Bellator 138 - Undercard Preview
The last time a major MMA promotion set up shop in St. Louis was the winter of 2010. Strikeforce came, armed with its Showtime TV deal and Dan "Hendo" Henderson whipped Renato Sobral in the first round of the main event.
Fast forward four-plus years later and fans get to sink their teeth one again into big time MMA. Early reports are looking good about the big the return of Ken Shamrock and Kimbo Slice.
Scott Coker, the former President of Strikeforce and now chief of Bellator MMA, has returned with Bellator 138: Unfinished Business and a main card highlighted by Shamrock and Slice, a featherweight title fight, and the return of one of the area's most accomplished MMA products, Michael Chandler.
Working with local fight promoters, Shamrock FC, Coker let them construct the undercard and they've put together a doozy. Friday's show features 18 local pros on the undercard that will stream on Spike.com while the main card airs live on Spike TV.
"I feel like with bringing in a show like this it really brings the local MMA community together," SFC president Jesse Finney said. "We have every MMA gym St. Louis represented. Trust me a lot of pride was swallowed, but it's all worth it for the fighters and fans. I hope people can appreciate that."
Finney said ticket sales are going brisk and they plan on finishing strong with plenty of promotional stops this week.
"There is a great buzz everywhere right now. If St. Louis wants more shows like this we need to continue to support it like they are," Finney said. "If you are hesitant. I can tell you this: the goose bumps alone are worth the price of admission. I just want to say thank you to everybody involved who has helped make this happen and enjoy the ride because there's more to come from Shamrock Fighting Championships. There's is a lot more news coming that's going to blow people's minds."
So pour a beverage, sit back and with this preview we will break down the prelim fights that feature our specialty, fighters with STL ties.
Justin Lawrence (7-2) vs Sean Wilson (34-25)
This event will mark Lawrence's promotional debut with Bellator since signing a new deal in April with the company. Lawrence was the RFA featherweight champ winning, the title in a bout with Mark Dickman and then later defending it. Lawrence grew up in nearby Pacific, MO and cut his teeth fighting on local Shamrock kickboxing shows.
His last time fighting was in 2011 for Fight Hard MMA when they were still called Fight Me and still did professional fights. Shortly after that debuted on the Ultimate Fighter reality show, and had two fights in the UFC where he went 1-2.
Lawrence matches up with a journeyman fighter Sean Wilson out of Omaha, Neb. who is on a bit of a rough streak winning only 2 of his last 10 bouts.
This is a great chance for Lawrence to make a big splash for his new promotion, fighting in front of his hometown fans, and against an opponent who is on a losing streak.
Chris Heatherly (8-3) vs Garrett Gross (6-4)
This will be Chris "Stump" Heatherly's first fight since a two-fight stint with the UFC ended with a loss in Mexico City last November. Heatherly is a local fan favorite and will bring an army of supporters to the Scottrade Center. He won't have an easy night as Garrett Gross is one of the toughest regional fighters he will have faced.
Heatherly's only losses on his record are to fighters now currently competing in the UFC: Ben Saunders, Alex Garcia, and Agusto Montano. He is eager to get back in the win column and erase the memory of his last two fights.
"Garrett is a tough guy." Heatherly said. "He's one of those guys if you don't put away, come second or third round you're in a war. He's got a lot of heart. He's found the right way, on the grind and has got the momentum. I know Garrett is coming to fight and I think it's going to be a great show. "
Gross has won four of his last five fights, and has been a force to be reckoned with since moving to Florida and training full time with American Top Team.
While their paths never crossed, as amateurs their careers were eerily similar. Heatherly started strong putting together an impressive winning streak that got the UFC's attention. Gross stumbled out of the blocks and has just now started to put everything into place.
"(Heatherly) has been where I want to be." Gross said "I have respect for him. He's just fought some tough dudes. Those are tough loses. He's got to be hungry. I think it will be one of the best fights on the card."
Gross can be a bit of a slow starter, but gets stronger the longer the fight goes on. If he can deal with Heatherly's wrestling, and take the fight into deep waters, the fight will start swing his way.
Heatherly should be considered the favorite in this match-up, but the x-factor of Gross makes this a fight that nobody should miss.
Eric Irvin (9-2) vs Hugh Pulley (4-2)
Eric Irvin has been fighting professionally since January of 2010, way before Hugh Pulley took his first fight as an amateur.
The 29-year old Irvin is well-traveled and has grinding out wins in the regional fighting circuit for five years. Up until now he's almost always been the young, hungry fighter looking to knock off a vet. On Friday, he'll find those roles reverse as he'll be facing a kid who is hungry to take his spot.
"I think to myself why does he want to fight me?" Irvin said. "Then I pause and think, I was that hungry guy. I was the guy who wanted to beat that guy on the pedestal up. Not that I think I'm on a pedestal, but I've been around a while and I've anchored myself in the sport in this area. I remember back thinking I wanted to knock the top level guy off at my weight."
He's fought UFC vets, lost painfully close decisions, and done just about everything you can do as a regional fighter, and now he's ready to take that next step. He isn't about to let Pulley rain on his parade.
One look at Pulley and you realize you're dealing with a special kind of athlete. Physically gifted, with power in his hands and nasty judo.
A decorated amateur, Pulley held every belt in the area. He started off 4-0 before losing his next two. He didn't pick an easy opponent to snap that losing skid.
"I don't want the loss with it being in Bellator," Pulley said. "Plus my city and my family is going to be watching. I can't let that happen."
If Pulley's judo is good enough to neutralize Irvin's wrestling, Pulley may be able to stay out of danger and land that big punch. The longer this fight goes, the better it favors the veteran Irvin. Pulley needs to close the distance quick and catch Irvin early, or it could be a long night.
Steven Mann (10-1) vs Justin Guthrie (17-8)
Steven Mann is a bit of an enigma to local fight fans. He trains locally, but fights almost exclusively in Iowa. During that time he's rolled off an impressive 10-1 record. If you talk to his teammates, they will say Mann is one of the best fighters in St. Louis.
Mann is matched up against Justin Guthrie, a veteran of 25 professional fights on Friday night.
There won't be much Guthrie hasn't seen before. He recently went toe to toe with Bobby Voelker for three hard rounds in Kansas City and was arguably winning the fight until Voelker ended the fight with two minutes remaining in the final round.
"This is going to be a good test for me." Mann said. "He is very tough, always in shape and has a lot of heart. He presses very hard. He's got good boxing, good wrestling and is strong. Expect fireworks. I'm a finisher. I got out to finish and I'm going to do everything that I can to finish this guy."
This will be a quality win for whoever wins this fight, and both fighters should come out hungry for that win, with hopes it leads to bigger and better opportunities
Adam Cella (6-3) vs Kyle Kurtz (3-0)
In just nine professional fights, Adam Cella has fought in Sweden, Vegas, and was a contestant on the UFC reality series The Ultimate Fighter. When he steps into the cage on Friday it will be business as usual.
Cella is matched-up against a rising newbie, who despite an average amateur career, is off to a 3-0 start as a pro and has looked like a completely different fighter.
"Kyle Kurtz is a young and up and coming kid." Cella said. "He hits hard, but I don't think he's going to be ready for, I just want to say, everything. He's never been on a big show. He's never fought someone with my experience. He's never fought anybody who's done the things that I've done. He's going to come straight forward and do whatever he's going to do and I'm going to know what he's going to do. I've already seen it. It's not a big deal "
Kurtz is tough, and has a lot of heart. Those two attributes powered him through his busy amateur career that saw him notch nearly 40 fights. After a break due to a workplace injury, Kurtz sought you the mentorship of Steve Berger and they formed a sort of Luke and Yoda relationship. Kurtz has only lost one out of his last 6 fights under Berger, and that was a decision.
Cella's striking may be the best in the area as far as technical ability, and instinct something he honed while nearly living at Finney's MMA.
Kurtz doesn't believe the hype.
"I'm going to test it out on the feet." Kurtz said. "I don't think he's got power. He's got skill and technique. He's just not very powerful and he's not very quick. I feel i'm going to be more explosive. I'm more athletic than him. If he somehow starts to get the better of me standing up, I'm just going to take him down and pound him out or submit and there's nothing he can really do about it. "
Cella wants to make a big impression on his potential new bosses at Bellator as he campaigns for a spot on the roster. Kurtz is just the type of opponent that plays to the strengths of Cella, someone who will stand in the pocket and let him show off his bag of tricks. Make no mistake, Kurtz will be ready and is perfectly fine in his role as the spoiler, This should be a fun fight to watch.
Enrique Watson (1-0) vs Kain Royer (1-1)
The match-up between Enrique Watson and Kain Royer is a match-up between two old dogs with plenty of fight left.
The parallels between the two is remarkable. They're close in age, both on the backside of 30. Both run their own gym, and both run fight promotions in their respective areas.
They're busy guys with plenty on their plate on the eve of the biggest fight of their career. Royer has a nasty ground game and smothers opponents, Watson is not too bad himself, although both would rather finish the fight with punches.
"I'm going to leave it all out there." Royer said. "To me, honestly, there's no pressure. So I'm just going to go out there and have fun with my fight. It's not going to be one that anyone will want to miss. It's a very well matched fight. I'm coming out there to have fun and I'm coming out to win. "
Dan O'Connor (6-4-1) vs Miles McDonald (1-1)
Dan O'Connor made quite a commotion when he announced he had signed on with Shamrock FC. He's a popular local fighter that always brings an army of fans with him, making him highly coveted among local fight promotions. His first as part of that new contract is against Miles McDonald.
O'Connor is going through a bit of a rough patch having lost three of his last four.
"Fans are going to see the old me." O'Connor said. "I was much too complacent. Too happy with everything going on in my life. I wasn't on top of the weight cuts, I wasn't angry. I lost what made me me. I went from Mike Tyson to George Foreman of now. I wasn't angry and didn't want to hurt anybody. Now I'm back to the old me."
At first take it would appear a bit of a mismatched record with O'Connor entering his 12th pro fight and McDonald only his second, but McDonald had nearly double the amateur fights in a lengthy amateur career and is well seasoned and up for the challenge.
The two strawweight fighters match-up well with netting several submissions before he turned pro. O'Connor is very comfortable on the ground, and has steadily been working on raising his striking to a level to match his submissions. This will be an exciting, fast-paced fight between two entertaining fighters.
AJ Siscoe (0-1) vs Garret Mueller (1-0)
AJ Siscoe's pro debut didn't go like he had planned. The grappler formerly of Gracie Humaiita got submitted late in the first round against Scott Ettling in both fighters' pro debut. Since that time Siscoe has moved to Miami and now trains full time with the Blackzillians.
Mueller, out of Jefferson City, has primarily fought on the western half of the state, and has a well rounded striking game. He won his professional debut in February, a unanimous decision victory.
Siscoe will be hungry to avenge his first professional loss, and eager to show off his new skills he's honed from the Blackzillians. Mueller is ready for the spotlight, and seems ready to shine under the bright lights of Scottrade Center.
Matt Helm (0-0) vs Rashard Lovelace (0-0)
Both Matt Helm and Rashard Lovelace are making their professional debuts. Helm hopes the third time will be the charm as his opponents have a knack for not showing up on fight night. This will be his third "pro debut".
Helm a blue belt in jiu-jitsu under Mike Rogers will take on Rashard Lovelace a strong, young kid with sharp striking. Lovelace has been wowing fans recently with his nasty stand-up in the last couple of Shamrock FC events.
This is a classic match-up of striker vs wrestler. Whoever can impose their will win will this fight.
There you have it! Bellator 138 goes down Friday at the Scottrade Center.
"I'm proud of what we're bringing to St. Louis for both the fighters and fans," Finney said. "When the fans of St. Louis see the production values, they will absolutely be blown away. It goes without saying, but I am super excited for Kimbo versus Ken. If you ask ten people, five will say Ken wins by submission and five will say Kimbo wins by knockout. As a fan, I go back and forth myself. When have you ever seen Chandler, Pitbull or Straus involved in a boring fight? Not to mention, we get to welcome Justin Lawrence back. I don't think Bellator could of done a better job. This fight card is stacked from top to bottom."
THURSDAY, JUNE 18
Bellator MMA: Unfinished Business Weigh-in
4 PM - Doors open to fans | 5 PM - Official weigh-ins begin.
Bellator MMA Fan Fest
Dave & Buster's - 13857 Riverport Dr. Maryland Heights, MO
This event is open to the public.
7 PM - Legendary MMA fighters Fedor Emelianenko, Royce Gracie, Tito Ortiz, along with Bellator MMA Light Heavyweight Champion Liam McGeary and legendary referee John McCarthy will be on site to sign autographs and take photos with fans.
FRIDAY, JUNE 19
Bellator: Unfinished Business
4 PM - Autograph signing for ticketholders: Legendary MMA fighters Fedor Emelianenko & Royce Gracie, along with The Bellator Girls will be signing autographs for ticketholders only outside the Scottrade Center Box Office.
5 PM - Doors open to the public
5:45 PM - First preliminary fight streamed live on www.spike.com
8 PM - First televised fight LIVE and FREE on SPIKE
Ameristar Casino, Kansas City, MO
Fight Hard MMA | Sat, March 9th
Chaifetz Arena, St. Louis, MO
Shamrock FC: 316 | Fri, March 15th
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO
Shamrock FC: 317 | Sat, April 6th
Ameristar Casino, Kasnas City, MO