Rockhold: Bisping vs. GSP “100 percent cheapens the belt”

Rockhold: Bisping vs. GSP “100 percent cheapens the belt”

Source:: ESPN – MMA

UFC: Shevchenko submits Pena, wants Nunes next

By Kendrick E. Johnson

Coming into UFC on Fox at the Pepsi Center on Saturday, the narrative for the main event was whoever imposed their game plan would be victorious in the bantamweight No.1 contender fight between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena.

Unfortunately for Pena, the narrative was completely wrong. Shevchenko pulled off a second-round submission victory over Pena via armbar at 4:29 of the second round, despite the fact that the “Venezuelan Vixen” was able to implement her plan of controlling distance and fighting in clinches.

With the win, Shevchenko is in line to get her rematch with UFC bantamweight champion Amanda Nunes, who beat her via unanimous decision last March in her only defeat inside the Octagon.

Following Saturday’s fight, Nunes calmly entered the Octagon and briefly went back and forth with Shevchenko during her post fight interview with UFC commentator Brian Stann.

“I’m pretty sure the next fight will be a title shot,” Shevchenko said. “I’m very excited to take this rematch and take this belt.” With a big smile on her face, Nunez replied “Next time I will finish you,” the champion also added, “You know I’ll beat you. I know how to beat you.”

Shevchenko responded, “Be very careful with your words, they will come back to (haunt) you.”

A former professional kickboxer, Shevchenko (14-2) matched up surprisingly well with Pena (8-3) on the floor. The Peruvian bantamweight scored a couple of takedowns in the opening round and despite being smothered for the entire round, she was able to surprise Pena with an armbar at one point.

Pena survived that attempt as the round ended.

Things seemed to be going Pena’s way in the second. The Venezuelan consistently bullied her way into the clinch while landing timely knees to the body. Pena racked up a striking advantage of 78 to 46, but struggled to take Shevchenko to the mat.

The new bantamweight No. 1 contender’s takedown defense might of surprised Pena and her corner but Shevchenko expected it to be this good.

“Many people before the fight said, ‘You are a striker and Julianna is a wrestler — how are you going to deal with this?” Shevchenko said. “Every time, I said, ‘Yes, I am a striker but I am an MMA fighter. I am a complete fighter.”

The finish proved just how versatile Shevchenko’s game is. She was able to attack the arm and roll Pena over for the finish despite her opponent being dominant in the round.

If Shevchenko keeps adding to her game, she could become the fifth woman to be UFC women’s bantamweight champion.

The post UFC: Shevchenko submits Pena, wants Nunes next appeared first on The Ring.

Source:: The Ring – MMA

Tyron Woodley: Focused on being an MMA great, not race issues

By Kendrick E. Johnson

For second time in four months, Tyron Woodley will defend his UFC welterweight title against Stephen “Wounderboy” Thompson at UFC 209, this Saturday at the T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas.

After their controversial draw at UFC 205, Woodley sat down with to give us some insight into his mindset, in and out of the Octagon. After drawing national headlines for bringing attention to how race has played a role into how the UFC markets him, Woodley wanted to clarify a couple things, so the general public can get a better idea of where he’s coming from.

“Everyone has to overcome something in their life, no matter if it’s racism, sexism or it’s because of their religious beliefs,” Woodley said in his exclusive interview with Ring “In general, the system in the U.S. is set up to bash people regardless, if it’s because of their race or where they came from and to play off the negative, instead of bring out the positives in people. I’m not a race-baiter, as I’ve been accused of, on social media. I love getting to know people of all ethnicities and backgrounds. I just was simply pointing out a couple of facts but, at the end of the day, I love fighting in the UFC and have a solid relationship with Dana White and the company.”

A lot of fans don’t realize that besides being a UFC champion, Woodley is a dedicated father of five, a self-made businessman who owns an American Top Team Gym and a positive role model and representative of the state of Missouri. This is the real narrative of Wooley’s story, not the fact that he made valid points about race relations in the UFC.

Very few people in life come from the mean streets of an area such as Ferguson, Missouri, and not only live to tell about it but become a solid example and inspiration for others, no matter their walk of life, like Woodley has.

With the controversy behind him, Woodley is squarely focused on defending his title against Thompson, who he’ll be fighting in his first career rematch. As a combat sport purist, Woodley knows he not only needs a win over Thompson to close this chapter of his career but to have his name mentioned with the all-time mixed martial arts greats.

“I think I won rounds 1, 3 and 4 and rounds 2 and 5 were close. If you are scoring on damage, I knocked him down in three rounds and he didn’t knock me down and I feel I clearly won the fight,” Woodley said. “With all that being said, I’m focused on winning decisively this time because I have to beat him for my legacy as I’m working to go down as the greatest MMA welterweight of all-time.”

Regardless if you like Woodley or not, one has to admit, the man known as “The Chosen One” is not scared to put the facts on the table and has a champion’s mindset, which has allowed him to thrive in and out of the Octagon.

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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.

Struggling to locate a copy of RING magazine? Try here or…


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Source:: The Ring – MMA

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.

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Source:: The Ring – MMA