Posts Tagged ‘Chael Sonnen’

St-Pierre-Hendricks fight lives up to hype, St-Pierre defends title

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Johny Hendricks will take welterweight incumbent Georges St-Pierre for his belt at UFC 167 on Saturday. (Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Johny Hendricks will take on welterweight incumbent Georges St-Pierre for his belt at UFC 167 on Saturday. (Photo: Stephen R. Sylvanie-USA TODAY Sports)

Georges St-Pierre eked out a split decision over a very game Johny Hendricks Saturday at UFC 167 in Las Vegas. Hendricks came out strong and scored damage with his powerful combinations early on, giving GSP some real trouble during interludes on its feet. The pair matched wits with their wrestling during some tactical scrambles and clinch battles on the fence.  SI.com scored the five-round thriller for Hendricks 49-47, with R3 a even 10-10.

Official Results:

Georges St. Pierre def. Johny Hendricks – Split Decision  – (48-47 H, 48-47 GSP, 48-47 GSP)

Rashad Evans def. Chael Sonnen – TKO (strikes) 4:05 R1 

Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald – Split Decision (29-28 L, 29-28 M, 29-28 L)

Tyrone Woodley def. Josh Koscheck — KO 4:38 R1

Ali Bagautinov def. Tim Elliott — Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

Play-by-play and prelim results below:

UFC Welterweight Championship: Georges St-Pierre vs. Johny Hendricks

Hendricks (15-1) has some exciting tools that can take St-Pierre out tonight. The former OSU wrestler is a two-time NCAA Div I. champion at 165 pounds, and one of the greatest competitors that legendary OSU coach and two-time Olympic gold medalist John Smith said he’s had the pleasure of molding. Without much tutelage in this area, GSP’s natural talent and work ethic had made him a highly functional wrestler, but the 30-year Hendricks was at it 20 years before he even stepped into the cage. People forget that, as Hendricks is also a deadly KO machine who’s caught some top-shelf talent moving with love taps heading into his fighting prime.

The 32-year-old St-Pierre (24-2) is the longest reigning champion in the UFC welterweight division with 11 straight wins and eight consecutive title defenses on his docket. He’s highly proficient to above-average in nearly all areas and is a master, if not a slightly conservative tactician. He hasn’t lost since the Matt Serra fiasco in April 2007. Rumors have swirled this week that GSP will either retire after this bout (win or lose) or move up to middleweight to make way for protégé MacDonald (who won’t fight his mentor) to make a run for the 170-pound title. Your guess on that is as good as mine.

11:52 pm ET – We head into our main event. Here comes the hype for a big fight. This time around, it’s warranted. Hendricks is an intriguing challenger. His power punching, his stellar wrestling. GSP has his biggest challenge in quite a while. Great main event that I hope lives up to its potential.

11:55 pm ET – Lights out and challenger Hendricks snakes his way to the cage to what else? Some down-home country music. Hendricks just signed a big Reebok deal – two-years, mid six-figure, incentive-based regardless of what happens tonight, according to his management. His slogan is “Go beard or go home.”

11:58 pm ET – The champ is here and the crowd welcomes him heartily. Donning the full gi, his karate headband, GSP mean-mugs it to the cage. Looks like a man on a mission. Big ovation as he bows to the crowd and enter the Octagon. Let the butterflies ensue.

12:03 pm ET – Buffering in rare form tonight. Our referee is Mario “Stand ‘Em Up” Yamasaki. Hendricks gets pretty positive reaction; GSP can do no wrong. They meet center cage. Hendricks is grinning ear to ear. GSP has that concerned look of his. And we’re off.

R1 – St-Pierre with a measuring kick and leaps into a successful takedown out of the gate. Hendricks is locked into a guillotine, but escapes to his feet. They’re clinching and GSP goes to work with some body knees. Yamasaki separates them. Hendricks sees the TD attempt coming this time and lands an uppercut as GSP moves in. Another uppercut and GSP reacts by pushing Hendricks to fence. Still clinching, elbows from Hendricks and he moves to outside, trying now to take GSP down on fence. Hendricks gets a TD. GSP’s slightly nicked with a cut over his right eye from those close-quarter elbows. GSP wall-walks up and they separate. In clinch, hard knee from Hendricks, which backs GSP up. GSP with high kick that Hendricks partly defends. Another clinch and Hendricks barreling GSP’s thighs with knees. They separate again. :30 to go. Hendricks pumps a left twice and GSP backs out of range. Stellar first round. Hendricks 10-9

R2 – GSP trying to find range with kicks. Hendricks coming in with combos and backing him up. His left is pretty close each time. That left. Hendricks connects with uppercut, then another, GSP flustered, wobbling, in trouble. GSP clinches with Hendricks in a little bit of desperation. Then, referee Yamasaki separates them for no reason. Re-start and Hendricks is right back in with lefts. Hendricks drops levels and has GSP’s legs on fence, but no TD. GSP’s face reddening. Back to center cage. GSP fights back with a left hook, then another. Hendricks in again with uppercut and knee that just misses. GSP lands left hook, then a left superman punch. Right hook by Hendricks. Every time Hendricks moves in, GSP is affected. GSP lands the left on Hendricks, then a jab. Hendricks registers that they’re good hits with a head nod. GSP head kick lands but it’s soft. Hendricks looks loose, but a little tired. Hendricks in with two uppercuts, backing GSP out. It’s a dogfight, folks. GSP ducks Hendricks punch that GSP turns into clinch. Trade of knees to thighs and bell .Very close round. I have it even 10-10. Judges will be split on this one, no doubt.

R3 – Hendricks with right. GSP with low kick. Hendricks in with body knee. GSP left over top. Hendricks dodges a GSP combo. Hendricks pumps jab once; he’s starting to slow down a little bit. GSP is breathing heavy, but coming on a little stronger now. GSP with tagging left. Hendricks still coming in, but his punches aren’t as crisp. He’s lowering his head, too, as he lunges. Not a good sign. GSP right. Hendricks left hook. 2:10 to go. GSP has found range and starting to avoid Hendricks’ attacks. Hendricks jab. St. Pierre is starting to land more. Single punch exchanges now. Hendricks shoots, pushes GSP to fence. Completes TD and crowd explodes. Hendricks in GSP’s guard. 0:15 to go. GSP to his feet right at bell. GSP 10-9

R4 – Championship rounds, folks. Pawing until GSP throws a straight and Hendricks counters with a combo, uppercut included. It mostly misses. He’s headhunting, but seems to have some snap back. Hendricks grabs at the back of GSP’s neck and he falls to his back trying to back-pedal. Hendricks in GSP’s guard, pulling him to fence. Hendricks backs out and lets him stand (!) GSP’s face is now busted up, bleeding. Hendricks lands an uppercut. 2:00 to go. Hendricks with a right-right-left uppercut. Uppercut lands. GSP pushes Hendricks to fence for a shoot. Hendricks stuffs it and turns GSP around against fence. A battle for the TD. GSP fighting all the way and he reverses. Hendricks against fence, then another reverse. Hendricks on outside. Lands a knee. Nothing major. Bell. Hendricks 10-9

R5 – GSP cut under both eyes, but bleeding has been stopped during rounds. Hendricks starts round bobbing is head, singing to himself. Cool as a cucumber. They clinch quick and Hendricks is on one leg, the other entwined between GSP’s legs. He manages to stay standing. What balance. Both to fence, but they separate quick. Big right by GSP and he takes Hendricks down. This is huge. Hendricks nearly sneaks out, but is stopped on his knees. Hendricks on his feet, crouched, then pushes to standing, back to fence. Fight for control and TD. Hendricks reverses GSP. He looks stronger. Much more composed. GSP’s face is bloody again. 1:50 to go. Referee Yamasaki separates them. GSP with front teep kick. Another kick to side of Hendricks body. GSP has to know it’s oh-so close. Chants of “GSP.” 1:05 to go and GSP shoots for a single-leg. Fights to take him down. Completes it but Hendricks is back up fast and GSP can’t capitalize. Hendricks has GSP against fence, leaning in with his body weight. GSP goes for a weak Kimura, but he doesn’t have position. Hendricks 10-9/49-47

Official Result: Georges St. Pierre def. Johny Hendricks – Split Decision  – (48-47 H, 48-47 GSP, 48-47 GSP)

St. Pierre: “I couldn’t see out of one eye. He really messed me up. I need a vacation.”

And here’s our big bombshell from GSP: “I have to hang up my gloves for a bit. I have to step away, at least for a bit. I have some personal things to take care of. I have to go away [for] a little bit.” Rogan presses him to clarify but GSP just keeps saying he has to go away for a “little bit.”

Hendricks says he thought he won the bout, but GSP is a great guy. Hendricks: “He didn’t land anything strong on me.” Crowd boos with his comments. Hendricks is noticeably upset and for good reason. People believe he won and GSP’s “exit” is strange. We’re not sure what it means.

Light Heavyweight: Chael Sonnen vs. Rashad Evans

What can we say about Chael Sonnen? The man with the mighty mouth is a cat with nine lives in MMA. After collecting back-to-back losses to champions Anderson Silva (July 2012) and Jon Jones (April), the one-time Olympic wrestling alternate resurrected his perpetual career with a rousing win over fading former UFC light heavyweight champion Mauricio “Shogun” Rua. Sonnen (29-13-1) could have his hands full with Evans…

… if former UFC titleholder Evans (19-3-1) avoids Sonnen’s grinding wrestling and gets some of his old mojo going again. The man who iced Chuck Liddell and outboxed Quinton “Rampage” Jackson has been missing of late. Evans’ last victory over Dan Henderson was a conservative one. When Evans is on and feeling loose, he’s light on his feet, ready for a shootout or a grappling battle and is a lot of fun to watch.

11:30 pm ET – We get a retrospective featuring UFC majority owners Lorenzo and Frank Fertitta, UFC President Dana White and others. The images are moving; the words not so much.

11:35 pm ET – Sonnen is on his way to the cage to a country twang. His shirt says “RESPECT IS EARNED.” Lights out and Evans struts in next, looking very serious; eyeballing the Octagon. He better be serious tonight. He needs this win. Buffer with the intros; Sonnen gets a warm reception. Evans welcome is mixed. Our referee is Herb Dean.

R1 – Sonnen takes center cage immediately, then shoots. Evans pushed to fence and it’s a Greco Roman match quickly, a fight for underhooks and position. Evans on outside and tries to TD, but Sonnen stops. Still in clinch on fence, Sonnen trying to knee, Evans answering with body shots. Evans separates slightly and lands a right. More underhook pummeling. Evans gets a double-leg on fence. Evans has half guard. Sonnen is cradled on fence. Evans posts to knee and land a few shots. Sonnen is trapped but not in imminent danger – yet. Evans lands an elbow and Sonnen flips to his stomach, then again to his back. Evans to full mount, then takes Sonnen’s back. Evans wails away and finishes Sonnen who looks like the life was sucked out of him.

Official Result: Rashad Evans def. Chael Sonnen – TKO (strikes) 4:05 R1

Solid performance for Evans. Very poor performance for Sonnen. Pretty anti-climatic without Sonnen putting up much of a fight once it hit the ground and Evans landed the fight-turning elbow. You have to think all of Sonnen’s extra-curricular commentating (which is fantastic work!) just doesn’t allow him enough time to train. I’d much rather Sonnen retire, so he can concentrate on his true calling in this sport.

 Welterweight: Rory MacDonald vs. Robbie Lawler

GSP protégé MacDonald (15-1) is on a five-fight win streak, with some impressive names on his mantel, B.J. Penn (December) and Jake Ellenberger (July) included. Both were decisions, and I’m figuring UFC matchmaker Joe Silva is pairing him against the all-out Lawler to kick the-24-year-old Canadian’s career into high gear for a title run.

The 31-year-old Lawler is a real crowd-pleaser: a decent wrestler turned dangerous boxer who could care less if the fight hits the ground. Lawler starched Koscheck in the first round at his UFC return in February and followed up that explosive win with a head-kick KO of the less foreboding Bobby Voelker. MacDonald is not particularly popular outside the Canadian contingent, so you’ve got to think that there’s a healthy part of the crowd itching for another Lawler special.

10:56 – Lawler enters, a small grin on his face. Very calm. This dude loves to scrap. MacDonald follows, getting a surprisingly strong pop from the crowd. Buffer with the intros and Lawler is shaking his head like he was born to do this. MacDonald looks confident, hands on waist. Mario Yamasaki is our ref.

R1 – Lawler with two hard front-leg kicks. High left kick attempt. Crowd chants “Rory” off the bat. MacDonald with a low kick.  Lawler moving in, missing by inches with haymakers. Lawler lands with front leg kick again. Lawler blocks a right body kick from Mac. Trade of body kicks that don’t land. Kick-o-rama. Pensive pace – both looking for a big hit. 2:00 to go. Lawler with body kick. Mac isn’t checking much. Lawler misses with another haymaker. Crowd getting a little restless.  Mac lands weak teep kick. More Lawler body kicks. Not much to write home about.  “Rory” chants start again. Crowd wants something big; neither fighter has yet to deliver. Lawler with Head kick; Mac grabs his leg, but can’t do anything to capitalize at bell. Lawler 10-9

R2 – Lawler with body kick out of gate and MacDonald takes his first shot. Lawler on one leg, hops back and escapes. Impressive balance. This is not the fight people expected. Slow. Plodding. Headhunting. Lawler with right kick; follow up with right body kick. Lawler is winning on volume. Lawler with head movement, blocking MacDonald right. MacDonald drops levels fast and secures a TD on fence; trying to pass guard. MacDonald to his feet, allows Lawler to backdoor out, but Mac stalls Lawler on his knees, holding onto his head. MacDonald trying to maneuver to Lawler’s back, but Lawler gets guard and is actually landing hard shots from his back. MacDonald posts to his knees and tries to elbow. Misses and bell. MacDonald 10-9 takes this one with TD and ground control.

R3 – Lawler tags with a right, then an uppercut. Lawler kicks, MacDonald catches his leg and gets a TD. Mac in Lawler’s guard. Stand-up. Lawler with a left and Mac shoots; scramble to ground and Lawler takes top, trying to unload some ground-and-pound, It settles with Mac on his back; Lawler in his guard. Re-stand and Mac is bleeding bad from his nose. Lawler with a left. An eye poke  with Lawler right and ref stops it to check on Mac. Re-start. Mac grabs Lawler leg kick; Lawler defends again beautifully. Lawler drops Mac with left uppercut, tries to finish with follow-ups. Lawler into side control. 1:40 to go. Lawler has this if ref doesn’t stupidly re-stand. Mac recovers guard, but Lawler is swinging to finish. Lawler trying to pass to mount and Mac stops him. Mac goes for an armbar. Back to his feet; Mac looking wobbly. Lawler with right and Mac answer with a TD to half. Mac trying to finish, but Lawler mostly defends. It was a 10-8 round before Mac went for the all-or-nothing finish. Lawler 10-9/29-28

Official Result: Robbie Lawler def. Rory MacDonald – Split Decision (29-28 L, 29-28 M, 29-28 L)

Lawler and MacDonald arm-in-arm after fight. Lawler can’t stop smiling. He doesn’t have a graze on him. Lawler makes UFC rankings at #10. No argument here. He is on the rise, for sure.

Welterweight: Josh Koscheck vs. Tyron Woodley

Koscheck (19-7) has been on the downslide with two consecutive losses in the Octagon to tonight’s main eventer Hendricks (May 2012) and Robbie Lawler (February), who we’ll see later during the night. Lawler starched the 2001 NCAA Div. I wrestling champ with his trademark power punching. Unfortunately for Kos, Woodley possesses the same potential to stop him with his hands – if he lets them go.

In addition, “T-Wood” has enough collegiate wrestling skills to keep up with Kos. However, Woodley (11-2) is still finding his legs in the division and is 1-1 since joining the UFC ranks, with a scary 36-second KO over Jay Hieron in February (Yes!) and a tepid split decision loss to Jake Shields in May (Meh).

Big ramifications for both in this bout – the UFC’s welterweight division is always close quarters and any given guy is one or two losses away from the exit door. Another interesting side story must be Kos praying Hendricks gets the job done tonight; Kos has lost twice to GSP (one being a title bout) soundly, and it’s a tough, tough climb back to the top in this situation.

10:41 pm ET – “T-Wood” enters to some rap. He looks like he’s put on some more muscle; he’s huge. Koscheck struts in afterward to a mixed response. Fans never forget TUF 1. Herb Dean is our referee.

R1 – Woodley connects right away with an overhand, then barrels in with knees. Koscheck is wobbled a little to cage and touches his hand to canvas to stop the knee attack. It becomes a wrestling battle on the fence quick and stalls. Boos and referee Dean re-starts it center. Kos looks composed again. Wood lands another right and a kick, but Kos counters with a kick that backs Wood up. Wood with a barrage of rights that sends Kos to the canvas, head banging on ground. Koscheck takes some follow-up leather, but recovers enough to grab onto Wood’s body for his dear life. Wood is in Kos’ guard, pulls him to fence. Ref Dean with a questionable re-start. Kos is bleeding from his left ear; face swelling. Woodley with a huge counter right and another as Kos goes down; follow-up punches, but Kos’ hands are at his sides and it’s over.

Official Result: Tyrone Woodley def. Josh Koscheck — KO 4:38 R1

Woodley had Koscheck’s number from the get-go, giving the TUF vet an uphill battle he eventually lost. Great win for Woodley, who’ll stick around for a bit longer. Koscheck’s future is less certain with three losses in a row.

Flyweight: Ali Bagautinov vs. Tim Elliott

Dagestan’s Bagautinov (11-2) is a mixed bag of talent, with both a Greco Roman and freestyle wrestling background and a gold medal in Combat Sambo (2012). On top of that, Bagautinov took out his last opponent, Marcus Vinicius, with punches in his Octagon debut in September.

Elliott (10-3-1) rides in on two unanimous decision victories over Jared Papazian (December) and Louis Gaudinot (August). Both are making their first appearances on a UFC main card, on its 20th anniversary card, no less. That should speak volumes as to what UFC brass expects from them.

R1 - Bag gets the best of the feel-out exchanges, just missing with an uppercut. Elliott is the pursuer, until Bag clinches at 3:45. They separate quickly.  More circling. Elliott shoots; no go.  Bag with a punch, knee; Elliott is hurt and tries to grab a single-leg. Bag won’t have it and Elliott re-sets again. More circling. Bag gets a takedown. Elliott springs to his feet, pushing forward with swings that aren’t close. 1:00 to go. Bag is clearly the more skilled striker. He ties up the round with a clinch on the cage, then a right and a knee that lands and sends Elliott to his back as the bell sound. Bag 10-9

R2 – Bag with TD right into an Elliott guillotine. It’s a close one, but Bag escapes is out and now on his back, Elliott in his guard. (Stats say Elliott has landed 40 strikes to Bag 26, but Bag’s are much more effective.) Bag escapes and it’s back to its feet, Elliott center-canvas and stalking. Elliott with inside kick, but not much else being thrown. Bag lands a right; Elliott shoots and it’s a wild scramble with Bag on top, but then to his feet quick. Bell. Bag 10-9 for more effective striking, but nice try on Elliott’s guillotine attempt.

R3 – Elliott is chasing, but Bag lands a body kick, then another at 3:30.  Elliott with a left that lands, but the punch has no heat. Bag swings and misses again.  Bag connects with two right overhands. This punch is working for him, so he’s keeps at it. The pace isn’t that fast. 1:30 to go. Elliott is another shot that Bag easily thwarts. Another Bag right. 1:00 to go. Elliott stuffs Bag TD.  He has to find a fight-ending punch. Bag lands a hard combo and Elliott slams Bag at bell but too little too late. Bag 10-9/30-27 

Official Result: Ali Bagautinov def. Tim Elliott — Unanimous Decision (29-28, 29-28, 30-27)

10:36 pm ET — UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn in the house. Arnold Schwarzenegger has also made it to the show tonight — he’s a huge martial arts fan with the Arnold Classic hosting many disciplines in Columbus, Ohio every year.

Here’s  your prelim results:

  • Donald Cerrone def. Evan Dunham – Submission (Triangle Choke) 3:49 R2 – Cerrone was on fire tonight, had Dunham in trouble early with a knee. He continued his dominance into round two, going for and nearly found an oma plata before finishing it with an inescapable triangle choke he maneuvered off the fence. Dunham had nothing for him.
  • Thales Leites def. Ed Herman  – Unanimous Decision (30-27 all) – Leites scored early in each set with takedowns and fished for finishes against a mostly-defending Herman.
  • Rick Story def. Brian Ebersole – Unanimous Decision (30-27 all) – Story lit Ebersole up a few times on its feet and looked very sharp. Of course, Story has faced much stiffer competition in the past, so take it with a grain of salt.
  • Erik Perez def. Edwin Figueroa – Unanimous Decision (30-27 all) – evenly matched, but not particularly compelling bout.
  • Jason High def. Anthony Lapsley – Unanimous Decision (29-28 all)
  • Sergio Pettis def. Will Campuzano – Unanimous Decision (30-27, 30-27, 29-28)  – decent UFC debut for the younger brother of UFC lightweight champion Anthony Pettis.
  • Gian Villante def. Cody Donovan – TKO (punches) 1:22 R2

                                                                                                                                                                              —  Loretta Hunt


  • Published On Nov 16, 2013
  • UFC 161 will not be a disappointment says UFC’s Tom Wright

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    Rashad Evans fights at UFC 161

    Rashad Evans (left) returns to the Octagan at UFC 161 for the first time since his loss to Rogerio Nogueira at UFC 156. (Eric Jamison/AP)

    More than 800 miles separate the Canadian cities of Winnipeg and Calgary. Regardless, UFC’s director of operations for Canada, Tom Wright, assured the press Tuesday afternoon UFC 161 in Winnipeg would be far and away from last summer’s Calgary card — a card UFC boss Dana White famously said, “sucked.” Like it’s Calgary counterpart, Winnipeg’s UFC 161, scheduled for June 15, has been beset by injuries, including injuries to Renan Barao and Antonio Rogerio Nogueira, that forced the cancellation of two headline bouts.

    “Injuries are part of any sport and they’re certainly part of this sport,” Wright said. “But when you take a look at this you’ll see the 161 card has two Ultimate Fighter champions, you’ve got two former Strikeforce champions, you’ve got a former light heavyweight champion in Rashad [Evans] and a former Pride champion. . . Winnipeg, Manitoba is not going to be disappointed.”

    Other quick hits from the call:

    · Evans will be returning to the Octagon for the first time since his listless unanimous decision loss to Nogueira last February at UFC 156. Earlier this year, the 33-year-old Evans talked about worries of being cut by the UFC with another bad outing. But now, it seems, Evans is only looking forward. “You definitely want to get the monkey off your back when you stink up the joint,” Evans said. “I’m going to go out there and put on a show but not only to shut all the naysayers up but for myself. I felt like I let myself down more than anything and I can live with disappointing anyone else but I can’t live with disappointing myself.”

    · Evans’s opponent in the main event, Dan Henderson, is also seeking redemption. Henderson dropped a split decision to Brazilian Lyoto Machida at UFC 157 last February. It’s a loss that obviously still irks Henderson. “I know I didn’t perform to my best and I could have done some things differently, but it’s hard to fight a guy that doesn’t really want to fight you.” But Machida, Henderson admits, isn’t the only fight from the past that irritates him. He said he still has “unfinished business” with Jon Jones. Henderson and Jones were scheduled to fight last September before a knee injury forced Henderson to withdraw. UFC matchmakers then leapfrogged Henderson and paired Jones with Chael Sonnen.

    · After dropping Cheick Kongo at UFC 159 last April with his trademark knockout punch, fifth-ranked heavyweight Roy Nelson jumped atop the Octagon and rubbed his hands around his ample belly in celebration. When asked about his “everyman” physique, Nelson didn’t mince words. “People who tend to be in our sport tend to abuse PEDs or performance-enhancing drugs, so that’s the reason why I probably don’t look like the typical UFC fighter,” he said. Nelson accepted a bout with Stipe Miocic on short notice after he said Daniel Cormier declined to fight him.

    – Melissa Segura


  • Published On Jun 04, 2013
  • Rousey-Tate surprise signals troubling, drama-heavy trend in UFC title bouts

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    This was Ronda Rousey's demeanor before fighting Miesha Tate. Now she'll be living with her on a TV show. [Esther Lin/Getty Images]

    This was Ronda Rousey’s face before fighting Miesha Tate. Now the two will live together. [Esther Lin/Getty Images]

    The key word in the term “reality television” is not “reality” but “television.” Entertainment, or at least the promise of it, is what counts. If that means you must stretch the reality part a wee bit to pull in viewers, so be it.

    Within that context, the UFC and Fox didn’t simply rescue, but in fact spiced up The Ultimate Fighter on Tuesday. Season 18 of the show, which will air beginning Sept. 4 on the new Fox Sports 1 cable channel, was to feature women’s bantamweight champion Ronda Rousey coaching against unbeaten Cat Zingano. The first female coaches in the show’s history would be working with teams composed, for the first time, of both men and women. It’s groundbreaking in a multitude of ways.

    Add to that some new made-for-TV drama. Zingano injured her right knee two weeks ago and had to drop out of the show, according to the UFC, which kept that information a secret until taping began on Tuesday. So when Rousey showed up in the promotion’s Las Vegas gym and the cameras rolled, she came face to face with her bitter nemesis, former Strikeforce champion Miesha Tate. Surprise, surprise.

    “For those of you who don’t know, Ronda Rousey and Miesha Tate don’t like each other at all,” UFC president Dana White said in a Fox video. “They have been battling, verbally and physically, for years. Now they are going to be living together here for six weeks.”

    And afterward, they will fight — which is where this gets sticky if you care at all about the worthiness of title bouts.

    When Rousey puts her belt on the line against Tate sometime in the fall, she will be the fourth UFC champion this year to defend against an opponent coming off a loss. Tate, who had her Strikeforce title dislodged and her elbow dislocated by a Rousey armbar when they first met last year, was on the verge of earning a rematch after winning the first two rounds of a No. 1 challenger showdown with Zingano in April. But “Alpha Cat” turned the tide in Round 3, blasting Tate with knees to the face until the fight was stopped with just over two minutes remaining. Apparently the TKO loss was good enough to earn Miesha another shot at Ronda.

    Something has shifted in UFC matchmaking. José Aldo defended his featherweight championship in February against a man coming off two straight losses. Sure, Frankie Edgar is a former lightweight champ whose two prior defeats came in close title fights at that higher weight. But still. What about Georges St-Pierre, who put his welterweight strap on the line in March against Nick Diaz, who was coming off a loss and a year-long drug suspension? Just last month, Jon Jones defended the light heavyweight title against Chael Sonnen, who was coming off a knockout defeat and had not fought at 205 pounds in seven years. What a tangled web the UFC has weaved.

    Now, it’s not like this hadn’t ever happened before 2013. But generally — though not always — it’s either been a championship fight loser being granted a rematch or someone getting an unforeseen shot at a title because of a champion’s retirement, failed drug test or some other extenuating circumstance.

    GALLERY: Classic photos of Ronda Rousey

    One might view Rousey vs. Tate II as the product of extenuating circumstances. Losing a coach two weeks before your high-profile reality show begins taping calls for desperate measures. And what were the UFC’s options? Sarah Kaufman is ranked higher than Tate, and is also an ex-Strikeforce champ, but she lasted less than a minute against Ronda last August. There’s also Liz Carmouche, who was scheduled to fight Miesha in July … and who did better than either Tate or Kaufman against Rousey, nearly submitting the champ early before succumbing to — what else? — an armbar in the final seconds of the first round. But that February bout, the first women’s fight in UFC history, was the most recent on the resumes of both Ronda and Liz. “Girl-Rilla” needs to wait a while for another title try.

    An intriguing possibility for Rousey would have been fellow Olympian — and fellow groundbreaker — Sara McMann. Whereas Ronda became the first American woman to earn an Olympic medal in judo when she took bronze in Beijing in 2008, McMann became the first female American silver medalist in wrestling four years later in Athens. But while both also share a 7-0 record, Sara has been building her MMA career more steadily than the meteoric champ has. McMann dominated Sheila Gaff in her UFC debut last month, and the promotion apparently believes she needs more seasoning before it can serve up an Olympian vs. Olympian clash.

    In the end, the UFC has eschewed new blood for bad blood.

    Rousey is all for it — after getting over her initial shock. Yahoo! Sports’s Kevin Iole, who was at the UFC gym, wrote that Ronda “was clearly stunned” when she spotted Tate, and stormed out in search of White. When she emerged back under the bright lights, Rousey was in full TV publicist mode. “This is what we really wanted all along,” she told Iole. “Everyone said an Ultimate Fighter between me and Miesha would be the best. We have a personal history with each other, and this is a personal show. For some reason, me and Miesha are intertwined in fate like Ali and Frazier or something like that.”

    — Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On May 29, 2013
  • Predictions for UFC 159: Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen

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    Chael Sonnen (right) is considered a heavy underdog against Jon Jones . (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    Chael Sonnen (right) is considered a heavy underdog against Jon Jones . (Josh Hedges/Zuffa LLC via Getty Images)

    SI.com analysts Loretta Hunt, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 159, which takes place Saturday (10 p.m. ET) and will be blogged on SI.com.

    Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen

    WAGENHEIM: When the time comes, Chael P.’s music will start to play, he’ll put on his short pants and go to work. And as soon as the guy in the snake suit moves out of the way, he’ll put his head down, walk across the cage and put Jon Jones on his prissy little … oh, wait, I’m describing the fight as it plays out in Sonnen’s melodramatic fantasy narrative, not the way it really will.

    A more realistic, if less infomercial-ish scenario: Sonnen comes out boxing and moving forward, and at the first glimpse of one of Jones’s skinny legs, moves in for a takedown try. If he gets it, the crowd will go crazy and we’ll get a rare look at the “Bones” bottom game. Does Jon have the jiu-jitsu chops to become the latest to submit a guy whose walkout music should be “Taps”? Chael is not known for inflicting much damage while smothering an opponent, so it’d be interesting to see if Jones would put those treacherous elbows of his to use and be the ground aggressor. Or would he just work his way back to his feet?

    If, on the other hand, Sonnen fails on his takedown attempt, it will be an ingloriously short night for the unworthy challenger. Jones by KO.

    HUNT: Jones by TKO.

    WERTHEIM: Put simply, it’s hard come up with a conceivable scenario in which Jones loses this fight. He’s superior on virtually every dimension — If he’s not Sonnen’s equal as a wrestler, he comes awfully close — he’s younger,  more athletic and will be the crowd favorite. The best Sonnen can hope for: a respectable showing will suggest that he, in fact, earned this opportunity and didn’t simply talk/market himself into a title shot. Jones by TKO.

    Michael Bisping vs. Alan Belcher

    WAGENHEIM: If you spend a few minutes around these men, as I did on Thursday, it’s hard to picture Belcher winning this fight. Bisping is so supremely confident that he speaks of his opponent as if he were a yokel from Double-A ball who will be unable to get a piece of the Brit’s major-league playoff heater. And Belcher is, well, low-key and thoughtful and a little bemused by the leadup to what he acknowledges as the biggest fight of his career. Is the man with the tattoo of “The Man in Black” on his arm really in over his head? Tough to say, but I’m going to go with no. I think he’s going to give “The Count” a fight he’ll remember. Belcher might even beat him. But I’ve got to go with Bisping. This is the type of fight he’s won for all of his career (only to lose when he’s another step or so closer to the pot of gold). Bisping by decision.

    HUNT: Belcher has the heavier hands (and kicks, for that matter), but Bisping can win this if he plays it smart, mixing up his punches with takedowns like he did against Brian Stann last September. Bisping by decision.

    WERTHEIM: One hopes the fight lives up to the considerable advance trash talk. While it’s not all-out desperation time, Bisping is 34 now and has lost two of his last three fights. In Belcher, he gets a UFC veteran with a battery of skills and deceptive power. If both fighters are willing to stay on their feet, this has TKO potential. If it goes to the ground, we could have five rounds or stall-and-sprawl. Either way, I pick Bisping by decision.

    Roy Nelson vs. Chieck Kongo 

    WAGENHEIM: Kongo has the power to test Nelson’s hard-as-a-mulleted-rocker chin. But Cheick is known to make mistakes, and Roy is known to capitalize on them. Nelson by KO.

    HUNT: Though Nelson, a Brazilian jiu-jitsu black belt, could devour Kongo on the mat, he’ll likely stand with the chiseled Frenchman, who is yet to amount to the powerhouse fighter his appearance suggests he’d be. Nelson by TKO (R2 or R3).

    WERTHEIM: You love Roy Nelson or you hate him, but have to admire both the durability and the unlikely skill set of Big Country. He won’t win any sculpted physique contests, but he can win fights — in a variety of ways. In Congo, he faces a veteran who seems to lose when he’s on the verge of a breakthrough; and win when he’s on the verge of being written off. Look for a TKO — and potential KO/fight of the Night — but I’ll say it’s Nelson who, like his belly, comes up big. Nelson by TKO.

    Phil Davis vs. Vinny Magalhaes

    WAGENHEIM: If Davis wants to make another go at the top of the light heavyweight division, he simply cannot slip up. Or tap out. Davis by decision.

    HUNT: This one will depend on the superior wrestler Davis, who can rack up points with takedown after takedown, as long as he doesn’t dawdle inside the Brazilian’s dangerous guard for too long. Davis by decision. 

    WERTHEIM: His nickname notwithstanding, Mr. Wonderful doesn’t often impress. A rangy wrestler and methodical fighter, Davis likes to do what’s necessary to win, seldom taking advantage of an inevitable reach advantage. Magalhaes looked good in his UFC return last year, but can he make inroads against a superior wrestler? The guess here: no. Davis by a (boring) decision.

    Jim Miller vs. Pat Healy

    WAGENHEIM: If you’re looking for aesthetics, change the channel. This ain’t going to be pretty. It isn’t, either. Miller and Healy both are grinders who close distance. When they meld into one, I expect the Jersey guy to grind just a little bit better. Miller by decision.

    HUNT: Miller will have a significant edge in speed everywhere and Healy’s strong suit, his boxing, isn’t dynamic enough to catch the hometown favorite. Miller By submission.

    WERTHEIM: Not dissimilar fighters, UFC veteran tough guys with submission-based ground skills and some power. Fighting in front of a home crowd, Miller, a New Jersey native, should prevail. Miller by decision.


  • Published On Apr 26, 2013
  • Dana White: ‘If you have to use TRT, you’re probably too old to be fighting’

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    UFC president Dana White hopes to ban testosterone replacement therapy from MMA. (AP)

    UFC president Dana White hopes to ban testosterone replacement therapy from MMA. (AP)

    MONTREAL — From Chael Sonnen to Forrest Griffin, Frank Mir to Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort to Rampage Jackson and beyond, mixed martial artists at the sport’s highest level have successfully persuaded state athletic commissions to OK medical exemptions for them to use testosterone replacement therapy.

    But Dana White has a different message for those fighters: “If you have to use TRT, you’re probably too old to be fighting.”

    Read More…


  • Published On Mar 15, 2013
  • Chael Sonnen and Jon ‘Bones’ Jones find themselves to be friends — sort of

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    Jon 'Bones' Jones

    Jon Jones will defend his light heavyweight title in April. (Dustin Bradford/Icon SMI)

    The second the cameras stopped rolling, UFC fighter Chael Sonnen turned to Jon “Bones” Jones and slapped him on the knee.

    “I can’t believe you did that! How could you?!” Sonnen joked, acting not unlike a married couple. Or, at the very least, friends.

    Conducting an interview in the Sports Illustrated studio, Jones had just given away one of the results of a yet-to-be-aired episode of FX’s The Ultimate Fighter, and there would have to be a re-take.

    Having spent so much time together in recent weeks taping The Ultimate Fighter, the days of Sonnen trash-talking Jones seem too long gone. Despite the fact that they are preparing to fight each other on April 27, they really do seem like friends.

    So are they actually?

    “Yeah we are [friends],” Sonnen said. “The single most disappointing part about going through this coaching process was finding out what a nice and genuine and passionate person that he is. [Spending so much time with someone] is really a recipe for disaster. Most of the time tensions fly… but for whatever reason Jon’s and my personality really hit it off.”

    Jones does not entirely agree with such a flowery characterization, though.

    “Oh no, me and Chael are not friends,” he quickly interjects. “We’re far from friends. We’re definitely more friendly than I would have expected, but that’s just my nature – I’m a friendly person.”

    Whatever the status of their relationship, the fact remains that they are three months away from meeting in the octagon.

    Jones has a belt to hold on to — a belt that Sonnen covets dearly. Expect all niceties to be spared.

    R.J. Rico


  • Published On Jan 25, 2013
  • Jones vs. Sonnen for the UFC’s light heavyweight belt is TUF to swallow

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    Chael Sonnen

    Chael Sonnen (right) was last seen getting dominated by Anderson Silva at the main event of UFC 148. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

    Remember that fake UFC championship belt a mischievous Chael Sonnen used to sling over his shoulder for press conferences and television appearances in the contentious leadup to his July rematch with Anderson Silva? You know, the one that he impishly told an interviewer on ESPN was proof that he was the real middleweight champion?

    Well, let’s pull it out of the closet and dust it off. That plastic-and-pleather strap is the one that rightfully ought to be put up for grabs next April 27 when Sonnen challenges once again for the UFC championship. This time at light heavyweight, though.

    Seriously?

    Yep, this is not another Chael media ploy. The UFC actually announced on Tuesday that Sonnen, who has competed in the fight promotion’s 205-pound weight class exactly one time — and that was seven years ago and he lost — will challenge Jon Jones after the two serve as coaches on the 17th season of The Ultimate Fighter.

    Jones need not bother to bring along the shiny brass-and-leather belt that he’s been proudly wearing for the last 19 months, the one he acquired by knocking out a champion and in the time since has defended against four former titlists. That belt signifies something earned, something extraordinary, something real. So “Bones” should leave it home in the trophy case. When he steps into the octagon next spring to take on a middleweight fighter with a heavyweight mouth, the fake plastic belt will suffice for the fake title defense.

    That is not to deny that the next several months will be a lot of laughs. Chael is at this very moment locked in a windowless room with a team of joke writers brainstorming a Top 10 list for Letterman and five minutes of couch chatter for Leno.

    And there’s no doubt that Dana White and Co. will benefit from this arrangement, which first was reported by The Los Angeles Times and later was confirmed by the UFC. The Ultimate Fighter will get a much-needed boost in ratings, and that springtime pay-per-view, featuring two of the organization’s top draws, is sure to do big numbers.

    Maybe that’s good enough for the UFC: a financial boon generated by a dud of a fight.

    Yes, a dud.

    Read More…


  • Published On Oct 17, 2012
  • Jones, White spar over details surrounding UFC event cancellation

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    Jon Jones denied responsibility for UFC 151′s cancellation. (ZUMPRESS.com)

    TORONTO — The dance begins with one fighter walking out onto the stage, stripping down to his skivvies and stepping onto the scale. When his weight is announced, he flexes for the crowd, then moves off to the side and dresses while his opponent walks out, strips, weighs in, flexes, dresses. The two meet at center stage, face to face, fists up, striking a combative pose for the cameras. And after a dozen shutter clicks they’re done, off to rehydrate. Next set of fighters, please?

    There may be no element of a mixed martial arts event more choreographed than the weigh-ins.

    So how did light heavyweight champion Jon Jones end up having an off-the-script moment Friday afternoon after stepping off the scale?

    It came about when Jones found himself staring into the eyes of not one but two people ready to go face to face with him. One was Vitor Belfort, who’ll be his opponent in the main event of UFC 152 on Saturday night at the Air Canada Centre (10 p.m. ET, PPV). The other was Dana White.

    The UFC president and his 205-pound megastar had been sparring verbally for weeks, ever since Jones, upon being notified nine days prior to UFC 151 that challenger Dan Henderson was injured, turned down replacement opponent Chael Sonnen. The UFC ended up cancelling the Sept. 1 event — a first in the 11 years White has been running the show — and a fired-up White went on the offensive, calling Jones “selfish and disgusting” and his trainer/adviser/guru, Greg Jackson, “a [expletive] sport killer.”

    As this weekend’s event neared, with Jones having been added to the top of the bill, he and White indicated that they would meet face to face here in Toronto to clear the air. The meeting was to take place just prior to the weigh-ins. So all eyes were on Jones as he stepped off the scale. Would he and White shake hands or even embrace, an indication that the cold war was over? Or would an icy chill pervade the stage set up atop a hockey rink at the old Maple Leaf Gardens, telling us that Dana might not have renewed his membership in the Jonny Bones Fan Club?

    What we saw instead from Jones was an uncharacteristic moment of uncertainty. This phenom fighter who never hesitates to attack inside the octagon seemed to waver when he spotted White. Then he smiled, White smiled, even Belfort smiled, and the choreography resumed.

    What did it all mean? It meant that Jones and White had not yet met. They apparently planned to do so a few minutes later. And say what? “None of your business,” White responded when asked that very question in a Fuel TV interview following the weigh-ins.

    We can at least surmise that the discussion explored areas of disagreement. A case in point: At a Thursday press conference, Jones spoke respectfully of the boss — “Dana White is awesome, man” — but steered clear of accepting responsibility for the UFC 151 fiasco. “I have actually zero power to cancel an event,” he said. “When I was actually talking to Dana and [UFC chairman/CEO] Lorenzo [Fertitta] about accepting the Chael Sonnen fight, they never told me if I didn’t accept the fight that they were going to cancel the event.”

    It would have been interesting to hear White respond to that, but he was absent from the press conference, laid up at his hotel with an episode of Ménière’s disease. But in the Fuel TV interview, Dana had his say. “I don’t think he would have said that if I was there,” said White. “So today we’re going to be face to face and we’ll see what he says and what he doesn’t say. The fact that he says that he didn’t know that the show would get cancelled is false. I did tell him that the show would be cancelled.”

    And with that, White headed off to a windowless room with his light heavyweight champ. And then? Nothing. Nada. Not a word. (OK, chief, you can deactivate the Cone of Silence now.) My colleague from Yahoo! Sports, Kevin Iole, texted White to ask about the meeting and got this terse text back: “It went well.” Other than that, White, who posts his thoughts on Twitter about as often as he takes a breath, has gone quiet. So has Jones, unless we can read something into his only post-meeting tweet, a quote attributed to Michael Jordan: “Limits, like fears, are often just an illusion.”

    So stay tuned. Like any long-running soap opera, there’s always another episode to come.

    —Jeff Wagenheim


  • Published On Sep 22, 2012
  • Five things we learned from UFC 148

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    Anderson Silva pounced on Chael Sonnen in Round 2 in moving to 30-4. (Mark J. Rebilas/US PRESSWIRE)

    Five things we learned from Anderson Silva’s second-round TKO victory over Chael Sonnen in Saturday’s rematch at the MGM Grand Garden Arena …

    1. A slip turned this fight around. The Chael Sonnen-Anderson Silva rematch started a lot like their first fight. Sonnen dominated the first round and was even in a good position for the last minute but couldn’t get a submission in. Things changed in the second: Silva blocked a few tough takedown attempts, Sonnen attempted a spinning kick – and slipped. It was over. Silva pounced, hit him with a killer knee to the body. That did enough damage; Silva didn’t let up, ending it with a TKO in the 1:55 of round two.

    2. Silva is in the discussion for the best mixed martial artist ever. Silva’s last win over Sonnen wasn’t a fluke, but he was dominated before winning on the late submission. This time Silva didn’t let it get that far. He had one small opening after Sonnen’s slip and essentially ended it there. He’s defended his title 10 times, a UFC record. The man hasn’t lost since a DQ in 2006 in Japan. He’s nearly unstoppable.

    3. Tito Ortiz lost, but went out like a Hall of Famer. It looked like Tito Ortiz might get a KO in his final round. He felled Forrest Griffin early in the third with a killer left hook — “I was lost for a second,” Griffin said — but Griffin rolled through after the punch and came on late in the third round to win a unanimous 29-28 decision in their rubber match.

    The crowd booed the decision, but Griffin landed way more strikes — even if Ortiz hit the highlight-reel punches. Ortiz was clearly gassed in the final two minutes of the fight and Griffin probably cemented his victory there even though he wasn’t able to put him away at the end.

    4. UFC delivered on the undercard. The UFC promoted this card like the second coming. Chael Sonnen called it “the biggest fight of all time.” Joe Rogan sounded like Gorilla Monsoon plugging the pay-per-view beforehand: “When I tell you that the air here is electric, I am not kidding. This has been the craziest week in Vegas… The weigh-in yesterday was the biggest weigh-in in Nevada combat sports history.”

    Counting the preliminary card, the first six fights went the distance. And then things picked up: Chad Mendes countered a Cody McKenzie kick with a killer body shot, ending it in 31 seconds. Then Demian Maia got in a good position on Dong Hyun Kim and broke his rib with a takedown 47 seconds in. Forty-year-old Cung Le getting his first UFC win kept things rolling before the co-main event. The early-arrving crowd was into everything, too, building a great atmosphere.

    The most fun extracurricular was after the Griffin-Ortiz fight: Griffin attempted to run to the back immediately after his fight ended, and Dana White chased after him until he was able to drag him back to the ring. There was something for everyone!

    5. Sometimes, watching UFC can hurt. The pre-PPV card was an all-decision affair. Fans even chanted “boring.” But there was a little action: John Alessio got kicked below the belt.

    Alessio took the worst of quite a few low blows on the night. There was a short delay while he recovered, but Alessio still went the distance, losing by unanimous decision to Shane Roller. That kick had to feel worse, though.

    – Dan McQuade


  • Published On Jul 08, 2012
  • Experts’ predictions for Anderson Silva-Chael Sonnen II at UFC 148

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    Chael Sonnen dominated Anderson Silva in their last fight, but in the end lost by submission. (Mark J. Rebilas-US PRESSWIRE)

    SI.com analysts Ben Fowlkes, Jeff Wagenheim and Jon Wertheim provide their predictions for UFC 148 main event between Anderson Silva and Chael Sonnen on Saturday in Las Vegas. Share your prediction in the comments below.

    BEN FOWLKES

    Like any rematch between two men have already spent nearly a half-hour sweating and bleeding on each other, this fight is all about adjustments. If Sonnen can take Silva down as easily as he did in the first fight, he’s got this. If Silva has gone back to the lab and figured out a solution for that particular problem, it will be a nightmare for Sonnen. Since we saw so very little in the first fight to suggest that Silva can stay upright, I have to think Sonnen will be able to plant him on his back again in the rematch. This time, I expect he’ll make the most of it. Sonnen by decision.

    JEFF WAGENHEIM

    Family vacation at the lake this week, and all I do is sit in the sun and vacillate, my mind off in the Nevada desert. My son invites me for a swim, and I announce, “Silva is the greatest of all time!” My daughter asks for ice cream, and I declare, “Sonnen has the winning formula!” On and on goes the dithering, until my wife finally zeroes in on the essence: “How can someone pick against Anderson Silva, his 15 straight wins and nine title defenses?” My answer: You go by what you see … or have seen. Sonnen by takedowns, ground-and-pound and — taking a leap of faith that Chael has developed a little submission defense — on points. Sonnen by decision.

    JON WERTHEIM

    Sometimes playing the heel is just so much marketing, a way to goose pay-per-view buys, draw attention and set up the good-versus-evil dynamic that predates sport promotion by thousands of years. Sometimes playing the heel is a shrewd bit of mental warfare, that, prepositionally speaking, gets you under an opponent’s skin and inside his head, making emotional rather than rational come fight night. And sometimes playing the heel can backfire, not only imbuing your counterpart with motivation but distracting the “bad guy” himself who’s so busy with method acting he neglects his training. Says here Anderson Silva avenges his last (narrow) victory against Chael Sonnen and wins soundly in the rematch. He’s simply better on too many dimensions. The storyline will have a superhero ring to it, good trumping bad; afterwards the defeated villain may even admit the error in his ways. (“Anderson won my respect tonight,” you almost hear Sonnen already admitting to Joe Rogen.) All will be right with the world. We’ve seen this movie before. But we will also wonder what the fight would have looked like had Sonnen simply kept his mouth shut and gone about his job … Silva by decision.


  • Published On Jul 06, 2012


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