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Top 10 fights that must happen in 2017



Unlike boxing, the UFC and MMA in general tend to deliver fights that fans crave without going through the politics of cross-promotion wars and network television clash. Of course, there has been many marquee fights within MMA that haven’t ever come to fruition, but generally we can count ourselves thankful that the ‘big fights’ more often than not get made.

Here are my top fights that absolutely MUST happen in 2017…

Francis Ngannou v Cain Velasquez

The rapid rise of Francis Ngannou has seen him highlighted but Dana White as a future heavyweight champion and the Cameroonian-French destroyer has been building up a large following. Realistically, Ngannou is 1 or possible 2 fights away from a title shot. One man who Ngannou mentioned as a possible opponent is Cain Velasquez; Cain is currently returning from back surgery following on from a cancellation to a no.1 contender bout with previous rival Fabricio Werdum. Should this fight go ahead, it has it all: two very scary and talented ‘monsters’, a rising contender versus an established veteran and a true acid test in Ngannou young MMA career to truly see if the hype is real? For Cain it’s an opportunity to silence any doubts that his body hasn’t given up on him just yet and to vanquish an opponent that carries a similar mystique he once brought into the octagon.

Nick Diaz v Jorge Masvidal

This fight has recently been brought up as the rumours have been going wildfire that Diaz is returning once more and seeking a fight that makes sense to him in terms of name and financially. Whilst Masvidal isn’t the ‘name’ Diaz is necessarily looking for, he does provide the style that could prove to be a fight of the year contender. Masvidal’s recent wins against Jake Ellenberger and Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone have proven that when everything clicks into place, he is a phenomenal fighter and has arguably some of the best boxing in the welterweight division. Much like the Ngannou/Velasquez fight this would be a true indicator fight for both men and make no mistake; this would be a real test of both fighters’ mettle.

Conor McGregor v Khabib Nurmagamedov

Yes, Conor wants the Mayweather fight, but this is THE FIGHT to make at 155 lbs. A unique clash of fighting styles, personalities and an opponent style that neither man has experienced yet. Despite Conor’s team doubting Khabib’s worthiness as a marquee name for the his return, Khabib has been slowly building his brand stateside, but is a giant superstar back home in his native Russia. McGregor v Nurmagamedov hosting a debut PPV in Russia would be huge both financial terms and growing the UFC into a brand new market. It’s an interesting match up; Nurmagamedov has pretty much been flawless in his 24-0 career, no one has been able to handle his sambo style and he has dominated everyone he has faced in the UFC so far. For McGregor, bar a blip against Nate Diaz, he has defeated everyone who has stood in his path. How would he handle Khabib’s sambo wrestling? How would Khabib take a McGregor left hook? This fight is truly fascinating and a win for either man would be one of the most crowning achievements on either man’s resume.

Demetrious ‘Mighty Mouse’ Johnson v Cody Garbrandt

Might Mouse Johnson is the consensus P4P king and is likely to surpass Anderson Silva’s record for most title defences; with his legacy cemented DJ deserves money making fights and what better fight to make than a superfight with newly crowned bantamweight champion Cody ‘No Love’ Garbrandt. Cody is likely to have his hand full with TJ Dillashaw in the summer, but this match is an absolutely fun fight to make and provide an interesting puzzle for either man to work out.

Anthony Johnson v Jon Jones

I predict ‘Rumble’ Johnson to beat Daniel Cormier at UFC 210, which should set up a meeting between Jon Jones towards the end of summer. The 205 division has long proved to be the UFC’s flagship division, with the likes of Liddell, Ortiz and Couture ruling the weight class years gone by. In recent years the division has lost it’s way and is on something of a reboot mission these days, but this fight provides 2 of the best in the entire sport. Anthony Johnson is one scary man, Jon Jones is arguably the G.O.A.T. and his desire to obtain the title he never lost offers fans the opportunity to witness a fight that harks back to days gone by.

Nate Diaz v Conor McGregor 3

Do I really need to explain this one?

Donald ‘Cowboy’ Cerrone v Robbie Lawler

As Mr. T’s character ‘Clubber Lang’ said in Rocky 3 “My prediction? PAIN” – this one offers up beautiful violence and both men would likely bring out the best in one another. You could see this one on a par with Lawler’s war with Condit, as a 5 round battle ensues, but likewise if either man were to finish it early no one would be surprised.

Yair Rodriguez vs Max Holloway

When Nate Diaz uttered the words “Ninja Sh*t” when discussing his plans for his UFC 196 bout with Conor McGregor a viral hit went wild across social media – Rodriguez vs Holloway offers Ninja Sh*t level 11. This would be a phenomenal fight against 2 budding superstars and I could see this one being a ‘fight of the ages’, given both men’s age I could also see the start of fantastic trilogy series on a par with some of the best trilogy fights in the company’s history.

image credit – Esther Lin/MMA Fighting


UFC 249 has a long and adventurous story



UFC 249 was originally planned to take place on April 18th in New York but, due to the ongoing pandemic, governor Cuomo restricted mass gatherings and sports events, confining everyone to their homes, leaving them with little more to watch than reruns of old fights and perhaps Game Changers. UFC president Dana White then announced that the event was still on but the location will change. Later, it was announced that it will take place at the Tachi Palace Hotel & Casino in Lemoore, California. ESPN and its parent company Disney didn’t like this, though, pressuring White to suspend the event for the time being – which he did. Finally, the event was rescheduled for May 9

Meanwhile, interesting news started circulating about a potential location for future UFC fight nights that, if it becomes a reality, might put an interesting spin on the world of mixed martial arts.

UFC Fight Island

Even before the issues with the event, White planned to arrange a brand new location where fight nights could be organized: a private island where athletes could train and fight.

“All the infrastructure is being built right now and getting put in place,” he told the press back in April. “As we get closer to that, then I’ll start figuring out booking fights, getting guys ready. Plus, I can ship guys over there earlier, and they can start training over there, on the island. So, once that’s all in place – we’re looking at like a month – I’ll have that all put together, and guys can start training and can go there.”

The UFC is serious about it: it has already registered several trademarks around the “UFC Fight Island” brand, covering several types of goods, services, even jewelry. 

When, and Where?

The “where” is still a mystery. Although he spoke repeatedly about the arrangements being made for athletes to be able to train and stay on the island, White has not revealed its location yet. Some theorize that it may be somewhere in international waters so it could serve as a place where international athletes could stay without restrictions, perhaps off the coast of California. But this is just a theory – all will probably be revealed in due time.

The “when” is a bit less vague: White told the press that UFC Fight Island will be operational by June. It will have amenities like an Octagon on the beach, and hotels for the fighters to be lodged at. And most importantly, it will allow international fighters to participate in fights, even with the pandemic-related travel restrictions still in place.

The idea of an island dedicated to fighting may sound familiar – it was the topic of the 2006 martial arts movie “DOA – Dead or Alive” and 2007’s “The Condemned”, among others. Let’s hope this one will have a happier ending.

As for UFC 249 ‘Ferguson vs. Gaethje’, that event will now take place at Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida. 

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What Justin Gaethje’s past fights tell us about his chances at UFC 249



It’s fair to say that Justin Gaethje has firmly taken up the role of underdog ahead of his clash with Tony Ferguson at UFC 249 on May 9th. The latest Tony Ferguson v Justin Gaethje betting offers present Ferguson as the clear favourite, after his opponent was drafted in at the last minute to replace Khabib Nurmagomedov, who is on lockdown in his home country of Russia. 

Gaethje is relatively inexperienced in the world of UFC, having fought just six times in the competition in the past. But his calibre from prior ventures in MMA, notably the World Series of Fighting, means that he is a fighter not to be trifled with, and while he won’t represent as formidable a challenge for Ferguson as Khabib would have, there is much to admire about the 31-year-old.

To understand fully Gaethje’s chances ahead of UFC 249, it’s important to analyse his performances in recent fights. Indeed, his past three bouts have resulted in impressive victories, with Gaethje winning Performance of the Night awards in two of those fights — against James Vick and Donald Cerrone respectively. 

But his UFC started off in disappointing fashion, with just one win from his first three fights. That victory came against Michael Johnson in the reality show The Ultimate Fighter: Redemption Finale, but from there he failed to gain a strong foothold in the championship. He suffered back-to-back defeats against Eddie Alvarez and Dustin Poirier, including a knockout at the hands of the former, as he struggled to adapt to the competitive nature of the UFC.

Those defeats obviously shook Gaethje into life, because he has come roaring back in his last three fights, mustering up a trio of impressive performances to bring him to the level he finds himself at today, where UFC chief Dana White is drafting him to replace someone of the calibre of Khabib. 

The first of this trio of victories was a win over James Vick in August 2018, where Gaethje produced a fine display which silenced some of the doubters who had perhaps questioned his ability at the highest level. He won Performance of the Night for that one, and was then involved in the Fight of the Night the following March as he defeated Edson Barboza by knockout in Philadelphia. His most recent victory was a TKO triumph over UFC veteran Donald Cerrone in October last year, where Gaethje once again walked away with the Performance of the Night accolade. 

All three of his most recent wins have come via first round knockout or technical knockout, proof that Gaethje has the ability to overpower opponents in the opening stages of a fight. Of course, to do this against Ferguson will be a whole different ball game, as he is the most high-profile fighter Gaethje has faced so far, but perhaps the key lies in ensuring he comes out all guns blazing early on.

Gaethje’s Performance of the Night wins indicate that he is capable of producing a show-stopping performance on any given night. He is undoubtedly the underdog going into the fight against Ferguson, but with a few good wins now under his belt, who’s to say he can’t spring a surprise on May 9th and truly announce himself in the UFC. 

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UFC to provide a welcome sports fix for hungry fans



UFC 249 had promised to be a rare occasion of a sports event going ahead, but the April 18th showpiece ultimately fell victim to the coronavirus outbreak, and was cancelled. However, UFC chief Dana White is not one to be put out, and so came the recent announcement that there would be a series of UFC fight nights in May.

It’s a great chance for fans to see some sporting action, for fighters to keep in shape and perhaps make a name for themselves in these strange circumstances, and for people stuck in lockdown to have some alternative entertainment, something a bit different from Joe Wicks workouts or Zoom quizzes! Here, we look at why these UFC fight nights will be welcomed by so many people.

Live action

The sporting world has basically been at a standstill since the coronavirus pandemic has swept across the globe. It feels like an eternity ago that we were watching horse racing’s Cheltenham Festival and Liverpool’s exit from the Champions League, but the measures put in place by the government to protect the public meant that most events had to be cancelled. 

And so, the news that there will be some live sporting entertainment in the form of several UFC fight nights will give sports fans that much needed fix of live action. Sports nuts all over the world have been forced to make do with virtual championships and races, or with trawling the archives to reminisce on past sporting occasions, but now White and co. have brought some welcome live sporting action back to our screens.

Mouth-watering match-ups

Of course, these are not just any old fighters going head to head. Some of the best in the business will be battling it out, not least Tony Ferguson who takes on Justin Gaethje on May 9th. The Tony Ferguson odds have him as hot favourite for the bout, but Gaethje will be a man on a mission on fight night to prove he has what it takes to cause a stir at the highest level of the sport. 

May 9th sees two other interesting clashes, as Henry Cejudo takes on Dominick Cruz for the Bantamweight Championship, and Francis Ngannou meets Jairzinho Rozenstruik. The Cejudo vs Cruz fight features two men with similar records, and will therefore be an intriguing clash as both try and prove themselves on the big stage. Meanwhile, Rozenstruik will be trying to defend his 10-fight unbeaten record as he takes on Ngannou, and so there will be plenty on the line in that one.

A welcome distraction

Perhaps one of the key benefits of these fight nights is that they will provide a welcome distraction from the sad news and gloomy headlines we’ve all been reading in recent weeks. Sport has the power to unite people and spark a feel-good factor among the public.

Although the UFC may not be everyone’s cup of tea, it’s a chance for a lot of people to get to know a sport they perhaps wouldn’t have considered watching before, and few sports have to power to grip and entertain like mixed martial arts. Many people are craving a dose of live sporting action, and thanks to the UFC, that sporting fix is not too far away.

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