UFC returns to Atlantic City

UFC is returning to Atlantic City for the first time since 2005 for an event on June 22nd. Ranked lightweights Gray Maynard and Clay Guida will headline the event. Maynard and Guida are both coming off losses to the men who fought for the 155-pound title last month, Frankie Edgar and Ben Henderson. This lightweight bout will go for five rounds.

This should be a huge event in Atlantic City as it’s packed over the summer and there’s nothing like a fight to get the town buzzing. People will be lining up to bet the fights of course, and if you can’t make it you’ll be check out sportsbook reviews to join in the fun.

It’s also important for the UFC and MMA to spread its wings and keep hitting more cities in order to bring this sport to the masses. Both of these fighters really need a win to get back in contention, so it should be a real battle.

UFC on Versus 5 Recap: Lytle goes out a winner

nullUFC on Versus 5 took place Sunday night and the fights were as exciting as advertised.

The big winners on the night were Chris Lytle and Ben Henderson.

Lytle defeated Dan Hardy in the main event with a guillotine choke late in round 3. Lytle announced on Saturday night that he would be retiring win or lose after the contest and he shared a nice moment with his kids after the victory.

The fight was a slugfest as we expected, with Lytle doing a good job of working the body and Hardy landing some nice crosses. Surprisingly, neither man crashed to the ground and lasted nearly the whole fight before a big uppercut to the ribs forced Hardy to shoot on Lytle. Not having much wrestling experience, Hardy left his neck open for Lylte, who secured a very tight choke and got Hardy to tap with just 44 seconds left in the contest.

Lytle finished at 31-18-5 in his career and won five of his last six. He also secured Fight of the Night and Submission of the Night honors, a cool $130,000 in bonuses.

Hardy has now lost his last four in the UFC, but Dana White announced that Hardy will not be cut. Still, the colorful fighter seemed crushed by yet another loss.

In the co-main event, Jim Miller was unseated as the No. 1 contender in the lightweight division by Ben Henderson. Henderson put on the best performance of his career in dominating Miller for 15 minutes to earn a decision victory.

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Top 10 MMA Pound-for-Pound Rankings

nullIt has been two months since my last pound-for-pound rankings list, and only one fighter on the list has competed in that time.

Bantamweight Champion, Dominick Cruz made his UFC debut, and successfully beat Urijah Faber, but his win wasn’t strong enough to move him ahead of Frankie Edgar. So, my top 10 is the same, but there could be some serious shakeups in the next few months with the UFC putting together a number of big fights in the fall and early winter.

1. Anderson Silva (28-4): Silva is still the most feared opponent of anyone in MMA due to his devastating and unique striking ability. Chael Sonnen is the only man to make him look beatable, but Silva still found a way to beat him by submission despite a serious rib injury. Yushin Okami is next up for “The Spider” at UFC 134, which will be a good test for Silva, who has an obvious weakness in wrestling.

2. Georges St. Pierre (22-2): GSP will return to action in October to take on Nick Diaz. The welterweight kingpin hasn’t been challenged much in his recent fights, but he also hasn’t been that impressive either. St. Pierre is in need of a dominant win with a finish to really be considered for the top spot.

3. Jose Aldo (19-1): Aldo is set to face off with Kenny Florian in early October, defending his featherweight title for the second time in the UFC. Aldo is similar to Silva in the fact that his striking is so strong that many opponents have a hard time coming up with a game plan that they can stick to when they face off with him. Florian will provide a good test for Aldo, but it may not be enough to beat “Junior.”

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UPDATE: UFC 136 to feature two title fights

nullIt has been a busy 24 hours for the UFC.

There have been a number of big bouts announced, most of which will take place at UFC 136. As always, MMAFighting.com was the first to report on many of the contests.

- In the biggest news, Frankie Edgar and Gray Maynard will finally settle the score in a lightweight championship clash at UFC 136 on Oct. 8 from the Toyota Center in Houston. This is the second attempt for the UFC to put on this bout, as the two were originally schedule to fight at UFC 130, but both suffered injuries.

- The UFC also announced via Twitter that Jose Aldo will defend his featherweight championship against Kenny Florian at UFC 136. This will be Florian’s third attempt to win UFC gold while Aldo will be defending his UFC strap for the second time.

- Also set for the UFC 136 card in Houston is another lightweight showdown when Melvin Guillard faces Joe Lauzon. Guillard has quickly skyrocketed up the lightweight ladder with five-straight wins. However, Guillard has struggled in the past with submission fighters and Lauzon is a pitbull on the ground. Lauzon won’t back down from Guillard and the first five minutes of this fight should be very explosive.

- A third bout for UFC 136 was announced as middleweights Demian Maia and Jorge Santiago will square off. Both fighters are coming off of losses and need this win in order to remain a top-10 contender in the division.

- For UFC 137 on Oct. 29 in Las Vegas, heavyweight strikers Matt Mitrione and Cheick Kongo will battle it out. Both are coming off KO wins at UFC Live on Versus 4, with Kongo knocking out Mitrione’s friend, Pat Barry. This will be the biggest test to date for Mitrione, who is now 6-0 in his pro career.

The UFC Lightweight Grand Prix

nullThe Strikeforce Heavyweight Grand Prix has made some waves with MMA fans everywhere.

Considering the log jam that is the UFC lightweight division, I thought it might be a good idea for the UFC to consider a lightweight grand prix to crown an undisputed champion. Before I unveil my quarterfinal matchups, consider that I kept any fights that are already in the works and am using just UFC fighters, not Strikeforce.

So, without further ado, here are my quarterfinals:

Frankie Edgar vs. Gray Maynard – I would have all the fights in the tournament be five round contests, so it wouldn’t take away from this planned trilogy bout. While many might think this could be the finals, why not just let these two settle the score.

Jim Miller vs. Benson Henderson – Again, these two are already signed up to fight. Miller is the expected No. 1 contender in waiting while Henderson is right on the border of being a top-5 lightweight in the UFC. This should be a great grappling contest.

Anthony Pettis vs. Melvin Guillard – Who wouldn’t want to watch these two trade blows? Despite both being strikers, each has very different styles. There will be a lot of fireworks and probably a KO of some sort.

Clay Guida vs. Dennis Siver – Guida and Siver have both established their cases to move up the contender ladder. Guida may have the wrestling to neutralize Siver, while Siver has the striking ability to best Guida. It would be a great contest between two legit lightweight contenders.

Top 10 Lightweight Rankings

nullThe lightweight division is as impressive a group as any in MMA.

The top 10 list features a number of different styles and contenders, but each fighter could arguably beat everyone else on the list.

Still, here are my updated top 10 lightweight rankings.

1. Frankie Edgar (13-1-1) – Edgar holds on to the top spot as he still is the UFC champion. An injury kept him from facing Gray Maynard in their long-awaited trilogy fight, but those two should collide soon and be able to settle the score as to who deserves to be the champion.

2. Gray Maynard (10-0-1) – Maynard is still unbeaten but missed out on his opportunity to win the championship when he had Edgar beaten at UFC 125. Now, he will have to wait for a third shot at Edgar this fall where he can perhaps prove to the world that he is the top lightweight in the world.

3. Gilbert Melendez (19-2) – Melendez could legitimately compete for the UFC title, but he hasn’t had the opportunity to do so. Now that the UFC is tapping into Strikeforce, perhaps a champion vs. champion bout is in the near future. Until then, Melendez looks as if he will continue to tear up Strikeforce competition.

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With Diaz vs. GSP in place, many new options open in UFC

nullWednesday night, Dana White made a big announcement by saying Strikeforce welterweight champion, Nick Diaz, will now face UFC welterweight champion, Georges St. Pierre, at UFC 137 in October.

Apparently White was able to tear up Diaz’ old contract and sign him to a new one that basically allowed White to make any matches involving Diaz that he pleased in either organization.

If White can do it once, he can do it as many times as he would like.

How about Gilbert Melendez?

The Strikeforce lightweight champion has been campaigning for a unification bout with the UFC champion and now, the planned order of contenders in the UFC seems to be shifting.

It appears that Anthony Pettis, who was the No. 1 contender after winning the WEC title, will now have to win two fights before getting a crack at the UFC strap, according to Fighters Only Magazine.

“That kid’s in a bad position. He’s supposed to be the next in line. All this craziness happens. [Edgar and Maynard] both get hurt, and it gets pushed back again. The first one is a draw, then they get hurt, and it gets pushed back again. But this is one of those things that happens in a sport like this,” says UFC president Dana White.

“I respect [Pettis] for stepping up and taking on a tough guy like Guida, and he’ll probably have to fight again before he gets a shot at one of those guys. Sucks for him. It’s a shi–y position for him to be in.”

If Pettis is fighting Guida before Edgar-Maynard III even takes place, why would he have to fight again? This tells me that White has someone else in mind as the next challenger for the UFC belt.

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MMA Top 10 Pound-For-Pound Rankings

nullWell, I have released all of my rankings for each weight class, so now I work my way back to my pound-for-pound list.

There hasn’t been an overwhelming amount of action in the UFC in the two months since I first released this list, but here is a look at the latest rankings.

1. Anderson Silva (28-4): Silva hasn’t competed since last February against Vitor Belfort, but he does have a fight that is getting closer and closer. Silva will face Yushin Okami at UFC 134 in August, looking to avenge a DQ loss to Okami back in 2006. Silva still has been the most impressive champion the UFC has ever had, despite a few lackluster performances. His knockout wins are legendary and his KO of Belfort was one of the greatest front kicks ever seen in MMA.

2. Georges St. Pierre (22-2): St. Pierre successfully defended his UFC Welterweight Championship against Jake Shields back at UFC 129 on April 30. It was another decision win for GSP, making it four straight, but a win nonetheless. St. Pierre suffered an eye injury during the bout, which hampered him in the final few rounds. Still, GSP is dealing with a lot of criticism following the bout and is now likely to face Strikeforce champion, Nick Diaz, as opposed to moving up to middleweight to face Silva.

3. Jose Aldo (19-1): Aldo also defended his UFC Featherweight Championship at UFC 129, beating Mark Hominick by decision. Aldo looked very beatable in the fifth and final round, as he was taken down and pounded on by a bloody Hominick in the final five minutes, but he still managed to do enough prior to that to earn a win. Aldo was originally expected to face Chad Mendes at UFC 133 in a title defense, but a medical suspension will keep Aldo from fighting until the fall of 2011.

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Edgar’s back injury a lingering problem

nullFrankie Edgar has a back injury that hasn’t been going away for some time and apparently won’t be going away any time soon.

Edgar spoke to MMAFighting.com’s Mike Chiappetta and talked about the back issue that forced him to withdraw from his UFC Lightweight Championship defense against Gray Maynard at UFC 130.

Earlier Monday, (Edgar) had an epidural injection to address the pain. It will take up to four days to determine whether it worked. According to Edgar, the ultimate solution is something more invasive, but his doctors are trying to stem the pain and delay what might be inevitable.

“I think eventually I’m going to need surgery,” said Edgar, who also suffered a rib injury in training. “Hopefully these shots will slow down the process and give me a couple more years without having to do the surgery.”

The shots may prove an effective temporary solution, but if they don’t work, he could have another round of shots that will go directly into his nerves.

Edgar said his back issues go back to his past, and that he had surgery 11 years ago. Since then, he occasionally suffered small flare-ups that would knock him out of the gym for a day or two, but about 3-4 weeks ago, he was hit with another flare-up that he quickly realized was far more severe.

Back injuries aren’t something to mess around with and if Edgar has to take shots regularly, the problem is probably more severe than he would like to really admit.

I understand Edgar’s desire to fight through the injury, as he is a champion for the biggest organization and probably trying to build a future for his family, but one wrong move in training or in the octagon could end his career forever.

Hopefully Edgar can heal up soon, but if he needs to take a lengthy amount of time off to have surgery that could improve his quality of life, I hope he does it.

Jim Miller vs. Ben Henderson to meet at UFC on Versus 5

nullA big match between two top lightweight contenders was announced late Monday night as Steve Feitl of MyJerseyCentral.com broke the news of an upcoming UFC bout between Jim Miller and Ben Henderson.

Jim Miller will get his next chance this August to stake his claim for a title shot in the crowded lightweight division of the Ultimate Fighting Championship.

The Whippany-based mixed martial artist is expected to face former World Extreme Cagefighting champion Ben Henderson, sources close to the UFC confirmed to New Jersey Press Media late Tuesday.

The bout is scheduled for “UFC on Versus 5″ on Aug. 14 at the Bradley Center in Milwaukee, Wis.

Henderson (13-2) made his UFC debut last month, defeating Mark Bocek by decision.

This should be an exciting fight, but I think it is more dangerous for Miller, who has more to lose.

It is pretty well understood that Miller is the next in line for a title shot after Anthony Pettis gets a crack at the winner of Gray Maynard-Frankie Edgar III (assuming Pettis beats Clay Guida in June).

Henderson is not considered a top-10 lightweight by some, so a win over Miller would propel him into an immediate top contender in the UFC.

Stylistically, Henderson seems to have the grappling to contend with Miller and the two are similar fighters.

This should be a great scrap and I am looking forward to seeing it.