Bellator Fighting Championship

Bellator Fighting Championship

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(Guess that high level wrestling experience didn’t include inverted triangle defense.)

At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity. Go here for a detailed explanation of how FIGHT!’s rankings work.

All the fights are in the books and the rankings have been updated. M-1 Global crowned two new champions on Showtime, Bobby Lashley and Phil Baroni looked bad even in victory, all the guys we thought would win their Bellator light heavyweight tournament quarterfinal matches didn’t, and MMA pundits rushed to saddle Phil Davis with “the next Jon Jones” expectations before the afterglow of the current Jon Jones’ title win has even worn off. Additionally, Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard retained his CFC Middleweight Championship and UCMMA hosted a heavyweight throwdown in London. Let’s take a quick look ahead what effect the fights had on the rankings.

M-1 Challenge XXIV

M-1 Global kicked off its broadcast partnership with Showtime with a Friday night M-1 Challenge card in Norfolk, Va. Jose Figueroa upended the M-1 Global Lightweight Champion, Artiom Damkovsky, vaulting from #103 to #44 in the Lightweight Rankings. Damkovsky fell hard, from #64 to #140. Magomed Sultanakhmedov finished Tyson Jeffries to win the vacant M-1 Global Middleweight Championship. “The White Wolf” moves from #75 to #37 in the Middleweight Rankings, while Jeffries falls from #62 to #108. UFC vet Vinny Magalhaes defeated unheralded Jake Doeer on the card, getting a bump from #66 to #65 in the Light Heavyweight poll. Full results can be viewed here.

Titan Fighting Championship 16

Bobby Lashley was able to take natural middleweight John Ott down but he wasn’t able to do much with him when he got there. Lashley moves from #91 to #74 in the Heavyweight Rankings with the lackluster win. In the night’s other heavyweight bout, Aaron Rosa moved from #51 to #34 after stopping Abe Wagner, who falls from #62 to #86. PRIDE and UFC vet Phil Baroni outlasted regional fighter Nick Nolte on the card. Baroni moves from #132 to #100 in the Middleweight Rankings while Nolte enters the Welterweight Rankings at #183. Eric Marriott stopped Willian De Souza quickly but actually dropped one spot, from #24 to #25 in the Featherweight Rankings (thanks to Mackens Semerzier – see below). WEC and Bellator vet James Krause moved from #182 to #157 in the Lightweight poll with a quick undercard win. Full results can be viewed here.

In Australia, Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard held on to his CFC Middleweight Championship and his #7 Middleweight Ranking with a doctor’s stoppage win over Joe Doerksen. “El Dirte” fell from #41 to #43. In London, UCMMA: Lights Out hosted a heavyweight throwdown between Oli Thompson and Ben Smith. Thompson added a submission win to his resume and comes in at #68 in the Heavyweight Rankings. Smith enters the rankings at #101.

Bellator 38

Bellator’s season four light heavyweight tournament got underway on Saturday with four quarterfinal fights and they didn’t go down the way anybody planned. Tim Carpenter took out Daniel Gracie and entered the Light Heavyweight Rankings at #44. Gracie falls from #46 to #61 following the loss. Raphael Davis dropped from #40 to #76 following his TKO loss to unranked DJ Linderman. No other ranked fighters appeared on the card. Full results can can be viewed here.

UFC Fight Night 24

The UFC visited Seattle for the first time on Saturday night and set Fight Night records for attendance and gate receipts. Phil Davis left Seattle with a signature win over Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, moving from #20 to #12 in the Light Heavyweight Rankings in the process. ‘Lil Nog falls from #21 to #39 following the loss.

A welterweight feature bout supported the main event but Dan Hardy vs. Anthony Johnson failed to deliver the fireworks everyone hoped for. Johnson jumps from #34 to #17 in the Welterweight Rankings, while Hardy continues his slide, falling from #19 to #39. In other welterweight action, Amir Sadollah moved from #41 to #26 with his win over DaMarques Johnson, who plummeted from #55 to #99. John Hathaway won his fight but lost out in the rankings, dropping from #33 to #64 with his split decision over Kris McCray. McCray moves from #137 in the Middleweight poll to #103 at Welterweight. Johny Hendricks stopped previously unranked T.J. Waldburger but slipped a spot, from #30 to #31. Waldburger enters the rankings at #125.

In a rematch of an all-time great barnburner, Chan Sung Jung beat Leonard Garcia definitively and bounced back from #91 to #48 in the Featherweight Rankings. Garcia fell hard from #51 to #96 following the loss. In other featherweight action, Mackens Semerzier found his way into the top 25, jumping from #59 to #21, with a win over unranked TUF vet Alex “Bruce Leroy” Caceres.

Mike Russow keeps spoiling the UFC’s plans, overacheiving in his role of solid opponent to take out up-and-coming heavyweights like Todd Duffee and now Jon Madsen. Russow moves from #19 to #11 in the Heavyweight Rankings, while Madsen slides from #21 to #33. In the night’s other heavyweight fight, unranked Christian Morecraft choked Sean McCorkle unconscious. McCorkle enters the rankings at #89.

At 135 pounds, Michael McDonald kept his #8 Bantamweight Ranking with a win over unranked Edwin Figueroa, Aaron Simpson moved from #45 to #39 in the Middleweight Rankings with a win over Mario Miranda, who fell from #68 to #82, and in the night’s opener, Nik Lentz leapt from #38 to #19 in the Lightweight Rankings with his win over Waylon Lowe, who fell from #49 to #78. Full results can be viewed here.

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(Doerksen and Lombard square off at the weigh-ins, via Oh Snap Photography)

Sydney’s Luna Park is no doubt more accustomed to playing host to hyperactive, candy floss-fuelled kids than international MMA stars – including a bloodthirsty Cuban named Hector Lombard – but this Friday saw the American Top Team middleweight feature in the main event inside the fun fair’s Big Top arena.

Lombard is CFC’s reigning middleweight champion and, in order to avoid ring rust before he returns to Bellator FC, he decided to defend his title against the experienced UFC veteran Joe Doerksen.

There had been a difference in the form of both men coming into the bout, but it was a well-matched, high-class encounter for the Australian fans on paper despite this. Doerksen dropped back-to-back fights in the UFC to CB Dolloway and Dan Miller, whereas Lombard had amassed a sixteen-fight win streak; unbeaten in twenty-one. Doerksen’s sixty bouts and top flight experience in the UFC, WEC and Japan were a sure sign he wasn’t to be overlooked though.

As the fighters took to the cage, it was immediately apparent that only one man was gunning for an emphatic victory – enter the aggressive Cuban. He wasted no time in wading in with a big left hand, and swung for the fences whenever the range was right. A glimpse of his Judo background was seen as he caught Doerksen with a trip into half guard, but as the bout was returned to the feet, Lombard’s heavy right hand sent his durable adversary to the mat.

In typical fashion, Lombard abused Doerksen with some very tenacious ground and pound. One of the elbows that slipped through the defence of “El Dirte” caused a river of crimson to flow from his head, and as soon as the pool began to form it was clear that the end would be imminent. The referee called in the doctor who waved off the contest, much to the disdain of the crowd who were clamouring for more action in the night’s big attraction. The right call was rendered and the outcome looked sewn up, but a paying punter can express their concerns. Lombard acknowledged this post-fight but was happy to have retained his crown; one you can’t imagine anybody taking from his heavily-muscled grasps, short of it being vacated.

He’ll return to defend another of the belts in his trophy cabinet in May when he takes on Falaniko Vitale at Bellator 44 but, in this kind of form, it’s hard to see his Hawaiian opponent claiming any silverware that night.

Although the non-Australian media would have been mostly interested in the headliner, there were some other interesting tussles on the undercard that are worth noting.

Australian-based American Nick Honstein’s style was announced as “unorthodox grappling” by the charismatic MC (one who, it might be said, liked the sound of his own voice), and this was certainly apt as his display was engrossing – from the Daft Punk dancing entrance all the way to the submission finish. His display in the cage was equally as eccentric as on the way to it, and a huge slam was followed by a close inverted triangle attempt and non-stop attack from the rubber guard in round one. His opponent Mat Wilken had no answer and was choked out in under two minutes of the second, as Honstein moved to 11-2 and showed that he is ready for a step up in competition.

Lion’s Den fighter Chris Pattison scored the most impressive knockout of the evening with a stoppage remiscent of Paul Daley vs. Sam Morgan back in 2008. An elbow to the temple sent his opponent Chris Carter to the mat, and Pattison swarmed until the referee stepped in.

Pattison’s team mate Alex Le engaged in a fifteen minute fight of the night affair with Chris Woronjanski, but came up short on the judges score cards. Woronjanski had the crisper strikes, but Le was never out of it and was happy to go toe-to-toe, even scoring some takedowns in the interim of stand-up exchanges. Both men had good Muay Thai, but Woronjanski’s lasting impressions were left by his rallies towards the end of round two and three, earning him the nod.

With several well polished teams on show, including Aussie MMA royalty Elvis Sinosic and Anthony Perosh‘s SPMA, along with the likes of the Lion’s Den, Platinum Extreme and Elite Fight Gym, it was a good event, worthy of the title of Australia’s best as their scene continues to grow Down Under.

Full results can be found here, and you can keep up to date with CFC via www.cfcworld.com.au.

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We’ve got an action-packed weekend coming up with two cards airing live Friday night on premium cable, two cards airing live Saturday night on basic cable and five fights streaming live on Facebook. M-1 Global will crown champions in two weight classes on Showtime, Bobby Lashley returns to action on HDNet, eight light heavyweights start the chase for Bellator gold on MTV2, and one UFC 205er will move closer to title contention on Spike TV. Additionally, Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard will fight in Australia and UCMMA hosts a heavyweight throwdown in London. Let’s take a quick look ahead at what’s in store.

M-1 Challenge XXIV

M-1 Global kicks off its broadcast partnership with Showtime with a Friday night M-1 Challenge card in Norfolk, Va. Champ Artiom Damkovsky (#64 Lightweight) will face challenger Jose Figueroa (#103) for the M-1 Global Lightweight Championship, while Magomed Sultanakhmedov (#75 Middleweight) and Tyson Jeffries (#62) vie for the vacant M-1 Global Middleweight Championship. UFC vet Vinny Magalhaes (#66 Light Heavyweight) also appears on the card, which can be viewed here.

M-1 Global XXIV airs live on Showtime at 11 p.m., Fri., March 24.

Titan Fighting Championship 16

Titan FC is HDNet’s newest addition to its broadcast portfolio. Tonight, Bobby Lashley (#91 Heavyweight) returns to action against unranked, undersized John Ott, Phil Baroni (#132 Middleweight) faces unranked regional fighter Nick Nolte, and Eric Marriott (#24 Featherweight) squares off with Willian De Souza. But I think the most interesting bout on the card is Aaron Rosa (#51 Heavyweight) vs. Abe Wagner (#62). Wagner is coming off a quick stoppage win over former UFC Heavyweight Champion Tim Sylvia and another strong win over a solid opponent would go along way toward erasing the memory of his short sting on TUF. WEC and Bellator vet James Krause also appears on the card, which can be viewed here.

TFC 17 airs live on HDNet at 10 p.m., Fri., March 25.

In Australia, Bellator Middleweight Champion Hector Lombard (#7 Middleweight) defends his CFC strap against Joe Doerksen (#41) and in London, UCMMA hosts a heavyweight throwdown. Full results will be added to FIGHT!’s ranking database when the fights are in the books.

Bellator 38


(Lots of things can happen in a tournament, but given the high level of MMA success enjoyed by former NCAA/Olympic team wrestlers, let’s just pencil in Nik Fekete as the early favorite.)

Bellator’s season four light heavyweight tournament gets underway on Saturday with four quarterfinal fights: Daniel Gracie (#46 Light Heavyweight) vs. Tim Carpenter, Chris Davis vs. Christian M’Pumbu, Raphael Davis (#40) vs. DJ Linderman, Nik Fekete vs. Richard Hale Blagoi Ivanov, the man best known for defeating Fedor Emelianenko in a combat sambo bout, headlines the untelevised portion of the card, which can be viewed here.

Bellator 38 airs live on MTV2 at 7 p.m., Sat., March 26.

UFC Fight Night 24

The UFC visits Seattle for the first time on Saturday night. UFC Fight Night 24 airs live on Spike TV and is headlined by Antonio Rogerio Nogueira (#21 Light Heavyweight) vs. Phil Davis (#20).

The main card is rounded out by Dan Hardy (#19 Welterweight) vs. Anthony Johnson (#34), DaMarques Johnson (#55 Welterweight) vs. Amir Sadollah (#41), and Leonard Garcia (#51 Featherweight) vs. Chan Sung Jung (#91).

Five preliminary card bouts will be streamed live on FacebookAlex Caceres vs. Mackens Semerzier (#59 Featherweight), Jon Madsen (#21 Heavyweight) vs. Mike Russow (#19), John Hathaway (#33 Welterweight) vs. Kris McCray (#137 Middleweight), Edwin Figueroa vs. Michael McDonald (#8 Bantamweight), Sean McCorkle vs. Christian Morecraft – leaving only three unaired prelims, Mario Miranda (#68 Middleweight) vs. Aaron Simpson (#45), Johny Hendricks (#30 Welterweight) vs. T.J. Waldburger, Nik Lentz (#38 Lightweight) vs. Waylon Lowe (#49).

UFC Fight Night 24 airs live on Spike TV at 10 p.m. EST / 7 p.m. PST Sat., March 26. The Facebook stream starts at 7:30 p.m. EST / 4:30 p.m. PST.

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At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity. Go here for a detailed explanation of how FIGHT!’s rankings work.

UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones went down just as many predicted it would, with the young Turk “Bones” taking out Rua with strikes in the third round. Jon Jones is your new UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, sliding from #4 to #1 in the Light Heavyweight Rankings in the process. Mauricio “Shogun” Rua slides from #1 to #5.

In the other light heavyweight bout of the evening, Luiz Cane stopped Eliot Marshall, jumping from #37 to #24. Marshall fell from #35 to #63 and might have squandered his second Octagon opportunity.

In the night’s feature fight, former WEC Featherweight Champion Urijah Faber outlasted former WEC Bantamweight Champion Eddie Wineland. Faber gains ground in the top five, moving from #4 to #3 in the Bantamweight Rankings while Wineland slips from #8 to #11.

In an unaired prelim fight, #2-ranked bantamweight Joseph Benavidez held his position with a decision win over Ian Loveland, who actually gained ground from #32 to #31 simply for making it to the 15 minute mark with a highly ranked fighter.

At middleweight, former King of Pancrase and UFC Middleweight Championship contender Nate Marquardt held steady at #12 in the Middleweight Rankings with a decision win over Dan Miller. Miller also stayed put, albeit at #29.

In the only other fight at 185 pounds, Nick Catone jumped from #83 to #55 with a win over unranked Costantinos Philippou.

Several lightweight bouts with top 20 implications went largely overlooked leading into UFC 128; Jim Miller kept his #5 Lightweight Ranking with a win over Kamal Shalorus, who hung tight at #39. Kurt Pellegrino slipped further away from title contention with a loss to Gleison Tibau and the fighters traded spots afterward, with Tibau jumping to #15 and Pellegrino falling to #22. In the only other action at 155#, unranked Edson Barboza took out Anthony Njokuani, who fell from #68 to #85.

The card’s lone heavyweight matchup featured PRIDE standout Mirko Filipovic vs. Brendan Schaub. The one-time NFLer took out “Cro Cop,” climbing from #23 to #14 in the Heavyweight Rankings while Filipovic fell from #32 to #45.

Mike Pyle cracked the top 10 with his win over Ricardo Almeida, moving from #15 to #10 in the Welterweight Rankings. Almeida fell from #18 to #26.

And in the card’s only featherweight fight, Erik Koch made a statement by finishing Raphael Assuncao and jumping from #17 to #7 in the Featherweight Rankings. Assuncao crashed from #25 to #47 following the loss.

Go here for full results.

freire_karakhanyan

In Concho, Okla., Bellator 37 featured the opening round of its season four featherweight tournament. Former tournament finalist Patricio Freire stopped Georgi Karakhanyan, leaping from #20 to #10 in the Featherweight Rankings. Karakhanyan fell from #33 to #53

Wilson Reis held steady at #23 after finishing IFL vet Zac George, who enters the rankings at #103. Daniel Straus actually slipped one spot, from #19 to #20, after defeating unranked Nazareno Malegarie, because he was leapfrogged by Freire.

On the local undercard, UFC vet Jake Rosholt gained ground from #108 to #74 in the Middleweight Rankings with a quick stoppage win over unranked John Bryant and UFC vet Roli Delgado vaulted from #69 to #29 Featherweight Rankings with a win over WEC vet Jameel Massouh, who crashed from #14 to #34 in the Bantamweight Rankings) following the loss.

In Europe, Golden Glory held a semifinal bout in its United Glory World Series, where one-time UFC fighter and WEC vet John Alessio suffered a first round knockout loss to Siyar Bahadurzada. Alessio fell from #27 to #44 in the Welterweight Rankings and probably lost any chance of scoring the Zuffa contract he’s been seeking in the near future. Strikeforce hopeful Bahardurzada, who typically competes at 185 pounds, jumped from #21 to #11 in the Middleweight Rankings. Hopefully with Zuffa’s help, Strikeforce can get the Afghan wrecking machine fighting stateside, where he needs to be. Lord knows both Strikeforce and the UFC could make use of a dynamic, world-class striker who can fight at welter or middleweight.

To the east, Poland’s premier league KSW featured a catchweight bout between Mamed Khalidov and James Irvin. Khalidov finished Irvin quickly with an armbar but didn’t benefit, holding on at #48 in the Middleweight Rankings. Irvin, for his part, didn’t suffer from the loss except for probably earning himself another suspension from the CSAC for fighting internationally after pissing hot for steroids. Irvin stayed put at #94 in the Light Heavyweight Rankings.

The other notable on the card, Sokoudjou, climbed from #83 to #60 at 205 pounds with a win over unranked Jan Blachowicz.

Go here for full results.

In Australia, UFC vet Shane Nelson took on Australian vet Jai Bradney at Nitro 2: Throwdown. All fights on the card were entered into our database as part of our continued efforts to generate rankings that reflect the depth and breadth of the international fight game.

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There’s gonna be a whole lotta shaking going on as top 25 fighters in multiple weight classes throw down on two continents. Let’s take a quick look ahead at Saturday night’s fights.

The main event of the weekend is UFC 128: Shogun vs. Jones. The card is headlined by a UFC Light Heavyweight Championship bout between reigning champ Mauricio “Shogun” Rua (#1 Light Heavyweight) and number one contender Jon Jones (#4), and supported by marquee bouts featuring Urijah Faber (#4 Bantamweight) vs. Eddie Wineland (#8), and Nate Marquardt (#12 Middleweight) vs. Dan Miller (#29), Jim Miller (#5 Lightweight) vs. Kamal Shalorus (#39), and Mirko “Cro Cop” Filipovic (#32 Heavyweight) vs. Brendan Schaub (#23).

Spike TV will play host to two preliminary fights, Luiz Cane (#37 Light Heavyweight) vs. Eliot Marshall (#35) and Edson Barboza vs. Anthony Njokuani (#68 Lightweight). The UFC will stream two local feature fights live on Facebook.com; Ricardo Almeida (#18 Welterweight) vs. Mike Pyle (#15) and Kurt Pellegrino (#15 Lightweight) vs. Gleison Tibau (#22).

The unaired prelims feature Joseph Benavidez (#2 Bantamweight) vs. Ian Loveland (#32), Raphael Assuncao (#25 Featherweight) vs. Erik Koch (#17), and Nick Catone (#83 Middleweight) vs. Costantinos Philippou.


(I don’t know about you guys, but I’m pulling for Warren vs. Freire II.)

In Concho, Okla., Bellator 37 features the opening round of its season four featherweight tournament. The four quarterfinal matches pit Patricio Freire (#20 Featherweight) vs. Georgi Karakhanyan (#30), Zac George vs. Wilson Reis (#23), Kenny Foster vs. Eric Larkin, and Nazareno Malegarie vs. Daniel Straus (#19).

Bellator’s local undercards continue to improve as Saturday night’s feature bouts include UFC vet Jake Rosholt (#108 Middleweight) vs. John Bryant and UFC vet Roli Delgado (#69 Featherweight) vs. WEC vet Jameel Massouh (#14 Bantamweight).

In Europe, Golden Glory will hold the semifinal bouts in its Ultimate Glory World Series, where one-time UFC fighter and WEC vet John Alessio (#27 Welterweight) will face frustrated Strikeforce hopeful Siyar Bahadurzada (#21 Middleweight) and UFC vet Roan Carneiro (#59 Welterweight) will fight Tommy Depret. To the east, Poland’s premier league KSW will feature a Mamed Khalidov (#48 Middleweight) vs. James Irvin (#94 Light Heavyweight) and Sokoudjou (#83 Light Heavyweight) vs. Jan Blachowicz.

Check back after all the bouts are in the books to see how FIGHT!’s rankings shake out.

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freire_mccullough
(Patricky Freire cracks “Razor” Rob. Photo courtesy of Bellator.)

At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity. Go here for a detailed explanation of how FIGHT!’s rankings work.

Excepting Dana White’s big announcement, this was what passes for a slow MMA weekend in 2011. HDNet Fights broadcast its first Shark Fights card, Abu Dhabi Fighting Championship capped off its first heavyweight tournament, and Bellator’s Season Four Lightweight Tournament kicked off in Shreveport, Louisiana on Saturday night. Two Qualifying Fight cards were scheduled to take place there but were canceled due to the massive earthquake. Read on for a full analysis of the impact the fights had on the rankings.

Texas-based Shark Fights is the newest addition to HDNet’s Friday night fights lineup. The regional promotion intended for it’s Shark Fights 14“>hi-def debut to be headlined by Houston Alexander (#66 Light Heavyweight) and James Irvin (#94), but the fight was scrapped after Alexander suffered an injury and Irvin got popped for steroid use. A middleweight match between UFC vets Matt Horwich and Danillo Villefort got promoted to the main event, where Villefort completely dominated Horwich, taking home a unanimous decision. Horwich falls from #38 to #56 in the Middleweight Rankings, while Villefort is reassigned from #38 in the Welterweight poll to #26 at 185. The only other ranked fighter on the card was Lucas Lopes, who came into the bout unranked and left at #161 in the Middleweight Rankings following his loss. The bout between Tara LaRosa and Carina Damm was a qualifying bout and will impact their standings when FIGHT!’s official women’s MMA rankings are released later this year.

In Abu Dhabi, ADFC: Round 3 crowned the first ADFC Heavyweight Champion. Shamil Abdurahimov cut down Jeff Monson (#44), Rameau Thierry Sokoudjou (#83 Light Heavyweight) and Marcos Oliveira en route to a #34 ranking in the Heavyweight poll. Oliveira enters the rankings at #79 following the loss. The only other ranked fighter on the card was superheavyweight Bob Sapp, who fell from #96 to #109 after a loss to unranked Stav Economou.

On Saturday night, Bellator 36 hosted four Lightweight Tournament Quarterfinals matches. Michael Chandler came into his bout at #54 in the Welterweight Rankings and left at #58 in the Lightweight Rankings after he defeated unranked Polish prospect Marcin Held. Two-time tournament finalist Toby Imada held his ground at #52 with a win over unranked late tournament replacement Josh Shockley, “Razor” Rob McCullough crashes from #70 to #154 following his stoppage loss to unranked Patricky Freire, and Carey Vanier suffered a similar fate, plummeting from #95 to #187 after his loss to unranked Lloyd Woodard. Freire and Woodard are both likely to enter the rankings before the end of 2011. The tournament winner will take home $100,000 and the right to challenge Bellator Lightweight Champion Eddie Alvarez (#11 Lightweight) for the title.

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dana_white
(Do you wanna be a f***in’ global magnate?)

Dana White dropped a bomb on the mixed martial arts industry and community Sunday when he announced that Zuffa had purchased Strikeforce. The UFC President been critical of the promotion before (see: Strikefarce) and reversed course quickly before as well (see: Tito Ortiz and Randy Couture). But while those close to the company were talking openly about the purchase for weeks, White & Co. managed to keep a lid on the deal until today and his announcement left MMA fans and pundits momentarily speechless. That moment was fleeting as people started weighing in on issues ranging from whether or not there would be UFC vs. Strikeforce superfights and if the companies would exchange fighter contracts. While these are valid questions, the conversation is focusing too much on immediate implications while ignoring the underlying causes for and far-reaching consequences of the purchase. So I humbly offer my analysis of why this deal went down and what it means for the fight game.

White mentioned several times in the 20-plus minute long interview that if UFC is to seriously pursue it’s plan for global expansion it needs more fighters, more staff, etc. On it’s face, the deal seems to offer Zuffa little in this regard; Strikeforce has never promoted a show outside of America and while it does have a number of noteworthy fighters under contract, its roster is quite limited compared to that of UFC. What Strikeforce can offer is access to Japanese fighters and close ties to influential figures in the flagging Japanese MMA industry. It’s no coincidence that as Japanese MMA is crumbling – DREAM have yet to announce a show and World Victory Road all but announced the end of its Sengoku series – Zuffa acquires an American MMA promotion that has close ties to K-1 and DREAM promoter Fighting and Entertainment Group. White’s blunt, macho approach plays well in the Middle East and the America’s, but he acknowledges that working in Japan has been problematic. In Coker, Zuffa now has a representative who can smooth ruffled feathers in the Land of the Rising Sun, and it can use Strikeforce as a neutral advance party to establish a foothold for live events in Japan. Add in the fact that Strikeforce can bring marketable Japanese stars like Satoshi Ishii (#21 Heavyweight), Shinya Aoki (#4 Lightweight), Tatsuya Kawajiri (#10 Lightweight) to the table and Zuffa will be able to make a much softer landing in Nippon.

Another point that White stressed during the interview was that the UFC and Strikeforce would continue to operate separately, even negotiating against each other for the same fighters. While this may be true for the term of Strikeforce’s current broadcast agreement with Showtime, White will not hesitate to pull the trigger on any decision that serves UFC’s short, medium, or long-term goals. If we learned anything from Zuffa’s ownership of WEC, it’s that the company will tolerate brand confusion among consumers as long as it serves a purpose. To test the market for sub-155# weight classes, for example, or produce shows in tertiary markets that can’t support UFC shows, or tie up air time on cable channels that are interested in broadcasting MMA. But at the end of the day, UFC is such a dominant brand that a majority of fans never really knew what WEC was, just as many fans of “UFC fighting” don’t know what a Strikeforce is or what it does. It’s naive to think that we’re more than a few years away from eulogizing Strikeforce as Zuffa transfers the fighters and staff it wants to UFC and retires the brand to the realm of nostalgic t-shirts.

The greatest long-term consequence of the dealt may be the disappearance of the MMA middle class, so to speak. There will be countless local shows, an amalgam of regional promotions airing on HDNet Fights, Bellator, and UFC, exponentially larger than any of its competitors, if you can really call them that. Fans are already speculating about the future of marquee fighters like Nick Diaz (#6 Welterweight), Paul Daley (#10 Welterweight), and Josh Barnett (#6 Heavyweight), and Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Dan Henderson (#2 Light Heavyweight), each of whom ran afoul of the UFC while under its employ. But no amount of personal animosity will prevent White & Co. from making a deal if the money makes sense, and frankly, everyone has a price. When the UFC is the only big show in town, a lot of fences will be mended. Either that or there will be a lot of people left out in the cold.

The purchase should also eventually allow Strikeforce’s world class talent to compete under the UFC umbrella. Dream matchups for Gilbert Melendez (#3 Lightweight), Ronaldo Souza (#3 Middleweight), Gegard Mousasi (#8 Light Heavyweight), Mo Lawal (#11 Light Heavyweight) as well as Fabricio Werdum, Strikeforce Heavyweight Champion, DREAM Heavyweight Champion, and K-1 Grand Prix Champion Alistair Overeem, Antonio Silva, and Fedor Emelianenko – #2, #3, #4, and #9 respectively in FIGHT!’s Heavyweight Rankings – can be made on UFC cards and seen by millions world wide. Soon enough, there won’t be discussions about whether or not Melendez or Overeem can hang in the Octagon, because the proof will be in the pudding.

Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce probably left a number of fighters, managers, and fight promoters with a queasy feeling. MMA’s monolithic entity just got bigger by subtraction, removing it’s largest competitor from the field for the second time in the last five years. But if White’s statements about how his personal problems with M-1 Global and Showtime won’t prevent Zuffa from having healthy relationships with them is any indication, we might be witnessing the start of an era in which the UFC President picks his public battles more judiciously. With guys like Lorenzo Fertitta, former WEC exec Reed Harris and Strikeforce honcho Scott Coker playing diplomat to White’s gunslinger, the Baldfather will be free to act as the charismatic, fan-friendly face of the organization and Zuffa will be able to make deals with anyone, regardless of prior history or personal animosity. Agents, managers, and fighters will lose a lot of leverage when negotiating deals, but fans are always of two minds about fighter pay; every fan wants a fighter get his or her due, but only a small number of us get behind fighters when their contract disputes keep us from getting the fights we want to see.

Of course this is all speculation and only time will tell how the deal will shake out and what effect it will have on the sport. But based on the UFC’s recent history and current trajectory, it’s safe to assume that we’ll be seeing more fights in more places (both geographically and in terms of video delivery). We may see a further homogenization of the sport but that’s not necessarily a bad thing. Excepting Major League Baseball’s outfield walls and the trapezoidal international basketball lane, all of the major sports are played in spaces with identical dimensions. Consistent rules, venues and branding are essential for the sport’s continued rapid growth and the continued disintegration of Japanese MMA and Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce set the stage for that.

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(Props to Middle Easy.)

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(Hendo celebrates. Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting.com)

At FIGHT! Magazine, we believe there is a need for a completely objective and unbiased ranking system for fighters to replace the myriad subjective rankings that have become skewed, in many instances, by fighter popularity. In an effort to address this issue FIGHT! Magazine brings you its computerized rankings system which takes into account a fighters strength of opponent, strength of performance, and frequency of activity. Go here for a detailed explanation of how FIGHT!’s rankings work.

Multiple belts were up for grabs in Columbus, Ohio and Moscow on Saturday and eight welterweights started their pursuit of another in Lemoore, Calif. There was a lot of movement in our rankings so lets get to it.

The biggest card of the weekend was Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Hendo. The card, which featured a championship fight at Light Heavyweight as well as a Women’s 135-pound title tilt, was held in conjunction with the annual Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. In the main event, Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante defended his title against PRIDE great and UFC veteran Dan Henderson. The challenger came in as a favorite and took the belt by TKO, creeps up from #3 to #2 in the Light Heavyweight Rankings while “Feijao” slips from #12 to #14. Strikeforce now has a popular, recognizable American champ at #205, setting up possible challenges from former champs Gegard Mousasi (#8) and former Henderson training partner Mo Lawal (#11).

Strikeforce Women’s 135-Pound Champion Marloes Coenen defended her title with a fourth round submission victory over Liz Carmouche. Carmouche had the fight won on the scorecards before getting finished and will likely place well when FIGHT! publishes its women’s rankings later this year.

Adrift in the division and having increasing difficulty finding opponents, Tim Kennedy moved from #28 to #25 in the Middleweight Rankings after submitting KO artist Melvin Manhoef, who fell from #73 to #78. If Kennedy isn’t going to get a rematch with Strikeforce Middleweight Champion Ronaldo Souza (#3) anytime soon then Strikeforce needs to give him a quality opponent and fast. The promotion has depth at 185 with “Mayhem” Miller (#18), Siyar Bahadurzada (#21) – if they can ever get his visa issues sorted out – Robbie Lawler (#24), and Luke Rockhold (#32). If they have to reach outside of the organization, Paulo Filho (#16), Denis Kang (#17), Tom Watson (#31), and Matt Horwich (#38) are out there. Bottom line, keep your guys busy, Strikeforce.

The other noteworth match ups on the card took place at lightweight, where perennial “Challenger” Billy Evangelista took on new Strikeforce signee Jorge Masvidal. “Gamebred” outlasted Evangelista, jumping from #65 to #42 in the Lightweight Rankings, while Evangelista fell from #70 to #100. On the undercard, UFC vet Jorge Gurgel vaulted from #162 to #76 with a quick submission win over unranked Billy Vaughn.

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Across the country in Lemoore, Calif., Bellator 35 kicked off the promotion’s fourth season with four welterweight tournament qualifier match ups and a 125-pound, non-title super fight between Bellator Women’s 115-Pound Champion Zoila Frausto and Karina Hallinan. Again, when FIGHT! publishes our women’s rankings later this year, Frausto will likely be at or near the top of the heap at 115 pounds.

Jay Hieron was and is the highest-ranked fighter participating in the tourney, but he actually slipped a spot in the Welterweight Rankings, from #18 to #19, after taking a controversial submission victory over Anthony Lapsley. This is due to guys leapfrogging him in the top 20. His value remains unchanged, but he’ll need strong performances against highly-ranked fighters to gain ground. Lapsley actually moved up one spot, from #71 to #70, again because of the movement occurring around him.

Inaugural Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good held on to his #40 ranking following a decision win over former unranked Chris Lozano. Lozano entered the rankings at #92 after the fight.

Former Bellator tournament finalist Dan Hornbuckle lost an unpopular decision to Brent Weedman, falling from #60 to #105, while Weedman climbed from #92 to #47 with the win. In the final quarterfinal bout, judoka’s Rick Hawn and Jim Wallhead kickboxed to a decision with Hawn entering the rankings at #76 following his win.

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(Gugenishvili defeats Grishin. Photo courtesy of M-1 Global.)

Two belts were on the line in Moscow at M-1 Challenge XXIII. M-1 Global Welterweight Champion Shamil Zavurov dispatched challenger Tom Gallicchio early, moving from #34 to #23 in the Welterweight Rankings with the win, while Gallicchio falls from #57 to #73. In the other title tilt, M-1 Heavyweight Champion Guram Gugenishvilli took out Maxim Grishin and jumped from #36 to #22 in the Heavyweight Rankings. Grishin slid from #41 to #58.

Several other noteworthy fighters, including two UFC vets, competed on smaller stages this weekend. Jens Pulver headlined Chicago Cagefighting Championship and took a split decision from unranked Wade Choate and continued to slide in the Featherweight Rankings, falling from #74 to #81. At Bantamweight, Chase Beebe moved from #63 to #55 with a win over unranked Steve Kinnisen. Felice Herrig also picked up a win on the card and will likely place well when we publish women’s rankings later this year.

In Liverpool, England, OMMAC 9: Enemies was headlined by Zelg Galesic, who moved from #67 to #41 in the Middleweight Rankings with a win over previously unranked Lee Chadwick. Chadwick entered the rankings at #140 following the loss.

At the Route 66 Casino in Albuquerque, Keith Jardine put away Aron Lofton, moving up to #54 in the Light Heavyweight Rankings with his win over Aron Lofton – Lofton slipped to #110. Former boxing champ Holly Holm made a successful pro MMA debut on the card as well.

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The UFC’s fight week ends early but there is still a full slate of fight cards this weekend from Strikeforce to Bellator to M-1 Global and regional cards in the US and UK.

Taking a spot traditionally occupied by the UFC – and last year, the WEC – Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Hendo is the combat sports centerpiece of this weekend’s Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. The card is anchored by a title fight pitting Strikeforce Light Heavyweight Champion Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante (#12 Light Heavyweight) against former multi-divisional PRIDE champion and multi-divisional UFC title challenger Dan Henderson (#3). The other marquee fights are a title fight between Strikeforce Women’s 135-Pound Champion Marloes Coenen and Liz Carmouche and a 185-pound match between Tim Kennedy (#28 Middleweight) and Melvin Manhoef (#71). The main card will be broadcast at 10 p.m. on Showtime. Go here to view the full card.

Across the country in Lemoore, Calif., Bellator kicks off its fourth season with four welterweight tournament qualifier match ups and a non-title super fight between Bellator Women’s Champion Zoila Frausto and Karina Hallinan. The welterweight matchups are: Former Bellator Welterweight Champion Lyman Good (#40 Welterweight) vs. Chris Lozano, Dan Hornbuckle (#60) vs. Brent Weedman (#92), Jay Hieron (#18) vs. Anthony Lapsley (#71), and Rick Hawn vs. Jim Wallhead. The event will air live on MTV2 at 9 p.m. EST / 6 p.m. PST. Go here to view the full card.

Also on Sat., M-1 Challenge XXIII will see two champions defend their titles in Moscow as M-1 Heavyweight Champion Guram Gugenishvilli (#36 Heavyweight) faces challenger Maxim Grishin (#41) and M-1 Global Welterweight Champion Shamil Zavurov (#34 Welterweight) will defend his belt against Tom Gallicchio (#57). You can watch the action free on M-1Global.com starting at 11 a.m. EST / 8 a.m. PST. Go here to view the full fight card.

Several other noteworthy fighters will compete on smaller stages this weekend as Jens Pulver (#74 Featherweight), Chase Beebe (#63 Bantamweight), and Felice Herrig compete at Chicago Cagefighting Championship and Zelg Galesic (#65 Middleweight) headlines OMMAC 9 in Liverpool, England. Check back on Monday for full results and analysis of how the weekend’s fights effected our MMA fighter rankings.

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