Tagged in: title

Usman defeats Masvidal to retain belt

Kamaru Usman pushed Jorge Masvidal up against the cage. He struck Masvidal with his shoulder, stomped Masvidal’s feet and dug in with hard punches to the body.

With an opponent coming in on a week’s notice, Usman’s strategy was clear: grind and wear Masvidal out. And it worked entirely.

Usman overpowered Masvidal via unanimous decision (50-45, 50-45, 49-46) in the main event of UFC 251 on Sunday morning in Abu Dhabi, United Arab Emirates. With the win, Usman retained his UFC welterweight title.

Usman vs. Masvidal came together only in the past eight days. Usman’s scheduled opponent, Gilbert Burns, tested positive for the coronavirus on July 3, just hours before the UFC charter was set to leave Las Vegas for Abu Dhabi.

Over the Fourth of July holiday weekend, the UFC was able to come to terms with Masvidal — who balked at the promotion’s initial offer for the fight six weeks ago — to fight for the 170-pound title as a late replacement.

“‘[Masvidal] is the biggest, baddest dude out there right now,” Usman told UFC play-by-play announcer Jon Anik after the fight. “I had to switch gears and prepare for him on a week’s notice. … I had to make a mental shift. I trained for Gilbert. I had a completely different game plan.”

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The addition of Masvidal, one of the UFC’s biggest stars, actually made the fight more highly anticipated. Masvidal and Usman had been feuding since a verbal altercation on Super Bowl radio row back in February.

Usman’s 12 consecutive victories ties lightweight champion Khabib Nurmagomedov for the longest active winning streak in the UFC. That figure also ties Georges St-Pierre for the longest winning streak in UFC welterweight history.

Usman (17-1) has never lost in the UFC.

The Nigerian-born Florida resident has not lost since his second pro bout, in 2013. Usman, 33, was coming off a fifth-round TKO over Colby Covington at UFC 245 in December, the latest UFC title-fight finish ever. This was Usman’s second title defense.

Masvidal (35-14) stopped Darren Till, Ben Askren and Nate Diaz within an eight-month span last year, making him one of the hottest pugilists on the UFC roster. The 5-second KO of Askren was the quickest in UFC history.

Masvidal, a 35-year-old Miami native, had 48 career fights coming in, which was the second-highest total ever for a fighter competing in his or her first UFC title bout.

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WBC orders Luke Campbell-Ryan Garcia fight for interim lightweight title

The WBC has ordered a fight between Luke Campbell and Ryan Garcia for the organization’s interim lightweight title.

This occasion became available after the WBC’s top-rated lightweight, Javier Fortuna, opted to face Jorge Linares on Aug. 28. Campbell and Garcia are ranked second and third by the WBC, respectively.

“I’m finally getting to fight a southpaw my favorite fighters to fight! Bring it on luke Campbell,” Garcia wrote on Twitter. The entire WBC lightweight title scenario is a bit of a quagmire. The WBC “franchise” champion is Vasiliy Lomachenko, the organization’s regular champion is Devin Haney, and Fortuna-Linares will be contested for the WBC’s “Diamond” title.

It’s not clear just how this will ultimately be cleared up, or if the winner of Campbell-Garcia will face any of the other champions in the foreseeable future.

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While it’s an enticing matchup on paper, it doesn’t necessarily mean that this fight is destined to happen.

Both sides must come to an agreement, and recently Garcia (20-0, 17 KOs) and his promotional company, Golden Boy Promotions, have been at odds. The popular young prizefighter was arranged to kick off Golden Boy’s return to action on July 4, but was unable to come to terms.

It has become a very public spat between the two parties, who are meeting later this week, according to Eric Gomez, the president of Golden Boy Promotions.

“We just got the letter today [from the WBC], so we’re in the process of talking to Ryan,” Gomez said. “We’re going to talk to his team, we’re going to see what he wants to do.

“That’s one of the guys he’s said repeatedly that he wants to fight,” Gomez said regarding Campbell.

First and foremost, it seems as though the relationship between Garcia and Golden Boy has to be mended. “We’re meeting with team Ryan later this week, most likely Friday,” Gomez said.

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Cejudo retired, bantamweight title vacant

Earlier this month at UFC 249, Henry Cejudo shocked the world when he retired at the age of 33. The news came right after he made his first bantamweight title defense by earning a TKO victory over former longtime champ Dominick Cruz.

After the stunning news, many people doubted his retirement, but now his retirement seems to be the real thing as the UFC removed Cejudo’s name from the title page and the official rankings on the UFC website.

Once the world noticed the removal of Cejudo’s name, ESPN confirmed that Cejudo is now considered retired by promotion officials and therefore, the UFC bantamweight title is now vacant.

While the UFC views Cejudo as retired, there is now word at this time as to whether or not Cejudo has removed himself from the USADS drug-testing pool.

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Cejudo is one of the most successful combat athletes of all time.

In 2008, he won an Olympic gold medal in wrestling and following his wrestling career, he started competing in mixed martial arts, where he went on to conquer the UFC’s flyweight and bantamweight championships. He also is one of four people in UFC history to hold two titles in two different weight classes at the same time.

At the time of his retirement announcement, Cejudo was considered to be in the prime of his career. He was on a six fight undefeated streak and his last loss came in 2016. He also ended Demetrious Johnson’s reign as flyweight champion, which snapped Johnson’s UFC record of 11 title defenses.

The UFC has not officially announced any further plans regarding the vacant bantamweight title. UFC president Dana White said after UFC 249 that Petr Yan would be one of the two men that will compete for the belt at 135-pounds. Yan was planned to fight Marlon Moraes in June, but the travel ban from the global coronavirus pandemic as affected that fight.

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Gaethje batters Ferguson to win UFC interim title

Two months ago, Justin Gaethje was training and waiting for the UFC to find his next rival.

On Saturday night, after accepting a short notice opportunity to compete in the UFC 249 main event, he stopped Tony Ferguson by TKO in the fifth round to become interim lightweight champion, setting up an inevitable showdown with Khabib Nurmagomedov later this year.

It was a jaw-dropping show, as Gaethje punished Ferguson round after round before finally putting him away with less than two minutes remaining in the combat.

“I knew I was a killer stepping in here,” Gaethje said about his performance. “No better drug on Earth. Adrenaline coursing through my veins.”

Following two consecutive losses, Gaethje started making noticeable changes to his strategy and approach to fighting without sacrificing any of his highlight-reel finishes.

It was more of the same at UFC 249 as he attacked Ferguson with devastating power behind his punches while refusing to engage in the wild exchanges that cost him so dearly in many past fights.

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“I had to lose to change,” Gaethje stated. “Can’t fix what’s not broken. I was getting hit too much, and I was having too much fun. At this level you absolutely cannot do that.”

While Ferguson did manage to put Gaethje down briefly at the end of the second round with a staggering uppercut, the former Ultimate Fighter winner failed to mount much offense over 25 minutes. He did display incredible durability, though, as he absorbed punches that would have likely knocked out every other lightweight on the roster.

Gaethje’s controlled aggression continued to add to his significant strike total as he cut up Ferguson’s face and left him a bloody mess by the fifth round. It was a stiff jab late in the fight that rattled Ferguson for the final time, and as he wobbled backwards toward the cage shaking his head, that forced referee Herb Dean to stop the fight.

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Red Sox remove interim tag from manager Ron Roenicke’s title

Ron Roenicke is no longer the “interim” manager of the Boston Red Sox. He’s now Mr. Manager — or as they call it in MLB, just the manager.

The team lifted the interim tag from Roenicke’s title Wednesday after MLB released its report on the 2018 Red Sox sign-stealing scandal. Roenicke was elevated to interim manager when Alex Cora and the team parted ways after Cora was outed as the mastermind of the 2017 Houston Astros cheating scandal, and Boston chief baseball officer Chaim Bloom explained the temporary interim tag on a conference call on Wednesday night.

“At the time that we named Ron interim manager, we explained the interim tag was necessary in order for us to respect that there was an ongoing investigation,” said Bloom. “Obviously, with that investigation complete and given the results of the investigation, that interim tag is removed and Ron is now our manager.”

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That investigation did not find any Red Sox coaches of players responsible, outing Boston’s replay operator J.T. Watkins was the main culprit. He has been banned through the 2020 season, and cannot return to his role as Boston’s replay room operator until after the 2021 season.

Roenicke is now the 48th manager in Red Sox history.

He is working on a one-year contract that expires after the 2020 season, Bloom said Wednesday night.

While there are theories that Cora may return to the Boston bench after serving his one-year suspension — which was handed down Wednesday for his action with the Astros in 2017 — Bloom said Roenick will get a chance to earn an extension this season.

Roenicke is a well-respected baseball man and well-liked in the Boston clubhouse. He served as manager of the Milwaukee Brewers from 2011-15, posting a 342-331 record over that span.

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