Kurtz vs Buckley - Shamrock FC: Fuel
Friday's Shamrock FC pro/am at the River City Casino has received a ton of buzz since the card was announced. But the main card match-up that has diehards captivated is a welterweight showdown between Joaquin Buckley and Kyle Kurtz.
Buckley and Kurtz are two hot-shot prospects with matching, 4-0 records. As the old saying goes, someone's '0' has to go.
On paper, Buckley is a heavy favorite but at the same time that is exactly what makes this fight intriguing. Kurtz is a spoiler, he's the underdog that always finds a way to come out on top.
Earlier in the summer he ruined the night of TUF veteran Adam Cella at Bellator's St. Louis debut. Kurtz was hand-picked to contrast Cella's sharp, technical striking and he submitted Cella in the second round. Prior to that, he knocked out Anthony Livingston one minute into the fight in Livingston's highly-anticipated return to action.
"If anyone says it's luck, it's perfectly fine by me." Kurtz said. "That's jiu-jitsu That's the reason jiu-jitsu became a martial art. When you get put on your back you have to be willing to be able to fight off your back. I drilled that armbar over and over. He made the mistake. I set it up, and I knew I had to finish it because he was going to win the decision. That's not luck. Luck didn't have anything to do with it."
Buckley sees the Cella-Kurtz fight differently and is determined to force a different outcome.
"He got lucky and your luck runs out sooner or later." Buckley said. "That is what is going to happen on September 11th. Fighting someone like me, I'm not going to give him any opportunities to finish me. I'm not going to give him a spot to look good."
The win over Cella sent shock waves and chatter through the St. Louis fight community and it is the highlight of Kurtz's young career. He sees a lot of similarities between Buckley and Cella which has added even more confidence going into Friday.
"It's good to beat a name like that." Kurtz said. "Although (Cella) hasn't really changed his game. That's the reason he's not in the UFC. He's fought on big shows, but he has not changed his game and made himself better. That's the same with Joaquin. They don't cross train like they probably should."
Seeing his teammate Cella lose sparked Buckley's desire for another go-around with Kurtz. The two met while amateurs with Buckley winning a unanimous decision.
"It played a big factor." Buckley said. "Someone I train with every single day, someone I have built a relationship with and to see them lose in that type of fashion after dominating the fight. I feel I have something to prove. This is to reassure him that he's not good as he thinks and to take him down a notch."
The event is aptly named "Fuel" and there's plenty of it going around. Both fighters have launched offensives and counter attacks on social media.
"Everyone loves Joaquin and everyone thinks he's going to win," Kutz said. "I want to just show what my skill set is all about and how ambitious and driven I am. Him talking trash, it's going to fuel me even more. He started posting things on Facebook before we were even allowed to announce who we were fighting. It's a fight but it's also a business, I understand that, but the trash talk definitely helps drive me more."
Although an active participant in the online sparring, Buckley doesn't seem to get any extra juice out of it.
"The only thing that fuels is me is time." Buckley said. "The more time I put into it I know that I'll be where I want to be. Kyle Kurtz isn't fueling me nor are any other opponents necessarily. The time spent is what fuels me. I have had one of the quickest careers. To rack up so many fights in three years and then become a pro I think to myself, just keep the pace I'm at and keep racking up these wins."
Buckley last saw action at July's Shamrock FC in a decision victory over Stacy Bacon. It was a bittersweet performance that has him eager to get back into the cage.
"I train every day." Buckley said. "I prepare myself for whatever. For whatever situation that's in front of me. I'm always confident because I'm prepared. I really want to prove something. In my last fight, I had a decision. My mentality is to finish the fight and I'm looking forward to putting him out. He had one armbar and a leg attack that whole fight. It's hard to finish someone who's covering up the whole time. I need to find ways to take out someone who is defensive the whole time. I'm going to finish Kurtz, first round if I can and if it goes another five minutes, I'll see what I can do."
The hype on Buckley, who has yet to taste defeat in 12 fights (eight as an amateur), is starting to grow. Each time he takes to the cage more and more people (and national media outlets) have begun to take note. For a 22-year-old, the attention could be distracting but Buckley seems to be handling it well. He has a quiet confidence and a heaping amount of maturity for someone who's only been in MMA for roughly three years.
"The way I handle the pressure is I just don't really think about it." he said. "My first fight as an amateur I had a lot of pressure, probably the most. The more experience I have the less pressure I have on myself. I get more and more comfortable in the cage."
Kurtz's ability to mix up his striking, vary his punches and kicks, will be key in chopping away and keeping Buckley at bay.
"If he comes up there and beats me at my best, then more power to him." Kurtz said. "I will say this, the last time he didn't want to stand with me. I knew he was a power puncher and to be careful, but when I started landed some kicks and punches, he instantly wanted to take the fight to the ground. I know he's not going to want to stand and bang with me this time."
For Kurtz, who's based out in Southeast, Mo., training requires some extra effort and plenty of miles on his tires. He logs a two-hour trip to Berger's MMA three-to-four times a week. It will be more than worth it if the goal is accomplished; arriving home smiling with a win over an exalted contemporary and one step closer to his ultimate dream of fighting in the UFC.
"I'm coming up to shut everyone up who doubts me." Kurtz said. "To move forward in my career. I've got all the people I care about behind me. I'm coming up to show it's my time and I belong there. There's no hype behind me. I'm going to come out the and give it my all."
Kurtz finished by giving thanks to his teammates, Steve Berger, Shannon Samuels, and Tommy Sthair.
Buckley also credited his teammates and family members coming out to support.
"My grandmother is always my No. 1. Also Taylor Made, Miss Donna and Big Rand. Footwork t-shirt designs for doing my shirt. Their designs are awesome," Buckley added.
Will lightning strike again for hte underdog or will the young buck keep rolling, you can watch Shamrock FC: Fuel on Live via pay-per-view streaming at shamrockfc.com
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