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MMASF: Journey to the Top 2 - Event Preview

By Brett Auten | Knuckle Junkies

Word on the street is there hasn't ever been anything like it in these parts.

A pro card so stacked that any number of the whopping eight fights on it would be a main event nearly anywhere else. Add that to an amateur bill that in its main slot showcases a proven ammy powerhouse against a burgeoning newcomer with talent oozing out of his pores. Then for good measure, the venue is the perfect size and location for an event of this stature.

MMASF: Journey to the Top 2 will be held Saturday at the St. Louis Sports Complex in Affton. Tickets can be found at The amateur undercard kicks off the evening starting at 5 pm with the pros scheduled to hit the cage beginning at 7 pm.

The main event is one of the most talked about match-ups St. Louis has seen in many a moon. Luigi Fioravanti, a veteran of 34 pro fights (including a nine-fight run in the UFC), will square off against undefeated Chris Heatherly (5-), a talented and popular local product who has a penchant for the dramatic. This fight is for the MMA Sports Federation welterweight belt and is slated for five rounds.

KJ spoke to both fighters:

In the co-main event, Destruction MMA lightweight Eric Irvin looks to rebound off his loss to UFC vet Charlie Brenneman when he takes on tough-as-nails grinder Adam Ward. Matt Frazier put together a dandy of a piece on Irvin and his rebirth, which you can find here.

Here’s a look at and a breakdown of the rest of the marquee fights with quote from several of the major players involved in what truly should be a special night in St. Louis MMA.

Sal Woods (7-13) vs. Jimmy Donahue (4-3)
The lowdown: This is a fight diehard fans have been salivating over since it was announced. It is a classic match-up between a gritty grappler in Woods against a flashy striker in Donahue. Woods dove right into pro MMA and has fought a who’s-who of local talent (UFC’s Tyron Woodley, Pat Healey, and Steve Berger along with current Bellator lightweight champion Michael Chandler). Saturday will be Wood’s first foray at lightweight. Woods actually started his career at 205. He credits the Dolce Diet for making the drop to 155 relatively easy. Woods fights out of CMMA.

Donahue spent most of 2012 south of the border filming a MMA reality show where he went 3-1, fighting every weekend. "Reto de Campeones" was filmed in Mexico City featured 16 fighters vying for the prize of $100,000. Donahue lost in the second round of the tournament but was called back for the finale to help fill out the card and he earned another win along with a strong following of fans. After starting his career 1-2, that included loses to Chris Tickle and Lucas Gwaltney, Donahue went on a 3-1 run. This will be Donahue’s first fight under his new team, St. Charles MMA.

Woods: “I’m fighting a game opponent. I know he’s tough. I’m looking to put on a show and pumping up the crowd…It’s all about me being myself and fighting my fight. I’m going to fly by the seat of my pants and see what happens….I see this as a rebirth of my career. I’m 0-0 at ’55.”

Donahue: “I think Sal is finally at the weight that he has always supposed to be at …I think he will come out wild with his hands and will try use his elbows and knees in the clinch to cut me or take me down…I’m going to set a good pace, keep my distance, frustrate him, and pepper him by using feints and drawing him in…It has been a year-and-a-half since I’ve fought in St. Louis, let alone the United States. It will be cool to get back to my hometown and fight in front of some of the people who have supported me my whole career…I like him. I know he’s a tough dude. I always figured one day our paths would cross.”

Carson Gainey (9-11) vs. Dan O’Conner (3-1)
The lowdown: This is a rematch from an October, 2012 bout where O’Conner won with a heel hook submission. This flyweight bout features two talented groundsmiths. Gainey is a standout wrestler and O’Conner has slick jiu-jitsu and fights out of Steve Berger’s Fit or Fight MMA.

O’Conner: “Carson is a crafty vet with fights against top level competition. His wrestling pedigree is something I admire. I don't think he's going to fall for any of my tricks again and it will be a much tougher fight than the first… I think I need more high level training partners at my weight class to sharpen my skills. Or dropping a weight class where I'm not the littlest 125er… I think the key to the fight is remaining calm and relaxed not puking inside the ring is a goal of mine.”

Adame Dunnavant (1-1) vs. Yohance Flager (4-4)
The lowdown: This bantamweight battle pits a powerful ground and pound/submission specialist in Dunnavant against a balanced battler in Flager. Dunnavant, out of St. Charles MMA, has been on the shelf recently because of difficulties finding an opponent. He hasn’t fought since June of 2012. Flager, from Fit or Fight MMA, is coming off an admittedly embarrassingly quick loss to Shane Moffitt. At times, Flager can be his own worst enemy. Dunnavant, on the other hand, is as cool as the other side of the pillow.

Dunnavant: “I don’t feel like that I’ve had a layoff. All I do is train. That’s all I do. I think we match up pretty well. If he wants to stand up, I’ll stand up. I would say that the only advantage he has, and I wouldn’t call it an advantage, is that he’s taller than me…Everybody has off days. All it takes is one little slip up in this game…I’m just going to go 100 mile-an-hour as fast as I can all the time. That’s my gameplan for every fight.”

Flager: “I think I have the advantage when it comes to standing…I work a lot of wrestling at Berger’s and I’m not worried about him taking me down…I used to have a problem focusing for fights. But I’m coming off a loss and I’m even more fuelled to have a way better performance…. I anticipate that it is going to be a barnburner.”

Kyle Walker (0-1) vs. Jake Buehler (1-1)
The lowdown: Here’s another marquee –worthy fight between two up-and-comers who are each strong, athletic, and tough.

Buehler, 23, sets up camp at Hahn MMA in Festus. He is is coached by Kevin Hahn, Charlie Kelly and Lance Declue. Buehler posted a 9-6 record in 15 amateur fights. Throughout his career, he has shown the ability to score victories with his striking combined with a very good ground game. After losing his pro debut, Buehler got back on track with a win over Josh Stewart in April. Walker grew up playing football and was a two-time all-state selection at Herrin High School. He went on to play at SIU, where he led the team in sacks as a senior. Walker has been in the cage with some of the area’s best.

Buehler: “I’m going to do what I always do; throw strikes and get a takedown here or there. Technically I just feel that I am better…I've really pushed the conditioning and I feel that I’m in the best shape of my life. He kind of gassed late in some of his fights and I’m anticipating that again. He’s not too comfortable on his feet but does have some power when he’s on top. He doesn't show too many submissions but I have to aware of them.”

Walker: Check back Friday for a feature story on Walker and this match-up.

Other pro fights on the main card: Heavyweights Jeff Robinson vs. Josh Schiesl and flyweights Trevor Alaniz vs. Trevor Ward.

On the amateur side:
Fierce Taylor (17-3-1) vs. Charles Johnson (12-0-1)
The lowdown: This fight is for the MMA Sport Federation Bantamweight National Amateur title. Johnson is the top-ranked bantamweight in the Spire rankings while Taylor comes in at third. Taylor has fought all-comers in the local scene and has pretty much handled them all. He is a powerful ’35 with the wrestling skill and strength to wear an opponent down. Johnson, 22, is one of the better athletes in the amateur scene. He runs cross country and track at Southeast Missouri. The two have crossed paths in the training room recently as Johnson, who works out at St. Charles MMA, has seen Taylor and the rest of the Modern Combat System’s crew show up for the notorious Sunday sparring sessions at SCMMA. Johnson is a graduate of Hazelwood East where he was an all-state selection in track and field, cross country and wrestling and part of state championships in both track and football. He was a two-time AAU National Champion in 3,000m run

Taylor: “Last year, I felt like I had a lot to prove. Now I have different coaches and I’m constantly evolving. I get better every fight…I think he’s good but I don’t think he fought anyone in the top five before he was No. 1. I don’t think he’s fought anybody worth talking about except for Richie Fernow. I don’t think he likes getting hit that much…He has good cardio but in his fight in December he kind of gassed…I don’t think he’s training as hard as I am.”

Johnson: “He’s a good fighter, obviously. But everyone knows what he is going to do. Before a fight, I’m not really buddy-buddy. I don’t really even want to see my opponent. So I was a little upset when I first saw him up was weird…I’m focused. I have a lot to prove, period. …I’ll take it wherever it goes. I’m not afraid to go anywhere in there with him.”

Other ammy fights on the undercard include: Zach Burcham vs. Mark Mclean at middleweight, Erion Zekthi vs. Cody Winistoerfer at bantamweight, Cynthia Kues vs. Hannah McNitt at flyweight, Tim Mantle vs. Jeremy Sherwood at middleweight, and Mark Chappell vs. Brandon Lowe at featherweight.

MMASF: Journey to the Top 2
Saturday, June 22nd
Doors @ 4, Fights at 5