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Rizin FF Announces Jerome Le Banner Fighting MMA on NYE

Remember when Jerome Le Banner retired? Yeah, about that. Combat sports retirements only last as long as there isn't money on the table and Japan's new RIZIN FF promotion has laid out whatever amount of money that it took to get Jerome Le Banner back into the ring for New Year's Eve. The crazy, three-day long event will culminate with a huge NYE event on December 31st that'll air on Spike TV in the United States. 

Jerome Le Banner will be a part of that, fighting his first MMA fight in over five years against former sumo wrestling star Kaido Hoovelson. Le Banner was a huge star in Japan thanks to K-1 and still holds a near god-like status with fans in Japan. This booking is little surprise considering that, even if the fight is a bit, well, strange. It's Japan, it's New Year's Eve, this is the kind of stuff that we've come to expect, know and love.

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GLORY's Mauro Ranallo Announced as Lead Commentator for WWE's Smackdown

Since GLORY's inception the promotion had struggled a bit with finding its voice across its platforms. Over the past few years they've finally put together a solid broadcast team including major finds like Tim Hughes as the ring announcer and the stable-yet-familiar team of Mauro Ranallo as the lead play-by-play man and Stephan Quadros as the color commentator. That team does change at times, but it's usually when Mauro or Quadros have another gig booked in advance. 

Ranallo has been the voice of Showtime boxing over the past year or so, making a solid name for himself in the boxing community while also picking up accolades for his work in professional wrestling calling AXS TV's New Japan Pro Wrestling program. Those accolades have been vast and were enough to raise some eyebrows in Connecticut. The WWE has been looking for a solid announce team for their programs for a while now, with some of their internal candidates either falling flat or simply showing signs of wear and tear. 

So imagine the surprise when it surfaced last night that Mauro Ranallo -- who had been hinting on social media over the past week about taking that "next step" in his career -- was selected as the lead commentator on WWE's Smackdown program. Ranallo, a life-long wrestling fan, seems incredibly happy by this and the deal that he worked out allows for him to continue being the voice of Showtime boxing and GLORY kickboxing as well. 

Congratulations, Mauro, you deserve it.

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Maurice Jackson Exposes the Glaring Holes in the 'Honor System' of Combat Sports

I had never heard of Maurice Jackson, the 31-0-0 phenom of a fighter, until doing my research for GLORY 21. 

When I look back at these notes all that he had a win in Bellator (which I'm still unable to find video of) and that he was big and most likely strong. The little footage that was available of him was old highlights, mostly from MMA or still images. That is usually a pretty bad sign. Even going into the last Denver card where the SuperFight Series was filled with fighters that had little name value or experience there was footage available of prior fights in kickboxing to line up with their rather modest records.

At this point I've gotten rather good at hunting down footage from lesser-known fighters, finding old interviews, promotional material or just going to their team for information. Maurice Jackson, at the time, was an afterthought. There wasn't much to find on him and realistically he was raw meat for Vigney, so who really cares, right? Myself and a few others laughed at the record for being clearly embellished, but life went on. Then the Vigney fight happened and he looked not only like an amateur, but a total amateur. How many professional fighters turtle and turn their back towards an opponent who is raining down blows at them? I've seen a few, but on average, fighters without much experience sparring tend to exhibit such behavior. 

This guy couldn't even take a low kick.

I don't like to criticize fighters because fighting is difficult, it's not an easy job to do nor is it one that comes with a lot of gratitude and money. GLORY booked Jackson under the pretense of his record, his history with Bellator, most likely his size and the game that he spat. Hell, he was scheduled to be one of Jerome Le Banner's final opponents until he pulled out under mysterious circumstances at the last minute, forcing Karl Roberson in, who put up a valiant effort against Le Banner. 

Maurice Jackson is not a fighter who is prepared to fight at this level and wherever that ludicrous record came from is exactly the problem with combat sports today. We've seen MMA leagues that help to inflate the records of younger fighters to help them get into the UFC. Go ahead and search for 'Xplode Fight Series' on Google and you'll be assailed with articles about corruption, lack of oversight, fighters fighting multiple times in one night and everything else a promotion could do that is wrong. 

Kickboxing and muay thai can, at times, be much worse. I've heard claims that Jackson's record comes from "Full Contact" fights, which is a rule set of kickboxing that doesn't utilize low kicks. This is also a style of kickboxing that is mostly extinct these days when it comes to professional fights. Full Contact mostly exists in small pockets of Europe or as an amateur rule set to help acclimate fighters to being hit and getting comfortable in the ring. I'm not saying that it is a bogus subset of kickboxing, just that it does not exist as it once did in a world where muay thai and K-1 rules are all the rage. Low kicks are an essential part of MMA and MMA is the golden standard of combat sports these days. What I'm saying is that I am doubtful that Jackson has the record that he claims, and if he does, it is most likely an amateur record or from "gym fights."

Look at the records of some kickboxers and muay thai fighters and you'll see crazy records, spanning dozens and sometimes hundreds of fights in a short period of time. Trying to keep track of all of these fights is nearly impossible, making most records the responsibility of the fighter and their team, not anyone else. Vetting a fighter's record is something that rarely comes into play because of how difficult it is. So if a fighter like Jackson felt that he was ready to take on the bigger names, all he had to do was present a winning record and voila, he had a fight in a major kickboxing organization with more to follow. They perhaps went a bit overboard with that 31-0-0, though. Yet, GLORY gave him the benefit of the doubt and the final result was embarrassing. 

That one fight, though, earned him future bookings. He was supposed to fight Jerome Le Banner! He got booked to fight Catalin Morosanu! Crazy the ripple effect that happens, isn't it? Did anyone bother to watch the fight with Vigney, or was the record and being able to put "fought in GLORY" enough?

I'm not sure if Jackson was selected because of a poor performance against Vigney and an impressive sounding resume, or if he was selected just on the merits of resume alone with no intent behind it. What happened in the ring, though, was insanity. Jackson immediately backed up to the corner, much like we saw against Vigney, with his hand outstretched to keep Morosanu at bay. Morosanu landed one looping shot that clipped him on the left side of the head (don't listen to the commentary, it was aimed at the right but Jackson turned his head). Jackson immediately crashed to the canvas, holding the left side of his head and his ear.

Now, it was entirely possible that Morosanu's shot landed on his ear, but what happened next was confusing and strange by any standard. The referee simply urged for Jackson to keep fighting. By the look of it Jackson was taking a dive, he was done, he wanted the fight to be over. He said that he wanted to keep fighting, so the ref took a point away and let the fight continue. Then the same thing happened. There was an official from the promotion right by his corner literally screaming at Jackson, Jackson having an exchange with him before he went back to selling his injury. 

This fight somehow went on, Morosanu hit him, he turtled up and then Morosanu just chopped away at his exposed back before the ref called Morosanu off, Morosanu taking another shot that led to Jackson's corner grabbing his glove and telling him to stop, while that same SK official was shouting obscenities the whole time. Morosanu was then, somehow, announced the winner and Jackson was announced to be banned from SuperKombat for life. 

There are a few possible explanations for this, the first would be that Jackson took a dive and just wanted to collect his money, get a trip to Italy and take off. The second would be that Jackson is an inexperienced fighter who has been in over his head this year, felt that one strong punch from Morosanu and realized he was trapped inside of a nightmare. Morosanu is a tough guy who has hung with some of the greats in the sport, he also hits like a truck and Jackson's trash talk upset him heading into this fight. 

A big part of the problem is that Jackson, no matter what happened, did not belong in that ring with Morosanu. He's risking serious injury by stepping into the ring with actual, qualified professional fighters with a lifetime of experience. Promoters are hungry for talent to fill their cards and the allure of a heavyweight from the United States with a very good record and solid resume is too much for some to resist. In an already crowded and underfunded business fighters like this are taking money away from fighters who have earned their chance to fight in the ring while simultaneously being a danger to themselves and to everyone around them.

We need trainers and managers to not just look for dollar signs, but to be realistic and concerned with the health and well being of their fighters. Maurice Jackson is, intentional or not, a fraud on this level and his team has not only exposed him as such, but have made it difficult for themselves to be taken seriously again in the future. The job of a trainer is to ensure that their fighter is prepared for their fight and if things are going wrong to make sure that they don't get hurt. In the case of Maurice Jackson none of that has happened and that should be scary to everybody in combat sports. 

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SuperKombat Special Edition Results

SuperKombat held their final event of the year today in Italy in an event that mixed together MMA and kickboxing like we've been seeing for a long time now. The highlight of the MMA portion was the debut of Raul Catinas in MMA against Janusz Dylewski. Dylewski's record was, well, not good heading into this fight and he lost to Catinas as expected in the first round.

The kickboxing fights were exciting, your usual SuperKombat fare up until the main event. My god, what a cluster. Maurice Jackson is, for all intents and purposes, a complete fraud. The two times we've seen him fight this year have been in GLORY against Xavier Vigney and now against Morosanu and in both fights he showed zero skill, ability or defense. Simply hit Jackson and he's down. That is not a man who went into this year at 31-0-0, I don't care what ruleset he is claiming to have competed on. I'm 400-0-0 against my heavybag in my garage, maybe I should get a shot?

Jackson was disqualified (even though Morosanu hit him after the ref called the fight, but whatever, did the ref call the fight? Who knows) and fired right there in the ring. I'm not kidding. They fired him while he was turtled up in a ball on the mat complaining about being hit. I think he was complaining about being hit? This was just embarrassing. SuperKombat has brought in a good deal of Americans to their shows, some are out of shape, some are old, some are lacking in experience, but they all were established fighters who knew what it felt like to be hit and had some fight in them. Jackson had none of this.

Results via Kiksie.

1. Super Fight - Light Heavyweight bout (-81 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Adrian Mitu (Romania) def. Stylianos Parathirakis (Greece) by TKO in Round 1

2. Super Fight - Middleweight bout (-71 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Amansio Paraschiv (Romania) def. Alkid Farruku (Morocco) by KO in Round 1

3. Super Fight - Super Cruiserweight bout (-95 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Lucian Danilencu (Romania) def. Bilel Messaoudi (France) by KO in Round 1

4. Super Fight - Light Heavyweight (-81 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Bogdan Nastase (Romania) def. Tudor Turcan (Rep. Moldova) by KO in Round 1

5. Super Fight - Light Heavyweight plus (-86 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Alexandru Negrea (Romania) def. Imanol Rodriguez (Spain)

6. Super Fight - Light Heavyweight Plus bout (-84 kg) - MMA rules (3 rounds x 5 minutes)

Robert Bryczek (Poland) def. Alexander Bergmann (Sweden) by KO in Round 1

7. Super Fight - Light Heavyweight Plus bout (-84 kg) - MMA rules (3 rounds x 5 minutes)

Ion Pascu (Romania) def. Ivan Brguljan (Croatia) by TKO in Round 1

8. Super Fight - Cruiserweight bout (-92 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Bogdan Stoica (Romania) def. Damian Garcia (Spain) by KO in Round 2

9. Super Fight — Welterweight bout (-66 kg) — MMA rules (3 rounds x 5 minutes)

Maja Britvic (Croatia) 65.3 kg vs Cristiana Stancu (Romania) 66.3 kg

10. Super Fight - Heavyweight bout (+96 kg) - MMA rules (3 rounds x 5 minutes)

Raul Catinas (Romania) def. Janusz Dylewski (Poland) by Submission in Round 1

11. Super Fight - Heavyweight bout (+96 kg) - SK Rules (3 rounds x 3 minutes)

Catalin Morosanu (Romania) def. Maurice Jackson (USA) by Jackson being fired in Round 1.

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