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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

The latest UFC 220 lineup includes:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Stipe Miocic is in pursuit of heavyweight history Saturday night.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

* * * *

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

Staple info:

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

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

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

Staple info:

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

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

Summary:

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Enter the champion.

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Official pick: Ngannou inside the distance


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

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

Paige VanZant to have surgery on broken arm suffered at UFC Fight Night 124

Paige VanZant is headed for surgery.

VanZant (7-4 MMA, 4-3 UFC) suffered a unanimous-decision loss to Jessica-Rose Clark (9-5 MMA, 2-0 UFC) in Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124 co-headliner, which took place at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. In the process, “12 Gauge” also broke her right arm when a spinning backfist connected with Clark’s head.

VanZant told her corner after the second round of the flyweight bout that she broke it in the first. After the bout, she confirmed the self-diagnosis with a hospital photo and an x-ray on Twitter.

On Tuesday, VanZant visited a doctor and shared video to comment about it.

Paige VanZant says she broke her arm on this spinning backfist at UFC Fight Night 124.

“Looks like I’m going to need surgery. So I go in on Monday,” VanZant said. “Wish me luck. Send some prayers up. And now I’m going to go sympathy shot.”

“Thank you, guys, for all your support,” she continued. “I love all my fans out there. I’ll be back strong than ever, this time with a bionic arm.”

VanZant’s bout with Clark was her first at 125 pounds. She’s now lost two in a row and three of her past four after being on a four-fight winning streak.

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant gives thanks prior to a fight against Jessica-Rose Clark (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) talks with her trainers in between rounds of a fight against Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Paige VanZant (red gloves) fights Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jessica-Rose Clark (blue gloves) fights Paige VanZant (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-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/jaK3rPjkQ7BCUep7jWPdEo/296849", customAnalytics: true, title: "Clark def. VanZant", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC Fight Night 124 reactions: Winning and losing fighters on social media

Since the early days when the sport was anything but a mainstream endeavor, the MMA industry has thrived and survived through various websites, forums and, perhaps most importantly, social-media platforms.

Fighters interact with fans, each other and many more through the likes of Twitter, Facebook and Instagram, which helps outsiders get a deeper look into the minds of the athletes.

Following Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124 event in St. Louis, several of the winning and losing fighters, along with their coaches, training partners or family members, took to social media to react to the event or share a message with supporters.

Check out some of those reactions.

* * * *

The defeated

Well the journey just became longer!

— Michael Johnson (@FollowTheMenace) January 16, 2018

The victorious

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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

USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, Jan. 15: Where does Darren Elkins sit after another comeback finish?

Darren Elkins is making a habit out of getting beat up, then coming back to win in dramatic fashion.

Elkins (24-5 MMA, 14-5 UFC) on Sunday had a rough first round against Michael Johnson (17-13 MMA, 9-9 UFC) in what was Johnson’s debut at featherweight. But in the second, Elkins got the fight to the canvas, then took Johnson’s back and forced him to tap with a rear-naked choke.

The victory gave Elkins six straight wins in the featherweight division that is ruled by champ Max Holloway. Elkins said after the fight he knows he can’t have a title shot next – but he’d sure like to have the kind of fight that would get him one with one more win.

Elkins made a little climb in the latest USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA featherweight rankings. Who else joined the ranks, or took a tumble? Check out all the new rankings after the UFC’s first event of 2018, the start of a busy stretch for the big promotions over the next few months.

Ovince Saint Preux: Ilir Latifi injured, UFC on FOX 27 co-headliner scrapped

There goes another UFC co-main event.

Ovince Saint Preux, who was set to fight Ilir Latifi in next week’s UFC on FOX 27 co-headliner, tweeted tonight that the bout is off because of an injury to Latifi.

Via Twitter:

. @Latifimma is hurt & out of our scrap next Sat in Charlotte, NC #UFConFOX27 who wants to step up and scrap? I’m even open to going up in weight if NO guys in my division will step up? Looking for someone to do what I do: step up and fight… pic.twitter.com/lvznRvE22I

— Ovince Saint Preux (@003_OSP) January 17, 2018

UFC on FOX 27 takes place Jan. 27 at Spectrum Center in Charlotte. The main card will air on FOX after prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Saint Preux (22-10 MMA, 10-5 UFC) vs. Latifi (13-5 MMA, 6-3 UFC) already is the second co-main event of the year to fall, with Vitor Belfort-Uriah Hall being scrapped this past Sunday at UFC Fight Night 124 when Hall failed to step on the scale.

The news is unfortunate for both Saint Preux and Latifi. They called each other out late last year after wins and finally got their wish to fight each other in November. Saint Preux’s originally requested the bout for UFC 219 to close out 2017, but that never came to be.

It’s clear Saint Preux is hopeful to remain on the card against a replacement opponent, though it’s unknown what the UFC’s plans are.

The resurgent Saint Preux is on a three-fight streak that includes two straight fight-night bonuses. Most recently, he won with a head-kick KO of Corey Anderson at UFC 217 in November. Prior to that, he had back-to-back Von Flue choke finishes of Marcos Rogerio de Lima and Yushin Okami.

Latifi was looking to win his second straight after getting back on track in September with a unanimous-decision win over Tyson Pedro at UFC 215.

The UFC on FOX 27 lineup now includes:

MAIN CARD, FOX, 8 P.M. ET

  • Ronaldo Souza vs. Derek Brunson
  • Ovince Saint Preux vs. TBA
  • Dennis Bermudez vs. Andre Fili
  • Gregor Gillespie vs. Jordan Rinaldi

PRELIMINARY CARD, FS1, 5 p.m. ET

  • Bobby Green vs. Erik Koch
  • Mirsad Bektic vs. Godofredo Pepey
  • Mara Romero Borella vs. Katlyn Chookagian
  • Juliana Lima vs. Randa Markos
  • Vinc Pichel vs. Joaquim Silva

PRELIMINARY CARD, UFC Fight Pass, 3:30 p.m. ET

  • Justine Kish vs. Ji Yeon Kim
  • Niko Price vs. George Sullivan
  • Frank Camacho vs. Drew Dober

For more on UFC on FOX 27, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Felice Herrig happy to be 'graced with' opponent she asked for, reportedly Karolina Kowalkiewicz

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ST. LOUIS – Felice Herrig asked and, finally, it looks like she shall receive.

After her latest win, a split decision over Cortney Casey at UFC 218, Herrig expanded her winning streak to four in the UFC. This was months after the strawweight veteran delivered an emotional post-fight speech, in which she opened up about what she perceived as difficulties getting opportunities with the promotion.

Speaking to MMAjunkie Radio shortly after the Casey fight, Herrig said she didn’t see significant improvement in that department. But she did say that, given her momentum, there was no reason why she shouldn’t get matched up with top-10 competition next.

It appears she got it.

While she wouldn’t reveal who her next opponent is, Herrig said she’s already signed a bout agreement and should be in camp soon.

“This is actually the opponent I asked for,” Herrig told MMAjunkie backstage at Scottrade Centre in St. Louis, where she attended UFC Fight Night 124. “I’m not saying I asked for it publicly. But I asked (UFC matchmaker) Mick Maynard for the fight, and he graced me with it.”

According to a report by MMANytt, which MMAWeekly later confirmed, that opponent is former title challenger Karolina Kowalkiewicz. The reports say the 115-pound bout is expected for UFC 223 on April 7. Although not announced by the promotion, the event is rumored to take place at Barclays Center in Brooklyn, N.Y.

If that turns out to be the case, Herrig did kind of ask for it publicly. During that same interview with MMAJunkie Radio, the strawweight said she believes the ex-title-challenger, who sits five spots above her in the official UFC rankings, could be both an exciting fight and a “good gauge” for her.

At 33, Herrig (13-6 MMA, 5-1 UFC) has found quite the groove in the octagon, having recovered from a loss to Paige VanZant with wins over Kailin Curran, Alexa Grasso, Justine Kish, and Casey.

Kowalkiewicz (11-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC), in turn, has recently recovered from a two-fight losing skid (which included a title effort) with a unanimous-decision win over Jodie Esquibel.

While we’ve yet to receive official word on Herrig’s opponent, fact is that it’s someone she requested. And that, in itself, seems like a good start to a year that could be big for Herrig.

“18 is my lucky number, so it would be really bad if 2018 wasn’t good for me,” Herrig said.

That, of course, rides on being able to keep her momentum going. And, while  there are always adjustments to be made, the strawweight believes the key to making sure that happens lies in sticking to the system that’s been paying dividends.

“I don’t really have a plan. I just hope to keep doing everything the way I’ve been doing it,” Herrig said. “As every fight, obviously I plan on winning. But I think, too, I’m trying not to put as much pressure on myself.

“Because every fight, I felt like I had to top myself. So, ‘OK, now I have to be in camp longer,’ even though it would maybe burn me out. ‘Last time, I did 10 weeks, but this time I’ve got to do 12.’ I’m just trying to keep everything the same. The system has been working, and I’m trying not to mess with that.”

To hear from Herrig, check out the video above.

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

Jul 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Felice Herrig during weigh ins for UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Felice Herrig (red) walks to the ring for her fight against Paige VanZant (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. VanZant won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Felice Herrig (red) is introduced for her fight against Paige VanZant (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. VanZant won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Felice Herrig (red) and Paige VanZant (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. VanZant won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Felice Herrig (red) and Paige VanZant (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. VanZant won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Felice Herrig (red) and Paige VanZant (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. VanZant won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Apr 18, 2015; Newark, NJ, USA; Paige VanZant (blue) celebrates after her fight against Felice Herrig (red) during UFC Fight Night at Prudential Center. VanZant won via unanimous decision. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Jul 22, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Felice Herrig left and Kailin Curran right during weigh ins for UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) competes against Kailin Curran (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) competes against Kailin Curran (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Kailin Curran (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Alexa Grasso (red gloves) fights Felice Herrig (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Alexa Grasso (red gloves) fights Felice Herrig (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Alexa Grasso (red gloves) fights Felice Herrig (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Alexa Grasso (red gloves) fights Felice Herrig (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Felice Herrig (blue gloves) defeats Alexa Grasso (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Feb 4, 2017; Houston, TX, USA; Felice Herrig (blue gloves) defeats Alexa Grasso (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Toyota Center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herring and Justine Kish face off after weigh in before UFC fight night at Renaissance Waterford Oklahoma City Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Jun 25, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herring (red gloves) fights Justine Kish (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Jun 25, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herring (red gloves) fights Justine Kish (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Jun 25, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herring (red gloves) fights Justine Kish (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Jun 25, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herring (red gloves) fights Justine Kish (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Jun 25, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herring (red gloves) reacts after beating Justine Kish (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Chesapeake Energy Arena. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; Oklahoma City, OK, USA; Felice Herrig weighs in for UFC fight night at Renaissance Waterford Oklahoma City Hotel. Mandatory Credit: Sean Pokorny-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) fights Cortney Casey (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) fights Cortney Casey (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) fights Cortney Casey (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) fights Cortney Casey (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Felice Herrig (red gloves) fights Cortney Casey (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. 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'UFC 220 Embedded,' No. 2: A little boy's message to Francis Ngannou

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

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

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

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

On Episode 2 of UFC 220 Embedded, light heavyweight champion Daniel Cormier travels cross-country with his family and camp. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic shops for coat hooks alongside the friends who help with his home improvement. Light heavyweight Volkan Oezdemir watches teammates compete at Fight Night St. Louis. Back in the gym, he trains with his opponent’s former teammate and close friend Luke Rockhold. In New York City, heavyweight title challenger Francis Ngannou embarks on a day of media and laughs with Cormier. UFC 220 Embedded is an all-access, behind-the-scenes video blog leading up to the world heavyweight championship bout at UFC 220: Miocic vs. Ngannou on Saturday, January 20th on Pay-Per-View.

Check out the full episode in the video above.

Also see:

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

Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Alistair Overeem (red gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Alistair Overeem (red gloves) fights Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Alistair Overeem (red gloves) fights Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Alistair Overeem (red gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Dec 2, 2017; Detroit, MI, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Alistair Overeem (red gloves) during UFC 218 at Little Caesars Arena. Mandatory Credit: Raj Mehta-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) competes against Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Jan 28, 2017; Denver, CO, USA; Francis Ngannou (blue gloves) reacts after defeating Andrei Arlovski (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Pepsi Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Dec 9, 2016; Albany, NY, USA; Anthony Hamilton (blue gloves) fights Francis Ngannou (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Times Union Center. Mandatory Credit: Michael Adamucci-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) pins Bojan Mihajlovic (blue gloves) to the mat and wins by TKO during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Bojan Mihajlovic (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports July 23, 2016; Chicago, IL, USA; Francis Ngannou (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Bojan Mihajlovic (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at United Center. Mandatory Credit: Kamil Krzaczynski-USA TODAY Sports April 10, 2016; Zagreb, Croatia; Francis Ngannou throws a punch against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at Zagreb Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports April 10, 2016; Zagreb, Croatia; Francis Ngannou fights against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at Zagreb Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports April 10, 2016; Zagreb, Croatia; Francis Ngannou reacts after he is declared the winner by TKO against Curtis Blaydes during UFC Fight Night at Zagreb Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports December 19, 2015; Orlando, FL, USA; Francis Ngannou celebrates his knockout victory against Luis Henrique during UFC Fight Night at Amway Center. Mandatory Credit: Reinhold Matay-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/o8xUqxTD73PHU8df7LQMhk/296839", customAnalytics: true, title: "Francis Ngannou", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

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

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Of all the things we might have expected to come out of Jon Jones’ rematch with Daniel Cormier at UFC 214, who could have guessed that a lie detector test would be one of them?

But according to a report from MMAFighting.com, that’s the newest front in the battle to try and prove the UFC light heavyweight champion didn’t knowingly cheat in his third-round knockout of Cormier that was later overturned.

RelatedWhy UFC's Jeff Novitzky doesn't believe Jon Jones intentionally used steroids

Apparently Jones took and passed the polygraph test Dec.7, so that’s the good news. The bad news is that it doesn’t necessarily prove anything, especially since neither the UFC nor the U.S. Anti-Doping Agency asked him to take the test, according to the report.

It does force us to ask ourselves some questions, however.

For instance, what if he hadn’t passed the test? Would news of that result have found its way into the headlines? Or would the Jones camp have reached an agreement with the PGP Polygraph & Interviewing Service of Albuquerque, N.M., to bury the results and never speak of them again?

RelatedJon Jones (@JonnyBones) finally acknowledged Jon Jones (@jonjones) on Twitter

There’s also the question of what Jones hopes to accomplish here. Polygraph tests have been used in doping cases before, but hiring a company to give you a polygraph that you then pass isn’t exactly proof of innocence.

But then, maybe USADA isn’t the intended audience for these test results. Instead, maybe it’s those of us in the court of public opinion.

Trouble is, in this situation, the lie detector can, at best, only tell us what Jones didn’t do. What it doesn’t tell us is where the mysterious Turinabol came from. And if Jones doesn’t know, who does?

For more on UFC 214, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

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 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; 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 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; 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 moves in for 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; 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; 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 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; Jon Jones fights Daniel Cormier during UFC 214 at Honda Center. Mandatory Credit: Gary A. Vasquez-USA TODAY Sports July 29, 2017; Anaheim, CA, USA; Jon Jones moves in with a knee 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 lands a kick 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 moves in for 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 moves in for 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 moves in for 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 lands hits 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 pins Daniel Cormier to the mat 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 victory 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; Jon Jones is declared the winner against Daniel Cormier by TKO 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/bdoeQcZL7CgusvB3jtbMZ9/296834", customAnalytics: true, title: "Jones def. Cormier", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC featherweight contender Brian Ortega explains decision to wait for shot at title

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ST. LOUIS – Brian Ortega had just returned from a trip to Mexico, on the heels of a big submission win over Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night 123, when he got a work-related call.

It said that if “T-City” wanted it, there was a fight available for him at UFC on FOX 28, set for Feb. 24. The proposed opponent was Josh Emmett, himself fresh off his biggest win yet – a first-round knockout of ex-title-challenger Ricardo Lamas.

He was given some time for an answer, and Ortega says he took everything into consideration.

“I’m not going to disrespect (Emmett) or nothing, but I’m waiting for that title,” Ortega told MMAjunkie backstage at UFC Fight Night 124 on Sunday. “Truth is, I’ve finished every single one of my opponents. And I feel that I deserve the title shot out of the winner of (Frankie Edgar) and (Max Holloway).

“We’ll see how it goes. We’ll see how that fight goes. And if I get it. If not, then we’ll see what we have to do.”

Sunday night in St. Louis, Ortega (13-0 MMA, 5-0 UFC) became the target of two of the night’s biggest winners: Headliner Jeremy Stephens, who demolished Dooho Choi to earn “Fight of the Night” honors, and Darren Elkins, who added a sixth victory to his winning streak with a “Performance of the Night” over Michael Johnson.

Still, judging by what Stephens said in his own interview backstage, Ortega’s mind remained unaltered by the night’s event.

A title shot will involve some waiting. After beating ex-champ Jose Aldo in a rematch, Holloway (19-3 MMA, 15-3 UFC) is now set to try to defend his unified title for a second time. The title bout, a re-booked meeting with ex-lightweight-champ Edgar (22-5-1 MMA, 16-5-1 UFC), will take place March 3 at UFC 122.

Add to it whatever time the champ might need (or want) to recover and the 26-year-old contender might be looking at quite the layoff there. Still, despite Elkins’ advice, that’s where Ortega stands.

“I’m leaving it up to whoever wins March 30,” Ortega said. “Whenever they feel like they want – get some time off, vacation. I’m going to keep training. I’m going to be grinding. And if the shot there, we’re going to take it. If the shot is not there, then we’ll go back and talk to the UFC and the management and we’ll see what we can make happen to secure that spot.”

Say Ortega’s plan does pan out and he gets the winner of the next featherweight title fight. Who will that be?

“I think if Holloway plays his cards right and his takedown defense is on point, he’ll be able to pretty much outstrike Frankie, because he’s punching down,” Ortega said. “But Frankie, if that guy gets a hold of you and puts you on the ground, it’s a wrap. He’s a good expert.”

There’s one thing that Ortega can say with more certainty, though.

“I’m going to go that fight,” Ortega said. “I want to sit there and watch it. I want to study these guys.”

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

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

December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Cub Swanson (red gloves) fights Brian Ortega (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-USA TODAY Sports December 9, 2017; Fresno, CA, USA; Brian Ortega (blue gloves) celebrates after defeating Cub Swanson (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Save Mart Center. Mandatory Credit: Kyle Terada-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/edrTzLR3MtFuXRyJ5dMdqe/296752", customAnalytics: true, title: "Ortega def. Swanson", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Vitor Belfort says Michael Bisping fight has been offered, urges him to 'stop finding excuses'

With his conflict with the UFC apparently solved, former champion Vitor Belfort has turned his energy elsewhere.

More specifically, into a rematch with Michael Bisping.

Belfort was supposed to have made his final octagon appearance Sunday vs. Uriah Hall at UFC Fight Night 124. On Saturday, Belfort weighed in. Hall, however, fell ill and failed to make it to the scale. He was hospitalized, and the bout was scrapped.

Belfort later took to social media to express his “conflicting feelings” with the situation and ask the promotion to be paid for his efforts. UFC President Dana White, in turn, replied that Belfort had been offered replacement bouts and turned them down.

In the interim, reports of a meeting with ex-middleweight-champ Bisping, whom Belfort (26-13 MMA, 15-10 UFC) knocked out in 2013, came up. Bisping (30-9 MMA, 20-9 UFC) shot them down. White, in turn, confirmed that was Belfort’s desire and said that, while “he wasn’t opposed to it,” he’d yet to figure it out.

On Tuesday, Belfort took to Instagram to say the matchup was indeed offered. And, after thanking the UFC and White for “finding a way to help me with all the camp expenses and offering me this great fight,” he’s urging Bisping to “stop finding excuses” not to take it.

Via Instagram:

“Bisping stop finding excuses. UFC had offered us Belfort vs Bisping 2 and I said YES. I will fight you in your hometown. How about that? Let’s make an amazing show for all the fans around the the world and retire in great fashion… Thanks UFC and Dana White for finding a way to help me with all the camp expenses and offering me this great fight. I promise you and all my fans. on March 17th in London you all will see the Phenom in the octagon. I’m leaving it all in there!”

Brazil’s Combate.com was the first to report news of the matchup, which would take place at UFC Fight Night 127 on March 17 at The O2 in London.

This is the last fight on Belfort’s current UFC contract – and, according to what “The Phenom” said during fight week, it’s also set to be the last of his more than two-decade long career. Belfort comes off a win over Nate Marquardt, which snapped a three-fight winless skid.

Bisping, in turn, is now on a two-fight losing skid. Three weeks after losing the middleweight title to Georges St-Pierre, the Brit was knocked out by Kelvin Gastelum in the main event of UFC Fight Night 122. Before that, he won three consecutive fights – including the UFC 199 rematch that earned him the title over Luke Rockhold.

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

Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) reacts after defeating Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports September 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, CANADA; Vitor Belfort steps into the ring prior to his fight against Jon Jones (not pictured) in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports Sep 22, 2012; Toronto, ON, Canada; UFC fighter Vitor Belfort (right) against fighter Jon Jones 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 (left) fights 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 (left) fights Vitor Belfort in the light heavyweight championship during UFC 152 at the Air Canada Centre. Mandatory Credit: Tom Szczerbowski-USA TODAY Sports May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Luke Rockhold (blue shorts) fights against Vitor Belfort (red shorts) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Luke Rockhold (blue shorts) fights against Vitor Belfort (red shorts) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 18, 2013; Jaragua do Sul, BRAZIL; Vitor Belfort (red shorts) celebrates after defeating Luke Rockhold (not pictured) during UFC on FX 8 at ARena Jaragua. Mandatory Credit: Jason da Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 22, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort weighs in for his middleweight championship bout against Chris Weidman (not pictured) at MGM GrandBallroom. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 22, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (right) and Chris Weidman face off after weighing in for their middleweight championship bout at MGM GrandBallroom. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) enters the arena for his bout against Chris Wiedman (not pictured) for the middleweight championship during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort enters the arena against Chris Wiedman (not pictured) for their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena.Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chris Wiedman (red gloves) and Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) fight during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chris Wiedman (red gloves) and Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) fight during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Chris Wiedman (red gloves) and Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) fight during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) is tended to after being knocked out by Chris Wiedman (not pictured) during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports May 23, 2015; Las Vegas, NV, USA; Vitor Belfort (blue gloves) after being knocked out by Chris Wiedman (not pictured) during their middleweight championship bout during UFC 187 at MGM Grand Garden Arena. Weidman won via first round TKO. Mandatory Credit: Joe Camporeale-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) before his fight against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) competes against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) competes against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) competes against Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) reacts after defeating Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Nov 7, 2015; Sao Paulo, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) reacts after defeating Dan Henderson (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Ibirapuera Gymnasium. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Ronaldo Souza (red, top) throws punches down on Vitor Belfort (blue) during UFC Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports May 14, 2016; Curitiba, Brazil; Vitor Belfort (blue) reacts after losing to Ronaldo Souza (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Arena Atletico Paranaense. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) fights against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Oct 8, 2016; Manchester, UK; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) gets assistance in the octagon after his fight against Gegard Mousasi (blue gloves) during UFC 204 at Manchester Arena. Mandatory Credit: Per Haljestam-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) before his fight against Kelvin Gastelum during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Vitor Belfort (red gloves) before his fight against Kelvin Gastelum during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Mar 11, 2017; Fortazela, Brazil, USA; Kelvin Gastelum (blue gloves) fights Vitor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Centro de Formacao Olimpica de Fortaleza. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) fights Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Victor Belfort (red gloves) reacts to fight against Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. Mandatory Credit: Jason Silva-USA TODAY Sports Jun 3, 2017; Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Nate Marquardt (blue gloves) reacts to fight against Victor Belfort (red gloves) during UFC 212 at Rio Olympic Arena. 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Bellator 192 pre-event facts: Champ Douglas Lima looks to add to knockout record

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Bellator opens its 2018 schedule Saturday with one of its biggest events to date. Bellator 192 takes place at The Forum in Inglewood, Calif., and marks the organization’s debut on the newly launched Paramount Network (formerly Spike).

Bellator stacked the top of the card with several notable matchups. In the main event, Chael Sonnen (29-15-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA) meets Quinton Jackson (37-12 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) in the opening fight of the Bellator heavyweight grand prix tournament. Also, Douglas Lima (29-6 MMA, 11-2 UFC) will put his welterweight title on the line against former UFC standout Rory MacDonald (19-4 MMA, 1-0 UFC) in one of the promotion’s most anticipated title bouts to date.

For more on the first Bellator card of the year, check below for 30 pre-event facts about Bellator 192.

* * * *

Main event

Chael Sonnen

Sonnen, 40, is the oldest of the 10 scheduled main card fighters.

Sonnen competes in the first official heavyweight bout of his nearly 21-year career.

Sonnen is 1-1 since he returned to competition from a more than three-year layoff in January 2017.

Sonnen enters the event with two victories in his past six fights dating back to July 2012. He beat Wanderlei Silva in June and Mauricio Rua in August 2013.

Sonnen has suffered 14 of his 15 career losses by stoppage.

Quinton “Rampage” Jackson

Jackson is 2-2 in his career in heavyweight fights.

Jackson earned his past three victories by decision, the longest streak of wins in his career without a stoppage.

Jackson has suffered his past three losses by decision. He hasn’t been stopped since September 2011.

Co-main event

Douglas Lima

Lima competes in his 13th Bellator welterweight bout, tied with Andrey Koreshkov for the most appearances in divisional history.

Lima’s 10 victories in Bellator welterweight competition are second most in divisional history behind Koreshkov (11).

Lima has earned 24 of his 29 career victories by stoppage.

Lima’s seven stoppage victories in Bellator welterweight competition are most in divisional history.

Lima’s eight knockout victories in Bellator competition are most in company history.

Lima’s seven knockout victories in Bellator welterweight competition are most in divisional history.

Rory MacDonald

MacDonald has earned 14 of his 19 career victories by stoppage.

MacDonald owns a victory over current UFC welterweight champion Tyron Woodley.

MacDonald defended 88.9 percent of all opponent takedown attempts in UFC welterweight competition, the third highest rate in divisional history behind Woodley (97.6 percent) and Robert Whittaker (90.5 percent).

Remaining main card

Michael Chandler

Michael Chandler (16-4 MMA, 13-4 BMMA) competes in his 18th Bellator bout, tied with Patricio Freire and Joe Warren for the second most appearances in company history behind David Rickels (19).

Chandler’s nine appearances in Bellator championship fights are most in company history.

Chandler’s 13 victories in Bellator competition are tied for second most in company history behind Freire (14).

Chandler’s 11 victories in Bellator lightweight competition are tied with Patricky Freire for most in divisional history.

Chandler’s 10 stoppage victories in Bellator competition are tied with Freire for most in company history.

Chandler’s eight stoppage victories in Bellator lightweight competition are most in divisional history.

Chandler’s five submission victories in Bellator competition are tied for third most in company history behind Marcin Held (six) and Alexandre Bezerra (six).

Goiti Yamauchi

Goiti Yamauchi (22-3 MMA, 8-2 UFC) is 3-0 since he moved up to the Bellator lightweight division in October 2016. He went 5-2 in the organization at featherweight.

Yamauchi has earned 19 of his 22 career victories by stoppage. That includes eight of his nine Bellator wins.

Yamauchi has earned all three of his Bellator lightweight victories by stoppage.

Yamauchi’s six submission victories in Bellator competition are tied with Held and Bezerra for most in company history.

Aaron Pico (1-1 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), 21, is the youngest of the 10 fighters scheduled to compete on the main card.

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

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) reacts to fight against Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (blue gloves) during Bellator NYC at Madison Square Garden. Mandatory Credit: Ed Mulholland-USA TODAY Sports Jun 24, 2017; New York, NY, USA; Douglas Lima (red gloves) fights Lorenz Larkin (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/txAFjL5j8ejttquxHnMu8Y/296692", customAnalytics: true, title: "Lima def. Larkin", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

CES MMA 48 gets new headliner: Travis Wiuff vs. Greg Rebello for heavyweight title

With Matt Bessette’s ascension to the big show this week at UFC 220, CES MMA was in need of a new headliner in February.

Now it has one. Greg Rebello (22-7) will fight Travis Wiuff (75-21) for the vacant heavyweight title at CES MMA 48, the promotion today announced. The main event had been set to be featherweight champ Bessette (22-7 MMA, 0-0 UFC) vs. Jamall Emmers (12-3) until Bessette got the call from the UFC to take on Enrique Barzola (13-3-1 MMA, 3-1 UFC) in Boston on Saturday.

The promotion’s heavyweight belt became available when champion Juliano Coutinho announced his retirement and vacated the title.

CES MMA 48 takes place Feb. 2 at Twin River Casino in Lincoln, R.I. The main card will air live on on AXS TV.

Travis Wiuff

Wiuff will come into the bout approaching nearly 100 career professional fights. The Minnesota native will turn 40 in March and over a career spanning more than 61 years as a pro has fought for a who’s-who of fight promotions, including the UFC, Bellator, PRIDE, IFL, King of the Cage and just about every regional organization around, it seems.

He hasn’t been as busy in recent years, though. After six fights in 2014, he fought just once in 2015, twice in 2016 and was inactive in 2017. But he’s won seven of his past 10 and has four stoppages in that run to show for it.

Rebello has been around the block with CES MMA for years. In November, he got back on track with a knockout win over Derrick Brown in the CES MMA 47 main event. Prior to that, he had a shot at getting to the UFC, but was knocked out by Azunna Anyanwu at the first Dana White’s Contender Series event in Las Vegas, which snapped a two-fight winning streak.

In his career, Rebello has 15 fights under the CES MMA banner and an 11-4 record, as well as a pair of fights for Bellator. He has won seven of his past nine overall.

The CES MMA 48 lineup includes:

For more on CES MMA 48, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Kamaru Usman wants to coach 'TUF' vs. Colby Covington, then fight him to earn UFC title shot

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ST. LOUIS – Kamaru Usman has a pretty good idea of what he wants his immediate future to look like.

The problem is, he probably has to convince at the very least his boss, UFC President Dana White, that what he wants is a good idea. And after Sunday, that may be easier said than done.

Usman (12-1 MMA, 7-0 UFC) on Sunday dominated Emil Meek (9-3 MMA, 1-1 UFC) for a unanimous decision on the main card of UFC Fight Night 124 at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. After the win, which seemed to be panned by many of the audience members in the arena, Usman said he only performed at 30 percent of his ability.

And after White heard that, he was openly critical of Usman, the Season 21 winner of “The Ultimate Fighter” who has gone on to a perfect 7-0 start in his UFC tenure.

Usman didn’t love it, either.

“I wasn’t happy with it,” he told MMAjunkie after the event. “It’s not what I would’ve wanted. As I said (in the cage), I came in at about 30 percent. But I wanted to give him the opportunity to get the fight (with me). He said a lot of things, and I know he was trying to get that fight, which he did. But I duck nobody. I’m here to fight any and everybody because I believe I’m the best. Even at 30 percent, you saw what I was capable of. I can take somebody down and break his will and dominate him from start to finish.”

Next up, Usman said he would like the chance to do that to Colby Covington (13-1 MMA, 8-1 UFC). The two have gone back and forth on social media, each saying the other has been ducking a fight.

Covington has been pushing for a welterweight title shot against champion Tyron Woodley, but White appears to be set on giving that shot to former lightweight champion Rafael dos Anjos once Woodley has recovered from a recent surgery.

So if Covington isn’t getting a title shot, then Usman has an idea.

“What I really want is, Colby Covington has been running his mouth,” Usman said. “He has no one to fight right now. He’s not getting the Tyron Woodley fight. Let’s put up or shut up. Let me and him coach ‘TUF.’ Who wouldn’t be interested in seeing that? Me and him coach ‘TUF,’ then at the end of it, me and him settle the score once and for all to see who’s that No. 1 contender.

“It looks like ‘RDA’ is going to fight the champ when the champ is back. So you know what? Put up or shut up. Let’s coach ‘TUF,’ and at the end, let me beat you up and we can settle it. I’m going to finish him – third round.”

For more from Usman on his fight with Meek and what he wants next, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman looks on prior to a fight against Emil Meek (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Emil Meek (blue gloves) fights Kamaru Usman (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Emil Meek (blue gloves) fights Kamaru Usman (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Emil Meek (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Emil Meek (blue gloves) fights Kamaru Usman (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Emil Meek (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Emil Meek (blue gloves) fights Kamaru Usman (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Emil Meek (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Emil Meek (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Emil Meek (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Kamaru Usman (red gloves) fights Emil Meek (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-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/wdNfkBjdeS2HCVWPs35SHo/296767", customAnalytics: true, title: "Usman def. Meek", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

J.J. Aldrich: Controlling nerves allowed me to be new fighter at UFC Fight Night 124

ST. LOUIS – J.J. Aldrich was a victim of the infamous octagon jitters in her UFC debut, and she lost. In her third fight with the promotion at UFC Fight Night 124, she said those nerves were channeled in a positive way, and she got the win.

“I think I was able to control and bring those nerves (in),” Aldrich told MMAjunkie following her unanimous decision win over Danielle Taylor. “Thinking back to even my debut with the UFC, all the nerves and the thoughts going through my head compared to today was just completely different. I felt like a new fighter in there.”

Aldrich (6-2 MMA, 2-1 UFC) outstruck Taylor (9-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC) over the course of three rounds at Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124 event, which took place at Scottrade Center in St. Louis. The strawweight bout streamed on UFC Fight Pass prior to the remainder of the card on FS1.

The performance marked Aldrich’s second consecutive UFC win after dropping her debut. It didn’t come easy, though. The 25-year-old did not get a very favorable style matchup. At 5-feet tall, Taylor is the shortest fighter on the UFC roster. Moreover, she’s a counter-striker with a lot of speed, and therefore difficult to put hands on.

Aldrich, 25, was able to time Taylor well and land some solid punches and kicks during the 115-pound contest. She said she knew it wasn’t going to be easy, but managed to effective implement the strategy put together by her team.

“I thought we executed the game plan we came up with and I was able to keep Danielle at bay with her speed and her power crosses,” Aldrich said. “She caught me once really good in the third. Other than that, I felt like I was able to move and avoid the punches like I need too.

“Everyone was like, ‘You’re so much taller than Danielle. Danielle’s so short – she has to fight you,'” she continued. “It’s like, ‘No, Danielle’s been fighting tall people her entire career.’ It’s my first time fighting someone that I’m so much taller than. It was more of a change for me than her. But she’s super tough and I know she’s really fast. Obviously she’s got knockouts, so she’s very dangerous, but I felt like I was able to do my game plan.”

UFC Fight Night 124 marked Aldrich’s return to competition after an inactive 2017 campaign. She fought just once this past year, but after getting a win so early on the calendar, she said the hope is for a busy next 12 months of competition.

“I really want a big year,” Aldrich said. “I only got to fight once last year. It was mid-year, so it was like every six months. I’d like a decent turnaround. A little bit of a break, but I want to stay active and get good wins and work my way up.”

For complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) celebrates after winning by unanimous decision against Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Danielle Taylor (red gloves) fights JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; JJ Aldrich (blue gloves) fights Danielle Taylor (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scotttrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-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/aayTmrSuXTYKh9qEtGP2j6/296264", customAnalytics: true, title: "Aldrich def. Taylor", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

UFC Fight Night 124 winner Marco Polo Reyes might move down to featherweight

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ST. LOUIS – Marco Polo Reyes entered Sunday’s UFC Fight Night 124 looking to bounce back from his first loss in the octagon.

“The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 2” veteran was on a three-fight winning streak when he crossed paths with fellow lightweight James Vick in May 2017. Less than three minutes into their UFC 211 bout, however, Vick stopped Reyes with punches. The setback, Reyes later admitted, gave him “a lot of doubts.”

Those doubts were placated at St. Louis’ Scotttrade Center. This time, it was Reyes’ (8-4 MMA, 4-1 UFC) hands that did it, exactly one minute into his meeting with Matt Frevola (6-1 MMA, 0-1 UFC).

“It definitely gives my confidence back,” Reyes said, with the help of an interpreter, after the FS1-televised preliminary card bout.

With another preliminary portion fight and an entire main card yet to happen then, Reyes could only hope his finish would be enough to grant him an added $50,000. He later found out it did. Reyes and Darren Elkins took “Performance of the Night” honors.

While it was quite the result for the understandably ecstatic Reyes, it was one that he wasn’t any really expecting.

“I was actually expecting a three-round fight,” Reyes said. “Very, very competitive fight, because Frevola is a good matchup.”

In fact, Reyes says he wasn’t even thinking about any results at all – rather, he was focused on doing his best. But one person who probably wasn’t that surprised with how it happened was another fighter who made a splash in the octagon in St. Louis.

Headliner Jeremy Stephens, who capped off the event with a TKO of fellow featherweight Dooho Choi, would go on to give Reyes credit for helping him prepare for Choi’s notoriously menacing right hand.

“The whole time, I’m worried about (Choi’s) right hand all camp, this and that,” Stephens said in his own backstage interview. “I’m like, ‘You know what, this guy doesn’t hit that hard.’

“I train with Polo Reyes, who’s a really hard-hitting guy. Tonight, he just folded somebody. And that’s at 155. And I train with him. So we were well-prepared.”

And since we’re talking about the UFC’s featherweight division, here’s one interesting piece of information: Reyes and his heavy hand might just be paying them a visit.

“I want to drop down to 145,” Reyes said. “So what I want to do is do a tryout. I’m going to train at 145 to see how everything goes and then I’m going to decide if I drop to 145 or if I stay at 155.”

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

And for complete coverage of UFC Fight Night 124, check out the UFC Events section of the site.

Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Matt Frevola (red gloves) fights Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Matt Frevola (red gloves) fights Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) fights Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) fights Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) fights Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) fights Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Matt Frevola (red gloves) fights Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) looks on after knocking out Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Matt Frevola (red gloves) is checked on by ring side doctors after being knocked out by Marco Polo Reyes (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Marco Polo Reyes (blue gloves) celebrates after knocking out Matt Frevola (red gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-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/ENHCU7WCTva4rKZ8vTznw7/296720", customAnalytics: true, title: "Reyes def. Frevola", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

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