MMA Weekly (12/11-12/18): Michelle Waterson, King Mo Win Big
This week was a good one for MMA fans, thanks to an unusual lack of drama, a considerable number of announced fights, and some exciting contests that took place at Bellator 169 and UFC on Fox 22.
Let’s recap all the action!
UFC on Fox 22: Michelle Waterson and Mickey Gall Halt Prospects
UFC on Fox 22 played out pretty well, with all things considered. Additionally, the main card’s normally dull pacing was rather smooth this time around, thanks to the fact that its first two fights went the distance.
This main card kicked off with a welterweight tilt between hardnosed striker Mike Perry and seasoned veteran Alan Jouban, who is also known for his striking. This riveting match began as most fans expected, with Perry and Jouban trading big shots. However, the kicks and range of Jouban allowed him to win the round.
This sensation was increasingly apparent in the second and third periods, as Perry slowed as a result of both fatigue and the vicious blows landed by his opponent. Thus, the final verdict of this one was a unanimous decision for Alan Jouban, who has officially turned in an undefeated 2016.
After that, MMA legend Urijah Faber thrilled his own Sacramento crowd in his final career fight against Brad Pickett. Faber returned to old form in this bout, utilizing perfect overall timing, striking, and grappling across three rounds to win a unanimous decision. Truthfully, this one could have been stopped in the first stanza, when Faber dropped and badly rocked Pickett, before pouring on a great deal of ground and pound.
Urijah Faber has had an incredible MMA career, and here’s to hoping he’s successful in his future endeavors.
In the co-main event, undefeated prospect Mickey Gall proved he was the real deal by submitting Sage Northcutt in the second round. A close opening five-minute frame, wherein the BJJ specialist Gall looked for and found takedowns, was followed by an initially confident minute for “Super Sage” in the second, as he turned up the heat with his striking.
Then, seemingly out of nowhere, Gall perfectly timed a huge punch, dropped Northcutt, took his back, and not long after, found a rear-naked choke and a tap.
Mickey Gall may have earned his way to the UFC through unordinary and frankly questionable circumstances, but after this, there’s no denying that he’s a fearsome and title-contending athlete. His drop to the lightweight division, which he announced during the post-fight interview, is also noteworthy.
In the main event, Michelle Waterson dispatched Paige VanZant via first-round rear-naked choke. The story of this contest was Waterson’s technical advantages, as she simply possessed better and more skillful maneuvers than Paige—likely due to her experience edge. A gorgeous throw allowed Waterson to assume top position, and then the back, from where she secured a rear-naked choke. After some struggle from a very game VanZant, the referee drew a halt to the action
This was a great main-event win for Michelle Waterson, and also, one that puts her very close to a title shot.
Bellator 169: King Mo and James Gallagher Win Unanimous Decisions
Bellator 169, Bellator’s final event of 2016 and Ireland debut, was reasonably interesting to watch. However, matchmaking issues—particularly in terms of several contenders’ opposition—once again put a damper on things.
The main card began with a featherweight tilt between the underrated former Bellator featherweight title challenger Daniel Weichel and late replacement Brian Moore. Moore showed up to win in front of his hometown crowd, but his power punches weren’t enough to best his skilled German opponent, who picked his shots on the feet and ultimately completed a gorgeous takedown. From top position, Weichel quickly moved to back mount, hunted for the rear-naked choke, and ultimately settled for an arm-triangle choke from mount, which drew a tap with sixteen seconds remaining in the round.
Weichel is one of the best featherweights in Bellator and the world, and hopefully, we’ll see him compete for the belt once again in his next outing.
Next, undefeated mixed martial artist and boxing world champion Sinead Kavanagh topped fellow undefeated competitor Elina Kallionidou. The eighteen-year-old Kallionidou didn’t look great in the first professional loss of her career, but she did hang in there and weather countless punishing strikes from her SBG Ireland-based opponent. Both women are worth watching in the future, but the final result of this match was a one-sided unanimous decision for Kavanagh.
In the co-main event, twenty-year-old SBG Ireland product James Gallagher kept his undefeated professional record intact against Anthony Taylor. Taylor threw bombs on the feet, looking to make a statement, but Gallagher used his kicks, movement, and toughness to weather the storm—much like Daniel Weichel did.
In the final period, fatigue became a factor for Taylor, and after the BJJ-ace Gallagher completed a fantastic takedown, the end came when he assumed the back mount and locked in a rear-naked choke.
James Gallagher has a very, very bright future, but it’s clear that he currently has some fairly large holes in his game. Bellator’s biggest challenge moving forward will be maintaining fan interest as they allow James time to grow as an athlete; after all, he was a co-main event fighter here!
In the main event, King Mo moved back up to heavyweight against Dream veteran Satoshi Ishii and won a one-sided unanimous decision. The former Bellator light heavyweight title challenger Lawal used his phenomenal boxing, wrestling, and overall cage awareness to clearly best, but not quite dominate, his opponent across three rounds.
Following his victory, King Mo and Bellator revealed that he’ll be traveling to Japan to compete in Rizin FC’s New Year’s Eve tournament, filling in for an injured Wanderlei Silva. This is remarkable news for fans all around the world and Rizin, as Mo is clearly a top-ten light heavyweight (and possibly top-five or better).
MMA Fight Announcements
Holly Holm versus Germaine de Randamie—for the featherweight belt—at UFC 208 on February 11
Cyborg Santos is being sidestepped for the featherweight crown, but after it was revealed that she turned down a two and one-half month training camp for this inaugural title bout, it’s hard to blame the UFC. Besides, the business reasoning behind de Randamie-Holm is incredible.
Now, the UFC have a way to promote Rousey-Holm 2 as a superfight (or as a fight in general, as it would be difficult to justify giving Holm another bantamweight title match after two 135 lbs. losses in a row), assuming she wins (and Rousey reclaims the belt). If Holm doesn’t win, de Randamie will probably be booked against Cyborg, which would then set up a superfight with Rousey, if Cris won (and Ronda won, of course).
And finally, if Germaine de Randamie beats both Holly Holm and Cris Cyborg, she’ll be ready for a superfight of her own, with whoever the bantamweight champion is! And even if Rousey loses to Amanda Nunes, she can enter title talks with this new weight division.
The point is, crafting a women’s featherweight class once again makes good business sense from every angle.
Dustin Poirier versus Jim Miller at UFC 208 on February 11
Two of the very best lightweights in the world will clash here, in what is all but sure to be an exciting match for the fans.
Ryan LaFlare versus Roan Carneiro at UFC 208 on February 11
It’s been over a year since Ryan LaFlare last fought inside the Octagon, and it’ll be good to have him back. However, he’s not being given an easy bout in his return by any means, as Roan Carneiro is a high-level welterweight.
Derrick Lewis versus Travis Browne at UFC 208 on February 11
Derrick Lewis has gotten his wish, and will now meet Travis Browne in what is a stylistically intriguing contest. Furthermore, a win for either man will place them in position for a huge fight, and possibly a title bout with another victory after that.
Ian McCall versus Neil Seery at UFC 208 on February 11
Let’s hope the fourth time’s the charm for McCall, as he’s been scheduled to fight three different opponents in a row (this is, however, the second time a bout with Neil Seery has been made), only to see the matches fall through—twice because of his adversaries’ issues and once because he fell ill.
Additionally, this is expected to be Seery’s final professional contest—a point which undoubtedly adds to its importance.
Islam Makhachev vs. Nik Lentz at UFC 208 on February 11
We’ll find out what Islam Makhachev is truly made of here, as Nik Lentz is likely his toughest opponent to date.
Yuta Sasaki versus Wilson Reis at UFC 208 on February 11
Both Sasaki and Reis are doing very well at flyweight, and as I’ve said several times, such a thin division needs more title challengers; a win for either competitor may allow for a shot at the belt. Let’s also not forget that Reis was at one point scheduled to fight Demetrious Johnson at UFC 201!
George Sullivan versus Randy Brown at UFC 208 on February 11
This is an odd match-up, as Sullivan really needs a win, and Randy Brown can really benefit from a win.
Marcin Tybura versus Luis Henrique Barbosa de Oliveira at UFC 208 on February 11
These capable heavyweights can both be serious contenders if they are able to put all their skills together.
Edson Barboza versus Beneil Dariush at UFC Fight Night 107 on March 11
This should be a quality fight, and furthermore, it will help to determine a future title challenger; don’t overlook either of these men.
Kelvin Gastelum versus Vitor Belfort at UFN 107 on March 11
It’s hard to find much of an upside for Kelvin Gastelum here, as he’s won two in a row, and Belfort has lost two in a row (against elite competition, however) other than the fact that a win will put him a bit closer to contention for the middleweight crown.
Stylistically, this should be a fun main event.
Junior dos Santos versus Stefan Struve 2 at UFC Fight Night 105 on February 19
Stefan Struve has improved by leaps and bounds lately, but we’ll find out just how much better he is at UFN 105 when he rematches one of the very best heavyweights in the world.
Donald Cerrone versus Jorge Masvidal at UFC on Fox 23 on January 28
This riveting match is even more interesting because it’s been booked so quickly after Masvidal and Cerrone’s last bouts. These dudes love to fight!
Andrei Arlovski versus Francis Ngannou at UFC on Fox 23 on January 28
This is a huge step up in competition for Ngannou, but if he wins, he’ll be very close to a title match.
Brandon Thatch versus Niko Price at UFC 207 on December 30; Sabah Homasi injured
Following an injury to Sabah Homasi, promotional newcomer Niko Price has stepped up to fight Brandon Thatch. Rukus badly needs a win here, and undefeated Price is certainly looking to make a name for himself.
Tony Martin versus Alex White at UFC Fight Night 103 on January 15; Erik Koch injured
Following an injury to Eric Koch, Alex White—a high-level fighter who most recently beat Artem Lobov—was tabbed as a replacement against submission specialist Tony Martin.
Tecia Torres versus Bec Rawlings at UFC Fight Night 104 on February 4
This is a quality strawweight fight in a division that, like men’s flyweight and light heavyweight, can always use new title contenders.
Christmas weekend won’t feature any MMA events, and furthermore, just one more fight card is set for 2016: December 30’s UFC 207, which is headlined by Ronda Rousey versus Amanda Nunes and co-headlined by Dominick Cruz versus Cody Garbrandt.