Jon Anik doesn’t hide his emotions when it comes to discussing the sport he covers.
The event features a headline bout between featherweight contenders Cub Swanson and Jeremy Stephens, but there are plenty of other reasons to tune in, according to Anik.
“The co-main event, with Nico Musoke and Kelvin Gastelum, is a special fight for me,” Anik said. “Not a lot of people are familiar with Nico, but he stepped up on short notice and got the ‘Submission of the Night’ against Alessio Sakara.”
Musoke has won both of his UFC fights, scoring a decision vs. Viscardi Andrade earlier this year in Brazil. He is 12-2 overall and will be facing the unbeaten Gastelum (8-0), a winner on The Ultimate Fighter.
“I think Nico is smart enough to realize the intensity that Gastelum brings (is dangerous),” Anik said. “He’s just 22. If you don’t get to him early, he is going to be a hard guy to beat.”
Another main card bout will see Cezar “Mutante” Ferreira face off against Andrew Craig. Ferreira (7-3) was a winner on TUF: Brazil, but suffered a knockout loss to CB Dollaway this past March. Craig (9-2) is 1-2 in his last three overall, but holds wins over Chris Leben and Rafael Natal.
“When Mutante is one, he is a guy who can be featured on FOX Sports 1 main cards and pay-per-views for years to come,” Anik said. “It will be interesting to see how he responds to the knockout loss.
“Craig is a hard guy to put away, but I think Mutante has a treat opportunity. This has ‘Fight of the Night’ written all over it with two guys who can take damage and dish it out.”
Anik made sure to not forget about the main card opener, as Joe Ellenberger will finally make his long-awaited UFC debut against James Moontasri. Ellenberger is the brother of Jake Ellenberger and owns a 14-1 career record.
“A rare blood disease kept Joe out of competition and he has been dealing with getting five or six different opponents,” Anik said. “I expect his best foot forward. Here is a guy who has had so many struggles, but is realizing his dream and kicks off five free hours of fights on (FOX Sports 1).”
Ellenberger was diagnosed with paroxysmal nocturnal hemoglobinuria, a disease that has just about 8,000 known cases in the U.S. He has gone through numerous changes in opponents, including scheduled fights with Frank Trevino, Johnny Case and Bryan Barberena.
FightLine will have complete coverage of the card, including live play-by-play of the action.
Cub Swanson will get the opportunity to cement his status as the next contender to the UFC’s featherweight title on Saturday night when he faces Jeremy Stephens in the main event of UFC Fight Night 44.
Swanson, coming off elbow surgery but riding a five-fight win streak, told “UFC Tonight” earlier this week that he plans to take it to Stephens.
“I’ve always said maybe I don’t hit that hard, but I’m pretty accurate,” he said. “I keep a gnarly pace and it doesn’t matter how I’m getting the W’s.”
Swanson (20-5) last fought in July, finishing Dennis Siver. Of his five most recent wins, four have been finishes, including three within the opening two rounds of action. That’s something he plans to do again this weekend.
“I prepared for five rounds early in my camp, but I’ve forgotten about that now,” Swanson admitted. “I’m just preparing for two rounds because that’s all I need.
“It ends with his missing me because of my head movement and me taking it to him.”
Swanson has fought both current UFC champion Jose Aldo and contender Chad Mendes inside the WEC cage. He was finished by Aldo in 2009 via TKO and lost a decision to Mendes a year later.
However, he feels his track record and current run more than make him a worthy contender for the winner of that August contest.
“This would be six wins in a row for me,” he said. “I’m on point, looking sharp. I’m hungry and it’s my time.
“This is 11 years in the making and it’s about time I get the title shot.”
A trio of UFC champions have been nominated for ESPY Awards. Ronda Rousey, Jon Jones and Chris Weidman are all entered into various categories.
Rousey, the UFC female bantamweight champion, is up for “Best Female Athlete” and “Best Fighter,” while Jones is also part of the “Best Fighter” category.
Weidman is included in the “Best Upset” category for his first victory over Anderson Silva. The middleweight champion returns to action next Saturday against Lyoto Machida, the same night Rousey defends her belt vs. Alexis Davis.
Jones, the light heavyweight titleholder, is scheduled to put his title on the line against Alexander Gustafsson later this year.
The ESPYs take place JUly 16 and air on ESPN at 9 p.m. ET. Voting is conducted online and winners are determined by fans.
Joining Rousey in the female category are Maya Moore, Mikaela Shiffrin and Breanna Stewart. The five up for top fighter include Jones, Rousey, Floyd Mayweather, Manny Pacquiao and Andre Ward.
In the “Best Upset” category, Weidman is joined by Mercer’s win over Duke in the 2014 NCAA Men’s Basketball Tournament, along with Connecticut’s run to the NCAA title.
UFC heavyweight Antonio Silva called for a fight with Josh Barnett on Twitter recently, stating that he will help clear Barnett’s schedule by defeating him.
“Quack quack quack!” Silva wrote. “Sounds like a duck to me. Let me hand you your 2nd loss straight and it’ll free up more time for pro wrestling and podcasts.”
Barnett (33-7), a former UFC heavyweight champion, has been signed to do a podcast for FOX Sports while he waits to make his return to the Octagon. He is coming off a loss to Travis Browne.
Silva, meanwhile, is 18-5 and fought Mark Hunt to a draw last year. However, “Bigfoot” failed the post-fight drug test for elevated levels of testosterone and was handed a nine-month suspension. That suspension should be up this summer, allowing him to compete again.
While the two would appear likely candidates for one another, Barnett doesn’t sound interested in fighting Silva. He took issue with the former No. 1 contender while both were competing in Strikeforce.
“I don’t like him,” said Barnett, in an interview with MMAFighting.com. “I don’t like the way he approached anything about what he did back in his Strikeforce days and all that. I’m not going to help him gain any ground in any way, even by losing to me. I’m not going to get him paid. I’m not going to get him anything if I can help it.”
quack quack quack!Sounds like a duck to me.Let me hand you your 2nd loss straight,and it'll free up more time for pro wrestling and podcasts
— Antonio Pezao Silva (@BigfootSilva) June 24, 2014
Former UFC middleweight champion Anderson Silva has updated his fans and MMA followers with his latest video offering, showing his return to sparring just days after receiving clearance from a doctor.
Silva, who suffered a broken leg in December during a loss to UFC middleweight champion Chris Weidman, continues to target 2015 for his return to the Octagon. Possible opponents include Nick Diaz and the winner of an upcoming main event fight featuring Michael Bisping and Cung Le.
In the video, Silva starts off showing some heavy striking and well-balanced movement on his feet. He is working out at the Team Nogueira gym in Brazil.
“Next year,” says Silva, when asked about his return. “Scout’s honor. Next year.”