Suddenly Chael Sonnen is a very popular man.
As reported by MMAFighting.com's Ariel Helwani on Tuesday's edition of UFC Tonight, Vitor Belfort has finally accepted the fact that his next fight won't be for a title. But that doesn't mean he likes it.
Belfort's wife told Helwani that if Belfort fights at middleweight again, it'll have to be for the belt. Until then, Belfort is willing to compete at either 195, 205, or heavyweight, and if he had his way, his next opponent would be none other than Mr. Sonnen himself.
"Well I'll tell ya," Sonnen responded. "Vitor and I can never quite seem to get this right. I've called him out, and now every time he calls me out, it always, coincidentally perhaps, but it seems to be whenever I've got my plate full.
"Look, here's what I would say to Vitor, Ariel. First off, I accept. However, Vitor has a title, and his title is that of number-one contender. If he is willing to put that on the line, not only will I fight him, I will meet him in that weight class, and I will do it December 28. Rousey defends, Weidman defends. Vitor, you've got a title too brother, and I want you to defend it against me."
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Belfort wants Sonnen. According to a report on UFC Tonight, Vitor Belfort won't compete at middleweight until he fights for the belt, but he will stay active in the interim. And if Belfort had his way, the next man he faces will be Chael Sonnen.
St-Pierre reflects. In the lead-up to UFC 162, Anderson Silva spoke at length about the burdens that come hand-in-hand with a dominant title run. No man can relate more to Silva's sentiment than Georges St. Pierre.
Jones talks heavyweight. Sitting right next to Cain Velasquez at Tuesday's UFC World Tour press conference, Jon Jones continued to entertain a potential move to heavyweight. "Eventually," Jones said. "I'm getting older, I'm growing, I'm getting stronger. Why not?"
Bellator 97 weigh-in results. All 10 main card fighters met their required weight at Tuesday's official Bellator 97 weigh-ins, including lightweight headliners Michael Chandler and David Rickels.
WSOF plots lightweight course. World Series of Fighting plans to stage a four-man lightweight tournament to determine the promotion's inaugural 155-pound champion. Justin Gaethje, Dan Lauzon, the winner of Nick Newell vs. Keon Caldwell, and the winner of JZ Cavalcante vs. Tyson Griffin are expected to make up the field.
UFC on FOX 8 salaries. Robbie Lawler led the disclosed payroll for UFC on FOX 8, pocketing $156,000 for his thunderous main card knockout of Bobby Voelker.
Ortiz responds. Tito Ortiz responded to recent disparaging comments made by Dana White about his potential comeback. "It sucks that @danawhite still has the say bad things about me," Ortiz tweeted. "One year has passed and still attacks me. I don't feel I have to attack him in any way. #SHAME I hope one day he will get over it. Must suck to sleep at night thinking about me."
I fully support this cause, but Rampage endorsing wrestling is irony at its finest.
The best moment from yesterday's UFC presser, besides that little somethin' somethin' Ronda gave Miesha? Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson's ridiculously tense staredown.
Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Spike's latest Bellator show: Round by Round. In this debut episode, Ben Askren breaks down his most recent title defense with Nate Quarry. I kind of dig it. (Click to watch.)
Next week Angel DeAnda fights the biggest fight of his life, taking on Tyrone Spong in the featured attraction of WSOF 4. Check out this preview to learn more about "The Dream."
This is pretty gnarly. I won't spoil it, but just watch the right elbow of ol' Red Shorts there.
The fight against @vitorbelfort never materialized. I want to thank for @danawhite and @lorenzofertitta it was an honor to be considered.— Tim Kennedy (@TimKennedyMMA) July 30, 2013
TITO DOESN'T APPRECIATE IT, DANA
It sucks that @danawhite still has the say bad things about me. One year has passed and still (cont) http://t.co/FgzOMntZLH— Tito Ortiz (@titoortiz) July 30, 2013
Nice to be broke https://t.co/8zwZtb4681— Tito Ortiz (@titoortiz) July 31, 2013
@criscyborg is not only fighting 4 times a year but she is making way more $ than what the UFC had (cont) http://t.co/zlRwDD8gmK— PrimeTime 360 (@Primetime360ESM) July 29, 2013
KEEPIN' IT CLASSY
@RondaRousey @mishatate hope you guys had fun filming TUF. I look forward to fighting the winner of you two @ufc @danawhite— Alpha Cat Zingano (@CatZingano) July 30, 2013
My perspectives between now and my fight, will be available in poetry, every day at 6PM at http://t.co/xNqiRej31g. You're welcome. Chael— chael sonnen (@sonnench) July 30, 2013
.@karatehottiemma has the most amazing Predator face. pic.twitter.com/Bj2SYhSlv9— Jennifer Raff (@JenniferRaff) July 28, 2013
Soooo is Cruikshank tan spry it tanning bed? Because that's not real!— Cowboy Cerrone (@Cowboycerrone) July 27, 2013
"@Cruickshank155: @Cowboycerrone *Cruickshank. If you're gonna put my name in your mouth, at least do it right."ya I wasn't real worried— Cowboy Cerrone (@Cowboycerrone) July 28, 2013
"@julez2321: @RondaRousey why did you flip Tate off?" Watch #tuf18 and you'll know— Ronda Rousey (@RondaRousey) July 31, 2013
Announced yesterday (Tuesday, July 30, 2013):
FANPOST OF THE DAY
Today's Fanpost of the Day is an early look at tonight's festivities, courtesy of heavyfl0w: Bellator 97: Showcases & Possible Creationists (A Preview)
During "Bellator season" (a distant cousin to "wabbit season"), the cards we're privy to usually follow the same sort of theme. They sometimes begin with a former contender or otherwise important fighter coming off a loss against a guy that is pretty much washed up, but still has name value (with Karo "I wasn't out!" Parisyan being the most recent example). Then they trot out the tournament fights. Finally, the main event consists of a title fight, a champion fighting in a non-title fight (always a bummer, but I can see the logic behind why this has been done), or two good fighters fighting to stay relevant in the division. Or, God forbid, Christian M'Pumbu and Vladimir Matyushenko.
They're pulling out all the stops with this card. This card features two title fights, several noteworthy guys on the undercard, the opening round of a solid bantamweight tournament (on the undercard!), the remote possibility of a King Mo embarrassment, and a fun banger to get things started (Friere-Downing). These two title fights are exactly the kinds of fights we want to see. And tonight, we get to see them. But first, a preview. I'm going to cherry pick the fights I want to write about because, as is often the case with Bellator undercards, I don't know who Richard Jacquez is.
Will Brooks vs. Cris Leyva
When a guy like Saad Awad bursts into the spotlight and starts knocking guys out in less than 60 seconds, it's almost a guarantee that his run will end just as quickly as it started. History has all but proven this, whether it's with Shane Carwin, Houston Alexander ... there are countless examples. The thing about Brooks getting knocked out by Awad is that we didn't really learn anything about either guy. I still think Will Brooks is a better fighter, and honestly, it's not even close. But that's the fight business for you, and that means Awad gets to lose a title shot opportunity because he got tired right after his punching fury didn't finish off his opponent, and it also means that Will Brooks gets a rebound fight against a guy who has lost four in a row (albeit to decent competition).
Look for Brooks to methodically take apart Leyva wherever the fight goes before finishing him with ground and pound later in the fight. Also, don't hold that Awad loss against him. Will Brooks can fight.
I predict that prospects Shawn Bunch and Bubba Jenkins will take care of business, and I like Frank Baca and Rodrigo Lima to advance in the bantamweight tournament. Lima in particular is impressive. Let's get to the main card.
Ryan Martinez vs. Vitaly Minakov
Winner of this fight gets a title shot against Alexander Volkov. Yep. A tubby ex con that might not be terrible takes on a guy who allegedly knows how to throw a combination and, at the very least, can uncork a solid and very Russian looking right hand. Minakov by KO.
Muhammed Lawal vs. Jacob Noe
Noe thanks. Mo by TKO.
Ben Askren vs. Andrey Koreshkov
On paper, this is a fight that will hoodwink some people into picking Koreshkov. He's young, he's undefeated, he's fighting a guy that people both hate and are bored to tears watching, and he's an electrifying striker. I know I've used that word before, but it really applies to Koreshkov. There are maybe 9 or 10 guys in MMA that can do what Koreshkov does on the feet. Watching Andrey Koreshkov fight, I sit there on my couch emitting noises like "Oh!!" and "Woah!" over and over. He's awesome. And he's going to get grounded and pounded into a (possibly) bloody pulp on July 31st.
Alot of people find Ben Askren dreadful to watch, and I don't necessarily disagree. However, this doesn't make him any less formidable and dominant. People seem to subconsciously do this with "boring" fighters all the time. In MMA, labeling someone as "boring" is really just a more scathing way of calling someone unimpressive. Fans want guys to look impressive, and be exciting, and fight for the fans, and finish fights, and yadda yadda. So when they do the opposite of that, but still win in lopsided fashion, people tend to view them as less legitimate than they really are. They look at their wins as a product of their opponents weaknesses. And when it happens over and over, the narrative becomes "Just wait until this guy has to fight this other guy who is a stylistic nightmare for him!", without taking into consideration whether or not that guy actually exists.
This, I strongly suspect, is the case with Ben Askren's title reign. His smothering wrestling base is so potent that guys eventually just stop fighting. He's fought a great striker like Koreshkov before (Douglas Lima), but I think Andrey will be more aggressive than Douglas, and Askren will have to adjust more quickly and find those takedowns from weirder angles, as Andrey will likely employ wild spinning techniques. But Askren is one of the best wrestlers in the world, and Koreshkov is a double leg or a kneetap takedown waiting to happen. I'd be pretty shocked if Koreshkov had any measure of success here. He's great, but he's not the guy to beat Askren. Askren by decision.
Michael Chandler vs. David Rickels
Michael Chandler is the one guy Bellator has that I'd undoubtedly favor against most of his UFC counterparts, champ Ben Henderson included. Think about it. Alexander Volkov would faint just looking at Cain Velasquez's tattoo. Jon Jones would beat Attila Vegh on his way to the cage to fight someone else. Alexander Shlemenko is excellent, but he'd ultimately fall to Chris Weidman. I think Ben Askren would run into trouble against a few of the more stalwart wrestlers at 170. Pat Curran is good, but he ain't beating Jose Aldo unless Jose drops dead due to exhaustion. I could see Eduardo Dantas giving Renan Barao fits, but I'd still favor Barao. Chandler, though, is the best lightweight on the planet to me, and he might just be getting started.
Be honest. You didn't think that David Rickels would ever win his way to a shot at Michael Chandler. You thought Lloyd Woodard would dust him. You thought Saad Awad's power would be too much. After being taken to the brink by Jason Fischer, you didn't think much of his prospects at lightweight. And I was right there with you. How could you not feel this way? Rickels was a slow guy who was prone to getting taken down. He always fought his ass off, but when you're going tit for tat with Jason Fischer, that isn't an indication that you're headed for a shot at the strap.
Then, something happened. Rickels' competition got better, and so did he. He completely humiliated Lloyd Woodard, potshotting him with ease and hammering down coffin nails on the idea that Woodard would ever make any real noise in he lightweight division. The way he took out a tired Saad Awad was a thing of beauty, and it was exactly the way he needed to fight that fight to win.
Is he beating Michael Chandler? Probably not. However, I think this will be the most competitive fight on the card. Andrey Koreshkov might want to hang himself by the second round of his fight with Askren, but there will be no such capitulation from David Rickels, even though he might lose more thoroughly and violently.
Don't discount Rickels' stand up skills, as I foresee him landing some quality strikes on Chandler. Chandler is going to put in work here, though, as Rickels' speed disadvantage will play a factor. Takedowns, great boxing, and even a submission are all things I could see happening for Mike, but I think Rickels goes out on his shield and loses a decision. Regardless, I feel a void in my life ever since Dave came out with a prosthetic tyrannosaurus rex in tow. It's been too long.
Found something you'd like to see in the Morning Report? Just hit me on Twitter @shaunalshatti and we'll include it in tomorrow's column.