The Octagon set up shop in Melbourne, Australia Saturday night for UFC Fight Night 101.
Robert Whittaker appeared to almost be out on his feet in the early stages of his first main event vs. Derek Brunson.
But just like that, Whittaker showed the heart and strength that has many believing he is a future title contender, recovering and finishing Brunson in a wild and crazy first round.
Whittaker connected with a left hook, added a head-kick and landed a flurry of strikes before referee Herb Dean stepped in to end the contest.
Andrew Holbrook didn’t care that this was supposed to be Jake Matthews’ night to shine. Holbrook deal the Melbourne native a loss, earning a split decision in the co-main event. He is now 12-1 overall after the win.
Originally, the event was to feature a rematch between former Strikeforce champions Luke Rockhold and Ronaldo “Jacare” Souza. But when Rockhold, also a former UFC titleholder, was injured, the bout was scrapped.
Alex Volkanovski ended Yasuke Kasuya’s night in the second round with a flurry, while Omari Akhmedov picked up a decision over veteran Kyle Noke.
Tyson Pedro ended the long run of decisions, submitting Khalil Rountree in the first round with a rear-naked choke. Pedro, fighting in his home country in his UFC debut, pushed his record to 5-0 with four submission wins.
Danielle Taylor kicked off the main card with a split decision win vs. Seo Hee Ham.
Ben Nguyen, Jonathan Meunier, Damien Brown and Dan Kelly each had their hands raised as the winner on the FS1 prelims. Kelly defeated Chris Camozzi in the headline bout, improving to 12-1 overall and 5-1 inside the Octagon.
In early action, Jason Knight, Marlon Vera and Jenel Lausa all claimed decisions on UFC Fight Pass.
Bonuses were handed out to Whittaker, Brunson and Pedro. Whittaker and Brunson earned “Fight of the Night,” while Whittaker and Pedro picked up “Performance of the Night” checks.
Complete results can be found below:
Robert Whittaker def. Derek Brunson via TKO (strikes) at 4:07 of Round 1
Andrew Holbrook def. Jake Matthews via split decision (29-28, 28-29, 29-28)
Invicta FC featherweight champion Cris “Cyborg” Justino was a guest recently on “Submission Radio.”
Check out what Cyborg had to say about Miesha Tate retiring, facing Ronda Rousey at 140 pounds and more below:
Cris’ reaction to Miesha Tate retiring at UFC 205
“I don’t think she’s gonna retire. I think at the time that she lost the fight, I think she felt emotions, and I think it’s the second fight in a row she lost. I think the last fight (against Amanda Nunes), I think she had a hard time and I think she needs a break. I think she wasn’t mentally good in this fight and I think she just got emotional and said she wanted to retire. I don’t think she’s gonna retire. She’s a young girl, she’s done a lot of things for sport. I really think she just get emotional after the fight.”
On if she’s upset that a potential fight with Tate at 140 is now unlikely to happen
“I never chose my opponent. You know, I’m always ready for a fight. After my last fight, I really had a hard cut to 140. I really don’t think I’m gonna cut again to 140 too soon and we’ll look to stay in my division of 145. But I never choose my opponents. I’m open to do a super fight, but let’s see if it would be good for me, of course.”
If Cris staying at 145 will mean she’s fighting in Invicta or the UFC
“No, we started talks. You know, my management talked to the UFC and soon I’ll have news. I really don’t know, but I just know my next fight will be at 145. I really don’t know if it’ll be in Invicta or UFC. I just wait to see what’s going on.”
If Cris will only fight at 140 again for a massive super fight
“You know, the first time I made 140 in Brazil, Curitiba, the first time I did it was because it would be in my city. And then second reason was because it was UFC Brazil. The main thing is to do is open an opportunity, maybe to do super fight with Ronda Rousey at 140. And I just showed them that I can make 140 for a super fight. And my second fight was supposed to be 145, I was supposed to be to defend my belt. And then again, I had the opportunity to fight 140 in Brazil. And I really respect all my opponents, but the girl in my last fight (Lina Lansberg), nobody knows her, and she’s had like 70 Muay Thai fights. She’s a really, really good opponent, but for me to sacrifice to make 140, I’d like a super fight. You know, something the fans would like to watch. Because my last opponent, her last win was at 145 pounds. And then sometimes, I don’t see it’s worth making 140 to make a fight like this. If you want a super fight, doesn’t matter the weight – It can be 150, can be 155, 145. But the thing is, I cannot kill myself at the time to make 140 for a normal fight.
If Cris will only cut down to 140 for a super fight with Ronda Rousey and will fight at 145 from now on
If Cris tried speaking to the UFC about just defending her Invicta belt on UFC shows
“I always tell the idea, you know, have girls at 145, you just have to open the opportunities. For sure you have them. You know, you have like two events (that have women at) 145 pounds – Bellator, Invicta. And you have other events that now opened (the division). World Series of Fighting have, I think maybe 154 or maybe 155. They just signed the Olympic girl from Judo (Kayla Harrison). They have girls. If you want the opportunity, they have the girls. They can’t have the excuse that they don’t have girls. And then about Ronda, her next fight – man, I don’t know how many people are gonna watch it. I don’t think it’s gonna break one million pay-per-views. I really don’t know. My last fight, I did like 1.3 (million viewers). People like watching me. Doesn’t matter if it’s 145. It could be 135, it could be 140 – people like watching my fights, and I think if you make a 145 division, for sure (people will watch). They made a 135-pound division with 10 girls. If you find 10 girls at 145, you can make the division. It wouldn’t be too hard. You have to do this.”
On how frustrating it is for Cris to constantly hear the UFC say there’s no enough talent for a 145 division
“Yeah, it frustrates me and for sure it frustrates the other girls too, because it looks like they don’t respect the other girls at 145. You know, in Bellator they have two girls now, Julia Budd and Marloes Coenen, they’re gonna fight for the belt. Bellator, of course they have 145’ers. They’re gonna fight for the belt, for sure they have other girls behind this. And when I hear this, I feel very disrespectful, because we have a lot of girls at 145. I think they should give support for all the girls, not just 135. I have nothing against 135, but you can also open 155, 145, 115, 125. Same as the guys. The guys have all the divisions. Why don’t they have the same for the women? If you see the boxing girls, the number one girls in boxing are all bigger than 135 – Laila Ali, Lucia (Rijker), Claressa Shields too. She’s the number one now and she’s heavier than me. We talk and she said, “maybe we can train together,” and she’s heavier than me. You have a lot of girls, you just have to open the door and give opportunities for it. Maybe the boxing girls want to go to MMA but they don’t see the division, so they cannot change, they cannot have an opportunity.”
How long Cris will hang around in MMA for if the UFC build a division around her
“I’m really healthy, I don’t have bad injuries. For me, I think another three years, four years I want to keep fighting. But this is the thing, it doesn’t matter if the UFC don’t open my division, for sure I’m gonna fight in other events, because people, all my fans follow me wherever I’m going. I love my job and I’m looking at four years. I really don’t know.
“I feel my body, I can be forever, but of course I’d like to have a kid too. But I don’t feel I want to retire soon. I stay motivated every day, train every day, and it’s a more important when people to appreciate your work. It motivates you more to keep going.”
If Cris was disappointed when she saw Ronda was fighting at UFC 207 but not against her
“Ronda, after her loss to Holly Holm, she took like a one-year break, and then I don’t think it’s fair she fights for the belt after one-year break. I think she’s supposed to rematch Holly Holm or fight somebody else. I don’t think she’s humble enough for a fight that’s not for the belt, because she wants to fight for the belt. But I think Amanda Nunes, she fights all the time and she’s in shape and man, I don’t know if she’s (Rousey) making a good choice. You know Ronda, she ran from me long time. This is no surprise to me that she doesn’t fight me in her next fight. Of course not. She cannot take a punch and she doesn’t have a strong mind. Holly just kicked her ass in her last fight and she doesn’t feel confident. I hope she’s training hard for her next fight, because Amanda is no easy opponent. Amanda knows (how to) punch and Miesha Tate can say about this. You know, that’s no easy fight, it’s no easy fight.”
If Cris is worried if Ronda losses she’ll retire and they’ll never fight
“Really if Ronda really wanted to fight me, she would’ve already did it. (Whether) she wins or loses her next fight, she’s not gonna fight me. This I already know. She doesn’t like challenging herself. If she lose, she’s gonna retire. Even if she wins, she will say, “you have to come to the champion,” and she’ll be saying the things that she said before, you know, because she’s not there to challenge for big fights. You know, she chooses her opponent and I don’t think this fight’s gonna happen. I know Dana White said, “oh Ronda wants to fight really bad”. If she really wanted this fight really bad, it would have already happened, people would’ve already watched the fight. I don’t believe one word of this. She didn’t even say my name. Before, she was all the time saying my name, that she wants to fight me, “oh Cris Cyborg”. Now she doesn’t say my name because we’re in the same organization. She knows if she says my name, this fight’s gonna happen. She’s avoiding me and not saying my name. She’s telling reporters, “no questions about Cyborg, because if you make questions about Cyborg, I’m not gonna answer you and you’ll be out of my list of reporters,” and then she plays this game. I don’t think this fight’s gonna happen.”
If Cris has given up on ever fighting Rousey and if she’s moving on with her career
“I don’t think I need Ronda to change my life or anything. Because everybody says, “oh, you need to fight Ronda,” no I don’t think I need her to change anything. I think people have followed me for a long time. My last fight, a lot of people watched in Brazil, 30 million people watched. In America, 1.3 million people watched my fight. People want to see Cyborg. Of course, if this fight with Ronda happens, fans would like to watch it and it would be the biggest pay-per-view ever in the UFC. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not my fault. I already proved it, I already made 140 (pounds). Everybody knows I would like this fight. If it doesn’t happen, it’s not because of me. I’m really happy with my job, I’m a long-time world champ and I dropped to 140 to give the opportunity to make a super fight. And I’m really happy with what I’m doing in MMA and I think I can do more with my division and maybe fight a division up, maybe do a super fight. I don’t know. I think I could do a lot of things and I’m gonna keep doing it.”
Any thought of seeing Conor McGregor compete again early in 2017 was wiped away by UFC president Dana White recently.
White told the LA Times that the reigning UFC lightweight and featherweight champion will not fight before May after revealing that his girlfriend is pregnant following UFC 205.
“He won’t fight before May,” White said. “His girl (Dee Devlin) gets super stressed out when he fights. He doesn’t want her having any of that stress while she’s pregnant. He’s good. He should take time off. He’s been fighting nonstop. Nothing wrong with him taking time off. It’s good for him and her, and it’s good for the baby.”
McGregor became the first UFC fighter to hold titles in two weight classes at the same time when he knocked out Eddie Alvarez. Last year, he claimed the featherweight championship with a finish of Jose Aldo.
Ahead of their fights this Saturday, check out what those set to compete at UFC Fight Night 99 had to say during a press event earlier this week.
The card airs on FOX Sports 1 from Brazil, with Ryan Bader taking on Antonio Rogerio Nogueira in the main event.
Ryan Bader: “Our first fight happened six years ago and I feel that I have grown a lot as a fighter since then. The way that I win may be the same, but I want them to see that I improved a lot. I have fought in Brazil, I respect my opponent and the Brazilian fans. Energy is energy even if it is against me, I feel their passion and that motivates me.”
Antonio Rogerio Nogueira: I started doing this sport when almost nobody knew it in Brazil and today I am headlining a card in the country. It’s a dream come true, without a doubt. This fight means a lot to me. Besides the rematch, it confirms the good moment I am in after knocking out (Pat) Cummins in Curitiba. Bader is a strategic guy, strong, likes to go to the ground, but I am conscious of everything that I need to do to take out his game.
Thomas Almeida: “I’m always going to be looking for the knockout, the same way that I do in every fight. It’s very good to fight at home, it’s extra fuel to get the job done well. I want to secure my place among the best in the division. I know that people talk, but there is no easy opponent in the UFC, everyone is good and every fight is different. The pressure will always be there, whether you are on a winning streak or coming off a loss.”
Albert Morales: Thomas is a strong fighter who will be fighting at home, with the whole crowd there to support him, but I like to feel pressured. My plan is to imagine that the cheers of the crowd are for me rather than for him. But the truth is that I feel that my moment is here and I can see myself submitting him. That is my goal.
Claudia Gadelha: I transformed myself into a new athlete, much more focused on what I need to do. The time I spent in the United States taught me the right way to train and I feel very good about my body and my health. Cortney is a very big and strong girl for the division and I believe that she will use that as an advantage over me. I can’t stop in front of her, I have to impose my game and that is what is going to happen. I can guarantee that it will be an MMA fight, everything will happen.
Cortney Casey: I am very excited about being in Brazil, the people here are amazing, and I can’t wait to have a big performance on Saturday. I hope for a good fight, very aggressive, where I intend on focusing on my wresting to win. Claudia Gadelha is number one in the division, she is a very good and strong fighter, but my idea is to keep my game plan and shock the world.
Warlley Alves: It may be a knockout, a submission, it doesn’t matter, I just want to leave with a win. Kamaru is a very tough athlete. He likes to fight moving forward and he is strong. In reality there is no weak fighter in the UFC. Both of us were on The Ultimate Fighter and won, so I believe that a win would make me the winner of his season. In all seriousness, this is a win that I want more for me personally than professional. I need this win.
Kamaru Usman: He is young and strong but I am sure that I have much more experience than him in this game. If he comes to fight the same way he came in for his last fights, I am sure that it won’t be a good day for him. I will stay loose, do my game and show the skills that people have not yet seen in the UFC.
Tonight’s historic card comes to us from Madison Square Garden in New York City – a first for the promotion since the state legalized MMA.
We will have three title fights, including a main event between lightweight champion Eddie Alvarez and featherweight titleholder Conor McGregor. With a win, McGregor would become the first UFC fighter to ever hold two belts at the same time, and just the third to ever be a two-division champion.
Also, Tyron Woodley defends the welterweight title vs. Stephen Thompson and Joanna Jedrzejczyk puts her strawweight gold up for grabs vs. fellow Polish fighter Karolina Kowalkiewicz.
The rest of the pay-per-view main card features Chris Weidman vs. Yoel Romero and Miesha Tate vs. Raquel Pennington. A planned welterweight contest between Donald Cerrone and Kelvin Gastelum was scrapped when Gastelum failed to even attempt to weigh-in.
Enjoy the extended preview and take a look at the fight card on the following page. And remember to check back later today for complete coverage on FightLine: