hardknocks365 January 19, 2018

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Throughout the first episode the UFC’s Embedded series for this weekend’s pay-per-view event in Boston, light heavyweight title challenger Volkan Oezdemir is shown training alongside former middleweight champ Luke Rockhold.

The same Rockhold who came up alongside Daniel Cormier at the American Kickboxing Academy in San Jose and who remains close friends and training partners with the main he’ll face in the first of Saturday night’s twin title fights.

It’s an odd situation, but one that has had little impact on the unflappable Swiss challenger, who looks to complete an incredible initial 12 months on the UFC roster by claiming championship gold this weekend in Boston.

“We keep it really professional,” Oezdemir said of working alongside Rockhold at Hard Knocks 365, the South Florida facility that has become home to a number of elite talents over the last year. “I know he’s close to Cormier, so I’m not trying to get any insight or information. We’re training side-by-side, but basically I’m doing my stuff and he’s doing his stuff.

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One of the top non-UFC flyweights in the world will be back in action next month.

Jose Torres will defend his Titan FC flyweight title against Alberto Orellano in the main event of Titan 48 on Feb. 16 in Fort Lauderdale, Fla., officials told MMA Fighting on Friday.

Torres (6-0) is also Titan’s bantamweight champion. In his last fight, he successfully defended his 135-pound belt over Gleidson DeJesus by fourth-round submission at Titan 46 in November. The Chicago native last defended the flyweight belt in January 2017 and has held the gold since August 2016. Torres, 25, has spent his entire pro career to this point in Titan.

Orellano (5-2) is coming off a unanimous decision win over Mauricio Gomez Oquendo last March at SFC 22. Orellano is a native of Colombia and trains out of the 10th Planet school in Barranquilla.

In the co-main event of the card, Raush Manfio defends his lightweight title against Lee Lilly. Manfio (10-2) won the belt in November. Lilly (6-2) is on a six-fight winning streak.

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As the New Year rolls in, so do new obstacles and challenges to overcome. There is no such thing as a holiday in our dictionary; Henri Hooft was busy training his troops on both Christmas and New Years day. There is no room for complacency in this industry and Hooft knows this better than anyone.

First up, is a rescheduled fight that will take place as part of the main card of UFC Fight Night 124 on January 14th. Kamaru Usman, will finally bump heads with Emil Weber Meek. They were originally due to fight at UFC 219, but Meek allegedly had visa issues. Now, it seems all the pieces are in place for this battle to happen. Though Meek is not a top 10 contender that Kamaru has long desired, his victory over him will surely secure him a top-10 opponent thereafter.

Michael Johnson will be in-tow with Kamaru, as he too is fighting on the card. It will be his first stint at featherweight and his imminent victory should see him be immediately propelled into the top-10 of the division, given that his opponent Darren Elkins, is at the 10th spot himself.

Next is a long-awaited fight in Volkan Oezdemir challenging Daniel Cormier for the light heavyweight title at UFC 220 in Boston. After some friendly back-and-forth banter on twitter, the gloves are starting to come off, as both held nothing back at the UFC 220 press conference. After only 3 fights, Volkan is in line for the title and it is without a doubt one of the quickest rises to the belt the UFC has seen in years. Though the bout was perceived as the main event, it is now in fact the co-main, as the UFC has booked Stipe Miocic versus Francis Ngannou for the heavyweight title as the de facto main event.

February 11th will see normalcy restored to the Middleweight title debate, as GSP has vacated, leaving Robert Whittaker the undisputed champion. Up steps, Luke Rockhold. The bout will take place at the Perth Arena in Australia, and serve as the main event. That’s right, Rockhold wants his belt back, and given his recent training-regime, he seems nothing short of hell-bent on getting it back, even though he’s fighting on Whittaker’s home turf. The main event is due to begin at 11 am, local Perth time, in order to accommodate the primetime broadcasting over on the western hemisphere.

Gilbert Burns will be next up, taking on Oliver Aubin-Mercier at UFC Fight Night at UFC on Fox 28, on February 24th at the Amway Center only 3 hours north of Hard Knocks 365, in Orlando. He is coming off an emphatic over-hand KO over Jason Saggo, and will look to improve upon his 13-2 record.

And finally, at UFC 222 on March 3rd at the acclaimed T-Mobile Arena, The Skyscraper, Stefan Struve, will make his return to the octagon versus UFC Heavyweight Veteran, Andrei Arlovski. Struve is coming off a loss versus Aleksander Volkov at UFC Fight Night 115 last year. No matter, as he is still in the top 15, and after beating Arlovski, he’ll be back in the top-contenders in no time.

Fresh off a victory in his MMA debut, Denzel Freeman (1-0) is ready to compete again.

Freeman defeated Davaun McKoy (0-1) by technical knockout in the second round of Titan FC 47. A healthy Freeman said he is set to compete on Titan FC 48, which will occur Feb. 16, 2018 at the Xtreme Action Park in Fort Lauderdale.

Freeman joined Rodolfo Roman of The Roman Show to talk about his debut and more.

“These were the biggest nerves I had ever felt so far,” he said. “They did go away, but I had it till I walked to the cage. I think I had it until then.”

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Former UFC lightweight champion Rafael Dos Anjos believes welterweight champion Tyron Woodley will be next on his schedule if he can defeat Robbie Lawler at UFC Fight Night Winnipeg this Sunday.

Dos Anjos’ journey from lightweight champion to welterweight contender has been riddled with missed opportunities, bad weight cuts and bad timing, but the Brazilian fighter, who lives full-time in Orange Country, California, believes he is now reaching his peak in his optimal weight class.

An 8-1 win streak between 2012 and 2014 saw Dos Anjos face Anthony Pettis for the lightweight championship in 2015, and despite being a heavy underdog his unrelenting pressure attack carried him through to a unanimous decision victory over Pettis, once seen as the future of the division.

His melted his next challenger, Donald Cerrone, in a little over a minute.
Then things got a little strange.

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The first time for anything will always be special and cherished. Though it was definitely not Andre Soukhamhthath’s first time with the win (he’d even been the bantamweight champ for CES MMA), it was his first win for the UFC. And what a win it was.

This was long in the making. The Asian Sensation had been victim to two split-decision losses, leaving him on thin ice going forward with a record of 0-2 in the UFC. With much to gain and little lose, Soukhamthath took this fight on 2 weeks’ notice and sealed the deal for one last chance in UFC Fight Night 123 in Fresno, California. Luke Sanders, Soukhamthath’s opponent, was probably content that Bryan Caraway, his original opponent, was pulled from the fight due to injury. Little did he know that Soukhamthath had gone straight back to the drawing board after his loss to Alejandro Perez. The words “two-week notice” might have given Sanders a confidence boost, but it didn’t mean much since his would-be opponent rarely took a day-off in hopes for a fight.

The bell rung, and from then, Soukhamthath caught Sanders with a right-hook in the second round. Sanders dropped like a fly, scrambling to get back on his feet as Soukhamthath bludgeoned him via ground-n-pound. At one point, due to the flurry of Soukhamthath’s hammer-fists, Sanders grabbed the ref’s leg in what was interpreted as cry for help. The referee called it. Soukhamthath screamed with joy, but Sanders called an early-stoppage, which the referee starkly refuted. During his post-interview, the Asian Sensation expressed concerns over being potentially cut: “I took this fight on two weeks’ notice, and I knew he had a full camp. Me and my coaches knew he was planning on coming out hard, and he did. But I know how tough I am and how good my chin is and how good my wrestling defense is. I just weathered the storm, and I literally put all my energy into one punch, and it worked.” Boy did it work. Soukhamthath wants to keep the momentum going forward, as he later proclaimed that he’d miss even Christmas or New Years to get another chance in the near future.

In title news, George St. Pierre has finally vacated his middleweight title, leaving the belt up for grabs between interim champ Robert Whittaker and Luke Rockhold. The fight will be the headliner for UFC 221 in Perth, Australia. With the announcement, it’s hands-on-deck at Hard Knocks 365 as Henri Hooft prepared the former middleweight champ for his deserved title shot.

Bruno Rodrigues Mesquita will face a great challenge in his third Titan FC appearance when he squares off with the unbeaten Gustavo Eddy Balart on Dec. 15.

The bout will serve as the co-main event for Titan FC 47, which takes place at Xtreme Action Park in Ft. Lauderdale, Fla. Titan FC 47 is headlined by a clash between featherweights Sodiq Yusuff and Luis Gomez. The card will stream on UFC Fight Pass beginning at 7 p.m. ET/4 p.m. PT.

Balart, a 34-year-old native of Santiago, Cuba, is riding the momentum of four victories under the Titan FC banner. Mesquita, who was preparing to face Allan Nascimento at a different event, accepted the bout on short notice to bolster his career.

The 26-year-old Brazilian fighter known as Bruno “Korea” isn’t focused on his future in Titan, nor a return to the UFC — where he fell to Matheus Nicolau Pereira in his lone Octagon appearance in November 2015. Instead, he is devoting his energy to the task at hand.

“My training was good, we had planned to fight [Nascimento] on [Dec. 8], but the event was delayed and we were offered this fight practically a week later,” Mesquita said. “We accepted, we just had to change strategy, because the opponent was a striker and tall, now I’m going to fight with a low grappler guy. But I just had to change it in the camp, the rest was everything normal. I’m fine physically and mentally, just waiting for the day to fight.”
Read more at http://www.sherdog.com/news/news/Bruno-Korea-Focused-on-Showdown-with-Unbeaten-Balart-in-Titan-FC-47-CoHeadliner-130029#YdGyzXWruosvBEkp.99

From the knockouts, to the tweets, to the polls, to the videos, to the rumors. All the bumps down the road have finally lead to this moment. It was long in the making, pretty much all but confirmed, and had us wondering when the announcement was going to be made.

Ladies and gentlemen, Volkan Oezdemir versus Daniel Cormier, the Light Heavyweight Champion, at UFC 220 in Boston at the TD Garden on January 20th, is finally official. It’s the moment we’ve all been waiting for, for months, ever since Volkan set his sights on the title after knocking out Jimi Manuwa inside the first round at UFC 214. Oezdemir had long been calling for a title shot after his bludgeoning victory over the brit, but the then-title-holder, Jon Jones, was stripped of his belt after he was popped for steroids yet again. With the belt in limbo, it left Oezdemir bewildered as he was unsure of who would be his next victim. He briefly called out Alexander Gustafsson to settle the debate on who was the superior European Light Heavyweight, but suddenly an opportunity arose as the dust settled. Cormier had been reinstated as Champion, as his bout had been ruled a no-contest. Facing pressure to defend his belt, he held a twitter poll which gave the fans the option to elect his next opponent. Volkan edged out Guss’ in the polls. The fans had spoken. They wanted this Swiss knockout artist to take on DC. The fans effectively answered Volkan’s prayers, and here we are today.

It’s safe to say that this bout will be one for the ages. One, a knockout-artist with 12 first-round finished, and a record of 15-1, the other, a former world champion in wrestling. The stark contrast between the two couldn’t be any greater, however the two in many ways are similar. DC has only ever failed to edge out Jon Jones, while Volkan also only has one loss back when he fought for Bellator. Both fighters are going into this bout with much to prove but also much to lose. DC needs a decisive win as he’s been garnering much criticism from Jon Jones apologists, but Volkan needs this win just as much. Beyond the title itself, Volkan need not lose as a loss will effectively derail the fastest if not the fastest rise to the belt.

The fight could be quick. Or it could go the distance. One thing is for sure though: it’ll be bloody.