2014 MMA Sun Prospect Spotlight – Bantamweight Recap

The bantamweight division is stocked with up and coming talent. In fact, we found it difficult to narrow down our list to 10 prospects. We are very pleased with the top 10 in this division. If you forced me to sign one of those guys to the UFC today, I would sign Aljamain Sterling. However, I would guess that Pedro Munhoz, Thomas Almeida and Michinori Tanaka are on the brink of UFC offers. I also wouldn’t be surprised to see Jumabieke in the UFC sooner than later.

There are 3 or 4 guys that we left off the top ten who one could make an argument for their inclusion.

1. James Brum – perhaps the best bantamweight prospect in Europe. Brum was a guy I struggled to not include in our top 10. A 14-2 career mark which boasts an 8 fight win streak should be garnering big time attention. At 26 years of age, Brum’s best days are yet to come. Brum declares, “I am taking the Cage Warriors Bantamweight Title in 2014. I am the number 1 unsigned prospect in the bantamweight division in Europe. I have cemented this position by beating the best Europe has to offer and ow I’m looking to prove I am one of the best 135ers in the world”

2. Brett Johns – The Cage Warriors bantamweight champion has a promising future himself. A 9-0 career mark en route to the Cage a Warriors title. Johns is just 21 years old. Fighting out of Wales, he trains at the Chris Rees academy and dragon school of combat! He is a black belt in judo and a blue belt in Brazilian Jiu Jitsu. Recovering from an injury Johns is hoping for a fight in March 2014. Nicknamed “the Pikey”. Johns is a real prospect to keep your eyes on.

3. Luis Rafael – Rafael is 24-0. He didn’t make the list because he has done so against sub par competition. Nevertheless, such a record deserves some attention. I would guess he will find willing suitors soon. He trains with a very good gym in Renovavao and at just 21 years old he has a bright future, but we want to see him against better competition.

4. Jonas Speed – at only 23 year old Bilharinho is one of the top prospects in Brazil. He has a 4-0 record which has highlighted excellent striking skills.

5. Tyler Shinn – Shinn may have made the list, but just prior to compiling the list we learned of his intent to drop down to the flyweight division. He is one to watch there for sure. In fact, we believe he can be a world class flyweight.

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2012 MMA Sun Fighter of the Year

The Winner: Benson Henderson
Ben went 3-0 in 2012 with 2 wins over Frankie Edgar and a win over Nate Diaz. By defending his belt two times he not only wins fighter of the year, but he is one of the elite lightweights of all time. He will have to keep defending against some tough costumers.

Others:
Ronda Rousey – Rousey was 2-0 in 2012 with big wins over Miesha Tate and Sarah Kaufman. She moves onto the UFC.
Jon Jones – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Rashad Evans and Vitor Belfort
Anderson Silva – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Stephan Bonnar and Chael Sonnen.
Renan Barao – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Scott Jorgenesen and Urijah Faber
Chris Weidman – 2-0 in 2012 with wins of Mark Munoz and Demian Maia.
Johny Hendricks – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Martin Kampmann and Josh Koscheck.
Fabricio Werdum – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Roy Nelson and Mike Russow.
Glover Teixeira – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Kyle Kingsbury and Fabio Maldonado
Tim Boetsch – 2-0 in 2012 with wins over Yushin Okami and Hector Lombard.
Demetrious Johnson -2-0-1 in 2012 with a draw to Ian McCall and win over McCall and Benavidez.

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2013 Is Looking Up For The UFC

There are a lot of exciting fights on the horizon in the UFC. The UFC hopes to rebound from a 2012 that saw many of their big fights scratched due to injuries. In fact, many of their biggest fighters were on the sidelines.

John Dodson vs. Demetrious Johnson
The flyweights don’t get the love they deserve. They have been boo’d, but I think they are exciting. Dodson vs. Johnson will be the fastest fight ever. I also think it is competitive. Dodson has some power. Johnson is really fast. I can’t wait for this one. Plus, it is free.

Renan Barao vs. Michael McDonaald
Obviously the bigger fight would have been Renan Barao vs. Dominick Cruz. This would be and will be a real super fight. However, a second ACL surgery has probably pushed that fight back into early 2014 and will force interim champion Renan Barao to fight. The fight will be against Michael McDonald. This fight is one that has been on fans’ radar for a while. These two guys may be the future of the 135 pound division.

Ronda Rousey vs. TBA
No one knows when, where or who, but Ronda Rousey’s UFC debut will be huge. I am also not sure how much buzz and excitement this will generate outside of the hardcore fans, but this is a big fight for many reasons. I believe it is a fight that will have big ramifications for women’s MMA for years to come. As for her opponent. My guess is that it will either be Liz Carmouche or Sara McMann. Personally, I love the McMann fight. I am not sure it is Rousey’s first fight, but the story of two Olympic medalist fighting is a good one. Wrestler vs. Judoka. I do not think a Miesha Tate fight is out of the realm of possibility either. Her name recognition in women’s MMA makes her appealing. Perhaps it could be someone else too. Marloes Coenen comes to mind. Sadly, the fight that everyone wants seems to be off the table, a super fight with Cris Cyborg. Speaking of women’s MMA, don’t be surprised if Gina Carano returns for one fight in the UFC.

Frankie Edgar vs. Jose Aldo
This is a true super fight that may be going under the radar. While technically, this fight is not a fight pitting two current UFC champions against one another, it is as close as it gets to that. Edgar narrowly lost to Ben Henderson. Edgar could be competitive with anyone at 155. The logic is that he will be dominant at 145. The problem is that one of the most dominant fighters ever stands in hiw way; Jose Aldo. This really is a dream fight. It may be a coin toss. My prediction is that this fight doesn’t sell nearly the PPV buys that it should.

Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida
It isn’t everyone’s first choice for a fight, but it will do. Honestly, I liked the Dan Henderson vs. Jon Jones fight. However, this is a true top contender fight. It pits the power of Dan Henderson vs. the elusiveness of Lyoto Machida. This is a great, great light heavyweight match up.

Jon Jones vs. Chael Sonnen
It isn’t the most competitive fight on paper. In fact, I give Chael very little chance of winning. However, it will be fin to watch. Chael will talk up the fight. The build up will be intense through the Ultimate Fighter 17. Plus, Chael always brings it. Not to mention in Jones and Sonnen you have two of your bigger PPV draws.

Georges St. Pierre vs. Johnny Hendricks
My guess is that the Anderson Silva fight doesn’t happen yet. If it does, that would be HUGE. It would be the biggest fight ever. Period. However, if St. Pierre elects to stay at 170 and defend his belt again, there is a contender in waiting. No one has ever cemented the title of top contender as emphatically as Johnny Hendricks. KO wins of Jon Fitch and Martin Kampmann and a win over Josh Koscheck. On top of that, there is an interesting style clash between Hendricks and St. Pierre. While GSP is often heralded as MMA’s best wrestler, Johnny Hendricks has the resume to argue that. A multiple time national champion wrestler. He could defend GSP’s take downs and maybe even take him down. Also, Hendricks has CRAZY one punch knockout power. He is a really threat to St. Pierre.

Others to look forward to: Anthony Pettis vs. Donald Cerrone, Glover Teixeira vs. Rampage Jackson, Stefan Struve vs. Mark Hunt, Vitor Belfort vs. Michael Bisping, Antonio Roidrigo Nogueira vs. Fabricio Werdum.

There are a lot of fights that cannot be foreseen. For example, I envision Alistair Overeem vs. Junior Dos Santos/Cain Velasquez. However, Overeem has to get through Bigfoot Silva first. I am hoping for Anderson Silva vs. Chris Weidman, but Anderson’s next move is really up in the air. Jon Jones has a few exciting fights down the pipe after Chael Sonnen. He has the Dan Henderson vs. Lyoto Machida winner. He could have Alexander Gustafsson if he beats Shogun. He could even have Daniel Cormier. That brings to mind the possibility of all the Strikeforce fighters coming over. Who does Gilbert Melendez fight first in the UFC? What about Luke Rockhold and Gegard Mousasi? How about a Nate Marquardt at welterweight? Could we even get excited to see Josh Barnett in the UFC? What about the return of Nick Diaz? There is potential that Bellator lightweight champ, Eddie Alvarez signs with the UFC. If He does, he becomes a top contender instantly.

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What Could the Strikeforce Roster Mean to the UFC?

One plus one equals two. UFC is holding more events and is having trouble filling their cards with worthy fights. Strikeforce is struggling. Why not absorb Strikeforce and their roster? It may not be so easy. Strikeforce currently has a contract with Showtime. It is unclear how long that contract is valid. What is certain is that the contract runs through this year. It also is assumed that they have an option to keep Strikeforce through 2013. I do not believe that much convincing needs to be done that Strikeforce needs to die. I believe most people outside of Showtime and Zuffa see the benefit to Strikeforce disbanding and their roster joining the UFC. I just highly doubt it happens. However, let’s play Devil’s advocate. Let’s see what potential value Strikeforce could have for the UFC.

There are currently 68 fighters on the Strikeforce roster (if you do not count the female fighters). My guess is that UFC would not be interested in the entire roster. If It was my job to decide who comes and goes, here is who I would bring to the UFC. Daniel Cormier, Josh Barnett, Guto Inocente, Gegard Mousasi, Rafael “Feijao” Cavalcante, Gian Villante, Mike Kyle, Dion Starling, Ovince St. Preux, Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy, Jacare Souza, Robbie Lawler, Adlan Amagov, Lorenz Larkin, Trevor Smith, Roger Gracie, Yancy Medeiros, Derek Brunson, Anthony Smith, Nate Marquardt, Tyron Woodley, Jordan Mein, Kazuo Misaki, Tarec Saffiedine, Jorge Santiago, Quinn Mulhern, Yuri Villefort, Bobby Voelker, Chris Spang, Roger Bowling, Jason High, Ryan LaFlare, Gilbert Melendez, Josh Thomson, Pat Healy, Jorge Masvidal, K.J. Noons, Bobby Green, Mizuto Horita, Adriano Martins, Isaac Vallie-Flagg, Ryan Couture, and Caros Fodor.

Even with such a big addition to the UFC roster, how many of those guys are able to be used for main cards? Daniel Cormier and Josh Barnett could be on a main card, possibly even a headliner. I think Feijao and Mousasi could be on a main card and also present credible threats to Jon Jones. Luke Rockhold, Tim Kennedy and Jacare could fill a main card spot. I also believe that Robbie Lawler, Lorenz Larkin and Roger Gracie could be on a main card of an FX type card. Nate Marquardt could be on a main card and with the right opponent guys like Woodley, Mein, Misaki and Saffiendine could as well. Gilbert Melendez could be on a main card and Josh Thomson and Pat Healy could on a FX card. Oh yeah, there is also this girl named Ronda Rousey. Perhaps you’ve heard of her. I have a feeling her growing popularity could be a catalyst to this whole thing. UFC would love her on a card. She’s a star.

That gives some options, but not as many as some might thing. It does give a few potential challengers down the line to the UFC champions. It does inject some depth into several divisions that sorely need it. It also adds a few nice prospects such as Yancy Medeiros, Guto Inocente, Gian Villante, Yuri Villefort, and Adriano Martins.

Yes, UFC can survive without any of the Strikeforce guys coming over. However, their cards could really be strengthened with them. It is a great insurance for an injury a top a UFC card. It would have been nice to have had the luxury of calling some of the Strikeforce stars to fill recent injury voids.

It is only a matter of time. How long may depend on contracts already in place rather than logic or demand. Fan and media outcry may help, but my guess is everyone’s hands are tied at the moment.

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RFA 4 Is A Stacked Card

When RFA 4 goes down on November 2, I am not sure that fans will realize how great of a card has been put together.  This is one of those cards that five years from now we will look back on and be shocked with the amount of talent on it.

RFA match maker Scott Cutbirth has aggressively signed some of the best up and coming talent.   Yes, RFA 4 is headlined by UFC veteran Gilbert Yvel and Marcio De Cruz and co-headlined by UFC veterans Efrain Escudero and Tyson Griffin, but what stands out is the amount of blue chip prospects on the card.

There are several fighters who are on the verge of breaking through to a major organization.  Perhaps Chidi Njokuani, who is fighting Phil Dace could be a win a way from joining his brother in the UFC.   Division I national champion wrestler Bubba Jenkins cannot be far from a UFC offfer.  Team Alpha Male and Ohio State wrestling stand out Lance Palmer is certainly knocking on the door of a UFC contract.  Jenkins and Palmer are not just prospects, they are pretty close to the sure thing.

In addition, high level prospects like Sergio Pettis and Chris Holdsworth grace the card.  Both of those guys have a lot of hype and are good enough to be future UFC contenders.

RFA also features the debut of wrestling stand outs like Steve Mocco and Gregor Gillespie.  Those two are not just good wrestlers, they are as good as it gets.

Don’t miss an opportunity to see some future stars before they were stars.

Full Fight Card:
Fight 14 – (205) Gilbert Yvel (38-16-1) vs. Marcio Cruz (7-3)
Fight 13 – (155) Tyson Griffin (15-6) vs. Efrain Escudero (18-5)
Fight 12 – (145) Fredson Paixao (10-4) vs. Alessandro Ferreira (10-2)
Fight 11 – (170) Chidi Njokuani (8-3) vs. Phil Dace (8-2)
Fight 10 – (155) James Krause (16-4) vs. Guilherme Trindade (8-0)
Fight  9 – (155) Dakota Cochrane (12-3) vs. Derrick Burnsed (10-2)
Fight  8 – (155) Jesse “Bubba” Jenkins (3-0) vs. Jimmy Spicuzza (2-0)
Fight  7 – (145) Lance Palmer (4-0) vs. Nick Macias (6-2)
Fight  6 – (135) Sergio Pettis (5-0) vs. Jimmy Jones (4-1)
Fight  5 – (135) Chris Holdsworth (3-0) vs. Tyler Shinn (3-0)
Fight  4 – (265) Steve Mocco (0-0) vs. Carl Postma (1-0)
Fight  3 – (155) Gregor Gillespie (0-0) vs. Joey Angelo (0-0)
Fight  2 – (265) Tyler Perry (1-0) vs. Derek Bohi (0-0)
Fight  1 – (135) Jerry Shapiro (0-0) vs. Cory Galloway (1-1)

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10 Heavyweights that the UFC Should Look At

Fans have always been interested in seeing heavyweights fight, the one problem is that there is a lack of talent in that division in comparison to other divisions.  It is not easy finding world class, quality big fighters.  Not only that, but Zuffa has a good lockdown on the majority of the heavyweights.  However, there are a few guys with some upside that would be worth it for the UFC to take a look at.

1. Soa Palelei – My guess is that the “Hulk” will find his way back to the UFC.  He may be the besy heavyweight not currently under contract to a major promotion.  I don’t think Soa can contend for a title, but he can knock some folks out.  He has a great chance of signing sooner than later due to the UFC’s interest in Australia.  He also has some hype behind him and a serious Twitter army.  He has gone 9-1 since his 0-1 stint in the UFC.  Perhaps his time has come.

2. Jan Jorgensen – Jorgensen just picked up a win this past weekend in Utah and he is ready for the big show.  He is 5-0 with all finishes.  He is a former BYU football player who now trains at the Pit Elevated (a gym with UFC ties).  I can’t imagine Jorgsensen getting many more fights before the UFC comes calling.  Also, Jan has the highest upside out of anyone on this list.

3. Tony Johnson, Jr. – He has solid potential.  He has a good wrestling base.  His only loss came to Daniel Cormier.  I have heard rumbling of him being Josh Barnett’s opponent in Strikeforce.

4. Tyler East – He has won 9 in a row.  I am not sure if he can hang with the elites, but he has some skills.  Had it not been for some personal troubles, he may have already been in the UFC.  With a shallow pool of talent, East would make sense for the UFC or Bellator.

5. Mike Hackert – He beats multiple time UFC veteran Tim Hague in impressive fashion at the last MFC card.  Hackert is probably locked down with the MFC for a while, but he is Canada’s top heavyweight for sure.

6. Levan Razmade – I am not sure how much on the UFC’s radar Levan is, but he is 5-0 and has made a name for himself in DEEP.  He hasn’t fought top talent yet, but I think he is worth a look.

7. Derrick Lewis – There is no way Lewis would have been on this list if it were not for his KO of Jared Rosholt.  Lewis needs to work on his takedown defense and ground game, but he has the power to hang with anyone at heavyweight.  His Rosholt win certainly got him some atttention.

8. Chris Birchler – I had been very high on Birchler.  Yes, he is undefeated, but his last win was unimpressive.  In fact, he had to be carried off in a stretcher due to exhaustion.  Birchler is a work in progress. I don’t think he is ready for the big dogs yet.

9. Stav Economou – Stav has an impressive record at 13-2 and his only losses have come to UFC fighters Phil DeFries and Karlos Vemola.  If he wants to get into the UFC he need to fight better than novelty fights.  His last two wins are over Ricco Rodriguez and Bob Sapp.  A solid win could get him a big show deal.

10. Alexander Volkov – A very light fighter for the heavyweight division, Volkov has still managed an impressive record of 16-3, including a seven fight winning streak.  Volkov may be able to make 2015, but he is also very tall.  I would expect him to fit the Bellator mold nicely if they come calling.

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24 of the 32 TUF 16 Cast Members Revealed

MMA Sun can confirm 24 of the 32 members of the Ultimate Fighter 16 cast.  The 32 welterweights will fight for a spot in the Ultimate Fighter house.  Obviously, we cannot reveal the results of the elimination fights, but we can reveal all but 8 of the cast members.

  • Ricky Legere (14-4)*
  • Kevin Nowaczyk (11-2)*
  • Saad Awad (11-4)*
  • Julian Lane (4-0)*
  • Leo Kuntz (14-1)*
  • Mike Ricci (7-2)*
  • Dominic Waters (4-1)*
  • Jason South (8-0)*
  • Joey Rivera (7-1)*
  • Bristol Marunde (12-7)*
  • Tim Ruberg (9-1)*
  • Zane Kamaka (4-0)*
  • James Chaney (7-2)*
  • Jon Manley (7-1)*
  • David Michaud (4-0)*
  • Cameron Diffey (3-0)*
  • Matt Secor (3-1)*
  • Jesse Barrett (8-0)*
  • Aoutneil Magny (7-1)*
  • Cortez Coleman (8-3)*
  • George Lockhart (10-4)*
  • Jerel Clarke (5-1)*
  • Igor Araujo (22-6)*
  • Nic Herron-Web (14-4)*

There are a few notable fighters.  Cameron Diffey is a jiu jitsu black belt who most notably was Forrest Griffins BJJ coach when he coached TUF.   Saad Awad, Ricky Legere and Bristol Marunde are Strikeforce veterans.  Tim Ruberg and Jason South were solid middleweight prospects who are making the drop down to welterweight for the show.  George Lockhart is a former Marine who had made the cast of TUF 3 previous times, but was blocked by the Marine Corps from the show.  Mike Ricci is a lightweight who is moving up for the show and is notablly a training partner of UFC welterweight champion Georges St. Pierre.  Igor Araujo is a experienced veteran.  Perhaps the best prospect is undefeated Jesse Barrett.

The Ultimate Fighter will debut on September 14th on FX.

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The Emergence of the Resurrection Fighting Alliance

It is a rare thing for a small promotion to do things the right way. We have seen some regional promotions seek to become a feeder league for the UFC. Promotions like Ring of Combat have produced many UFC fighters. Many of the smaller promotions around the world have tried to do things too big. Many have jumped out of the gate and said they want to compete with the UFC. However, the Resurrection Fighting Alliance is doing things the right way. This is the reason that prospects are flocking to RFA. Although they have just held three shows, they have one of the most talent rich rosters in all MMA.

I do not know if it is fair to call RFA a small, regional promotion because they are so much more than that. I am not crazy about calling them “minor league” because they are so much more than that. However, RFA’s niche might be a place for prospects to showcase their skills and develop as fighters until the UFC comes calling.

The RFA just announced that they signed blue chip flyweight prospect Sergio Pettis toa five fight deal. Recently they have signed BJJ blackbelt Chris Holdsworth, national champion wrestler Gregor Gillespie and U.S. olympian Steve Mocco. Gillespie and Mocco both have no professional fights, but will get a great chance in RFA. They add those blue chip prospects to a stable that includes Bubba Jenkins, Jordan Rinaldi, T.J. Hepburn and Lance Palmer.

RFA is not just about blue chip prospects. They have some notable vertans on their roster as well. Maurice Smith fought on their second event and won in impressive style. UFC veterans Gilbert Yvel, Joe Stevenson, Justin McCully and newly signed Tyson Griffin also are on their roster.

RFA is targeting their next show in Las Vegas, NV where we will see many of their new signing make their debut. My prediction is that RFA will continue to draw in fans and draw the attention of UFC matchmakers along with it. If you are a blue chip prospect with the lofty goal of getting to the UFC, there is no better place to look than the Resurrection Fighting Alliance.  For more on RFA check them out HERE.

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5 Middleweights Ready For the Big Show

The UFC middleweight division is better than ever. It also appears that there is no shortage of talent coming up among the prospects. In fact, I think there are several guys who are ready and could perform in the UFC or Bellator right now

1. Antonio Braga Neto – Braga Neto is one of the top jiu jitsu players in the world and he has already built an impressive MMA resume. He has wins over UFC veterans Brock Larson and Maiquel Falcao. Currently, Neto is nursing a knee injury which will sideline him through 2012, but he should be ready to fight again in 2013. When he is ready he should be in a big time promotion.

2. Tim Williams – Williams is 7-0 and has looked good against decent competition including UFC veteran Andre Gusmao. Williams has also finished every one of his opponents, which certainly puts an exclamation point on a nice record.

3. Michal Materla – This KSW product has spoken about wanting to be in the UFC and he may soon get his chance. He has beaten some solid opponents as well. I would expect Materla to fight one more time under the KSW banner with a UFC trip on the line.

4. Sean Strickland – Strickland has been impressive as he piled upa 9-0 MMA record. Granted, he hasn’t fought the competition as some of the other mdidleweight prospect, he has still looked solid. I think he could compete in the UFC middleweight division.

5. Ildemar Alcantara – Its quite possible that he will join his brother in the UFC before too long. Alcantara has a fight coming up soon and a win may get him in the UFC as well

Others: Jason South, Benjamin Brinsa, Claudio Henrique da Silva, Michel Trator Prazeres

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5 Welterweights Ready for the Big Show

1. Brandon Thatch – Thatch is the best available welterweight.  Period.  He has been destroying opponents.  My guess is that there is a good chance Thatch makes it on TUF 16.  He trains with Shane Carwin, one of the coaches.  He deserves to be in the UFC.  TUF would be a good route, but not necessarily a required route.  I will be surprised if his next fight is not in the UFC or Bellator.

2. Chris Feist – Fesit is another Team Takedown product with a solid resume.  The one obstacle in his path is that in his four MMA fights, he has not fought anyone with a winning record.  He may need to win two or three fights against decent competition first.  However, I believe Feist has the skills to do well.  I think that the Ultimate Fighter route would be great for him.

3. Hernani Perpetuo – He is a nova uniao fighter with a 13-3 record.  He has also fought solid competition.  He has beaten Daniel Acacio and Ediberto Crocota.  His time may very well come sooner rather than later.

4. Assan Njie – He is another guy who surprisngly didn’t get the call for the UFC in Sweden.  Make no mistake about it, he is one of the top 2 fighters in Sweden not in the UFC.  If the UFC were to go back there, they would sign him right away.  However, he may get the chance anyways.

5. Andre Santos – The Team Nogueira product certainly had some hype behind him at one time.  He seems now to be coming into his own.  Chatuba has a solid record with solid wins.  The one question for him is consistency.

Others: Chidi Njokuani, Yan Cabral, and Alex Garcia.

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