Saturday, 20 October 2018

Sarri apologies to Mourinho after Ianni sparks touchline scuffle


By Alistair Hendrie

Maurizio Sarri has apologised to Manchester United after Chelsea assistant coach Marco Ianni celebrated his team’s 96-minute equaliser on Saturday by running past the visitors’ bench and pumping his fists.

Sarri, who brought Ianni with him from Napoli in the summer, condemned his assistant for provoking Jose Mourinho, who had to be held back by stewards and United staff in a touchline melee.

The Chelsea manager claimed he would speak to Ianni in private and was quick to accept the blame for a fracas which ended with players and staff from both teams in a scrum of pushing and shoving in front of the tunnel.

“I didn’t see anything on the pitch, but after the match I spoke with José and immediately understood that we are wrong,” Sarri said. “I have spoken with the member of my staff and then I bring him to speak with Mourinho to say sorry to him. I think it is finished. We made a mistake. We were in the wrong.”

“I have dealt with the situation immediately,” he said. “I have to speak to him again because I want to be sure he is able to understand that it was a big mistake. I have to view everything. Now the situation is between me and the staff face to-face.”

Ross Barkley secured a point for Sarri’s side, bringing the west Londoners back into the fold after two goals from Anthony Martial cancelled out Anthony Rudiger’s opener.


The hosts were good value for a point after dominating the first half and Chelsea now extend their record to one defeat in 17 against United at Stamford Bridge.

"We were in control, tactically - the result is really unfair for us” said Mourinho. “We conceded from two set-pieces, but that is a way to score goals and you have to be able to defend against that.

Discussing the touchline scuffle, he added: "It is not my reaction, it is Sarri's assistant. He was very impolite but Sarri took care of the situation. They have both apologised to me. I accept. For me, the story is over.”

Chelsea took the lead after 20 minutes when Anthony Rudiger leapt unchallenged by the penalty spot to nod in Wilian’s out-swinging corner. Although Rudiger connected with authority, Paul Pogba was at fault for losing his man.

However, Martial’s double turned things in United’s favour in the second half as the forward scored against Chelsea for the first time in his career.

The French international netted his first with 54 minutes gone, killing a loose ball with his thigh and half-volleying in from 18 yards out. He earned his brace just over twenty minutes later, nudging Marcus Rashford’s pass out of his feet and slotting inside the far post from a similar distance to his equaliser.

Barkley, substituted on for Mateo Kovacic, pulled the home side level by converting a rebound in a mad scramble during which David Luiz hit the post and Rudiger had an initial rebound saved.

Sarri added: "We have played very well in the first hour but then we have played the match of United - a physical match, and United are better than us in a physical match. I am disappointed with the last 30 minutes. We could win but at the end one point is enough.

To read more of Alistair Hendrie's work, buy his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain

Wednesday, 10 October 2018

Commission Should Slam Khabib Nurmagomedov After UFC 229 Brawl

By Alistair Hendrie

Khabib Nurmagomedov has to deal with the consequences of his part in Saturday’s brawl at UFC 229. After submitting Conor McGregor to keep his lightweight title, the Russian lost his mind and leapt out of the cage, attacking McGregor’s teammate Dillon Danis and causing an ugly melee of pushing and shoving and punching and kicking, all in plain view of Nevada State Athletic Commission representatives, UFC top brass, broadcast colleagues, and the watching world. The 30-year-old’s father Abdulmanap, a ruthless disciplinarian, has already condemned his son’s actions, and now it’s up to the NSAC to make an example of Nurmagomedov and punish him accordingly.

UFC president Dana White, speaking to TMZ Sports, claimed the NSAC should fine the titlist $250,000 –around an eighth of his $2m purse– and suspend him for between four and six months. The fine seems about right, but the suspension isn’t enough.

After all, Nurmagomedov aimed a volley of strikes at another man, something which could have left him in jail if this occurred on the streets. He initiated a fracas involving perhaps 20 to 30 people, and with such bad blood between the two competitors, not to mention both sets of boozy fans, the last thing the event needed was more animosity and the heightened potential for skirmishes in the crowd. Frankly, Nurmagomedov made a foolish mistake –completely out of character, I might add– and left a black mark on his and the UFC’s brand.


Furthermore, this is a guy who has fought only five times since dominating Rafael dos Anjos in April 2014. Although the NSAC is unlikely to consider Numagomedov’s level of activity in the octagon when handing out its punishment –why should it?– the guilty party wouldn’t shoulder the burden of his actions with a ban of four to six months. The sambo specialist needs to discover that what he did was a disgrace and in light of that, a suspension of nine months or so would be adequate.

That kind of ban, just over double what White proposed, would force Nurmagomedov and the rest of the roster to sit up and take notice. It would help the commission state that, if ever it needed to, vaulting out of the fighting space and attacking members of an athlete’s camp –hell, anyone for that matter– is in fact not OK. There’s no place in the sport for that kind of behaviour and the commission needs to underline that sentiment.

Once the NSAC deals with Nurmagomedov, what else could the UFC do? White told TMZ Sports that he’d consider stripping the 155 lbs linchpin if the ban is lengthy enough, but he also said at the UFC 229 post-fight press conference that he’s reluctant to add to any punishment that the NSAC might administer.


That’s a bit contradictory when you look back to when Paul Daley sucker punched Josh Koscheck after their grudge match at UFC 113 in 2010. Back then, White slammed, shunned, and threw Daley out of the UFC with no questions asked. Still, you’d be a fool to think that the UFC doesn’t thrive upon drama and weighty numbers, and you’re living a lie if you think the UFC has enough balls to kick Nurmgomedov out.

By dropping Nurmagomedov, they’d lose out on plenty of pay-per-view buys. He grinds for the finish, he’s improving as a trash talker, and added to that, most importantly, he’s one of the pound-for-pound best fighters in the world in the most exciting weight class in the sport.

Nurmagomedov will live to regret his decisions at the weekend, though, whatever punishment he receives. He’ll have to bear the brunt of the NSAC while his father will also offer him a shellacking for making a mockery of the humble and respectful values his family drilled into him as a young Muslim. None of this is to say that the winner of UFC’s 229’s main event was the only man at fault –Conor McGregor punched one of Nurmagomedov’s camp during the chaos– but it’s time for Nurmagomedov to swallow his pride and accept whatever reprimand is coming his way.

This article originally appeared on The Runner Sports. Check out Alistair Hendrie's back catalogue of writing for The Runner Sports here

Monday, 1 October 2018

Who is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world?


By Alistair Hendrie

To determine the best fighter in the world, you need to take into account plenty of factors: form, skill, opposition and dominance, for example. So, if a champion defends his or her crown via a string of finishes, does that equal or better a run of decisions?

It’s a debate which rings around gyms, television studios, offices and of course pubs all over the world, and that’s exactly why Alistair Hendrie Sport will be releasing its pound-for-pound list at the start of every month.

To qualify for the list, a fighter should be considered active, so although Jon Jones, for instance, is one of the most skilled and dominant fighters on the planet, he is yet to return from his doping suspension, leaving him dormant for the moment.

Now that you know the criteria we’re looking for and pre-requisites for entry, take a look at the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists in the world.

October 2018 - Men

1 – Daniel Cormier (USA) (205lbs)
2 – Demetrious Johnson (USA) (125lbs)
3 – Max Holloway (USA) (145lbs)
4 – Stipe Miocic (USA) (265lbs)
5 – Robert Whittaker (AUS) (185lbs)
6 – Tyron Woodley (USA) (170lbs) (+1)
7 – TJ Dillashaw (USA) (135lbs) (-1)
8 – Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS) (155lbs)
9 – Henry Cejudo (USA) (125lbs)
10 – Tony Ferguson (USA) (155lbs)
11 – Jose Aldo (BRA) (145lbs)
12 – Cody Garbrandt (USA) (135lbs)
13 – Rafael dos Anjos (BRA) (170lbs)
14 – Dustin Poirier (USA) (155lbs)
15 – Yoel Romero (CUB) (185lbs)
16 – Robbie Lawler (USA) (170lbs)
17 – Dominic Cruz (USA) (135lbs)
18 – Brian Ortega (USA) (145lbs)
19 – Stephen Thompson (USA) (170lbs)
20 – Frankie Edgar (USA) (145lbs)
21 – Kevin Lee (USA) (155lbs)
22 – Kamaru Usman (NIG) (170lbs)
23 – Francis Ngannou (FRA) (265lbs)
24 – Marlon Moraes (BRA) (135lbs)
25 – Gegard Mousasi (NED) (185lbs) (NE)


October 2018 - Women

1 – Amanda Nunes (BRA) (135lbs)
2 – Rose Namajunas (USA) (115lbs)
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (115lbs)
4 – Cris Cyborg (BRA) (145lbs)
5 – Valentina Shevchenko (KYR) (125lbs)
6 – Jessica Andrade (BRA) (115lbs)
7 – Tecia Torres (USA) (115lbs)
8 – Holly Holm (USA) (145lbs)
9 – Raquel Pennington (USA) (135lbs)
10 – Claudia Gadhela (BRA) (115lbs)
11 – Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (115lbs)
12 – Carla Esparza (USA) (115lbs)
13 – Tonya Evinger (USA) (135lbs)
14 – Megan Anderson (USA) (135lbs)
15 – Barb Honchak (USA) (125lbs)
17 – Felice Herrig (USA) (115lbs)
18 – Cynthia Calvillo (USA) (115lbs)
19 – Germaine de Randamie (NED) (145lbs)
20 – Alexis Davis (CAN) (125lbs)
21 – Julliana Pena (USA) (135lbs)
22 – Angela Lee (CAN) (105lbs)
23 – Sara McMann (USA) (135lbs)
24 – Jennifer Maia (BRA) (125lbs)
25 – Liz Carmouche (USA) (125lbs) (NE)

Whether you agree or disagree with our standings, join in the discussion and let us know your pound-for-pound lists on Twitter.

Wonderkid Tenshin remains undefeated, edges Horiguchi at Rizin 13


By Alistair Hendrie

If ever you ever thought Tenshin Nasukawa was all style and no substance, you might feel differently after he toughed out Kyoji Horiguchi in the Rizin 13 main event on Sunday. The flamboyant youngster backed up his undefeated record with a unanimous decision over the MMA star and it’s no surprise he attracted 27,208 attendees on the night –a promotional record. Here, though, he showed guts and character that belied his booming profile and media empire.

The 20-year-old was outworked in the first frame and almost lost a point in the second when he hit Horiguchi low with a thwack that reverberated around Japan’s Saitama Arena. A rally at the death then helped Tenshin earn tallies of 30-29, 29-28, and 30-28.

Round one was a blur of quickfire striking as Horiguchi connected with overhand punches while Tenshin responded in kind with kicks to the calves and head. The drama continued in round two as Tenshin was warned for his low blows. Sensing he was in trouble, the favorite pulled the trigger for the first time, firing a salvo of high kicks and spinning attacks that barely missed the mark. Still, he’d stamped his authority. He’d reminded Horiguchi that kickboxing was his domain.


Tenshin saved his best for last as he finished the deciding round with a rolling thunder kick, following up with punches to the torso and abdomen that sent Horiguchi wobbling towards the ropes. Although the one-time ISKA, DEEP, and RISE titlist had done enough for his 28th professional victory, it’s fair to say the rest are getting closer. Tenshin outscored Rodtang Jitmuangnon by a hair’s breadth in June and this was just as tense.

Miyuu Yamamoto secured an emotional victory in the atomweight co-main event, outpointing Andy Nguyen 12 days after the passing of her brother Kid Yamamoto, one of the greatest lighter-weight fighters of all-time. Yamamoto was in control from start to finish, taking it to the ground and staying patient on top, punching around the guard and keeping her head and arms out of danger.

Mirko Cro Cop, one of the best heavyweight strikers to ever do it, scored a first-round TKO over Roque Martinez, slashing his foe open with an elbow that ended the show. At 44, Cro Cop aims to retire after competing at Rizin’s New Year’s Eve event, potentially against Czech light-heavyweight Jiri Prochazka. Prochazka also won on Sunday, stopping Jake Heun in round one after a rally of malicious boxing.


Two other big men, super-heavyweights Bob Sapp and Osunaarashi, fought to a hilarious standstill with Sapp earning a decision for his first MMA triumph in seven years. Osunaarashi opened with a cluster of hooks and hammer fists around the guard but as both competitors tottered into exhaustion, the match became a glorified staring contest with both men plodding around the ring and gasping for air. Sapp’s wild hooks, thrown without a trace of speed or disguise, just about got him the W.

Elsewhere Deep strawweight king Haruo Ochi stopped Pancrase titlist Mitsuhisa Sunabe in three, closing matters with a body-head combination and soccer kicks. Lightweight Daron Cruickshank put an end to Diego Brandao in two, punishing the Brazilian’s takedown entry with a flying knee that marks his fourth consecutive stoppage.

There was also reason for the Asakura brothers to celebrate, as Kai and Mikuru both savored wins over Tiger Muay Thai competition. Kai, the 24-year-old bantamweight, won every session against Topnoi Tiger Muay Thai, while Mikuru, the 25-year-old featherweight, racked up a unanimous decision over Karshyga Dautbek.

Finally, Manel Kape choked out Yusaku Nakamura in round three of their 130 lbs clash, Ayaka Hamasaki submitted Mina Kurobe in round one of their super-atomweight dust-up, and Taiga Kawabe and Kento Haraguchi drew their 130 lbs kickboxing meeting.

Click here to take in a selection of Alistair Hendrie's work on MMA for The Runner Sports, where he writes blogs, reports and previews

This article was orignally posted on The Runner Sports

Saturday, 29 September 2018

Rizin aims to bounce back with Tenshin-Horiguchi superfight


By Alistair Hendrie

Three years after its first event, Rizin Fighting Federation finds itself in choppy waters and it’s time for Nobuyuki Sakakibara’s Japanese promotion to sink or swim. Ahead of Sunday’s Rizin 13 event at Tokyo’s Saitama Arena, broadcast partners FujiTV are pressuring Sakakibara to deliver strong ratings after Rizin 12 failed to attract half of its target in August. Thankfully, the Japanese CEO has an ace up his sleeve for Sunday: a 127lbs kickboxing main event between 20-year-old wonderkid Tenshin Nasukawa and American Top Team knockout artist Kyoji Horiguchi.

Sakakibara’s decision to place Nasukawa in the main event is a wise one when you consider the crossover appeal and thrilling fighting style of the prodigy simply known as “Tenshin.” If you’ve never watched a Tenshin fight before, expect the unexpected: lead jumping knees, cartwheel kicks and rolling thunders are all on the agenda.

During his meeting with Yusaku Nakamura at Rizin 10 in May, Tenshin corkscrewed in mid-air and smashed his heel into his opponent’s mouth, decking him in the process. Moments later, he glided through the air again, whittling down the distance, and secured a knockout with a flying knee. It’s that kind of athleticism and vocabulary of striking that’s making American media sit up and take notice.


What’s more, there’s a method to his madness – having cut his teeth in the stand-up amateurs with a record of 99-5, he made his professional kickboxing bow at 15 and remains undefeated after 27 pro bouts. That ledger includes upsets over foes such as Wanchalong and Suakim Sit.Sor.Thor.Taew and due to his magnetism and reputation, he’s now one of few Rizin competitors to earn live coverage on FujiTV.

Sakakibara will be all too aware of Tenshin’s skyrocketing fame. The kid’s already a superstar. Think LeBron James in the States or David Beckham in England. In 2017 Tenshin inked a sponsorship deal with the Japanese video game developer Cygames. To put that into context, Cygames also sponsors European football giants Juventus, showing the level of company Brand Tenshin now competes in.

Yet despite his array of magazine features and social media followers – not forgetting his reality TV show on AbemaTV – Tenshin remains grounded and practically lives at Teppen Gym, Matsudo, watched closely by father-turned-coach Hiroyuki. The fresh-faced star won’t be getting carried away with fame and fortune just yet and that will come as a relief to Nobuyuki.


Every superfight needs two dance partners though and Horiguchi, 27, is more than a big enough name to step in. Since leaving the UFC for Rizin in 2017, the Florida-based Gunma native has become Japan’s top MMA fighter (Tenshin focuses on kickboxing despite a 4-0 record in MMA) after a streak of seven victories featuring five finishes.

Think back to Rizin 10, when Horiguchi’s counter hook detonated on Ian McCall’s chin, folding the American in half after nine seconds. Remember, too, in 2017, how he won the Rizin bantamweight grand prix in the dying embers of round three, sinking in an arm-triangle choke against Manuel Kape. Horiguchi might have struggled for rhythm during his verdict over Hiromasa Ogikubo at Rizin 11 in July, but which other 135lb’er holds a more dominant run of stoppages? The UFC’s most powerful bantamweights – TJ Dillashaw and John Lineker – certainly don’t.

However, although Sakakibara is shrewd to make this match-up, Tenshin is a world class kickboxer with a decade of amateur and professional competition –Horiguchi, in short, is nowhere near that standard of kickboxing.

Having taken up karate as a schoolboy, Tenshin fights with a degree of maturity and efficiency beyond his years, holding his left mitt by his temple and his right in front of his chin. He excels in throwing three or four counters at the same speed his rivals throw one, but it’s the way he evades attacks which is almost more impressive. With an air of arrogance, he leans back and watches the strikes slice through the air as they miss their targets by inches. 


Then there’s his work going forward. He picks his strikes beautifully, hammering out jabs, high kicks and uppercuts with no wind-up. Once he senses a finish, he doesn’t let up either. He’ll break opponents down with a head-body salvo of punches and as soon as the recipient begins to double up, he’ll shatter their equilibrium with a knee up the middle.

Tenshin’s closing of range and ability to block, parry and deflect strikes on the inside makes him an overwhelming favourite here. Horiguchi is quick, of course, but his low guard and loose frame look like a recipe for disaster against Tenshin. Of course, although Horiguchi has fought in kickboxing, it’s difficult to assess his credentials in the discipline because he very rarely competes under these rules. 

In that sense the pick is for Tenshin to sap Horiguchi’s spirit by the middle of the second frame and stop him after a series of knockdowns. The favourite, a former child prodigy, benefits from laser-guided focus that will help him avoid complacency against an inferior opponent. If anything, Tenshin is getting better, so all the signals point to a flamboyant display and a violent finish.

From Sakakibara’s point of view this is the ideal spectacle to convince the sceptics and win over the broadcast partners. A Tenshin win would further justify the hype, whereas a Horiguchi success would be one of the biggest upsets in combat sports history, thereby making the UFC look even sillier for dropping him last year. Whatever happens, an all-Japanese crunch match could be just what Rizin needs to get itself out of a rut.

To explore more of Alistair Hendrie's writing on the global MMA scene, buy his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain

This article was originally posted on The Runner Sports

Sunday, 2 September 2018

Who is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world?


By Alistair Hendrie

To determine the best fighter in the world, you need to take into account plenty of factors: form, skill, opposition and dominance, for example. So, if a champion defends his or her crown via a string of finishes, does that equal or better a run of decisions?

It’s a debate which rings around gyms, television studios, offices and of course pubs all over the world, and that’s exactly why Alistair Hendrie Sport will be releasing its pound-for-pound list at the start of every month.

To qualify for the list, a fighter should be considered active, so although Georges St-Pierre, for instance, is one of the most skilled and dominant fighters on the planet, he vacated his middleweight title, leaving him dormant for the moment.

Now that you know the criteria we’re looking for and pre-requisites for entry, take a look at the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists in the world.

September 2018 - Men

1 – Daniel Cormier (USA) (205lbs)
2 – Demetrious Johnson (USA) (125lbs)
3 – Max Holloway (USA) (145lbs)
4 – Stipe Miocic (USA) (265lbs)
5 – Robert Whittaker (AUS) (185lbs)
6 – TJ Dillashaw (USA) (135lbs) (+3)
7 – Tyron Woodley (USA) (170lbs) (-1)
8 – Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS) (155lbs) (-1)
9 – Henry Cejudo (USA) (125lbs) (NE)
10 – Tony Ferguson (USA) (155lbs) (-2)
11 – Jose Aldo (BRA) (145lbs)
12 – Cody Garbrandt (USA) (135lbs)
13 – Rafael dos Anjos (BRA) (170lbs)
14 – Dustin Poirier (USA) (155lbs)
15 – Yoel Romero (CUB) (185lbs)
16 – Robbie Lawler (USA) (170lbs)
17 – Dominic Cruz (USA) (135lbs)
18 – Brian Ortega (USA) (145lbs)
19 – Stephen Thompson (USA) (170lbs)
20 – Frankie Edgar (USA) (145lbs)
21 – Kevin Lee (USA) (155lbs)
22 – Kamaru Usman (NIG) (170lbs)
23 – Francis Ngannou (FRA) (265lbs)
24 – Marlon Moraes (BRA) (135lbs)
25 – Darren Till (GBR) (170lbs)


September 2018 - Women

1 – Amanda Nunes (BRA) (135lbs)
2 – Rose Namajunas (USA) (115lbs)
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (115lbs)
4 – Cris Cyborg (BRA) (145lbs)
5 – Valentina Shevchenko (KYR) (125lbs)
6 – Jessica Andrade (BRA) (115lbs)
7 – Tecia Torres (USA) (115lbs)
8 – Holly Holm (USA) (145lbs)
9 – Raquel Pennington (USA) (135lbs)
10 – Claudia Gadhela (BRA) (115lbs)
11 – Nicco Montano (USA) (125lbs)
12 – Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (115lbs)
16 – Carla Esparza (USA) (115lbs)
13 – Tonya Evinger (USA) (135lbs)
14 – Megan Anderson (USA) (135lbs)
15 – Barb Honchak (USA) (125lbs)
17 – Felice Herrig (USA) (115lbs)
18 – Cynthia Calvillo (USA) (115lbs)
19 – Germaine de Randamie (NED) (145lbs)
20 – Alexis Davis (CAN) (125lbs)
21 – Julliana Pena (USA) (135lbs)
22 – Angela Lee (CAN) (105lbs)
23 – Sara McMann (USA) (135lbs)
24 – Jennifer Maia (BRA) (125lbs)
25 – Liz Carmouche (USA) (125lbs) (NE)

Whether you agree or disagree with our standings, join in the discussion and let us know your pound-for-pound lists on Twitter.

Friday, 24 August 2018

Fight Game FREE CHAPTER: Joanne Calderwood: "It's important to me that Scottish MMA grows"


25-minute read

By Alistair Hendrie

I was dreading flying to Krakow, Poland by myself. I’d only ever flown with friends and family before, so I had no idea where to go or what to do once I arrived at the airport – I’d always just copied what everyone else did. I’d always been slow to pick up new skills so I was worried I’d go to the wrong gate or forget something. Even when I was a child, I was late to begin walking and talking and had a memory like a sieve.

Once I’d landed in Poland, I thought the John Paul II Krakow-Balice International Airport looked a bit like a shed, which didn’t put my mind at rest. Thankfully the driver who took me to my hotel spoke fluent English and was friendly enough. We bonded by chatting about football, although for some reason, neither of us could remember the name of Poland’s most famous player. Black hair. Deadly finisher. Scored thirty a season. I couldn’t think of his name to save my life. We got to the hotel and it came to us – Robert Lewandowski! Only one of the finest strikers on the planet, then.

It was April 2015 and I’d travelled the 1,030 miles from Heathrow to report on UFC Fight Night 64. There was a lot of interest in the heavyweight main event between Gabriel Gonzaga and Mirko Cro Cop. Gonzaga had won their previous meeting in 2007 with a head kick heard all over the globe. However, I was more concerned about chatting with the second British female to enter the UFC, Glasgow’s Joanne Calderwood, who would go up against Maryna Moroz on the night.


Born on December 23, 1986, Calderwood worked as a nurse before focusing on a muay Thai journey that yielded British, European and World titles. Her dynamic fists and feet would make a natural MMA striker, and she turned pro in 2012 before appearing for Invicta, Cage Warriors and, ultimately, the UFC.

She did her talking in the cage and rarely spoke to the media. One of her mottos was: “You don’t have to be loud to be heard,” and when she competed on season 20 of the UFC’s reality series, The Ultimate Fighter, she barely appeared on camera unless she was fighting. I spent a year trying to arrange an interview with her with no luck. She was the most talented, exciting female in Britain at the time, and I wanted to learn what made her tick. I’d get my chance soon enough.

                                                                          ***

Guy Ramsay was one of the most pivotal members of the Scottish fight community, having earned Scottish and World muay Thai titles after practising martial arts for almost 30 years. He had a passion for fighting, and it was he and his partners who developed The Griphouse in Glasgow into the breeding ground for Scotland’s first and finest mixed martial artists. Graduates from the gym include blossoming lightweight Stevie Ray, renowned featherweight Robert Whiteford, and, of course, the one-of-a-kind Calderwood.

So, how significant was Calderwood’s arrival in the UFC? “Oh it’s huge, absolutely huge,” said Ramsay, gushing with pride. “Not just for women’s MMA but for Scottish MMA. A lot of Scottish mentality is quite negative and cynical, so to see her come from not a very advantageous background, move to a rough area in Glasgow and get to the UFC, there’s no secret to it… It’s just hard work. Scottish people can reach the UFC – it’s not a pipedream, it’s a reality. It’s doable and you can realise the dream.”

Talk to Ramsay for any amount of time and you couldn’t help but feel as if life was smiling down on you. He was a sunny-side-up personality, and although we only spoke once, I admired him for how he had a vision of where he wanted to take the sport and never gave up.


“When I was in my early 20s I was training in traditional kickboxing and karate,” said Ramsay, “but then I saw this little Royce Gracie guy and I was like: “Who the hell’s this guy? What’s he got going on?” The early UFC events showcased Gracie submitting far bigger men by using technique over force. The little Brazilian and his family changed martial arts forever, and Ramsay was captivated. He took it upon himself to round up Scotland’s most talented competitors and try to make a go of it.

“I opened the gym with (featherweight) Paul McVeigh because I was stunned some of these guys were still working in regular jobs. I was like: “Paul’s the most talented fighter in the country – what the hell’s he doing working in a coffee shop?” It was the same with (bantamweight) James Doolan – he was stacking shelves in Tesco. I was like: “This is fucking insane, let’s start a gym and see if we can make a living doing this shit”.”

He put it in unusual terms, but eventually Ramsay and his charges in Glasgow were able to make careers for themselves. Ray became one of the most dangerous lightweights in the UFC, while Whiteford, a hard-hitting featherweight, went 3-2 with the UFC. Elsewhere McVeigh won the Cage Warriors bantamweight title and Doolan, another bantamweight, racked up a record of 17-9. However, The Griphouse’s most renowned female product was Calderwood – who later relocated to Tristar MMA in Montreal, Canada.

“It’s quite strange because Jo actually fought two of our girls in muay Thai before she joined our gym around 2006,” said Ramsay. “Even though she beat both girls, I think she saw something in what we were doing as a group or a team. She saw we were trying to develop our fighters, and that’s why she decided to jump ship.”


Still, was it strange for Ramsay to welcome a former opponent into the gym? “It was quite hard for us to corner against her and then take her on board,” he admitted. “But when we started to apply our work to her over the first couple of years, she enjoyed a crazy ascendancy into top level muay Thai. She peaked at 23-0, and it wasn’t as if she was fighting nobodies - she was fighting real, top-quality opposition. She beat Karla Benitez from Spain, a top level muay Thai girl.”

Gina Carano and Joanna Jedrzejczyk stood out in muay Thai before switching to MMA, and Calderwood was no different. “That style Joanne came from is very light and bouncy, and whether it’s kicks, punches or knees, she can bang for days. She’s always got the potential to stop her opponents without a doubt. When she first joined us, like most people back then, her style was a bit all over the place but she’s always had that attitude of wanting to get better – that’s probably the most important part of her mind-set.”

Although Calderwood took to striking like a duck to water, modern MMA is a wide-reaching beast. Both male and female fighters must learn how to strike, grapple on the ground and wrestle against the fence. I’d heard Rosi Sexton and Danielle West talk about how they struggled with exchanging punches, but of course that was where Calderwood excelled. In that case, how did Calderwood unlock grappling techniques?

“She was a stand-up person initially, but as soon as she started to learn basic defence and offence in Brazilian jiu-jitsu she was going to grappling competitions. She travelled the length and breadth of the country with the rest of our Brazilian jiu-jitsu squad, going to both gi and no-gi tournaments. She’s constantly trying to test what she’s got.”

Read more about the professional and personal lives of Britain's finest female MMA combatants with Alistair Hendrie's Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain 

And while West and Sexton developed their skills by training with males, it was the same deal for the Scottish strawweight. “A lot of the smaller girls we have sometimes think: “Oh, this is so hard”, but Joanne was always the smallest one in sparring, rolling and padwork. I think that’s one of the reasons why smaller fighters have the better technique, because they can’t coast. They have to get it right. I think that’s a big part of Joanne.”

Calderwood made her MMA debut in February 2012 at On Top 4 in Glasgow. She took out Noelia Molina by knockout – what else? – in round one. She had the advantage of entering MMA in the YouTube age, so she had already built a following before joining up with the UFC. However, finding competitive match-ups for her, Ramsay admits, was a challenge.

“The girls weren’t there – that was it. She was already at such a high level that there wasn’t a Scottish or English fighter out there for her – it was constantly foreign opposition like we’d brought in for her in muay Thai. At the time On Top were friends of ours so they were prepared to say: “It’s going to cost us but we’ll bring someone over for Jo to fight.” If it wasn’t for guys like them and Cage Warriors taking the risks, we wouldn’t be where we are today.”

Ramsay also mentioned The Griphouse’s wider coaching staff when charting Calderwood’s growth: “When Doolan and McVeigh went across to Thailand they came back with some really cool striking techniques. Joanne was a part of that coaching process and after a while, Doolan took over a lot of her coaching. It’s the people you’re surrounded by that make you a better fighter. You can take in all the information but if you don’t have a team to try it against, or you don’t have anyone to give you that environment, that’s very much a key structure that makes that happen.”


Indeed, MMA training had moved on from when West struggled to gain respect at Stratford Judo Club. And when you see how much Calderwood developed at The Griphouse, it’s incredible to think that Kelli Salone travelled to California to learn boxing from an old man clutching a bottle of whiskey. Today, MMA stands in the mainstream and, of course, Scotland has provided plenty of success for British fans.

“A while ago we were talking about all these crazy things that young girls and boys want,” said Ramsay. “The thing that struck me about Calderwood is that she said: “All my friends had a My Little Pony and that kind of shit, whereas I had a pull-up bar in my room.” This is someone who from day one wanted to fight. She’s got the mental potential to be an incredible fighter. You don’t get to tick all the boxes as a fighter – if you’re lucky, you can be successful as a seven out of ten. But there’s a few fighters who are an eight, nine or ten out of ten. Joanne is one of those.”

                                                                          ***

One of my favourite things to do when writing this book was finding out more about the newer fighters on the scene. I loved discovering hot prospects from Britain and expanding my knowledge of the world of women’s MMA. YouTube was my friend at the time, and it was there that I came across Calderwood’s three round beatdown over the Austrian, Livia von Plettenberg, at Invicta 4 in 2013. 

Although her rival took the bout on ten days’ notice, I was stunned by the range of strikes Calderwood was able to land. Jedrzejczyk was the more powerful and gifted fighter, but Calderwood threw different types of strikes and looked at muay Thai as if it was an art. Her style of combat reminded me of Jon Jones, only she was female, a foot shorter and Scottish.

A Calderwood kick snapped von Plettenberg’s head back in round one and the Irvine-born fighter scored knees and fluid one-twos in round two. Again, the third was all Calderwood as she marched forward, dipping into her endless vocabulary of strikes. Credit to von Plettenberg, who never gave up, but nobody could doubt the scores of 30-26 (twice) and 30-27 in favour of Calderwood.


I shut my laptop, processing what I’d just seen. I was stunned. I tried to keep in mind that von Plettenberg was a late replacement, but I was sucked in by Calderwood’s level of timing, speed and accuracy in the stand-up department. West and Sexton began very much as grapplers, but Calderwood – along with Kate Jackson - was the first British female to enter MMA with such esteemed striking credentials.

I was determined to interview Calderwood. We messaged each other for a few weeks on social media, and I fell into the familiar routine of daydreaming at my office, wondering whether or not this fighter or that fighter would have replied to me by the time I’d checked my mobile during my break. After a while, her replies became the same – “Yeah, we’ll speak soon.” “I can speak to you in a bit.” She was always friendly but whenever I pushed to arrange an interview, she’d turn to silence. I felt like giving up after a while.

By 2014, Calderwood was 8-0 and had made her way to the UFC by way of series 20 of The Ultimate Fighter. The show followed Calderwood and 15 other strawweights as they moved in together and took part in a tournament to decide the UFC’s first women’s strawweight champion. Adding to the mix, lightweight king Anthony Pettis and challenger Gilbert Melendez would coach the women in opposing corners, with Calderwood on Pettis’s team.


Emotions ran high in the house as Team Melendez began to fall apart, with Bec Rawlings and Angela Magana striking up a feud with their team-mate, Heather Jo Clark. Calderwood, ever the introvert, avoided the playground bullying and reached the semi-finals where she was submitted by Milwaukee’s Rose Namajunas.

In the end, Carla Esparza won the belt against Namajunas, but the show’s finale was more memorable for Calderwood’s decision over South Korea’s Seo Hee Ham. In something I’d never seen before in a women’s fight, Calderwood landed a push kick to the face, pinging Ham’s head back and drawing gasps from the Las Vegas crowd. Indeed, for an MMA athlete to even think of throwing a push kick to the face – let alone land one – was almost unheard of. More importantly, Calderwood was still undefeated, Esparza was then brutalised by Jedrzejczyk, and a Polish-Scottish clash was on the cards if Calderwood beat Moroz.

                                                                          ***

Once I’d left the taxi driver who forgot Lewandowski’s name, I checked in to our Krakow hotel and met my MMA Plus colleague for the week, Jorden Curran, an excellent broadcast journalist who harboured a love for the comedian Peter Kay. Jorden was hilarious company throughout the trip, although he did keep me awake every night because of his relentless quoting of Kay.

It seemed my journalistic career was heading on the same upward trajectory as Calderwood’s fighting career. I’d met Roberto Reid, the owner of MMA Plus, at a BAMMA Fight Night card in Liverpool and we hit it off immediately. He was passionate about mixed martial arts and kickboxing. I was flattered when he said he enjoyed my work and wanted me on board as a reporter. Soon enough, I’d agreed to cover UFC Fight Night: Krakow for his website. Finally, my first UFC event as press. This was all I ever wanted from my career and to make the journey even more worthwhile, Calderwood’s bout with Moroz was announced. Game on.

On the Wednesday afternoon, we attended the fighters’ media scrums at the Tauron Arena. A huge, circular block sitting by the Vistula River, the arena commanded respect and stood out for miles. Once we walked upstairs to the press suite, I looked out of the window towards the interior bowl. I saw the empty UFC Octagon beneath me. “I’ve made it,” I thought, and so had Calderwood.


By the time I’d got round to speaking to Joanne I’d already interviewed Ray, so I’d got rid of the on-camera interview jitters. At first, I couldn’t believe how tiny Calderwood looked hunched up in a black hoody with a black trucker cup obscuring her eyes. She’s billed at 5 foot 7, but I reckon she’s a lot smaller. Or maybe it was just because she was sitting between two man mountains in Gonzaga and Jimi Manuwa.

Despite her reserved appearance, Calderwood was friendly and wore a smile throughout our interview. “I know what everybody else knows about Moroz,” she said. “She’s got good submissions, she’s got four armbars in the first round and she’s going to be dangerous going into her UFC debut. She’s going to want to make a statement, but I’m looking forward to Saturday.”

I’d heard that last phrase so many times in the last hour as the fighters – champing at the bit to make weight – trotted out well-worn clichés. Don’t get me wrong, the access journalists get during a UFC fight week is excellent, but I’d become used to hearing the same platitudes over and over again. However, I’d come all this way, so I was keen to dig into Calderwood’s background and secure more material for my book.

“I got to a point in my muay Thai career where I couldn’t keep working full-time as a nurse and training on top of that,” she told me. “It was so hard. But Guy (Ramsay) gave me a job at the gym so I could fight full-time, and I haven’t looked back since. Quitting my nursing job meant taking a pay cut, but that didn’t bother me – as long as I made enough money to take my career to the next level that was fine by me. The next step was convincing my mum. At first she was like: “Whoa, what are you doing?” But now she supports my career one hundred and ten per cent.”


I’d heard the same story from Kate Jackson, whose parents didn’t want her to take up fighting as a career. I thought this would be the time to dive into the controversy of singling out women from men in MMA. After all, every woman I spoke for this book revealed their battle for acceptance.

So, did Calderwood want to act as a female role model, and did she want to attract more young girls to MMA? She raised her eyebrows. “Not just girls,” she shot back with a wry smile. “I’d like to get more people into MMA, but it doesn’t have to be just girls. But it’s important to me that the scene in Scotland grows and it would be a dream come true to be a part of that.”

Ten minutes later I’d finished my first interview with “JoJo” and we shook hands. I wished her good luck for Saturday and told her I was writing a book on women’s MMA in Britain. I didn’t want her to think that I viewed women’s MMA as some kind of novelty. Calderwood laughed and apologised for rolling her eyes at my questions.

The Glasgow 115lb-er would be in no mood for laughs on Saturday when taking on Moroz though. The reigning champion, Jedrzejczyk, would be watching at cageside and Moroz brought a strong jiu-jitsu game, excellent armbars and a knack of finding success from the bottom. Whichever you looked at it, it was a classic striker versus grappler conundrum - the muay Thai weaponry of Calderwood against the maze of submissions from Moroz.


Eventually, Calderwood’s title dreams would come crashing beneath her by way of another Moroz armbar in round one. Watching from press row, the action flashed before me in what felt like the blink of any eye. Joanne started tentatively, playing chess with the jab. Nothing out of the ordinary then. But suddenly, a volley of hooks from Moroz backed her up to the fence. Quickly.

Calderwood got tied up in the clinch and, with the speed of a cat, Moroz pulled guard and hurled herself to the mat, causing a thud which travelled to my desk a couple of feet away. With Moroz on her back, Calderwood tried to wrench herself up. No use. The armbar was clamped on. With only ninety seconds gone, Calderwood tapped. It was a devastating defeat. I was beginning to wonder if I’d ever see a British woman win live.

While Moroz celebrated by shouting across the floor at Jedrzejczyk, Calderwood missed the post-fight presser and the media started an inquest. Here was one of the best strikers in the strawweight division, a semi-finalist on The Ultimate Fighter, losing to a UFC debutant.

Why didn’t Calderwood pull the trigger from the off? Was she mentally prepared? Had her visit to Allstars MMA in Sweden done her more harm than good? As I boarded the plane back to Heathrow the next morning, I struggled to process the questions over Calderwood’s career in my mind. I was hooked on MMA and it was beginning to take over my life. It wasn’t long before I reported on another UFC event.

                                                                          ***

Sometimes I felt like my forgetfulness was a jinx, so you could imagine my annoyance when I arrived at Glasgow airport in June 2015 without my debit card. I was looking forward to covering Scotland’s first ever UFC event, headlined by Michael Bisping against Thales Leites, so leaving my card at Heathrow was far from the best start to the trip. I rang my MMA Plus colleague, Andreas Georgiou, who agreed to let me transfer him some cash and withdraw it from his card. What a relief. After all, what are friends for? That hiccup aside, it was time to cover another show and await Calderwood’s crunch match with the late replacement, Cortney Casey-Sanchez.

It was the first time “JoJo” had fought in her home country since April 2013 and she was hot property with the local press. At Wednesday’s media day the queue to interview her snaked to the back of the room. She told me she was “gutted” that her original opponent and rival from The Ultimate Fighter, Bec Rawlings, had pulled out of the bout injured.

“Bec’s not a nice person and she didn’t come across well on the show,” she said. “Everyone who watched it saw that. At first when she pulled out I was gutted. I was like: “What?” Everyone was looking forward to the fight. But I’m done worrying about it and I’m kind of thinking: “Fuck it, as long as I’m on the card that’s the main thing.” I actually wouldn’t mind fighting any of her TUF team-mates. I’d like to punch all of them.”


Not only did Calderwood have the local crowd putting their dreams in her hands, she was now the number one British female. It was new territory for her with Sexton and West retired and Jackson still fighting with Cage Warriors. I thought about the pressure she must have been feeling, especially for someone who shied away from the spotlight.

Then there was the danger of Casey-Sanchez stepping in at the last minute. “I think she’ll be more dangerous than Bec and I’m actually looking forward to it,” countered Calderwood. An excellent amateur, Casey-Sanchez developed with the Tuff-N-Uff promotion before winning grappling tournaments against the likes of Esparza. “From everything I’ve seen she’s a good fighter and I’m looking forward to Saturday. I see it being a pretty fast-paced fight but we’ll have to wait and see what happens. I’m sure it will be a good fight.”

If Calderwood was relaxed, Casey-Sanchez was so cool she was almost horizontal. Dressed in a pink fleece and ripped blue jeans, she laughed and joked with journalists who, with all due respect, had probably never heard of her until the UFC had signed her two weeks earlier. Andreas and I walked over her, with me on camera duties.

“Do you want to sit down, just to get into the shot more?” I asked her. “No,” she smiled back. “I’m good.” “Fair enough, but you’re almost nose to nose with Andreas,” I thought. Ever the professional, Andreas carried out the interview standing close enough to lock lips with the UFC’s latest recruit. You could cut the awkwardness with a knife, yet Casey-Sanchez refused to step backwards.


“When the UFC comes you have to take it,” she said, gazing deeply into Andreas’s retinas. “These kinds of moments don’t come often so you have to take them. At first I thought it was short notice, but I was like, hey, it’s the UFC, so here I am.” We finished the interview and as soon as we were a safe distance away, Andreas and I exchanged looks of horror. “Was that weird for you then?” I asked him. Andreas nodded: “Very.”

By now, I felt at home reporting on live UFC events, and I was pleased to catch up with the friends I’d made on previous press trips. Once I’d taken my seat on press row at the SSE Hydro, the atmosphere was red hot as Whiteford and Ray both grabbed wins. What would else would make it a perfect night for the Glaswegians? A Calderwood win.

As Grant Waterman, the referee, stood between the fighters Casey-Sanchez hopped up and down in her corner directly in front of me. I loved the intimacy of being cageside. You could see every punch land. You could hear the fighters gasp for air. You could almost feel every leg kick as if it were slapping against your own shin. There really is nothing quite like it.

Calderwood got off to the worst possible start as Casey-Sanchez pulled guard and came very close to sealing an armbar. “For fuck sake,” I thought, “not again”. Still, the home favourite pulled off a series of scrambles and the pair ended up exchanging hammer fists in a 50/50 position. It became a chess match on the ground as the Scottish fans belted out: “Let’s go Jo Jo!”


However, Calderwood gained control of the contest in the middle round with a series of lovely, measured muay Thai rallies. As she began to land strikes at will, the Glasgow crowd almost took the roof off. The SSE Hydro holds 13,000 but because its walls are so tall, the audience sits on top of the cage, adding to the frenzied atmosphere. I’d covered shows in Glasgow and Dublin – not a Conor McGregor fight – and I have to say although both crowds were electric, on this night Glasgow produced levels of decibels I don’t think I’ll hear again.

By round three, Calderwood looked as if she could have run through walls for her home nation. Jabs, leg kicks, spinning back kicks, Calderwood threw everything and looked a class above. She ended up on top and despite a flurry of hammer fists, Casey-Sanchez hung in there. Calderwood came through with scores of 30-27 (twice) and 29-28 and her nation loved her for it.

The press conference felt surreal. Bisping was the biggest name in British MMA, and although he’d just outscored Lietes, it was the three Scots – Calderwood, Ray and Whiteford – who everyone wanted to speak to. It’s worth mentioning that they all spoke with the kind of humility and passion that Ramsay radiated. Whiteford called the night a dream and expressed his pride at what he and his colleagues had done for Scottish MMA. As I watched Rob and Ray pose for photos standing either side of the UFC’s most successful British female, I couldn’t help thinking Ramsay would be proud too.

With its intimate take on the growth of the scene, landmark moments and the personalities within the sport, FIGHT GAME is an inspiring tale of dedication, sacrifice and, ultimately, acceptance. 

Tuesday, 14 August 2018

UFC icon Georges St-Pierre is shrewd to target winner of Nurmagomedov-McGregor


By Alistair Hendrie

Georges St-Pierre, the former UFC welterweight and middleweight king, recently told Joe Rogan that only three things in life turn him on: “Money, women, and dinosaurs.” Although the latter vice may be hard for many to understand, the first two are slightly more reasonable. Regarding GSP’s love of money, “Rush” is one of the most astute businessmen in the game, a wise old head at 37 years old who will only take the most lucrative bouts available. He doesn’t fight for a love of the sport. He doesn’t fight as an outlet for aggression. He fights to secure his and his family’s future.

That’s why his comments earlier this week, revealing his interest in tackling the winner of Conor McGregor and Khabib Nurmagomedov, are so intelligent. Indeed, the victor of the October 6 UFC 229 main event – a lightweight blockbuster with Khabib’s belt at stake – represents the most financially attractive contest for St-Pierre, especially considering his inactivity and reluctance to risk his faculties unless the money is right.

Look at it this way: McGregor headlined four of the UFC’s five highest-grossing pay-per-views, while Nurmagomedov’s UFC 223 showcase against Al Iaquinta in April generated a gate of $3m, setting a record for sporting events at Brooklyn’s Barclays Center. Clearly, fans will fork out to watch “Notorious” and “The Eagle.” Money talks and as such, St-Pierre has used all of his nous to ensure he’s primed to face the next 155 lbs champion.


After all, the Canadian legend is no stranger to raking in the dough, he has earned an estimated $7m in purses over 22 contests with the UFC since 2004. St-Pierre may be minted, then, but his affinity for cash isn’t to do with any airs or graces. It’s more to do with security, safety, and a need to prop up his loved ones later on in life.

St-Pierre against either of the UFC 229 headliners would do huge numbers regardless of its location. Imagine ice hockey chants ringing around the Bell Centre in Montreal; picture throngs of Irish fans singing their hearts out at Dublin’s Aviva Stadium; or, alternatively, think of Nurmagomedov’s passionate fans in Russia. St-Pierre and UFC President Dana White know a super fight when they see one, and this could be exactly what the pound-for-pound great needs to convince him to return.

Truth be told, there’s not much else out there for St-Pierre. Consider the welterweight scene, which St-Pierre ruled in two stints between 2006 and 2013. Today’s 170 lbs king, Tyron Woodley, will defend his title against Darren Till on September 8 at UFC 228. His last two defenses – both by decision, over Demian Maia and Stephen Thompson – failed to get the heart racing and drew more boos than acclaim, leaving him tumbling down the pecking order in the GSP sweepstakes.


Till, too, would be a silly matchup for the former titlist. The Brit is a huge welterweight at six-foot and rather than just clearing up at welterweight, Till has more recently revealed his plans to target the middleweight and light-heavyweight straps. Moreover, given that UFC 228 will be Till’s US debut, it’s unlikely St-Pierre will pick such a wildcard for his return.

Whatever GSP’s next move is, though, you can bet it will be exciting. The Tristar mainstay shocked the world when he submitted Michael Bisping for the middleweight prize last year, and St-Pierre appears to have relaxed with age. He now looks more comfortable with a mic in his hand and prior to the Bisping clash, offered more of his impish, cutting trash talk.

Added to that, which MMA fan wouldn’t want to see St-Pierre challenge for a third title? A shot at lightweight gold, if the UFC allows it, would entail a strict diet and a gradual weight cut, but the sacrifices would be worth it. If St-Pierre can make his way back to the octagon, cement a record third UFC belt, and set up his funds for life, he’ll achieve a sense of closure which few mixed martial artists can hold claim to.

This article was originally posted on The Runner Sports in August 2018. Sample all of my The Runner Sports work here

Wednesday, 8 August 2018

UFC 227 Blog: Should Dillashaw rematch Cruz after shutting down Garbrandt again?

By Alistair Hendrie

TJ Dillashaw asserted his dominance over Cody Garbrandt at UFC 227 on Saturday night, short-circuiting his rival inside a round for the second time to hold onto his world bantamweight title. That win strengthens his case as being the best 135lb’er in history and as such, Dillashaw’s next outing is paramount. Get it right, and he enriches his legacy. Get it wrong, and his heralded run of form – eight wins from nine - could blow up in his face.

A rematch with Dominick Cruz, the former champion who edged their first meeting on the cards in 2016, could be the only obstacle standing between Dillashaw and eternal greatness. After all, Cruz, who has taken the switch-hitting style to the next level, is a legend with scalps over the likes of Urijah Faber and Demetrious Johnson in two UFC title reigns.

In July Cruz announced doctors have cleared him to compete after suffering a broken arm in November 2017. That said, with Cruz returning from a stint on the periphery of the sport, is now the right time for a rematch with TJ? On one hand, fans would flock to a second episode of the rivalry, while Cruz would certainly stir up publicity with his trash-talk and wise cracks. Indeed, as well as being one of the trickiest boxers in the UFC, the Alliance MMA mainstay is a master of psychological warfare who always finds a way to rile up his opponents.

A rematch would not only give Dillashaw a chance to avenge another defeat – which he did against Rafael Assuncao in 2016 – it would represent a historic meeting between luminaries with two of the best fight IQs in MMA. It would be fascinating to see if Dillashaw could catch Cruz like he did Garbrandt, and it would be gripping to watch him attempt to coax Cruz into a brawl.

Moreover, despite Cruz’s lay-off of almost two years, let’s not forget how the UFC granted Conor McGregor a lightweight championship shot despite his 22 months away from the Octagon. It’s clear, then, that the UFC is dedicated to money-spinning mega-fights which put reputations on the line. 


There’s another argument that Cruz should be made to wait, though. Five of his six UFC bouts have been for a title and, let’s face it, his last victory was in June 2016 over a shopworn Urijah Faber. When the UFC insists on rekindling bygone confrontations in favour of emerging talent, it runs the risk of stalling the division.

In light of that, judging by form, Marlon Moraes could be the next contender for Dillashaw. The New Jersey-based Brazilian, an explosive striker with excellent timing, is in a destructive vein of form after stopping Rivera in June with a sledgehammer of a head kick. Then there’s Assuncao, another Brazilian, who also deserves a tilt at Dillashaw more than Cruz.

The wildcard, though, is the newly-minted flyweight king Henry Cejudo, who shocked the world at UFC 227 by outpointing Johnson in a thriller full of drama, twists and intrigue. Cejudo – who only made his MMA debut in 2013, a year into Johnson’s six-year reign – is a world-class wrestler, an Olympic goal medallist in that discipline, and both Cejudo and TJ stressed their desire to square off in their post-fight interviews.

Whoever Dillashaw faces next, it’s difficult to imagine the UFC bantamweight landscape without Cruz leading or at least challenging at its summit. Boasting some of the best footwork and conditioning in the sport, Cruz brought new eyes to the division thanks to his dominance in the WEC and the UFC, not to mention his barbs with Faber. His track record means the UFC could justify giving him a chance to retain the title he’s just lost, but make no mistake about it: the race for number one contender at 135lbs is now a close-run thing.

This article was originally posted on The Runner Sports in August 2018

Monday, 30 July 2018

Who is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world?

By Alistair Hendrie

To determine the best fighter in the world, you need to take into account plenty of factors: form, skill, opposition and dominance, for example. So, if a champion defends his or her crown via a string of finishes, does that equal or better a run of decisions?

It’s a debate which rings around gyms, television studios, offices and of course pubs all over the world, and that’s exactly why Alistair Hendrie Sport will be releasing its pound-for-pound list at the start of every month.

To qualify for the list, a fighter should be considered active, so although Georges St-Pierre, for instance, is one of the most skilled and dominant fighters on the planet, he vacated his middleweight title, leaving him dormant for the moment.

Now that you know the criteria we’re looking for and pre-requisites for entry, take a look at the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists in the world.

August 2018 - Men

1 – Daniel Cormier (USA) (205lbs) (+2)
2 – Demetrious Johnson (USA) (125lbs) (-1)
3 – Max Holloway (USA) (145lbs) (-1)
4 – Stipe Miocic (USA) (265lbs)
5 – Robert Whittaker (AUS) (185lbs)
6 – Tyron Woodley (USA) (170lbs)
7 – Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS) (155lbs)
8 – Tony Ferguson (USA) (155lbs)
9 – TJ Dillashaw (USA) (135lbs)
10 – Jose Aldo (BRA) (145lbs)
11 – Cody Garbrandt (USA) (135lbs)
12 – Rafael dos Anjos (BRA) (170lbs)
13 – Dustin Poirier (USA) (155lbs) (+5)
14 – Yoel Romero (CUB) (185lbs) (-1)
15 – Robbie Lawler (USA) (170lbs)
16 – Dominic Cruz (USA) (135lbs)
17 – Brian Ortega (USA) (145lbs) (+1)
18 – Stephen Thompson (USA) (170lbs) (+1)
19 – Frankie Edgar (USA) (145lbs) (+1)
20 – Kevin Lee (USA) (155lbs) (+1)
21 – Kamaru Usman (NIG) (170lbs) (+1)
22 – Francis Ngannou (FRA) (265lbs)
23 – Marlon Moraes (BRA) (135lbs)
24 – Darren Till (GBR) (170lbs)
25 – Colby Covington (USA) (170lbs)

August 2018 - Women

1 – Amanda Nunes (BRA) (135lbs)
2 – Rose Namajunas (USA) (115lbs)
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (115lbs)
4 – Cris Cyborg (BRA) (145lbs)
5 – Valentina Shevchenko (KYR) (125lbs)
6 – Jessica Andrade (BRA) (115lbs)
7 – Tecia Torres (USA) (115lbs)
8 – Holly Holm (USA) (145lbs)
9 – Raquel Pennington (USA) (135lbs)
10 – Claudia Gadhela (BRA) (115lbs)
11 – Nicco Montano (USA) (125lbs)
12 – Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (115lbs)
16 – Carla Esparza (USA) (115lbs)
13 – Tonya Evinger (USA) (135lbs)
14 – Megan Anderson (USA) (135lbs)
15 – Barb Honchak (USA) (125lbs)
17 – Felice Herrig (USA) (115lbs)
18 – Cynthia Calvillo (USA) (115lbs)
19 – Germaine de Randamie (NED) (145lbs)
20 – Alexis Davis (CAN) (125lbs)
21 – Julliana Pena (USA) (135lbs)
22 – Angela Lee (CAN) (105lbs)
23 – Sara McMann (USA) (135lbs)
24 – Jennifer Maia (BRA) (125lbs)
25 – Liz Carmouche (USA) (125lbs) (NE)

Whether you agree or disagree with our standings, join in the discussion and let us know your pound-for-pound lists on Twitter.

Sunday, 15 July 2018

World Cup 2018: French outwit Croatia in thrilling World Cup final


By Alistair Hendrie

In a World Cup brimming with late drama, unforgettable goals and seismic upsets, would the final between France and Croatia live up to expectations? It certainly did. France emerged from 90 minutes of mayhem to win 4-2, clinching their second World Cup since their inaugural triumph in 1998 on home soil. Didier Deschamps’ men may be more functional than flamboyant, but that doesn’t matter when you have the burly Raphael Varane putting his body on the line in defence, the ice-cool N'Golo Kante anticipating every passage of play in midfield, and Kylian Mbappe sprinting past opponents with ease in attack.

At 2-1 down on the hour, Croatia drove forward with the kind of intensity that helped them overcome England and Russia after extra-time and penalties. Ivan Perisic should have gambled to convert Ivan Rakitic’s cross, while the unflappable Varane intervened when Perisic was through on goal again. Once France bagged a third though, through Paul Pogba’s deft finish, chaos ensued in a period which yielded three goals in ten minutes. The second of those came from France too, Mbappe slamming home to make it 4-1. Still the madness continued. France goalkeeper Hugo Lloris gifted Croatia a lifeline on 68 minutes, when Mario Mandzukic capitalised on the shot-stopper’s indecision to block the ball into the net from six yards.

Although France will savour their fourth trophy in a major tournament, it seems ironic that on a night when Mbappe became the first teenager to score at a World Cup final since Pele in 1958, Lloris on the other hand committed an error which may haunt him for the rest of his career. Individual performances aside, France were deserved champions, fending off the adventure and verve of Belgium in the semi-finals and Croatia in the decider. With that, Deschamps follows Mario Zagallo and Franz Beckenbauer in grasping the World Cup as a player and a manager.



Croatia can come again, though. Zlatko Dalic’s men played with a fierce togetherness throughout their stint in Russia, with Perisic and Ante Rebic in particular scampering after lost causes as if their lives depended on it. Judging by that kind of fight and endurance, it’s no surprise Croatia scored four goals in the 90th minute or later on their way to the final. And although the talismanic Luka Modric, 33, may be coming to the end of his international career, Mandzukic, 32, is Croatia’s only other outfield regular who is over 30. A tilt at the 2020 European Championships beckons.

It was the Croatians who started the final the brighter, Perisic and Ivan Strinic sending early balls from the left towards Mandzukic. Ivan Rakitic, the Croatian central midfielder from Barcelona, looped a ball toward the penalty area but Perisic’s lunge was short by perhaps an inch or two.

Against the run of play, France struck first. Varane skipped across Antionne Griezmann’s arcing free kick, coaxing Mandzukic into heading beyond Daniel Subasic and into his own net. Although Perisic equalised with a volley inside the right-hand post, Griezmann’s penalty put France ahead for a second time. VAR had a defining say. After a video review from referee Nestor Pitana, Perisic was adjudged to have handled Griezmann’s corner. Although Perisic was too close to the flight of the ball to be guilty of a deliberate offense, that didn’t bother Griezmann, who showed nerves of steel to send Subasic the wrong way.


Croatia festered with a sense of injustice. Tremors of thunder filled the air. A pair of streakers bounded onto the playing area. Suffice to say, the second half was all a bit barmy. France found themselves 4-1 up in a flash, Pogba and Mbappe each converting from 20 yards out on 58 and 64 minutes. Pogba’s finish was as assured as it gets, the Manchester United midfielder finding the bottom right-hand corner and wrong-footing Subasic. Mbappe’s was a peach. The gifted 19-year-old trapped Varane’s squared delivery, nudged the ball out of his feet and slammed hard and true into the bottom left corner of the net in one swift, graceful movement. The world is at his feet as they say, and comparisons with Thierry Henry are beginning to look more justified with each passing week.

As Croatia ran themselves into the ground looking for a way back, spaces yawned all over the pitch for both sides. Then came Lloris’s howler for 4-2. The French number one shimmied one way and inexplicably turned back towards Mandzukic, who couldn’t believe his luck as the ball ricocheted off his left boot and into an empty net. It was a calamitous piece of play from a veteran in Lloris who should know better.

That error, thankfully enough, didn’t have a bearing on France’s coronation as world champions. Instead it was Mbappe’s incisive runs that we’ll remember – his slalom around the outside of Domagoj Vida was particularly breath-taking. Griezmann’s deliveries were as reliable as ever, as the Atletico Madrid goal-getter continues to cement his reputation as one of the world’s most complete forwards. Elsewhere, Varane mopped up everything in his wake, directing play with optimum composure. Sure, Deschamps side didn’t provide as much entertainment over the last month as Croatia or Belgium – or perhaps even the hosts – but that won’t weigh on the minds of the French as they lift the trophy.

Learn about another one of the World Cup's star teams - Belgium - with Alistair Hendrie's blog on how the Red Devils taught England a lesson in attacking football

Saturday, 14 July 2018

World Cup 2018: Belgium down inexperienced England side to land third place




By Alistair Hendrie

England aren’t used to flying home from a World Cup this late. Their stay in Russia came to an end on Saturday as they were defeated 2-0 by Belgium in the third place play-off, and although this setback won’t hurt as much as their 2-1 reverse to Croatia in the semi-finals, it will go a long way to show Gareth Southgate how much his side need to improve if they are to advance further at the European Championships in 2020.

This was England’s longest stay at a World Cup since 1990 in Italy, where they also finished fourth, but Belgium’s greater quality of resources underlined the marker that has been set for Southgate and his young, inexperienced and hungry side. Eden Hazard tormented the English defence with pesky dribbling and sudden bursts of pace, the Chelsea winger slotting under Jordan Pickford to wrap up the victory on 81 minutes. Another Premier League gem, Manchester City’s Kevin De Bruyne, set teammates free with his range of passing and speed of thought. And although the introduction of Jesse Lingard and Marcus Rashford at half-time provided England with much needed verve and spark, they rarely looked capable of a comeback after Thomas Meunier netted with three minutes gone.

In hindsight, despite the celebratory mood of the last month, it’s easy to forget this Three Lions side still consists largely of young pups. For instance, Dele Alli and Ruben Loftus-Cheek are both only 22; Rashford is still just 19. Furthermore, England’s back three in St Petersburg of Harry Maguire, John Stones and Phil Jones had 72 caps between them, whereas Belgium’s defence – Toby Alderweireld, Vincent Kompany, Jan Vertonghen and Meunier – had 297.

That perhaps fails to excuse an insipid performance from England in their farewell outing. Harry Kane was stilted and absent for long periods. Raheem Sterling, so talented yet so frustrating, was indecisive. The underdogs sat back and let Belgium have the ball, Hazard and De Bruyne directing traffic and attempting to slide in Romelu Lukaku. On a more positive note, Kieran Trippier bent and whipped balls across Thibaut Courtois’ goal with malice, while Eric Dier almost equalised with a dink that was hacked off the line at the last moment by Alderweireld.



The Red Devils took the lead when Hazard crossed low for Meunier, who wriggled goalside of Danny Rose to poke in from six yards. It was an untidy finish, but the pace of Hazard’s delivery made the goal. Belgium thrived from thereon in, De Bruyne looking for Lukaku at every chance. After one such move, Lukaku fluffed his first touch when bearing down on goal and the Manchester United man would regret how he allowed Pickford to intervene.

As Jones struggled to track Hazard, and Belgium’s Nacer Chadli left the game injured for Thomas Vermaelen, Belgium settled in a rhythm and knocked the ball around with the confidence and arrogance of future tournament winners. Some would bet heavy money on them to lift the trophy at Euro 2020. Indeed, keep in mind Germany won the 2014 world cup after finishing third in 2010.

After De Bruyne embarrassed Stones with a nutmeg, England created their best chance of the match on 69 minutes. Rashford wrong-footed every yellow-shirted defender on the pitch with a diagonal ball that set Dier through with an unobstructed path to goal. The Tottenham Hotspur man steadied himself with a touch and floated an audacious chip over Courtois, Alderweireld sliding in on the line to prevent a goal that would have swung the tie in England’s favour.


Having scored the decisive penalty against Colombia in the second round, Dier was suddenly a genuine goal threat. He headed wide, and should have done better, after an improvised cross from Lingard. Although Trippier’s deliveries were handing England hope, Belgium took advantage of how the game opened. Meunier pinged Pickford’s fingers back with a volley, while Hazard settled matters on 81 minutes, darting across Jones and side-footing beyond Pickford with a finish of composure and skill under the circumstances.

It might feel patronising to hail this England team as a group of rookies who huffed and puffed against more seasoned opponents. “Didn’t they do well?”, and all that. We should remember that England avoided the likes of Spain, Brazil and Germany – a quirk which to be fair they had no influence over – and these last two defeats will provide Southgate with more conundrums than clarity. How can the team create more from open play? How can Southgate coax the best from Sterling?

Still, the likes of Maguire and Trippier look tailor-made for international football, while Kane can always be relied upon to score goals. Added to that, Jack Wilshere’s transfer to West Ham could revitalise his career and offer Southgate another option. Youngsters such as Ademola Lookman and Ryan Sessegnon should also be on the radar soon. Perhaps in 2020 we’ll be looking at a team of proven class rather than simmering promise.

To take in more of Alistair Hendrie's insight into the world of British sport, buy his Kindle book, Fight Game: The Untold Story of Women's MMA in Britain

Thursday, 5 July 2018

Who is the best pound-for-pound MMA fighter in the world?

By Alistair Hendrie

To determine the best fighter in the world, you need to take into account plenty of factors: form, skill, opposition and dominance, for example. So, if a champion defends his or her crown via a string of finishes, does that equal or better a run of decisions? Should Conor McGregor top the list despite his inactivity, or should Tyron Woodley set the pace regardless of a couple of boring fights?

It’s a debate which rings around gyms, television studios, offices and of course pubs all over the world, and that’s exactly why Alistair Hendrie Sport will be releasing its pound-for-pound list at the start of every month.

To qualify for the list, a fighter should be considered active, so although Georges St-Pierre, for instance, is one of the most skilled and dominant fighters on the planet, he vacated his middleweight title, leaving him dormant for the moment.

Now that you know the criteria we’re looking for and pre-requisites for entry, take a look at the pound-for-pound best mixed martial artists in the world.

July 2018 - Men

1 – Demetrious Johnson (USA) (125lbs)
2 – Max Holloway (USA) (145lbs)
3 – Daniel Cormier (USA) (205lbs)
4 – Stipe Miocic (USA) (265lbs)
5 – Robert Whittaker (AUS) (185lbs) (+2)
6 – Tyron Woodley (USA) (170lbs)
7 – Khabib Nurmagomedov (RUS) (155lbs) (+1)
8 – Tony Ferguson (USA) (155lbs) (+1)
9 – TJ Dillashaw (USA) (135lbs) (+1)
10 – Jose Aldo (BRA) (145lbs) (+1)
11 – Cody Garbrandt (USA) (135lbs) (+1)
12 – Rafael dos Anjos (BRA) (170lbs) (+1)
13 – Yoel Romero (CUB) (185lbs) (+1)
14 – Francis Ngannou (FRA) (265lbs) (+1)
15 – Robbie Lawler (USA) (170lbs) (+1)
16 – Dominic Cruz (USA) (135lbs) (+1)
17 – Dustin Poirier (USA) (155lbs) (+1)
18 – Brian Ortega (USA) (145lbs) (+1)
19 – Stephen Thompson (USA) (170lbs) (+1)
20 – Frankie Edgar (USA) (145lbs) (+1)
21 – Kevin Lee (USA) (155lbs) (+1)
22 – Kamaru Usman (NIG) (170lbs) (+1)
23 – Marlon Moraes (BRA) (135lbs) (+1)
24 – Darren Till (GBR) (170lbs) (+1)
25 – Colby Covington (USA) (170lbs) (NE)

July 2018 - Women

1 – Amanda Nunes (BRA) (135lbs)
2 – Rose Namajunas (USA) (115lbs)
3 – Joanna Jedrzejczyk (POL) (115lbs)
4 – Cris Cyborg (BRA) (145lbs)
5 – Valentina Shevchenko (KYR) (125lbs)
6 – Jessica Andrade (BRA) (115lbs)
7 – Tecia Torres (USA) (115lbs)
8 – Holly Holm (USA) (145lbs) (+1)
9 – Raquel Pennington (USA) (135lbs) (-1)
10 – Claudia Gadhela (BRA) (115lbs)
11 – Nicco Montano (USA) (125lbs)
12 – Karolina Kowalkiewicz (POL) (115lbs)
16 – Carla Esparza (USA) (115lbs) (+3)
13 – Tonya Evinger (USA) (135lbs) (-1)
14 – Megan Anderson (USA) (135lbs) (-1)
15 – Barb Honchak (USA) (125lbs) (-1)
17 – Felice Herrig (USA) (115lbs)
18 – Cynthia Calvillo (USA) (115lbs)
19 – Germaine de Randamie (NED) (145lbs)
20 – Alexis Davis (CAN) (125lbs)
21 – Julliana Pena (USA) (135lbs)
22 – Angela Lee (CAN) (105lbs)
23 – Sara McMann (USA) (135lbs)
24 – Jennifer Maia (BRA) (125lbs)
25 – Marion Reneau (USA) (135lbs)

Whether you agree or disagree with our standings, join in the discussion and let us know your pound-for-pound lists on Twitter.

Tuesday, 12 June 2018

UFC 225 Blog: Six bouts to make after Whittaker-Romero 2 in Chicago

By Alistair Hendrie

UFC middleweight titlist Robert Whittaker toughed out a decision over Yoel Romero at UFC 225 in Chicago on Saturday, displaying guts, heart and tenacity to battle on despite suffering a broken hand in round one.

The Australian, whose opponent missed weight by 0.2lbs so therefore couldn’t win the belt, weathered a late storm after building a lead with precise kicks to the body and lead leg.
Indeed, Whittaker’s kickboxing prowess made all the difference.

The 27-year-old fired out strikes to the face and sternum in rounds one and two as his rival kept his guard high, aiming to counter with wild hooks.

Still, Romero found his range in round three, hammering Whittaker’s head with a barrage of crosses and hooks at close quarters. It got worse for Whittaker in the fourth, when he was wobbled by a counterpunch on the break.

Sensing an opportunity in the deciding frame, Romero, whose right eye was swollen shut, clinched a knockdown with another counter that Whittaker never saw coming. The champion sagged forwards, his faculties scrambled. Romero dove in with ground and pound, but “Bobby Knuckles” managed to cling onto a single, recover, and earn a second verdict over the Cuban.

With Colby Covington also defeating Rafael Dos Anjos to claim the UFC interim welterweight strap in the co-main event, let’s cast an eye over six fights which could happen after this weekend’s UFC 225 showcase.


Robert Whittaker – Kelvin Gastelum 

After Whittaker broke his hand in the Romero rematch, the Sydney-based banger may not compete again this year. It seems he can’t catch a break. After all, it’s the second time Whittaker has broken his hand in a UFC bout, while in the last two years he has endured further lay-offs because of a knee injury and a staph infection.

Regardless, when he does defend his championship for the first time (he was promoted from interim titlist in December 2017), King’s MMA’s Kelvin Gastelum should be next in line. Fresh from outlasting Rolando Souza in May and separating Michael Bisping from his senses in November 2017, the Californian is an unpredictable striker who looks rejuvenated after returning to the 185lbs argument two years ago.

Interestingly, although both Robert and Kelvin are former welterweights, Whittaker still holds physical superiority over the rising contender, boasting a two-and-a-half inch reach advantage and a three inch height advantage. Expect this bout to happen early next year.

Yoel Romero – Patrick Cummins 

Although “Soldier of God” was moments away from upsetting Whittaker at the death, his second defeat to the champion – and his second instance of missing the 185lbs mark in his last three encounters – should spell a step up in weight class.

At 41, while Romero is as fit as they come, he shouldn’t be in the business of depleting his reserves any more than necessary. In fact, at the UFC 225 post-fight press conference, UFC president Dana White said he’d encourage Romero to relocate to light-heavyweight.

Patrick Cummins, then, could welcome the former Olympian to 205lbs. The 37-year-old counts luminaries such as Jan Blachowicz and Gian Vilante among his victims but Romero’s speed and clout would nevertheless cause him problems.


Colby Covington – Tyron Woodley 

After Covington overwhelmed Dos Anjos with kicks at range, well-placed takedowns and an unrelenting output of strikes, the American now stands as the UFC’s interim 170lbs leader, which means a unification battle with Tyron Woodley should be in the making any time soon.

Normally a stoic picture of calmness, it will be interesting to see if Woodley reacts to Covington labelling himself as the real champion. “The Chosen One” used to train with Covington at American Top Team in Coconut Creek, Florida, and is a concussive striker who has risen to the cusp of pound-for-pound greatness thanks to verdicts over Stephen Thompson (twice) and Demian Maia.

However, Covington imposed his arsenal of striking on Maia last year and is in the midst of a six-fight win streak. Added to that, the American fights at a pace which Woodley might not be comfortable with and Covington would inevitably raise the stakes in mental warfare ahead of this crunch match.

Rafael Dos Anjos – Stephen Thompson 

Despite a disappointing result at the weekend, Dos Anjos remains an elite 170lbs stand-out and he still has unfinished business in one of the UFC’s most vibrant weight classes.

In that case, a bout between Dos Anjos and Stephen Thompson would make sense, preferably at the UFC’s next trip to New York in November. Would Dos Anjos be able to crack Thompson’s light-footed, side-on karate stance? Could the Brazilian force “Wonderboy” to exchange fire?

It would be a tough ask, but remember how Dos Anjos demolished stand-up merchants such as Anthony Pettis and Robbie Lawler at close range.

Holly Holm – Amanda Nunes

How do you solve a problem like Holly Holm? The Jackson-Winkeljohn mainstay, a former UFC 135lbs queen, earned a unanimous decision at featherweight this weekend over Megan Anderson, but Holm still sits at 1-2 in her last three outings at her natural bantamweight home.

Despite her move to a new weight class and her lack of form at bantamweight, that hasn’t silenced calls for Holm to tackle the dominant 135lbs champion, Amanda Nunes. “The Lioness” tweeted: “Let’s go @HollyHolm” after UFC 225, and seeing as both women shot to stardom after downing the UFC’s latest Hall of Fame inductee, Ronda Rousey, the UFC would be wise to match these two.

The fans want it and more significantly, so does Nunes. The women’s 135lbs scene is bereft of up-and-coming prospects, so why not pit together these two stalwarts of women’s MMA?


Megan Anderson – Cindy Dandois 

When Megan Anderson was slated to face Cris Cyborg in 2017 for UFC featherweight gold, the Australian was lauded for her size, power and her potential ability to close the distance and deck Cyborg with uppercuts, crosses and hooks.

However, that bout never materialised and instead Anderson made her promotional debut this weekend, suffering a wrestling clinic at the hands of Holm. The former Invicta champion struggled to recover her guard when on the bottom and, frankly, looked out of her depth on the mat.

With the featherweight division in need of new blood, Cindy Dandois, boasting three victories on the bounce, could renew her rivalry with Anderson after submitting her in 2015 with a triangle choke. After all, Dandois deserves a second chance in the UFC given her current vein of form, crafty transitions on the ground and valuable training with the likes of Miesha Tate. 

Gain more insight into the career of Yoel Romero with my report of his previous bout against Luke Rockhold at UFC 221.