Every day something seems to change in the UFC. With a roster sitting at around 450 fighters, its not surprising that change would be intrinsic to the system, but keeping up with it all can be a real pain, even for me, your resident roster minder. As such I've decided to start a monthly "Moves of the Month" column in which I'll lay out, in brief, the changes from the last month of UFC roster updating. This will mostly be restricted to cuts, signings, and weight class changes. Where possible, I will link to more complete stories on the topic at hand. If not possible, I'll try and give as much information as I can in two or three sentences.
Rumble Johnson returns to UFC to fight Davis
Anthony Johnson brings a six fight win streak with him as he returns to the UFC to face Phil Davis at UFC 172.
Hopefully this will be a good way to stay abreast of minor and major shifts in the day to day structure of the UFC and its potential for making new and exciting fights. Enjoy!
The Signings: Always lead with good news, that's my motto. And then, while everyone's happy stick them with the bad news and kick them while they're down (I may need to work on the second half of that motto). As has been the case for the last few months, the UFC signed a wealth of new fighters in January.
The biggest contingent last month came as part of the UFC's continued spread into China. While the Chinese version of the Ultimate fighter was still underway, the UFC picked up former (and now defunct) Legend FC champions Jumabieke Tuerxun and Li Jingliang. Tuerxun is expected to fight at Bantamweight and Jingliang at Welterweight. Soon afterward the TUF finale itself was announced with Wang Sai and Zhang Lipeng making the Welterweight cut and Yang Jianping and Ning Guangyou set as the featherweight finalists. That's six new faces for the UFC in China in January alone.
Early January saw Jake Ellenberger's brother Joe signed to the lightweight division as well as longtime Russian welterweight standout Alexander Yakovlev and welterweight King of Pancrase Takenori Sato. Ellenberger is expected to face Yancy Medeiros at UFC 172. For his sins, Sato is set to make his debut against Erick Silva.
Moving toward the middle of the month, the UFC picked up Mike Rhodes, George Sullivan, and Danny Martinez, all of whom have already made their UFC debut. Rhodes saw his top prospect status derailed a bit by the more savvy and active Sullivan, while Martinez struggled to implement his wrestling heavy game plan against Chris Cariaso.
Finally, moving in to the end of the month. In the final days of January the UFC signed BJJ champ and Judo black belt Alberto Mina, who is expected to make his debut at Welterweight on the TUF China card. They also grabbed top bantamweight prospect Aljamain Sterling as a late fill in to fight Lucas Martins. And finally, reports surfaced that they picked up longtime AKA prospect, Noad Lahat, who will be only the second Israeli fighter in UFC history.
The Cuts: Now, the bad news. All things considered, and looking at the list above, the UFC cut list is living something of a Spartan existence. All told, last month only five fighters saw their current UFC run come to an end. And of those five, three were announced retirements.
Getting to the retirements first. Chris Leben was the big name fighter to hang up the gloves in January. He ended his nine years in the UFC with a 12-10 record having fought many of the biggest names that middleweight had to offer. Following in Leben's footsteps was Pat Barry. The exciting heavyweight kickboxer announced that while he wasn't leaving combat sports, he was done fighting MMA from the foreseeable future. Soon after announcing his retirement from MMA he announced his signing with Glory, for whom he will debut in May. Finally, in retirement news, former KOTC champ, Strikeforce vet, and short-lived UFC welterweight and lightweight Quinn Mulhern called it a career. His retirement announcement is well worth reading for anyone looking for an athlete well grounded in the reality of the current competitive landscape.
That leaves two fighters that were released last month. Both Brazilians and both flyweights. After several months of swirling rumors (and amid conflicting reports) Jose Maria Tome's manager confirmed that the fighter had been released from his UFC contract. That announcement was followed soon after by the news that Iliarde Santos had signed with Titan FC following his own release from the UFC.
The Changes: A few fighters announced that they'd be making a home at a new weight class in January. Most notably, after weighing in at 218 lbs for a bout at heavyweight, Nikita Krylov announced post fight, that his next bout would be taking place at 205 lbs. It's a sensible cut for a fighter who seemed much more comfortable at the slimmed down size, although it may accentuate disparities in pure athleticism between him and his opponents.
James Te Huna also announced a drop in weight, stating that he would be headed down to Middleweight after a solid run at light heavyweight. TUF Brazil fighter Thiago Perpetuo is moving down as well, but he's headed to welterweight after a 1-1 performance in the middleweight division. He's expected to fight Kenny Robertson in Natal, Brazil.
One of the first moves of the month involved a long time UFC fighter moving up in weight, when Ivan Menjivar announced that he would be headed to featherweight to face Hatsu Hioki at the TUF China: Finale. Longtime fans will remember that Menjivar has fought as high as 170 lbs early in his career, with a notable loss to GSP.
That's all for the UFC roster news and notes from January. I'll be back next month with a full update of the February moves, which we already know will feature the signings of Anthony "Rumble" Johnson, Michinori Tanaka, and Jan Blachowicz.
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