Categories
Sports

Israel Adesanya’s 5 Best Fights

This Saturday at UFC 276, Middleweight champion Israel Adesanya will attempt to defend his title for the fifth official* time against Jared Cannonier, who’s coming off of a vicious finish of Derek Brunson. In anticipation of the headline bout, we decided to take a look back at Israel’s five best fights so far in his UFC career.

* Israel would argue that his unification bout against Robert Whittaker in 2019 counted as a defence, which would make Saturday’s fight his sixth defence.

5. Robert Whittaker at UFC 271
MMA Fighting

Perhaps you’re a little confused about this fight making this list. For many, it was shunned as a boring fight with little to sway judges, but for anyone who understands who nuanced MMA is for either of these fighters, this was a nail-biter.

For Robert, vengeance was on his mind. For Israel, he had the tough task of having to outdo his own impressive performance against Whittaker a few years earlier. In the end, neither man fully completed their task, but that’s only a credit to their opponent.

Israel was careful about when to strike due to Robert’s explosive tendencies and Robert was timid about when to step in, the grey cloud of the first fight hanging over him. It made for an incredible spectacle and one that doesn’t make it unlikely that we see a trilogy fight between these two in the near future.

4. Paulo Costa at UFC 253
The Sporting News

Before their headlining title bout at UFC 253, both men were coming off of polar opposite performances against the Cuban Muscle Crisis, Yoel Romero. Costa and Romero had a war which left both men a little lesser than they came in. Adesanya and Romero however, was a fight that disappointed many with its inactivity.

Anyone who thought that might have an effect on the result of Adesanya and Costa’s fight at the UFC Apex was doing MMA math though, which rarely adds up. Styles make fights and Adesanya had to remind fans exactly who he was.

For the 9 minutes that the fight lasted, the Nigerian-born fighter had his way with Paulo, using lateral movement, feints and well-timed leg kicks to freeze the Brazilian. The fight was a masterclass and a swift reminder that Adesanya was in his own league when it came to kickboxing.

3. Robert Whittaker at UFC 243
MMA Fighting

Whittaker and Adesanya’s rematch from earlier this year made the cut for this list, but it’s their first meeting from 2019 that remains in fans’ minds the most.

The setting was perfect. An Australian champion fighting in Melbourne against a fighter from New Zealand, in front of a crowd of nearly 60,000. That crowd was roaring from the get-go, hearts racing because of Robert’s fiercely focused walkout and Adesanya’s dance routine before his.

Learning from Kelvin Gastelum’s success against Israel earlier that year, Whittaker had no qualms about rushing in with a barrage of punches, ending combinations with his signature high kicks. Unfortunately for him, Israel had learnt from his prior mistakes and seen what Whittaker had to offer before. He was smooth as ever, leaning out of the way of strikes that had finishes fighters in the past.

The end sequence from this fight is one that can’t help but stick in your mind. Israel was confident on the inside and used Whittaker’s own momentum against him, dropping him with a short left hook, the opening for which he had seen minutes ago. It was a star-making performance and a night to remember for both men.

2. Anderson Silva at UFC 234
The Body Lock

This fight isn’t everyone’s cup of tea, but it’s impossible to deny the optics.

Anderson and Israel were toe to toe with their vintage styles, the younger man coming out on top most of the time. Watching the two trade strikes was a moment that’s hard to describe, a true passing of the torch.

Much of this fight’s technical aspects needs rewatches to fully appreciate, but even on a more surface level, watching the pair embrace after 15 minutes of fighting was beautiful and only ages more and more gracefully as the pair see their own versions of success over time.

1. Kelvin Gastelum at UFC 236
Bloody Elbow

This is a no-brainer. Adesanya and Gastelum’s war in Atlanta, Georgia was heralded as the Fight of the Year by most outlets who compiled a list and there wasn’t much to argue about. The interim title fight was made because of Adesanya’s aforementioned win over Anderson Silva and Whittaker pulling out of his fight with Gastelum on the same card.

Some fans predicted that Kelvin’s wrestling could give Izzy a look he hadn’t seen before, but in reality it was his lunging strikes which caused the most problems, doing all but dropping Stylebender. The pair fought tooth and nail over five rounds with Israel getting his hand raised at the end of the fight and rightfully so.

It was the kind of performance that no fighter ever wants to have to put on, but was welcomed by both men anyway.

Categories
Sports Strength

15 ONE Championship Fighters to Watch

ONE Championship (commonly referred to as ONE) is a Singapore based mixed martial arts (MMA), kick-boxing and Muay Thai promotion that has been around since 2011. It was founded by Chatri Sityodtong and is considered Asia’s largest MMA promotion and is still expanding. ONE held a few events live on TNT last Spring and ranks as one of the world’s top “ sports media properties for viewership and engagement,” according to their official website

Competition is the life-blood of any sports promotion and especially in combat sports, so ONE of course is looking to expand. ONE has had plans to come and hold events in the United States in 2020 according to Sherdog, but those plans were sidelined when COVID-19 put the world on pause. 

Now, with everyone in the fight business putting on events ONE is looking to stick to those plans. With their rule-set recently approved by the Colorado State Boxing Commission, the road to ONE bringing their brand of combat sports to the US is looking closer to happening. With that in mind, here are 15 ONE athletes that should be on your radar.

1.) Demetrious Johnson (30-4-1)
Former UFC Flyweight champion, 2019 ONE Flyweight World Grand Prix Champion

Originally from Kentucky and fighting out of Washington,Johnson’s path to ONE is a great story because he was traded from the UFC to ONE, for Ben Askren. At the time, Johnson competed as the 125 lb champion, a division that was rumored to be gone when Johnson left but has turned out to be one of the more fun divisions to watch. When he entered ONE’s Grand Prix, he was a favorite to win and he did, but it was a tournament title, he suffered his first loss when he fought for the ONE flyweight (135 lb in ONE) division title. Still, he’s accomplished a lot in his career as an MMA fighter, so since ONE lets athletes compete in kickboxing and MMA, Johnson will be testing himself against one of the best fighters in his weight class under a special rule set and the next man on this list.

2.) Rodtang Jitmuangnon (Muay Thai record: 267 -42 -10)
Current ONE Flyweight Muay Thai World Champion, Three title defenses, Currently on a five-fight win streak

You’re not reading that wrong. Jitmuangnon’s Muay Thai record is 267 Wins, 42 Losses, 10 Draws. In 2020, The Nation, an English language daily online publication in Thailand where he’s from listed Jitmuangnon as the best pound-for-pound Muay Thai fighter in the world. He and Johnson faced one another in a four round fight, with the rules alternating between Muay Thai and MMA rules according. Rounds one and three were under Muay Thai rules and two and four, were under MMA. Johnson’s grappling proved to be too much.

3.) Eddie Alvarez (30-8-2)
Former Bellator Lightweight Champion, Former UFC Lightweight Champion

Alvarez is known as “The Underground King” to fans of MMA in the northeastern United States. Growing up in Philadelphia, it was easy for Alvarez to get the hunger to be a professional fighter. First with boxing, then wrestling he found his way to MMA fighting in unsanctioned fights before making a career as a professional mixed martial artist. His fights with Michael Chandler, Justin Gaethje and Rafael Dos Anjos are some of the best fights in modern MMA. Alvarez has brought that same energy to ONE and is definitely a must watch fighter.

4.) Shinya Aoki (47-10-1)
Former ONE Lightweight Champion, Former DEEP Lightweight Champion, Former Shooto Middleweight Champion

Aoki is probably one of the most dangerous submission based fighters in the current landscape of MMA. Of his 47 wins, 31 come by way of submission and he is currently riding a four-fight win streak in ONE. In his off time, like many MMA fighters Aoki competed in grappling events and after a win at a recent one, he challenged fellow Japanese MMA legend Yoshiro Akiyama to face him at ONE’s next event, ONE: X.

5.) Garry Tonon (6-1)
2nd Degree Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Black Belt, No. 3 Ranked ONE Featherweight

New Jersey’s Tonon came into MMA with a heavy following from the world of competitive submission grappling. While he is known for his leg-locks, he keeps evolving as a complete mixed martial artist by using everything he has learned since making his transition to MMA in 2018. His record might seem small but as a lifelong competitor and only 30-years-old, Tonon’s name should be on your watchlist of fighters signed with ONE,  despite a recent loss to Thanh Le. 

6.) Adriano Moraes (20-3)
Three time ONE Flyweight Champion, Current ONE Flyweight Champion

Fighting out of Brazil, Moraes was undefeated before he came to ONE riding a nine-fight win streak. He lost his debut with the promotion in 2013 and it was the first loss of his career. Fight fans unfamiliar with Moraes soon came to recognize him as he quickly became a title contender, then champion. When he fought Johnson on ONE’s TNT event, no one expected him to win against a fan favorite and former UFC champion like “Mighty Mouse” Johnson but he did. It is a testament to the level of global talent in MMA that ONE is looking to bring more exposure to. He followed up that win against Johnson with another win against Yuya Wakamatsu.

7.) Reinier de Ridder (15-0)
ONE Light-heavyweight Champion (current), ONE Middleweight Champion (current)

Being a “Champ-Champ” in any organization is a pretty big deal. It’s making yourself top dog in two different weight classes and not many get to do it. For ONE, that man is Reinier de Ridder. The 31 year-old “Dutch Knight” got to showcase his skills on TNT last April when he won his rematch against Aung La Nsang for the light heavyweight title. Most recently, he secured an arm-triangle against Kiamrian Abbasov.

8.) Angela Lee (11-2)
ONE Women’s Atomweight Champion (current), No.3 Ranked in ONE Women’s Strawweight division

This Canadian-American young lady holds black belts in Tae Kwon Do and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu along with her title in ONE. She has fought her entire career with ONE and the promotion recently became a mother. Lee improved her record to 11-2 with another finish win, this time against Nong Stamp.

9.) Nieky Holzken (Kickboxing: 94-17-1)
Former Glory Welterweight Champion – 2013, 2015 Glory Welterweight Tournament Champion, No.1 Ranked in ONE’s Lightweight Kickboxing division

As stated in the beginning, ONE is a full-on martial arts promotion that holds MMA, kickboxing, and Muay Thai matches. Holzken’s resume should speak for itself but if you have never seen kickboxing on the scale it is today, this Dutch stiker’s matches are must see events. The term “high level stiker” gets thrown around a lot in MMA but when it comes to kickboxing, there are levels to levels and Holzken is on that upper tier. He recently defeated another kickboxing legend at ONE on TNT 3, who is the next kickboxer on the list. His last fight did result in a loss against Sinsamut Klinmee.   

10.) John Wayne Parr (Kickboxing: 99-34-1)
10 time world champion, No. 4 ranked ONE Lightweight Kickboxer

The Australian striker known as“The Gunslinger” Parr may be at the end of his career in some people’s eyes but that does not mean he is looking to walk away without putting on a show. He had just signed a six-fight contract with ONE when he made his promotional debut against Holzken. While he did lose the fight, he put in a valiant effort that kept Holzken on his heels before the loss came. If you are a fan of knock outs, Parr should be on your radar.

11.) Timofey Nastyukhin (14-6)
Former Pankration World Champion, No. 5 ranked ONE Lightweight

The Russian born Nastyukhin handed Alvarez his first loss when he came to ONE from the UFC. Another moment fans found out how big the world is when it comes to the talent of competition in MMA on a global scale. He would eventually get a title shot against Christian Lee at ONE on TNT 2 where he would fall short losing by TKO. He most recently lost to Saygid Guseyn Arslanaliev but he is still ranked at the top of the division so expect to see more from Nastyukhin in the future.

12.) Bibiano Fernandes (24-5)
Former DREAM bantamweight Champion, Former DREAM Featherweight Champion

Before there was MMA, there was Vale Tudo in Brazil, and Fernandes like many Brazilian fighters grew up around it. If ONE has proven anything, it’s that when a fight deserves a rematch, they usually happen.  Such is the case with Fernandes and his last three fights against the former champion, Kevin Belingnon. Fernandes recently lost to John Lineker by knockout in 2022. 

13.) John Lineker (35-9)
Former Jungle Fight Bantamweight Champion, Won multiple UFC bonuses for Fight/ Performance of the Night, Current ONE Bantamweight Champion

Another Brazilian on this list, Lineker was released from the UFC in 2019 and ONE signed him when that happened. Lineker’s following comes from the type of fights he won bonuses for so it should be no surprise that he is on a three-fight win streak with ONE, the last two being my way of knockout. Lineker last defeated Bibiano Fernandes in March of 2022 by knockout.

14.) Christian Lee (15-4)
Former ONE Lightweight Champion, 2019 ONE Lightweight World Grand Prix Champion

Are there many brother and sister champions in combat sports? If it’s something you have never seen before, ONE has that with Christian, who keeps his sister Angela company on this list. He got some airtime with U.S. fans when he scored his win over Nastyukhin at ONE on TNT 2 but he unfortunately lost his next fight to current champion, Rae Yoon Ok via decision this past September. There was some controversy, so a rematch might be coming.

15.) Xiong Jing Nan (17-2)
Inaugural and current ONE Strawweight Champion, Handed Angela Lee her first loss

Since winning the title she has successfully defended it four times and is the first Chinese MMA champion in a major promotion. She and Lee are 1-1 against each other since Xiong attempted to take Lee’s Atomweight title, but it’s clear that these two women are the queens in the weight classes they hold titles in. It’s reminiscent of Amanda Nunes and Valentina Shevchenko in the UFC, sure they have fought each other but is there something more to see if they fight again after time has passed? Maybe.

Categories
Sports Strength

The Best Ultimate Fighter Winners

The Ultimate Fighter recently wrapped it’s 29th season awarding two young fighters with UFC contracts. It’s time to take a look back at other Ultimate Fighters that have traveled the same path through the UFC’s longest running show.

The Ultimate Fighter is a mixed martial arts based  reality show commonly labeled as TUF that first aired in 2005. That first season is considered one of the turning points for The Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) and the sport of mixed martial arts (MMA) when it aired. The reality show brought in fighters that were unknown then in a sport that was yet to be as popular as it is now, for a chance at signing with the UFC. It has aired twice a year since it began and has just completed its 29th season.

Similar to Dana Whites Contender Series, the show would pull fighters from regional circuits to give them a chance to get into the UFC. The difference is the fighters are pooled together in the same house, and are usually coached by two tenured fighters in the promotion. Usually the coaches are a champion and contender that can have a fight that would be scheduled for when the season ends. 

The fighters are assigned to the team of one of the coaches and sometimes complete team challenges. The team that wins the challenges gives the coach matching rights for which fighters are going to compete the week of the challenge. The winners advance until there are finalists for the contract (or contracts) up for grabs. The exposure fighters get during their time on the show adds to any potential star power they might have in their UFC career. It has been a path where UFC stars and champions begin and with the growth the UFC has seen in recent years, it’s time to look at some of the best winners of The Ultimate Fighter so far.

1.) Diego Sanchez
TUF Season 1 2005 Middleweight contract winner: 30-14, 2009 lightweight contender

Diego Sanchez’s heart has been and probably always will be his greatest asset both in and out of competition. Most fans remember his time on the show as being a unique character amongst a lot of characters. He put his food in a blender to drink it so he could digest it quicker and called on the lightning to give him strength before his fights. He won his contract and went down to lightweight and made it to a title shot he would lose to B.J. Penn. Sanchez and the UFC have parted ways but that first season of TUF and Sanchez in particular, UFC President Dana White has said he will always have a soft spot for. Any fan from the Zuffa era of the UFC will always remember “The Nightmare” Diego Sanchez.

2.) Forrest Griffin
TUF Season 1 2005 Light-heavyweight contract winner: 19-7, UFC Light-heavyweight Champion

Griffin and Stephan Bonner’s fight in the Season 1 finale is in the UFC Hall of Fame because it was the challenge, and chance of a lifetime for both fighters. Griffin won by unanimous decision but the fight was so good, it’s been cited as the fight that got season two of TUF greenlit by the then broadcast partner of the UFC, Spike TV. Griffin currently serves as  the Vice President of Athlete Development at the UFC Performance Institute and attends fan events regularly. You can also catch him on many ads from sponsors of the UFC.

3.) Rashad Evans
TUF Season 2 2005 Heavyweight contract winner: 20-8-1, UFC Light-heavyweight Champion

Evans’ pathway to champion, like the man he won it from, came through TUF. So, it was poetic for him to win the contract and win the title when he was officially a UFC fighter. His path was not easy either, he holds wins over Michael Bisping, Chuck Liddell, and the season 1 winner Griffin. He would lose the title to Lyoto Machada, then go on four-fight win streak in a run at trying to regain the title. He lost to Jon Jones at UFC 145 at his second attempt and retired from fighting a few years later. Evans is a 2019 UFC Hall of Fame inductee and can currently be seen doing analyst work at UFC events. He did comeback during 2022 for a fight with Eagle FC.

4.) Michael Bisping
TUF Season 3 2006 Light-heavyweight contract winner: 30-9, UFC Middleweight Champion

Bisping turned out to be, and probably still is tougher than most folks ever knew. His last years before he retired from fighting turned out to be one of the greatest times in MMA. No one thought he was going to win the title in 2016 when he came in as a last minute replacement to face someone that already beat him in Luke Rockhold. Not only did he win the title, but he avenged that loss, and another against Dan Henderson before losing the title to Georges St. Pierre in 2017. Currently he hosts the “Believe You Me” podcast, and serves as a very good desk analyst for UFC events.

5.) Matt Serra
TUF Season 4 2006 Welterweight contract winner: 11-7, UFC Welterweight Champion

Serra has the honor of being the first American Black Belt under Renzo Gracie. He, and Ray Longo are one of the staple MMA gyms in the northeast. Season 4 of TUF featured fighters that many hardcore fans knew already that had fought in the UFC, before the TUF boom. Serra won the contact for his weight class and went on to become champion by beating Georges St.Pierre when no one thought he would. He currently co-hosts the UFC Unfiltered Podcast with Jim Norton and is Head Coach for the Serra/Longo fight team that includes fighters like Chris Weidman, Aljamain Sterling, and Merab Dvalishvili.

6.) Nate Diaz
TUF Season 5 2007 Lightweight contract winner: 20-13, UFC Lightweight Title (& BMF Title) Challenger

Diaz, like his brother both trained under Cesar Gracie and both are black belts in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. The Diaz brothers are modern day samurai and it is hard to talk about one without bringing up the other. Nick paved the way for Nate to shine at a time in the sport when it arrived at the peak it is at now. Diaz called out Conor McGregor and McGregor obliged him for UFC 196 when Rafael dos Anjos had to withdraw due to injury. He was not expected to win coming in on short notice, but he did. Some might think it’s been downhill for McGregor ever since but Diaz has been a main event draw ever since.

7.) Ryan Bader
TUF Team Nogueira vs. Team Mir winner (Season 8) and 2008 Light-heavyweight contract winner: 29-7-1, Current Bellator Heavyweight Champion

Bader was a top five UFC light-heavyweight contender during his time in the UFC. When he won his contract he was on the rise in the division until he ran into Jon Jones. Bader’s big but he moves like a welterweight, especially when he wrestles his opponents. When he switched to Bellator MMA, he was able to win both the heavyweight and light-heavyweight titles. He lost the light heavyweight title to current champion Vadim Nemkov and entered the Bellator Light Heavyweight Grand Prix to try and win it back. TUF seems to have had an impact on him since this is his second Grand Prix since signing with Bellator.

8.) Roy Nelson
TUF: Heavyweights (Season 10) 2009 Heavyweight contract winner: 23-19

Nelson already had a following from hardcore MMA fans in his season of TUF. He had come from the International Fight League (IFL), a team based MMA promotion where was the heavyweight champion. He won the title and defended it twice before the promotion folded so the timing was perfect for him to come into the UFC. Nelson left the UFC in 2017 for Bellator MMA and was in Bellator’s World Heavyweight Grand Prix where he lost to Matt Mitrione and went 1-5 with the promotion. Of his 23 wins, 15 come by way of knockout and as of the Fall of 2020 is a free agent.

9.) Tony Ferguson
TUF: Team Lesner vs. Team dos Santos (Season 13) and 2011 Welterweight contract winner: 25-6, Interim UFC Lightweight Champion

Ferguson, calls himself “El Cucuy” for a good reason. Watch any of his training or preparation for any fight and you will see the likes of something from a training montage in an anime or old kung fu film. If the term “well-rounded” needed a visual explanation for what it means in MMA, Ferguson’s resume would be a fantastic example. Of his 25 wins, 12 come by way of knock out and eight by way of submission. He is currently ranked number seven in the UFC lightweight rankings.

10.) Carla Esparza
TUF: A Champion Will Be Crowned (Season 20) and 2014 Strawweight contract winner: 18-6, Inaugural Strawweight Champion

Esparza was the first strawweight champion in the UFC when they decided to use season 20 to create the divsion. It would wind up being one of the most entertaining divisions in the UFC when it comes to the title holders that would follow Esparza. Coincidentally, she won the inaugural title against the current champion, Rose Namajunas in 2014.  She would eventually lose the title in her first fight as defending champion to Joanna Jędrzejczyk the following year who would defend the title five times before losing to Namajunas 2017 . Esparza is currently ranked number three in the UFC strawweight rankings and is on a five-fight win streak. A title fight or a rematch with Jędrzejczyk could be in her future soon.

TUF now airs on ESPN+ after being on hiatus for a few years and just closed out the Team Volkanovski vs. Team Ortega season that had Alexander Volkanovski recently defend his featherweight title against Brian Ortega at UFC 266. Team Volkanovski fighters Ricky Turcios won the bantamweight contract and Bryan Battle won the middleweight contract.

The show served at a decent promo that led to a great pay-per-view event so don’t expect it to go anywhere. 

Who were your favorite TUF competitors?

Categories
Culture Trading Cards

Top 20 Most Valuable UFC Cards Ever Sold

Televised mixed martial arts (MMA) matches have been growing in popularity over the last two decades with stars like Conor McGregor becoming household names. The UFC (Ultimate Fighting Championship) has hosted multiple matches with pay-per-view buyers in the millions and its Instagram account has 10 million more followers than the NFL.  

UFC isn’t generally considered amongst the “big four” sports in the US (Baseball, Basketball, Football, Hockey), but the audience is growing

We’re going to look at the top 20 most valuable UFC trading cards, which have also seen growth with the popularity of the sport. 

1. Conor McGregor 2017 Topps UFC Chrome Superfractor 1/1 PSA 10 — $73,800
Goldin Co.

The new record for the most expensive UFC card ever sold was set by this 1/1 Superfractor Conor Mcgregor PSA 10 on February 6th, 2022. Goldin Co. sold the card for $73,800. 

McGregor is the most famous UFC fighter with over 40 million followers on social media and he’s been the main event in the top-5 most pay-per-viewed fights all-time for the UFC.

The most popular players of a sport tend to dominate the most valuable trading card sales lists, so this is the first of many McGregor cards that have set records.  

2. Conor McGregor 2021 Panini Prizm UFC Gold Prizm PSA 10 — $26,400
Goldin Co.

The second most expensive UFC trading card ever sold is the 2021 Panini Prizm Conor McGregor Gold Prizm /10 graded a PSA 10. Goldin Co. sold the card for $26,400 in August of 2021. 

The Gold Prizm card depicts McGregor’s signature swinging arms warm-up.

3. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2021 Panini Select UFC Signatures Black Disco Prizm 1/1 PSA 10 — $24,000
Goldin Co.

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s most valuable trading card is his 1/1 Black Disco Prizm from the 2021 UFC select set and it sold for $24,000 in the fall of 2021 at Goldin Co. 

Khabib went undefeated in his UFC career and is one of the most popular players in the sport. 

He fought and defeated Conor McGregor in October 2018 in a record pay-per-view event for the UFC. McGregor may be the most known UFC fighter but Khabib is not far behind despite being retired. 

4. Conor McGregor 2021 Select UFC Prizms Black 1/1 Ungraded — $22,212
eBay

The fourth-highest selling UFC card is a 1/1 Select Prizm Black featuring Conor McGregor that was sold on eBay for $22,212 on December 19th, 2021. 

The card was in ungraded condition when it was sold and the sale was verified by using 130point.com. 

McGregor’s rare cards have led the charge in the development of the UFC card market. He has a strong personality, has attracted a large fanbase, and got himself even more famous when he fought Floyd Mayweather Jr. in 2017. 

5. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2021 UFC Immaculate Premium Patch Auto /8 Ungraded — $17,500
eBay

The fifth most expensive UFC card sold is a Khabib Nurmagomedov Immaculate Patch Autograph numbered to just 8 copies. The card features a match-worn patch with a red on-card autograph and was sold on eBay for $17,500. 

Khabib is a 33-year-old Russian fighter and at the time of his retirement, was considered the top pound-for-pound UFC fighter of all time. 

He fought Conor McGregor in the largest UFC pay-per-view fight of all-time with 2.4 million PPV buys. Khabib won the fight in round 4 by submission. 

6. Conor McGregor 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines Red #139 3/8 BGS 9.5 — $13,669
eBay

Conor McGregor’s 2013 Topps UFC Bloodline Red numbered to 8 copies with a grade of BGS 9.5 sold via eBay auction in November for $13,669. 

McGregor made his UFC debut in 2013 and this set is considered to be McGregor’s rookie set.

7. Conor McGregor 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines Rookie Autograph PSA 10 — $11,685
Goldin Co.

There are just 27 PSA 10 copies of McGregor’s Topps UFC Bloodlines first autograph and a copy sold for $11,685 at Goldin Co. in August 2021. Back in 2016, after McGregor had gained fame and notoriety, copies of this card sold for as low as $271. 

As the market for UFC cards has grown, it wouldn’t be surprising to see this card set a new record when it comes up for sale again. 

8. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2021 UFC Immaculate Premium Patch Auto /5 Ungraded — $11,500
eBay

Khabib Nurmagomedov isn’t the face of the UFC like McGregor, but he’s a popular fighter with over 32 million Instagram followers and his recent card sales show it. His Immaculate Premium Patch Auto features a match-worn patch and red autograph sold ungraded on eBay for $11,500. 

9. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2021 Panini Immaculate UFC 1/1 Logo Reebok Patch Ungraded — $10,507
eBay

Another Khabib Immaculate sold on eBay in ungraded condition for a five-figure sum at $10,507 and this time it was for a 1/1 patch card. 

Immaculate is a popular premium trading card set in other sports and the 2021 UFC Immaculate is the first premium card set for these fighters. The set features patch auto cards, patch cards, and autos. The release of a premium trading card set for the UFC is a sign that the market for collecting these players’ cards is growing. 

10. Khamzat Chimaev Teal 2021 Panini Prizm UFC #7 Prizm /49 PSA 10 — $10,200
eBay

Khamzat Chimaev has 3 million Instagram followers and is currently undefeated in the UFC. Chimaev is a talented freestyle wrestler who made his first UFC debut in July 2020, winning the fight in the second round by submission. 

He’s a fast riser in the UFC and has been compared to Conor McGregor. Chimeave’s 2021 Panini Prizm Teal (numbered to 49 copies) in a PSA 10 sold on eBay for $10,200 via auction on January 31st of this year.

11. Francis Ngannou 2021 Panini Prizm UFC Signatures Prizm Black (#1/1) BGS 9.5/10 — $9,600
Goldin Co.

Francis Ngannou has an incredible backstory. Ngannou is the current UFC heavyweight champion and got there by rising through poverty, ignoring offers to join gangs, focusing on boxing, and enduring homelessness. Ngannou is originally from Cameroon and after working in the sand mines, he knew he had to change his life. 

He focused on fighting and in order to achieve his dream, he crossed borders illegally through the Sahara desert, had to face jail time, and ended up homeless in Paris. Ngannou worked at a homeless shelter and was fortunate that the director of the foundation introduced him to someone who ran a boxing training center in Paris. 

A few years later, he ended up as the heavyweight champion in the UFC. 

Francis Ngannou’s 2021 Prizm UFC Black Autograph 1/1 in a BGS 9.5 grade sold at Goldin Co. for $9,600 on January 8th, 2022.  

12. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2021 Panini Select UFC Signatures Gold Disco Prizm Autograph /10 PSA 10 — $9,600
Goldin Co.

Khabib Nurmagomdeov’s 2021 Panini Prizm Select Signatures Gold Disco Prizm numbered to just 10 copies sold at Goldin Co. for $9,600. 

Khabib went undefeated in his UFC career at 29–0 and multiple of his trading cards across different sets have commanded significant value on the secondary market. 

13. Khabib Nurmagomedov 2021 Panini Select UFC Octagonside Gold Prizm /10 PSA 10 — $9,600
eBay

Khabib Nurmagomedov’s 2021 Select UFC Octagonside Gold Prizm (numbered to 10 copies) in a PSA 10 sold for $9,600 on eBay, yet another nearly five-figure sale for Khabib. 

14. Khamzat Chimaev 2021 UFC Chronicles Gold /10 PSA 10 — $9,100
eBay

Khamzat Chimaev is a rising star in the UFC and his 2021 UFC Chronicles Gold numbered to 10 copies sold on eBay via auction in December 2021 for $9,100. 

The fighter had some trouble with COVID and was forced to cancel fights but was finally able to return in October 2021 after missing a year of action. 

15. Francis Ngannou 2021 UFC Prizm Signatures Gold Autograph /10 BGS 9.5/10 — $8,400
Goldin Co.

Francis Ngannou’s 2021 UFC Prizm Signatures Gold Auto (numbered to 10 copies) sold for $8,400 at Goldin Co. Ngannou last fought on 1/22, beating Ciryl Gane, and in that fight, he demonstrated a continued evolution of his talent. 

Ngannou is already 35 years old but has shown that he can get better as a fighter and still has a long career ahead of him. 

16. Khamzat Chimaev 2021 Panini Prizm UFC Rookie Neon Green /75 PSA 10 — $8,700
eBay

Khamzat Chimaev’s Prizm Neon Green PSA 10 was last sold via auction on eBay for $8,700 on January 24th. 

Chimaev is a rising star in the UFC and has an “it” factor that could make him a superstar. 

17. Ciryl Gane 2021 Panini Prizm Gold /10 BGS 9.5 — $7,500
eBay

Ciryl Gane’s 2021 Panini Prizm UFC Gold Prizm BGS 9.5 sold for $7,500 on eBay. Gane is a 31-year-old French heavyweight MMA fighter who debuted in 2019. 

Gane was the interim Heavyweight Champion of the UFC but lost to Francis Ngannou in the heavyweight championship in January of this year. It is Gane’s only loss in his UFC career. 

18. Conor McGregor 2015 Topps UFC Chronicles Autographs Sepia Autograph (1/1) BGS 9/10 — $6,600
Goldin Co.

Conor McGregor’s 2015 Topps UFC Chronicles Autograph 1/1 BGS 9 sold for $6,600 at Goldin Co. in June 2021. 

McGregor’s market didn’t pick up full-steam until the end of 2021 and early 2022 with his latest record sale it would be interesting to see what this 1/1 McGregor would fetch if it were auctioned off today. 

19. Conor McGregor 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines Autographs BGS 9.5/10 — $6,000
Goldin Co.

In May, Goldin Co. sold this 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines Conor McGregor autographed rookie card in a BGS 9.5 grade for $6,000. This is McGregor’s first auto and came out the year he debuted in the UFC. 

If the UFC card market continues to develop and expand, keep an eye on the 2013 Topps UFC Bloodlines McGregor rookie cards. 

20. Israel Adesanya 2020 Topps UFC Knockout Autographed Fight Mat Relics Gold (#1/1) BGS 9/10 — $5,227
Goldin Co.

Israel Adesanya is a 32-year old MMA middleweight fighter who has gone 21–1 in his UFC career with an upcoming main event match on February 12th.

Goldin Co. sold this copy of his 1/1 2020 Topps UFC Knockout patch autograph BGS 9 card for $5,200.

Adesanya was ranked the 3rd best UFC pound-for-pound fighter and is considered to be one of the best strikers in the UFC. 

Categories
Sports Strength

The History of the UFC Heavyweight Division

In combat sports, the title of Heavyweight Champion carries a special mystique. Whether it’s due to exceptional skill or stature or both, heavyweights are magnets for fame. Boxing has its Muhammad Alis and Mike Tysons; wrestling has its Aleksandr Karelins and Bruce Baumgartners. Mixed Martial Arts is no exception. Below, a complete list of UFC Heavyweight Champions since the inception of the division.

Mark Coleman (16-10 MMA, 7-5 UFC)

Feb. 7th, 1997 – Jul. 27th 1997

Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Def. Dan Severn at UFC 12

Mark Coleman was–is–a maniac! (I mean that in the best way; I’ve met him and he’s awesome). After an accomplished amateur career that included two Ohio high school state titles, an NCAA championship and an appearance in the 1992 Summer Olympics, Coleman devoted himself to the then-new sport of MMA after stumbling onto a broadcast of UFC 1. 

Coleman started his combat sports career in his teens as a wrestler for Saint Joseph Central Catholic High School. After winning two state championships, he went on to wrestle at Miami University, in Ohio, before transferring to The Ohio State University and winning an NCAA championship. After placing 7th at the 1992 Summer Olympics in Barcelona, Spain, Mark happened to see the broadcast of UFC 1. From there, he dove headfirst into this new sport of MMA.

From the outset, Coleman dominated, thanks to a style that earned him the nickname, “The Godfather of Ground and Pound”. It was clear from the start of every fight that Coleman’s one goal was to take the action to the ground and strike his opponent unconscious or until they submitted. Thanks to his elite wrestling and ground and pound ability, he earned the first ever UFC Heavyweight Championship belt by defeating Dan Severn (101-19-7 MMA, 9-4 UFC) in a fight to unify the UFC Superfight Champion and UFC Tournament Champion titles. 

Though he was dominant early, his reign was short; Coleman lost his first and only title defense to a kickboxer named Maurice Smith. His stay may have been short-lived, but his impact is still felt to this day as one of the OG’s of MMA and one of the sport’s tactical trailblazers. 

Maurice Smith (14-17 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Jul. 27th 1997 – Dec. 21st, 1997

Brian Bahr/Getty Images

Def. Mark Coleman at UFC 14

Maurcie Smith’s title reign lasted just a little bit longer than Mark Coleman’s, as Smith notched one title defense against fan-favorite, Tank Abbott (10-15 MMA, 8-10 UFC). 

Prior to joining the UFC, “Mo” was an avid kickboxer. Although he didn’t officially make his kickboxing debut until he was 30 years old, Smith began training at 18. After nine kickboxing matches, a little Pancrase, and a stint on the regional MMA scene, Smith defeated Heavyweight Champion Mark Coleman in his UFC debut, taking the title belt from Coleman and handing him the first loss of his UFC career in the process.Though he ended his career with more losses than wins, Smith etched his name into the history books by delivering one of the biggest upsets in UFC history.

Another (not so favorable) reason he’s going to be remembered is for his controversial loss to Randy Couture in his second title defense.

Randy Couture

(1) Dec. 21st, 1997 – Jan. 1998, (2) Nov 17th, 2000 – Mar. 22nd 2002, (3) Mar. 3rd 2007 – Feb. 2nd, 2008

Josh Hedges / Getty Images

Def. Maurice Smith at UFC Japan

“The Natural” Randy Couture captured the UFC heavyweight strap three times over his 14 year career and also defended it three times. Since August 2007, only one other heavyweight has reigned victorious in six title bouts (more on that guy later), and none more than that. 

Domination. 

Randy’s style was reminiscent of Mark Coleman’s, albeit with Couture being much more well rounded and technical than the “smash heavy” Coleman. Couture became champion for the first time by defeating Maurice Smith in a close, slow-paced fight, but didn’t hold the title for very long.  

In January 1998, Couture signed with Vale Tudo Japan and was stripped of his UFC title. In his return nearly three years later, Couture faced and defeated storied wrestler, Kevin Randleman. After defeating Randleman, Couture successfully defended his title against Pedro Rizzo (20-11 MMA, 10-4 UFC) not once, but twice in a row, as Rizzo was awarded an immediate rematch after a tightly contested first fight. After losing the title to Josh Barnett in March 2002, Couture regained the belt five years later for the third and final time, defeating Tim Sylvia. Couture managed to successfully defend his title for the last time against Gabriel Gonzaga (17-12 MMA, 12-10 UFC), but Couture’s title reign finally reached its end when he faced the ultimate hype train that is Brock Lesnar.

Though he never fought for a title again, Randy Couture remains one of the most legendary and successful heavyweights in the short history of the UFC.

Bas Rutten (28-4-1 MMA, 2-0 UFC)

May 7th, 1999 – June 1999

Josh Hedges / Getty Images

Def. Kevin Randleman at UFC 20

If you’re a fan of MMA, there’s a very good chance you’ve seen an ad with this incredibly spirited gentleman beating the shit out of this crazy-looking pad covered machine. If you haven’t seen it, you’re welcome (see Body Action System). 

Bas Rutten’s UFC career may have been short lived, but he was an astute veteran of combat having had 30 professional fights (all with pancrase) going into his debut. After he battered Tsuyoshi Kohsaka (41-33-2 MMA, 3-3 UFC), Bas got a title shot against Kevin Randleman. In a fight where position was dominated by Randleman, it was the accumulation of strikes that won the fight for Rutten who was fighting off his back nearly the entire fight. This split decision was met with heated controversy and resulted in the change of the judges official scoring system.

Bas vacated the title to drop to middleweight (now light heavyweight) to challenge to be the UFC’s first double champ, however, multiple injuries in preparation for his return led to the end of his UFC career.  

His stint in the UFC was short, but his impact on the sport is still felt today as he was recognized as one of the sports first great technicians, and was regarded for a time as the world’s greatest martial artist. 

Kevin Randleman (17-16 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Nov. 19, 1999 – Nov. 17th, 2000

Susumu Nagao/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Pete Williams at UFC 23

Cue DJ Khalad. It’s time for “another one” with our next wrestler-turned-UFC Heavyweight Champion, Kevin “The Monster” Randleman. Like his mentor, former UFC heavyweight champ Mark Coleman, Randleman was a high school state champion in Ohio who then won two NCAA titles at The Ohio State University. Under Coleman’s tutelage at Team Hammer House, Randleman quickly climbed the ladder after making his UFC debut in 1999. 

After defeating former champ Maurice Smith in his debut and taking the controversial loss to Bas Rutten in his first attempt at gold, Randleman was awarded a second chance to fight for the crown once Rutten abdicated the throne. In his second attempt for the title, Randleman decisively defeated pete Williams in five rounds.

As champion, Randleman successfully defended the belt against Pedro Rizzo (unanimous decision) before losing to multiple time champ, Randy Couture by TKO. Over the next 10 years he fought for the UFC, PRIDE and Strikeforce before retiring at the age of 39. In 2016, he tragically passed away due to heart failure, but his legacy as one of the UFC’s toughest fighters lives on. 

Josh Barnett (35-8 MMA, 7-3 UFC)

Mar. 22nd, 2002 – Jul 26th, 2002

Photo by Mitch Viquez/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Randy Couture at UFC 36

Josh Barnett has been wildly successful in his time as a martial artist, but his career has been marred  by controversy. 

With 29 of his 35 wins coming by KO/TKO or submission, Barnett has been able to put away most of his opponents, including a TKO of Randy Couture to claim the title belt in March, 2002. Still, Barnett would be stripped of the title a few months after the fight after flunking his second steroid test of that year. 

This would be a common occurrence for Barnett throughout his career as he would go on to fail several more times. Although Barnett was one of the most prominent fighters to be caught juicing, he was hardly an anomaly; the UFC had rampant steroid usage problems during its early years, which has since necessitated the intervention of USADA (United States Anti-Doping Agency). 

In 2009, Barnett, now on the Affliction circuit, again tested positive for steroids, spoiling a prospective fight against Fedor Emelianenko (40-6 MMA). 

Josh Barnett is a great fighter, there’s no debating that. He has defeated the likes of Mark Hunt (13-14-1 MMA, 8-10 UFC), and former champions Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira and Frank Mir. The dude can fight, but he never had the chance to fully live up to his potential because he couldn’t (or wouldn’t) stay clean.

Ricco Rodriguez (54-27-1 MMA, 5-2 UFC)

Sep 27th, 2002 – Feb. 28th, 2003

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Randy Couture at UFC 39

Ricco “Suave” Rodriguiez had his first fight in 1999 with his last coming in 2019. He’s successfully fought in three separate decades and, even at the relatively ancient age of  44-years-old, it wouldn’t be a surprise if he fought in fourth.  

After growing up between New Jersey and Staten Island, Ricco later relocated to California to train in Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu. After a few years of competing in BJJ tournaments, he made his MMA debut in 1999. Within two years of starting in MMA, Rodriguezed amassed a 9-1 record before joining the chance to join the UFC. In his early UFC fights, Rodriguez took out perennial warriors Andrei Arlovski, Pete Williams and Tsuyoshi Kosaka, earning the right to challenge for the vacant UFC Heavyweight Championship against none other than the legendary Randy Couture. 

Despite being dominated by Couture for the bulk of the fight, Ricco Suave secured an early takedown with three minutes left in the fifth round, breaking Couture’s orbital bone with vicious elbows and forcing Couture to verbally tap out.  

Rodriguez was now a champion, but not for long—after defeating Randy Couture, Rodriguez lost his title less than 6-months later when he faced an undefeated Tim Sylvia. Sylvia KO’d in the first round and Rodriguez’s time in the UFC came to an end shortly thereafter once his contract expired in 2004. For the next 16 years, Rodriguez bounced around a variety of smaller circuits (even briefly transitioning to boxing), before retiring in 2018. 

Tim Sylvia (31-10 MMA, 9-4 UFC)

(1) Feb. 28th, 2003 – Oct. 15th 2003, (2) Apr. 15th 2006 – Mar. 3rd, 2007

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Ricco Rodriguez at UFC 41

Two fights and three rounds. That is all it took for “The Maine-iac” Tim Sylvia to capture UFC gold.

Well, kind-of… While it only took him the first round of his second UFC event, Sylvia had fought 16 times before joining the promotion. Originally a Karate kid who wrestled in high school, Sylvia played semi-pro football upon graduation until he fully committed himself to MMA.

After a brief three-fight stint on the amatuer circuit, Sylvia won his first 16 professional fights, with 10 of those victories coming either via TKO/KO or a submission. In his 15th pro fight, he KO’d Ricco Rodriguez to become the Heavyweight Champion and managed to successfully defend the title against Gan McGee in February, 2003. Unfortunately for Sylvia, he lost his belt to Frank Mir in his next fight, submitting after being put in an armbar in the first round. 

In 2005, Sylvia faced off against Andrei Arlovski for the vacant belt, but succumbed to an Achilles lock. However, Sylvia got his revenge against Arlovski the next year, knocking out the Belrusian in a rematch and reclaiming the title. Sylvia defended his throne against Arlovski (the final installment of their trilogy) and Jeff Monson, but eventually lost a unanimous decision to Randy Couture, who captured his fifth UFC Championship  in a unanimous decision.  

After his departure from the UFC, Tim fought another 14 times against varying competition, including another fight against Arlovski and one against Fedor Emelianenko (40-6 MMA). 

In 2015, Sylvia was denied medical clearance to fight and announced his retirement in the cage alongside his potential opponent. Although Sylvia hadn’t had enough, the doctors had.

Frank Mir (19-13 MMA, 16-11 UFC)

(1) Jun. 19th, 2004 – Aug. 12th, 2005, (Interim) Dec. 27th, 2008 – Mar. 27th, 2010

Photo by Jon Kopaloff/Getty Images

Def. Tim Sylvia at UFC 48, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira at UFC 92 (Interim)

Like Randy Couture, Frank Mir is a recognizable name, fighting in the UFC 26 times over 16 years. 

A 16 year vet of the UFC, Mir got his start training at the American Kenpo school that his parents owned and then later turned to wrestling as a way to improve his American Kenpo performance. After high school, Frank met UFC matchmaker Joe Silva while training BJJ, who convinced Mir to try out MMA. Two fights and two wins later, Mir earned a shot with the UFC. 

After 6 UFC fights spanning 3 years (2001-04), he got a chance at gold in 2004, squaring off against Tim Sylvia for the vacant UFC Heavyweight title. Mir broke Sylvia arm in the first round. Yes, you read that right. Even though Mir had Sylvia locked up in a straight armbar, Sylvia refused to tap; for his troubles, Sylvia had his arm snapped into four pieces. F*ck that! 

Unfortunately, Mir broke his femur and torn multiple ligaments in his leg. Unable to unify and defend his interim title, Mir was stripped of his belt.  

When he finally came back a year and a half later in February, 2006,  Mir was upset by BJJ blackbelt Marcio Cruz (8-3 MMA, 2-2 UFC), losing by TKO in the first round. After a turbulent two years, Mir spoiled Brock Lesnar’s UFC debut in 2008, earning him a chance to once again fight for the Heavyweight belt. Battling for the interim title against Antonio Rodrigo Noguiera, Mir knocked out the Brazilian with a flurry of punches. Sadly, Mir’s second attempt at defending his title only went marginally better than his first, with Brock Lesnar ground-and-pounding him during their rematch. 

Mir again fought for the interim title (2010), and then the undisputed title (2011), losing both bouts to Shane Carwin and Junior Dos Santos respectively. Since then, Mir is 3-7 in MMA and 0-2 in boxing (kinda – see Triad Combat). 

Andrei Arlovski (32-20 MMA, 21-15 UFC)

(Interim Promoted to Undisputed Champion) Feb. 5th, 2005 – Apr. 15th, 2006

Michael Reaves/Getty Images

Def. Tim Sylvia at UFC 51 (Interim, promoted to undisputed)

“The Pitbull” Andrei Arlovski is the first fighter on this list who’s still actively competing in the UFC. At 42, Arlovski has won 4 of his last 5 fights, most recently notching a victory in October, 2021

Bullied as a kid, Arlovski started Sambo, Judo, and Kickboxing at the age of 16, eventually winning the European Youth Sambo Championships. Shortly after his success in Sambo, Arlovski developed an  interest in MMA, which inspired him to develop other skills and become a more well-rounded martial artist. 

Winning seven of his first 10 fights, Arlovski matched up against Sylvia in 2005 to fight for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship that was created following Frank Mir’s motorcycle accident. In this fight, Arlovski faced Tim Sylvia and finished him with a straight ankle lock after dropping him with a vicious right hand. Arlovski now had gold around his waist!

While waiting for a unification bout against Mir, Arlovski defended his title twice, TKO-ing Justin Eilers (19-7-1 MMA, 1-3 UFC) in the first round and then doing the same to Paul Buentello (35-17 MMA, 3-3 UFC) in the second. As a result of these dominating performances and Mir’s continued absence, Arlovski was promoted and became the undisputed champion.

By this point, though, Sylvia had rebounded from his earlier loss to Arlovski, winning three consecutive fights and setting up a rematch between the two rivals. Ultimately, Sylvia would seize the belt by beating Arlovski in consecutive fights. Although Arlovski has remained a strong presence on the circuit after those losses to Sylvia and undoubtedly still has gas left in the tank (he wants to fight until at least 45), he hasn’t participated in any championship fights since he last lost to Arlovski. Let’s hope he can keep up his strong form and avoid a downward spiral to round out his career as many before him have.

Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira (34-10-1 MMA, 5-6 UFC)

(Interim) Feb. 2nd, 2008 – Dec. 27th, 2008

Buda Mendes/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Tim Sylvia at UFC 81 (Interim)

“Big Nog” Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira practiced judô, boxing and Brazilian jiu-jitsu in his time growing up in Vitoria da Conquista, Brazil. By the age of 25, he was set to make his mixed martial arts debut. Most of his early career was spent fighting for PRIDE, where he faced quite a few of MMA’s top contenders, notching wins over Dan Henderson (32-15 MMA, 9-9 UFC), former champ Ricco Rodriguez and Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1 MMA, 12-6 UFC).

In 2008, nine years and 35 fights into his MMA career, Antonio met and defeated Tim Sylvia (this dude, again??) to capture the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship in comeback fashion, pulling a guillotine choke shortly after being knocked down with strikes late in the third round. After winning the title, Nog and former UFC Champion Frank Mir appeared as coaches on the eighth season of The Ultimate Fighter. After the season, Nogueira and Mir fought for the interim title where Mir won the lopsided affair by TKO in the second round. 

Since then, Big Nog traded wins for losses until hitting a three-fight skid that led to his retirement. Nogueira’s career was marked with him being a dominant force on the ground, with skills exceeding that of any other fighters at the time – and that’s how he should be remembered.

Brock Lesnar (5-3 MMA, 4-3 UFC)

Nov. 15th, 2008 – Oct. 23rd, 2010

Photo by Rey Del Rio/Getty Images

Def. Randy Couture at UFC 91

Our next champion is the WWE’s long-tenured bad boy, Brock Lesnar. Lesnar, like many before and after him, grew up an amatuer wrestler. He went on to compete at Bismarck State College, winning a national junior college title (NJCAA) in his sophomore year before transferring to the University of Minnesota. There, Lesnar became a two-time Big Ten Champion and a one time NCAA Champion. After college, Lesnar transitioned into professional wrestling where he made his debut for the WWE in 2002, just two years into his career.

Lesnar rose to stardom quickly, defeating Dwayne “The Rock” Johnson later that year to become the youngest WWE champion at age 25. Lesnar would spend five more years headlining WWE events before eventually making and winning his MMA debut in 2007. 

In just his 2nd MMA fight, Lesnar faced former UFC Heavyweight Champion, Frank Mir, in a test he would not pass, losing by kneebar. Next, he had a scheduled bout with Mark Coleman that unfortunately never happened due to a Coleman injury (can you imagine how insane those two would look fighting one another??). His replacement, Heath Herring (28-16 MMA, 2-3 UFC) was a formidable opponent, but undoubtedly a step down from Mir. This fight managed to go the distance with Lesnar taking the win by unanimous decision, and was more than enough evidence for the UFC that they could put the WWE star in a fight for the title (plus, dollar signs…)

In a fight for the UFC Heavyweight Championship, we saw the sports most heralded heavyweight champion of the time, Randy Couture, fall in the second round to MMA newbie Lesnar. Brock was able to keep the fight standing and after knocking down Couture with strikes, was able to capitalize and finish the fight by raining down punches. Through 2010, we saw Brock defend his title in two unification bouts, one avenging a loss against Frank Mir with punches, and another by finishing Shane Carwin with an arm-triangle choke. 

Though starting his career incredibly strong, Lesnar went on to lose his title to then-up-and-comer Cain Valezquez by first round TKO. After battling a bout of diverticulitis that required surgery, Lesnar returned to face Alistair Overeem and lost in the first round after taking multiple body shots. In his last fight with the UFC, he faced the storied Mark Hunt in a fight that he dominated, but was later overturned to a no-contest after Lesnar tested positive for performance enhancing drugs.

Though a comeback has been discussed, nothing has come to fruition and at this point, that’s likely a good thing. Lesnar’s time in the UFC was short lived, but nothing less than massively entertaining. With his showmanship and the experience he attained as a top WWE athlete, Lesnar certainly added some fun wrinkles to the UFC history books in the late 2000s.

Shane Carwin (12-2 MMA, 4-2 UFC)

(Interim) Mar. 27th, 2010 – Jul. 3rd, 2010

Donald Miralle/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Frank Mir at UFC 111 (Interim)

Ding, another wrestler! Unlike his wrestling counterparts, though,“The Engineer ” Shane Carwin has a college degree and worked in mechanical engineering alongside his MMA career.

At Western State College, Shane pursued his degree while competing in both wrestling and football, becoming a NCAA D2 Heavyweight Champion and participating in the Senior Bowl in 1997. This guy can handle a lot at once!

That being the case, Carwin took his time and eventually made his debut in MMA in 2005. He took 8 fights over the course of two years, winning them all and earning his shot in the UFC. Between 2008-09, The Engineer fought Christain Wellisch, Neil Wain, and Gabriel Gonzaga, winning each fight in the first round and demonstrating spectacular punching power. This led to him having the opportunity to compete for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship against Frank Mir. 

Carwin’s punching power reigned supreme in a fight where he smashed Mir against the fence and proceeded to hammer him with short punches before falling to the ground and being finished off with ground and pound from the back. Carwin captured a piece of UFC gold and was set to unify the title in a bout against out next champion, Brock Lesnar. This unification didn’t go Carwin’s way, and he lost his following bout to Junior dos Santos, but he remains as one of the more powerful punchers in UFC history.

Shane Carwin never fought MMA again, but did fight a modified rules boxing match against skateboarder Jason Ellis in 2016, where he had his right arm duct taped to his body. Nonetheless–surprise, surprise–he still won by knockout.

Cain Velasquez (14-3 MMA, 12-3 UFC)

(1) Oct. 23rd, 2010 – Nov. 12th, 2011, (2) Dec. 29th 2012 – Jun. 13th, 2015

Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Brock Lesnar at UFC 121

Cain Velasquez stands as one of the most intimidating forces to ever compete inside a UFC octagon. Sure, he has some blemishes to his record, but he still stands as one of the most gifted and awe-inspiring heavyweight fighters who ever was.

That said, can you guess what sport he started in? You might as well guess wrestling, because you’ll be right almost every time. After a high school career that saw him compile a record of 110-10, Velasquez went on to win an NJCAA National Championship for Iowa Central Community College before transferring to Arizona State University. There, he secured 5th and 4th place finishes at the NCAA tournament in his final two years (2005-06).

Right after college, Velasquez joined American Kickboxing Academy (AKA) and began training to take his first fight. That same year, he fought twice, winning his first two bouts within the first round due to strikes. That was enough to earn him a shot at the UFC; his domination continued as he rattled off eight wins in a row, including one over “Big Nog”, with only one of them not coming by KO/TKO. 

Enter “The Next Big Thing” Brock Lesnar. Though Brock started strong by landing a takedown, Velasquez eventually made it back to his feet and ended the fight with elite striking. Not only did he derail the Lesnar hype train, he captured UFC gold! Unfortunately, he tore his rotator cuff in the midst of the fight and was sidelined for a year before making his first title defense, which was against a Brazilian up-and-comer named Junior dos Santos. This fight was billed as an exciting clash but many expected Velasquez to dominate in retaining his title. Just one minute into the skirmish, it was a sweeping overhand by dos Santos that connected, put Velasquez down and led to the finishing sequence of punches. 

Though his title reign ended quickly, it wasn’t long before he was fighting for gold once again, defeating Antonio Silva 6-months later to earn another shot at JDS. This time, the fight went much more as expected, seeing Velasquez dominate dos Santos for all five rounds on his way to a unanimous decision win, where he landed double digit takedowns, and triple digit significant strikes. Once again, one of the most imposing forces in MMA was the UFC Heavyweight Champion.

After capturing the title for a second time, Velasquez was back to his finishing ways, defending the title against Antonio Silva and JDS, winning both before the bell thanks to his heavy hands. Then came Fabricio Werdum. Werdum had won the Interim title a few months before, as Velasquez had gotten injured in preparation for their initial title fight. Once they finally met in the octagon, Werdum was able to finish Cain by guillotine choke in the third round, marking the first time he had lost via submission in his nearly 10-year career. 

A rematch was scheduled for February of 2016, but both fighters needed more time as injuries arose. Upon his return, Velasquez faced and defeated Travis Browne (18-7-1 MMA, 10-7 UFC), but in another attempt to face Werdum, he was not cleared by the Nevada State Athletic Commission due to bone spurs in his back. 

Velasquez took one last fight in February 2019 against Francis N’Gannou, where, in 26 short seconds, a short uppercut dropped him and led to him to being finished by ground and pound.

Though Velasquez has yet to fight again, he is currently competing as a professional wrestler for Lucha Libre AAA Worldwide and has made appearances in the WWE. He seems to be moving on from real fighting to opt more for entertainment, and good on him for continuing to use his athletic skills to bring something worth watching to the world.

Junior dos Santos (21-9 MMA, 15-8 UFC)

Nov. 12th, 2011 – Dec. 29th 2012

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Def. Cain Velasquez at UFC on Fox: Velasquez vs. dos Santos

Finally, enough with the wrestlers! “Cigano”, Junior dos Santos or JDS for short, grew up in Brazil training in capoeira before committing to BJJ at the age of 21. He turned pro just one year later (2006), winning his first 5 fights in little over a year’s time. After winning six of his first seven fights, he made his debut for the UFC as a clear underdog against Fabricio Werdum. In a stunning turn of events, JDS knocked Werdum out in under two-minutes, earning him the knockout of the year for the UFC. 

To follow the impressive start, Cigano followed with six wins in a row to fight for the title against the aforementioned Cain Velasquez. As we explored, it was a massive overhand that sent Velasquez tumbling and earned JDS his first UFC Heavyweight Championship. Six months later, he successfully defended his title against perennial contender, Frank Mir, defeating him with superior boxing and finishing the fight in the second round. 

Seven months later, JDS faced Velasquez for a second time and lost his title by unanimous decision. Though he would go on to challenge for the title a few more times throughout his career, Dos Santos has yet to capture it again and is most recently riding a four-fight losing streak against a row of killers (Francis N’Gannou, Curtis Blaydes, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and Ciryl Gane).

In March of 2021, it was announced that JDS was being released from the UFC and we have since seen him also compete in professional wrestling, but for an organization called All Elite Wrestling (AEW).

Fabricio Werdum (24-9-1 MMA, 12-6 UFC)

(Interim) Nov. 15th, 2014 – Jun. 13th 2015, (2) Jun. 13th, 2015 – May 14th, 2016

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images

Def. Mark Hunt at UFC 180 (Interim), Cain Velasquez at UFC 188 (Undisputed)


Fabricio “Vai Cavalo” Werdum’s venture into combat sports is unlike any others on this list; it started only after he was choked out in a triangle choke by his girlfriend’s ex-boyfriend.

Ouch. Talk about a blow to the ego. Luckily for Werdum, there’s a pretty good chance that he’s way more successful than Mr. Steal Ya Girl. 

Werdum made his professional debut in 2002, winning six of his first seven fights, the one blemish being a draw. At this time, Fabricio was competing in PRIDE, facing top competition pre-UFC (Alistair Overeem, Antonio Rodrigo Nogueira). In 2007, Vai Cavalo made his UFC debut against Andrei Arlovski, losing by unanimous decision to the former UFC Heavyweight champ. Over the next seven years, Werdum would fight 11 times between the UFC and Strikeforce before putting together a four-fight win streak to earn the opportunity at the Heavyweight belt. Due to the fact that the champion of the time, Cain Velasquez, was injured,  Werdum instead fought Mark Hunt for the UFC Interim Heavyweight Title. Werdum finished Mark halfway through the second round, throwing a long knee from range, connecting perfectly to send him to the canvas. 

Finally, on June 13th of 2015, Werdum challenged for the UFC Undisputed Heavyweight Championship, defeating Velasquez by guillotine choke in the third round, and was declared the unquestioned champion of the heavyweight division. In his first and only title defense, he faced first-time title challenger, Stipe Miocic. While charging forward and throwing a flurry, Werdum was caught with a counter right-hand that sent him crashing into the canvas. He was out cold.

Since then, Werdum traded wins and losses through his final contract with the UFC, and in 2021 decided to go fight for the PFL (Professional Fighters League). His first and only fight with them was met with controversy as it seemed his opponent tapped to a choke prior to a fight ending sequence that left Werdum on the losing end. The fight has since been reviewed and overturned to a no-contest.

Stipe Miocic (20-4 MMA, 14-4 UFC)

(1) May 14th, 2016 – Jul. 7th, 2018, (2) Aug. 17th 2019 – Mar. 27th, 2021

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Def. Fabricio Werdum at UFC 198

Stipe Miocic is widely considered as the greatest UFC Heavyweight of all time. While capturing the title twice, he also defended it four times, including a record three in-a-row. No heavyweight in the world has dominated the top of the UFC Heavyweight division quite like Miocic. And guess what… we’ve got ourselves another wrestler!

Born in Euclid, OH, Miocic grew up a multi-sport athlete between football, baseball and wrestling. He went on to play baseball and wrestle between Cleveland State, Trevecca Nazarene, and Coker College. He was initially brought into Strong Style MMA to wrestle with former UFC contender, Dan Bobish, and soon began training himself. After becoming a Golden Gloves Champion and competing at nationals, the former NCAA Division I wrestler developed the tools to dominate those at his level, making his debut in 2006 and winning his first six fights by KO.

Such a run earned him a shot in the UFC. Between his UFC debut in 2011 and 2016, Miocic fought 10 times, winning eight fights, five of which were finished with strikes. This was enough to earn him a shot against the current champion, Fabricio Werdum.The fight was set in Werdum’s home country of Brazil and was attended by a notably hostile crowd that was eager to watch the challenger fall. Unfortunately for them, Miocic had other plans. Early in the fight, Werdum blitzed forward, leaving himself exposed. Miocic saw the opening and put Werdum out cold with one precise punch. A new champion was crowned, and Stipe brought a championship back to the city of Cleveland for the first time since 1964.

After defeating Werdum, Miocic defended his title three times against the often challenging Alistair Oveerm, Francis N’Gannou, and former champion Junior dos Santos. He then met UFC Light Heavyweight Champion, Daniel Cormier. Late in the first round, while escaping the clinch, Miocic exited with his hands low and caught a short shot that put him on the ground. The fight was over shortly afterward and Daniel Cormier was crowned champion. More than a year later, the two fought a second time, with this fight being one of the toughest in Miocic’s career. Although he was outmatched for much of the fight, Miocic found an opening by way of body shots late into the fourth round. By taking advantage and hammering Cormier’s body, he was able to land some ferocious shots to the head and put Cormier to the canvas for the win and the championship. Since both fighters had just traded wins, the UFC booked the trilogy, a third fight between the two. This time, in a much less damaging fight for both men, we saw Miocic grind out a very tactical, hard fought win, coming by way of unanimous decision. This fight marked Miocic’s record-setting 6th win in UFC Heavyweight Title fights and cemented him in the record books.

Daniel Cormier (22-3 MMA, 11-3 UFC)

Jul. 7th, 2018 – Aug. 17th, 2019

Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Def. Stipe Miocic at UFC 226

Daniel Cormier’s successful career has been tied heavily to two individuals: Stipe Miocic and Jon Jones, the only two men to defeat DC over the course of his 11-year, 26-fight career. The last of his kind on this list, DC was an elite wrestler coming out of Lafayette, Louisiana. He started at Colby Community College, going 61-0, before transferring to Oklahoma State University. There he finished second in the country, losing in the NCAA finals to wrestling legend, Cael Sanderson. His final record at OSU was 53-10.

After college, Cormier competed in the 2004 and 2008 Olympics, finding success as an Olympic level wrestler. Following his Olympic achievements, he turned to training MMA. Though he finished his career as a heavyweight, he fought most of his career at light heavyweight. Cormier dominated nearly everybody in his early MMA career, starting in Strikeforce and compiling an 11-0 record before getting called to the UFC. Even then, he faced little adversity in his first four fights with the UFC. Then came Jon Jones. If you’ve made it this far, chances are you know who Jon Jones is and the ups and downs that come with one of MMA’s most outstanding and chaotic fighters. 

In this first title challenge for the UFC Light Heavyweight Championship, we saw DC lose a unanimous decision to the undefeated Jones. Months later, Jones was stripped of the title due to a felony hit-and-run, and DC was set to challenge for the title once again, this time against Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (23-6 MMA, 13-6 UFC). After defeating Johnson by rear-naked choke, DC went on to defend his title three times, including a second time against Rumble Johnson. In between came another heartbreaking loss to Jon Jones, which was overturned to a no-contest, because Jones tested positive for performance-enhancing drugs. As such, the title stayed in DC’s hands. 

After such a dominant reign at LHW, DC wanted to move up and challenge Stipe for the UFC Heavyweight Championship. In their first meeting, DC was able to capitalize on that short right hand when leaving the clinch to put down Miocic and secure the victory to win Heavyweight gold. Soon after, he defended his title successfully against “The Black Beast”, Derrick Lewis, winning by rear-naked choke. Then came the final two fights against Stipe that resulted in two subsequent losses and the retirement of one Daniel Cormier.

DC had a storied and successful career, a career marked by being on the other side of two extremely dominant champions. This does not denote his achievements, but many will remember him by being the other side of Jon Jones–and in my opinion, that’s a lot better than being Jon Jones.

Francis N’Gannou (16-3 MMA, 11-2 UFC)

Mar. 27th, 2021 – Present

Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

Def. Stipe Miocic at UFC 260

One of the most terrifying men to walk this earth, Francis “The Predator” N’Gannou is not a man from whom anyone wants to line up across the cage. Born and raised in a village in Cameroon, Francis worked in sand quarries, harboring dreams of pursuing professional boxing. By the age of 22, he started training and by 26, he took off to Paris, France to pursue professional fighting.

Once he arrived in Paris, he ended up at the MMA factory where he trained and lived at no cost. This is where Fernand Lopez, the MMA Factory’s head coach, convinced N’Gannou to pursue MMA instead. In 2013, Francis made his MMA debut. He won five of his first six bouts before garnering the attention of the UFC. Once there, he rattled off six wins in a row, many by landing huge strikes that sent his opponents crumbling. Thus, his title shot had arrived. In his first try at gold, he was tasked with facing Stipe Miocic. Although N’Gannou unloaded his full arsenal, he was unable to secure the victory, losing a unanimous decision to Miocic.

He then had one of the most slow-paced, not action packed fights in the UFC’s history against Derrick Lewis. Both being known for having insane knockout power, neither guy was willing to get too close or do too much in a fight that saw Lewis come out with the win (they should’ve both been given an L). Since then, he put together 4 wins in a row, all in the first round, where he connected with brutal punches that no man has been able to handle. Again, he earned an opportunity to challenge Miocic for the title. In this title challenge, we saw N’Gannou come out much more measured and calculated. He still threw the big shots, but he was charging forward and throwing less, opting to stay patient and pick his shots. A very scary sight indeed. This time around he was able to find the punch that would put Miocic down and garner him the UFC Heavyweight Championship. 

N’Gannou is scary, with nobody seemingly able to match the power he has in his hands. However, the newest UFC Interim Heavyweight Champion may have the recipe.

Cyril Gane (10-0 MMA, 7-0 UFC)

(Interim) Aug. 7th, 2021 – Present

Alex Bierens de Haan/Getty Images

Hailing from La Roche-sur-Yon, France, Ciryl Gane grew up playing proper football and basketball but didn’t pursue either at a higher level. While working at a furniture store, he was introduced to Muay Thai and subsequently made his professional Muay Thai debut in 2016, winning by second round knockout. After winning four more in a row, he faced multiple time WBC MuayThai champion Yassine Boughanem and won the fight by decision–particularly impressive considering he had started fighting for only a few years.

In 2018, Gane made his professional MMA debut. He won three in a row before signing with the UFC. Under the UFC’s banner, Gane has won seven fights in a row, including a finish against Derrick Lewis, to capture the UFC Interim Heavyweight Championship. We have since found out that Gane is a former sparring partner of Francis N’Gannou and possesses the physical tools to move in and around the Cameroonian–to land strikes and not be struck. The two are scheduled to fight on January 22nd in what’s sure to be an entertaining match.

Categories
NFT Tech

November 3rd’s NF3 Recap: UFC NFT, The Sandbox raises $93M and 76ers’ NFT Drop

If this is your first time joining us today, welcome! If you want to check out yesterday’s NF3 Recap, please do, as there were many new updates in the NFT community you don’t want to miss out on.

In our NF3 Recap today, we are going to take an in-depth jab at the exclusive UFC NFT launch. Also, we will be exploring how The Sandbox metaverse game managed to raise $93M. Finally, we will be taking a court-side look at the official Philadelphia 76ers NFT drop, with Crypto.com.

This article does not constitute formal financial advice. Always do your own research before investing.

1. UFC to launch their exclusive NFT with Crypto.com

The UFC and Crypto.com are collaborating to launch the UFC’s first official NFT. The exclusive drop will include what they are calling the UFC 268 Packs, which are limited edition fighter belts, as well as event and fight posters that are based on UFC 268: Usman v Covington 2, going down this Saturday.

Something that is really special about the UFC NFT drop is that involved athletes will receive 50% of the revenue from NFT sales, compared to the unjust 18% revenue they are used to receiving. This marks a huge turning point in UFC history and the entertainment industry in general, giving the power and the profit back to the actual entertainers.

The UFC packs are dropping this Thursday on Crypto.com, for $40 per pack, with a limit of 2 packs per person. Whoever happens to collect a special UFC 268 pack by November 7, 2021, 9am ET, will be entered into the UFC 268 sweepstakes for a chance to win exclusive UFC prizes. If you are a UFC fan, this is the NFT project for you.

2. The Sandbox metaverse raises $93M with the help of SoftBank

The popular NFT-based metaverse game, The Sandbox, recently raised $93M in a funding round which was led by SoftBank—a Japanese holding company focused on investment management, mostly investing in companies dealing with energy, financials, and technology. 

The Sandbox is actually the first crypto investment by the SoftBank Vision Fund 2, an estimated $30B investment fund. Apparently in an interview with The Sandbox CEO, Arthur Madrid, he mentioned that the $93M the company raised will help them expand beyond just games and into other economies such as architecture, art galleries, fashion, museums, and a whole lot more.

The money will go towards hiring more staff, creating a multiplayer option, and increasing the number of intellectual property and brands that are a part of The Sandbox economy. This large sum of money will surely help The Sandbox propel their brand into something spectacular, and further proves that NFTs aren’t just a fad, but rather the future of assets.

3. 76ers launch their Legacy NFT collection in partnership with Crypto.com

Today, NBA team Philadelphia 76ers dropped the team’s first ever Legacy NFT collection in collaboration with Crypto.com. The drop which went live this morning, showcases 13 officially licensed NFT commemorative tickets that highlight legendary moments that took place during the “Philadelphia Spectrum” era of basketball. Portions of the proceeds from the NFT will go to the Sixers Youth Foundation.

Collectors and fans of the 76ers team can win big when they complete challenges to unlock exclusive rewards. Rewards are as follows:

  • Hold any Original Series NFTs in your wallet by May 1, 2022  and you will have the option to redeem an Ultimate 76ers fan experience for 2 consisting of Lunch at the Training Complex prepared by team chef, watch the team practice, meet & greet, a game-worn jersey, and a commemorative piece of the original Philadelphia Spectrum court.
  • Holding all 13 Banner Series NFTs in your NFT wallet by May 1, 2022 unlocks the right to redeem a special commemorative piece of the original Philadelphia Spectrum court, a custom jersey, a personalized message from a 76ers Legend, and VIP access to a 76ers event!
  • If you hold 13 Signature Series NFTs in your wallet by May 1, 2022, you unlock the right to redeem an exclusive commemorative piece of the original Philadelphia Spectrum court and a custom jersey.

This NFT project is a great example of how brands and businesses can use NFTs to offer their fans and consumers more value and a more personal experience.

Other cool mentions

In other cool news, Ex-Activision, Lucasfilm developers announced they are working on a new open-world game with the ability to collect, buy, sell, and trade NFTs, earned from the game. The game, called  Metalcore, is a multiplayer combat game that aims to combine traditional gaming with blockchain technology. 

The first pre-sale for Metalcore plans to be held January, 2022. 

To finish off today’s NF3 Recap, I thought I’d share some commentary from a CNN interview with venture capitalist and co-founder of Metagood, Bill Tai. When asked to explain NFTs’ massive growth and if the growth was realistic, Bill mentioned that a report done by Jeff Reece a couple weeks ago, estimated the asset value of NFTs in 2020 to be $380M, and year-to-date, somewhere in the area of $10B for 2021. 

Bill said in the interview, “Never before in tech have we seen something grow at this rate, at 20 to 30 fold in actual dollar volume of transactions, and it’s hard to say that it is a wave that is going to go away.”

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Sports Strength

3 Fighters To Watch at UFC 267

UFC 267 is set to bring chaos to your screen on a Saturday morning/afternoon on Oct. 30th, with the prelims kicking off at 10:30 AM EST and the main event following at 2:00 PM EST. 

This card is headlined by two resurgent warriors, with current Light Heavyweight Champion, Jan Blachowicz (28-8 MMA, 11-5 UFC) taking on Glover Teixeira (32-7 MMA, 15-5 UFC). Although neither Blachowicz nor Teixeira offer the mainstream appeal of a Conor McGregor or Israel Adesanya, both men have won their previous five fights and have the talent to cap off a talent-packed card featuring veterans and newcomers alike. 

There are many fighters to be excited about, but these are three fighters you need to watch this weekend:

1) Islam Makhachev (20-1 MMA, 9-1 UFC)

Islam Makhachev has had no problem finding praise or hype when it comes to his fighting career; in fact, he’s often dubbed “Little Khabib” because of his resemblance to newly retired, former undefeated UFC Champion, Khabib Nurmagomedov. Beyond the superficial reasons for the comparison (Makhachev and Nurmagomedov are both Dagestani), Makhachev displays a discipline and willingness to expand his skill set outside of fight camp that’s similar to that of his more famous compatriot.  In a recent interview, legendary coach Javier Mendez, the founder of the MMA gym AKA (American Kickboxing Academy), offered some insight into Makhachev’s work ethic. “[Makhachev goes] home and [finds] other guys to teach him how to strike,” Mendez said. “I’d tell him to train with this guy, train with that guy and find somebody that’s a good striking guy and learn from them.”

Even if Makhachev has already proven his bona fides as a fighter, a victory in his upcoming matchup with Dan “The Hangman” Hooker (the sixth-ranked light heavyweight who boasts eye-catching wins over Paul Felder, Gilbert Burns, and Jim Miller) would cement Makhachev’s place amongst the elite. Keep an eye on Islam Makhachev this weekend and moving forward, lest you miss moments like this:

2) Khamzat Chimaev (9-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC)

For our second fighter to watch, we’re keeping it in Dagestan with the king of “smeshing”, Khamzat Chimaev. This man is a FORCE. Khamzat burst onto the scene in 2020, making waves for taking two fights in 10 days for the UFC and winning them both in dominant fashion, finishing both John Phillips and Rhys McKee with ease. One more time – two fights, TEN DAYS. Observe the carnage:

I know what you’re thinking, “Who could doubt this man after that!?” But despite this, Chimaev received criticism from many who claimed that his profile had been propped up by victories against underwhelming fighters. During the run-up to Chimaev’s fight against UFC vet Gerald Meerschaert in September 2020, Meerschaert crowed about Chimaev’s weak quality of competition—and then got silenced by Chimaev a mere 17 seconds into their bout the next day. I don’t know what most people can do in only 17 seconds, but here’s what he can:

Since that victory, though, it’s been a tough 13 months for Chimaev as he struggled against a case of COVID-19 that was so severe it forced him to contemplate retirement. In an article by Brett Okamoto at ESPN, Khamzat stated, “I was never scared about my life. I’m scared about what my mom is going to do after I die. My mom, my brothers— was thinking, ‘What are they gonna do after I die?’ I start with this MMA shit because of my family. I want to make some good life with them.”

Thankfully, Chimaev recovered and UFC 267 represents his much-anticipated return to the sport. Making Chimaev’s return even more exciting, though, is that he’s matched up against Li Jinliang (18-6 MMA, 10-4 UFC), a very dangerous and stylistically interesting opponent for Chimaev; Jinliang (also known as “The Leech”) looks to move forward and impose his will on his opponents, which may cause Chimaev trouble. Still, if Chimaev can rediscover his pre-Covid form and control the center of the octagon, this could be an exciting affair that re-establishes Chimaev as one of the most dangerous prospects tearing through the welterweight division.

3) Lerone Murphy (10-0-1 MMA, 2-0-1 in UFC)

What better way to end this than with a red-hot prospect boasting an undefeated record with 60% of his wins coming by first-round KO/TKO!? This weekend, the world will formally meet Lerone “The Miracle” Murphy. 

On his way to the UFC, “The Miracle” chose violence, finishing 5 of 7 fights spectacularly. What’s even more spectacular is what led him to the sport in the first place.

As reported by Joe Coleman at talkSPORT, at the age of 21 Murphy was shot twice in the face. After being shot, he reportedly spit out the bullets that had hit him in the chin and neck, and was rushed to the hospital. It was at this point he decided to begin training MMA, and in 6-months he had his first amateur fight. In just 5 years he was able to make his way through the ranks and to the UFC, where he fought arguably his toughest fight in a split decision draw against mainstay Zubaira Tukhugov. While Murphy was dropped early in the first round, he demonstrated incredible resilience by battling back and showing the judges nearly enough to win the fight.  

Murphy went on to win his next two fights to remain undefeated, including this one against Ricardo Ramos via merciless ground-and-pound:

His opponent at UFC 267 is “Mr. Finland” Makwan Amirkhani (16-6 MMA, 6-4 UFC) who began his UFC career by scoring an 8-second TKO via flying knee.

Amirkhani is certainly a quality opponent that provides a true test to Mr. Murphy’s “0,” but one that he’s one that Murphy can handle breezily, nonetheless. 

Be sure to tune in to UFC 267 on Saturday, Oct. 30th, and remember, the prelims begin at 10:30AM EST with the main card following at 2PM EST.

Categories
Sports Strength

Tyson Fury Knocks Out Deontay Wilder, All Hail The Gypsy King

This past weekend, two of the best heavyweight boxers in the world, Tyson Fury and Deontay Wilder put on one of the greatest title fıghts in boxing history. Consider the stats: 

  • Five knockdowns (two for Wilder, three for Fury)
  • Round 3: Fury knocks down Wilder 
  • Round 4: Wilder responds with 2 vicious knockdowns with his patented right hand 
  • Fury gets up and dominates the rest of the next six rounds outlanding Wılder 150-72 (BoxScene, October 10, 2021)
  • Which leads to Wilder gettıng knocked down twice in the 11th round and the eventual TKO victory for the Gypsy King Tyson Fury.

Even if this marked the third act of a trilogy between two boxing titans, the run-up to this fight lacked the pomp and circumstance that usually accompanies a heavyweight title bout. Whereas most third acts function as rubber-matches between two evenly-matched fighters, Fury outboxed Wilder in their first fight which ended in a tie and then thoroughly dismantled Wilder in their February 2020 match-up. Wilder may have proven his bonafides as a champion, but most fans thought he didn’t deserve another title shot. Still, due to issues caused by promoters and convoluted politics, Fury was forced to fight Wilder for a third time. Accordingly, Wilder was largely underestimated because he didn’t seem capable of executing a game plan that could trouble Fury.  

From the opening bell, Wilder came out looking like a different fighter–at least for the fırst three rounds. At 238 pounds, Wilder was 25 pounds heavier than he was in the trilogy’s second installment back in February 2020. Already one of the hardest hitters in boxing history, Wilder doubled down on his power at the cost of some stamina and endurance, realizing that his best shot to win would be via knockout.

Despite packing on extra weight and strength, Wilder adopted a surprisingly measured approach during the first three rounds, peppering Fury with body blows in an attempt to lower Fury’s hands and set up a knockout blow. Moreover, Wilder established himself as the aggressor and controlled the fight, consistently pinning Fury against the ropes. 

After a knockdown in the fourth by Fury, Wilder went back to his roots and started headhuntıng. Even if Wilder’s aggression allowed him to knock Fury down twice in the fifth round, this undisciplined approach caused Wilder to lose the ability to control the ring. 

As such, after getting knocked down twice in the fifth, Tyson Fury slowly took over the fight, using his lightnıng-quıck 1-2 combinations and his own sheer mass to methodically drain Wilder of any power or energy. At 277 pounds, Fury possesses a rare combination of size and agility. Last February, Fury outclassed Wilder with his footwork, technical brilliance and tactical wherewithal, frustrating the Alabama native by dancing around the cage like a British Muhammad Ali. This time, though, Fury relied on his gigantitude, leaning on Wilder throughout the fight. In doing so, Fury revealed the fatal flaw of the bulked-up Wilder’s plan of attack, exploiting Wilder’s lack of stamina and leading to the eventual TKO. This diversity of boxing ability and technique is what makes the Gypsy King the greatest heavyweight of the generation. 

While fight #3 initially seemed less interesting than the previous two, it was by far the best. With his heart and newfound stylistic diversity, Deontay Wilder proved that he’s more than a one-handed knockout merchant; by lasting 11 rounds against the hulking Fury, he demonstrated incredible resilience and even managed to deliver damage in the later rounds. This talent—the potential to end a fight at any moment, no matter how woozy or hobbled he may be—is what makes Wilder such a special fighter.

As for Fury’s next move, Oleksandr Usyk is the clear fight, since this would offer the opportunity to unify the heavyweight titles. By beatıng Anthony Joshua last month, Usyk proved that he can compete with bigger heavyweights after moving up from the cruiserweight division. If Fury can overwhelm Usyk the same way he did Wilder, he would not only become the undisputed heavyweight champion of the world, but etch his name in the history books as one of the greatest boxers of all time.

Categories
Sports Strength

What is the Best Season Of ‘The Ultimate Fighter?’

The 29th season of The Ultimate Fighter wrapped itself up at UFC on ESPN 30 and it saw Bryan Battle and Ricky Turcios go home with the UFC contracts in the middleweight and bantamweight divisions, respectively.

The coaches for the season were current featherweight champion Alexander Volkanovski and Brian Ortega. That choice was met with some criticism initially, with other choices like Masvidal and Covington seemingly being the preference from fans. In the end it worked out well enough, with the featherweights developing a rivalry that wouldn’t have been there had it not been for the show.

After UFC on ESPN 30, Dana confirmed that the show will return next year and will always be around. What better time to look back on the seasons than now? We did just that, ranking them from worst to best.

29. Season 6 (2007)
Winner: Mac Danzig
Tapology

The coaches for this season were former TUF winner Matt Serra and Matt Hughes. On paper, perhaps it should have been one of the better seasons with two Mt. Rushmore welterweights, but it just didn’t come to fruition, largely due to a lack of talent.

28. Season 26 (2017)
Winner: Nicco Montaño
MMA Junkie

The only reason this season doesn’t fall to last place is the fact that there was a new champion crowned. Although, many felt the women’s flyweight division was created purely for Valentina to get a title and Nicco Montaño ended up having a lacklustre UFC career, never defending the belt and missing weight multiple times.

27. Season 16 (2012)
Winner: Colton Smith
Sherdog

This season’s fighters lacked star power, with the fighter that most would know being Neil Magny, who got finished in the semi-finals. Roy Nelson and Shane Carwin as coaches was disappointing too, not to mention the fact that they never ended up fighting each other.

26. Season 19 (2014)
Winners: Eddie Gordon & Corey Anderson
Fight Booth

On paper, this one sounded like it was special because it boasted lightweight greats Frankie Edgar and B.J. Penn as coaches. However, by this point, Frankie had already beaten B.J. twice before. In hindsight, B.J. was already into his 7-fight losing streak here.

25. Season 25 (2017)
Winner: Jesse Taylor
MMA Weekly

This season featured the drama between T.J. Dillashaw and Cody Garbrandt which was entertaining but felt monotonous by the end. The premise of this season was former contestants getting redemption and just felt like the UFC banking on nostalgia.

24. Season 28 (2018)
Winners: Juan Espino & Macy Chiasson
MMA Junkie

Had former champion Robert Whittaker and former TUF winner Kelvin Gastelum not been the coaches for this season, it would be even lower on the list. The coaches’ challenges were the main source of entertainment here. Whittaker even criticised his own team for being lazy after the show.

23. Season 29 (2021)
Winners: Ricky Turcios & Bryan Battle
Fanbyte

It was a pleasant surprise to see some back and forth jawing from Volkanovski and Ortega on the show, but even then, some of the pranks felt a little childish. Ricky Turcios came out of the show with the most memorable moments, with Dana comparing him to TUF 1 winner Diego Sanchez.

22. Season 8 (2008)
Winners: Efrain Escudero & Ryan Bader
MMA Full Contact

The show deserves credit for producing pro-wrestling star Tom Lawlor and of course, current Bellator heavyweight champion Ryan Bader. It also had some funny coaching moments from Mir and Nogueira, the former knocking out the latter to win the interim UFC title.

21. Season 7 (2008)
Winner: Amir Sadollah
FiebreSeries

This season is perhaps most well-known today for being the one where Rampage smashed a door to pieces, but that doesn’t quite do it justice. It produced big names like Matt Brown and WWE superstar Matt Riddle.

20. Season 22 (2015)
Winner: Ryan Hall
Amazon

With the line-up of coaches, TUF 22 was always going to be one of its most popular. It featured Conor McGregor, fresh off of his win over Chad Mendes, going up against Urijah Faber. Ryan Hall was undefeated until his last fight in July.

19. Season 14 (2011)
Winners: John Dodson & Diego Brandão
MMA Mania

Looking back, this season was a gem and has aged very well. Bisping and Mayhem Miller were coaches and some of the fighters included T.J. Dillashaw, Jimmie Rivera, Dennis Burmedez and John Dodson. Miller also brought in current champ Kamaru Usman as a wrestling coach, before he even had his first professional MMA fight.

18. Season 13 (2011)
Winner: Tony Ferguson
SB Nation

Funnily enough, this season wasn’t as well received by fans as you’d think after it aired, but it has aged well, producing a top 5 lightweight of all time in Tony Ferguson. That could have had it higher, but there weren’t enough memorable moments despite the coaches beig Lesnar and JDS.

17. Season 11 (2010)
Winner: Court McGee
Bleacher Report

While it was airing weekly, the show was on pace to become one of the better seasons ever, but it drops slightly on our list because of a string of bad luck. Tito Ortiz was forced into neck surgery meaning he couldn’t finish the show and Ortiz’s first pick Nick Ring also got injured.

16. Season 3 (2006)
Winners: Kendall Grove & Michael Bisping
ESPN

Tito Ortiz and Ken Shamrock being on the show was a real treat for MMA fans and some hilarity ensued. The third season of TUF also produced legend and UFC hall of famer Michael Bisping.

15. Season 9 (2009)
Winners: Ross Pearson & James Wilks
FighterXFashion

Just a few years after winning TUF, Bisping found himself back on the show as a coach, going up against Dan Henderson in the United States vs. United Kingdom version of the show. The fighters were mostly unmemorable, with Team U.K. winning in both weight divisions, but Henderson ultimately KOing Bisping at UFC 100.

14. Season 2 (2005)
Winners: Joe Stevenson & Rashad Evans
EDGE MMA

The second season of TUF was coached by Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin, who were the welterweight and middleweight champions respectively. Today, there’d be no doubt that they’d be in a super fight, but unfortunately they didn’t fight each other at all. The show gave us Rashad Evans and the late great Keith Jardine.

13. Season 23 (2016)
Winners: Andrew Sanchez & Tatiana Suarez
UFC

This season’s highlights were undoubtedly the tension between Joanna Jedrzejczyk and Cláudia Gadelha, which led to some famous moments. It felt like a fight could break out between the pair at any moment.

12. Season 21 (2015)
Winner: Kamaru Usman
MMA Junkie

TUF 21 was interesting because it pitted American Top Team against the Blackzillians, specifically Dan Lambert and the late Greg Robinson. The two gyms have had so many great rivalries over the years. Usman ended up winning the show and is arguably the best fighter in the world right now.

11. Season 27 (2018)
Winners: Brad Katona & Michael Trizano
MMA Junkie

The catch for this season was that every prospect on the show was undefeated. It’s an interesting one to look back on now because of how turbulent Daniel Cormier and Stipe Miocic’s relationship got and how cool they were at this point.

10. Season 24 (2016)
Winner: Tim Elliott
MMA Junkie

Although the concept for this season was cool – bringing together regional champions to compete for a UFC contract – I’m sure fans would have preferred it to happen in a different division.

9. Season 12 (2010)
Winner: Jonathan Brookins
ESPN

TUF 12 created some of the best moments in the history of the show, namely GSP bringing in the unique Jean-Charles Skarbowsky to beat up the fighters and GSP baiting Josh Koscheck to pick Marc Stevens so that he could pick Michael Johnson.

8. Season 15 (2012)
Winner: Michael Chiesa
MMA Mania

TUF 15 was the first and only live edition of the show and fans enjoyed it. It saw rivals Cruz and Faber going back and forth for some fun drama, but the fights were very entertaining. It also brought us Raging Al and Michael Chiesa.

7. Season 17 (2013)
Winner: Kelvin Gastelum
MMA Mania

This show was made for someone like Chael Sonnen and he stepped up for his moment. He went head-to-head against Jon Jones, who of course ended up winning their fight. This was the season that featured that classic Uriah Hall KO.

6. Season 10 (2009)
Winner: Roy Nelson
Amazon

This season had it all. Rampage and Rashad had a bitter feud going on which got extremely heated and nearly came to blows once. It also featured the surprising inclusion of the late legend Kimbo Slice.

5. Season 4 (2006)
Winners: Matt Serra & Travis Lutter
Bleacher Report

The concept for this season was that the fighters were made up of UFC fighters that had not had the career they wanted. It’s famous for producing Matt Serra who ended up with the biggest upset in MMA history when he beat GSP, an advisor on the show.

4. Season 20 (2014)
Winner: Carla Esparza
MMA Freak

TUF 20 produced arguably the most big names in one division in a single year. On the show were Rose Namajunas, Joanne Calderwod, Felice Herrig, Tecia Torres, Carlpa Esparza, Angela Hill and Bec Rawlings, amongst others. Pettis and Melendez coached.

3. Season 18 (2013)
Winners: Chris Holdsworth & Julianna Peña
Hulu

This season was set to be coached by Ronda Rousey and Cat Zingano, but Zingano got injured late into the process, which gave us the great moment of seeing Rousey realise her rival Miesha Tate was going to coach alongside her.

2. Season 5 (2007)
Winner: Nate Diaz
MMA Mania

The appeal of this season was initially B.J. Penn and Jens Pulver finally fighting but looking back in 2021, it’s impossible not to notice the early days of Nate Diaz, back when he was mostly known for being Nick’s young brother.

1. Season 1 (2005)
Winners: Diego Sanchez & Forrest Griffin
The Athletic

Coached by Chuck Liddell and Randy Couture, TUF 1 introduced us to superstars like Forrest Griffin, Josh Koscheck, Diego Sanchez, Kenny Florian, Nate Quarry, Chris Leben and Mike Swick. It ended with the classic fight between Griffin and Bonnar which saw both getting the contract because of the performance they put on.

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Sports Strength

Conor McGregor’s Next Fight, Everything We Know So Far

Conor McGregor fights are always eventful for one reason or another but his last fight against Dustin Poirier was something else entirely. We look back on the event, the fallout from it and what could be next for the Irishman.

Conor McGregor’s Last Fight: McGregor Vs. Poirier At UFC 264

If you saw the fight, you know that it ended horrifically, with Conor breaking his tibia in an incident that brought people flashbacks to Anderson Silva and Chris Weidman’s similar injuries. We now know that Conor came into the fight with stress fractures which were then worsened by Poirier’s checks of his leg kicks and his kick at Poirier’s elbow.

In terms of the event, it did very well. It was the second highest-selling MMA pay-per-view of all time, second only to UFC 229 when Conor fought Khabib. It earned around $15.7 million in sales and the Vegas crowd was 20,062 strong.

How Conor McGregor Approached The Fight

The story of the first rematch was that Conor McGregor came in only worrying about boxing because his large plans included a fight with Manny Pacquiao next. For this reason, the wrestling and leg kicks caught him off guard and were a big part of why he got finished. In his own words, “a little single disciplined in my approach and stance with mostly boxing.” However, framing things this way, even if it’s true, was never fair to Dustin Poirier. That’s why it was so great that we got the trilogy fight, so everything could be settled. Of course, the result wasn’t as final as we’d hoped.

Most avid fans were not fooled by Conor’s “shooting ass shelling ass bitch,” and “little bitch kicks from a shell” comments from Twitter a few months ago. It was important to remember that coming into his rematch with Nate Diaz, leg kicks were a big part of his game. Through all of his vintage trash talk, even though it didn’t always seem like it, Conor McGregor undoubtedly respects all aspects of mixed martial arts and used every tool in his arsenal to try to get the win at UFC 264.

In terms of his own offense, McGregor did have success with boxing very early on in the fight. Despite the result, his timing and accuracy are still some of the best we’ve ever seen in the sport. A change that some predicted Conor could make for this third fight was making kicks a bigger part of his attack, and although we acknowledged that his gas tank likely couldn’t support a kick-heavy attack for anything close to 25 minutes, that’s exactly what he did. Just like he did back at featherweight, he came out throwing a variety of kicks.

He also went all the way in on a guillotine, which was a surprise to those that followed his interview before the fight because he dismissed submission wins entirely. It was also puzzling that he’d commit to something with such a high risk against Poirier, who is more experienced in Jiu-Jitsu than him.

How Much Conor McGregor Got Paid

Before the fight, it was tough to say how much Conor would be paid, but we could make an educated guess based on his past purses. For his last few fights before the second Poirier fight, Conor was getting a base pay of $3 million, but for the rematch at UFC 257, he was guaranteed $5 million. It was safe to assume that the Irishman would make either the same or slightly less for the trilogy bout, considering he was coming in off a loss.

Now that the event is over and we have some purse numbers, we can see that Conor was still guaranteed $5 million for the fight.

How Long Will Conor McGregor Need To Recover From His Injury?

Conor McGregor will be on crutches for the next six weeks, as he announced on his Instagram right after surgery. However, the injury isn’t as simple as Conor getting off crutches and getting right back to training. He will have to spend months simply relearning how to walk and move properly with the new titanium rod in his leg. The truth is that it’s likely that his leg will never be the same. But if all goes well, we could see him healthy enough to be back in the octagon for very late this year or early 2022.

What’s Next For Conor McGregor?

Past recovery and rehabilitation for his injury, it’s really tough to say what the future looks like for Conor McGregor. Predicting his future opponents is one thing (and we do that later in the article), but it’s almost up in the air how he’ll look in a cage.

Conor’s coach John Kavanagh did an interview with Laura Sanko the day after the fight, and he was optimistic about things, even commenting that Conor looked great in the fight up until the injury, but that felt a little delusional to most. Conor had some success with some big kicks, but he ended up engaging in the grappling when Dustin found some boxing success of his own. On his back, despite his elbows, Dustin mostly worked him in a way that could have brought Conor flashbacks of the Khabib fight.

The truth about Conor is that it’s still really tough to gauge where he is as a fighter relative to his peers. He’s absolutely lost four of his last seven in MMA, which would suggest a fall since his featherweight run where he went undefeated, but a deeper dive into those losses does Conor favors. One of the four is to Nate, who he’s since beaten; one is to Khabib, the best grappler in the sport, and the other two are both to Dustin, arguably the best lightweight on the planet. Conor’s fans will call him the best, and his haters will call him the worst when of course, the truth is somewhere in the middle.

To get a real sense of where Conor is and answer the questions about whether the game has passed him, he needs a bigger sample size of opponents. This brings us to his next fight.

Potential Match-Up #1: Dustin Poirier

Two fighters rarely fight each other four times, but it does happen. By the end of their careers, it looks like Conor and Dustin could step into the cage against each other one more time, and that just might be what’s next for Conor. The argument would be that they were one apiece and that though Dustin technically won the trilogy bout via doctor stoppage, it was inconclusive. It must be said that another fighter wouldn’t be afforded such a luxury, but Conor isn’t just any old fighter.

As much as a fourth fight could excite fans, we’re not sure that would be great for Conor. Notoriously (no pun intended), MMA doesn’t do tune-up fights in the way that boxing fights, but it’s probably best that Conor gets a fight against someone lower down the food chain before he goes for Dustin again. One, because adjusting to the injury could take some time. Two, because Dustin could be champion by then, and Conor would have to win at least one fight to challenge for the title.

Potential Match-Up #2: Rafael dos Anjos

Rafael dos Anjos, or RDA as most call him, is not a name known to most casual fans, but that doesn’t mean he’s not an incredible fighter. He’s the former lightweight champion, and if his name does ring a bell, it’s likely because RDA is who Conor McGregor was scheduled to fight at UFC 196 after he knocked out José Aldo. RDA broke his foot and ended up pulling out, forcing Conor to take on Nate Diaz.

So why does the fight make sense now, you ask. RDA was actually the backup fighter for UFC 264, which means that he made weight at the same time as all of the other fighters on the card just in case something happened to either man in the main event. It gives the UFC a fight to fall back on in a bad scenario, and even if nothing happens, it puts some money in the backup fighter’s pockets and puts them in good stead with the company.

Backstage at the weigh-ins, Conor and RDA exchanged some words which had fans excited about a future match-up between them. Now is the most sense it’s made in a while to make that fight, with the two close to each other in the rankings and already have a history together.

Stylistically, it’s a tough match-up for Conor. Just like Dustin, dos Anjos is a southpaw with good boxing, wrestling, and leg kicks. Though RDA has racked up a few losses in the last few years, his strength of resumé is incredibly high. He’s arguably had the toughest schedule in the entire sport for a few years now, with fights booked against Khabib Nurmagomedov, Kamaru Usman, Tony Ferguson, Colby Covington, and Eddie Alvarez, all before they went on to become champions or interim champions. Most of them beat him with wrestling, which Conor would not do, but with years of tough fights behind him, RDA is also a winnable fight for Conor at this stage.

Potential Match-Up #3: Nate Diaz

Last but not least is a man that all Conor fans and MMA fans are familiar with. None other than Nathan Diaz.

This is a fight that Dana has even acknowledged the UFC could go back to at any point in time, but with the two both coming off of a pair of losses, it makes perfect sense right now. It’s a massive trilogy fight for the UFC to sell, and it’s winnable for both men. For Conor specifically, the sense of danger is there to spectators because we’ve all seen what Nate can do to Conor, so a win here gives him some momentum moving forward.