Rashad Evans: ‘I Feel Like I Got Ran Out of the Weight Class’ (video)

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After struggling for years to compete in a division that he no longer saw himself fighting long term, Rashad Evans felt like he got run out of the light heavyweight division. Finally making the decision to drop down a class, Evans makes his middleweight debut at UFC 209, bringing with him an entirely new outlook on the sport and his career.

TRENDING > UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 Main Card Face-Offs (Video)

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UFC 209: What Matters Most About the Main Card Matchups

UFC 209 is upon us and features a big rematch between Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson for the UFC welterweight championship. The show is also stacked from top to bottom, with a lot at stake for most of the fighters on the card.

The card features athletes at the beginning and end of their careers and the outcome of their contests could decide their UFC fates. This could be one of those shows that ends early; it’s likely we are going to see a lot of knockouts.

Tyron Woodley vs. Stephen Thompson

This fight is about the championship, but for Woodley it’s about something equally important: respect.

Woodley has complained recently that he’s being overlooked by the company and has been under-promoted. Woodley needs to win here to prove that he is at the level of the sport’s elite fighters. He is also going into the fight at a psychological disadvantage. He hit Thompson with everything he had and Thompson survived and nearly won their first fight. Woodley must find a way to win convincingly to defy the critics and land a big money fight.

Thompson has a lot to gain here. He pulled out a draw after nearly getting finished in the first fight. He’s an exciting stand-up fighter with a ton of marketing potential. Thompson has an opportunity to knock a distracted Woodley out; it’s possible (go watch Woodley’s fight with Nate Marquardt). He needs to find a way to get the win here to avoid falling into Rory MacDonald territory, a guy with great potential who arguably came up short inside the Octagon. Expect an explosive, short fight.

Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson

Khabib NurmagomedovWith Conor McGregor on the shelf, we get an interim lightweight championship match. This fight is huge because the winner could fight McGregor later in the year in a title unification match.

Nurmagomedov has long deserved a title shot and he gets it here, in a fight that he is totally capable of winning. There’s a feeling that McGregor has been ducking Nurmagomedov, but a victory for the Russian would make it impossible for McGregor to avoid him.

Ferguson is on a roll here and has a chance to capture the gold. A win sets him up for a big money fight with McGregor. Both guys here can afford to lose and still come back and be a contender. They are young and talented and both are probably future champions. The key to this fight for Nurmagomedov will be to take the fight to the ground.

Alistair Overeem vs. Mark Hunt

Alistair Overeem vs Mark HuntOvereem is walking into the lion’s den here. Overeem enjoyed a good run before he was knocked out by Stipe Miocic in his long-awaited heavyweight title match. He really cannot afford another knockout loss. With a suspect chin, all signs point to Overeem having trouble against the hard-hitting Hunt. Overeem will need to fight a technically perfect fight for all three rounds, win a decision and earn a title shot.

Hunt is returning to the Octagon after his infamous match with Brock Lesnar, a fight he lost on a decision, but then earned a no-contest after Lesnar was popped by USADA for performance enhancement drugs. Hunt is hungry and mad, a bad recipe for Overeem. One punch could end this fight. If Hunt wins he could push himself to the front of the line for a title shot. But even if he loses, he’ll be back because he’s always an exciting fighter to watch.

Rashad Evans vs. Daniel Kelly

Evans is on the downside of his career and faces a stiff challenge from a young rising star. At his age, Evans will have a hard time competing against the top guys in the middleweight division, so he’s really fighting for legacy here. Evans has knockout power so it is possible that he could pull out another victory here, but it’s not likely. If Evans loses, it could accelerate his retirement process.

Kelly needs a big victory here over a legend to get on people’s radar, and he can’t afford a lackluster three-round decision. Kelly needs to knock out or dominate Evans to get noticed by the top middleweights. 

Lando Vannata vs. David Teymur

This will be a kickboxing spectacle and Vannata could emerge as a darkhorse title contender with a spectacular knockout or strong performance over three rounds. Teymur’s left-handed stance could throw Vannata off, so he’ll need to keep this fight standing up. If he follows through with such a game plan, win or lose, he will come out of the fight as a star. Teymur, meanwhile, has won two fights in a row and has a big future in the company whether he wins or loses Saturday night.

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Khabib Nurmagomedov Denies His Team Surrounded Tony Ferguson’s Team (video)

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Tony Ferguson said that his team was surrounded earlier this week by the team of his UFC 209 opponent Khabib Nurmagomedov. Asked about the matter, Nurmagomedov denied anything of the sort. He even went so far as to assure Ferguson that he could rest easy, “We’re going to fight with him Saturday night, my team is don’t going to smash him.”

TRENDING > Tony Ferguson Upset About Khabib Nurmagomedov Team Surrounding His (video)

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Chip Moraza-Pollard Going to ‘Do His Thing’ at Lion Fight 35

Former World Series of Fighting middleweight Chip Moraza-Pollard may have been the underdog in his Lion Fight debut last November against Brett Hlavacek, but that didn’t stop him from picking up the win against his more experienced Muay Thai opponent.

Over the course of the fight, Moraza-Pollard was able to be the more effective fighter, and ended up winning a bout that was not as close as it may have seemed in the results on paper.

“I fought a guy (in Hlavacek), who was 17-3, and it was my first pro Muay Thai fight, and I won a split-decision, but most people think it was kind of one-sided. I felt great,” Pollard told MMAWeekly.com. “I felt comfortable. And I’m looking forward to doing it again.”

Having spent the previous several years fighting MMA, making the switch to Muay Thai wasn’t as big of a deal to Moraza-Pollard because of the way he approaches combat sports in general.

TRENDING > Julia Budd Going After Her ‘Ultimate Goal’ at Bellator 174

“To me, it doesn’t matter what the rule set is – kickboxing, MMA, Muay Thai – every fight is just another fight in front of me that I’ve got to deal with,” he said. “It was like an MMA fight where somebody couldn’t take me down pretty much, but nothing too out of the norm.

“In MMA you have to work everything all the time, so you don’t have the time to work one thing that extensively. But at the same time, it’s business as usual, just kind of honing striking, and not worrying so much about Jiu-Jitsu, wrestling and everything like that.”

Moraza- Pollard returns to Lion Fight to take on Scott Noble in a main card Muay Thai rules fight on Friday in Mashantucket, Conn.

“It doesn’t really matter who I’m fighting,” said Moraza-Pollard. “I just go in and do what I do, the best way that I can do it.

“Everybody I’ve fought for the past how many years have been beasts, so I anticipate another good fighter coming at me. But like I said, I always fight really good fighters, and it doesn’t really faze me. I’ll just do my thing and have some fun in there. And when I’m having fun, the fight tends to go my way.”

When it comes to the remainder of 2017, Moraza-Pollard would prefer to take things one fight at a time and approach each opportunity as it comes his way.

“I think when you start looking too far ahead into the future and looking past opponents, then you take your eyes off of what you have to do in the here and now – your next fight,” he said. “You’re not going to be anything unless you win your next one, so that’s what you should be focusing on.

“I don’t really have any goals past this one. If I win this fight, then we’ll see what comes out of that.”

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Watch the UFC 209 Weigh-in Live at 7 PM ET

(Video Courtesy of UFC)

Watch the UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 ceremonial weigh-in streaming live at 7 p.m. ET from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas. Welterweight champion Tyron Woodley and Stephen “Wonderboy” Thompson rematch in the fight card’s main event.

TRENDING > Tony Ferguson Upset About Khabib Nurmagomedov Team Surrounding His (video)

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Watch the Georges St-Pierre vs. Michael Bisping UFC Press Conference Live at 5 PM ET

(Video Courtesy of UFC)

Former welterweight champion Georges St-Pierre will make his return to the Octagon against middleweight champion Michael Bisping for the 185-pound crown. The two face off at a press conference live from T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas at 5 p.m. ET. 

RELATED > Why is Michael Bisping Dodging Top Middleweight Contenders?

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Tony Ferguson: ‘I’m Going to Run Circles Around Khabib Nurmagomedov’

In the UFC 209 co-main event in Las Vegas on Saturday, second-ranked Tony Ferguson will face unbeaten top contender Khabib Nurmagomedov for the interim lightweight title. Ferguson not only predicts victory, he believes it will be a one-sided fight.

Although he predicts a dominant performance, “El Cucuy” is approaching the title fight as he has every other fight in his career.

“This is another fight. This is nothing different. There’s no other difference besides he’s another name on that wrestling chart, man. I’ve always looked at it that way and I’m never going to stop, no matter how much clout and how much people feed it up to be and how big a head everybody else has. I’m going to keep doing the same thing, which is being me and letting myself flow inside that Octagon. And nobody’s going to stop me on my way to victory,” he said during the UFC 209 media conference call.

Tony Ferguson UFC 209 scrumNurmagomedov is a world champion in Sambo and grappling.  He holds the UFC record for the most successful takedowns in a fight with 21.  Amazingly, he set the record in a three-round fight.  But Ferguson doesn’t care about Nurmagomedov’s grappling accolades.  He believes that he’ll have the advantage in that department. 

“From pure wrestling, I’ve got 20-plus years. I‘ve got 20-plus years doing this sport, and I did so well in it I actually took up other sports because of it. I got bored with wrestling. I love that I did it for so long, (but) I want to learn how to box,” he said.  

“This guy has no chance against my wrestling. He thinks Sambo is awesome. I got respect for the sport. I got respect for where he comes from, but my wrestling is far superior and my style is just completely different than his. My freestyle background is going to put… I’m going to run circles all over this guy,” Ferguson added. 

TRENDING > Khabib Nurmagomedov Critical of Conor McGregor and His Uncle Dana (video)

Ferguson plans to be aggressive and take the fight to his Dagestani opponent.  He wants to end Nurmagomedov’s 24-fight winning streak and make the case that he’s the best featherweight in the world. 

“I’m going to come after him hard. I played multiple sports growing up. I’m a two time All-American, three time All-State, state champ, national champ. This dude is not on my level. As hard as I (expletive) work and what I represent, my talent and my states from California to Michigan, in between, and all around the world, nobody is going to take this away from me.”

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Fernando Gonzalez Predicts That He’ll ‘Catch’ Brandon Girtz at Bellator 174

Welterweight Fernando Gonzalez was riding a five-fight winning steak heading into his last fight in November against Michael “Venom” Page. He was defeated by split decision, but doesn’t think the loss was a setback.

“I don’t think it set me back too much. I feel (Bellator) felt that I won the fight,” Gonzalez told MMAWeekly.com. “I feel that they felt that I won the fight. I felt that I won the fight, and so did the crowd in San Jose.”

On Friday, in Thackerville, Okla., Gonzalez looks to get back in the win column when he faces Brandon Girtz on the Bellator 174: Coenen vs. Budd main card at the WinStar World Casino.

“It gets me back in the win column,” he said. “Putting on a good performance gets me one step closer to title contention.

Fernando Gonzalez - Bellator“A brawler. This guy’s a brawler. He comes out swinging. He comes out throwing. He comes out to knock you out. He’s a scrapper. I’m not underestimating him. I’ve been training my ass off,” Gonzalez said about his opponent.

Girtz is moving up to the welterweight division from the 155-pound weight class. Gonzalez should have the size advantage in the fight, but only thinks it will come into play if the fight hits the ground.

“I think so, but only when it hits the ground, if he tries to take me down, since he’s still a lighter guy. Obviously, once I put my fluids back in I’ll be at least 10 to 15 pounds heavier, which you definitely feel in the fights. I think when it hits the ground is where the weight is going to make the difference, but I don’t really see that happening too much. If it does got to the ground, it won’t be there for long,” he said.

RELATED > Marloes Coenen Believes Bellator 174 Battle with Julia Budd ‘Will Be a War’

“I’ll be the one with the range. This will probably be the only time that I have reach on somebody. It’s not much, but it’s something. I’ll actually be the taller fighter in there,” added Gonzalez.  “I think it’s going to end up staying on the feet and I’ll be able to catch him pretty early.”

Gonzalez believes that he’ll be able to exploit Girtz’ aggression in the fight.  He predicts that the bout will remain standing and that he’ll catch Girtz making a mistake. 

“I think we’re going to cancel each other out on the ground. I believe we’re going to end up keeping it standing and I think he’ll throw a big bomb and I’ll be able to catch him making a mistake.”

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UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 Early Weigh-in Video & Results

Our apologies, there was a technical interruption in Parts 1 and 2 of the UFC 209 early weigh-in video, so we had to start a third stream (Part 3), which is currently live below.

UFC 209 Early Weigh-in (Part 1)

UFC 209 Early Weigh-in (Part 2)

UFC 209 Early Weigh-in (Part 3)

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UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson II Weigh-in Results

Main Card (10 pm ET on Pay-Per-View)

  • Tyron Woodley (170) vs. Stephen Thompson (169)
  • Khabib Nurmagomedov () vs. Tony Ferguson (154.5)
  • Rashad Evans (185) vs. Daniel Kelly (186)
  • Lando Vannata (156) vs. David Teymur (156)
  • Alistair Overeem (256) vs. Mark Hunt (265)

Prelims (8 pm ET on FS1)

  • Mark Godbeer (241.5) vs. Daniel Spitz (240)
  • Marcin Tybura (251.5) vs. Luis Henrique (248.5)
  • Darren Elkins (145.5) vs. Mirsad Bektic (145)
  • Luke Sanders (135) vs. Iuri Alcântara ()

Prelims (6:30 pm  ET on UFC Fight Pass)

  • Tyson Pedro (205) vs. Paul Craig (204)
  • Amanda Cooper (116) vs. Cynthia Calvillo (115.5)
  • Albert Morales (135.5) vs. Andre Soukhamthath ()

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Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Tony Ferguson UFC 209 Bout in Jeopardy

The highly anticipated UFC 209 co-main event between Khabib Nurmagomedov and Tony Ferguson is skating on this ice during the early weigh-in.

As the UFC 209 early morning weigh-in got underway, a report from Russian news outlet Izvestia reported that Nurmagomedov was taken to the hospital about three hours prior to the weigh-in. 

MMAWeekly.com confirmed with officials that Nurmagomedov was taken to the hospital, but as of the time of publication, Nurmagomedov’s status was unclear and there had not yet been a determination as to whether or not he would be able to fight.

RELATED > UFC 209: Woodley vs. Thompson 2 Early Weigh-in Video & Results

If it is canceled, this would be the third time a fight between Nurmagomedov and Ferguson was nixed. Nurmagomedov suffered a rib injury and pulled out of their December 2015 bout, while Ferguson withdrew from their scheduled bout last year when doctors found fluid and blood in his lung.

We’ll keep you posted with further details as the situation develops.

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