For the UFC, 2016 was the peak for Zuffa era. It was the organization’s biggest year for PPV sales, and Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta sold the UFC for over four billion dollars to WME-IMG, who has since become Endeavor. They are now faced with a tough endeavor of their own.
The peak of 2016 has given way to the valley of 2017. After Conor McGregor himself broke the one million PPV barrier three times in 2016 the UFC has yet to do it once in 2017. They are hoping UFC 217 will become the first. But, it has been tough to sell the new casual McRonda UFC fans on the return of Georges St-Pierre versus Michael Bisping, who is once again not fighting a true middleweight contender.
It is a shame if this card does not break the million buy barrier because it is a beautiful card. At the top are three title fights supported by a stacked card of intriguing potentially action-packed fights.
Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping
So many questions going into this fight. Do we see the return of the meaner nastier GSP? Will Bisping be able to use his size, pace and heart to wear GSP down? Will the larger Bisping use his late in his career power to finish GSP? Or will we see the faster GSP use his speed, multiple skill set and athleticism to defeat Bisping?
It is hard to logically pick against the bigger Bisping but I am feeling a GSP head-kick KO in the second round.
GSP via head-kick KO
Cody Garbrandt vs. TJ Dillashaw
Finally the grudge match between TAM defector TJ Dillashaw and the TAM Knight in Shining Armor Cody Garbrandt. The hate is real in this one and it will be interesting to see if that has any affect on the fight. Garbrandt likes to engage in trash talk and Dillashaw does not.
Normally, this would mean a clear advantage to Garbrandt but his hatred for Dillashaw is very different from his hatred was for the TAM defeater Dominick Cruz. This fight with Dillashaw is much more personal.
Looking at this fight it is difficult to see Dillashaw winning. To me Garbrandt has a speed advantage and that will be difficult for Dillashaw to overcome. If he can use excellent movement, avoid and frustrate a Garbrandt aching to KO Dillashaw early he has a chance. Instead look for Garbrandt to catch him in the second round and picking up the TKO win.
Garbrandt via TKO
Joanna Jedrzejczyk vs. Rose Namajunas
This is the fight that interests me the most. Joanna is trying to tie Ronda’s record for UFC women’s consecutive title defenses. While party crasher Rose is looking to start her own reign over the UFC strawweight division.
As Joanna has asserted herself as one of the most dominant UFC champions by being of the best strikers in the sport with a strong defensive grappling skill set. In Rose she faces her toughest challenge. A fighter who is a talented striker but also possesses a dangerous explosive grappling game.
It is difficult to pick against the talented tough and hardworking champion but if there is a fighter poised to take the title Rose is it. If she can use her striking to stun Joanna and find a submission she could become the new champion. It is possible to see her winning a tactical technical decision.
I do see one of those outcomes happening, in the rematch. For this fight, I see Joanna finding a way to retain the belt by UD.
Joanna via UD
Stephen Thompson vs. Jorge Masvidal
Another fight for the fans. This one is an interesting contrast in striking styles that has potential for a violent finish. Masvidal needs to find a way to make this fight ugly. To do that he has to get inside of Thompson’s range without getting KO’d, or overly frustrated and then KO’d. If he can get inside, Masvidal has the ability to take this fight with his nasty striking of his own.
I feel we will see the return of the Stephen Thompson highlight-reel KO. Masvidal will take the fight to Thompson and get caught by a kick on the way in.
Thompson via KO
Johny Hendricks vs. Paulo Costa
Sigh, when we last saw GSP in the octagon Johny Hendricks has Picasso’d up GSP’s face. Despite looking like a mugging victim to Hendrick’s mugging GSP emerged with the win. While Hendricks would capture the vacated UFC welterweight title, his career has slipped since that moment.
Hendricks went 2-5 since strapping the UFC title belt around his ever-growing waist. He missed weight more times than he has won and the UFC forced him up to the middleweight division. After a surpassing upset of Hector Lombard, he was promptly KO’d by Tim Boetsch.
Now the UFC has set him up to be sacrificed for the excitement of the crowd. Look for Costa to kickoff the PPV portion of the card with his third straight finish via TKO in the second round.
Costa by TKO
Preliminary Quick Picks
Joe Duffy vs. James Vick
Vick via UD
Walt Harris vs. Mark Godbeer
Harris via KO
Ovince Saint Preux vs. Corey Anderson
OSP via Von Saint Preux choke
Randy Brown vs. Mickey Gall
Brown via TKO
Aleksei Oleinik vs. Curtis Blaydes
Blaydes via TKO
Michal Oleksiejczuk vs. Ion Cutelaba
Cutelaba via TKO
Aiemann Zahabi vs. Ricardo Ramos
Zahabi via UD
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.
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.
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.
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.
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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