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Premiere And Q & A For “The Mandalorian”
Photo by Alberto E. Rodriguez/Getty Images for Disney

Gina Carano will be returning to the movie making business after getting the axe from “The Mandalorian,” but one of her films has already been delayed. According to The Daily Wire, production on her proposed film dubbed “White Knuckle,” has been shelved until 2022 for fear that possible government-mandated vaccines could slow down the film-making process.

Of course, Carano has been very vocal when it comes to the Covid-19 vaccines and the effectiveness (or lack thereof) of masks. Carano was fired from Disney’s “The Mandalorian” earlier this year after she posted a since-delete tweet focusing on religious and political agendas today in comparison with the massacre of Jews during the holocausts.

“Gina Carano is not currently employed by LucasFilms and there are no plans for her to be in the future,” Lucas Film said in a statement shortly after he release. “Nevertheless, her social media posts denigrating people based on their cultural and religious identities are abhorrent and unacceptable.”

Shortly thereafter, Carano joined forced with Ben Shapiro in order to continue in her acting career.

As a result of the postponement of her upcoming thriller, Carano and Co. will take their talents to the countryside to film “Terror on the Prairie” alongside Donald Cerrone. Per a statement from one of the film’s producers, Dallas Sonnier, moving away from Hollywood will give the crew the freedom to make a film on its own terms.

“With the precariousness of the current Hollywood landscape and the remarkable overreach by its ruling class, we made the tough, but prudent choice to ride further out into the wild west to make movies on our own terms.”

Week 8 of Dana White’s Contender Series (2021) took place on Tuesday in Las Vegas, and we’re grading the winners from the four-fight card, which streamed on ESPN+ from the UFC Apex.

With a simple but digestible format that has had the MMA fanbase responding, this series has shown to have legs in multiple ways while serving as a crockpot for contenders whom the UFC matchmakers can use for future events. So, with that trend in mind, I will once again be taking a look at the winning fighters regardless of whether or not they won a UFC contract, grading their performances in regards to their probability of returning to a UFC stage.

The penultimate event of UFC’s crammed October schedule takes place Saturday with UFC Fight Night 196 at the UFC Apex in Las Vegas. The entire card streams on ESPN+.

A highly important middleweight fight gets center stage in the main event of the card. Former title challengers Paulo Costa (13-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and Marvin Vettori (17-5-1 MMA, 7-3-1 UFC) will attempt to begin their climbs toward another crack at champion Israel Adesanya when they meet in a five-round contest.

For more on the numbers behind the headliners, as well as the rest of the card, check below for 30 pre-event facts about UFC Fight Night 196.

Former women’s flyweight title challengers Katlyn Chookagian and Jennifer Maia will run things back in the UFC’s first event of 2022.

Chookagian (16-4 MMA, 9-4 UFC) meets Maia (19-7-1 MMA, 4-3 UFC) at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 15, which will take place at a location and venue to be announced.

A person with knowledge of the matchup confirmed the booking to MMA Junkie but asked to remain anonymous because the promotion has yet to make an official announcement. Maia also posted about the news on her Instagram account. MMA Ideas was first to report the news.

Chookagian defeated Maia by unanimous decision at UFC 244 in November 2019 to earn a title shot against champion Valentina Shevchenko at UFC 247. Chookagian was stopped by Shevchenko but went on to win three of her next four and is coming off back-to-back wins over Cynthia Calvillo and Viviane Araujo.

After losing to Chookagian, Maia scored a first-round armbar of Joanne Calderwood to earn a shot at Shevchenko’s title at UFC 255. Maia fell short to the champion in a decision loss, but was able to rebound with a unanimous decision win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264 in July.

With the addition, the Jan. 15 lineup includes:

  • Giga Chikadze vs. Calvin Kattar
  • Bill Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito
  • Saidyokub Kakhramonov vs. Brian Kelleher
  • Zarrukh Adashev vs. Kleydson Rodrigues
  • Rogerio Bontorin vs. Brandon Royval
  • Kay Hansen vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
  • Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Court McGee
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Joaquin Buckley
  • Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
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UFC Fight Night: Buckley v Arroyo
Photo by Jeff Bottari/Zuffa LLC

We’re in the final quarter of 2021, so Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) is already starting to fill out some of it’s early cards for 2022. For it’s first Fight Night event of the new year, UFC has already confirmed two intriguing match ups.

According to MMA Fighting, Joaquin Buckley will face Abdul Razak Alhassan in a hard-hitting Middleweight affair inside the UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada. Alhassan recently broke his three-fight losing streak by scoring a spectacular first round knockout win over Alessio Di Chirico. Buckley, meanwhile, is also coming off a knockout win over Antonio Arroyo, putting him at 3-1 in his last four bouts.

Also, former women’s flyweight title contenders Jennifer Maia and Katlyn Chookagian will tango one more time as the two women have been booked to run it back on the ESPN+-streamed event. Chookagian defeated Maia at UFC 244, earning her a title shot against current division champion, Valentina Shevchenko, ultimately coming up short in her bid to unseat the champion.

As for Maia, she also came up short against “Bullet,” going the distance with the dominant champion at UFC 255. She bounced back nicely with a win over Jessica Eye at UFC 264, putting her one more win away for another possible crack at the crown. The event is expected to be headlined by a Featherweight bout between Giga Chikadze and Calvin Kattar.

For more on all upcoming UFC events click here.

Carla Esparza doesn’t think the UFC strawweight title will change hands again this year.

The former Invicta FC and UFC strawweight champion is confident Rose Namajunas will defend her belt in the rematch against Zhang Weili at UFC 268 on Nov. 6. Namajunas became champion for a second time by dethroning Zhang at UFC 261 in April. “Thug” Rose knocked out Zhang with a head kick less than two minutes into their contest.

Unlike some suggested online, Esparza (18-6 MMA, 9-4 UFC) doesn’t find Namajunas’ win a lucky strike, even though it happened in rapid fashion.

“I don’t think that it was a fluke,” Esparza told MMA Junkie. “I think that she was very precise and very calculated in what she did. She strategized in the moment. She’s such a smart fighter, and she picks up on things mid-fight. I think she got a read, and she got the knockout.

“I think that Rose will win again. I think she’ll win the rematch. I don’t know if it’ll be that quick, but for my sake, I hope so. I hope she gets a great finish and she comes out undamaged and that will lead to a sooner turnaround for us to fight, potentially.”

Esparza is considered by many to be the UFC’s No. 1 contender at 115 pounds.

She’s unbeaten since 2019 and has five consecutive victories. She also holds a submission win over Namajunas. Esparza last fought in May, where she stopped top contender Yan Xiaonan in a dominant second-round TKO.  She has yet to be booked for another bout.

The 34-year-old hasn’t been given assurance that she’ll be next in line, and recently UFC president Dana White suggested it wouldn’t be a good idea to wait for the next title shot. Esparza admits the situation is a bit frustrating, feeling she’s done more than enough to get the next crack at strawweight gold.

“I haven’t really gotten any word,” Esparza said. “I’ve inquired through my manager, Brian Butler, to see what’s going on, to see if I can get a guarantee that the next fight is mine, if I’m going to be sitting and waiting. I haven’t even gotten that, so it’s a little bit disheartening because I’ve worked so hard to get to this point. I think a lot of people have seen that.

“Maybe I haven’t been the biggest talker. I’ve always been quiet, very humble, and keep my head down. But at the end of the day, I’ve felt like my performances that I’ve done these seven years – coming back from going down and going back up – I think that speaks louder than any words should.”

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Two of the middleweight division’s heaviest hitters will throw down in January.

Joaquin Buckley (13-4 MMA, 3-2 UFC) takes on Abdul Razak Alhassan (11-4 MMA, 5-4 UFC) at UFC Fight Night on Jan. 15 in an event that doesn’t yet have a known venue or location.

A person with knowledge of the matchup confirmed the booking to MMA Junkie but asked to remain anonymous because the promotion has yet to make an official announcement. MMA Ideas was first to report the news.

Owner of one of the greatest knockouts in UFC history, Buckley was able to bounce back from his knockout loss to Alessio Di Chirico with another highlight reel finish when he starched Antonio Arroyo in the third round at UFC Fight Night 192 in September.

Also rebounding in emphatic fashion, Alhassan snapped a three-fight losing skid with a thunderous 17-second head kick knockout of Di Chirico at UFC on ESPN 30 in August. All five of Alhassan’s octagon wins have come by first-round stoppage.

With the addition, the Jan. 15 lineup includes:

  • Giga Chikadze vs. Calvin Kattar
  • Bill Algeo vs. Joanderson Brito
  • Saidyokub Kakhramonov vs. Brian Kelleher
  • Zarrukh Adashev vs. Kleydson Rodrigues
  • Rogerio Bontorin vs. Brandon Royval
  • Kay Hansen vs. Jasmine Jasudavicius
  • Ramiz Brahimaj vs. Court McGee
  • Katlyn Chookagian vs. Jennifer Maia
  • Abdul Razak Alhassan vs. Joaquin Buckley
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Bellator MMA

Fedor Emelianenko will make his long-awaited return to action this Saturday (Oct. 23, 2021) to face the No. 2 ranked heavyweight on Bellator MMA’s roster, Timothy Johnson, in the main event of Bellator 269 in Moscow, Russia. It will be the first time “The Last Emperor” steps foot inside the cage since December 2019, scoring a knockout win over Quinton Jackson at Bellator 237.

With a lengthy layoff, it’s easy to forget “The Last Emperor” has actually racked up a nice record over his last 10 fights, going 8-2, including 3-2 under the Bellator umbrella. So after 20 years in the fight game, Emelianenko has gone on record to say that his career will come to an end after two more fights.

Win, lose, or draw in those final two fights, Emelianenko will walk away, and he gleams with pride knowing that he will be leaving the sport in the hands of the new generation, in particular two of his star pupils and champions, Valentin Moldavsky and Vadim Nemkov.

“This generation grew proper fighters, proper techniques, and proper everything. And we are more than proud to leave Bellator in their (Nemkov and Moldavsky) hands and give all of the control to the proper people. But I hope before I leave we can add another champion,” Emelianenko told MMA Mania during a recent media call.

Nemkov successfully defended his light heavyweight title last weekend (Sat., Oct. 16) by submitting Julius Angklickas in the fourth round at Bellator 268 (see it here), punching his ticket to the Light Heavyweight Grand Prix finals against Corey Anderson. As for Moldavsky, he won the interim heavyweight title by defeating Timothy Johnson earlier this year. He will look to unify the titles when he faces Ryan Bader sometime in 2022.

Without looking too far passed this Saturday and the task in front of him, Emelianenko knows his final fight could take place stateside. And if he had his preference, he’d like it to go down in Chicago, Illinois, known for having a strong Russian presence. As far as an opponent for his farewell fight, he isn’t looking that far ahead.


To check out the latest Bellator MMA-related news and notes be sure to hit up our comprehensive news archive right here.


UFC Fight Night: Clark v Alpar
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

This weekend (Sat., Oct. 23, 2021), Ultimate Fighting Championship (UFC) will remain inside UFC Apex in Las Vegas, Nevada, for UFC Vegas 41. After a pair of pretty dismal cards, this weekend’s event features a genuinely intriguing main event that also promises heavy-handed action between Paulo Costa and Marvin Vettori. The rest of the night is a bit of a step up in quality too, featuring some reasonably well-known names prior to the biggest showdowns of the night.

Let’s take a closer look at these main card donnybrooks:


Women’s Bantamweight: Jessica-Rose Clark vs. Joselyne Edwards

Best Win for Clark? Paige VanZant For Edwards? Yanan Wu
Current Streak: Clark won her last bout, whereas Edwards came up short
X-Factor: Clark is coming off an ACL surgery
How these two match up: This reads like a kickboxing battle.

If, however, one woman were likely to switch it up and try some takedowns, it would be Clark. The Australian is a well-rounded fighter with good range kickboxing, clinch work, and a solid grappling game. She’s struggled a bit to find her home weight class, but Clark’s performance in his return to Bantamweight last time out was excellent.

This will be her first fight in 13 months.

Panama’s Edwards is a rangy striker. She does the majority of her work with long, straight punches, but the high-volume kickboxer has struggled a bit with her opponent’s takedowns inside the cage.

Provided Clark returns to action in similar form, the 33-year-old veteran has all the tools to win this fight on the feet or the mat. Her combination of movement and power kicks should allow her to navigate Edwards’ range advantage, and the takedown option is likely there if need be. Finally, Clark can probably win this fight in the clinch also, with her dirty boxing and knees!

Were it not for her injury, Clark’s destruction of Alpar would have put her on the fast track at Bantamweight. This is her chance to make up for it and regain that path.

Prediction: Clark via decision


Featherweight: Alex Caceres vs. Seung Woo Choi

Best Win for Caceres? Sergio Pettis For Choi? Julian Erosa
Current Streak: Caceres has won four straight (!!!), while Choi has put together three wins
X-Factor: Caceres is known for his inconsistency
How these two match up: This Featherweight clash should result in some fun exchanges.

Caceres grew from scrappy up-and-comer to composed veteran inside the Octagon, but he did so without sacrificing his unique flair and style. “Bruce Leeroy” has done well since returning to Featherweight, shucking off takedowns with good consistency and maintaining a bit more pop in his strikes.

Early in his UFC career, Choi was held back by his wrestling defense. Since he’s shored up that hole a bit, however, Choi has been able to put together combinations and find a home for his power punches far more effectively, resulting in his current win streak.

Both of these men spend more time defending takedowns than pursuing them, so this has the makings of a stand up scrap. In particular, all of Caceres’ recent victories came against grappling specialists, and that reads like a problem here. Choi is not going to be diving for legs and getting tired in the process; he’s going to be swinging for Caceres’ chin. Even after all these years, Caceres still gets caught leaning back with his hands low, and Choi has the skills to capitalize.

Choi is coming off a pretty brutal win over a lanky, defense-second volume striker; expect another here.

Prediction: Choi via decision


Welterweight: Francisco Trinaldo vs. Dwight Grant

Best Win for Trinaldo? Paul Felder For Grant? Alan Jouban
Current Streak: Trinaldo came up short last time out, whereas Grant returned to the win column
X-Factor: Trinaldo is 43 years old
How these two match up: I am cautiously optimistic about this one.

Trinaldo is awesome. “Massaranduba” is a big star in his home country of Brazil, a star of The Ultimate Fighter (TUF) who parlayed the show into a long, successful stint inside the Octagon. A veteran kickboxer, Trinaldo carries big power and is plenty capable of delivering big shots from top position too.

American Kickboxing Academy’s Grant is an odd fighter. He’s got a gigantic reach and major power, but he struggles to pull the trigger often, resulting in strange, low-volume fights.

A few years ago, a match up like this would have read as a clear victory for Trinaldo. However, times have changed. At 170 lbs., he’s without the size advantage that was so helpful at Lightweight. Plus, he’s gotten a bit slower and less durable with age, meaning the chance of Trinaldo walking into a heavy shot and getting lamped have increased considerably.

I am not ready to give up on the Brazilian yet, however. Grant is not that much younger at 37 years of age, and he’s nowhere near as accomplished as Trinaldo, nor is he likely to push the pace.

Trinaldo has the skill to outpoint Grant, and if the two do trade wildly on occasion, he still packs a punch.

Prediction: Trinaldo via knockout


Light Heavyweight: Nicolae Negumereanu vs. Ike Villanueva

Best Win for Negumereanu? Aleksa Camur For Villanueva? Vinicius Moreira
Current Streak: Negumereanu won his last bout, whereas Villanueva lost
X-Factor: Negumereanu has fought a low-level of opposition throughout his career
How these two match up: This is not a great fight, but it might be fun!

Romania’s Negumereanu is more physical talent than technical skill. Despite some submission wins on his record, his work inside the Octagon suggests that he prefers to trade strikes than wrestle. On the flip side, Villanueve also likes to trade, but his gifts fall more in the realm of toughness and experience than athleticism.

What to do in a fight between unproven prospect and underwhelming veteran? Truthfully, neither man is particularly great at anything. With technique up in the air, however, I like to side with toughness.

“Hurricane Ike” has power, and he’s no quitter. Maybe he gets overwhelmed early on by his younger foe, but if not, the odds that Negumereanu wilts a bit when faced with an opponent who won’t go away seem high.

Prediction: Villanueva via knockout

‘X-Factor’ Picks for 2021: 27-19-2 (1)


UFC Fight Night: Ewell v Rivera
Photo by Chris Unger/Zuffa LLC

Bringing you the weird and wild from the world of MMA each and every weeknight!

Welcome to Midnight Mania!

Following a January arrest and a pair of felony charges of attempted first degree murder with a deadly weapon, UFC Bantamweight Irwin Rivera was released from custody earlier today following a decision from a Palm Beach County Judge. ESPN Deportes provided the first report and court details, while MMAFighting confirmed Rivera’s release with the Palm Beach Sheriff’s office.

Rivera pled not guilty, citing insanity. He was granted a conditional release provided Rivera continues his bipolar medication, therapy, and remains under permanent supervision by his friends and family. When initially arrested, Rivera explained to police that he had been instructed by a “higher power” and been given the purpose of killing his sisters, the stabbing victims.

Court documents revealed a large amount of support for Rivera’s rehabilitation. His two sisters, the stabbing victims, came out in support of Rivera almost immediately, and they spoke on his behalf in court. Rivera’s manager, Ali Abdelaziz, also provided a written statement, while team mates Gilbert Burns and Sean Soriano offered to supervise the newly released Rivera. Doctors testified that Rivera’s actions were the results of an “acute episode of psychosis,” and testified that his condition has since stabilized.

All three of Irwin’s UFC bouts took place in 2020. He lost a short-notice debut opposite Giga Chikadze before splitting a pair of decisions to Andre Ewell and Ali AlQaisi. After his arrest, UFC released a statement promising to monitor the situation closely before offering Rivera any future fights, but at this time of writing, he is still technically a member of the UFC Bantamweight roster.

Insomnia

While I have no insight to offer about Donald Cerrone’s supposed mushroom use, I do know several fighters who micro dose prior to workouts on a fairly regular basis. I’m sure it happens for real fights too!

Gregor Gillespie vs. Arman Tsarukyan is not looking likely.

This is a cliché statement that’s always likely to backfire, but … someone is getting knocked out!

An update to UFC Vegas 41:

Joanna Jedrzejczyk ranks highly among the most violent blue belts on the planet.

For some reason, I think either Yana Kunitskaya or Thiago Santos are next up from the ATT roster to appear on AEW …

How’s everyone feel about the Aspen Ladd corner controversy? I don’t have a problem with an angry corner, but from my outside perspective, she looked closer to tears rather than all fired up afterward.

Slips, rips, and KO clips

Getting blasted by an uppercut while barely alive and leaning against the Octagon fence never looks fun.

The rare inside shoulder look from within the triangle choke:

IMO: up kicks should always be allowed, regardless of whether or not the knee is down.

Random Land

Some dude on the Internet keeps pouring molten aluminum on stuff, and now he’s famous on TikTok.

Midnight Music: There are many great stages to the career of Miles Davis, but his fusion period draws me back the most.

Sleep well Maniacs! More martial arts madness is always on the way.