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Rafael dos Anjos earned his third straight win this past weekend with a unanimous decision victory over Nate Diaz. With such a dominant win over a former UFC title challenger, it looks as though RDA may have just booked himself the next shot at current champ Anthony Pettis.

Up until Rafael's most recent win, the man sitting atop the list of UFC lightweight contenders was undefeated Russian Khabib Nurmagomedov. But Khabib has now been joined at the number-one spot by RDA, whom he actually defeated in his last outing in April before being sidelined with injury.

Predictably, Khabib still feels he is the true number-one contender:

Nurmagomedov has stated he wants to face Pettis for the belt around April/May when he will be fully healthy and ready to fight. However, it seems the reigning champ wants to remain as active as possible, having sat out the majority of 2014. Because of this, UFC president Dana White seems to be leaning towards setting up Pettis vs dos Anjos - possibly for UFC 185 in March.

 "I would say if Khabib is healthy right now, probably Khabib (gets the next shot). But he's not, so it's dos Anjos," said Dana.

As the sport of MMA has evolved, the use of strategy in fighting has become increasingly prevalent. This aspect of the sport has been criticised by some for taking away from the excitement of it all and encouraging athletes to score points rather than finish fights.

However, there can be no denying the effectiveness of game plans.

"Going over game planning your fight is huge," says UFC bantamweight champ TJ Dillashaw. "You've already seen what's going to happen, you've visualised the things you're going to do and what your opponent's going to do. So, when they come, you've already been there and done that."

Josh Barnett adds: "Game plans are a funny thing. I do believe in them but at the same time I subscribe to even more than just game plans. There's an old phrase my wrestling coaches have told me and that is, 'Just because they know what you're going to do doesn't mean they can stop it.'"

Watch the full video below.

In one swift move, Carla Esparza became the winner of season 20 of The Ultimate Fighter and the first ever UFC women's strawweight champion this past weekend at the TUF 20 Finale by defeating fellow finalist Rose Namajunas.

Also on the card, Charles Oliveira moved further up the 145lb ranks with an impressive win over the very tough Jeremy Stephens.

Along with their standard payment, Jessica Penne, Randa Markos, Carla Esparza and Yancy Medeiros all earned $50K post-fight bonuses.

See the full list of fighter salaries below.

  • Carla Esparza: $50,000 (includes $25,000 win bonus) def. Rose Namajunas: $25,000
  • Charles Oliveira: $54,000 (includes $27,000 win bonus) def. Jeremy Stephens: $40,000
  • Daron Cruickshank: $17,000 vs. K.J. Noons: $31,000*
  • Yancy Medeiros: $30,000 (includes $15,000 win bonus) def. Joe Proctor: $10,000
  • Jessica Penne: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Randa Markos: $8,000
  • Felice Herrig: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Lisa Ellis: $8,000
  • Heather Jo Clark: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Bec Rawlings: $8,000
  • Joanne Calderwood: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Seo Hee Ham: $8,000
  • Tecia Torres: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Angela Magana: $8,000
  • Aisling Daly: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Alex Chambers: $8,000
  • Angela Hill: $16,000 (includes $8,000 win bonus) def. Emily Kagan: $8,000
 
*No winner as fight was ruled a no-contest
 
Disclaimer: Amounts do not include deductions, post-fight bonuses or money paid by sponsors.

 

UFC veteran Dan 'The Outlaw' Hardy has been enjoying his new role as UFC commentator since health complications have prevented him from competing inside the cage. Now though, he is aiming to get medical clearance in 2015 and make a return to competition at a new weight of 155lb.

Dan's future as an MMA fighter may still be uncertain, but that doesn't mean he will never be able to compete in any form of martial arts competition again. In a recent interview, the Brit revealed he is open to other pursuing other athletic avenues moving forward.

"I'd love to do some grappling tournaments because it was something that I didn't really get a lot of time to invest in before I started pro MMA," Hardy told Fighters Only. "As soon as I started pro MMA it became very difficult about me entering tournaments. It kind of changes people's approach to you when you're already fighting pro MMA. So I would like to go back and do some more grappling tournaments. I'm not good enough for Metamoris just yet, I think I'll need a bit of extra work."

Although he hasn't fought since September 2012, Hardy remains a close follower of the sport in his leisure time and has been keeping a close eye on events over the past calendar year, ensuring that he remains sharp for calling fights on cards across the UK and Europe.

One of the key factors regarding UFC match-ups in 2014 has been fight cancellations due to injuries, with one of the suspected reasons for this has being that fighters are pushing themselves too hard in the gym. Hardy gave his thoughts on this issue.

"A lot of the time in these MMA gyms, particularly in big gyms where they start recruiting guys that are already established – we've got Blackzilians and American Top Team and places like that - where you get a huge group of world-class fighters in there that could potentially fight for a title against each other, there's a lot of ego going on. A lot of people carelessly injuring each other in training, and I think that's a big part of the problem right now. A lot of ego needs to be gotten rid of and people need to realise that they've got to look after themselves, first and foremost.

"You're not going to be a fighter forever and it's difficult to see that when you're in the moment and being a fighter. I've never really looked outside my career and thought about the fact that I'm not going to be a fighter one day, I'm going to be an old man and I don't want to be beat up and worn out. I think a lot of these guys, it's not even the fights when they're taking the damage, it's just in the training camps. They're beating themselves up to the point where they're not going to be comfortable for the rest of their lives and that's not a martial artist. That's not a martial arts approach. We need to be in peak physical condition all the time, and that includes injuries. It's not tough to be injured, it's short-sighted a lot of the time."

One suggested alternative for training camp models has been to take the same approach often employed by elite boxers, where a training camp is built around one individual. Of course, the majority of athletes in MMA don't have the same amount of money to spend as the like of Floyd Mayweather.

"A lot of people can't afford to build a training camp around them," Hardy said. "They have to step into a training camp where it's a shared training camp among a whole group of fighters that are all preparing. It's kind of like, 'I'll scratch your back and you scratch mine. I'll be there for your training camp as long as you're there for mine.'

"It's much more of a hands-on sport as well. With boxing you can hit bags and hit pads and stuff, and then you spar two or three times a week. In MMA, we need to be grappling, wrestling with people fairly regularly. A lot of the time it's just about selecting the right training partners. I have a very small group of people that I'm comfortable working with now, and I don't step outside of that too much. I roll occasionally with somebody if they come with a trusted recommendation. But we really have to look after ourselves, particularly when you're on TV and stuff. We see it in seminars a lot where a guy, with the best intentions in the world, will try and show you how good he is just because he respects you and looks up to you. But at the same time we can't be at 100 percent all the time, we can't be stepping into every gym expecting a fight. So there's a lot of evolution that has to happen with people's training camps. A part of that is we need more money among the fighters and a part of that is we need the fighters to be a bit smarter about what they're doing."

Dan Hardy has a pro MMA record of 25-10 (1 NC). He last fought at UFC on FUEL TV 5 in September 2012, where he defeated Amir Sadollah via unanimous decision.

The Ultimate Fighter season 10 alumni Matt Mitrione earned the biggest win of his pro MMA career this past weekend with a TKO of former heavyweight title challenger Gabriel Gonzaga.

"I feel really good man," Mitrione said after his win. "I was a little more sluggish. I'm happy it worked out the way it did and I'm happy that I'm starting to validate all the effort and interest that people have put into my career. It feels pretty damn good."

Mitrione is one of the few fighters in modern MMA history to have begun his fighting career inside the UFC Octagon. He has had a tough past couple of years, going 1-2 from 2012-2013, but has made a massive resurgence this calendar year with three straight wins.

"Good coaching and good teammates, legitimately," he answered when asked what he attributes his improvement to. "Coach Henri [Hooft] has put in so much time and effort. And, when I wasn't making any kind of money, he would work for free. He wouldn't even accept tips. He was like, 'When you start making it, come back to me. But, right now, let's worry about getting you better.' He's really special in my life - very, very special."

There have been questions surrounding Matt's legitimacy as a top-tier heavyweight for some time, as he has always looked good against lower-ranked opponents but stumbled when up against the likes of Cheick Kongo, Brendan Schaub and TUF 10 winner Roy Nelson.

Now though, with his UFC on FOX 13 win over Gonzaga, Mitrione finally has that big name on his list of wins. However, he's still not sure it'll be enough to prove his worth to the masses.

"I'm happy I won, Gonzaga's a good name and has been around for a long-ass time. But there's always going to be critics and I'm one of my own biggest. We'll see what Joe Silva (UFC matchmaker) thinks and we'll probably tell by the next fight I get."

As for who he thinks could be next or his personal preferences regarding his next fight, Matt is open to all possibilities: "I honestly don't care. There's a lot of heavyweights on the card tonight, a lot of freed up guys after this. So we'll see what happens."

This past weekend was packed with MMA action, including the UFC's debut in Arizona with UFC on FOX 13. There was a star-studded main card on show which included a 'Fight of the Year' contender between Junior dos Santos and Stipe Miocic.

Read below for a pick of the best comments from Twitter during and after the recent UFC on FOX event.

Dos Santos vs Miocic:

 

Dos Anjos vs Diaz:

 

Overeem vs Struve:

 

Mitrione vs Gonzaga:

Kelvin Gastelum is one of the UFC's fastest rising contenders, having put together three wins over the past calendar year. He defeated veteran Jake Ellenberger via first round submission in his last outing at UFC 180 and climbed to #7 in the official 170lb rankings.

Kelvin was in Phoenix, Arizona this past weekend to attend UFC on FOX 13, and prior to the event he took the stage for a special Q&A session with fans.

Watch the full video below.

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