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UFC 268 – Preview: championship doubleheader in New York

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Set to be one of the biggest cards of the year, Madison Square Garden will play host to UFC 268 in the MMA leader’s return to the Big Apple.

The main event will see a rematch between dominant welterweight champion Kamaru Usman and rival contender Colby Covington. 115lb queen Rose Namajunas will look to defend her title against former titleholder Weili Zhang in the co-main event.

Let’s take a closer look at this card!

(c) Kamaru Usman (19-1) vs (#1) Colby Covington (15-2) – UFC welterweight championship bout

The 2019 instant classic between Kamaru Usman and Colby Covington will be ran back, once again for the 170lb strap.

Having picked up 3 further title defenses since finishing Covington at UFC 245, Kamaru Usman sits atop the pound-for-pound rankings – and for good reason. The champion’s KO power and striking ability has been discovered and honed by coach Trevor Wittman, adding to his nightmarish wrestling pedigree. Riding the longest win-streak in welterweight history, a second win over Covington will put ‘The Nigerian Nightmare‘ in all-time great discussions.

Despite his inactivity, Colby Covington remains one of the most talked-about personalities in the MMA world. This is not just for his brash and outlandish personality, mind you. The Oregon native uses exceptional cardio and wrestling to beat on his opponents, and has also began to use his striking more effectively in recent fights. ‘Chaos‘ is dead-set on getting revenge, so don’t underestimate him coming into UFC 268.

(c) Rose Namajunas (11-4) vs (#1) Zhang Weili – UFC strawweight championship bout

The strawweight title will be on the line once again when Rose Namajunas and Weili Zhang rematch in UFC 268’s co-main event.

Reclaiming her title with a stunning KO, it looks like champion Rose Namajunas is finally in prime form, mentally and physically. Her striking has continued to evolve over the course of her career, with a lethal submission game in her back pocket. ‘Thug Rose‘ was able to dispatch of her opponent inside of one round last time out, but can she do it again at UFC 268? She certainly thinks so, and it’s hard to doubt her.

Having lost her title at the hands of Namajunas in April, former champ Weili Zhang is determined to bring the gold back to China. Well-rounded is an understatement for Zhang – her striking pressure coupled with her quick submissions make her tricky everywhere. Now with decorated former champions in her corner, ‘Magnum‘ is prepared for everything the fight may throw at her.

(#2) Justin Gaethje (22-3) vs (#4) Michael Chandler (22-6) – lightweight bout

Oh boy, here we bloody go.

Sitting on the sidelines since his loss to Khabib Nurmagomedov, former interim champion Justin Gaethje was waiting for the right opponent to jump back in against. Now that he has found one, he has promised to bring back the violent, reckless style that made him a fan-favourite. With some of the most powerful kicks and punches at 155lbs, ‘The Highlight‘ could make short work of Chandler.

Although he came up short in his vacant championship fight against Charles Oliveira, former Bellator titleholder Michael Chandler has stayed relevant in the 155lb title discussion. Carrying power in both hands and a background in wrestling – not dissimilar from Gaethje – he’s more than capable of taking out any contender in his division. A win over Gaethje could place ‘Iron‘ Mike back in line to fight for the belt again.

(#13) Shane Burgos (13-3) vs Billy Quarantillo (16-3) – featherweight bout

Courtesy of MMAArtwork

Featherweight fan-favourites Shane Burgos and Billy Quarantillo will try to blow the roof off of MSG when they fight on the line card.

Consistently staying in the top 15 at 145lbs for 2 years now, Shane Burgos has the skills to take out any contender in his division. His fast hands and iron chin have led him to wins over the likes of Makwan Amirkhani, Charles Rosa and Cub Swanson. Getting back in the win column will put ‘Hurricane‘ Shane in a great position going into 2022.

Not cracking the top 15 yet, Billy Quarantillo has been on the edge of the ranked featherweight since 2020. The former professional boxer has displayed both his power and his wrestling in wins over Spike Carlyle, Kyle Nelson and Gabriel Benitez. If he get a win over a ranked opponent in Burgos, he could be a force to be reckoned with next year.

(#8) Frankie Edgar (23-9-1) vs (#13) Marlon Vera (19-7-1) – bantamweight bout

It’s a clash of top 15 bantamweight when Frankie Edgar and Marlon Vera face off on the main card.

A former champion now fighting two weight classes below where he held the belt, there is few fighters more universally loved than Frankie Edgar. The New Jersey native has been dazzling crowds with his combination of boxing and wrestling styles. Though seemingly in the twilight of his illustrious career, ‘The Answer‘ is a dangerous matchup for anyone at 135lbs.

On the cusp of contendership for almost 5 years now, it looks like Marlon ‘Chito‘ Vera has his chance to break into the top 10 at bantamweight. The Ecuadorian striker has continued to improve throughout his UFC tenure, with his last two victories coming against Sean O’Malley and Davey Grant. If ‘Chito‘ can come up large at MSG, we’ll see his name etched into a top contender spot at 135lbs soon.

Andreas Michailidis (13-4) vs Alex Pereira (3-1) – middleweight bout

Greek grappler Andreas Michailidis will look to give former GLORY Kickboxing champion Alex Pereira a rude welcome to the UFC in the featured prelim.

The man looking to spoil Pereira’s welcome party is Andreas Michailidis. The Greek fighter is a brown belt in BJJ with 7 knockouts in his 13 wins, which introduces a difficult stylistic test for his opponents. Should he pick up a win at UFC 268 on Saturday, expect to see Michailidis in more high-profile fights in future.

Already 3-0 in MMA, former GLORYmiddleweight and light-heavyweight champion Alex Pereira is one of the most talked-about prospects right now. As many know, he holds the distinction as the only man to have a KO win over UFC middleweight champ Israel Adesanya. The Brazilian Pereira has already shown that he is capable of taking people out in MMA, but can he cut it in the UFC?

Al Iaquinta (14-6-1) vs Bobby Green (27-12-1) – lightweight bout

Two savvy lightweight vets in Al Iaquinta and Bobby Green are set to close the prelims in a fun one expexted to be a barnburner.

Sidelined for over 2 years due to injuries and the ongoing pandemic, Long Island’s Al Iaquinta has been thoroughly missed by MMA fans. Hoping to break back into the top 5, the New Yorker brings heavy hands and a never-say-die attitude into the Octagon every time out. Expect ‘Ragin‘ Al to come back with a vengeance, looking for the finish.

Making a strong account of himself against top 15 contender Rafael Fiziev in his last outing, veteran Bobby Green still has the skills to pay the bills. The 35 year old has used unorthodox striking with improving grappling to take opponents out in the UFC since 2013. ‘King‘ Green consistently takes the hardest fights available, and for that, we applaud him. It’s not unfair to expect another great show from him at UFC 268.

(#11) Edmen Shahbazyan (11-2) vs Nassourdine Imavov (10-3) – middleweight bout

Top 15 contender Edmen Shahbazyan will look to get back to winning ways against the streaking Nassourdine Imavov.

Despite dropping his last two to Derek Brunson and Jack Hermansson, young Edmen Shahbazyan still has buckets of potential. At 23 years old, the striking specialist has plenty of time ahead of him to improve and keep collecting KO wins. If he finds himself on the winning side of a finish this weekend, expect to see him back in the top 10.

Another young prospect getting a lot of attention at 185lbs is Nassourdine Imavov. The Frenchman has an 80% finish rate in 10 wins, most recently picking up an upset KO over Ian Heinisch. The 26 year old has the chance to break into the top 15 with a win this weekend, so expect him to put his best foot forward.

Ian Garry (7-0) vs Jordan Williams (9-5) – welterweight bout

Ireland’s Ian Garry is looking to take the UFC by storm, but first, he has to fend off Contender Series alum Jordan Williams.

Joining the UFC as the reigning Cage Warriors champion, Ian Garry is the biggest prospect to come from Ireland in years. 5 finishes in his 7 wins have seen him put away the best that Cage Warriors’ welterweight had to offer. ‘The Future‘ is set to make waves at 170lbs, and he’s dead set to begin at UFC 268.

Punching his UFC ticket with a first round KO of Gregory Rodrigues, Californian Jordan Williams hasn’t yet found his footing in the Octagon. Having been a former middleweight, his best chance at winning his to use his size and pressure to smother his more green opponent. If he can turn back the much-hyped Garry, it will do wonders for the career of ‘Bomaye‘.

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What do you make of the card? Who’ll walk away with championship gold? Let us know in the comments!

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UFC London | 5 Fighters Who Have To Be On The Card

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Immediately after UFC London earlier in the year, the ball started rolling towards a second UK event in 2022 after Dana White made it clear he wanted to come back soon. Whilst the year’s first event at the O2 Arena delivered one of the best non-PPV events in recent history, there’s still more ground to cover. Aspinall vs Volkov was stacked with home fighters but there are still a handful that missed out on fighting in front of the UK.

Here are five UK fighters that deserve a chance to fight at the O2 Arena after missing out the first time. Not that we’re complaining if the likes of Paddy Pimblett and Jai Herbert show up on this card also.

5. Dom Wooding

Yes it is true, we will never stop banging this drum. After defending his Cage Warriors bantamweight title in December of last year, we had our fingers crossed that London would come around in time for Dom Wooding. The ‘Black Panther’ didn’t get the call up on that occasion but absence has only made the heart grow fonder. This is the time for Dom Wooding to fight in the UFC and if you don’t believe us, maybe ‘The Last Stylebender’ can change your mind.

4. Mason Jones

Mason ‘The Dragon’ Jones has had quite a stop and start UFC career since joining the promotion as a double champion in Cage Warriors. The Welshman is 1-1-1 in the UFC so far and would have picked up some decent momentum if his fight with Alan Patrick hadn’t been stopped due to an accidental eye poke in a fight he was winning comfortably. A win over late notice replacement David Onama, who recently picked up a first UFC win of his own, has got Jones back on the right path after a tough introduction to the UFC against Mike Davis. Jones always delivers great fights due to his high pressure and output style and a win in London could be exactly the kind of moment he needs to really put the past behind him and push on in the UFC.

3. Lerone Murphy

For the vast majority of UK fight fans, Lerone Murphy came out of nowhere when he debuted in the UFC. Now on a 3-fight win streak after his debut resulted in a draw at UFC 242, Murphy has been putting on increasingly impressive performances every time he has stepped foot in the Octagon. Still yet to fight in front of UK fans, ‘The Miracle’ will have a huge fight on his hands in his next outing as he looks to step foot in the rankings of the stacked featherweight division.

2. Davey Grant

Davey Grant has really made a name for himself in recent times as a must watch fighter who will steal a main card. After chaining back-to-back finishes, Grant may have lost two of his last three fights but his stock in the UFC has risen massively. His fights with Marlon Vera and Adrian Yanez put Grant on the map when it comes to value for money fighters. Now back in the win column after his 3rd round finish over Louis Smolka at the weekend, Grant said in his post fight interview about making a quick turn around and potentially fighting in London. We know we are asking for a lot with the card already being incredibly busy but Davey Grant opening the main card with a barnburner is sure to blow the roof off of the O2 just like the last time the UFC came calling.

1. Nathaniel Wood

Luck has not been on Nathaniel Wood’s side as of late. Three cancelled fights in a row meant he missed out on the first London card even after he was found a replacement opponent. An illness forced Vince Morales out of their bout which seemed to be opening the event and setting the tone for the evening with the return of ‘The Prospect’ in front of his people. After going 4-2 as a bantamweight in the UFC but losing to two top fighters in John Dodson and Casey Kenney, Wood has announced he is moving up a weight class since his fight in London fell off. Nathaniel Wood deserves this chance to fight in London after losing out at such short notice last time around and we can’t wait to see how he stacks up amongst the rest of the 145 pound division.

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Fight To Watch | Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson

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Fights are being booked fast and furiously for July 23rd as the UFC’s anticipated return to London approaches. With fireworks expected throughout the whole event, MMAPlay365 and VMTV have scoured through the card and selected Muhammad Mokaev vs Charles Johnson as our ‘Fight To Watch’ on the night.

Muhammad Mokaev returns to the octagon following a successful debut back at UFC London in March against Cody Durden. ‘The Punisher’ made light work of his American counter-part, submitting him in the first round via guillotine choke with very little problems. His upcoming opponent, Charles Johnson, signs with the UFC after an impressive four-fight winning streak on LFA, which saw him capture and defend flyweight gold.

His ability to mix it up on the feet and in grappling scenarios make this a much more dangerous bout for Mokaev stylistically, but it’s still nothing the 21 year old won’t be able to handle in the eyes of MMAPlay365 CEO, Adam Newsome:

“At this stage of Muhammad Mokaev’s UFC career every fight is going to be a test. And just because you haven’t heard of Charles Johnson doesn’t mean he isn’t a good fighter. Johnson was the Flyweight Champion in LFA. If you aren’t familiar with LFA it’s basically the American equivalent of Cage Warriors. You are battle tested in LFA and if you become a Champion the chances are the UFC are going to sign you.

So this is a very interesting match-up but still right now I don’t think that Mokaev gets tested enough to the point he loses. This is going to be another fight I see him doing extremely well in and I don’t see Mokaev losing a fight until he hits the top 20 of the division. But even when that time comes, he is going to have improved and developed so much that he could run through that pool of fighters at that time. If a fighter is going to beat Mokaev outside the best fighters in the division then now is the time to do it whilst he’s still developing. But even though he’s still developing he’s still a problem. I’m not sure Mokaev finds another finish here so I am predicting a dominant three round decision victory for Muhammad Mokaev.”

Cauley Quilty, Editor for VMTV, had this to say on the fight: “Muhammad Mokaev is always a treat to watch in action and his UFC debut back in March was nothing short of spectacular! He came to make a statement and did exactly that getting the first round finish and I see him doing the same thing when he steps back out there against Charles Johnson. His extensive amateur career and impressive run of professional performances make it almost impossible to not side with Mokaev in this bout, especially with the way he defeated Durden on his debut.

However, Charles Johnson isn’t an opponent anyone should underestimate as his resume and recent performances speak for themselves! His fight vs Carlos ‘Mota’ Tizil was a barnburner and with 8 of his 11 wins coming by way of finish you know he can get the job done when needed. Both fighters are highly touted and respected so expect the winner of this to receive a bump up in competition on their next outing.”

Who do you think leaves the ‘Fight To Watch’ with their hand raised? Be sure to let us know your predictions below!

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Sumo | Summer Tournament wide open after 10 days

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The Sumo Summer Tournament has a surprise joint-leader after 10 days, but many Rikishi are in with a shout of glory with only 5 days to go.

So far, only two have managed to achieve a guaranteed winning record, with M15 ranked Ichiyamamoto and M4 Takanosho posting 8-2 records 10 days in to the basho. It remains to be seen if he can keep up his championship challenge, but Ichiyamamoto is bringing back memories of the January 2020 basho when the M17 ranked Tokushoryu took home the title in a huge surprise. Whatever happens, Ichiyamamoto should see himself catapulted up the rankings for the next tournament if he can keep up this form. It is a welcome return to form for Takanosho who has previously been a Sekiwake.

Sumo: Summer Tournament – M15 ranked Ichiyamamoto finds himself in the joint-lead after 10 days of action.

Despite his patchy form, Terunofuji has scrapped himself to a 7-3 record, which puts him 1 behind the leaders in a large chasing pack. On day 10 he managed to get by a spirited Hoshoryu who is improving all the time. The Mongolian giant will be hopeful of taking home his first championship of the year. Others in the pack on 7-3 are Kiribayama, Ura, Sadanoumi and Aoiyama. With NINE more wrestlers on 6-4, only two behind the leaders and with an outside shot, there will be an amazing 16 Rikishi who may be dreaming of lifting the Emperor’s Cup come Sunday 22nd May. The chances of there being a playoff for the win for the second tournament running are looking pretty high.

Down at the other end of the table, it has been another tournament to forget for March’s playoff runner-up, Takayasu, who has posted a losing record of 2-8 so far. After doing so well to get himself back to M1 rank, he will find himself going down the rankings ahead of the July tournament. Ozeki Shodai has continued his poor form and one more defeat will once again see him staring down the possibility of losing his rank come July. March winner Wakatakakage, alongside fellow Sanyaku ranked competitors Abi, Takakeisho and Mitakeumi, are all fighting for winning records having gone 5-5 so far.

Keep an eye out for the next update after Saturday’s day 14 when I will be recapping the standings and looking ahead to what promises to be a very exciting final-day’s action.

Remember to check out the VMTV Sumo introduction and guide here if you need a refresher of the rules and some of the words used in these articles.

You can find the full rankings and results of the tournament so far at the Japan Sumo Association’s page here.

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