MMA Junkie’s ‘Fight of the Month’ for June: A wild comeback with historic consequences

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best fights from June 2019: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s “Fight of the Month” award for June.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting on your choice.

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The Nominees

Aljamain Sterling def. Pedro Munhoz at UFC 238

In one of his most masterful performances to date, Aljamain Sterling (18-3 MMA, 10-3 UFC) outsmarted Pedro Munhoz (18-4 MMA, 8-4 UFC) and staked his claim to a title shot. Sterling didn’t shoot, but stood with Munhoz and surprised him with an unconventional attack that set up a sweep on the judges’ scorecards

The final tally was 30-27 thrice for Sterling, who picked up his third straight win in a key matchup. Munhoz had an argument for a title shot with a brutal knockout of Cody Garbrandt in his previous performance, and all that momentum went the opposite direction.

Tony Ferguson def. Donald Cerrone at UFC 238

In a bout that seemed to live up to the fans’ expectations for a firefight, Tony Ferguson (25-3 MMA, 15-1 UFC) beat Donald Cerrone (36-12 MMA, 23-9 UFC) in what could have went down as an all-time classic – before it was halted for a cut.

Referee Dan Miragliotta waved off the fight in between the second and third rounds after doctors looked at Cerrone’s swollen right eye. Ferguson got the TKO win over Cerrone, and the fans booed what they deemed a disappointing end to a thrilling slugfest.

Henry Cejudo def. Marlon Moraes at UFC 238

Henry Cejudo (15-2 MMA, 9-2 UFC) made more combat sports history when he defeated Marlon Moraes (22-6-1 MMA, 4-2 UFC) to claim the vacant bantamweight belt after a stunning turnaround.

Cejudo, who came into the event as flyweight champ, became the fourth simultaneous two-division titleholder in company history with a third-round TKO victory over Moraes to claim the 135-pound strap.

Rory MacDonald def. Neiman Gracie at Bellator 222

For someone who sounded like he had one foot out the door after his last fight, Rory MacDonald (21-5-1 MMA, 3-1-1 BMMA) sure looked like someone who still has his heart into fighting when he defended his Bellator welterweight title against Neiman Gracie (9-1 MMA, 7-1 BMMA).

MacDonald, who pondered retirement after his draw with Jon Fitch at Bellator 220, looked sharp in his welterweight grand prix semifinal with Gracie. Taking on a game opponent, MacDonald’s all-around game and MMA experience was too much for his jiu-jitsu based foe in a unanimous decision triumph.

Deron Winn def. Eric Spicely at UFC on ESPN+ 12

It took multiple opponent changes to finally get in the octagon for his UFC debut, but when he title, undefeated newcomer Deron Winn (6-0 MMA, 1-0 UFC) delivered a historic performance in his middleweight matchup with Eric Spicely (12-5 MMA, 2-5 UFC).

Winn set a new single-fight record for most significant strikes landed in 185-pound fight when he connected with 169 on Spicely in unanimous decision victory that also led to “Fight of the Night” honors.

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The Winner: Henry Cejudo vs. Marlon Moraes

Just when it looked like Moraes may have found Cejudo’s Kryptonite, Cejudo turned the tide and made UFC history.

Cejudo, already the UFC’s flyweight champion, now is the bantamweight champ, as well, after a third-round TKO of Moraes in a fight for a belt vacated by the now drug-suspended T.J. Dillashaw.

Cejudo got the stoppage at the 4:51 mark of the middle frame after a barrage of punches and elbows on the canvas right in front of Moraes’ corner. Cejudo now is the fourth fighter in UFC history to hold two titles at the same time, joining Conor McGregor, Daniel Cormier and Amanda Nunes.

Moraes kicked Cejudo’s left leg immediately, then went high with a kick moments later. Cejudo tried his own high kick, but Moraes easily slid out of the way. After a Cejudo kick, the two got into a brief firefight, then two more moments later. Moraes again went after Cejudo’s lead leg with a kick, but Cejudo stayed on his feet.

A little past two minutes in, Cejudo went for his first takedown and briefly had Moraes on the canvas. Back on the feet, Cejudo kicked high, then tried to follow it with several punches before Moraes countered. With a minute left, Moraes kicked to the body, then with 30 seconds left again attacked Cejudo’s down low.

The swinging continued from both fighters in the second. A spinning kick from Moraes was met with a right hand from Cejudo when he missed. But then Moraes went right back to attacking Cejudo’s legs. If Cejudo changed stances, Moraes just went after a different leg than the one he went after before.

Moraes briefly knocked Cejudo off his feet with two minutes left, and then the two started swinging again. They both landed and Cejudo tried to find some momentum with jabs. Moraes landed an uppercut, then ate a knee. But he answered with a head kick before backing up looking plenty wobbled. Cejudo continued to fire the jabs, and when Moraes clinched him up, Cejudo pounded his body.

With 30 seconds left Cejudo grabbed a Thai plum and landed three big knees. Somehow, Moraes stayed on his feet. They kept swinging down the stretch, but Cejudo rallied big time at the end of the frame with the knee onslaught.

Ninety-seconds into the third, Cejudo tried to take Moraes down. When he popped back up, Cejudo again went after knees. When they tied up and went to the canvas again, Cejudo latched onto a choke that Moraes was able to roll out of. Moraes then kept himself grounded to avoid taking any knees to the head from Cejudo, but Cejudo instead pushed him to his back and landed several big punches.

Elbows followed with a minute left and Moraes in survival mode. Cejudo kept pounding away with punches and elbows, and did so more furiously when the 10-second clapper went off. With just a few seconds left, he got the TKO stoppage.

MMA Junkie’s ‘Submission of the Month’ for June: A rare technique leads to a belt

With another action-packed month in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best submissions from June 2019: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s “Submission of the Month” award for June.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting for your choice.

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The Nominees

Makwan Amirkhani def. Chris Fishgold at UFC on ESPN+ 11

There was a lots of online back-and-forth and fight week tension going into the featherweight encounter between Makwan Amirkhani (15-3 MMA, 5-1 UFC) and Chris Fishgold (18-3-1 MMA, 1-2 UFC).

When the fighters got in the octagon, though, Amirkhani seemed to be a step ahead all along. He capitalized on a grappling mistake from Fishgold during the second frame and secured an anaconda choke. Fishgold did his best to resist and escape, but he had to give in to the choke.

Anthony Smith def. Alexander Gustafsson at UFC on ESPN+ 11

Anthony Smith (32-14 MMA, 8-4 UFC) had one brief opportunity to take Alexander Gustafsson (18-6 MMA, 10-6 UFC) down and jump on his back late in a back-and-forth fight, and he wasn’t about to let it pass him by.

Once he got in that advantageous position, Smith was determined to make the most of it. He did so when he flattening Gustafsson out and squeezed the rear-naked choke for the fourth-round submission to emerge from the light heavyweight bout.

Kevin Tiller def. Muhammed DeReese at PFL 2019: Week 3

Kelvin Tiller (11-2) showed some nasty submission skills in his heavyweight season opener when he tapped out an extremely tough Muhammed DeReese (7-1) with a gruesome finish in the first round.

During a grappling exchange Tiller was able to grab ahold of a kimura grip on DeReese from bottom position. He nearly finished it, but DeReese was absurdly tough in trying to escape. He tried to roll and spin every which way in order to escape, but Tiller refused to let go. Tiller cranked even further as he rolled DeReese over. DeReese tapped out during the transition.

Patrick Mix def. Ricky Bandejas at Bellator 222

After a successful amateur career and start to his pro run, Patrick Mix (11-0 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) finally got the call to a bigger organization. He made the most of it as he swiftly submitted Ricky Bandejas (11-3 MMA, 1-2 BMMA) in an upset result at bantamweight.

Mix wasted no time climbing on the back of Bandejas from a standing position at his first opportunity. He dragged his opponent down to the canvas, got the forearm under the neck and forced the tap courtesy of a rear-naked choke just 66 seconds after the bout began.

Mads Burnell def. Dean Trueman at Cage Warriors 106

Mads Burnell (12-3) forced the Cage Warriors featherweight belt to change hands when he used a slick choke to end an exciting showdown with now former champion Dean Trueman (10-4).

Trueman appeared to be on the cusp of overtaking momentum of the fight and perhaps getting into territory for a finish of his own when Burnell changed the narrative. The fight hit the ground, Burnell found a chance to go after the rarely used Japanese necktie and was able to secure it well enough to force the tap in the second round.

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The Winner: Mads Burnell

The featherweight title fight between reigning champion Trueman and Danish challenger Burnell was always expected to deliver fireworks, and the two dueling 145-pounders didn’t disappoint.

Trueman and Burnell went toe-to-toe on the feet, and hold-for-hold on the mat, in a thrilling back-and-forth opening to their title fight. But, just as it looked like Trueman was beginning to take charge, Burnell struck.

The champion had just connected with a huge spinning back elbow, then a powerful knee up the middle, when the bout went to the canvas once again. This time Burnell went to one of his go-to submissions, the Japanese necktie, to force the tap midway through the round.

It was Burnell’s second straight win via that technique – and the fourth of his career – as he captured the Cage Warriors featherweight title and potentially put himself in the frame for a UFC recall with an event in his hometown of Copenhagen just a matter of months away.

For more on upcoming events, go to our Schedule page.

MMA Junkie’s ‘Knockout of the Month’ for June: A crushing head kick by a champ

With another action-packed month of MMA in the books, MMA Junkie looks at the best knockouts from June 2019: Here are the five nominees, listed in chronological order, and winner of MMA Junkie’s “Knockout of the Month” award for June.

At the bottom of the post, let us know if we got it right by voting for your choice.

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The Nominees

Aleksandar Rakic def. Jimi Manuwa at UFC on ESPN+ 11

Aleksandar Rakic (12-1 MMA, 4-0 UFC) broke through to the next level of the light heavyweight division when he teed up a left head kick and landed it perfectly on the side of Jimi Manuwa’s (17-6 MMA, 6-6 UFC) skull.

Manuwa was out before he hit the floor as Rakic put everything he had in the kick. That approach worked, because Rakic had himself a knockout victory just 47 seconds into the first round to keep his winning streak alive and stay undefeated in the UFC.

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Valentina Shevchenko def. Jessica Eye at UFC 238

Valentina Shevchenko (15-2 MMA, 6-2 UFC) got her UFC women’s flyweight title reign off to a good start when she made an example of overmatched challenger Jessica Eye (14-7 MMA, 4-6 UFC) with a brutal knockout.

Shevchenko kept her firm grip on the 125-pound strap when, as one of the biggest betting favorites in UFC title history, “The Bullet” delivered a highlight-reel head kick knockout of Eye in the second round of the contest. Eye was down on the canvas for quite some time after the kick connected, but fortunately came out OK.

Adam Borics def. Aaron Pico at Bellator 222

Aaron Pico (4-3 MMA, 4-3 BMMA) finally reverted to his wrestling roots in his seventh MMA fight, and while it seemed to pay off, it only took one shot from Adam Borics (13-0 MMA, 4-0 BMMA) to end the fight by knockout.

Following a brutal knockout loss in his previous outing, Pico changed fight camps to Jackson Wink MMA in Albuquerque, N.M., and showed some evolution in his approach against Borics. Pico avoided brawling and instead wrestled, but Borics needed just a singular opening to go airborne and score a stunning flying knee knockout.

Juan Archuleta def. Eduardo Dantas at Bellator 222

Juan Archuleta (23-1 MMA, 5-0 BMMA) made an emphatic claim toward a Bellator title shot with a brutal one-punch, walk-off knockout of Eduardo Dantas (21-7 MMA, 11-4 BMMA).

Archuleta extended his winning streak to 18 fights when he stopped Dantas with a pinpoint right hand on the chin with just one second remaining in the second round. Dantas was down for several minutes after the knockout, but eventually made it back to his feet and left the cage under his own power.

Jair Rozenstruik def. Allen Crowder at UFC on ESPN+ 12

UFC heavyweight Allen Crowder (10-4 MMA, 1-2 UFC) walked into the cage a hometown favorite. In nine seconds, he had no idea where he was courtesy of Jair Rozenstruik’s (8-0 MMA, 2-0 UFC) fisticuffs.

Rozenstruik picked up the second-fastest knockout in the division’s history by stopping Crowder in the opening sequence with a knockdown stemming from a jab followed by a couple more shots that ended the contest before it could really get going.

Chan Sung Jung def. Renato Moicano at UFC on ESPN+ 12

Chan Sung Jung (15-5 MMA, 5-2 UFC) bounced back from a last-second knockout loss in emphatic fashion, knocking out Renato Moicano (13-3-1 MMA, 5-3 UFC) with a textbook maneuver in the first round of their featherweight contender matchup.

A slip and a right hand sent Moicano tumbling to the canvas, and “The Korean Zombie” pounced to close out at finish just 58 seconds into the headliner. Jung also picked up a $50,000 win for his fifth career knockout while handing Moicano his second knockout loss.

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The Winner: Valentina Shevchenko

Shevchenko was one of the biggest favorites in UFC title fight history, and she defended her belt with a highlight-reel finish for the ages.

“The Buller” took out Eye with a stunning and massive left kick to the head early in the second round. The kick left Eye out cold on the canvas for several minutes while cageside doctors attended to her. When she finally sat back up, it was to cheers from the fans that she was OK.

But the bigger cheers were for Shevchenko’s first defense of her women’s flyweight title as a favorite of roughly 14-1. The end came at the 0:26 mark of the second round after a dominant first for the champion.

Eye took the center of the cage and immediately fired off a couple punches. Shevchenko answered with a body kick, then another. Eye looked like she wanted to end the fight with one big punch and whiffed on a right hand. Then Shevchenko ducked under another, clinched Eye up around the waist and dragged her to the canvas 45 seconds into the fight. Shevchenko went to work on the ground in half-guard while Eye defended from her back.

Shevchenko wasn’t able to do much damage from up top, though she twice worked her way to side control. And once Eye was able to get back to her feet, Shevchenko again took her down. Shevchenko locked up an armbar late in the round, but Eye rolled out of it to get to the second.

Shevchenko landed a solid kick to the body early in the second. And a moment later, with Eye moving in, Shevchenko threw a left head kick that drilled Eye perfectly in the side of the face. Eye fell to the canvas in slow motion, out cold well before she hit the mat. Her head bounced off the canvas for good measure. Shevchenko knew to not dive in for any more damage after one of the biggest highlight-reel finishes in UFC history.

Scott Coker: Kyoji Horiguchi’s title win means he’s ‘part of the Bellator family’ now

LONDON – As a fight promoter, seeing your champion dethroned by a fighter from another promotion could be considered a problem. But where some people see problems, Bellator president Scott Coker sees opportunities.

MMA Junkie briefly caught up with Coker during a chaotic fight week in London and asked if Darrion Caldwell (13-3 MMA, 10-2 BMMA) losing his bantamweight title to Rizin FF’s Kyoji Horiguchi (28-2 MMA, 1-0 BMMA) would present promotional challenges for his organization moving forward.

“See, you have it all wrong. Kyoji is a Bellator fighter now, too,” Coker said. “I’m going to put my arm right around Kyoji like this and say, ‘Hey, I’ll see you next year!’”

Coker explained that, far from being a problem, Horiguchi’s title win only helps cement the working partnership between Bellator and Rizin, with the unique situation created by Horiguchi’s victory activating a scenario already agreed between Coker and Rizin president Nobuyuki Sakakibara.

“We made a deal with Sakakibara,” Coker said. “If (Caldwell) would have won (the first fight with Horiguchi in Japan for the Rizin title), I would have sent D.C. once a year to fight in Rizin and defend his belt.

“So now he has to send Horiguchi over once a year. So now Horiguchi is part of the family, and it’s not us vs. them.”

Coker paid tribute to Horiguchi but admitted he thought Caldwell had done enough to earn the decision, citing only some periods of inactivity on the mat as areas that may have swung the contest in favor of the Japanese star.

“In all seriousness, he’s an amazing talent,” Coker said of Horiguchi. “My guy’s a tough, tough dude. I think my guy won. I think he out-controlled him, hit him. But my guy was stalling sometimes, too, just kinda laying there. And in MMA you can’t just lay there. You’ve got to do some stuff.

“So to me, hopefully Horiguchi at one point will give him a rematch. But in the meantime, Horiguchi is our guy, part of the Bellator family, and he’s our champion. So welcome to the family!”

For more on the upcoming Bellator schedule, visit the MMA Rumors section of the site.

Juan Archuleta: Bellator-Rizin champ Kyoji Horiguchi has no better options than me

Juan Archuleta signed with Bellator as the first four-division regional champion in the promotion’s history. Now he aims to make more history by defeating a champ with two belts.

“Either way, I’m fighting for two titles in my next fight,” Archuleta told MMA Junkie Radio. “I’m either fighting (Patricio) ‘Pitbull’ (Freire) for the 145 and 155-pound belt, or I’m fighting (Kyoji) Horiguchi for the Rizin and the Bellator belt.

“There’s no way around it anymore. I’ve put in my due diligence. I’m not asking for anything I don’t deserve. I’ve already done the buildup phase. I’ve already won titles.”

Archuleta, a former four-division titleholder in King of the Cage, hasn’t lost since 2015 and picked up one of his biggest career wins last week by knocking out two-time bantamweight champ Eduardo Dantas in a featherweight bout at Bellator 222.

Bellator is launching a 145-pound grand prix in October, and Archuleta is open to going after Freire, who last month picked up the lightweight title by knocking out rival Michael Chandler.

But a move down in weight also appeals to Archuleta, whose main training partner is former UFC bantamweight champion T.J. Dillashaw. After his win, Archuleta called out Kyoji Horiguchi, who became the Bellator bantamweight champ, in addition to the Rizin FF champ, when he outpointed Darrion Caldwell.

Archuleta doesn’t see many valid options for Horiguchi in Bellator or Rizin, and he wants to be the man to dethrone the two-promotion champ.

“Is he going to fight (Tatsuya) Kawajiri at 145?” Archuleta said. “The answer is to fight an 18-fight winning streak guy that could drop down to 135 and challenge you for the title. That’s what people want to see. Japan is known for mixed martial arts. They’re known for having great matchups: Wanderlei Silva, Dan Henderson, Vitor Belfort, Anderson Silva, the list goes on.

“Me and him are going to add to that legacy of bringing superfights to Japan, and then bringing them back to the States to take that title back from him and put the belt back in Bellator’s hands. There’s no more running from Juan Archuleta if you have the title.”

If the title contender is more outspoken than usual, it’s because his most recent win was hard to argue. Archuleta said had he beaten Dantas on points, he would have deferred to Bellator about his next move.

Now he’s making it very clear that he deserves a title shot.

“I’m the first person ever in MMA history to win four titles in four different weight classes,” he said. “These guys with two belts, that’s cool. You get two belts in two weight classes, cool, good job for you. I’ve done something that’s never been done before. And now I’m really going to do something that’s never been done before.”

For complete coverage of Bellator 222, check out the MMA Events section of the site.

MMA Junkie Radio broadcasts Monday-Friday at 8 p.m. ET (5 p.m. PT) live from Mandalay Bay Resort & Casino’s Race & Sports Book. The show is hosted by “Gorgeous” George Garcia, Brian “Goze” Garcia and Dan Tom. For more information or to download past episodes, go to www.mmajunkie.com/radio. You can also check out www.siriusxm.com/siriusxmfightnation.