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UFC 252 Where We Stand: Heavyweights

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The winner not only holds the heavyweight title but also the tag as “Best Heavyweight of His Generation,” and some would say “of all-time” That is especially in mind for Cormier, who makes his final walk to the Octagon on Saturday night. Miocic, on the other hand, hasn’t made any public announcements regarding his future, but if he were to defend his belt for a fourth time, not many would blame the Ohioan for walking away on top.

While Miocic and Cormier handled their business, the heavyweight division has seen its elite contenders jockey for position, so whether UFC 252 concludes with one or two retirements, there’s plenty of intriguing bouts ahead in the division’s immediate future.

With that in mind, it’s about as good a time as ever to put the division under the microscope to see what might be down the heavyweight road.

Champion: Stipe Miocic

(19-3, 15 KOs)
Last Fight: TKO Win vs Daniel Cormier (8/17/2019)
Next fight: vs Daniel Cormier @ UFC 252 (8/15/2020)

Outlook: Miocic has more or less reigned over the division for the last four years, and despite holding the record for most consecutive title defenses in heavyweight history, it feels like there’s a lot at stake for him in his third fight with Cormier. That could just be the hype of the moment, but it’s not a reach to say this trilogy bout is the most important heavyweight fight ever. That’s a credit to both fighters, but that said, regardless of the outcome, there’s plenty of fights left for Miocic after August 15. Francis Ngannou has gone on a tear worthy of a second shot at the title even if Miocic – who beat Ngannou in 2018 – still occupies that slot. Curtis Blaydes and Derrick Lewis have also built title shot-worthy resumes, probably in that order, so Miocic could very well continue to add to his legacy if he continues fighting. 

1) Daniel Cormier

(22-2, 1 No Contest, 10 KOs, 5 Submissions)
Last Fight: TKO Loss vs Stipe Miocic (8/17/2019)
Next fight: vs Stipe Miocic @ UFC 252 (8/15/2020)

Outlook: For Cormier, there is no outlook past Miocic. The former double-champ has long contemplated retirement, pushing it only to wrap up his business with Miocic. Win or lose, though, Cormier is undoubtedly one of the best to do it. He was the first man to hold and defend belts in two divisions simultaneously. His career is already historic, and yet it’s also fair to say he needs to beat Miocic to cement a strong case as the best heavyweight not only of his era, but of all-time. Granted, if his only career losses are to Jon Jones and Miocic, that’s nothing at which to scoff, but getting the better of Miocic in their trilogy certainly clears any questions regarding where he stands among the pack.
 

2) Francis Ngannou

(15-3, 11 KOs, 4 Submissions)
Last Fight: KO win vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik (5/9/2020)
Next Fight: N/A

Outlook: While Cormier and Miocic have engaged in their three-year scuffle, no other fighter has distinguished themselves as more worthy of the next title shot than Francis Ngannou. Since his failed title bid in 2018 and subsequent underwhelming loss to Derrick Lewis, Ngannou has fought four times for a combined two minutes and 42 seconds, dispatching of Curtis Blaydes, Cain Velasquez, Junior Dos Santos and Jairzinho Rozenstruik without a hint of adversity. There might not be a more terrifying person or puncher on the roster, and he basically looms over whomever is in his way toward the belt. Few, if any, can match his power, explosiveness and sheer size, and those who can haven’t been able to absorb his attack long enough to find out.
 

3) Curtis Blaydes

(14-2, 10 KOs)
Last Fight: Unanimous Decision win vs Alexander Volkov (6/20/2020)
Next Fight: N/A

Outlook: Essentially, Curtis Blaydes’ record is 14 wins and two fights against Francis Ngannou. If the Cameroonian didn’t exist, Blaydes would undoubtedly be the consensus next contender for the belt. At 29 years old, Blaydes is young for the division, so he has some longevity that others at the top don’t, but it’s not time he wants to waste. Blaydes’ game plan doesn’t vary much. He wants to wrestle the hell out of his foe and, from there, he’s going to control his opponent while landing vicious ground-and-pound. A hypothetical bout against Cormier is fun to think about, but in reality, there’s still a few unexplored matchups that make sense for Blaydes while he bides his time for a title shot, most prominently Derrick Lewis, who entertained the idea after his last bout. Blaydes’ standup improves with each fight, but as he showed in his most recent bout against Alexander Volkov, he can keep the fight in his world for the better part of a full 25 minutes if he so chooses.

4) Derrick Lewis

(24-7, 19 KOs, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: TKO win vs Aleksei Oleinik (8/8/2020)
Next Fight: N/A

Outlook: The heavyweight division’s knockout king secured his 15th win in the Octagon just a few days ago over Aleksei Oleinik, and yet it’s not otherworldly to say Lewis might be in the best form of his career. Having finally dealt with back and knee injuries that hampered him, “The Black Beast” is looking as explosive and fit as ever. Everyone knows a fight with Lewis means plenty of “swangin’ and bangin’,” but the one-time heavyweight title challenger is just as eager to throw in a flying knee or head kick before launching that patented overhand shot. He expressed interest in fighting Curtis Blaydes, which seems like an intriguing stylistic matchup between the two top 5 fighters. Outside of that – and I understand this seems slightly insane to suggest given their first fight – a rematch with Francis Ngannou almost seems inevitable given how devastating both have looked since their infamous matchup at UFC 226.

5) Junior Dos Santos

(21-7, 15 KOs, 1 Submission)
Last Fight: TKO loss vs Curtis Blaydes (1/25/2020)
Next Fight: vs Jairzinho Rozenstruik @ UFC 252 (8/15/2020)

Outlook: It’s pretty wild to realize “Cigano” is only 36 years old considering he made his UFC debut in 2008 with a knockout win over Fabricio Werdum. Although the Brazilian lost his last two fights, those came against the surging Curtis Blaydes and Francis Ngannou – not an indictment of Dos Santos at all. He has a chance to dig his heels in his top 5 status, though, when he takes on Jairzinho Rozenstruik. Stylistically, this bout is intriguing in that “Bigi Boy” is the most technically proficient power-puncher Dos Santos has faced in quite some time. JDS still packs a heck of a punch while also holding one of the more diverse standup attacks in the division. The bout is crucial for him if he hopes to get on the inside track to regain the belt he held in 2013, and as we’ve seen for more than a decade, few can do it like Dos Santos. 

In the Mix

Jairzinho Rozenstruik, Augusto Sakai, Alistair Overeem

Outlook: A near-cliché statement you hear about the heavyweight division is how it always needs new faces. That argument can be made about any weight class, but because of the longevity the elite contenders can have without the stress of cutting weight, it is commonplace for the best to hang around a few years longer. That said, you never know who is going to catapult themselves up the ladder like Jairzinho Rozenstruik did in 2019. He essentially came out of nowhere before flying too close to the sun in a quick loss against Francis Ngannou, but now he gets a real litmus test against Junior Dos Santos. Similarly, but more slowly, Augusto Sakai is close to throwing his hat in the ring as worthy of a top-tier matchup. The 29-year-old Brazilian is blemish-free in four Octagon appearances, most recently toughing out a split decision win over the always-tough Blagoy Ivanov. He is probably primed for a big-name opponent sooner rather than later. Speaking of big names, Alistair Overeem has been one of those for what seems like eons. The 40-year-old Dutchman continues to prove he has plenty left in the tank, winning three of his last four, all by stoppage. But it’s a disservice to “The Demolition Man” to think of him as a sort of gatekeeper or steppingstone for up-and-coming heavyweights, as there are few on the roster with as historic of a pedigree as Overeem.
 

Statement on UFC 252

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Due to a positive COVID-19 test, Ion Cutelaba’s light heavyweight bout against Magomed Ankalaev has been canceled and will be rescheduled for a later date. 

Rounding out the card will be the debut of two newcomers, Kai Kamaka and Tony Kelley. Kamaka, 25, is riding a five-fight win streak dating back to 2018, including his most recent win just two weeks ago. He faces Tony Kelley, who has finished his opponent in all but one of his victories. 

UFC 252: Miocic vs. Cormier 3 will proceed as scheduled with 11 bouts on Saturday, August 15th from the UFC Apex in Las Vegas.

Marlon Chito Vera Is Just Built Different

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This goes back to the early days of Vera’s UFC career, when English didn’t come as easy to him as it does now, when the phone number originated in his native Ecuador, not his current home in the United States.

Then, like today, “Chito” was a professional.

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“You’ve gotta treat this like the office,” Vera said. “A lot of fighters treat this like, ‘Oh, I’m a fighter, I can do whatever I want.’ No, you treat this like you’re in the office every day. That’s how you win a world title, that’s how you become successful.”

Vera, who returns to the Octagon this Saturday to face Sean O’Malley in the UFC 252 co-main event, doesn’t have a world title yet. A win over the surging O’Malley would get him closer to that goal, but some would say he’s already made it.

Top Finishes: Marlon Vera

Top Finishes: Marlon Vera

A star at home in Ecuador, Vera came to the United States shortly after his stint on The Ultimate Fighter Latin America and has been living the American Dream ever since. He brought his family here, he and his wife added more members to the Vera clan, they bought a home and he got the surgery for his daughter that allowed her to finally smile.

Add in nine UFC wins, and that’s success any way you cut it. But Vera isn’t done yet.

“I keep setting goals for myself and I just don’t stop,” he said. “To me, it’s continuing to put something in front of you. I wake up every day with my heart beating and I need to get it done. You have to be worried about everything, you have to be willing to keep going, you need to keep going forward, you need to keep pushing yourself.

More UFC 252: Significant Stats | Preview the whole card Fight By Fight

“In the beginning,” Vera continues, “it was to bring my family here. Then it was to keep them here. Then it was my daughter’s surgery, and I got it done. A lot of people thought after the surgery I was going to settle down because that was the biggest thing in my life. No matter what I do in my life, that will always be the biggest thing ever because that was for my daughter, that was for my wife, that was for my other kids. Just to see that smile on her face, there’s no price for that. If that kid smiles, I can die tomorrow, my life is set. But I wouldn’t die because I need to keep working for them. Then it was the house. Now it’s to pay the house off, and after that, when the house is paid off, it’s my kids’ future, their college, what they want to do, what they want to be. I will put all the time on them. I have plans. There’s more after here, that’s why I’m so hungry. And I’m blessed to be hungry. That’s why cutting weight, I don’t break. I enjoy starving because I’m gonna enjoy when I get it. Some people are too spoiled.”

That work ethic, that ambition, that hunger at a time where most would be satisfied comes from one source for the 27-year-old: his father, Marlon Sr. The patriarch of the Vera family didn’t give long-winded speeches without action behind them. He didn’t give speeches to his son at all. He just did what he needed to do to provide for his family and set an example while young Marlon watched.

UFC 252 Countdown: O’Malley vs Vera

UFC 252 Countdown: O’Malley vs Vera

“You know what the crazy thing is,” asks Vera. “My dad never sat down and said, ‘Look son, this is how life goes. This is what I need from you, this is what I expect from you.’ My dad never did that. He just lived his life the way he wanted, by working hard. And from the outside, I was smart enough to shut up and listen and look at him.”

Vera says to this day, he’s never seen his father cry, making sure to say that he’s just saying that as an observation, not as a sign of his dad’s toughness. The toughness came in other forms.

“He never showed us weakness, so we could grow up strong,” said Vera. “If you go home and you’re like, ‘Oh, my day sucked,’ and your kids see you weak, you’re gonna raise weak kids. If you have a problem and you have a bad day, if you don’t have money for the family at the moment, you just keep working hard. You stay hungry and keep grinding. I never saw my dad complaining. And when I grew up and had a bad day, I never sat down and cried. I was like, ‘F**k it, if I can’t go through this thing in my way, I’ll go around it, I’ll jump over it, I’ll go sideways, but I get it done.’”

Marlon Sr. never saw his son cry, either, even though the younger Vera did break down on a special day for the family.

“We rented all the time,” Vera said of life in his hometown of Chone. “We lived for four years in my uncle’s house. It was my mom and dad in one room, my uncle and my aunt in one room. Me, my brother and my cousin in one room. In the other room, luckily it was big enough for my sister and my baby cousin. We lived together all those years, and those were the best days of my life.”

They would get even better when Marlon Sr. bought them their first home.

“I’m 27,” said Vera. “I bought my house in California, a beautiful place with a nice yard big enough for all my kids and my wife, and I can only imagine what my dad is feeling. What I felt, the day my dad bought a house, I never let my dad know, but I started crying. This was beautiful. My dad is the baddest mother**ker in the world. We have a home; he bought a house for us.”

Vera pauses, the lessons of life bleeding into his career as a prizefighter, where he has a different edge than most. As affable as he is outside the Octagon, when the gate closes on fight night, it’s a battle for more than a paycheck.

“People don’t appreciate life,” he said. “When you grow up not having things and your dad’s finding it for you, you grow up different. You’re a different kind of animal. Just like Jorge Masvidal’s nickname, you’re born ‘Gamebred’ because how your dad raised you and how he became who he is. I feel like other fighters don’t have what I have inside. It’s hard to explain that, but you just know you have it. You have that, ‘I’m willing to die’ attitude and you mean it and you’re for real about it.”

Free Fights: Miocic vs Cormeir 2 | Miocic vs Cormier 1 | O’Malley vs Wineland | JDS vs Tuivasa | Rozenstruik vs Albini

Knowing that heart is beating in his chest means he doesn’t have to trash talk his opponents. If they throw the first jab, he is more than willing to counter, but he understands that for all the talk, they will still fight, and the talk will have to be answered for. So, O’Malley isn’t the enemy; he’s next. And to get to win, Vera’s focus has to be on the man in the mirror.

“I see many things,” Vera said of O’Malley. “I’m sure he sees many things too. But look, you never finish everybody. There’s always somebody that will figure it out. It might be me, it might not be me. I keep it very real. But the only thing I know I can control is the daily grind, my habits, my discipline, my diet, my recovery, my rest. Good habits create success. I know the guy’s good, but I can’t focus on that. If you focus on that, then you buy the hype and you’re eating all his hype. I focus on myself. I make sure I’m ready. I know he’s good, I know he’s dangerous, I know he can finish me, but guess what, everything I said about him, It’s also about me.”

John Dodson Embraces Underdog Role

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Dodson has been in the game for a long time. He has 33 fights in his 16-year career, and he’s fought nearly everyone who’s anyone at 125 and 135 pounds, including former UFC champ Demetrious Johnson, who he lost to twice in a pair of title fights. He has a win over TJ Dillashaw and plenty other ranked fighters. 

Despite his track record, Dodson finds himself as an underdog – for the fourth consecutive bout – when he takes on Merab Dvalishvili, at UFC 252 on Saturday.

“I’m always the underdog in every fight I’ve been a part of,” Dodson said. “Even at 125. Everyone they put in front of me. Merab is nothing different. I don’t feel any type of pressure where it’s like, ‘I need to win this one or else.’ I’m going to finish this dude because he has only one skill set.”

For anyone who’s watched Dvalishvili’s UFC career, you know his skillset is takedowns. And lots of them. Dvalishvili has 52 takedowns in six UFC fights. He’s won his last four bouts, and in February he broke the bantamweight record when he recorded 12 takedowns against Casey Kenney.

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Dodson isn’t buying this fighting style as a reason for him to be an underdog, let alone as a reason for him to lose the fight.

“Merab’s breaking records for all these takedowns but that means everybody has to keep getting up,” Dodson said. “And as we saw in my previous fight, it’s hard to keep me down. If he’s going to try and break new records by taking me down and keeping me down then it’s going to be a fun fight for me because I’m going to punch him in the face until he goes to sleep.”

This strategy worked out last time for Dodson, as he earned his first finish in nearly four years when he stopped Nathaniel Wood in February. 

“I went back to being my old self with the old killers that got me there,” Dodson said. “I wasn’t using my old training partners like I wanted to back in the day and I just got back in the swing of things as of latel. So we’re full steam now and crushing it every step of the way.”

If Dodson is just getting into the swing of things now, it could mean another run at a title and his first at bantamweight. Last time out, Dodson wanted to get a win in front of his hometown fans and impress the UFC brass. Safe to say he delivered under pressure, and in June, it was reported he signed an extension with the UFC.

“I never lost the chip on my shoulder. I’m always one step ahead and ready to go in and beat up everybody,” Dodson said. “They can’t tell me that I’m not the best in the world when they haven’t faced me head-on. I’m the only person to drop the current champion at 135 and to make him look silly. And everyone he’s fought, he’s made them look silly.”

Dodson, of course, is referring to current bantamweight champion Petr Yan. Yan is among the plethora of top-ranked contenders that find themselves on Dodson’s resume. But unlike Yan’s other UFC fights, Dodson was able to knock the champ down.

Dodson went on to lose the fight by decision, but it’s a fight he hopes to run back some day. 

“I would love to get that rematch with a bunch of people at 135,” said Dodson, who’s also taken on top contender Marlon Moraes. “I want to secure my legacy and make sure I can go out on my shield and tell myself I’m an amazing fighter. There’s no better way to do it than by holding the title.”

Dodson knows in order to get that shot he needs to get past Dvalishvili, although a win over the Georgian and a rematch with Yan aren’t the only things on his mind.

“I think it’s too much of a step-up for him (Dvalishvili) to come and fight me. I feel bad for him that Aljamain Sterling sent his training partner to catch an ass-whooping that he deserves. It’s more disrespectful to me than anyone else.”

Dodson said he and Sterling talked of a matchup after Dodson’s win against Wood in February. Sterling instead took on – and defeated – Cory Sandhagen and he’s now considered the likely next opponent for Yan.

But Dodson has been in this game for a long time. He’ll take on whoever is put in front of him next. 

The Best Of Jim Miller

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Watch on UFC Fight Pass

Entering the Octagon inside the MGM Grand Garden Arena Saturday night with 13 UFC fights each and a combined 15 post-fight bonuses, lightweights Jim Miller and Joe Lauzon quickly lived up to their fight’s hype, outshining UFC 155’s three middleweight bouts and adding a last-minute entry to year-end Fight of the Year lists.

Both durable, well-rounded and nimble submission artists, Miller vs. Lauzon was billed as a match-up of mirror images. By the end of three rounds, those mirror images were coated in blood, with a screaming arena celebrating Miller’s decision win and thrilled by the performances of both men..

Known for coming out aggressively, Lauzon did just that, but Miller answered with equal intensity, landing uppercuts and low kicks as Lauzon came forward. He forced Lauzon against the cage, wobbling him with uppercuts, and at one point dropping him with a low leg kick. An elbow from close quarters opened a cut on Lauzon’s forehead, and Miller grabbed for a standing head-and-arm choke that only caused it to pour, drawing a temporary checkup from the doctor. Lauzon bounded back, but Miller continued the onslaught of punches, which Lauzon merrily weathered and returned in kind. At one point, the two traded kicks and both dropped backward. Neither relented as the round buzzer sounded and the crowd stood to its feet.

Miller, a BJJ black belt, landed a takedown early in the second, and Lauzon – himself a submission expert — worked to tie up one of Miller’s arms. Lauzon eventually got the sweep, and another brief stoppage occurred as the cutmen removed a piece of tape from Lauzon’s glove that had come unraveled. Back in Miller’s rubber guard, Lauzon stood and slammed Miller down, which had little tactical result but further endeared Lauzon to the crowd. Lauzon reached for an armbar then rolled for a kneebar, but both men were slicked enough with blood that Miller escaped. Both men again drew a standing ovation at the end of the second.

Back on the feet for the third, the pair moved in and out as they boxed, with Lauzon working the body until slipping on the mat. He tried to goad Miller into his guard, but Miller’s success on his feet had him happy to keep things there.  Lauzon scored with a left and a knee, while Miller worked to hold Lauzon in the clinch and throw right elbows. With less than a minute left, Lauzon dove and spun for a flying leglock, then pulled Miller into a guillotine.

“I knew I was going to have to bring my best effort to put him away and I was never able to,“ said Miller post-fight. That’s how good he is. Even in the last minute, look what he was trying to do to win the fight.

Judges gave the bout  to Jim Miller with three scores of 29-28, as Miller rises to 22-5; Lauzon slips to 22-8; both men saw their bonus counts grow for their troubles when the bout was named Fight of the Night at the post-fight press conference.

Unfiltered: Junior dos Santos, Jim Miller, and Luis J. Gomez

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First, the guys break down why Kevin Holland and Nasrat Haqparast’s wins were so impressive Saturday night after Matt tries to find his video reminder on his phone (it’s a journey).

Then, podcaster and comedian Luis J. Gomez joins the show to discuss his upcoming exhibition MMA fight against radio host Jason Ellis, and the guys trade stories about being knocked out. Matt attempts to motivate Luis for his fight by telling a story, and in his efforts ends up confessing his fandom of Brad Pitt!

UFC veteran Jim Miller calls in ahead of his fight against Vinc Pichel on Saturday in the main event of the UFC 252 prelims. He shares what keeps him fighting after 36 UFC bouts, and shares why archery is a lot like Jiu-Jitsu.

After Jim and Matt break down Derrick Lewis’ dominant performance against Aleksei Oleinik on Saturday, Junior dos Santos calls the guys right after his last training session before making his way to the UFC Apex. He shares what it’s like training in the same gym as his opponent on Saturday, Jairzinho Rozenstruik, and reveals why he’d cut down to light heavyweight to face Jon Jones.

The guys close out the show offering their choice for who Conor McGregor should face in his return to the Octagon.

Follow the show @UFCunfiltered on Instagram, and check out the full video show on UFC FIGHT PASS – sign up today at www.ufcfightpass.com

Significant Stats: UFC 252

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Key Stats: 1.72% bottom position (8th all-time among BW), 80% takedown defense, 3.3 strikes landed per minute

What It Means: A two-time flyweight title challenger, John Dodson remains one of the toughest outs at 135 pounds. Having never been finished, Dodson provides an almost-annoying challenge for his opponents. His well-rounded skillset, fast footwork and ability to evade strikes and scramble well during grappling exchanges makes him a tough person to put in a bad position. Eventually, opponents get frustrated, and that’s when Dodson can find a tide-turning strike as he showed against Nathaniel Wood.

Vanessa Demopoulos Riding Momentum Into DWCS

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If good things come in threes, Demopoulos is in luck. Every fighter’s goal when they get into the fight game is the UFC. After 10 years of training and a one month checklist of bucket list accomplishments, the energetic strawweight is hoping to ride her momentum straight to The Show.

“I’ve always known that this is kind of the path,” Demopoulos said. “This is what my manager and I have sat down and talked about. I knew that I might fight for Contender Series, but I really wanted the LFA belt. Who knew that they were both going to come at the same time.”

While her fight for the LFA strap on July 17 went the way she had hoped, it didn’t come easy.

The BJJ specialist found herself in trouble early and often to Sam Hughes. Already behind in the fight, Demopoulos made a costly error that set her ever further back. An ill-advised upkick to the face of a grounded opponent cost her a point late. As fate would have it, the smooth operator stuck to her game plan and broke Hughes’ heart late in a fight she had all but tucked away.

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“I’m not ignorant to knowing where I was,” Demopoulos explained. “I wasn’t winning, for sure, and then being an extra point behind I knew I had to make something happen. There’s so many times I’m down on points. It’s actually hurt me a lot in competition jiu-jitsu also. I’ll be down on points and I’ll come back with a submission. Submission is king!”

It’s this very tendency that causes many of Demopoulos’ fans to hang on to the losses a little longer than others. There’s just something about having the fight in your clutches and ripped away that doesn’t sit well with many in the world of combat sports.

The situation is one that Demopoulos understands but doesn’t reward.

“F*** that noise,” Demopoulos laughs. “I’m a dogfight kind of a fighter. I’m a very technical fighter but when I’m in there, it’s war, I win, it’s over. I’m moving on. I’ve had it a few times where my opponents get stuck on me and they get so obsessed with me and it sucks. They want to fight again and I’m like, ‘let’s just keep going. I’ve got a lot of s*** to accomplish. I’m not stuck on you.’”

Being stuck in senseless grudge matches pre-UFC isn’t exactly proving yourself any further, so Demopoulos does have a point. She, herself, has a loss that felt like it could have gone her way but she honored the decision and moved on.

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It’s hard to reverse an entire mindset, but with a knack for fights that fighters just can’t move on from, Demopoulos may have stumbled upon a gold mine she is completely unaware of. The UFC trilogy.

With no classic trilogies in UFC women’s divisions yet, the price tag on a fighter like Demopoulos could rise sky high if the current trend continues.

Demopoulos’ tendency to put the pedal to the floor also sets the table for leaving a trail of rematch -demanding strawweights behind her.

“I am always so ‘go’ and I have to be slowed down sometimes,” Demopoulos says. “I’m not the one hitting the brakes over here. Other people hit brakes for me and that’s what a team is for.”

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Demopoulos further explained that there’s no need to be nervous. This is the process she’s worked for, for ten years. She’s in love.

With lofty promises of frequent Octagon visits if she’s awarded the UFC contract, we’ll find out what she’s made of on August 11.

“I’m good to fight four times this year,” Demopoulos said. “Wait a minute, we’re in the middle of the year. Yeah. F*** it. I don’t care. Let’s do it. I’m so excited to go out there and do the damn thing.”

Watch Vanessa Demopoulos bring in the LFA strawweight title weeks before her DWCS bout ONLY on UFC FIGHT PASS!

Vanessa Demopoulos vs Sam Hughes here: https://ufcfightpass.com/video/158559

UFC 252: FIGHT BY FIGHT

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STIPE MIOCIC VS. DANIEL CORMIER

The final fight in this heavyweight championship best-of-three between Miocic and Cormier is about far more than just the UFC heavyweight title.

Whoever emerges victorious will lay claim to being the greatest heavyweight in UFC history, full stop. A 2-1 series win over the other man in this matchup, plus the quality of the resumes they’ve each assembled outside of their rivalry would make it difficult to even argue that someone else could hold that position.

This one is also personal, as the tension between Miocic and Cormier has grown with each subsequent booking. Initially, it was a clash between dogged competitors looking to prove their superiority, but when Miocic held out for a rematch, Cormier started picking at the former champion on social media, and that has increased as they’re again reversed roles and looked to make this trilogy bout happen.

The challenger has spoken about mistakes he made in the second fight that needed correcting and will be adjusted by the time they step into the Octagon together for a third time, while Miocic has always simply accepted the results of his last outing and moved forward, so it will be interesting to see what kind of changes Cormier implements this time around and how they impact the outcome of this fight.

Stylistically, nothing has changed — Miocic remains the bigger man with greater one-shot power and more fluid boxing, while Cormier must still rely on getting inside and using volume, pressure, and pace to chip away at the champion in order to create high-impact openings.

We talk about legacies a great deal in this sport, trying to determine where a fighter stands in the pantheon of all-time greats before they’ve finished fighting and we have a compete picture of their careers, but it’s different with these two. Miocic has already beaten the best heavyweights of his time and a second win over Cormier would be the icing on the cake of an excellent career, even though other challenges remain on the horizon, while the excellence Cormier has displayed across two divisions cannot be denied and a second victory over Miocic would make it very difficult to leave him off of any All-Time Top 5 lists in the future.

Each of the first two fights were “edge of your seat” type encounters and there is no reason to believe the third instalment in this trilogy will be any different.

Get your popcorn ready, settle in, and enjoy — this is going to be good.

Ashley Yoder Keen On Finding Her Groove

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Not hearing “Uh vai morrer,” the now iconic greeting given to all fighters battling one of Brazil’s own, is certainly a good thing for Yoder, who can just concentrate on what happens in the Octagon for 15 minutes or less. And with Indiana’s “SpiderMonkey,” it’s been 15 minutes throughout her UFC career, as all six of her bouts have gone the distance. The result has been a 2-4 slate, one that’s frustrating because a couple of those decisions could have gone her way. 

But she’s not holding any grudges against the judges.

“No hard feelings,” Yoder said. “I always know the biggest thing you gotta learn as a fighter is fix your mistakes and try to finish fights. So that’s what we’ve been training to do and focus on.”

In her most recent bout last October, it was another one of those nights when Yoder lost a split decision to perennial tough out Randa Markos. One of the judges saw it Yoder’s way, as did many fans, but the bottom line that in the Octagon, the surest way to get a victory is to finish your opponent and leave the judges out of the equation. And Yoder, who finished four of her first five wins before getting to the UFC, knows this. But it’s easier said than done at this level.

“We’re in the UFC,” she said. “Before I got in the UFC, I was finishing a lot of fights, and that’s all great and well, but everyone in the UFC is not an easy opponent. We’re all here for a reason. So one of the biggest things is that we’re just a higher level and you have to just figure out ways to improve your game to get those finishes. It’s gonna happen, it’s not gonna happen, you’re gonna have bad judges, you’re gonna have great judges, so we just have to roll with the punches. It’s very unpredictable and you have to try to adapt as we go. It’s frustrating but, at the same time, it just helps me want to learn more and want to get better. It’s fuel to the fire at this point.”

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