The Ohio MMA faithful gathered Friday in the state capital of Columbus for a night of closely contested bouts that were a testament to the prowess of Ultimate Victory Challenge matchmakerTyler Wooten, who assembled one of the best cards of the year.  It was the marquis Professional talent of some of The Buckeye State’s biggest guns that put the sparkle on a card stacked top to bottom, anchored by solid performances from some of the best Amateur talent from the area. The result was a night of fights that more than made up for a lack of flashy KO victories by pitting evenly matched opponents head to head, producing some of the more stylish and robust ground-fighting in recent memory.

Four spirited amateur contests kicked off the action, setting the stage for six pro bouts that eventually delivered fireworks culminating in stellar performances by the city’s native sons, Dan Spohn and Luke Zachrich in the co-main event and main events of the evening. MMA enthusiast Loper from 99.7 The Blitz’ “Loper and Randi in the Morning” served as emcee, riling up fans with his contagious mixture of intensity and love for the fight game, well matched by the styling’s of colorful ring announcer George Phillips. Add to it a patently fight and fan-friendly venue in the vibrant and well-appointed Aladdin Shrine Center, and more than a thousand rabid MMA fans of all shapes, sizes and colors, and UVC 23 – Invasion was a smashing success and the place to be last night.

 

AMATEUR BOUTS

DiSabattoMMA’s Jordan Schembri and LAMMA product Austin Durbinkicked off the action with a agonizing 2 minute, 10 second affair throughout which Durbin struggled for a single-leg takedown like his life depended on it, absorbing punishing strikes from Schembri all the while. When he finally let go the leg, Durbin quickly found himself on the wrong end of a powerful North/South choke, tapping out at 2:10 of the very first round.

Toward the end of a back and forth Round 1 featuring transitions and submission attempts from both fighters, Skrap House amateur journeyman Ronnie Shoemaker gained an advantage over LAMMA’sJeff Dotsonand went on to dominate Round 2, taking Dotson’s back and sinking in an unforgiving rear-naked choke to earn the tap at 1:38 of the second stanza.

The next two amateur bouts would both last the duration with undefeated local standouts Corey Dulaney and Robert McPherson pitting their perfect records against each other in a UVC Champion Series Lightweight Semi-final and amateur champ Aaron Hughes ending a 19-month layoff versus veteran Donny Korbel in a non-title icebreaker.

Dulaney v. McPherson heated up gradually with McPherson sporting superior technical chops in finally executing a sweep minutes into the first round and cinching up a neat triangle choke which a determined and physically dominant Dulaney rode out until the bell at the end of Round 1 brought merciful relief. The formidable athleticism and grinding pressure of Dulaney was gradually brought to bear when in the midst of Round 2 he executed a thunderous scoop and slam which seemed to be the tipping point. From there on, Dulaney out-muscled his opponent en route to a unanimous decision victory on the strength of his explosive power and superior control. The victory established Dulaney’s status as the number one contender at lightweight.

Ring rust may have been a factor in the return of Aaron “Livewire” Hughes in spite of what was an admirable performance in which he landed takedowns in multiple rounds and held top-control much of the bout. Still, it was the diverse attack of Donny “The Destroyer” Korbel that was the story of this one, the Team Chaos product showcasing a balanced arsenal of both striking and grappling. On the feet, Korbel used his rangy limbs with precision, mixing up leg-kicks with his hands, doing excellent body work and landing a heavy kick to the body before hurting Hughes with a straight-right to the breadbasket and finishing Round 1 in top position. Round 2 was a slugfest with some calculated brawling at the outset before Hughes sensed he was fighting to his opponent’s strengths and again took it to the mat. Here Hughes mounted his greatest real threat of the fight coming close with a guillotine choke before the bell.  Hughes quickly got the takedown and established dominant position from the outset of Round 3. He did little damage, however, thus it was again the more treacherous triangle choke/armbar with which Korbel nearly submitted and eventually swept Hughes that was the offensive highlight of the round for me. While he did spend much of the fight on his back, Korbel scored big fan points on my unofficial card for his stylish ground game, which allowed him to create reversals and submission attempts while sustaining very little damage.

The Judges Harry Heil and Darryl Wise scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Korbel while judge Jeannie McGinnis scored it 29-28 for Hughes. It was perhaps the most intellectually provocative fight of the evening for me in that it highlighted what are nagging frustrations with the scoring of MMA bouts. I would venture to guess that all 3 judges gave Round 2 to Korbel on the basis of his dominance in the striking in a round contested largely on the feet. And yet it was in Round 2 that Hughes came closest to ending the fight with a guillotine choke cut short by the bell. In Rounds 1 and 3, Hughes clearly held a preponderance of time in the top (dominant?) position, but did little damage due to Korbel’soffensive guard which produced both sweeps leading to full-mount and a near submission by triangle choke then armbar. In fact, the only time at which Korbel looked unstable was when Hughes rattled Korbel’sscrobles with a kick to the marbles before the fight hardly got started, which still must’ve smarted. But seriously, there is something to be said for offense that threatens to end a fight versus “dominance” which merely stagnates a fight by limiting the time that the “dominant” fighter is in immediate danger from a superior striker or submission grappler. And although a majority of judges (in my opinion), got the winner right, it’s probably reasonable to assume that one judge gave Hughes both Rounds 1 and 3, but not 2, and the other two gave Hughes only Round 1 or 3.  So if coming close to ending the fight counts for more than merely staying out of danger by controlling position, even the judges that got the score right most likely did so for the wrong reason. I would argue for a score of 30-27 in favor of Korbel as the damage inflicted with his strikes outweighed the near submission attempt in Round 2. Live action is fast and furious and distractions cageside are many, so I reserve the right to change my mind upon viewing the televised rebroadcast, a luxury the judges do not enjoy. Suffice to say that imperfect though they sometimes may be, I do not envy their job in adjudicating closely fought decisions under an inherently flawed scoring system with ambiguous judging criteria. It’s a wonder they can sleep at night.

 

PROFESSIONAL BOUTS

Matt Anderson v. JeramyKarshner was a vigorous back-and-forth grappling match featuring some nice clinch work by Anderson and a skillful takedown by Karshner in Round 1.  Anderson dazed Karshner with a flying-knee to open the second frame, but was unable to finish him as Karshner regained his wits and gutted out another nice takedown only to be stood up for inaction. Anderson again landed an effective kick, this time to the head of Karshner who powered through yet again, scoring another gutsy takedown. A perhaps still-dazed Karshner quickly found himself in a triangle choke from which Anderson neatly transitioned into a slick armbar, forcing the tap at 4:50 of Round 2 with just 10 seconds remaining in the round.

Corey “Koko” Simmons v. Cornelius Godfrey was a fight that promised fireworks on paper but delivered an uninspiring clinch-war long on posturing and short on striking.  Godfrey manhandled Simmons against the cage but landed only a handful of significant strikes in the fight, preferring instead to out-leverage his opponent to little consequence. Round 2 yielded an eventual takedown for Godfrey but Simmons struggled to his feet quickly, eating a few decent knees for his efforts but ultimately sustaining little damage. A second takedown near the end of the round was little cause for excitement, but served to further establish the dominance of Godfrey. Although Simmons eventually managed a takedown of his own, Round 3 was more of the same, Godfrey rag-dolling his opponent in an impressive yet lackluster display of strength and leverage, earning another 2 takedowns but nothing for the highlight reel. Simmons worked hard at landing a liver punch, his only effective weapon in the fight, although by then one sensed he was in desperation mode, hoping for a big punch that never came. In spite of a conservative approach, Godfrey notched another mark in the win column, all three judges scoring the bout 29-28 in his favor. He should not, however, be criticized for what was a strategic if not flashy performance, especially against a last-minute opponent and dangerous striker, and I look for this talented young fighter to dazzle crowds when he finds himself in a more favorable stylistic matchup.The striking of Simmons holds similar promise when he is not at the mercy of a longer fighter more adept in the subtleties of Greco style grappling than himself.

Tyson Triplett v. Marc Cofer was a little short on excitement, as well, perhaps as Cofer dominated all 3 rounds with superior takedowns and positional grappling. Despite some spirited striking exchanges that Triplett mostly got the better of, including some good elbows from bottom position, Cofer’s wrestling was simply too much, earning him a unanimous decision on the scorecard. All in all, it was a convincing victory for the formidable wrestler as well as an admirable display of sportsmanship and mutual respect from two seemingly amiable fellows who clearly enjoy their shared craft.

Augusta Tindall v. Joe Heiland brought an abrupt close to any perceived lack of violence, risk-taking and heroicism with a whirlwind of frenzied action that went the distance in a visceral display of brutality and determination. Tindall took the part of fearsome striker with lightning in his hands and acrobatic takedown defense to match.  “Gus” struggled valiantly to maintain striking distance against a relentless onslaught of pressure and takedown attempts from a very aggressive, iron-jawed opponent in Heiland who ate several bombs while delivering a few of his own. “Smokin Joe” fought to close the distance with dogged determination, landing several monstrous takedowns only to see Tindall repeatedly scramble back to his feet to deliver more punishing blows. Relentlessly closing the distance again, Heiland came near to securing a standing arm triangle for a tense period that seemed like an eternity before making good on yet another takedown attempt at the end of the first round. Cleveland’s Heilandwas a fitting embodiment of the venerable Strong Style name, continuing with his takedowns and clinch work, nearly taking the back of his opponent several times, but unable to hold the position. A well-timed knee to the face of his opponent sent Tindall’smouthpieceflying across the cage. Gusturned the tides late in Round 2 landing consecutive clean shots after referee Mark Matheny broke the fighters to replace the lost mouthpiece during an appropriate paused in the action. Tindall had Heiland hurt during the barrage of strikes that followed but Heiland was somehow able to compose himself again, elevating and slamming Tindallin epic fashion. Round 3 belonged to Tindallwho still had devastating hand speed and power enough to rock his opponent savagely, unleashing a menacing variety of combinations at a staggered Heiland. Several glancing blowsalmost finished him butHeiland’s iron jaw and iron will refused to quit. For an eternity it seemed Tindall was one clean shot away from a devastating KO, the audience collectively breathless as if watching a confused animal crossing an interstate, waiting for the worst. But Heiland whether consciously or by the grace of some other power miraculously evaded the now just slightly slowed assault of punches and somehow found it in himself to score a final takedown which must have sealed the deal in the eyes of the judges. He won a split decision. Although I’m convinced that it was Tindall who inflicted the greater damage and came closer to ending the fight, it is impossible to find anything unsatisfactory about such an amazing performance by both fighters. A truly great fight by two incredibly tough fighters.

The co-main event of the evening featured local hero Dan “The Dragon” Spohn in a matchup against a physical menace of a man in Aaron Mays of Clinton, Missouri. At 5’11”, Mays looked 50 pounds of solid muscle heavier than 205, massive even next to a physical specimen such as Spohn who routinely cuts in excess of 25 pounds and packs a cattle truck’s worth of lipid-free musculature on his 6’4” frame. Mays immediately scored a thunderous takedown and commenced to dishing out some of the most sickening ground and pound I’ve ever witnessed. Spohn was able to effectively protect his head, but his body took punches the mere sound of which was nauseating. A single punch from Mays would crush the rib cage of the average mortal, but mortal or not, there is nothing average about Dan Spohn. In what is submission grappling’s equivalent of a “flash” knockout, Spohn went from punching bag to executioner in an eye blink, expertly setting up and flawlessly executing a belly-down “Russian” arm bar that would make Fedor jealous. “Panic will make you lose and get hurt,” said Spohn to the crowd following his big win. “What’s the point?” Point well taken, but I for one, felt panic. Spohn by armbar, 2:41 of Round 1.

And finally, The Ultimate Fighter reality show alumnus, Columbus’ own Luke Zachrich put on a clinic, entertaining, amusing, and dazzling the hometown crowd with an at times almost light-hearted spectacle of Mixed Martial Artistry. After a feeling out process on the feet during which I believe Zachrich determined to his satisfaction that he held a considerable edge in striking skill, he began to mix it up with a virtual survey of MMA techniques, mixing up leg-kicks and boxing followed by an effortless initial takedown. Zachrich quickly demonstrated his creative grappling employing an unusually active, unorthodox and dynamic top-game, fearlessly and deftly turning his back on opponent Marcus Finch one moment and pivoting back into his half guard the next, all the while dishing out punishing ground and pound and seemingly looking for a novel submission. After some goading from Finch’s corner to the effect that Zachrich“just wants to wrestle,” Luke seemed determined to demonstrate his striking prowess and did so with equal aplomb. After some stiff jabs and a few sharp straight-rights he took control of the striking as well and seemed almost playful in attempting to execute something half-way between a scissors takedown and a flying heel-hook. Finch never gave up and worked hard looking for the big punch, but he was simply outclassed by a more skillful fighter.

All in all, it was a night of fights and fun the Buckeye State will not soon forget.

 

Joe Millin
ProFightingFans.com

The Ohio MMA faithful gathered Friday in the state capital of Columbus for a night of closely contested bouts that were a testament to the prowess of Ultimate Victory Challenge matchmaker Tyler Wooten, who assembled one of the best cards of the year.  It was the marquis Professional talent of some of The Buckeye State’s biggest guns that put the sparkle on a card stacked top to bottom, anchored by solid performances from some of the best Amateur talent from the area. The result was a night of fights that more than made up for a lack of flashy KO victories by pitting evenly matched opponents head to head, producing some of the more stylish and robust ground-fighting in recent memory.

Four spirited amateur contests kicked off the action, setting the stage for six pro bouts that eventually delivered fireworks culminating in stellar performances by the city’s native sons, Dan Spohn and Luke Zachrich in the co-main event and main events of the evening. MMA enthusiast Loper from 99.7 The Blitz’ “Loper and Randi in the Morning” served as emcee, riling up fans with his contagious mixture of intensity and love for the fight game, well matched by the styling’s of colorful ring announcer George Phillips. Add to it a patently fight and fan-friendly venue in the vibrant and well-appointed Aladdin Shrine Center, and more than a thousand rabid MMA fans of all shapes, sizes and colors, and UVC 23 – Invasion was a smashing success and the place to be last night.

AMATEUR BOUTS

DiSabatto MMA’s Jordan Schembri and LAMMA product Austin Durbin kicked off the action with a agonizing 2 minute, 10 second affair throughout which Durbin struggled for a single-leg takedown like his life depended on it, absorbing punishing strikes from Schembri all the while. When he finally let go the leg, Durbin quickly found himself on the wrong end of a powerful North/South choke, tapping out at 2:10 of the very first round.

Toward the end of a back and forth Round 1 featuring transitions and submission attempts from both fighters, Skrap House amateur journeyman Ronnie Shoemaker gained an advantage over LAMMA’s Jeff Dotson and went on to dominate Round 2, taking Dotson’s back and sinking in an unforgiving rear-naked choke to earn the tap at 1:38 of the second stanza.

The next two amateur bouts would both last the duration with undefeated local standouts Corey Dulaney and Robert McPherson pitting their perfect records against each other in a UVC Champion Series Lightweight Semi-final and amateur champ Aaron Hughes ending a 19-month layoff versus veteran Donny Korbel in a non-title icebreaker.

Dulaney v. McPherson heated up gradually with McPherson sporting superior technical chops in finally executing a sweep minutes into the first round and cinching up a neat triangle choke which a determined and physically dominant Dulaney rode out until the bell at the end of Round 1 brought merciful relief. The formidable athleticism and grinding pressure of Dulaney was gradually brought to bear when in the midst of Round 2 he executed a thunderous scoop and slam which seemed to be the tipping point. From there on, Dulaney out-muscled his opponent en route to a unanimous decision victory on the strength of his explosive power and superior control. The victory established Dulaney’s status as the number one contender at lightweight.

Ring rust may have been a factor in the return of Aaron “Livewire” Hughes in spite of what was an admirable performance in which he landed takedowns in multiple rounds and held top-control much of the bout. Still, it was the diverse attack of Donny “The Destroyer” Korbel that was the story of this one, the Team Chaos product showcasing a balanced arsenal of both striking and grappling. On the feet, Korbel used his rangy limbs with precision, mixing up leg-kicks with his hands, doing excellent body work and landing a heavy kick to the body before hurting Hughes with a straight-right to the breadbasket and finishing Round 1 in top position. Round 2 was a slugfest with some calculated brawling at the outset before Hughes sensed he was fighting to his opponent’s strengths and again took it to the mat. Here Hughes mounted his greatest real threat of the fight coming close with a guillotine choke before the bell.  Hughes quickly got the takedown and established dominant position from the outset of Round 3. He did little damage, however, thus it was again the more treacherous triangle choke/armbar with which Korbel nearly submitted and eventually swept Hughes that was the offensive highlight of the round for me. While he did spend much of the fight on his back, Korbel scored big fan points on my unofficial card for his stylish ground game, which allowed him to create reversals and submission attempts while sustaining very little damage.

The Judges Harry Heil and Darryl Wise scored the fight 29-28 in favor of Korbel while judge Jeannie McGinnis scored it 29-28 for Hughes. It was perhaps the most intellectually provocative fight of the evening for me in that it highlighted what are nagging frustrations with the scoring of MMA bouts. I would venture to guess that all 3 judges gave Round 2 to Korbel on the basis of his dominance in the striking in a round contested largely on the feet. And yet it was in Round 2 that Hughes came closest to ending the fight with a guillotine choke cut short by the bell. In Rounds 1 and 3, Hughes clearly held a preponderance of time in the top (dominant?) position, but did little damage due to Korbel’s offensive guard which produced both sweeps leading to full-mount and a near submission by triangle choke then armbar. In fact, the only time at which Korbel looked unstable was when Hughes rattled Korbel’s scrobles with a kick to the marbles before the fight hardly got started, which still must’ve smarted. But seriously, there is something to be said for offense that threatens to end a fight versus “dominance” which merely stagnates a fight by limiting the time that the “dominant” fighter is in immediate danger from a superior striker or submission grappler. And although a majority of judges (in my opinion), got the winner right, it’s probably reasonable to assume that one judge gave Hughes both Rounds 1 and 3, but not 2, and the other two gave Hughes only Round 1 or 3.  So if coming close to ending the fight counts for more than merely staying out of danger by controlling position, even the judges that got the score right most likely did so for the wrong reason. I would argue for a score of 30-27 in favor of Korbel as the damage inflicted with his strikes outweighed the near submission attempt. Live action is fast and furious and distractions cageside are many, so I reserve the right to change my mind upon viewing the televised rebroadcast, a luxury the judges do not enjoy. Suffice to say that imperfect though they sometimes may be, I do not envy their job in adjudicating closely fought decisions under an inherently flawed scoring system with ambiguous judging criteria. It’s a wonder they can sleep at night.

By Joe Millin

ProFightingFans.com

(PRESS RELEASE) Las Vegas, Nevada – In a move set to make history, The Ultimate Fighting Championship® (UFC®) announced Saturday evening that it will feature women as coaches on the 18th season of The Ultimate Fighter®, its long-running reality series. Newly minted UFC bantamweight champion, Ronda Rousey, will coach opposite the winner, and eventual title contender, of a fight between Miesha Tate and Cat Zingano set for The Ultimate Fighter Finale on April 13 in Las Vegas, Nev.

UFC President Dana White’s announcement: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tvgCiOHHhX8

Earlier this year, the UFC announced Rousey as the first-ever female fighter signed to the organization. She cemented her position as UFC champion and baddest woman on the planet with an impressive win against Liz Carmouche at UFC® 157 in Anaheim, Calif.

On April 13, former Strikeforce bantamweight women’s champion Miesha Tate will square-off against highly touted, undefeated contender Cat Zingano in the second women’s bout in UFC history. The winner will ultimately join Rousey as coach to the newest class of bantamweights – living and training together – vying for the title of The Ultimate Fighter and a six–figure contract with the UFC. 

Tryouts for season 18 of The Ultimate Fighter will take place on Monday, April 15 in Las Vegas, Nev. All TUF 18 candidates must be at least 21 years old, have the legal ability to live & work in the United States, and have a minimum of three professional Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) fights – holding a winning record (with verifiable records).

Tryout details will be released on Monday, March 18. TUF 18 is expected to debut in the fall of 2013.

Meanwhile, tickets for season 17’s The Ultimate Fighter® Finale are on-sale now. To purchase tickets to the April 13th event at Mandalay Bay Events Center, or for more information, visit the Mandalay Bay Events Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com, or charge-by-phone at 800.745.3000.

Catch all new episodes of this season of The Ultimate Fighter 17 at 9 p.m. ET/PT.

(PRESS RELEASE) Newport Beach, CA. – The Toughest Tournament in Sports will end its season in style as Bellator MMA makes return to Atlantic City from Revel on April 4th live on Spike. The night will feature reigning Bellator Featherweight Champion Pat Curran putting his title on the line against Season 7 Tournament winner and explosive Russian striker Shahbulat Shamhalaev, while the Middleweight and Featherweight Tournaments will be decided, as Doug Marshall battles Brett Cooper for the $100,000 Middleweight Tournament Championship, while Mike “The Marine” Richman will square off with Frodo Khasbulaev, with the winner earning their guaranteed title shot. The night will also feature the return of fan favorite and former Judo Olympian Rick Hawn, who meets fellow Judo blackbelt and former WEC Champion Karo Parisyan in a welterweight affair.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com and by calling 800-745-3000. The Main Card will broadcast LIVE starting at 10 p.m. EST on Spike, as well as in Spanish language on mun2. The preliminary card will be streamed LIVE and FREE on Spike.com, with doors to event opening at 6:30pm EST.

Widely regarded as one of the top two featherweights in the world, Curran brings a dominating 18-4 record into his latest title defense, including victories over Patricio Pitbull, Marlon Sandro, Roger Huerta, and Mike Ricci. While the reigning Bellator Champ had his original sights set on Straus, Curran is well aware of the challenges at hand April 4th with Shamhalaev.

“He’s a great counter striker, as am I, and I see a lot of openings with Shabulat,” Curran said. “Shabulat brings one punch knockout power, and with my style, it’s going to be a swing for fences fight. This is my second fight this season, and I couldn’t ask for more. I love staying active, and Bellator has provided that for me.”

Widely considered one of the best lightweights in the world, Rick “Genghis” Hawn returns to his more natural 170 lbs. to battle Karo Parisyan in a highly anticipated affair.

“I’m really excited to be back fighting so soon,” Hawn said. “I have a tough opponent in Karo, but I’m looking forward to the challenge. With two of the world’s best judoka fighters fighting each other, it should be an exciting fight.”

The preliminary card will be highlighted with a middleweight showdown between New Jersey star Tom DeBlass and New York native Carlos Brooks as the two look to collect their first Bellator victory. After announcing his retirement in 2012, DeBlass has returned to the cage and will make his highly anticipated return April 4th inside Revel.

“I’m very excited to be fighting for Bellator right in my backyard,” DeBlass said. “All of my friends, family, students, and many fans will get to see me live. I’m coming back and making a statement, you can count on that.”

The full card for Bellator MMA from Revel on April 4th is below:

MAIN CARD:

Bellator Featherweight World Title Fight: Pat Curran vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev

Bellator Middleweight Tournament Finals: Brett Cooper vs. Doug Marshall

Bellator Featherweight Tournament Finals: Mike Richman vs. Frodo Khasbulaev

Welterweight Feature Fight: Rick Hawn vs. Karo Parisyan

PRELIMINARY CARD:

Welterweight Feature Fight: Lyman Good vs. Dante Rivera

Women’s Feature Fight: Munah Holland vs. Jessica Eye

Catchweight Feature Fight(140 lbs.): Jimmie Rivera vs. Brian Kelleher

Welterweight Feature Fight: Sam Oropeza vs. Shedrick Goodridge

Middleweight Feature Fight: Tom DeBlass vs. Carlos Brooks

Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: Liam McGeary vs. Anton Talamantes

Featherweight Feature Fight: Brylan Van Artsdalen vs. Brett Martinez

(PRESS RELEASE) Newport Beach, CA. – The Toughest Tournament in Sports continues as The Finals of the $100,000 Lightweight and Light Heavyweight Tournaments will be decided as Bellator MMA returns the Sunshine State March 28th from The University of South Florida’s Sun Dome live on Spike TV, as well in Spanish language on mun2. The night will also feature the Florida return on fan favorite and World’s #1 ranked 115 pounder Jessica “Jag” Aguilar.

Tickets can be purchased online at Ticketmaster.com, by phone at 1-800-745-3000, by visiting the Sun Dome Box Office and at all Ticketmaster outlets including Wal-Mart. Ticket prices range from $30 – $120.

Only 24, “The Caveman” David Rickels enters the Lightweight Tournament Finals with his sights set on that $100,000 Tournament prize. Known for his tenacious, grinding style, Rickels is fully aware of what his challenger brings to the table.

“I’ve got all the respect in the world for Saad,” Rickels said. “The guy has two huge knockouts in this tournament, but not too many men have been able to stand with the Caveman, and that’s not going to change March 28th.”

Calling Awad’s two knockouts “huge” may be an understatement, as the California native has spent just 74 seconds inside the Bellator cage this season with first round finishes over Guillaume DeLorenzi and Will Brooks. With both challengers bringing a frenetic pace to the cage, fireworks should be in order March 28th.

The Light Heavyweight Finals are set as a pair of giant slayers enter the cage as Mikhail Zayats, the proud owner of a TKO victory over MMA legend Babalu Sobral battles “The Hardcore Kid” Emanuel Newton, who punched his ticket to the finals with a spinning back fist victory over tournament favorite King Mo.

“I shocked the world once, and I’ll do it again March 28th,” Newton said. “After this tournament, everyone is going to know who Emanuel Newton is, and I’m going to be coming for that belt.”

For Aguilar, the 14-4 submission ace brings an impressive resume into the Sun Dome with victories over Megumi Fujii, Carla Esparza and Lisa Ellis. With a five-fight win streak in place, the veteran Aguilar is looking to keep the momentum going with a victory over Patricia Vidonic March 28th.

“Bellator is my home and I can’t wait to get back into the cage in front of all my friends, family and fans and continue to show the world I’m the best female fighter on the planet,” Aguilar said.

The full card for Bellator MMA’s March 28th event is below:

MAIN CARD:
Lightweight Tournament Finals: David Rickels vs. Saad Awad
Light Heavyweight Tournament Finals: Emanuel Newton vs. Mikhail Zayats
Welterweight Feature Fight: Luis Melo vs. Trey Houston

PRELIMINARY CARD:
Featherweight Feature Fight: Joe Taimanglo vs. Shah Bobonis
Female Feature Fight: Felice Herrig vs. Heather Clark
Female Feature Fight: Jessica Aguilar vs. Patricia Vidonic
Heavyweight Feature Fight: Rob Horton vs. Augusto Sakai
Lightweight Feature Fight: Bruno Carvalho vs. Edson Berto
Welterweight Feature Fight: Ivan Devalle vs. Rory Shallcross
Lightweight Feature Fight: Patrick Cenoble vs. Tony Fryklund
Welterweight Feature Fight: Julien Williams vs. Kenny Moss

(PRESS RELEASE) REVEL BEACH, N.J. – World Series of Fighting announced exciting Mixed Martial Arts (MMA) undercard action today, featuring local product Kris McCray (8-4) of Toms River, N.J. in a middleweight (185 pounds) scrap against battle-tested Danillo “Indio” Villefort (13-4) of Coconut Creek, Fla., and Waylon Lowe (13-4) of Philadelphia, Pa. squaring off with Cameron Dollar (11-4) of Colorado Springs, Colo. in a featherweight (145 pounds) tilt, from Ovation Hall atRevel in Atlantic City, N.J. on Saturday, March 23.

No strangers to Atlantic City, having fought there nine times (combined) professionally, Ozzy Dugulubgov (3-1) of Hackensack, N.J. will go up against undefeated prospect Chris Wade (5-0) of Long Island, N.Y. in a catchweight (160 pounds) bout.

Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt and welterweight (170 pounds) upstart Igor Gracie (5-3) of Rio de Janeiro will face Rich Patishnock (4-1) of Whippany, N.J.

The six-bout preliminary card will be topped by a featherweight collision between streaking Duke Roufus protégé Rick “The Gladiator” Glenn (12-2) of Milwaukee, Wisc., and undefeated submission specialist Alexandre”Pulga” Pimentel (12-0) of Rio de Janeiro.

A stacked main card will be televised live on NBC Sports Network, headlined by the heavyweight showdown between superstars Andrei “The Pitbull” Arlovski (19-9) of Minsk, Belarus and Anthony “Rumble” Johnson (15-3) of Boca Raton, Fla.

In the bantamweight (135 pounds) co-main event, red-hot 29-year-old star Tyson Nam (12-4) of Portland, Ore., will face off with two-time national Muay Thai champion and Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu brown belt Marlon Moraes (9-4) of Jupiter, Fla., via Nova Friburgo, Brazil.

“We are excited to bring the World Series of Fighting brand of MMA to Atlantic City, where some of the greatest fights in history have taken place,” said World Series of Fighting President and six-time world kickboxing champion and two-time Hall of Famer, Ray Sefo.  “Andrei Arlovski, Anthony Johnson and Marlon Moraes are all coming off superb performances on our inaugural fight card, and Tyson Nam has been on fire of late, so we felt that it was essential to showcase these stars at the top of our first card on the East Coast.”

Also slated for action on the five-bout TV card are welterweight sensation Josh Burkman (24-9) of Salt Lake City, Utah, who will collide with former UFC star Aaron “A-Train” Simpson (12-4) of Phoenix, Ariz., and former PRIDE Fighting Championships superstar and WEC championPaulo Filho (23-4) of Rio de Janeiro, who will face off with Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu black belt David Branch (11-3) of Brooklyn, N.Y., in a middleweight bout.

Explosive finisher J.Z. Cavalcante (16-6) of Deerfield Beach, Fla., via Brazil, will take on unbeaten, emerging star Justin Gaethje (7-0) of Greeley, Colo., at lightweight (155 pounds).

Coming off his second consecutive victory, a unanimous decision over Mike “300” Hayes Dec. 16, Arlovski, a 33-year-old, 6-foot-4-inch, former UFC heavyweight champion, shined in the main event of the inaugural World Series of Fighting card Nov. 3 in Las Vegas, crumbling fellow power puncher Devin Cole with a barrage of blows in the first round (2:37).

Likewise, the 28-year-old, 6-foot-2-inch Johnson dominated D.J. “Da Protégé” Linderman in the first-ever World Series of Fighting co-main event, scoring a first-round (3:58) KO of Linderman with a punch.  The victory was Johnson’s fourth straight.

Nam made waves Aug. 25 when he pulled off a stunning upset on reigning Bellator bantamweight champion Eduardo Dantas, scoring a first-round (1:36) KO (punch) in a non-title bout in Brazil.  Nam will put a four-fight win streak on the line in his World Series of Fighting debut.

The 24-year-old Moraes shocked the world on the first World Series of Fighting card, beating former WEC champion Miguel Torres to the punch repeatedly for the majority of three rounds en route to being being awarded a split decision victory.  The win was Moraes’ third straight.

Tickets, priced from $39, are on sale and available for purchase at all Ticketmaster locations (800-745-3000) and at Ticketmaster.com.

Doors at Ovation Hall at Revel will open at 5:30 p.m. EST and the first preliminary card bout will begin at 6:30 p.m.

The live NBC Sports Network telecast of the World Series of Fighting event will begin at 9:30 p.m. EST/6:30 p.m. PST.

(PRESS RELEASE) CAGE Warriors Fighting Championship has secured the signature of top English welterweight Che Mills.

The UFC veteran has put pen to paper on an exclusive five-fight contract, committing his immediate future to the organisation.

Mills (15-5-0-2nc) has spent the last two years of his career with the UFC, where he clocked up a 2-1-0-1 record.

The 30-year-old Gloucester native made a winning start to his UFC career in November 2011, picking up a KO of the Night bonus after taking just 40 seconds to dispose of Chris Cope.

In his only official UFC defeat, Mills suffered a second-round TKO loss to fourth-ranked welterweight Rory McDonald last April but rebounded with a win over Duane Ludwig in Nottingham in September.

At UFC on Fuel TV 7 at London’s Wembley Arena last month, Mills was beaten by Matt Riddle by split decision, but the result was later overturned as a ‘no contest’ after Riddle failed a drug test.

“Che Mills is the best UK welterweight outside of the UFC at the moment so I’m extremely happy that he has decided to come on board,” said Cage Warriors CEO Graham Boylan.

“A fighter of his calibre wouldn’t have been short of offers but the fact that Che has opted to sign for Cage Warriors is proof that the guy is determined to return to the top. I have no doubt that he’ll get there too.

“I’m a big fan of Che Mills. When the UFC recently released a bunch of guys, Che was the one I really wanted to bring in. He comes from a great camp and is always exciting to watch.

“As is the case with all fighters, I believe Cage Warriors is the perfect platform to help Che to achieve his goals and show the world that they still haven’t seen the best of him.”

A contestant on season nine of The Ultimate Fighter, Mills previously fought for CWFC in October 2010, when he scored a unanimous decision win over fellow UFC veteran Jake Hecht at Cage Warriors 38. He also holds two notable wins over Bellator star Marius Zaromskis.

Che Mills will make his return to Cage Warriors action in the coming months. Details of his next bout will be released shortly.

(PRESS RELEASE) Las Vegas, Nevada – Fresh off a brilliant submission victory over Ivan Menjivar at UFC 157, “The California Kid” Urijah Faber returns to the Octagon® Saturday, April 13 at the Mandalay Bay Events Center in Las Vegas to meet Scott Jorgensen in a can’t-miss bantamweight showdown.

Faber, the former WEC featherweight champion ranked second in the bantamweight division, is known for his explosive athleticism and finishing ability, and the 33-year-old Sacramento native owns wins over the likes of Jens Pulver (twice), Raphael Assuncao, Takeya Mizugaki, Eddie Wineland and Brian Bowles.

A three-time Pac-10 wrestling champion at Boise State University, the 30-year-old Jorgensen defeated John Albert in a performance that earned him Fight and Submission of the Night honors in his most recent bout this past December. “Young Guns” also holds notable victories over Jeff Curran and Brad Pickett and has developed a reputation as one of the division’s most exciting fighters.

“Urijah Faber is one of the best bantamweights in the world and he proved it at UFC 157 by submitting Ivan Menjivar in the first round,” UFC President Dana White said. “He’s ready to jump right back in the Octagon on April 13 with Scott Jorgensen, who’s ranked seventh in the world at 135 pounds. Both of these guys like to finish fights. This is a really exciting main event for the TUF Finale!”

In addition to the Faber-Jorgensen main event, this season’s The Ultimate Fighter® winner will be crowned when the Octagon® makes its way back to the Mandalay Bay Events Center. The Ultimate Fighter® Finale card also includes:

·Former Strikeforce bantamweight women’s champion Miesha Tate vs. highly touted, undefeated contender Cat Zingano in the second women’s bout in UFC history.

·A heavyweight showdown between Travis Browne and Gabriel Gonzaga.

·A featherweight collision between Bart Palaszewski and Cole Miller.

·A featherweight bout between TUF veteran Justin Lawrence and Houston’s Daniel Pineda.

Tickets for The Ultimate Fighter® Finale go on sale Friday, March 8 at 10 a.m. PT and are priced at $200, $125, $75 and $50. To purchase tickets or for more information, visit the Mandalay Bay Events Center Box Office, all Ticketmaster locations, www.ticketmaster.com, or charge-by-phone at 800.745.3000.

(PRESS RELEASE) The Maximum Fighting Championship, one of the world’s premier mixed martial arts organizations, is excited to announce four major bouts for MFC 37: True Grit taking place on Friday, May 10.

Airing live on AXS TV Fights from the Shaw Conference Centre in Edmonton, Alberta, MFC 37 will be headlined by a showdown for the Maximum Fighting Championship’s heavyweight title as Smealinho “The Prince” Rama takes on Chris “Beast Boy” Barnett.

MFC 37 will also mark the debut of the Maximum Fighting Championship’s new bantamweight (135-pound) division, and sparking that launch will be a clash of hot prospects as Anthony Birchak squares off against Ryan “Baby Face” Benoit.

Two more fights have also been finalized. In middleweight action, surging title hopeful Jason “The Savage” Zentgraf will face the biggest test of his career as he meets judo and jiu-jitsu talent Luke “Hayabusa” Harris. And in a hotly anticipated lightweight clash, Kurt “The Hurt” Southern takes on “The Afrikan Assassin” Mukai Maromo.

“Our last few events have demonstrated the priority we have put on exciting fights, and I fully expected MFC 37 to keep that momentum going in a big way,” said Mark Pavelich, Owner/President of the Maximum Fighting Championship.

“I’m excited to have Smealinho Rama and Chris Barnett battle for the heavyweight title, and I am really anticipating an electrifying debut of the bantamweight division with Anthony Birchak and Ryan Benoit. And of course, having guys like Jason Zentgraf, Luke Harris, Kurt Southern, and Mukai Maromo already signed and ready to work tells me that MFC 37 is going to keep our streak of fantastic shows rolling right along.”

For the first time since 2007, the Maximum Fighting Championship will crown a new heavyweight champion when Rama (Twitter: @SmailRama) collides with Barnett (Twitter: @Beastboy61).

Rama (6-0) is currently ranked 33rd in the world and had a spectacular 2012 campaign during which he was named Fight Matrix’s Rookie of the Year and received the MFC’s Submission of the Year. The 20-year-old from Calgary, Alberta, is coming off the sixth straight first-round victory of his burgeoning career with his knockout win over Mike Hackert at MFC 36.

Not only did Rama blast through Hackert in only 2:28, but the lightning-quick big man steamrolled through his other two opponents in MFC action, needing less than five minutes combined to finish those two bouts.

Fighting out of Tampa, Florida, Barnett (7-1) is ranked 50th in the world, and has notched five wins by way of knockout. The 26-year-old, who has won two straight fights, will be making his organizational debut at MFC 37.

A former football player with the University of South Florida, Barnett, who was born in Zaragoza, Spain, is a black belt in tae kwon do and also an extensive background in wrestling and jiu-jitsu.

 

Rising prospects collide in the MFC’s inaugural bantamweight bout

Anthony Birchak (9-1) was the first fighter signed to the MFC’s promising 135-pound division, and the Tucson, Arizona, product will tangle with Ryan “Baby Face” Benoit (6-1). Birchak has won three straight bouts all by knockout after opening his career with five of six victories coming via submission.

Birchak (Twitter: abirchakMMA) joins the MFC fresh off a first-round destruction of Matt Leyva, needing only 1:22 to register the third knockout of his career.

But fast-rising sensation Benoit, who fights out of Dallas, Texas, is also on a roll, having put four straight wins under his belt. Four of Benoit’s career wins were notched inside the opening round, and he has needed less than 5:30 minutes combined to put away his last three opponents.

Benoit (Twitter: babyfacebenoit) should be a familiar face to AXS TV Fights viewers having previously fought three times on MFC’s broadcast partner.

 

Middleweight fight with title ramifications

In two fights under the MFC banner, Jason Zentgraf (7-1) has racked up a pair of tidy submission wins, and the Missoula, Montana, fighter has his eyes set upon a shot at MFC middleweight champion Elvis Mutapcic.

To get that opportunity, Zentgraf (Twitter: @JasonZentgraf) will need to get past divisional stalwart Luke Harris (9-2) who is coming off his own title eliminator bout – a first-round submission loss to onetime challenger Joseph Henle at MFC 34.

Most recently, Zentgraf took a second-round submission win via armbar over Clay Davidson at MFC 36. Following a career-opening loss, Harris, who will have the home-town advantage fighting out of Edmonton, Alberta, rattled off nine straight wins before his loss to Henle. In addition to his stellar list of judo accomplishments, Harris (Twitter: @HayabusaHarris) recently added a black belt in jiu-jitsu to his resume.

 

Lightweights at the forefront

After both suffered losses at MFC 36, Kurt Southern (10-4) and Mukai Maromo (8-3) will be looking to get back to winning ways at MFC 37.

This will be a rematch between the two from a matchup back in 2010 in which Southern captured a first-round submission via triangle choke.

Southern (Twitter: @KurtSouthern), who fights out of Saskatoon, Saskatchewan, dominated the opening two rounds against Jonatas Novaes with a combination of strikes and wrestling prowess. But Novaes escaped with the win, capturing his opponent in a tapout-enducing armbar in Round 3 which snapped Southern’s three-fight winning streak.

Maromo (Twitter: @AfrikanAssassin) was also submitted at MFC 36 but under even greater circumstances. The native of Zimbabwe who fights out of Edmonton, Alberta, had proclaimed himself to be the uncrowned champion of the MFC’s lightweight division, but he was tapped out via North-South choke by Graham “Cracka” Spencer in the third round of their title bout.

The loss ended an impressive run for Maromo who earned his second straight MFC Fight of the Year in 2012 along with the MFC Knockout of the Year plus Inside MMA’s Rising Star Award.

Two more fights will be announced shortly for the MFC 37: True Grit main card, along with a sizeable undercard featuring numerous local standouts.

Tickets for MFC 37: True Grit are on sale now via the MFC Ticket Hotline by calling (780) 504-2024 or by going to www.ticketmaster.ca.

(PRESS RELEASE) Newport Beach, CA. – After a dominating run through The Toughest Tournament In Sports with three knockouts in his three tournament fights, explosive Russian striker Shahbulat Shamhalaev has earned his title shot and will battle reigning Bellator Featherweight World Champion Pat CurranThursday, April 4th inside Atlantic City’s Revel Casino live on Spike.

Tickets are on sale now and can be purchased at all Ticketmaster locations, online at Ticketmaster.com and by calling 800-745-3000. The Main Card will broadcast LIVE starting at 10 p.m. EST on Spike, as well as in Spanish language on mun2. The preliminary card will be streamed LIVE and FREE on Spike.com, with doors to event opening at 6:30pm EST.

“When Daniel went down with his injury, I reached out to Shahbulat and his manager to see if he was ready for this fight, and without hesitation his answer was yes,” Bellator Chairman & CEO Bjorn Rebney said. “After watching Shahbulat’s run through our last tournament, I couldn’t think of a better fight to end our season than Curran-Shahbulat on April 4th.”

After a hand injury forced Daniel Straus off the card, Shamhalaev steps in after collecting three knockout victories en route to a $100,000 Tournament prize and a title shot against the top ranked Curran. Armed with a devastating right hand and some of the quickest hands in the sport, “The Assassin” is ready for a quick turnaround April 4th.

“All the work I’ve put in has been for this moment, and I couldn’t be happier to give all the Atlantic City fans a show on April 4th,” Shahbulat said. “Pat Curran is a really tough competitor, but I know what I have to do to get the belt and become Bellator’s new Featherweight Champion.”

Widely regarded as one of the top two  featherweights in the world, Curran brings a dominating 18-4 record into his latest title defense, including victories over Patricio Pitbull, Marlon Sandro, Roger Huerta, and Mike Ricci. While the reigning Bellator Champ had his original sights set on Straus, Curran is well aware of the challenges at hand April 4th with Shamhalaev.

“He’s a great counter striker, as am I, and I see a lot of openings with Shabulat,” Curran said. “Shabulat brings one punch knockout power, and with my style, it’s going to be a swing for fences fight. This is my second fight this season, and I couldn’t ask for more. I love staying active, and Bellator has provided that for me.”

The night will also feature the return of New York native and former Bellator Welterweight World Champion as Lyman Good battles Renzo Gracie product and fellow New Yorker Dante Rivera. Both have strong followings in the Tri-State area and should have a strong show of support inside Revel.

Currently ranked as the world’s top ranked 125 pound female fighter, Jessica “Evil” Eye returns to the Bellator cage when she takes on Tiger Schulmann’s own Munah Holland on April 4th live on Spike TV. Eye is coming off the biggest win of her young career with a dominating performance over Zoila Gurgel and is looking to keep the momentum with another victory.

“As a woman in this sport you’re given very little, so that’s why when I fight we always need to deliver,” Eye said. “I think Munah is a great fighter and have always admired her striking ability, but I won’t let my admiration stand in front of my determination. This is my golden year, and this fight is just the beginning.”

The preliminary card will be highlighted with a middleweight showdown between New Jersey star Tom DeBlass and New York native Carlos Brooks as the two look to collect their first Bellator victory. After announcing his retirement in 2012, DeBlass has returned to the cage and will make his highly anticipated return April 4th inside Revel.

“I’m very excited to be fighting for Bellator right in my backyard,” DeBlass said. “All of my friends, family, students, and many fans will get to see me live. I’m coming back and making a statement, you can count on that.”

The full card for Bellator MMA from Revel on April 4th is below:

MAIN CARD:

Bellator Featherweight World Title Fight: Pat Curran vs. Shahbulat Shamhalaev

Bellator Middleweight Tournament Finals: TBD vs. TBD

Women’s Feature Fight: Jessica Eye vs. Munah Holland

Welterweight Feature Fight: Lyman Good vs. Dante Rivera

 

PRELIMINARY CARD:

Catchweight Feature Fight (140 lbs.): Jimmie Riveravs. Brian Kelleher

Welterweight Feature Fight: Sam Oropeza vs. Shedrick Goodridge

Lightweight Feature Fight: Phillipe Nover vs. Darrell Horcher

Middleweight Feature Fight: Tom DeBlass vs. Carlos Brooks

Light Heavyweight Feature Fight: Liam McGeary vs. Anton Talamantes

Featherweight Feature Fight: Will Martinez vs. Michael Phillips

Featherweight Feature Fight: Brylan Van Artsdalen vs. Brett Martinez