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PREVIEW | UFC 257: Poirier vs. McGregor – Full card and predictions

THE UFC’s first pay-per-view event of 2021 sees its biggest draw return to the octagon atop a stacked main card to be hosted at Etihad Arena in Abu Dhabi.

Fighters littered up and down the card will be keen to latch onto the attention garnered though the highly-anticipated main event, with plenty of statements to be made on the famed Fight Island.

>> SCROLL for the full card and predictions

Just over a year removed from his spectacular showing at UFC 246, ‘The Notorious’ Conor McGregor steps into the octagon for a second time against Dustin Poirier, but much has changed since their first meeting in 2014.

Both have gone on to claim UFC gold in the lightweight division but will be out to impress current title holder, Khabib Nurmagomedov and potentially earn rematches against the undefeated Dagestani champion.

They won’t be the only 155-pounders eager to claim their contendership status, with the co-main event pitting vicious New Zealand striker Dan Hooker against UFC newcomer Michael Chandler.

Hooker’s last bout saw him edged by Poirier in a five-round war, while Chandler has held brass in Bellator’s lightweight division and now makes the long-awaited move to MMA’s leading promotion.

Another title eliminator of sorts takes place as women’s flyweight contenders Jessica Eye and Joanne Calderwood lock horns, with both eager to climb back into the top five and claim challenger status.

Another women’s bout slots into the main card as Brazilian prospects Marina Rodriguez and Amanda Ribas do battle, both on hot streaks and holding the potential to rise steeply with an impressive outing.

A potential banger between two men with some of the best monikers going around rounds out the main card action, as Matt ‘The Steamrolla’ Frevola meets Ottman ‘Bulldozer’ Azaitar. The undefeated Azaitar has shown plenty during his short time in the UFC, but comes up against a tough Long Island favourite in this bout.

FULL CARD AND PREDICTIONS:

FOTN: Hooker vs. Chandler
POTN: McGregor, Ribas, Azaitar
Prelim banger: Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast

MAIN CARD

Lightweight | Dustin Poirier [2] vs. Conor McGregor [4]
Prediction: McGregor by T/KO

Lightweight | Dan Hooker [6] vs. Michael Chandler
Prediction: Chandler by decision

W. Flyweight | Jessica Eye [6] vs. Joanne Calderwood [7]
Prediction: Eye by decision

Lightweight | Matt Frevola vs. Ottman Azaitar
Prediction: Azaitar by T/KO

W. Strawweight | Marina Rodriguez [8] vs. Amanda Ribas [10]
Prediction: Ribas by submission

PRELIMINARY CARD

Lightweight | Arman Tsarukyan vs. Nasrat Haqparast
Prediction: Tsarukyan by decision

Middleweight | Brad Tavares [14] vs. Antonio Carlos Junior
Prediction: Tavares by T/KO

W. Bantamweight | Julianna Peña [7] vs. Sara McMann [9]
Prediction: McMann by decision

Light Heavyweight | Khalil Rountree Jr. vs. Marcin Prachnio
Prediction: Rountree Jr. by T/KO

EARLY PRELIMINARY CARD

Middleweight | Andrew Sanchez vs. Makhmud Muradov
Prediction: Muradov by T/KO

Catchweight (150lbs) | Nik Lentz vs. Movsar Evloev
Prediction: Evloev by decision

Flyweight | Amir Albazi [15] vs. Zhalgas Zhumagulov
Prediction: Albazi by submission

Image Credit: UFC – (Retrieved via) Main Event

RESULTS | Dana White’s Contender Series: Season 4, Week 4

FOUR more up-and-comers earned UFC contracts in the latest Contender Series instalment, with only one winner missing out on a berth in the top MMA promotion. Jamie Pickett got the nod at the third time of asking with a vicious TKO victory, while Rafael Alves and Collin Huckbody won entry via submissions, and Jeffrey Molina carved out a unanimous decision triumph.

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Third time was truly a charm for Pickett, as he inflicted a 22-punch barrage on Jhonoven Pati to put him away early in Round 2. Of his four career defeats, the 31-year-old middleweight suffered two of them in the Contender Series, but proved he has what it takes with his seventh victory via T/KO. Pati (6-4) was a dangerous opponent having earned finishes across his six professional wins, but was left out on his feet by Pickett’s fight-ending combination.

Earlier in the night, Huckbody (8-2) pulled off the quickest stoppage of the five-fight card, leaning on his patented arm triangle to submit Kyron Bowen at 1:28 in Round 1. The 25-year-old now boasts a five-fight win streak, with four first-round finishes and six submissions (five via arm triangle) on his ever-improving record. He pulled off the move from mount too, showcasing a heck of a squeeze to yield the tap against his lighter opponent.

Alves snared the second submission of the night, with the guillotine choke his MO for putting Alejandro Flores (16-3) away. The Brazilian, who is both a high level grappler and striker, looked powerful from the offset, stalking Flores and threatening with his power. Despite Flores’ movement, and ability to land a takedown, he shot right into an Alves guillotine and in a flash, could find no escape. Alves is another fighter enjoying a five-fight tear at 19-9, while Flores’ impressive run over 10 bouts sees another loss added to the tally. Both men are 29 years old.

In one of two unanimous decisions on the night, Molina and Jacob Silva put on a show across 15 minutes of flyweight action. Despite the loss Silva (6-3) remains on the UFC’s radar having proved his dangerous arsenal and durability. But Molina was the one to earn a contract, controlling the distance and pace well while also landing some nice counter strikers and looking incredibly relaxed overall. It was his first decision victory, but Molina is now 8-2 with seven wins on the trot. He also pulled it off after breaking his foot in Round 1.

The unlucky winner of the lot was Romero, who still has time to prove his case at 8-0 and 23 years of age. The Canadian is well-rounded and technical, proving too slick for Mike Breeden, who is as tough as they come. Romero’s inability to clinch a finish while Breeden was badly compromised by leg kicks, and after dropping him, ultimately proved costly.

CONTRACTS: Collin Huckbody, Jeffrey Molina, Rafael Alves, Jamie Pickett

RESULTS:

Jamie Pickett def. Jhonoven Pati | TKO (punches) 0:33 Rd 2

Rafael Alves def. Alejandro Flores | Submission (guillotine choke) 2:55 Rd 2

Jeffrey Molina def. Jacob Silva | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28

Anthony Romero def. Mike Breeden | Decision (unanimous) 30-26, 30-27, 29-28

Collin Huckbody def. Kyron Bowen | Submission (arm triangle) 1:28 Rd 1

Featured Image: Chris Unger/DWCS LLC/Zuffa LLC

RESULTS | Dana White’s Contender Series: Season 4, Week 2

UFC president Dana White‘s recent vacation put him in a generous mood, as he handed out a record-equalling five contracts on the latest Contender Series instalment. Each winner on the five-fight card was awarded a shot in the elite MMA promotion, with Impa Kasanganay offered a bout in just 11 days.

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26-year-old Kasanganay again made good in his second Contender Series dig, earning another decision victory to move to 6-0 as a professional. The Congolese-American was forced to make some adjustments after falling behind in Round 1, taking the fight to the ground over the next two periods where he would dominate with vicious strikes from the top and back.

His opponent, Anthony Adams has now lost twice on the UFC feeder show, and boasts an 8-2 record. At 32 years of age, time sadly appears to be running out for the promising American to get his shot at the bigtime.

The first finish of the night came via another dominant showing of ground-and-pound in the very next fight, as Canadian TJ Laramie laid enough damage on Daniel Swain to warrant a doctor’s stoppage at the end of Round 1. White was impressed with his savage nature on the mat.

While it is yet to be confirmed, Swain appeared to have injured his ribs throughout the first five minutes, most likely due to Laramie’s attacks to his midsection from top position. Laramie, now 12-3 with four-straight wins, was the biggest favourite on the card despite his opponent’s notable 30-fight professional career.

The youngest fighter to grace the octagon on the night, Cory McKenna put on her own grappling showcase, edging highly-touted BJJ practitioner, Vanessa Demopoulos via decision. The 21-year-old’s win was made even more impressive by the fact that most of bout was fought on the mat, where the Welsh native’s strength and well-rounded game came to the fore.

McKenna seemed unfazed by the submission threats that Demopoulos posed, savvy to each as she dominated from the top and survived a late triangle attempt. She looked comfortable on the feet too, landing a couple of big head kicks in the face of Demopoulous’ wild aggression. McKenna is now 5-1 with plenty of time to develop, while Demopoulos is likely to remain around the mark having been crowned the LFA strawweight champion in July.

There may have been a couple of TKO’s due to injury on the night, but Adrian Yanez made no doubt about his first round stoppage of Brady Huang with a perfectly executed performance. His 39-second finish was the fifth-quickest in Contender Series history, and ensured he was a lock for a UFC contract.

Yanez also earned comparisons to Jorge Masvidal for his movement and boxing style, which is exactly how he got the job done. He initially slipped out to land a right hand and dropped Huang with the following left hook, before closing the show with an accurate four-punch combo to showcase his killer instinct.

Fans won’t be forgetting his name in a hurry, especially after hearing of his heartbreaking journey to the top, and a tongue-in-cheek plea to his new boss: “help me quit my day job… that was me on part-time”. The 26-year-old is now 11-3 with eight finishes, and riding a four-fight win streak.

In the night’s featured bout, Joe Pyfer‘s unfortunate elbow dislocation brought an early end to his battle against UFC newcomer, Dustin Stoltzfus. Pyfer looked the much larger man and landed a nice single-leg takedown amid the first round action, before Stoltzfus broke free via some submission attempts from bottom.

That was where the beginning of the end ensued, as Stoltzfus shot in for his own takedown with a big lift which saw Pyfer brace for impact, but his arm gave way. It happened just as the fight was heating up, but Stoltzfus had done enough in White’s eyes to earn a contract. At 12-1 with 10-straight wins, he seems to be entering his prime as a fighter.

CONTRACTS: Impa Kasanganay, TJ Laramie, Cory McKenna, Adrian Yanez, Dustin Stoltzfus

RESULTS:

Dustin Stoltzfus def. Joe Pyfer | TKO (injury) 4:21 Rd 1

Adrian Yanez def. Brady Huang | TKO (punches) 0:39 Rd 1

Cory McKenna def. Vanessa Demopoulos | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 29-28, 29-28

TJ Laramie def. Daniel Swain | TKO (doctor stoppage) 5:00 Rd 1

Impa Kasanganay def. Anthony Adams | Decision (unanimous) 29-27, 29-27, 29-27

Card recap: XFN 367 – Morrow takes out heavyweight tournament

XTREME Fight Night returned this weekend to host its 2020 heavyweight kickboxing tournament, with Rob Morrow crowned champion as the last man standing. The 47-fight MMA veteran took out the 10-thousand dollar prize after wading through three opponents, capped off by a split decision victory over Demorio Dennis in the final.

>> SCROLL FOR FULL XFN 367 RESULTS

An incorrectly written scorecard made for near-disastrous live coverage, as the blue corner of Dennis was initially announced the victor, before a correction ensured Morrow was given his rightful nod.

The deciding bout was a close one, with Morrow’s more effective strikes up top ultimately getting the points over Dennis’ volume. There was seldom a distinctive blow thrown as both men wore the effects of their three-fight night, making for even back-and-forth action.

After taking little-to-no damage in his quarter final clash with Mike Cook, which he won via KO early in Round 3, Morrow was pushed all the way by Randy Blake in their semi-final matchup. Controversy reigned as a late slip from Blake counted as a knockdown, seeing the scorecards read 28-apiece all round.

In a one-minute overtime round, Morrow turned up the heat to push his total to a superior 38-37 according to two judges. Blake looked like being a frontrunner to that point having picked apart Eric Lunsford with his kicking game, but fell victim to one bad decision in a close fight.

Dennis’ path to the final came through Rasheem Jones at the semi final stage. It was a dangerous fight for the eventual finalist as Jones had just defeated 2019 champion, Terrence Hodges, but he got the job done across three rounds having blanketed his opponent’s range and upheld a greater pace.

The card was also filled out by a trio of amateur MMA bouts. All of them ended in stoppages; with Nick O’Brien declared the winner due to doctor stoppage after two rounds, Sampson Tabbytite accelerating his path to turning pro with a body kick in Round 1, and Daniel Olajiga pulling off a surprise second round guillotine submission.

RESULTS

FINAL:

Rob Morrow def. DeMorio Dennis | Decision (split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28

SEMI-FINALS:

Rob Morrow def. Randy Blake | Decision (split, overtime) 28-28, 28-28, 28-28/37-38, 38-37, 38-37

DeMorio Dennis def. Rasheem Jones | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

QUARTER-FINALS:

Randy Blake def. Eric Lunsford | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28

Rob Morrow def. Mike Cook | KO (punches) 0:33 Rd 3

Rasheem Jones def. Terrence Hodges | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-27

DeMorio Dennis def. Haze Wilson | TKO (punches) 1:49 Rd 1

MMA BOUTS:

Nick O’Brien def. James Warren | TKO (doctor stoppage) 5:00 Rd 2

Sampson Tabbytite def. Jad Ahlkatib | TKO (body kick) 0:46 Rd 1

Daniel Olajiga def. Znick Ferrell | Submission (guillotine) 1:35 Rd 2

RESULTS | Dana White’s Contender Series: Season 4, Week 1

THREE fresh faces are set to enter the UFC after earning contracts on Dana White’s Contender Series, which returned for Season 4 this week. Jordan Leavitt and Uros Medic captured the attention of their new boss with first round finishes, while Dustin Jacoby is set to make his UFC return after taking out a unanimous decision victory.

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While the card was stripped down to four fights due to a late scrapping, those in action took full advantage of their spots to earn passage to the elite MMA promotion. As is often the case, the setting of a smaller UFC APEX octagon made for a bunch of high-pace action, kicked off by Leavitt’s Round 1 submission of Luke Flores.

Having fought as recently as July 17, Leavitt kept his momentum going to improve to 7-0 as a professional and take the next step in his MMA journey. The 25-year-old grappling ace wasted no time in securing a takedown – albeit unconventionally – and got to work with a series of transitions on the mat.

No slouch on the ground himself, Flores looked to stay busy from the bottom, but a poorly judged decision to pull guard spelt the beginning of the end for him. Leavitt snatched up the arm triangle in quick time, and celebrated with his now patented split.

Flores is now 0-2 in his Contender Series digs, which remain the only two losses on his professional record. At 32-years-old, time may be running out on any hopes of a UFC berth.

MMA judging again came under fire after Jerome Rivera got the unanimous nod over Luis Rodriguez, with the former’s volume of kicks and perennial forward movement perhaps sticking in the judges’ minds. Most significantly, two of the judges had him taking out all three rounds, totally discarding Rodriguez’s dominance in Round 2.

It was an incredibly close fight nonetheless, and the LFA vet is now 10-2 as a pro, but still yearns for his UFC contract. 22-year-old Rodriguez, who is now 11-2, was impressive on his flyweight debut and looked strong across each discipline. His wicked hooks, leg kicks, and takedowns all took toll across the bout, but his seven-fight win streak was ultimately broken.

It seems inevitable that we may see both men in the UFC someday though, and there was plenty to like about their well-rounded skillsets.

Arguably the performance of the night belonged to Serbian prospect, Medic, who lays claim to one of the great MMA nicknames – ‘The Doctor’. He put on a clinic too, taking out Mikey Gonzalez via TKO in Round 1 to send a resounding message to all UFC lightweights and welterweights.

As Nick Diaz would put it, Gonzalez began to throw ‘spinning shit’ early, but it proved ineffective in the face of Medic’s slamming body kicks. Medic had him folded with one early, but he snapped up one of his opponent’s legs to survive the incoming onslaught.

It took just a few more moments for Medic to land another though, with the referee stepping in as Gonzalez could only cover up against the fence. Unsurprisingly, the quick and nasty work warranted a ‘Goddamn’ from Uncle Dana.

Now 6-0, Medic has five first round finishes to his name, and a 100 per cent stoppage rate in his fledgling professional career. The rise to the top looks a steep one for the 27-year-old.

After eight years away from the promotion, Jacoby secured the final contract of the night in the featured bout, but required all three rounds to do so against a tough a durable Ty Flores. Having cut his teeth of late in Glory Kickboxing, Jacoby showed a clear striking advantage as he lit up Flores on the feet in Rounds 1 and 2.

The 32-year-old’s punishing straight punches and flurries with Flores backed up against the fence almost had the fight stopped in Round 2, with knees and elbows also thrown into the masterful striking display.

Jacoby seemed to have emptied the tank looking for an early finish though, with both men looking gassed as the pace completely slowed during the ultimate period. It mattered little for White as he granted Jacoby a second shot in the UFC, and he looks poised to make a mark at 205lbs as he enters his fighting prime.

RESULTS

Contracts: Jordan Leavitt, Uros Medic, Dustin Jacoby

Dustin Jacoby def. Ty Flores | Decision (unanimous) 30-26, 29-27, 29-27

Uros Medic def. Mikey Gonzalez | TKO (punches) 2:12 Rd 1

Jerome Rivera def. Luis Rodriguez | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

Jordan Leavitt def. Luke Flores | Submission (arm-triangle) 4:15 Rd 1

Card recap: LFA 87 – Logan outpoints Rosales for lightweight title

LEGACY Fighting Alliance (LFA) capped off phase one of its return with a fourth title fight in as many weeks, seeing Bryce Logan take home the lightweight strap on the end of a six-fight card. Held once again out of the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, the leading UFC feeder promotion gave fans a spectacle as four fights lasted all the allotted rounds.

The event proved somewhat of a curtain jerker for tomorrow’s UFC Fight Night at the Apex Centre, where 40 per cent of the fighters in action are LFA veterans. The promotion also announced phase two of its return schedule, with events to be held on August 21, August 28, and September 4.

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MAIN EVENT

Bryce Logan def. Jacob Rosales | Decision (unanimous) 48-47, 48-47, 48-47

Local hero Bryce Logan is the new LFA lightweight champion after perfectly executing his gameplan to defeat Jacob Rosales via unanimous decision. The 30-year-old now moves to 12-4 as a professional and is riding a three-fight win streak.

Well aware of Rosales’ power and length, the man with two first names flowed with terrific footwork to steer clear of his opponent’s main threats, while keeping him guessing with constant feints and a popping jab.

The frustration began to show for Rosales as he was constantly made to miss, and it seemed he was up against it after being dropped by a stiff left hand in Round 2. That exact shot may have been the one to bloody the 25-year-old’s nose, leaving the LFA cage a crimson mess.

While Rosales was able to up the volume and snatch a couple of rounds on the scorecards, he was unable to land the winning blow as he opened up, and was smothered well in the closing stages as Logan capped off an intelligently executed five rounds.

The result sees Rosales, a Contender Series alum, slip to 12-6 and 1-2 in his last three outings, but he would have lost few admirers for the durability and heart he displayed.

CO-MAIN EVENT

Nick Browne def. Ben Egli | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 30-27

Nick Browne survived a series of Round 3 submission attempts from late notice replacement, Ben Egli to earn his own unanimous decision nod in the co-main event. It was a battle between two renowned grapplers, though it seemed the most straightforward path to victory for Browne would be paved on the feet.

Seemingly undeterred by Egli’s prowess on the mat, Browne was the one to initiate the grappling exchanges and earned points for his work in top position – staying heavy and landing nice ground-and-pound. Egli would do his best to scramble and reverse position, but Browne proved no pushover as he moved into mount.

Browne’s willingness to battle on the mat despite a clear striking advantage almost cost him late in the fight, as Egli looked to snatch up a couple of Hail Mary armbar submissions in Round 3. Having survived, Browne improves to 10-1 and may be next in line for a shot at the lightweight title.

FEATURED BOUT

Joaquin Buckley def. Jackie Gosh | TKO (punches) 1:47 Rd 2

In the second of two TKO stoppages for the night, Joaquin Buckley exacted revenge for his 2016 loss to Jackie Gosh by putting him away in Round 2. Since their previous meeting, Buckley has gone 4-1 (10-2 overall), while Gosh has slid to 1-3 (8-3) after a 7-0 start to his professional career.

Buckley looked ominous from the outset, stalking his Israeli adversary with bad intentions and teeing off with vicious combinations. It didn’t take long into Round 2 for the damage to take toll, with a power left hand dropping Gosh momentarily, before two big hooks had him covering up and the referee rushing in.

With such power on the feet at middleweight, the 26-year-old Buckley looks a prospect on the rise.

RESULTS

Kai Kamaka III def. Michael Stack | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

Gerald Scott def. Keith Phathaem | TKO (punches) Rd 2

Zac Pauga def. Zac Cavender | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 29-28

Card recap: LFA 86 – Slick Flick snatches flyweight gold in 38 seconds

FIGHTERS meant business at LFA 86, with five of the six bouts finished within Round 1. The quickest stoppage of the lot fittingly came in the main event, as Jimmy Flick added some more hardware to his collection in the form of the flyweight belt.

Held out of the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, it was the third-straight Legacy Fighting Alliance headlined by a championship bout, with a fourth to go down next week as Bryce Logan and Jacob Rosales battle for the vacant lightweight title at LFA 87.

For now, we recap the action from an entertaining, albeit short-lived night of fights in our fight-by-fight recap.

Jimmy Flick def. Greg Fischer | Submission (arm-triangle) 0:38 Rd 1

The quickest finish of the night belonged to Jimmy Flick, who became the first man to finish Greg Fischer en route to snapping up the vacant LFA flyweight championship. It was Flick’s third title fight in a row across three promotions, and his 12th submission victory across a 14-5 record.

A pumped-up Flick could be heard screaming “Dana White, I’m ready”, before declaring himself the best grappler in the world at 125-pounds. He certainly has a case, with his slick turn of the corner on a double-leg takedown, and lightning-quick arm triangle snatch earning him the victory and some more hardware.

It was the perfect way to cap off what was a short-lived night, and we may well be seeing yet another LFA flyweight champ on his way to a UFC berth.

Arthur Estrazulas def. Dominic Clark | Submission (rear-naked choke) 3:26 Rd 1

The evening’s co-main event delivered on its hype, with Arthur Estrazulas turning the early tide to submit Dominic Clark in Round 1. With the vacant LFA lightweight title on the line in a week’s time, the Brazilian has raised his hand as an early first contender for the next shot.

Clark looked strong out of the blocks as he shot in for a couple of takedown attempts, eventually landing one in the face of Estrazulas’ phenomenal balance and defence. But the now 12-4 Brazilian reversed the position with a takedown of his own, using it to take Clark’s back, sink in the hooks, flatten him out, and sink in a tight rear-naked choke.

That’s now eight submission victories for the 31-year-old out of Kings MMA, and two wins in a row.

Fabio Cherant def. Erick Murray Jr.| Submission (anaconda choke) 0:57 Rd 1

Fabio Cherant was a man on a mission, gaining redemption after his first professional loss on the Contender Series to submit Erick Murray Jr in the first round. In his maiden LFA bout, Cherant took just under a minute to get rid of his opponent, working shots to the body before winging a quick left hand up top to stun Murray.

Sensing his moment, Cherant quickly snatched up the choke and adjusted it beautifully on the feet, with Murray dragging it to the mat to escape, but eventually tapping. The only blight on Cherant’s performance was the fact he missed weight by nine pounds, but he looks a serious prospect at light heavyweight with five submission wins on his 5-1 record.

Mando Gutierrez def. Jeff Jepsen | Submission (rear-naked choke) 1:57 Rd 1

Mando Gutierrez ensured the train of promotional debut wins would roll on, with his slick first round submission of Jeff Jepsen. The 23-year-old grappler showed he has more tricks in the bag than just his wrestling, winging powerful kicks on the feet and heavy knees in the clinch, before wrapping up a guillotine and using it to take the fight to the mat.

From there, the brutal pace Gutierrez enforced took full toll on Jepsen, as he transitioned to the back from half guard, quickly sunk in hooks and the choke to yield a tap. He looks the real deal, and a well-rounded package with four submission victories on the trot.

Mark Martin def. Tony Grant | TKO (punches) 3:52 Rd 1

A relentless showing from Mark Martin saw him make quick work of Tony Grant in their welterweight clash, taking just under four minutes to improve to 4-1 on his LFA debut.

The 26-year-old has now won three-straight fights and boasts three first round finishes, making him an exciting prospect. He was in on a takedown early, but fell into a successful attempt on his second dig, using it to land heavy ground-and-pound and looking to advance the position.

While Grant was able to get to his feet, Martin maintained the pressure with swarming knees to the body, before a sweet uppercut spelt the beginning of the end. With Grant out on his feet after being momentarily dropped, Martin kept him on the hook and landed heavy shots up top, with another folding knee and more ground-and-pound to his defenceless opponent closing the show.

Jordan Heiderman def. Jacob Heavlin | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-28, 30-27

Heavyweights again kicked off the action at the bottom of the card, with Jordan Heiderman handing Jacob Heavlin his first professional loss by way of a tight split decision. In what was both fighters’ LFA debuts, Heiderman was able to thwart the wrestling advances of Heavlin, and opened up a cut over his eye early, although it didn’t stop the now 1-1 (1) prospect from moving forward.

Both men had their moments on the feet, but seemed unfazed by the others’ power, continuing to get shots off at a high pace. Heiderman’s takedown defence, long punching combinations, and knees to the body got the job done in the face of Heavlin’s volume and pressure, with a late arm triangle attempt perhaps snatching Round 3.

Card recap: LFA 85 – Demopoulos crowned inaugural LFA strawweight queen

LEGACY Fighting Alliance (LFA) crowned its inaugural women’s strawweight champion at #LFA85, with grappling ace Vanessa Demopoulos pulling off a Hail Mary submission to take home her maiden professional title.

The UFC talent feeder put on a six-fight card, again staged out of the Sanford Pentagon in Sioux Falls, South Dakota, with prospects staking their claims for a call-up to the elite MMA promotion. Among the entertainment, brothers Kevin and Christian Natividad both notched KO victories, with only one contest going the distance throughout the evening.

Another belt will be put on the line in next week’s LFA event too, with Greg Fischer battling Jimmy Flick for flyweight supremacy on July 24. But for now, get caught up on how each of the latest LFA bouts went down in our fight-by-fight recap.

Vanessa Demopoulos def. Sam Hughes | Technical submission (inverted triangle) 2:21 Rd 4

She may have effectively been down by the equivalent of four rounds to nil, but Vanessa Demopoulos only needed one moment of magic to snatch the inaugural LFA strawweight title from Sam Hughes‘ grasp. The Greek grappler put Hughes to sleep with an inverted reverse triangle, emphatically putting a frustrating 15 minutes and potentially costly point deduction behind her.

‘Sampage’ clearly made the better start of the two, coming out strong to land leg kicks and nice counter strikes on Demopoulos, who struggled to get within striking distance. While the victor had wrapped up a guillotine, Hughes popped out and continued her ascendancy, landing the more effective strikes – mostly via her right hand.

The American’s distance management proved vital in ensuring Demopoulos would be unable to land her own shots on the feet, but stiff straight shots were mixed in well with forward pressure and an intense pace from Hughes to put her well on top. She landed a takedown late, and just as Demopoulos searched for a leglock, she landed an illegal upkick to see a point taken away from her, meaning she would either require a finish to win, or to claim all three remaining rounds for a draw.

Hughes continued to find success at range and with her heavy punches in bunches, pushing the action forward and bloodying up the nose of her opponent. Demopoulos would return fire though, enjoying her best period to that point despite taking damage. Still, she was arguably four rounds down at that point.

Cue Round 4 and an incredible Hail Mary submission. The urgency from Demopoulos was clear, and she was able to punch her way into the clinch position, before working away as the fight transitioned to the mat. She threatened another kneebar, before throwing up the reverse triangle in lightning quick time and slowly breaking Hughes’ posture to tighten the choke. Seemingly out of nowhere, Hughes was out cold, and Demopoulos was the new LFA strawweight champion.

Kevin Natividad def. Kyle Estrada | KO (punches) 1:37 Rd 2

Kevin Natividad may well be in line for a shot at the vacant bantamweight title, after landing a dynamite knockout blow to 10-5 veteran Kyle Estrada. The win was Natividad’s fifth in a row, seeing him improve to 9-1 and match his younger brother’s earlier KO effort.

Estrada looked to have gained the early ascendancy with a barrage of low kicks to chop down his opponent’s lead leg and wide stance, but Natividad would adjust accordingly after the first bell, slowly working his way into the pocket and landing the fight-ending combination out of nowhere.

A double jab was followed by a big right hand to sit Estrada down, with the Hawaiian chasing his downed opponent to the mat to land one more hammer fist for good measure.

Leandro Gomes def. Jacob Thrall | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 30-27, 30-26

Not even all of Jacob Thrall’s durability and nous could spare him from a unanimous decision loss to Leandro Gomes, who took out all three rounds in the first bout of the night to go the distance.

The Brazilian, nicknamed ‘Little Hulk’ may have taken the fight on short notice, but managed to grind out the win strongly to improve to 6-1 as a professional, with this his fourth-consecutive victory.

Thrall was not at all fazed by Gomes’ jiu jitsu pedigree, initiating the action on the ground and constantly looking to land big double-leg takedowns. But Gomes’ resistance was strong, and even when the fight got to the mat, he managed to dominate positon and work his submission game.
The high-octane pace was set early, with a side-kick from Gomes sitting Thrall down, a follow-up flying knee just missing, and elbows from against the fence finding a home to cut the American up.

While Thrall owned top position at times, he was unable to pose the same threats, as Gomes swept well, stayed the busier man, and landed some nice ground-and-pound throughout his time on top.

Gomes simply found an answer for all Thrall had, looking sharper on the feet, threatening to snatch kimura grips to switch position on Thrall’s takedown entries, and ending the fight on top with what one judge deemed a 10-8 round.

Jordan Leavitt def. Leivon Lewis | Submission (anaconda choke) 2:01 Rd 2

A series of unrelenting submission attempts from Jordan Leavitt eventually took toll on Leivon Lewis, who tapped to an anaconda choke for the former’s fourth submission win among an improved 6-0 professional record.

While this was the first fight of the night to endure past Round 1, it only lasted two minutes more as Leavitt sunk in the decisive choke, leaving Lewis exhausted by the end of his chained submission digs having taken the bout on two weeks’ notice.

While Lewis initially punched into range, Leavitt was the one to bring the fight to the mat, with leg-locks looking like the order of the day for much of the first round. Lewis was savvy to each transition and managed to resist for the most part, but Leavitt’s ability to thrive in awkward positions paid dividends as he snatched up an arm triangle, and eventually worked to the fight-ending anaconda choke, yielding a tap.

Christian Natividad def. Michael Aquila | KO (punches) 2:48 Rd 1

It was a classic left, right, good night for Michael Aquila by way of Christian Natividad’s heavy hands, with the Hawaiian marking his professional debut in style against a dangerous grappler.

The well-built bantamweight, who boasts a 5-0 amateur record, showed terrific fight IQ to keep the fight on the feet despite dropping Aquila twice, waving his opponent back up before eventually landing the knockout blows.

Natividad’s left hook, cross combination was his modus operandi, and made for a walk-off finish as Aquila crumbled with his back to the fence. No better way to set the tone for your older brother’s fight later in the night. 

Mitchell Sipe def. Darion Abbey | TKO (knee and punches) 1:37 Rd 1

Mitchell Sipe kicked off the show with a vicious TKO victory over Darion Abbey at heavyweight. The 5-2 professional broke a two-fight losing streak which spawned from his unsuccessful Contender Series dig, and boy was he pumped about the finish.

Despite entering his LFA debut without a corner in tow, Sipe secured his third first-round stoppage by way of a vicious knee and wild punching combinations. The 27-year-old’s weapon of choice was his winging overhand right, which initially stunned Abbey and backed him up, before the killer instinct kicked in.

The referee even copped a punch to the back amidst Sipe’s hammer fists to finish, as the knee to drop Abbey had him scrambling in to stop the onslaught. It certainly was an exclamation mark to open proceedings.

Card recap: Invicta FC 40 – Ducote edges UFC veteran in tense headliner

INVICTA FC thrust women’s MMA back onto centre stage in its first card since February, with Emily Ducote taking out the main event in a tight decision win over UFC veteran, Juliana Lima. Held in Kansas City, Kansas and streamed via UFC Fight Pass, the event showcased open scoring in a revolutionary move for the sport, with fighters and fans alike able to view the progressive scorecards after each round.

Elsewhere on the five-fight card, ‘Half Pint’ Alesha Zappitella took home a narrow decision victory of her own in the co-main event slot, while Stockton native Chelsea Chandler pulled off the night’s only finish with a quick submission at 145-pounds.

>> SCROLL for all the official results.

MAIN EVENT


Emily Ducote def. Juliana Lima | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 29-28, 29-28

Strawweight action headlined an entertaining handful of women’s MMA matchups, with Ducote rallying late to earn a unanimous decision victory over Lima. It proved an impressive return to the winners list for Ducote, who improves to 9-6 after an unsuccessful title shot in her last bout. For Lima, the result served as her second loss in a row, and fourth in her last five bouts.

The 38-year-old Brazilian looked menacing from the off though, using her power advantage and length in the striking exchanges to land the bigger shots. She looked strong with nice frames from the clinch to get off big knees to Ducote’s body, while stuffing a late takedown attempt to unanimously take out Round 1.

While it seemed Lima had a point to prove, her aggression began to fade as Ducote started to find a home for her own strikes, landing in bunches. It was a slight surprise the American did not attempt to get more in the face of Lima or change levels a touch more, but she allayed such concerns with a nicely timed shot to end Round 2, landing a few brutal elbows from top position.

The fight was all square and up for grabs heading into Round 3, setting up a nice spectacle thanks to the live scoring feature. Both women sported a mouse under their eyes as the fight wore on, with Lima continuing to crack in with strikes but seeming to tire. Ducote’s late aggression and bettering of the grappling exchanges got her the nod, capping a hard night’s work.

CO-MAIN EVENT


Alesha Zappitella def. Lindsey VanZandt | Decision (split) 28-29, 29-27, 30-27

We may well be witnessing the rise of Invicta’s newest atomweight star, as Zappitella put herself within reach of title contention in a back-and-forth grudge match against Lindsey VanZandt. The 4’11” ‘Half Pint’ got the nod after 15 minutes, credit to her smothering chain wrestling and busy work from top position.

The diminutive grappler executed her gameplan to a t, and seemed to have done some shrewd homework as she continually caught VanZandt’s kicks to move into takedowns. VanZandt was billed as the more rounded fighter with dangerous finishing capabilities on the feet or mat, but was controlled well by Zappitella in most areas of the fight.

It was on the ground where the fight was won for Zappitella though, as she refused to rest from top position and constantly looked to pass from side control, into guard, and to the back in a high-paced showcase of her transitional range. VanZandt looked to have had the slight striking advantage, landing a swift spinning kick up top and some heavy blows in the brief moments the fight was up-standing.

A late flurry of knees and some better defensive grappling from VanZandt were not enough to turn around the early deficit though, as she went down according to two of the three judges on an incredibly varied scorecard. Zappitella’s aggression was impressive, and she is really making a name for herself in the promotion.

In the remaining fights, Chandler made a mean name for herself in moving to a 3-1 record as she handed tough 38-year-old veteran Liv Parker her first professional loss. The Stockton native has the attitude and style one has come to expect from the region, and showed as much as she loaded up nasty left hand shots to the body of Parker, before sending one straight down the pipe to drop her opponent. It took little time for Chandler to get the job done on the mat, leaning on her grappling credentials to flatten Parker out and sink in a tight rear-naked choke at 1:05 of Round 1.

Chandler’s triumph would prove the sole submission and finish of the night, and was set up by a couple more entertaining decisions to open the show. The American Top Team trained Trisha Cicero thwarted Laura Gallardo‘s pressure wrestling to take out a split decision win, her third in a row as she moves to a positive 4-3 record. Both women were on their promotional debuts.

Speaking of debuts, Genia Goodin moved to 2-0 as a professional as she edged Shelby Koren in the latter’s maiden professional bout. The strawweight matchup was Invicta’s 100th bout at 115-pounds, a landmark achievement for the promotion. For the most part, the two fighters participated in a high-paced grappling match, with some terrific submission attempts and transitional grappling on display.

The next Invicta FC event is set to take place on July 30 headlined by a strawweight battle between Janaisa Morandin and Montserrat Ruiz.

RESULTS:

Chelsea Chandler def. Liv Parker | Submission (rear-naked choke) 1:05 Rd 1

Trisha Cicero def. Laura Gallardo | Decision (split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28

Genia Goodin def. Shelby Koren | Decision (unanimous) 30-27, 29-28, 29-28

Card recap: Titan FC 61 – Italian Gangster snaps up vacant bantamweight strap

TITAN has a new bantamweight champion after Danny Sabatello defeated Raymond Ramos in their headliner grudge match at Titan FC 61. Held once again in Miami, Florida, fans were treated to three first round submission finishes across six entertaining bouts, with plenty of bad blood remaining following the quick main event.

>> SCROLL down for all the results in our full card recap.

Danny Sabatello def. Raymond Ramos | Submission (rear-naked choke) 1:56 Rd 1

Danny Sabatello is the new Titan FC bantamweight champion after claiming the vacant title by way of first round submission over Raymond Ramos. It seems the ‘Italian Gangster’ can do no wrong of late, quickly making amends for his first professional loss with two impressive victories to move to 8-1.

Sabatello’s chain wrestling worked to get the fight to the mat and keep it there, with his initial double-leg entry requiring adjustments and some persistent to get the job done. The champ’s swarming pressure and aggressive transitions saw him take Ramos’ back, sinking a hook in and locking the choke under his opponents’ chin to yield the tap.

Bad blood lingered after the bout, too, as Sabatello celebrated in his usual animated fashion while Ramos refused to shake his hand in a usual showing of mutual respect. The two flapped gums as the finish was made official, and Ramos clearly was not impressed with Sabatello’s outspoken nature, especially after being called out for this fight.


Landon Quinones def. Geralbert Castillo | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 29-28

This fight was an absolute belter. Landon Quinones got the unanimous nod over Geralbert Castillo in their three-round war, with either man going extremely close to ending the fight in Round 2.

The opening exchanges were very close, with Castillo respecting the power of his opponent and looking to clinch up after being touched within boxing range. He would successfully smother Quinones and cancel out his key asset in the first round, arguably taking the points through those five minutes.

Castillo very nearly ended it early in Round 2, winging a wild overhand onto Quinones’ chin just as the latter was looking comfortable. He may have gassed himself out looking for the finish though, swarming on the grounded Quinones but unable to prevent his recovery. Quinones would then mount his own attack, turning the tables completely with mean knees in the clinch and a big one up the middle which knocked Castillo’s mouthpiece out.

It was clear that Castillo had little left in the tank having relinquished Round 2, but Quinones would remain calm in looking to methodically dispatch of his opponent. A big moment in the final round saw Quinones again knock Castillo’s mouthpiece out with a punishing left hand, but the referee saw fit to break the action to the winner’s dismay.

It mattered little though, as Quinones maintained control of the round and remained wary his opponent’s power from range to grind out the victory, ending it on top in the final exchanges.

We had it: 29-28 Quinones – Round 1 could have gone either way, but Quinones easily took out Round 3 and edged the second despite being dropped early.


Victor Dias def. Cleveland McLean | Decision (split) 29-28, 28-29, 29-28

The win came via split decision, but there was no doubting the impressive nature of Victor Dias’ triumph over Cleveland McLean in their flyweight scrap, with the Brazilian jiu jitsu ace getting the job done despite some crisp boxing from his American opponent.

McLean, a power puncher, ripped some terrific combinations to the head and body of Dias and showcased his well-rounded game by remaining cool in a series of crises on the mat. He had his moments and constantly whipped his right hand over Dias’ guard, arguably taking out Round 1 and having the better of Round 3’s early stages.

But Dias’ smothering grappling pressure and ability to work from McLean’s back ultimately earned him the nod, with the bout very nearly finished via rear-naked choke in Round 2. Dias repeatedly looked to slip his left arm under McLean’s neck, but had his hands fought against well, while struggling to retain the body triangle to arch and exaggerate the choke.

Dias threatened the same choke late in Round 3 after McLean found himself in leg lock territory, and simply did what he needed to in order to claim points in at least two rounds. His cardio seemed sound too, not burning the arms out despite big squeezes and having his guard peppered.

We had it: 29-28 Dias – the right call, McLean clearly took Round 1, Dias dominated the second, and took out the third despite McLean’s early success on the feet.


Christian Ynastrilla def. Phillip Keller | Submission (triangle choke) 2:04 Rd 1

A near 10-pound discrepancy and cancellation rollercoasters did little to prevent Christian Ynastrilla from moving to 6-1 as a professional, after submitting 38-year-old Phillip Keller in the first round.

The bout, originally mooted as a 130-pound catchweight event had a spanner thrown in the works when Keller missed weight by 7.8 pounds, and a touch of bad blood lingered from the fact immediately after the stoppage.

The bigger, more physical Keller looked to exploit his advantage by pressuring Ynastrilla early, landing a big takedown and moving forward well. But Ynastrilla worked beautifully from his back with his legs up high in guard, and threatening to transition to a submission.

He did exactly that despite Keller’s calm defence, locking in a tight armbar which was narrowly escaped, before making the adjustment to a triangle choke to yield the tap.


Joey Y’Shua def. Ryan Schwartzberg | Submission (rear-naked choke) 4:49 Rd 1

Joey Y’Shua came out with a point to prove in his maiden professional MMA bout, and did exactly that with a submission win over fellow debutant, Ryan Schwartzberg within the first round. The 25-year-old looked comfortable in all areas of the fight and while he is a more renowned kickboxer, finished it on the ground with a slick rear-naked choke.

Y’Shua’s stand-up skills were shown early as he caught Schwartzberg with a beautiful three-piece, forcing the latter to take the fight to the ground. A beautiful sweep allowed him to get back up and throw some more diverse strikes, showing great rhythm with his kicking game in the face of Schwartzberg’s wild boxing.

An uppercut and takedown spelled the beginning of the end, as Y’Shua transitioned from side control, to mount, and onto the back. From there he would throw in a hook and slide one arm under the chin, remaining calm as Schwartzberg fought the hands to eventually put him out with an adjustment on the choke and great hip extension.


Collin Lubberts def. Irvin Jones | Decision (unanimous) 29-28, 30-27, 30-27

Collin Lubberts improved to 5-1 after getting the better of Irvin Jones in their back-and-forth welterweight battle, which was fought almost exclusively on the feet. A mature, patient approach from the longer Lubberts helped to allay the threat of Jones’ boxing prowess, as the 24-year-old found his range to land the more definitive blows throughout the three rounds.

A sweet counter left hook stumbled Jones at the end of Round 1, and the same shot had Lubberts searching for a finish in the third. Both moments would end up proving the two defining factors of a closely contested fight. While Jones did his best to come out aggressively after a tight Round 2, he was beaten in the boxing exchanges by Lubberts’ cleaner shots on the inside.

We had it: 29-28 Lubberts – Round 1 and 3 clearly to Lubberts, toss a coin for the second.