Disclaimer: The fights and fighters previewed are ones that are known to me. If a fighter or fight is not included, it’s due to our lack of information and not the inability of the fighter to be noticed.
Damon “The Freak of Nature” Thiel vs. John Jaquay
I’ve always said that Pennsylvania does two things extremely well, in the world of Mixed Martial Arts: our female fighters and our amateur fighters. Damon Thiel is a great example of how amateurs in Pennsylvania make a splash on the scene. I’d met Damon Thiel in Altoona, PA as he was making his amateur debut against Kody Herman. Thiel’s game plan was solid and well executed; so well executed that the fight was over in :52 seconds of the first round. Being seated at the commentary booth, our view of the knock out maneuver was obscured, but it was clear that Herman had been separated from consciousness. Thiel’s next fight would be for the Gladiators of the Cage promotion. Until that fight, Thiel’s gas tank had not been tested. With one fight that ended in :52 seconds, how can you be sure that someone who made quick work of his debut could go the distance? Thiel left no doubt that his conditioning is not suspect by securing a unanimous decision victory over Joel Gains at GOTC 15.
Admittedly, I don’t know much about John Jaquay. I do know that the match makers at GOTC have yet to put on a spectacle fight or a mismatch, so someone in the know, knows something about Jaquay’s credentials. Now what I do know is that Jaquay’s amateur debut was even shorter work than Thiel’s was, (:11 TKO over Billy Sutton) and that if he gets through this fight with Thiel, he’ll be competing for King of the Cage in April. The days of just anyone competing for KOTC are long gone and you have to be a substantial competitor in order to compete for that organization. With the UFC’s Fight Pass deal with KOTC, the opportunity to appear at a KOTC event could exponentially improve one’s odds of competing for the largest promotion in the world. …if he can get through Thiel.
Jacob Kozorosky vs. Deon Goodlow
To date, Jake Kozorosky has had three amateur fights and I’ve had the honor of being on the commentary team for all three. In my experience, one of the best weapons in Kozorosky’s arsenal is his natural power behind his strikes. I haven’t been able to pinpoint where that power is coming from, whether it be a good rotation of his hips leading in or great genetics, but when Kozorosky throws a strike you can hear it. I’m not being figurative or using a metaphor; when his strikes land, the contact is actually louder than most other fights. Now, how does a guy who has natural power behind both of his fist not have a dozen knock out victories? Because matchmaker Ryan Glunt has consistently put him in tough fights with the likes of John Lapchak, Matthew Maney and Juan Hernandez. Those fights were close to being stoppages, but weren’t; Kozorosky has had to tap into his gas tank to endure and win each time he has stepped in the cage.
Rob Lynn would be able to tell you about Deon Goodlow’s fighting performance better than I can. It’s that mild ignorance of not having seen a guy fight that I’ll overcome as I’m exposed to new fighters. Goodlow’s two amateur wins are decisions. It’s said that the one defining characteristic of a champion is that champion’s ability to complete a competition. Plenty of fighters have had fights go to the judges, but to get a decision victory, one has to be decisive in competition and completion. Odds are this fight is going to the finish. Both guys have good gas tanks and have proven decision victories. It’s reasons like this one that I don’t make predictions on who wins fights.
Josh Fremd vs. Raleigh Abbott
I remember the first time I watched Josh Fremd fight; I was impressed and perplexed at the same time. Fremd has long limbs and was very good at using those limps to maintain distance and protect his range; the other side of that coin is that I thought some of the techniques and the style he was implementing seemed flashy and grandiose. Fremd won that fight and so the end justified the means. His next fight with Jeremy Sakuta was a step along the evolution of Fremd’s style: he continued to make effective use of his range and reach, was a little less reckless in technique and pulled off highlight reel material with the Sparta Kick planted in the middle of Sakuta’s chest. A decision loss to Dymere Rappa rounds out his amateur career so far. After such a dynamic performance, Fremd is certainly looking to swing winning momentum his way.
The last time that I’d seen Raleigh Abbott fight was his bout with Dino Juklo. As much as Abbott may have wanted to win that fight, I really believe it was an opportunity for him to learn to compete with someone who has genetic mastery over reach and range, naturally long limbs. At the end of the day, amateurs have the same immediate goal: get the experience necessary to compete professionally and then compete professionally for the largest promotion in the world. There is no shame in tapping out to strikes and his fight with Juklo may have very well prepared Abbott for the fight with Fremd.
Jonas Rubiano vs. Jon Coffman
Jonas Rubiano sticks out in my mind as having kicked my perception of the local fight scene in the ass. Early in my career, I’d only ever done commentary for fights in Altoona and in Altoona, Lenny Karlheim was becoming one of the men to beat. Jonas Rubiano goes into his fight at WCC (World Cagefighting Championships) 4 and breaks Lenny’s nose and then goes on to stop Lenny in the third round. In the grand scheme of things, that fight was good but may not have had the implications that I thought it did. Regardless of that, Rubiano sticks out in my mind as dangerous. Post-Karlheim, Rubiano goes on to submit Mike Thomas in :22 of the first round by Rear Naked Choke and his last fight was a loss to Vladimir Kazbekov for Gladiators of the Cage.
The first time I’d seen Jon Coffman fight was a brawl with Paul “P-Mac” McAleer. The fight was an excruciating exchange of calf-slicers and foot locks that could have very well ended either man’s career; in fact, McAleer has not fought since (for other circumstances). After the tough loss to McAleer, Coffman threw himself in to the crucible of Pittsburgh MMA: dropping hard fought losses to Dave Crockett and Alec Hohman. Jon Coffman’s latest outing was an impressive submission win over Osahon Omo-Osagie. Omo-Osagie possesses extremely dangerous hands and skillful combinations; Coffman got inside Omo-Osagie’s offense and implemented offense of his own.
Dann “The Bionic Fist of Justice” Cucuta vs. Davis Oracio, Jr.
I don’t think I’ll ever get tired of telling the story about the first time I’d ever seen Dann Cucuta fight. Cucuta had the resolve of a monk, the dynamics of a bantamweight and the hands of a heavyweight. Cucuta broke his hand somewhere in the fight, a fracture that was severe and ugly and Cucuta kept striking with it as if nothing was wrong. The remainder of Cucuta’s amateur career was a list of conquests to the top of the amateur middleweight scene. When Cucuta turned pro, I became intrigued. Dann Cucuta is trained in Muay Thai, out of Wright’s Gym. As an amateur in PA, a lot of the weapons that a Muay Thai fighter has are illegal. Once Cucuta became a pro, those weapons became legal. With his knees and elbows allowed in his arsenal, Cucuta dispatched of Kyle Dunmeyer in :26 seconds of the first round.
I called Davis Oracio, Jr.’s last fight, all :27 seconds of it. Oracio has a charisma and demeanor of a professional fighter, dispatching of Robert Corpora was further evidence. What bugged me about that fight was that I didn’t get to see more of Oracio fight, because I was convinced that his performance would have been stellar and a highlight reel fight. I can’t think of a better fight to prove oneself against than Dann Cucuta. Cucuta is barely into his pro career and is already postured to be one of the top guys; Oracio may need a victory over Cucuta and it will not come easily.
Dominic “The Honey Badger” Mazzotta vs. Brandon “Soku” Seylor
Dominic Mazzotta is one of five names in the Pittsburgh area that is UFC bound within the next two years, provided that he continues winning the way he has. Mazzotta’s last potential outing was ugly; it was mired in controversy, integrity of competition was called suspect and the fight was scrubbed. Mazzotta’s victories have been complete and dominating; the switch-kick KO of Jeremiah Yeager (on extremely short notice), the rear naked choke submission of submission specialist Jordan Espinosa and the decision victory over Chris Dunn. Surely, after a few more battles and victories, Mazzotta could be in a posture to rematch with Cody “No Love” Garbrandt on the main stage.
Before Mazzotta can even begin thinking about a rematch with Garbrandt, or any fight that comes up next, he has to get through Bellator veteran Brandon “Soku” Seylor. I was introduced to “Soku” in his bout with Charlie “the Madman” Gathers in the main event at WCC 6 in Greensburg, PA. After that bout, Seylor left 3 Elements of Brazilian Jiu-Jitsu and went to train in Texas. While in the Lonestar state, he secured a rear naked choke victory over Demario Cade. It boils down to the fact that Seylor has a submission victory in the number two promotion in the country, making him a tough opponent for Mazzotta.
Dominic Mazzotta vs Brandon Seyler
Robert Hanna, IV vs Todd Bevan
Jeff Holmes vs Chris Coggins
Dann Cucuta vs Davis Oracio Jr
Zack Grossman vs Jake Anderson
Jonas Rubiano vs Jonathan Coffman
Joshua Fremd vs Raleigh Abbott
Jacob Kozorosky vs Deon Goodlow
Damon Thiel vs John Jaquay
Kate Brummitt vs Jennifer Clausius
Melvin Britton, III vs Brandon Watkins
Marc Sestok vs Brock McClelland
Johnny Walylko vs Darryl Booker