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Closing out 2018 with a bang. December 29th in Vegas for this one. PPV MAIN CARD Jon Jones vs Alexander Gustafsson - Light Heavyweight Title Cris Cyborg vs Amanda Nunes - Featherweight Title Carlos Condit vs Michael Chiesa Corey Anderson vs Ilir Latifi Chad Mendes vs Alexander Volkanovski FOX SPORTS 1 PRELIMS Andrei Arlovski vs Walt Harris Cat Zingano vs Megan Anderson Petr Yan vs Douglas Silva De Andrade BJ Penn vs Ryan Hall FIGHT PASS PRELIMS Nathaniel Wood vs Andre Ewell Uriah Hall vs Bevon Lewis Siyar Bahadurzada vs Curtis Millender Brian Kelleher vs Montel Jackson Fucking incredible card that. The top two fights are where it’s at but I’m not exaggerating one bit when I say that I’m genuinely interested in every single fight there on some level. Love this card. Jones vs Gustafsson 2 is a beast of a main event. A rematch 5 years in the making. It’s for the title but I’m a bit confused as Daniel Cormier hasn’t been stripped of his title as far as I know. Yet this fight is being billed as for the title. Notice the poster doesn’t say ‘interim’, it’s for THE title. Fuck knows these days. Suppose they’ll just wait and see. Guess if DC doesn’t come back to 205, the winner of this is the undisputed champ anyway. And if he does, we’ve got a big unification match on the horizon. Anyway, yeah, 5 years in the making. They first met on September 21st 2013 at UFC 165 in Toronto. It was Jones’ sixth defence of the title having already breezed through Rampage Jackson, Lyoto Machida, Rashad Evans, Vitor Belfort and Chael Sonnen in his previous defences. He looked unstoppable and untouchable. Gustafsson was 15-1 and coming off points wins over Shogun Rua and Thiago Silva. He looked promising but he’d shown weakness in the grappling and already had a submission loss to Phil Davis. When the fight was announced, it was thought to be another run of the mill defence for Jones. I remember the promos for this all banging on about the size of Gustafsson and how they measured up in height, reach etc. But it didn’t matter. Jones was going to wreck him. I haven’t seen this fight in yonks so I’m interested to take another look at it now. Here we go. Round 1: Lots of kicking from both early, especially Jones with those evil push kicks to the knee. I wince every time I see that. Gus countering well with kicks of his own and a nice jab. Gus getting busy now and starting to land more and Jones is cut above the eye already. He’s doing a great job of answering Jones’ kicks with punches. With about a minute left in the round... Gustafsson scores a takedown, which is huge as Jones had never been taken down before. It seemed to be the element of surprise more than anything and Gus lets him back up but that will keep Jon guessing more now. Jones tries a takedown and Gus stuffs it as the round ends. Gustafsson 10-9. Round 2: Gus catches a kick and briefly trips Jones down again. Gus getting the better of the boxing exchanges but Jones is landing some kicks. Jones having no luck with the takedowns though. Zero. Which was surprising given Gus’ lack of wrestling in his earlier fights. ”Jones has had five takedown attempts stuffed by Alexander Gustafsson.” - Mike Goldberg Jones with a hard elbow. Gusty back with more punches. Jones throwing loads of kicks though, to the legs and body then goes up high. There’s a great sequence here where Jones throws another headkick, Gus eats it and catches the leg, then Jones does some mad roll out and goes for a takedown which Gus stuffs yet again. Jones with another headkick. Uppercut by Gustafsson. Another Gus round. 10-9. Round 3: Same story. Gus boxing, Jones kicking. Jones with another high kick and Gus lands an uppercut straight after. Fuck me. ”This has been the most Jon’s ever been hit in the Octagon by strikes. And the most he’s ever been hit clean.” Joe Rogan Gus is really boxing well here but Jones with a headkick again and he’s kicking the knees constantly. Hard body kick and a left hand land for Jones. Gus running backwards a lot. Jones lands a spinning elbow to the head. Gus body kick, Jones jab. And another round in the books. Really close round that but I think Jones nicked it, 10-9. And we enter the championship rounds. Round 4: Jones with a nice straight right. Jones starts the round off pretty well but then Gus starts tagging him up. Jabs, body shots, head shots. He’s landing almost at will. And Jones still can’t take him down! Gus is boxing the head off him. But Jones back with another headkick! Gus absorbs it and keeps throwing. This might be Gus’ best round yet. Then with about 40 seconds left in the round, it happens... Jones fucking cracks Gus with a spinning elbow. Gus is hurt bad and Jones swarms all over him with a barrage of knees and elbows. Gus is bleeding from the head. He somehow still stuffs a takedown, while rocked, but he’s fucked and Jones batters him with more knees, elbows and punches. Flying knee from Jones. Gus survives the round, fucking barely, and staggers back to the corner. Jones round, 10-9. Now it would be a 10-8 but back then the rules said that for a 10-8 you had to dominate the round overwhelmingly not necessarily get a near finish. And Gus was winning the round before that elbow connected. So I’ve got them even going into the 5th. Round 5: Gustafsson seems to have recovered quite well and is back on the volume punching early this round. Hard step-in elbow by Jones. Gus fires back. And Jones FINALLY gets a takedown. ”Finally! On the tenth attempt, Jones gets the takedown.” - Mike Goldberg But Gus manages to get back up against the fence. Jones fucking waffles him with another headkick... And Gus somehow just takes it. This is brutal. He throws a few more but Gus blocks them with his arms. A minute to go and both still throwing. Another headkick by Jones. Christ. More headkicks and an elbow by Jones. I don’t know what the hell is keeping Gustafsson up at this point. Flying knee by Jones lands and the buzzer goes. ”UN-BELIEVABLE! What a fight. That might be the greatest title fight in the history of the Light Heavyweight division.” - Joe Rogan Jones 10-9 again for me. So I’ve got it 48-47 Jones. Winner - Jon Jones by unanimous decision. Two of the judges had it the same as me, 48-47. One had it 49-46 which sounds off. It all comes down to that third round. I think most people would’ve had Gus taking the first two rounds and Jones taking the last two. It depends how you scored the third and that was a close one. I could see it going either way. Anyone crying robbery is talking bollocks though. Regardless, an incredible fight. Rogan saying it might be the best in 205’s history is actually underselling it, IMO. For me it’s easily the best fight in the Light Heavyweight division’s history. And up there as one of the best UFC fights ever full-stop. Rocky shit. Naturally, whenever there’s a close title fight and people are debating the decision, talk of a rematch is never far behind. Gustafsson rebounded by knocking out Jimi Manuwa in London in March 2014. In the April, Jones made another successful title defence beating Glover Teixeira comfortably on points at UFC 172. The rematch was set. September 27th, 2014. UFC 178. It was signed, sealed but unfortunately not delivered. Gus injured his knee and had to pull out. Daniel Cormier stepped in to face Jones and...well you know the rest. One press conference brawl later and Gustafsson was forgotten. The Jones vs Cormier rivalry was born and it eclipsed Gustafsson and his rematch hopes. Over the next few years Jones and Gustafsson took very different paths. In MMA and in life. Jones wound up beating Cormier by decision at UFC 182 in January 2015 but he pissed on his own chips when he tested positive for cocaine. He was then booked to defend against Anthony Johnson in May but got himself suspended and stripped of the title when he was involved in a hit-and-run where he hit a pregnant woman with his car and fled the scene. He finally came back and beat OSP in a lacklustre decision in April 2016. But things went tits up again when he killed the UFC 200 headline rematch with Cormier by getting popped by USADA and suspended again and stripped of the interim title. The DC rematch finally happened in July 2017. Jones won by knockout and gave a seemingly heartfelt baby-face post-fight speech and called out Brock Lesnar. Then he got popped by USADA a-fucking-gain! The result against DC was overturned to a No Contest and he was stripped of his belt again. Fucking shambles. Gustafsson had his own ups and downs. In the cage he’s had his low points. Getting knocked out by Rumble Johnson, in Sweden, must’ve stung emotionally as much as physically. And he came up short in his second title shot in October 2015, losing another razor close decision in another war with Cormier. Add to that he’s been plagued by injuries, he’s had a rough few years. He’s back on track now though, winning his last two fights. And after knocking out Glover Teixeira in Stockholm last May, he proposed to his hot girlfriend and their second baby was born recently. Life’s good in the Gustafsson household. In September, Jones tweeted this, which was probably just because it was the 5th anniversary of their fight but it sparked some rumours that a Jones-Gus rematch might finally happen. In October it was made official. Jones vs Gustafsson 2 is on. I really can’t wait for this. Even more now after rewatching the first fight. What a way to end the year. It’s got a hard act to follow but this is a rematch that needs to happen. The first fight was so close that it kind of feels like unfinished business. ”Winning over Jon Jones is bigger than taking the belt. He is my Mount Everest” - Alexander Gustafsson Watch this promo. At 10 minutes it’s longer than the usual promo but it’s well worth it. One of the best fight promos I’ve ever seen. Let’s just hope they both make it. Between Jones constantly fucking up and Gus constantly getting injured, the chances of this fight falling apart seem higher than Nick Diaz. Cross everything that they both make it to the cage on Dec 29. Cyborg vs Nunes is a monster co-main. This could’ve easily topped a PPV on its own. Champion vs Champion and it’s THE two scariest women to ever compete in MMA. August 2009: This is where it all started for Cyborg really. She’d already been fighting 4 years by this point and was 7-1 but she wasn’t that well known. When Strikeforce boss Scott Coker booked her to fight women’s MMA darling Gina Carano though, that all changed. The contrast between the two captured the attention of MMA media and fans alike more than any other female fight had before. It was Beauty vs The Beast in 4oz gloves. And Gina got smashed. At 4:59 of the first round it was all over. Carano never fought again. The Cyborg era had begun. Over the next few years Cyborg bulldozed her way through the Strikeforce and Invicta rosters. She won 7 fights, all knockouts, but had her share of controversy when she tested positive for steroids in 2012. Amanda Nunes had turned pro in 2008 and gone 7-3 over the next 5 years fighting in Invicta, Strikeforce and Brazilian promotions. She made her UFC debut in August 2013, TKOing Sheila Gaff in a round. November 2013: Nunes followed that up with another first round TKO. She stopped Dutch striker Germaine De Randamie with punches and elbows from the mount. March 2014: Cyborg takes a Muay Thai fight in the Lion Fight promotion against Jorina Baars. Baars is a top kickboxer, was a ISKA champion, a 10 year vet and was 29-1-3 at the time of this fight. Apparently the reason she was fighting an MMA fighter in Cyborg at all was because she was struggling to find opponents in Muay Thai. Cyborg got beat up and lost but she managed to survive and take Baars the distance over 5 hard rounds and she landed some good shots herself. This fight, to me, told us more about Cyborg than all her MMA wins combined. She showed guts and toughness here that she's never had to show in MMA so far and it was a real good fight to watch. Baars was complimentary of Cyborg after the fight. ”I couldn’t KO her so I know that it was a good fight and a very hard fight. She is so strong in the fight. She fights like a robot and I mean that in a good way. I respect Cyborg a lot because she had only done two or three Muay Thai fights.” - Jorina Baars March 2015: After a September 2014 loss to Cat Zingano, Nunes returns and TKOs Shayna Baszler with leg kicks in under 2 minutes in Rio. August 2015: In her very next fight Nunes submits Olympic silver medalist and former UFC title challenger Sara McMann in under 3 minutes. March 2016: On the undercard of McGregor vs Diaz 1, Nunes goes the distance for only the second time in her career and wins a hard fought decision against Valentina Shevchenko. May 2016: Cyborg finally makes her long awaited UFC debut at UFC 198 in Curitiba, Brazil. She battered Leslie Smith in less than 90 seconds. July 2016: Nunes gets her big break. Challenging UFC bantamweight champ Miesha Tate for the title in the main event of the milestone UFC 200 event. Nunes destroys Tate, battering and bloodying her up on the feet before submitting her with a rear naked choke in around 3 minutes. Amanda Nunes, new UFC bantamweight champion of the world. “Amanda hits like a man. I can say first-hand that she hits so hard. And it looks effortless, she is very natural at it. She’s got this falcon-like wingspan. She has the power to knock Cyborg out, I do believe that. I don’t think it will happen this fight, but if Cyborg doesn’t actually come in with a strategy and just wants to bully Amanda, she might get hurt.” - Miesha Tate September 2016: Cyborg headlines a Fight Night in Brazil against Lina Lansberg. Lansberg’s toughness sees her last to round two but she gets bludgeoned to a TKO. December 2016: In Nunes first title defence she’d main event UFC 207 against the original queen of the division Ronda Rousey, who was returning from a year out after getting knocked out by Holly Holm in 2015. ‘SHE’S BACK!’, said the event poster. And Nunes, the champ, was treated like a complete afterthought with stories since revealing that UFC execs saw Nunes merely as “cannon fodder” for Rousey’s return. How wrong they were. 48 seconds is all it took. Nunes set about Ronda and punched her up and down the Octagon until the referee jumped in and waved it off. An absolute mugging. It was actually a bit uncomfortable to watch. Amanda Nunes had solidified herself as the best 135lb female fighter on the planet. July 2017: On the stacked UFC 214 PPV, Cyborg faced veteran Tonya Evinger to crown the first UFC women’s featherweight champion. Evinger gets mauled, somehow surviving into the third round before Cyborg knees her to bits and finishes her with a TKO. Cyborg finally adds UFC gold to her growing collection of belts. September 2017: Nunes wins another hard fought decision in a rematch against her toughest foe to date, Valentina Shevchenko. It was a gruelling and competitive 5 rounds but Nunes came out on top again. December 2017: Cyborg defends her title against her stiffest test yet in former boxing champion and Rousey conquerer, Holly Holm. They go 5 hard rounds and Cyborg wins a clear decision but it was a good, competitive fight and Holm connected with her share of strikes. But ultimately, Cyborg won a lopsided decision. March 2018: Cyborg back to being Cyborg. Smashing Yana Kunitskaya in a round in the main event of UFC 222. May 2018: Nunes absolutely crushes Raquel Pennington and leaves her a bloody mess in the main event of UFC 224. Hard to watch. She just obliterated poor Pennington here. And here we are. Again, watch this promo. It’s the same guy who did the Jones-Gus one above. He’s great at these. This is going to be wall to wall violence. The two most terrifying women in the game. The streaks these two have been on have been something to behold. Between them they've beat all the top female fighters in MMA history from Ronda Rousey to Holly Holm to Valentina Shevchenko to Miesha Tate to Gina Carano. The only one neither have beaten is each other. Corey Anderson vs Ilir Latifi could be decent. I’m indifferent to Anderson. He’s not a bad fighter I just don’t really enjoy watching him. He’s coming off a win over Glover so he’s improving. I like Latifi a lot though so that’s where my interest lies here. Always got time for the ‘Sledgehammer’. He’s doing well at the moment too. He’s won 5 of his last 6 and choked out OSP in a round in February. Carlos Condit vs Michael Chiesa has serious potential to steal the show. All depends if Condit is up for it and has his head in the game. He’s been flirting with retirement for a while now and he hasn’t looked right in his fights either. In fact, he hasn’t looked good since the war with Robbie Lawler a couple of years back. Hopefully he can dig deep and find some of that old ‘Natural Born Killer’ in there because he was one of the most exciting fighters to watch when he was at his best. Chiesa is always game, tough and a good grappler. He’s someone I think Condit would’ve handled a few years ago though. Now I’m not so sure. Should be a good fight either way. Cat Zingano vs Megan Anderson should be fun. Like Condit, Zingano was one of my favourites to watch for a long time but she’s had so many setbacks, personally and professionally, that she hasn’t seemed at the races for a long time. She did manage to snap a 3 fight losing streak in her last fight in July, outpointing Marion Reneau. So hopefully she can build off that. Megan Anderson is still a bit of a mystery to me but she impressed me in the Holly Holm fight. It was a massive step up for her, especially in her UFC debut. And although Holm won fairly comfortably, Anderson looked a right handful in the striking. To the point Holm, the striker, turned into a wrestler. She’s huge for the weight too. I’m interested to see her back in there. But at the same time intrigued by the matchup because grappling seems to be her kryptonite and grappling is Zingano’s bread and butter. Chad Mendes vs Alexander Volkanovski just got added to the card. This is now ***WAND’S ONE TO WATCH***. Great fight. Two absolute tanks at 145 colliding. Mendes returned from his USADA suspension in July and knocked out Myles Jury in a round. He looked like really refreshed and like he hadn’t missed a beat. Volkanovski beat Darren Elkins on the same card and called out Mendes after they both won. At that point this fight was a no brainer for me. Such an interesting matchup and a timely step up for Volkanovski, who’s put together a very impressive 18-1 record and his one loss was over 5 years ago. He’s 5-0 in the UFC and it’s time to see him tested against a top contender. And Mendes is just that. If Mendes wins, ending Volkanovski’s streak, he’s instantly back in the title picture. Perfect fight to make. Andrei Arlovski vs Walt Harris is the heavyweight offering on this one. You’ve got to throw the heavies in there. At this point there’s not much more to say about Arlovski. Everyone knows the score by now. He’s been around forever. Still moves pretty well, still hits hard, still has that questionable chin. Walt Harris is a guy I think Arlovski can still beat. He’s 11-7 and hasn’t looked particularly impressive so far in the UFC. I quite like him though. Seems a good guy in interviews. He’s been sparring Tyson Fury recently, apparently, and has sparred Deontay Wilder as well in the past. BJ Penn vs Ryan Hall is maybe the only possible fight that I’m not really against seeing BJ involved with in 2018. Hall’s a complete throwback. Almost 100% grappler. He’s not the type of fighter who’s going to scramble BJ’s brains. I’m hoping Penn goes back to his grappling roots here. I’d be quite pleased if this basically looks like Metamoris in a cage. I think it could actually be quite fun. Watch Hall rip his leg off now. Uriah Hall vs Bevon Lewis is a fight that’s got my attention even though I’m not familiar with Lewis. Hall varies from fight to fight but when he’s got a good dance partner he can be so much fun to watch. He’s been in entertaining fights of late to be fair. Guess it’ll depend what Lewis brings. All I know is he fought on Dana’s Contender thing, he’s 27, fights out of Jackson-Wink and he’s undefeated at 6-0. And his nickname is ‘The Extraordinary Gentleman’ for some reason. Siyar Bahadurzada vs Curtis Millender is going to be a battle and, just a guess but it’s probably not going the distance. Siyar doesn’t do anything pretty, you won’t see a technical masterpiece out of him but he hits fucking hard and he’s aggressive as fuck. Millender is more of a technician but he’s shown legit promise so far in the UFC. He knocked out Thiago Alves in his debut and beat Max Griffin on points in July. He’s 16-3 overall now and is looking like someone worth keeping an eye on. Petr Yan vs Douglas Silva De Andrade is a fight I really hope ends up televised. I’m already a big fan of Yan. He’s a former ACB champion, 10-1, 2-0 in the UFC so far, and he’s a little beast of a striker. Really fun style to watch. De Andrade is a tricky customer though and a veteran of 28 fights. It’s a step up the ladder for Yan so it’ll be interesting to see how he does. That’s 232. That’s 2018. That’s all folks.