WSOF Tournament, TJ Dillashaw, Fedor’s opponent, Rampage Jackson and Eduardo Dantes

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Updated: October 9, 2015
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A new weekly feature to Sideline Sports Report, each Friday “5 Rounds” will take a look at the biggest storylines and questions in the UFC, Bellator MMA and the rest of the MMA world heading into the weekend. We’ll preview big fights for the weekend shows, talk news and look back at the MMA week that was each and every Friday.

Round 1
World Series of Fighting releases names of eight fighters for upcoming one-night tournament

The trend of mixed martial arts returning to its one-night tournament roots is continuing, this time in the World Series of Fighting. On Nov. 20, live on NBCSN, eight fighters will vie for the right to become the No. 1 contender to the company’s lightweight title.

“We are excited to roll out our first-ever, one-night tournament filled with some of MMA’s top lightweight fighters, and to distinguish a new number one contender in this weight class that has been growing aggressively and is packed with world-class talent,” said WSOF President Ray Sefo in a press release.

While there are some lesser-known names in the running, like Islam Mamedov, Brian Cobb, Jorge Patino, Joao Zeferino and Rich Patishnock, there are also some medium-profile veterans in the mix.

Luis Palomino and Brian Foster are considered the headliners of the group. Palomino is 23-11 and 2-2 in the WSOF, losing his last two fights. Both of those fights came against Justin Gaethje for the same title he is hoping to get back in line for. Palomino does hold wins over current UFC fighters Jorge Masvidal and Daron Cruickshank.

Foster is a UFC veteran who is 23-7 overall and 1-1 in the WSOF, losing to Jake Shields in his organizational debut at welterweight. The tournament will be Foster’s first time ever cutting down to fight at 155 pounds, which could add some intrigue as he will need to have the stamina to fight three times to win. Foster was 3-2 in the UFC, twice earning post-fight honors. He knocked out current UFC welterweight contender Matt Brown in his last UFC fight. Heading into his sixth fight in the cage, Foster was found to be suffering from a brain hemorrhage and required surgery. Once healed, he suffered a ruptured testicle in training and the UFC ended up releasing him due to his injuries. He is 7-2 in his post-UFC run. His early career saw wins over American Top Team fighters Steve Carl and Nathan Coy.

But perhaps the most intriguing entry is former UFC fighter and Ultimate Fighter runner up Mike Ricci. Ricci was considered a big favorite to win his season of the show, showing flashes of brilliance in a pair of decision wins and knocking out Neil Magny before eventually falling to Colten Smith in a dreadful ground affair. A pair of boring decisions later, one win and one loss, Ricci was released from the UFC. He seemed to decide to pick up his fight pace and level on interest when he debuted in Titan FC in 2014, knocking out Jorge Gurgel and then picking up a more interesting decision win over former UFC contender George Sotiropoulos. His WSOF debut will be interesting because Ricci will have to use a smart, frantic pace. He can’t afford to use all of his energy grinding down an opponent if he hopes to make it through three fights and win the tournament.

Round 2
TJ Dillashaw leaves Team Alpha Male

It was only a matter of time before the TJ Dillashaw/Duane Ludwig/Team Alpha Male situation reached its peak, but it has happened quicker than most expected. While Team Alpha Male head Urijah Faber and Ludwig, the former head coach of the Sacramento-based team, have been verbally sparing in the media, Dillashaw was quietly planning his exit.

But interestingly enough, Dillashaw isn’t moving on and into Ludwig’s gym in Colorado. Instead, the UFC bantamweight champion will now fight out of the new Evolution Fight Team at the MusclePharm facility in Denver, Colorado, while working still with Ludwig on the side, much like he was when splitting time between Team Alpha Male and Ludwig.

The move seems, at the least, monetarily motivated.

“I will be spending my next full training camp with Team Elevation as they’ve offered me an opportunity that I couldn’t pass up, with an incredible coaching staff and state of the art facilities. I want to thank everyone for the continued support as this has not been a decision I’ve taken lightly,” Dillashaw said in a statement to MMAFighting.com noting that he was offered pay to train for his next title defense with the team that is still being put together.

The champion also stated that it is not a permanent exit from Sacramento, leaving many questions unanswered and doors open in this soap opera. But one thing it does end for now is being stuck in the middle of friends Faber and Ludwig, and their bickering.

The move could be good timing to welcome a new player to the bantamweight contender list. On Thursday, two-time flyweight title challenger John Dodson announced that he would be moving back up to bantamweight after his most recent failed attempt to capture the 125-pound title. Dodson, who fought on the opposing team as Dillashaw on their season of ‘The Ultimate Fighter,’ won the show’s bantamweight title by TKO’ing Dillashaw in the finals.

Round 3
Fedor Emelianenko’s opponent is who?

Jaideep Singh. That’s the answer to the question of who will be the return opponent of one of the greatest heavyweights in MMA history. The news of Singh’s involvement over New Years Eve with former Pride FC head Nobuyuki Sakakibara‘s new organization leaked this week, leaving the guy with one career MMA fight to head to the cage with “The Last Emperor.”

Singh is much more versed in the kickboxing world where he is 40-10-1, but has lost his last three fights dating back to 2011.

The move shows that Sakakibara has no finger on the pulse of modern day MMA fans. While seeing Emelianenko back in the cage will draw some ratings, it won’t draw much attention against some unknown opponent on a night that most people have something better to do. It’s a bad move to make, even if you want to cap off the night seeing Emelianenko with his hands raised.

Round 4
Rampage Jackson speaks out on retirement, Bellator MMA and Michael Bisping

The silence of UFC fighter Quinton “Rampage” Jackson ended abruptly and oddly this week. Jackson, who hasn’t fought since his win over Fábio Maldonado in April in the midst of an injunction fight with Bellator MMA, filled in the middle of the week by drunk dialing MMA journalist Ariel Helwani, leaving the following message:

“Ariel, I’m sorry for calling you so early in the morning, but I noticed that you sent my call to your voicemail, which means that your big-nosed motherf***ing ass is up. The only reason why I called your motherf***ing punk ass is because I’m up playing on Twitch and Team Rampage told me to f***ing call you. I don’t know why they like you, but they like you, they dig you. So, I called your motherf***ing ass early in the morning and you sent me to voicemail. That’s why we ain’t never gonna be boys, motherf***er. Take your punk ass to sleep. Yeah, f*** Ariel.”

The call came after an appearance on Helwani’s “The MMA Hour” show where Rampage declared that he may have fought his last fight. With Bellator still figuring things out to keep Rampage from the UFC again, the former UFC light heavyweight champion says he would rather retire than to fight for the Viacom owned organization again. But one day later, on Tuesday, Jackson claimed that the UFC fight may be coming sooner than later.

Rampage then ranted on Twitch gaming stream on Wednesday about former training partner Michael Bisping, calling the British fighter a “traitor.” Jackson claims that Bisping injured a lot of Rampage’s training partners and routinely asked Jackson to pay for Bisping’s camps and training partners before being verbal against Jackson in a lawsuit that was filed.

If anyone knows Rampage’s antics, this is all par for the course, and a good job of keeping the attention on himself all week. Guess he needs all of the relevance he can get.

Round 5
Bellator MMA loses opportunity with Eduardo Dantes injury

Bantamweight top contender and announced title challenger Eduardo Dantes has been injured and pulled from his Bellator 144 fight with champion Marcos Galvao. And as Bellator MMA is accustomed to, it crapped the bed with its response.

The bantamweight division is one that is essentially gridlocked for now, especially with Scott Coker‘s decision to not replace Dantes in the fight with Joe Warren. Warren, the former Bellator featherweight and bantamweight champion, is due a rematch and a rubber match with Galvao, who took the belt in somewhat controversial fashion from Warren in March. In that fight, Warren let out a yelp while in a kneebar submission that the referee took as a verbal tapout. In his first fight with Galvao in 2011, it was Warren with the decision victory.

Galvao hasn’t fought since his most recent encounter with Warren and a title fight against either Warren or former champion Dantes made plenty of sense. Dantes lost the belt to Warren last year, two fights removed from a successful defense against Galvao. But with Dantes’ rib injury and official withdrawal from the Oct. 23 event, not replacing him with Warren is a huge mistake. First off, it will father bind up one of Bellator MMA’s premiere divisions. The intrigue of the Galvao-Dantes-Warren triangle is huge for the division with talented fighters like Joe Taimanglo and Brandon Bender waiting in the wings. Now, an unknown timeline will delay Galvao/Dantes II and keep pushing back a sequel or trilogy bout for one of the fighters against Warren, who will now likely have to fight once or twice before a title rematch.

The lack of adding Warren in at Bellator 144 also forces Brandon Halsey versus Rafael Carvalho to the main event slot. While Carvalho is 11-1 in his career and 2-0 in Bellator MMA, he is far from a household name, even on the Bellator level. His last fight was a lackluster split decision win over 2-5 tomato can Joe Schilling, which earned him a Bellator middleweight title fight purely by lack of options. Halsey meanwhile is coming off being stripped of the middleweight title for missing weight before his last defense against Kendall Grove. Being thrown immediately back into a fight to fill the 185-pound title vacancy is a joke in the first place and now it is a joke at center state for Coker and Bellator simply because they don’t want to plug Warren into a no-brainer spot.

Dan Vance

Dan is a MMA writer for Sideline Sports Report. A basketball enthusiast and coach, Dan is a die-hard Duke basketball fan, who has seen MMA quickly become his second favorite sport. Dan is from Fort Wayne, Indiana, attended IPFW and is a designer for Fort Wayne’s The News-Sentinel.

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