Drew Dober Explains The “Deciding Factor” In Dariush/Makhachev Fight

UFC lightweight Drew Dober has given a breakdown of the upcoming UFC Fight Night main event between top-five 155lbers Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev.

Having shared the Octagon with both men, Dober is in a unique position to provide his thoughts…

UFC Fight Night: Dariush vs. Makhachev, Drew Dober

UFC lightweight Drew Dober has given a breakdown of the upcoming UFC Fight Night main event between top-five 155lbers Beneil Dariush and Islam Makhachev.

Having shared the Octagon with both men, Dober is in a unique position to provide his thoughts on the highly anticipated matchup, which is expected to see the victor advance to challenge the champion later in the year.

Dober faced Dariush back in March 2019. The Iranian-born American broke the Nebraska native’s three-fight win streak with a second-round triangle armbar submission.

Almost two years to the day later, Dober faced surging Dagestani Makhachev at UFC 259. Like against Dariush, Dober was submitted, that time with a third-round arm-triangle choke. Those defeats represent two of only four submission losses in Dober’s 35-fight MMA career.

In an exclusive interview with MMA News, Dober discussed what he expects to happen when the pair collide next month. The 33-year-old also spoke about his own return to action against Ricky Glenn in March, his current contract status, and how long he intends to continue fighting for.

Dober: My Heart Says Dariush, My Head Says Makhachev

Since a 2015 KO setback against Adriano Martins, Makhachev has looked unstoppable. During his active nine-fight win streak, the 30-year-old has defeated Nik Lentz, Arman Tsarukyan, Davi Ramos, and Thiago Moisés. Most recently, Makhachev brushed past the challenge of Dan Hooker with a brutal first-round kimura in Abu Dhabi.

While he boasts more defeats on his record, Dariush’s recent form has been equally strong and his current seven-fight win streak is arguably more impressive than his upcoming opponent’s run of triumphs. Since defeats to Edson Barboza and Alexander Hernandez, Dariush has recorded highlight-reel KOs of Drakkar Klose and Scott Holtzman and shot into contention with decision wins against Diego Ferreira and Tony Ferguson.

With that in mind, Dober believes Dariush will give Makhachev more problems than he’s ever faced in the UFC. The promotional veteran expects the February 26 main event to be decided by how well Dariush can implement his strategy against a patient Makhachev.

“I think Beneil is going to give Islam the most problems,” Dober told MMA News. “It’s a super-tough fight for both guys. I think one of the cool things with Beneil is his strategy. He implements a good strategy and he’s able to adjust his strategy per round, and he’s a finisher. He can put you away with his hands or a submission.

“I think the biggest takeaway is Beneil’s a risk-taker, and Islam is not. Islam will do everything he can to win the long game,” added Dober. “Beneil, he takes risks; sometimes it works out in his favor, and sometimes it doesn’t. I think that’s the deciding factor; Beneil’s strategy and his risk-taking ability… I feel like the determining factor is going to be Beneil’s strategy.”

When asked for a prediction, Dober told MMA News that his heart and head are going different ways. While he would love to see Dariush have his hand raised, he acknowledges that the safer pick would be Makhachev.

“It’s so hard. Like, my heart, here at home, my wife and I, we’re going for Beneil Dariush. We want him to win, man. I’m behind him wholeheartedly. But as far as being a betting man, I mean, you see less mistakes from Islam, and so Islam is the safest bet. But the heart’s pulling for Beneil,” concluded Dober.

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While Makhachev might be the safer bet, that certainly won’t stop Dober and his wife from cheering Dariush on from home.

Who do you think will have their hand raised on February 26, Beneil Dariush or Islam Makhachev?

Continue Reading Drew Dober Explains The “Deciding Factor” In Dariush/Makhachev Fight at MMA News.

Curtis Blaydes: I’m Still Better Than Derrick Lewis

UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes believes that, despite his knockout loss last year, he’s still better than Derrick Lewis.

Blaydes, a perennial name in the group of elites at heavyweight, had his title charge stalled in 2021 at the hands (o…

Derrick Lewis, Curtis Blaydes

UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes believes that, despite his knockout loss last year, he’s still better than Derrick Lewis.

Blaydes, a perennial name in the group of elites at heavyweight, had his title charge stalled in 2021 at the hands (or sole right bomb…) of Lewis. In the main event of UFC Vegas 19, the pair collided with a likely championship opportunity on the line.

Heading into the contest, Blaydes carried the momentum of a four-fight win streak that included triumphs over former UFC champion Junior dos Santos and former Bellator titleholder Alexander Volkov. “The Black Beast,” meanwhile, had knocked out Alexei Oleinik in his prior outing.

Despite starting well, Blaydes was rendered unconscious in the second frame after changing levels straight into a brutal uppercut. With the victory, Lewis joined Francis Ngannou as only the second man to beat Blaydes and went on to challenge for interim gold against Ciryl Gane.

Now, in an exclusive interview with MMA News, Blaydes has looked back on his 2021 setback, his hopes for 2022, the heavyweight debut of Jon Jones, and revealed who hits harder out of Lewis and Ngannou.

Blaydes Believes He Has “More Skills” Than Lewis

While Lewis was dominated by Gane at UFC 265 last August, Blaydes got back on track a month later at UFC 266. Against another KO artist in Jairzinho Rozenstruik, “Razor” shut down the power opposite him, as he’d intended to do seven months earlier against Lewis, and secured a comfortable unanimous decision victory.

With his position in the top five cemented and his name back in the title conversation, Blaydes is ready to make another surge to the top, one he believes shouldn’t have been stalled by “The Black Beast.”

Speaking to MMA News’ James Lynch, Blaydes claimed he is “still better” than Lewis despite the result in February 2021. Ultimately, the 30-year-old believes he boasts more skill than the powerhouse, who Blaydes says defeated him the only way he could, a one-and-done KO blow.

“I don’t lose to bums, and he ain’t a bum. I know that. I think, stylistically, I should have won that fight,” said Curtis Blaydes. “He won the one way he could win. I took a bad shot, he caught me, but otherwise, apart from that, because I’ve re-watched the fight, he lost that first round, he was on his way to losing that round, and I rushed it and paid the price. That’s always gonna annoy me because I do believe, I know I lost, but I do believe I’m still better than Derrick Lewis. I think I have more skills than him, more ways to win. I’m better athletically. He’s just really good at what he does, which is getting the knockout.”

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Having knocked out Chris Daukaus in December, Lewis will once again fight down the rankings in his next bout as his search for “fun” and pressure-free matchups continues. At UFC 271 next month, he’ll face fellow entertaining hard-hitter Tai Tuivasa.

Meanwhile, Blaydes will seemingly need to wait for some other fights to play out before his next opponent is set. Targeting an April return, “Razor” believes he could face the loser of this weekend’s unification showdown between Ngannou and Gane.

Who would you like to see Curtis Blaydes enter the Octagon with next?

Continue Reading Curtis Blaydes: I’m Still Better Than Derrick Lewis at MMA News.

Curtis Blaydes: Derrick Lewis Hits Harder Than Francis Ngannou

UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes says that out of his former opponents Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou, it’s “The Black Beast” who packs the hardest punch.

Across his 19-fight professional MMA career, Blaydes has only tasted defeat agains…

Curtis Blaydes, UFC Vegas 19: Lewis vs. Blaydes, UFC Fight Night: Blaydes vs. Ngannou 2

UFC heavyweight contender Curtis Blaydes says that out of his former opponents Derrick Lewis and Francis Ngannou, it’s “The Black Beast” who packs the hardest punch.

Across his 19-fight professional MMA career, Blaydes has only tasted defeat against Ngannou and Lewis. In his UFC debut back in 2016, “Razor” had the first blemish added to his record by “The Predator” in the form of a doctor stoppage.

After going 6-0-1 in his next seven outings, a period that included wins against Aleksei Oleinik, Mark Hurt, and Alistair Overeem, Blaydes had his chance at redemption.

In the main event of a Beijing, China-held UFC Fight Night in 2018, the Illinois native shared the Octagon with Ngannou for the second time. On that occasion, the current UFC Heavyweight Champion got the job done without a doctor, securing a first-round TKO less than a minute into the contest.

Like with his first defeat, Blaydes had no issue rebounding after his second setback. Mounting a four-fight win streak, he defeated former titleholder Junior dos Santos and veteran striker Alexander Volkov. That form granted him a title eliminator against Lewis. But in the UFC Vegas 19 main event, Blaydes was knocked out cold for the first time in his career.

In an exclusive interview with MMA News, Blaydes discussed the immense power of both Ngannou and Lewis, the upcoming UFC 270 main event, his heavyweight GOAT, Jon Jones’ expected heavyweight debut, and his own return to action in 2022.

Blaydes: Lewis Slept Me, Ngannou Didn’t

Ngannou is widely regarded as not only the biggest power puncher in MMA but the hardest hitter on the globe. That claim is even backed up by some numbers. In 2017, the Cameroonian powerhouse set the record for the most powerful recorded punch in history.

That vicious ability to knock everyone and anyone out has been on full display in the UFC. In his five fights since consecutive defeats to Lewis and Stipe Miocic on the scorecards in 2018, Ngannou has knocked out Blaydes, Miocic, dos Santos, Cain Velasquez, and Jairzinho Rozenstruik, four of whom didn’t even escape the opening round.

But despite that, Blaydes believes the UFC’s power throne is occupied by Lewis, who boasts the most KOs in UFC history. Having felt the power of both top-five heavyweights, “Razor” believes it’s “The Black Beast” who boasts the power edge, citing the fact Lewis was able to sleep him and Ngannou wasn’t as his reasons.

“Well, Derrick. Obviously, I’d never been put to sleep, he put me to sleep. Gonna have to give it to him,” Blaydes told MMA News’ James Lynch. “When we (Blaydes and Ngannou) fought the first time, that was a doctor stoppage, I was not out, but I guess it goes down as a TKO. And then in Beijing, again, he dropped me twice in rapid succession, and then the referee jumped in, but I was aware, I remember everything. When Derrick Lewis knocked me out, I woke up in the ambulance, so there you go. That’s a big difference.”

Both Ngannou and Lewis are preparing for fights in the coming weeks. While “The Predator” is set for a title unification bout against former teammate Ciryl Gane at UFC 270 next weekend, “The Black Beast” will ride his main event KO against Chris Daukaus into a clash against fellow hard-swinger Tai Tuivasa at UFC 271 next month.

Blaydes, on the other hand, finds himself in an awkward position. After comfortably defeating Rozenstruik at UFC 266 last September, he cemented his status as a top-five heavyweight.

However, with three of the four names above him booked, the other being Miocic, who will likely either fight for the title or challenge Jones next and having already defeated the two contenders below him, options are limited for the time being.

Targeting an April return to the Octagon, Blaydes will seemingly wait for other fights to play out, and will perhaps challenge the loser of next weekend’s pay-per-view main event.

Who would you like to see Curtis Blaydes enter the cage with next?

Continue Reading Curtis Blaydes: Derrick Lewis Hits Harder Than Francis Ngannou at MMA News.

Coach Shares Advantage That Could Lead To Zombie Beating Volkanovski

Fight Ready striking coach Eddie Cha has revealed the stylistic advantage he believes could give “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung the edge if he challenges Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title.

Mere days ago, the promotion’s plans fo…

Alexander Volkanovski, "The Korean Zombie" Chan Sung Jung

Fight Ready striking coach Eddie Cha has revealed the stylistic advantage he believes could give “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung the edge if he challenges Alexander Volkanovski for the featherweight title.

Mere days ago, the promotion’s plans for March’s UFC 272 were revealed. Completing a blockbuster trilogy, Volkanovski looked set to defend his belt against Max Holloway, who has impressed in two main event wins since his back-to-back losses against the Australian.

But after aggravating a previous injury, news broke that “Blessed” had been forced to withdraw from the contest. We want top say that fight joy has never been provided and taken away so drastically and quickly, but for UFC fans, especially during the pandemic, this is nothing new.

It didn’t take long for a number of featherweight contenders to throw their names in the hat to replace Holloway. As well as top-10 145lbers Yair Rodriguez and Giga Chikadze, former two-division UFC champion Henry Cejudo once again staked his claim for the chance to win a third divisional gold in the promotion.

However, per Ariel Helwani, the man set to take centre stage with “The Great” Volkanovski at UFC 273 in April is The Korean Zombie. The fan favorite rebounded from his title eliminator loss to Brian Ortega with a main event win against Dan Ige last year. He’ll now look to reach the mountaintop at the second time of trying.

With Zombie’s replacement opportunity all but officially confirmed, the 34-year-old’s coach Eddie Cha spoke exclusively to MMA News. As well as discussing the latest developments in the featherweight title picture, Cha spoke about a possible Cejudo return, Deiveson Figueiredo’s preparation ahead of UFC 270, and Zhang Weili’s expected return to the Fight Ready gym.

Cha: Zombie Has A Great Chance Of Beating Volkanovski

While some see Zombie as the correct replacement for Holloway, many in the MMA community have claimed Chikadze should be thrust to the title should he defeat Calvin Kattar in this weekend’s main event. However, with the Georgian sat at #8 in the rankings, compared to Zombie’s #4 spot, and the South Korean’s 3-1 record since 2018, it’s hard to brand the veteran as undeserving.

Along the same lines, many expect the likes of Chikadze and Rodriguez to pose a greater threat to Volkanovski than Zombie. But one man who’s consistently worked with the 34-year-old in the gym and throughout his career believes he may shock the world when he enters the Octagon with the Aussie titleholder.

Naming his height advantage and prior success against shorter fighters as evidence, which includes knockouts of Frankie Edgar and Dennis Bermudez, Cha told MMA News’ James Lynch that Zombie has a “great chance” of taking the title from Volkanovski.

“I think Volkanovski is an unbelievable champion. I think he’s been underestimated the last few fights. But now, he’s not. Everybody knows how good he is. But, as far as stylistically, Zombie does so well against shorter fighters. I really kinda like this fight; I think anybody does when it comes to a title shot, but I really think he has a great chance of winning that fight.”

With Glover Teixeira dethroning Jan Blachowicz last October and Julianna Peña shocking the world by submitting Amanda Nunes in December, 2021 had its fair share of upsets. If Cha and The Korean Zombie have their way, the name Chan Sung Jung will be on the Upset of the Year nominee list at the end of 2022.

Do you think The Korean Zombie has what it takes to dethrone Alexander Volkanovski?

Continue Reading Coach Shares Advantage That Could Lead To Zombie Beating Volkanovski at MMA News.

Covington: I Used To Make Poirier “Leave The Gym Crying”

UFC welterweight contender Colby Covington claims he used to dominate former teammate Dustin Poirier so much in training that he’d “leave the gym crying.”

The rivalry between Covington and Poirier, who used to train together at Florida’s American T…

Dustin Poirier, Colby Covington

UFC welterweight contender Colby Covington claims he used to dominate former teammate Dustin Poirier so much in training that he’d “leave the gym crying.”

The rivalry between Covington and Poirier, who used to train together at Florida’s American Top Team gym, has existed for a number of years. It continues to grow with each social media exchange and interview, something that was evident when “Chaos” spoke with MMA News’ James Lynch.

During the exclusive interview, Covington spoke about a variety of topics, including his rivalry with former friend-turned-foe Jorge Masvidal, a potential clash with middleweight king Israel Adesanya, the downfall of former double champion Conor McGregor, and Jon Jones latest run-in with the law.

Covington Claims He Was “Smacking” Poirier For Years

Given the animosity that exists between the pair, it seemed like Covington and Poirier were forging a path towards an inevitable grudge match inside the Octagon. The feud’s history can be traced back to their time at ATT. After the welterweight star went into attack mode following his departure, the foundation was laid.

Since then, the pair have consistently exchanged barbs, although the shots have certainly had more volume from one side. From releasing sparring footage in attempt to target Poirier’s reputation to branding his wife a “Jezebel” and his child a “prop,” Covington certainly hasn’t held back.

With that in mind, you’d expect Poirier to want to get his hands on the former interim 170-pound titleholder. After “The Diamond” teased a move up to welterweight, it appeared the door was open for the two stars to settle their score inside the cage.

Covington told MMA News that he experienced enough success against Poirier in the gym to not care if his foe hangs up the gloves without facing him. According to the 33-year-old, he used to “smack” the Louisianan around so much that he’d leave the gym in tears.

“I used to smack him around so many times in sparring back in the day. I mean, for years, smacking him. He’d literally leave the gym crying. He’d go to Make Brown, just crying, ‘I can’t beat him, why’s his cardio so good, why does he just keep punching me in the face, I can’t do it.’

“I’ve had him literally leaving the gym more time than I can count on both hands. So I’ve already embarrassed him. He knows who daddy is. He knows who the real champ is. He knows who’s better. I wouldn’t care (if I never get to fight Poirier in the Octagon).”

Colby Covington, Dustin Poirier (Image Credit: @colbycovmma on Instagram)

Both Poirier and Covington are entering 2022 with a certain amount of uncertainty. While “Chaos” fell short of welterweight gold for the second time against Kamaru Usman in November, Poirier saw his own second undisputed championship opportunity end in heartbreak a month later.

For Covington, it appears a grudge match with Jorge Masvidal is on the cards, perhaps even at the culmination of a coaching stint opposite “Gamebred” on The Ultimate Fighter. If Covington gets his way, the ceremonial ‘BMF’ belt will also be on the line.

Poirier, meanwhile, has suggested he may never fight at lightweight again, and recently saw a potential clash with Nate Diaz seemingly fall through. Should he commit to a welterweight switch in the coming months, perhaps we will see him collide with Covington after all.

How do you think a fight between Colby Covington and Dustin Poirier would play out?

Continue Reading Covington: I Used To Make Poirier “Leave The Gym Crying” at MMA News.

Raki? Claims He’s “Much Hungrier” Than Blachowicz

UFC light heavyweight contender Aleksandar Raki? believes he’s “much hungrier” than his upcoming opponent and former champion Jan Blachowicz.

Raki? has spent much longer on the sidelines than he wanted, but it appears he’ll finally have the chance …

Aleksandar Raki?, Jan Blachowicz

UFC light heavyweight contender Aleksandar Raki? believes he’s “much hungrier” than his upcoming opponent and former champion Jan Blachowicz.

Raki? has spent much longer on the sidelines than he wanted, but it appears he’ll finally have the chance to secure number one contender status when he returns to action in the first quarter of 2022. The Austrian last entered the Octagon at UFC 259 in March, where he defeated former title challenger Thiago Santos by way of a unanimous decision.

After challenges sent the way of fellow top-five Ji?í Procházka fell on deaf ears and an apparent rematch with Anthony Smith fell through after an injury for “Lionheart,” Raki?’s next outing was finally confirmed. He’ll meet European peer Blachowicz in the main event of a UFC Fight Night scheduled for March 26.

Following the announcement, Raki? spoke to MMA News’ James Lynch to discuss his upcoming fight with the Polish behemoth, his rivalry with Czech knockout artist Ji?í Procházka, his experience training with Khamzat Chimaev, and his feud with former opponent Smith.

Raki? Targets Title Shot By Slaying A Former Champion

While Raki? has certainly been impressive in his UFC tenure to date, which most believe should see him unbeaten at 7-0 given the controversial nature of his split decision loss to Volkan Oezdemir, Blachowicz will be no easy path to go through to reach the top step at 205 pounds.

Before losing his belt to Glover Teixeira at UFC 267, the Pole had experienced an unlikely resurgence and title crowning. Having became champion after upsetting the odds against Dominick Reyes last year, Blachowicz recorded a successful defense by adding the first blemish to the record of middleweight king Israel Adesanya.

Raki? told MMA News he’s expecting a motivated Blachowicz come March 26. However, given the fact he’s yet to feel what it’s like to sit on the top step, “Rocket” believes he’ll be “much hungrier” when the pair enter the cage together.

“I’m thinking that he’s gonna come with the extra motivation to our fight and to be a better version, you know. To beat a guy even more hungry than before and more willing to get the belt back, it’s gonna be awesome. He was already on the top, he knows how it feels. I was never on the top and I was never a champion. So I am much hungrier than him, that I can say.”

Nevertheless, Raki? acknowledges the challenge he has in front of him. Hailing from a central European country himself, the 29-year-old is aware of the toughness Blachowicz has inside him. With that in mind, the Austrian will be preparing for war as he looks to secure a title shot for later in the year.

“I have a great team and we’ve been watching Jan for a while now… He’s a tough guy. He’s from Poland; from this area, guys are really tough. He’s coming not to lose, he’s coming for everything. But I am from the same area. I’m the same…I’m gonna be right on point on the 26th of March to get the W and to secure my title shot.”

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With Teixeira and Procházka expected to collide for the gold in the second quarter of 2022, likely April or May, according to the Brazilian, it stands to reason the winner of Raki? vs Blachowicz will be fighting the champ in the back end of 2022.

Who do you think will have their hand raised in the March 26 UFC Fight Night main event, Aleksandar Raki? or Jan Blachowicz?

Continue Reading Raki? Claims He’s “Much Hungrier” Than Blachowicz at MMA News.