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Fergus Ryan's MMA column: Duffy eyes a starring role in Dallas, UFC 185 preview and more

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Donegal MMA star Joe Duffy

Donegal MMA star Joe Duffy

Donegal MMA star Joe Duffy

This week’s MMA column looks ahead to UFC 185 with a Polish fighter aiming to become the first champion hailing from Europe. ‘Irish’ Joe Duffy looks to become the latest success story in the UFC.

And the most hyped fight that never happened… is going to happen.

Duffy eyes a starring role in Dallas

The Irish MMA interest story on the UFC 185 card is Donegal’s Joe Duffy.

Hailed as the last man to beat Conor McGregor, his signing to the UFC was only delayed by his almost three year sojourn to pro boxing. In truth his ability is outstanding and deserves to be known more for his own deeds than the name of his opponent.

Check out this profile video on Joe courtesy of Cage Warriors

On returning to MMA Joe took two fights in three months and finished both opponents with a submission and a KO. Of his 12 wins, three are KO’s, eight are submissions and he’s only been to the judges’ scorecards once.

Despite having debuted in 2008 and taken nearly three years away from the sport, Duffy is still only 27.

His opponent Jake Linsay is fighting for his UFC life as he’s dropped his two UFC contests so far.

Europe goes for gold at UFC 185

UFC 185 goes down at the American Airlines Center in Dallas, Texas this weekend and in addition to having two titles fights at the top of the card it also has some significant European participation.

Topping the bill is Anthony Pettis defending his lightweight strap against Brazilian Rafael dos Anjos. Due to injury Pettis has only defended his belt once since beating Benson Henderson on August, 2014 to claim the title. In the same time Dos Anjos fought five times, losing only once.

The man who beat him, Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov is probably the real #1 contender but has been side-lined himself with a knee injury and hasn’t fought in a year.

Dos Anjos is a worthy contender though having dispatched top ten opposition to claim his title shot.

Pettis is one of MMA’s hot properties at the moment. His nickname ‘Showtime’ is fitting as he generally wins in spectacular fashion. His last two wins against Benson Henderson and Gilbert Melendez were first and second round finishes respectively against guys who typically don’t get finished.

In the co-main event champion Carla Esparza defends her women’s straw-weight UFC title against Poland’s Joanna Jędrzejczyk.

The undefeated Polish fighter cut through the local MMA circuit to land herself on the biggest European stage at the time, Cage Warriors. After mauling the teak tough Rosi Sexton for a round and a half to force a referee stoppage victory, Jędrzejczyk was headed to the UFC.

Take a look at this highlight package that includes some high praise from UFC president Dana White

After destroying Brazilian prospects Juliana Lima and Claudia Gadelha (Aisling Daly’s next opponent) Joanna is now one fight away from becoming Europe’s first UFC champion.

Esparza won her UFC title by fighting her way through The Ultimate Fighter 20 series to reach the final and beat Rose Namajunas for the gold.

Typically a counter fighter, Esparza will have her hands full with Joanna’s go forward style with a high volume of striking. Esparza will need to have her wrestling ‘A-Game’ if she’s to weather the storm and Joanna just needs to keep doing what she’s been doing.

Elsewhere on the card England’s Ross Pearson battles the ever tough Sam Stout. Pearson has a good reputation but a very erratic UFC record. His last four fights have yielded two losses, one win and one No Contest.

Holland’s Alastair Overeem has not lived up to the hype since joining the UFC ranks. ‘The Reem’ tested positive for elevated levels of testosterone after his first UFC fight, got suspended for a year and has won three and lost three in UFC career.

The Most hyped fight that never happened

Back in 2006 the MMA landscape was awash with money. The ProElite company was formed with a goal to become the world’s number one MMA organisation. Up to that point Japanese organisation Pride Fighting Championship was the biggest in the world but in decline.

The UFC was on the rise and its parent company Zuffa had begun to acquire other MMA promotions to boost its reach and fighter roster.

ProElite took a similar role and began partnering up with as many MMA organisations it could before the UFC/Zuffa had a chance to open its cheque book.

EliteXC was the cornerstone of the ProElite organisation. It held its first show in 2007 and was able to attract some of the biggest names in MMA at the time by promising fighters some of the best purses around.

Part of the attraction and success of EliteXC was their TV deal. In 2008 EliteXC reached an agreement with CBS to broadcast EliteXC shows on prime time.

At the same time, Elite XC pinned their hopes to internet street fighter superstar, Kimbo Slice. Slice became a YouTube sensation for his swift and brutal street fights. He transitioned to MMA to try and monetize his fame and EliteXC were more than willing to give him a stage.

After being fed hand-picked opponents Kimbo was scheduled to fight MMA legend Ken Shamrock on October 2008 on CBS.

Kimbo was set to make a cool $500,000 for his nights work. Shamrock was touted to have been offered six figures but a lot less than his opponent.

Shamrock was one of the early MMA pioneers and in his prime and a fearsome fighter. His exploits in the WWE in the late 1990’s would have helped bring some eyes to the UFC brand when it was on the point of extinction. The UFC Hall of Famer felt he was the big name draw and deserved more money.

When his request was rebuffed, Shamrock turned up to the arena on fight day with a cut over his eye and said he couldn’t compete. To persist with Kimbo, EliteXC officials shoved Seth Petruzeli, a heavyweight fighter on the undercard, into the main event to try and keep the sinking ship afloat.

Petruzeli wasn’t on the same page as EliteXC and duly knocked out Kimbo in 14 seconds. The Kimbo bubble burst and with it the heavily indebted EliteXC and ProElite folded.

Here’s how it all went up in smoke: Kimbo v Petruzeli

Roll the clock forward to 2015 and Bellator Fighting Championship, the wanna-be #2 MMA organisation to the UFC have announced 41 year old Kimbo Slice will indeed get to square off with 51 year old Ken Shamrock in June this year at Bellator 138.

Kimbo has kept himself active boxing nobodies and staying undefeated. He hasn’t fought in MMA since 2010 and hasn’t won since 2009.

Shamrock hasn’t fought MMA since 2010 and has achieved three wins and seven losses in his last ten fights, which stretch back to 2004.

Though both men are well and truly past their prime and both have some nice controversial footnotes to their careers, you can almost be guaranteed their fight in June will be one of the biggest draws in the MMA calendar in 2015.

Nostalgia is never lost on an MMA fan. Whatever about Kimbo, watching Ken Shamrock for an MMA fan gives them a glimpse of what it might have been like in Denver in 1993 at UFC 1. Ken Shamrock was the big fish in the tiny MMA pond back then and though his conduct has been unbecoming in recent years, he will always be MMA royalty.

Here are some highlights of Ken in Pancrase, an MMA organisation that predates the UFC.

We’ll find out in June if he can still fight.

A Dubliner in Paris

The 30th edition of the “Martial Arts Festival” in France took place last weekend. More than 40 combat sports were represented at the Palais des Congrès in Paris.

Some of the stars in attendance were Jerome Le Banner the K1 kickboxing legend and former UFC light-heavyweight champion and current middleweight contender Lyoto Machida was on hand to take part in a demonstration.

Machida was part of the Venum sports apparel company’s entourage in Paris. Included in the Team Venum number was Dubliner, Barry Oglesby.

A pillar of the Irish MMA and Brazilian Jiu Jitsu community, Barry is a black belt in BJJ and a former MMA fighter (who shared a ring with the UFC’s Norman Parke back in the day). On the night he took part in a BJJ demonstration led by Rodrigo Cavaca a former World and European champion.

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