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Counterpunch: Strikeforce “Diaz vs. Daley”

Nick Diaz (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)

Saturday is a night of potential redemption in San Diego.

It’s a night in which Paul Daley could change his most memorable moment from that of landing a post-fight cheap-shot on Josh Koscheck to one of him lifting a championship belt above his head.

It’s a night in which longtime UFC veteran Keith Jardine could redeem himself with a win over a former Strikeforce champ while fighting for an organization that is now owned by the same company that runs the UFC.

It’s a night in which Tatsuya Kawajiri could avenge a 2006 loss he suffered at the hands of current Strikeforce lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez.

And it’s a night in which Shinya Aoki and Lyle Beerbohm will attempt to erase the memories of their last Strikeforce outings.

It’s a stacked card that fans will have the chance to take in beginning at 10 p.m. ET on the Showtime network. Even the preliminary card shows signs of potential, with Dream featherweight champion Hiroyuki Takaya taking on prospect Robert Peralta, and heavyweight strikers Virgil Zwicker and Brett Albee colliding.

The MMA DieHards panel of writers – Bob Badders, Cameron Chow, Joe Rizzo, Pete Sumulong and Rob Tatum – gathered to make their picks for the main card and the top bout of the preliminary card.

The panel members were in complete agreement as to the winners of the four televised bouts. Therefore, we’re changing things up a bit this week, allowing the panel members to chime in with their opinions on their overwhelming favorites for those four matchups. Then we’ll switch gears and throw one “counterpunch” as Cameron explores the top fight of preliminary card.

Rizzo: Lightweight Shinya Aoki (26-5) will defeat Lyle Beerbohm (15-1) simply because he is Shinya Aoki. Isn’t that enough? In this fight it will be. Aoki’s tremendous and creative jiu-jitsu is at a level Beerbohm has not seen before. Beerbohm had the luster taken off his career in his loss to Pat Healy, and now having little time to
recover and deal with Aoki is not a good combination. Where Healy came close but could not finish Beerbohm, Aoki will succeed and catch him in a submission.

Tatum: To a casual fan of the sport of MMA, the fight between Jardine and Gegard Mousasi might seem very different than to those that know the sequence of events that led to this matchup – Jardine (17-9-1) stepped up on only two weeks notice to replace Mike Kyle, who broke his hand in training.

While Jardine may be the more recognizable fighter, thanks to wins over Chuck Liddell, Forrest Griffin and Brandon Vera during his five-year stint with the UFC, it is Mousasi who enters the fight as the more dangerous fighter. The Dutch-Armenian striker holds a 30-3-1 MMA record, as well as an 8-0 kickboxing record. The current Dream and former Strikeforce light heavyweight champion’s only loss since Pride came at the hands of superior wrestler “King Mo” Lawal.

Jardine, meanwhile, has fallen on tough times. After starting his career 11-1-1, “The Dean of Mean” is just 6-9 over his past 15 bouts. That includes a five-fight losing streak that saw his release from the UFC. Recently he has picked up wins over Aron Lofton and Francisco France in smaller promotions, but these are simply not the caliber of fighter as Mousasi. Jardine will certainly be hungry, as he desperately tries to get back to the UFC.

Jardine’s unorthodox technique has proven to be frustrating for opponents in the past, but against a highly technical striker like Mousasi, Jardine is going to be outclassed. Look for Mousasi to pick apart Jardine in the first round and finish him off by TKO in the second.

Sumulong: You can make the case that Melendez (18-2) is the best lightweight fighter in the world. Though he comes from a wrestling background, “El Nino” has truly developed into a well-rounded, dangerous mixed martial artist. Melendez brings a lot to the table – dangerous boxing, great submission awareness and a gas tank that simply never empties. Not to mention he is tested on a daily basis by training partners like Jake Shields, Nick Diaz and Nate Diaz. You can’t help but improve when you’re throwing down with some of the baddest fighters on the planet.

Melendez has entered the prime of his career, riding the momentum of three straight
wins over the likes of Mitsuhiro Ishida, Josh Thomson and Shinya Aoki. Melendez showed a champion’s determination and an ability to be flexible in his game-plan in winning a slugfest against Thomson and controlling the pace in a slower fight against Aoki. The only concern in this fight for Melendez is ring rust, as he will be coming off a year-long layoff.

Kawajiri (27-6-2) brings many of the same qualities to the table that Melendez does. “The Crusher” is also a strong wrestler, with heavy hands and a winner’s pedigree. The difference is that Melendez is quicker, a better athlete, and slightly more skilled in every facet of the game than Kawajiri. This will be a repeat of their first fight, and Gilbert Melendez will once again win by unanimous decision.

Badders: Saturday’s Nick Diaz vs. Paul Daley Strikeforce welterweight championship bout has the potential to be a thrilling fight, but whether exciting or boring, it won’t change the fact that Diaz should have no problem with Daley.

Paul Daley (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)

Daley is no doubt a very accomplished fighter who unfortunately is probably most remembered for his release from the UFC following an after-the-bell punch on Josh Koscheck. His 27-9-2 record includes victories over Martin Kampmann and Duane Ludwig. Daley has come in overweight in two of his last three fights, however, and that has to be a red flag.

Diaz (24-7), meanwhile, hasn’t lost since 2007, and has rattled off wins against Frank Shamrock, Marius Zaromskis, Hayato Sakurai, K.J. Noons and Evangelista “Cyborg” Santos. Diaz has one of the most well-rounded games in all of mixed martial arts and has proven he can finish opponents with his superior jiu-jitsu or trade punches and kicks. Diaz also has cardio on his side. He simply doesn’t get tired.

In the end, Diaz should wear down Daley and produce a submission victory, retaining his championship belt and running his win streak to 10 fights.

FW: Hiroyuki Takaya (15-8-1) vs. Robert Peralta (13-3)
Picking Takaya: 3 (Badders, Sumulong, Tatum)
Picking Peralta: 2 (Chow, Rizzo)

Chow: Peralta may not be the most well-known fighter in this weekend’s Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley event, but he is hoping to change that fact.

Takaya will be a tough out, but Peralta will find a way to get it done. Zuffa’s purchase of Strikeforce has undoubtedly lit a fire under a lot of fighters trying to impress the top brass in MMA. Peralta is one of those guys.

A name like Takaya is tough for me to pass on, but my previous method has yielded poor results so I am switching it up. This time around the fighter with the less exciting moniker will win. Look for Peralta to use his grappling and submission game to finish this one early.

Out of Obscurity: The Week in Review (March 31 – April 7)

Every Friday, MMA DieHards will take a look – with video footage when possible – at the previous week’s action at small regional and international shows with a focus on UFC and Pride veterans, consensus-ranked fighters and up-and-coming prospects. Here’s what went down between March 31 and April 7:

MMA: The Reckoning (Orillia, Ontario, Canada; April 2)

The Fight Network recap of MMA: The Reckoning

WEC and IFL veteran Chris Horodecki (17-3) secured a rear naked choke to submit David Castillo (9-3) in the first round of a fight that made Sherdog’s list of 10 April Tussles Worth WatchingJordan Mein (21-7) earned a unanimous decision over UFC veteran Josh Burkman (21-9)…Matt MacGrath (10-5) took the unanimous nod over TUF 9 alum Dean Amasinger (7-4).

Iron Man Championship 9 (Belem, Para, Brazil; March 31)
Marinho Rocha (3-4) scored a controversial upset victory via split decision over Sergio Junior (21-8-3) in a welterweight title bout…Andre Lobato (11-2) captured the middleweight crown, needing just 34 seconds to catch Alexandre Goncalves Alves Jr. (5-4) in a heel hook for the submission win…Rafael Bastos (35-14-1) earned a unanimous decision over Jamil Silveira (20-12).

Recife Fighting Championship 4 (Recife, Ceara, Brazil; March 31)

Oliveira (white trunks) vs. Bixler

UFC and ShoXC veteran Rafaello Oliveira (14-3) scored a second-round TKO of Ryan Bixler (19-14-1)…UFC veteran Junior Assuncao (12-4) submitted Wesley Murch (8-5) via a first-round rear naked choke…Vanessa Porto (12-4) locked in an armbar in the first round to submit Kalindra Carvalho Faria (1-3-1).

Porto (black tights) vs. Faria

Fight Time 4: MMA Heavyweight Explosion (Ft. Lauderdale, Fla.; April 1)
In a fight that made Sherdog’s list of 10 April Tussles Worth Watching, UFC and Pride veteran Jeff Monson (41-11) earned a unanimous decision over Bellator vet Tony Lopez (23-6) to capture the ISKA MMA heavyweight championship…Bellator veteran Derek Mehmen (11-3) took home a unanimous decision over IFL vet Matt Thompson (14-9).

M-1 Selection 2011: European Tournament (Tokyo; April 1)

Kornev (blue trunks) vs. Gonzalez

Sergey Kornev (9-1) advanced in the light heavyweight tournament, forcing Antonio Gonzalez (0-1) to submit to strikes in the first round. Two other 205ers advanced at the event, Salim Dawood (1-0) and Saparbek Safarov (3-0)…Gael Grimaud (12-5) moved on in the welterweight tournament with a second-round guillotine choke submission of Ramazan Abdulzhalilov (2-2). He will be joined in the semifinals by Gasanali Gasanaliev (1-1-1) and Acoidan Duque (4-0), both of whom also won their quarterfinal bouts at the show…Jerome Bouisson (8-1) secured his lightweight tourney semifinal spot by submitting Alexander Kozyr (3-2) in the first round via rear naked choke. Others advancing in the lightweight bracket were Alexey Nevzorov (3-1), Shahbulat Shamhalaev (2-1) and Shamil Abdulkerimov (2-1).

Bouisson (long trunks) vs. Kozyr

Shooto Brazil 22 (Brasilia, Brazil; April 1)
Ronny Markes (10-1) captured the Shooto South American light heavyweight crown, needing only 45 seconds to TKO Diogo Osama (1-1)…Hacran Dias (18-1-1) earned a unanimous decision over Elieni Silva (9-4) in the Shooto South American lightweight title bout…Shooto South American 183-pound champion Carlos Pereira (22-9) retained his belt with a first-round TKO of Julio Beba (0-3)…UFC veteran Ronys Torres (16-4) submitted Guilherme Mattos Rodrigues (11-7) via first-round guillotine choke…Marcos Antonio Santana (11-3) scored a first-round TKO, due to doctor’s stoppage, of Hernani Perpetuo (10-4)…Bellator veteran Johnny Eduardo (25-8) secured a third-round rear naked choke to submit Jose Wilson (1-3)…John Lineker (15-5) extended his winning streak to nine fights with a first-round TKO of Saulo Martins (0-1).

Shooto: Shootor’s Legacy 2 (Tokyo; April 1)
Flyweight King of Pancrase and No. 8-ranked flyweight Kiyotaka Shimizu (8-3-2) submitted Dream veteran Junya Kudo (8-4-2) by way of a second-round rear naked choke.

Armageddon Fighting Championships 5: Judgment Day (Victoria, British Columbia, Canada; April 2)

Rd 1 of Kaufman vs. Yabushita

No. 2-ranked 135-pound female fighter and former Strikeforce champion Sarah Kaufman (13-1) scored a third-round TKO of Megumi Yabushita (19-18)…Nick Hinchliffe (18-7) earned a majority decision over Ryan Machan (12-7).

Rd 2 & 3 of Kaufman vs. Yabushita

Art of Fighting 12 (Jacksonville, Fla.; April 2)
Michael Buchkovich (11-4-1) scored a second-round TKO of Dream and WEC veteran Jimmy Ambriz (15-15-1)…Raul Amaya (8-0) remained undefeated, submitting Strikeforce veteran Daniel McWilliams (8-17) in the second round.

Fight Kings 7: No Mercy (Vernal, Utah; April 2)
Blake Sprouse (11-4) caught Skyler Ledesma (3-5) in an armbar for the second-round submission win.

Jungle Fight 26 (Sao Paulo, Brazil; April 2)

Santos (green trunks) vs. Pereira

Dream veteran Adriano Martins (17-5) scored a first-round TKO of Nilson Assuncao (2-1)…Iliarde Sabino Belo dos Santos (18-4-1) snagged Antenor Pereira (1-2) in a heel hook for the first-round submission victory.

Knuckleforce (Tynemouth, Tyne and Wear, England; April 2)

Howard (black trunks) vs. Lomas

Team Rough House product Matt Howard (8-0) kept his spotless record intact with a second-round armbar submission of Shaun Lomas (9-22).

Pancrase Fighting Championship 3 (Marseilles, France; April 2)

Gluhov (wrapped ankles) vs. Gibbs

Just a week removed from a TKO victory over Michal Kita at Fighters Arena Lodz 2, Konstantin Gluhov (17-6) notched two victories in one night to win the PFC heavyweight tournament. Gluhov needed just 38 seconds to submit Arnold Oborotov (0-1) via achilles lock in the tourney’s opening round. In the finals, Gluhov scored a knockout of M-1 Challenge veteran Jessie Gibbs (10-5). Gibbs had advanced to the finals with first-round rear naked choke submission of UFC vet Brandon Lee Hinkle (15-11)…Strikeforce and Dream veteran Karl Amoussou (12-3-2) eked out a split decision over Nathan Schouteren (16-11-2)…Vincent del Guerra (12-4) also tallied two wins in one evening to take home a tournament championship. In the welterweight tourney’s opening round, he locked in an armbar to submit Afid Redaouia (1-2) in the first round. In the finals, del Guerra knocked out Christophe Chapuis (5-4) via slam in just 39 seconds.

Universal Reality Combat Championship 19: Collision (Pasay City, Philippines; April 2)
Kevin Belingon (9-0) kept his undefeated record intact with a first-round TKO of Isaac Tuling (2-2)…Roy Docyogen (9-0) also maintained his unblemished record, earning a decision win over Alvin Ramirez (3-3).

Free Fight Championship: Pride and Glory (Köthen, Germany; April 3)
Benjamin Brinsa (7-0) remained undefeated, taking home a unanimous decision over Maik Stumbries (6-10-1)…Marko Zschorner (8-1) scored a first-round TKO of Jens Muller (1-6).

Pancrase: Impressive Tour 3 (Tokyo; April 3)
No. 3-ranked 115-pound female fighter and GCM Valkyrie champion Mei Yamaguchi (7-2-1) earned a majority decision over Tomomi Sunaba (16-13-1) in the first-ever Pancrase event to feature a female MMA main event.

Virgil Zwicker: From Outlaw to Role Model

Virgil Zwicker (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

In 2003, Virgil Zwicker was running from the law.

Short on cash, the fugitive made a choice that would aide in turning his life around, even if he didn’t realize it at the time.

“I had no place to stay, no money,” Zwicker told MMADieHards.com.  “My brother actually just called me up like, ‘Hey, you’re already causing yourself a bunch of trouble fighting, you might as well try to make some money doing it.’  It was just one match, actually my first match ever.  I went in there, fought the guy, took off and got caught down the road.”

It was not the first fight of Zwicker’s life, but it was the first of a professional career that would change that life for the better.

Growing up on the Chumash Indian Reservation in Southern California, Zwicker and his family had very little in the way of material possessions, but they had one another.   It’s a time that Zwicker looks back on fondly, even if it was also a time in which he began to head down the wrong path.

“I loved the environment that I grew up,” Zwicker said. “We had a lot of love with my family, a big family. Very tight-knit community, all my cousins lived within a 20-mile radius.

“I was definitely blessed to be able to grow up there.  It instilled some of the traditions that my family and my mother taught me.”

Zwicker’s troubles with authority began during those formative years.   At the age of 11, he got into a physical confrontation with the vice principal at his school.  This would lead to stints in juvenile detention centers, and eventually adult correctional facilities.  He even literally fought the law, landing in jail after getting into a bare-knuckle brawl with a sheriff while at his aunt’s house.

“I ended up telling him it was my land and he has no right to tell us what to do,” Zwicker explained. “We ended up getting in a fist fight where they charged me with assaulting an officer.”

It was just a matter of time after being released from custody before Zwicker would find himself in trouble once again.  This cycle eventually brought him to the Cobra Fighting Federation show in 2003, where he competed with only the goal of earning some cash to fund his escape from the authorities.

Having often taken part in street fights against Mexican gang members when he and his friends traveled from the Indian reservation to the nearby town to get groceries, Zwicker was no stranger to brawling.   However, his fight with Denis Hall found the young man skipping altogether the amateur ranks and diving head-first into professional competition without a single day of mixed martial arts training.

“It was pretty easy for me,” Zwicker confessed. “My mentality at that time was ‘let’s get it.’ I didn’t care about what the other person had to offer, I was going to go out and punch him in the face.  That’s all I really knew to do.  I didn’t know anything about no takedowns, I didn’t know anything about anything.”

It turned out that none of that mattered. Just 58 seconds after the opening bell, Zwicker had his hand raised after stopping Hall via strikes.

“I didn’t look at him as a pro, I looked at him as a man to beat up,” he said.

Zwicker could not evade the police forever though, and did end up serving time for his crime. While in prison, the Native American saw two options, and made the smart choice.

“I’m actually glad that I went to prison,” Zwicker said. “I was actually very happy of the outcome, the steps I chose to take in prison. There’s a lot of ugliness in there and you can hang out with people in there and learn something, or you can hang out with the wrong people and become involved in some other wrong stuff.

“I chose to make a stand and change myself.”

When he finished his prison sentence, Zwicker began committing himself more fully to the sport of mixed martial arts. Fighting was easy for him, but training was another story.

“I love fighting so much and I was so good at using my fists,” he explained. “I was more of a brawler in the beginning and what was real hard for me was the everyday getting up and going to the gym.  That was more hard for me than learning the technique.”

His first child, Duke, inspired him to get past that hurdle.

“It was basically a wake-up call,” Zwicker admitted. “I wanted to show him what it takes to be a professional as far as fighting. It just helped me grow as a human being.”

He started viewing training as part of his job, and began working on his wrestling, jiu-jitsu and boxing on a daily basis.

Zwicker (r) spars with Dan Henderson

After training full time at a smaller gym in Escondido, Calif., Zwicker moved to Team Quest Temecula approximately three years ago. As he worked up to training with the likes of Dan Henderson, Krzysztof Soszynski, Muhammed “King Mo” Lawal and Jason “Mayhem” Miller, the camp has been a great home for the heavyweight and has allowed him to progress as a fighter.

“I was beating up on everybody (at the gym in Escondido),” he said. “I wasn’t learning what I needed to learn. … I needed to go to a place and figure out how I’m going to get beat up on and learn how I’m going to handle that.

“I’ve just been very happy with the transition of local gyms to come into a big gym like that and have somebody like Dan Henderson as our team leader, just leading us at the head of the pack and now he’s the Strikeforce champion. It’s been a blessing because there’s a lot of good guys, a lot of up-and-coming fighters that are very tough there. It’s been an honor to represent them.”

Zwicker continued to polish his skills while reeling off victories, building to an 8-0 record that includes a stoppage of the now-surging Ovince St. Preux, before he suffered the first loss of his career. He bounced back just four months later with another win to go 9-1. It was then, in October 2010, that “Rezdog” would get the call from a big show.

Strikeforce brought Zwicker in to face Lavar Johnson in a featured matchup on the Challengers 11 card. It was only Johnson’s second fight since returning from a near-fatal shooting the year before, but the knockout artist proved he was still the better man that night by adding Zwicker to his list of KO victims.

The loss was a setback for Zwicker, but, as is often the adage in sports, one learns more in defeat than in victory. New to the bright lights of a promotion such as Strikeforce, he considered the fight a blessing and came into the battle with a strategy. However, the setting and the crowd overwhelmed Zwicker, and Johnson was able to take him out of his game plan and surprise the promotional newcomer with his reach. It was a revelation that might lead to a shift in weight classes for Zwicker down the road.

Zwicker (l) trades blows with Lavar Johnson (Esther Lin/Strikeforce)

“I learned to stop fighting the big boys and keep down on weight and lower my weight class to 205,” Zwicker confessed. “My weight has been way down. I’m in great shape. I plan on just being quick and fast, and keeping my hands up and move forward at all times.”

Zwicker’s next opportunity to shine under the Strikeforce banner comes on the preliminary card of Saturday’s “Diaz vs. Daley” event. While he’s contemplating a shift to light heavyweight, this contest will take place in the heavyweight division as Zwicker will step into the cage with Brett Albee, a fighter whose 3-0 record can be misleading.

“He’s been training in a gym for 15, 16 years – he’s been training fighters,” Zwicker stated. “I know he’s not really got experience inside the cage as far as a MMA record, but he’s got plenty of experience outside the cage, training fighters, being in the gym – he’s been a gym rat, as far as I know.”

Zwicker cites his experience in professional bouts as an area where he holds an advantage, but also points to some intangibles that he feels give him the edge.

“I don’t think he’s got the mentality that I have,” he said. “Where I’ve dealt with these trials and tribulations that I grew up living and experienced in my life, I don’t think he’s experienced. That’s where I’m definitely bringing the fight to him.

“I’m going to come like a warrior ready to kill. I reckon he’s going to have a rude awakening.”

Despite Albee’s Muay Thai background, Zwicker shows a lot of conviction in his own striking skills with his prediction for the bout’s outcome.

“I’m going to murder him,” Zwicker proclaimed. “He’s going to get hurt bad. I’m going to come out there, I’m going to put a lot of pressure. I’m not going to say what round, I’m just going to come out and I’m going to hit him hard. I expect a TKO out of this one.”

It’s all a part of his warrior spirit. Zwicker is proud of his Native American heritage and his ability to represent his people inside the cage. He cites Dan Hornbuckle as one of his favorite fighters and lists veteran Waachiim Spiritwolf as a good friend.

“We’re warriors,” Zwicker said, summing up the trio’s background. “Native Americans are just natural killers, natural warriors. We’re always leading everything with our hearts.

“Personally, I wear my heritage on my sleeves. Everything I do, I do for my people.”

Zwicker doesn’t just chalk up his accomplishments inside the cage as a day’s work when it comes to representing his people, however. He gives back to the reservation communities in other significant ways. In addition to motivational speaking, he mentors teenagers as a basketball coach in the Intertribal Sports league. He’s even led his team to a number of championships.

“Being able to coach and offer any kind of help towards the youth has been my goal in giving back from what I’ve been through,” explained Zwicker. “This last year we just won our fourth championship in a row. It’s been a lot of fun.”

Some of his players are aware of his career in the cage. But whether it be as a coach or a fighter, Zwicker has transformed himself from an outlaw into a role model for these kids.

“Growing up on the reservation, it’s a lot of pressure,” said Zwicker. “A lot of kids don’t have parents and people in their lives where they can look up to and come to or talk to about their problems.

“They come to me and they ask me all these questions. It’s been good to be able to look at them looking at me from something different than a regular ‘rez dog’ on the streets.”

Who knows where Zwicker might have ended up had he not competed on that show back in 2003 and discovered MMA. He didn’t have a anyone to mentor him, but he did discover mixed martial arts.

“(I started) realizing what MMA was able to accomplish for me as a person, that discipline and everything that it gives…was able to get me out of that mindset of where I was headed.”

While a win over Albee on Saturday night will be huge for Zwicker, he has already scored the biggest victory of his life outside of the cage by escaping his own personal demons and seeking to provide a more positive example for the next generation of Native Americans.

Zwicker would like to thank his sponsors – Elevation Mask, The Rod Brothers Construction Company, Jalapeno Bar & Grill in Escondido, Pala Band of Mission Indians, Baad Medicine Baseball Team – as well as his family and friends, Team Quest, coach Billy Schibe, his new strength and conditioning coach Kevin Duenas from Dynamic Fitness, his manager Nima Safapour of Alchemist management, and the media for helping make MMA as popular as it is.

Combat Sports Report: Olympic Wrestling, Upcoming BJJ and Kickboxing Events

Every sport has a breeding ground for its future stars. In the case of mixed martial arts, the worlds of grappling, kickboxing and amateur wrestling are most likely to spawn the next Demian Maia, Mirko CroCop or Brock Lesnar. Collectively, these sports fall under the umbrella of “combat sports.” Every Wednesday, MMA DieHards reports on the biggest happenings in each of these realms of combat.

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

The College season is behind us and one may think it is time to take a breather. But you can think again. This weekend wrestling’s biggest stars will start down the path towards the 2012 Olympics.

Yes, we are over a year away, but for many this is the start of the one-year training cycle athletes embark on to try and earn an Olympic birth. The first step is this year’s United States Open. It will take place April 7-10 in Cleveland, Ohio.

As a country, we are looking to improve upon some of our more recent international performances. Like clockwork during the pre-Olympic years, numerous people come out of retirement.

This year is no different, as we see the return to the mat of 2008 Olympic gold medalist Henry Cejudo and 2008 Olympian Steve Mocco. Both of these guys will up the level of competition. Also expected back is Olympian and World silver medalist Mike Zadick. The United States has not won a World gold medal since 2006. Pushing the veterans will be some of America’s always improving younger talent. Tervel Dlagnev was a 2009 World bronze medalist and will compete in a very deep heavyweight field. Jake Herbert came close to the gold when he captured the 2009 World silver medal.

Everyone is looking forward to seeing how 2011 NCAA champion Jordan Burroughs of the University of Nebraska will do as well. Keep an eye on him; he is one tough guy and could make news early. As we have stated in the past, he has also expressed interest in MMA once he is done on the international circuit.

Joe Warren (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

For all you MMA fans, you may be interested in following Bellator champion Joe Warren as he returns to the mat and looks to win the World and Olympic Championships.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Although it was another slow week in terms of actual fight action, there were plenty of fight announcements and news in the world of kickboxing.

The most significant news of the week is that It’s Showtime has stripped 85kg (187 lb) champion Melvin Manhoef of his title. Manhoef had not defended the belt in over a year and half as he had focused solely on his MMA career. The promotion has struggled with this problem in the past and recently implemented a policy that its champions must defend their titles within one year. Former 95kg (209 lb) champion Tyrone Spong was also stripped of his belt just a few months ago.

In Bangkok, a benefit for Japan was held on March 31. The event featured participants from both Lumpinee and Rajadamnern in an effort to raise money for earthquake victims. Most notably, Jomthong Chuwattana took a decision over Nong-O Gaiyanghaadaogym in a 130-pound bout and Rungruanglek Lookprabaht also won by decision, beating Seksun Or. Kwanmuang.

April 1 saw former K-1 participant Scott Lighty compete at Strikeforce Challengers 15 in Stockton, Calif. Despite his past experience in the world of kickboxing, Lighty was battered by Lorenz Larkin on the feet and suffered a second-round TKO loss.

Kiatkumthorn (blue) vs. Niyom

Back to Thailand, the Isuzu Cup continued from Bangkok with the first semifinal fight on April 2. Nopparat Kiatkumthorn outpointed Denchonlek SS Niyom to claim the first spot in the 67kg (147.4 lb) tournament final. In the tournament’s other semifinal, look for tournament favorite Kem Sitsongpeenong to score another impressive victory and move on to the final to face Nopparat.

Unfortunately for fight fans in Keysborough, Australia, Paul Slowinski was forced to pull out of his scheduled bout against Peter Graham at Kings of Kombat 3 on April 2. Graham went on to score a third-round TKO of Andre Meunier. Also on the card, Ben Edwards eked out a decision over Carter Williams.

Shootboxing has announced that Andy Souwer will meet Yoshihiro Sato at their April 23 Act 2 event in Tokyo. The pair met previously in 2007 in a K-1 World MAX bout, with Souwer claiming a decision over the Japanese standout. Both fighters have hit bumps in the road over the last year, with Souwer dropping an S-Cup semifinal bout to Toby Imada and a kickboxing bout to Abraham Roqueni in February, and Sato falling to Armen Petrosyan at Oktagon 2011 in March. Also expected for the card are RENA, Hiroaki Suzuki, and Ryuya Kusakabe.

Fatih Ozkan has a new opponent for his May 1 fight. Ozkan was on tap to fight Hafid el Boustati, but el Boustati is now scheduled to fight Mohamed Medhar on May 21 in Amsterdam. Stepping in will be Leroy Kaestner.

Speaking of the May 21 event in Amsterdam, It’s Showtime has formally announced six contests for the event. In addition to the Medhar-el Boustati bout, heavyweight champion Hesdy Gerges will take on Chris Knowles, Robin van Roosmalen will look for revenge against Mohamed Khamal (who KO’d van Roosmalen in 2010), Amir Zeyada will fight Sahak Parparyan, Brazilian Anderson “Braddock” Silva meets Jamal Ben Saddik and Laurent Atriffi is slated to battle Jason Wilnis. Rumors are floating around that Greek powerhouse Mike Zambidis will also appear on the card, likely against former 70kg (154 lb) champion Murat Direkci. Zambidis is scheduled to fight against John Wayne Parr only days after the event, so the matchup may not come to fruition.

The May 28 Golden Glory event slated for Moscow has added two high profile kickboxing fights. Artur Kyshenko meets Nieky Holzken and K-1 World Grand Prix veteran Errol Zimmerman will rematch Mourad Bouzidi, who defeated Zimmerman by TKO in 2009. Also on the card, Gokhan Saki will meet Brice Guidon in the heavyweight tournament final.

Looking ahead to next week, we’ll have results of the Liam Harrison-Saenchai fight that takes place in the UK on April 9. Also, we will discuss results of the W5 Grand Prix K.O. from Moscow, highlighted by a 71 kg (156.2 lb) four-man tournament featuring Dzhabar Askerov, William Diender, Enriko Gogokhia and the ever-busy Zambidis.

Grappling & Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu
by Gianni Grippo, four-time Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu world champion

This past week, the jiu-jitsu competition scene has been rather quiet since the dust is still settling from a riveting Pan that shook the jiu-jitsu world once again. But, this quiet will not stay for very long, as major championships are on the horizon and ready to start rumbling again.

The most anticipated championship coming up is the Abu Dhabi World Pro: Main Event. With so many trials and so many competitors fighting for their spot in this event for months now, how could this not be the most anticipated event? With cash prizes up for grabs, this may also be one of the most stacked black belt divisions anyone will ever see. Replete with world champions and up-and-coming stars such as Rafael Mendes, Ary Farias, Zak Maxwell, Bruno Malfacine, Rafael Lovato Jr., Gilbert “Durinho” Burns, Celso Venicius, Romulo Barral, Kron Gracie, Lucas Lepri, Michael Langhi, Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida and Rodolfo Vieira, it is bound to be a tournament no one will forget. Also, with this organization’s rule of only six-minute matches, there may be results and upsets that nobody would have seen coming!

While jiu-jitsu’s elite will be rocking in the Middle East, the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) will be holding its ground in the U.S. and continuing to expand the competition scene across the country. First, the IBJJF will head east to New York City for its third installment of the New York Open at City College. There, the main competition may not come down to the black belt competitors, but instead the overall team competition, where Team Renzo Gracie is the two-time defending champion of the event. But, the dangerous Team Lloyd Irvin is always ready to compete and look to be the top contenders for Team Renzo’s overall title. It should be interesting.

From New York, the IBJJF crew will then travel to Phoenix for its inaugural Phoenix Open Championship. Although it is the organization’s first effort in Phoenix, it is expected to be a big hit due to the state of Arizona suddenly becoming a jiu-jitsu hotbed with growing schools such as Megaton Jiu-Jitsu and Nova União expected to bring in a ton of competitors at all levels to compete for the team title.

Justin Rader

The IBJJF’s last trip in a few busy weeks will be in Dallas, Tex., where it will once again host another first time event: The Dallas Open. With great turnouts for the last two Houston Open championships, the Federation has decided to give another part of Texas an IBJJF championship of its own. In Texas, you can always expect tough competitors such as Justin Rader, Alexandre Ceconi and Bruno Bastos to compete for gold and try to help their respective teams claim an IBJJF team title.

Lastly, in the final major championship before the Worlds in Long Beach, the CBJJ Federation will be hosting the Brazilian Nationals in Rio de Janerio, Brazil at the Tijuca Tênis Clube. There, it is bound to be like a Worlds preview since all the top black belts are expected to attend this popular event. Known for being one of the toughest competitions to win, there should be no lack of excitement for the always loud and raucous crowd in Rio.

The jiu-jitsu world is revving up its engines for another busy stretch of top flight competitors going to battle. So stay tuned to hear the results of each of these significant events!

Joe Stevenson heads to featherweight, faces Javier Vazquez at UFC on Versus 4

http://mmajunkie.com/news/23106/joe-stevenson-heads-to-featherweight-meets-javier-vazquez-at-ufc-on-versus-4.mma

Out of Obscurity: Looking Ahead (April 4 – April 10)

Every Monday, MMA DieHards takes a look at the upcoming week’s schedule of small regional and international shows with a focus on UFC and Pride veterans as well as consensus-ranked fighters. Here’s what’s going down between April 4 and April 10:

Marcus Davis (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

Spotlight Event: Maximum Fighting Championship 29: Conquer (Windsor, Ontario, Canada; April 8 )
Douglas Lima (17-4) will defend his MFC welterweight belt against UFC and Strikeforce veteran Terry Martin (21-8)…Ryan Jimmo (14-1) will put his MFC light heavyweight strap on the line against Bellator and Strikeforce veteran Zak Cummings (13-2)…UFC veteran Marcus Davis (17-8) clashes with Curtis Demarce (10-8)…UFC veteran Hermes Franca (20-11) is slated to face Robert Washington (9-2)…UFC and Strikeforce veteran Pete Spratt (21-19) goes up against Bellator vet Demi Deeds (15-8)…The event airs live on HDNet at 10 p.m. ET.

24/7 Entertainment: Professional Cage Fighting (Midland, Tex.; April 8 )
UFC and WEC veteran Will Campuzano (8-4) squares off with Randy Hinds (5-3).

Gruesome MMA: The Homecoming (Prestonsburg, Ky.; April 8 )
UFC veteran Joe Jordan (46-12-2) locks horns with Strikeforce vet Billy Vaughan (9-7)…TUF 12 alum and Strikeforce veteran Marc Stevens (12-6) welcomes Charlie Mullins (0-0) to the pro ranks…The event airs live via pay-per-view internet stream at GoFightLive.

Ring of Combat XXXV (Atlantic City, N.J.; April 8 )
UFC and EliteXC veteran Chris Liguori (12-8) meets M-1 Challenge vet Mikhail Malyutin (17-10)…UFC and Strikeforce veteran Sean Salmon (18-13) fights Tom DeBlass (3-0)…The event airs live via pay-per-view internet stream at GoFightLive.

Rogue Warrior Championship (El Paso, Tex.; April 8 )
UFC veteran Mike Van Arsdale (8-5) is slated to face Esteves Jones (6-1)…UFC and Bellator veteran Rich Clementi (39-18-1) tussles with Josh Hinkle (8-2).

XCage: Predators (Tijuana, Mexico; April 8 )
TUF 8 champion and UFC veteran Efrain Escudero (15-2) takes on Strikeforce and WEC vet Ashe Bowman (9-8)…UFC and WEC veteran Edgar Garcia (9-2) locks horns with Bellator vet Edwin Aguilar (22-15).

Hoosier Fight Club 7: Validation (Valparaiso, Ind.; April 9)
UFC veteran Forrest Petz (22-9) goes up against TUF 6 alum and Strikeforce vet John Kolosci (14-7)…UFC and IFL veterans Keith Wisniewski (26-12-1) and Chris Wilson (16-7) will do battle.

Jackson’s MMA Series 4 (Albuquerque, N.M.; April 9)
No. 10-ranked 135-pound female fighter and EliteXC veteran Julie Kedzie (15-8) clashes with EliteXC vet Kaitlin Young (4-4).

King of Kombat 10: Mass Destruction (Austin, Tex.; April 9)
UFC and Pride veteran Jorge Patino (23-13-1) battles Cleburn Walker (9-5)…Bellator and Pride veteran Luiz Azeredo (15-9) is slated to face Derek Campos (4-1).

Ringside MMA 10: Cote vs. Starnes (Montreal, Quebec, Canada; April 9)
In a fight that made Sherdog’s list of 10 April Tussles Worth Watching, Martin Desilets (11-2) squares off with Roger Hollett (11-3)…The evening’s headliner features a battle between UFC veterans Kalib Starnes (12-5-1) and Patrick Cote (13-7)…TUF 11 alum and IFL veteran Seth Baczynski (12-6) and prospect Alex Garcia (6-0) will vie for the interim welterweight title…The main card will air live on pay-per-view and the preliminary card airs live on The Fight Network in Canada…The event also airs live via pay-per-view internet stream at GoFightLive.

Ultimate Cage Battles: Stars and Stripes (Parma, Ohio; April 9)
M-1 Challenge and IFL veteran Eduardo Pamplona (13-2) tangles with Joe Bunch (12-3).

Xtreme Knockout 10 (Arlington, Tex.; April 9)
UFC and Bellator veteran Jake Rosholt (9-3) meets Bellator vet Brandon McDowell (32-29).

Other Events
April 8
American MMA Fight League (Newtown, Pa.)
Brutaal Genesis: The Rebirth (Maplewood, Ala.)
Classic Entertainment and Sports MMA 5: Cage of Pain (Lincoln, R.I.)
Rogue Warrior Cage Fighting Championships: Fighting for Our Wounded (El Paso, Tex.)
Tuff-N-Uff: Future Stars of MMA (Las Vegas)

April 9
Arena Gold Fight 3 (Piracicaba, Sao Paulo, Brazil)
Battle at the Fort IV (Hays, Kan.)
Cage Fight Live 1 (Herning, Denmark)
Caged Combat MMA (Flint, Mich.)
Caged on Campus 2 (Nelsonville, Ohio)
Extreme Challenge 178 (Oskaloosa, Iowa)
Extreme Challenge MMA (Quincy, Ill.)
FightWorld Cup 8: Road to Victory (Nerang, Queensland, Australia)
ICE 52 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
Iron Man 4 (Savage, Minn.)
King of the Cage: Outkasts (Lac Du Flambeau, Wis.)
Kombat Zone 28 (Waterloo, Ind.)
Legacy Fighting Championship (Houston, Tex.)
NAAFS: Proving Ground MMA Series 4 (Akron, Ohio)
Premier Fighting Championship 5 (Amherst, Mass.)
Respect Fighting Championship 5 (Essen, Germany)
Samurai Fight Night 3 (Aberdare, Midglamorgan, Wales)
Tenth Legion: Symbol of Power (Hull City, England)
Xtreme Fight Promotions: Hard Knox at the Rox (Wilmington, N.C.)

April 10
Shooto: Gig Saitama 3 (Fujimi, Saitama, Japan)
Ultimate Cage Championships Contenders: Future Champions (Stockport, Greater Manchester, England)

Bellator 39 Weigh-in Results

http://mmadiehards.com

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