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Daily debate: CM Punk is favored over Floyd Mayweather, but should he be?

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Phil “CM Punk” Brooks is listed as the favorite over Floyd Mayweather if the two were to ever compete in an MMA bout. But should he be?

That was the question for MMAjunkie Radio’s new daily debate feature.

We polled MMAjunkie readers and MMAjunkie Radio listeners to see what they thought of former WWE superstar Punk (0-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC) being listed as the -300 favorite over the +230 underdog Mayweather (50-0 boxing).

They’re both inexperienced in MMA, with Punk having just one UFC fight on his resume to Mayweather’s zero, but “Money” is the best at boxing. That has to count for something, doesn’t it? Why isn’t that enough for Mayweather to be the favorite?

The voters weighed in, and it was a close call (via Twitter):

Today's @MMAjunkieRadio poll question: According to the current odds, CM Punk is the favorite over Floyd Mayweather in a potential MMA bout. Should he be?

— MMAjunkie (@MMAjunkie) February 15, 2018

Check out the video above as MMAjunkie Radio hosts “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom discuss the topic.

And for more on the upcoming UFC schedule, visit 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.

Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. reacts before his bout against Conor McGregor at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts with the audience before his bout against Floyd Mayweather Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor before fighting Floyd Mayweather Jr at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the first round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) and Conor McGregor (white trunks) box in the first round of their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during their boxing match at the at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. fights against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor fights against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor holds onto Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit against Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor lands a hit on Floyd Mayweather Jr. during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. lands a hit on Conor McGregor during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor moves in with a hit against Floyd Mayweather Jr. during the sixth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) celebrates after knocking out Conor McGregor (white trunks) during their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via 10th round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. reacts following his TKO victory against Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Referee Robert Byrd stops the fight between Floyd Mayweather Jr. and Conor McGregor in the tenth round at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Boxing referee Robert Byrd holds Conor McGregor after stopping the right in the tenth round against Floyd Mayweather Jr. in the tenth round during a boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (black trunks) reacts after knocking out Conor McGregor (not pictured) in their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via tenth round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor (left) and Floyd Mayweather Jr. (right) shake hands after their boxing match at T-Mobile Arena. Mayweather won via tenth round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Conor McGregor reacts following his loss in the tenth round by TKO to Floyd Mayweather Jr. at T-Mobile Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Aug 26, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Floyd Mayweather Jr. (left) embraces Conor McGregor following their boxing match at T-Mobile 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/HPw3CvabZ8Rz65P6nkwQP6/302995", customAnalytics: true, title: "Mayweather def. 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Matt Mitrione: Stipe Miocic still No. 1 heavyweight, no matter who wins Bellator tournament

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Don’t expect Matt Mitrione to get a swelled head about his position in the sport if he wins the Bellator Heavyweight World Grand Prix.

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) competes in the second tournament quarterfinal bout tonight at Bellator 194 when he rematches Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) in the Paramount-televised headliner at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., following prelims on MMAjunkie.

If Mitrione ends up winning the eight-man tournament, he would have gone through a group of names which could potentially include Nelson, Muhammad Lawal, Ryan Bader, Fedor Emelianenko, Frank Mir, and Chael Sonnen. Those are strong additions to an already solid career resume, but Mitrione isn’t getting overzealous about what it would all mean.

RelatedBellator 194 main-event breakdown: Can Roy Nelson upset tourney favorite Matt Mitrione?

Even if he goes through the strongest crop of opponents possible, Mitrione, No. 12 in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA heavyweight rankings, doesn’t believe he should be elevated to the top spot. He said that honor would still rightfully belong to UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic (18-2 MMA, 12-2 UFC).

“No, I do not (think winning the tournament makes me the top heavyweight),” Mitrione told MMAjunkie. “Stipe is the No. 1 guy in the world. I don’t think anybody can argue that at all.”

Mitrione was more than willing to heap praise on Miocic, who is the most successful heavyweight champion in UFC history. However, he said he would love the opportunity to fight against him one day, even if he knows it’s not realistic given the current MMA landscape.

“I think it would be really dope to have the chance to compete against him,” Mitrione said. “If the Ali Act ever got passed, I think that would be really dope. And I think it would be great for the fans. Then I find out, ‘Are you really that good or not?’

“I think it would be great to have – to get rid of individual promotions. You can’t compete against each other, and I think that’s kind of silly. The American League and the National League (in baseball) compete against each other. It happens all the time in every other sport, so why not this one? It doesn’t make sense.”

RelatedMatt Mitrione: Bellator grand prix pairing vs. Roy Nelson made no sense at first, but now it does

Cross promotional matchups seem off the table for the likes of Bellator and UFC, but by the time the tournament is complete, it’s entirely possible the heavyweight division looks different. Mitrione knows that, and it’s the primary reason he’s not trying to look too far ahead.

Mitrione suffered a first-round knockout loss to Nelson in a December 2012 bout under the UFC banner. He said “Big Country” is his largest threat among tournament participants, and while he won’t claim to be the top heavyweight in the world with a win at Bellator 194, Mitrione is willing to take the label as the best in Bellator.

“I look forward to proving to myself that I am the best heavyweight in Bellator,” Mitrione said. “Roy Nelson, he’s the next person, and he beat me. It would be foolish to say anybody else (is a tougher fight).”

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Sep 23, 2017; San Jose, CA, USA; Roy Nelson vs Javy Ayala during Bellator 183 at SAP Center. 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/ZfXvZvE4iXYD3vAXhjnrXa/302908", customAnalytics: true, title: "Nelson def. Ayala", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

If Patricky Freire can't get another Bellator title shot, he'll just keep winning

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Patricky Freire no doubt would love another lightweight title shot if he beats Derek Campos tonight at Bellator 194.

But absent that – a decision that isn’t likely to be made till well after current champion Brent Primus puts the title on the line against former champ Michael Chandler in an April rematch – “Pitbull” said he’s prepared to just keep racking up wins till he gets his next crack.

“(If I get a title shot), it’s OK,” Freire told MMAjunkie this week. “But I don’t know (what) Bellator (wants). I’m ready for anyone.”

Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) and Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) meet in the Bellator 194 co-main event tonight at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Freire had a shot at the lightweight title against Chandler in June 2016. The then-vacant belt was up for grabs in St. Louis – Chandler’s home turf. And the home favorite impressed with a first-round knockout.

Since then, “Pitbull” has rebounded with a pair of wins in 2017. He knocked out Josh Thomson in the second round at Bellator 172 a year ago this weekend. And in September, he took a split decision from former UFC and WEC lightweight champion Benson Henderson in what arguably was the biggest win of his career.

Tonight against Campos, he’ll be facing an opponent he already has a win over. In April 2014, he stopped Campos with a second-round TKO in Bellator’s Season 10 lightweight tournament semifinals.

This time around, he doesn’t think much will be different. He likens Campos to a fighter who loves the standup game, but not much else.

“Derek Campos hasn’t changed his game,” Freire said. “I’ve changed my game plan for takedowns, my jiu-jitsu is great – but I haven’t shown it to everyone. Maybe this fight is a good time to show my jiu-jitsu. I’ve changed my game for different styles – karate, I’ve trained taekwondo, I’ve trained more jiu-jitsu.

“Derek, if you look at his fights, all his fights he just does standup and strikes. I don’t want this. I want to win easy and go home with a clean face for my kids to play with me. That’s it.”

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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Video: Before Bellator 194, watch Patricky Freire's 2016 bout with Ryan Couture

Check out the victory that kicked off Bellator vet Patricky Freire’s current 4-1 run.

“Pitbull,” a perennial contender who will soon tie the record for most career Bellator fights, met Ryan Couture at Bellator 148 in January 2016. The fight didn’t last long as Freire emerged with a definitive victory.

Check out the full fight above.

RelatedStuck with undesired rematch, Bellator 194's Patricky Freire wants fans to demand his title shot

And catch Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) back in action on Friday, when he meets Derek Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) in Bellator 194’s co-headliner.

Bellator 194 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn., and airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The MMA Road Show with John Morgan No. 151 – Austin: Donald Cerrone, Yancy Medeiros, Israel Adesanya

Episode No. 151 of “The MMA Road Show with John Morgan” podcast is now available for streaming and download.

MMAjunkie lead staff reporter John Morgan hosts the show while traveling the world to cover the sport.

John Morgan is in his home state of Texas for UFC Fight Night 126, and he breaks down the card while bringing you his interviews with headliners Donald Cerrone and Yancy Medeiros. Additionally, Morgan gives a few thoughts on the fantastic event that was UFC 221 and shares his interview with budding star Israel Adesanya.

Listen below, or check it out on iTunes or at themmaroadshow.com. You can also subscribe via RSS.

Bellator 194 play-by-play, official results and live stream (6:30 p.m. ET)

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – MMAjunkie is on scene and reporting live from today’s Bellator 194 event, and you can join us for live play-by-play, official results and a live video stream beginning at 6:30 p.m. ET (3:30 p.m. PT).

The event takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. You can watch the prelims above beginning at 7 p.m. ET before the main card shifts to Paramount (formerly Spike) at 9 p.m. ET.

In the main event, Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) and Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) fight in the opening round of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix. In the co-main event, Derek Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) takes on former lightweight title challenger Patricky Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA). Plus, boxers Heather Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Ana Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) meet in an MMA bout before boxing each other later this year.

Follow along with live official results a 6:30 p.m. ET for the prelims and full play-by-play and official results for the main card at 9 p.m. ET.

You can also get behind-the-scenes coverage and other event notes from on-site reporter Matt Erickson (@MMAjunkieMatt) on Twitter.

Enjoy the fights, everyone.

* * * *

Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione

Round 1 –
Result:

Derek Campos vs. Patricky Freire

Round 1 –
Result:

Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton

Round 1 –
Result:

Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov

Round 1 –
Result:

Tywan Claxton vs. Jose Perez

Round 1 –
Result:

* * * *

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

  • Roy Nelson vs. Matt Mitrione
  • Derek Campos vs. Patricky Freire
  • Liam McGeary vs. Vadim Nemkov
  • Heather Hardy vs. Ana Julaton
  • Tywan Claxton vs. Jose Perez

PRELIMINARY CARD (MMAjunkie, 6:30 p.m. ET)

  • Ronie Arana Leon vs. Ross Richardson
  • Mike Kimbel vs. Geoffrey Then
  • Regivaldo Carvalho vs. Tom English
  • Walter Howard vs. Jarod Trice
  • Dean Hancock vs. Marcus Surin
  • Peter Nascimento vs. Kastriot Xhema
  • Pat Casey vs. Tyler Hamilton

For complete coverage of Bellator 194, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

An Arizona basketball rivalry game was going on ... then a wild Ryan Bader appeared

Chalk this one up as something you didn’t expect to see today.

Bellator light heavyweight champion Ryan Bader made a surprising appearance at Thursday’s Arizona State Sun Devils vs. Arizona Wildcats college basketball game, and he certainly seemed to be enjoying himself in the role of troll.

RelatedRyan Bader discusses fate of Bellator light heavyweight belt while he competes in grand prix

Bader (24-5 MMA, 2-0 BMMA), who attended Arizona State University and was an NCAA Division I All-American wrestler, attempted to help his home team get a win in the matchup of state rivals. “Darth” accompanied a pair of oversized Pikachu character (yes, Pikachu from Pokémon) with nothing more than his Bellator title wrapped around his waist to help rattle the opposing team during free throw attempts.

This was all part of the school’s famous “Curtain of Distraction,” and no further description is needed. Just see it for yourself (via Twitter):

What is happening at Arizona State … pic.twitter.com/RHQriACW4A

— ESPN (@espn) February 16, 2018

Bader’s next bout takes place May 12 at Bellator 199 when he meets Muhammed Lawal (21-6 MMA, 10-4 BMMA) in the quarterfinal round of the Bellator World Heavyweight Grand Prix.

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

Skidding into UFC-Austin headliner, 'Cowboy' Cerrone now the fighter he once criticized

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AUSTIN – Donald Cerrone enters UFC Fight Night 126 in the most precarious position of his career. But instead of hitting the panic button, “Cowboy” used his current three-fight losing skid as an opportunity for growth.

Over the years, Cerrone (31-10 MMA, 19-7 UFC) has built a reputation as a carefree, easy-going fighter who takes everything in stride. He’s in a turbulent spot going into Sunday’s welterweight headliner against Yancy Medeiros (15-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC), though, and he knew something needed to change.

Cerrone has been one of the UFC’s most successful fighters over the past seven years. Instead of trying to plow his way through tough times, though, he’s worked to find an honest solution. With it has come some surprising realizations.

“It’s funny, I used to always talk (expletive) when I’d sit in these chairs and be like, ‘I hear all the kids saying, ‘I’m in the best shape of my life. I can do the most sit-ups I’ve ever done,”” Cerrone told MMAjunkie. “And God dammit, here I am. I’m in the best shape of my life. I can do the most sit-ups I’ve ever done in my life. Mentally I’m the strongest I’ve ever (expletive) been. The fight’s already won in my mind before I even walk in there. We just did everything right. We sat down as a team, and we (expletive) made it happen.”

RelatedUFC Fight Night 126 pre-event facts: Despite skid, 'Cowboy' has legendary resume

UFC Fight Night 126 takes place at Frank Erwin Center in Austin. Cerrone vs. Medeiros headlines the FS1-televised card following early prelims streamed on UFC Fight Pass.

Losses are never an enjoyable experience, but Cerrone said he’s learned it’s not a situation worth dwelling on. He knows there are still many positives going into UFC Fight Night 126, but he admits he will only truly be able to enjoy those when he gets back on the winning side of things.

“I just found out a win on Sunday night ties me for the most wins in UFC history,” Cerrone said. “I’ve been here a while. Winning or losing is just – unfortunately losing sucks. Everyone wants to win. I wish I could go out and win every single one. My pay would be a hell of a lot better. But, man, when you lose, it just sucks. It kind of bangs the whole team. The crazy thing is, that next day the sun still rises. Birds still chirping. So you just put it behind you and kind of move on.

“It’s not like this is a must-win. This is a must-win for me because I’m tired of (expletive) losing, man. It has nothing to do with setting some record or getting back on track or proving anybody wrong. Just, it’s (expletive) time. Let’s go. I don’t give a (expletive) about keeping my job or making a statement to the guys in the upper weight class. Let’s just (expletive) go ‘Cowboy,’ just (expletive) pony up (expletive). That’s what this is about. It’s about me.”

RelatedUFC Fight Night 126 main-event breakdown: Ready for a 'Cowboy' vs. Yancy Medeiros gunfight?

In order to secure a win against Medeiros on Sunday, Cerrone said he had to find the perfect mix of comfort and discomfort for his training camp. He said he worked with a close-knit group of coaches and training partners, and for perhaps the first time ever, he actually studied film of both himself and his opponent.

At 34 and with 26 UFC fights under his belt, it wouldn’t come as a surprise if the traction on Cerrone’s tires had worn thin. He said he feels reinvigorated, though, and claims that should come as a worry for Medeiros.

“Man, the old WEC kicking-ass ‘Cowboy’ is back,” Cerrone said. “I feel it. I’m hungry again, and I love it. I’m looking for that feeling, and I can’t wait for it. I can’t wait to stand in that octagon, stand and see Yancy and think, ‘You poor son of a (expletive). You’re the one who drew bad.’ Then go out there and do it.”

Although three consecutive losses look troubling on paper, there are some holes, which can be poked in Cerrone’s current skid. He said he’s “not the guy to ever make excuses,” but his loss to Jorge Masvidal at UFC on FOX 23 came off a quick turnaround in a fight in which he took a lot of damage, his UFC 214 loss to Robbie Lawler was a debatable split decision, and then his TKO at the hands of Darren Till at UFC Fight Night 118 was because it “turns out he’s a real bad-ass (expletive) who hits pretty damn hard.”

RelatedWatch UFC-Austin headliner 'Cowboy' Cerrone take out Jim Miller with sick kick in 2014

It’s never possible to know exactly what happens when a fighter will step in the octagon, but Cerrone said he’s left no stone unturned ahead of UFC Fight Night 126. He compared his mentality to the multi-fight winning streaks he put together that turned him into a title contender in both the lightweight and welterweight divisions. Now he just has to execute.

“I’m a (expletive) winner,” Cerrone said. “My whole life I’ve been a winner. If (we) went out and had a rock-throwing competition, I’m going to try to (expletive) beat you. If we go play tennis, I’m going to try and win. It’s in my blood. (Expletive) losing sucks. It’s like the worst feeling. Everyone’s depressed. You try to hold your head up and tell your family it’s OK, but then it burns. It sucks. It’s time. Losing three in a row? What the (expletive) is that? No, that’s not me. I’m here to win.”

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

Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; against Donald Cerrone (red gloves) before his fight against Darren Till during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 21, 2017; Gdansk, Poland; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights against Darren Till (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ergo Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone lands a kick against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone and Robbie Lawler react following their match during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Donald Cerrone moves in with a hit against Robbie Lawler during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) competes against Jorge Masvidal (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) fights Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2016; Toronto, ON, CAN; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts to fight with Matt Brown (blue gloves) during UFC 206 at Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Patrick Cote (blue gloves) fights Donald Cerrone (red gloves) in a welterweight bout during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-USA TODAY Sports Jun 18, 2016; Ottawa, Ontario, Canada; Donald Cerrone (red gloves) reacts after his welterweight bout against Patrick Cote (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at TD Place Arena. Mandatory Credit: Marc DesRosiers-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/PVhrMETcnLxfjDpbGMSqL5/302947", customAnalytics: true, title: "Donald Cerrone", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Bellator 194 weigh-in highlights video, photos: Heather Hardy, Ana Julaton turn up the heat

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Bellator’s heavyweight tournament continues Friday night in Connecticut with a main event featuring 520 pounds of tough MMA veterans.

Tonight, the Bellator 194 fighters got face to face at the ceremonial weigh-ins before they meet in the cage. In the main event, Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) meetes Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) in a rematch. The winner will advance into the semifinals of the heavyweight grand prix.

RelatedBellator 194 official weigh-in results: Matt Mitrione (255), Roy Nelson (265) official for headliner (Updated)

Their face-off was serious, if not intense. But there were plenty of eyes on the women’s flyweight bout between boxers Heather Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Ana Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA).

The two had built some heat, anyway, but the circumstances around Hardy missing weight earlier in the day by a quarter-pound may have added a little fuel to the fire.

RelatedHeather Hardy, Mike Mazzulli explain their sides of odd weigh-in situation at Bellator 194

Check out the highlights from the main card from Friday’s ceremonial weigh-ins, which took place at Mohegan Sun in Uncasville, Conn. The Mohegan Sun Arena hosts Friday’s event, which has a main card on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

Check out the video above. Below, don’t miss our exclusive photo gallery from the event.

And for more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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UFC 221 medical suspensions: Yoel Romero, Luke Rockhold get six months each

The headliners from this past Saturday’s UFC 221 face a long layoff unless they can get cleared by doctors.

Both Yoel Romero (13-2 MMA, 9-1 UFC) and Luke Rockhold (16-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) received six-month medical suspensions issued by the Western Australia Combat Sports Commission, which were recently posted by mixedmartialarts.com.

Romero took home a knockout victory in the pay-per-view fight at Perth Arena in Perth, Australia, but he’ll need orthopedic clearance for his left middle finger to avoid a six-month term. Surprisingly, his suspension didn’t include any information about his leg, which his manager said was bruised to the bone.

Rockhold, meanwhile, can avoid a six-month term with clearance from a dentist.

In other notable suspensions, heavyweight Curtis Blaydes (10-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) is benched for six months following his decision over Mark Hunt (13-12-1 MMA, 8-6-1 UFC) in the co-main event. He needs doctor clearance for an injured left knee.

The full list of medical suspensions from UFC 221 includes:

  • Yoel Romero: suspended 180 days or until cleared by orthopedist for left middle finger; suspended a minimum of 30 days
  • Luke Rockhold: suspended 180 days or until cleared by dentist
  • Curtis Blaydes: suspended 180 days or until cleared by orthopedist for for left knee; suspended a minimum of 30 days
  • Mark Hunt: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for left ear laceration
    Tai Tuivasa: suspended mandatory 7 days
  • Cyril Asker: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for TKO
  • Jake Matthews: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for eyebrow laceration
  • Li Jingliang: suspended mandatory 7 days
  • Tyson Pedro: suspended mandatory 7 days
  • Saparbek Safarov: suspended 30 days with 21 days no contact for TKO
  • Dong Hyun Kim: suspended 180 days or until cleared by orthopedist for left proximal fibula fracture; suspended a minimum of 30 days
  • Damien Brown: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for right eyelid laceration
  • Israel Adesanya: suspended mandatory 7 days
  • Rob Wilkinson: suspended 180 days or until cleared by ear, nose, and throat or oral and maxillofacial doctor; suspended a minimum of 60 days with 45 days no contact
  • Alexander Volkanovski: suspended mandatory 7 days
  • Jeremy Kennedy: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for TKO
  • Jussier Formiga: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for scalp laceration
  • Ben Nguyen: suspended 45 days with 30 days no contact for TKO
  • Ross Pearson: suspended 45 days for dental evaluation
  • Mizuto Hirota: suspended 30 days with 21 days no contact
  • Jose Quinonez: suspended 180 days or until cleared by orthopedist for right foot
  • Teruto Ishihara: suspended mandatory 7 days
  • Luke Jumeau: suspended 180 days or until cleared by orthopedist for right hand and second metacarpal fracture
  • Daichi Abe: suspended 45 days due to hard bout

For complete coverage of UFC 221, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Tywan Claxton seeks more 'alpha male moments' ahead of Bellator 194

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Tywan Claxton is anxious to be known for more than just the flying knee knockout he scored in his pro debut. But at the same time, he wants everyone to realize more of the same is on the horizon.

“My thing is if I go out there and fight how I like to fight, then there’s going to be an explosive finish,” Claxton told MMAjunkie. “I’m always prepared to go out there and fight how I have to fight, whether it’s a flying knee or it’s a spinning elbow or it’s a head kick. It’s a hard body shot. No matter what it is, it’s going to be explosive and exciting. I’m not the type of guy to go out there and just lay on top of somebody.”

Claxton’s debuted in spectacular fashion, knocking out his Bellator 186 opponent with a first-round flying knee that quickly went viral. Now he returns to action at Friday’s Bellator 194 event at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Claxton (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) fights Jose Perez (0-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) on the Paramount-broadcast main card.

Related5 reasons to watch Bellator 194, with high-stakes rematches, boxer vs. boxer, and 'Air Claxton'

Claxton said he knows his opponent likes to throw hands, and that’s just fine with him. Despite boasting a successful collegiate wrestling background, Claxton says he’s well beyond any desire to rely on his roots.

“I like to wrestle, but even on the ground, I’m going to throw heat because nobody wants to see two guys humping each other for 15 minutes,” Claxton said. “It’s not exciting. It’s not what I’m in the sport for. I’m in the sport to really test myself and have those alpha male moments in the cage where you just stare at that guy, you both bite down, and you just trade. That’s what was instilled in me when I was at the Blackzilians, training with all those guys. It was like, ‘Look, man, we don’t lay down, and we don’t give up,’ so I kind of have that all-or-nothing attitude when I’m fighting.

“You’ll get what you get, but it won’t be boring. It may not be a flying knee. It might be a flying knee, but I’m an explosive fighter, so you’re going to get some, ‘ooh, ahh’ moments in the fight.”

It’s going to be tough to live up to his spectacular debut, but Claxton insists the result was certainly no fluke. He plans on proving that again on Friday night, so be prepared to witness something special.

“I’m going to knock him out,” Claxton said. “It’s going to come. It may not be a flying knee, it may be a flying knee, but I’m going to knock him out.”

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

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Bellator 194: The skills and thrills for the rest of the main card

The second leg of Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix takes place Friday with Bellator 194’s main event, which features former UFC fighters Matt Mitrione and Roy Nelson.

Although the headliner will draw eyes on its own, I feel there is a lot to like about the rest of the main card, which air on Paramount from Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Despite Bellator often being associated with its big-name acquisitions, the organization still does a great job of cultivating talent of its own. Below, are some examples of what I think this card has to offer.

Forging a contender in the co-main event

Bellator 194’s co-main event features a fun rematch between Patricky Freire and Derek Campos.

Patricky Freire and Derek Campos

Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA), a longtime staple of the organization, initially came onto the scene as a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt who preferred to bang it out on the feet. But after the seven years spent battling through Bellator’s lightweight ranks, he has steadily matured his skills as a fighter.

Working for years with Eric Albarracin, Freire has quietly made upgrades to his wrestling game, which in turn allows the 32-year-old to dictate the terms of action. Whether he’s sticking and moving, or stalking down his prey,  Freire’s accuracy is impeccable, and he hits with a surprisingly thudding force.

From his check-hooks to counter right-hands, Freire can find his shots in even the most desperate of times. Considering what happened in his previous contest with Campos, I suspect the Brazilian to be laying in wait here.

Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA), a veteran of the Bellator scene himself, has been slugging it out with anyone in the neighborhood of 155 pounds since joining the promotion in 2013. Now riding a four-fight winning streak since entering the organization, the 29-year-old seems to be riding high into Bellator 194.

Combining his bases of boxing and wrestling, Campos brings an explosive game to the table.

An athlete who stays loaded on the feet, Campos can close distance deceptively fast when he chooses to. Although he has a crushing left hook, Campos carries power in the both of his hands and does a well when variating his targets.

Historically, the common culprit for Campos has been his propensity to get into a brawl. However, in a recent interview with MMAjunkie, Campos addressed his past criticisms and cited a game plan he had in store for Freire.

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For me, that speaks to what this matchup is about: Who will finally mature as a fighter?

Both men have come up short in spotlight slots before, and neither is looking to revisit those days. With this bout likely determining the next contender for Bellator’s lightweight title, expect each fighter to come with his A-game.

Dark horse approaches at 205

In a fight that has me intrigued, Liam McGeary
will do battle with Vadim Nemkov.

Nemkov (8-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) is a prospect to keep an eye on going forward. A three-time national combat sambo champion, Nemkov is also most notably one of Fedor Emelianenko’s training partners.

Vadim Nemkov

A well-rounded talent who appears to have athletic potential to boot, Nemkov has the boxing ability get it done standing and transitional chops to finish things on the floor. Considering who the Russian fighter is facing, it will be interesting to see which path Nemkov takes.

McGeary (12-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA), has steadily made a name for himself in Bellator’s light heavyweight stable. A long-framed fighter with a filled out arsenal of offense on the feet, McGeary is most known for his slick submission abilities on the floor.

Whether he is hitting armbars or inverted triangles, the 35-year-old demonstrates an impressive command of his frame as he elevates his hips and utilizes leg dexterity brilliantly. And though his takedown defense has historically troubled him, McGeary has claimed to have addressed his wrestling deficiencies in the leadup to this fight.

If McGeary can more sternly dictate the terms of this matchup on Friday, then we could see him get back on track by sending a young gun back to the drawing board. But if Nemkov continues his uptrend in performances, then we could have another light heavyweight contender on our hands.

Possible saga with two crossover talents

Bellator 194’s main card also features a female attraction at flyweight between Heather Hardy and Ana Julaton.

Don’t let the records fool you: These ladies quietly carry more championship titles than most of their colleagues on the card.

Heather Hardy

Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) took the MMA world by surprise this past year at Bellator 180. A WBC titleholder in both the international featherweight and super bantamweight divisions, Hardy’s boxing was on full display.

Akin to a female Chris Lytle, Hardy is also a boxer who doesn’t mind winging her shots once finding her groove. Whether she is dipping, slipping or ripping, she has a knack for flowing with offense no matter the weather. That said, she is coming off of a crushing loss to Kristina Williams, a fighter who taxed Hardy for her boxing-centric head movement and tendencies.

Now, in her third professional MMA fight, Hardy is matched up with another deceptively experienced talent.

Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) has long been calling for a fight with Hardy, and the two have apparently been on each other’s radars since their days on the boxing circuit.

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However, Julaton has been a bit more active in the MMA world, accruing experience over in Asia at ONE Championship. Not only is Julaton a WBO and IBA super bantamweight world titleholder, but she also grew up surrounded by traditional martial arts like karate.

Typically fighting from a southpaw stance, Julaton is a versatile striker who can make hay from either side and is comfortable in all ranges. From well-placed punches to whipping kicks, Julaton offers offense that will keep Hardy honest. And with Julaton coming off a frustrating loss in her last time out, she will likely be looking to make up for it in spades here.

This fight also comes with the talks of a second installment that will take place in a boxing ring, an interesting caveat considering the current climate of our sport. For that reason, this fight will be quietly carrying some weight.

One-hit wonder or a future stunner?

In a fun featherweight opener, Tywan Claxton meets Jose Antonio Perez.

Claxton (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) is coming off of a knockout of the year contender performance when he hit a flying knee on Jonny Bowman at Bellator 186. Although there’s not much to take away from a first-round finish, the rookie fighter shows signs of promise.

Before delivering a knee that was right out of a comic book, Claxton first flashed measured and composed offense, clearly establishing his range and presence with straight punches. And despite not getting to see Claxton’s ground game, it is an area that he claims is one of his strongpoints.

In fact, Claxton has recently been working with catch-wrestling guru Neil Melanson in South Florida, a respected ground coach in MMA who is also high on the 25-year-old. However, we have seen prospects crash and burn in this organization before, and Claxton will need to be careful.

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Slated to face Perez (0-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA), you could easily claim that Claxton is the one who is being put over. The nature of matchmaking and prospect building aside, what do we really know about a fighter with one professional fight?

In Perez’s last fight, he faced another talented debutant in Kevin Carrier. Although he appeared gun shy as he came up short on punches for the first couple of rounds, Perez eventually found his rhythm in third, demonstrating his comfort on the feet.

Despite inevitably losing the bout, Perez ended up in decent standings considering where he is at now. With the pressure and eyes on Claxton, Perez will have his chance to get his first professional win and steal the spotlight at Bellator 194.

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) before fighting Kristina Williams (blue gloves) during Bellator 185 at Mohegan Sun Arena. Mandatory Credit: Dave Mandel-USA TODAY Sports Oct 20, 2017; Uncasville, CT, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) before fighting Kristina Williams (blue 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; 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 Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) fights Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) fights Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) reacts to fight against Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) fights Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) fights Alice Yauger (not pictured) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) reacts to fight against Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) reacts to fight against Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Heather Hardy (red gloves) reacts to fight against Alice Yauger (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s2.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/5qsRgNpM2LaHVBCxL7FpCV/302877", customAnalytics: true, title: "Heather Hardy", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Matt Mitrione: Bellator grand prix pairing vs. Roy Nelson made no sense at first, but now it does

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UNCASVILLE, Conn. – When Matt Mitrione found out his first opponent for Bellator’s heavyweight grand prix would be Roy Nelson, he had some questions.

“I asked them, I was like, ‘How does that make sense?’” Mitrione told MMAjunkie. “Roy’s arguably the No. 2 guy in the division. Explain that to me. Is there any seeding or are you just’ – like, what was the logic behind that?”

But then the more Mitrione thought about it, the less he really cared.

RelatedBellator 194 main-event breakdown: Can Roy Nelson upset tourney favorite Matt Mitrione?

“Either I beat Roy when I have the strap, or I beat Roy to get the strap,” Mitrione said. “What the hell difference does it make? So it is what it is. I’d have to beat him sooner or later, anyways. So let it be what it is.”

Mitrione, who most recently knocked out former PRIDE champ and all-time-great Fedor Emelianenko to add a third straight win to his unbeaten Bellator record, had in fact been expecting a title shot. He was reluctant at first, as he’d told MMAjunkie before, but ultimately acquiesced to the idea of a year-long, eight-man tournament.

Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) and Nelson (23-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) meet in the headliner of Bellator 194, which takes place Friday at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. The winner of that gets to meet the winner between 205-pound champ Ryan Bader and Muhammed Lawal.

The grand prix was set in motion last month, when Chael Sonnen, who’d competed at 185 pounds for most his life, beat former 205-pound UFC champion Quinton Jackson at Bellator 192. Sonnen will now meet the winner of an April bout between Emelianenko and former UFC heavyweight champion Frank Mir.

RelatedWho ya got?! Fighters predict Matt Mitrione vs. Roy Nelson at Bellator 194

A win in Friday’s headliner represents a chance to get to the semifinals and, of course, one step closer to Bellator’s vacant heavyweight belt. But, for Mitrione, it would also mean avenging a 2012 “The Ultimate Fighter 16 Finale” encounter that saw Nelson walking away with a knockout win.

Or it could, anyway, if Mitrione was even approaching it as a rematch in the first place.

“I understand it’s a rematch on paper, but I don’t really feel like it is,” Mitrione said. “He might, sure. I don’t really care how he feels. I feel like – just the growth, in itself. I’ve had, what, 200 percent more fights than I had at the time. When I fought Roy, I had what, six fights; (it was) Roy’s 24th or 25th. So a lot of experience in situations I didn’t.

“We also have a very different perspective on fighting. It’s in the record books that he beat me. Knocked me down. First guy to TKO me, good for him. But I don’t really consider this a rematch.”

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

And for more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Manager: 'Outrage' if Jon Jones gets more than time served for failed drug test

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Ex-UFC light heavyweight champ Jon Jones faces a four-year suspension by the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency for his second alleged anti-doping offense.

But his longtime manager is confident Jones (22-1 MMA, 16-1 UFC) is innocent and should only be punished with time already served.

“In my mind, he’s innocent – I know it for a fact,” Kawa told MMAjunkie Radio. “So for me, there’s no way in the world these guys are going to punish him. I just don’t see how they do it. It would be an outrage to me if they suspended him longer.”

RelatedHere's video of Jon Jones training in a garage while his UFC future remains unclear

Kawa said he’s “95 percent” sure Jones will fight in 2018 and predicted his return would be big business, generating between 750,000 and 800,000 pay-per-view buys.

USADA doesn’t comment on pending cases, so the agency declined a request on Kawa’s remarks. Officially, Jones’ case is still pending during the results management process.

Jones’ anti-doping attorney, Howard Jacobs, said no date has been set for arbitration, a process that would be utilized if Jones’ team disputes USADA’s findings and wanted them reviewed by a neutral arbitrator. Jacobs declined further comment.

Jones has been benched since this past August when USADA announced a potential anti-doping violation stemming from his knockout win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 214. An in-competition test revealed the steroid turinabol in Jones’ urine; he also passed a blood test conducted on fight night. Two out-of-competition tests on July 6 and July 7 also came back clean.

RelatedUFC champ Daniel Cormier is past Jon Jones: 'I've just been dragged down by this guy constantly'

The UFC stripped Jones of the title and reinstated Cormier after the “B” sample of Jones’ urine confirmed the initial positive and the California State Athletic Commission overturned his victory. Jones faces a separate punishment with the CSAC and is set for a hearing on Feb. 27.

“I’m expecting that USADA is also wrapped up (by that time),” Kawa said. “If it’s not wrapped up, I’m not sure if we push the (CSAC) hearing to March, or we still have the hearing and wait on USADA. From what I’m understanding, what USADA would like to do and we would like to do, is we’d like to have it all wrapped up by the CSAC hearing.”

Kawa indicated the circumstances around Jones’ second anti-doping violation mirror those of his first, when he claimed a supplement led to his positive test.

Jones was found with a pair of banned estrogen blockers prior to a title unifier with Daniel Cormier at UFC 200. During an arbitration hearing, USADA agreed the supplement was tainted. An arbitrator nevertheless found Jones was “reckless” in not doing his due diligence on the supplement and handed down a one-year suspension, the maximum amount of time allowed for a first offense with the substances in question.

RelatedJon Jones reportedly passed a polygraph test, but does that prove anything?

Kawa claims there’s widespread agreement between the UFC and regulators that the levels of turinabol found in Jones’ system after UFC 214 don’t support intentional use, a theory recently backed by UFC anti-doping czar Jeff Novitzky.

“Looking at the information they have, from what they’ve gathered, from what they told me, it doesn’t make any sense,” Kawa said. “No one understands it. You passed this test, then you failed this test that you knew was coming, and then you passed one after that. And it was such a small amount that, it came from somewhere that we just don’t know where, and it was such a small amount that it’s obvious he wasn’t trying to cheat.

“So what USADA is looking at is, how do we move forward with this? To me, it’s very simple. He’s not guilty. You’re supposed to test guys to keep the sport clean. Did it give him an advantage? The answer is no. USADA will tell you this, and the UFC will tell you this.”

For complete coverage of UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones before the match against Daniel Cormier during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports Jan. 31, 2009; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Jon Jones (red trunks) against Stephan Bonnar (black trunks) during the light heavyweight swing bout in UFC 94 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jan. 31, 2009; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Stephan Bonnar (black trunks) is lifted off the mat by Jon Jones (red trunks) during the light heavyweight swing bout in UFC 94 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jan. 31, 2009; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Jon Jones (red trunks) stands above Stephan Bonnar (black trunks) during the light heavyweight swing bout in UFC 94 at the MGM Grand Hotel and Casino. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Jon Jones before his fight against fighter Lyoto Machida (not pictured) before a light heavyweight bout at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Jon Jones (right) against fighter Lyoto Machida during a light heavyweight bout at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Jon Jones (left) against fighter Lyoto Machida during a light heavyweight bout at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Jon Jones after defeating fighter Lyoto Machida (not pictured) during a light heavyweight bout at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Dec 10, 2011; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Jon Jones wears the championship belt after defeating fighter Lyoto Machida (not pictured) during a light heavyweight bout at UFC 140 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones before fighting Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones (left) fights Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones (left) fights Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones (left) fights Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports Apr 21, 2012; Atlanta, GA, USA; Jon Jones reacts to beating Rashad Evans in the main event and light heavyweight title bout during UFC 145 at Philips Arena. Jon Jones won the bout by unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Paul Abell-USA TODAY Sports Sep 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Jon Jones against fighter Vitor Belfort (not pictured) during a light heavyweight bout at UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Jon Jones kicks Vitor Belfort in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Jon Jones defeats Vitor Belfort on this pin in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Jon Jones wears the championship belt after defeating Vitor Belfort (not pictured) in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-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 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Jon Jones (right) prior to fighting Chael Sonnen (left) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Jon Jones (black shorts) competes against Chael Sonnen (white shorts) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Apr 27, 2013; Newark, NJ, USA; Jon Jones (black shorts) celebrates defeating Chael Sonnen (white shorts) during UFC 159 at the Prudential Center. Mandatory Credit: Brad Penner-USA TODAY Sports Sep 18, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; UFC Light heavyweight champion Jon Jones poses with Toronto Blue Jays mascot and pitcher Mark Buehrle (56) prior to a game against the the New York Yankees at the Rogers Centre. Mandatory Credit: John E. Sokolowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones enters the octagon before his fight against Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) during their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones moments before the start of his fight against Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) during their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones connects on a kick against Alexander Gustafsson (left) during their Light Heavyweight Championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones fights Alexander Gustafsson (right) during their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Blood bleeds from a cut on the eye of Jon Jones during his fight against Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) during their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones after his fight against Alexander Gustafsson (not pictured) during their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 21, 2013; Toronto, Ontario, CAN; Jon Jones reacts after being handed the decision against Alexander Gustafsson during their light heavyweight championship bout at UFC 165 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports December 13, 2013; Sacramento, CA, USA; UFC light heavyweight Jon Jones (right) is interviewed on stage for the announcement of the EA Sports UFC video game cover winner before the official weigh-in for UFC on FOX 9 at Sleep Train Arena. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Jon Jones kicks Glover Teixeira in the head during the UFC light heavy weight championship fight at Baltimore Arena. Jones retained the light heavy height championship by defeating Teixeria. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Jon Jones hits Glover Teixeira with an upper cut during the UFC light heavy weight championship fight at Baltimore Arena. Jones retained the light heavy height championship by defeating Teixeria. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Apr 26, 2014; Baltimore, MD, USA; Jon Jones puts his arms in the air after the UFC light heavy weight championship fight against Glover Texeira at Baltimore Arena. Jones retained the light heavy height championship by defeating Teixeria. Mandatory Credit: Tommy Gilligan-USA TODAY Sports Jan 2, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones during the weigh in for his Light Heavyweight Title Bout against Daniel Cormier (not pictured) at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 2, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC President Dana White separates Jon Jones and Daniel Cormier during the weigh in for their Light Heavyweight Title Bout at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) and Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) compete in the light heavyweight title fight at UFC 182 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) and Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) compete in the light heavyweight title fight at UFC 182 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) and Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) compete in the light heavyweight title fight at UFC 182 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) and Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) compete during their light heavyweight title fight at UFC 182 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Jones won. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Official referee Herb Dean separates Jon Jones (red gloves) and Daniel Cormier (blue gloves) as they fight after the buzzer to end their light heavyweight title fight at UFC 182 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Jones won. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Jan 3, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Daniel Cormier (not pictured) in their light heavyweight title fight at UFC 182 at the MGM Grand Garden Arena. Jones won. Mandatory Credit: Jayne Kamin-Oncea-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Jon Jones holds his championship belt during a press conference prior to weigh-ins for UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC president Dana White (center) separates fighter Jon Jones (right) from Daniel Cormier during a press conference prior to weigh-ins for UFC 196 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) before his fight against Ovince Saint Preux (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) before his fight against Ovince Saint Preux (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) competes against Ovince Saint Preux (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) competes against Ovince Saint Preux (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports Apr 23, 2016; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Jon Jones (red gloves) reacts after defeating Ovince Saint Preux (blue gloves) during UFC 197 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Mandatory Credit: Joshua Dahl-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones before the match against Daniel Cormier during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Daniel Cormier defends as Jon Jones moves in for a hit during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones lands an elbow hit as Daniel Cormier defends during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones lands a hit against Daniel Cormier during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones reacts following his TKO victory against Daniel Cormier during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; UFC president Dana White puts the championship belt on Jon Jones following his victory against Daniel Cormier 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/WKUzkiJ8paS3gFqSPCVGCC/302901", customAnalytics: true, title: "Jon Jones", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC Fight Night 126 co-main-event breakdown: Is Derrick Lewis rightfully the underdog to Marcin Tybura?

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MMAjunkie Radio cohost and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of all of UFC Fight Night 126’s top bouts. Today, we look at the co-main event.

UFC Fight Night 126 takes place Sunday at Frank Erwin Center in Austin, Texas, and it airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

* * * *

Derrick Lewis (18-5-1 MMA, 3-2 UFC)

Derrick Lewis

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 33 Weight: 265 lbs. Reach: 79″
  • Last fight: TKO loss to Mark Hunt (June 10, 2017)
  • Camp: 4 oz. Fight Club (Texas)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Legacy FC heavyweight title
+ Regional MMA accolades
+ 16 KO victories
+ 1 submission win
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Dangerous righ hands and uppercuts
+ Underrated kicks and knees
+/- Aggressive engagements and entries
^ Counter availabilities
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Strikes well off the breaks
+ Improved grappling and positional awareness
^ Deceptive scrambling/getup ability
+ Devastating ground striker

Marcin Tybura (16-3 MMA, 3-6 UFC)

Marcin Tybura

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’3″ Age: 32 Weight: 247 lbs. Reach: 78″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Fabricio Werdum (Nov. 18, 2017)
  • Camp: Jackson-Wink MMA (New Mexico/Poland)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Multiple heavyweight titles
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu brown belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 6 submission wins
+ 9 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Improved striking combinations
+ Accurate kicks and knees
^ Works well off of lead leg
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Sneaky elbows and solid defense
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Well-timed takedowns
+ Excellent transitional grappler
^ Floats, rides, finds way to back

Summary:

The co-main event in Austin features a heavyweight showdown between Derrick Lewis and Marcin Tybura.

Lewis, a fan favorite, will be attempting to bounce back from two disappointing fight camps. With one ending in a TKO loss and the other ending with an injury before he could even make the walk, Lewis will look to make an emphatic comeback in his home state of Texas.

Seeking to spoil the homecoming is Tybura, a polish fighter who has moved shop to the United States. Coming off of a loss to former heavyweight champ Fabricio Werdum last year, Tybura is also trying to get back on the right side of the tracks.

RelatedNow booked for UFC return, how serious was Derrick Lewis about retiring?

Starting off on the feet, we have a matchup between two hard-hitting heavyweights who go about their business differently.

Despite being criticized early on for his lack of striking presence, Tybura has quietly developed a kickboxing game since coming into the UFC.

Actively prodding with a jab, Tybura will casually add in his right hand, variating between casting punches or hammerfists. Like many Eastern European and Russian kickboxers, the Pole typically punctuates combinations with kicks off of his lead leg.

When using strikes to mask his clinch entries, Tybura has shown a good sense about where potential danger may be coming from, and he does a much better job of moving his head appropriately with his punches. And considering that the 32-year-old has spent his second training camp stateside at Jackson-Wink MMA, I can only imagine that his game has continued to grow.

Potential upgrades aside, this might not be the matchup for Tybura to test his striking skills.

Enter Lewis.

Stepping onto the scene as an unabashed brawler, Lewis has shown signs of improvements underneath the scary destructions that often take place in his fights. An athletic-mover for his size, Lewis can throw accurate knees and head kicks with little signs of struggle.

A downright scary distance closer, Lewis will force his opponent into the fence whether he lands on them or not. With a frame that is hard to control in close, the 33-year-old does his best work when striking off of the breaks, and I see him being particularly potent in this space. That said, his opponent is also no slouch when it comes to exchanging in small windows.

Inside of close quarters, Tybura offers slick elbows off of forearm frames and a solid awareness of hip positioning and underhooks. The seven-year pro also possesses crafty trips and takedowns from the clinch – a path that I suspect he will take here given the dynamic of the matchup.

However, if Tybura can get this fight to the floor, you can’t count Lewis out.

RelatedDerrick Lewis on Francis Ngannou's pay: Give me $500K to gas out

Don’t let his flat back and inactive hips fool you: Similar to a sand shark lying in wait, Lewis stays calm and composed until his opposition makes for a transition; this allows him an opening to explode upward to his feet.

Although respected grapplers such as Roy Nelson and Gabriel Gonzaga failed to keep Lewis grounded or capitalize on his explosions, I believe that Tybura may have success here due to his flexibility and grappling style.

An accomplished brown belt in Brazilian jiu-jitsu, Tybura has translated his game seamlessly into MMA. Doing his best work when on top, the Pole utilizes good fundamentals of position and shoulder pressure to help persuade his opposition into giving their backs.

Once Tybura can establish some form of mount, he will quickly get to work with strikes to help set up his submission efforts.

Still, it will be no easy task to tax Lewis in transit. Lewis’ tripod get-up is deceptively more technical than meets the eye. As someone who favors turtling out to stand, a person who knows how to tripod properly can be a nightmare to deal with in both grappling and MMA.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 126 pre-event facts: Despite skid, 'Cowboy' has legendary resume

Keeping his base firmly beneath him, Lewis will maintain an angle on his back that resembles a steep ski slope. Although this tripod position invites back-takes to the naked eye, the downward slope Lewis keeps serves as a trap, making eager back-takers ultimately slide forward and lose position.

Regardless of who ends up with the high ground, each man will have to fight hard for what they get in this fight.

The oddsmakers and public seem somewhat split on opinions, listing Tybura -145 and Lewis +125 as of this writing.

Given the popularity of Lewis, I would not be surprised to see this line move closer to even money as the fight nears. Lewis’ lovability aside, he’s a dangerous fighter who has the skills to win this battle.

He closes the distance faster than Tybura and can punctuate exchanges much more emphatically. Even on the ground, Lewis can kill the chances of a far superior grappler with the power he can generate with his ground strikes.

That said, as much as I’m a fan of Lewis’ style, it can often be difficult to predict what version of the black beast we are going to get. More importantly, I wonder what adjustments Lewis will make if he is forced to do so.

In Lewis’ fight with Shamil Abdurakhimov, he repeatedly got taken down off of caught kicks. Failing to adjust, Lewis lost points and momentum until eventually finding a finish come the fourth round. Considering that Tybura seems to have a knack for catching kicks and countering, I predict we may see more of the same here. The pick is Tybura to slow things down to the dismay of the fans with a win by unanimous decision.

Official pick: Tybura by decision

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

Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Marcin Tybura reacts following the match against Fabricio Werdum during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Marcin Tybura moves in with a kick as Fabricio Werdum defends during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Nov 18, 2017; Sydney, Australia; Fabricio Werdum pushes Marcin Tybura toward the cage during UFC Fight Night at Qudos Bank Arena. Mandatory Credit: Christopher Hyde-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) competes against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Jun 17, 2017; Singapore, Singapore; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) reacts after his match against Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Singapore Indoor Stadium. Mandatory Credit: David G. McIntyre-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Luis Henrique (blue gloves and Marcin Tybura (red gloves) fight during their bout at UFC 209 at T-Mobile Arena. Tybura won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Luis Henrique (blue gloves and Marcin Tybura (red gloves) fight during their bout at UFC 209 at T-Mobile Arena. Tybura won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Luis Henrique (blue gloves and Marcin Tybura (red gloves) fight during their bout at UFC 209 at T-Mobile Arena. Tybura won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Mar 4, 2017; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Luis Henrique (blue gloves reacts as Marcin Tybura (red gloves) has his hand raised after their bout at UFC 209 at T-Mobile Arena. Tybura won via third round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 6, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Viktor Pesta (red gloves) and Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) fight during UFC Fight Night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Tybura won via second round knockout. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Aug 6, 2016; Salt Lake City, UT, USA; Marcin Tybura (blue gloves) reacts after knocking out Viktor Pesta (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Vivint Smart Home Arena. Tybura won via second round knockout. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-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/48aXVgPQNHykkthTawLLrS/302855", customAnalytics: true, title: "Marcin Tybura", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Mike Mazzulli explains Heather Hardy's weigh-in situation at Bellator 194

<p>Ross Richardson</p> <p>Ronie Arana Leon</p> <p>Geoffrey Then</p> <p>Mike Kimbel</p> <p>Tom English</p> <p>Regivaldo Carvalho</p> <p>Jarod Trice</p> <p>Walter Howard</p> <p>Marcus Surin</p> <p>Dean Hancock</p> <p>Kastriot Xhema</p> <p>Peter Nascimento</p> <p>Tyler Hamilton</p> <p>Pat Casey</p> <p>Jose Perez</p> <p>Tywan Claxton</p> <p>Ana Julaton</p> <p>Heather Hardy</p> <p>Vadim Nemkov</p> <p>Liam McGeary</p> <p>Patricky Freire</p> <p>Derek Campos</p> <p>Matt Mitrione</p> <p>Roy Nelson</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/FsLGR2d82NMeZWSfCbAfhK/302887", customAnalytics: true, title: "Bellator 194 Official Weigh-ins", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UNCASVILLE, Conn. – Heather Hardy stepped off the scale at Mohegan Sun today apparently under the assumption another weight cut was in the books, and she was good to go.

She found out a while after the fact, even after completing a lengthy sit-down interview on camera, that wasn’t the case after all, and that she had been fined 20 percent for missing weight by a quarter-pound.

Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) fights Ana Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) in a flyweight bout Friday at Bellator 194, which takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Uncasville, Conn. Her official weight was 126.25 pounds.

The circumstances all seemed to point to Hardy being a fraction over, but then not getting the opportunity to drop the extra quarter-pound to avoid the fine. She weighed in wearing a bikini, but didn’t strip down to weigh in behind a towel. And despite fighters being told ahead of the official weigh-ins that they’d have an additional two hours to cut weight, Hardy left the scale, expressed what appeared to be relief to her corner that she made weight, and that seemed to be the end of the story.

The rest of the fighters on the card then continued to get on the scale, one at a time, to make weight, and everything seemed to be normal. Although Hardy was announced as being over, without any additional official explanation the appearance was that had she stripped down, she likely would’ve been on – so it looked like a decision had been made.

When word came down more than an hour after the weigh-ins had wrapped that she had not, in fact, made weight, and that Julaton was going to get 20 percent of her fight purse after the renegotation, it came as something of a surprise.

But Mike Mazzulli, president of the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation, which is overseeing Bellator 194, said it was his evaluation while Hardy was on the scale that kept him from even giving her the opportunity to weigh in behind a towel.

“It was never said she was good,” Mazzulli told MMAjunkie today after the official weigh-ins. “She got on the scale, (and) she was 126.25 … she was a quarter-pound over. At that point, I explained to her – after evaluating her and seeing how she was – that she was not going to lose anymore. The fight’s not going to happen (if she has to lose anymore) – I’ll cancel the fight. Fighter safety is the most important at Mohegan, and I make sure of it.”

Mazzulli said Hardy’s demeanor on the scale was what led to him making the decision from letting her use the extra two hours, and from letting her use a towel, which has come to be customary in MMA weight cuts. If a fighter is a little bit over while wearing fight shorts or underwear, many times a towel is brought out so the fighter can weigh in without clothes.

Sometimes they hit the marks with the use of the towel, and sometimes they don’t. But in this instance, Mazzulli said his concern with the athletes’ safety, particularly when it comes to weight cuts, led to him making the call he made.

“I evaluated her and I felt I didn’t even want her to (remove her clothes to use the towel), because at that point she wasn’t even speaking to me (on the scale),” Mazzulli said. “I made the decision as the commissioner that I wasn’t going to put her on the scale with no clothes on – that’s how concerned I was about her. And my doctors will re-evaluate her tonight at the (ceremonial) weigh-in, as well.”

As for why Hardy got off the scale appearing to express relief that she made weight, Mazzulli doesn’t have an answer. And a request for comment from Hardy was not immediately returned.

“I explained to her (on the scale) that she did not (make weight) – that she was over a quarter-(pound), but I was not going to allow her to lose any more weight,” Mazzulli said. “… I explained to her, ‘I’m not even going to have you remove your clothes, because at this point you can’t even speak to me coherently. That concerns me.'”

Mazzulli said once the weigh-ins were over, he put the ball in Bellator’s court to decide if the fight would go on, and absent an official decision from the promoter, he would get involved. Once Bellator asked him to help with a decision, he said he spoke to Julaton and her camp.

“Rich Chou, the matchmaker, came to me and I automatically fined Ms. Hardy 20 percent,” Mazzulli said. “(Julaton) came in and I explained to her that it’s your decision if you’re going to fight, but Ms. Hardy is going to get a 20 percent fine, which is $2,400. And instead of me keeping $1,000 of it, which I have the right to, I provided the $2,400 to her opponent. At that point, (Julaton) accepted it, and that’s where we are right now.”

The fight will go on Friday on the Paramount-televised main card. Whether or not it leads to extra intrigue and bad blood between Hardy and Julaton remains to be seen. What we know right now, though, is that their MMA fight will be the first of a planned two bouts between them. The two pro boxers will fight again later this year – in a boxing match.

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Joe Rogan rips Li Jingliang for eye-gouge incident: 'We can't have any leniency'

Count Joe Rogan among those who believe Li Jingliang was insufficiently punished for his intentional eye-gouge in a loss to Jake Matthews at UFC 221 this past weekend.

During a welterweight fight against Jake Matthews (12-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) at UFC 221 at Perth Arena in Australia, Jingliang (14-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) gruesomely stuck his fingers into his opponent’s eyes to escape from a guillotine. It worked, and he faced no repercussions.

Not only did referee Mark Simpson not penalize Jingliang for the blatant foul, but he hardly even acknowledged it. He merely attempted to swipe Jingliang’s hand away while it clawed Matthews’ face.

RelatedUFC 221 post-event facts: Is Yoel Romero the best third-round finisher of all-time?

Longtime UFC commentator Rogan wasn’t calling the UFC 221 fights. However, he did watch from home. On a recent edition of the “JRE MMA Show” podcast, he addressed the situation.

“I thought it was f-cking bullsh-t,” Rogan said. “You can’t let a guy get away with that, or he’s going to do it again. … You don’t do it that way. You tap. It’s straight up cheating; it’s not just shady. It’s cheating.

“They should tell him, ‘If this ever happens again, if you ever think you’re going to do this again, we’re going to kick you out of the league.’ You can’t do that. You can’t gouge someone’s eye when they’re choking you.”

Eye-pokes are commonplace in MMA due to MMA gloves having exposed fingers. Issues typically only occur during striking exchanges, but Jingliang did something outside of the box, and it only benefitted him.

Jingliang may have ultimately suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Matthews, but he avoided being submitted. Escaping the choke allowed Jingliang to continue to fight and make it to the final bell, which was likely a major contributing factor in UFC officials deeming the contest UFC 221’s “Fight of the Night,” which netted both fighters $50,000 bonuses.

RelatedJake Matthews doesn't fault Li Jingliang for eye-gouge at UFC 221

“It felt like the fingers were in long enough for him to know the fingers were in there,” Rogan said. “The referee f-cked up. The UFC should do something. Someone should do something. Maybe, even in Nevada? You’ve got to look at that and go, ‘Hey man, you can’t ever do this again. And we have to fine you. You should be suspended, and if you ever do this again, you’re out.’ You can’t gouge someone’s eyes. They’ll lose their vision. We can’t have any leniency whatsoever toward intentional eye-gouging. Zero.”

Rogan said Jingliang should have been disqualified.

RelatedUFC 221's 'Thrill and Agony': What Romero said during that post-fight kiss with Rockhold

“Every time an eye-poke happens, whether it’s intentional or not, take a point away,” Rogan said. “I think it’s a good move. Eye-gouges like that, I think is grounds for disqualification. You can’t allow any room for that. Guys are going to get blind. It could happen. Most guys are completely ethical and would never think of doing this.”

For complete coverage of UFC 221, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Daniel Cormier had harsh response to Alexander Gustafsson's callout of Luke Rockhold

February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero defends against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero defends against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero moves in with a kick against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero lands a kick against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold moves in with a hit against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero moves in with a hit against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold lands a hit against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold lands a kick against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero defends against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero moves in with a hit against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold defends against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero defends against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold reacts following his TKO loss against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero reacts after his victory by TKO against Luke Rockhold during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero celebrates his victory against Luke Rockhold following UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold reacts following his TKO loss against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Luke Rockhold reacts following his TKO loss against Yoel Romero during UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-USA TODAY Sports February 10, 2018; Perth, Australia; Yoel Romero celebrates his victory against Luke Rockhold following UFC 221 at Perth Arena. Mandatory Credit: Stewart Allen-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/FoDGj8jmjQkAP94uK2TTwJ/302822", customAnalytics: true, title: "Romero def. Rockhold", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Alexander Gustafsson may have gone after Luke Rockhold on social media this week, but it was Daniel Cormier who clapped back hard.

Prior to Rockhold’s (16-4 MMA, 6-3 UFC) knockout loss to Yoel Romero in this past weekend’s UFC 221 main event, the former UFC and Strikeforce champion mentioned a possible future move up to light heavyweight, where Cormier (20-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC) reigns as champion and Gustafsson (18-4 MMA, 10-4 UFC) is a top contender.

Gustafsson clearly caught wind of Rockhold’s statement. Days after he offered to provide a rude welcome to 205-pound competition. “The Mauler said he wants Cormier’s belt, but with “DC” currently preoccupied with a heavyweight title fight against Stipe Miocic at UFC 226 in July, a matchup is off the table until at least late 2018.

RelatedLuke Rockhold reacts to UFC 221 knockout loss: Yoel Romero 'made of steel'

Rockhold hasn’t offered a response to Gustafsson, but Cormier, his longtime friend and training partner of Rockhold at American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose, certainly did (via Twitter):

Nice timing Alexander(kick him while he’s down huh). I got a better idea tho he doesn’t fight you next. He fights Robert Whitaker, I mean sometimes that happens right. You lose your way into a title shot! #thegustafsonway

— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) February 15, 2018

Cormier’s deep cut refers to 2015. Gustafsson suffered a first-round knockout loss to Anthony Johnson at UFC on FOX 14, but nine months later was given a title shot with Cormier at UFC 192. “The Mauler” lost by split decision, which marked his second failed title bid.

Cormier’s reply to Gustafsson triggered many predictable replies. Cormier’s first time claiming UFC gold came after a loss. He dropped a decision to then-champ Jon Jones at UFC 182 in January 2015, but “Bones” was later stripped of the title. Cormier then won the vacant strap.

RelatedAlexander Gustafsson isn't happy about that Daniel Cormier-Stipe Miocic UFC super fight

Then this past summer, Jones knocked out Cormier in a rematch at UFC 214. Jones failed a drug test, though, and ultimately the result was overturned to a no-contest, and Cormier was handed back the belt.

Cormier knows he has detractors, but he did his best to set the record straight (via Twitter):

I didn’t lose into a title shot. I lost and got the title. There’s a difference https://t.co/DUHswxhbjM

— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) February 15, 2018

It was tough because I fought him that way. I could have made the whole fight look like round 1. Think about this tho. He lost a 5 round stand up fight to me. By the end of the fight he was the one wrestling lol https://t.co/peOEGKEyq6

— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) February 15, 2018

2015 was big year for me. With the way I won belt all the fake champ claims I felt I had to prove something. Had to do it better than Jones. Do something to try and clear the shadow a bit. So I fought him like that. We fight again tho he’s on his back whole fight https://t.co/Jn1DX69Lo5

— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) February 15, 2018

As far as Rockhold’s future, Cormier had a suggest about what should be next. And it isn’t a fight with Gustafsson (via Twitter):

Time off https://t.co/LOKxg6pJJg

— Daniel Cormier (@dc_mma) February 15, 2018

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

Bellator 194 staff picks: Who has the edge in Matt Mitrione-Roy Nelson rematch?

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Mitrione
vs.
Nelson Campos
vs.
Freire McGeary
vs.
Nemkov Hardy
vs.
Julaton Claxton
vs.
Perez MMAjunkie readers’
consensus picks
2018: 15-12
Mitrione
(63%)
Freire
(74%)
McGeary
(82%)
Hardy
(83%)
Claxton
(75%) Matt Erickson
@MMAjunkieMatt
2018: 17-10
Mitrione
Campos
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Simon Samano
@SJSamano
2018: 17-10
Mitrione
Freire
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Dan Tom
@DanTomMMA
2018: 17-10
Nelson
Freire
Nemkov
Julaton
Claxton Mike Bohn
@MikeBohnMMA
2018: 16-11
2014 Champion
Mitrione
Freire
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Steven Marrocco
@MMAjunkieSteven
2018: 15-12
Mitrione
Campos
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Dann Stupp
@DannStupp
2018: 15-12
2015 Champion
Mitrione
Freire
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Trent Reinsmith
@TrentReinsmith
2018: 15-12
Mitrione
Campos
McGeary
Julaton
Claxton John Morgan
@MMAjunkieJohn
2018: 14-13
Mitrione
Campos
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton George Garcia
@MMAjunkieGeorge
2018: 15-12
Nelson
Campos
McGeary
Julaton
Claxton Ben Fowlkes
@BenFowlkesMMA
2018: 14-13
2016 Champion
Mitrione
Freire
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Ken Hathaway
@kenshathaway
2018: 14-13
Nelson
Campos
McGeary
Julaton
Claxton Fernanda Prates
@nandaprates_
2018: 13-14
Mitrione
Freire
McGeary
Hardy
Claxton Brian Garcia
@thegoze
2018: 13-14
2017 Champion
Mitrione
Freire
McGeary
Julaton
Claxton Abbey Subhan
@kammakaze
2018: 12-15
Mitrione
Campos
McGeary
Julaton
Claxton

Bellator returns Friday with its second heavyweight grand prix opening-round matchup in the main event.

Bellator 194 takes place at Mohegan Sun Arena in Unasville, Conn. The main card airs on Paramount following prelims on MMAjunkie.

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

In the main event, Matt Mitrione (12-5 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) takes on Roy Nelson (22-14 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) in the heavyweight tournament. The fight is a rematch from when both fought in the UFC, and Nelson won that fight with a first-round knockout. Mitrione is favored this time around, and also is favored to win the whole tournament and become the next Bellator heavyweight champion. He’s also a big favorite among our 14 MMAjunkie editors, writers, radio hosts and videographers. Of them, 11 of 14 are picking Mitrione.

In the co-feature, Derek Campos (19-6 MMA, 8-4 BMMA) takes on Patricky Freire (18-8 MMA, 11-7 BMMA) in a lightweight bout that could determine next in line in the title-shot pecking order after champ Brent Primus defends his title in a rematch with former champ Michael Chandler in April. The voting is a 7-7 coin flip with our staff members, despite Campos’ status as a 2-1 underdog.

Heather Hardy (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) and Ana Julaton (2-3 MMA, 0-1 BMMA) are pro boxers who are new to the MMA game. They’ll fight each other in a women’s flyweight bout Friday, then book a boxing match later this year in a unique crossover rivarly opportunity. Although Hardy is more than a 3-1 favorite, she has just an 8-6 edge in our picks.

There are two blowouts in our picks, including one unanimous choice. After landing a viral flying knee for a knockout in his pro debut in October, Tywan Claxton (1-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) has the confidence of all 14 of our pickers in his featherweight follow-up against Jose Antonio Perez (0-1 MMA, 0-1 BMMA). And former light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary (12-2 MMA, 9-2 BMMA) is a near-unanimous choice against Vadim Nemkov (8-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA). Only one brave soul is taking Nemkov to win – though he’s only a very mild underdog.

In the MMAjunkie reader consensus picks, Mitrione, Freire, McGeary, Hardy and Claxton are the choices.

Check out all the picks above.

For more on Bellator 194, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Bryan Caraway and Jared Gordon

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Bryan Caraway and Jared Gordon.

Caraway, our in-studio guest host, meets fellow bantamweight Cody Stamann on March 3 at UFC 222. Rising lightweight contender Gordon fights Diego Ferreira on Sunday at UFC Fight Night 126.

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.
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  • 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.

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