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Where do we go from here? UFC 249

Updated: Oct 14, 2020

Travis Lizotte Full Contact Writer

Methuen's Calvin Kattar (21-4) has quickly established himself as "the crown jewel of New England MMA." Pictured here with Manager/Coach Tyson Chartier (left) and Coach Carlos Neto (Right).

Saturday May 9th, from the Vystar Veterans Memorial Arena in Jacksonville, Florida the UFC led the sporting world back to some semblance of normalcy as UFC 249: Ferguson v. Gaethje lived up to every ounce of hype surrounding what was dubbed as one of the best fight cards in recent memory. In the main event Elevation Fight Team’s Justin “The Highlight” Gaethje (22-2) beat the brakes off former interim UFC Lightweight Champion; Tony “El Cucuy” Ferguson (25-4) for the better part of five championship rounds before referee Herb Dean called a haul to their interim Lightweight Championship bout, declaring Gaethje the Champion via fifth round TKO. Gaethje, who has all but guaranteed himself a showdown with the reigning Lightweight Champion Khabib Nurmagomedov (28-0), did his part to hold up his side of the bargain, earning double fight night performance bonuses, his 9th such honor in just seven fights with the UFC. Ferguson v. Gaethje turned out to be the perfect cap to an absolute epic evening of fisticuffs from the Sunshine State.

New England fight fans had a chance to quench their fight night thirst as well Saturday night, as three former CES MMA stars made their highly anticipated Octagon returns inside the nearly empty northeast Florida arena. Although the region was only able to claim one victory Saturday night, the world will not soon forget why New England is one of the most blossoming regions on the MMA map. Ahead we take a look at all three New England fighters who fought on the UFC 249 card and play matchmaker as we forecast what their performances Saturday night could mean for Peabody’s Charles “Boston Strong” Rosa, Fall River’s Yorgan “The Mad Titan” De Castro and Methuen’s Calvin “The Boston Finisher” Kattar.

Charles “Boston Strong” Rosa (12-4) loses a chess match on the ground with Bryce Mitchell (13-0) by lopsided Unanimous Decision.

Peabody's Charles Rosa (12-4) fights off a Twister attempt by Arkansas' Bryce Mitchell (13-0) during their bout May 9th at UFC 249.

We knew when this matchup came across the desk that it would be a grappling war. Peabody’s Rosa, who now calls Boynton Beach, Florida and American Top Team home, is a highly skilled Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Blackbelt under ATT’s Richardo Liborio, Rosa has made his living testing his skills against other high level grapplers in the UFC cage and Saturday’s bout with Bryce Mitchell was no exception. Only this time we saw Rosa struggle on the ground against what looked to be an ever improving submission specialist in Arkansas’ Mitchell. Mitchell, the owner of just the second Twister submission finish in UFC history, was one step ahead of Rosa from the word go Saturday night. Mitchell threatened New England’s Rosa with submission after submission, even coming close to finishing the Black Belted Rosa in rounds two and three, with his patented Twister technique. However, Rosa’s grappling prowess and grittiness kept him in the fight until the final bell but when the dust settled it was Mitchell who earned the judges nod in lopsided fashion.

With his fourth loss now behind him and a sub .500 record across seven fights inside the Octagon, Peabody’s Rosa finds himself in uncharted territory; fighting for his promotional life with the UFC. Although his fight against Mitchell was the first time Rosa has looked completely outclassed by an opponent in his career, Rosa will have to make a big impact on UFC brass in his next bout if he plans to keep his spot on the roster. There is no better way to garner that type of attention than taking out one of the division’s biggest up and coming talents, and perhaps no one wears that title better than 20 year old Washington State native Chase “ The Dream” Hooper. At an impressive 9-0 in his professional career Hooper made the jump to the big leagues in December with a decisive first round Ground and Pound stoppage of Daniel Taymur (7-4) at UFC 245. With his first UFC victory under his belt, Cooper will be looking to climb the ladder at Featherweight and adding Rosa to his list of adversaries would certainly help propel him in that direction.

Chase Hooper is an enormous Featherweight, Standing at 6’2” and possessing a 75.5” reach Hooper could be a problem in the Division for the next decade. Hooper shows all the signs of being a UFC mainstay for years to come and a win over the veteran Rosa would be a huge stepping stone in his early career. Rosa isn’t an easy out for anyone however, with high level submission skills and exceptional durability inside the cage, Rosa has sent his fair share of prospects packing over his nearly 8 year pro career, including New England super-prospect Manny Bermudez (15-2). I think Hooper’s wrestling would pose a problem for Rosa but once the fight hits the mat, Rosa is at his most dangerous and will likely have some looks for the youngster Hooper that will challenge his inexperience. It would be interesting to see if the strength and size of Hooper could trump the submission stylings of Charles “Boston Strong” Rosa.

Full Contact Matchmaker Suggestion: Charles Rosa v. Chase Hooper

Yorgan De Castro (6-1) sputters after second round foot injury, comes up short on the scorecards against Greg Hardy (6-2).

Fall River's Yorgan De Castro (6-1) came up short on the judges scorecards against former Dallas Cowboy; Greg Hardy (6-2) at UFC 249.

Regiment Training Center’s Yorgan De Castro opened a lot of eyes in the first round of his Heavyweight tilt with former Dallas Cowboys star Greg Hardy on Saturday night. Yorgie looked like he was having no trouble closing the distance, landing power shots and thunderous leg kicks on the much lengthier Greg Hardy in the first round. In the second round Yorgan continued to pepper the lead leg of Hardy, forcing Hardy to start protecting his leg from the kicks. Yorgan came up short on one of those leg kicks half way into the second round, smashing his right foot into the shin bone Hardy and injuring his foot. With his right foot clearly compromised, Yorgan struggled to maintain his output and could not keep pace with vastly athletic Hardy down the stretch, finding himself further and further behind with each trip around the cage. Yorgan was able to avoid the power of Hardy for the remainder of the fight, however he was unable to mount any sort of offence leaving himself on the wrong side of a Unanimous Decision.

Yorgan will look to make “No Excuses,” he told our Lars Borssen; “I Lost. I’ll learn from it and be back better than ever. Maybe next time I’ll set up my low kicks better.” Coming off his first taste of defeat as a pro, Yorgan will be saddled with a 180 day medical suspension to recover from his injuries, as a return to the Octagon could be possible by late fall. If I were calling the shots I would give the fans another potential firefight; I line Yorgan up with a fellow, former Greg Hardy foe; Ben Sosoli (7-3). Though not nearly as technical as Yorgan De Castro, Melbourne, Australia’s “Combat Wombat” throws leather with similar intent. Sosoli has struggled to get his footing since signing with the UFC after his lopsided decision loss to Greg Hardy was overturned to a no contest, Sosoli went toe to toe with The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil 3 contestant Marcos de Lima. De Lima took just 88 seconds to finish Sosoli with strikes in Auckland, New Zealand this February.

If I were the man drawing up the contract for this fight I sit both of these men down and work out an extremely incentive laden deal...far fetched I know, but anyone familiar with these two heavyweights knows they are signed to the UFC for one reason and one reason only; to knock dudes out. Yorgan has shown his willingness to throw hands in his first two appearances in the Octagon, including his knockout of Justin Tafa (3-1) at UFC 243 as well as a decent first 7 minutes of action in his fight against Hardy. Sosoli on the other hand has had a much tougher time getting his striking going once inside the UFC cage, and his next opportunity could be his last, as he continues to search for his first UFC victory. Lock these two men inside a phonebooth and this matchup has the potential of becoming Heavyweight Fight of the year, as both men would be slugging to prove that they still belong on the UFC Heavyweight roster.

Full Contact Matchmaker Suggestion; Yorgan De Castro v. Ben Sosoli.

Calvin Kattar’s (21-4) elbow from the depths of hell, removes Jeremy Stephens (28-18) from consciousness and earns the region it’s only victory at last Saturday’s UFC 249.

Calvin Kattar lands a right hand on his way to a second round dismantling of veteran Jeremy Stephens last Saturday night at UFC 249.

After last Saturday night I would be surprised if Calvin Kattar can walk by a New England Dunkin without someone handing him a free coffee for his troubles. The 32 year old Methuen, Massachusetts native continued to show why he is the regions best shot at UFC gold Saturday night when his devastating second round elbow over the top, landed flush on the face of 32 fight UFC veteran; Jeremy “Lil Heathen” Stephens. With Stephens now in his wake, his march to the top of the Featherweight division continues, leaving just a handful of names standing between Kattar and his shot at the World Featherweight Crown. Kattar not only showed that he belongs amongst the elite 145ers in the world at UFC 249, he reminded us that one would be hard pressed to find a more refined set of boxing skills amongst fellow Featherweights. The scary part about all this is; Kattar’s striking and composure in the cage seems to improve each time out and the greater the challenge in front of him, the more Calvin rises to the occasion.

Now there is no question that we, the fans from New England, would love to see Calvin get his shot at redemption against the Dagestani; Zabit Madomedsharipov (18-1), this time on our own terms; 5 rounds, stateside. With that said it would be much easier for that fight to come to fruition if the belt was securely around the waist of Kattar, leaving Zabit no option but to go five rounds with the “Boston Finisher.” So lets remove Zabit from the equation for at least for this next fight, with Calvin sitting securely at number 7 in the division I look for New England Cartel Manager; Tyson Chartier to align Kattar with someone inside the top 5 in the UFC’s Featherweight rankings. With just a handful of names between Kattar and Champion Alexander Volkanovski to choose from, I would set my sites on the Mexican born, and fifth ranked Featherweight; Yair “El Pantera” Rodriguez (13-2).

The Ultimate Fighter Latin America 1 winner; Yair Rodriguez wasted no time climbing the Featherweight ranks following his impressive showing on The Ultimate Fighter, reeling off five straight victories inside the Octagon before suffering his first UFC loss to Frankie Edgar at UFC 211 in 2017. Since the loss to Edgar, Rodriguez’s appearances in the cage have been few and far between fighting just once in 2018 and 2019, however with both of those fights resulting in wins, at the expense of Chan Sung Jung (16-5) and Jeremy Stephens (28-18), the Chicago, Illinois transplant still finds himself near the top of the heap at Featherweight. Possessing some seriously creative striking and a warrior spirit, Rodriguez would make for an exciting matchup for the technically sound Kattar, who has shown his willingness to test his striking skills against anyone that comes his way. A win over Rodriguez would secure Kattar’s spot in the division’s top five, and is a matchup worthy of a main event slot. With a good showing against Yair, there would be no denying that Kattar is a serious threat to the reign of Australian born Champion; Alexander “The Great” Volkanovski (21-1) and his current 18 fight win streak.

Full Contact Matchmaker Suggestion; Calvin Kattar v. Yair Rodriguez.

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