Broner – Maidana #2 Almost Inked; Canelo Opts for Angulo; Sherdog’s Submission of the Year; Sherdog’s Fight of the Year

broner maid14

Adrien Broner gets Maidana rematch  

By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Adrien Broner, who got knocked down twice, badly roughed up and lost his welterweight title to Marcos Maidana by clear unanimous decision on Dec. 14, wants to try his luck with the Argentine slugger again.   Broner exercised his contractual right to a rematch on Friday, Golden Boy Promotions chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com.

“My mind is set on war,” Broner told ESPN.com on Friday. “I had a bad night. He was the better man that night, but he didn’t beat me. He outhustled me. I respect everything. I respect him. But I’m ready to go back to war and get my belt back.   I’m taking boxing back to what it used to be. They created a monster. (The loss) woke up a monster.”

Schaefer said he thinks the fight will be either April 19 or April 26, and will take place at the StubHub Center in Carson, Calif., or San Antonio’s Alamodome, site of the December fight.

Although the underdog, Maidana, one of boxing’s biggest punchers, stormed to Broner in the first round and never let up during a dramatic fight of the year candidate.   Maidana (35-3, 31 KOs) let his power shots fly and knocked down Broner (27-1, 22 KOs) in the second and eighth rounds, bloodied his nose and dished out a lot of punishment in the 117-109, 116-109, 115-110 victory.

“I think the first fight was a helluva fight and a fight of the year candidate,” said Schaefer, who originally said at ringside after the fight that there was no rematch clause but corrected his mistake Friday.

“Adrien is still very young, and he wants to set the record straight. And for Maidana, I am sure he is licking his chops to get his hands on Broner again.

“I don’t think there was much love between those two before the fight, during the fight or after the fight. I know we can expect fireworks again in the lead up to the fight, at the press conferences and during the fight. As a fight fan, I am excited. I can’t wait.”

Maidana, who won a world title in a second weight class, put on such an impressive performance that he was prominently mentioned as a possible May 3 opponent for pound-for-pound king and fellow welterweight titleholder Floyd Mayweather Jr., Broner’s idol.   However, with Broner, 24, of Cincinnati, exercising his rematch clause with Maidana, 30, that almost certainly locks up the Mayweather fight for England’s Amir Khan, the former junior welterweight titlist.

Schaefer declined Friday to comment on the status of the Mayweather fight.   Broner, who suffered the first loss of his career, also holds a lightweight title, but he has no intention of returning to that division or dropping down to the junior welterweight division.

“I wanted to go right back to camp after the fight, but I knew my body wasn’t able to go to camp physically,” Broner said. “But mentally I wanted to box. I know what I gotta do in the rematch and I will do it. It will be a different outcome. I am starting to get myself ready. It’ll be another good fight. I gotta go get mine back.”

Broner, who was making his first defense after winning the welterweight belt in June by decision against Paulie Malignaggi, said he got over the loss quickly and was buoyed by support with daily phone calls from Mayweather, whom he calls his “big brother.”

“I got real people in my corner,” Broner said. “And I’m not going to change no trainers. It has nothing to do with the trainer. My trainer (Mike Stafford) can’t fight for me. I have a helluva coach. He’s one of the best in the world. So I took a loss. But my check was amazing.”

While Maidana would prefer a more lucrative, higher-profile fight with Mayweather, manager Sebastian Contursi understands the rematch option.   “We are open to hear offers as always, and Broner may be of them, I guess,” Contursi told ESPN.com.

“All we know is Maidana has earned the right to fight for big money after his impressive win over Broner and after being one of the most attractive fighters out there in the last few years. … But if Golden Boy and Al Haymon (adviser to Maidana, Broner and Mayweather) think a rematch with Broner is the best option, we will wait for their offer.”

Said Broner: “The rematch will have a different outcome guaranteed. I’m happy for (Maidana). I want him to have his 15 minutes of fame. At the end of the day, nobody is talking about his victory. They are talking about Adrien Broner’s loss. Some people don’t even know who I lost to. They just know I lost.”

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canelo 14

Alvarez, Angulo set March 8 bout  

By Dan Rafael | ESPN.com

Former junior middleweight titleholder Saul “Canelo” Alvarez, whose decision loss to pound-for-pound king Floyd Mayweather Jr. in September set the all-time pay-per-view revenue record, is ready to return to the ring.   Alvarez will face brawler and Mexican countryman Alfredo “Perro” Angulo on March 8 in the main event of a Showtime PPV card at the MGM Grand in Las Vegas, Golden Boy chief executive Richard Schaefer told ESPN.com on Thursday, minutes after Angulo signed his contract.

Alvarez had already signed for the fight, Schaefer said.   “The fight is done. Signed, sealed and delivered,” Schaefer said. “Both guys are excited and ready to put on a show. These are two Mexican warriors and two of the most exciting fighters in the sport and it will be a toe-to-toe battle. That is what we are calling the card, ‘Toe to Toe.'”

Alvarez and Golden Boy had already announced March 8 as one of the three dates that Alvarez intends to fight on this year — the others are July 26 and Nov. 22 — but they locked in Angulo as the opponent over the other candidates, junior middleweight titlist Carlos Molina (22-5-2, 6 KOs) and interim titlist Erislandy Lara (19-1-2, 12 KOs), who scored a knockout win against Angulo last summer.   There had been heavy discussion in recent days that Angulo would get the fight, mainly because Alvarez told Mexican media members that Angulo was his preferred opponent of the three, but the deal was not finalized until Thursday.

The 23-year-old Alvarez (42-1-1, 30 KOs), Mexico’s most popular active fighter, lost a majority decision — although most viewed the fight as one-sided — to Mayweather at the MGM Grand on Sept. 14 in the richest fight in boxing history.   Because of Alvarez’s popularity with Hispanic fans, he was hugely responsible for the event’s success. It sold 2.2 million pay-per-view subscriptions, second-most all time, but raked in an all-time record $150 million in domestic pay-per-view revenue.

Among other records the fight set was for the biggest live gate in boxing history, $20,003,150, from the sold-out crowd of 16,146.   That’s why, despite the one-sided defeat, Schaefer has no qualms about putting Alvarez back on pay-per-view as a headliner. With the 31-year-old Angulo (22-3, 18 KOs) as the opponent, fans figure to get an action-packed fight.   “Canelo is a huge star, so going on pay-per-view was not an issue,” Schaefer said. “You see it when he goes somewhere in Los Angeles or Mexico. He has that charisma where people are drawn to him. I saw that in San Antonio in December when he came to the (Marcos Maidana-Adrien Broner card). The ovation he got was crazy. People embrace him. The fans go nuts, the females love him. You win some and you lose some. He had his first loss against Mayweather, the best fighter in the world, and there is no shame in that.   But just because you lose to Floyd doesn’t mean you lose. He’s been exposed to so many people because of it, and that increased exposure is a good thing for Canelo and his career.”

Angulo has been in several slugfests, although he lost his last fight, getting stopped in the 10th round by Lara in an interim title fight on June 8 in Carson, Calif. Angulo knocked Lara down twice, in the fourth and ninth rounds, but suffered serious damage to the orbital bone by his left eye and quit because of the injury during the 10th round of the brutal fight.

“His eye is fine. He was cleared about six weeks after the fight with Lara and he didn’t need surgery,” Michael Miller, Angulo’s manager, said. “He’s very excited and he’s looking forward to fighting Canelo. People know they’re going to get a helluva show no matter who wins. Nobody will be a loser that night because it’s going to be a memorable fight I believe.   Angulo is going to hit Canelo and we’ll see what he can do when he gets by a big puncher.”

Alvarez had hoped for a showdown with Puerto Rican star and former three-division titleholder Miguel Cotto, and Schaefer made him an offer of more than $10 million for the bout. However, Cotto (38-4, 31 KOs) declined the offer, instead electing to fight in New York on June 7, which is on the weekend of the city’s annual Puerto Rican Day parade, and pursue a fight with middleweight champion Sergio Martinez, which is being negotiated.

Schaefer said he is working to finalize three other bouts for the “Toe to Toe” pay-per-view broadcast.   If Schaefer get the deal done, junior featherweight titlist Leo Santa Cruz (26-0-1, 15 KOs) would defend his belt in a mandatory defense against former two-time junior bantamweight titleholder and Mexican countryman Cristian Mijares.(49-7-2, 24 KOs), who has won two fights in a row since losing a split decision to Victor Terrazas for a vacant title in April. Santa Cruz then knocked out Terrazas in the third round in his first defense to win the title on Aug. 24.   Schaefer is also hoping to finalize a pair of lightweight bouts. In one fight, interim titlist Omar Figueroa (22-0-1, 17 KOs) would make his first defense against Ricardo Alvarez (23-2-3, 14 KOs), Canelo’s older brother.   Figueroa won the vacant interim belt in July by outpointing Nihito Arakawa (24-3-1, 16 KOs) in a savage fight of the year candidate and has not fought since. Neither has Japan’s Arawaka, who would return to face former junior lightweight and featherweight titlist Jorge Linares (35-3, 23 KOs) — a Venezuelan who lives in Japan — in the opener of the pay-per-view.

“When they have these infomercials on TV and you are ready to dial the phone and buy the product, I want this card to be an infomercial for the sport of boxing,” Schaefer said. “You announce the main and people get excited. But you say, ‘But wait, there’s more.’ I don’t have all three of these fights done yet, but I am working to get them done.   “It’s one of those cards where you can be proud of putting it on because you know when people turn on the TV you know they are going to be entertained.”

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fitch vs burkman

Sherdog.com’s 2013 Submission of the Year

By Jordan Breen

www.sherdog.com

A reputation takes a lifetime to build and seconds to destroy. In the case of Josh Burkman’s revenge on Jon Fitch, it took 41 seconds, to be precise.

Over a decade, Fitch diligently worked his way up the ranks to become an Ultimate Fighting Championship title challenger and one of the best 170-pounders to ever put on the gloves. Along that journey, he developed a reputation for being nearly impossible to submit and more precisely, in the words of his American Kickboxing Academy training partners, “unchokeable.” Time and time again in Fitch’s hard-wrestling career, he would stick his neck where it did not belong and escape unscathed.

Not on June 14. Not at World Series of Fighting 3. Then and there, Burkman buried “Unchokeable Fitch” in less than a minute and authored Sherdog.com’s “Submission of the Year” for 2013.

Fitch and Burkman were not strangers. They had met back in April 2006, in an undercard bout on a UFC Fight Night event headlined by Stephan Bonnar and Keith Jardine. The upstart Fitch, in his second UFC appearance, used his grinding style to perfection, wearing down Burkman and rear-naked choking him for the tap with three seconds left in the second round. It was an early signpost on Fitch’s way to an eventual UFC welterweight title shot and establishing himself as one of the best 170-pounders in MMA history.

Even so, seven years is a long spell period, never mind in the MMA universe, where time can often fly in mind-bending ways. In June, a Fitch-Burkman rematch was not a UFC product but that of fledgling WSOF. Fitch was controversially released from his Zuffa contract after he was manhandled by Demian Maia at UFC 156 in February. Meanwhile, Burkman — a fighter who had bitten the dust in the UFC in late 2008 after losing four of five — was an impressive 7-1 since his release and was fresh off a devastating beatdown of fellow UFC veteran Aaron Simpson seven weeks earlier.

The circumstances of the rematch were quaint, but in spite of recent performances, Burkman was a +300 underdog; and certainly, if there was a submission to be had, it would be snatched by Fitch. It was not that Fitch had never been tapped out before; he lost his pro debut in July 2002 by rear-naked choke to Mike Pyle — coincidentally, also in Las Vegas — at 205 pounds. That incarnation of Fitch was a novice with little submission experience competing two weight classes above where he would come to shine. The fighter into which Fitch morphed, on paper, seemed to have a copacetic style to wear down Burkman and potentially tap him on any occasion.

So it was that the American Kickboxing Academy fighter tried to pressure Burkman immediately, obviously hoping to get him on the mat quickly, tire him out and proceed as he had in their first encounter years earlier. Just 20 seconds into the bout, Fitch backed up Burkman to the cage and reached for the clinch behind a lazy right hook. He missed, giving Burkman the chance to fire a left hook that grazed him and then a right hook that dropped the former Purdue Boilermaker wrestler on the canvas.

Their first fight suddenly seemed like a lifetime ago, perhaps not even important. Burkman’s experience showed, flurrying on Fitch intelligently. When Fitch rolled into a desperate takedown attempt, Burkman did not continue flailing or take the bait by trying to turn the corner and take Fitch’s back. Instead, he quickly worked a front headlock, sinking the blade of his right forearm under Fitch’s neck and standing up to finish.

Fitch had defended many a choke before and not all of them with perfect technique. Part of what made him so historically hard to tap was his ability to combine the solid technical grappling taught to him by Dave Camarillo with the hard-nosed tactics that might be ill-advised for most but are an important part of the MMA landscape. For instance, we know that it is not “correct” to slam one’s way out of an armbar — ask Jon Jones about it, perhaps — but we understand the value in slamming a man, instantly wrecking his offense and forcing him to the defense.

In this split second, with his head still ringing and his fighting autopilot taking over, Fitch tried to elevate the Utah native. He clasped his hands around Burkman’s thighs and tried to slam his way out of danger. Unlike so many other times, he failed dramatically.

“Right when I went on my back, I pretty much knew that I had the choke, especially being able to get around that angle and trap his leg,” Burkman told the Sherdog Radio Network’s “Beatdown” program. “Then I felt him fight it and then I felt him go limp, and when he went limp, I just wanted to make sure that he was out. When I really tightened it, he didn’t move and he just fell into it. I knew he was done.”

Fitch turned around Burkman’s body 180 degrees but could not elevate it. Burkman sucked him flat to the mat, the oxygen running slower and slower to his brain. Burkman landed in half guard, but he did not fret. In the same expert vein as Urijah Faber or Jake Shields, “The People’s Warrior” torqued Fitch’s head and neck to the inside, turning his left hip over for the necessary leverage. Fitch had no say in the matter anymore; he was unconscious.

“When he grabbed my leg, I knew that his hands weren’t in the right place to fight the choke and I knew I could sink it in by falling to the angle,” Burkman said. “I was in the moment and it just felt right.”

Fitch could only confess afterwards.

“I got a little overconfident in my choke defense,” he said. “He locked it in too tight. It was a mistake on my part. I should have fought the choke right away.”

As for the finish … yes, we really should discuss the finish. It all happened so fast. Twenty seconds of feeling out one another was followed by an almost equal measure of sudden insanity. Did Burkman really just drop Fitch? Did Burkman really just follow up and choke Fitch unconscious? Usually, it is the victim’s conceding tap or the referee’s intervention that snaps us back to reality, letting us know that this potential mirage is in fact concrete reality.

Fitch was out cold, so there was no tap. Referee Steve Mazzagatti had, unfortunately, not accurately diagnosed the situation. On this night, Burkman was the sole arbiter of the cage. He rolled Fitch’s limp body onto his back, let him flop onto the canvas and then stood over his supine foe. For a moment, Burkman stared out into the Las Vegas crowd with palpable intensity, as if laser beams would shoot forth from his eyeballs. Instead, he thrust his right fist straight in the air in jubilant defiance, his monument on the grave of “Unchokeable Fitch.” Despite the moment looking like pristine badassery, Burkman rolling over Fitch and relinquishing the choke on his own was predicated on something much more decent.

“Seeing him with his wife and his kid, there’s a person outside of this sport and people who love them and care about them,” Burkman said. “I would hate for my wife or my kids to ever have to see me in a bad position and [an opponent] make it worse. That was a big reason for letting go.”

While inappropriate, it seemed fitting that his 20 seconds of shock-and-awe even paralyzed the referee. Fitch went more than a decade without being submitted and did not pass that time by fighting scrubs. In his 18-fight UFC tenure, Fitch spent just under four combined hours in the Octagon, defending all 27 official submission attempts tallied by FightMetric. Who knows how many more submissions-in-chrysalis he shut down with punches to the face from top position?

It was a brilliant submission for a host of reasons, not only because it came against a great grappler with a penchant for escaping submissions. A guillotine choke does not necessarily seem like a great candidate for the top submission in any given year, yet this was a holistic MMA submission. In a straight grappling match, the odds of Burkman half-guard guillotining Fitch are fairly negligible. However, this is MMA. Burkman dropped Fitch, instinctively and fluidly transitioned into a wrestling position he had trained his entire life and then took a perfect calculated risk, spitting in the face of historical precedent. It was also one of the year’s most notable upsets — a genuine MMA moment.

This guillotine was not Burkman’s first brush with a “Submission of the Year.” Back in 2007, he was on the receiving end of Dustin Hazelett’s award-winning diving armbar in the UFC — a win that was supposed to represent the ascent of a young grappling ace over a respectable veteran. Six years later, Hazelett is retired and Burkman is taking year-end laurels for choking out a man who not long ago was a pound-for-pound stalwart.

However, the greatest moment in Burkman’s career was not an omen of breakout success. Four months later, at WSOF 6 in Coral Gables, Fla., Fitch and Burkman were both back in action, with hopes of setting up a rubber match between the two. Fitch squeaked by Brazilian Marcelo Alfaya by split decision, while Burkman was choked unconscious by a fourth-round triangle from Steve Carl in a bout for the promotion’s inaugural welterweight crown.

Burkman’s quick stumble only reminds us how difficult it is to find consistent success in MMA and reinforces the impressive nature of Fitch’s “untappable” run. Stumble or not, for a brief moment in time, Burkman found himself on the right side of history, the right side of this year’s finest submission.

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jones vs gustafson 14

Sherdog.com’s 2013 Fight of the Year

By Tristen Critchfield

www.sherdog.com

Jon Jones and Alexander Gustafsson shared the stage at UFC 165.

The picture began making the rounds not long after their five-round classic at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto on Sept. 21, 2013. It was something like a modern-day mixed martial arts version of the hospital encounter between the fictional Rocky Balboa and Apollo Creed following their first boxing match on the silver screen.

Jon Jones, his swollen visage resembling that of someone who had just had an unfortunate encounter with a beehive, rested comfortably on a gurney next to a smiling Alexander Gustafsson, who a few hours earlier came closer than any previous opponent ever had to defeating the Ultimate Fighting Championship’s reigning 205-pound champion.

Close did not result in a title belt for the talented Swede, but he gained plenty in pushing Jones to his physical limit. Now the clear-cut No. 2 light heavyweight in the world, Gustafsson’s drive for the top spot is empowered by the confidence that he can compete with the sport’s pound-for-pound king. Much like Apollo and Rocky, Jones and Gustafsson forged a mutual respect for one another through caged combat at its highest level. A rematch would seem to be a foregone conclusion, although both men face different challenges in their immediate future.

For now, the initial meeting between Jones and Gustafsson at UFC 165 stands out as Sherdog.com’s “Fight of the Year” for 2013. It had a little bit of everything: high stakes, back-and-forth action, drama and a dominant champion enduring the crucible of his most worthy challenger to date.

“I’ve been asking for a dogfight for a long time, and I finally got that dogfight I was looking for,” Jones said. “Tonight was a blessing in so many ways. I got the victory, and I got to prove a lot to myself. I’m not satisfied. I’ve got to do a lot of work in the gym to improve my game.”

Jones had rarely been tested since capturing the light heavyweight crown with a third-round stoppage of Mauricio Rua at UFC 128. Sure, there were a couple of tight spots against Lyoto Machida and Vitor Belfort, but even those moments were fleeting at best, as Jones recovered to post lopsided triumphs in both instances. For the most part, the Jackson’s Mixed Martial Arts standout appeared to be an impenetrable blend of reach, creativity and wrestling. Thanks to his dominant run of victories over the likes of Ryan Bader, Rua, Quinton Jackson, Machida, Rashad Evans, Belfort and Chael Sonnen — he finished all but Evans — many believed that “Bones” had already surpassed Georges St. Pierre and Anderson Silva in the pound-for-pound hierarchy.

Enter Gustafsson, whose 6-foot-5 frame and 81.5-inch reach were heavily promoted as UFC 165 approached. How would Jones fare against an opponent who could look him directly in the eye? Oddsmakers were not nearly as impressed, however, as the champion was as much as a -1000 favorite. While clearly a promising talent, Gustafsson’s most notable victory had been a three-round verdict over a faded Rua at UFC on Fox 5. His other triumphs inside the Octagon — Jared Hamman, Cyrille Diabate, James Te Huna, Matt Hamill, Vladimir Matyushenko and Thiago Silva — were solid but not spectacular.

“It’s the UFC’s job to promote with something,” Jones said prior to the fight. “It’s factual [that] we are both two really tall guys. We both have very similar builds. One of the stories of my career has been the fact that I’m so much bigger than everybody else. This is a great fight for me to break a record [for most light heavyweight title defenses], and a great fight for me to prove that this record is earned and really had nothing to do with my physique. This is going to give my mind more credit.”

It quickly became apparent that Jones, who made a living out of bullying foes with his Greco-Roman wrestling, was not going to easily overwhelm Gustafsson. The New York native failed on his first takedown attempt within the bout’s opening 30 seconds. That turned out to be a recurring theme: Jones landed just one of 11 takedown attempts on the night. Gustafsson, after finding his range with right hands and opening a cut over Jones’ right eye, cemented his legitimacy as a title challenger by landing a takedown late in the frame; it was the first time Jones had been dumped on the canvas in his UFC career.

“I think it’s the whole evolution of his game that helped him not allow Jones to set his takedowns up,” said Gustafsson’s trainer, Eric Del Fierro. “His boxing is bar none probably the best in the sport right now. You hit these little short angles that people aren’t noticing; it’s a lot harder to take these guys down. Wrestling in MMA, sometimes it’s predictable. We can see certain things that we can counter and build Alex’s defense on, but he’s such a phenomenal athlete and just a hard worker that even if he doesn’t have the perfect technique, he’ll work his way out of it.”

When in doubt, Jones had always been able to revert back to his wrestling. Take the Machida fight, for example. After a shaky first round in which he absorbed a few solid shots from his Brazilian opponent, Jones switched gears, took down “The Dragon” and sapped his will to compete with vicious elbows on the canvas. Shortly thereafter, he choked Machida unconscious.

Without that reliable weapon, Jones was forced to stand with a foe he could not keep at bay through reach alone. While Gustafsson was able to consistently find a home for his punches, Jones went to work with a varied arsenal of kicks. Still, it was the Swede who appeared to be getting the better of the standup exchanges. The proof was in Jones’ increasingly swollen face.

“This is the most he’s ever been hit inside the Octagon by strikes,” UFC commentator Joe Rogan observed in the third stanza.

Heading into the championship frames, there was a very real possibility that Jones was down on the judges’ scorecards. The situation grew even direr as Gustafsson began teeing off with combinations in the fourth round, gradually worsening the cut over Jones’ right eye. With his back against the wall, Jones turned to another tried-and-true weapon: his elbows. Unlike his wrestling, this approach did not fail. A perfectly timed spinning back elbow landed squarely on Gustafsson’s forehead late in the round. Jones followed up with a series of knees on his suddenly reeling adversary. Somehow, Gustafsson wobbled his way through the rest of the period.

“It’s safe to say I had some desperation,” Jones said. “Alexander was very game, and that guy definitely has a chin on him.”

Jones continued to fight with a sense of urgency in the fifth round, landing repeated kicks to Gustafsson’s head. The champion finally secured his first takedown at the three-minute mark, but the Swede quickly returned to his feet. Jones remained on the offensive, continuing his head-kick assault before closing the fight with a flying knee as time expired.

In the end, Jones’ charge over the course of the final 10 minutes proved to be the difference: Judges Richard Bertrand and Douglas Crosby scored it 48-47 for Jones, while Chris Lee submitted a 49-46 tally for the champion. All three judges awarded Gustafsson the opening round. Crosby also gave the Swede round two, while Bertrand gave him the third. Still, there was no question that a new star had arrived in the light heavyweight division.

“It’s just an honor for me to fight the champ,” Gustafsson said. “He’s the champ for a reason. I will learn from this and come back much stronger. I’m just starting my career, and I have tons of fights to do.”

Gustafsson is right. He is only 26 years old, with a wealth of physical tools at his disposal. There will be plenty more fights to come. We can only hope that a return date with Jones is one of them. As UFC President Dana White said at the UFC 165 post-fight press conference, “Who doesn’t want to see that rematch?”

 

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