Tuesday, 30 October 2018

Here's why UFC 230's Daniel Cormier is pound-for-pound number one before UFC 230

By Alistair Hendrie

If you think Daniel Cormier’s heavyweight title defense against Derrick Lewis on Saturday is a foregone conclusion, you’re not the only one. Every major oddsmaker has the champion as the favorite for this weekend’s UFC 230 headliner. Odds for a DC win range from -700 to -800 and don’t forget this is when he’s about a face a man tied for the most knockouts in UFC heavyweight history with 10. Still, analyze Cormier’s pound-for-pound credentials and you’ll see why everyone is backing him.

DC became the pound-for-pound best fighter on the planet in July when he stunned Stipe Miocic in a round to add the heavyweight title to his light-heavyweight crown. It took him to 6-1 NC in his last seven bouts and was one of the biggest upsets in UFC heavyweight history, especially when you consider Cormier hadn’t fought in the division since 2013. Factor in Demetrious Johnson’s flyweight title loss to Henry Cejudo in August and the inactivity of featherweight king Max Holloway, and Cormier sits alone at the top of the rankings. So, ahead of UFC 230, let’s cement Cormier’s argument for standing at number one.

First, his form is better than any other male UFC belt-holder. Since May 2015, he’s won six title contests, more than any other male in the UFC. Johnson and welterweight Tyron Woodley are his closest pursuers with five, while Miocic has four. What’s more, DC is smashing through his adversaries, decking Miocic with a close-range elbow and mauling Volkan Oezdemir on the ground in round two in January. He also leads finishes in title fights since April 2017 with three. His followers? Johnson, Holloway, and bantamweight TJ Dillashaw with two.

A former Strikeforce heavyweight grand prix champion, Cormier also has longevity in his favor. He made his debut in 2009 and 14 months later, he upended future UFC standout Sol Palalei before stopping Antonio Silva and outscoring Josh Barnett in 2011. It’s worth noting that both of the latter were larger and more experienced than Cormier, too.

Later, in 2015, the 39-year-old stood at 15-0 and 4-0 in the UFC before Jon Jones shattered his undefeated ledger, and aside from a second reverse to Jones in 2017 (overturned to a no contest when “Bones” tested positive for Turinabol), that remains Cormier’s only blotch on his record.

His knack for staying at the top, evidenced by his latest figures of 21-1-1 NC, also helped him become only the second man to hold two UFC titles at once, and the fifth man to win two separate UFC belts. All that considered, Daniel holds a longer period of dominance than any active fighter other than perhaps stablemate and lightweight champion, the undefeated Khabib Nurmagomedov.

Form and longevity aside, the American has only opposed the best –that strengthens his place at the top spot. He counts a litany of former Pride, Strikeforce, and UFC champions among his victims such as –wait for it– Barnett, Dan Henderson, Frank Mir, Anderson Silva, and Miocic. Quite the roll call, then.

It has to be said, Cormier’s ascent to pound-for-pound greatness is the biggest selling point for Saturday’s main event at Madison Square Garden. He has never lost when starting as the favorite and added to that, Lewis only competed last month at UFC 229, battling through three rounds of hell before stunning Alexander Volkov in the dying seconds. Conventional wisdom favors Cormier, then, and the mixed martial arts world will be eager to see whether or not he can hold off the likes of Johnson and Holloway and remain at number one.

This article first appeared on The Runner Sports. Read more Alistair Hendrie's coverage for the site here

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