FRIDAY NEWS DIGEST 6/23: Dana White new series line-up announced, Royce Gracie return, Herschel Walker, Rizin FF (w/Henry’s Analysis)

By Cole Henry, MMATorch contributor

Dana White’s Tuesday Night Contender Series set to begin

A few months back, Dana White announced that he would be hosting a new series that would give former UFC fighters, and those still on the come up, a chance to break into the UFC. The debut card was announced today, and will contain several notable fighters, including three who have formerly competed in the UFC.

The card will air June 11 on UFC Fight Pass and will take place at the Ultimate Fighter gym. Unlike the Ultimate Fighter, these fights will be legit pro fights and will count on the fighter’s records.

  • Matt Bessette (Bellator Vet) vs. Kurt Holobaugh (UFC/Strikeforce Vet)
  • Greg Rebello vs. Azunna Anyanwu
  • Boston Salmon vs. Ricky Turcios
  • Charles Byrd vs. Justin Jones (UFC Vet)
  • Manny Vazquez (Bellator Vet) vs. Joby Sanchez (UFC Vet)

Henry’s Analysis: I really like this idea. I’m one of the few people in the world that still likes the Ultimate Fighter, but I’ll admit that this is probably a better idea. These guys will be properly prepared, and they won’t be forced to fight every couple of weeks. The card isn’t bad and, in fact, I am really interested in seeing the Holobaugh-Bessette scrap. Justin Jones is another guy to watch. He’s won six straight fights, all by stoppage, since he was released from the UFC.

Bellator NYC/180 weigh-ins

The Bellator NYC/180 weigh-ins took place this morning, and all but one fighter made weight. Sergio da Silva came in a few pounds over the bantamweight limit, but da Silva and his opponent, Matt Rizzo, have agreed to compete at a catch-weight.

Main Card (PPV)

  • Chael Sonnen (205.8) vs. Wanderlei Silva (205.8)
  • Fedor Emelianenko (236.4) vs. Matt Mitrione (256.6)
  • Michael Chandler (153.8) vs. Brent Primus (154.2) For Lightweight Title
  • Douglas Lima (170) vs. Lorenz Larkin for Welterweight Title
  • Aaron Pico (156) vs. Zach Freeman (155.8)

Prelim Card (Spike)

  • Phil Davis (204.8) vs. Ryan Bader (204.4) for Light-Heavyweight Title
  • James Gallagher (144.4) vs. Chinzo Machida (146)
  • Neiman Gracie (170.4) vs. Dave Marfone (170.4)
  • Heather Hardy (125.2) vs. Alice Yauger (125.6)
  • Prelim Card (Online)
  • Ryan Couture vs. Haim Gozali (169.2)
  • Jerome Mickle vs. Anthony Giacchina
  • John Salgado vs. Hugh McKenna (168.8)
  • Matt Rizzo (133.6) vs. Sergio da Silva (137.6)
  • Bradley Desir vs. Nate Grebb (155.4)

Royce Gracie leaves door open for return to MMA

It’s 2017, and Royce Gracie still hasn’t closed the door on fighting. The MMA legend most recently competed on the controversial Bellator 149 card in February 2016 and actually picked up the fight knockout win of his career over a fellow UFC Hall of Famer Ken Shamrock. During a recent media day event, Gracie spoke with FloCombat and, among other things, mentioned that whether or not he fights again is pretty much up to Bellator and Scott Coker. Gracie isn’t a young man, but I wouldn’t be surprised to see him booked again at some point in the future. Dan Severn vs. Royce Gracie 2? If they could figure out the weight issue, I wouldn’t be surprised. Would you?

Henry’s Analysis: I was at Royce Gracie’s last fight, and I’ll say that it was a great experience to see a guy like him fight. Sure, it wasn’t Match of the Year, but it’s still a cool thing to see. With that being said, Gracie is in his early-50s and it’s hard to think of a realistic opponent for him. If he does fight again, it will likely be against a fellow UFC pioneer and, honestly, I don’t have much of an opinion on it either way. If he wants to fight, let him fight.

Herschel Walker on why he stopped fighting: “I couldn’t get a fight.”

When Herschel Walker debuted for Strikeforce in 2010, most people thought it was just a stunt, but he delivered, knocking his opponent out in the third round. He would return a year later, pick up another KO win, and then he disappeared into the sunset, seemingly closing another chapter in what has been an incredibly successful life. But according to Walker, the decision wasn’t entirely his.

In an interview with FloCombat, at the very same media day mentioned in the article above, Walker stated for the first time that the reason he hasn’t fought since 2011 is simple –
he couldn’t find an opponent. Walker stated that he has no regrets and doesn’t miss fighting, because he still trains at American Kickboxing Academy on a regular basis. In fact, his reason for being at the media even was to support his team mate, Aaron Pico.

Rizin FF Grand Prix updates

Two fights have been added to the upcoming Rizin FF Bantamweight Grand Prix card, but neither are actually tournament fights. Amir Aliakbari will be looking for his second straight win when he returns to action against Tyler King. Aliakbari is a well decorated Greco-Roman wrestler, who may have some potential in this sport. He is 1-0 since his first career loss at the hands of Mirko CroCop. Less is known about King, and this is a chance for him to make a statement against a decent heavyweight prospect.

Also added to the card was a light-heavyweight fight between Teodoras Aukstuolis and Karl Albrektsson. The card is headlined by a fight between former UFC Flyweight title challenger, Kyoji Horiguchi and Japanese MMA legend Hideo Tokoro, and will take place on July 30th in Japan.

NOW CHECK OUT YESTERDAY’S UPDATE: THURSDAY NEWS DIGEST 6/22: Nate Diaz is being sued by his former manage for over $1 million (w/Hiscoe’s Analysis)

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