Monday 23 April 2018

UFC extravaganza at Croke Park is edging closer to becoming a reality

UFC President Dana White is anxious to bring fight action back to Ireland
UFC President Dana White is anxious to bring fight action back to Ireland
Fergus Ryan

Fergus Ryan

UFC coming to a stadium in Ireland is still a real possibility according to Dana White.

This weeks MMA column features a review of UFC on FOX 15 and we also hear Dana still plans on bringing the UFC to Croker.

Setanta Sports are airing an exclusive interview with Dana White tonight at 2130 Setanta Ireland. Hosted by yours truly, the interview was recorded when the UFC president was in town as part of the UFC 189 press world tour.

White discussed the phenomenal growth in MMA and the UFC in recent years and talked fondly about his company’s prized asset, ‘The Notorious’.

When the discussions turned to the UFC and Ireland, Dana gave an interesting insight into a possible event in Croke Park or the Aviva at a future date. Naturally, a lot will rely on the outcome in Las Vegas on July 11th when Conor battles champ Jose Aldo.

We also heard Dana discuss the UFC’s return to Ireland later this year which was confirmed when we spoke to Dubliner and UFC executive David Allen in the Convention Centre. No date or venue has been pencilled in just yet but its looking like the fourth quarter.

Here’s a teaser of tonight’s interview

Rockhold wins big

UFC on Fox 15 went down in the Prudential Center in Newark, New Jersey last Saturday. The main event featured former light-heavyweight champion Lyoto Machida taking on former Strikeforce middleweight champion Luke Rockhold.

The bout had particular significance for the UFC’s middleweight division. A good showing for either man would put them in the driver seat for a shot at Chris Weidman’s UFC title.

In the bout previous Ronaldo ‘Jacare’ Souza made short work of Chris Camozzi to stake his claim for his own title shot. Some might say beating a short notice replacement like Camozzi isn’t enough to get a crack at the title. However, if you consider Jacare’s recent body of work and the manner of his victories, he is definitely worth a shot.

When Machida and Rockhold faced off in the Octagon it was incredible to think Machida used to fight at a weight higher than their middleweight contest. Rockhold was meaningfully bigger than Machida. As soon as the bout began he used all his size advantages well to bully Machida into submission.

Rockhold pressed the action and dropped Machida midway through the first round. Once on the deck, the bigger man spread himself over Machida like molasses and dropped heavy shots.

At the end of the first round, Rockhold knew he had won.

As he stood up he took his time returning to his corner. He watched a clearly wobbly Machida pick himself up and make his way to his stool. Machida was dazed and confused after being tenderised by the bigger man for just a few minutes.

As the second round began it was obvious that Machida hadn’t recovered. Rockhold, with executioner like calmness, went about the task. He dragged him back to the mat and continued the punishing. Thankfully, the end came soon via rear naked choke. The Brazillian knew his time was up and opted to prepare his hands to tap rather than defend the choke.

Rockhold looked awesome. Jacare, could only fight what’s in front of him, but he looked pretty awesome in his swift victory.

Chris Weidman will face Vitor Belfort on May 23rd at UFC 187. Already the pundits seem to be discussing whether Weidman will face Rockhold or Jacare. Either fighter will be a stern test for the champion but Belfort could yet throw a spanner in the works.

A good win for PVZ but not a good test

The opening bout of the main card featured hot prospect Paige VanZant versus gritty veteran Felice Herrig.

VanZant is a ‘hot’ certainly in the visual sense but the jury is still out on her fighting ability. While she provided an entertaining 15 minutes against a jaded Herrig, she will face sterner tests in the UFC’s straw-weight division.

VanZant was happy to take the fight where ever Herrig wanted. While the contest took place mainly on the mat, neither fighter showed a high level of grappling. VanZant was unable to prevent winding up in perilous positions and Herrig seemed short on finishes when opportunities presented themselves.

Incredibly VanZant may jump into the top 10 of her division from her current #12 spot. Herrig was ranked #8 so in the voting media eyes her win at the weekend should count towards a few places higher.

At 21 VanZant will undoubtedly get better. She has time, athleticism and bravery in spades. Considering she only began training MMA in 2012 she has achieved a lot. But she will need to improve quickly if she wants to fight bona fide opposition.

This weekend Aisling Daly #10 will face Randa Markos #6. If either fighter had been presented with the opportunities Herrig had, VanZant might not got out of the first round.

Best of the rest at UFC on FOX 15

Elsewhere on a thoroughly entertaining card Weidman team mate Gian Villante bested former TUF winner Corey Anderson in the Fight of the Night, banking $50,000 for each man, with a hard fought TKO finish.

Former college football stand-out Ovince St.Preux stopped Patrick Cummins with a vicious uppercut and some ground and pound to finish.

Since losing to Conor McGregor in August 2013 #9 ranked featherweight Max Holloway has gone undefeated in six. He looked unstoppable against #5 ranked Cub Swanson. Having won every minute of the fight that took place primarily on the feet, Holloway sunk a deep guillotine choke just over a minute from the end of the final round.

The severity of the beating Swanson received only really became apparent in the aftermath. Swanson has received an indefinite medical suspension due to a broken jaw and hand.

At just 23, its conceivable that Holloway will fight McGregor again with more than just bragging rights on the line.

UFC 186

Irish MMA will be watching Fight Pass with keen interest next weekend as Women’s MMA pioneer Aisling Daly battles the star of TUF 20 Randa Markos at UFC 186 in Montreal, Quebec, Canada. Both fighters are top 10 material and the winner could be, at most, one fight away from a title shot.

Daly was supposed to fight Claudia Gadelha in Poland in early April but the Brazilian dropped out injured. Thankfully the training camp wasn’t wasted for Daly as a fight with Canadian Markos was offered.

Daly v Markos kicks off the UFC 186 card on the 25th April and can be viewed on UFC Fight Pass at 2330 GMT.

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