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'The Ultimate Fighter 27: Undefeated' Episode 1 recap

“The Ultimate Fighter 27: Undefeated” opens with a video package previewing the season of the reality show, which, for the first time, features a cast composed solely of unbeaten athletes.

Coaching the teams are UFC heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and UFC light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier, who at the conclusion of the season will face off for Miocic’s belt on July 7 at UFC 226. Cormier will have the chance to become the second simultaneous two division titleholder in UFC history.

Before all that goes down, though, the 16 fighters – eight lightweights and eight featherweights – will be chopped down to just one winner from each weight class who will be awarded the traditional six-figure UFC contract.

The athletes enter the TUF gym, followed by Miocic, Cormier and their respective coaching staffs. Immediately the coaches encourage the fighters to start warming up so evaluations can take place prior to team selection.

Once training wraps up, Miocic and Cormier come back to the main gym area and are accompanied by UFC President Dana White. The UFC boss explains how Season 27 of the long-running reality series is different from any prior season because it’s all undefeated fighters.

White does the traditional season-opening coin toss to determine who gets the first fighter pick or the first matchmaking pick. Team Cormier wins the toss and opts to pick the first fighter.

Team selection shakes out as follows:

TEAM CORMIER

  1.  Tyler Diamond (featherweight)
  2. Bryce Mitchell (featherweight)
  3.  Richie Smullen (lightweight)
  4. Luis Pena (lightweight)
  5. Joe Giannetti (lightweight)
  6. Brad Katona (featherweight)
  7. Thailand Clark (lightweight)
  8. Ricky Steele (featherweight)

TEAM MIOCIC

  1. Kyler Phillips (featherweight)
  2. Suman Mokhtarian (featherweight)
  3. Mike Trizano (lightweight)
  4. John Gunther (lightweight)
  5. Jose Martinez Jr. (lightweight)
  6. Jay Cucciniello (featherweight)
  7. Allan Zuniga (lightweight)
  8. Dulani Perry (featherweight)

With control of fight selection for the first matchup, coach Miocic chooses his No. 4 pick John Gunther to take on Team Cormier’s No. 5 pick Joe Giannetti.

At the conclusion of fight selection, White congratulates the fighters on making it this far and declares the newest season of “TUF” is officially underway.

The fighters are then transported to the TUF house for the first time. It’s a rush through the front doors as everyone looks to claim a bed space and get settled. After a night of rest, the competitive switches turn on.

Team Miocic heads to the TUF gym for its first official training session. Gunther is a teammate of coach Miocic outside the competition and feels comfortable being on his team. Work begins to refine Gunther’s preparation ahead of his opening tournament fight.

Gears then shift to the first Team Cormier training session. It’s high intensity off the bat as Cormier looks to pass on the type of training he does at American Kickboxing Academy. Some fighters are overwhelmed by the pace of practice but believe it will pay off in the fights.

At the official weigh-ins, Gunther and Giannetti come in under the 156-pound lightweight limit, making the first quarterfinal matchup of the season official. A respectful staredown follows.

The next day, Gunther and Giannetti return to the TUF gym for their bout. They finalize preparation with their teams in the locker room before walking to the octagon for the first fight of the season.

Team Miocic’s John Gunther (6-0) vs. Team Cormier’s Joe Giannetti (6-0)

Round 1 – Giannetti lands a left hand down the middle right at the beginning of the fight. He moves into the muay-Thai clinch and lands a knee to the body. Gunther shoots in for a sloppy takedown and Giannetti immediately ties up the neck with a guillotine choke. He has perfect hand position, locks in the submission and squeezes. Gunther goes out in a flash, and referee Herb Dean pulls Giannetti off his opponent for the lightning-fast win.

Joe Giannetti def. John Gunther via submission (guillotine choke) – Round 1

“Holy (expletive),” White says of the fight. “I didn’t expect the fight to go that way. I thought John was in Joe’s head, and Joe was nervous, but boy was I wrong. That might be the fastest finish in ‘TUF’ history!”

Giannetti becomes the first to advance to the lightweight semifinals, and he does so without suffering a lick of damage.

“I feel amazing,” Giannetti says. “I can’t believe I just won on ‘The Ultimate Fighter.’ D.C. knew the perfect game plan, and I am so happy I got the win.”

Team Cormier takes a 1-0 lead in the competition over Team Miocic with Giannetti’s victory. Team Miocic retains control of fight selection, and with a featherweight bout up next, coach Miocic selects his No. 1 pick, Kyler Phillips, to fight Cormier’s No. 6 pick, Brad Katona.

Catch new episodes of “The Ultimate Fighter 27: Undefeated” every Wednesday at 10 p.m. ET (7 p.m. PT) on FS1. MMAjunkie recaps each episode of the reality series.

Kajan Johnson vs. Islam Makhachev set for UFC on FOX 30 in Canada

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A lightweight bout between Kajan Johnson and Islam Makhachev is the first reported addition to July’s UFC on FOX 30 lineup.

The pairing with Johnson (23-11-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) was confirmed by Makhachev’s (15-1 MMA, 4-1 UFC) management following an initial report from TASS (via Instagram):

UFC on FOX 30 takes place July 28 in Canada, but a city and venue have not been confirmed. The card airs on FOX following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

After losing his UFC debut in July 2014, Johnson has put together a solid four-fight winning streak. His past two wins were particularity notable, as the Canadian topped Stevie Ray at UFC Fight Night 117 in March and Adriano Martins at UFC 215 in September.

Makhachev will also enter the event on a nice run. He’s won his past three, including a 57-second knockout of longtime octagon veteran Gleison Tibau at UFC 220 in January.

For more on UFC on FOX 30, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Rory MacDonald and Ben Askren tweet about fighting each other in Bellator, but how possible is that?

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Bellator welterweight champion Rory MacDonald vs. Ben Askren: Is this a matchup that piques your interest?

Because it’s been talked about now between the two fighters.

A Twitter user today asked MacDonald, who already said he wants to move up to middleweight, if he would be interested in facing Askren, the former ONE Championship and Bellator 170-pound titleholder, who retired undefeated last November.

MacDonald  (20-4 MMA, 2-0 BMMA) responded, and that got things going between him and Askren (18-0). Check it out:

im good with that to

— Rory MacDonald (@rory_macdonald) April 18, 2018

i have asked @ScottCoker about getting you in bellator for a fight, i guesse you need to do your part

— Rory MacDonald (@rory_macdonald) April 18, 2018

i disagree

— Rory MacDonald (@rory_macdonald) April 18, 2018

You’ve got to love MacDonald being curt with his response to Askren’s bold prediction to close out the exchange in classic MacDonald fashion.

Ever since Askren retired, he hasn’t stopped talking about wanting to fight Georges St-Pierre, so we shouldn’t be that surprised he’d also welcome a showdown with GSP’s former pupil. But how possible is this?

RelatedBen Askren reminds us what MMA is and isn't, even in retirement

Well, MacDonald telling Askren “you need to do your part” would seem to indicate a hold-up. Unless Askren’s retirement fight was the last of his ONE deal, it would stand to reason that he’d still be under contract with the promotion should he come out of retirement.

So, this is likely to remain just talk, but maybe if they keep talking long and loud enough, anything can happen?

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

The Blue Corner is MMAjunkie’s blog space. We don’t take it overly seriously, and neither should you. If you come complaining to us that something you read here is not hard-hitting news, expect to have the previous sentence repeated in ALL CAPS.

Aspen Ladd isn't thinking too far ahead of UFC Fight Night 128 bout with Leslie Smith

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – Aspen Ladd has one thing on her mind right now, and that’s getting past Leslie Smith.

Ladd, a UFC women’s bantamweight prospect, protected her unbeaten record this past October with a stoppage of Lina Lansberg, earning a step up in competition.

When Ladd (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) evaluated her options for her follow-up, Smith (10-7-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) emerged early as a possible name. So Ladd wasn’t surprised when the outspoken veteran was chosen as her next opponent.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 128 pre-event facts: Jim Miller ties UFC record for most fights

“She’s a veteran,” Ladd told MMAjunkie in advance of her UFC Fight Pass-streamed prelim bout against Smith at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J. “I was like, ‘OK, let’s do it.’ There was a handful of people I was expecting, so I was a little bit prepared for it.”

Smith already has developed a reputation as bad news for UFC prospects. She outpointed newcomer Irene Aldana in December 2016, and then followed up the win with a stoppage of another first-time octagon combatant, Amanda Lemos, in a fight this past July.

Even in losses, Smith has earned praise for her grittiness, once battling through an exploded cauliflower ear before doctors called off the fight.

“Her base asset is her toughness,” Ladd said.

RelatedUFC-Gdansk winner Aspen Ladd sees 'a lot to get better at' after TKO in octagon debut

But as good as another win might look on her resume, Ladd isn’t the type to start calling for a title shot.

“I keep saying it – one step at a time,” Ladd said. “I don’t really think that far ahead. (I think), ‘OK, this is a great opponent, take this fight, and win this fight.’ And everything happens naturally, so we’ll see.

“Right now, the ultimate goal is to fight as much as I can and win as much as I can.”

The rest will take care of itself.

For more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Photos: Best of Aspen Ladd view 14 images

Paulo Costa announces rebooked fight vs. Uriah Hall for UFC 226 in Las Vegas

Paulo Costa is recovered and ready to fight Uriah Hall again.

Costa today announced that a middleweight bout with Hall has been rebooked for this summer at UFC 226. The promotion hasn’t officially made an announcement, but Costa shared the news via his Instagram page.

UFC 226 takes place July 7 at T-Mobile Arena in Las Vegas and airs on pay-per-view following prelims on FS1 and UFC Fight Pass.

Unbeaten Costa (11-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) and Hall (13-8 MMA, 6-6 UFC) originally were set to face off this weekend at UFC Fight Night 128, though a biceps tear suffered last month forced Costa to withdraw.

Costa stayed perfect last November with a second-round TKO of former welterweight champion Johny Hendricks at UFC 217 in New York. It was his third TKO finish in three UFC fights. He debuted with the promotion 13 months ago in his native Brazil and picked up a $50,000 bonus for a first-round TKO of Garreth McLellan to give him nine first-round stoppages in his first nine pro fights, with eight coming by knockout or TKO.

Costa had to go to the second round for a TKO of Oluwale Bamgbose at UFC 212 before making his first trip for a fight in the U.S.

Hall will return after suffering medical issues that sent him to the hospital ahead of weigh-ins for a scheduled January fight with Vitor Belfort. Those issues, Hall said, were a “mini-seizure” and “slight heart attack” during his weight cut for UFC Fight Night 125. Hall was pulled from his fight against Vitor Belfort and criticized by UFC President Dana White.

Hall will try for his second win in a row to follow a second-round knockout of Krzysztof Jotko at UFC Fight Night 116. That snapped a three-fight skid that saw him drop a decision to Robert Whittaker and suffer first-round TKOs against Derek Brunson and Gegard Mousasi in 2016.

The latest UFC 226 card includes:

  • Champ Stipe Miocic vs. Daniel Cormier – for heavyweight title
  • Raphael Assuncao vs. Rob Font
  • Khalil Rountree vs. Gokhan Saki
  • Yancy Medeiros vs. Mike Perry
  • Paulo Costa vs. Uriah Hall

For more on UFC 226, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Edson Barboza 'very motivated' for Kevin Lee with hopes for Khabib Nurmagomedov rematch after

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ATLANTIC CITY, N.J. – UFC lightweight Edson Barboza suffered a big career setback when he lost to Khabib Nurmagomedov this past December.

Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) hopes a win over Kevin Lee (16-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC) convinces the UFC he should get another shot at the undefeated lightweight champion.

“Of course, it’s very, very motivating,” Barboza told MMAjunkie in advance of his FS1-televised meeting with Lee, which headlines UFC Fight Night 128 on Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic, City, N.J. “I really, really hope to fight with this guy again, as soon as possible. I don’t know if he stays champ, but definitely I’m very motivated.”

RelatedUFC Fight Night 128 main-event breakdown: The Kevin Lee tool that could foil Edson Barboza

Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC) bullied Barboza around the octagon when they met at UFC 219. Yet Barboza managed to survive until the final bell and earned praise for his toughness despite a lopsided loss.

Nurmagomedov struggled a bit more in his title-winning fight against Al Iaquinta, leading several potential opponents to dismiss his performance. Barboza’s teammate, Eddie Alvarez, was among the loudest detractors, telling ESPN.com that Nurmagomedov looked “terrible.”

Barboza hopes Alvarez gets the next shot at Nurmagomedov, even though an Alvarez win would put him in an awkward situation. But Barboza is focused first on reversing his fortunes in the octagon after his high-profile loss.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 128 pre-event facts: Jim Miller ties UFC record for most fights

With a highlight-reel win over Lee, Barboza knows the current buzz surrounding top contenders like Alvarez and Dustin Poirier could shift in his favor.

“I hope on Sunday, everybody is talking about me, about my performance and the fight,” Barboza said. “I know that if people talk about me, I’ll be close to the title.”

To hear more from Barboza, watch the video above.

And for more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Meet the cast of 'The Ultimate Fighter 27: Undeafeated'

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“The Ultimate Fighter: Undefeated,” the 27th season of the UFC’s reality TV competition, premieres tonight at 10 p.m. ET on FS1.

For the first time ever, the cast is comprised of 16 undefeated fighters – eight lightweights and eight featherweights – competing separately for UFC contracts. Heavyweight champion Stipe Miocic and light heavyweight champ Daniel Cormier serve as the head coaches and will clash July 7 at UFC 226 in Las Vegas for Miocic’s title.

Watch the video above to get to know the full cast, which is broken down below by weight class:

Lightweight Featherweight

For more on UFC 226, visit the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Neiman Gracie wants another submission win at Bellator 198 and, frankly, why wouldn't he?

Neiman Gracie is very pleased with how his MMA career is progressing, and you can kind of see why.

Set to meet Javier Torres (10-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) at Bellator 198 on April 28, Gracie (7-0 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) has yet to lose in seven pro MMA bouts. Only one of those, against Roger Carroll at Bellator 151, needed the judges’ assistance; the other six were submissions.

That’s not exactly a surprising stat coming from the great-grandson of Carlos Gracie. But predictable outcomes don’t really seem to be a problem for Gracie, who’d made it clear before that he’s not out to reinvent the wheel with his showings.

RelatedFour fights added to Bellator 200 in London, including debut of 'TUF 22' vet Saul Rogers

“I’m super happy with my career,” Gracie told MMAjunkie. “I’m happy with the way it’s going, and I’m very happy that I’m able to finish my fights via submission. I’d rather finish them via submission than knockout.”

That’s not to say that Gracie isn’t putting in the work to perfect other facets of his game. While his training camp has been done in the habitual place, at uncle Renzo Gracie’s gym in New York, it’s had an interesting addition in boxing coach Lenny Wilson, who also happens to sharpen the hands of the likes of WBO champ Sadam Ali.

By the looks of it, throwing hands isn’t exactly a problem for Gracie. But, against Bellator debutant and “The Ultimate Fighter 13” alum Torres, who’s never been submitted in an official pro MMA bout, Gracie is hoping to be the provider of a career first.

“He’s a tough opponent, a tough guy,” Gracie said. “But I believe he’s like all the others I faced. He’s good at everything, but he’s not great at anything. So I think I’m going to win this fight again and, God willing, it’s going to be via submission.”

RelatedBellator 197 reactions: Winning and losing fighters on social media

Gracie and Torres meet in a Paramount-televised welterweight bout at Bellator 198, which takes place at Allstate Arena in Rosemont, Ill., just outside Chicago. Prelims are live on MMAjunkie.

Four submission wins in an unbeaten five-fight Bellator run is certainly reason enough for Gracie, who recently welcomed daughter Khali into the world, to be happy with how far he’s come. But he also wants to make it further. So, as he prepares to meet his third promotional newcomer in a row in Torres, the grappling expert is hoping another win will also mean a step up in competition.

“If I win this fight, I hope in the next one I’ll get someone who’s higher ranked and who can take me closer to the belt,” Gracie said.

For more on Bellator 198, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

UFC Fight Night 128 breakdown: Will Cub Swanson make Frankie Edgar pay for quick turnaround?

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of UFC Fight Night 128’s top bouts. Today, we look at the Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson co-main event.

UFC Fight Night 128 takes place Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and the card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Also see:

* * * *

Frankie Edgar (22-6-1 MMA, 16-6-1 UFC)

Frankie Edgar

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 36 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 68″
  • Last fight: Knockout loss to Brian Ortega (March 3, 2017)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida Jiu-jitsu (New Jersey)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC lightweight champion
+ 4x NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 4 submission win
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
^ High-volume striker
+ Good feints and footwork
^ Enters and exits off angles
+ Superb timing and transitions
+ Effective chain wrestling
+ Excellent grappling ability
^ Positionally aware/scrambles well
+ Active ground striker

Cub Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC)

Cub Swanson

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 34 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 70″
  • Last fight: Submission loss to Brian Ortega (Dec. 9, 2017)
  • Camp: Treigning Lab (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple grappling accolades
+ 11 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent footwork
^ Stance shifts and angle awareness
+ Creative offensive flow
^ From boxing to cartwheel kicks
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Improved hips, frames and fundamentals
+ Solid transitional grappling
^ Floats positions and scrambles well

Summary:

The co-main event in Atlantic City features a rematch between top featherweights Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson.

Coming off a crushing defeat that saw him stopped for the very first time in his career, Edgar has opted to jump right back into the competition pool in an effort alleviate the pain of that loss. Looking the spoil the New Jersey native’s homecoming is Swanson, a familiar foe who is also coming off a loss to Brian Ortega, and is seeking to settle a score of his own.

In their first encounter nearly four years ago, Swanson eventually ended up getting smothered into submission after experiencing brief moments of success early. Since then, each fighter has continued to sharpen his craft, continually growing as martial artists.

MMA’s equivalent to “The Little Engine That Could,” Edgar has made a career in overcoming adversity through a unique combination of well-versed skill and ironclad will.

Consistently circling outside of range and encouraging his opponents to follow, the 13-year pro will work his way in behind a plethora of punches once finding an angle of approach to his liking.

RelatedFrankie Edgar set to join B.J. Penn as UFC rematch record holder

Exiting exchanges at angles that are different than the ones in which he came, Edgar hedges his bets defensively as this helps thwart the counters that typically come his way. Implementing his arsenal of constant volume, variety and angles, Edgar often breaks down his opponents the longer the fight goes on.

However, due to the nature of Edgar’s in-and-out approach, he is not beyond being taxed on the way in, something we were reminded of in his last outing via a slick elbow by Ortega. Considering the countering and overall striking ability of the opponent at hand, fans of Edgar may find themselves holding their breath during the exchanges on the feet.

One of the sports more prolific offensive artists, Swanson shows all the attributes you would want in an action-fighter. Although his movements may seem sporadic at times, there is a method to Swanson’s madness, and he seldom moves against momentum.

Whether he’s shifting his stance to throw liver kicks from southpaw or darting off of his favored lead right hand, the 14-year pro is ultimately looking to initiate reactions that will allow for his opposition to open themselves up inadvertently.

Working with Joel Diaz for many years, Swanson’s boxing influence shines through in his followup punches, variating his shots brilliantly to the body. Considering that Swanson’s kicks got him taken down a fair share in their first outing, I suspect the southern California native will rely more heavily on his boxing this time around.

RelatedCub Swanson was 'really close' to signing with a company (not Bellator) before new UFC offer

Should the standing exchanges not spark a finish for either party, then I believe that this battle may end up being determined by the wrestling and grappling phases of the fight.

Wrestling was a factor in their first meeting, which leads me to believe that Edgar will lean on it once again. Owner of one of the best transition games in the sports’ short history, few can change gears with the consistency Edgar applies as he goes from combination punching to knee-tap takedowns at the drop of a dime.

That said, Swanson’s counter wrestling may be the most improved area between the two since last time they squared off.

In recent years, we have seen measurable upgrades to Swanson’s wrestling ability, whether it be his defensive framing or the overall awareness and application of his hips. Should he exercise those fundamentals and not get caught out of position, it may help him dictate or deter the offensive grappling attempts of Edgar. And should grappling ensue, the So-Cal native is not exactly a fish out of water.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Rigan Machado, Swanson is no slouch when it comes to finding his way around the mat. Swanson, whose transitional flow follows him to the floor, floats seamlessly on top while deciding whether or not to strike, scramble or secure position. But if the 34-year old ends up underneath Edgar, then we could see a similar replay from four years ago.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 128 main-event breakdown: The Kevin Lee tool that could foil Edson Barboza

A superb positional player, Edgar has an excellent awareness to submissions that allows him to act as a honey badger inside of world-class opposition’s guards.

Keeping his hands, hips and head in all the right places, the former lightweight champ can unleash offense with impunity, whether it be punches or can opener-assisted elbows. If Edgar is grappling soberly (as in not rocked from a prior exchange), then Swanson will likely have his work cut out for him.

The oddsmakers and public seem to be siding with New Jersey’s own, listing Edgar -230 and Swanson +190 as of this writing.

Although I can understand why Edgar is favored to win, seeing his faith climbing at over 2-1 odds somewhat surprises me given the quick turnaround at play. With Edgar sustaining his first knockout loss last month, it can be easy to see why many are worried about the fan favorite.

However, despite the 36-year old’s chin being currently in question, I believe that all of his other facilities still appear to be intact. In fact, in looking at his most recent fights with Yair Rodriguez (and even the beginning of his battle with Ortega), you can see Edgar making sharp reads and reactions, something that tends to go first on an aging, lighter weight fighter.

Until I see those abilities go, then I’m not yet sold on Edgar being put out to pasture. Swanson, another fighter I have tremendous respect for, is livelier than the betting odds suggest. But if he doesn’t catch Edgar early, then I suspect the New Jersey native to use his transition game to pull away on the scorecards in a competitive thriller from start to finish.

Official pick: Edgar by decision


For more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Photos: Best of Frankie Edgar view 14 images

UFC Fight Night 128 breakdown: Will Cub Swanson make Frankie Edgar pay for quick turnaround?

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom provides an in-depth breakdown of UFC Fight Night 128’s top bouts. Today, we look at the Frankie Edgar vs. Cub Swanson co-main event.

UFC Fight Night 128 takes place Saturday at Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., and the card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

Also see:

* * * *

Frankie Edgar (22-6-1 MMA, 16-6-1 UFC)

Frankie Edgar

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’6″ Age: 36 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 68″
  • Last fight: Knockout loss to Brian Ortega (March 3, 2017)
  • Camp: Ricardo Almeida Jiu-jitsu (New Jersey)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Good

Supplemental info:
+ Former UFC lightweight champion
+ 4x NCAA Division 1 All-American wrestler
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ 7 KO victories
+ 4 submission win
+ 6 first-round finishes
+ Consistent pace and pressure
^ High-volume striker
+ Good feints and footwork
^ Enters and exits off angles
+ Superb timing and transitions
+ Effective chain wrestling
+ Excellent grappling ability
^ Positionally aware/scrambles well
+ Active ground striker

Cub Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC)

Cub Swanson

Staple info:

  • Height: 5’8″ Age: 34 Weight: 145 lbs. Reach: 70″
  • Last fight: Submission loss to Brian Ortega (Dec. 9, 2017)
  • Camp: Treigning Lab (California)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt
+ Multiple grappling accolades
+ 11 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Consistent pace and pressure
+ Excellent footwork
^ Stance shifts and angle awareness
+ Creative offensive flow
^ From boxing to cartwheel kicks
+ Underrated wrestling ability
^ Improved hips, frames and fundamentals
+ Solid transitional grappling
^ Floats positions and scrambles well

Summary:

The co-main event in Atlantic City features a rematch between top featherweights Frankie Edgar and Cub Swanson.

Coming off a crushing defeat that saw him stopped for the very first time in his career, Edgar has opted to jump right back into the competition pool in an effort alleviate the pain of that loss. Looking the spoil the New Jersey native’s homecoming is Swanson, a familiar foe who is also coming off a loss to Brian Ortega, and is seeking to settle a score of his own.

In their first encounter nearly four years ago, Swanson eventually ended up getting smothered into submission after experiencing brief moments of success early. Since then, each fighter has continued to sharpen his craft, continually growing as martial artists.

MMA’s equivalent to “The Little Engine That Could,” Edgar has made a career in overcoming adversity through a unique combination of well-versed skill and ironclad will.

Consistently circling outside of range and encouraging his opponents to follow, the 13-year pro will work his way in behind a plethora of punches once finding an angle of approach to his liking.

RelatedFrankie Edgar set to join B.J. Penn as UFC rematch record holder

Exiting exchanges at angles that are different than the ones in which he came, Edgar hedges his bets defensively as this helps thwart the counters that typically come his way. Implementing his arsenal of constant volume, variety and angles, Edgar often breaks down his opponents the longer the fight goes on.

However, due to the nature of Edgar’s in-and-out approach, he is not beyond being taxed on the way in, something we were reminded of in his last outing via a slick elbow by Ortega. Considering the countering and overall striking ability of the opponent at hand, fans of Edgar may find themselves holding their breath during the exchanges on the feet.

One of the sports more prolific offensive artists, Swanson shows all the attributes you would want in an action-fighter. Although his movements may seem sporadic at times, there is a method to Swanson’s madness, and he seldom moves against momentum.

Whether he’s shifting his stance to throw liver kicks from southpaw or darting off of his favored lead right hand, the 14-year pro is ultimately looking to initiate reactions that will allow for his opposition to open themselves up inadvertently.

Working with Joel Diaz for many years, Swanson’s boxing influence shines through in his followup punches, variating his shots brilliantly to the body. Considering that Swanson’s kicks got him taken down a fair share in their first outing, I suspect the southern California native will rely more heavily on his boxing this time around.

RelatedCub Swanson was 'really close' to signing with a company (not Bellator) before new UFC offer

Should the standing exchanges not spark a finish for either party, then I believe that this battle may end up being determined by the wrestling and grappling phases of the fight.

Wrestling was a factor in their first meeting, which leads me to believe that Edgar will lean on it once again. Owner of one of the best transition games in the sports’ short history, few can change gears with the consistency Edgar applies as he goes from combination punching to knee-tap takedowns at the drop of a dime.

That said, Swanson’s counter wrestling may be the most improved area between the two since last time they squared off.

In recent years, we have seen measurable upgrades to Swanson’s wrestling ability, whether it be his defensive framing or the overall awareness and application of his hips. Should he exercise those fundamentals and not get caught out of position, it may help him dictate or deter the offensive grappling attempts of Edgar. And should grappling ensue, the So-Cal native is not exactly a fish out of water.

A Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt under Rigan Machado, Swanson is no slouch when it comes to finding his way around the mat. Swanson, whose transitional flow follows him to the floor, floats seamlessly on top while deciding whether or not to strike, scramble or secure position. But if the 34-year old ends up underneath Edgar, then we could see a similar replay from four years ago.

RelatedUFC Fight Night 128 main-event breakdown: The Kevin Lee tool that could foil Edson Barboza

A superb positional player, Edgar has an excellent awareness to submissions that allows him to act as a honey badger inside of world-class opposition’s guards.

Keeping his hands, hips and head in all the right places, the former lightweight champ can unleash offense with impunity, whether it be punches or can opener-assisted elbows. If Edgar is grappling soberly (as in not rocked from a prior exchange), then Swanson will likely have his work cut out for him.

The oddsmakers and public seem to be siding with New Jersey’s own, listing Edgar -230 and Swanson +190 as of this writing.

Although I can understand why Edgar is favored to win, seeing his faith climbing at over 2-1 odds somewhat surprises me given the quick turnaround at play. With Edgar sustaining his first knockout loss last month, it can be easy to see why many are worried about the fan favorite.

However, despite the 36-year old’s chin being currently in question, I believe that all of his other facilities still appear to be intact. In fact, in looking at his most recent fights with Yair Rodriguez (and even the beginning of his battle with Ortega), you can see Edgar making sharp reads and reactions, something that tends to go first on an aging, lighter weight fighter.

Until I see those abilities go, then I’m not yet sold on Edgar being put out to pasture. Swanson, another fighter I have tremendous respect for, is livelier than the betting odds suggest. But if he doesn’t catch Edgar early, then I suspect the New Jersey native to use his transition game to pull away on the scorecards in a competitive thriller from start to finish.

Official pick: Edgar by decision


For more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Gallery Photos: Best of Frankie Edgar view 14 images

Sneak peek: 'UFC Fighter's Cut: Jeremy Stephens' debuts today on FS1

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Veteran UFC slugger Jeremy Stephens is hosting a special career retrospective today on FS1.

“UFC Fighter’s Cut: Jeremy Stephens” features the featherweight contender reliving four of his career-defining fights. It debuts at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT) on FS1, and replays of the half-hour special air throughout the week on the same channel (and the FOX Sports GO app).

Check out a preview of the special above.

RelatedJohn McCarthy details big-picture issue of Jeremy Stephens-Josh Emmett controversy

Other fighters such as Conor McGregor, Demetrious Johnson, Luke Rockhold and Urijah Faber have been featured in the “UFC Fighter’s Cut” series.

Stephens (28-14 MMA, 15-13 UFC) is coming off a quick and violent knockout of Josh Emmett at UFC on FOX 28, which marked the vet’s first UFC main event. The 31-year-old “Lil Heathen,” who debuted with the UFC 11 years ago, discusses that bout and some of his other favorites – including a memorable knockout win over ex-champ Rafael dos Anjos in 2008 – in tonight’s special.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red ) before the Renato Moicano (not pictured) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (Red Gloves) fights Renato Moicano (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (Red Gloves) fights Renato Moicano (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red) and Renato Moicano (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red ) and Renato Moicano (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s0.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/dSiKVDffDHASrAyZo8BBNb/316173", customAnalytics: true, title: "Jeremy Stephens", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

 

Sneak peek: 'UFC Fighter's Cut: Jeremy Stephens' debuts today on FS1

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Veteran UFC slugger Jeremy Stephens is hosting a special career retrospective today on FS1.

“UFC Fighter’s Cut: Jeremy Stephens” features the featherweight contender reliving four of his career-defining fights. It debuts at 7 p.m. ET (4 p.m. PT) on FS1, and replays of the half-hour special air throughout the week on the same channel (and the FOX Sports GO app).

Check out a preview of the special above.

RelatedJohn McCarthy details big-picture issue of Jeremy Stephens-Josh Emmett controversy

Other fighters such as Conor McGregor, Demetrious Johnson, Luke Rockhold and Urijah Faber have been featured in the “UFC Fighter’s Cut” series.

Stephens (28-14 MMA, 15-13 UFC) is coming off a quick and violent knockout of Josh Emmett at UFC on FOX 28, which marked the vet’s first UFC main event. The 31-year-old “Lil Heathen,” who debuted with the UFC 11 years ago, discusses that bout and some of his other favorites – including a memorable knockout win over ex-champ Rafael dos Anjos in 2008 – in tonight’s special.

For more on the UFC’s upcoming schedule, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (not pictured) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Jan 14, 2018; St. Louis, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) celebrates after defeating Dooho Choi (blue gloves) during UFC Fight Night at Scottrade Center. Mandatory Credit: Scott Rovak-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) fights against Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Sep 9, 2017; Edmonton, Alberta, Canada; Jeremy Stephens (red gloves) defeats Gilbert Melendez (blue gloves) during UFC 215 at Rogers Place. Mandatory Credit: Perry Nelson-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red ) before the Renato Moicano (not pictured) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (Red Gloves) fights Renato Moicano (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (Red Gloves) fights Renato Moicano (Blue Gloves) during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red) and Renato Moicano (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports Apr 15, 2017; Kansas City, MO, USA; Jeremy Stephens (red ) and Renato Moicano (blue) fight during UFC Fight Night at the Sprint Center. Mandatory Credit: Ron Chenoy-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s0.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/dSiKVDffDHASrAyZo8BBNb/316173", customAnalytics: true, title: "Jeremy Stephens", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

 

UFC Fight Night 128 pre-event facts: Jim Miller ties UFC record for most fights

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The UFC returns to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., for the first time in nearly 13 years on Saturday with UFC Fight Night 128. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

In a crucial headliner for the lightweight division, stud striker Edson Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) gets his first UFC main-event appearance when he takes on Kevin Lee (16-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who returns to the octagon for the first time since falling short of the interim 155-pound title at UFC 216 in October.

UFC Fight Night 128 is one of the deeper and most star-studded events in the recent history of the “Fight Night” series, and for more of the numbers behind the card, check below for 70 pre-event facts.

* * * *

Main event Gallery Photos: Best of Edson Barboza view 10 images

Barboza’s 13 victories in UFC lightweight competition are sixth most in divisional history behind Gleison Tibau (16), Jim Miller (16), Donald Cerrone (15), Rafael dos Anjos (14) and Joe Lauzon (14).

Barboza’s six knockout victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied with B.J. Penn for second most in divisional history behind Melvin Guillard (seven).

Barboza’s nine knockdowns landed in UFC lightweight competition are tied with Michael Johnson for second most in divisional history behind Guillard (13).

Barboza is the only fighter in UFC history with knockout finishes stemming from a head kick, body kick, leg kicks and flying knee.

Barboza’s four knockout victories stemming from kicks in UFC competition are tied for second most in company history behind Cerrone (six).

Barboza is the only fighter in UFC history to earn two knockout victories stemming from leg kicks. He used them to stop Rafaello Oliveira at UFC 162 and Mike Lullo at UFC 123.

Gallery Photos: Best of Kevin Lee view 10 images

Lee is 5-1 in his past six UFC appearances dating back to December 2015.

Lee’s nine UFC victories since 2014 in lightweight competition are tied for most in the division.

Lee has earned eight of his nine career stoppage victories by submission.

Lee’s four rear-naked-choke victories in UFC competition are tied for fourth most in company history.

Lee has completed at least one takedown against 11 of his 12 UFC opponents.

Lee’s 28 takedowns since 2014 in UFC lightweight competition are most in the division.

Co-main event Gallery Photos: Best of Frankie Edgar view 14 images

Frankie Edgar (22-6-1 MMA, 16-6-1 UFC) makes his second UFC appearance in a 49-day stretch. The turnaround from his knockout loss to Brian Ortega at UFC 222 is the fastest of his more than 11-year UFC career.

Edgar competes in the fifth rematch of his UFC career. He’s 1-2-1 when fighting an opponent for the second time.

Edgar is 7-3 since he dropped to the UFC featherweight division in February 2013.

Edgar’s total fight time of 6:32:33 in UFC competition is the most in company history. He and Michael Bisping are the only fighters to log more than six of hours of UFC fight time.

Edgar’s 1,405 significant strikes landed in UFC competition are second most in company history behind Michael Bisping (1,567).

Edgar’s 67 takedowns landed in UFC competition are fourth most in company history behind Georges St-Pierre (90), Gleison Tibau (84) and Demetrious Johnson (73).

Edgar’s 259 total strikes landed against Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night 57 are the most in a single UFC/WEC featherweight contest.

Edgar’s submission of Swanson at the 4:56 mark of Round 5 stands as the second-latest stoppage in a UFC bout. D. Johnson holds the record with his fifth-round finish (4:59) of Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC 186.

Edgar is one of two fighters in UFC history to defeat a single opponent on three separate occasions inside the octagon. He did so against B.J. Penn. Tito Ortiz (Ken Shamrock) also accomplished the feat.

Edgar is the only fighter in UFC history to suffer three knockdowns in a single round and not lose the fight. The feat occurred in his UFC 125 draw with Gray Maynard.

Gallery Photos: Best of Cub Swanson view 25 images

Cub Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) competes in his 22nd UFC/WEC featherweight bout, the most appearances in combined divisional history.

Swanson’s 15 victories in UFC/WEC featherweight competition are second most in combined divisional history behind Jose Aldo (16).

Swanson’s 10 victories in UFC featherweight competition are third most in divisional history behind Max Holloway (14) and Darren Elkins (13).

Swanson’s six stoppage victories in UFC/WEC featherweight competition are tied for fourth most in the combined divisional history behind Holloway (nine), Aldo (nine) and Urijah Faber (seven).

Swanson’s past five victories have come by decision. He hasn’t earned a stoppage since July 2013.

Swanson’s six knockdowns landed in UFC featherweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Jeremy Stephens (11) and Holloway (eight).

Swanson and Artem Lobov combined for 332 significant strikes landed at UFC Fight Night 108, the second most ever in a UFC fight behind the 334 between Nate Diaz and Cerrone and UFC 141.

Swanson’s 209 significant strikes landed against Lobov are the single-fight record for a UFC/WEC featherweight bout.

Swanson’s 11 fight-night bonuses for UFC/WEC featherweight bouts are the most in combined divisional history.

Swanson’s seven fight-night bonuses in UFC featherweight bouts are the most in divisional history.

Remaining main card

Thiago “Marreta” Santos

Thiago “Marreta” Santos’ (17-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) four-fight UFC winning streak in middleweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind champ Robert Whittaker (seven) and Antonio Carlos Junior (five).

Santos has earned eight of his nine UFC victories by knockout.

Santos’ four-fight stoppage streak in UFC competition is the third longest among active fighters in the company behind Ortega (six) and Mairbek Taisumov (five).

Santos’ eight knockout victories in UFC middleweight fights are tied with Anderson Silva for most in divisional history.

Santos’ eight knockouts since 2014 in UFC competition are second most in the company behind Derrick Lewis (nine).

Santos’ four knockout victories stemming from kicks in UFC competition are tied with Barboza and Vitor Belfort for second most in company history behind Cerrone (six).

Santos’ nine knockdowns landed in UFC middleweight competition are third most in divisional history behind Silva (13) and Nate Marquardt (12).

Santos defends 66.1 percent of all opponent significant strike attempts in UFC middleweight competition, the best date among active fighters in the weight class.

David Branch

David Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) is 1-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in March 2017.

Branch is 13-2 since his original release from the UFC in March 2011.

Branch absorbs just 1.55 significant strikes per minute in UFC middleweight competition, the second best rate among active fighters in the weight class behind Antonio Carlos Junior (1.47).

Aljamain Sterling (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) absorbs just 1.40 significant strikes per minute in UFC bantamweight competition, the second-best rate in divisional history behind Chico Camus (1.31).

Brett Johns’ (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) 15-fight MMA winning streak is the second longest among active UFC bantamweight fighters behind Jimmie Rivera (20).

Brett Johns

Johns’ three-fight UFC winning streak in welterweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Rivera (five) and Jose Quinonez (four).

Johns has earned one of two calf-slicer submissions in UFC history. Charles Oliveira also accomplished the feat.

Johns’ 30-second submission of Joe Soto at TUF 26 Finale was second fastest in UFC/WEC combined bantamweight history behind Patrick Williams’ 23-second finish at UFC 188.

Johns’ 11 takedowns landed at UFC Fight Night 99 are tied for the single-fight record for a UFC/WEC bantamweight bout.

Jim Miller

Jim Miller (28-11 MMA, 17-10 UFC) competes in his 29th UFC bout, tied with Michael Bisping for the most appearances in company history.

Miller competes in his 28th UFC lightweight bout, the most in divisional history.

Miller’s three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since November 2016.

Miller’s total fight time of 4:57:53 in UFC lightweight competition is most in divisional history.

Miller’s 16 victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied with Tibau for most in divisional history.

Miller’s nine stoppage victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied for second most in divisional history behind Joe Lauzon (12).

Miller’s six submission victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Lauzon (seven) and Diaz (seven).

Miller’s 39 submission attempts in UFC competition are the most in company history.

Dan Hooker (15-7 MMA, 5-3 UFC) has earned 14 of his 15 career victories by stoppage. That includes all five of his UFC wins.

Hooker is 2-0 since he moved up to the UFC lightweight division in June.

Preliminary card

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia (15-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his past seven fights. He submitted Muslim Salikhov in his most recent bout at UFC Fight Night 122.

Ulka Sasaki (20-5-2 MMA, 3-4 UFC) is 2-2 since he dropped to the UFC flyweight division in May 2016.

Luan Chagas (15-2-1 MMA, 1-1-1 UFC) has earned all 15 of his career victories by stoppage.

Patrick Cummins (10-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC), 37, is the oldest of the 26 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

Cummins competes in his 12th UFC light-heavyweight bout since 2014, the most appearances of any fighter in the division.

Cummins lands 5.34 takedowns per 15 minutes of fighting in UFC competition, the highest rate in light-heavyweight history.

Cummins landed 10 takedowns against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on FOX 12, the second most in a UFC light-heavyweight bout. Rodney Wallace holds the record with 11 takedowns at UFC 111.

Corey Anderson (9-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) lands 4.77 significant strikes per minute in UFC light-heavyweight competition, the highest rate among active fighters in the weight class.

Anderson’s 61-second knockout of Matt Van Buren at the TUF 19 Finale stands as the fastest finish in a “TUF” tournament final.

Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith’s (10-7-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) two knockdowns landed in UFC women’s bantamweight competition are tied for most in divisional history.

Smith lands 7.56 significant strikes per minute in UFC competition, the highest rate in company history.

Smith is the only fighter in UFC history to land 100 or more significant strikes in two women’s bantamweight bouts. She accomplished the feat over her past two fights.

Aspen Ladd (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), 23, is the youngest of the 26 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

Merab Dvalishvili’s (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) 11 takedowns landed at UFC Fight Night 123 are tied for the single-fight UFC/WEC bantamweight record.

Dvalishvili’s 11 takedowns landed are tied for the single-fight UFC record for most in a loss.

Tony Martin (12-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) returns to the welterweight division for the first time since October 2012. He’s 4-0 in the weight class.

For more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

UFC Fight Night 128 pre-event facts: Jim Miller ties UFC record for most fights

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The UFC returns to Boardwalk Hall in Atlantic City, N.J., for the first time in nearly 13 years on Saturday with UFC Fight Night 128. The card airs on FS1 following early prelims on UFC Fight Pass.

In a crucial headliner for the lightweight division, stud striker Edson Barboza (19-5 MMA, 13-5 UFC) gets his first UFC main-event appearance when he takes on Kevin Lee (16-3 MMA, 9-3 UFC), who returns to the octagon for the first time since falling short of the interim 155-pound title at UFC 216 in October.

UFC Fight Night 128 is one of the deeper and most star-studded events in the recent history of the “Fight Night” series, and for more of the numbers behind the card, check below for 70 pre-event facts.

* * * *

Main event Gallery Photos: Best of Edson Barboza view 10 images

Barboza’s 13 victories in UFC lightweight competition are sixth most in divisional history behind Gleison Tibau (16), Jim Miller (16), Donald Cerrone (15), Rafael dos Anjos (14) and Joe Lauzon (14).

Barboza’s six knockout victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied with B.J. Penn for second most in divisional history behind Melvin Guillard (seven).

Barboza’s nine knockdowns landed in UFC lightweight competition are tied with Michael Johnson for second most in divisional history behind Guillard (13).

Barboza is the only fighter in UFC history with knockout finishes stemming from a head kick, body kick, leg kicks and flying knee.

Barboza’s four knockout victories stemming from kicks in UFC competition are tied for second most in company history behind Cerrone (six).

Barboza is the only fighter in UFC history to earn two knockout victories stemming from leg kicks. He used them to stop Rafaello Oliveira at UFC 162 and Mike Lullo at UFC 123.

Gallery Photos: Best of Kevin Lee view 10 images

Lee is 5-1 in his past six UFC appearances dating back to December 2015.

Lee’s nine UFC victories since 2014 in lightweight competition are tied for most in the division.

Lee has earned eight of his nine career stoppage victories by submission.

Lee’s four rear-naked-choke victories in UFC competition are tied for fourth most in company history.

Lee has completed at least one takedown against 11 of his 12 UFC opponents.

Lee’s 28 takedowns since 2014 in UFC lightweight competition are most in the division.

Co-main event Gallery Photos: Best of Frankie Edgar view 14 images

Frankie Edgar (22-6-1 MMA, 16-6-1 UFC) makes his second UFC appearance in a 49-day stretch. The turnaround from his knockout loss to Brian Ortega at UFC 222 is the fastest of his more than 11-year UFC career.

Edgar competes in the fifth rematch of his UFC career. He’s 1-2-1 when fighting an opponent for the second time.

Edgar is 7-3 since he dropped to the UFC featherweight division in February 2013.

Edgar’s total fight time of 6:32:33 in UFC competition is the most in company history. He and Michael Bisping are the only fighters to log more than six of hours of UFC fight time.

Edgar’s 1,405 significant strikes landed in UFC competition are second most in company history behind Michael Bisping (1,567).

Edgar’s 67 takedowns landed in UFC competition are fourth most in company history behind Georges St-Pierre (90), Gleison Tibau (84) and Demetrious Johnson (73).

Edgar’s 259 total strikes landed against Cub Swanson at UFC Fight Night 57 are the most in a single UFC/WEC featherweight contest.

Edgar’s submission of Swanson at the 4:56 mark of Round 5 stands as the second-latest stoppage in a UFC bout. D. Johnson holds the record with his fifth-round finish (4:59) of Kyoji Horiguchi at UFC 186.

Edgar is one of two fighters in UFC history to defeat a single opponent on three separate occasions inside the octagon. He did so against B.J. Penn. Tito Ortiz (Ken Shamrock) also accomplished the feat.

Edgar is the only fighter in UFC history to suffer three knockdowns in a single round and not lose the fight. The feat occurred in his UFC 125 draw with Gray Maynard.

Gallery Photos: Best of Cub Swanson view 25 images

Cub Swanson (25-8 MMA, 10-4 UFC) competes in his 22nd UFC/WEC featherweight bout, the most appearances in combined divisional history.

Swanson’s 15 victories in UFC/WEC featherweight competition are second most in combined divisional history behind Jose Aldo (16).

Swanson’s 10 victories in UFC featherweight competition are third most in divisional history behind Max Holloway (14) and Darren Elkins (13).

Swanson’s six stoppage victories in UFC/WEC featherweight competition are tied for fourth most in the combined divisional history behind Holloway (nine), Aldo (nine) and Urijah Faber (seven).

Swanson’s past five victories have come by decision. He hasn’t earned a stoppage since July 2013.

Swanson’s six knockdowns landed in UFC featherweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Jeremy Stephens (11) and Holloway (eight).

Swanson and Artem Lobov combined for 332 significant strikes landed at UFC Fight Night 108, the second most ever in a UFC fight behind the 334 between Nate Diaz and Cerrone and UFC 141.

Swanson’s 209 significant strikes landed against Lobov are the single-fight record for a UFC/WEC featherweight bout.

Swanson’s 11 fight-night bonuses for UFC/WEC featherweight bouts are the most in combined divisional history.

Swanson’s seven fight-night bonuses in UFC featherweight bouts are the most in divisional history.

Remaining main card

Thiago “Marreta” Santos

Thiago “Marreta” Santos’ (17-5 MMA, 9-4 UFC) four-fight UFC winning streak in middleweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind champ Robert Whittaker (seven) and Antonio Carlos Junior (five).

Santos has earned eight of his nine UFC victories by knockout.

Santos’ four-fight stoppage streak in UFC competition is the third longest among active fighters in the company behind Ortega (six) and Mairbek Taisumov (five).

Santos’ eight knockout victories in UFC middleweight fights are tied with Anderson Silva for most in divisional history.

Santos’ eight knockouts since 2014 in UFC competition are second most in the company behind Derrick Lewis (nine).

Santos’ four knockout victories stemming from kicks in UFC competition are tied with Barboza and Vitor Belfort for second most in company history behind Cerrone (six).

Santos’ nine knockdowns landed in UFC middleweight competition are third most in divisional history behind Silva (13) and Nate Marquardt (12).

Santos defends 66.1 percent of all opponent significant strike attempts in UFC middleweight competition, the best date among active fighters in the weight class.

David Branch

David Branch (21-4 MMA, 3-3 UFC) is 1-1 since he returned to the UFC for a second stint in March 2017.

Branch is 13-2 since his original release from the UFC in March 2011.

Branch absorbs just 1.55 significant strikes per minute in UFC middleweight competition, the second best rate among active fighters in the weight class behind Antonio Carlos Junior (1.47).

Aljamain Sterling (14-3 MMA, 6-3 UFC) absorbs just 1.40 significant strikes per minute in UFC bantamweight competition, the second-best rate in divisional history behind Chico Camus (1.31).

Brett Johns’ (15-0 MMA, 3-0 UFC) 15-fight MMA winning streak is the second longest among active UFC bantamweight fighters behind Jimmie Rivera (20).

Brett Johns

Johns’ three-fight UFC winning streak in welterweight competition is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Rivera (five) and Jose Quinonez (four).

Johns has earned one of two calf-slicer submissions in UFC history. Charles Oliveira also accomplished the feat.

Johns’ 30-second submission of Joe Soto at TUF 26 Finale was second fastest in UFC/WEC combined bantamweight history behind Patrick Williams’ 23-second finish at UFC 188.

Johns’ 11 takedowns landed at UFC Fight Night 99 are tied for the single-fight record for a UFC/WEC bantamweight bout.

Jim Miller

Jim Miller (28-11 MMA, 17-10 UFC) competes in his 29th UFC bout, tied with Michael Bisping for the most appearances in company history.

Miller competes in his 28th UFC lightweight bout, the most in divisional history.

Miller’s three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since November 2016.

Miller’s total fight time of 4:57:53 in UFC lightweight competition is most in divisional history.

Miller’s 16 victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied with Tibau for most in divisional history.

Miller’s nine stoppage victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied for second most in divisional history behind Joe Lauzon (12).

Miller’s six submission victories in UFC lightweight competition are tied for third most in divisional history behind Lauzon (seven) and Diaz (seven).

Miller’s 39 submission attempts in UFC competition are the most in company history.

Dan Hooker (15-7 MMA, 5-3 UFC) has earned 14 of his 15 career victories by stoppage. That includes all five of his UFC wins.

Hooker is 2-0 since he moved up to the UFC lightweight division in June.

Preliminary card

Alex Garcia

Alex Garcia (15-4 MMA, 5-3 UFC) has alternated wins and losses over his past seven fights. He submitted Muslim Salikhov in his most recent bout at UFC Fight Night 122.

Ulka Sasaki (20-5-2 MMA, 3-4 UFC) is 2-2 since he dropped to the UFC flyweight division in May 2016.

Luan Chagas (15-2-1 MMA, 1-1-1 UFC) has earned all 15 of his career victories by stoppage.

Patrick Cummins (10-4 MMA, 6-4 UFC), 37, is the oldest of the 26 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

Cummins competes in his 12th UFC light-heavyweight bout since 2014, the most appearances of any fighter in the division.

Cummins lands 5.34 takedowns per 15 minutes of fighting in UFC competition, the highest rate in light-heavyweight history.

Cummins landed 10 takedowns against Kyle Kingsbury at UFC on FOX 12, the second most in a UFC light-heavyweight bout. Rodney Wallace holds the record with 11 takedowns at UFC 111.

Corey Anderson (9-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) lands 4.77 significant strikes per minute in UFC light-heavyweight competition, the highest rate among active fighters in the weight class.

Anderson’s 61-second knockout of Matt Van Buren at the TUF 19 Finale stands as the fastest finish in a “TUF” tournament final.

Leslie Smith

Leslie Smith’s (10-7-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) two knockdowns landed in UFC women’s bantamweight competition are tied for most in divisional history.

Smith lands 7.56 significant strikes per minute in UFC competition, the highest rate in company history.

Smith is the only fighter in UFC history to land 100 or more significant strikes in two women’s bantamweight bouts. She accomplished the feat over her past two fights.

Aspen Ladd (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC), 23, is the youngest of the 26 fighters scheduled to compete at the event.

Merab Dvalishvili’s (7-3 MMA, 0-1 UFC) 11 takedowns landed at UFC Fight Night 123 are tied for the single-fight UFC/WEC bantamweight record.

Dvalishvili’s 11 takedowns landed are tied for the single-fight UFC record for most in a loss.

Tony Martin (12-4 MMA, 4-4 UFC) returns to the welterweight division for the first time since October 2012. He’s 4-0 in the weight class.

For more on UFC Fight Night 128, check out the UFC Rumors section of the site.

FightMetric research analyst and live statistics producer Michael Carroll contributed to this story. Follow him on Twitter @MJCflipdascript.

Mirko Cro Cop passes first drug test ahead of Bellator 200

Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 28, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC heavyweight fighters Mirko Cro Cop during weigh ins for UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) hugs Roy Nelson after losing in a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (left) with a trainer during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (left) with a trainer during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s0.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/PBe8YBgrtPmSSn7y75dUYD/316187", customAnalytics: true, title: "Mirko Cro Cop", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Former PRIDE champion and MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop has passed his first drug test under the Bellator banner, clearing the way for his rematch with Roy Nelson at Bellator 200.

As expected, Cro Cop (36-11-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) was tested in early April by Michael Mazzulli, who serves as president of both the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation (MTDAR) and the Association of Boxing Commissions and regulates Bellator events overseas.

Mazzulli today told MMAjunkie that Cro Cop was tested via urine, and his sample was analyzed at a Quest Diagnostics facility back in the U.S. The sample tested negative for performance enhancers and drugs of abuse.

RelatedMirko Cro Cop replies to Roy Nelson's 'fat disrespectful ass' for saying he's on 'special supplements'

Cro Cop, 43, faced additional scrutiny for a previous anti-doping violation while under the UFC’s anti-doping program. In November 2015, after pulling out of a fight against Anthony Hamilton at UFC Fight Night 79, he admitted to the use of growth hormone and was given a two-year suspension despite testing negative for the banned substance prior to the competition.

Cro Cop blasted USADA’s decision and shortly after retired from competition, only to return to the ring to compete and win a Rizin FF tournament.

Mazzulli told MMAjunkie that Cro Cop would be subject to drug testing as soon as he was licensed for the bout with Nelson (23-15 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), which takes place May 25 at The SSE Arena in London and airs on Paramount. Additionally, Mazzulli told MMAFighting.com he would test Cro Cop himself in connection with his job regulating Bellator 196 on April 6 in Hungary.

Mazzulli indicated that as long a sCro Cop passes his drug tests in connection with Bellator 200, his past with USADA won’t keep him from the Bellator cage.

“The last thing I want to do is adversely affect a guy’s career,” Mazzulli said. “There’s only so many years they have the ability to earn. In my opinion, and in the Mohegan Tribe’s opinion, 2015 was three years ago, so it’s time to allow him to fight and make a living.”

Cro Cop and Nelson already have engaged in some heated trash-talk over PED use, with Nelson accusing “Cro Cop” of being on “special supplements.”

For more on Bellator 200, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Mirko Cro Cop passes first drug test ahead of Bellator 200

Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 28, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC heavyweight fighters Mirko Cro Cop during weigh ins for UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) against Roy Nelson during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (right) hugs Roy Nelson after losing in a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (left) with a trainer during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports Oct. 29, 2011; Las Vegas, NV, USA; UFC fighter Mirko Cro Cop (left) with a trainer during a heavyweight bout during UFC 137 at the Mandalay Bay event center. Mandatory Credit: Mark J. Rebilas-USA TODAY Sports jQuery.extend( window._usmgOptions,{ scriptUrl: "https://s0.wp.com/wp-content/themes/vip/usatoday-plugins/api-galleries/assets", analyticsCallback: "galleryAnalytics", fullscreenUrl: "http://mmajunkie.com/sigallery/PBe8YBgrtPmSSn7y75dUYD/316187", customAnalytics: true, title: "Mirko Cro Cop", feedsrc: 2 } );(typeof _usdpgw == "undefined") ? _usdpgw = new _usdpGalleryWall(window._usmgOptions) : _usdpgw.start();

Former PRIDE champion and MMA legend Mirko Cro Cop has passed his first drug test under the Bellator banner, clearing the way for his rematch with Roy Nelson at Bellator 200.

As expected, Cro Cop (36-11-2 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) was tested in early April by Michael Mazzulli, who serves as president of both the Mohegan Tribe Department of Athletic Regulation (MTDAR) and the Association of Boxing Commissions and regulates Bellator events overseas.

Mazzulli today told MMAjunkie that Cro Cop was tested via urine, and his sample was analyzed at a Quest Diagnostics facility back in the U.S. The sample tested negative for performance enhancers and drugs of abuse.

RelatedMirko Cro Cop replies to Roy Nelson's 'fat disrespectful ass' for saying he's on 'special supplements'

Cro Cop, 43, faced additional scrutiny for a previous anti-doping violation while under the UFC’s anti-doping program. In November 2015, after pulling out of a fight against Anthony Hamilton at UFC Fight Night 79, he admitted to the use of growth hormone and was given a two-year suspension despite testing negative for the banned substance prior to the competition.

Cro Cop blasted USADA’s decision and shortly after retired from competition, only to return to the ring to compete and win a Rizin FF tournament.

Mazzulli told MMAjunkie that Cro Cop would be subject to drug testing as soon as he was licensed for the bout with Nelson (23-15 MMA, 1-1 BMMA), which takes place May 25 at The SSE Arena in London and airs on Paramount. Additionally, Mazzulli told MMAFighting.com he would test Cro Cop himself in connection with his job regulating Bellator 196 on April 6 in Hungary.

Mazzulli indicated that as long a sCro Cop passes his drug tests in connection with Bellator 200, his past with USADA won’t keep him from the Bellator cage.

“The last thing I want to do is adversely affect a guy’s career,” Mazzulli said. “There’s only so many years they have the ability to earn. In my opinion, and in the Mohegan Tribe’s opinion, 2015 was three years ago, so it’s time to allow him to fight and make a living.”

Cro Cop and Nelson already have engaged in some heated trash-talk over PED use, with Nelson accusing “Cro Cop” of being on “special supplements.”

For more on Bellator 200, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Michael Chandler plans to re-sign with Bellator, but I beat Khabib Nurmagomedov '10 times out of 10'

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Former champion Michael Chandler has some negotiating to do as the end of his current two-year deal with Bellator approaches.

Chandler (18-4 MMA, 15-4 BMMA) is coming off a first-round submission win over Brandon Girtz (15-8 MMA, 7-6 BMMA), whom he beat in this past Friday’s Bellator 197 headliner to make it two wins in a row since his much-discussed TKO title loss to Brent Primus. It was also the ex-lightweight champ’s 19th fight for Bellator, which has been his home since his fourth pro fight pro fight, back in 2010.

Chandler won’t say when exactly his deal ends – only that it’s “very soon.” And he’s very clear in that he’s not saying he’s going to be a free agent, either. All that he’s saying is that there are negotiations coming up – and that it’s an interesting time to have them.

RelatedBellator 197 highlights: The Michael Chandler slam that separated Brandon Girtz's shoulder

“The lightweight division in the world is a very interesting one right now,” Chandler told MMAjunkie Radio. “There’s no doubt that I’m one of those guys who is continuing to climb. I think I had a couple of losses way, way back when. That’s when I came out of the top 10, and it’s been hard to kind of get back into the top 10. But, even with the rolled ankle at Madison Square Garden, I’ve gone on a run besides that fight, with all these wins over the last couple of years.

“So you can’t deny that I’m one of the top lightweights in the world. It’s exciting. It’s enticing. There are a lot of great fights in the lightweight division, and I want to see what happens next.”

Chandler, an honorable mention in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, clarifies that he is “very happy” with his career, with where he’s at, and with what he’s doing. He believes Bellator has done right by him, and he’s done the same for them in return. While he’s had his complaints about activity in the past – and certainly didn’t love fighting only once in 2017 – he doesn’t think it’s Bellator’s fault and instead pins it mostly on champ Primus for putting off the rematch.

RelatedEven when asked directly, Michael Chandler won't mention Brent Primus

As far as roster depth goes, Chandler has seen exponential growth over the past eight years, as exemplified by the signings of prospects such as Aaron Pico and A.J. McKee – and even high-profile UFC migrations such as Josh Thomson and ex-UFC champ Benson Henderson. And he’s always had the liberty of calling the Bellator brass and asking them to bring in some competition for him.

“I have no intentions of leaving Bellator,” Chandler said.

If the ex-champ were to make a move, though, there’s pretty much only one place other than Bellator that would interest him.

“We’ll see what happens, but to me, I don’t think there would be any other interest for me to go anywhere else besides Bellator or the UFC,” Chandler said. “Obviously, I’m very happy with where I’m at right now. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t constantly think about this career that I have moving forward.”

OK, but humor us here for a second: Say he were to consider a move to the UFC, is Chandler enticed by the competition in a division that is now ruled by undefeated champ Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC)?

“That’s the thing: From the outside perspective, people always think, ‘Bellator, UFC, ONE FC, blah blah blah,’” Chandler said. “I don’t think about promotions, I think about the guys. How do I match up against Khabib? How do I take exactly what Al Iaquinta did, except with my wrestling, and my striking, and my wrestling offense and defense.

“How I would nullify his takedowns, how I would even take him down, how I would get in his face, and how he would finally have somebody put hands on him and hurt him like Michael Johnson did? I think that picture has been painted a couple of times, of how to beat Khabib. And I think I beat him 10 times out of 10.”

RelatedBellator 197 post-event facts: Michael Chandler owns the Bellator record books

As for the future, should he stay with Bellator? There are a few scenarios. Chandler has talked about his desire to pursue “exciting” fights outside the 155-pound division, against the likes of Paul Daley and welterweight champ Rory MacDonald, and that remains a possiblity.

Reclaiming the 155-pound belt, as he’s said in the past, is not a priority. And Chandler still isn’t about to run for president of Primus’ fan club. But as much as Chandler himself isn’t exactly holding his breath, it’s hard to take a title rematch off the table there entirely.

And then there’s “Pitbull” Freire – featherweight champ Patricio, that is, considering Chandler has beaten his lightweight brother Patricky twice and is not interested in meeting him “ever again.”

Patricio and Chandler have had their disagreements as to why exactly they weren’t the ones meeting inside that cage this past Friday. But Chandler, who said he got as far as signing the bout agreement and training for that specific opponent before he was told Freire had turned it down, is willing to give it a new try.

“(Patricio Freire) had his very choice words about me and my family, and he’s a very angry little elf,” Chandler said. “So I’d love to make that fight happen, because that’s a fight that fans want to see.”

To hear from Chandler, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of Bellator 197, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

Gallery Michael Chandler def. Brandon Girtz at Bellator 197: Best photos view 18 images

Michael Chandler plans to re-sign with Bellator, but I beat Khabib Nurmagomedov '10 times out of 10'

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Former champion Michael Chandler has some negotiating to do as the end of his current two-year deal with Bellator approaches.

Chandler (18-4 MMA, 15-4 BMMA) is coming off a first-round submission win over Brandon Girtz (15-8 MMA, 7-6 BMMA), whom he beat in this past Friday’s Bellator 197 headliner to make it two wins in a row since his much-discussed TKO title loss to Brent Primus. It was also the ex-lightweight champ’s 19th fight for Bellator, which has been his home since his fourth pro fight pro fight, back in 2010.

Chandler won’t say when exactly his deal ends – only that it’s “very soon.” And he’s very clear in that he’s not saying he’s going to be a free agent, either. All that he’s saying is that there are negotiations coming up – and that it’s an interesting time to have them.

RelatedBellator 197 highlights: The Michael Chandler slam that separated Brandon Girtz's shoulder

“The lightweight division in the world is a very interesting one right now,” Chandler told MMAjunkie Radio. “There’s no doubt that I’m one of those guys who is continuing to climb. I think I had a couple of losses way, way back when. That’s when I came out of the top 10, and it’s been hard to kind of get back into the top 10. But, even with the rolled ankle at Madison Square Garden, I’ve gone on a run besides that fight, with all these wins over the last couple of years.

“So you can’t deny that I’m one of the top lightweights in the world. It’s exciting. It’s enticing. There are a lot of great fights in the lightweight division, and I want to see what happens next.”

Chandler, an honorable mention in the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA lightweight rankings, clarifies that he is “very happy” with his career, with where he’s at, and with what he’s doing. He believes Bellator has done right by him, and he’s done the same for them in return. While he’s had his complaints about activity in the past – and certainly didn’t love fighting only once in 2017 – he doesn’t think it’s Bellator’s fault and instead pins it mostly on champ Primus for putting off the rematch.

RelatedEven when asked directly, Michael Chandler won't mention Brent Primus

As far as roster depth goes, Chandler has seen exponential growth over the past eight years, as exemplified by the signings of prospects such as Aaron Pico and A.J. McKee – and even high-profile UFC migrations such as Josh Thomson and ex-UFC champ Benson Henderson. And he’s always had the liberty of calling the Bellator brass and asking them to bring in some competition for him.

“I have no intentions of leaving Bellator,” Chandler said.

If the ex-champ were to make a move, though, there’s pretty much only one place other than Bellator that would interest him.

“We’ll see what happens, but to me, I don’t think there would be any other interest for me to go anywhere else besides Bellator or the UFC,” Chandler said. “Obviously, I’m very happy with where I’m at right now. But there’s not a day that goes by that I don’t constantly think about this career that I have moving forward.”

OK, but humor us here for a second: Say he were to consider a move to the UFC, is Chandler enticed by the competition in a division that is now ruled by undefeated champ Khabib Nurmagomedov (26-0 MMA, 10-0 UFC)?

“That’s the thing: From the outside perspective, people always think, ‘Bellator, UFC, ONE FC, blah blah blah,’” Chandler said. “I don’t think about promotions, I think about the guys. How do I match up against Khabib? How do I take exactly what Al Iaquinta did, except with my wrestling, and my striking, and my wrestling offense and defense.

“How I would nullify his takedowns, how I would even take him down, how I would get in his face, and how he would finally have somebody put hands on him and hurt him like Michael Johnson did? I think that picture has been painted a couple of times, of how to beat Khabib. And I think I beat him 10 times out of 10.”

RelatedBellator 197 post-event facts: Michael Chandler owns the Bellator record books

As for the future, should he stay with Bellator? There are a few scenarios. Chandler has talked about his desire to pursue “exciting” fights outside the 155-pound division, against the likes of Paul Daley and welterweight champ Rory MacDonald, and that remains a possiblity.

Reclaiming the 155-pound belt, as he’s said in the past, is not a priority. And Chandler still isn’t about to run for president of Primus’ fan club. But as much as Chandler himself isn’t exactly holding his breath, it’s hard to take a title rematch off the table there entirely.

And then there’s “Pitbull” Freire – featherweight champ Patricio, that is, considering Chandler has beaten his lightweight brother Patricky twice and is not interested in meeting him “ever again.”

Patricio and Chandler have had their disagreements as to why exactly they weren’t the ones meeting inside that cage this past Friday. But Chandler, who said he got as far as signing the bout agreement and training for that specific opponent before he was told Freire had turned it down, is willing to give it a new try.

“(Patricio Freire) had his very choice words about me and my family, and he’s a very angry little elf,” Chandler said. “So I’d love to make that fight happen, because that’s a fight that fans want to see.”

To hear from Chandler, check out the video above.

And for complete coverage of Bellator 197, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

MMAjunkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio.

Gallery Michael Chandler def. Brandon Girtz at Bellator 197: Best photos view 18 images

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Daniel Straus and Yancy Medeiros

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Daniel Straus and Yancy Medeiros.

Former Bellator champ Straus is recovering from a December motorcycle accident and discusses where he’s at in his recovery. Medeiros recently signed to fight Mike Perry at UFC 226 on July 7.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

Watch MMAjunkie Radio here (1 p.m. ET) with Daniel Straus and Yancy Medeiros

MMAjunkie Radio kicks off today at 1 p.m. ET (10 a.m. PT) with guests Daniel Straus and Yancy Medeiros.

Former Bellator champ Straus is recovering from a December motorcycle accident and discusses where he’s at in his recovery. Medeiros recently signed to fight Mike Perry at UFC 226 on July 7.

MMAjunkie Radio airs from 1 to 3 p.m. ET (10 a.m. to noon PT), live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino in Las Vegas. You can watch and listen live on MMAjunkie’s Facebook and YouTube pages. Additionally, SiriusXM Rush (Ch. 93) carries a replay later in the day (8-10 p.m. ET) and the following morning (7-9 a.m. ET), or catch a replay on demand.

MMAjunkie Radio listener guide:

  • HOW TO WATCH (ON WEB): Watch a live stream on MMAjunkie’s Facebook or YouTube pages.
  • HOW TO CALL: MMAjunkie Radio takes phone calls from listeners throughout the show. Call into the MMAjunkie Radio hotline at (866) 522-2846.
  • HOW TO DISCUSS: The MMAjunkie MMA Forums has a section devoted solely to MMAjunkie Radio. Stop by the MMAjunkie Radio forum to discuss the show, interact with the hosts, suggest future guests and catch up on the latest MMAjunkie Radio news.
  • HOW TO VISIT THE SHOW: You can watch MMAjunkie Radio live and in person at the Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino on the world-famous Las Vegas Strip. The booth is located in the resort’s Race & Sports Book next to the Mandalay Bay poker room. To plan a trip to Sin City and MMAjunkie Radio, go to www.mandalaybay.com.

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