Archive for the ‘Features’ Category

A New York state of (MMA) mind?

photo courtesy of Esther Lin/Strikeforce

ESPN anchor Jon Anik remembers back in 2008 when the network called on him to host a half-hour mixed martial arts program titled “MMA Live” that would air only on

They filmed the show and went down to the cafeteria where there is usually a Who’s Who of star athletes. Anik and the show’s panel of current MMA fighters, which usually included UFC lightweight Kenny Florian, were little more than random guys in suits.

Fast forward to 2011 and “MMA Live” is received much differently. There’s a buzz in the building whenever the show is filmed and Anik’s co-workers and superiors are taking more and more interest. The show has also moved to ESPN2 where the opportunity to secure more viewers is significantly greater.

“What’s been most gratifying has been the general embrace of us and the show from the people at ESPN,” Anik told Joe Rizzo and Jeremy Fullerton during his appearance on Rear Naked Choke Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “Two years ago, they might not have known what MMA stood for.”

The diehard mixed martial arts fans understand the plights the sport is facing, but the casual fan that is just coming around to the sport – and there are many – may be shocked at some of the problems. What must Anik’s colleagues and ESPN’s executives think when they find out the sport that is growing so rapidly and gaining more popularity with every event is not welcome in every U.S. state? Kenny Florian is not a criminal, but if he wanted to perform his job, the one he trains for seven days a week and puts his heart and soul into, in the state of New York, it would be considered illegal.

The answer is yes. It is as asinine as it sounds.

MMA has come a long way since its no-holds-barred beginnings and is safer than many mainstream sports when it comes to serious injuries. It is still illegal in a handful of states, but the fact that it hasn’t been regulated in the Empire State is puzzling.  A state that customarily is among the most forward-thinking in the nation loves to set trends. This time, lawmakers that simply don’t have a clue are holding back a sport that would generate millions of dollars for a struggling economy, all because they have an opinion that it’s barbaric.

“If you’re a high-ranking ESPN executive and come down to watch ‘MMA Live’ you probably don’t know the sport is not regulated in the state of New York, and to me that’s a red flag,” Anik said. “I think a lot of people would just assume that any sport that gets this massive coverage would just be sanctioned across the United States. We’ve made some appreciable steps and we’ve come far, but evidently we haven’t come far enough if you can’t have a UFC show at Madison Square Garden.”

In a press conference held at MSG on Jan. 13, UFC president Dana White and co-owner Lorenzo Fertitta reaffirmed the promotion’s plans to see through the legalization of MMA in New York.  They brought New Jersey native and UFC lightweight champ Frankie Edgar with them. They presented an independent economic study that suggested the state could create hundreds of jobs and generate upwards of $20 million in annual spending. They explained in the most professional of manners that mixed martial arts is far from “barbaric.” Fertitta also made the maximum donation to current governor Andrew Cuomo’s campaign in hopes of securing an ally in Albany where friends of the sport are few and far between.

It all may not matter, however, if the same stubborn group of politicians that has stymied the effort for years gets its way.

“We are asked about it constantly in New York and it’s frustrating giving the answer, ‘No, not yet,’ ” Anik said. “It’s just ridiculous that it’s not legalized in the state of New York given everything the UFC has done and given everything the sport has done over the last 10 years. I firmly believe there are a lot of powerful suits that still don’t want to see this thing happen because they still think the sport’s barbaric. They don’t want to learn about the sport. They don’t want to replace their ignorance with education, and as long as those people are in those seats I don’t think (legalization) is a slam dunk.”

Anik, like many journalists that cover the sport, is in a precarious position. They want to push the sport and promote it as much as possible, but that’s not their job. First and foremost, they have a responsibility to provide fair and balanced coverage, even when the facts lean so heavily toward one side that it’s hard to present both sides of the argument.

“We hope our coverage helps, but we’re in a tough position because we are journalists first and advocates a very distant second,” Anik explained. “We have to play it fair and balanced and present both sides of the equation: why should it be legal and why shouldn’t it. Of course, we didn’t present it that way (why it should be illegal) because none of us really believe that it’s an appropriate talking point.”

Perspectives like Anik’s are important ones, because he sees things the average fan – and certainly the average politician – does not. From a media standpoint, sanctioning in New York means more publicity. It legitimizes the sport to networks and traditional media outlets, many of which are based in New York City. Shows at Madison Square Garden in Manhattan or at the Nassau Coliseum on Long Island or up in Buffalo would be huge. There could also be events in areas like Syracuse and Albany.

Massachusetts became the 42nd state to legalize mixed martial arts in December of 2009, and the UFC immediately put Boston into its rotation of major cities that could host events. The UFC debuted in the Bay State in August of 2010 to smashing results. Stalwart newspapers such as The Boston Globe and The Boston Herald provided coverage, and Anik and the “MMA Live” crew were able to set up shop at the TD Garden for pre- and post-fight coverage. The sport got its chance and received the big-time coverage it deserved all because the right people in the statehouse decided to change their opinion. Imagine the buzz and coverage that would surround the first MMA event at “The World’s Most Famous Arena.”

“We made an easy trip to Boston and we even drove to Montreal to save money, so absolutely we would be at MSG,” Anik said. “I also think ESPN could blow it out to a different extent like they did with the Boston show. Obviously Massachusetts was a big hurdle for the UFC and selfishly as a Bostonian I put that legalization on a pedestal, but I think if New York got done ESPN would blow it out of the water.”

The ability of the mainstream media to cover an event at The Garden would start an enormously positive chain reaction that would do nothing but further the sport. It would also give fighters another place to earn a living.

The big-name stars like Randy Couture, Anderson Silva, Brock Lesnar, Georges St-Pierre, et al, are merely the tip of the iceberg when it comes to professional fighters in the United States. There are several other organizations out there – from Strikeforce to Bellator to Titan Fighting Championships and Shark Fights– that have a large stable of fighters looking for fights. The impact of just 10-to-12 shows a year in New York would be felt across many promotions.

“Anytime you expand the opportunities it’s good for the sport,” said manager and promoter Monte Cox, whose list of clients has included UFC champions Tim Sylvia, Matt Hughes and Rich Franklin. “When California took over and started doing shows it was a big boon to the industry. Prices of fighting went up a little. The UFC went from paying guys $2,000 (to show) and $2,000 (to win) in the beginning to three and three and now we’re up to six and six. What’s going to keep guys like me in business is getting more opportunities. It’s hard to manage 70 people and keep them all busy, and these guys really rely on the opportunity to fight three or four times a year to make a living. There just aren’t enough fights to keep everyone happy.”

New York isn’t going to fix that on its own, but it could certainly help. These fighters aren’t waiting for more shows so they can be laughing all the way to the bank. They just want to have enough money to pay their bills and put food on the table while doing something they love. Didn’t that used to be called the American dream?

As Cox pointed out, there are talented fighters who aren’t in the UFC anymore who struggle to find constant work. It’s not because they aren’t good enough, it’s that there are just so many fighters and not enough places to go.

“Right now I’m booking fights for Drew McFedries. Rich Clementi, Tim Sylvia, Jeremy Horn,” Cox said “These are all guys that are proven UFC guys that have around 10 UFC fights, but are not in the promotion because the UFC is pushing more for the younger guys. These guys still want to fight and they need a place to go.”

What both Anik and Cox agreed on is that even with the full-court press put on by the UFC brass and mounting public pressure, the sanctioning of MMA in New York is an arduous process. Gov. Cuomo seems to be on the side of the sport – or at least making money – regarding this issue, but no one is going to feel comfortable until an official bill is passed.

“I know how (ESPN boxing and MMA analyst) Franklin McNeil thinks it’s going to happen in the next six months, but I’m not as optimistic,” Anik said. “I think these things take time and hopefully by the end of 2011 this is something that is really legitimized and we’re talking about a show at The Garden.”

“I think it’s going to take time,” Cox said. “When California started we didn’t get a rush of extra sponsors. But after it was there for a year, it picked up. I think there are sponsors in New York that will be big, they just have to get exposed to it and they’ll see what the reaction is. Once everyone sees it, they’ll relax, realize it’s not that controversial and I think we’ll start getting sponsors.”

The facts have all been laid out regarding the money that could be made by the state government. The facts have been presented about the perceived safety of the sport. The cards are on the table, and now we have to wait.

White always tells his fighters not to leave it in the judge’s hands, but that’s exactly what he has to do in this case. And for the MMA community, that is the most unsettling fact of them all.

Vinny Magalhaes: Focused on MMA

Vinny Magalhaes is intent on climbing back into the MMA spotlight. Most mixed martial arts fans remember the highly decorated grappler for his participation on The Ultimate Fighter’s eighth season, in which he advanced to the tournament finals before losing to Ryan Bader at the TUF 8 Finale. Another loss in the Octagon against Eliot Marshall at UFC 97 spelled the end of his run in the UFC, leaving him to regroup and fight his way back to the big show.

Since parting ways with the UFC, Magalhaes has picked up three wins in four outings to move his record to 5-5. The next stop for Magalhaes comes Saturday at MMA Xplosion in Las Vegas. In an event themed around national teams, he will represent Team Brazil and face the undefeated Damien Knight (3-0), who will be repping Team USA, in the evening’s main event.

Gianni Grippo of MMA DieHards recently caught up with Magalhaes to discuss the fight, Brazilian jiu-jitsu and Vinny’s future in mixed martial arts.

GG: Hey Vinny, how are you? And how are your preparations coming along for your upcoming fight?

VM: I am doing great thanks, and my preparations for this fight have been going very well. I’ve been training two to three times a day every day and once on Saturdays for the last six weeks. I’ve been covering all aspects of my stand up, wrestling and jiu-jitsu, so I am very good for this fight.

GG: If anything, is there anything you have been specifically working on to improve on for this fight?

VM: I’ve really been working on my striking with the help of my coach, Mark Beecher, and I feel he has really helped me a lot during the time I’ve worked with him. He has helped me, not only in the striking, but in the transitions from the striking to the clinch to get it to the ground.

GG: Is there anything you can tell us about your opponent (Damien Knight) and what you expect to happen in the fight?

VM: I have been studying Knight’s fights and from watching them, I see that I will hold the advantage in the cardio department, and I already know that I’m coming in with a nice reach advantage. I don’t believe that he has a great wrestling game, so the one thing I am watching out for are his heavy hands. He likes to be wild with his strikes as well, so I’d want to avoid falling into that game.

GG: You gained some experience being in the UFC and on The Ultimate Fighter. What did you learn most during your time with that organization?

VM: When I was invited on to the show, I wasn’t a real MMA fighter and I relied only on my jiu-jitsu. What I learned was that to be a good MMA fighter, you cannot be one dimensional, you have to cover every aspect in the game: striking, wrestling, ground game. I don’t feel like I had all my bases covered when I was with the UFC, but now I’ve learned from that and now I feel like a complete fighter.

GG: In this team challenge event, you will be representing your home country of Brazil in your fight. What does this representation mean to you?

VM: [Laughs] To be perfectly honest, I can’t say I’m the most patriotic guy to represent his country. I feel like I am coming into this fight half American. I’ve been training in the United States for years and almost everyone I train with is American. But when it comes to a team, I will represent and be cheering for my home country, of course.

GG: Getting away from MMA a bit, you’ve also been in big grappling tournaments such as ADCC and produced great results, taking third in your weight class and third in the open class division. What was the experience like competing at such a prestigious tournament?

VM: That was really interesting because I was really just getting ready for an MMA fight at that time. When I got invited to compete, I took it as good preparation for the fight. It turned out well for me as I was able to finish guys like Marcio “Pe de Pano” Cruz and Chris Weidman, so it was an overall great experience. And if I get the chance to compete again this year, I’d set up a grappling camp for the tournament alone so I know I’ll be well prepared.

GG: In ADCC, not only did you have great results, but you also really wowed the crowd with how you won some of your matches, with two flying armbars, one of them against a two-time black belt absolute champion in “Pe de Pano.” Is that one of your signature moves? Or was it just a very good day?

VM: I actually like to practice that move a lot in training. I enjoy it because it’s something that not many people would expect a big guy like me to try to pull off. And, especially with good competitors like “Pe de Pano,” you must be able to surprise them in order to beat them.

GG: Could we expect to see another flying armbar like those in your next fight?

VM: It is definitely a possibility if the opportunity is there. I actually had a flying armbar in my second MMA fight, so I would never rule it out. So, if I find an opening, I’ll gladly take the opportunity presented.

GG: Lastly, what are your plans and goals for your MMA and jiu-jitsu career and where would you like to be in the upcoming years?

VM: Jiu-jitsu competitions from now on are always going to be just for the fun of it and purely just for the love of competition. But right now, my main focus is on my MMA career and just going as far as I can in it. I recently signed a six-fight contract with M-1 and I’d like to fulfill my contract, hopefully all with wins. If the opportunity comes around, I’d love to go back to the UFC and grow with that organization continuing to fight better and better fighters as I progress in my career.

GG: Is there anything you would like to add?

VM: I’d just like to thank all of my sponsors: Xyience, Gun Stores in Las Vegas, LA Boxing and Protection Mouthguard. I also want to thank my coach, Mark Beecher, and all my training partners who have helped my preparations at Xtreme Couture.

Out of Obscurity: Looking Ahead (Jan. 24 – Jan. 30)

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 Jan. 24 and Jan. 30:

Tim Sylvia (photo courtesy of Combat Lifestyle)

Spotlight Event: Titan Fighting Championships 16 (Kansas City, Kan.; Jan. 28)
UFC veteran and No. 23-ranked heavyweight Tim Sylvia (28-6) goes up against TUF 10 alum Abe Wagner (7-3) in a fight that made Sherdog’s 10 January Tussles Worth Watching…UFC and Dream veteran Jason High (12-3) fights Strikeforce and Bellator vet Rudy Bears (12-6)…UFC veteran Drew McFedries (8-6) meets Strikeforce vet Gary Tapasua (4-1)…UFC and Bellator veteran Rich Clementi (39-17-1) battles Aaron Derrow (4-2)…The event airs live at 10 p.m. ET on HDNet.

Legend Fighting Championship 4 (Hong Kong; Jan. 27)
Legend’s Australian lightweight champion Adrian Pang (17-7-2) defends his title against Yui Chul Nam (10-2-1) in a fight that made Sherdog’s 10 January Tussles Worth Watching.

Showdown Fights: New Blood (Orem, Utah; Jan. 28)
WEC and Dream veteran Cole Escovedo (16-6) takes on Steven Siler (18-8)…Sengoku and ShoXC vet Brian Cobb (17-6) tangles with Radley Martinez (8-1).

SportFight 29: All In (Grand Ronde, Ore.; Jan. 28)
In a fight that made Sherdog’s list of 10 January Tussles Worth Watching, EliteXC veteran Tyson Nam (8-3) locks horns with ShoXC vet Jesse Brock (12-5).

Wreck MMA: Strong and Proud (Gatineau, Quebec, Canada; Jan. 28)
UFC and Strikeforce veteran Joe Riggs (34-11) squares off with Jordan Mein (18-7) in the evening’s main event…UFC veteran Mark Holst (8-3) takes on Markhaile Wedderburn (9-8)…UFC veteran Kalib Starnes (11-5-1) is slated to face Matt MacGrath (9-4)…The event will air via tape delay on The Score in Canada and live via pay-per-view internet stream at GoFightLive.

C3 MMA Championship Fights: Rosholt vs. Sursa (Newkirk, Okla.; Jan. 29)
UFC and WEC veteran Jake Rosholt (7-3) scraps with Bellator vet Marcus Sursa (10-6).

Capital City Cage Wars VI (Springfield, Ill.; Jan. 29)
UFC veteran Matt Veach (14-2) goes up against Donavon Winters (5-1).

Elite-1 MMA: Moncton (Moncton, New Brunswick, Canada; Jan. 29)
UFC Hall of Famer Dan Severn (96-16-7) fights Scott Fraser (3-1).

Full Force Fighting Vol. 1 (Denver, Colo.; Jan. 29)
UFC veteran Rob Emerson (11-9) meets Justin Salas (7-3) in a lightweight championship bout.

Gladiator Challenge: Young Guns 4 (Elko, Nev.; Jan. 29)
UFC and Strikeforce veteran James Irvin (15-8) battles Mike Crisman (9-19).

KSW Extra 2: President Cup (Elk, Poland; Jan. 29)
In a fight that made Sherdog’s 10 January Tussles Worth Watching, Antoni Chmielewski (20-7) goes up against Vitor Nobrega (10-3)…The show also features an eight-man welterweight tournament.

MMA Xplosion: International Team Challenge (Las Vegas; Jan. 29)
TUF 8 alum and UFC veteran Vinny Magalhaes (5-5) fights Damien Knight (3-0) in the evening’s main event…Chidi Njokuani (4-1), brother of WEC veteran Anthony Njokuani, squares off with WEC vet Sidney Silva (8-3)…The event airs live via pay-per-view internet stream at GoFightLive.

Rage in the Cage 148 (Chandler, Ariz.; Jan. 29)
TUF 8 lightweight winner and UFC veteran Efrain Escudero (14-2) locks horns with Jeremy Larsen (6-1)…Pride veteran Shannon Ritch (46-73) is slated to face Scott Guenther (3-0-1)…WEC veteran Danny Martinez (13-4) meets Aldo Escudero (1-1).

SportFight X: Middle Tennessee Mayhem (Murfreesboro, Tenn.; Jan. 29)
TUF 10 alum and UFC veteran Mike Wessel (8-2) squares off with Bellator veteran Scott Barrett (10-2)…The event airs live via pay-per-view internet stream at GoFightLive.

Wild Bill’s Fight Night 33 (Duluth, Ga.; Jan. 29)
UFC and Bellator veteran Diego Saraiva (18-10-1) fights Joe Elmore (2-2).

United Glory: World Series 2: Survival (Charleroi, Wallonia, Belgium; Jan. 30)
UFC and WEC veteran John Alessio (31-13) battles Sengoku vet and recent Strikeforce addition Siyar Bahadurzada (18-4-1) in a welterweight tournament semifinal matchup that made Sherdog’s 10 January Tussles Worth Watching…In the other welterweight tourney semifinal, UFC veteran Roan Carneiro (14-8) scraps with Tommy Depret (8-3).

Other Events
Jan. 27
Palmetto Boxing Promotions: Judgment Day (Columbia, S.C.)

Jan. 28
Black Watch MMA: Black Friday (Ashland City, Tenn.)
Bloodsport Championships: Time to Bleed! (El Paso, Tex.)
Cage Titans FC: Mayhem (Randolph, Mass.)
Combat Zone 36: Smashing on The Rock (Salem, N.H.)
School of Hark Knocks 10 (Calgary, Alberta, Canada)

Jan. 29
Amateur Elite 2 (Elyria, Ohio)
Brutaal: Genesis (Rochester, Minn.)
Crowne Plaza Episode 1 MMA: Vegas Fight Night (Hampton, Va.)
Dog Eat Dog 4 (Leeds, England)
Evolution Fighting Championships 6 (North Bergen, N.J.)
Fight for Pride (El Paso, Tex.)
Fight Lab MMA: Misery Loves Company III (Charlotte, N.C.)
Fight Night 15 (Vancouver, Wash.)
Fight Night at Fat Daddy’s (Alexandria, Minn.)
ICE 51 (Cincinnati, Ohio)
IT Fight Series (Bellefontaine, Ohio)
Legacy Fighting Championship (Houston, Tex.)
Power Fights 21 (Sandwich, Ill.)
RFO: Battle in the Boro (Streetsboro, Ohio)
South Plains Amateur MMA (Lubbock, Tex.)
Sudden Impact Live: Annihilation (Auburn, Wash.)
United Fighting Federation V: Resurrection (Salina, Kan.)
Valley Fight League 29: Mason Dixon Showdown (Chambersburg, Pa.)
Xtreme Knockout 9 (Arlington, Tex.)

Jan. 30
Gladiator 13 (Tokyo)
Pancrase: 2011 Neo-Blood Tournament Qualifiers (Tokyo)

Guillard, Mitrione, Hominick earn quick TKOs at UFC Fight for the Troops 2

Mitrione is making heavyweight waves ( photo)

The top three headliners made quick work of their opponents on Saturday night at UFC Fight for the Troops 2 at Fort Hood, outside of Killeen, Tex.

Melvin Guillard, Matt Mitrione and Mark Hominick all finished their fights in less than three minutes in a card that otherwise consisted of almost entirely of decisions.

Guillard won knockout of the night and the $30,000 bonus that goes with it.  Yves Edwards took home an extra $60,000.  Edwards won submission of the night for his technical submission of Cody McKenzie, who passed out from a rear naked choke at 4:33 of the second round of the fight of the night.  McKenzie won $30,000 for his part of the thrilling contest, which aired via Facebook in a ground-breaking move by the UFC.

After the live stream from Facebook from 7-9 p.m. ET, the webcast became a broadcast on Spike.

The Spike show finished when Guillard overwhelmed Evan Dunham for a first-round TKO.  Guillard (27-8-2, 1 NC) landed a stiff combination that floored Dunham, who was able to get up but only to get blasted by a knee that finished matters at 2:58 of the opening round.

“That (combination) should be named after me,” Guillard said before calling out to his teammate at Greg Jackson’s MMA. “Should it be, Brian Stann? It’s a secret.”

Guillard has won five in a row and seven of his last eight fights. He is 6-1 during his second stint in the UFC.

“I want my title shot,” Guillard said. “I’m the dark horse of this game at (1)55 (pounds). No disrespect, but I am the best in this weight class. You keep lining them up, I’ll keep knocking them down. I’ll go undefeated in 2011 and hopefully get a title shot, and no later than 2012.”

Dunham (11-2) suddenly has a two-fight losing streak after opening his career with 11 wins. His previous defeat, to Sean Sherk at UFC 119 in September, was a highly controversial split decision that many thought he won.

Mitrione, a former NFL defensive lineman, wiped out Tim Hague in a heavyweight match.

Mitrione (4-0) did not win the 10th season of The Ultimate Fighter, but he is turning out to be one of the success stories from that campaign, showing vast improvement with each bout and extending his undefeated professional record. He knocked down Hague (12-5) in the early going with a big left, and did the same with the same first later in the first round, hitting Hague on the chin with a straight punch.

Hague went down and covered up from Mitrione’s ground strikes, which quickly brought an end to the match, a second short of three minutes in.

“I wanted to be like a 260-pound Dominick Cruz,” Mitrione said of the UFC bantamweight (135-pound) champion, who is known for his amazing footwork and elusiveness. “I think Tim’s a good fighter, but I want to get tested. I’m in here to get the gold.”

With the impressive win, Mitrione could see the class significantly raised when he faces his next opponent.  He might have to wait a little longer than he might desire, if it turns out Mitrione is correct in his post-fight prediction that he broke his left hand.

Hague returned to the UFC after a 1-3 stint, having earned successive wins over Mitrione’s TUF 10 castmate, Zak Jensen, and veteran Travis Wiuff.

Hominick will get his shot at the UFC featherweight title after making quick work of former training partner George Roop.

Hominick (20-8) landed an early combination, then a big left that floored Roop (11-7-1). He hit the downed Roop once, and then the fight was waved off at 1:28. Roop protested, but still was wobbled even moments later when he got up and walked across the Octagon toward Hominick, who actually caught his opponent and did not let him fall.

“I’m thrilled,” Hominick, a Canadian, said. “If you’re next in line for a title shot, you need to prove it. I believe my standup is far superior to everybody, but you have to show it in the cage.”

Hominick said he would have complained the same way Roop did, protesting against an early stoppage.

“No disrespect,” Hominick said of Roop. “He’s a fighter, he’s got a fighter’s heart.”

Hominick acknowledged his pregnant wife, who was at home and did not travel to the event.

“I don’t know how you guys in the corwd go overseas for a year or years into your tours,” he said. “It’s so hard to be away from home.”

Then he turned his focus to Aldo.

“You have to make statements with your performance,” said Hominick. “Jose’s next. I think he’s best pound for pound.”

Roop returned to the UFC for the first time since losing to George Sotiropoulos in August 2009 at UFC 101. That fight was at lightweight.

Pat Barry kicked his way to a hard-fought victory over Joey Beltran in the heavyweight division.

Barry (6-2), a top-level kickboxer, used his powerful kicks to render Beltran’s lead leg, his left, nearly useless. Beltran (12-5) refused to stop moving forward and kept the fight competitive and exciting. But an accidental poke to Beltran’s left eye gave Barry a huge advantage in the final 90 seconds, and Beltran did well to make it to the final bell, collapsing at the horn.

Barry unanimously won the decision, scoring 29-28 in the minds of two judges and 30-27 with the other.

Emotional after the fight, Barry showed the dog tags of his late father, David J. Barry.

“(My father) passed away 25 years ago,” the choked-up Barry said, holding the tags. “This is the greatest country in the world. I don’t know what your everyday lives are like. But it’s an honor to give you a few hours away from your everyday lives, just to relax and sit back. I salaute you.

“Joey Beltran, that dude is a zombie. I kicked him in his face 300 times, and I beat his leg to death. He just kept coming.”

Beltran lost his second straight fight after winning his first two in the UFC.

Matt Wiman outpaced Cole Miller in a lightweight match.

Wiman (13-5) never let Miller (17-5) get on track, pushing the pace with a relentless offense that included heavy doses of ground and pound. Wiman won 30-27 on two judges’ cards and 29-28 on the other.

“I was going through a lot of nerves before this fight,” said Wiman, who has won three straight. “It was probably the most nervous I have ever been.”

Wiman did not look nervous in the cage, as he pressed the action and never let Miller’s stellar submissions game become a factor. He continually had Miller down on his back, and nullified any potential offense by keeping him defending a near constant rain of punches.

Miller had won two straight, but fell to 4-3 in his last seven fights.

Elsewhere, DaMarques Johnson finished Mike Guymon with a body triangle submission 3:22 into their welterweight match, halting a run of four straight unanimous decisions to open the card.

In those decisions, Rani Yahya upset former WEC featherweight champion Mike Brown, Waylon Lowe beat Willamy Freire, Charlie Brenneman dominated Amilcar Alves, and Chris Cariaso defeated Will Campuzano.

Counterpunch: UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2

Evan Dunham (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

The UFC is set to put on its second UFC Fight for the Troops event on Jan. 22, with the main card airing live on Spike TV and two preliminary fights streaming live via Facebook.

The Facebook approach is a new and interesting one for the UFC, but it’s another way to give the fans more action, something that’s always welcome.

The event goes down at Fort Hood outside of Killeen, Tex., and features 11 bouts in all.

The MMA DieHards panel of writers – Bob Badders, Hector Castro, Jason Kelly, Maggie Krol and Conner Cordova – gathered to make their picks for the entire card.

Three fighters earned unanimous nods from our panel as favorites in their fights.

Featherweight Mike Brown (24-7) gets the panel’s nod over Rani Yahya (15-6), lightweight Cole Miller (17-4) takes the win over Matt Wiman (12-5) in all five panelist’s opinions and heavyweight Pat Barry (5-2) is expected to defeat Joey Beltran (12-4) according to our fine group of prognosticators.

The panel was divided on the other eight contests, which brings us to the “Counterpunch,” where one of the writers in the minority defends his reason for going against the popular opinion. Unfortunately, two of our panelists – Hector and Maggie – were unable to contribute analysis to their picks due to their trip to Texas for the event. In their place, we have alternates – Rob Tatum, Bryan Henderson and Cameron Chow – filling in to provide their thoughts on some of the minority picks.

BW: Will Campuzano (8-3) vs. Chris Cariaso (10-2)
Picking Campuzano: 4 (Badders, Cordova, Kelly, Krol)
Picking Cariaso: 1 (Castro)

Henderson: For me, this is little more than the flip of a coin. I could go either way, but I’ll side with Cariaso. Campuzano has the reach advantage and a six-inch height advantage. That’s going to be hard for Cariaso to overcome.

Cariaso has proven that he can grind out decisions, while having a hard time finishing opponents. That comes into play here, as Cariaso won’t come close to stopping Campuzano, but will show the better technique in doing just enough to get the job done. While it won’t be pretty, I’ll say Cariaso can overcome the height disparity to pull off an ugly split decision win.

WW: Charlie Brenneman (12-2) vs. Amilcar Alves (11-2)
Picking Brenneman: 4 (Badders, Castro, Kelly, Krol)
Picking Alves: 1 (Cordova)

Cordova: One lone loss in the UFC shouldn’t define a career, but it can. Both of these guys are coming off of losses to top tier fighters, and with their UFC records so young, this is a make or break situation. Both are solid, well-rounded mixed martial artists, and with their backs against the wall, you can expect them to come out guns blazing. In situations like this, where both fighters are so close in skill, I have to go with my gut. Alves by submission in the second… there I said it! Woo… glad that’s done.

LW: Willamy “Chiquerim” Freire (18-3) vs. Waylon Lowe (9-3)
Picking Lowe: 3 (Badders, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking Freire: 2 (Castro, Krol)

Henderson: I’m somewhat surprised I’m even writing this as a “counterpunch” pick. Is it the fear that Freire will be overcome with Octagon jitters that has him checking in as the panel’s underdog in this fight? Or is it the level of competition they’ve faced?

Lowe has managed just one win in two tries inside the Octagon, and that win came via split decision over Steve Lopez. Meanwhile, Freire has nine more pro fights, nine more career wins and the Shooto welterweight (154 lb) title to his name. Sure, the competition hasn’t been on the same level as what Lowe has faced, but that can often be said of Brazilian stars making their move to the UFC.

“Chiquerim” will be the latest Brazilian import to impress in the UFC, and Lowe should be the perfect showcase fight to introduce Freire to the American fans. Given that this is Willamy’s first time in the Octagon, I see him struggling in the early going, but pulling out a second-round submission victory.

WW: DaMarques Johnson (11-8) vs. Mike Guymon (12-4-1)
Picking Johnson: 4 (Badders, Castro, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking Guymon: 1 (Krol)

Tatum: In what is a likely win or go home fight, welterweights Guymon and Johnson will face off on the Fight for the Troops undercard. Both fighters are coming off recent losses and will look to get back on track at the other’s expense.

Guymon enters the bout with a 1-2 record inside the Octagon, and was recently submitted by Daniel Roberts at UFC 121 in October. The “Joker” is a well-rounded veteran, whose submission skills cannot be taken lightly.

Johnson, meanwhile, is a US Army and TUF veteran who is looking to get back in the good graces of the promotion. Despite an even record of 2-2 inside the UFC, Johnson is likely facing the chopping block after missing weight in his last outing against Matt Riddle in August. A clearly gassed Johnson was TKO’d in the second round.

Based on what I have seen from both of these fighters, I know that Johnson is the more explosive (and younger) of the two, but his conditioning and submission defense have some holes. Guymon, on the other hand, while possessing deficiencies in his standup, is more capable of dictating the pace and location of the bout. If Johnson can keep it standing, he could easily score a highlight reel KO over Guymon, but I fully expect the “Joker” to take this fight to the mat and claim a decision victory over an exhausted Johnson.

LW: Yves Edwards (39-16-1) vs. Cody McKenzie (12-0)
Picking Edwards: 4 (Badder, Castro, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking McKenzie: 1 (Krol)

Chow: You’re right Yves Edwards, this isn’t the French Revolution, but the guillotine will reign supreme this weekend. The experience is on Edwards side, but the win will be on Cody McKenzie’s record when fight is over.

Edwards has stated that he’s not afraid of McKenzie’s signature move, but so had McKenzie’s previous ten opponents. Michael Jordan wanted to put the ball in the hoop and Tom Brady wants to complete passes, but it’s hard to stop the best of the best. Make no mistake about it, Cody McKenzie is one of the best when it comes to slapping on a guillotine.

I’m not saying McKenzie is going to win by guillotine, but he will win because of the threat of a guillotine. Edwards may be so focused on not being submitted in one way that it could lead to another opening. If McKenzie has a chance to slap on his special grip, Edwards’ experience won’t matter.

FW: Mark Hominick (19-8) vs. George Roop (11-6-1)
Picking Hominick: 3 (Badders, Cordova, Kelly)
Picking Roop: 2 (Castro, Krol)

Tatum: Admittedly, I’m playing the devil’s advocate in this fight. The Canadian, Mark Hominick, comes in riding a four-fight win streak and has been promised a title shot at featherweight juggernaut Jose Aldo if he disposes of George Roop, as expected. To be honest, I take issue with two things, the first being promising Hominick a title shot, but not Roop (although Roop is not deserving at this point), and giving UFC 129 two title fights. Traditionally, the two title fight scenario has provided lackluster performances (UFC 100, UFC 111, UFC 112 – decisions with champions retaining their belt), and since a certain Canadian fighter (GSP… cough) was responsible for two of those, this may be the UFC’s way of trying to accommodate that scenario.

Regardless of my issues with surrounding circumstances, I still believe Roop is worthy of consideration after his absolute destruction of Chan Sung Jung at WEC 51. Many expected “The Korean Zombie” to handle Roop easily, but in a classic case of styles making a fight, Jung’s aggressive nature proved to be his downfall as Roop sent him to the hospital with a vicious headkick. While Hominick is much more technical and disciplined than Jung, he’ll still have to deal with Roop’s 6-foot-1 frame and length, something rarely seen at 145 pounds.

On paper, this is a mismatch. And I’m a huge fan of Mark Hominick’s precision striking. You wouldn’t catch me placing money on this pick, but I’m just hopeful that Roop can throw a monkey wrench in the UFC’s plans and force them to rethink announcing title shots to one competitor and not the other.

HW: Matt Mitrione (3-0) vs. Tim Hague (12-4)
Picking Mitrione: 3 (Badders, Castro, Kelly)
Picking Hague: 2 (Cordova, Krol)

Cordova: Interesting, is the first thing that pops into my head when I think of this fight. Both guys are scrappy and durable. The thing that really stands out to me is how unorthodox they are! Mitrione’s stand up is so out there, and Hague just seems to pull it out, sloppy or not. In my opinion, Hague gets a bad rap. Todd Duffee got him just right to get that kind of finish, it seems like everyone forgot about how much abuse he took from Pat Barry and still won! I think Hague is taking this one on grit alone. The Canadian is bringing this one home.

LW: Evan Dunham (11-1) vs. Melvin Guillard (26-8-2)
Picking Dunham: 3 (Badders, Castro, Kelly)
Picking Guillard: 2 (Cordova, Krol)

Cordova: First off, I just have to say this main event is off the hook, two dynamic up-and-comers in the UFC going head to head with everything on the line! Fight of the Night potential, for sure. Both of these guys are extremely talented and dangerous when in their element. Really, this fight comes down to who imposes their will first, and trust me, we’re going to find out fast.

I see Dunham being the aggressor out of the gate, using lateral to cut off Guillard’s movement, then trying to pin him against the cage to get the take down. Here is where Evan is going to run into some problems; when he tries to rush Melvin, he is going to eat counters all day. Guillard is going to circle off the cage and pick him apart from the outside. If Guillard can keep this fight on the feet, I think he will catch Dunham late in the first round.

When Melvin Guillard brings his A game, he is a force to be reckoned with. Dunham has the tools, but I think Melvin has the one punch KO power to put him away.

Out of Obscurity: The Week in Review (Jan. 14 – Jan. 20)

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 Jan. 14 and Jan. 20:

Hoosier FC 6: New Years Nemesis (Valparaiso, Ind.; Jan. 14)

Rd 1 of Main vs. Reardanz

TUF 12 alum Andy Main (5-1) snagged Bobby Reardanz (6-6) in a second-round armbar for the submission victory…WEC veteran Joe Benoit (11-4) submitted Ken Jackson (8-6) by way of a first-round armbar.

Rd 2 of Main (tight trunks) vs. Reardanz

100% Fight 4 (Paris, France; Jan. 15)
UFC veteran Lucio Linhares (15-6) locked in a triangle choke in the second round to submit fellow UFC vet Xavier Foupa-Pokam (21-15) in a fight that made Sherdog’s list of 10 January Tussles Worth Watching.

The Cage Inc.: Battle at the Border 8 (Hankinson, N.D.; Jan. 15)
WEC veteran Clint Godfrey (12-3) successfully defended his Cage Inc. featherweight title with a first-round rear naked choke submission of Charlie DuBray (7-4).

Centurion Mixed Martial Arts (Balneario, Santa Catarina, Brazil; Jan. 15)
Flyweight Jose Maria Tome (24-2) secured a rear naked choke on Anderson Cruz (2-2) in the first round for the submission win.

King of the Cage: Confrontation (Santa Fe, N.M.; Jan. 15)
Bellator veteran Donald Sanchez (22-10) retained his KOTC bantamweight (145 lb) belt, submitting Scott Bear (3-4) via guillotine choke in the first round.

Midwest Cage Championships 31: Full Force (Des Moines, Iowa; Jan. 15)
Ronnie Britt (17-3) locked in a guillotine choke to submit Eric Irvin (2-1) in the first round.

Rumble on the Ridge 16 (Snoqualmie, Wash.; Jan. 15)
Strikeforce and Bellator veteran Mike Hayes (15-4-1) submitted Strikeforce vet Matt Kovacs (6-5) via third-round rear naked choke.

Ultimate Cage Battles: Pride & Glory (Parma, Ohio; Jan. 15)

Forrest Petz (photo courtesy of Ultimate Cage Battles)

UFC veteran Forrest Petz (22-9) earned a unanimous decision over Bellator veteran and former NFL running back Herbert Goodman (16-10) in the evening’s main event.

X-Fight MMA 1 (Rio de Janeiro, Brazil; Jan. 15)
Team Nogueira fighter Andre Santos (23-4) utilized an anaconda choke to submit Alberto Dos Santos (0-3-1) in the first round.

George Roop: Playing the Spoiler

George Roop (photo courtesy of MMA Junkie)

George Roop has to be better than the plan to stop him.

When the featherweight sets foot inside the Octagon on Saturday night at UFC Fight Night 23: Fight for the Troops 2 at Fort Hood, outside of Killeen, Tex., he will not only have to overcome his opponent, Mark Hominick, but also a strategy devised by a trainer with inside knowledge of his abilities.

“Without a doubt, Shawn Tompkins is one of the greatest coaches in the world,” Roop told host Joe Rizzo of Rear Naked Choke Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network. “He’s going to be able to put together a great gameplan for Hominick in order to try to beat me at everything.

“On the other hand, I have great coaches here in Tucson as well. We’ve put together a great gameplan as well. You’re a different animal when you’re in there in the cage. It’s not training. You become a different animal when you step in there to fight. It’s a whole different level, and I plan on taking it to a whole nother level.”

Once upon a time, Roop trained under Tompkins and alongside Hominick. Now, he’ll stand opposite his former teammates and try to play the spoiler. With a win at Fort Hood, Hominick has been guaranteed a title shot against the UFC’s first ever featherweight champion, Jose Aldo, but a win for Roop does not come with the same assurances. Roop’s plan is to change that.

“They’re not going to have any choice after this fight but to give me the title shot,” said Roop. “Really, who else are they going to give the title shot to? I’m not going to give them a choice in the matter.”

The ride to this stage in Roop’s career has seen a roller-coaster’s worth of ups and downs, both in weight and fight outcomes. He began his career as a 145-pounder, competing primarily for the Arizona-based Rage in the Cage promotion and capturing the organization’s featherweight crown. However, a move to the bright lights of the UFC also meant a move up in weight, and so Roop went to 155 pounds to compete on season eight of The Ultimate Fighter.

“The Ultimate Fighter changed my life completely,” Roop said. “It really showed me what I needed to do to get to that next level and become a mixed martial arts fighter. I was fighting at 155 pounds – I was walking around at 155 pounds at that time, so it was a tough weight class to compete in, especially with those bigger stronger guys.

“When you get an opportunity, whether it be at 185 pound weight class, I’d have been fighting at that. You get an opportunity, you run with it.”

Despite fighting larger men, he advanced to the semifinals of the reality series before being eliminated by Phillipe Nover. He then competed on the TUF 8 Finale, losing his official lightweight debut to Shane Nelson. Roop fought twice more at 155 under the UFC banner, defeating Dave Kaplan and losing to George Sotiropoulos, before receiving his walking papers from the promotion.

The Tucson native returned to his roots – and the featherweight division – by defeating Matt Dell in front of a hometown crowd at Rage in the Cage 137. The win earned him another shot with a Zuffa-owned company, World Extreme Cagefighting.

Roop again shifted weight classes, cutting down to 135 pounds for an unsuccessful bantamweight debut against Eddie Wineland.

“I tried to drop down and flirt with 135 pounds,” he said. “It’s definitely not something I’ll ever do again.

“You know, 145 pounds, I feel very comfortable at. It’s my natural fight weight. I feel like I can dominate the 145-pound division.”

That was it, Roop had finally pinned down his ideal competitive weight after changing divisions four times. He returned to the featherweight ranks at WEC 47, fighting to a draw with Leonard Garcia. The contest might not have produced a clear winner, but it did earn both fighters “Fight of the Night” bonuses.

The bonus money didn’t stop there, as Roop’s next outing delivered a “Knockout of the Night” check and put him back in the win column. His victim was “The Korean Zombie” Chan Sung Jung, and his weapon of choice was a head kick – after all, how else would you drop a zombie than with a headshot?

The lighter weight divisions come with a reputation for delivering consistently entertaining action, and the arrival of these legions of 135- and 145-pounders in the UFC could spell a decrease in bonuses for the bigger guys. As for the featherweights and bantamweights, the letters U-F-C spell bigger bonus money than what was available in the WEC.

“It would be big money,” Roop said. “I’m definitely shooting for the bonuses. My main goal is to win the fight. Hopefully I can walk away with two bonus checks – Knockout of the Night and Fight of the Night bonuses.”

While Roop hopes to take home multiple bonuses on Saturday, his goals do not end there. He’s also seeking to insert his name into the featherweight contender conversation. However, his former teammate and training partner, Mark Hominick, stands between him and that objective. Their history won’t deter Roop on Saturday, as his focus remains clear.

“Friends aside, I’m going in there to take him out,” Roop stated. “It doesn’t matter to me, at the end of the day it’s a job and I’m going to get paid.”

MMA Fitness: Become an Animal!

So you want to take your power to the next level? Do you want to take your conditioning to previously unexplored peaks? Do you want little old ladies to cower in fear when you walk through a room? Do you want your buddies to hate you because you can throw them around without getting out of breath? If so, then consider adopting the brutal kettlebell swing as a vital addition to your other training to blow your combined strength and conditioning through the roof.

What is a “swing”?

I’m sure you know what a kettlebell is by now.  And if you don’t, you should be ashamed of yourself.

The one arm swing:
Place one kettlebell between your feet. Push back with your butt and bend your knees to get into the starting position. Make sure that your back is flat and look straight ahead. Swing the kettlebell between your legs forcefully as if you are passing a football to someone behind you. Quickly reverse the direction and drive though with your hips explosively taking the kettlebell straight out. Let the kettlebell swing back between your legs and repeat. Switch arms with each set.

Remember that the swing is primarily a hamstring exercise and that is where all of the power is generated from. It is not a front raise.

How much weight should I use?

Ideally, you want to use the heaviest weight possible that will allow for continual movement. Traditionally, it is said that an average man should start with a 35-pounder. Most novice men who fight will probably use a 53-pounder. The 70-pounders will test you at every step of the way and the 88-pounders are simply for mutants.

What’s my plan?

Work the ladder! A great way to increase strength and conditioning is to use the ladder system. It is simple: perform one kettlebell swing with the left arm, then one with the right arm. Next, perform two swings with the left, then two on the right. Work your way up to ten for each side.

Once there, you can either rest for the total time it took you to get there, or if you’re an animal start reversing your swings from ten down to one. As a side note, if you must rest in between reps, I recommend you not take more than five breaths. In a few weeks time, you will definitely see yourself becoming more and more like an animal in everything you do.

Be sure you don’t overtrain yourself. Use this ladder once a week to be on the safe side.

Chris is the founder of Training With Balance Fitness Systems and graduated with his Bachelor of Science degree from Queens College University in 2009 with a major in physical education. He is certified from the National Strength and Conditioning Association (NSCA) and is certified as a mixed martial arts conditioning coach from the National Exercise and Sport Trainers Association (NESTA). Currently, he is a personal trainer on Long Island, N.Y.

Rich Clementi added to Titan FC 16 on Jan. 28

Clementi (R) lost to Vanier (L) in 2010 (Bellator photo)

UFC veteran Rich Clementi has been added to the Titan Fighting Championship 16 card, to be held in Kansas City, Mo., on Jan. 28, has learned.

Clementi’s manager, Monte Cox, told Joe Rizzo and Jeremy Fullerton that Clementi (39-17-1) was added to the card when Cox was a guest Wednesday on Rear Naked Choke Radio on the MMA DieHards Radio Network.  Cox said Clementi’s opponent has not yet been finalized.

A 34-year-old lightweight, Clementi has gone 7-3 since a two-fight losing streak cost him his job in the UFC.

Clementi’s last Zuffa fight was at UFC Fight Night 17 on Feb. 7, 2009, when he was submitted near the end of the first round by Gleison Tibau. In his last match, on Dec. 10 at Cage Wars in Belfast, Northern Ireland, Clementi submitted Felipe Enomoto in the third round. Prior to that, Clementi lost a split decision to Carey Vanier at Bellator 28 in what was a qualifier fight for the promotion’s lightweight tournament.

Titan FC 16 will be televised on HDNet and is headlined by the match between former UFC heavyweight champion Tim Sylvia and Ultimate Fighter season 10 contestant Abe Wagner.

Combat Sports Report: Abu Dhabi World Trials, Wrestling Upsets, Isuzu Thai Fight 2011

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.

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

The first of many big competitions has taken place in 2011, and the tournament was the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials installment in Lisbon, Portugal, where the champions were awarded with their pass to the main event in Abu Dhabi, this coming April.

The list of talent that will be in Abu Dhabi has grown deeper after this past weekend and is shaping the April event to be one to remember. In the under 65 kg (143.3 lb) division, the ultra-popular, battle-tested veteran Wellington “Megaton” Dias secured his place amongst the list of top competitors taking their talents to the Middle East with an impressive performance and another piece of hardware to show off to his fellow teammates and students.

Augusto Mendes (right) and Mackenzie Dern (photo courtesy of GracieMag)

If there was a debate to who was the big standout in this competition, it would most likely end with everyone agreeing that the standout was Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes. Recently coming off his double gold performance at the South American Open with two wins over former world champion Mario Reis, Mendes did not slow down. Tanquinho owned his under 74 kg (163.1 lb) division by getting the submission in his first two contests and winning the finals by an 18 to 0 score. So, it is safe to say that in Abu Dhabi he will be a formidable foe for anyone that steps opposite him on the mats.

In the under 83 kg (183 lb) division, Alan “Finfou” Nascimento was the main man and took gold, cleaning out his division while also being vice-champion on the absolute podium. With the big boys, Yan Cabral was the tournament’s under 92 kg (202.8 lb) champion, beating the eventual absolute champion Lucio “Lagarto” in the final. Lastly, in the over 92 kg weight class, Jose Junior took home the gold, cleaning out his bracket.

On the ladies side, Michelle Nicolini was triumphant in the under 63 kg (139 lb) division, beating a tough up-and-comer in Mackenzie Dern. Also, in the over 63 kg division Monica Silva was crowned champion and awarded the trip to Abu Dhabi.

Back to the United States, another popular and increasingly growing competition, the 6th Arizona Open, will be held on Feb. 26 and 27, which will include the super-match between two perennial black belt world champions in Jonathan “JT” Torres and Kron Gracie. So mark your calendar for those days and be ready for an awesome black belt matchup!

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

Indiana redshirt freshman Ryan Leblanc may have a record of 7-6, but if you look a little deeper you will see four of those loses came to top twenty wrestlers Zack Toal (2-1), Kyle Blevins (3-1), Luvsandori Turtogtokh (6-3) and most recently Cody Yohn (2-0). This makes LeBlanc one of those diamond in the rough types you don’t want to face coming down the stretch run or come tournament time. He is also just one piece to the Hoosier line up that has gone 10-3 and seems to be a program with the cup half full. With wrestlers such as Kirk Kinser, Paul Young, Matt Powless and Rick Alcala all ranked nationally and guys like Matt Ortega and Leblanc wrestling well, the future look’s bright in Indiana. (in-depth coverage)

Earlier in the month we saw our share of upsets at the Virginia Duals and National Duals, the upsets have kept coming! Most recently, Navy knocked off perennial powerhouse Lehigh 19-15. Navy rattled off four wins in a row from 157 to 184. I don’t think Lehigh expected to drop matches at three of those weights with nationally-ranked Austin Meys and Rob Hamlin
dropping matches to Matt Demiceil and Luke Rebertus respectfully. The upset bug also hit California this week when Wyoming dropped a dual to Cal Poly 18-16. The Mustangs won in spite of Filip Novachkov dropping a 6-5 decision to Tyler Cox and having a fourth stringer in the line up because of injuries. We are now into the meat of the season and I expect plenty of fireworks between now and March. (in-depth coverage)

Mario Mason (photo courtesy of Rutgers)

After a sluggish start to the season, Rutgers Mario Mason solidified his name to be amongst the title contenders with a 3-1 OT win over Bucknell’s previously unbeaten Kevin LeValley. The match was controlled by Mason the entire time as he came close on several takedown attempts and flustered LeValley, who never really got his offense going. Mason, a former No. 1 recruit out of Blair Academy, N.J., has produced 13 wins in a row since losing to Columbia’s Steve Santos. Among his wins in that stretch are two top five ranked wrestlers in Frank Molinaro and LeValley. This Friday should be real interesting as No. 8 Brian Stevens heads into Jersey with Virginia Tech in what will not only be another big test for Mason, but might just be the biggest college match to date in N.J. As great as Iowa vs. Oklahoma State was, this season continues to be special because of the performances of teams like Wyoming, Cal Poly, Virginia Tech and Rutgers. Also with the emergence of Cornell and Penn State as National front runners, I am definitely enjoying this new era of parity. (in-depth coverage)

Top 10 Teams in DI Wrestling

1. Cornell
2. Penn State
3. Wisconsin
4. Minnesota
5. Missouri
6. Iowa
7. Oklahoma State
8. Illinois
9. Virginia Tech
10. Rutgers

A complete listing of individual and team rankings can be found on The Open Mat website.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Despite a quiet week of action, the kickboxing world has a number of significant bouts in the coming month.

Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee (hand rasied) (photo courtesy of It's Showtime)

The most notable fight of the last week took place in Bangkok, Thailand, at Isuzu Thai Fight 2011: Thailand Qualifier on Saturday, Jan. 15, as Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee defeated Kem Sitsongpeenong by decision.

Fighting Jan. 22 is “The Contender Asia” participant Dzhabar Askerov. He will face Italian Riccardo Lecca in Rome at KnocKOut. Also on the card is Bruno Franchi taking on Marco Pique.

Back to back K-1 Max 70kg (154 lb) champion Giorgio Petrosyan will now face the aforementioned Thai standout Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee at Thai Boxe Mania 2011 on Jan. 29. It was recently announced that Petrosyan’s original opponent, WBC MT middleweight champion Yohan Lidon, will not be returning to 70kg.

A 72kg (158.4 lb) tournament featuring Jeremy Marin, Sebastien Billard, Aydin Tuncay, and Karim Ghaiji has been added to the previously announced La Nuit des Titans VI event on Feb. 12.

Mix Fight Promotions head Sefer Goktepe recently stated that he is in talks with Dutch promotion It’s Showtime to bring an event to Germany in the middle of June. Rumored participants include Gago Drago, Tyrong Spong, and Mosab Amrani.

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