Bellator 234 pre-event facts: Roger Huerta seeks first Bellator win since 2010

Bellator’s busy November continues this week with Bellator 234, which takes place Thursday at Menora Mivtachim Arena in Tel Aviv, Israel, but won’t air until Friday on Paramount via tape-delay.

A heavyweight matchup serves as the main event of the card. Sergei Kharitonov (29-6 MMA, 3-1 BMMA) will look to inch close to getting a fight for Bellator gold, while Linton Vassell (18-8 MMA, 7-5 BMMA) looks to get his first win since moving up to the heavyweight division earlier this year.

For more on the numbers behind the headliner, as well as the rest of the card, check below for 16 pre-event facts about Bellator 234.

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Main event

Kharitonov is 11-1 (with two no contests) in his past 14 fights dating back to September 2011.

Kharitonov’s five-fight Bellator unbeaten streak at heavyweight is tied for the third longest active streak in the division behind Cheick Kongo (nine) and Tyrell Fortune (eight).

Kharitonov has earned 27 of his 29 career victories by stoppage. That includes all three of his Bellator wins.

Kharitonov vs. Matt Mitrione at Bellator 215 marked the third shortest no contest in Bellator/UFC/WEC/Strikeforce/PRIDE combined history at just 15 seconds. Only Marius Zaromskis vs. Waachim Spiritwolf (6 seconds) at Strikeforce Challengers 12 and Kevin Casey vs. Antonio Carlos Junior (11 seconds) at UFC Fight Night 80 were faster.

Vassell’s three-fight losing skid is the longest of his career. He hasn’t earned a victory since May 2017.

Vassell was unsuccessful in his heavyweight debut when he lost a decision to Valentin Moldavsky at Bellator 218 in March.

Vassell’s seven victories in Bellator light-heavyweight competition are tied for fourth most in divisional history behind Liam McGeary (nine), Phil Davis (eight) and Emanuel Newton (eight).

Vassell’s three submission victories in Bellator light-heavyweight competition are tied with four other fighters for most in divisional history.

Co-main event

Roger Huerta (24-11-1 MMA, 1-4 BMMA) is 0-2 since he returned to Bellator for a second stint in April 2018. He hasn’t earned a victory with the promotion since April 2010.

Huerta is 4-10 in his past 14 fights dating back to August 2008.

Remaining main card

Olga Rubin (6-1 MMA, 4-1 BMMA) competes in her sixth Bellator women’s featherweight bout, the third most appearances in divisional history behind Arlene Blencowe (nine) and Julia Budd (seven).

Sinead Kavanagh (5-4 MMA, 2-4 BMMA) is 1-3 since she moved up to the Bellator women’s featherweight division.

Grachik Bozinyan (10-3 MMA, 0-0 BMMA) is the youngest of the eight scheduled main card fighters.

Bozinyan has earned all 10 of his career victories by stoppage. He’s finished seven of those wins in Round 1.

Aviv Gozali’s (3-0 MMA, 3-0 BMMA) 11-second submission win at Bellator 225 stands as the fastest in company history.

Gozali, at 18, became the youngest fighter to earn a bellator win at Bellator 209 in November 2018.

Nick Diaz: Jorge Masvidal ‘in a (expletive) position’ if we fight, ‘BMF’ title is ‘my belt’

If Nick Diaz ever fights again, it appears a matchup with Jorge Masvidal is among his top interests.

ESPN released a long interview with Diaz (26-9 MMA, 7-6 UFC) on Monday in which he touched on many subjects revolving around his absence from the octagon since January 2015.

One of the leading narratives, though, is that Diaz was irked by some of the comments Masvidal (35-13 MMA, 12-6 UFC) made in the buildup to and aftermath of UFC 244, where “Gamebred” beat Diaz’s younger brother, Nate.

According to a follow-up report from ESPN.com, Diaz is interested in making his comeback in 2020, and Masvidal is the desired opponent.

“You want to talk about baptizing my younger brother? That’s on you,” Diaz told “Ariel Helwani’s MMA Show.” “I never had nothing disrespectful to say. But you don’t talk about baptizing my younger brother. So you’re already in a (expletive) position if you fight with me. You don’t talk about (expletive) baptizing someone’s brother. That’s my baby brother. You don’t talk like that to nobody.

“So who is riding on whose side? You want to say that, you want to do that, you want to walk, that’s on you. I can relate to you, that’s why I ain’t mad at you. But if you want to walk that’s on you.”

The UFC announced a fight between Diaz and Masvidal for UFC 235 in March, but it was never made official. Diaz insisted from the beginning that he never committed or signed a contract, and as a result felt slighted by the UFC brass.

“I’m on the poster with this guy I’m like, ‘What the (expletive)? Nobody talked to me. What are you talking about?’” Diaz said. “I’m on a poster. What the? C’mon. That’s cool if I’m going to be fighting this guy, but like, why are you doing this to me? You’re just giving this advantage and giving more power to the opposite team. No offense to the opposite team. Let’s just play fair a little bit.”

Diaz indicated his younger brother gave him the green light to do a rare interview and seemingly push the agenda for a Masvidal matchup.

Getting Diaz back in the cage seemingly won’t be easy. He said he needs to be paid and it must be something “big” like a AT&T Stadium in Dallas.

Ultimately, Diaz said the choice will be hi. He’s only fought three times in the past eight years and is nearing the four-year anniversary of his most recent bout, an infamous UFC 183 meeting with Anderson Silva after which both fighters were suspended. Nothing has forced Diaz to operate outside of his chosen path, and he said that won’t change now.

“The BMF, the 170, that’s my belt,” Diaz said. “But I’m not going to get in my brothers way of taking it. As far as I’m concerned that’s my belt. … This ain’t up to no UFC. We’ve seen that in the past already. I don’t need to do anything more than what I’ve already done here. I don’t know what to tell you people. All I know is I’ve got a whole lot of people who feel the same way.”

Max Holloway: ‘Alexander Volkanovski is the next cupcake’ (UFC 245 video)

Alexander Volkanovski and Max Holloway - UFC 245

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Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski are both extremely confident headed into their UFC 245 featherweight title showdown.

Volkanovski has been waiting a long time to get a crack at the Hawaiian and believes he knows how to the crack the code.

Holloway, however, has ruled over the featherweight division for several years. His last loss at 145 pounds was a decision loss to Conor McGregor in 2013. He has won 14 consecutive fights at featherweight and plans to make Volkanovski number 15.


TRENDING > Nate Diaz slams door on speculation that he’s retired


Hear what the UFC 245 co-main event fighters had to say at their kickoff press conference in New York City. UFC 245 takes place on Dec. 14, 2019, in Las Vegas.

5 biggest takeaways from UFC on ESPN+ 21: Zabit’s cardio, Kattar’s class, Hardy’s ceiling and more

What mattered most at UFC on ESPN+ 21 in Moscow? Here are a few post-fight musings …

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1. Zabit Magomedsharipov deserves praise not criticism

For some reason Zabit Magomedsharipov is taking criticism over a perceived cardio issue instead of getting praise for beating Calvin Kattar in a “Fight of the Night” bout that resulted in his 14th consecutive win.

It’s somewhat understandable since Magomedsharipov (18-1 MMA, 6-0 UFC) called out the winner of the UFC 245 featherweight title fight between Max Holloway and Alexander Volkanovski. Holloway in particular has a style and gas tank that cripples opponents in the later rounds, and Magomedsharipov showed an apparent chink in his armor by fading toward the end of the fight with Kattar.

The Russian said afterward an infection that plagued him pre-fight impacted his training camp and conditioning. I’m inclined to believe him. Magomedsharipov is no fool. He’s got a good team around him, and if he were to get the title shot it’s hard to imagine he wouldn’t do everything possible to ensure he’s prepared for 25 minutes.

Would that be enough to beat Holloway or Volkanovski? Maybe, or maybe not. Magomedsharipov is as skilled as they come, though, and he showed the flashes of brilliance in the fight with Kattar that have caused him to be so hyped.

Now it’s on Magomedsharipov to do what MMA fighters are supposed to do: Learn from this one and be better next time, whether it’s for the title or not.

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Was KSI vs. Logan Paul an affront to combat sports? OK, boomer

LOS ANGELES — A pair of legit world title fights were held Saturday night at Staples Center, and the assembled crowd could not have cared less.

Britain’s Billy Joe Saunders, the WBO super middleweight champ, and WBC lightweight champion Devon Haney of Las Vegas successfully defended their respective belts, but the crowd sat on their hands throughout their fights and waited for the real reason they had gathered: The rematch between YouTube celebrities KSI and Logan Paul.

This was a gathering quite different from what you’d expect to see at a typical boxing or mixed martial arts event. Gaggles of teenagers and college students made up the bulk of the crowd, and even younger kids showed up with their parents in tow. 

Most of them couldn’t tell you the difference between a jab and an uppercut. But in 2019, they know KSI, the stage name for London’s Olajide “JJ” Olatunji, and Paul, a Los Angeles resident by way of Ohio, are a pair of YouTubers who have combined for more than 11 billion views, and that they have beef, and that their fight was going to be this week’s hot Instagram moment.

So when legendary boxing ring announcer Michael Buffer, who was nowhere to be found for the evening’s title fights, announced the internet celebs for their six-round cruiserweight fight, the place came unglued. If you closed your eyes and listened to the noise, you would have thought you were at Khabib Nurmagomedov vs. Conor McGregor or Floyd Mayweather vs. Manny Pacquiao.

KSI and Paul displayed minimal skill over the course of six rounds before KSI took a split decision. But the crowd ate up every last wild haymaker and panicked clinch all the same. 

You want to hate on someone else’s idea of a good time? OK, boomer.

The boxing purists, like some of their brothers and sisters over in the mixed martial arts realm, take the sanctity and majesty over their sport quite seriously.

But promoters? If they sniff money, they’re going to give it a try, regardless of whether the hardcores get triggered. You only have to go back as far as the late Kimbo Slice, who shattered MMA viewership records for his CBS fight with James Thompson in 2008, to see an example of how well this can work when done right.

KSI vs. Paul was a rematch of an amateur fight conducted last year in Manchester, England. Entirely self-promoted over YouTube, the numbers were a shock to the combat sports establishment: The six-round majority draw drew a sellout crowd of 21,000 to Manchester Arena in England. 800,000 people paid $10 apiece to watch the fight on YouTube, while illegal Twitch streams are believed to have brought the number of viewers up over two million.

So while the traditionalists tsk-tsked the fight, it was inevitable someone mainstream was going to try to figure out how to how to co-opt what’s hot.

In stepped British promoter Eddie Hearn and Matchroom Boxing, who conceived of a show which would take something which had caught on with the kids, and attempt to expose them to the real thing.

To those gathered, KSI, the 26-year-old whose YouTube channel boasts 20.6 million subscribers; and Paul, the 24-year-old with 20 million subs, were absolute superstars. Maybe you don’t know anything about them, but Generation Y sure does, and they’ve been raised on YouTube and Twitch and watch esports and see even something as simple as cable television as a relic from their parents’ era.

So maybe the success of a feud that’s a huge deal to the kids these days while also being incomprehensible to most over age 30 is a matter of the old school not understanding the next big thing.

It was just a generation ago, after all, that the same old establishment bobbleheads did everything they could to decry the rise of mixed martial arts, deeming it everything from barbaric to inferior to boxing. Today, of course, the UFC is a multi-billion dollar, Disney-broadcast property.

Matchroom and broadcast partner DAZN gave it a real go, an attempt to use the internet celebs to expose the sweet science to a new generation.

At the post-fight press conference, Hearn made it clear that if KSI wants to box again, he’s on board, noting that a handful of internet celebs clamored to challenge the winner. Despite the crowd’s obvious indifference to the evening’s title fights, the promoter still felt the night was a success.

“We wanted to merge the audience so the fighters could show the new audience what was great about the sport and it was (KSI and Paul) who ended up showing heart, determination, and everything that is great about the sport,” Hearn said.

The fight was ruthlessly mocked on Twitter, and not without reason. On a pure skills level, this was, well, a couple YouTube kids cosplaying as boxers. But the crowd of more than 12,000 who showed up loved the spectacle.

No one was forced to watch this card. It’s not like a real fight with deserving contenders was scuttled in order to make it happen. 

Will the first-timers in the crowd tune into whatever is up next on DAZN, Showtime, or ESPN? Probably not. It’s likely the fight gets remembered as this generation’s equivalent of Evel Knievel attempting to jump the Snake River.

But the world’s changing faster than ever, the technology with which stars are made is constantly evolving, and you can’t blame a fight promoter for taking something hot on the streets and trying to make it work.

 

Nate Diaz slams door on speculation that he’s retired

Nate Diaz UFC 244 post-fight

Earlier in the week, Nate Diaz made an ambiguous post on Instagram alluding to his retirement. Just a few days later, he’s shutting the door on any speculation.

“F*** a rematch, this s**t was over before it started. I’m goin on out on tour. Peace out fight game,” Diaz said, leaving many of us wondering if he was simply taking a break or had decided that he was done for good.

Diaz appeared frustrated with the way the fight game is going after his UFC 244 headlining bout with Jorge Masvidal was cut short by the cageside doctor. The New York official called a halt to the bout following the third round because of cuts over and below Diaz’s right eye.

Diaz and Masvidal both were quick to call for a rematch, but UFC president Dana White shunned the idea, saying Diaz would need plastic surgery and Masvidal would likely have other fights before a rematch were possible.

Diaz walked away with a craw full of frustration, alluding to the f***ery already beginning. He took to Instagram to make his “peace out” comment.

He returned to social media on Saturday tweeting a photo of him hitting Masvidal in the face and adding, “This is the time in the fight where him and I realized he didn’t wanna be in this fight anymore.”


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Nate Diaz is not retired!

Aside from taking the dig at Masvidal, Diaz also commented to ESPN, telling the outlet, “Who said I was retired? I’ll fight tonight.”

Riding a three-fight winning streak, Masvidal is edging into possible title contention. Diaz, however, remains a wild card. Following a loss to Conor McGregor, he stepped away for three years before returning to defeat Anthony Pettis and the fight with UFC 244 headlining fight with Masvidal.


Dana White flip-flopped on whether or not Nate Diaz was stopped early at UFC 244

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KSI gets split decision over Logan Paul in rematch of YouTube sensations

LOS ANGELES —It certainly won’t go down in boxing history as a battle along the lines Muhammad Ali and Joe Frazier, but YouTube superstars KSI and Logan Paul have a rivalry all the same.

And months of internet hype brought a fervent crowd of about 12,000 to Staples Center to see a rematch of a bout held last year in Manchester, England.

KSI came out swinging from the outset, and that spelled the difference in the six-round cruiserweight fight, as he earned a split-decision victory. The judges gave KSI a pair of 56-55s to a 57-54 for Paul.

“Last time, I was scared, I was scared to fight him,” KSI said. “This time I just went in, I just kept going and kept going.”

The first fight, an amateur bout in which both wore headgear, ended in a majority draw. This time, it was a California State Athletic Commission-sanctioned professional fight, without headgear, and KSI came out headhunting from the start. He whiffed on gigantic haymakers, and Paul did his best to clinch and land body punches in close.

It was far from high-level boxing, but the crowd, which skewed considerably younger than your typical boxing audience, ate it up as if they were watching a classic fight.

The first big moments of the bout occurred in the third, when KSI landed what was what appeared to be a legitimate knockdown, but was ruled a slip by referee Jack Reiss. KSI continued to pour it on, and another flurry led to a legit slip in the round’s final seconds.

But KSI, the 26-year-old Londoner of Nigerian descent, gassed himself out going for the knockout, and Paul had his best round in the fourth. He landed a legit uppercut to the jaw, but then dropped KSI with a blatant punch to the back of the head.

Reiss ruled the exchange a knockdown, but also docked Paul two points for the foul, which spelled the difference on the scorecards in what would have otherwise been a majority draw.

Both fighters tired in the fifth and sixth rounds. KSI kept hunting for the knockdown. Paul found some success with the jab. Despite the clear lack of skill, the fans exhorted them on all the same, up the final bell.

“He hit me with a few illegal shots here and there, but I don’t stop man,” KSI said.

The celebrity fight, which was promoted by Britain’s Matchroom Boxing and streamed in the U.S. over DAZN, headlined over a pair of world title fights, which were met by indifference from the crowd which was drawn on internet celebrity star power.

England’s Billy Joe Saunders (29-0) retained his WBO super middleweight title with an 11th-round knockout of Argentina’s Marcelo Coceres (28-1-1); and WBC lightweight champion Devin Haney (24-0) retained his belt with a 120-107 across-the-board drubbing of Alfredo Santiago (12-1).