Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports 2 days ago
Saturday’s UFC Fight Night 70 put the wrap on the first half of MMA’s 2015 schedule. And while Fourth of July weekend is a rare breather, things pick up later that month, with Jose Aldo vs. Conor McGregor at UFC 189 leading the pack in a crowded field.
Since we have a moment or two to catch up, let’s take a look at the year’s best in the sport through six months:
Fighter of the Half-Year: Joanna Jedrzejczyk. Due to injuries and just the way the schedule has panned out, only two of the UFC’s current 10 champions have competed twice thus far in 2015. One, Daniel Cormier, lost to Jon Jones on Jan. 3, then came back to defeat Anthony Johnson to win the vacant light heavyweight title on Memorial Day weekend at UFC 187.
Jedrzejczyk, meanwhile, is the only champ with a 2-0 record in 2015. The native of Poland destroyed Carla Esparza to win the strawweight title at UFC 185 on March 14 via second-round TKO. On June 20, she became the first fighter to successfully defend the 115-pound crown with an equally one-sided win over Jessica Penne -- this time, a third-round finish.
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Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports 9 days ago
When Kimbo Slice roughed up Ken Shamrock on Friday night with the heavy-handed fists which made him one of YouTube’s original sensations, mixed martial arts fandom’s pseudo-intellectual wing scoffed.
The main event of Bellator 138 wasn’t MMA at its purest, they brayed. It was an embarrassment to the sport. Throwing the 41-year-old brawler in with the 51-year old UFC Hall of Famer would kill credibility.
All the other metrics, however, indicate otherwise.
Google searches for “Kimbo Slice” over the weekend were around 500,000, putting it on par with UFC 182 (Jon Jones vs. Daniel Cormier) and UFC 183 (Anderson Silva vs. Nick Diaz), the UFC’s biggest events over the past year. Bellator 138 took first for the day in the Nielson Twitter TV ratings in the Series and Specials category. Media outlets like the New York Times, which rarely touch MMA, much less the sport’s second-place brand, covered the event.
While television ratings haven’t been released at the time of this writing, Bellator 138 buzzed big.
It’s not as if Bellator is banking its entire future on fighters like Slice, the fatal mistake which finished off companies like Elite XC.
Dave Doyle at Yahoo Sports 15 days ago
Velasquez spent two weeks in Mexico's capital before his UFC 188 heavyweight title unification bout with Werdum, thinking it would be enough time to acclimate to the city's 7,389-foot altitude.
Werdum, who went into Saturday night's event at Arena Ciudad de Mexico as UFC interim heavyweight champion and came out the undisputed champ, had set up camp in the mountains near Toluca, Mexico, at 10,000-feet elevation, where he stayed for 40 days leading up to fight week.
The story of Werdum vs. Velasquez was in many ways the story of UFC 188 itself. From the opening bout of the night, when Gabriel Benitez and Clay Collard had a frantic first round and then noticeably tired before Benitez won a unanimous decision, it was clear the altitude was the evening's second-biggest storyline, after Werdum's title victory.
Those who were ready to compete in the thin air had a good night; those who didn't were in for a long evening.
"People think Denver [elevation, 5,130] is a tough place to fight," said White. "This is a tough place to fight."
White, for one, noticed the difference. Werdum seemed prepared. Velasquez didn't.
But Carlos Condit (29-8) is looking at his major knee injury, which was suffered on a simple takedown, as something of a blessing in disguise.
As one of the sport's most popular fighters gets set to return to the cage on Saturday, the 31-year-old Albuquerque native says that he took a philosophical approach to an injury which has stopped the careers of some of the world's greatest athletes.
"In a weird way I was kind of lucky, because it was a dozen years into my career that this happened," Condit said. "It could have happened a long time ago and really set me back. At least I've accomplished quite a bit in the sport before this happened and things like these are inevitable in a sport like MMA."
The fighter nicknamed "The Natural Born Killer" returns to action on Saturday night, when he headlines a FOX Sports 1-televised UFC Fight Night card in Goiania, Brazil, against Thiago Alves (21-9).
Condit injured himself last year at UFC 171, when a fluke shift of the leg as he attempted to defend a takedown quickly turned into a loss to Tyron Woodley.
Will the post-surgery Condit look like the vintage Condit?
Sounds like the script for a Hulk Hogan vs. Iron Sheik match from the 1980s, right? And yet, this was essentially how things played out when Chris Weidman defeated Vitor Belfort to retain his UFC middleweight title Saturday night.
Weidman’s matchup was UFC 187’s co-feature bout, behind Daniel Cormier’s light heavyweight title win over Anthony Johnson. But the MGM Grand Garden Arena rocked and rolled to the Weidman-Belfort fight and treated it like the evening’s real main event.
Nearly two years after defeating Anderson Silva for the title in what many considered a fluke knockout, the message is clear: Weidman is on the brink of A-list stardom, and Saturday night likely marked the last time he’ll play second fiddle to anyone.
And the undefeated champion seems to know it, too.
"Hey, stop doubting me," Weidman said during his post-fight interview. "It's enough. Stop doubting me. You better join the team now. This is my last invitation. Join the team. I love you."
Weidman’s last four victories have come against certified legends of mixed martial arts, future Hall of Famers and champions over two weight classes.
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LOS ANGELES – Those who aren't familiar with the culture of mixed martial arts might find this an odd dynamic: Your roommate today could be the guy you're punching in the face in front of 15,000 people somewhere down the road.
UFC heavyweight contender Travis Browne (17-2-1) knew this was a possibility a couple years back, when he let former UFC heavyweight champion Andrei Arlovski (23-10, 1 no-contest) crash on his couch in Browne's Albuquerque home while Arlovski got settled into the city.
Browne was a mainstay at New Mexico's famed Jackson's MMA gym. Arlovski, coming off a string of bad losses, was just joining up with Jackson's, looking for a fresh start on a career gone awry.
They'd push each other in the gym as sparring partners, help each other to be their best. But with only so many top-notch heavyweights out there, chances were good that their paths would cross at some point.
While Browne maintains his friendship with Arlovski, Saturday night will be all business.
Johnson broke Arlovski's jaw midway through the fight, but Arlovski not only went the distance, he won the final round on the scorecards before losing via unanimous decision.
The American Kickboxing Academy, the San Jose home to UFC heavyweight champion Cain Velasquez and a host of the sport’s top contenders, was the subject of a recent Dana White rant on UFC training-camp injuries.
"Some of the camps are still in the stone ages and need to be brought up to date," the UFC president recently said. "AKA is one of those places. You've got Cain Velasquez, our heavyweight champion, who's always hurt. Those guys go to war every day.”
While AKA was the specific target of White’s wrath, the gym may as well have served as a surrogate for the UFC boss’ frustrations over the ongoing battle with injuries and out-of-competition issues that wreak havoc on the company’s fight schedule.
Yet, while the constant flow of fighters on and off cards has continued unabated, the issue no longer seems as front-and-center as it once was. Why the seeming lack of urgency?
Werdum holds that interim belt because Velasquez had to pull out of their first fight date, on Nov. 15, which was caused by ongoing knee issues.
Stop us if you’ve heard this one before: Quinton “Rampage” Jackson is happy after a fresh start with a new promotion. He couldn’t be happier with his new relationship and has nothing but disdain for his old one.
"I thought I was going to do better by leaving the UFC and I was wrong," the former UFC light heavyweight champion said Saturday night. "The UFC is the best organization on the planet.”
It was less than two years ago when Jackson (36-11) was whispering sweet nothings into the ear of then-Bellator CEO Bjorn Rebney, trash-talking the UFC and claiming Bellator would be his home for the rest of his career.
Longtime fans will recall that when Jackson’s first UFC stint began in 2007, the Memphis native had choice words for PRIDE, where he fought for several years.
Say this for Jackson, who turns 37 in June: he’s consistent in his inconsistency. And he’s never been through quite a promotional adventure like the one that ultimately landed him at Montreal’s Bell Centre for UFC 186, where he defeated Fabio Maldonado via unanimous decision in the evening’s co-main event.
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For someone whom critics claimed was only featured on network television because of her looks, Paige VanZant sure knows how to fight.
Both the UFC and network television partner FOX were heavily criticized in the buildup to Saturday night’s UFC on FOX 15 card in Newark, N.J., for placing VanZant’s fight against Felice Herrig on the main card.
This, the trolls bleated, was a matter of cheesecake over substance. Certainly there were more worthy fighters in the newly established strawweight division who could use the boost.
VanZant got the bulk of the hate. Less than a month past her 21st birthday, VanZant entered the Prudential Center with just five fights to her credit. And she already had a Reebok sponsorship, something usually reserved for the likes of Jon Jones and Ronda Rousey. Though Herrig has also been criticized for taking advantage of her looks, at least she was a veteran of 15 fights.
“I felt it [the pressure],” VanZant (5-1) admitted during Saturday’s post-fight news conference.
UFC president Dana White, never one prone to understatement, went so far as to compare VanZant to Irish superstar Conor McGregor in an interview on FOX Sports 1.
Or if someone tried to pull such a stunt with middleweight champion Chris Weidman.
You don't have to stretch too far to know how UFC light heavyweight champion Jon Jones would react. It took much less provocation, after all, for Jones and Daniel Cormier to engage in an all-out brawl in the lobby of the MGM Grand hotel during a press conference last summer.
So how was Conor McGregor able to get away with a flagrant show of disrespect against longtime featherweight champion Jose Aldo Jr.?
In the final event of a near-two-week media tour promoting their July 11 fight at UFC 189 in Las Vegas, McGregor snuck over to the other side of the stage and took Aldo's belt. UFC president Dana White stepped between McGregor and an angered Aldo before things could get physical, but not before McGregor held the belt aloft to the delight of his hometown Dublin fans.
"He can say whatever he wants," Aldo told a gathering of Brazilian reporters upon returning home from the tour. "He can do whatever he wants. I don't care. I will always fight for me. I don't give a damn what he says. I'm focused on myself, on my gym and on my friends."