Welcome to the GrappleTalk Newswire, your weekly insight into all the important stories in MMA in the past week. The Newswire contains everything you need to know in the world of Mixed Martial Arts, and you can get it delivered right to your email inbox before it is publicly available by signing up below – just enter your email address and hit return. If you are a subscriber the Newswire will arrive at least 48 hours before it is posted here, and you will also receive exclusive offers and content. You can also sign-up at bit.ly/grapplenews.
The spectre of TRT has loomed over the UFC for sometime now, and it reared its ugly head again this past week when it emerged that Ben Rothwell had overdone his synthetic testosterone in preperation for his fight at UFC 164. The 31 year old was a somewhat surprising candidate for a therapeutic use exception, and his TKO victory over Brandon Vera in the third round saw a surprising late burst on energy from the Wisconsin native – though it’s easy to read too far into this in hindsight of course. The result still stands thus far, and the Wisconsin commission itself did not have any power to punish Rothwell – but the UFC took it upon themselves to suspend Rothwell for nine months. UFC Vice-President of Regulatory Affairs Marc Ratner said in a statement: “We always try to do the right thing everywhere. If he had had this result in Nevada, he’d have gotten a nine-month suspension, so we felt that was the appropriate thing to do in this case, to suspend him for nine months.”
It does seem an odd state of affairs when it is entirely acceptable for fighters as young as 31 and fighters with histories of steroid abuse to pump themselves with what is for all intents and purposes a performance enhancing drug, but the UFC hammer falls down hard based on having taken just a little bit too much at the time of testing. Maybe Rothwell just didn’t cycle off properly? The TRT will rage on and on, though one has to wonder if this controversy over how much TRT is being taken could prompt the UFC to take another look at the allowed use of synthetic testosterone.
Rothwell will be eligible to fight again in June 2014.
Wednesday night sees the UFC returning to Brazil for Fight Night: Maia .vs. Shields. Maia is undefeated since dropping down to 170 pounds with victories over Dong Hyun Kimm, Rick Story and Jon Fitch, and a fourth win in a row would certainly put him up into title contention in the welterweight division – especially since Rory MacDonald looked distinctly unimpressive against Jake Ellenberger. Shields on the other hand has only won two of his last five fights and is coming off a split decision victory over debutant Tyron Woodley, so will be looking for a strong performance to get back on track here. Maia is a strong betting favourite here , with decent odds on a submission finish that are probably worth a flutter for the gamblers among Newswire readers.
In the co-main event, Brazil’s Erick Silva will take on South Korea’s Kim Dong-Hyun in another welterweight clash. Hyun has just two losses on his career record against Demian Maia and Carlos Condit, while Silva has traded wins and losses so far in the UFC. This is certainly an interesting styles clash – both these fighters have judo black belts, while Silva jiu jitsu will be up against Hyun’s kickboxing. Also on the card is the returning veteran Matt Hamill, as the wrestler takes on Thiago Silva. Silva is a disappointing 1-2-2 in his last five fights, with two failed drug tests, but is coming off a strong knockout victory early this year.
As is typical with the Brazil cards most of the card is the US .vs. Brazil, as Joey Beltran, Mike Pierce and TJ Dillishaw make up the rest of the main card against Fabio Maldonado, Rousimar Palhares and Raphael Assuncao respectively.
After Lyoto Machida was inserted to replace Michael Bisping later this month against Mark Munoz, Tim Kennedy was left without an opponent in the main event of the Fight For The Troops card in November. After calling out everyone from Rick Franklin to Nick Diaz, Kennedy has ended up with a far less auspicious opponent in the form of Rafael Natal. After being originally rumoured for a fight with Vitor Belfort before being matched with Machida, Natal is not exactly the same level of name value but will still be a tough opponent. In reality, this could well be a lose-lose situation for Kennedy – if he beats Natal he lives up to expectations and nothing more but if he loses it will be a big upset for sure.
These two BJJ black belts will go at it on November 6th.
As the latest season of the Ultimate Fighter rolls on, a pattern is emerging in the ratings that tell an interesting story. While the premiere episode debuted to nearly half of the previous season’s, the ratings have rebounded somewhat. The ratings increased for week two, before dipping to under 650,000 in week three and back up again for week four. This erratic ratings behaviour is unusual, but without the full season to reflect on we can look at the pattern in these first four episodes. With this the first season of TUF in history with both male and female fighters competing at the same time, the episodes with women’s fights are fairing much better in terms of attracting an audience. Is it the novelty of there being something different on offer for the first time in many seasons? Undeniably so, but perhaps the UFC has also done a good job of of pushing the quality of women that are on the season. While some of the men have been unable to control their self-belief in their attractiveness to the opposite sex, the women have made for far more interesting characters. I’m a particular fan of Sarah Moras and her no nonsense attitude to sparring with the men in training, and the high skill level of the women is undeniable. It seems inconceivable that the UFC wouldn’t give fighters such as Shayna Baszler and Roxanne Modafferi another opportunity, despite them being eliminated already.
In related news, Ronda Rousey’s originally scheduled opponent and opposite number on this season Cat Zingano has undergone a second major knee surgery after having an ACL replacement procedure earlier this year. The new injury is in the other knee, and Zingano underwent a procedure last week to deal with long standing knee issues. Hopefully Zingano will be in line for a title shot upon her return in 2014, but she is not at the mercy of the UFC schedule.
In the main event of Friday’s Bellator 102 card Chieck Kongo made a successful debut for the promotion, and advances to the finals of their 2013 heavyweight tournament. Kongo scored a TKO victory over the UK’s Mark Godbeer in the second round after controlling the fight with his takedowns. Godbeer seemed out of his depth, and only really slowed Kongo down with an illegal groin strike. Despite Kongo advancing to the finals he will not meet fellow UFC veteran Lavar Johnson, as the heavy handed Johnson was knocked out by submission specialist Vinicius Queiroz in just 23 seconds. Johnson protested what he thought was an early stoppage, but the first punch had him out for the count. No word yet on when the heavyweight final will take place, but current champion Alexander Volkov will defend his title against undefeated summer series tournament winner Vitaly Minakov at Bellator 109 in November.
Elsewhere on the card Rafael Silva extended his winning streak to 13 fights in all competitions as he won the delayed summer series bantamweight tournament final, taking a unanimous decision victory over Anthony Leone, and Mikkel Parlo and Brennan Ward booked their places in the middleweight tournament final with victories over Jason Butcher and Joe Pacheco respectively.
Matt Riddle broke Randy Couture’s record for the shortest MMA retirement by a long way, after Riddle was officially booked to fight at Bellator 109 in November. Just last month Riddle announced his retirement from the sport after having to pull out of this season’s middleweight tournament and being told that he wouldn’t be able to fight again until early 2014. Riddle decided this was too long for him to go without a paycheck, and walked away from MMA claiming that he wanted nothing to do with the sport. He was also deeply critical of Bellator for not supporting him better, but clearly this problem has been squashed, and Bellator has found a way to put him on the card next month.
Sergio Pettis, the brother of current UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis, has signed with the UFC and will debut for the company at UFC 167. At just twenty years old Pettis becomes the youngest fighter on the UFC roster, and he brings an undefeated 9-0 record into the Octagon. Pettis was also the inaugural flyweight champion for the Resurrection Fighting Alliance (RFA), one of the top independent promotions in the country today. Despite competing at flyweight for most of his career however and looking like a more natural 125 pounder, Sergio Pettis will debut at bantamweight against Vaughan Lee. Pettis is considered one of the top prospects in MMA today, we will see very soon how he lives up that hype.
Two interesting fight camp developments this week for top UFC fighters, with Gustafsson heading back to Sweden for the foreseeable future and BJ Penn returning to Nova Uniao. Penn has been criticised in the past for how he runs his camps, particularly the ones he organised for himself in his Hawaii home. Former welterweight champion Penn will drop to 145 pounds for this fight, and some have questioned if he can make that weight. Penn has responded by enlisting Mike Dolce to help with the weight cut, and returning to Brazil’s Nova Uniao training camp for his fight preparation. When motivated Penn can almost do anything he sets his mind to, and this fight with Frankie Edgar seems to have truly re-lit the former champion’s passion for the sport.
Elsewhere, Alexander Gustafsson was reported to have told Swedish media that he would not be returning to California’s Alliance MMA base for future fights due to the coast of re-locating to the West coast for weeks at a time. However, Alliance head coach Eric Del Fierro claimed that reports of Gustafsson parting ways with the team are overstated and premature, and that he will still be working with the Swede even if his camps do take place in his home country – indeed, Gustafsson’s camp for the ill-fated Gegard Mousasi fight took place in Stockholm.
Finally, I wanted to highlight a great article by MMAFighting.com’s Chuck Mindenhall looking at the five year anniversary of the final show of the EliteXC promotion due to be headlined by Kimbo Slice .vs. Ken Shamrock. Check it out here. It seems almost incredible now to revisit a time in MMA history when Kimbo Slice was one of the sport’s biggest stars, and that unbelievable night when he was brought crashing down by now-retired Seth Petruzelli.
That’s all for this week’s Newswire. If you enjoyed it please share it around and tell a friend, and be sure to subscribe to receive it early next time! Subscribers also get exclusive content and offers, so it’s well worth it. Subscribe at bit.ly/grapplenews, or sign up below – just enter your email address and hit return.