Tag Archives: Light Heavyweight

UFC Vegas 15 Fallout: Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith Not Done Yet

The light heavyweight division can’t get rid of one of their top contenders just yet, after Anthony Smith got a quick and impressive win over Devin Clark in the UFC Vegas 15 main event.

Smith and Clark stepped into the main event slot on a day’s notice, changing their fight to a five-rounder in the process, after Curtis Blaydes tested positive for COVID-19 forcing his bout with Derrick Lewis to be scrapped.

The extra two rounds never came into play however, after Smith got rocked early on and decided to implement his wrestling and jiu-jitsu game to lock up a triangle choke from his back for a first round submission.

It was Smith’s first win of the year following back-to-back defeats against Glover Teixeira and Aleksandar Rakic, with the former title challenger admitting that he wasn’t sure what he’d do with his future going forward.

The fight against Clark was a way for Smith to measure himself, to see if he still had it and just had bad performances or if he was really done. He said in the post-fight press conference that he was happy with his performance, but it wasn’t more than he expected.

I did to Devin Clark what I’m supposed to do to Devin Clark. I’m not saying that I’m not happy with that win but if anything other than that happened, then we have a problem. I’m not going to be the guy who says ‘I’m next in line’. If I have to stay around the bottom of the rankings for a while and fight my way back up to fight those top five guys then that’s what I’ll do.

When asked what was next, Smith picked out someone who came off an impressive win themselves just last week – Scotsman Paul Craig.

“I think I saw that Paul Craig dropped my name or something, thats a fun match-up. That would be a fun, grappling match up with Paul Craig. I love his style, I could listen to his interviews forever, he seems like a good dude.

As far as a timeline, as long as I have enough time to get ready then I’m good.”

It seems like a sensible route that Smith is taking, just trying to get back into a flow and a rhythm of fighting regularly and winning again. The Teixiera fight he was winning for the first two rounds, so he knows he has the ability but it’s about getting the momentum now.

He is currently ranked sixth, so fighting the No.14 in Paul Craig next is a risk for him but more wins are all he cares about and that’s a positive.

It was a card of not much else in terms of storyline with the main event being cancelled at the last minute but Smith showed he can still deliver at the top of the card with his seventh consecutive main event appearance.

Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira Fighting For No.2 Position at 205lbs

For once back in September, the UFC were rightly praised for their match-making skills.

After arranging for the light heavyweight crown to be claimed by Jan Blachowicz or Dominick Reyes at UFC 253 on Fight Island, the UFC had cleverly arranged for Thiago Santos and Glover Teixeira to go to war the following week with many believing it would be a No.1 contender fight.

The fight was delayed twice due to positive COVID-19 tests, one for each fighter, and they will finally meet this weekend at UFC Vegas 13. The stakes have changed now however.

It was revealed this week that middleweight champion Israel Adesanya has made the decision to move up to light heavyweight in an attempt to become a double champion, with Dana White confirming that will be Blachowicz’s first title defence.

While it’s obviously hard to deny the reigning middleweight champion a shot at a title in the next division, it seems harsh on two fighters who were unable to fight through no fault of their own.

Both men were preparing for a No.1 contender fight. Santos hasn’t fought for over a year, since his defeat in a light heavyweight title fight against Jon Jones saw him controversially beaten via split decision.

Teixeira last fought against Anthony Smith in May of this year, where he put in a masterful performance to win via TKO in the fifth round. The victory not only put him on course for his first title shot in the UFC, but also extended his winning streak to four.

UFC Fight Night Smith v Teixeira : News Photo
Glover Teixeira destroyed Anthony Smith in May 2020

At 41 years old, Glover is at the end of his career. There is no way of beating around that bush. So to make him wait even longer for a potential fight for the title that he has earned is a bitter pill to swallow.

There is the potential that the fight never comes for him too, even if he beats Santos. With Adesanya’s insistence that he will fight Jon Jones, and even go up to heavyweight if needs be to do it, all the divisions from 185lbs upwards could be on hold in the near future.

As it stands, the fight at UFC Vegas 13 will be a banger. Both guys will come with a solid game plan, heavy hands and a strong ground game should they need it. They will both come forward and it will be a war of attrition for who wants it more on the night.

Santos is 36 himself, so he’s no spring chicken either, but his style means he can go a little longer than Teixeira can into the future. It won’t mean much on the night but it does mean that should ‘Marreta’ get the win he could be willing to wait a little bit longer for a potential shot.

The likes of Aleksandar Rakic, Dominick Reyes and newcomer Jiri Prochazka will all be floating around looking to get into the title scene too and Santos could follow up a win over Teixeira with a fight against one of those to fill the time.

The fight itself will be fun, but fans can’t help but feel bittersweet about the fact that a No.1 contender fight has been downgraded because COVID-19 struck again.

Israel Adesanya to Challenge Jan Blachowicz for Light Heavyweight Title in 2021

UFC middleweight champion Israel Adesanya is to move up to the light heavyweight division to challenge Jan Blachowicz for the 205lbs title, according to UFC president Dana White.

Adesanya defended his title at UFC 243 in September, knocking out Paulo Costa in the second round after a dominant performance. On the same night, Polish veteran Jan Blachowicz knocked out Dominick Reyes to claim the vacant title following Jon Jones’ move up to heavyweight.

After last month’s UFC 254 event where former champion Robert Whittaker defeated Jared Cannonier, many believed it was all set up for a rematch between the two best fighters to come out of Australasia.

Dana White confirmed it was a ‘very appealing fight’ to make, while Adesanya had previously said that if Whittaker ‘wants that work’ then he’d be open to it also. Whittaker revealed in an interview with ESPN’s Brett Okamoto that he felt he didn’t need to campaign for a title shot as he felt it was ‘inevitable’ that he would fight for the title again.

That hasn’t gone down well with Dana White, who confirmed that ‘Bobby Knuckles’ stance has made it easy for him to grant Adesanya’s wishes and allow him to fight to become a double champ.

Speaking after UFC Vegas 12, White said;

When the fight was over, the last fight on Fight Island, I was like ‘I’m gonna have to sit down with this kid [Adesanya] and convince him why he has to fight Whittaker. Whittaker’s come out and says he doesn’t want to fight him. Craziest shit I’ve ever seen. There’s no arguing with Israel now. I thought Whittaker deserved the shot and Whittaker doesn’t want it so yeah, we’ll let him do it [move up to 205lbs].

While the fight is something fans will be excited to see, it also has drawn criticism for Adesanya. ‘The Last Stylebender’ has been going back and forth with Jon Jones online but had previously turned down his invitations to move up to the light heavyweight division for a super fight.

UFC 253 Reyes v Blachowicz : News Photo

Now that Jones has left the division to pursue a career at heavyweight, Adesanya has moved up at the first opportunity to take on Blachowicz.

Blachowicz is obviously a great fighter with names like Jacare Souza, Luke Rockhold, Jared Cannonier and Dominick Reyes on his record. But he will have a clear striking disadvantage against Adesanya and it’s quite clear that this is a scenario where Adesanya is taking advantage of the fact the division has a weaker champion than it has had for the last decade.

Adesanya himself says this is all a part of the plan and says he still plans to fight Jon Jones in 2021, with the expectation that it will take place in the Allegiant Stadium in Las Vegas in front of fans.

Despite his insistence that he wants the Jones fight, it’s hard to look at this decision without asking questions.

The decision not to fight Whittaker is understandable, considering he demolished him in just two rounds via a violent knockout too. Jared Cannonier’s defeat at UFC 254 has obviously thrown the UFC’s plans for the middleweight division into disarray too.

When it comes to the fight between Blachowicz and Adesanya, the Nigerian will be a heavy favourite going into it. His striking advantage, speed, accuracy and supreme confidence in the way he has conquered every fighter he’s come up against so far.

Blachowicz will be a different problem to anything he has faced before though. His genuinely huge frame will no doubt give him an edge in physicality and he has a good wrestling game which also allows him to rack up submissions. If he employs a tactic to get the fight to the ground he will have a clear path to victory, but overall this for me is Adesanya’s fight to lose.

Anderson Silva: The Spider’s Top 3 Performances

As UFC Vegas 12 approaches this weekend, the main event serves to put an end to the final chapter of Anderson Silva’s career.

The consensus greatest middleweight of all time is set to have his illustrious career’s curtain call when he takes on Uriah Hall this Saturday, knowing it will be his final fight.

After one of the greatest primes in mixed martial arts history, Silva has slipped into mediocrity as age and injury has caught up to him. That however hasn’t stopped us from remembering him for putting in some of the most memorable performances ever.

In this, I’m going to break down his three best for me to make people understand why I fell in love with MMA because of ‘The Spider’ Anderson Silva.

Anderson Silva vs Rich Franklin
UFC 64, Oct 2006

UFC 64: Unstoppable : News Photo

The fight where it all started. Anderson Silva’s first UFC middleweight title fight was against Rich Franklin, who at that point was 22-1 and undefeated in the UFC. On an eight-fight win streak, Franklin was seen as Silva’s first real test since signing with the company. He dismantled Chris Leben in just 49 seconds of his debut and was then placed into this bout.

He started slowly in the fight, but after about 90 seconds of putting out feelers and getting his range he turned up the pressure. Silva began exchanging with full freedom and zero worries, before reaching for the Muay-Thai clinch. As soon as he got it, he started throwing heavy knees to the body and Franklin had no answer for the grip. He tried to throw a few knees of his own and come over the top with some hooks but it wasn’t enough to prevent ‘The Spider’ from breaking his spirit.

After throwing around 20 knees to the body, Franklin could no long fight the hands and dropped his guard to prevent the body attack as much as possible. This meant that Silva threw a knee to the head that hurt him instantly. Silva followed up with strikes and two head kicks before throwing two more knees to the head, which was enough to force Franklin to the ground and for the referee to end the fight there and then.

The greatest title reign in UFC history had begun.

Jon Jones vs Israel Adesanya

It’s the rivalry in MMA right now and it’s between two fighters who aren’t even in the same weight class.

The consensus greatest of all time in Jon Jones is undefeated in the UFC barring a silly disqualification in a fight he dominated way back in 2009, with the only other blemish on his record being a KO win over Daniel Cormier being overturned to a no contest following a failed drugs test.

Israel Adesanya is a striking master with a 20-0 record in mixed martial arts following a highly successful career in boxing and kickboxing prior to that. ‘The Last Stylebender’ entered the UFC just two years ago and has already amassed a reputation as one of the best to ever do it, with wins over Kelvin Gastelum, Anderson Silva, Robert Whittaker, Yoel Romero and most recently Paulo Costa on his record.

The two despise each other and are constantly going back and forth with insults on social media, with Jones not taking kindly to Adesanya’s highly personal insults including his problems with the law and drugs.

Both men have spoken at length about a potential fight taking place, with both acknowledging it would happen at 205lbs – Jon Jones’ division. So who would win if this fight happened?

UFC 247 Jones v Reyes: Weigh-Ins : News Photo

It’s not a shock to anyone, but Israel Adesanya would 100% have the striking advantage in this fight. His kickboxing skills and ability to manage distance would see him able to pick Jones apart from range much like he did with Paulo Costa in the first round of their fight. The issue he’d have here though, is he would have a reach disadvantage. Jones has an 84 inch reach and a 45 inch leg reach, while Adesanya compares with an 80 inch reach and 44 inch leg reach. Therefore his greatest strength is arguably taken away from him.

Jones has a wrestling advantage and a pure physicality advantage. His best work comes in the clinch and if he can tie Adesanya up he will control the fight. He’s also a naturally bigger man. Jones is supposed to be on the move up to heavyweight but is reportedly willing to forego that for now to make this happen, although Adesanya wants him to wait. While Jones has shown a considerable deterioration in his physical attributes in the last few years, he’s still considerably bigger than Adesanya and with Izzy carrying extra weight into the fight it’s unlikely that he will be as explosive as usual. It’s important to note that Adesanya is a natural middleweight, he weighed in for his title fight with Costa at 184lbs and has even weighed in fully clothed, eating doughnuts during his King of the Ring days.

While analysing Jon Jones most recent performances, there are glaring holes in his game that have been exposed that hadn’t been seen previously. Thiago Santos chewed up his legs in their bout and was given the decision by one judge in their fight, before Dominick Reyes landed more strikes than anyone else ever has and many believe he should’ve won their bout in February. But one thing being overlooked is Jones’ motivation for those fights.

He was already talking up a potential move to heavyweight and was the heavy favourite pre-fight both times out. Much like he was against Ovince Saint-Preux and Alexander Gustafsson once upon a time, he just didn’t care enough. We have seen though when Jones is fully motivated and even angry how he performs.

He dominated Daniel Cormier in both of their fights, even securing a knockout over Cormier (before it was overturned) and in the rematch against Gustafsson it was one of the more one-sided title fights in recent memory as he took him down and flattened him with ground and pound. A highly motivated Jon Jones, to me, is the greatest mixed martial artist of all time.

UFC 232: Jones v Gustafsson 2 : News Photo

With that said, Israel Adesanya isn’t just any fighter. He is a world class striker with incredible precision in his strikes and knockout power. He has kicks in his arsenal too and his footwork and speed is something that Jones hasn’t had to contend with in the past. He also has a wave of momentum and no expectation behind him, with many believing that Jones is supposed to win.

A clash between these two bitter rivals with a personal twist would arguably be the biggest fight the UFC can make right now. Ultimately though, I don’t think we would see a shock. Jones is too well rounded, too skilled, too big and ultimately would be too motivated. I think he eats some shots but eventually puts Adesanya down using his wrestling and beats him with elbows before sinking in a submission for the win.

UFC 253 Fallout – Adesanya The Great, Future of Light Heavyweight

Fight Island returned with a historic card as Israel Adesanya made short work of his fiercest rival so far while Jan Blachowicz became the undisputed light heavyweight champion with a stunning knockout win.

After all the build up and talk about a potential fight of the night in the main event Adesanya entered the octagon and completely dominated Paulo Costa, evading attacks and landing leg kicks at will for the first round before opening up in the second and securing a knockout win. The manner of the victory was an eye opener for many who believed that Adesanya has been gifted a route to greatness by the UFC. Costa was flattened after promising to expose Adesanya and he had no excuse other than he isn’t as good as his opponent.

Following the bout, Adesanya explained that the fight went exactly as he expected because “I’m smart and he’s dumb,” but it was more than that. The execution of techniques and a game plan were there for all to see and now Izzy can move on from his toughest test having put in the best performance of his MMA career.

UFC 253 Reyes v Blachowicz : News Photo

He’s now turned his attention to Jared Cannonier, revealing that the two have spoken over Instagram DM’s to discuss a future bout. Cannonier is scheduled to fight former champion Robert Whittaker at UFC 254 next month knowing a win will set up a fight for the title against ‘The Last Stylebender’ but whether that’s a favourable match up for him or not is up for debate. Adesanya seems to have the speed advantage over all the top middleweights in the world and his striking techniques are phenomenal.

This weekend was his 100th win in professional combat sports (kickboxing, boxing and MMA) and it puts him among the greatest 185lbers of all time with his idol Anderson Silva.

Up at 205lbs, Jan Blachowicz fulfilled a lifelong dream when he knocked out Dominick Reyes in the second round to become the light heavyweight champion. Despite being the underdog once again, the Polish fighter was never in danger at any point throughout the fight and after smashing Reyes’ nose to pieces he landed a huge left hook to win the fight.

Immediately after the fight he called out Jon Jones, who vacated the title to move up to heavyweight, but was also open to a potential rematch against Thiago Santos as his first title defence in the future.

The two fought each other back in February 2019 and Santos secured the knockout victory early in the 3rd round, but it’s the only defeat Blachowicz has suffered in his last nine fights. With Santos scheduled to fight Glover Teixiera in November now after twice being cancelled recently due to positive COVID-19 tests, it seems almost certain to be a number one contender fight. Jon Jones won’t be coming back to 205lbs any time soon with the heavyweight belt on his mind and that could leave the current division more open than at any point in the last 10 years.

With no Jon Jones to reign supreme, there are plenty of fighters who will fancy their chances at becoming champion in the near future. Santos, Teixiera, Reyes, Rakic and Smith will all believe that they are only two or three fights away from the title at any point in time and the match up are all favourable at different stages.

Interestingly it could be the weakest the division has been in a while but also the most entertaining with such openness at the top end. I don’t think any of the current crop will go down among the elites in the history of the sport but a few of them could end up as champions at one point or another.

If Adesanya has aspirations of becoming a double champ, this could be the ideal time for him to do it.

Dominick Reyes Wants His Throne As New Light Heavyweight Era Begins

As the UFC returns to Fight Island this Saturday for UFC 253, it will mark the beginning of a new era at light heavyweight.

For the first time since 2011, someone other than Jon Jones or Daniel Cormier will be crowned the undisputed light heavyweight champion as Dominick Reyes takes on Jan Blachowicz in the co-main event.

Many believe however that this fight is champion vs challenger anyway. Reyes took on Jon Jones in what turned out to be his final 205lbs title defence back in February and many believe he won. After landing more strikes on Jones than anyone in history and managing to keep up the pace for almost the entire 25 minutes, the official decision was unanimous in favour of the champion.

Many called for an immediate rematch between the two but after months of negotiations between Jones and the UFC, he chose to vacate the belt and move up to heavyweight for a potential showdown with Stipe Miocic or Francis Ngannou.

That leaves the 205lbs throne unattended and Reyes is ready to step up and claim the spot he feels is his already. A fight against Blachowicz will be a tough test, with the Polish fighter coming off the back of seven wins from his last eight fights with his only defeat coming to former title challenger Thiago Santos.

UFC Fight Night: Reyes v Weidman : News Photo

With Reyes’ fantastic boxing skill and explosive power, Blachowicz is the underdog going into the fight and probably rightly so. How do you bet against the man who many believe defeated the greatest of all time?

The state of the division currently isn’t great. After these two at the top of the division, the winner will likely take on the winner of Thiago Santos vs Glover Teixeira in a soon to be rescheduled fight, while Aleksandar Rakic is also lurking following his dominant win over Anthony ‘Lionheart’ Smith. A new champion could be the injection that the division needs, with no more one-sided fights in the eyes of the casual but it’s also lacking star power.

If Reyes can get another big knockout win like he did against Jared Cannonier and Chris Weidman then he could get the attention of the masses, especially on a card that is likely to house the fight of the year in the main event.

It’s time for someone to step up and take the light heavyweight division by the throat following Jon Jones’ departure. While Jan Blachowicz will hope he can do it, the masses believe it’s time for Dominick Reyes’ destiny to claim the crown as undisputed light heavyweight champion of the world.

UFC Vegas 8 Fallout: Does Rakic Deserve A Title Shot?

A fun UFC Vegas card this past weekend was headlined by a light heavyweight contender showdown as prospect Aleksandar Rakic dominated former challenger Anthony Smith to a unanimous decision win.

A fight that was expected to be fireworks ended up in a strategic battle as Rakic chopped down his opponent with leg kicks before controlling from the top position on the ground, with neither fighter taking serious damage to anything above the waistline.

As Smith revealed after the fight, it looked like the two men were in different weight classes. Rakic had more power everywhere, meaning Smith was powerless to prevent Rakic from laying on top of him and landing some ground and pound to give the judges an easy decision to make. With Rakic taking the win and surely now entering the Top 5 in the division, talk obviously heads towards that of a title shot for the Austrian.

But is he deserving? Not just yet for me.

Rakic has an impressive record in the UFC, winning five of his six fights, and his only defeat coming to former title challenger Volkan Oezdemir in a split-decision. At just 28 years of age, Rakic isn’t even close to his fighting prime yet which doesn’t bode well for the rest of the division. But Saturday night was his first ever main-event and it wasn’t even five rounds.

After a short-notice bump up to main event status, the parties couldn’t agree on a pay-increase for the new spot and thus it was decided to keep it as a three-rounder. That means despite the dominance Rakic showed, he’s still never had to go the full 25 minutes in a fight. He’s never been dragged into deep waters.

It was also Rakic’s first ever opponent inside the Top 5. While the win was obviously very impressive, I don’t think it’s enough to warrant a title shot. Dominick Reyes had to beat Jared Cannonier, Volkan Oezdemir and then Chris Weidman before he received his title shot. Jan Blachowicz will fight Reyes for the vacant title at UFC 253, having beaten Luke Rockhold, Jacare Souza and Corey Anderson in his last three bouts.

In a bout scheduled just after that one, Thiago Santos will fight Glover Teixieira. Santos hasn’t fought since his narrow defeat to Jon Jones over a year ago, where he blew out both knees after landing several leg kicks. Prior to that he was on a violent run where he beat Kevin Holland, Eryk Anders, Jimi Manuwa and Jan Blachowicz in a six month period. Glover just dismantled Anthony Smith to put himself back into contention after accumulating a three fight win streak prior to that knockout win.

UFC Fight Night: Smith v Rakic : News Photo

The best option for Rakic in my eyes, is either the loser of the title fight between Reyes and Blachowicz or the loser of the fight between Santos and Teixeira. It may seem weird to set him up against losers of fights, but they would all be the best competition he has ever fought and would act as an indicator of whether or not he’s able to hang at that level consistently.

The winner of the Santos and Teixeira will likely be next in line for a title shot, meaning the loser of both fights will have to work their way back up. With Rakic, it would provide a perfect opportunity for all to show they belong there.

For Smith, talks of a potential move back down to middleweight seem premature. He has done exceptionally well at light heavyweight and one loss against a top prospect shouldn’t detract from the good work he has done. Losses to Jon Jones and Glover Teixeira are also nothing to be ashamed of. He may need to reset and build again but at just 32 years old he has plenty of time to do so. He shouldn’t feel the need to rush or cut weight back to 185lbs where the division is stacked. He’d be putting himself at a disadvantage which he clearly doesn’t need considering his most recent performances.

205lbs is lacking star power with Jones’ relinquishing of the title. Rakic could be the next coming of superstardom among the UFC’s big men.

Jon Jones Vacates UFC Light Heavyweight Title

Jon Jones has vacated the UFC Light Heavyweight championship, he revealed on his Twitter.

The 205lbs reigning champion has been in dispute with the UFC about his pay going back several months now, claiming he has no desire to fight for the organisation until he is paid what he believes he’s worth.

After winning the championship back in 2011 as a 24 year old, Jones hasn’t lost a single fight. He was stripped of the UFC title on two separate occasions due to problems with the law and failed drugs tests but won the title back at the first attempt every time he returned.

After clearing out the division, Jones has hinted at a move up to heavyweight to become “the baddest man on the planet” but wants to be paid to make the jump.

UFC President Dana White says Jones wants an “obscene” amount of money, something Jones has denied but there was hope a compromise was close when Jones called out Stipe Miocic on Twitter following his win over Daniel Cormier at UFC 252.

However Jones took to Twitter on Monday night to announce that following a phone conversation with the UFC, he had made the decision to officially vacate the 205lbs division title and proceed as a fan until a compromise could be made.

Jones has left the door open for a potential swift return, by revealing he’ll be staying in the USADA testing pool for the next six months in the hope something can be sorted between both parties.

In the meantime, the UFC are proceeding with the light heavyweight division and are looking to set up a bout between Dominick Reyes and Jan Blachowicz at UFC 253 on September 26th for the vacant title. That bout isn’t official just yet, but reports suggest it is close to being finalised.

With Jones essentially “retiring” from action right now, the UFC has to go without its two biggest stars heading into 2021 unless something changes. With Conor McGregor also “retired”, the company is focused on creating new stars to lead them into the future but with the shadows of both Jones and McGregor looming, it’s a harder job to complete than ever before.

Jones then tweeted later in the evening that he spoke again with the UFC and there was a positive outcome this time, with the two parties seemingly agreeing to at least negotiate a new contract.

Hopefully a compromise can be found swiftly and we’ll see Jones return as a heavyweight, where a large amount of interesting match-ups await him. If not, we could well have seen the last of the greatest of all time.