made an assist.

Two weeks ago, the veteran referee sent well wishes to Smith after news broke of the longtime commentator’s departure. One day later, McCarthy received a call to audition for Smith’s job.

“I thought about it, and it was like, yeah, that’s an opportunity that I would absolutely do,” McCarthy today told MMAjunkie after the Viacom-owned promotion announced his hiring for Bellator events this year.

Two days later, McCarthy flew to Los Angeles for what he thought was an audition. Bellator President Scott Coker described it as a “work session” with Mike Goldberg.

“We knew that he was someone we wanted,” Coker said. “So it was about coming in and working with Goldie.”

RelatedJohn McCarthy: Different rules across MMA commissions not fair to fighters, officials or fans

For McCarthy, it was the chance to work hand-in-hand with a group of people he’d long respected in the industry. His relationship with Coker stretches back to 2006, when Coker held his first MMA event in now-defunct Strikeforce.

“I’ve always respected Scott for being the person he is,” McCarthy said. “He’s super honest. He’s loyal. He is a martial artist. He understands the martial arts, and he understands the way a martial artist is going to look at something, and why. The fact that he’s the guy I’m working for, that had a huge part in why I took the job.”

There were other considerations, as well, besides the opportunity to work with a major promotion in a public-facing role. In July, McCarthy badly injured his neck while demonstrating a D’Arce choke, requiring two surgeries that kept him away from refereeing.

McCarthy, 55, didn’t want to be the guy who hung around longer than he needed to, especially if he couldn’t physically separate men or women in the cage. He jumped at the offer to commentate, a role he briefly flirted with in 2007 when he was hired to call an event in now-defunct Affliction MMA.

Related'Big' John McCarthy breaks down bizarre situation that led to Curtis Blaydes' TKO win at UFC 217

Strapping on the headset for the first time in over a decade for his Bellator audition, McCarthy said it was like starting over again. But he knew all of the fighters presented in the work session and remembered a few tricks from his brief time in the job, like using flashcards for information.

The more nuanced part of the job, knowing when to talk and when to hold his tongue, will probably be a work in progress.

“My job is to take the softballs that a Mauro Ranallo or Mike Goldberg are going to give me and polish it up so fans understand exactly why a guy is being successful and what he’s doing, and not take over the broadcast,” McCarthy said. “It’s absolutely a challenge. That’s part of the reason I took the job. I know it sounds egotistical, but truthfully, in MMA refereeing, where was my place to go? I’d been there, and I’d done it. I’d done the biggest fights, been part of incredible shows. What’s the only direction for me to go? The only direction is down.”

Related'Big' John McCarthy recalls MMA's best trash talkers, including the Diaz brothers and Conor McGregor

As the founder of COMMAND, an officials training school recognized by the Association of Boxing Commissions, McCarthy’s new job raised questions about a conflict of interest should he continue to referee or judge events. As it turns out, McCarthy doesn’t plan to step away from refereeing and officiating – he just doesn’t plan to work in MMA.

“This is me stepping away from officiating, because I have to give all my time and energy and everything I can give to get good to Bellator, and that’s what I’m going to do,” he said.

McCarthy’s stance is that he can continue to work as an official in boxing, because there is no crossover between the sports. He cites boxing officials employed in the blockbuster between UFC champ Conor McGregor and Floyd Mayweather as evidence of the separation. He also plans to continue teaching MMA judging and refereeing with COMMAND, though he plans to delegate more of his duties to his teaching staff.

“My job is still to educate fans and other officials,” McCarthy said. “I will absolutely be teaching courses every now and then, and putting out information that is correct and technique and mechanics that help other officials be successful at what they do.”

RelatedSit down, shut up, and let 'Big' John school you on the Mousasi-Weidman controversy

At Bellator 192 on Jan. 20 and Bellator 193 on Jan. 26, McCarthy will start his new job as a color commentator, joining a team which includes Chael Sonnen, Goldberg and Ranallo. On Jan. 27, McCarthy will serve as a judge for a boxing card.

“That’s part of combat sports,” McCarthy said. “That’s officiating, and I’m going to be a part of that still to this day, because there is no crossover. If you look at Mayweather vs. McGregor, there ain’t no crossover when it comes to boxing and MMA. And so that’s something that I will continue to do, because I love it. It gives me that opportunity to work for the commissions and be a part of something I really enjoy doing.

“As far as MMA, if you’re asking me if I’m going to be working the big fights for another promotion. No. They’re not going to want me. I am with Bellator. I don’t expect any other promotion to go, ‘You’re sticking John McCarthy with us – he works for Bellator.’ I wouldn’t do that to them. That’s just common sense.”

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

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Ray Borg plans to move on from Demetrious Johnson by beating all comers, earning another title shot

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

Ray Borg isn’t saying he would have won. But he’s saying the way he wouldn’t have went out the way he did.

A fifth-round armbar loss to UFC flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson (27-2-1 MMA, 15-1-1 UFC) at UFC 216 gave Borg plenty of opportunity to reflect on what happened. Much of it was positive.

“Winning that fight wouldn’t have taught me the same as a loss would have,” Borg (11-3 MMA, 5-3 UFC), who next faces Brandon Moreno (14-4 MMA, 3-1 UFC) at UFC Fight Night 126, told MMAjunkie Radio.

Still, Borg has to work not to beat himself up too much. He’s convinced that standing up with Johnson would have yielded better results. Maybe he wouldn’t have landed the fight-ending punch, but Johnson wouldn’t have had the chance to set up that magnificent armbar, which allowed the champ to break the record for most consecutive UFC title defenses at 11.

“I kick myself in the ass for it all the time,” Borg said. “I’m not saying I would have knocked him out, but the fight would have been so much different.”

In the wake of the loss, Borg’s manager called offering a matchup with Moreno, a promising up-and-comer who’d just been beaten by Sergio Pettis. It offered a good opportunity to rebound, but Borg didn’t need convincing.

“I’ve even told my manager, it’s professional to do that, but you don’t have to tell me,” he said. “You just have to tell me we’re fighting this guy on this date, and as long as you think it’s a good matchup, just tell me where to sign and I’m there. That’s the way I’ve always been.”

The two face off Feb. 18 at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas. UFC Fight Night 126’s main card airs live on FS1 following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

While Borg might be humbled by the genius of the current champ, he isn’t giving any ground to those working their way toward a title shot. His ultimate goal is to still win the UFC flyweight title. Sending Moreno down the ladder is just the first step on that road.

“Moreno’s a real scrappy kid, but he hasn’t put in what I have,” Borg said. “He hasn’t been where I’ve been in the sport, and I want to let him know that. He’s scrappy as hell, he’s tough, and he’s sneaky more than anything. But he’s young, too.

“People need to know that if anything’s going to shift gears in this division when D.J. gets beat, people need to know that I’m the next one – not Moreno, not Pettis. I’m the next one.

“If I’ve got to fight (Henry) Cejudo, Moreno, Pettis – any of those dudes – to let people know that, then I’ve never said no to a fight.”

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

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

Feb 6, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Justin Scoggins (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Feb 6, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Justin Scoggins (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Feb 6, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Justin Scoggins (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Feb 6, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Justin Scoggins (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Feb 6, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) rests after the fights against Justin Scoggins (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Geane Herrera (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Geane Herrera (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Geane Herrera (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) fights against Geane Herrera (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) reacts after defeating Geane Herrera (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Aug 8, 2015; Nashville, TN, USA; Ray Borg (red gloves) reacts after defeating Geane Herrera (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Bridgestone Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Lindsey-USA TODAY Sports Feb 14, 2015; Broomfield, CO, USA; Ray Borg celebrates his win over Chris Kelades (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at the 1stBANK Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jun 28, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Shane Howell (blue gloves) fights Ray Borg (red gloves) in a Flyweight bout at UFC Fight Night 43 at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Jun 28, 2014; San Antonio, TX, USA; Shane Howell (blue gloves) fights Ray Borg (red gloves) in a Flyweight bout at UFC Fight Night 43 at AT&T Center. Mandatory Credit: Troy Taormina-USA TODAY Sports Feb 14, 2015; Broomfield, CO, USA; Ray Borg (red) celebrates his win over Chris Kelades (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at the 1stBANK Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-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/SxYsRwaaXSTRGLDQ7cjGX8/295274", customAnalytics: true, title: "Ray Borg", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
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Fans invited to open workouts in St. Louis for UFC Fight Night 124

If you’re heading to St. Louis the UFC’s debut in “The Gateway to the West,” there’s a fight-week event you can attend for free.

UFC Fight Night 124 takes place Sunday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and is the promotion’s first trip to the city. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

In the main event, Jeremy Stephens (26-14 MMA, 13-13 UFC) takes on exciting young up-and-comer Dooho Choi (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in a featherweight bout. In the co-feature, Vitor Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC) fights Uriah Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) at middleweight in what could be Belfort’s retirement bout. In addition, Jessica-Rose Clark (8-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) takes on Paige VanZant (7-3 MMA, 4-2 UFC) in a women’s flyweight bout.

Prior to the event, fans can attend open workouts with six of the fighters from the main card.

On Friday at Scottrade Center, the fighters will work out and meet the media in 20-minute increments starting at 1 p.m. CT local time. Doors open to the public at 12:30 p.m. and will be followed by workouts by Hall, Choi, Clark, Belfort, VanZant and Stephens.

Of note, there are no ceremonial weigh-ins for fans on Saturday at UFC Fight Night 124 ahead of Sunday’s card.

The complete UFC Fight Night 124 card includes:

MAIN CARD (FS1, 10 p.m. ET)

  • Jeremy Stephens vs. Dooho Choi
  • Vitor Belfort vs. Uriah Hall
  • Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Paige VanZant
  • Emil Meek vs. Kamaru Usman

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

  • Darren Elkins vs. Michael Johnson
  • James Krause vs. Alex White
  • Matt Frevola vs. Marco Polo Reyes
  • Thiago Alves vs. Zak Cummings

PRELIMINARY CARD (UFC Fight Pass, 6 p.m. ET)

  • Jessica Eye vs. Kalindra Faria
  • Irene Aldana vs. Talita Bernardo
  • J.J. Aldrich vs. Danielle Taylor
  • Mads Burnell vs. Mike Santiago
  • Kyung Ho Kang vs. Guido Cannetti

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-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/BpgK5twjyCQoxBxDLo9WEZ/295283", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stephens def. Melendez", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: News, UFC

Best Bellator photos from September-October 2017: A blood-soaked Heather Hardy

Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Paul Daley vs Lorenz Larkin during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Goiti Yamaguchi (blue gloves) fights Adam Piccolotti (red gloves) during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Justin Linn vs Aaron Pico during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Patricky Pitbull (blue gloves) fights Benson Henderson (red gloves) during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 6, 2017; Thackerville, OK, USA; Leandro Higo (blue gloves) fights Joe Taimanglo (red gloves) during Bellator 184 at Winstar World Casino. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Oct 6, 2017; Thackerville, OK, USA; Leandro Higo (blue gloves) fights Joe Taimanglo (red gloves) during Bellator 184 at Winstar World Casino. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Oct 6, 2017; Thackerville, OK, USA; Emmanuel Sanchez (blue gloves) reacts after the fight against Daniel Straus (red gloves) during Bellator 184 at Winstar World Casino. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Oct 6, 2017; Thackerville, OK, USA; Darrion Caldwell (blue gloves) fights Eduardo Dantas (red gloves) during Bellator 184 at Winstar World Casino. Mandatory Credit: Kevin Jairaj-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Zak Bucia (blue gloves) fights Neiman Gracie (red gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Kristina Williams (blue gloves) fights Heather Hardy (red gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Kristina Williams (blue gloves) fights Heather Hardy (red gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Kristina Williams (blue gloves) fights Heather Hardy (red gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Alexander Shlemenko (blue gloves) fights Gegard Mousasi (red gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Alexander Shlemenko (blue gloves) fights Gegard Mousasi (red gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-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/uwGyJQzLigswv9N2357KXm/294998", customAnalytics: true, title: "Best Bellator Photos of 2017: September-October", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Bellator continued to make noise in the MMA world in 2017, putting on a number of high-profile and notable events that captured the attention of fight fans more than ever before.

Although it wasn’t its busiest year in terms of volume of events, Bellator put on arguably more big fights over the past 12 fights than any year prior. Now it’s time to relive some of those moments in picture form.

The flourishing organization put on just three events between September and October of this past year. Bellator 183 took place in San Jose, Calif., followed by Bellator 184 in Thackerville, Okla. and Bellator 185 in Uncasville, Conn.

Naturally, the promotion had a photographer posted cageside for every bout at every event. However, USA TODAY Sports Images photographers Dave Mandel and Kevin Jairaj attended, as well. To see the best snapshots from Bellator’s September and October fight cards, check out the photo gallery above.

For more of Bellator’s best images from 2017:

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


Filed under: Bellator, News

UFC's Colby Covington causes 'no problem at all' with Brazilians at ATT, coach says

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Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Colby Covington’s drama at American Top Team has been greatly exaggerated, his longtime coach said Monday.

“He doesn’t have any problem with teammates or coaches, Brazilians, not Brazillians, Americans – he doesn’t have any problem with anyone here in the house,” ATT head coach Conan Silveira told MMAjunkie.

Covington (13-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC) drew the ire of thousands of Brazilians in attendance and a countless number of people on social media when he trashed their native country following a win over Demian Maia (25-8 MMA, 19-8 UFC) in October at UFC Fight Night 119.

RelatedWhy Brazilian manager Alex Davis is indifferent about Colby Covington's anti-Brazil sentiment

Among those incensed by the American’s comments were ATT veteran Antonio Silva and former ATT coach Ricardo Liborio. Former UFC heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum took things a step further and assaulted Covington with a boomerang in Australia following an encounter just days before UFC Fight Night 121.

While Silveira might not choose Covington’s tact outside the cage, he can’t fault his charge for using all necessary means to promote his career.

“I wouldn’t be a fighter that would go that path, but that’s me,” Silveira said. “What people should see is that 90 percent of fighters that criticize him want to do what he’s doing, want to get what he’s getting. Colby’s not only talking, but he’s doing. As much as people don’t like to recognize that, he’s trash-talking, but he’s fighting and winning and getting there.

“In the house, no problem at all. He’s a cool guy with everybody. Brazilian coaches or American coaches, it doesn’t matter. His opinion has to do with him. We’re not his parents here. We’re trainers.

RelatedRafael dos Anjos will wait for UFC title shot, spurns Colby Covington callout after UFC on FOX 26 win

“So I think people should see more of what he’s trying to do is just promote himself, and more people should see that, especially Brazilians. They like to fight on Instagram and Facebook – you guys are just feeding him. You just put more gas on the fire.”

Covington has done his share of fire-starting without the fans, of course. These days, his chief target is UFC welterweight champ Tyron Woodley (18-3-1 MMA, 8-2-1 UFC), whom he badgers constantly when not spoiling highly anticipated movies.

Now, the question is whether all of Covington’s trolling will lead to an ultimate opportunity.

“I can’t say, because I really don’t know when he’s going to get it,” Silveira said. “But he’s very close to getting a title shot and being a No. 1 contender. Whatever people can say about what he’s doing and the way he’s doing, it seems to me he’s getting what he’s looking for.”

RelatedJorge Masvidal on 'crazy' Colby Covington's antics: 'He's going to do whatever he wants'

Woodley and Covington once trained together at ATT’s flagship gym in South Florida, and Woodley owns an ATT affiliate in St. Louis. But the champ’s ties to the gym aren’t an issue for Silveira with a title on the line.

“It’s always difficult, but I do believe that we are well prepared for that situation,” Silveira said. “It’s not going to be the first time. Of course, we hate to see our guys going against each other, but we have to put things before we get our feelings involved with that. It’s not about preference. It’s not about who we like the most. It’s about the chance you have in life to make your dream come true.

“When you have two kids, and you send one kid to college, and you go to the other one and say, ‘No, you’re not going to go to college, because you’re brother already went. You don’t need to go.’ You can’t do that. Everybody deserves an opportunity to make the dream come true, and we’re not going to take that away from anybody.”

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

Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Colby Covington (blue gloves) reacts after his fight against Dong Hyun Kim (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Colby Covington (blue gloves) competes against Dong Hyun Kim (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Colby Covington (blue gloves) competes against Dong Hyun Kim (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Colby Covington (blue gloves) competes against Dong Hyun Kim (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Colby Covington (blue gloves) competes against Dong Hyun Kim (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 17, 2016; Sacramento, CA, USA; Bryan Barberena (red gloves) fights Colby Covington (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Golden 1 Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colby Covington (red gloves) competes against Max Griffen (blue gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colby Covington (red gloves) competes against Max Griffen (blue gloves) during UFC 202 at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Aug 20, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Colby Covington (red gloves) reacts after fight with Max Griffen (blue gloves) during UFC 202 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/7Cr2n9SntyGUmbRiMMjTme/295196", customAnalytics: true, title: "Colby Covington", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Veteran referee John McCarthy joins Bellator broadcast team as color commentator

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Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

MMA’s most famous referee soon will call the action inside the cage instead of officiating it.

Bellator today announced “Big” John McCarthy is joining the Viacom-owned promotion as a color commentator for its 2018 event schedule, which kicks off with Bellator 192 on Jan. 20 at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif.

The promotion also announced a contract extension for three-time UFC title challenger and Bellator fighter Chael Sonnen, whose move to the No. 2 MMA player included broadcast work.

“With the addition of ‘Big’ John to our broadcast team, we have put together the premier group of MMA commentators ahead of our Jan. 20 debut on the Paramount Network,” Bellator President Scott Coker stated. “With John and Chael providing analysis, you’re getting two people who have spent more time in the cage than they have spent with a headset on, and that will translate to a positive viewing experience for Bellator fans.”

McCarthy’s hiring comes two weeks after the departure of longtime Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith, who did not come to terms on a new contract offer with the promotion. Bellator scooped up Goldberg this past year after his departure from the UFC, and also added multi-sport vet Ranallo to the fold, employing a rotating cast beside the cage.

Without question the most experienced referee in MMA, McCarthy is best known for his work in the UFC, which goes all the way back to UFC 1. The third man in the cage for the majority of the industry leader’s big events, his refereeing – along with his borrowed catchphrase “Let’s get it on” – is part of MMA folklore.

Still one of the busiest officials in the business, McCarthy most recently oversaw a pivotal lightweight title eliminator between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Edson Barboza at UFC 219. McCarthy also conducts training seminars for officials throughout the U.S. and Canada and is considered a go-to source for aspiring referees and judges.

McCarthy indicated he will step away from his principal role in the sport, though he did not explicitly say he would retire from referee duties. A request for comment and clarification went unanswered.

“I first want to say how grateful I am for the opportunity I have been given to work with the incredible team Bellator has assembled,” McCarthy stated. “It is always so hard to leave something you love, but I have always wanted to step away based on my terms rather than someone else’s. My goals are to work as hard as I can to meet the expectations everyone will have for me and to hopefully someday exceed them.

“I cannot think of anyone I would rather be working with than Scott Coker. Scott has always been a person I admire because of his honesty, loyalty and love for the martial arts. I want to thank everyone from Bellator and Viacom for the trust you are bestowing upon me to keep the commentating of Bellator MMA at the highest levels of the sport.”

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


Filed under: Bellator, Featured, News

UFC Fight Night 124 main-event breakdown: A reluctant pick with Dooho Choi vs. Jeremy Stephens

MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 124’s main-card bouts. Today, we look at the main event.

UFC Fight Night 124 takes place Sunday at Scottrade Center in St. Louis and is the promotion’s first trip to the city. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Jeremy Stephens (26-14 MMA, 14-13 UFC)

Jeremy Stephens

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’9″ Age: 31 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 71″
  • Last fight: Decision win over Gilbert Melendez (Sept. 9, 2017)
  • Camp: Alliance MMA (San Diego, CA)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/muay Thai
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA titles
+ 17 KO victories
+ 2 submission wins
+ 13 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Solid feints and footwork
+ Heavy right hand
^ Overhands and uppercuts
+ Hard kicks and knees
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Strong hips and base
+ Improved submission defense
^ Good grip and hand-fighting
+/- Propensity to brawl

Dooho Choi (14-2 MMA, 3-1 UFC)

Dooho Choi

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’10” Age: 26 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 70″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Cub Swanson (Dec. 10, 2016)
  • Camp: Busan Team MAD (Korea)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ 11 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 8 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Deceptive hand and foot speed
+ Excellent footwork
^ Rarely out of position
+ Preternatural reactive instincts
^ Times and intercepts opposition
+ Solid sense of hips and base
^ Sprawls and floats effectively
+ Good transitional grappling
^ Chains submissions to getups
+/- Coming off of one-year layoff

Summary:

The main event in St. Louis features a featherweight slugfest between Jeremy Stephens and Dooho Choi.

A dogged warrior in every sense of the word, Stephens has long been a staple of the UFC, putting on “Fight of the Night”-worthy efforts throughout the past decade. Now, with his third main-event slot before him, Stephens will attempt to make good on this showcase opportunity by stifling the return of a potential star.

One of the brightest prospects to come out of Asia in some time, Choi has captured the imagination of many with his lethal stylings and unassuming swagger. Coming off of a yearlong layoff, the South Korean will look to bounce back from his lauded 2016 war with Cub Swanson.

RelatedA UFC free fight – highlighting the loser? Makes sense with Dooho Choi vs. Cub Swanson

Starting off on the feet, we have a compelling pairing of two pressure-fighters who seldom take a step backward.

Never shy to exchange, Stephens’ propensity to brawl has traditionally been something that he’s worn on his sleeve. And while fans and pundits may fuel that narrative even further, we have seen steady technical improvements from Stephens since his initial move to Alliance MMA.

Incorporating a healthy dose of feints into what has shown to be improved footwork, Stephens has added to the effectiveness of his pressuring approach. Mixing more kicks into his repertoire, Stephens will smartly work in assaults to both the body and legs of his opposition once establishing his range.

In his last bout, we saw Stephens immediately sway the momentum of the fight in his direction, attacking Gilbert Melendez’s legs with impunity from the opening bell. More importantly, we saw Stephens target Melendez’s lower leg extremities, a tactic that has been growing in popularity.

Targeting the tibial region of the leg is not only a painful attack that’s difficult to defend against, but it is also harder to counter off of given the flexibility of range that it allows for the attacker. Although these attacks may help Stephens mitigate some of his opponent’s offensive opportunities, sharp strikers who can counter have traditionally been the American’s common culprit.

RelatedPaul Felder joins Brendan Fitzgerald on call for Sunday's UFC Fight Night 124

Enter Choi.

A smirking assassin, Choi operates his overall game with preternatural instincts that can be downright spooky at times.

Despite staying close by conservative standards, Choi maintains a thinly measured distance from his foes, all while keeping his counters on a hair-trigger. Moving deceptively well, Choi carries his feet beneath him as he utilizes feints to draw out his opposition’s attacks.

Only needing but one or two bites to get a beat on his opponent’s timing, the South Korean will then accurately intercept his oncoming counterpart with everything from crosses, hooks and flying knees.

When able to impose his game, Choi can produce awe-inspiring highlights at the drop of a dime. But, as we saw in his fight with Swanson, Choi can also be susceptible to being on the receiving end when pressure is applied the other way.

And considering who is coming Choi’s way, it will be interesting to see what tactics the “The Korean Superboy” applies should his first line of offense fail to stop the durable and forward-moving Stephens.

I will also be intrigued to see how potential clinch exchanges play out between the two (assuming neither man immediately ices the other in the opening stanzas, of course).

Each fighter carries underrated wrestling chops to go with their deceptively strong hips and bases.

Stephens, who originally came up in Iowa, is no stranger to the integration of wrestling into his MMA game. Although he is often found playing defense in the clinch due to stylistic matchups, the 31-year-old is not opposed to getting offensive with knees or elbows if given the opportunity.

Stephens also has gotten better about using his offensive wrestling, occasionally going to his serviceable double-leg to stamp close rounds. These type of tactics will serve Stephens well on paper, but taking down his 26-year-old opponent is not likely something that will come easy.

A crafty operator inside of tight spaces, Choi has shown to be more than competent when fighting inside of the clinch. Whether he is throwing short uppercuts and knees to the body or debasing his opponents off of slick trips, Choi appears to be difficult to control.

Even when grounded, Choi’s powerful core translates into his transitional grappling game.

Seamlessly chaining his submissions and sweeps, it is not uncommon to see Choi attach a guard attack to a failed hip-bump sweep, or go from a guard attack to a getup. In fact, both fighters have solid getup games, which ultimately makes me feel that ground stanzas will remain short and sweet.

The oddsmakers and public seem to agree somewhat that this is a close matchup, listing Choi -170 and Stephens +150 as of this writing.

Considering that sharp, technical strikers have traditionally troubled Stephens, I can see why Choi is favored to win. Despite the subtle upgrades to Stephens’ footwork and head movement, his style will still inherently give opportunities to Choi – the faster puncher who is just as potent in regards to power.

However, if Stephens accompanies his forward pressure with feints and shows the ability to absorb Choi’s power early, then I suspect he will be the better-equipped fighter to win rounds as the fight wears on.

Stephens is a proven product when it comes to maintaining his cardio and output throughout a three or five-round affair. Furthermore, Stephens has demonstrated the durability both physically and mentally to come back from adversity, something that is probably a requirement when facing a fighter like Choi.

Don’t get me wrong: I feel that the South Korean is the deserved favorite, and I would not be surprised to see Choi crack the iron chin of Stephens with accurate and accumulative shots. But if Choi fails to find fight-changing success in the first two rounds, then I feel that the dynamic of this battle will steadily start to shift.

For that reason, I will reluctantly side with Stephens to survive the early stanzas and take Choi into deep waters, possibly earning an attritive stoppage late into the fight.

Official pick: Stephens by decision

For more on UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-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/BpgK5twjyCQoxBxDLo9WEZ/295234", customAnalytics: true, title: "Stephens def. Melendez", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();
Filed under: Featured, News, UFC

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Jorge Masvidal and Michael Johnson

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Jorge Masvidal and Michael Johnson.

UFC welterweight contender Masvidal is angling for a fight with Michael Bisping or Neil Magny. Johnson meets featherweight Darren Elkins on Sunday at UFC Fight Night 124.

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.

Filed under: News, UFC

Stream or download MMAjunkie Radio #2595 with Ray Borg

Stream or download Monday’s episode of MMAjunkie Radio with UFC flyweight contender Ray Borg.

Guest: Ray Borg stopped by to talk about his upcoming fight on Feb. 18 vs. Brandon Moreno at UFC Fight Night 124 and also opened up about the loss he took in his previous fight vs. champion Demetrious Johnson at UFC 216.


Filed under: News, Radio, UFC

Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher among Orlando's UFC on FOX 28 additions

July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling applies a hold against Renan Barao during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling lands a hit against Renan Barao during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling lands a hit against Renan Barao during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling lands a hit against Renan Barao during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Renan Barao defends against Aljamain Sterling during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Renan Barao lands a hit against Aljamain Sterling during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling lands hits against Renan Barao during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling applies a hold against Renan Barao during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Renan Barao lands a hit against Aljamain Sterling during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Aljamain Sterling and Renan Barao hug following their match 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/tJNCjtAJyBfRwEeEq9ktBZ/295245", customAnalytics: true, title: "Sterling def. Barao", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Some new matchups are set for next month’s UFC on FOX 28 lineup.

They include former bantamweight champion Renan Barao (34-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) vs. Brian Kelleher (18-8 MMA, 2-1 UFC) and light heavyweights Sam Alvey (31-10 MMA, 8-5 UFC) vs. Marcin Prachnio (13-2 MMA, 0-0 UFC), UFC officials announced via orlandosentinel.com.

UFC on FOX 28 takes place Feb. 24 at Amway Center in Orlando, Fla., and it airs on FS1 following prelims on UFC Fight Pass. However, the full fight card and bout order, including the main event, haven’t been announced.

RelatedMike Perry, Max Griffin announce UFC on FOX 28 matchup

Barao has fallen on hard times since being the sport’s top 135-pound fighter. After losing his title to T.J. Dillashaw in 2014, the 30-year-old Brazilian is now stuck in a 2-4 skid, which included a decision loss to Aljamain Sterling in his most recent bout, which came at 140 pounds on the recommendation of the California State Athletic Commission.

He now meets Kelleher, a 31-year-old former Ring of Combat champion who’s on an 8-1 run, which included a UFC-debut win over ranked Iuri Alcantara in a “Performance of the Night” effort. After a subsequent submission loss to Marlon Vera, he rebounded in his most recent outing with a TKO victory over Damian Stasiak that earned “Fight of the Night” honors.

Alvey, who’s an injury replacement for injured Jake Collier (11-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC), was on a 5-1 run and inching toward title contention before a recent lackluster decision loss to Ramazan Emeev after missing weight for the short-notice bout.

He meets Prachnio, a 29-year-old promotional newcomer. The Polish fighter and ONE Championship vet brings an eight-fight winning streak (with six knockouts) into his UFC debut.

The latest UFC on FOX 28 card now includes:

  • Sam Alvey vs. Marcin Prachnio
  • Olivier Aubin-Mercier vs. Gilbert Burns
  • Alan Jouban vs. Ben Saunders
  • Jessica Andrade vs. Tecia Torres
  • David Branch vs. Yoel Romero
  • Max Griffin vs. Mike Perry
  • Gadzhimurad Antigulov vs. Aleksandar Rakic
  • Yana Kunitskaya vs. Sara McMann
  • Renan Barao vs. Brian Kelleher

For more on UFC on FOX 28, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.


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