Posts Tagged ‘Muay Thai’

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 themmanews.com)


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’ Times247.com in Washington D.C.

SFS 5: The cage is Alex Ricci’s canvas

Lightweight MMA fighter Alex Ricci competes in the cage. (Photo courtesy of tapology.com)

Alex Ricci loves the “art” in mixed martial arts.

The Canadian fighter first caught the combat sports bug performing Muay Thai kickboxing. Enthralled by the style’s fluid striking, he soon racked up 50 professional bouts and even trained in Thailand. Now a 5-0 lightweight cagefighter, Ricci (Twitter: @alexriccimma) said he’s found even greater respect for the nuances of elite MMA.

“I love it when fighters use everything in the game,” Ricci told MMADiehards during a phone interview Wednesday. “It’s about showing fans the true ‘art’ of mixed martial arts. I want to see people strike, grapple and wrestle. When you get two well-trained athletes going head-to-head, that’s it.”

For Ricci, competing in MMA is about attaining self-actualization. By combining all forms of combat, he said, it gives fighters the truest test of their skills. Every MMA match, he added, thus offers athletes a chance for improvement.

“Fighting is a human’s natural instinct,” Ricci said. “I strive to master that instinct every day. It’s self-development. MMA makes me stronger and it makes me better.”

As Ricci sees it, humanity’s competitive instincts drive most interactions in-and-out of the cage. While combat sports may be competition’s purest form, there are plenty of other challenges for everyone else too.

“We can all relate this sport to our everyday lives,” Ricci argued. “We’re each fighters in our own way. We fight to feed our families, pay our bills and be successful. That’s what attracts fans to the sport.”

Keeping them there, Ricci concluded, are MMA’s limitless possibilities. In any fight, both fighters must adapt to each other’s attacks in real time. The excitement is thus who wins and who loses in such a do-or-die scenario.

Ricci will face such a trial by fire against Jesse “The Body Snatcher” Ronson at SFS 5 on Saturday in Hamilton, Ontario, Canada. A talented 10-2 fighter, he’s also a dangerous threat to Ricci’s perfect record.

“Ronson is a great opponent,” Ricci said. “He’s a real goer and he’ll bring the fight. He’s not afraid to stand and bang.”

Ronson’s a challenge Ricci isn’t taking lightly. Come Saturday night, he said he plans on giving “The Body Snatcher” the fiercest battle possible.

“I’m going to try my best to truly test Ronson on Saturday night,” Ricci said. “I want to show the MMA community that I’m constantly improving as a fighter. I’ll take whatever is given to me and finish him whenever I can. I visualize knocking him out, choking him out or armbarring him.”

Should Ricci reign supreme over Ronson, it’ll mark the next step towards his deepest desire. The Canadian up-and-comer said he’d enjoy nothing better than competing in the UFC.

“MMA’s my life and my passion,” Ricci said. “After this fight, I have two more mid-term goals I’d like to accomplish in my life. One is to sign a UFC contract and the other is to become a UFC world champion. That’s what I’m getting ready for and I’m going to do it.”

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’ Times247.com in Washington D.C.

Muay Thai at the Mecca recap

 

“Take on the world one Knockout at a time”.  That is the mantra of the Take-On Productions Muay Thai promotion. On Friday they took over Manhattan, hosting a significant event for Muay Thai inside New York City at The Theatre at Madison Square Garden.

Over 3,200 fight fans filled the Theatre for an historic evening of fights.  This was the first ever muay thai fight card held in Madison Square Garden aka “The Mecca.”  Widely known as “The world’s most famous arena,” and often spoke of in reverent tones, MSG is also considered “The Mecca” of boxing, and basketball.

President Eddie Cuello, and his two partners Mike Gasparski and Aziz Nabih have accomplished a great deal of success in less than three years.  Those three gentlemen are also fighters, and have fought hard in making “Muay Thai at The Mecca” a milestone event.  The biggest event ever sanctioned by the World Kickboxing and Karate Association.

The fight card was split into a nine-fight amateur undercard, and a five-fight professional main card.

The first fight on this legendary night in New York was between two women.  Prairie Rugilo defeated Angie Babel by majority decision.  Her teammates from the Girl Fight MMA gym could be heard screaming “girl fight, girl fight”, as she was declared the winner.

Evaristo Hernandez from Camp Undefeated displayed some impressive and flashy kicks, along with a remarkable mohawk.  Rich Brattole from Weapons 9 was more fundamental and landed more strikes.  After taking some big shots in the second round and looking visibly exhausted, Hernandez did not answer the bell for the third round, giving Brattole the TKO victory.

The second TKO of the evening would belong to Joey Hernandez fighting out of Mushin MMA.  Hernandez ended Evolve Ohio fighter Brandon Poindexter’s evening in the second round with a vicious body shot.

Nick Vaughan from The Wat, brought the Theatre at MSG crowd to its feet, with a vicious left hook KO over Megaladon Georgia’s fighter Brian Hutchings at the 1:08 mark of the 3rd round.  Vaughan would earn himself the 165lb Super Middleweight Title with the win.

Easily the fight of the night, and best back-and-forth battle would belong to Steven Hernandez from Pinpoint Muay Thai and Ariel Abreu from Camp Undefeated.  These two 190-pound combatants were simply letting it fly.  Some great exchanges throughout the contest, but Abreu did more damage earning himself the unanimous decision.

The rest of the undercard:

Chris Mauceri (Five Points Academy) MAJ DEC over Tim Schmeier (Sitan Gym NY)

Freddy Cheung (Sitan Gym NY) UNAM DEC over Andrillo Suarez (American Killer Bees)

Rudy Felix (Sitan Gym NY) UNAM DEC over Cornell Ward (Five Points Academy)

Delroy Mccoy (Camp Undefeated) UNAM DEC over Vinny Hui (Five Points Academy)

The main card would see the pace quicken and the action intensify.  Brett Hlavacek wasted no time scoring another KO for The Wat Gym, finishing off Sommai Muay Thai’s Cris Clodfelter with some brutal kicks at the 1:40 mark of Round 1.

Eric Ruiz from Progressive Martial Arts defeated Anthony Demaio of Staten Island Muay Thai by unanimous decision, and Deshawn Robinson out of Americas Finest and Sean Hinds from Mushin MMA would battle to a majority draw.

The last two fights on the card would also end in first round knockouts:

Eastern Academy’s Brian Collette hit Performance Muay Thai’s Marcus Taylor with a barrage of strikes early in the first that sent him to the canvas.  Taylor would get back up, only to fall right back down, giving Collette the KO victory.  The damage must’ve also bruised Taylor’s ego, as he went after a heckling fan on the walk back to the locker room.  Luckily security stopped Taylor before anything transpired.

The main event saw Ryan Madigan, a UFC veteran fighting out of Evolve Ohio; dominate Rigel Balsamico from Cool hearts Muay Thai.  Balsamico had no answer for Madigan.  He was swarmed from the opening bell by a significant number of strikes, and knocked down twice.  The referee wisely called the stoppage after the second knockdown at the 2:21 mark of the first round, giving Madigan the KO victory.

At the conclusion of “Muay Thai at the Mecca,” MMA Diehards caught up with legendary, world famous muay thai trainer Phil Nurse.  Nurse owns The Wat Gym in New York, N.Y., and he shared his thoughts on the historic event and his two victorious fighters.

Phil Nurse (L) seeing his student off into the ring.

“I think it’s a big move for Muay Thai.  Nurse said.   I think there’s a lot of room to make this even bigger, I’m happy for it.  It’s a good venue, like anything else you have to build it.  It’s a good start.

“I tell them, you don’t get paid for overtime, you get paid to get it done.  I’m very, very proud of them,” Nurse said, referring to his students Hlavacek, and Vaughan.  “Both good fights, first round knockout, third round knockout.  I’m psyched, I’m happy.”

MMA Diehards asked if muay thai events in N.Y.C. could help the cause of getting MMA legalized in the New York state.

“I don’t know, because they fought tonight with European Rules (WKA Rules),” Nurse explained.  “No elbows to the head or anything like that, I don’t think it helps anything out just yet.”

Though, Nurse does not believe the event will do much for the progression of MMA in the Big Apple, he does think it will help his favorite discipline.

“I think it can,” Nurse said, on Muay Thai being successful in the U.S. as its own sport.  “There’s a lot that can happen with muay thai. (The) U.S. has a lot of other things going on.   I think muay thai can really make a graph, there’s a lot of fighting going on in N.Y.C. right now”.

Lastly MMA DieHards asked how proud Nurse was to see a historic night for muay thai.

“I’m very proud, that’s what I started with, that’s what got me into the MMA world, is the muay thai,” Nurse admitted.  “It’s not just a regular standup, it’s an art that I love and I’m very passionate about.  To see it get to the Garden, and start making moves forward, I’m very proud of that.  It’s a good move”.

Take-On definitely made a good move, bringing muay thai to the “Mecca.”  They took on New York, and knocked us all out.

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

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

KICKBOXING & MUAY THAI
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.

GRAPPLING/BRAZILIAN JIU-JITSU
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.

Roosterweight

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)

Light-featherweight

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)

Featherweight

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)

Lightweight

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)

Middleweight

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)

Medium-Heavyweight

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)

Heavyweight

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)

Super-Heavyweight

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)

Ultra-Heavyweight

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)

Absolute

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!


WRESTLING
By The Staff at TheOpenMat.com

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.

Why?

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: 2011 BJJ World Championships, Kickboxing, and Beat The Streets

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

Tanquinho celebrates triumph (photo courtesy of John Lamonica/GracieMag.com)

For many different reasons, the World Pro event in Abu Dhabi has shaken up the jiu-jitsu scene for the time being. With the World Championships fast approaching, now we really can’t decide on who the favorites are in most of the weight classes due to the fascinating upsets that took place in Abu Dhabi. There are no more guarantees in choosing any of the black belts, and it should make things even spicier come June. Here are some of the most talked about and debated questions leading up to the 2011 World Championships:

Can Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes dismember the Atos army again in Long Beach?

In Abu Dhabi, Tanquinho was a man on a mission and didn’t stop until he finally claimed the 143.3-pound title. In his epic run to gold, he went through four Team Atos black belts, including Rafael Mendes in a riveting final where Rafael would fall short to Tanquinho by a judge’s decision. Can Tanquinho make it through that same group again in Long Beach, Calif.? The road will be a little less bumpy as two of his victims in Abu Dhabi — Guilherme Mendes and Ary Farias, will be fighting down at light-featherweight (141 pounds.) But there will still be Bruno Frazzatto, Eduardo Ramos and the reigning World Champion — Rafael Mendes, who is certainly still brewing over his loss. The featherweight division should be one for the fans to keep an eye on, can Augusto Mendes pull off the improbable twice and take out the Atos crew again or will there be payback in store for the tight knit group from Rio Claro, Brazil?

How will Michael Langhi respond to his first loss in three years at the Worlds?

Michael Langhi is widely considered one of the best jiu-jitsu players in the world today with an impassable guard. But the two-time World champion took a surprising set-back in Dubai as his “impassable” guard was beaten by newly minted black belt — Leandro “Lo” Nascimento. Lo went on to win the division beating another multi-time world champion in Celso Veinicius. But the eyes were still on Langhi. It should be interesting to see how it plays out, especially with such a stacked division where you can’t forget names such as Gilbert Burns, Jonathan “JT” Torres, Lucas Lepri, Zak Maxwell and Celso Veinicius. Whoever wants the world championship in the deepest division is going to be the one who works the hardest, and just wants it the most.

Can Rodolfo Vieira make a serious run at Roger Gracie’s absolute title?

Rodolfo Vieira is currently the hottest jiu-jitsu competitor on the scene right now. After dismantling everyone at the Pans, winning his division and absolute, then traveling to Abu Dhabi and conquering his weight and absolute out there as well, the debate has begun: “Can he beat Roger?” By the way he has been going of late, the critics must give him more than a punchers chance, but then again, we are still talking about the three-time absolute champion. Although Gracie has not been hot of late only because he competes once a year, he is still on an incredible streak having won the absolute title at the worlds three of the last four years and submitting 15 of his last 16 opponents in the process.

But at the same time, Vieira cannot be ignored. In 2009, Rodolfo Vieira burst onto the scene while only a brown belt, and beat black belt world champions Braulio Estima and Rafael Lovato Jr. to win the first Abu Dhabi World Pro event. Since getting his black belt, he has been virtually unbeatable, surpassing competitors such as Bruno Bastos, Bernardo Faria, Antonio Braga Neto, Michael Langhi, Leonardo Nogueria, Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles and Rafael Mendes.

So let’s have the debates begin, who do you believe will be the absolute champion at the World Championships in Long Beach? Will it be the three-time champion Roger Gracie? Or will it be the rising star Rodolfo Vieira or someone else perhaps? Let your voice be heard and comment below.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Headlining this week’s slate is the news that Dutch promotion It’s Showtime is nearing a television deal in the US.  Since K-1 parent company FEG has faced financial struggles of late, It’s Showtime has become the biggest player in the kickboxing world.  The promotion recently signed a deal with the Fight Network in Canada and owner Simon Rutz recently posted on his Facebook page that the promotion may have a contract in place before their May 14 event.  No word on what network would be picking up the fights, but both HDNet and G4 have been thrown out as possible destinations.

Antuan Siangboxing cleaned house at WMC I-1 World Grand Prix on April 21 from Hong Kong.  The event featured an eight-man tournament and the Thai veteran defeated Rhassan Muhareb in the quarterfinals, Vladimir Konsky in the semii and Kurt Finlayson in the final, all by decision.

Shootboxing held its second event of the year on April 23 in Tokyo.  As expected, two-time K-1 MAX champ Andy Souwer defeated Yoshihiro Sato by unanimous decision.  The Dutchman appears to be back on track after defeating L’houcine Ouzgni in March and no dispatching of Sato.  Also on the card, Hiroaki Suzuki took a decision over Wu Hu Kim, Satoru Suzuki stopped Masahiro Shimada in the second round, and RENA looked unimpressive in an exhibition bout against Erika Kamimura.

The Fight Zone 5 event taking place May 7 in Lyon, France will feature a prominent Muay Thai contest between UK fighter Liam Harrison and Bovy Sor. Udomson.  Harrison was most recently in action against Saenchai, dropping a decision.

Strikeforce Heavyweight Tournament participant Sergei Kharitonov will return to kickboxing on May 28 to battle Mighty Mo Siliga at the Golden World Series Finale.  Kharitonov’s last bout did not end well, as he was finished by Singh Jaideep at the K-1 World Grand Prix 2010 in a non-tournament bout.  Mo, meanwhile, failed to qualify for the Grand Prix Final after dropping his quarterfinal bout to Peter Aerts.

It’s Showtime recently announced that Polish fighters Rafal Dudek and Michal Glogowski will face off on June 11 in Warsaw.  Glogowski, as some may recall, was a quarterfinalist in last year’s K-1 World MAX tournament, but will likely have his hands full against the lengthy Dudek.

In American muay thai news, rumors are swirling that Joe Schilling will face Kaoklai Kaennorsing.  The rumored bout is being targeted for August.

Finally, Russian promotion W5 is targeting current K-1 MAX champ Giorgio Petrosyan for an event in late October.  The promotion saw fellow K-1 MAX competitor Mike Zambidis claim a four-man tournament just a few weeks ago.

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

(photo courtesy of Derek Montgomery/The Badger Herald)

This week there were a few big headlines in the world of amateur wrestling.

NCAA champion Andrew Howe of Wisconsin is starting to get healthy again.

And he’s now ready to make a run at making his first U.S. World Team in freestyle wrestling.

Howe made a triumphant return this weekend, outlasting two-time NCAA champion Kyle Dake of Cornell to win the University Nationals freestyle championship at 163 pounds on Saturday afternoon at the University of Akron.

Penn State, fresh off its NCAA team title last month, turned in a strong performance by crowning four champions.

Winning titles for the Nittany Lions were Andrew Long (138.75 pounds), Andrew Alton (145.5 pounds), James English (154 pounds) and Quentin Wright (185 pounds).

Wright, the reigning NCAA champion at 184, beat past NCAA runner-up Mack Lewnes of Cornell in the finals. Wright repeated as champion.

Wright beat Lewnes in the finals of the 2010 University World Team Trials.

A host of world, Olympic and NCAA champions are included in the final lineups announced today for the freestyle wrestling dual meet between the United States and Russia, part of the 2011 Beat the Streets Gala on Thursday, May 5 at New York’s Times Square. The event will be held in Duffy Square in New York City, located in the historic Times Square setting at 46th Street. The event is free to the public, and will also be streamed live on TheMat.com by USA Wrestling and be shown on the single largest facing LED screen in Times Square.

The USA vs. Russia freestyle wrestling dual meet will begin at 6 p.m., following a card of exhibition matches featuring young athletes who wrestle in the Beat the Streets youth progra as well as high school wrestlers from the Public School Athletic League, which will begin at 3 p.m.

Combat Sports Report: Abu Dhabi World Pro, Isuzu Cup, Sad Farewell to Uni. of Nebraska – Omaha

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

Surprising Leandro attacks Celso to win the under-74kg gold medal. Photo: John Lamonica/GracieMag.com

For three days, the Abu Dhabi World Pro shook up the Middle East once again. This past weekend, the qualifiers donned their gi’s and stepped back onto the competition mats, all vying for the gold, glory and some cash to go along with it. The competition was fierce, as the top black belts in the world went head to head once more. There were plenty of unexpected upsets by some of the newer black belts. Many also came back and showed their old, dominating form, putting on a great display for the fans in attendance and those watching it online around the world.

The 65-kg (143.3 pound) division was stacked with all of team Atos’ best black belt competitors (five total) yet none of them were able to reach the top of the podium at the end of the day. The division would belong to Soul Fighters black belt — Augusto “Tanquinho” Mendes, who came in fighting a weight class below his normal competition weight category. Tanquinho went on a tear beating top competitors such as: Ryan Hall, Ary Farias, Eduardo Ramos and Guilherme Mendes. In only one day, Tanquinho had dismembered three of the five Atos competitors himself, but Rafael Mendes was still waiting for him in the final. The much anticipated final between Tanquinho and Rafael went down to the wire, and would be left for the judges to decide the winner after a 4-4 draw. In the end, it was Tanquinho who would be awarded the win and the $8,000 prize to go along with it, much to the dismay of Rafael and the Atos gang who cried foul, believing Rafa had been robbed of gold. With this, a rivalry has been started between the Atos team and Augusto Mendes, which should make the featherweight division very intriguing at the World Championships in June.

The biggest surprise of the entire tournament may have come from the 74-kg (162 pound) dispute, where old and new ended up meeting in the finals. The division was led by Celso Venicius, who was coming off an injury and was competing for the first time since his silver medal showing at the 2010 Worlds where he lost to Michael Langhi. In Abu Dhabi, Celso had a string of tough wins against the likes of Rubens “Cobrinha” Charles and Gilbert “Durinho” Burns getting him to the finals. On the other side of the bracket was where the real surprise came. New black belt Leandro “Lo” Nascimento had his coming out party in the quarterfinals where he beat the reigning two-time World Champion Michael Langhi, who suffered his first loss in nearly three years. Nascimento also beat another up-and-comer in Zak Maxwell to propel himself into a finals showdown with Celso. In this final between new and old, the younger competitor was able to control the match for the entire six-minutes and when time expired he would be leading by 4-1 in advantage points, giving him his first major title as a black belt.

In the 82-kg (181 pound) weight class, it was Claudio Calasans who turned out to be king of the division once again. Calasans showed why he is one of the best middleweights in the World, beating every opponent in his path including Vinicius Corrales in the finals, after Corrales had just come off a big upset win over Romulo Barral by a 6-4 score. With Calasans win in Abu Dhabi, he has now won the Europeans, Pans and World Pro titles in the same year. Is the World title next for this rising Atos ace? We’ll see once he returns to California in June, where Marcelo Garcia is expected to be as well for a much anticipated rematch.

Rodolfo Vieira has been on a tear in this past month. He was recently the winner at the Pans in California in his weight group and open weight division, beating reigning champion Bernardo Faria twice. In Abu Dhabi, he kept up his winning ways by dominating the 92-kg and under (-202.5 pounds) weight class. In the finals, the GF Team member fought Bruno Bastos in the finals and ended up with in dominant fashion, 15 to 2. Bastos had a great run to the finals, beating a string of hard-nosed competitors including last week’s Nogi champion Rafael Lovato Jr., but Vieira was too much, and Bastos was forced to settle with the silver. For Rodolfo, this was his second World Pro title, and his first since 2009 where then he beat beasts such as Lovato Jr. and Braulio Estima while still only a brown belt.

In the heaviest weight class, 92-kg and over (+202.5 pounds,) it was Lucio “Lagarto” who would be the star of the division. In his very first fight, he would defeat two-time absolute champion Alexandre Riberio, in a close battle. That momentum of beating a great champion like Riberio, carried Lagarto all the way to the finals where he would face the young CheckMat star Marcus “Buchecha” Almeida. In the final, Lagarto would control the match by sweeping Almeida and then passing his guard in the closing seconds to secure a solid 5 to 0 win, giving him the gold and the $8,000 cash prize to fly home with.

Kickboxing & Muay Thai
by Rob Tatum

Although the action was a little slow this week in the world of kickboxing and Muay Thai, there were a number of fight announcements.

The Isuzu Cup finally has a final.  After an illness delayed the second semifinal bout, Kem Sitsongpeenong and Prakaisaeng Sit Or. battled on April 16 to determine who would take on Nopparat in the event’s final.  As expected, the explosive Kem took home victory, forcing a referee stoppage in the fourth round.  The final against Nopparat will determine the 67 kg (147.4 lb) representative in the Thai Fight 2011 tournament.  Video of the bout can be found below:

Also in action on April 16 was Australian standout Nathan Corbett.  Carrying a five year undefeated streak, Corbett easily dispatched of Piotr Lepich with a first round knockout in Perth, Australia.

K-1 parent company, FEG, announced that its MMA entity, DREAM, would be returning in May.  Unfortunately they did not release any information on when K-1 would be back in action, although there are rumblings of a 63 kg (138.6 lb) tournament when the promotion does return.

Fight Code will host its fourth event of the year from Budapest, Hungary on May 1.  The event will feature K-1 veterans Vitali Akhramenko and Freddy Kemayo, as well as the conclusion of the opening round of the 72.5 kg (159.5 lb) tournament.

It’s Showtime has added a 65 kg (143 lb) Muay Thai showdown to its May 14 card from Lyon, France.  Squaring off will be Houcine Bennoui (brother of current It’s Showtime 61 kg champion Karim Bennoui) and promotional veteran Mosab Amrani.

Japan will host Big Bang 5 on May 15.  Notably, Sergey Golyaev, who defeated Takanori Gomi in 2008 Sengoku fight, will face Yasuhiro Kido in a 70 kg (154 lb) bout.

In more It’s Showtime news, Amir Zeyada and Sahak Parparyan are slated to face off for the now vacant 85 kg (187 lb) title on May 21 from The Sand in Amsterdam.  As noted a few weeks ago, former titled holder Melvin Manhoef was forced to give up the belt after not defending it for over a year.

Krush will be back on May 29 with its own 70 kg (154 lb) tournament.  The Japanese promotion had some significant setbacks due to the earthquake, and looks to build on its strong 2010.  Participants are yet to be revealed at this time.

May 31 will feature an intriguing Muay Thai fight between Belarusian Andrei Kulebin and Saiyok Pumpanmuang.  Kulebin is coming off a victory over Angelo Campoli in March and faced a number of big names in the Muay Thai.  Saiyok, meanwhile, is one of the more dominant 70 kg (154 lb) fighters in Thailand.

Back to Dutch promotion It’s Showtime yet again, as they have announced that Rafi Zouheir will face William Diender on their June 18 card in Madrid.  Zouheir is known primarily for his win in the K-1 MAX tournament in Madrid.  Diender has been on a bit of a slide of late, most recently dropping his opening round bout at the W5 Grand Prix in Moscow.

Finally, despite the momentum the promotion has been gaining of late, It’s Showtime was forced to cancel its July 23 from Sochi, Russia.  The promotion stated that they hope to return to the city sometime in 2012.  No word on how this will affect the planned 70 kg (154 lb) tournament featuring current champion Chris Ngimbi and K-1 MAX champ Giorgio Petrosyan.

Amateur Wrestling
by Staff, The Open Mat

Coach Mark Cody made big waves by leaving American University for the University of Oklahoma. (photo: Hector Castro/MMADieHards.com)

The big news in College wrestling this past week was that Mark Cody, the reigning national college wrestling coach of the year, has been named the head wrestling coach at the University of Oklahoma. He succeeds Jack Spates, who retired from the position following the 2011 season, his 18th with the Sooners.

Cody, who comes to OU after nine years at American University, led the Eagles to a program-best fifth-place finish at the recently completed NCAA Championships. The team produced three All-Americans after qualifying six for the tournament, while also posting a school record 3.48 grade point average.

While the Sooner fans are excited and at the same time a program that is on the rise suffers a tough loss in Cody.

UNO Wrestlers said their goodbye this week. It’s one last hurrah for a program that strived for excellence and thrived for decades, the University of Nebraska-Omaha Wrestling Team.

As UNO made the move to a new division, wrestling was cut last month. On Friday night, the program recognized alumni and this year’s championship team.

“It’s sad it had to come to this, but I think it’s nice for people to come and honor a great wrestling team and cry a little,” said former head coach Don Benning.

Legendary head coach Don Benning set the standard for what would become one of the most decorated athletic programs in the state.

“We used to wrestle you know, because I have great respect for him, just great respect again,” said head coach Mike Denney. “I just wanted to carry on the tradition.”

On the mat in the middle of the field house are memories left behind. Team members say they’re symbols of a family bonded through blood and sweat.

It is that time of the year when things start changing in the sport of wrestling. Some things change for the better and sometimes for the worse. We just hope that the loss of programs has ended at least for now. As we have said in previous articles, if you like MMA you will like College Wrestling. Next year get out there and attend some events and show your support of MMA’s next big star.

Part 2, The Fight: Conner Cordova – The kid who took Arianny Celeste to Prom

(Editor’s Note: This is the second of a two-part series about Conner Cordova by Jason Kelly.  Find Part I HERE)

Conner Cordova’s aspirations of becoming an MMA journalist were not fulfilled overnight.

After being rejected by multiple websites, Cordova finally got his break working for Matt Kaplowitz, a.k.a. The Fight Nerd.  The Grudge member is grateful that Kaplowitz granted him an opportunity, but they had different visions for the future and Cordova eventually created his own website.

“Matt was willing to take a chance on me and give me a place to shine,” Cordova explained.  “My career didn’t have a warm-up.  My second interview ever was Wanderlei Silva; I was in Vegas and thought I would ask.  I never expected them to say yes, but they did.  I was hooked after that.

“Matt treated me well, but we wanted to go in different directions.  I wanted the younger market and more lifestyle as opposed to breaking news and stuff like that so I started MMAReligion.com.  I knew if I wanted to do things my way I had to create my own outlet.”

MMA Religion was an ideal place for Cordova to develop, but running the website, along with the other priorities that consume his hectic schedule, became too much to handle.

“I was training, teaching, going to school, and traveling,” Cordova explained.  “Managing a website on top of all that was too difficult.  I accomplished all my goals with the site.  It boosted my career and brought me in the public eye.  Now I’m working at places like MMADieHards.com and Fighter’s Only magazine and FightersOnly.com, and it’s a lot less stressful.  I’m having a ton of fun.”

Cordova’s charismatic on-camera personality made fighters and others in the MMA world take a liking to him despite his obvious youth.  Perhaps it’s because the person you see on camera is not acting.  His Muay Thai coach, Ludwig, describes Cordova as an “ass kicking comedian.”

Grudge head coach Trevor Wittman is astounded with Cordova’s success as a journalist and admits that it’s a pleasure to have him in the gym.  Wittman notices a complete transformation when Cordova trades his microphone for his mouth guard.

(l) to (r) Brendan Schaub, Trevor Wittman, Conner Cordova, James McSweeney, Nate Marquardt

“I know him as a reporter and as a training fighter,” Wittman explained.  “The kid changes his whole mentality, his whole posture changes, his look on his face changes and his ability to adapt.  He focuses so hard.  When you tell him something his eyebrows get this angled angry look and he’ll listen to you and he catches it in one or two tries.  He’s an athletic kid and his transition from karate to fighting is spectacular to me.”

There is a drill conducted at Grudge that Wittman created that gives even the best fighters fits, but Cordova sucks it up and pushes through it without any complaints.

“There’s a funny drill I call ‘Bitch Better Have My Money,’ ” Wittman explained.  “Eight people stand in line and kick your ass for 30 seconds in an area that’s about 10 feet by 10 feet and you have to fight your way out of it.  It forces you to get in a panic mode.  Conner did it one day and he did better than some of the professional guys.  He made it all the way through the drill and he was completely exhausted when he was done, but he didn’t complain.”

Even though Cordova’s life has been extremely demanding with his journalistic duties and teaching martial arts at his parent’s school as well as Grudge Training Center, he could not neglect his desire for competition.  Cordova’s craving to exchange blows led to his first Muay Thai fight recently, with a camp fit for a pro.

“I had the itch man, I haven’t fought competitively in a really long time,” Cordova explained.  “I love to fight; fighting’s a big part of my life.

“I had a four-week training camp for this fight with all the bells and whistles.  I had a dietary planner, a strength and conditioning coach, a Muay Thai coach, a boxing coach and I came in and sparred, so it was a full training camp.”

Cordova has competed in karate tournaments his entire life, but this was his first Muay Thai fight, and yet he managed to keep his nerves in check.

“I thought I was going to be a lot more nervous than I was,” Cordova confessed.  “I was really calm and collected.  Everything leading up to the fight was stressful, but once you’re in there nothing is more relaxing.  I love when it’s you and another guy testing your mettle, I love that feeling of supreme confidence.”

Cordova’s “supreme confidence” and dedication to martial arts training paid off with an impressive victory.

(r) Conner Cordova

“It couldn’t have got any better,” he recounted.  “I went out there and knocked the guy out in 37 seconds. I missed with my right hand, which I was really angry about because I think my right hand is my best punch, and I tagged him a few times, but that first head kick hurt him.  I flurried on him and didn’t allow him to get his composure again, then I kicked him in the head two more times and it was done.  They waved it off because the guy was out on his feet, and I was like, All right!  Awesome!”

Wittman viewed the tape of Cordova’s fight.

“He thoroughly impressed me,” Wittman admitted.  “For him to come out and look so poised, so controlled, so confident and so relaxed, those are the things I look for.  He looked perfect, he looked like a trained killer in there.  I’m proud to say that I work with him.”

It’s no stretch to imagine Cordova could use the video to promote himself as an MMA journalist.  However, the intelligent young man has personal reasons for not doing that.

“A lot of people want to see the fight video, but they have to understand that’s not the reason I did it,” Cordova explained.  “I didn’t do it for people to be like, ‘Oh it’s cool that you fight.’  I did it because I love to do this and I’m very competitive at it.

“I didn’t even post it on Facebook, and I post everything on Facebook.  I’m not the guy who peels out of the parking lot at two in the morning for attention.  I’m not trying to impress anyone, I did this for me and I’m going to do it again.”

Cordova entertains the thought of fighting professionally, but not becoming a professional fighter.

“I think fighting professionally and being a professional fighter are two different things,” Cordova explained.  “If I keep doing this I could see myself fighting professionally, but I don’t want to make it my career.”

Cordova’s career has rapidly taken off.  Within just a few years he has managed mind-boggling success and progression, but he does not take any of it for granted and he recognizes who helped along the way.

“My family has been so supportive,” Cordova stated.  “I attribute a lot of my success to my mom; she just keeps me motivated and keeps me focused.  She’s one of the most supportive parents you could ever want.  Another good friend of mine is Eric Williams, I met him in Chicago at UFC 90 and he was just a cool guy.  He’s a photographer, and if you’ve ever seen Eric’s art it’s really incredible.  He’s helped me a lot, he’s mentored me through the industry and he’s helped me achieve my goals and realize my aspirations.”

Cordova has accomplished an astonishing amount of goals already in life and he is proud of all of them, but there are still times he gets ahead of himself and needs to be reminded that he has a lot more life to live.

“Sometimes I have to remind myself that I am young and I’m only 19,” Cordova admitted.  “Sometimes I think, God, how I haven’t done this yet, or how haven’t I seen this yet, but I have to remember I have a lot of time.  I’ve had the opportunities to do in my life already what some people don’t get to do their entire life.  A lot of kids my age are working at the DQ (Dairy Queen), so I’m very happy and proud of where I am, but I have a lot more I want to accomplish.”

Cordova has been involved in multiple fundraisers for charities throughout this journey and he has met some incredible people.  He is currently looking into attending one of the state universities in Colorado, dabbling in business endeavors and perfecting his journalism craft.

When you break it all down, Conner Cordova is simply a 19-year-old kid who is becoming a man, exploring possible careers and enjoying an adventurous life.  And you thought all this kid did was take Arianny Celeste to prom.

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
2008.

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)

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