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Gotta' go with fighter safety. A loss can be avenged. Brain damage cannot be reversed.



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  • Paul Buentello defeats Rameau Sokoudjou in a controversial stoppage

    UFC veterans Rameau Sokoudjou and Paul Buentello fought in a heavyweight bout that served as the main event of Abu Dhabi Warriors 3 on Saturday, Oct. 3, 2015.

    Buentello (33-16) defeated Sokoudjou (16-13) via knockout at 3:21 of round 3.

    Controversy has, however, followed the bout as a result of referee stoppage. The referee, Yuji Shimada, stood up Sokoudjou and allowed the fight to continue after the PRIDE, UFC and Bellator veteran was knocked down to the canvas where he laid unresponsive.

    With this performance, Buentello picked up his first win following a loss to Myron Dennis back in March 2014. While Sokoudjou, obtained his first loss following his Bellator release back in June 2015.

  • Seo Hee Ham meets Cortney Casey at UFC South Korea

    A women's strawweight bout has been added to the UFC's first card in South Korea.

    Seo Hee Ham, a South Korea native, will meet Cortney Casey at UFC Fight Night: Henderson vs. Alves on Nov. 28 in Seoul, the UFC announced Tuesday.

    Ham (15-6) has not fought since falling via unanimous decision to Joanne Calderwood at The Ultimate Fighter 20 Finale last December. That was her first loss since 2011. Ham, 28, made her UFC debut in that bout after spending entire career competing in South Korea and Japan. Ham, nicknamed "Hamderlei Silva" for her aggressive fighting style, was supposed to fight Bec Rawlings in May, but pulled out due to injury.

    Casey (4-2) also lost to Calderwood via unanimous decision in her last fight, back in July. That was the Arizona native's UFC debut and she had won three in a row previously on the regional circuit. Casey, 28, gave Calderwood a good run in that bout and might have won a round.

    UFC Fight Night 79 is headlined by a welterweight bout between Benson Henderson and Thiago Alves. In the co-main event, Dong Hyun Kim meets Jorge Masvidal in a welterweight clash.

  • Fortunes changed for five at UFC 192
    Jon Jones was nowhere near the Toyota Center in Houston on Saturday night, but his presence was felt throughout the show.

    The former light heavyweight champion and arguably most talented fighter in the sport's history was in the back of everyone's mind all night. As Ryan Bader and Rashad Evans were battling for the next title shot, the caveat was that if UFC reinstated Jones, they would have to wait in line.

    And as Daniel Cormier and Alexander Gustafsson had one of the greatest light heavyweight title fights in history, the ghost of Jones was even stronger. As thrilling as round five was with the feeling every punch and counter could decide the championship in what appeared to be a razor-close fight, and as both men showed the heart and will of true champions, the thoughts of Jones were still ominous. You couldn't escape thinking about whether Jones could beat both of them, and the reality is, he would be favored, perhaps heavily, against each.

    It may be the reason that the fight felt like something less than what light heavyweight title fights have usually felt like. In UFC, the marquee division changes, based on who the stars are at the time. But ever since UFC adopted a second weight class at the end of 1997, when the current light heavyweight division debuted as the middleweight division, no division has been as consistent a marquee division. From Frank Shamrock as the star of the dead era, Tito Ortiz in the early Zuffa years, Chuck Liddell as the sport exploded, and then with Rampage Jackson, Forrest Griffin, and onto Jon Jones, the champion was always one of the guys who drew the most interest.

    Cormier always pushes the idea that he had nothing to do with Jones not being around, and that of the guys in the UFC, he won his fights against the two top contenders, Anthony Johnson and Gustafsson. But as great as Saturday's war was, Cormier will always be known as the guy who talked the talk going into the Jones fight, but in the end everything Jones said before the fight was what rung true.

    Individual sports are different from team sports. When Michael Jordan disappeared from the NBA, and the Houston Rockets won the 1994 championship, nobody talked like they weren't the real champions because if Jordan was around, the result could have been different, and they had never beaten the Jordan Bulls when it counted.

    Jones was having his fun after being sentenced to only probation in his hit-and-run case from earlier this year. Right before the fight, he released a video showing a bigger and stronger Jones lifting weights to mess with the heads of the rest of the division who hadn't found the key to beating the old version.

    But if there was a theme to Saturday's show, it was that there were several key wins to contenders at the top of divisions, including Cormier and Bader at light heavyweight, but none put together the win that would turn heads.
    Cormier won a great fight, but as noted, he didn't convince people from the performance that he was better than Jones, who was the champion who was never defeated in the cage for the title. Bader clearly beat Rashad Evans, but not in a manner where people are clamoring for a showdown with Cormier, nor would such a fight do big business. Julianna Pena clearly beat Jessica Eye and challenged Ronda Rousey, but didn't beat Eye in a manner where viewers would see her against Rousey as a big fight past the fact anyone against Rousey is an event. And Joseph Benavidez, the perennial bridesmaid at bantamweight, clearly beat former title contender Ali Bagautinov, but not in a manner that has fans now clamoring for a third fight with Demetrious Johnson.

    If anything, besides all the buzz about how great the main event was, the most talked about fighter on the show may have been 19-year-old Sage Northcutt, whose hand speed and ferocity in finishing Francisco Trevino was reminiscent of Vitor Belfort's debut against Tra Telligman and Scott Ferrozo in winning a UFC tournament in 1997, at the same age.
    Let's look at how Fortunes Changes for Five stars from UFC 192.

    DANIEL CORMIER - Even though he lost to Jones, Saturday's fight seemed to be the physically toughest of Cormier's career. Cormier never even did striking training until the age of 30. He was giving up six inches in height, if not more, seven inches in reach, 12 years of stand-up experience, and is 36 as compared to Gustafsson being 28.

    That all seemed to mean that Cormier needed to get the fight to the ground.  But the last four rounds were almost exclusively stand-up, and Cormier more than held his own. If not for a hard knee that had him in trouble late in the third round, he actually clearly got the better with his constant forward movement and uppercuts from the clinch, which were the key difference makers in the fight.

    Cormier's career in being on the biggest stage with all-time greats, whether it was Cael Sanderson in the NCAA finals, Khadzhimurat Gatsalov in the Olympics, or Jones in MMA, is well documented. His legacy in sports will always be someone who competed and excelled at the highest level in two different sports. He's won national titles in wrestling and a world title in MMA, but his career defining moment is still likely to be another fight with Jones.

    ALEXANDER GUSTAFSSON - Gustafsson is now the guy who came close on two occasions of taking the title. With a little more aggression at certain points in the fight, the result could have been different. The same could be said for his 2013 loss to Jones, where if one blow by Jones that changed the fourth round didn't land, it was Gustafsson's round and he would have almost clinched winning the fight by decision.

    So even with three losses in his last four fights, Gustafsson is absolutely championship level. But he's in a tough position. The only opponents that seem to make sense for him that he hasn't  fought in the division are Rashad Evans (24-4-1) and Glover Teixiera (23-4), provided Teixeira beats Patrick Cummins on Nov. 7. The best fight for him to rehab would be a rematch with Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, but that fight makes no sense for UFC to make right now, with Johnson having knocked Gustafsson out earlier this year.

    RYAN BADER - Bader (21-4), with five straight wins, is clearly, by fighting merit, the next guy who should face Cormier if Jones isn't reinstated. But the problem is, once again, it would be a title fight matching two guys who Jones already beat.
    It is possible UFC could go with Glover Teixiera for a title shot. Teixeira beat Bader in 2013. If Teixeira scores an impressive win over Patrick Cummins, he could face Cormier, but Bader would still be the favorite if Jones isn't around. Teixeira has also lost to Jones.

    Bader himself talked of wanting to avenge the Teixeira loss if Jones got the title shot. But if Bader is going to fight again and Cormier faces Jones next, it makes more sense for UFC to put Bader vs. Johnson (20-5). Because of his one punch knockout power, Johnson is always a threat in any fight, whether it be Cormier, who beat him the first time, or Jones, who was scheduled to face him when he was suspended.

    JOSEPH BENAVIDEZ - At 23-4, Joe B's only losses have come twice to Demetrious Johnson and twice to Dominick Cruz. He's only been stopped once in a career where he's been constantly facing top guys in the welterweight and flyweight division for more than six years.

    In the flyweight division, Henry Cejudo, if he beats Jussier Formiga on Nov. 21 in Monterrey, Mexico, is likely to get the next title shot at Johnson. If he loses, Benavidez would be the clear top contender. But Benavidez's win over Ali Bagautinov was a three round decision that fans booed. If Formiga gets an impressive win, he could come in with more momentum and get the shot.

    If Cejudo or Formiga gets the next shot, Benavidez likely opponents would be John Dodson (17-7), Kyoji Horiguchi (16-2) or Zach Makovsky (19-6). Dodson makes the least sense because he's also lost twice to Johnson, and his second loss was one month ago, and one-sided. So Dodson knocking off Benavidez eliminates a contender while adding nothing. The problem is, Horiguchi isn't all that much different, given the way Johnson beat him.

    SAGE NORTHCUTT - Northcutt, at 19 years and seven months, exploded onto the scene with a good deal of hype, and lived up to it with a 57 second win and all kinds of backflips after the fight.

    His debut received substantial attention due to his being part of a You Tube reality show where Dana White was scouting new fighters, and his look and physique, already being tabbed as the male Paige VanZant.

    At this stage, the featherweight fighter is 6-0 and all we really know is that he can deliver wild kicks and has very fast hands. He's got a lot of time to improve, and UFC should be patient before sending him to the wolves. That said, he probably should be featured next on FOX, in a main card opener. Historically, fans love to see a star develop in front of their eyes over the years. It is way too early to gauge his real potential, but people like him don't come around often in this sport. UFC rarely builds fighters like boxing does, using the strategy of prospects given people to fatten their record for a long time before facing serious opponents. But that's the best route here. It should be a ,slow build as far as competition. But UFC should also make sure it's a big audience stage to see that build, meaning FOX and PPV shows, where he's marketed hard in the process.

  • Xplode Fight Series dissolves agreement with third-party sanctioning body before first event

    Much-maligned MMA promotion Xplode Fight Series is in search of a sanctioning body once again.

    After agreeing to terms with the United States Mixed Martial Arts Federation (UMMAF) in September, XFS owner Gregg Sharp has dissolved the partnership, citing that UMMAF reneged on its original deal and changed its terms with regards to cost.

    Xplode Fight Series runs unsanctioned shows on the San Pasqual Native American reservation near San Diego and is not required to be regulated by the California State Athletic Commission.

    The organization has come under the gun in recent months for egregious matchmaking and potentially unsafe practices. Multiple fighters told MMA Fighting in a three-part investigative piece that XFS did not require competitors to have blood work or medicals done. Blood work is required by commissions under the Association of Boxing Commissions (ABC) in order to make sure a fighter does not have a communicable disease. Medicals are done to rule out the possibility of a fighter having a previous injury that would make it unsafe for him or her to compete in a fight.

    CSAC executive officer Andy Foster said last month he would no longer be recognizing bouts conducted in unsanctioned events like Xplode when he vets the matchmaking of licensed events in the state.

    Sharp said in August that he had been seeking out a third-party sanctioning body for months, but was not willing to accept CSAC sanctioning due to the high cost. XFS found a willing sanctioning partner in UMMAF and a deal was brokered early last month. UMMAF was to begin sanctioning XFS in November.

    Things changed, though, over the last few weeks. UMMAF expressed its desire to uphold the standards of CSAC's medical requirements, which not only include blood work and medicals, but also an MRI and neurological exam. California is one of only a handful of states that require the latter two procedures.

    As he said he informed UMMAF's director of operations Ryan Bruggueman and regional director Ralph Cook, Sharp was only willing to require fighters to submit blood work and medicals, because MRIs and neurological exams would be too expensive for his fighters, and he would be unable to cover the costs.

    "This was the basis of our agreement and UMMAF entered into this knowing that this requirement was the only acceptable position that we would have," Sharp told MMA Fighting in an email. "Announcements were made due to this agreement and we moved forward."

    Bruggueman told MMA Fighting it was never his intention to skirt the rules of the state in which his organization was providing sanctioning. UMMAF announced in late September that it would be adopting the medical requirements of CSAC. Sharp said he dissolved with deal with cause.

    "Me going into California, regardless of whether it's on an Indian reservation or not, undercutting what California's requirements would be for a pro fighter goes against everything we told the ABC we would do," Bruggueman said. "I was not prepared to do that. We need the ABC. They are a critical component in the United States for unifying rules and requirements."

    Bruggueman was present at the ABC convention over the summer in San Diego and started a dialogue there with CSAC executive officer Andy Foster. Bruggueman said if the ABC didn't recognize a promotion sanctioned by UMMAF because it didn't meet the state medical requirements, it wouldn't do anyone any good.

    "One of the things we have told Gregg repeatedly is that sanctioning is only as good as the recognition that comes with it," Bruggueman said. ... "In the end, when it comes to having the ABC recognize the results, recognize any type of medical suspensions or anything like that, we need the ABC. We need to be able to work with the ABC. And in California, the ABC is Andy Foster."

    Bruggueman said UMMAF exhausted its options with Xplode. He said the Cleveland Clinic in Las Vegas was willing to do MRIs for Xplode fighters at little or no cost to them if they agreed to participate in their ongoing brain trauma study. Bruggueman also said he was willing to work with Sharp on sanctioning fees given that UMMAF is a non-profit organization. He just would not budge on the medical requirements.

    "I'm not going to go in and undercut a state athletic commission's requirements just because of cost," Bruggueman said. "I'm not gonna do that. It puts the state athletic commissions in a very bad spot. I need to be able to work with them. I need to be able to uphold that end of the agreement."

    There was also an element of self-preservation, Bruggueman acknowledged. If UMMAF didn't uphold California's standards and something bad happened at an XFS event, it would be disastrous for the burgeoning organization.

    "Gregg just has way too much bad press out there ... that if he has a fighter injured in California, regardless of whether it's on an Indian reservation or not, if a fighter gets hurt out there, the story is going to be 'UMMAF used subpar medical requirements as required by the state of California,'" Bruggueman said. "That sets a very, very bad precedent."

    Sharp said UMMAF tried to alter the agreement for the wrong reasons -- for itself and not for fighter safety.

    "UMMAF changed their policy to convenience their existence and not the fighter or promoter," Sharp said.

    Sharp also said UMMAF is hypocritical, because Bruggueman admitted that he would not require XFS fighters to get MRIs or neurological tests if it existed in a state that did not require it, like Iowa.

    "If you truly believe that there is a clear medical standard that should be adhered to then stand up and account for yourself and your organization and make the change across the board," Sharp said. "There is plenty of hypocrisy in MMA, this just adds to it in my opinion."

    Bruggueman said that he felt UMMAF was bound by the regulations of each individual state.

    "If the speed limit in California is 75 and the speed limit in Iowa is 65, does that mean one state is less concerned about the safety of drivers than the other?" Bruggueman said.

    Sharp said he has placed calls to a few "recognized tribal commissions" in order to start a dialogue about sanctioning Xplode Fight Series in 2016.

    "It is my/XFS intent to figure this out so that the fighter as well as my promotion are regulated fairly and affordably," Sharp said.

    Bruggueman believes this whole situation proves that UMMAF is not just looking to make a quick buck and provide subpar regulation.

    "I think what this proves is that we're not out for the money," he said. "We never have been. We're a non-profit organization that wants to work with the ABC, not against them. For somebody like Gregg not to understand the benefit of that is really, really disappointing. As an organization, we could not risk somebody getting hurt and being tied to that because we undercut a state athletic commission. It'll just never happen. I'll never let it happen."

  • TJ Dillashaw heads to new team in Colorado

    TJ Dillashaw's next training camp will be with a new team in Colorado.

    Following a Globo report, which stated that Dillashaw had parted ways with Team Alpha Male, Dillashaw provided the following exclusive statement to MMAFighting.com:

    "In regards to my upcoming fight camp, I will be doing my training in Colorado. The last six years at Team Alpha Male have been irreplaceable and my brothers there will forever be family to me. I thank each and every one of them for helping me along the way and being a part of this journey we've shared. This is not the end of being a part of the Team Alpha Male family, but a new chapter in my career.

    "I will be spending my next full training camp with Elevation Fight Team as they've offered me an opportunity that I couldn't pass up, with an incredible coaching staff and state-of-the-art facilities.

    "I want to thank everyone for the continued support as this has not been a decision I've taken lightly."

    Dillashaw's striking coach Duane Ludwig isn't a part of the team, however, Dillashaw will still be training with him since he also lives in Colorado.

    When contacted by MMAFighting.com, Urijah Faber, the founder of Team Alpha Male, said, "We are sad to see [Dillashaw] go, but we're excited about the next set of champions being developed at Team Alpha Male."

    In addition to Ludwig,  Dillashaw's new coaches will be Leister Bowling (head coach), Elliot Marshall (jiu-jitsu), Christian Allen (striking) and Loren Landow (strength & conditioning). The team, which already includes the likes of Matt Brown, Clay Guida, Neil Magny, Brandon Thatch, Cat Zingano, Drew Dober and others, is based out of the MusclePharm Sports Science Center & Research Institute in Denver. It's exclusive to professional fighters.

    "Obviously, we are excited to have TJ join the team full-time," Bowling told MMAFighting.com. "It was an honor to have him here in the past, and it's going to be exciting to work with him full-time. Obviously, he's at the top of his game, so we have to work to keep him there."

    As for the circumstances surrounding Dillashaw's decision, Bowling said it had nothing to do with recent issues that have been brought to light by both Faber and Ludwig.

    "Honestly, he told me last time he was here elk hunting that he was planning on doing 60 percent of his next camp with us and 30-40 with Alpha Male. I told him I thought it was a bad idea. I truly thought he needed to stop worrying about Duane and Urijah's feelings, be selfish for once and not try to please two people who he was very loyal to. I'm thankful he chose our team and thankful he put his faith into us and our coaches."

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