Cain Velasquez injured again, Werdum faces Mark Hunt at UFC 180 for interim title

This is the part of the story where we realize the old-school champion that we rallied to rise like a phoenix in an attempt to revive all that was good about MMA by winning gold in the Octagon was not a silent Russian, not a horse-eating behemoth, no. He wasn't a dropper of H-Bombs, it would be Mark Hunt who would step up with a nonchalant shrug. With Cain Velasquez's latest injury (a meniscus injury in the right knee) putting him on the shelf until some time in 2015, Fabricio Werdum and Mark Hunt will fight for the interim heavyweight title at UFC 180 in three weeks.

Good for Hunto, shitty for Cain, who hasn't fought an opponent other than Bigfoot Silva or JDS since October, 2010 (when he took the belt from Brock). Cain's starting to look like the best champion that never was, while Werdum, prepared and seemingly at an untouchable prime with newfangled standup faces Mark Hunt, the only human whose fists put a dent in an adamantium plate for the ultimate glory.

Iztaccihuatl will rumble, bombs will be thrown, or Werdum will take down Hunt and submit him at will. Either way, I find myself more excited for this fight than Cain vs Werdum. Is that just me?

War Hunto. 

The UFC rescinds Cung Le's suspension for HGH

A picture does not prove PED usage, no matter how many impressive veins bulge from the muscular chest of a man. The proof is not in the pudding, it's in the drug tests that Cung Le passed before and after his fight against Michael Bisping in Macao. And yet he still tested positive for HGH and was suspended for nine months, then a year.

It's a confusing situation that seems to get more convoluted by the minute. Cung Le is not yet innocent, but he isn't really guilty either. He's just... There. The UFC's self-regulations screwed the pooch, and now everyone is confused.

Following the announcement of Le's suspension, UFC officials have been provided with medical advice regarding the elevated total HGH present in Le's system. In accordance with such medical advice, UFC has determined that Le's elevated total HGH by itself does not prove that he took performance-enhancing drugs before the August 23rd bout. As a result, UFC has informed Le that his suspension is rescinded.

Le had requested an appeal of his suspension, and was entitled to arbitrate the drug test results and suspension. However, based on the lack of conclusive laboratory results, UFC officials deemed it appropriate to immediately rescind the suspension without the need for further proceedings.

Hopefully something concrete comes of this soon. Sorry, Cung.

Marloes Coenen Talks About Looking for the KO in Her Bellator Debut

This Friday Marloes Coenen will battle Annalisa Bucci in the Bellator cage, stepping foot into the ring for the first time since her loss to Cris “Cyborg” Justino at Invicta FC 6 in July of 2013. It was the second time that she met Cyborg and the second loss, with Marloes taking well over a year off to contemplate what we imagined being the meaning of life. When Scott Coker took over the reigns of Bellator he immediately brought in some familiar names both behind-the-scenes and in the ring, with Marloes Coenen being one of those names.

For Marloes this is an interesting situation to be in, where a promoter has shown that he believes in her, which has to be a driving force for a fighter like her. “Quite honestly, I don't know what drives or motivates me,” she admitted. “It's just how I am. I never realized that there is a stop-option when I am training and fighting. With Bellator, I want to inspire other women to fight and I want to make Scott Coker satisfied that he chose to sign me again.”

There has been a clear evolution in the MMA world since Marloes began fighting back in 2000. Early on she was known for her grappling skills, even being seen as a female incarnation of Japanese MMA and grappling legend Rumina Sato; “Back in the day in Japan they called me ‘Female Rumina’ after Rumina Sato who won on a flying armbar, which inspired me to win on that technique as well,” Marloes explained. “‘Female Rickson’ was also a name the Japanese gave me.”

Things have changed since then, though.

“What distinguishes me from other fighters is that I am solid overall: I  can Thai box, wrestle and do the ground game,” clearly showing that she’s evolved since those days of being Female Rumina. “Also I am mentally strong and experienced.”

Marloes is never satisfied, though. A staggering 15 of her 21 wins have come via submission, with only three coming from knockout, which still bothers her. “Actually I want to amp up my KO-ratio in Bellator. My trainer always laughs when I win but not on a knockout. He knows how frustrated I am about this. And I hope I can help to build the division(s) by attracting more women to Bellator and help to build the brand.”

Most importantly, she doesn’t want to leave her fights in the hands of the judges, which has only happened five times in her 27 fight career. “I never want to leave in into the hand of the judges!” She also reiterated that she’s looking to show off her striking prowess on Friday, ”And I prefer a KO over a submission.”

As for Annalisa Bucci, she will be in for the battle of a lifetime against the very experienced Coenen. “Annalisa Bucci is a good Thai boxer. Her kicks are strong, especially her head kicks and front kicks. She also knows how to change levels,” Marloes complimented, although she did see holes in her opponent’s game. “Her ground game needs improvement though, and she doesn't have my experience in fighting on big shows, nor does she have my speed and power.”

With Marloes looking for a knockout win, it will be interesting to see what happens on Friday. She’s admitted that Annalisa Bucci is a strong muay thai fighter with holes in her ground game. Those holes could easily be taken advantage of by Marloes, but Coenen is looking to make a big statement on Friday and looking for a knockout win, which means that anything could happen. This is definitely a good opportunity to tune in to see one of the best female fighters of all time step into the ring yet again.

This is What it Looks Like When Ballerinas KO UFC Fighters

Our bud over at Masato Toys, responsible for the ever-funny Sonnen’s War comic is at it again with a gallery of Photoshops that will blow your mind. KOs are pretty much without question the one thing that can always draw attention to MMA fights. They happen by big dudes, they happen by small dudes and they happen by the toughest chicks. So what happens when you pair up the sport of MMA with Ballet?

The result is this series of images produced by Masato Toys is funny, but also kind of ridiculous. What do you get out of these images? These are just a few of the images, we urge you to check ‘em all out at the Masato Toys FB page or at the forum.

Get to know Beneil Dariush before you watch him at UFC 179

Four years ago, I was watching a lot of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu videos by “TrumpetDan,” an excellent teacher who was particularly good at translating Roger Gracie’s techniques into usable YouTube form. During his series on open guard, Dan invited then-purple belt Beneil Dariush to demonstrate his “Dariush guard,” an open position he’d used with great success in sport BJJ competitions.  This all happened while Benny was just beginning to dabble in MMA.

You may not practice Jiu-Jitsu, but I’m sharing the video for a couple reasons.  First, you might as well become more familiar with Dariush, because he has the potential to become a UFC fixture.  He is 2-1 in the organization, and both wins came by submission.  But on a more fight-philosophical level, the competition video portions are especially interesting because they demonstrate that he chose to use a very gi-dependent form of sport Jiu-Jitsu.  And still, he is having great success in MMA.

Notice how Benny’s open guard depends heavily on strong sleeve and lapel grips, used to elongate and break his opponent’s posture and then transition to omoplata and triangle positions.  As Dan notes at the start of the video, Dariush was also an accomplished no-gi competitor.  But it is nonetheless interesting that his approach to traditional Jiu-Jitsu included a focus on an open guard technique that has no direct application in MMA.

Benny has since received a black belt in BJJ, and he has attended extensive Muay Thai training under Rafael Cordeiro.  In this Countdown to UFC 179 video, we learn that it took him just two years training Jiu-Jitsu to secure multiple World and Pan-American championships. Then the transition happened.  

“One day I get a call to fight MMA,” he remembered. “I said yes, because I was scared to tell my coach, ‘I’m scared to fight MMA.’”  That was when he decided to join Kings MMA to work with Cordeiro, the Muay Thai coach who trained Anderson Silva, Shogun Rua and Fabricio Werdum.

According to Cordeiro, Benny “became one of the best guys inside the gym.”

After six MMA victories, Benny’s manager answered a call from the UFC.  “I was kind of stunned by the whole thing,” Dariush said.  And just fifteen days later, his training at Kings paid off.  He dropped his opponent with a huge left hand, then submitted him with a BJJ-friendly rear naked choke.   And now, he’s training wrestling.

You can watch Dariush fight Diego Ferriera during UFC 179’s opening main card fight this Saturday.

Dan “TrumpetDan” Lukehart is the owner of and head instructor at Brea Jiu-Jitsu in Brea, California.  His excellent instructional videos are available here:

Watch as a medical professional in Victoria, Australia argues against increased fighter safety

Given the UFC has about fifteen events a month now, it’s easy to forget that people still sometimes debate the legality of MMA. But there are indeed a handful of holdouts, like post-WWII isolationists stuck on otherwise uninhabited islands in the South Pacific. This is where the emotional debate about violence has potential to get really strange.  As you will see below, it can cause an actual licensed physician to argue against a change that would increase fighter safety.

In Victoria, Australia, the sport of Mixed Martial Arts is already legal.  They just don’t allow the use of a cage.  So while you can enjoy fifteen minutes of Mixed Martial Arts in a respectable boxing ring, you can’t flip the switch and go full-cage fighter.  That’s problematic for guys who want to tell women in bars that they cage fight for a living.

Banning the use of a cage seems like a weird line, the sort your four year old nephew would draw on some construction paper after a really bad nap.  But not for Damian Drum, the Victorian Sport and Recreational Minister.  It’s a shame, because he has a potentially kick-ass fighter name.

“To put the combatants into the cage, to effectively glamourize what is effectively a glamourized form of street violence, we don’t agree with that,” he explained.

Interesting point.  After all, appearances are very important, especially when you have a very distinguished-sounding Australian accent.  To double-glamourize MMA by bejangeling it with a decorative cage may seem excessive.  Keep it in a boxing ring, and you can stem that rising tide of violent glam.

Mixed Martial Arts practitioner Dan Kelly notes the obvious, that the ring is actually more dangerous.  Another experienced fighter points out that the cage functions as a “safety enclosure.” But Damian Drum isn’t buying it.  “It’s absolutely negligible, and it doesn’t carry any weight compared to the message that it sends to the community that this type of glamourized street violence is encouraged.” Of course, Drum has never launched himself over a rope after a failed superman punch and crushed a totally innocent beer vendor.

The remainder of the video is a debate between Bernie Balmer, a member of the Victorian Professional Boxing Board, and Gordian Fulde, the head of an emergency department at a hospital.  This is where the hypocrisy of the debate becomes most evident, and why people in Australia should realize that this particular debate isn’t really about fighter safety at all.  It is about keeping the cage-committed UFC from infecting the area and attracting a greater following.

Bernie points out that the Octagon is a great deal more safe than a conventional boxing ring.  After all, he has considered actual studies about comparative fighter safety.  Professor Fulde is more interested in talking about things like head injuries. But he came a few years too late to a debate about Mixed Martial Arts in general.  And as a medical care professional, he seems weirdly oblivious to the medical benefit of providing a safer environment for professional fighters.

Fulde does offer one strained example: describing how a fighter can get pinned against a cage, unable to escape punches.  But his example ignores that fighter’s ability to submit at any time, it forgets the presence of a referee who intervenes when a fighter is defenseless, and it presupposes an endangered fighter might somehow escape through the ropes and down onto the safe haven of a concrete event center floor.

Now let’s be honest. Fulde isn’t concerned about taking steps to increase fighter safety during MMA events in his area.  This particular debate isn’t about the health and welfare of MMA fighters in Australia at all.  It is about appearances, and about keeping the biggest MMA organization in the world out of the neighborhood.

“It really isn’t a good look,” he concludes. “It really isn’t what we want put out there.”  

Aldo’s Great Eight: Joe Rogan ranks Aldo’s eight best performances

If Jose Aldo were a heavyweight, he might be the most popular human being in the world of professional sports.  He’s lost one of his twenty-five professional fights, is on a seventeen-fight win streak, and he has successfully defended his championship belt in all six of his UFC fights.  Outside of Jon Jones, that makes him the most legitimate thing the sport of Mixed Martial Arts has going right now.

When you win that often over the course of a decade, it’s easy for the details of the story to get lost in the larger narrative. Thankfully, Joe Rogan has just spent four minutes on the UFC’s Ultimate 8 ranking what he deems Aldo’s top-eight performances. Watching those eight separate storylines again is a good reminder of how lucky we’ve been to witness the unfolding of his historic career.

Aldo will defend his belt for a seventh time against Chad Mendes on October 25th at UFC 179 in Rio de Janeiro.

GSP is Back at the Gym, Jump to Your Own Conclusions

We heard about it last week, the frenzied calls to GSP, the meetings planned to try to woo the former UFC Welterweight Champion to return to the Octagon in light of declining PPV sales and the “injury bug” ruining cards left and right. Georges St. Pierre, love him or hate him, was one of the UFC’s biggest stars and has headlined (or at least been featured on) some of the UFC’s biggest cards in the promotion’s history.

It’s fair to assume that it’s not great for business to have a former champion (who left while still champion) talking about how he won’t fight again until the company cleans up their act with drug testing. While it’s uncertain exactly what went down over the past few days, we do know that GSP has been cleared to train again and that according to Firas Zahabi, he is back at the gym and looking good for his first day back.

The guy still has his grievances with the UFC, but it wouldn’t be hard to imagine GSP in the UFC Octagon again soon after an armored car is rolled up to his home, right?

Alexander Gustafsson Probably Fighting Rashad Evans Next, If the Curse Relents

UFC’s Light Heavyweight title picture has been kind of strange since Jon Jones ascended to the throne of Champion. Jon Jones is undoubtedly one of the best fighters in the world, we’ll never be able to take that away from him, but his reign has been confusing and frustrating, to say the least. The title fights against Chael Sonnen and Vitor Belfort are prime examples of how his reign has just been, well, confusing. Both guys were late additions and both had been considered top Middleweight contenders at some point, but neither were anywhere near a Light Heavyweight title shot.

Then there was the whole Alexander Gustafsson thing. When Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson met in the ring it ended up being one of the best Light Heavyweight title bouts in UFC history, if not the best. Everyone thought that Jon Jones had the fight handily under control before it even began only for Gustafsson to put on a performance of a lifetime and cause fans everywhere to argue if Gustafsson got screwed when the fight went to the score cards.

Since then Gustafsson has been calling for a rematch with Jones, only for Jones to make arguments that he should be facing other competition like Glover Teixeira and that Gustafsson needed to “prove himself” again. You know, after Gustafsson almost beat Jon Jones, right?

Jon Jones vs. Alexander Gustafsson was scheduled, then Gustafsson had to pull out due to an injury and Daniel Cormier was plugged into the title fight instead. That makes sense because the UFC needs to have one of their banner champions competing, but then something weird happened. Cormier and Jones built up quite a beef, so much so that the mainstream media picked up on their brawl at the MGM Grand. Cormier/Jones was now a money fight, so when Jones had to pull out with an injury they didn’t find a replacement or push the fight back and return it to Jones vs. Gustafsson, it was Jones vs. Cormier still. That left Gustafsson in a bit of a lurch.

Gustafsson was then pegged to fight Anthony “Rumble” Johnson in the interim, with Lorenzo Fertitta assuring him that he’d get a title shot no matter the outcome. Well, that didn’t exactly turn into a reality, either, seeing as though Rumble is indefinitely suspended over domestic violence charges. Now what? Now the UFC is lining up Rashad Evans vs. Alexander Gustafsson, possibly in Sweden? Let’s see if this happens.

It’s starting to feel like Gus might be cursed.

Watch Ronda Rousey's Training Partner Jemyma Betrian Brutalize Her Opponent in MMA Debut

Jemyma Betrian is a name that will be familiar to fans of kickboxing and muay thai, but maybe not to MMA fans just yet. She has been a force at 115lbs in both muay thai and kickboxing around the world, including fighting Lion Fight’s marquee fighter of Tiffany van Soest to a draw back in 2012. That’s just kind of a primer of how legit she is, alright?

Much like muay thai legend John Wayne Parr was tapped to help Georges St. Pierre a while back, or how Tyrone Spong was helping out Rashad Evans and they both became pretty interested in MMA, Jemyma Betrian has been helping out Ronda Rousey and the team over at GFC and MMA has caught her eye. Back in August she made her professional MMA debut at Lights Out Promotion’s Chaos at the Casino 5 against Hadley Griffith. Our cameras were there to catch the action and yes, we are just getting this up now, but it’s worth a watch.

Oh yeah, spoiler alert, Jemyma is a beast. Watch the way that she changes levels with her hands effortlessly and how just about every strike is not only hitting the target, but doing massive amounts of damage. Damn. Could she be the Tyrone Spong for Women’s MMA? I’d say that if things keep going like this there is a pretty good chance of that.

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