This Week in MMA (1/31-2/7): Tim Means Pulled from Fight with Cerrone, Bellator Signs Former UFC Lightweight Champ Benson Henderson
This week in MMA featured some surprising and frankly exciting news, as well as an enjoyable overall fight card. Let’s take a look at the action!
UFN 82 Results: “Wonderboy” Overwhelms Hendricks in the First, Prelims Steal the Show
UFN 82 wasn’t the promotion’s best event.
For a number of different reasons, the card was rather lackluster as a whole, especially regarding the fights on its main card (barring the main event).
In the main event of the night, a vastly improved Stephen Thompson overwhelmed the former champion Johny Hendricks in the first, throwing a dizzying flurry of kicks and strikes with urgency. It was an impressive win that may very well have granted “Wonderboy” his first shot at the title—or, at the very least, a spot in a title-elimination fight.
The rest of the main card really wasn’t particularly exciting or interesting; there seemed to be a general lack of urgency and push from most of the athletes. When it seemed that one fighter had the upper hand, he simply proceeded to run away with the victory to the scorecards. This certainly wasn’t the UFC’s fault, and at least one of these lackluster fights was partly a result of poor circumstance (OSP’s injury), but it’s undeniably a good thing that this card wasn’t part of the original PPV event.
The televised prelims were a completely different story.
First, Diego Rivas came back after being dominated in the first round by Noad Lahat to land a flush, perfectly timed, overpowered flying knee that finished Lahat immediately. It’s worth noting that Rivas was also a big underdog.
Next, Justin Scoggins displayed a massively improved and fun-to-watch striking game as he carefully outmaneuvered and overwhelmed Ray Borg to a unanimous decision as a major underdog.
Then, Derrick Lewis showcased his brutal power yet again, defeating Damian Grabowski via strikes in the first (in what was perhaps a slightly premature stoppage).
Finally, Josh Burkman found success in his new weight class, defeating K.J. Noons via unanimous decision as an underdog once again. It wasn’t the most exciting fight, but compared to the main card contests, this one was enjoyable to watch.
Also worth mentioning is that Mickey Gall finalized his shot at CM Punk with a quick win over Michael Jackson. When the fight was announced, I incorrectly cited Jackson’s record, confusing him with a different fighter named Michael Jackson. It turns out that, like many other walks of life, the MMA world is home to many men named Michael Jackson! In any case, this Jackson was making his professional and promotional debut and was finished via rear-naked choke early in the first.
Overall, UFN 82 was certainly worth watching, but once again, paying $60 for its fights (even with Werdum-Miocic) would have been a bit of a stretch.
Bellator Signs Former UFC Lightweight Champion and Multi-Division Competitor Benson Henderson
Bellator unveiled what is arguably its biggest signing to date, as the elite Benson Henderson has found a home in the promotion.
The news came as a bit of a shock to most fans, as Henderson has compiled an impressive record inside the Octagon, claiming gold at lightweight, and most recently, winning two straight against Brandon Thatch and Jorge Masvidal at welterweight.
Henderson said a number of things factored into this decision, but the implications of his signing cannot be understated: this is a massive mark that will change the landscape of MMA for many years to come. More and more fighters, in each promotion, will fight out their contracts to test the free market; even if they don’t sign elsewhere, the competition will almost certainly earn them more money.
Henderson is evidently eager to get his Bellator career moving, as a welterweight title fight between him and current champion Andrey Koreshkov has been announced for April 22nd, at Bellator 153. Koreshkov is a high-level welterweight, and especially after his improved wrestling was on display against Douglas Lima, this match is one that should be very exciting.
Bellator also announced that TUF 1 veteran and longtime UFC middleweight Chris Leben has been signed to the promotion, as has Pride and Strikeforce vet Sergei Kharitonov. Both of these athletes, especially Kharitonov, will fit in excellently in the promotion. It appears as though Scott Coker truly is serious about vastly expanding his roster.
On a final and separate note, Coker also revealed that former UFC welterweight champion Pat Miletich is in-talks to make a return to the cage under the Bellator banner. I’ll leave the inevitable judgement to all of these recent moves by Bellator to the other fans, but I will say, without hesitation, that I’d definitely tune in to watch Pat Miletich fight on free television.
UFC, Bellator, and the World Series of Fighting Announce Several New Fights
The three leading promotions have announced a mass of exciting fights this week—one of them as a result of poor circumstance.
Tim Means was forced from his scheduled contest with Donald Cerrone on February 21st when it was announced that he’d failed a drug test administered by the USADA. He tested positive for some sort of PED, and although he is contesting the test’s results, he won’t be able to do so in time for the event.
As such, fellow “Cowboy” Alex Oliveira has stepped up on short notice to battle Cerrone. The talented Brazilian has fought for the promotion on short notice on more than one occasion, and despite a near-upset of Gilbert Burns, Oliveira has made his name known in the promotion, defeating K.J. Noons, Joe Merritt, and Piotr Hallmann in his last three. This is a solid fight and one of the best that the promotion could have put together this close to the event (certainly, the UFC is thankful for both “Cowboys” right about now!).
A rumored rematch between Chris Weidman and Luke Rockhold has been announced as well and is being targeted for UFC 199 in June. With the rest of the division held up like it is, this is another smart move by the promotion, especially given the relative closeness of their first encounter (there was quite a bit of success boasted by each man prior to the finish).
Also, UFC 197 was announced for April 23rd in Las Vegas, and will feature a rematch between Daniel Cormier and Jon Jones for the light heavyweight strap, as well as another title bout between Demetrious Johnson and the undefeated Henry Cejudo. With these two fights alone, UFC 197 is essentially guaranteed to be worth a buy, and the promotion’s new tactic of booking lower-profile title fights on the same PPV cards as highly anticipated blockbusters will certainly be appreciated by fans and fighters alike.
The following fights were also announced this week:
—Melvin Guillard versus Derek Campos at Bellator 149 on the 19th.
It was revealed that Mike Bronzoulis was injured, and on such short notice, this is an impressive and evenly matched fight.
—Bubba Jenkins versus Goiti Yamauchi at Bellator 151 on March 4th.
This should be an outstanding fight although I (and many other fans) were surprised that the promotion was willing to end one of its top featherweight’s win streaks (frankly, more title contenders at featherweight will be beneficial to both Bellator and the UFC).
—Josh Copeland versus Mike Hayes at heavyweight, Cory Devela against Louis Taylor at middleweight, and Josh Cavan versus Kris Hocum at welterweight at WSOF 29 on March 12th.
While most fans probably don’t know much about the latter two fights, Copeland and Hayes should be a solid contest, and perhaps another win could allow Copeland to fight for the promotion’s belt.
—Mairbek Taisumov versus Damir Hadzovic at lightweight, and Marcin Tybura against Timothy Johnson on April 10th in the UFC, for the promotion’s first show in Croatia.
I’m not going to pretend to know a whole lot about the promotional newcomers here, but these appear to be interesting fights; I’m very curious as to what the main event for the show will be, however. Undoubtedly, the promotion’s planning behind the event relied heavily upon Cro Cop’s appearance.
—UFC on Fox 19 was supplemented with the announcement of Lyoto Machida versus Dan Henderson 2 and Mauricio Rua against Rashad Evans.
All four of these high-profile fighters share the undesirable distinction of desperately needing a win, but nevertheless, these contests are certainly worth watching for free.
UFC Flyweight Title Challenger Chris Cariaso Retires
At thirty-four years of age and after thirteen appearances inside the Octagon, Chris Cariaso has called it a career.
“Kamikaze” has consistently fought against some of the best fighters in the world, competing in Strikeforce, as well as the UFC and the WEC. Some of his most notable wins include triumphs over Takeya Mizugaki and Louis Smolka, and the longtime flyweight contender also holds the considerable distinction of tangling with current flyweight champ Demetrious Johnson in what was his most successful headlining PPV event to date, in terms of buyers.
This week in MMA certainly brought a ton of exciting news and fights for fans to enjoy, and although next week is barren of any major promotion events, the following week boasts shows from the UFC, Bellator, and the WSOF.
Enjoy the fights!