MMA Weekly (9/18-9/25): Cris Cyborg Wins, Ben Saunders Re-Signs with the UFC, Ronda Rousey’s Potential Return
UFC Fight Night 95 delivered, as did Invicta, AXS TV’s CES MMA, and Rizin; needless to say, MMA fans had plenty of live fighting action to watch over the weekend. Additionally, eleven (by my count) high-profile contests were announced, and a number of intriguing developments were made, over the past week.
Just in case you missed any of the news, let’s recap everything MMA from the last seven days!
UFC Fight Night 95 Results: Cris Cyborg Takes Second-Round TKO, Barao Decisions Nover
As a whole, UFC Fight Night 95 was a good show. The pace, as per usual, sucked; those who sat and watched the early prelims through the main event committed over five hours of their time. But with DVR and some friends, the bouts were definitely worth watching.
The main card kicked off with a dominant featherweight contest for Godofredo Pepey, who bested the MMA Lab product Mike De La Torre via first-round rear-naked choke. Pepey rocked De La Torre badly, and perhaps after he connected with additional punches and noted his opponent’s durability, took the fight to the mat and locked in the choke. This was a fantastic win over an underrated competitor.
After that, Eric Spicely secured his first Octagon triumph when he submitted Thiago Santos in the opening round, via rear-naked choke. The bout was competitive until the finish, which was initiated by an absolutely gorgeous back-take from Eric. Not long after, he locked-in a clean, tight rear-naked choke that drew the tap.
Eric Spicely has a very bright UFC career ahead of him—seriously, the sky’s the limit for this guy. What an upset and what a victory!
In the lightweight division, Paul Felder met the decorated veteran Francisco Trinaldo in a fun contest that saw Trinaldo pick-up the win via TKO, following a referee stoppage due to a cut near Felder’s eye. This was an appropriate and well-timed call from the ref, for reference.
As for the match itself, the veteran experience of Trinaldo shined through and guided him to victory—he mixed up his strikes and takedowns, his movement and his timing, and his overall game en route to a dominant performance.
In the featured fight of the night, Roy Nelson won via second-round knockout against Antonio “Bigfoot” Silva. Silva was doing well avoiding the right hand, to a degree, but as all of Nelson’s losing opponents have found out the hard way, it only takes one to spell the end. Roy connected cleanly, followed up with shots on the mat, and sealed the deal. Some controversy arose when “Big Country” lightly tapped referee John McCarthy with his foot after the win, in protest of the stoppage, which Nelson believed was late. Especially given Roy’s differences with the UFC brass (or Dana White, specifically), there’s no telling what the fallout of this episode will be.
In the co-main event, Renan Barao clearly bested Phillipe Nover across three rounds. Nover was game and well-trained, and he even had some success of his own, but Barao was just one step ahead throughout the contest, in his striking timing and his movement. Let’s hope the UFC finds Phillipe another fight in the promotion—he’s clearly improved by leaps and bounds, and the list of competitors that could perform like this against someone as elite as Renan Barao isn’t very long.
Finally, the main event saw Cris Cyborg dispatch Lina Lansberg via second-round TKO. Like most expected, the powerful and physically larger Cyborg overwhelmed her opponent in every walk of the game. I’ve been an outspoken critic of Cyborg’s UFC run; in my opinion, she needs to drop to bantamweight or fight in a promotion equipped with a featherweight division. The UFC and I are evidently on different pages, though, and she was dominant here.
Ronda Rousey May Return on December 30 at UFC 207
Ronda Rousey fans may be able to watch her compete in the Octagon later this year.
Unverified reports indicated that “Rowdy,” who has been busy with a number of other professional endeavors, was offered a title fight opposite reigning champion Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 on December 30. Whether or not this development is accurate, or if Rousey accepted the contest, is unknown at this time.
Frankly, I’m leaning towards the entire scenario being untrue—except for the part where Rousey was offered a return fight because the UFC has likely been knocking at her door for ages now. While the promotion definitely wants her to get the belt back, the fact remains that Rousey won’t be able to do so—temporarily disregarding the result of the title contest—while attracting maximum attention until the Holly Holm defeat is avenged (or some closure is reached; the point is that the rematch must happen).
To make matters even more precarious, Holly Holm is presently riding a two-fight losing streak, and at nearly thirty-five years of age, finding her way back to a title shot will be a challenge; of course, winning the belt back will be even harder. Thus, if Rousey fights and defeats Amanda Nunes, the odds of her rematch against Holm ever being booked are slim.
The time is perfect for Holm-Rousey 2, and if Ronda wins, she should be set-up opposite the champ. Keeping Nunes inactive through the rest of the year isn’t ideal, but there simply isn’t a better, viable option available—other than having her fight Valentina Shevchenko again, although Nunes defeated her earlier this year.
Bellator Announces MMA-Kickboxing Event for December 10
Bellator will host another kickboxing-MMA hybrid event on December 10; it was revealed this week. Like their last “combo” show, Bellator 167 will be held in Italy. Furthermore, it’s been announced that Italy-native Alessio Sakara will lock horns with Joey Beltran in MMA, while Denise Kielholtz and Gloria Peritore will rematch for a Bellator kickboxing title.
Finally, stars such as Raymond Daniels and Joe Schilling, amongst others, are likely to compete during the show’s kickboxing portion.
The tape delay is always tough (and unnecessary) to deal with, but this quick return to Italy indicates that Bellator has cracked the local market—which, as is clear from the UFC’s lack of trying, is not easy to do—by combining something Italian fans are known to appreciate, kickboxing, with something they’re known to be unsure of, MMA. Throw in a beloved and exciting star like Alessio Sakara along with some homegrown talent, and evidently, the tickets do sell.
This is excellent news for Bellator, Italian fans, and most importantly of all, up and coming Italian mixed martial artists. Hopefully, this event provides quality combat sports action.
Ben “Killa B” Saunders Re-Joins the UFC
UFC and Bellator veteran, fan-favorite, and high-level mixed martial artist Ben “Killa B” Saunders has found his way back into the Octagon, it was revealed this week, as he signed a brand new contract.
Saunders had accumulated a record of three wins and one loss during his latest promotional run when he was confusingly passed-over by the UFC. Exactly what happened is still unclear, even after Killa B gave his official account, but he did mention that personal issues delayed his signing of a new UFC contract.
When he left the promotion, many fans were frustrated. Plainly put, Saunders is one of the most unpredictable and riveting competitors to fight at such a high level, and his magnificent wins over Chris Heatherly (the first omoplata finish in UFC history) and Kenny Robertson were definitely notable.
Many expected this outcry to prompt a quick re-signing, but it didn’t, and Saunders fought fellow UFC veteran Jacob Volkmann in a regional show. In remarkable fashion and against a commonly overlooked fighter, Saunders won via armbar in just seventeen seconds.
He was promptly signed by the promotion after the win.
I speak for most everyone in saying it’s fantastic to have him back. Now, about that fight opposite Matt Brown…
Legacy FC and Resurrection Fighting Alliance Merge into Legacy Fighting Alliance; Legacy Founder Mick Maynard Becomes New UFC Matchmaker
Two of the top regional promotions in the world, which were commonly seen as springboards into the UFC, have merged. Legacy Fighting Championship and Resurrection Fighting Alliance, both of which boasted AXS TV broadcast deals and in the case of the latter, is owned by MMA manager Ed Soares, have combined and become Legacy Fighting Alliance. Their rosters will become one, and more shows than ever will air next year.
This is phenomenal news, as AXS TV fights were awesome beforehand, and also because everyone involved made out pretty well. Fighters get a bigger platform to showcase their skills; Ed Soares gets to operate a huge company, and Mick Maynard is now a UFC matchmaker.
I rarely forego providing at least one complaint to every development in MMA, admittedly, but there’s no denying that this is just an intelligent series of maneuvers. What’s more is that running a regional MMA show isn’t easy by any stretch of the imagination; it’s nice to see the endeavor end positively for these parties.
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Karolina Kowalkiewicz at UFC 205 on November 12
While good for New York fans, not taking this bout to Poland is questionable, in my opinion. Polish fans are committed, and Joanna Champion is huge over there. While the crowd wouldn’t be able to cheer for either side, the energy of an all-Polish title fight, along with competitors like Marcin Held and Jan Blachowicz, would sell well, and also, provide a commonly overlooked benefit: inspiration to young, potential competitors. It might sound dumb, but in all seriousness, how many UFC and Bellator fighters have stated they became enamored with MMA while attending an energetic live event?
Still, NYC is the bigger platform, and this is beneficial for these talented Polish ladies.
Lyman Good vs. Belal Muhammad at UFC 205 on November 12
Two heavy-handed strikers with an obvious affection for entertaining fans are a great addition to the UFC’s NYC debut—plain and simple.
Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington at UFC 205 on November 12
A solid bantamweight contest, this one is a must-win for both competitors, in relation to the title picture; a loss will make a crack at the belt a tough sell for either woman.
Frankie Edgar vs. Jeremy Stephens at UFC 205 on November 12
Edgar and Stephens are top-level fighters, and also, they are two of the most riveting competitors in the UFC’s featherweight division. The stakes are high here, and without a doubt, fans will be entertained.
Liam McGeary vs. Phil Davis at Bellator 163 on November 4
It’s about time! I—and many other fans—have been waiting for Phil Davis to redeem his title shot against the reigning Bellator light heavyweight champion Liam McGeary for some time now. McGeary is undefeated as a pro, and all but one of his career triumphs have come by way of submission or knockout. Phil Davis is a NCAA Division 1 wrestler, marvelous MMA fighter, and UFC veteran riding a three-fight winning streak—including a most-recent triumph over King Mo, which saw him hurt Lawal while striking.
Brandon Moreno vs. Louis Smolka at UFC Fight Night 96 on October 1
A late replacement for Sergio Pettis, Brandon Moreno is TUF 24 veteran riding an eight-fight professional winning streak. He’s a great replacement on such short notice, and this should be a quality fight.
Ross Pearson vs. James Krause at UFC Fight Night 99 on November 19
Absolutely a must-win fight for Ross Pearson, this bout is a deceivingly well-timed; although Pearson is on a losing streak and Krause a winning streak, the fight serves them both well. For Pearson, it allows him to fight someone out of the top fifteen, for a change, to see how he fares, and for Krause, it gives him a chance to fight against an experienced, upper-echelon UFC veteran who’s battled some of the best lightweights in the world.
Ian McCall vs. Neil Seery at UFC Fight Night 99 on November 19
Neil Seery announced he’ll retire after this one, and Ian McCall is a fantastic final dance partner. Both men throw down inside the Octagon, and Irish fans attending live, as well as those watching on TV, are in for a treat.
Blagoy Ivanov vs. TBD at WSOF 35 on December 3
WSOF heavyweight champion and Bellator veteran Blagoy Ivanov will defend his belt against the winner of Ashley Gooch vs. Shawn Jordan—a contest set for October 7, at WSOF 33.
Either way, this is a pretty good end-of-year headliner and title fight.
Derek Brunson vs. Robert Whittaker at UFC Fight Night 101 on November 27
Making a quick turnaround after his recent first-round finish of Uriah Hall, Derek Brunson will battle Robert Whittaker at a well-populated Australian event. Both men are on impressive streaks, and frankly, middleweight can use some new contenders; the winner here may very well fight for a shot at the belt in their next outing.
Chris Camozzi vs. Daniel Kelly at UFC Fight Night 101 on November 27
Evenly matched and potentially riveting, this is a logical middleweight match that should once again please fans.
This week in MMA was terrific, and as always, let’s hope next week is even better. See you then!