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UFC Fight Night 141 main event breakdown: Can Blaydes avenge loss to Ngannou?

nt" MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC Fight Night 141. UFC Fight Night 141 takes place Saturday at Cadillac Arena in Beijing. The entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass. Curtis Blaydes...

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MMAjunkie Radio co-host and MMAjunkie contributor Dan Tom breaks down the UFC’s top bouts. Today, we look at the main event for UFC Fight Night 141.

UFC Fight Night 141 takes place Saturday at Cadillac Arena in Beijing. The entire card streams on UFC Fight Pass.

Curtis Blaydes (10-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’5″ Age: 27 Weight: 254 lbs. Reach: 80″
  • Last fight: TKO win over Alistair Overeem (June 9, 2018)
  • Camp: Elevation Fight Team (Denver, Co.)
  • Stance/striking style: Orthodox/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ NJCAA national heavyweight wrestling title
+ Amateur MMA accolades
+ 8 KO victories
+ 2 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Aggressive pace and pressure
+ Improved striking ability
^ Shows fight-to-fight improvements
+ Explosive power-double takedown
^ Changes level well
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Body locks, trips, suplexes
+ Solid top game
^ Floats, wrist-rides, strikes

Francis Ngannou (11-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC)

Staple info:

  • Height: 6’4″ Age: 32 Weight: 253 lbs. Reach: 83″
  • Last fight: Decision loss to Derrick Lewis (July 7, 2018)
  • Camp: MMA Factory (Paris, France)
  • Stance/striking style: Switch-stance/kickboxing
  • Risk management: Fair

Supplemental info:
+ Regional MMA accolades
+ 6 KO victories
+ 4 submission wins
+ 7 first-round finishes
+ KO power
+ Athletic and agile
+ Solid feints and footwork
^ Manages distance well
+ Accurate left hand
^ Jabs, crosses and check-hooks
+ Strong inside the clinch
^ Hard knees/heavy hips
+/-Developing ground game
^ Serviceable transitions/struggles off back

Point of interest: The pitfalls of pressure

The main event in Beijing features a rematch between two fighters who like to utilize pressure, but do so in different ways.

[autotag]Curtis Blaydes[autotag], who has experience in amateur kickboxing, shows consistent fight-to-fight improvements each time out. From his developing footwork to his commitment to combination striking, the 27-year-old seems to be right at home whenever pressuring forward.

Whether Blaydes is working behind his jab or rolling his head off of his crosses, his time spent training at the Elevation Fight Team and BANG Muay Thai have been coming through in recent performances. That said, Blaydes is not beyond being countered for his aggressive approaches.

However, in Blaydes’ last outing against Alistair Overeem, the former collegiate wrestler demonstrated the discipline of when to engage and when to fight at range, avoiding the big counters along the way. Blaydes lacked these abilities in his UFC debut, so I will be curious to see how he stacks up this time around against [autotag]Francis Ngannou[autotag].

With recency bias running strong, it can be easy to forget just how fast (and impressive) the rise has been for the Cameroonian-born Parisian who practically came from nothing.

In their first meeting, Ngannou was able to counter the approaches of Blaydes, primarily from the southpaw stance. Though listed as an orthodox fighter, the 32-year-old standout will occasionally fight from southpaw, especially when facing wrestling threats.

Not only does the southpaw stance allow a little more play in the distance department, but it also somewhat limits the shot selection on his opposition, as well as opens up opportunities to land his counter left cross. When fighting from orthodox, Ngannous still prefers to conduct traffic from his left side, whether he is throwing straight or variating his patent up-jabs and check-hooks.

Utilizing feints and pivoting well within close quarters, Ngannou also keeps a good sense of space, managing distance well when he chooses to. However, as impressive as Ngannou’s movement is, he, too, is not beyond being hit while coming forward, which is what makes the striking dynamic of this battle a compelling one at all ranges.

Next point of interest: The wrestler’s wrath

USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, Nov. 20: Who made big moves after UFC Argentina, Bellator 209?

There was plenty of MMA action this past weekend, and that means a few solid moves in the rankings this week. In the UFC Fight Night 141 main event, Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) thrilled his home-country fans in Argentina with a knockout of Neil Magny (21-7 MMA,...

There was plenty of MMA action this past weekend, and that means a few solid moves in the rankings this week.

In the UFC Fight Night 141 main event, Santiago Ponzinibbio (27-3 MMA, 9-2 UFC) thrilled his home-country fans in Argentina with a knockout of Neil Magny (21-7 MMA, 14-6 UFC) at welterweight. In the co-main event, former featherweight title challenger Ricardo Lamas (19-7 MMA, 10-5 UFC) picked up a big win over the gritty and tough-to-finish Darren Elkins (24-7 MMA, 14-6 UFC).

Plus, Johnny Walker (15-3 MMA, 1-0 UFC) made a quick impression at light heavyweight with a stoppage of Khalil Rountree (7-3 MMA, 3-3 UFC).

At Bellator 209 in Israel, featherweight champion Patricio Freire (28-4 MMA, 16-4 BMMA) reaffirmed his control over the promotion’s 145-pound division with a title defense over Emmanuel Sanchez (17-4 MMA, 9-3 BMMA).

Check out the latest edition of the USA TODAY Sports/MMAjunkie MMA rankings, which includes notable moves at welterweight, featherweight and light heavyweight. This weekend, we have more potential for movement in the heavyweight division when Curtis Blaydes (10-1 MMA, 5-1 UFC) meets Francis Ngannou (11-3 MMA, 6-2 UFC) in the UFC Fight Night 141 headliner.

Check out the new looks of all the divisions above.

Notebook: Chuck Liddell, Tito Ortiz, camps get last words in before trilogy

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The news conference started late and the internet stream was choppy – a bad sign for an internet card. But soon-to-be three-time opponents Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz got in a few last words before their trilogy on Saturday night. “Don’t leave,” Liddell told reporters at...

INGLEWOOD, Calif. – The news conference started late and the internet stream was choppy – a bad sign for an internet card. But soon-to-be three-time opponents Chuck Liddell and Tito Ortiz got in a few last words before their trilogy on Saturday night.

“Don’t leave,” Liddell told reporters at The Forum, which hosts the internet-streamed card in Inglewood, Calif. “It’s going to end quick. I’m putting this guy to sleep.”

It was the last chance for the UFC Hall of Famers to drum up interest in a $39.99 pay-per-view – twice discounted – that few expected to take place. The headliners claim a third bout will settle a score that wasn’t quite settled by a pair of octagon meetings that ended decisively for Liddell.

The trilogy could also determine whether Oscar De La Hoya branches into a new business, or stays close to his boxing roots. Improvising a welcome speech before a backdrop of main card fighters, the retired boxer and Golden Boy chief professed his plan to make a real go of it in MMA. He talked up Liddell and Ortiz as MMA’s great rivalry and said the UFC legends had carried the sport on their backs.

He also addressed critics who say Liddell and Ortiz are fighting long past their prime, again framing the matchup as an inalienable right among two decorated competitors who feel they are still competitive.

“Who doesn’t like watching a final chapter?” De La Hoya said.

Watching the aging legends square off at the storied arena, it was a blast from the past. Here are some things that happened:

* After twice revising the bout sheet, there are currently 18 bouts on the card, including five amateur bouts contested for state titles under the California Amateur Mixed Martial Arts Organization (CAMO).

* For the first time in the state’s history, amateur fighters will be tested for performance-enhancing drugs, courtesy of assistance from the non-profit Contact Sports Foundation, CSAC commissioner Martha Shen-Urquidez told the audience. The CSAC also is implementing a concussion protocol for amateur fighters, whom he said “probably” outnumber professionals by three to one.

* Former UFC middleweight Tom Lawlor didn’t bring an outfit, but promised to make a statement against his opponent Deron Winn.

“I’ve been kind of out of work the past few years,” said Lawlor, who was cut from the industry-leader two months prior to serving a two-year suspension for an anti-doping violation. “My job Saturday is to put other people to work. I’m going to put Deron to work, I’m going to put the doctors to work, and I’m going to make a statement. And at the end of the night, you’ll be talking about me.”

* Winn used Lawlor’s mention of his amateur wrestling credentials to knock his opponent’s professional wrestling career.

“Amateur wrestling is actually real wrestling,” he said. “So I travel the world and I wrestle the best wrestlers in the world and tried to make two Olympic teams. What Tom does is fake. That’s why he’s so good at talking. Hehas to prepare fake speeches all the time. He can convince himself he’s going to do something Saturday night, but this is my time. His time is past.”

* George Prajin, Ortiz’s longtime manager, called his client and Liddell an “iconic mountain stone” in the sport of MMA.

“For all those critics, you need to take into consideration that both these two guys here built the sport, and actually probably carried the sport on their backs for many years. In line with Thanksgiving, we should give them our thanks, and we should show them our appreciation, and we should support this fight.”

* Ortiz introduced a new wrinkle to the fight by calling it an inside job with his friend Dave Thomas and longtime wrestling partner Antonio McKee, Liddell’s coach for Saturday’s fight.

“Guys, we put the fight together,” he said. “Thanks. Chuck, you just got suckered. I know what he’s been doing for the last two and a half months. How he hasn’t been sparring, the guys he’s been wrestling with, everything. So the joke’s on you, buddy.”

* In response, McKee said videos of Liddell training were a setup.

“I’ve got to say out of everybody I’ve ever trained, Chuck is a really standup guy. And before that, I thought Chuck was racist. I never saw anybody black in his camp his whole career. But I was really pleased to be part of his training, and we’re doing a great job here. I like Chuck. I think he’s awesome. Like I said, he’s one of the best.

“The first week I was really worried. I thought Chuck was done. After, I saw him train one week, two weeks, then three weeks, I was impressed. I told Dave Thomas, TNT Management, I said, I think we’re going to beat Tito up. At the end of the camp, our fake videos, whatever we put up that people saw that was entertaining, that was great. But at the end of the camp, this man is amazing at 48 years old. There’s no way you lose to be able to compete at my gym at that age and at the level we trained. I think Chuck’s going to knock out Tito again, and we’re going to go out and have a good time, and thanks again for everything, Tito.”

* Liddell mocked Ortiz’s attempt to get in his head. Staring directly at the former champ, he asked, “You think I’m worried about you? You think that works? You think you can play mind games with me?”

* Ortiz bit, and the two went back and forth about their previous fights. Ortiz claimed the referee at UFC 66 – Steve Mazzagatti – was in Liddell’s “back pocket.”

“He said move or I’m going to stop it,” Liddell said. “You looked at him like a big deer in headlights.”

Ortiz shot back, “Oh, c’mon. That was Mazzagatti, your (expletive) partner. Are you joking me?

“You’ve been knocked out before. You’ll be knocked out again.”

Liddell replied, “Good. Come after it.”

For more on Golden Boy MMA: Liddell vs. Ortiz, check out the MMA Rumors section of the site.

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