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Matchmaker Monday – UFC 264

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The dust has settled in Las Vegas after an eventful MMA return. UFC 264 saw its’ fair share of finishes and shocking moments, but now, it’s time to see where the fighters go from here. Let’s take a look at the matchups to make!

DISCLAIMER: feel free to disagree, this is purely opinion based!

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Dustin Poirier (28-6, 1 NC)

Claiming the trilogy via TKO through a doctor stoppage, former interim champ Dustin Poirier has a clear fight ahead of him. It is, of course, newly-minted lightweight champion Charles Oliveira. Both the UFC brass, Poirier and Oliveira are all in agreement that this is the fight to make. Poirier has 8-1-1 since 2017, riding two stoppage wins. Will ‘The Diamond’ shine through for undisputed gold? Time will tell…

Conor McGregor (22-6)

A tibia and fibula break are the main concern for former champ Conor McGregor right now. According to his team, surgery was successful and a return is planned for late 2021 or 2022. Due to the somewhat controversial nature of the bout’s end, McGregor is petitioning loudly for a fourth bout with Poirier. Personally, I don’t see the need, but I see the appeal on both sides of the argument. I think Tony Ferguson is a fighter in need of a big win, as is McGregor. A clash between these lightweight staples would be entertaining and serve as a ticket to the title discussions for the winner.

Gilbert Burns (20-4)

To the surprise of many, Brazil’s Gilbert Burns picked up a decisive win over the weekend. Many fans wrote off his title aspirations after losing to champ earlier this year, but a smothering performance over Stephen Thompson proved he still belongs amongst the elite at 170lbs. Burns seemed interested in a bout with Jorge Masvidal, something the BMF champ was on board with. I think this serves as a perfect opportunity for both men to get the win and catapult themselves back into title talks.

Stephen Thompson (16-4-1)

Though he came up at short of UFC 264, Stephen ‘Wonderboy Thompson still remains with the elite at welterweight. At 38 years old, many expected a win over Burns to place him against Kamaru Usman to finish the final title run of his career. With a loss, however, it leaves him in a tricky situation. Personally, I think a matchup with Neil Magny presents an interesting stylistic matchup to cap off an amazing career.

Tai Tuivasa (13-3)

Shoeys and all aside, Tai Tuivasa put on a great showcase at UFC 264. His KO of Greg Hardy displayed his power once again, which could be a serious problem at heavyweight. I think his recent run of form is enough to warrant a ranked fight. 3 straight first-rounders is impressive. Unfortunately, heavyweight is slightly logjammed. Throw him in with Tanner Boser and watch all hell break lose.

Greg Hardy (7-4, 1 NC)

Is it fair to say that Greg Hardy hasn’t exactly overperformed in the UFC? He has picked up decent wins, but he has no victories of anyone still on the UFC roster. I genuinely think the UFC needs to let him go until he has some more experience under his belt. He’s still very young to this. Let him take some easier fights on the regional circuit, pick him back up in a few years time.

Irene Aldana (13-6)

Putting on a dominant display in a one-round affair, Irene Aldana has placed herself back in title contention. To actually get a crack at Amanda Nunes, however, she’s gonna have to pick up a win in the top 5. May I suggest – Germaine de Randamie. This will a delight to watch if it stays on the feet, and just as interesting when it hits the mat.

Yana Kunitskaya (14-6, 1 NC)

Though she may have fallen short, Yana Kunitskaya remains one of the most respected at 135lbs. If she’s looking to stay fighting the best, there are plenty of matchups that make sense. I would personally say Macy Chiasson, as both women can mix up striking and grappling effectively. This seems like a fun matchup that could have bigger implications down the line.

Sean O’Malley (14-1)

Continuing his ascent up the bantamweight ladder, Sean O’Malley mentioned plenty of names in his post-fight interview. The likes Rob Font and Cody Garbrandt are fun matchups on paper, but the timing and rankings tell us otherwise. If O’Malley wants top contenders, I think Dominick Cruz vs Sean O’Malley is a fight that needs to be made. The striking is bound to be insane, and the trash talk will draw in plenty of eyes.

Kris Moutinho (9-5)

Can we just appreciate Kris Moutinho for a second? Taking the fight on 11 days notice was credible enough, but to show the grit that was on display takes heart. Whether or not you think he belongs in the UFC, give him another fight because he deserves a fair shot. It doesn’t matter who, just one more to see what he’s all about.

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How would you matchup UFC 264’s fighters? Do you agree with my choices? Let us know in the comments section below?

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COPA COMBATE: Brackets Announced For One-Night Tournament, $100,000 on the line

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Combate Global today announced the official brackets and first, or quarterfinal stage, matchups for its coveted “COPA COMBATE” one-night, eight-man, $100,000 grand prize bantamweight (135 pounds) tournament on Sunday, Dec. 12, live on Paramount+ from Miami, Fla.

Paramount+ live coverage of “COPA COMBATE” will begin with a pre-show at 9:30 p.m. ET/8:30 p.m. CT, and will continue with the live fight action, beginning at 10:00 p.m. ET/9:00 p.m. CT.

In one bracket, Carlos Briseño (13-2) of Mexico will face off with Cristian “El Scorpio” Barraza (7-3) of Chile, and Frans “The Zulu Irishman” Mlambo (10-5) of Ireland will battle Jose “The Mercenary” Zarauz (22-8-1) of Peru.

In the opposite bracket, Leo Muniz (6-1) of the U.S. will square off with Pierre “The French Hawaiian” Daguzan (6-5) of France, and Kevin Cordero (12-2) of Spain will collide with Luciano “El Aguila” Ramos (8-6) of Argentina.

The winners of the two quarterfinal bouts in each bracket will square off with each other in the semifinal stage of the tournament, and the two semifinal stage fight winners will face each other in the championship stage of action.

Carlos Briseño vs. Cristian Barraza

The 31-year-old Briseño of Mexico City holds a black belt in Tae Kwon Do, and is a member of the Bonebreakers fight camp.  He enters La Jaula, the Combate Global competition cage, on a two-fight win streak after earning a unanimous decision over Adam Martinez in what was Briseño’s Combate Global debut on October 1.

The 28-year-old Barraza of Santiago is a Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt who has notched all 7 of his professional career wins by way of submission.  He is coming off of a first round (2:01) armbar submission of Mexico’s Diego Silva on October 22.

Frans Mlambo vs. Jose Zarauz

Mlambo, a 30-year-old protégé of famed trainer John Kavanagh and former International Mixed Martial Arts Federation (IMMAF) world championships gold medalist, will become the first fighter in history to represent Ireland in the “COPA COMBATE” tournament.  To date, Mlambo has produced 8 of his 10 career wins via (T)KO or submission, and will enter “COPA COMBATE” on a two-fight win streak.

Fighting out of Lima, the 28-year-old Zarauz holds the most professional experience of any of the “COPA COMBATE” tournament entrants, and will enter La Jaula for the second time in 2021 after securing a unanimous decision win over Fernando Noriega in a regional event in Peru on July 17.

Leo Muniz vs. Pierre Daguzan

The 31-year-old Muniz is a resident of Tobyhanna, Pa. and a native of The Bronx, N.Y.  He put together back-to-back victories over Team Alpha Male member Hector “El Matador” Fajardo on May 29 and August 13, respectively, to secure an entry to “COPA COMBATE.”

At 35 years of age, Daguzan, a native of Versailles, Yvelines and resident of Honolulu, Hawaii, is the eldest competitor in the tournament field.  He holds a purple belt in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu, and is coming off a unanimous decision win over Carlos Puente, Jr. in Combate Global action on July 16.

Kevin Cordero vs. Luciano Ramos

The 22-year-old Cordero of Las Palmas, Gran Canaria, is the number one pound-for-pound rising star out of Spain, and the youngest of the eight tournament entrants.  He has claimed 9 of his 12 professional wins via (T)KO or submission, including his last start and Combate Global debut on September 3, when he produced a first round (4:59) submission (triangle choke) of veteran battler Ricky Bandejas.

Ramos is a 25-year-old finisher who hails from Concordia, and who relocated to Stockton, Calif. last year in order to train with the team founded by famed MMA siblings Nick and Nate Diaz.  Since making the leap to the Diaz camp, Ramos, who has achieved six of eight career wins by way of (T)KO or submission, has been victorious in both of his MMA bouts in 2021, most recently defeating Keilen Fantroy via first round (1:54) submission (triangle choke) on July 31.

In two previously announced women’s bouts that will be featured on the “COPA COMBATE” card in addition to the tournament, Criszaida Adames (5-1) will throw down with Caroline “Taz” Gallardo (5-4) at strawweight (115 pounds), while Lucero “La Loba” Acosta (2-2) will square off with Rosselyn Chavira (1-0) at flyweight (125 pounds). 

The tournament will also be supported with two “reserve” bouts.  Should any of the tournament’s quarterfinal stage winners be unable to continue his bid in the semifinal stage due to injury, the winner of one of the tournament reserve bouts will replace the injured winner in the tournament’s semifinal stage.  

In one tournament reserve bout, Felipe “Pipe” Vargas (7-2) of San Jose, Calif. via Bogota, Colombia will take on unbeaten Diego “El Niño” Gomez Manzur (4-0) of Santiago, Chile and, in the second tournament reserve contest, Ricky Bandejas (14-6) of Brick, N.J. via Coconut Creek, Fla. will face Alan “Beche” Cantu (9-7) of Monterrey, N.L., Mexico.

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Jose “Froggy” Estrada headlines Combate Global Dec. 3 show against Martin Bravo

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Combate Global today announced a six-fight Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) event, live on Paramount+ on Friday, Dec. 3 from Miami, Fla. In the featherweight (145 pounds) main event, hard-hitting American star Jose “Froggy” Estrada (7-2) will square off with The Ultimate Fighter: Latin America 3 reality television series winner, Martin “El Toro” Bravo (12-3).
 
The 30-year-old Estrada of Oxnard, Calif. secured his career-best victory to date on July 2, defeating seasoned Nicaraguan star Leonardo “Chimmy” Morales by way of majority decision.
 
The result marked Estrada’s only victory to date that has gone to the judges’ scorecards.  All six of his other wins have come via (T)KO or submission within two rounds of action.
 
Hailing from Rosarito, B.C., Mexico and fighting out of Newton, N.J. the 28-year-old Bravo made his Combate Global debut in 2021, scoring a first round (1:09) TKO (punches) on veteran Andrew “The Beast” Whitney on September 17.
 
In a featured strawweight (115 pounds) contest, Stephanie “Macaquinha” Frausto (8-8) of Dublin, Calif. will face Camila Rivarola (3-3-1) of Montevideo, Uruguay via Stockholm, Sweden.
 
The other featured main card bout will pit Tommy “The Spaniard” Aaron (9-5) of Los Angeles, Calif. against Ivan “Choko” Castillo (21-13) of Ensenada, B.C., Mexico at welterweight (170 pounds).
 
In preliminary card action, Jonathan Sepulveda (9-3) of Isabela, Puerto Rico will throw down with Adrian Garcia (6-1) of Miami, Fla. at a catchweight of 130 pounds.
 
“Slick” Rick Zelada (1-0) of Los Angeles will meet Gustavo “Volcan” Navarrete (0-1) of Chandler, Ariz. at bantamweight (135 pounds).
 
Elizabeth Avila (0-2) of Mexico City, Mexico will look for her first professional victory in an atomweight (105 pounds) fight against Tamika Jones (0-0) of Las Vegas, Nev.

Paramount+ live coverage will begin with a Combate Global pre-show at 10:30 p.m. ET/9:30 p.m. CT, and will continue with the live fight action, beginning at 11:00 p.m. ET/10:00 p.m. CT.
 

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Sergio Pettis looking to follow in his brother Anthony’s footsteps and earn two belts

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Sergio Pettis won the Bellator Bantamweight World Championship belt opposite Juan Archuleta back in May. He will defend his belt for the first time against Kyoji Horiguchi at Bellator 272 on December 3rd.

The younger Pettis has big plans and wants to match his brother’s legacy. Anthony Pettis captured WEC and UFC in his long and storied career, but Sergio feels there is space on the mantel place for a belt from an Asian promotion (he spoke to MMA Fighting about the defense and his dreams).

“I think it would be a great opportunity for me to cross-promote,” Sergio Pettis said of an overseas move. “Anthony has a WEC belt and a UFC belt, and it would be awesome to have a Bellator belt and Rizin belt as well, to have all the belts in all the organizations – it would feel like a completion.”

Horiguchi has done some cross promotion with Bellator and actually took the belt from Darrion Caldwell before vacating and going back to Rizin. In Sergio’s eyes he holds the true belt because The Gooch injured his knee and could not defend the Bellator belt and by the time he healed up he was back in Rizin again. This is a welcome fight for Pettis who feels this fight will be the capturing of the true belt.

“I feel like the title in general is on the line. I think this is a fight where it’s really going to show who has the real championship in my division.”

The Rizin belt isn’t on the line, but Pettis does not rule some cross promotion at Flyweight or Bantamweight.

“It would be an honor to go overseas and get that opportunity,” he said. “But as of right now, my main focus is next week. I’m not looking ahead of Horiguchi at all. This is one of my toughest fights.”

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