After a so far successful and thrilling final third to the year, the UFC continues its run of consecutive cards as it returns to Canada for the third time in 2017 for UFC on Fox 26 (UFC Winnipeg).
Fresh off the back of UFC Fresno the penultimate card of 2017 is set to take place this weekend at the Bell MTS Place in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada.
Although UFC Winnipeg lacks a title bout, it is headlined by a potential number one contender match-up between former welterweight champion Robbie Lawler and former Lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos.
It’s hard to imagine Lawler’s journey started off with him struggling to stand out from the crowd, at 24 years of age he went 4-3 in his first stint with the UFC before having a further 18 bouts in the likes of Pride, Strikeforce and a couple other smaller promotions.
‘Ruthless’ then returned to the promotion as a welterweight in 2013 where he immediately lived up to his name accumulating a three-fight win streak. Lawler defeated elite 170lbers such as Josh Koscheck and Rory McDonald along the way to earning himself a chance to fight for the vacant title left behind by George St-Pierre.
Unfortunately the now 35-year-old came up short against Jonny Hendricks at UFC 171 where he found himself on the receiving end of a decision loss.
Despite this, it wasn’t long before Lawler was given the chance to avenge his title loss after he bounced back to defeat both Jake Ellenberger and Matt Brown.
This time at UFC 181, Lawler found himself on the right side of the judges’ scorecards earning himself a split decision victory to win the belt. From here on he went on to successfully defend his belt against Rory MacDonald and Carlos Condit, two bouts which would be awarded Fight of the Year for 2015 and then 2016.
After riding a five-fight win streak two of which as champion, Lawler was knocked off his throne in the first round at UFC 201 after falling victim to a vicious right hand from former team-mate Tyron Woodley.
It would be 364 days till we next saw the former champion step back into the Octagon for his most recent bout against Donald Cerrone at UFC 214. It proved to be no easy comeback for Lawler who found himself involved in a back and forth match-up before walking away with the unanimous decision win.
Meanwhile, after being dethroned by Eddie Alvarez and finding himself on the losing side of a five round battle with Tony Ferguson, former 155lb champ Rafael Dos Anjos decided to make the jump up to welterweight this year.
Much like Donald Cerrone, since making the move up to welterweight Dos Anjos has been sharpening his tools with his technique being the most improved asset. This was evident in his first bout at 170 securing a win over former welterweight Strikeforce champion Tarec Saffiedine.
Here not only did his striking look crisp, he also utilised great footwork and well-timed takedowns which neutralised his opponent’s chances of landing his heavy kicks. Dos Anjos was then supposedly asked to be on standby for UFC 214’s welterweight title contest between Tyron Woodley and Demian Maia should one be forced to withdraw for any given reason.
The fight between the two went ahead resulting in a bout being booked for the Brazilian as he took on the experienced Neil Magny at UFC 215. Again it was a dominant display from Dos Anjos who looked comfortable from the get-go securing an early takedown.
From here on he went to maintain top position before spotting the opening to secure the rear naked choke and the first round victory.
It seems after waiting on standby at UFC 214 Dos Anjos has his eyes set even more on Woodley and that welterweight strap, he has since called out the champion numerous times but for now will have to settle for the former champion and #2 ranked Lawler. The 36-year old knows however that he will have Woodley’s attention this Saturday as he will no doubt be watching to see who his next potential challenger could be.
Lamas takes on late replacement Emmett at UFC Winnipeg
In the co-main event of UFC Winnipeg, elite featherweight Ricardo Lamas will no doubt be frustrated heading into this weekends’ bout.
He was originally scheduled for a rematch with former champion Jose Aldo but was handed a replacement after Aldo took the chance to fight in the UFC 218 main event to replace the injured Frankie Edgar. This is now the second consecutive bout for Lamas where he was set to face ranked opponent only for them to be replaced for lower or an unranked opponent in this case.
Now he prepares for Team Alpha Male’s Josh Emmett. Lamas has cemented himself as a top 145 title contender with his only three UFC losses coming at the hands of two champions Aldo, Holloway and a three-time title challenger Chad Mendes.
The 34-year old enters this weekend’s bout on the back of a first-round win over the resilient Jason Knight at UFC 214. At first, Lamas was set to take on #5-ranked “Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, however, an injury led the UFC to replace him with Knight.
Lamas made quick work of his new opponent finishing him within the final 30 seconds of the first round. Prior to this bout Lamas secured a submission win over Charles Oliveira with a guillotine choke at UFC Fight Night 98. ‘The Bully’ will look to accumulate a three-fight win streak for the first time in seven years, of his nine wins inside the Octagon Lamas holds six finishes and will look to make to make it seven in the hope he can earn a second chance at featherweight gold.
There may have been a time that Josh Emmett thought his shot in the UFC would never come, the Sacramento man got to the final rounds of Ultimate Fighter in 2015 where he found out he was unsuccessful.
After two more victories and taking his record to 9-0 Emmett finally was given the chance as he stepped in late on to fight Jon Tuck at UFC Rotterdam in May 2016. Here Emmett secured an upset victory showcasing his elite footwork and high intensity.
Things only got better for the 32-year old who went on to claim a unanimous decision win over Scott Holtzman in his hometown of Sacramento. Here he showed the skills he was gathering at Team Alpha Male displaying a very strong wrestling game.
Having taken his professional record to 11-0 (2-0, UFC) Emmett suffered his first professional loss at UFC 210, when he was on the wrong end of a split decision call to UFC newcomer Des Green.
After the loss Emmett decided to drop down to 145lb, here he bounced back in perfect style dominating veteran Felipe Arantes. In what was his most impressive performance yet, Emmett secured a decision win scoring 30-25 on the judges’ scorecards where he earned the first ever documented 10-7 round in UFC history. Now he will no doubt be taking on his biggest challenge to date in Ricardo Lamas; Team Alpha Male coach Urijah Faber tipped his fellow member to become a future champion and a win over an elite contender will certainly point him in the right direction.
Heavy hitters Perry and Ponzinibbio meet at UFC Winnipeg
Elsewhere on the UFC Winnipeg card two welterweights who each own four frightening knockouts inside the Octagon will meet this Saturday.
Santiago Ponzinibbio will enter the cage riding a five-fight win streak with his most recent win coming by way of a main-event first-round knockout over Gunnar Nelson at UFC Fight Night 117. The 31-year-old’s fast-paced striking and deadly finishing instincts has seen him defeat the likes of Court McGee, Andreas Stahl, Nordine Taleb and Zak Cummings to take him to 5-0 in his last five bouts.
The Argentinian last tasted defeat in 2015 when he was finished by Lorenz Larkin; prior to this, he has only been stopped once which dates back to 2011 and will look to avoid another stoppage loss when he faces off against one of the most dangerous strikers in the welterweight division.
Mike Perry has established himself as a highlight-reel knockout artist with each knockout being more deadly than the last. Prior to joining the UFC Perry held a perfect record of 7-0 with seven KO/TKOs, he was then given the opportunity to fill in as a late-notice replacement to fight Hyun Gyu Lim at UFC 202. He took full advantage of the chance finishing Lim in the first round before securing another knockout two months later, this time over Danny Roberts at UFC 204.
It looked as if Perry was on route to blast his way straight to the top, that was until he fell to a decision loss to Alan Jouban in his third fight in five months. Since experiencing the first loss of his career ‘Platinum’ has got back to doing what he does best, knocking people out. First, he finished Jake Ellenberger in April with a vicious standing elbow before landing a heavy knee knockout against late-replacement Alex Reyes five months later. Now Perry has the chance to enter 2018 on a high and take out a formidable contender in the 170lb division in the hope to work his way towards a top-five opponent.
Teixeira and Cirkunov open the UFC Winnipeg main card
Opening the UFC Winnipeg main card this Saturday is a light-heavyweight bout between veteran Glover Teixeira and Misha Cirkunov. Teixeira first burst onto the UFC scene in 2012 where he began a five-fight win streak before unsuccessfully challenging Jon Jones for the 205lb strap in 2014.
Since then Teixeira has experienced mixed fortune inside the Octagon holding a record of 5-3, defeating the likes of Ovince St. Preux, Patrick Cummings, Rashad Evans. The 38-year old’s has had trouble when facing the elite in the division and enters this weekend’s bout having been KO’d in two of his last three bouts.
He experienced first hand the freakish power of Anthony Johnson being stopped in the first 13 seconds at UFC 202; he was then stopped by Alexander Gustafsson in his most recent outing back in May. Now he has the chance to bounce back adding a win over one of the divisions younger prospects to his resume.
Much like his opponent Misha Cirkunov made waves once joining the promotion where he went 4-0 finishing all four of his opponents inside three rounds. The 30-year-old was deemed to perhaps be next big thing in a thin division, however, began making headlines for different reasons. Cirkunov decided to fight out his UFC contract last year before becoming a free agent.
It wasn’t long however till he received a deal he was happy with and rejoined the organisation. Since then though the hype train of the Latvian has been halted after he was finished by now title challenger Volkan Oezdemir in just 28 seconds at UFC Stockholm. No doubt Cirkunov will hope to get back to winning ways as he hopes to inflict another stoppage loss to his opponent to make it 12 finishes in 14 bouts.
Main Card (1:00AM GMT, BT Sport)
Welterweight: Robbie Lawler vs. Rafael dos Anjos
Featherweight: Ricardo Lamas vs. Josh Emmett
Welterweight: Mike Perry vs. Santiago Ponzinibbio
Light-heavyweight: Misha Cirkunov vs. Glover Teixeira
Preliminary Card (10:00PM GMT, BT Sport/UFC Fight Pass)
Heavyweight: Jan Blachowicz vs. Jared Cannonier
Middleweight: Julian Marquez vs. Vitor Miranda
Welterweight: Galore Bofando vs. Chad Laprise
Bantamweight:Tim Elliott vs. Justin Scoggins
Lightweight: John Makdessi vs. Abel Trujillo
Middleweight: Oluwale Bamgbose vs. Alessio Di Chirico
Preliminary Card (8:30PM GMT, UFC Fight Pass)
Welterweight: Jordan Mein vs. Erick Silva
Welterweight: Sultan Aliev vs. Nordine Taleb
Welterweight: Danny Roberts vs. Sheldon Westcott