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Breakdown: UFC 268 surpasses expectations

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What. A. Night! Last night, the UFC returned to the Big Apple for UFC 268, the first time in over a year as the cage doors were locked in the Garden, for a night of rematches, with the co-main event a rematch between ‘Thug’ Rose and Zhang Weili, and the main event a rematch between the ‘Nigerian Nightmare’ and ‘Chaos’ Covington.

Ever since UFC 268 was announced, fans knew they’d be the beneficiaries of a wild night of fights, and it surpassed already high expectations, taking the crown of card of the year. Fans thought they may be in for a long night of fights when the first three bouts all went to the judges scorecards, but lone behold, the next six fights all ended by KO/TKO.

Heavyweight but light on the feet – Villante vs Barnett

The first KO of the night came by way of a highlight reel wheel kick by none other than 263lber, Chris Barnett. In what was veteran Villante’s last fight, he hoped to go out with a win, but Chris Barnett had other plans. The Spanish born American epitomised relaxed and exhilarated when he was making the walk at UFC 268 for only the second time for the promotion, as he was body popping and smiling just moments before getting to business. The fight started with Barnett looking extremely light on his feet for a heavyweight utilising outside leg kicks extremely well to nullify Villante’s power. The unimaginable happened in round 2, when ‘Huggy Bear’ stepped forward and unleashed a ferocious wheel kick landing flush, getting the remarkable finish. He used his post fight mic time to show incredible respect to his long serving opponent, urging the buzzing MSG to stand and applaud Villante in what was his last fight.

(MMAjunkie.com): Chris Barnett lands picture perfect wheel kick to end the fight

The ‘Future’ impresses on debut – Garry vs Williams

One of the most highly anticipated debuts since a notorious Irishman, saw Ian ‘The Future’ Garry take on contender series victor, Jordan Williams. 23-year-old Garry was making his first walk in the promotion with the entire MMA world watching with baited breath, after the young Irishman impressed over in Cage Warriors, vacating the Welterweight strap to pursue his dream of fighting in the UFC. On the lead up to his scrap with Williams, Garry personified confidence stating that he will get a first round KO and show the world the future of MMA, and proclaimed he will become the next Conor McGregor.

It didn’t take long for the MMA world to see the future as in the dying embers of round 1, Garry stepped back and unleashed a picture perfect counter right hand, starching Williams and living up to his intriguing hype. Garry had to face some adversity during his first round in the promotion as Williams was utilising a dangerous popping jab putting Garry on the back foot for the majority of the round, only letting himself get too confident in the last 5 seconds of the round resulting in a devastating KO.

Garry is not only blessed with immense fighting talent as in his Octagon interview he showed he is a natural on the mic too. Rogan said “The hype is real.” in which Garry replied “F***ing right it is.” He went on to explain that for the first time ever he felt nervous coming into a fight however it didn’t last long. He said: “23 making my UFC debut at MSG, it doesn’t get bigger than this, we just shocked the world, the Irish are back baby!

“We’re gonna be a world champion we are taking over the division. A wise Irish man once said before me, he stepped in this very cage and said ‘we’re not here to take part we’re here to takeover’, and this is the takeover part 2.”

(MMAjunkie.com): Ian Garry impresses on highly anticipated UFC debut

Another anticipated debut goes to plan – Pereira vs Michailidis

Garry wasn’t the only man making his hugely anticipated debut last night, former GLORY Middleweight and Light Heavyweight Champion, Alex Pereira, was making his first walk to the UFC Octagon against Andreas Michailidis. The Brazilian kickboxer came into the promotional powerhouse with a lot of expectation due to his dominance in GLORY, and most notably, his two wins over current UFC Middleweight king, Israel Adesanya, being the only fighter to have knocked out the Nigerian.

Similarly to Garry, Pereira’s first round didn’t go as he would’ve anticipated as Michailidis fought the perfect first round against the ferocious striker, using his grappling credentials to dominate Pereira on the ground. Although ‘the Spartan’ dominated on the ground, he didn’t implement much damage to Pereira, as he may have been looking to use his BJJ black belt credentials with a submission, but it didn’t come.

Although Michailidis came with the right game plan, In round 2, Pereira managed to keep the fight on the feet, and just 18 seconds into round 2 landed a brutal flying knee, folding the Greek fighter.

Being a big name in the MMA world, there is no doubt the UFC will try and push Pereira, but will be cautious of feeding him to any renowned grapplers as he seemed to have a slight issue when his back was on the mat.

(insider.com): Alex Pereira lands highlight reel flying knee to win on UFC debut

The war we knew we needed but didn’t know could be this good – Gaethje vs Chandler

When Gaethje vs Chandler was announced, MMA fans around the world sat up knew this was one of the most MUST WATCH fights ever created. The fight was originally scheduled to take place just before the co-main event between Rose and Weili, however, due to Trevor Wittman being in Rose’s and Usman’s corners, Gaethje vs Chandler opened the main card.

When the fight was booked, MMA fans thought the judges would not be needed for this anticipated war as a stoppage was all but guaranteed.

Round 1 started exactly as everyone imagined with both fighters swinging in a phone booth with absolutely everything they had. ‘Iron’ Mike started the fight the better of the two, connecting on multiple occasions with hooks, while on the other side, Gaethje invested his first round in leg kicks. Possibly the best duo in MMA, Gaethje and leg kicks, his ability to throw the outside leg kick with such ferocity from absolutely anywhere never fails to blow my mind, he chewed up the leg from clinches and when in the middle of the Octagon. Although Chandler took the first round on two of the judges scorecards, Gaethje’s brutal leg kicks were sure to play a part in the rest of the scrap.

Two minutes into round 2, the ‘Highlight’ Gaethje landed a perfect uppercut as Chandler momentarily dipped his head, dropping him and pouncing on him unleashing almost fight ending ground and pound, but Chandler managed to hang onto Gaethje’s leg with a single leg attempt. Gaethje, not a man who looks for submissions, had the perfect chance to lock in a guillotine and end the fight, but opted against it much to the fans delight. In the second round, Chandler’s stock rose dramatically as he showed the heart of a champion eating all of Gaethje’s best shots.

During the last 2 minutes of round 2, Chandler switched to southpaw as he could no longer put weight on his left leg, but soon realised he didn’t have the same striking threat in Southpaw and switched back to Orthodox.

The unimaginable happened and we were lucky enough to see a third round between these two warriors. Gaethje’s early investment in leg kicks paid off in round 3, as Chandler’s striking held less to no power. Two minutes into round 3, Gaethje landed a beautiful uppercut followed by a short left hook resulting in Chandler spitting blood onto the mat. With two minutes left of this electrifying war, Gaethje continued to land bombs wobbling Chandler on multiple occasions, but ‘Iron’ Mike was going nowhere.

The unthinkable happened and the judges scorecards were in fact needed. Gaethje picked up the unanimous decision saying: “He is a warrior, we are living in the wrong times let me tell you, me and him should’ve been fighting to the death in a colosseum.”

Gaethje and thousands of others believe he is now next in line to fight the winner of Oliveira vs Poirier as he said: “Hopefully it’s Oliveira in Brazil or Poirier down in Louisiana I don’t give a f*ck. I’m rank number 2 and just got an impressive win, who else? I’m the only motherf***er left.”

The possibility of Poirier vs Gaethje 2 for the Lightweight strap is utterly mouthwatering.

(MMAfighting.com): Gaethje and Chandler embrace after an all out war for the ages

‘I’m the best’ choruses out again – Namajunas vs Zhang

Co-main eventing UFC 268 was a rematch between the two best Strawweight’s in the world, champion, ‘Thug’ Rose and former champ, Zhang Weili.

In their first bout over 6 months ago, Rose Namajunas defeated the then champion, Zhang Weili with a beautiful head kick to become the new queen of the division. With no other clear contenders in the division, Weili was granted an immediate rematch, hoping to rectify her mistakes in their first meeting becoming ‘and new’ again.

With the first fight being won in such impressive fashion, everyone was expecting that Weili will have worked on dealing with Rose’s unique footwork for their second meeting, and in the first round she showed that she was far more wary of Rose’s constant danger, keeping the distance between her and the champion.

In the first few rounds, Weili seemed to have some trouble closing the distance between her and Rose, as she wasn’t throwing in combinations, and instead was looking to land one big shot every time she tried to close the distance.

After three rounds, the consensus was that Zhang was 2-1 up on the scorecards, however, she was fighting a sloppy fight. In rounds 3, 4 and 5, the champion utilised her grappling and got the fight to the mat, taking rounds 3 and 4. In many fans opinions, the fight was 2-2 going into the final round, with Rose’s rounds been far clearer than Weili’s. Rose left round 5 in no doubt as again, she took the fight to the ground giving her another clear round.

Michael Bell was the only judge who scored the bout in favour of the contender, putting Weili 48-47 up, with the other two judges, Eric Colon and Doug Crosby giving Rose 49-46 and 48-47 for the split decision victory.

In a fight that played out completely opposite to their first meeting, neither fighter really stamped their mark on the bout, putting an end to their feud for the time being.

(MMAFighting.com): Rose Namajunas retains strawweight title with victory over Weili Zhang

The eagerly anticipated rematch – Usman vs Covington

The rematch that we knew would be different, but just how different did we think it’d be? We all anticipated it to be more grapple heavy than the first fight between the two which was a war for the ages.

While Covington was at the preparation point, he appeared to look nervous, puffing out his cheeks, looking around taking in the moment.

The fight began with Usman on the front foot, popping his dangerous jab out to keep Colby out. Covington’s game plan was clearly different too that of his first fight game plan, which suggests that his new camp saw something his old camp didn’t. Usman grew in confidence after the first round as it became clear to him that Colby didn’t possess anything different to their first war.

‘Chaos’ didn’t look to cause chaos early on as he was keeping his distance from the champion, being extremely wary of the power he knew Usman possesses. It was always going to be a tough ask for Covington, who has only fought once since their last bout, to beat the pound for pound greatest fighter alive.

The champion has stayed active since the first time they were locked in together, defeating Masvidal twice, one by viscous KO, the other by dominant decision, and also starching teammate, Gilbert Burns.

The difference in activity between the two fighters became apparent as the second round went on, as Usman began ripping shots to the body and in the last 15 seconds of the round, caught Covington with a short left hook dropping the challenger. Colby stumbled to his feet, only moments later, being dropped again with a jab. Colby rode the wave and was saved by the bell to make it to the stool for a third round.

Covington began to show the side of him we are all familiar with in round 3 and 4, as he began to throw with volume instead of looking for counter shots. He found some success with his volume striking, but just didn’t do enough of it as he was still too wary of the ‘Nigerian Nightmares’ power.

With neither fighter really showing anything massively impressive, Usman fought a calm fight and didn’t let the occasion get the better of him, showing his champion mentality. If Covington employed his natural style, would things have gone differently? I don’t think so. Usman’s power is unmatched and if you get into a striking affair with him, he’s shown he possesses frightening power that can switch your lights off in an instant. I would’ve liked to have seen more of the in your face Colby as I feel it could’ve broken up Usman’s rhythm and caused him to become sloppier with his striking.

I have one big take away from Usman’s performance last night. Leon Edwards could’ve caused that version of him slight issues. As Edwards showed in his extremely dominant victory over Nate Diaz, he keeps the distance well and has an array of different strikes in his arsenal. ‘Rocky’ has also shown throughout his career that he is extremely dangerous when exiting the clinch with short sharp elbows. If Usman tried to grapple with him against the cage, he could become susceptible to those short lights out elbows.

(MMAFighting.com): Kamaru Usman puts the pressure on Covington
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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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