WWE Royal Rumble is live from the Alamodome in San Antonio, Texas on Sunday night. Unlike recent past years WWE has done a great job of keeping this year’s Rumble unpredictable. Do they attempt to make a new star with Braun Strowman, Bray Wyatt or perhaps Sami Zayn (gasp)? Or do they rely on nostalgia by having Brock Lesnar, Undertaker or Goldberg win?
Whichever direction they decide to go in, I’m really looking forward to the show. The Road to WrestleMania looks like it’s going to be a fun ride.
The Kickoff Show gets things off running beginning at 4 p.m. CT on the WWE Network with the main card starting at 6 p.m. CT.
30 Man Royal Rumble Match for the opportunity to main event WrestleMania
I can see a few winners here: Orton, Strowman, Samoa Joe, or Nakamura.
Kevin Owens vs. Roman Reigns for the WWE Universal Championship
It’s unfortunate, but…
AJ Styles vs. John Cena for the WWE World Championship
I think Styles drops the title at the Elimination Chamber.
Charlotte Flair vs. Bayley for the WWE Women’s RAW Championship
This one is easy.
Rich Swann vs. Neville for the WWE Cruiserweight Championship
It’s just too obvious to put the belt on Neville.
Nikki Bella, Becky Lynch and Naomi vs. Alexa Bliss, Mickie James and Natalya
This should start the Mickie James vs. Becky Lynch feud.
Winner: Bliss, James & Natalya
Cesaro & Sheamus vs. Gallows & Anderson for the WWE RAW Tag Team Championship
I think we’ll see this match again.
Winner: Cesaro & Sheamus
Sasha Banks vs. Nia Jax
This is the easiest match to predict.
Winner: Nia Jax
The UFC makes its way to the Pepsi Center in Denver, Colorado for UFC on FOX 23. The main event of the evening is a contender match up in the bantamweight division between Valentina Shevchenko and Julianna Pena. The co-main should be a good one as Donald Cerrone goes up against Jorge Masvidal in a battle of welterweights.
The four-fight main card rounds out with Francis Ngannou, who will be looking to continue moving up the heavyweight rankings, taking on Andreai Arlovski and Alex Caceres vs. Jason Knight in a battle of featherweights.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 3 p.m. CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 4 p.m. CT for the prelims. Switch over to FOX for the main card starting at 8 p.m. CT.
Valentina Shevchenko (13-2) vs. Julianna Pena (9-2) – Bantamweight 135 lbs.
Current Odds: Shevchenko -160; Pena +130
Valentina Shevchenko is 2-1 since coming to the UFC. She lost a decision to Amanda Nunes at UFC 196, but rebounded by taking a decision from Holly Holm at UFC on FOX 20. Julianna Pena is 7-0 under the UFC banner with her latest win coming by decision over Cat Zingano at UFC 200.
This is clearly a fight between two different styles. Pena has below average striking and an excellent ground game, while Shevchenko is one of the best strikers in MMA but has a below average ground game. The question is who will be able to execute their game plan better? If Pena has success getting the fight to the ground I can see her either grinding out a decision or getting the sub in the later rounds. On the other hand, if Shevchenko is successful in stuffing Pena’s takedown attempts and forces her to stand and strike then I think she finishes on the feet. The winner of this fight should get the next title fight against Nunes.
This is a tough fight to predict. It’s not a fight I have any confidence in laying money on as I think there are better opportunities on the card.
Pick: Pena by decision
Donald Cerrone (32-7, 1 NC) vs. Jorge Masvidal (31-11) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Cerrone -160; Masvidal +130
This should be the main event. I expect an excellent fight between these two. Donald Cerrone has been on tear since he lost to Rafael dos Anjos at UFC on FOX 17. He has rattled off four straight wins with his latest coming by knockout over Matt Brown at UFC 206. Jorge Masvidal is 2-2 over his last four fights. He’s currently on a two-fight winning streak with his most recent win coming against Jake Ellenberger at The Ultimate Fighter 24 Finale.
Both fighters have excellent cardio, so I don’t expect either one to gas out early. Both also like to stand and strike so this is the odds on favorite to be Fight of the Night. Aside from two wins by knockout, the majority of Masvidal’s fights go to decision. 16 of his last 20 fights all went to the judge’s scorecards. Donald Cerrone’s last four wins were all stoppages. Cerrone is a finisher and although Masvidal is tough as nails I don’t see him slowing Cowboy down.
Pick: Cerrone by decision
Andrei Arlovski (25-13, 1 NC) vs. Francis Ngannou (9-1) – Heavyweight 265 lbs.
Current Odds: Ngannou -375; Arlovski +290
The UFC is desperate need of young, talented fighters in the heavyweight division. They are hoping Francis Ngannou is one of them. He’s 4-0 under the UFC banner with all four wins by stoppage. In fact, all nine of his career wins are either by submission or knockout. Needless to say Ngannou has power. He is also solid on the ground and is surprisingly quick for a guy his size. When hi steps into the cage on Saturday night he will be facing his toughest challenge to date in Andrei Arlovski.
UFC veteran Andrei Arlovski comes into Saturday’s bout on a three-fight losing streak. Arlovski was finished in all three fights. His last win came by decision against Frank Mir at UFC 191 back in September of 2015. All that said, I do expect him to give Ngannou some trouble early on. I think he’ll come out aggressively and pressure Ngannou. Ngannou has flaws in his game, but at Arlovski’s age I don’t think he has the ability to take advantage of them
Pick: Ngannou by TKO
Alex Caceres (12-9, 1 NC) vs. Jason Knight (18-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Knight -145; Caceres +115
Jason Knight is an up-and-comer in the featherweight division. After dropping a decision to Tatsuya Kawajiri in his UFC debut he’s rattled off two straight wins. He is a well-rounded fighter and a win here against Caceres will be the biggest of his career. Knight’s advantage may lie in his takedowns and ground game. I think if he can get Caceres to the ground with ease it’s his fight.
UFC veteran Alex Caceres was on a two-fight winning streak until dropping a decision to Yair Rodriguez at UFC Fight Night 92. Caceres has a ton of experience from fighting top-level fighters. He does everything fairly well including his striking and jiu-jitsu. Caceres has the advantage on the feet so I see him keeping distance while avoiding being taken to the mat.
This is a another tough fight to predict.
Pick: Knight by decision
Prelims Quick Look
Alvey over Marquardt
Assuncao over Sterling
Li over Nash
da Silva over Johnson
Spicely over Di Chirico
de Lima over Phillips
Early Prelims Quick Look
Pantoja over Pantoja
Gonzalez over Gonzalez
Enjoy the fights!
Bellator 171 comes to the Kansas Star Arena in Mulvane, Kansas on Friday night. The main event features rising welterweight Chidi Njokuani taking on UFC veteran Melvin Guillard. The co-main takes place in the lightweight division as hometown favorite David Rickels takes on Aaron Derrow.
The four-fight main card rounds out with rising star AJ McKee Jr. taking on Brandon Phillips in a battle of featherweights and on the women’s side we go to the flyweight division with Jessica Middleton going up against Alice Yauger.
The prelims will stream on Bellator.com starting at 6 p.m. CT, with Spike TV taking over at 8 p.m. CT for the main card.
Melvin Guillard (32-16) vs. Chidi Njokuani (16-4) – Catchweight 175 lbs.
Current Odds: Njokuani -320; Guillard +250
Melvin Guillard is coming off a knockout victory over David Rickels at Bellator 159. The result was later overturned by the Kansas Athletic Commission due to Guillard testing positive for a non-performance enhancing banned substance. Guillard also missed weight, as he did for three of the last four of his fights. The UFC verteran is 1-4 in his last five fights and one has to wonder what, if anything Guillard has left.
Chidi Njokuani enters the fight looking to add a big name to his resume as he continues to climb the welterweight ladder. Njokuani is riding a six-fight winning streak. His most recent win was a 21 second TKO of Andre Fialho at Bellator 167.
Between Guillard’s lack of discipline and diminishing skills it’s impossible to back him in this or any other fight he’s in. This is MMA and anything can happen, but this Chidi Njokuani’s fight.
Pick: Njokuani by TKO
David Rickels (17-4) vs. Aaron Derrow (14-8) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Rickels -800; Derrow +500
Kansas native David Rickels is coming off a no-contest against Melvin Guillard at Bellator 159 as previously discussed. Aside from a NC against John Alesssio at Bellator 139, he has alternated wins and losses his last six fights. Rickels fights a crowd pleasing style in that he likes to pressure and stand inside the pocket and throw strikes until someone drops. Of his last seven fights, only one has gone the distance.
Aaron Derrow is 1-0 under the Bellator banner after beating Nate Jolly at Bellator 130. He is 4-6 over his last ten fights. Derrow also likes throw hands so I do not expect this to go the distance.
Pick: Rickels by TKO
AJ McKee Jr. (6-0) vs. Brandon Phillips (6-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: McKee Jr -1300; Phillips +1280
AJ McKee Jr.enters his fight with Brandon Phillips undefeated. Up until Ray Wood took him the distance at Bellator 166 all of McKee’s wins were either by knockout or submission. Brandon Phillips is 2-2 over his last four fights, with one of the losses coming against Ray Wood.
I expect a fast paced fight between these two. Bellator knows they have a potential future star in AJ McKee Jr. I expect him to look good here and win the fight inside the distance.
Pick: McKee by TKO
Jessica Middleton (1-0) vs. Alice Yauger (4-4) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Middleton -220; Yauger +170
Jessica Middleton will look to make it 2-0 under the Bellator banner. She looked very good in her debut when she defeated Bruna Ellen by decision at Bellator 159. The Wichita, Kansas native will certainly have the crowd behind her for this one.
Alice Yauger makes her Bellator debut on Friday night. She enters the fight on a two-fight winning streak, taking both by decision. I liked the poise I liked the poise Middleton showed for her debut, which tells me the situation wasn’t too big for her. I expect her to go to 2-0.
Pick: Middleton by decision
As the current odds reflect, most of the main card fights are mismatches. I don’t expect any upsets coming out of the main card. For my money the best bets would be taking the rounds under in the men’s fights.
Prelims Quick Look
Harris over Jordan
Reyno over Overton
Garcia over Lavine
Rencountre over Lindsey
Marigo over Fulk
Meraz over Heston
Breeden over Farley
Trice over Woltkamp
Fortune over Johnson
Ellen over James
Enjoy the fights!
Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 01-07-2017
Given that Jon Jones has said he’ll be a changed man when returns next summer, how skeptical are you that he has matured (on a 1-5 scale, 5 being very skeptical, 1 being you think he’s sincere and has changed)? And with that in mind, given today’s landscape and projecting it to next summer, what are top options for Jones’s first fight back?
MIKE GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
TheFreeDictionary.com defines the phrase “a leopard can’t change its spots” as: One will stay true to one’s nature, even if one pretends or claims otherwise.
Let me share one more phrase that fits the way I feel, “Fool me once, shame on you. Fool me twice, shame on me.”
After Jon Jones was reinstated back into the UFC in October of 2015 after he was stripped of his title and removed from the official rankings stemming from a hit and run felony, I thought this was what he needed to get his life back on track. I was 100 percent behind him. Oh, what a fool I was. Looking back, I wanted to believe him because I was such a big fan of his. So on a scale of 1-5, I’m at a 4 for skepticism, and that’s only because I’m not one to go to extremes.
If the UFC wants to send Jones a message and have him work his way back up, I think they’ll be shooting themselves in the foot. I don’t see them going that route because the big money fight is Jon Jones vs. whoever is holding the title upon his return. Another problem is that the Light Heavyweight Division is one of the weaker divisions in the company and Jones will most likely steam roll through guys he’s already beaten including Glover Teixeira, Ryan Bader, and Ovince Saint Preux. Heck, here at the Torch we have him ranked no. 2 in the pound for pound category.
Granted the circumstances are different, but the UFC gave Ronda Rousey a title fight her first fight back and I see them doing the same for Jones. And while I hate to admit it, after Jones serves his suspension and is reinstated again, I’ll be right back in his corner rooting for one of the best MMA fighters in history… only to eventually be disappointed again.
Bellator 170 will be live from The Forum in Inglewood, California on Saturday night. The main event features two legendary MMA veterans as Chael Sonnen takes on the “Huntington Beach Bad Boy” Tito Ortiz. The co-main takes place in the welterweight division as Brennan Ward takes on Paul Daley in what should be a highly entertaining fight.
The five fight main card rounds out with middleweights Ralek Gracie taking on Hisaki Kato, then in the featherweight division Georgi Karakhanyan goes up against Emmanuel Sanchez and finally Derek Anderson faces off against Derek Campos in a battle of lightweights.
The prelims will stream on Bellator.com starting at 6PM CT, with Spike TV taking over at 8PM CT for the main card.
Chael Sonnen (28-14-1) vs. Tito Ortiz (18-12-1) – Light Heavyweight 205 lbs.
Current Odds: Sonnen -200; Ortiz +160 / Ov 2.5 -175; Un 2.5 +145
Saturday night’s fight will be the final one in the long and storied career of Tito Ortiz…or will it? I hope so. Ortiz has fought three times under the Bellator banner going 2-1 in those fights. His most recent fight came against Liam McGeary at Bellator 142 where he was submitted in the first round. Tito Ortiz is 3-7 over his last ten fights so to say he is well past his prime would be an accurate statement. Yet, here he is at 41 years old proclaiming he is retiring after Saturday’s fight…again. Tito Ortiz was once a very good fighter with great wrestling and average striking skills. He will have the hometown crowd in his corner, but will it be enough to pull out the win?
Chael Sonnen shocked the MMA world when he left the UFC and signed a multi-fight deal with Bellator MMA in September. Sonnen hasn’t fought since he was knocked out by Rashad Evans back in November, 2013 at Bellator 167.
Both fighters come into the fight after long layoffs so I fear a slow start to this one. Ortiz will have the advantage should the fight stay standing. Sonnen works well in the clinch and tries to wear his opponents down by controlling them on the ground. Will he be able to implement that game plan against Ortiz?
I don’t have a strong feeling for which way this fight is going to go. At +140 there is value in backing Ortiz considering he has the home town crowd backing him, he’s been in the cage more recently and he has the size advantage. On the other hand, Sonnen just signed his new deal and says he’s motivated to make one last run. Sonnen may see this fight as a tune up for the fight he really wants…Wanderlei Silva.
Pick: Sonnen by decision
Paul Daley (38-14-2) vs. Brennan Ward (14-4) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Daley -120; Ward -110 / Ov 1.5 +175 / Un 1.5 -225
This will be an exciting fight. Both guys will stand in the pocket and exchange strikes making this a hard fight to predict. Paul Daley was on a five fight win streak until he dropped a decision to Douglas Lima at Bellator 158. Daley’s strength has always been his striking so I expect him to try to keep the fight standing and hunt for the knockout.
Brennan Ward was on a roll winning four straight fights until he got tapped by Evangelista Santos at Bellator 153. Ward responded by finishing Saad Awad at Bellator 163. While Ward has excellent striking, his biggest advantage in this fight is his grappling.
If Daley can get Ward to slug it out with him I think there’s a good chance he catches him with a big shot and scores the knockout. I think Brennan Ward will take advantage of Daley’s lack of ground game and finish him by submission. For my money the better value is under the rounds total.
Pick: Ward by submission
Hisaki Kato (7-2) vs. Ralek Gracie (3-0) – Middleweight 185 lbs.
Current Odds: Kato -320; Gracie +250 / Ov 1.5 +195; Un 1.5 -245
Hisaki Kato has seven career wins, all by knockout. His latest was against AJ Matthews at Bellator 162. Kato’s two losses were also by knockout so the chances of this one going the distance would seem slim. Hisaki Kato has the superior stand-up so he has to be able to defend getting taken down and keep the fight on the feet.
Ralek Gracie is 3-0 and is making his Bellator debut Saturday night. This is an extremely tough debut fight for the son of Rorian and nephew of Royce, Royler and Rickson Gracie. In order for Gracie to win this fight he has to have success getting Kato to the ground so he can work his superior submission game.
This fight comes down to who can dictate where the fight goes. If it stays on the feet, I favor Kato by knockout. However, if Gracie has success getting the fight to the ground I can see him subbing Kato. This is another fight I would favor backing under the rounds total.
Pick: Kato by TKO
Georgi Karakhanyan (26-6-1) vs. Emmanuel Sanchez (13-3) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Karakhanyan -120; Sanchez +110 / Ov 2.5 -290; Un 2.5 +230
I’m really looking forward to this one. Georgi Karakhanyan is 3-2 under the Bellator banner and working on a two-fight win streak. He knocked out Bubba Jenkins in 53 seconds at Bellator 160 and came back at Bellator 164 where he KO’d Kirill Medvedovsky also in the first round. This is a big fight for Karakhanyan. A win here should put him in a number one contenders fight.
Emmanuel Sanchez was riding a three-fight winning streak until he dropped a decision to Daniel Weichel at Bellator 159. Sanchez was supposed to fight up and comer AJ McKee at Bellator 166 but had to pull out of the fight due to an injury. Sanchez has faced the best fighters in the division so he’s definitely battle tested. Hopefully he’s fully healed from the muscle strains that kept him out of his fight against McKee because if he is I expect a good, close fight.
Pick: Karakhanyan by decision
Derek Campos (17-6) vs. Derek Anderson (14-2) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Anderson -225; Campos +175 / Ov 1.5 -245; Un 1.5 +195
After losing two fights in a row, Bellator MMA veteran Derek Campos has rattled off two straight wins. He knocked out Melvin Guillard at Bellator 149 and beat Djamil Chan by decision at Bellator 161.
Derek Anderson comes into Saturday night’s fight on his own two-fight win streak. Both wins were by decision, the first one coming against Patricky Freire at Bellator 147 and most recently against Saad Awad at Bellator 160.
The winner of this fight continues up the ladder in pursuit of a title fight against Michael Chandler. If Derek Anderson loses here then there’s a chance that the next time we see him in the cage will be at welterweight. I expect him to hold off on that though.
Pick: Anderson by decision
Prelims Quick Look
Machida over Ocampo
May over Cryer
Bollinger over Corrales
Casey over Berry
Vasconcelos over Mercurio
Green over Turner
Gonzales over Rodriguez
Rosales over Butler
Cisneros over Millender
Aaron over Segura
Gooch over Barnes
Schneider over Ruth
Enjoy the fights!
*Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 01-04-2017
What is your favorite Tito Ortiz fight and where does he rank among all-time most influential fighters in UFC history?
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
Let me start off by sayingb that I’m not a big fan of Tito Ortiz. While most rank him inside the top 10, I have him ranked around 15-18. That being said, there’s no doubt he is one of the most influential figures in MMA history. Between his charisma and ability to promote, he helped build the UFC in the early years.
As far as favorite Ortiz fight? That’s hard because since I’m not a fan I usually pulled for his opponents. The pre-Zuffa fight against Frank Shamrock sticks out only because he won the first three-and-a-half rounds by basically lying on top of Shamrock only to end up losing. I also enjoyed his first fight against Chuck Liddell at UFC 47.
I might be in the minority, but I’m looking forward to his Bellator fight against Chael Sonnen on January 21, 2017.
UFC Fight Night 103 is live on Sunday night from the Talking Stick Arena in Phoenix, Arizona. After being out for more than two years, BJ Penn makes his return against Yair Rodriguez in the night’s main event.
The four-fight main card rounds out with Ben Saunders taking on Court McGee in the welterweight division and John Moraga taking on Sergio Pettis in a battle of flyweights. Both fights should be exciting and challenge for fight of the night.
The early prelims will air on Fight Pass starting at 5:15 PM CT, with Fox Sports 1 taking over at 7 PM CT for the prelims. Keep it on FS1 for the main card starting at 9 PM CT.
Yair Rodriguez (9-1) vs. BJ Penn (16-10-2) – Featherweight 145 lbs.
Current Odds: Rodriguez -420; Penn +320
It was at the Ultimate Fighter 19 Finale in July of 2014 the last time BJ Penn fought inside the octagon. Penn lost to Frankie Edgar by TKO in the main event. He’s lost his last three fights, with his last win coming against the now retired Matt Hughes at UFC 123 in November of 2010.
The fact that Penn is back with his former coach Jason Parillo and is training at Jackson-Wink MMA tells me he is putting everything he has into this comeback fight. But is it enough?
Yair Rodriguez is 9-1 coming into Sunday night’s fight and looking to break into the Top 10 in the featherweight division with a win. I’m not as high on Yair as most. While his offensive attack is quite flashy, he tends to leave himself open for counter-strikes. He likes to close distance and his aggressive style might play right into Penn’s hands. Although Rodriguez is the quicker, superior athlete he doesn’t possess the knockout power of BJ Penn.
BJ Penn has never had great cardio so if he doesn’t get the finish within the first two rounds, then I think it’ll be a rough night for him. I see Yair Rodriguez using his speed and quickness to land punches in the pocket while also being able to avoid the counter-striking of Penn. I give BJ Penn a better chance of winning than most, but I’m not willing to put my hard earned money on it.
Pick: Rodriguez by decision
Joe Lauzon (26-13) vs. Marcin Held (22-5) – Lightweight 155 lbs.
Current Odds: Lauzon -120; Held -110
After establishing a 7-2 record over a five year span fighting in Bellator, Marcin Held dropped a decision to Diego Sanchez in his UFC debut at UFC Fight 98. Held turned in a lackluster effort that made Sanchez look like he was back in his prime. Held’s strength lies in his grappling and will use it to get the fight to the ground where he can work his excellent submission skills. He’s going to avoid getting into a slugfest with Lauzon at all costs and try to take the fight to the ground.
Unfortunately for Held, Joe Lauzon’s strength is grappling as well. Lauzon also brings the ability to mix it up on the feet if needed as evidenced by his last three wins, which were all by TKO. Joe Lauzon’s most recent fight came at UFC on FOX 21 where he lost a decision to Jim Miller. You can bet he’ll be looking to get back in the win column and I think he will.
Both fighters have suspect cardio, but Lauzon seems to be able to push through better than Held. Held gassed out badly by the end of the first round against Sanchez, and it cost him the fight. If the fight goes deep into the second or the third round Lauzon’s higher offensive output might earn him the stoppage. Joe Lauzon is the better grappler and striker and can beat Held regardless of where the fight goes. At only 24 years old, Marcin Held will learn from this fight and come back a better fighter the next time he’s in the octagon.
Pick: Lauzon by TKO
Court McGee (19-5) vs. Ben Saunders (19-7-2) – Welterweight 170 lbs.
Current Odds: Saunders -120; McGee -110
Court McGee has alternated wins and losses over his last four fights. His most recent fight was at UFC Fight Night 92 where he took a decision against Dominique Steele. Although McGee doesn’t have a ton of power, he makes up for it in accuracy and volume. He’s an average wrestler and not big with submissions so I see him trying to keep the fight standing.
Ben Saunders is 3-1 under the UFC banner. After losing by TKO to Patrick Cote at UFC Fight Night 81, he returned to the octagon at Fight Night at the Island where he subbed UFC veteran Jacob Volkmann in 17 seconds. Saunders is good at keeping distance using kicks and jabs. While he prefers to fight at range, striking isn’t his strongest skill. That would be his grappling. He has an excellent ground game and transitions well into submissions.
This is a tough fight to predict. I’ll go with Ben Saunders and his ground game.
Pick: Saunders decision
John Moraga (16-5) vs. Sergio Pettis (14-2) – Flyweight 125 lbs.
Current Odds: Pettis -140; Moraga +110
John Moraga comes into the fight on a two-fight losing streak. He dropped decisions to Joseph Benavidez at UFC 187 and then Matheus Nicolau Pereira at The Ultimate Fighter 23 Finale. Moraga is a skilled wrestler and uses it to get his opponent to the ground where he can work his excellent submission game. His striking is average so I don’t expect him to get into a slugfest with Pettis. I see him shooting for takedowns in an effort to get the fight to the ground.
Unlike Moraga, Sergio Pettis enters the fight on a two-fight winning streak. He took decisions over Chris Cariaso at UFC 192 and Chris Kelades at UFC 197. Pettis is by far the more skilled striker and will want to keep the fight standing. Although he doesn’t possess the power of Moraga, he is quicker and is the more active fighter. Pettis has to successful in defending the takedown, if he isn’t I can see Moraga getting the sub. But, as long as he stays within himself and sticks to his game plan he’ll leave with the decision.
Pick: Pettis by decision
FS1 Prelims Quick Look
Ansaroff over Jones-Lybarger
Martin over White
Oleinik over Pesta
Saenz over Mendes
Fight Pass Early Prelims Quick Look
Asker over Smoliakov
Christensen over Mihajlovic
Harris over Sherman
Klose over Powell
Enjoy the fights!
Originally posted on MMATorch.com on 12-29-2016
Which current non-contender in any division in either UFC or Bellator do you think is going to rise to a Top Five Contender status in 2017 and be the Rising Star of the Year?
MICHAEL GROCKE, MMATORCH CONTRIBUTOR
As the MMATorch.com writer for the Bellator Preview & Predictions column and the live report writer, I’ve been fortunate to have watched some excellent, young, up and coming fighters display their craft in the Bellator cage. The first name that comes to mind is A.J. McKee. The 21 year old featherweight is undefeated under the Bellator banner, going 6-0 with five finishes. Up until his decision victory over Ray Wood at Bellator 166, each of his previous five wins ended in the first round. McKee is well-rounded fighter who looks for the finish when the opportunity presents itself. Bellator’s Featherweight Division is one of the best, if not the best, division in the organization so 2017 might be a bit ambitious for the son of MMA veteran Antonio McKee to break through in.
On the UFC side, Alexa Grasso has future star written all over her.
2016 was full of intriguing stories. None was bigger than WME-IMG purchasing the UFC for $4 billion from the Fertitta brothers. We saw the first ever two division champion in Conor McGregor. USADA made their presence known by dishing out suspensions to multiple fighters ruining more than a few fight cards, and MMA fans were treated to excellent fights in many different promotions throughout the course of the year.
2016 had its fair share of tragedy as well. The deaths of Josh Samman, Kimbo Slice, Kevin Randleman, Jordan Parsons and Ryan Jimmo shook the MMA community.
So now, as we look ahead, here are my predictions for 2017.
Dan Henderson fights in Bellator MMA.
Bjorn Rebney and the MMAAA sever ties together.
GSP does not fight for any promotion.
Nick Diaz does not fight.
CM Punk has his second fight in UFC.
Rafael Dos Anjos does not win a fight.
Daniel Cormier retires.
Mark Hunt retires.
Bobby Lashley does not fight a top 10 heavyweight.
Miesha Tate does not come out of retirement.
Tom Duquesnoy signs with UFC.
Paddy Pimblett signs with UFC.
Justin Gaethje signs with UFC.
Skip Bayless appears on a UFC on FOX show, and gets destroyed by the media the next day.
The following fighters will be holding titles going into 2018:
UFC Flyweight – Demetrious Johnson
UFC Bantamweight – TJ Dillashaw
UFC Featherweight – Max Holloway
UFC Lightweight – Tony Ferguson
UFC Welterweight – Tyron Woodley
UFC Middleweight – Yoel Romero
UFC Light Heavyweight – Jon Jones
UFC Heavyweight – Stipe Miocic
UFC Women’s Strawweight – Joanna Jedrzejczyk
UFC Women’s Bantamweight – Julianna Pena
UFC Women’s Featherweight – Holly Holm
Bellator Bantamweight – Eduardo Dantas
Bellator Lighweight – Michael Chandler
Bellator Welterweight – Rory MacDonald
Bellator Middleweight – Rafael Carvalho
Bellator Light Heavyweight – Phil Davis
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