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Rumble Time: Evolution - Event Preview

By Staff | Knuckle Junkies

On May 16, Rumble Time Promotions returns to the Ameristar Casino with one of the strongest MMA cards in recent memory.

Dubbed "Evolution," this event will feature Eric Irvin returning to action after a 11-month layoff.

Irvin (6-3) has won three of his last four and looked very impressive in his last outing, a three round unanimous decision against Adam Ward. Irvin sustained a cracked sternum in training for a fight last October which is responsible for his long layoff. Stepping in to face Irvin is Tyler Combs (14-10), a journeyman from Ohio.

Jason Carr caught up with Irvin as he prepared for Combs.

"I know he cant match my mental toughness or my cardio, Irvin said. I'm comfortable wherever he wants the fight, but I know my wrestling and ground game are better and I plan on using that to my advantage."

You can read the rest of this excellent profile here.

Two veteran bantamweights will clash when Yohance Flager from Berger's MMA will take on CMMA's Ray Grindstaff. Grindstaff is tough as nails and has a solid ground game, but will need to be very creative if he hopes to submit Flager, who is about as good as it gets in the submission game.

Yohance Flagger and Ray Grindstaff are two fighters who fly underneath the radar.

Flagger, out of Berger’s MMA/Fit or Fight, comes to works with a salty ground game and top-notch athleticism. The gritty Grindstaff, a product of Granite City’s CMMA, prefers to keep things on the feet, letting the punches and kicks fly with ill intent.

“I think either could win the other way but they’re going to try to get to their strengths,” CMMA head coach Steve Knogl said. “I think it’s pretty clear, whoever can impose his will has an easier path.”

Grindstaff has competed in kickboxing recently but hasn’t stepped inside a cage since October of 2012 when he lost a unanimous decision to Alp Ozkilic. Grindstaff had a moment of success against Ozkilic, who now stars in the UFC, when he landed a solid shot and worked a submission attempt in the fight’s onset. But for the bulk of the three rounds, Grindstaff was planted firmly and squarely on his back with nowhere to go.

“It was a lesson learned,” Knogl said. “We thought that we could stifle his takedowns but (Ozkillic) got him on his back and he didn’t have any answers. Ray is an exciting, young fighter when he is on his feet.”

Grindstaff started his career 0-2 but then put together a four-fight win streak before his loss to Ozkillic. The time away from MMA gave Grindstaff the chance to mentally circle the wagons.

“He’s focused, a little angry, and excited to be back,” Knogl said. “This has been the easiest cut to 135. He stayed tight. We’re usually a little more concerned but he’s been within five pounds for a week.”

Flagger has see-sawed from wins to losses pretty much throughout his pro career. He is coming off an impressive victory over Adame Dunnavant in June of 2013.

When things go south for Flagger, 38, it’s oftentimes because he is his own worst enemy. Flagger’s coach, Steve Berger, himself a UFC vet and the owner of over 40 professions bouts, says when Flagger is dialed in mentally, he is a tough out for anyone.

“If he doesn’t doubt himself, no one in the world can beat Yohance,” Berger said. “A lot of times any fighter is plagued by nerves. The pressure is something every fighter goes through and sometimes he falls prey to that.”

Berger said the camp for this fight has been smooth and steady.

“He’s in the right mindset,” Berger said. “We have done what we’ve needed to do.”

The respect is mutual as both come from well-established, veteran teams.

“Both of these guys are solid,” Berger said. “Ray has beaten some strong guys, like JW Wright, a high-ranked jiu-jitsu black belt. They’re both skilled and tough.”

Though things got a tad heated at yesterday’s weigh-ins between the two, expect nothing but the best from these two overlooked bantamweights.

“I expect a clean, hard fight,” Knogl said. “(Yohance) is the kind of kid we respect. I don’t expect either has any ill will.”

One of St. Louis' most exciting young pros, Hugh Pulley, returns to action after a six month layoff. Pulley (2-0), out of Modern Combat Systems, has a combined cage time of just under two minutes in his first two pro fights. Pulley last graced the cage last November, and looks eager to return.

"I'm ready to fight," Pulley said. "I've been planning to fight for a while now. Those six months off I had no control over that, I just couldn't find opponents."

Read the rest of Sam Catanzaro's feature on "The Wolverine" and get to know this exciting young talent.

Considered the region's top amateur, Jake Roberts from St. Charles MMA will make his professional debut. Roberts (8-0) ran roughshod over the local competition and is eager to jump head first into the pro division. The 23-year-old Roberts recently qualified for the National Golden Gloves tournament, including two KO's along the way. Despite the recent accomplishments, striking is the weakest part of Roberts' game, which is scary.

Also making his pro debut is MCS's Kendrick Latchman, an exciting strawweight who has wracked up a lot of wins at 125 and 115 and will me making the jump to the pros when he takes on Juan Aranda.

KJ Editor in Chief, Brett Auten caught up with both Mike Rogers and Jared Daniels-Block to find out what lead up to their fighters' respective professional debuts.

The undercard is speckled with talented amateurs and is highlighted by a match-up between Marissa Smith and Gina Begley.

Begley (4-2) fights out of Kentucky and fought recently at the AMMO event at Chaefitz Arena where she defeated Hanna McNitt. Smith (7-0) fights out of the War Room in Alton, IL and looked scary in her last trip to the cage against Crystal Stevens in March. Smith is incredibly strong and likes to bully her opponents around, but is notoriously a slow starter. She'll need to get going quick against Begley who is very dangerous on the ground.

"I feel like the pressure is on my opponent then and that helps me relax and prepare for the fight," Begley said.

Debo breaks down this exciting women's match-up.

Tickets can be purchased by calling 314-662-2000 or online by clicking here.

Eric Irvin vs Tyler Combs - Main Event
Hugh Pulley vs Ben Miller
Yohance Flager vs Ray Grindstaff
Jake Roberts vs Raul Rosas
Kendrick Latchman vs Juan Aranda

Marissa Smith vs Gina Begley
Montuelle Prater vs Yerick White
Joseph Galasso vs Dustin Tucker
Janet Lee vs Michelle Pearce
Jarrod Thomas vs Brian Reyniolds
Lucas Clay vs Sam Tamayo
Kenneth Kinder vs Robert Salamone
Kelly Kennon vs Sheila Rodine
Preston Snyder vs Kaleb Hill - K1
Matt Tinker vs Mike Offor - K1

Rumble Time Promotions: Evolution
Friday, May 16th
Ameristar Casino, St. Charles, MO