UFC 221 Is Taking Shape

Artwork by MonSneakS

UFC 221 Features Loads of Aussie Talent

Next year, the UFC takes its first trip to western Australia when they visit Perth for UFC 221. The card is headlined by middleweight champion and Australian native, Robert Whittaker and challenger, Luke Rockhold. It’s an enormous fight for Australian MMA and help put the UFC’s newest star in the spotlight for a potentially historic and exciting night. But this card isn’t just about celebrating Australasian MMA royalty. It’s an introduction to the main stream for loads of up and coming contenders on the local circuit. And in the midst of several fight announcements, it only felt right to highlight the talent coming to an octagon near you.

Israel Adesanya

This is a big one. Israel Adesanya made a name for himself on the international kickboxing circuit and most notably in Glory. However, recently he’s turned his sights towards owning the MMA circuit and has competed in Australian promotions like Hex and AFC. He’s complied an 11-0 record and racked up impressive KO’s in all 11 contests including a first round stoppage of former UFC lightweight, Melvin Guillard.

News of his signing to the UFC spread a few months back but earlier today it was made official he’d be competing at UFC 221 in Perth. His opponent? Fellow Aussie Rob Wilkinson. It represents a clash of top middleweight prospects as well as two of the brightest stars on the Australasian scene. It’s gonna be quite the spectacle when “Stylebender” steps into the octagon for his debut and I surely will be glued to my chair when it happens.

Tai Tuivasa

“Bam Bam” smashed through expectations with his debut KO of Rashad Coulter at UFC Sydney. The performance left us in awe and the UFC with no choice but to put him on the largest Australian card since the dethroned Ronda Rousey was head kicked to the moon. The heavyweight division is always in need of new prospects and a heavy hitting Aussie certainly fits the bill. And at just 24 years of age, Tai represents the new school of fighters from the region.

And now facing a 4 fight UFC veteran in his second fight in the octagon, Tuivasa has an opportunity to put his name ahead of many other young contenders looking for their shot. The UFC has never been timid about moving a fighter like “Bam Bam” forward with a rapid pace and with a win I wouldn’t expect much different here.

A 2-0 start in the world’s largest promotion and a slew of knockouts on his resume, he could be fighting for a spot in the rankings be the end of next year. Of course, he must take care of Cyril Asker first. But if you ask me, Asker’s got his work cut out for him at UFC 221. One punch KO machine in his native land,,,my moneys on Tuivasa.

Damien Brown

Coming off his war with Frank Camacho, which earned him a fight of the night bonus and loads of added support, “Beatdown” returns against “The Maestro” Dong Hyun Kim. Violence is to be expected in every Damien Brown fight but Dong Hyun Kim is a great co-conspirator for exciting fights. And after stealing the show at UFC Sydney, he’ll benefit tremendously from a win. Though he’ll have plenty of competition.

UFC 221 is littered with future stars and champions. But Damien Brown is perhaps the most entertaining fighter of the bunch. The “Beatdown” fights to live up to his name. And all he wants, is a test. He got it from Camacho and he’ll get it from DHK. His bout with Marco Polo Reyes is still one of the best fights i’ve seen and Damien Brown has been in his fair share of wars himself.

So you know these two are ready to throw down when the bell rings. As always, I’ll give it the early fight of the night candidate label. But when Damien Brown is involved, we could be talking about seconds. Because a shot lands from him and it could be lights out.

Tyson Pedro

Its amazing how the Australasian MMA scene has grown in such a short period of time. A few years back, their were just a handful of fighters anyone could point to on the main stream circuit. Its loaded. And at UFC 221, that growth will be on full display. And possibly leading the pack of the new wave, Tyson Pedro will take on Saparbek Safarov in Perth. He’s only 3 fights into his UFC career but a submission of big name prospect, Khalil Rountree and a a KO of Paul Craig has catapulted Pedro to star status. And despite a loss his last time out, the hype lives on.

Ilir Latifi was the man responsible for handing Tyson his first career loss but as a top-15 opponent, not much was lost. And currently sitting at #14 in the rankings means a win in Perth could lead to a top-10 opponent soon. The light heavyweight division has been shallow to say the least. But the injection of young stars such as Pedro could help boost the lacking talent pool.

And facing a fighter like Safarov means he’ll have plenty of opportunities to put on a show. Saparbek made his name off the war with Gian Villante. He stands and trades with his opponents and while it won’t be in his best interest, he’ll do the same with Pedro. We’ve got a battle brewing and I can’t wait to see it pop off.

I LOVE THIS SHIT!! 🦍 #ufc221 #beastmode

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Ben Nguyen

The flyweight division has been a source of much debate over the past few months. A super-fight between champ, Demetrious Johnson and bantamweight king, TJ Dillashaw is in the works and will likely take place early next year. And while TJ would theoretically be dropping down to flyweight, he’s not a true division staple. It would register as a title defense for DJ but in a lot of ways I feel we would still be searching for the #1 contender in the division while this fight plays out.

Well, look no further than UFC 221. Ben Nguyen, who fights out of Brisbane, will be in search of his 5th win inside the octagon since his debut in 2015. And if he gets it, he will have the most wins in the division in that time span.

But he’ll have to get past top-5 flyweight, Jussier Formiga. While Formiga has had a rough go of it as of late, he holds wins over Dustin Ortiz, Wilson Reis and Zach Makovsky. That’s good enough to make him one of the top contenders at flyweight and a big resume boost if one could beat him. And Ben Nguyen may be that guy. The stakes are high. With a win, he would be the owner of a 3 fight win streak and a finish of Tim Elliot.

No other flyweight has that on their resume. So if you’re looking for the #1 contender at flyweight, go to Perth and see him for yourself.

 Mark Hunt

What a long, strange trip its been. 2017 was an interesting year for Mark Hunt to say the least. He’s spent the majority of the year locking horns with Dana White and the UFC after being pulled for the UFC Sydney main event for concerning brain scans. It left him calling Dana every name in the book and accusing the UFC of conspiring against him. Alas, the in-fighting had to come to an end eventually. And a trip to the UFC’s neurologist was the remedy. A few more passed tests and Mark Hunt is cleared to fight again. Thank god.

And his first fight back.? Is a main card slot on UFC 221 facing Curtis Blaydes. Coming off a KO win over Derrick Lewis, it seems a bit odd that he was given this particular opponent. Curtis Blaydes is a rising contender and really only recently shirked his prospect tag. So being given a fight with one of the biggest names in the heavyweight division is a damn good step up for him.

But Mark Hunt isn’t interested in being a stepping stone. And given his stature in the sport, it feels a bit like the UFC is looking to build a name off the popular KO artist. Not on his watch. Years in the sport have hardened his attitude towards the sport as a whole. And instead of playing the politics game, he just wants a good clean fight. And thats what he’ll get from Blaydes. Anytime Hunt takes to the cage its bound to be a showstopper.

Robert Whittaker

The Champ is here!

Robert Whittaker represents the top of not only the Australian MMA scene, but MMA itself. After GSP relinquished the crown he took from Michael Bisping at UFC 217, Whittaker was crowned the undisputed champ. And rightfully so. My feelings about GSP as the middleweight champion are well documented. And for me, Whittaker was always the guy. He KO’d Jacare and rightfully got the nod over Cuban sensation, Yoel Romero.

And for his first title defense, he faces the man Bisping took it from. Luke Rockhold has long time been considered the future of the division. Granted, he’s got several years under the sport. But his run in the UFC has left a big impression on the matchmakers and fans alike. And because of that, Robert Whittaker has a tremendous amount to gain from a win at UFC 221.

Obviously, a win means keeping his belt. But it also means he has defeated the top 3 middleweights on planet earth in succession. Of course, there are always more contenders to take out. Kelvin Gastelum and Chris Weidman are waiting in the wings and it will be a couple more years before we can talk about him “cleaning out the division”. But he’s well on his way. And at UFC 221, he can continue his assault on the pound for pound elite.

Perth make sure you’re ready 👊🏽 #ufc221 @ufc @lukerockhold

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Man I cant wait for this card.

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