Derrick Lewis aiming higher than the ‘black-on-black crime’ of a Francis Ngannou fight

By Shaun Al-Shatti

Derrick Lewis picked up a massive statement win at UFC Fight Night 105 when he battled back from adversity and scored a highlight-reel knockout over Travis Browne, cementing himself as a contender to watch in the UFC heavyweight division.

The fight-ending finish followed a harrowing opening round that saw Lewis badly hurt to the body, and while most fighters would rather win cleanly than face the kind of danger Lewis overcame, “The Black Beast” is happy with the way things played out at the Scotiabank Centre in Halifax, Canada.

“I’m glad the fight ended up the way it was, especially the first round and everything,” Lewis said Monday on The MMA Hour. “He was looking good, and I’m glad he got the chance to show everyone that he’s still the old Travis. Because I didn’t want to go out there and really just demolish the guy in the first round, really, because I don’t want the critics to be like, ‘oh, he’s still training with Edmond (Tarverdyan), so that’s the reason why Derrick went out there and did what he did.’

“I wanted him to have the best camp of his life. I didn’t want no excuses, no excuses at all, because I believe … that in this division, he and Cain (Velasquez) are probably the only ones who can really give me any type of trouble. Because Travis is like more of a 205er, 185er, because he moves around really good, real technical; he doesn’t move like a heavyweight. So I believe that he (and Velasquez) are the only ones who can really give me problems.”

The victory over Browne was made even more impressive by the revelation that Lewis broke his right foot in two separate places midway through the first round. That fact, coupled with Browne gravely hurting Lewis to the body in the opening minutes, put Lewis in a come-from-behind type of situation from the very beginning of the fight. But the 32-year-old said he wasn’t shaken by the circumstances.

“Not at all,” Lewis said. “I’ve been in deep waters a bunch of times in my fights. I told my coaches and I told a couple of fans and I told a couple of reporters before the fight, I could be in trouble in the first or second round, and in any fight, just know that beast mode is about to kick in sooner or later.”

Not surprisingly, in the days since the fight, Lewis has garnered nearly as much attention for his post-fight interview as he has for his winning performance. In a live interview with UFC commentator Brian Stann on FOX Sports 1, Lewis railed against Browne for the past domestic abuse allegations lobbed at Browne by his ex-fiancé Jenna Renee Webb.

Webb never officially filed charges against Browne and the UFC cleared the heavyweight of all wrongdoing in 2015, but as an individual who grew up in a household consumed by domestic violence, the situation was a personal one for Lewis.

“Since I was probably eight years old, just about everyday, all the way until I was 14 or 15 years old, just about everyday my mom and my stepdad would roll around in the living room fighting,” Lewis said. “It was all the way until I was like 13. Back then I just used to just try to, like, pull my mom off, pull him off my mom, and just cry and stuff like that. And whenever I was 13, then I just started swinging on him whenever he started attacking my mom.

“That’s one of the reasons why we moved to Houston,” Lewis continued. “We were living in New Orleans. That’s the reason why we moved to Houston, to get away from him.

“[My mom] knew I was going to kill him if we didn’t move to Houston. She said she’d seen that look in my eyes, that she knew I was going to kill him. And I believe I was too, so everything happens for a reason. So I thank God we did move out of that situation.”

Despite Browne’s innocence in the eyes of the law, Lewis maintains his belief that Browne is a guilty man.

“I know just about everything that really goes on with domestic violence,” Lewis said. “Of course, especially with a guy like Travis being in the spotlight, and this and that, and his wife saying maybe he didn’t do it or whatever, maybe he did it, who knows. But I believe that he did it.”

Either way, there is little doubt that the win at UFC Fight Night 105 boosted Lewis’ stock higher than it has ever been before within the UFC heavyweight division.

The heavy-hitter has now won a division-best six consecutive fights, with five of those victories ending in vicious knockouts. Lewis said after the Browne fight that he hoped to challenge the winner of this week’s Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt bout next — although he also has heard cries within the MMA fanbase for a bout against the heavyweight division’s only other up-and-coming prospect: Francis Ngannou.

“Because this America, you know they like to see black-on-black crime,” Lewis said jokingly. “They thrive on that. They love it.

“Since me and him are ranked close to each other, I would like to fight someone who’s more of a challenge, and I believe Mark Hunt is more of a challenge. Me beating Francis is not going to really boost my stats or anything, get me closer to the belt, because he hasn’t really fought the top guys yet. He only fought one guy. But he is running through guys.”

Despite his request for the Overeem-Hunt winner, Lewis said he would be more than willing to fight Ngannou if that’s what the UFC asked.

He hopes to be challenging for a title “by the end of Christmas” this year, and while Ngannou may not have a top-three standing in the UFC’s media-generated rankings, the UFC marketing machine is beginning to get behind Ngannou, as the Frenchman is already scheduled to have his own media day during UFC 209 fight week.

“The only reason why he’s doing that is because he’s a clean-cut guy,” Lewis said. “He talks right to the media. He ain’t like me. I speak my mind too much, and the UFC probably don’t really like that. But I really don’t care.”

Source:: MMA Fighting

Cruz plans to use Mayweather style to defend belt at UFC 207

By Kendrick E. Johnson

Dominick Cruz has gone from being a forgotten fighter due to hard-luck injuries to what many MMA journalists consider to the greatest bantamweight of all time in only a year’s time.

In just 11 months Cruz has gone from being on the shelf (and only fighting once in three years) to regaining his belt in January with a razor-thin victory over T.J. Dillashaw to preparing to for his third title fight at UFC 207 where he’ll defend the belt against upstart Cody Garbrandt. Since the fight was announced last month, tensions have run high between the fighters in the build up tonight’s co-main event showdown at T-Mobile Arena.

“He’s been hot at me since day one and I don’t know where that comes from other than I beat a lot of his teammates and used the money from those wins to build me a house,” Cruz said in an exclusive interview with Ring “Right after I fought Faber, he met me in the back and began running his mouth begging for a title shot, and I’m granting his wish and will give him a butt whopping.”

Many MMA experts were surprised Garbrandt got a title shot after Cruz’s close decision victory over Dillashaw. With the challenger’s undefeated record and three-fight knockout streak, it is easy to say the general public picked Garbrandt for Cruz’s next opponent as he enters his ninth WEC/UFC title fight.

“This is a business. I don’t pick the fights, I just fight them and this is all about giving the fans mouthwatering matchups they want to see,” Cruz said. “Typically, rematches don’t do that, and I know T.J. isn’t going anywhere. Cody’s been asking for this for a long time and has been very adamant by running his mouth and begging for it, so it just made sense since he’s undefeated and all.”

Cruz’s title fight with Garbrandt will be a clash of styles, as Garbrandt is the consensus choice for heaviest hitter in the division. Cruz is noted as having the best footwork in the UFC as evidenced by the fact he’s statistically the hardest fighter to hit.

The bantamweight king ducks and dodges opponents’ attacks and strikes so well, many have compared his style to Floyd Mayweather Jr., a compliment Cruz gladly accepts – and he thinks it will play in his favor a big way tonight due to the fact Garbrandt has been concussed in the boxing ring and as an amateur in MMA.

“People I’ve faced, and Cody will find out as well, have to adjust to what I do because nobody they have fought takes as little damage as I do or as defensively smart as I do.” Cruz said. “My style is similar to Mayweather because he focuses on not getting hit because he cherishes his mind the way he looks and all those things. I’m the same way. My brain is very important to me – now if you listen to this guy talk he has already had several concussions and had to stop boxing and fighting for a year. When you get in the cage with me who has seen his fight style before, I can recreate this man in the gym so that I get my hand raised on fight night and that’s exactly what’s going to happen.”

Cruz-Garbrandt will be the classic case of boxer versus puncher. Most believe “the Dominator” will reign supreme and show the world once again why he’s best bantamweight in the world.

The post Cruz plans to use Mayweather style to defend belt at UFC 207 appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – MMA

Amanda Nunes embraces underdog role at UFC 207

By Kendrick E. Johnson

While many UFC fans run up and down the Las Vegas strip with Ronda “Rowdy” Rousey gear on, the woman she’ll share the octagon with tonight is constantly being overlooked despite being the defending titleholder.

For UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, the first woman to sign with the UFC, this is a fact she’s perfectly fine with because she realizes Rousey’s position in the sport and knows fans don’t know her just yet. The 28-year-old Brazilian was overlooked going into UFC 200 in July against veteran Miesha Tate before making her dream of becoming a UFC champ a reality, so Nunes knows a thing or two of what it takes to shock the MMA community.

“This is the biggest fight for me in my career because I have to show everybody that my big win over Miesha to become champion wasn’t a fluke and that I’m here to stay,” Nunes said. “If I fight my fight and bring it to Ronda like I know I can, everybody is going to have to respect me and in the end I will shut up a lot of mouths.”

Many people, especially MMA media members, are completely dismayed and upset with the fact that Rousey hasn’t spoken a word to promote her fight with Nunes. The champion herself is perfectly fine with it, as she has her mind focused on one thing and it has nothing to do with media obligations.

“If the UFC wants to let Ronda Rousey not say anything, I am perfectly fine with that because the only thing I think about is the belt,” Nunes said. “At the end of the day, I’m the champion and the only thing I’m focused one is keeping my belt and remaining the champion at UFC 207.”

Nunes’ aggressive, hard-hitting striking style will be a perfect challenge for Rousey after her struggles with former champion Holly Holm.

On the flip side, many people, including Rousey’s camp, feel Nunes is an extremely fast starter has a very low gas tank which can be exposed once the fight gets outside of a round. For a perfect example, all one has to do is take a look a Nunes’ fight with UFC bantamweight contender Cat Zingano at UFC 178.

After nearly finishing Zingano with punches in the first round, Nunez began to tire out and lost the next round before being finished via TKO in the third round. Despite the blueprint, the current champ feels she’s ready for anything Rousey brings to the table including going the distance if need be.

“I train everyday very intensely from my kick boxing, to my jiu-jitsu and my judo-takedown defense along with my cardio because to beat someone the caliber of Ronda Rousey you have to be well-rounded – which I am,” a confident Nunes said. “I’m ready and for those that don’t think I work on my cardio: I train for six rounds in the gym instead of five to be ready come fight night. I feel very ready for this fight and even better than I did coming into my last two fights.”

It’s doubtful tonight’s championship fight will go past two rounds no matter who wins, but one thing is certain – Nunes is comfortable in the underdog role and knows what it takes to pull off a major upset on the big stage.

The post Amanda Nunes embraces underdog role at UFC 207 appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – MMA

Meet UFC’s next major crossover star: Paige VanZant

By Kendrick E. Johnson

When you finish as runner-up on “Dancing with the Stars” and follow that up by pulling off a switch kick-to-the-head knockout (which is in the running for “Knockout of the Year”) in your next UFC fight, you definitely have major star power.

This is the life of UFC strawweight star Paige VanZant, who has morphed into a star in 2016, with major crossover appeal like Ronda Rousey. When VanZant squares off with former Invicta atomweight champion Michelle Waterson in their five-round main event at “UFC on FOX 22” this Saturday, she’ll be looking to put an exclamation point on the biggest year of her young career.

“I feel that a win on Saturday over Michelle will definitely solidify that I’ve had a very successful 2016,” VanZant said. “Each fight, you definitely bring in a different mindset every time you enter the Octagon and, this time, I want to have fun, put on a show for the people and Sacramento and make the fight my own.”

Van Zant returns to the Octagon, having won five of her last six fights, with three of them coming via knockout or submission, the most finishes in UFC history in the developing 115-pound division. Despite being only the No. 7 ranked strawweight in the world, many fans and observers want the rising VanZant to fight for the belt currently around the waist of longtime reigning champion Joanna Jędrzejczyk, should she get past Waterson.

Combine this with Hollywood directors and producers constantly knocking on her door and the “Team Alpha Male” product has a lot of options after her fight this weekend. At the same time, those options produced a lot of distractions ahead of the bout. Despite the outside pressures, along with main-eventing in her hometown, VanZant is rolling with the punches while displaying the narrow mindset, which has her on the cusp of major stardom.

“Right now, my head is focused on this fight and the opponent that’s in front me,” VanZant said. “I will take any fight the UFC offers me in the division because I’m not scared to fight anyone at the top of the division but it’s all about what the UFC wants, as I’m not in the business of calling people out.”

Although she doesn’t have a specific timetable, Van Zant is focused on becoming a champion one day, even if it’s not in the 115-pound division. With the UFC opening the 145-pound women’s division next year, many UFC journalists, including me, feel a 125-pound division for women will be the next on the agenda.

If a flyweight women’s division were to open, fighters who are currently fighting at bantamweight and strawweight would have more options to make more high-profile fights. Put VanZant down as one of the many women eager to fight at flyweight, should the division ever become a realistic option.

“People like the see good fights and, if the 125-pound division ever opens up, I’m definitely down to fight in it,” VanZant said. “I’d never move up past 125 pounds but I actually think it’s more of a fit for me, since I walk around bigger than what people realize. But, at the end of the day, I have business to take care of this weekend and in the 115-pound division and that’s were my focus is at. Not future fights or opportunities Hollywood might present to me because Michelle is a great opponent and I need my best to beat her.”

No matter if you like VanZant for her solid fighting skills or her star power, one thing is for certain: She’s must-see television and you don’t know what she’s going to pull off next.

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Source:: The Ring – MMA

Holloway Finishes Pettis at UFC 206; Wants Aldo Next

By Kendrick E. Johnson

Daniel Cormier pulling out of his light heavyweight title defense with Anthony “Rumble” Johnson two weeks ago with an injury elevated Max Holloway vs. Anthony Pettis to main event status for UFC 206 with the interim featherweight title on the line, which Holloway won by third-round TKO on Saturday in Toronto.

The win not only finally puts a belt around Holloway’s waist, who entered the fight with a nine-fight winning streak (which is the most in one division without getting a title shot in UFC history), but it also sets up a future showdown with the official titleholder Jose Aldo whom Holloway has been trying to get a date in the Octagon with over the last few months.

“We couldn’t fight Aldo, so I started calling it Jose Waldo, hashtag ‘Where’s Jose Waldo?’” Holloway said. “[UFC 208] Brooklyn in February, let’s get the f—ing real [title]! This is my ticket to Jose Waldo. You tell me when you find him.”

Holloway, who hasn’t lost since dropping a unanimous decision to former featherweight champion Conor McGregor in August 2013, now has the third longest current winning streak in the UFC with 10 wins.

The Hawaiian sensation used his skill and techniques to put away the flashy Pettis who was stopped for the first time of his splendid career. After doing a good job of finding his range and using nice angles to land counter punches in the first round, Holloway opened a cut over Pettis’ right eye in the second round and stuffed the Duke Roufus Sport standouts attempts to get the fight to the ground.

In the third round, after landing a spinning back kick to Pettis’ midsection, Holloway landed a kick to the body moments later. Holloway’s kick all but ended the night for Pettis as referee Yves Lavigne stopped the fight with 10 seconds remaining in the third round.

With the loss, Pettis who was considered one of the top pound-for-pound fighters in the world just a couple of years ago, has now lost four of his past five fights. After missing weight by three pounds Friday, the former champion said he will move back up to the 155-pound division.

“It’s too much to make the cut,” Pettis said. “They literally had to pull me out of the sauna. I have to go up. I can’t make 145. The weight cut is too hard.”

The Milwaukee native was also very complimentary about Holloway’s performance while giving some insight to his during his post-fight interview.

“The first punch I threw, my right hand hit him on the top of the head and broke,” Pettis said. “Max Holloway is a beast. He stood with me and got the belt.”

While Pettis heals up and moves back up to the lightweight division, Holloway will be waiting to receive his official date with Aldo to see who will become the official champion of the featherweight division due to McGregor being stripped of the title by the UFC in November.

The post Holloway Finishes Pettis at UFC 206; Wants Aldo Next appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – MMA

Heather Hardy has opponent for MMA debut, Brieta Carpenter

By Michael Woods

It’s the age we are in, especially for females, who from their vantage point in the ring, see their counterparts in the cage headlining PPVs and cards and gaining as much attention and dough as most of the guys.

This age we are in, the Rousey Age, means that it makes more sense why a Heather Hardy, 18-0 as a featherweight ace in the pugilism realm, will on Jan. 14 enter a cage on do battle.

MMA is the way, for right now, for the single mother from Brooklyn whose boxing trajectory was mangled, for the time being, by supposedly well-meaning overseers and politicians whose strengthened regulatory framework has resulted in the total absence of pro boxing in New York since August.

But, today, Hardy, age 34, looks onward and upward and toward a mindset in which she’ll have to be ready to get tackled and submitted if she isn’t on point in her MMA debut, for Invicta.

The focus on fight night in Missouri will be one Brieta Carpenter.

What does Hardy know of her?

“She’s coming down from 135 to fight me. 8-2 as an amateur in MMA. She had a KO in her last fight and Invicta signed her.”

And her nickname is “Tank Girl” so we can assume she fancies herself of a certain warrior class.

“I’m ready,” Hardy continued. “Kickboxing has always been as natural to me as boxing. And I’m over at Gracie Jiu Jitsu in Manhattan almost everyday. I’m working with Rolles Gracie and Rob Constance and I have great MMA sparring and every time I get in the cage, I’m improving. You know I’m ready, Woodsy. It’s like a street fight. I’m just gonna pretend she owes me money!”

Hardy touched on the sad state of dysfunction which the current New York State Athletic Commission and pols have wrought. “The current state of boxing in NY is definitely what jumpstarted my decision to get on the Invicta show in January. How about preventative measures to make sure we don’t wind up brain damaged instead of demanding cover their butt insurance coverage which only massive promotions can afford? That seems like a better safely regulation to me! Anyway, I’m looking forward to getting back in the boxing ring at Barclays in March!”

Fighters, they fight. I was at a tree lighting event in Park Slope, Brooklyn on Wednesday night and chatting with a woman who teaches at my kids’ grade school. She also has a kid in fourth grade, and knows what I do for a living. “I heard about that Heather Hardy on the New Yorker radio show! What a story!” But, she said, isn’t Hardy worried about getting hurt?

“Think of it like this,” I told the woman. “She is a warrior. She’s not like you and me. She was born to do this. It’s who she is.”

The woman nodded, stayed quiet, and it was clear she got it. Fighters, they fight.

The post Heather Hardy has opponent for MMA debut, Brieta Carpenter appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – MMA

U.S. boxing champ Mikaela Mayer sparring Ronda Rousey

By Kendrick E. Johnson

The last time we saw Ronda Rousey’s inside the Octagon, we saw her knocked out clean by former world boxing champion Holly Holm at UFC 193.

Holm was able to use her superior footwork and timing to pick Rousey apart at range before sending her crashing to the canvas with a spectacular highlight-reel head kick.

To prevent history from repeating itself, as she attempts to get her belt back against Amanda Nunes at UFC 207 on December 30, Rousey enlisted the services of Mikaela Mayer.

A three-time USA Boxing National Champion, Mayer represented Team USA at the 2016 Summer Olympic in Rio, where she competed in the women’s 60-kilogram weight class.

After sparring with Rousey multiple times, Mayer came away extremely impressed with Rousey’s standup game and gave some exclusive insight.

“I have fights coming up, so training with Ronda came at a very good time,” Mayer said. “She actually made me work and use all my tools. I had to throw my combinations. I had to stay at angles. I had to box and move and fight on the inside and use all my skills.

“(Ronda is) a fighter, when she gets in there. She’s coming for you and she is not going to let you breathe. That will serve her very well in her title fight at the end of the month. Ronda’s a very smart fighter and a true champion who will show the world she’s learned a lot since her loss to Holly.”

Like Rousey, Mayer has unfinished business of her own. She was eliminated in the quarterfinals in Rio, just a single victory shy of securing at least a bronze medal. This week, however, she is the favorite to win her fourth consecutive title at the U.S. National Championships.

Even though she’s being pulled in different directions, Mayer remains extremely focused on adding to her legacy in the boxing ring. Still, despite that drive and ambition, the temptation is there to follow Rousey’s footsteps into MMA, where she has the potential to morph into a megastar.

“I struggle in my heart because I trained 5 to 10 years daily to make the Olympic team and get my medal and I didn’t do that,” Mayer said, while reflecting on her loss to Anastasia Belyakova.

“If I were to turn pro in boxing or turn to MMA that’s what I’d be giving up. I’d be giving up my dream of an Olympic gold medal. I can try again, wait another four years, turn 30 and the window would have closed. So that’s what I go back-and-fourth with in my heart.

Mayer continued, “I feel good and I’m focused on winning Nationals again but I have to admit it won’t take the sting out of coming up short in the Olympics. You don’t get many opportunities like that in life.”

Whether Mayer chooses to stay in the ring, or take her talents to the Octagon; she has the talent, charisma and looks to be the next female superstar in combat sports.

The post U.S. boxing champ Mikaela Mayer sparring Ronda Rousey appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – MMA