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  1. Back in Vegas on Saturday 18th January for the first PPV of 2020. And look who’s back... PPV MAIN CARD Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington Alexey Oleynik vs Maurice Greene Brian Kelleher vs Ode Osbourne Anthony Pettis vs Carlos Diego Ferreira ESPN PRELIMS Maycee Barber vs Roxanne Modafferi Sodiq Yusuff vs Andre Fili Tim Elliott vs Askar Askarov Drew Dober vs Nasrat Haqparast ESPN+/FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Justin Ledet vs Aleksa Camur JJ Aldrich vs Sabina Mazo This is on BT Sport Box Office over here 😡 And it’s got to be said, this is weak as fuck for a PPV. They’re clearly relying solely on McGregor’s name. There are a few other decent fights but it’s not the deepest of cards, is it? Take the main event away and this would be poor even by Fight Night standards. Doesn’t help that it’s following 244 and 245 which were both stacked on paper and awesome in practice. Conor McGregor vs Donald Cerrone then. What a mad road it’s been to get to this fight. It’s a fight that’s been on the horizon a couple of times in the past but for one reason or another, they just never got it done. I think some might not actually realise just how far back the origins of this one go. It’s all been fairly respectful between them of late but it wasn’t always like that. The first time a potential McGregor-Cerrone clash was on everyone’s radar was as far back as September 2015 at the UFC’s ‘Go Big’ press conference. McGregor had just beat Chad Mendes to become the Interim Featherweight champion and this was right in the middle of that insane buildup to the Jose Aldo fight. Cerrone was gearing up for a crack at Lightweight champ Rafael Dos Anjos on FOX. But McGregor was having a pop at pretty much everyone on the stage. And when talk turned to him possibly moving up to 155 in the future, Cowboy had some shit to say. Cerrone: Conor has no right coming up to 155. There’s no way, he’s not gonna stand a chance. We’re too big for him, we’re too strong. So you can take your little English ass and... McGregor: You’re too slow and too stiff. You’re stiff as a board. I’d snap you in half. And that’s it. I see stiffness when I look at that 155lb division. Slow, stiff, I feel like they’re stuck in the mud almost. The Featherweights, they hit like Flyweights, so it’s nice down there just destroying them and killing that whole division. But I have my eye on that 155 division and I see them all stuck in the mud in there. So we’ll see over time but guess what? Have I been wrong yet? Have I been wrong yet? No! Cerrone: You have a monster right here at 145, Aldo about to beat your ass. You’ve beat nobody and you think you’re gonna come up to 155 and make a statement? Come on man, sit the fuck down. McGregor: YEE-HAW! Cerrone: He’s real good at talking out in front of the public but when we all stand there in the back he ain’t got nothin’ to say. I stood back there for 30 minutes and nothin’ to say to me. Of course we get out here and he wants to run his mouth. But it’s good, he sells the fights. But he comes to 155 I’m gonna bend his little ass over and knock the fuckin’ Lucky Charms out of him. 😂 After that, Cerrone did a few interviews talking about Conor and for a while there it seemed to be gaining some momentum. But Cerrone wound up getting TKO’d in the first round of his title fight against Dos Anjos. So when Conor knocked out Aldo in 13 seconds and became the undisputed Featherweight King, he was onto bigger things and the Cowboy thing got left in the dust. It was dead in the water after that and they both moved on. Cowboy moved up to Welterweight after the loss to RDA. And had a very successful 2016, going 4-0 with finishes over Alex Oliveira, Patrick Cote, Rick Story and Matt Brown. McGregor had an up and down year, going 1-1 with Nate Diaz in back-to-back wars. But ending 2016 in style, breezing through Eddie Alvarez at Madison Square Garden to become the UFC’s first ever ‘champ, champ.’ In 2017 they both went winless though. Cerrone suffered losses to Jorge Masvidal, Robbie Lawler and Darren Till. McGregor made his Pro Boxing debut, fought some bloke named Floyd and got schooled. He got an insane payday for that though. Reportedly somewhere in the region of $100 million. And then swiftly went off the rails and on a downward spiral he might never come back from. Cerrone had a mixed 2018. He went 2-1 with a points loss to Leon Edwards sandwiched between first round finishes over Yancy Medeiros and Mike Perry. Conor fought once. The big grudge match with Khabib. And... “It’s only business”. 2019 began and Cerrone had been going through a transitional period in his life and career. He spoke after the win over Mike Perry about his renewed motivation after becoming a father and separating himself from what sounded like a toxic relationship with coach Mike Winkeljohn at Jackson’s MMA in Albuquerque. He seemed in a much better place and the man who had always talked about not being arsed about titles and just fighting for fun, suddenly sounded more focused than ever to crack on and leave a legacy. He dropped back down to Lightweight and stopped a tough young prospect in Alexander Hernandez in January in a great fight. And the talk of him facing McGregor briefly started up again. Nothing came of it and in March McGregor actually announced his retirement. Then just kept endlessly tweeting, fucking around (literally) and getting into trouble. Smashing people’s phones up, calling Khabib’s wife (a Muslim woman) “a towel” on Twitter, accusations of him getting random women pregnant, punching an old man in a pub... There was a period around the middle of the year where barely a week would go by without some kind of scandal or bad press surrounding him. The most disturbing being the reports of a sexual assault accusation from an incident in December 2018. More on that in a bit. Meanwhile, Cerrone kept trucking. In May he went 5 rounds with rising contender Al Iaquinta and came out on top. One of Cowboy’s best career performances for me. His new Lightweight campaign was going well. But in June, just a month after beating Iaquinta, he jumped in with Tony Ferguson at UFC 238. That one didn’t work out quite so well. He then got stopped by Justin Gaethje in the first round of their September fight in Vancouver. Not good. After such a strong start to the year, he ends 2019 at 2-2. McGregor continued to make headlines for all the wrong reasons as more sexual assault accusations came out. I’ve seen different reports but from what I can gather, there is at least one more alleged incident, maybe two, that he’s accused of from sometime in October this year. There was also a story around this time that an attempt had been made to pay one of the accusers a huge sum of money (around €1 million was the number that was thrown around) but she wasn’t having it. The MMA media largely ignored most of this stuff but there were some who were vocal about it. It’s all still being investigated but considering how slow moving these things are in Ireland, it could be some time before we know more. Dana still loves him though. And in late November, McGregor vs Cerrone was finally made official. Dana was asked by the media during UFC 245 fight week about people criticising him for booking Conor in a fight despite the ongoing rape investigation... “He hasn’t been charged with anything. You can’t accuse somebody and stop them from making a living when they haven’t even been charged of anything. Listen, if he was being charged with something right now, it would be a different story. The New York Times have wrote those stories, but there are no other stories out there about Conor McGregor.” “Conor McGregor has made a lot of bad decisions in the past several years. He has paid for it. He walked into court and plead guilty to punching that guy in the face in Ireland. He paid for the slapping of the phone out of the thing. He attacked the bus and paid for that. He’s obviously done some things. He’s been charged and paid and done everything he’s supposed to do. These other things, first of all I don’t even know. Has it said that he’s the guy that’s being accused?” - Dana White in December 2019 I don’t know how to feel about this fight. Just going on the fight itself, it’s a fun one no doubt. I’d much rather this than Khabib vs McGregor 2. We’ve all been saying for ages that the fight to make for McGregor was either Gaethje or Cowboy. So I’m fine with the matchmaking. But there’s just something niggling away at me where I can’t fully get into this. All the outside the cage stuff with Conor over the last year or so has really left a sour taste for me. I can’t just push the more serious accusations to the side and throw myself into this. I’ve got no doubt the fight will be exciting. But I don’t know. It all just feels a bit sleazy and offputting. Holly Holm vs Raquel Pennington 2 in the co-main spot? I know, me neither. This was supposed to happen at UFC 243 in Australia back in October but got scratched when Holm got injured. Not exactly a rematch anyone was clamouring for. Might be OK but I’m not really feeling it. Their first fight in 2015 wasn’t the best. It was Holm’s UFC debut and she barely squeaked by on a split decision. Many had Pennington winning actually. At 38 and having lost title shots at both Featherweight and Bantamweight, it’s difficult to see where Holm goes even with a win here. She’s got a lot of miles on the clock when you factor in all her MMA, Boxing and Kickboxing fights. At 10-7, Pennington is no world beater but she’s tough as nails and does have wins over Irene Aldana, Miesha Tate and Jessica Andrade on her record. Alexey Oleynik vs Maurice Greene will probably be worth giving a look. If for no other reason than to see if Oleynik can pull off yet another Ezekiel choke. The fucker has ELEVEN of them on his record now. I’ve grown to like the big lummox. He’s 42 now so probably won’t be fighting that much longer. He’s had a ton of fights as well. He’s 57-13-1 now. With 45 submissions! Mental. He’s done alright as well. With names such as Mark Hunt, Travis Rousey and Mirko Cro Cop among his wins. Greene was on TUF at some point. He’s 8-3 and a BJJ guy himself. Big sod at 6’7”. Haven’t been blown away by him so far. I’d like to see another Ezekiel from Oleynik here. Anthony Pettis vs Carlos Diego Ferreira is opening the main card as it currently stands. Cracking fight although it seems a bit of a weird one for Pettis. I’m happy to see Ferreira getting a big fight though. I’ve liked him for a while. Seems a good guy and he’s got skills. His grappling is his bread and butter. He’s a 3rd degree black-belt in BJJ. He’s legit on the ground. But he’s not against throwing hands either. He’s 16-2 and comes into this fight on a 5 fight winning streak over some tough opposition like Mairbek Taisumov, Rustam Khabilov and Olivier Aubin-Mercier. His only losses are to Dustin Poirier and Beneil Dariush. This is a huge opportunity for him. Facing a name and former UFC champion on a McGregor PPV. Pettis hasn’t been the most consistent in recent times either. He’s been alternating between wins and losses a lot. Got beat by Nate Diaz in his last fight in August and now here he is dropping back to 155. Just seems like he’s a bit lost and bouncing around aimlessly. Could be a good time for Ferreira to catch him. Should be a fun one. Maycee Barber vs Roxanne Modafferi is a bit of an odd one for me. Complete clash of styles here. Barber likes to strike, Modafferi is very much a grappler. Barber was trying hard to goad Paige VanZant into a fight recently. There seems to be some real dislike brewing there. But Paige wasn’t interested. Barber has some hype behind her. She’s just 21 years old and undefeated at 8-0 with 7 finishes. Can’t help thinking she’s going to come unstuck soon though. She gets reckless at times and has a habit of leaving her chin hanging there in striking exchanges. Can’t argue with the results so far though. She looked good stopping Gillian Robertson last time out. Modafferi could be tricky though. She’s a real veteran. Not the best of records at 23-16 but she’s crafty and experienced. She made her pro debut in 2003. When Barber was 5 years old! Hopefully we see more of Barber’s overall MMA game tested in this one. Sodiq Yusuff vs Andre Fili will probably be good. I’ve never really been able to get into Fili’s fights. He’s not bad, and at one time he was considered one of Team Alpha Male’s top prospects. But he’s always been just there to me. His fights come and go and I generally remember sod all about them a day later. It’s Sodiq Yusuff that has me invested in this one. Really like what I’ve seen of him so far. I think he could be someone to keep tabs on going into 2020. He’s 26 years old from Nigeria, 10-1 with 6 knockouts. He’s won his last 5 fights and stopped Gabriel Benitez in a round in his last fight at UFC 241 in August. I like Super Sodiq. Honestly think he could make some noise next year in the Featherweight ranks. Drew Dober vs Nasrat Haqparast is a fight I’m neither her nor there on really. Can see it being decent enough, just can’t say I’m that bothered about it. Haqparast is a guy I only really remember because he’s the spit of Kelvin Gastelum. Looking him up though, he’s doing alright for himself. He’s still only 24 years old and he’s won his last 3 on the trot and knocked out Joaquim Silva in August. Dober, for me, has one of the most annoying punchable faces in the game. He’s 21-9 and stopped Polo Reyes in June. Alright for a filler fight. Justin Ledet vs Aleksa Camur could be worth having a look at, if only to see what this Camur bloke is all about. This is his UFC debut, he was on Dana’s Contender Series and he’s 5-0 with 5 knockouts, 3 in the first round. So far, so good. He’s only 24 as well so he’s got some legit potential. Ledet could maybe ask a couple of questions of him though. He’s got some solid boxing from what I recall of him. He went 9-0-1 with 7 stoppages at the start of his career before losing his last 2 fights against Johnny Walker and Aleksandar Rakic. Of all the new batch of 205ers over the last couple of years, Ledet’s wowed me the least. They’re probably hoping Camur smokes him here. But Ledet could be a banana skin for a young guy making his Octagon debut. Tim Elliott vs Askar Askarov should be a fun Flyweight tussle. Elliott has been hit and miss but he’s had his moments. Most notably, he gave Demetrious Johnson arguably his toughest title defence before Cejudo came along and took the gold. He’s non-stop. Haven’t seen a lot of Askarov but he had a tremendous scrap with Brandon Moreno that went to a draw on the Mexico City card in September. He was a perfect 8-0 before that. Good fight. Ode Osbourne vs Brian Kelleher. Dunno. Kelleher is always good for a ruck. At 19-10 he’s never going to trouble the title picture but he’s a tough scrapper. He’s had his moments as well, to be fair. Submitted BJJ black-belt Iuri Alcantara, beat Renan Barao, survived into the third round against John Lineker. I’ve enjoyed watching him whenever I’ve caught his fights. Never seen Osbourne though. Apparently he’s 8-2 and was on Dana’s Contender Series. That’s all I’ve got on him. JJ Aldrich vs Sabina Mazo I’m not sure about. Haven’t seen much Aldrich and I’ve seen nothing of Mazo. I know Aldrich mostly as one of Rose Namajunas’ main training partners. She’s 8-3 and gave Maycee Barber her hardest fight yet before getting stopped herself. Mazo is Colombian, 22 years old with a 7-1 record. Lost her UFC debut to Maryna Moroz but bounced back to beat Shana Dobson in August. That’s your lot for 246.
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