The promotion that kept Caros Fodor inactive, also prepared him for the big show.
Fodor (Twitter: @carosfodor) makes his UFC debut Saturday at UFC 157 against Sam Stout at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. “The Future” joined the UFC roster with a group of fighters absorbed from the Strikeforce closure.
Fodor, like many former Strikeforce combatants, was anxious to finally get the call over to the UFC after Zuffa purchased the San Jose-based promotion. As much as Strikeforce did for Fodor, by the time the company demised, he wasn’t exactly content with his situation.
“It was bitter sweet,” Fodor told Amy Barton and Alex Donno on Punch Drunk Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “I had a great experience in Strikeforce. They were good to me, they took care of me. They put on a good show, I got a lot of good experience and good fights there in the beginning, but then in my third year, when they were on their way out, I didn’t get a fight for a year. That was tough. In the beginning it was great, but towards the end, when I was sitting on the sidelines, it really sucked.”
As much as Fodor wanted his situation to improve, he wasn’t entirely certain on where his future would lead.
The UFC was not forced to bring over every Strikeforce fighter under contract, therefore, only the top ranked guys in the promotion made the cut. It was apparent the champs and the heavyweights remaining in Strikeforce would be fighting in the Octagon, but Fodor wasn’t positive a lightweight like him would be desired by the UFC.
“I was really nervous,” Fodor admitted. “The fact that that UFC division is so damn stacked, I didn’t know if they were looking to bring (lightweights) over. When I finally got the call, it was the best feeling ever. My manager Matt Hume called me and I celebrated, it was almost New Year’s Eve, and then I buckled down.”
When training camp began, Fodor upped the ante and improved in an array of areas. Fodor said his discipline was at an all-time high, as he dedicated himself to a full eight-week training camp. Training with Hume, UFC flyweight champion Demetrious Johnson and the rest of the AMC Pankration team, Fodor improved skills, as well as his diet and cardio.
The Washington native credits his newfound enthusiasm due to his recent employment.
“I’ve been laid off and I kind of miss that preparation,” Fodor said. “Now that I’ve got the fight in the UFC, my debut, I just have more motivation that I haven’t had in a long time. I have great training partners; it’s just been a great camp.”
Fodor meets Stout, a longtime UFC combatant, in his inaugural UFC bout. To a lot of fighters, the pressure of a UFC debut, coupled with testing your mettle against a seasoned veteran like Stout, could be disheartening.
Not for Fodor, though, as he gained previous big stage experience in Strikeforce.
“The (Strikeforce) Challenger Series did a lot for me,” Fodor said. “I got to be a main event once, so I’m kind of used to the big show. It’s all the same guys in the background running the UFC shows that were running it towards the end of the Strikeforce shows. I’ve never been in an octagon, but I’m assuming it’s pretty similar. I’m ready for the big show.”
Bellator 90 took place at The Maverick Center in West Valley City, Utah, on Thursday, and it decided a Bellator Season 8 featherweight tournament winner, light heavyweight and welterweight finalists, as well as an upset of the year candidate.
The main event featured a featherweight finals match between Shahbulat Shamhalaev and Rad Martinez to resolve which combatant would fight for the title after Daniel Straus challenges Pat Curran for the belt.
Shamhalaev endured problems at the scales the day before the match, but eventually made weight after hitting the sauna again and shaving his head. It was pondered if the Russian could withstand the athleticism of Martinez after undergoing a troubling weight cut, but that question was answered early.
Shamhalaev quickly took control of the fight and picked Martinez apart with strikes. Nearing the end of Round 1, Martinez executed a single-leg takedown, which forced Shamhalaev to fight off his back for the remainder of the frame.
Early into the second stanza, Shamhalaev dropped Martinez with a head-kick. Martinez was quick to get back to his feet, but it was apparent he did not have his wits about him. Shamhalaev hunted Martinez and landed a pair of knees, followed by a right hand that capped off the American’s night.
Shamhalaev won the Bellator Season 7 featherweight tournament, which puts him in line for a shot at 145-pound title and greases his pockets with a cool $100,000.
Nobody ever knows what will happen in MMA, and that statement proved true when Emanuel Newton met “King Mo” Lawal at Bellator 90.
Newton, an underdog leading into the bout, silenced all critics, and Lawal, with his KO victory.
Lawal was typically flamboyant, boxing with his hands down and looking for another highlight reel finish. Newton stuck with technique and stayed composed whenever “King Mo” landed something significant. Lawal continuously left his hands down after attacking Newton, and Bellator color commentator Jimmy Smith pointed out the inevitable. Following a combination of punches from Lawal, he backed away with his hands down and Newton landed a spinning back-fist on “King Mo’s” chin. Lawal was out on his feet and Newton caught him as the heavy favorite in the tournament timbered to the canvas.
The victory advanced Newton to the light heavyweight finals in the Bellator Season 8 tournament.
In Bellator Season 8 welterweight action, Douglas Lima made quick work of Bryan Baker at The Maverick Center.
Both combatants possess technical striking, but Lima has the edge in the power department and it showed. There was a brief feeling out period between the two mixed martial artists, but within a couple of minutes, Lima found his range. It only took one straight right from Lima and Baker was on his back, “The Phenom” pounced on his opponent to drop another hammer-fist and the referee halted the match.
Lima moved into the welterweight finals with the KO victory.
Mikhail Zayats was sure to add a submission win to the Bellator 90 main card, as he submitted Jacob Noe in Round 1.
The bout was all Zayats. Zayats put Noe on the canvas after catching a kick and dropping his foe with a single right handed punch. Zayats followed Noe to the ground and utilized ground and pound to work his way into mount position. Once in mount, Zayats pummeled his opponent with fists, but Noe did not give up. However, when Noe tried to escape out the side, Zayats latched on an armbar, forcing his counterpart to tap in the opening frame.
Zayats, with another impressive win in the Bellator cage, moves on to face Newton in the Bellator Season 8 finals.
Ben Saunders met a familiar face, as he squared off against Raul Amaya, an opponent he first fought at Bellator 63 and won a decision.
Things, however, we’re different in this match.
Saunders was relentless with knees from the inside and outside. Amaya did his best to defend what Saunders threw at him, but the length and height of “Killa B” was simply too much to handle. After roughing up Amaya a bit, Saunders hit “Smash Mode” with a clean head-kick. That was the end of Amaya’s tournament run.
Saunders faces fellow American Top Team member and past opponent he suffered a loss to, Douglas Lima in the Bellator Season 8 finals.
A veteran of WMMA, Tara LaRosa has a keen insight on the beginning of women’s bouts in the UFC, and what the promotion will need to do in the future.
LaRosa (Twitter: @TaraLaRosa) is a 24-fight veteran of the sport, who’s professional MMA debut was in April 2002. She’s won four titles in four different promotions in two separate weight classes – bantamweight and flyweight. She won gold medals, three apiece, between the Naga Grappling World Championships and the FILA Grappling World Championships, plus two silver medals in the ADCC’s. She’s competed around the world and fought some of the best women’s MMA has to offer over the years.
Needless to say, LaRosa knows mixed martial arts.
On Saturday, UFC 157 will take place at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif., and history will be made when Ronda Rousey puts her UFC women’s bantamweight title on the line against Liz Carmouche. Rousey is an overwhelming favorite in the inaugural women’s UFC match, and as much as LaRosa likes Carmouche, she’s going with the safe bet on this fight.
“Rousey is getting better and better,” LaRosa told Jason Kelly and Joe Rizzo on MMA DieHards Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “Her overall skills are increasing. I don’t see her losing this; I see her pulling off an armbar. If Liz gets too close at all, and if Liz doesn’t get too close, Rousey is going to play the distance and make it happen.
“Carmouche is a very powerful person. Striking and grappling, she’s specifically very powerful. That’s not something you want to play around with, so I think Rousey understands that and she’s probably going to try to end it early. I think she’s going to be successful.”
LaRosa said she thinks Carmouche is good overall, but based on her past performances, Rousey’s arsenal is something she can’t envision “GirlRilla” avoiding.
The fighter to dethrone Rousey, in LaRosa’s opinion, must possess a grappling ability that surpasses the majority of other combatants. There are various highly touted grapplers in WMMA, but who is the one that could stop the undefeated Rousey?
“I’d be pushing for Marloes Coenen,” LaRosa said. “That’s kind of who I think has a real good chance at taking it, but (the) old-school Marloes. Marloes from back in the day, I think could do it. I think old-school Tara LaRosa could do it. I know people like to talk about Miesha (Tate) has a lot of grappling experience, but she really doesn’t. It would be very interesting if Kyra Gracie got into MMA, seriously. That could be a really interesting match-up right there. Sara McMann is a hopeful, but I don’t think Sara could evade the armbar for three rounds. Her wrestling is good, but I don’t know. Shayna Baszler might be able to pull it off, there’s another one. Alexis Davis might be able to do it, she’s so scrappy. She’s really good on the ground.
“The whole thing is getting to the ground without falling into that armbar. And that’s the whole thing, it’s like how a really good wrestler can shoot and re-shoot. Ronda can throw you and armbar, if you get out of it and you’re in that position, she’s got another one coming for you right after it. I don’t know, but yeah, I think I would go with Alexis Davis or Marloes Coenen or Shayna.”
Pressed to narrow it to one, LaRosa made her decision.
“(Davis) got better and better, even since I fought her. She was really good when I fought her, her ground was really good. I got stuck in her triangle-(choke) for the better part of the second round. She’s relentlessly tough, too. She just keeps coming, constantly and constantly.”
With Cris “Cyborg” Santos, the opponent many fans wanted for Rousey, signed to Invicta FC and refusing to fight at bantamweight, there is an idea that a Strikeforce title rematch might be in the air for Rousey in the UFC.
Tate relinquished her Strikeforce belt when Rousey submitted her in March 2012, but she lasted longer than anyone has in the cage with “Rowdy.” Even though, it was only 4:27 into Round 1, Tate gave Rousey the most competition the champ has had to date.
Tate makes her UFC debut against Cat Zingano at “The Ultimate Fighter 17 Finale.” If Tate is victorious, it could possibly set up a rematch against Rousey, but LaRosa doesn’t think “Cupcake” will even get that far.
“(Tate’s) going to lose,” LaRosa said. “Cat is pretty damn good. She’s not as experienced, but Miesha doesn’t use her experience. With Cat versus Miesha, I think Cat is going to out-strike her. Miesha is just kind of dumb. This is a girl that tried to wrestle Sara McMann in a grappling tournament. That is the stupidest thing in the whole world, ever. I really don’t even know what she was trying to do with Rousey, she was trying to wrestle or judo her or whatever, but it sure as hell didn’t work. She ain’t that bright.”
With Rousey, Carmouche, Tate, McMann, Davis, Zingano and others on the UFC roster, the promotion’s introduction of WMMA appears to be set. However, with only one weight division of women in the UFC, LaRosa can foresee problems.
But she knows a solution.
“There are girls in the UFC, right now, that could make 125 (pounds),” LaRosa said. “If some of these chicks happen to lose or become (fan) favorites, would they open a 125-pound division in the UFC? They’re going to run out of fights if they don’t. If they want to do at least one women’s fight a month, with all the infinite shows that they do, they’re going to run out of fights.”
Spoken like a true veteran.
Alex Gasson is so loyal to the moniker Shawn Tompkins gave him; he keeps it alive today through his company’s name.
Gasson (Twitter @Pecker17), Ontario grappling promoter and manager of Adrenaline Training Center in London, Ontario, is a longtime member of Team Tompkins. He was brought up by Shawn Tompkins in same group and era as Mark Hominick, Sam Stout and Chris Horodecki.
Though, Gasson may not have the UFC notoriety such as Stout or Hominick, he does have his own place in combat sports. Gasson’s company, Pecker‘d Promotions, has a plethora of professional services for martial artists and event coordinating. Pecker’d Promotions is named after Gasson’s nickname, “Pecker,” which may seem like an odd handle and even stranger company appellation. However, when that label stems from “The Coach,” it’s something you carry for life.
“Shawn (Tompkins) did have everything to do with naming me ‘Pecker,’” Gasson explained to Jason Kelly and Joe Rizzo on MMA DieHards Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “It’s a funny story. It was Team Tompkins, it was old school. We we’re driving to Iowa, it was kickboxing, we did a lot of IKS kickboxing circuits. We’re ripping through, (Mark) Hominick is driving one van with seven fighters, I’m driving another van of like seven fighters and we’re ripping down. Its 4 o’clock in the morning, we’ve been driving forever, so we’re speeding. Hominick rips around passed me, cop catches him, pulls him down. Well, we’re kind of together so I pulled over about a mile, mile and a half ahead. Cop shows up, gives us a ticket as well, too. I meet up with the guys and they’re like, ‘Oh, pecker.’ That’s where it started; pecker. I was like, ‘What are you talking about, pecker?’ The cop made us pay this fine right then and there; otherwise we had to spend the night in the pecker. He was referring to putting us in jail. So, we all flipped. It was 200-250 bucks per car we had to pay this cop. We looked into it, it was all legal. That’s how it all started. Shawn was like, ‘You freaking pecker.’ It just stayed from there and I kind of went with it. Plus, I had to go with it. It’s Team Tompkins, if someone gives you a nickname and that was it, you have no choice. You can’t choose your own nicknames because everybody would be like, “Thor” or “He-Man” or “Hercules” or “Snake Eyes,” you know? Cool, cool stuff. I got stuck with “Pecker,” so I’m rolling with it.”
Pecker’d Promotions is responsible for arranging grappling events in southern Ontario. Gasson’s last function was December 2012, when Grapplers Quest took place in London, Ontario.
The show was a success, with 380 grapplers in competition. Having Fear The Fighter as the grandmaster sponsor allowed victors to receive significant prizes, and fans to win giveaways. Gasson said the level of competition was high, which made for some interesting matches, but the most fun he had all day was watching the kids do battle.
The highlight for Gasson at Grapplers Quest, though, was getting to unveil some new features.
“It was the first time ever had a tournament where all participants’ names were digitally recognized,” Gasson said. “It was the first time we implemented a very professional look. People got to see their names, the order of their matches, that sort of thing on TV screens. There were monitors mounted on each mat, so that was really cool. It was interesting to work with that.”
Always looking to move ahead, Gasson is embarking on his next grappling tournament. On Feb. 24 at the Western Fair District Agriplex Building in London, Ontario, Pecker’d Promotions in association with Absolute Grappling Championship will put on the “32 Man Showdown.”
The “32 Man Show Down” will be Gasson’s fourth event of its kind, and the competition is stiff. It’s an inexpensive show that is open to the public, which will display intense levels of grappling, but Gasson is anticipating another aspect the event offers.
“This is all about the entertainment factor of being a pugilist,” Gasson said. “A pugilist is a fighter. These MMA guys, when it boils down to it, you are an entertainer. You can be the toughest guy in the world, but if nobody wants to watch you fight and nobody wants to pay for a ticket to go watch you fight, you’re not going to make any money out of it. No promoter is going to bring you in.
“So, I’m trying to bring back the entertainment value of the sport. We all love it, but a lot of guys don’t know you can have this tournament, and this guy that weighs 150 pounds is going in and a guy that weighs 400 pounds is going in and they’re going to end up having a match.”
While “Pecker” is constructing these elaborate grappling tourneys in the province of Ontario, he has an idea what the coach who gave him such a nickname is doing.
“God rest his soul,” Gasson said. “”The Admiral,” he’s up above watches us crazy buggers keep this sport of MMA going.”
Everyone is asking Liz Carmouche what she’s going to do now that she’s here, but she would rather talk about what got her here.
Carmouche (Twitter: @iamgirlrilla) meets UFC women’s bantamweight champ Ronda Rousey at UFC 157 on Saturday at the Honda Center in Anaheim, Calif. It is undoubtedly the biggest fight in Carmouche’s career, a main event title bout in the first-ever UFC women’s fight, but there’s been a battle to deal with before history is made.
Carmouche made a name for herself through the rungs of Strikeforce and Invicta FC, but Rousey has become a media focal point. Needless to say, being Rousey’s counterpart has brought an absurd amount of attention to Carmouche. The Louisiana native said she is getting used to the media, but it took some strategizing to ensure preparations for the bout would not be compromised.
“We delegated an hour a day to media time,” Carmouche told Amy Barton and Alex Donno on Punch Drunk Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “It was at the same time every day so I can’t mess it up. I think if that wasn’t the situation, then definitely something would go wrong. It’s an hour a day when I’m eating and getting cleaning done before I go back to the gym.”
There are always common questions a mixed martial artist is asked, but in Carmouche’s case there is one in particular.
It’s no secret Rousey is capable of catching anyone with an armbar. The champ has six MMA bouts, six wins, all via armbar. Carmouche is well aware of Rousey’s fight-ending technique, as is every onlooker and competitor in the sport. But, for some reason, the question continues to arise when anybody speaks to Carmouche.
“I have been asked so many times,” Carmouche said. “I think it’s every interview, every conversation, even random people on the street.
“My smart ass answer was one of the times the guy was like, ‘I’m a huge Ronda fan.’ I was like, ‘Ok, this is a great way to start an interview.’ Then he goes, ‘How are you going to be the one to stop the armbar?’ I’m like, ‘Wait a second. I was supposed to be training? Oh man, I’m not prepared then. I thought I was just going to go in there and give her the arm and tap right away, is that not the right approach?’ And he actually believed me.
“Another person opened with, ‘How are you going to beat the amazing and wonderful and talented and unstoppable Ronda Rousey?’”
It’s difficult to avoid the obvious. The key to victory, as the UFC calls it, will be for Carmouche to prevent Rousey’s numerous methods of applying the most effective armbar in MMA. Carmouche has spent a great deal of time practicing defense and escapes from the vulnerable position, obviously, but there’s more to “Girl-Rilla” than avoiding armbars.
Now she just wishes someone would ask her about it.
“I wish people would ask me more about my family and their personalities or ask about my training partners,” Carmouche said. “The reality of it is, yes this is an individual sport and your performance is based on how much time and energy you put into it, (but) I can’t practice armbars without a training partner there to defend it. I can’t practice striking and being hit if I don’t have someone there to do that with. My training partners are what got me here, my trainers are what got me here, and I feel they’re the ones that got me here.”
This week we welcome Bellator commentator Jimmy Smith, Invicta FC’s Shayna Baszler and 2012 American Olympic Women’s freestyle wrestling bronze medalist Clarissa Chun.
The live stream is from 8:30-10:00 p.m. ET, 5:30-7:00 PT, and can be heard through the player above. The show is archived upon completion.
Smith (Twitter: @jimmysmithmma) is regarded as one of the best analysts in the business. His extensive background in martial arts, both training and competing, combined with his vast media experience gives him an edge in the knowledge and delivery departments.
Chun (Twitter: @ClarissaChun), while not a mixed martial artist, has said she is entertaining the idea. She might still have some goals to conquer in wrestling, but if the sport is stripped from the Olympics, Chun will not have the opportunity to accomplish those objectives. This prompted to Chun to take a leadership role, with theCommittee for the Preservation of Olympic Wrestling (CPOW), which is a unit devoted to keeping wrestling alive in the Olympics.
Sara McMann is comfortable with new situation, but concerned about her previous one.
McMann (Twitter: @Sara_McMann), a 2004 Olympic wrestling silver medalist, recently joined the newfound female roster in the UFC. Since making the switch from wrestling to MMA in 2011, McMann has compiled an undefeated record of 6-0. During her career she has defeated notable names such as Tonya Evinger, Hitomi Akano and most recently, Shayna Baszler at Invicta FC 2, and now she awaits her Octagon debut.
Though, things are looking bright for McMann’s MMA career, the craft that brought her to the sport is in turmoil. Rumors have been circulating that the Olympic committee is planning on axing wrestling from the games, which is putting McMann through the five stages of grief.
“I was completely in denial,” McMann told Amy Barton and John Petit on Punch Drunk Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “It’s impossible for them to get rid of wrestling. It’s the first sport they had in the Olympics. Then I went through the angry phase like, ‘Oh no, they do not even know what the wrestling community is going to do about this.’ Now that it’s actually sinking in, like they might actually do away with it is heart breaking. It’s heart breaking to think about the young people today that are training and dedicating themselves and they might have that opportunity taken away from them. It’s devastating. I can’t believe it.”
McMann thinks it’s the small things that make a big difference for wrestling viewership.
There are subtle nuances incorporated with wrestling techniques that are difficult to understand if one is not knowledgeable of the sport. It is easier for the average viewer to comprehend the level of difficulty for a skier to do a backflip, as opposed to a technical fall in wrestling. This lack of educated spectators has led McMann to believe it could be one of the driving issues to remove wrestling from the Olympics.
“To the people that do know and the people who do follow it, it is the greatest sport that ever existed,” McMann said. “You don’t have mediocre fans. You either have people who avidly follow it or you have people that would like to watch a different sport. So, I think that might be one of the things. It’s not flashy. It prizes integrity, character, hard work and dedicating yourself for years, sometimes decades. I feel the world is sometimes moving more towards the overnight sensations more than the people who have dedicated their lives to something.”
McMann is one of the few athletes to compete in the Olympics out of the many who attempt. With only 14 spots for the guys and four spots for the girls every four years, chances are limited. This leaves a lot of wrestlers that are talented, but are forced to take wrestling in a different direction if they want to keep competing. The majority of these athletes are funneling into mixed martial arts, just as McMann did.
The devotion and hardworking ethics wrestling instilled in her have transferred with her in MMA gyms and secured McMann a spot in the UFC. Though, McMann is grateful, the sadness of the possibility that wrestling may be extinct from the Olympics makes it difficult for her to enjoy this moment.
“I kind of knew for a little while that (the UFC) were interested,” McMann aid. “I wasn’t really stressing if they wanted me in there. I haven’t thought about it much because of everything else that is going on has been dominating my thoughts. It’s definitely good news, but it’s hard to be happy when you see something you’ve dedicated 16 years of your life to (and) that ship starts to sink.”