UFC 178: Is Tim Kennedy Wise to Face Yoel Romero?

Since entering the UFC, former Strikeforce title contender Tim Kennedy has wanted nothing more than a tough opponent with a big name who could rocket him to the top of the middleweight division. He got that in his last outing when he stepped into the c…

Since entering the UFC, former Strikeforce title contender Tim Kennedy has wanted nothing more than a tough opponent with a big name who could rocket him to the top of the middleweight division. He got that in his last outing when he stepped into the cage with No. 8-ranked Michael Bisping.

Kennedy is scheduled to step back into the cage at UFC 178 in September against a satisfyingly tough, but low-ranked Yoel Romero.

Romero, the former Olympic medalist, carries a four-fight winning streak into the cage with him against Kennedy. Owner of seven TKOs in eight of his total victories, the Cuban-born wrestler has been on a steady course toward the middleweight crown since first participating in the sport in 2009.

Even at 37, nobody ranked above Romero, including Kennedy, should ever want to fight him—he’s an ever-improving striker who has the luxury of reverting to his world-class wrestling whenever needed.

Don’t let the numbers fool you. Romero’s low ranking among the UFC’s middleweights speaks less about his talents as a fighter and more about the pool of talent the UFC currently harbors at 185 pounds. Of the top six fighters, two have held the UFC middleweight title, two have held the UFC light heavyweight title and two held the Strikeforce middleweight title.

No. 6-ranked Kennedy wasn’t being foolish when he accepted the fight, though. Anderson Silva is still recovering from his leg injury, Vitor Belfort is still dealing with licensing issues, Lyoto Machida and Chris Weidman were busy duking it out at UFC 175, Jacare Souza is busy preparing for his bout with Gegard Mousasi and Luke Rockhold is preoccupied with a broken toe.

Literally nobody ranked higher than Kennedy was available to fight.

And literally none of the available fighters below Kennedy, except for No. 11-ranked Romero, was worth fighting.

It’s possible that a decisive victory over a fighter such as Romero could help Kennedy move closer to the belt. He would be just the second man ever to defeat him and the first one to do so inside the Octagon. Even a less-than-exciting victory over Romero could prove valuable to the Greg Jackson-trained fighter, assuming it’s a grappling-filled victory over an Olympic-caliber wrestler.

It’s absolutely certain that any kind of loss, even a split decision, would all but spoil Kennedy’s immediate hopes at a shot for the belt and move Romero into the top 10.

 

Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.

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UFC Fight Night: Rick Story Is in Need of a Big Win

Rick Story knows the value of wins and losses within the UFC’s Octagon. On Wednesday, the fighter known as “The Horror” will step into the cage for fight No. 16. He’s an athlete that’s put together a string of impressive performan…

Rick Story knows the value of wins and losses within the UFC’s Octagon. On Wednesday, the fighter known as “The Horror” will step into the cage for fight No. 16. He’s an athlete that’s put together a string of impressive performances but has recently looked very subpar.

Coming into his fight with Leonardo Mafra Teixeira, it’s imperative the one-time welterweight contender puts on a display that leaves the fans and UFC matchmakers clamoring to see more of “The Horror” in action.

Story will walk into the Octagon with a 9-5 record that dates back to his promotional debut at UFC 99 in 2009. He bounced back from a decision loss to John Hathaway to go on a run that quickly grabbed the attention of the mixed martial arts community. Two years later, Story’s six-fight win streak had him on the cusp of a title eliminator contest.

That would be until Charlie Brenneman stepped into the picture and pulled out what could have been the upset of 2011 on extreme short notice. That night was a major turning point in Story’s career, as he’d struggled to gain any traction within the welterweight division.

In the years that have followed his defeat at UFC Life 4, Story has exchanged wins for losses. In each outing, it’s very difficult to predict exactly which Rick Story is going to show up. Three of the four losses that he’s suffered were split decisions in which he performed well, but not good enough to get the nod at the end of the night. What’s interesting is that Story has shown flashes of greatness in competition.

Current UFC welterweight champion Johny Hendricks is well aware of what Rick can do, as he’s one of only two UFC fighters to defeat the titleholder. This coming fight against Teixeira is vital to Story’s career because anything less can see him jettisoned from the organization.

“He may be in need of a win in the worst way,” wrote Michael Drahota of MMA Mania. “The talent is there; he just has to put forth a decisive performance in the Octagon.”

The 170-pound division is wide open for Story to put together a run that can relaunch his career. As Hendricks sits on the shelf, the UFC is still unsure of how the group of contenders will shake out. Robbie Lawler versus Matt Brown at UFC on Fox 12 is a No. 1 contender’s bout, but after that, the division is wide open. If Story puts on an impressive win this Wednesday, he can start the hype train running in the right direction.

Rick Story is pressed to put together a run at UFC Fight Night. He was once known as a capable contender within the welterweight division, but his recent slump can see him sent from the promotion with another loss. He will need a strong performance to bring an end to the horror that has seen him consistently trade wins and losses. 

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Dominick Cruz Return: What the Ex-Champ Must Do to Return to Glory

Dominick Cruz was once considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the face of the planet. Victories over former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and flyweight contender Joseph Benavi…

Dominick Cruz was once considered one of the best pound-for-pound fighters on the face of the planet. Victories over former WEC featherweight champion Urijah Faber, current UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and flyweight contender Joseph Benavidez cemented Cruz as the best bantamweight fighter in the world. 

His two knee surgeries effectively removed him from the “pound-for-pound best” conversation. A groin injury suffered before a title unification bout with former UFC bantamweight champion Renan Barao would remove the belt from his waist. 

But after almost three years outside of competition, Cruz is set to make his return at UFC 178 against No. 5-ranked Takeya Mizugaki

“I’m excited to finally be back,” Cruz told ESPN.com’s Brett Okamoto. “It’s been a long time coming, but I feel great and I’m already training hard. Mizugaki is tough and he’s been on a roll, but I’m ready to get back in there and prove that I’m the best bantamweight in the world.”

Think about it, the last time Bruce Buffer announced Cruz’s name Frankie Edgar had yet to rid himself of Gray Maynard, Cain Velasquez was still enjoying his first run as the heavyweight king, Jon Jones was merely one title defense into his now-historic run, Georges St-Pierre was still dominating, Anderson Silva was still making dudes pay and only diehards knew anything about Ronda Rousey

It’s been a long road back to the Octagon, but that doesn’t mean it should be a long road back to the title. 

Here’s what the former champ needs to do in order to regain his status as the best fighter at 135 pounds:

 

Listen to His Mind

“Dominick Cruz: The Fighter” showed us that he had a future in fighting; “Dominick Cruz: The Analyst” showed us that he had a future after fighting. 

He hasn’t necessarily had the charismatic success that Chael Sonnen or Kenny Florian have had on Fox Sports 1’s UFC Tonight, but he’s certainly made a name for himself as one of the best on-screen analysts out there.

Whether it’s explaining how Chris Weidman was able to dethrone the middleweight king on two separate occasions, why Alexander Gustafsson gave Jones so much trouble in their first bout or why nobody in the bantamweight division—including Barao, Faber or TJ Dillashaw—can keep Cruz from regaining the title, the Dominator simply needs to continue watching the tape as he prepares for his comeback.

 

Trust in His Knee

After two knee surgeries to repair a torn ACL, everybody on the outside looking in almost expects Cruz to be a little hesitant in his first appearance back inside the cage. 

It isn’t a completely uncommon injury in sports. NFL athletes suffer this injury about as often as fighters are left counting sheep. But for every spectacular Adrian Peterson-like recovery you see, you’re bound to get dozens of dispiriting recoveries akin to the one Robert Griffin III had. 

Unlike Peterson or Griffin, Cruz didn’t rush his recovery to meet any sort of season-opening deadline—he spent three years out of the cage to ensure he would be healthy enough by his own decree. 

Three years out of the Octagon should rarely ever be celebrated for any fighter. At its worst, it could bring the most potent ring rust any marquee fighter has ever seen. At its best, though, it should give Cruz all of the certainty that his knee will hold up just fine as he faces Mizugaki

 

Remember His Feet

Take a second to consider this: Even Johnson, the flyweight champion, couldn’t keep up with Cruz’s footwork in their matchup at UFC on Versus 6. 

Take a second second to consider this: Dillashawthe man who successfully denied Barao from taking his 32-fight winning streak any furthercredited Cruz’s footwork as part of the reason Dillashaw stands atop the bantamweight division.

“I knew that Dominick [Cruz] had the footwork to beat [Barao],” Dillashaw told Bleacher Report’s Jeremy Botter after UFC 173. “So, having that in my mind, I knew I had to step up my footwork, use good angles and keep him confused.” 

It was the way Cruz danced around his opponents, peppering jabs and confusing them with faints that kept his opponents guessing and the belt around his waist. He never got caught up in a brawl or his head in position for his opponent to make contact. He was quick to come in, and quicker to get out—he was about as untouchable as a fighter could be in MMA. 

 

Kristian Ibarra is a Featured Columnist at Bleacher Report. He also serves as the sports editor at San Diego State University’s student-run newspaper, The Daily Aztec. Follow him on Twitter at @Kristian_Ibarra for all things MMA.

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Keeping It Real With Ratner

UFC.com: “We saw you were front and center on the sideline tables at the NBA Summer League games on Saturday. What were you up to there?” Ratner: “I wasn’t on press row. I was running the clock. I did four games on Saturday – Atlanta and the Wizards was one of them. I love it.” UFC.com: “So you like to keep your hand in officiating sports other than UFC?” Ratner: “I’ve been very blessed in my background as an official in many sports. I was Mountain West, WAC – I go all the way back – so I did about 20 years of Division I football, refereeing. And I’m the commissioner o … Read the Full Article Here

UFC.com: “We saw you were front and center on the sideline tables at the NBA Summer League games on Saturday. What were you up to there?” Ratner: “I wasn’t on press row. I was running the clock. I did four games on Saturday – Atlanta and the Wizards was one of them. I love it.” UFC.com: “So you like to keep your hand in officiating sports other than UFC?” Ratner: “I’ve been very blessed in my background as an official in many sports. I was Mountain West, WAC – I go all the way back – so I did about 20 years of Division I football, refereeing. And I’m the commissioner o … Read the Full Article Here

Michael Johnson Out, Bobby Green in Against Josh Thomson at UFC on Fox 12

UFC lightweight Michael Johnson (15-8 MMA, 7-4 UFC) has pulled out of his fight with Josh Thomson (20-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) at UFC on Fox 12 with an injury. MMAJunkie.com reported the news on Friday.  

Update: UFC.com has reported that B…

UFC lightweight Michael Johnson (15-8 MMA, 7-4 UFC) has pulled out of his fight with Josh Thomson (20-6 MMA, 3-2 UFC) at UFC on Fox 12 with an injury. MMAJunkie.com reported the news on Friday.  

Update: UFC.com has reported that Bobby Green will be stepping up on short notice to face Thomson. Green was originally slated to face Abel Trujillo, in a fight that was moved from UFC 176 to UFC Fight Night 47 in Bangor, Maine.

The card, which is headlined by a welterweight showdown between top contenders Robbie Lawler and Matt Brown, is set for July 26 in San Jose, California. The scrap between the two Top 10 lightweights was set as the opening bout of the main card.

The 35-year-old Thomson is coming off a narrow split-decision loss to Benson Henderson at UFC on Fox 10 back in January, and he has gone 4-3 in his last seven fights dating back to 2010. Despite the mixed results, the always-competitive Thomson is ranked No. 3 on the UFC.com rankings.

Johnson is riding an impressive three-fight winning streak, which includes wins over Joe Lauzon, Gleison Tibau and Melvin Guillard. A win over a veteran like Thomson would have propelled him that much closer to title contention.

Taking a fight on two weeks’ notice is a lot to ask in the UFC’s lightweight division, especially against a crafty veteran like Thomson, who has had a full training camp for this fight. It’s a big step up in competition for the No. 12-ranked Green, who will be looking to make it 4-0 inside the Octagon after wins over Jacob Volkmann, James Krause and Pat Healy.  

The details of Johnson’s injury aren’t known at this point, and there is no time frame on when he’ll be able to return to action.  

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The 10 Best UFC Post-Fight Press Conference Sadfaces


(“I am not impress wit my performance” – Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting)

By Ryan Harkness

Schadenfreude is the German word for taking pleasure from the misfortune of others, and aside from scheisseporn it’s pretty much the best word to come out of Germany untranslated. The German fußball team gave us some textbook definition schadenfreude action when they crushed Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup earlier this week, and everyone on the internet delighted in watching the host nation weep like little bitches during the meltdown.

Evil pleasure aside, there’s something fascinating about seeing another human wallowing in sadness. And outside of a choking team’s arena or third world country, I’d argue there’s no better place to stare sadness in the face than at a UFC post-fight press conference.

While most of the defeated fighters on a card get to skip the conference and ruminate on their losses in private, the loser of the main event is expected to show up and answer sharp questions from our crack MMA media like “How do you feel right now?” and “What is next now that you’ve failed?”

The look on their faces as they struggle to answer will hit you right in the feels. Or trigger dat schadenfreude if you’re a dick. Since I am definitely a dick, allow me to be your sadness sommelier on this tour through the saddest sadfaces at UFC post-fight press conferences…


(“I am not impress wit my performance” – Photo by Esther Lin for MMAFighting)

By Ryan Harkness

Schadenfreude is the German word for taking pleasure from the misfortune of others, and aside from scheisseporn it’s pretty much the best word to come out of Germany untranslated. The German fußball team gave us some textbook definition schadenfreude action when they crushed Brazil 7-1 in the World Cup earlier this week, and everyone on the internet delighted in watching the host nation weep like little bitches during the meltdown.

Evil pleasure aside, there’s something fascinating about seeing another human wallowing in sadness. And outside of a choking team’s arena or third world country, I’d argue there’s no better place to stare sadness in the face than at a UFC post-fight press conference.

While most of the defeated fighters on a card get to skip the conference and ruminate on their losses in private, the loser of the main event is expected to show up and answer sharp questions from our crack MMA media like “How do you feel right now?” and “What is next now that you’ve failed?”

The look on their faces as they struggle to answer will hit you right in the feels. Or trigger dat schadenfreude if you’re a dick. Since I am definitely a dick, allow me to be your sadness sommelier on this tour through the saddest sadfaces at UFC post-fight press conferences…

Kenny Florian

After three failed runs at the lightweight title, Kenny dropped down to 145 for one last attempt at a UFC belt. Unfortunately he ran into the buzzsaw that was prime Jose Aldo and lost the fight 49-46 on all three judges’ scorecards. I’m pretty sure he would have shed a few tears if his body had the moisture to spare after cutting down to featherweight.

BJ Penn

It seemed pretty damn obvious to everyone except BJ Penn that he was gonna get tool time’d by Frankie Edgar in their third fight. It wasn’t until the post-fight conference that the reality of his situation hit BJ in the face harder than anything Frankie threw in the cage. “I shouldn’t have come back.” Welcome to everyone’s conclusion from nine months ago, BJ.

Georges St. Pierre

Georges is the only winner to make it onto this list for the epic sadface he pulled after his ‘victory’ over Johny Hendricks. First off, you know a guy as OCD as GSP was aware he didn’t exactly perform to his typical flawless standard. Secondly, he not only had those ‘personal problems’ to deal with, his awkward out of the blue retirement in the cage went over about as well as a fart in church. That all led to St Pierre giving us a little glimpse of what things are like in his dark place.

Lyoto Machida

(Photo via Dave Mandel/Sherdog)

For all the hype and accolades Lyoto got out of this fight, he knows the score: he’s 36 years old, and only managed to secure this title shot by default because the rest of the middleweight division turned out to be on steroids. Unless he’s willing to push his career into Randy Couture territory, we probably just witnessed his last kick at the title shot can.

Chael Sonnen

Here’s a twofer that proves the only thing worse than choking and losing a title fight with two minutes remaining is choking and losing a title fight in the second round. Not pictured: the sad face Chael has now as he sits on his couch with his withered testicles in one hand and a lifetime prescription for TRT in the other.