Posts Tagged ‘kickboxing’

SFS 7: Alex Ricci returns to the drawing board

Canadian lightweight MMA fighter Alex Ricci takes his rightful place atop the cage. (Photo courtesy of

Alex Ricci won’t let defeat derail his dream.

Since entering pro MMA in 2010, the Canadian lightweight’s sole focus has been earning a UFC spot. Two years later, Ricci (Twitter: @alexriccimma) tasted his first defeat at SFS 5 last August against an aggressive Jesse “The Body Snatcher” Ronson. Now 5-1, Ricci remains confident he can force his way into the world’s premier fight league.

“I’m taking it one day at a time,” Ricci told MMADiehards during a Nov. 16 phone interview. “My goal, my dream is to go up against the best fighters in the UFC. That’s where I want to be in a short while.”

For now, that path forward requires grinding it out in Canada’s MMA scene. Currently competing for the Score Fighting Series, Ricci believes he’s getting the requisite experience for a UFC future.

“I’m very happy with the Score right now,” Ricci said. “It’s a good league to get you to that next level. I’m very content, and they’re a great organization for building up Canadian talent in North America.”

Ricci said that showcasing his abilities in the Score is already paying off. Since entering the league in 2011, the Woodbridge, Ontario Canuck has received training opportunities in not just Canada but America too.

“In America the MMA scene is very advanced,” Ricci said after a recent visit to American Top Team (ATT) in Coconut Creek, Fla. “They are producing some of the best fighters in the world. I was at ATT for a week and it was unbelievable. The facility there was world-class.”

Such travels are part of Ricci’s training regimen for his next challenge. Come Friday, he’ll face 6-4 Kevin Morin at SFS 7 in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. It’s a fight Ricci isn’t taking lightly following his first defeat.

“I’ve been studying Morin for the past six weeks,” Ricci revealed. “I know all of his strengths and weaknesses. Morin’s athletic and he comes to fight. He’s very strong, very durable and very aggressive.”

Morin’s record is misleading, Ricci added, as his lack of stoppages doesn’t show his savagery. Once the bell rings, he said he expects a well-rounded foe full of deadly weapons.

“Even though Morin doesn’t have any finishes on his record, he’s a very dangerous opponent if you don’t prepare for him properly,” Ricci confessed. “He comes swinging for the fences and has unorthodox striking. He also has a good top game on the ground and always looks for that takedown.”

Ricci said he’ll overcome Morin by relying on his superior striking. A seasoned kickboxer, he’s trained in Thailand and fought in over 50 Muay Thai bouts. Such experience could give Ricci the edge during Friday’s fight.

“I’m an entertainer and I love entertaining the crowd,” he said. “I’m a precision striker and I like showcasing that. I’m always looking for that highlight reel finish.”

With five TKOs under his belt, Ricci has a strong chance of racking up another against Morin. Should that happen spectacularly, it’s only a matter of time before the UFC comes knocking.

Mark Hensch is an avid MMA fan who became interested in the sport through wrestling and karate. When not covering the hurt business, he serves as a digital editor for the Washington Times’ in Washington D.C.

Combat Sports Report: Fightshark’s KO, BJJ Worlds, Wrestling Recruits

The Fightshark, Mark Miller, was this weekend's standout

By Rob Tatum

K-1 is back!

For fans of kickboxing, that is great news.  However, the complications that are attached to the announcement may not be something to celebrate.  The Japanese promotion revealed that it will hold an eight-man 63 kg (138.6 lb) tournament on June 25 from Yoyogi Stadium 2nd in Tokyo.  The lineup for the tournament is heavy with fighters from the recent Krush tourney, including winner Ryuji Kajiwara.  He will face Masaaki Noiri.  Also on the slate is defending K-1 63 kg champ Tetsuya Yamato, who will face Hiroya.  Yuta Kubo takes on Kizaemon Saiga, and Koya Urabe battles Yuki.  The event will be headlined by a 70 kg (154 lb) superfight between 2010 tournament runner-up Yoshihiro Sato and former K-1 MAX champ Albert Kraus.

Now for the ugly part.

Almost immediately following the announcement, Dutch promotion It’s Showtime, a recent partner of K-1, fired back that K-1 parent company FEG owed its fighters nearly $400,000 (including Giorgio Petrosyan, Hesdy Gerges, Daniel Ghita, and Tyrone Spong).  It’s Showtime head Simon Rutz threatened legal action to recover the debt.  The debt comes as no surprise to anyone that has followed the sport in recent times.  There have been numerous fighters that have spoken out against their lack of pay, including K-1 World Grand Prix winner Alistair Overeem and legend Ray Sefo (who is allegedly owed $700,000).   While the dialouge was hardly positive, it appears that Rutz had a conversation with K-1 head Mr. Tanikawa and the two sides are attempting to resolve the situation.  Rutz did warn that if things are not resolved soon that It’s Showtime will move forward with the planned legal action.  Fans can only hope that the two sides come to an agreement.

On to the actual action in the ring, United Glory held its Glory World Series final in Moscow on May 28.  Although not the main event, the most significant result featured American Mark Miller returning from years away, recovering from heart surgery to destroy German heavyweight Nikolaj Falin in 14 seconds with a lethal right hook.  Also on the card, Gokhan Saki outclassed French Muay Thai specialist Brice Guidon to win the heavyweight tournament.  Saki dropped the Frenchman in the second round with a patented left hook and took home a clear cut decision victory.  In the co-main event, Golden Glory’s Nieky Holzken fell short against Ukrainian Artur Kyshenko in their 70 kg contest.

Elsewhere, on the other half of the globe, Greek slugger Mike Zambidis faced off with Australian legend John Wayne Parr from Melbourne, Australia at Payback Time: The Decider.  The pair had split a pair of bouts in the past, but Parr wasted no time in this fight.  The Australian dropped Zambidis three times in the opening frame to force the stoppage and claim bragging rights in the rubber match.

In Japan, the Krush 70 kg tournament opening round started with a surprise as Shintaro Matsukura upset favorite Yuya Yamamoto.  Also advancing was Hiroki Nakajima over Yoshi, Kenta over Masakazu Watanabe, and Yutaro Yamauchi over Yuji Nashiro.

Also of note, UFC veteran Akhiro Gono advanced to the Thai Fight 70 kg final by winning a four-man tournament at Nightmare of Battle.

Finally, for fans of American Muay Thai, a reality show dubbed “In Search of America’s Muay Thai Team” has been put together.  Tryouts for the show will occur July 2 at 7 a.m. PT at Double Dose Muay Thai in Fontana, Calif.

By Gianni Grippo

The Worlds have finally arrived! With less than 48 hours before the novice white belt competitors hit the mats, now is the perfect time to look ahead and take a gander at who’s going to be there and who the big winners might be in the black belt divisions by this Sunday.


Although the weight category is yielding the largest number of the competitors it has ever seen in Worlds history, (18 competitors) the category still revolves around two bitter rivals. Bruno Malfacine and Caio Terra are almost sure things to reach the finals against one-another. The dark horses in this division that could block the path of a third straight Caio and Bruno final could be Pan champion Rafael Freitas, Brandon Mullins and former World champion Felipe Costa. But going with my gut, I still see a repeat of the finals in 2009 and 2010.

Prediction: Bruno Malfacine (Alliance) vs. Caio Terra (Gracie Elite)


Last year, the big surprise of the division was Pablo Silva, who reigned supreme by closing out with his teammate and former world champion Samuel Braga. This year, Silva is now a favorite, but now to repeat as champion he’s going to have to get past foes such as Guilherme Mendes, who is dropping down from feather, and Brazilian National champion Ary Farias. In the end, don’t be surprised to see a closeout by two teammates like last year, but with a separate pair of teammates this time around.

Prediction: Guilherme Mendes (Atos) vs. Ary Farias (Atos)


In the beginning of the year, the category looked to be a lock that the Atos crew would close out the semifinals and finals together. But with Guilherme dropping to light-feather, and beasts like Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes and Rubens “Cobrinha” entering the fold, nothing is a sure thing at 154 pounds. Also with top jiu-jitsu players such as Ryan Hall, Theodoro Canal and Denilson Pimentia in the mix, Rafael Mendes is surely going to have his work cut out for him if he hopes to become two-time world champion. By the finale, I see Rafael reaching the final, but with a different opponent than last year.

Prediction: Rafael Mendes (Atos) vs. Augusto Mendes (Soul Fighters)


The 167.5 pound weight class is by far the deepest division the black belt divisions have to offer. With names like JT Torres, Gilbert Burns, Celso Vinicius, Leandro Nascimento, Michael Langhi, Lucas Lepri, Zak Maxwell and new lightweight Kron Gracie, anything can happen.  Due to the most recent results, Leandro Nascimento would have to be considered the early favorite to take the title after already beating the reigning champion Michael Langhi twice. Through the craziness of this category, my safe pick would be a rematch of Langhi and Leandro.

Prediction: Michael Langhi (Alliance) vs. Leandro Nascimento (Cierco Costha)


Due to the injury of Kayron Gracie, the drop to lightweight by Kron Gracie, and the move up in weight by Sergio Moraes, the middleweight division is looking easier to define than in years past. All of these absences though, are not making the category any easier to win, especially when you still have Marcelo Garcia in the mix. Even with guys like Murilo Santana, Lucas Leite, Gustavo Campos, Alan do Nascimento and company, we must give Garcia one of the spots in the final. The other spot is open to anyone, but the best bet would be on Atos’ Claudio Calasans who has had a killer year, and will be looking for payback from last year’s loss to Marcelo in the finals.

Prediction: Marcelo Garcia (Alliance) vs. Claudio Calasans (Atos)


With 2010’s champion- Tarsis Humphrey sidelined to injury, the role of favorite sits squarely on the shoulders of the two-time champion Romulo Barral. But current European Absolute champion- Sergio Moraes, Otavio Souza and Eduardo Santoro must not be overlooked as they can easily claim gold as well and steal Barral’s third title.

Prediction: Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra) vs. Sergio Moraes (Alliance)


After what has taken place so far in 2011, who would not mark Rodolfo Vieira as the favorite going into the World Championships? Rodolfo will be going in as the heavy favorite but is certain to face challenging foes on his road towards his first World title as a black belt. His biggest challenge may be Rafael Lovato Jr., who is the only one to have a winning performance against Rodolfo this year, beating him in the finals of the No-Gi Abu Dhabi World Pro event. We also must not forget last year’s champion Bernardo Faria, who will be looking for redemption against Rodolfo after losing to him twice at the Pans this past April. Then when you throw in Roberto Alencar and Alexandre Ceconi into the mix, you are bound for a show!

Prediction: Rodolfo Vieira (GF Team) vs. Rafael Lovato Jr. (Ribeiro Jiu-Jitsu)


The biggest loss the World Championships will be taking this year, is the absence of three-time absolute champion Roger Gracie, who will not be ready to defend his title, due to an injury. But this opens the doors for new black belt competitors to make their mark and stamp their name into the jiu-jitsu history books. The young Pan champion Marcus Almeida, looks to be the favorite going in, but veterans such as two-time finalist Roberto “Demente” Oliveira, Antonio Peinado and Leonardo Nogueria are standing in his way. Each are looking to claim their first World title at black belt so it surely will be a show to see who will be at the top by the end of the competition on Sunday.

Prediction: Marcus Almeida (Checkmat BJJ) vs. Roberto Oliveira (Nova Uniao)


In the division where the big boys come to slug it out, we could see many of the same matchups from a year ago. Current champion Rodrigo Cavaca has struggled through 2011 so far with injuries, but due to his credentials, we must give him the nod as favorite going in. Other favorites are Antonio Braga Neto, who is looking to redeem himself from two disappointing Worlds’ appearances in 2009 and 2010, and Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu who is seeking his first World title in the gi. The division will also have two-time absolute champion Marcio Cruz in the mix, who will surely give any competitor a run for their money.

Prediction: Antonio Braga Neto (Gracie Elite) vs. Roberto Abreu (The Avengers)


With Roger Gracie out of the mix, the absolute title is now wide open. Without knowing who is signing up, we can assume that Rodolfo Vieira goes in as the favorite to take the title, but Romulo Barral wants another chance at the title and there are bound to be many others to enter that could make a run at claiming gold. Without Roger, could this be the year for a lighter fighter to take the title? Only time will tell…

Prediction: Rodolfo Vieira (GF Team) vs. Romulo Barral (Gracie Barra)

So there you have it, love them or hate them, these will be my picks going forth for the black belts at the 2011 Worlds. Whether you agree or disagree, comment below and check in next week as I recap what took place in Long Beach, Calif. at the 2011 Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu World Championships!

By The Staff at

With the early signing period come and gone, we turn our attention to the top incoming classes of talent for next year.

There are a number of highly coveted prospects with their college plans still up in the air, and we’ll feature them in an upcoming “best available” segment.  But the vast majority of elite recruits are off the board and ready to matriculate to their schools of choice.

And we’re ready to handicap them!

It appears to be a thinner year than the last two previous classes, where even the Honorable Mention hauls had multiple ranked kids.  This year, one ranked kid and a few back end athletes can get you in the Top 25.


Maybe because last year’s class was so darn tough. In 2010 power states such as Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Ohio, and California graduate monster senior classes. And while California has another good crop and Illinois heavily supports the national class, the seniors in New York and Iowa were a bit down this year in terms of elite recruits.

Another corollary issue is how much money schools have available for this cycle. Most of the recruiting hauls are rather small due to what was mentioned above, and the fact that many schools used a good deal of money on last year’s class (see Iowa and Iowa State).

Additionally, there are three groups that may have weakened the overall quality of classes this year: 1) the nearly dozen kids who were, at some point, ranked that have signed with non-DI programs; 2) the half-dozen or so ranked wrestlers that signed on to play football; and 3) the nearly three dozen wrestlers that were ranked at some point who have not made any such college decisions despite signing period coming and going.

In reality — and this might be scary should it become a trend — many non-DI schools secured rather impressive classes. It could be the beginning of a trend where we see increased financial support from the DII’s and NAIA’s luring wrestlers to their campuses. For instance, the cohorts headed to JUCO at Clackamas, and DII at Notre Dame are very, very nice. Maybe it’s a grade thing? Or it could be just a one-year blip.

On the plus side for Division I, the dearth of scholarships, and perhaps the fear of pulling the trigger, has turned out nicely for what is largely considered the next-tier programs. Utah Valley, Ohio University and Buffalo all landed a windfall of talent.  Fortunately, Brown was granted a stay of execution; it has a very good group coming in.

All things considered, this is great for the sport. It (potentially) begets parity, which brings more teams success, which gives more fans in more places things to cheer about. Which increases the sport’s footprint.

See the Class Ranking here…

Combat Sports Report: Abu Dhabi No-Gi Tourney, W5 Grand Prix, Jordan Burroughs

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 open class podium (l to r): Rafael Mendes, Rodolfo Vieira, Vagner Rocha, Claudio Calasans Jr. (Photo courtesy of GracieMag)

Although the main event in Abu Dhabi doesn’t take place until this coming weekend, things were already heating up in the Middle East, when the Gi qualifiers were able to join in and compete in the No-Gi tournament that took place this past weekend. In it, there were many shakeups and interesting results, making the build-up for the Gi event even greater than previously advertised.

In the 65 kg (143.3 lb) weight division, it was another party for the Atos crew, who brought along the majority of their best black belts to compete in the tournament. In the end, it would come down to a final between the largely popular Mendes Brothers (Rafael and Guilherme) each of whom went through their respective brackets. This time though, the brothers did not go to a gentleman’s agreement and decide the winner; this time they fought it out! The champion in the end would be Rafael, who edged his older brother winning by a 4 to 2 score.

Atos was also a strong force in the 74 kg (162.8 lb) division as it was another meeting of teammates in the finals. In a division stacked with competitors such as Ryan Hall, Jonathan “JT” Torres and Gilbert “Durinho” Burns, it was not an easy road for the eventual finalists – Davi Ramos and Rodrigo Caporal. In the most anticipated match of the division between Torres and Burns, it would be JT who would exact revenge with a 5 to 0 win against Burns, who had most recently beaten him at the Worlds by a referee’s decision. But, due to an injury JT suffered during the fight, he was unable to continue to the semifinals and was forced to take bronze. In the friendly final between Ramos and Caporal, it would be Caporal taking home the gold and the $8,000 cash prize winning by a 5 to 2 score.

In a tournament where there is a heavy load of top black belts, the majority of the qualifying brown belts have a difficult time going far into the tournament, and mostly take the tourney as a learning experience. But, Lloyd Irvin brown belt James Harbison came in it to win it, and put on a show in the process. The rising star displayed solid No-Gi jiu-jitsu and it got him all the way to the finals against black belt Vinícius Corrales. In the final though, the run would end for Harbison as he would be on the short-end of a referee’s decision, giving Corrales the victory.

Rodolfo Vieira was the most talked about name coming into the tournament. Having just conquered the Pan division and absolute titles, he looked to be a sure bet to repeat that performance at this Abu Dhabi No-Gi event in the 92 kg (202.5 lb) division. What the fans mistakenly overlooked, was a hungry Rafael Lovato Jr., who skipped the Pan so he could be well rested for this event. In their final, to plenty of people’s surprise, Lovato would beat the favorite by a 4 to 2 score in a fight where it was an exchange of sweeps. Lovato would claim gold in the division, but Vieira’s day was not done quite yet.

In the over-92 kg weight class, it would be Saulo Ribeiro’s brother, Xande, who would be the biggest star. Disappointed in his performance in the absolute division, Riberio would come back strong defeating everyone in his path to gold, including fellow finalist José Junior by a 5 to 2 score, winning with a sweep and a guard pass. Also look for Xande to make a big impact next weekend as the two-time World absolute champion will don his Gi once more.

In the absolute came the surprise of the already crazy weekend. The 145-pound champion Rafael Mendes made an improbable run to the absolute final for a matchup against Rodolfo Vieira. Both Mendes and Vieira would lay waste to each of their opponents in the build up to their much anticipated final that many may not have expected before the event started. In the finals, it would be strength against strength as Mendes displayed his impassable guard while Vieira displayed his incredible base and pressure. In a match that lacked much action, the champion would have to be decided by the judges as the score would conclude at 0 to 0 with no advantages on either side. The judges discussed for a minute or so, then the head judge went back to the fighters and raised Vieira’s hand, signaling him as the absolute champion. Vieira had rebounded from his tough divisional loss, taking home gold and a cash prize of $30,000 for winning the absolute division.

Next weekend, things will get even crazier in Abu Dhabi as all the competitors will throw on the Gi, for the Gi portion of this two-weekend competition. Look for the same names from this weekend, plus some others, to put on great displays of Jiu-Jitsu, livening things up out in the Middle East.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Zambidis vs. Askerov

This week, we will start with results from Moscow, where the W5 Grand Prix KO Tournament took place on April 9. As discussed last week, the four man, 71 kg (156.2 lb) tournament was headlined by K-1 MAX semifinalist Mike Zambidis. In the opening round of the tournament, Zambidis needed an extension round to dispose of Enriko Gogokhia, as the Ukrainian scored a knockdown in the opening round. Meanwhile, Dzhabar Askerov outpointed William Diender, who has had a miserable last two years. The final saw Zambidis claim the expected victory by decision over Askerov.

Also on April 9, Muay Thai legend Saenchai battled UK standout Liam Harrison at Battle of the Dome from England. The pair had met previously, with Saenchai winning, and the results were the same this time around as the Thai fighter went home with a decision victory.

This week was also to feature the second semifinal fight of the Isuzu Cup from Omnoi Stadium, but the event was postponed due to illness. The bout between Kem and Prakaisaeng will determine who battles Nopparat in the 67 kg (147.4 lb) tournament final.

Moving on to past K-1 combatants, this weekend’s Strikeforce: Diaz vs. Daley card featured both Japanese stalwart Tatsuya Kawajiri and Dutch-Armenian Gegard Mousasi. Unfortunately neither fighter picked up a win in their MMA bouts. Kawajiri was battered by lightweight champion Gilbert Melendez and Mousasi was forced to settle for a draw after an illegal upkick cost him a point against UFC veteran Keith Jardine.

Last week, we noted that Australian Paul Slowinski was forced out of a bout at Kings of Kombat 3 against Peter Graham. It looks as though the injury is serious enough that he has now been forced out of a scheduled fight against K-1 veteran Daniel Ghita at It’s Showtime in Lyon, France on May 14. Replacing Slowinski will be Anderson “Braddock” Silva. The shifting of Silva to the May 14 event will leave Jamal Ben Saddik without an opponent, as he was slated to face Silva in Amsterdam on May 21.

More It’s Showtime news as the promotion has announced that it will head to Madrid, Spain on June 18. Notables on the card include Tyrone Spong, who faces Loren Javier Jorge, Gago Drago, who looks to end a three-fight skid against Abraham Roqueni (still riding a surprise victory over Andy Souwer in February), and Wendell Roche, who will battle Moises Ruibal.

Our last bit of news this week surrounds Dutch heavyweight Rico Verhoeven. The 22-year old is rumored to be considering a move to MMA. No fights have been scheduled at this point, but the young kickboxer has been seen grappling and could make a splash very soon.

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

The International Styles in the U.S. just completed their marquee event this past weekend in Cleveland, Ohio. The U.S. Senior Open Championships is used as the first step towards making the U.S. Team for this year’s World Championships.

Jordan Burroughs (in red tights)

Although the style and venue changed, one thing remained constant. Jordan Burroughs is one bad dude this season. The NCAA champion and Hodge Trophy winner from Nebraska continued his winning ways by capturing his first U.S. Open title on Saturday
night before 1,300 fans at the Cleveland Public Auditorium. As we have stated in previous articles, Burroughs has told The Open Mat in the past that he will look to enter the world of MMA when he is done competing. (The Open Mat’s interview with Burroughs)

Past two-time NCAA champion and No. 8 seed Teyon Ware dropped the first period before coming back to down two-time World medalist Cary Kolat in the freestyle finals at 66 kg (145.5 lb). The unseeded Kolat, 37, returned to the mat for the first time since

Ware was named Outstanding Wrestler in freestyle.

2009 World bronze medalist Tervel Dlagnev captured his first U.S. Open title after sweeping 2008 Olympian Steve Mocco in the freestyle finals at 120 kg (264.5 lb).

There were a lot of exciting bouts this year, setting the stage for the 2011 World Team Trials that will be held June 9-11, 2011 in Oklahoma City. If you want to see some of MMA’s future stars and are in the area make sure you stop in and see all the action.

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!

Combat Sports Report: Pan Results, New “It’s Showtime” Champ, NCAA Champs to MMA

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

Vieira (in white) celebrates his absolute division championship win (photo courtesy of GracieMag)

The 2011 Pan is now all in the past. With each match having been completed and the Bren Events Center in Irvine, Calif., cleaned out, we can look back at what transpired in one of the most prestigious Jiu-Jitsu competitions.

In the roosterweight (126.5 lb) division, it was a battle of four contestants, the champion only needing one win to reach the finals. The two finalists would end up being former world champion Felipe Costa and Gracie Barra star Rafael Freitas, who would end up putting on a technical show for the fans. Fast paced from start to finish, Costa and Freitas exchange sweeps and takedowns and by the end of the ten minutes the score was even at 4 to 4, with no advantages. Then in the judge’s decision, they gave Freitas the gold, based on his aggression and control of the fight.

In the light-featherweight (141 lb) division, there were plenty of intriguing matches taking place. In the end, it came down to Caio Terra and Bruno Malfacine, but they both had to battle their way to the finals. Malfacine went through last year’s brown belt world champion Milton Bastos, and pulled off a gorgeous flying armbar on veteran Wellington “Megaton” Dias. On the other side of the bracket, Terra made it to the finals by narrowly getting by all his opponents, including Daniel Beleza, who had just beaten last year’s champion, Carlos “Holanda” Vieria. In the finals, the battle between Terra and Malfacine was an intense, low-scoring affair. The only points occurred when Terra went for a sweep and Malfacine tried to defend by attacking the foot, and rolling out of bounds. Terra would be awarded the two points at the end of the scramble, and would survive Bruno’s last minute blitzkrieg to take the gold.

As it was in Portugal, where Atos’ fantastic four dominated the featherweight (154 lb) division by closing out together, the Pans in Irvine were no different. All four Atos competitors (Ed Ramos, Bruno Frazzatto and the Mendes Brothers) made the semifinals, beating all their opponents to again shut out the division together. They elected to give Frazzatto the gold, with Rafael taking the silver, and Gui and Ramos taking bronze.

In a similar scenario as the featherweight category, the lightweight (167.5 lb) category once again would be shut out by the Alliance dynamic duo of world champions, Lucas Lepri and Michael Langhi. Each had their share of battles before reaching the finals together. Langhi was tested by Rodrigo Caporal, who looked like he might seal the victory until Langhi found a submission that still remains a mystery to everyone, and in the semifinals, he dismantled Jonathan “JT” Torres, taking his back and choking him with the gi. On Lepri’s side of the bracket, he was able to get by newly-minted black belt Zak Maxwell with a guard pass, and in the semi’s he bested Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes by two points. In the finals, closing out for the third year in a row, it was Lepri’s turn to take the gold, with Langhi happily accepting the silver.

At the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials in San Diego, a rivalry was started when Claudio Calasans and Lucas Leite fought an epic match that left the Atos and Checkmat’s camps practically at each other’s throats. Well, the two teams would have that chance again at middleweight (181 lb) at the Pan. In the semifinals, it was Leite who would get one for Checkmat as he would beat Atos’ Gilbert Burns to advance himself to the finals for a rematch with Calasans. But Calasans was coming in on fire, recently crowned European champion and having just beaten Clark Gracie in a tough semifinal. Calasans would not be denied. At only 53 seconds into the contest, he was able to finish the Checkmat star with a wrist lock, bringing the Atos gang into a frenzy and avenging his teammate’s loss.

At medium-heavyweight (194.5 lb), it was the return of Andre Galvao that shaped the division. Lacking names such as Romulo Barral or current world champion Tarsis Humphreys, Galvao was the clear favorite and proved why. In the final, he would beat the revelation of the tournament, Eduardo Santoro (who had just beaten last year’s champion, Otavio Souza) by a 2 to 0 score, displaying great sweeps and a strong base. Still shaking off the rust from his competition lay off, you can expect even more from the champion in the upcoming World Championships.

Last year, it was Bernardo Faria who stole the show and captured the heavyweight (207 lb) title, dominating his division. In 2011 though, it was Rodolfo Vieira’s turn to shine as he defeated last year’s grand champion. Vieira showed no respect towards Faria in the finals, as he pummeled him from start to finish to win by points, 8 to 0. It was an impressive display of dominance by Vieira, who dismantled the current world champion with a takedown and two guard passes.

At super-heavyweight (221 lb), Marcus “Buchecha” Vinicius had his coming out party at his first IBJJF championship as a black belt. The young Checkmat student dominated everyone in his weight class, capping it off by finishing Bruno Bastos in the finals in a beautifully sunk-in choke from the mounted position. The Rodrigo Cavaca student was pleased with his performance and in the interview afterwards declared his intention to compete at the Worlds, where three-time absolute champion Roger Gracie will be waiting.

At ultra-heavyweight (221 lb & above), although only five names were listed, it was still a deep division with great talent. In the end though, it would come down to Antonio Braga Neto and Antonio Peinado, who would both take out last year’s finalists, Gabrielle Vella and Luiz “Big Mac” Theodoro. In the finale, it was Braga Neto who came out the victor, winning his third Pan title in consecutive years by sweeping Peinado and closing the ten minute match up 2 to 0.

In the biggest division of the tournament, the absolute never lacked fireworks, with great matchups taking place all over the mat areas. In the semifinals, Faria was able to beat the eventual super-heavyweight champion Marcus “Buchecha” with a thrilling 6 to 4 victory. On the other side, it was Vieira who made it to the finals by choking out the ultra-heavyweight champion, Antonio Braga Neto. So, it was a heavyweight finals rematch between Faria and Vieira. Unlike the weight class final, Faria made it much more competitive and nail-biting for Vieira, who was unable to dominate and score at will as he had before. But in the end, with the score still at 0 to 0, Vieira would come away with another win and another gold due to being up on advantage points. The 2011 Pan belonged to the GF Team black belt, who joined an elite group as Pan black belt absolute champion.

So there you have it! Although the Pan’s are over, the competition season is just beginning!

Next month, competitions all over the World will be going down, such as IBJJF’s New York Open and Phoenix Open, as well as the Abu Dhabi World Pro in Abu Dhabi. Then in May, the CBJJF’s Brazilian Nationals will be hitting the Tijuca Tenis Clube in Rio de Janeiro, Brazil. So listen up, because there is still so much more to come!

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

This week in kickboxing, It’s Showtime continued its push as a dominant promotion, crowning a new 61 kg (134.2 lb) champion from Brussels on March 26.

Bennoui poses with the belt following his title victory (photo courtesy of It's Showtime)

Karim Bennoui defeated former champ Sergio Wielzen by decision to claim the It’s Showtime 61 kg MAX title. Also on the card, Marat Grigorian stopped Severiano Rijssel by second-round TKO. Grigorian will now face Yohan Lidon in May for the promotion’s 73kg (160.6 lb) title.

Coming up on April 9, Moscow will host the W5 Grand Prix K.O. The event is highlighted by a 71 kg (156.2 lb) four-man tournament featuring Dzhabar Askerov, William Diender, Enriko Gogokhia and Mike Zambidis. The opening round will feature Askerov battling Diender and Zambidis taking on Gogokhia. Look for K-1 veteran Zambidis to face Askerov in the finals, with the Greek brawler coming out as the victor.

April 23’s Shootboxing 2011 Act 2 will be hosted at Korakuen Hall. Matchups are yet to be finalized, but the event will include kickboxing legend Andy Souwer as well as RENA and Ryuya Kusakabe.

Thai Fight will hold one of its non-tournament events on May 14 from Cannes, France. Both Buakaw Por. Pramuk and Yodsanklai Fairtex will participate in the event, but as I predicted previously, they will not be facing one another. Also in action will be Sudsakorn, Saiyok Pumpanmuang, and Thai Fight 2010 67 kg (147.4 lb) winner Fabio Pinca.

United Glory has announced that heavyweights Errol Zimmerman and Mourad Bouzidi will meet for the second time in Moscow on May 28. The event is headlined by K-1 World Grand Prix semifinalist Gokhan Saki taking on Brice Guidon.

Speaking of Saki, the fighter recently announced that he will be fighting Ukrainian Sergei Lascenko on June 18 from the Netherlands. The event will take place in Rotterdam and will include a heavyweight tournament. Expected participants are Anderson “Braddock” Silva and Wendell Roche.

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

The season has finally run its course and we find our self with a small break. So, what is next in the world of amateur wrestling? Most wrestlers are either shifting their focus to the international styles or taking a break to rest and heal.

NCAA Division I 157 lb. champion Bubba Jenkins

One interesting thing we learned this week is that this year’s 157-pound NCAA National Champion Bubba Jenkins will pursue a career in MMA. We will say that following Bubba will be interesting to say the least.

Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska was named the winner of the Hodge Trophy. The Hodge Trophy is awarded to the best college wrestler of the season. Burroughs was the undefeated 165-pound NCAA National Champion this year. Burroughs will be looking to earn his spot on the 2012 Olympic Team and then he has hinted that he will also pursue a career in MMA.

This week’s article is somewhat short, but we have a lot coming your way as we head towards the US Nationals. Also, we plan on educating more MMA fans about “America’s Martial Art”, wrestling.

I want to end on more of a somber note. This year the Nebraska-Omaha wrestling team captured the NCAA Division II National Title. A few hours after they won, the wrestlers were called into a room and told that the Athletic Director Trev Alberts – yes, the same one fired from CBS – had decided to drop their program. Adding insult to what should have been a night of celebration; the guy even had the wrestlers locked out of the locker room upon their return. Why am I telling you all of this?

Simple: we need the support of MMA fans. We all know that MMA’s next big stars have a pretty good chance of coming from the wrestling ranks. Help support these future stars by attending some matches in your area next year. The wrestling community would greatly appreciate it. What Mr. Alberts did to these young men is simply disgusting. If you would like to show your support for this program, please check them out on Facebook, just search for “UNO Wrestling.” (in-depth coverage)

Combat Sports Report: NCAA Championships, Pan Preview, United Glory

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

We are not even sure where to start. A fan could not have asked for a better tournament. Matter of fact, we will go out on a limb and say this is the best tournament in the last decade. John Irving himself could not have written a better story line. The National Team
Title landed east of the Mississippi for the first time in a long time and Cael Sanderson got the monkey off his coaching back, leading Penn State to the title.

Robles (yellow) vs. McDonough

Anthony Robles of Arizona State, the wrestler with one leg, won a NCAA Championship over the defending champion, Matt McDonough. Robles finished the season with mind-boggling statistics. For those who have competed at the Division I level, you may appreciate his accomplishment even more. It is a grind and the competition is fierce, making what he did all that more impressive.

Oklahoma State Cowboy Jordan Oliver probably won over some fans this weekend, most of which probably spent last year booing him. He dominated a great wrestler to capture his first title. You could see it from the opening whistle, he was not going to lose.

In the toughest weight in the country, Michigan’s Kellen Russell reigned supreme. Look at his results from the tournament and you will see what we mean. He did not have one easy match on his way to the top.

Kyle Dake of Cornell silenced his doubters with an impressive win and his second title in as many years. All season long people talked about how he would not win it again this season. We do suspect those same people this morning are telling their buddies that they
knew he would win all along. Could he be the next four-time champion? Not only that, could he do it at four different weight classes? Now that would be cool.

Another Arizona State Sun Devil, Bubba Jenkins, shocked the fans, his former coach and David Taylor with an unbelievable roll through cradle to win in amazing fashion. One could write a short story about the different aspects of this match and the stories behind it. All we can say is, wow.

Jordan Burroughs of Nebraska capped off an amazing comeback season with a dominating performance in the finals. We want to applaud Jordan for his title. We have interviewed this young man a few times and not only is he an amazing wrestler, he is an outstanding person. Wrestling has a good one with Burroughs and we hope he sticks around.

Iowa State Cyclone Jon Reader completed his perfect season by capturing the title. Not only was this great for Reader, but we are sure it brighten the spirits of his fellow Cyclones who struggled through a long season.

Penn State has a lot to be positive about and a big reason why is the title that Quentin Wright captured. Quentin silenced all of his critics this weekend. He struggled all season long, but performed at his best when it counted. It could not have happened to a nicer guy. Congratulations Mr. Wright.

Kent State is excited after Dustin Kilgore brought home a title. Kilgore was able to do what nobody else this season has, defeat Oklahoma State’s Clayton Foster. In a match where it looked like Foster was just too much, Kilgore reversed things and secured a fall.

At the end of the night, Lehigh’s Zach Rey reversed a loss he suffered just a few weeks ago to earn the title. Rey was able to ride his opponent out and maintain control to seal the deal.

In the end, the fans could not have got a better show.

For full coverage of all that happened at this season’s amazing tournament, visit Tournament Central on The Open Mat website.

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

With only one more day to go until the first day of competition at the 2011 Pans, now is the time to seek out the favorites in each black belt weight class, and what underdog may provide the biggest surprise of the tournament.

Roosterweight (Galo) 126.5 pounds

The lightest weight category at the black belt Pans is also going to be the smallest category in regards to the number of competitors, with only four. Due to the bump up in weight for the top-two galo fighters in the world, Bruno Malfacine and Caio Terra, the status of favorite now clearly belongs to former world champion Felipe Costa. But competitors like Brandon Mullins and Rafael Freitas cannot go unnoticed and could provide an upset.

Light-featherweight (Pluma) 141 pounds

Although the 141-pound weight class will be missing its European Open champion, Ary Farias, there is still a ton of talent to go around in an already stacked division. Two former roosterweights and rivals, Malfacine and Terra, are the favorites to make a clash in the finals again and renew a heated rivalry, but Carlos Vieria is the reigning champion of the category and doesn’t plan on relinquishing his title easily. Also, with names like Laercio Fernandes, Wellington Dias and Samir Chantre all in the mix, Malfacine and Terra have a lot of work to do before they can even think of meeting in the finals again.

The Atos Jiu-Jitsu black belts (photo courtesy of GracieMag)

Featherweight (Pena) 154 pounds

If there was ever a division being dominated by one team, it would be the featherweight division, and that team is Atos Jiu-Jitsu. At the Europeans, the “Fantastic Four” made their first appearance together, and they all came out with victories. The Atos stars – Bruno Frazzatto, Eduardo Ramos and Rafael and Guilherme Mendes – are looking to close it out together again, but the competition is looking to put an end to their run. Ryan Hall and Justin Rader will be tough to get around, and black belt newcomer Osvaldo Augusto adds another dimension of talent into this division. Look for another possible closeout between teammates, but expect the unexpected, it could be anyone’s day.

Lightweight (Leve) 167.5 pounds

The lightweight division is, without question, the most stacked division in the entire tournament. Replete with world champions and rising stars, such as Lucas Lepri, Michael Langhi, Jonathan “JT” Torres, Augusto Mendes, Leandro do Nascimento and Zak Maxwell, there is sure to be plenty of fireworks and intriguing matchups taking place. The common trend has been the closing out between Lepri and Langhi (who have closed out at the 2009 and 2010 Pans together) but they have plenty of challenges ahead before they can decide who will take the gold between them this year. With so many names, expect upsets, and twists and turns that you may not have expected. Do not just guarantee that it will be Alliance’s duo in the finals again, because there are plenty of others who are equally as hungry for that gold medal.

Middleweight (Medio) 181 pounds

Without last year’s champion, Kayron Gracie, who has elected to save himself for the Worlds in June, the division is open for the taking. If there is a favorite though, it would have to be Claudio Calasans, who’s coming off a stellar European performance where he won his weight class and was runner-up in the absolute division. Other names include Calasans’ teammate Gilbert Burns, 2009 champion Lucas Leite and last year’s runner-up, Abmar Barbosa. Another closeout between teammates could be possible, but in one of the biggest division’s at the highest level, that could be a hard task to accomplish.

Medium-Heavyweight (Medio-Pesado) 194.5 pounds

With Andre Galvao finally making his return to IBJJF competition, the 194.5-pound weight class has found a new, clear favorite. The 2008 division and absolute champion will be looking to start where he left off and take the division that was once his. The main competitor standing in his way is last year’s champion, Otavio Souza, who is unwilling to part with his title, which he has held for the last two years. The finals may very well come down to these two champions, but with Ian McPherson and Asian Open champion Marcos Souza also in the mix, there could be a big upset in the making.

Heavyweight (Pesado) 207 pounds

At heavyweight, Alliance will be sending in another duo looking to reach the finals together, as they did at the Europeans. Bernardo Faria and Leo Nogueira are the two who are the favorites to reach the finals together, but Rodolfo Vieria currently stands as their toughest challenge, as Rodolfo is coming off two wins against Nogueira at the recent Rio Open. Also, with burly Ricardo “Demente” Abreu in the field of competitors, another Alliance finals is anything but guaranteed.

Super-Heavyweight (Super-Pesado) 221 pounds

With undisputed champion Roger Gracie not in the mix this time around, the division is freer and more open for others to make a name for themselves with a Pan title. There are plenty of tough names, but the one with the most momentum these days is Marcus Almeida, who, although a new black belt, has already won almost every event he has entered. In Irvine, Almeida will have to take out the likes of Bruno Bastos (who he has already beaten three times) if he wants to be crowned champion at the Pans for the first time as a black belt.

Ultra-Heavyweight (Pesadissimo) 221 pounds & above

Although there are only five names in the heaviest weight class, they may be five of the toughest big names around. Stephen Hall, Gabrielle Vella, Luiz Theodoro, Antonio Peinado and Antonio Braga Neto will go at it to see who the best in the category is. Last year’s finalists, Theodoro and Vella, are preliminary favorites to go at it again in the finals, but 2009 absolute champion Braga Neto stands in their way, as he has permanently made the bump up in weight class from super-heavy to ultra-heavy. Also, Alliance black belt Antonio Peinado should not be ruled out as a possible finalist, as he is always a challenge for anyone that he meets on the mats.

So there you have all your black belt divisions set. Do you agree with who I believe are the favorites? Who do you think will make a big or unexpected impact at the 2011 Pan? Let us know and comment below, enjoy the fights!

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

In perhaps the least surprising news of the week, Krush was forced to postpone their March 19 event until April 30. Damage from the massive earthquake proved to be too much for the event’s venue, Korakuen Hall. The conclusion of the promotion’s 55kg (121 lb), 60kg (132 lb) and 63kg (138.6 lb) tournaments will now take place at the later date. The promotion is also expected to start its 70kg (154 lb) tournament, which may move the bout between UFC, Pride and Sengoku veteran Akihiro Gono and Yuya Yamamoto into a quarterfinal bout. No word on if the rescheduling will impact any other bouts.

Elsewhere in the world, Ramnicu Valcea, Romania hosted Local Kombat: Wako-Pro WGP 2011 Romania vs. Italy on March 18. The event was headlined by Freddy Kemayo taking on Sebastian Ciobanu. Kemayo took home a unanimous decision victory. Also on
the card were the Poturak brothers. Dzevad claimed a decision win over Ionut Iftimoaie, while Dzenan was destroyed by Benjamin Adegbuyi, losing by first-round knockout.

Zimmerman (red gloves) vs. Hamer-Lain

The biggest event of the week was held by United Glory in Charleroi, Belgium on March 19. A number of big names were in action, most notably K-1 World Grand Prix fighters Gokhan Saki and Errol Zimmerman. Saki defeated Wendell Roche by unanimous
decision and Zimmerman earned a first-round stoppage over Zinedine Hamer-Lain. Saki’s next opponent will likely be Brice Guidon, who disposed of Mourad Bouzidi by second-round TKO.

Combat Sports Report: Petrosyan-Alexandre, Pan & NCAA Championship previews

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.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Saturday, March 12, marked one of the busiest days of the year in the kickboxing and Muay Thai world. The Isuzu Thai Fight qualifier wrapped up in Bangkok and a number of K-1 MAX superstars were in action all over the globe.

Petrosyan (black trunks) vs. Alexandre

The biggest action of the weekend took place in Milan, Italy at Fight Code Oktagon 2011, as two-time defending K-1 MAX champion Giorgio Petryosyan battled former 77kg (169.4 lb) It’s Showtime champion Cosmo Alexandre. The larger Brazilian opened the fight the aggressor, showing off his powerful Muay Thai attack, but Petroysan never flinched. The southpaw delivered yet another masterful performance, remaining calm and precise throughout the fight and winning a unanimous decision.

Also fighting on the same card was Petrosyan’s younger brother Armen, who certainly had his stock rise by disposing of Yoshihiro Sato by decision. The most exciting finish of the night came from Dzhaber Askerov, who used a lead left hook to put the lights out on Chris van Venrooij in the opening round of their fight. Finally, Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee delivered another solid performance by outpointing Xu Yan.

Elsewhere, Greek powerhouse Mike Zambidis outclassed Turkish fighter Ali Gunyar at the Iron Challenge in Athens. Zambidis is next scheduled to battle John Wayne Parr for a third time on May 28 in Melbourne, Australia.

Things did not go as well for fellow K-1 MAX fighter Albert Kraus, who dropped a decision to Batu Khasikov at Battle of Moscow 3 in Russia. Kraus has hit a bit of rough patch over his last few bouts. He was thoroughly dominated by the aforementioned Giorgio Petrosyan in both the 2009 and 2010 K-1 MAX tournaments, but was expected to defeat the Russian in Moscow.

In Thailand, the final bout of the qualifying round of Isuzu Thai Fight 2011 ended with a third-round knockout from tournament favorite Kem Sitsongpeenong. He finished off Kongjak Sor. Tuanthong with a massive elbow and moves on to the semifinal round of the 67kg (147.4 lb) tournament.

Looking ahead, despite the tragedy that has struck Japan over the last week (and forced the cancellation or rescheduling of a number of events), it appears as though the Krush Triple Final will take place as planned on March 19. The event features former UFC, PRIDE, and recent Sengoku combatant Akihiro Gono, who makes his return to kickboxing. Gono will take on Yuya Yamamoto in a 70kg superfight. The event will be headlined by the conclusion of the promotion’s 55kg (121 lb), 60kg (132 lb), and 63kg (138.6 lb) tournaments.

Finally, in local action in Colorado, MMA DieHards’ own Conner Cordova made his amateur kickboxing debut at Clash of the Titans 9 on March 11. Cordova landed three impressive head kicks and finished with punches to defeat Dave Harper by TKO at 0:37 of the first round.

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

With the 17th Pan Jiu-Jitsu Championships only a week-and-a-half away, let’s get our blood pumping a bit, and take a look back at some of the great competitors and matches of past years that have made this Championship one of the most prestigious in the entire world today.

This is where the rivalry really started:

Today we look at Roger Gracie and Alexandre Ribeiro as two of the greatest jiu-jitsu players we have ever seen. But back in 2006, these two titans were still working their way up to greatness at the highest levels – Roger was coming off a second-consecutive Worlds absolute finals loss to Ronaldo “Jacare”, and Ribeiro was still just considered Saulo’s younger brother and was trying to get rid of the status as “third man” behind Roger and Jacare. On their path to an eventual five World absolute titles between them, they met twice at the 2006 Pans and a storied rivalry began.

They met in the super-heavyweight final, where Ribeiro played a strategy he set-up perfectly to beat Graciefor the first time. At that time, it was only Roger’s fourth loss as a black belt, and his first in a non-absolute finals match. On the podium, Roger, in clear disgust, was already quietly calculating how he’d beat “Xande” in the absolute category.

In the absolute, both would have their way with their opponents, Xande having to go longer to make it to the final, beating Demian Maia by advantages and Braulio Estima, 4 to 2. In the final, the two would meet again but this time Roger would have it his way. After only two minutes of action, Gracie pulled guard and quickly locked in a triangle on a careless Ribeiro. A few moments after applying the submission, Xande tapped and Roger got his revenge. They finished the day with a split, but the rivalry was just beginning.

Brown Belt Kron, Perfect in 2008:

Never before had a brown belt stole the show from the black belts the way Kron Gracie did at the 2008 Pans in Dominguez Hills, Calif. Already a World Champion at brown in 2007, Kron went into the Pan still as a brown belt and came out on fire! In an attack-first style of jiu-jitsu, Gracie would finish all eight of his opponents in the middleweight and absolute divisions to become brown belt grand champion of the Pans. “He doesn’t think about points, he goes straight for the attack. His jiu-jitsu is more aggressive than mine,” said Andre Galvao, who just happened to be that years black belt medium-heavy and absolute champion, in GracieMag.

2010 – A Year of Unexpected Surprises:

We know Bernardo Faria, Zak Maxwell and Kayron Gracie are three of the best names in the sport of jiu-jitsu today, but the way they performed at the 2010 Pan left the building stunned as they went from tough underdogs to favorites.

Maxwell only fought in featherweight in 2009 and was brown belt World Champion, but who would expect him to make a run in the absolute with the big boys? Well, he proved all those doubters wrong in Irvine, Calif., at the 2010 Pan. Coming into the year as a
lightweight (167.5 lb), Maxwell came out on fire, destroying all in his path to gold at the lightweight division. But the surprise really came when the next day, he did the same thing, destroying much larger opponents, including middleweight champion Lucas Rocha, to become the 2010 brown belt grand champion. In each match, his game was flawless, displaying a Roger-like style of pass, mount, choke. His performance was simply amazing and could go down as one of the best ever.

Kayron Gracie was a newly minted black belt under his father, Carlos Gracie Jr. He was participating in his first tournament as a black belt. Although everyone knew he was as talented as anyone, no one really expected the young Gracie to really make a serious run at gold. Wrong. Gracie proved the doubters wrong and fought with flawless technique, beating 2008 World Champion Sergio Moraes by an advantage in the semifinals and then beating a fellow surprise of the tournament, Abmar Barbosa, in the finals, 6 to 4. In only his first tournament at black belt, Gracie already became black belt Pan Champion of 2010.

Bernardo Faria (Carlos Ozório/GracieMag)

Faria was the big name to shocker at the 2010 Pan as he captured both the heavyweight and absolute titles. The relative unknown went through studs such as Rafael Lovato Jr., Rodrigo Cavaca and Gabrielle Vella to get to the final, where he met 2009 champion Antonio Braga Neto. In the absolute final, for the first nine minutes it looked like the favorite was going to have his way, as Neto was controlling the match with a dominant base and great pressure on Faria. But with a little over thirty seconds remaining, Faria was able to free himself, snatch onto an omoplata and then move to Neto’s back for two points. Soon after, the whistle sounded and Bernardo (as he usually does) cried out in victory. With that win, Faria cemented himself as favorite, and carried momentum into the World Championships where he would go on to beat two-time absolute champion “Xande” Ribeiro in the finals.

Who will rev up the new big rivalry in jiu-jitsu this year? Will we see the next Kron Gracie or Zak Maxwell appear? Who will take Faria’s crown, or will he hold onto it for another year? Get ready, because the 2011 Pan starts on March 24!

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

It’s time for NCAA National Championship Weekend.

I think this tournament is Penn State’s to lose. Sanderson’s guys didn’t real get any seeds of death and looked good at the Big 10′s. They have a legitimate chance to place everywhere they qualified and I think they will wrestle with reckless abandon. Cornell was the early season favorite, but have had injury issues and have not been dominant of late. With that said, with guys like Grey, Dake, Lewnes, Bosak and Simaz as legitimate title threats, a National title is not out of the question. I am also interested to see how teams like Lehigh, Rutgers and Virginia Tech show for themselves. A top-five finish for any of those teams can be great for their programs moving forward.

Being a underdog come March is not something Iowa is used to, but I can see Coach Brands feeding off this. We all saw what happened when Iowa strolled into western Pennsylvania to hand over their crown to Penn State. Don’t be surprised if they come into Philly in the same mood. The issue is it is much easier to creep up on someone in a dual meet than a tournament and I am not sure if they have enough ammo to keep up.

Another interesting team to me is the Wisconsin Badgers; they have a lot of talent, enough to make a legitimate run at a top-three finish. With the health concerns they may place to three or maybe not even in the top ten, we will have to wait and see.

Nobody can argue that the Midwest is the hub of college wrestling, but what the NCAA need to realize is that constantly hosting the championships in places like Omaha and St. Louis hold the sport back. I am not saying that smaller Midwest cities shouldn’t host the championships. I am saying that we need to expand our markets. This year’s tournament sold out in record time and I think other markets such as Georgia, North Carolina, Florida, Texas and California would do the same, maybe even better. Hardcore wrestling fans will travel anywhere that is hosting the championships, even Juneau, Alaska! But for the growth of our sport, we need to open it up to new markets, and also places that are made to welcome large events and offer affordable opportunities for the fans. Go online and check airline and hotel fares, and also look at the larger base of social activities for the weekend. Make the wrestling championships more like a major college bowl game or the Final Four. Imagine the possibilities. I strongly believe that wrestling can become much bigger than it is; we just need to find better ways to get it to fans rabid and casual alike.

On a final note, “Shame on you!!!” to the people pulling the plug on Nebraska-Omaha! If anyone knows of another example in any sport where a national champion program gets the axe the same season they win a title, man that is just crazy. That is why I continue to say as a community we need to find new ways to make sure this doesn’t happen, not just try and bail out a program when the axe falls.

There are no rankings for this week. The next set of rankings will come at the end of Nationals.

For in-depth coverage of National Championship Weekend, be sure to visit The Open Mat.

Combat Sports Report: Wrestling Champs, final US Abu Dhabi Trials, Kickboxing News

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

This past weekend in the Jiu-Jitsu competition scene takes us to the final Abu Dhabi World Pro Trial on U.S. soil (in San Diego). And although it was a rather smaller tournament in overall numbers than most of the other trials, it did not lack the big names and great matchups that kept the spectators excited.

The World Pro Trial can simply be summed up by two teams: Team Atos and Team Checkmat, who went head-to-head in almost all of the brown/black belt finals and things even heated up between the two teams after one of their fights. So, it’s safe to say that this San Diego trial may have revved up a new rivalry of two teams that were once fighting under the same banner…oh how times have changed.

In the under-143.3 pound division, it was all team Atos, as they had three of their four top featherweights in the same division together again. The three teammates – Eduardo Ramos, Bruno Frazzatto, and Gui Mendes – each made the semifinals, with Ramos and Frazzatto closing out their side while Mendes had to battle his way to the final, beating Baret Yoshida. In the final, Ramos and Mendes had a friendly match, with Mendes coming out the victor, and adding yet another gold to his already impressive collection.

At under-163 pounds, Atos dominated yet again, with three more teammates in the same division. This time, it was Gilbert Burns and Jontas Gurgel who closed out their side of the bracket with a friendly match, and letting Gilbert Burns into the final. On the other side, there were no friendly matches as Rodrigo Caporal fought his way to the win taking Rodrigo Freitas’ back to secure his spot along with his teammate in the finals. In the battle between teammates, Burns would come away with the victory, the gold, and the free pass to the big dance in Abu Dhabi next month.

In one of the most anticipated returns to Jiu-Jitsu to date, Andre Galvao did not disappoint his fans in the under-182.5 pound weight class. The Atos leader fought well, overcoming all of his opponents, including Clark Gracie in the semifinals where he eked past the Gracie by judges’ decision. On the other side of the bracket, there was a 2010 Worlds rematch between Atos ace Claudio Calasans and Checkmat’s 2007 World Champion Lucas Leite. Their match is what sent ripples between the two teams as Calasans came from behind to defeat Leite 4-2 with a beautiful takedown and sweep. Atos teammates Galvao and Calasans would meet in the final for a friendly fight, and Galvao would take the gold.

At the under-202.5 pound division, Marcus Machado was the man of the day, taking the gold. But to get there he had to get through Mateus Castaldini, who he topped 9 to 0. Then in the final, he would have to beat Vitor Toledo (who has just beaten Marcel Louzado), which he did by a mere two advantage points.

In the heaviest division (over-202.5 pounds) it was a rematch between up-and-coming Checkmat star Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida and Antonio Braga Neto. These two titans clashed at the Las Vegas Trials twice and both matches went to Buchecha, so Braga Neto was in it for redemption and revenge. Both made their way to the final, with Braga Neto defeating Joao Assis and Almeida defeating Fabiano “Pega Leve.” In the final, the match belonged to the 2008 World champion, Braga Neto, as he was able to edge Almeida 4 to 0 on the scorecards, sweeping him and taking him down on his way to the gold.

Braga Neto vs. Galvao

In the most anticipated event of the entire tournament, the absolute decider would come down to the middleweight champion, Galvao, and the heavyweight champion, Braga Neto. In a relatively surprising turn, Braga Neto dominated Galvao, taking the back and mounting at the end for a 7 to 0 victory, which secured him his second gold medal of the day.

There we have the winners of the final Abu Dhabi Trial on U.S. soil, and check in next week as I place my bets for who could be the big winners at the Pan Jiu-Jitsu championships in Irvine, Calif., in two weeks!

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

The Penn State Nittany Lion wrestling team was nearly perfect on day two of the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships, going 5-0 in the championship finals and winning the school’s first ever Big Ten wrestling championship. Five wins in the finals and key bonus points in consolations helped spark Penn State to a one-point victory over runner-up Iowa. (in-depth coverage)

Mack Lewnes (red) (photo courtesy of Cornell)

The Cornell Big Red wrestling team won its fifth-straight EIWA team title on Sunday afternoon after crowning four individual champions. Senior Mack Lewnes was awarded the Fletcher Trophy given to the wrestler who has earned the most team points in his
EIWA career, and he is now a four-time EIWA champion. Lewnes, along with Frank Perrelli, Mike Grey and Cam Simaz, all won titles in their respective weight classes. Cornell qualified eight wrestlers for the NCAA tournament with hopes of adding more with at large bids. (in-depth coverage)

Central Michigan has won its tenth consecutive Mid-American Conference Wrestling Championships title. The Chippewas scored 79 team points to finish ahead of Kent State (73.5) and Buffalo (69.5) in the closest team race since Miami edged CMU, 75-73.5, in 1992. The team title is CMU’s 15th overall, tied with Ohio for the most in MAC history. (in-depth coverage)

The Pitt wrestling team won its first career EWL tournament championship Saturday at Nelson Field House in Bloomsburg, Pa. The Panthers finished with 132.5 points, 16 more than second place West Virginia. Six Panthers claimed titles in their weight classes and three others placed fourth or better. (in-depth coverage)

Five University of Wyoming wrestlers won their respective weight class and six earned automatic bids to the NCAA Championships to guide the Cowboys to their second-straight NCAA West Regional title on Sunday in Clune Arena. UW’s five conference champions are its most since the Cowboys earned six in 1986 and earned head coach Mark Branch his second Western Wrestling Conference Coach of the Year award. (in-depth coverage)

There are no rankings for this week. The next set of rankings will come at the end of Nationals.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai

by Rob Tatum

The first week of March was a busy one for the world of kickboxing. Not only were a number of big names in action, but a number of former stars had mixed results while competing in MMA.

First up, French kickboxing and Muay Thai veteran Cyrille “The Snake” Diabate was in action at UFC on Versus 3 on March 3. Although he made the transition to MMA quite some time ago, the fighter showed off his lethal striking skills, thoroughly dominating Steve Cantwell en route to a unanimous decision victory.

Also in action was It’s Showtime 85kg (187 lb) champion, Melvin Manhoef. The fighter recently announced that he will spend 2011 focusing on his MMA career and, so far, the year is off to a rocky start. Despite showing improved takedown defense, the kickboxing stalwart never found a rhythm on the feet and was eventually submitted by former Army Ranger Tim Kennedy at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson.

Schilling (red gloves) vs. Green

Back to the standup-only world, rising American Muay Thai star Joe Schilling needed only one round to claim the national WBC Muay Thai super middleweight title by TKO over Chase Green on March 5 in Los Angeles.

The Isuzu Thai Fight qualifying tournament continued over the past week, without Sudsakorn and Thanongdet, who were both disqualified for fighting outside the tournament. Replacement fighter Diesellek was stopped in the third round by rising contender Denchonlek. The tournament’s other replacement, Antuan Siangboxing, suffered a similar fate, dropping a decision to Noparrat.

Saving the most important results for last, the biggest event of the past week took place on March 6 from Amsterdam as It’s Showtime hosted Sporthallen Zuid. Despite spending time incarcerated over the past few weeks, It’s Showtime heavyweight champion Hesdy Gerges managed to outpoint K-1 Grand Prix participant Daniel Ghita in the main event. Ghita was visibly upset at the decision after dominating the final round.

Also in action at the event was K-1 MAX and Shootboxing legend Andy Souwer. Although he gave up both height and reach to L’houcine Ouzgni, Souwer put on a clinic, scoring a second-round knockdown and claiming a clear-cut decision victory. Artur Kyshenko delivered a solid performance, disposing of K-1 MAX veteran Gago Drago. Chahid Oulad el Hadj was in yet another war (following his fight of the year against Mike Zambidis last fall), but fell short against Robin van Roosmalen. Last, but certainly
not least, Danyo Ilunga claimed the 95kg (209 lb) belt with a unanimous decision over Wendell Roche (49-46, 50-46, 50-47, 50-47, 50-46).

Speaking of Mike Zambidis, the Greek K-1 MAX competitor will be taking on Ali Gunyar in his native Greece. The event will take place from Peace and Friendship Stadium in Athens on March 12.

Also on March 12, another K-1 MAX veteran, Albert Kraus, will battle Batu Khasikov in Russia at Fight Nights: Battle of Moscow. The fighters will compete at 72.5kg (160 lb).

More big names will be in action on March 12 at The Fight Code: Oktagon 2011 event in Milan. Muay Thai superstar Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee graces the card. The event is headlined by a 70kg (154 lb) fight between two-time K-1 MAX champion Giorgio Petrosyan and Brazilian Cosmo Alexandre.

One last bit of information, K-1 veteran Scott Lighty takes on Japanese prospect Satoshi Ishii in an MMA bout at Strikeforce Challengers 15 on April 1.

Combat Sports Report: Boise State claims title, Arizona Open results, Gerges to fight

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

Kurt Swartz (blue and orange) helped lead Boise State to the conference team title (photo courtesy of Boise State)

The Boise State wrestling team captured the sixth Pac-10 Conference team title in program history on Sunday night, thanks to four individual champions and two runner-up finishes in the seven-team tournament held at Oregon State University in Corvallis, Ore.

The Broncos held off Oregon State at the top of the team standings as Boise State finished the tournament with 147.0 total points. The Beavers fought to a close second with 137.5 points.

It was a fairly slow week otherwise as most teams are preparing for the Conference Championships this upcoming weekend. You will want to keep an eye on the Big 10 Championships, as many of the countries best will face off in Evanston, Ill. Often this is a preview of what is to come at the National Championships.

The Big Ten Conference has announced the preliminary seeds for the 2011 Big Ten Wrestling Championships. The pre-seeds, which rank the top eight wrestlers in each of the ten weight classes, are decided based on a vote by the conference coaches.

Minnesota is the lone Big Ten team to have a seeded grappler in each of the ten weight classes, as Zach Sanders (125 lb), David Thorn (133), Mike Thorn (141), Danny Zilverberg (149), Matt Mincey (157), Cody Yohn (165), Scott Glasser (174), Kevin Steinhaus (184), Sonny Yohn (197) and Tony Nelson (285) look to earn Minnesota’s sixth conference championship since 2000. We are predicting that Iowa steals the show and takes home the conference title though.

Top 10 Teams in DI Wrestling

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

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

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Last week, the big news in the kickboxing world was It’s Showtime heavyweight champion Hesdy Gerges getting arrested for his involvement in a cocaine smuggling ring in Belgium. Despite the serious nature of the crime, it appears that Gerges will still be participating in the March 6 event, likely facing Daniel Ghita. His lawyer, Sander Janssen, was quoted in Dutch paper Het Parool saying, “The release is completely justified; the Belgium authorities have very little evidence that could be incriminating to my client. We haven’t looked in to the file but what they got so far is nothing. Hesdy Gerges will fight the 6th of March and is very motivated to win.”

Another It’s Showtime champion, 77kg (169.4 lb) title holder Artem Levin, was in action at Chelyabinsk Battle on Feb. 23 from Russia. Levin defeated Kaoklai Kaennorsing by unanimous decision to take home the WBC Muay Thai light heavyweight title.

Also taking place over the weekend was a rematch between Thor Hoopman and Paul Slowinski at Knees of Fury 32 from Mile End, Australia. Slowinski got his revenge, avenging a previous decision loss by forcing a stoppage in the first round.

Mark Hunt (r) takes a swing at Chris Tuchscherer at UFC 127 (photo courtesy of MMA Weekly)

Although he hasn’t made a splash in the world of kickboxing in some time, former K-1 Grand Prix champion Mark Hunt had an impressive showing at UFC 127 from Sydney, Australia. The massive Samoan showed he still has lightning in his hands, disposing of
wrestler Chris Tuchscherer with a second-round knockout that earned Knockout of the Night honors.

The rumor of the week surrounds two-time K-1 MAX and three-time S-Cup champion Andy Souwer. According to the figher’s Twitter account, the legend may in fact be making the jump to MMA at some in the near future. UFC featherweight champion Jose Aldo has been in the Netherlands training with Souwer, something that will likely benefit both combatants.

One rumor that is floating around that is unlikely to gain traction is that Yodsanklai has agreed to face Buakaw at 70kg (154 lb). Buakaw has shown reluctance to fight fellow Thai fighters in the past, and the trend is likely to continue.

Quick reminder that Sunday, March 6 will be It’s Showtime’s first event of 2011. In addition to the previously mentioned bout between Hedsey Gerges and Daniel Ghita, the 95kg (209 lb) belt will be up for grabs between Danyo Ilunga and Wendell Roche. Other
big names include Andy Souwer in action against Lhoucine Ouzgni and Gago Drago facing Artur Kyshenko.

The final announcement of the week is once again from It’s Showtime. The Dutch promotion has officially announced the May 14 event to be held in Lyon, France. The most significant fight on the card will be the return of Badr Hari against French heavyweight Tony Gregory. Additionally, K-1 Grand Prix competitor Tyrone Spong will take on Igor Mihaljevic and the aforementioned Paul Slowinski and Daniel Ghita have also been tabbed to battle at the event. While the slew of heavyweights may draw the attention of even casual fans, not to be overlooked is the inclusion of current reigning K-1 MAX champion Giorgio Petrosyan battling Chahid Oulad el Hadj and current 70kg (154 lb) champ Chris Ngimbi defending his belt against Willy Borrel.

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

This week in the world of Jiu-Jitsu, a lot went down on the competition mats all around the world. As we continue to build-up toward the 17th Pan Jiu-Jitsu championships in Irvine, Calif., we must also take a look at the smaller tournaments that are bringing new champions into the spotlight.

Daniel Madrid (l) and Benson Henderson at the Arizona Open (photo courtesy of GracieMag)

Arizona is used to being considered one of the hottest states (temperature wise) in the U.S., but things got even hotter over the weekend when Gustavo Dantas’ 6th Arizona Open (AZBJJF) took place. It was an event largely populated by the lower belts, where new purple belts up-and-comers Isaac Doederlein (Megaton) won the featherweight division, and Bryan Marugg (Impact Jiu-Jitsu) walked away with the absolute title. At brown belt, it was a clash of two MMA athletes, Daniel Madrid and former WEC lightweight champion Ben Henderson. In the absolute final, Madrid came out the victor, winning on the scorecards 6-4 and leaving Henderson, the medium-heavyweight champion of the day, with the silver. At black belt, the grand champion was Roberto “Tussa” Alencar, who beat Bruno Bastos in the absolute final on points. And at black belt middleweight, Arizona native Ryan Beauregard ended the day with a gold medal around his neck after his win against Michael Martin in the finals.

Now we go from one of the hottest places in the U.S., to one of the coldest places in the world! Montreal, Quebec, Canada held the most recent Abu Dhabi Trials, to see who will fight with all the rest of the qualifiers in the Middle East in April. In the brown/black belt 143.3-pound division, Ryan Hall had his way, winning all three of his matches by submission to earn his ticket to the main event. In the 163-pound category, Bruno Amaral stood out and took the gold while one of Team Lloyd Irvin’s brightest stars, brown belt Jimmy Harbison, took gold at 183 pounds. In the 203-pound weight class, Josh Griffiths came out a winner and is heading to Abu Dhabi along with Marcio Corleta, who won the 203+ pound weight category and Rodrigo Munduruca, who won the absolute division.

In the women’s purple/brown/black belt divisions, young purple belt Mackenzie Dern came out with another solid performance winning the 138 & under division and booking her trip, while black belt Luciana Dias came away with the gold in the 138 & over division.

Next weekend, one of the biggest growing local tournaments will be taking place at York College in New York. That is the 11th Long Island Pride, which has had competitors such as Hermes Franca, Lucas Lepri, Renan Borges and Roberto “Cyborg” Abreu. So watch out for that one, because the mats should be on fire March 5th.

Combat Sports Report: Iowa and Rutgers, Gono to kickboxing, Galvao to BJJ

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

In a season where the rise of east and west coast wrestling has been the story, the heartland has made it clear that stories of their demise have been grossly inflated. This was made perfectly clear Sunday by the University of Iowa as they extended their winning streak to 77 duals with a 19-12 win over Minnesota.

Iowa's Montell Marion (red) squares off with Minnesota's Mike Thorn (photo courtesy of Jeff Beshey/The Guillotine)

They sent a message Sunday afternoon. That message is that the Hawkeyes are the team to beat going into the post season and that there is definitely a lot of fight left in the black and gold. Montell Marion has established himself as one of the best at 141 by defeating

Mike Thorn 4-3. Big 10’s should be interesting with five of the top six wrestlers in the country all in the conference. Other key upsets were Luke Lofthouse knocking off Sonny Yohn 7-4 and Blake Rasing defeating Gophers heavyweight Anthony Nelson 4-2. Both victories came after Minnesota won three in a row, closing the distance and a 13-12 score, before Iowa closed the door up top. Iowa is definitely a threat to the rest of the NCAA field. The Hawks appear to be healthy and hungry. Iowa just seems to do what Iowa always does: win. (in-depth coverage)

This past weekend the National Collegiate Open was held at Clarion University. At an event like this you are able to see all kinds of wrestlers compete with all kinds of different goals in mind. Guys such as Lehigh senior Kadeem Samuels – he has been behind nationally-ranked wrestlers Austin Meys and Rob Hamlin all year and the tournament gave him a chance to shine one last time on the collegiate level. Virginia redshirt Nick Sulzer, who has gone 20-5 during his redshirt, gave us a glimpse of what the future may hold for this top recruit from St. Edwards, Ohio. Even guys like Rutgers Billy Ashnault, who was a NCAA qualifier a year ago, used the NCO as a tune-up for an All-American run next season. As much as I love the team aspects of wrestling, the bottom line is that at the end of the day it is an individual sport.

For most wrestlers not in the starting line-up, their competitive season generally ends around New Year’s. Then they have a very difficult job that goes unnoticed, these wrestlers need to continue to raise their intensity in the wrestling room to help their teammates prepare for the post-season with very little personal reward. I feel the wrestling community needs to get behind the National Collegiate Open as a major event in the season. Schools need to make a commitment to their wrestlers and use this as the golden prize at the end of the long, hard road. Go through the rosters of the teams you follow and look at the redshirts and other non-starters and imagine if they all came and competed in this event. It would be quite an exciting tournament, don’t you think? Imagine seeing Ryak Finch, Josh Dwieza, Marshall Peppelman and Dylan Ness. That would make an already great event even better and provide fans with one heck of a day of wrestling. We are missing a great opportunity for our sport and our athletes if we do not
continue to grow events like this. (in-depth coverage)

It must have been an emotional day for Oklahoma head coach Jack Spates when he took part in his final Bedlam dual Sunday, which is one of the most intense rivalries in college sports. The Bedlam is the duals that take place between in-state rivals Oklahoma and
Oklahoma State. He has won some and lost some, but I’m sure they were all memorable in their own unique way. His last match in this rivalry didn’t go the Sooners’ way, as they fell to the Cowboys 24-9. But, as I was alluding to earlier, as much as losing this match hurts he will always have his memories. In the long run, Coach Spates will remember all the duals, triumphs, upsets, pins and takedowns. This will remind him how much he loves being a part of the Sooners’ wrestling family. Thanks for all the years as an
ambassador of our sport, Coach Spates. Thank you for the memories. (in-depth coverage)

The Rutgers wrestling team has made huge strides this season and reached heights some never thought possible, but last Thursday they got a little taste of what it feels like being the favorite in a big time national showdown.

They were knocked off by Lehigh 21-9 in front of a record home crowd of over 5,000. Things were going Rutgers way with wins by Joe Langel at 125 and a monster upset when 125-pound wrestler Matt Fusco bumped up and knocked off nationally-ranked
freshman Frank Cagnina. That’s where things started to go wrong, as Lehigh regrouped and won the bout at 141 and then got an upset of their own when Joey Napoli, who has been hit-or-miss all year, took out top-ten ranked Mario Mason. Mason spent most of the last two periods on bottom as Napoli did his best Dave Taylor impersonation, racking up riding time.

Another blow to the Scarlet Knights was at 165 when Lehigh’s Brandon Hatchette was extremely impressive in his domination of Scott Winston, scoring multiple takedowns on the highly-ranked Winston. Hatchette came away with a decisive 7-2 victory. Somehow, going into the 197-pound bout, Rutgers was still within reach of pulling out a victory and to his credit Mike Wagner of Rutgers nearly pulled off an upset. In the highly anticipated heavyweight showdown with Zach Rey and DJ Russo, Rey controlled most of the match by not allowing Russo to get an offense going. Rey also dominated on the mat, but still the undefeated wrestler almost let it slip away by nearly giving up a takedown as time expired. Lehigh heads into the stretch run healthy and brimming with confidence over their second big win in the EIWA. On the other hand, the fairy tale run that Rutgers has had may have ended, but this is still a young team. They still have the postseason ahead of them and you know what they say about “what doesn’t kill you.” (in-depth coverage)

Top 10 Teams in DI Wrestling

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

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

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Despite another slow week of results, there certainly wasn’t any lack of news this week.

The biggest, and perhaps most disappointing, news comes from Amsterdam, as It’s Showtime heavyweight champion Hesdy Gerges has been arrested for dealing 128kg (282 lb.) of cocaine. According to Dutch paper Het Parool, Gerges was arrested on request of Belgium authorities, who will be asking for his extradition. In all likelihood, Gerges will not be available to face Daniel Ghita on March 6, and has been rumored to be replaced by Badr Hari or Tyrone Spong.

Saturday, Feb. 19, saw Shootboxing hold its first event of 2011 from Tokyo. Most notably, Hiroki Shishido got revenge on Bovy Sor. Udomson with a lopsided decision victory. Also on the card, Satoru Suzuki knocked out Kuniyoshi Hironaka in the first round and Ai Takahashi forced a second round stoppage of Zaza Sor. Aree.

Also on Feb. 19, British Muay Thai standout Liam Harrison dropped a decision to Petchasawin Sangmorakot in Glasgow, Scotland at Super Showdown 11.

Although slated to face Tim Kennedy at Strikeforce: Feijao vs. Henderson, Dutch middleweight Melvin Manhoef has ruled out of a return to kickboxing. Manhoef recently stated that he may return to defend his It’s Showtime 85kg (187 lb.) title at the May event
from Lyon, France. His return, however, is contingent on whether Strikeforce holds its rumored middleweight tournament.

After a successful February event, Shootboxing has announced a number of competitors for its April 23 card. The event will feature Andy Souwer, Ryuya Kusakabe, and Rena Kubota. No word on who the fighters will be facing just yet.

The Fight Code: Oktagon 2011 event scheduled for March 12 in Milan has added more star power by adding Muay Thai superstar Sudsakorn Sor. Klinmee to the card. The event is headlined by a 70kg (154 lb.) bout between Giorgio Petrosyan and Brazilian
Cosmo Alexandre.

Akihiro Gono (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

Former UFC, Pride and recent Sengoku combatant Akihiro Gono will make his return to kickboxing at the March 19 Krush Triple Final Round event. Gono will take on Yuya Yamamoto in a 70kg superfight. The event will be headlined by the conclusion of the

promotion’s 55kg (121 lb.), 60kg (132 lb.), and 63kg (138.6 lb.) tournaments.

Muay Thai legend Saenchai Sinbimuaythai has been forced out a Feb. 25 bout against Petchboonchu F.A. Group due to a knee injured suffered in his 135-pound Lumpinee title defense against Nong-O Sit Or. on Dec. 29. Despite the setback, it appears as if an April clash with the aforementioned Liam Harrison is still scheduled at this point in time.

Finally, rumors are swirling about the financial state of K-1 parent company FEG. Recently, K-1 World Grand Prix champion Alistair Overeem claimed that he has yet to be paid for his tournament victory. It’s Showtime head Simon Rutz has further clouded the picture with recent comments about an inevitable bankruptcy filing. More details will follow when they’re available.

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

This week, we take a look at some of the most recent results in the biggest tournaments, with the biggest names and take a look ahead to what other events will be coming up and who will be participating in them.

The nonstop team that is the International Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu Federation (IBJJF) landed in Houston last week for their second annual Houston Open event. For two days, the crowd at the event was exposed to some great matches with some great competitors involved. In the black belt categories, aces like Justin Rader, Ryan Hall, Diego Ferreira and Daniel Almeida all left the building with gold, winning their respective divisions. The biggest division of the tournament was the black belt absolute category that was won by Alexandre Ceconi, who had to fight his way to the gold by beating lightweight champion Ryan Hall in the semifinals and middleweight champion Diego Ferreira in the finals. In the end, when the total team points were tallied up, Gracie Barra came out as the overall team champion with Nova União as the runner-up, and Lovato BJJ taking third overall.

Next month, on March 5 and 6, the Abu Dhabi World Pro Trials will shift cross-country to San Diego, where the next set of qualifiers to go to Abu Dhabi will be crowned. At the Point Loma High School gymnasium, there has already been the confirmation of beasts like last year’s 65 kg (143.3 lbs.) runner-up Guilherme Mendes, Rodrigo Caporal, Clark Gracie and black-belt surfing legend Joel Tudor. But the biggest name to have confirmed his appearance is Atos black belt Claudio Calasans. Calasans is the current weight and absolute champion of last year’s World Pro main event and the trials in San Diego will be his first step to holding his title.

Andre Galvao (photo courtesy of Sherdog)

Lastly, this year’s Pan and World Championships have become a lot more intriguing with the confirmation from former Strikeforce fighter Andre Galvao that he is heading back to the jiu-jitsu competition mats. According to, Galvao is expected to enter both the Pans and the Worlds as long as his Atos teammates from Brazil come to his school in San Diego for the training camp. “I’m happy because it’s something I really like doing, besides being extra incentive for the guys on my team. I was missing it. I’m prepared, ready to go at it,” stated Galvao.

The Pans are getting closer and closer to taking place again in Irvine, Calif., and the more the names pour in, the more likely it will be that this could shape up to be one of the best and biggest Pan events ever!

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