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Shamrock FC: 286 - Preview

By Matt Frazier | Knuckle Junkies

Shamrock FC has scheduled its first trip of the year to the River City Casino for March 24th. The casino in south St. Louis has become the marquee venue for the promotion and often brings higher profile match-ups.

The March date features a contest between a former UFC-vet and an upcoming pro prospect who aspires to make it to the big leagues when Chris Heatherly takes on Aaron Highfill. The winner will get a No. 1 contender's slot and a chance to take on the winner of a scheduled May bout between Bobby Voelker and Zak Bucia.

Highfill has won three straight in impressive fashion. Two rear naked finishes over Mike Brazzle and Kevin Brown and a dominant decision win against Stacy Bacon has improved Highfill to 3-1. Injuries have hampered Highfill's progress and kept him on the shelf for most of 2016. Now, he's finally healthy and back on track. Highfill sent a statement to critics that might have counted him out with a decisive victory over Brazzle last September.

After starting his career 8-1, Cahokia's Heatherly got the call to the big show with a late replacement fight against Ben Saunders at UFC Fight Night 49. Since then he's only won three of his last four fights, the lone victory a high-profile match-up with Garrett Gross at Bellator 138 in 2015. When a January bout with Coltin Cole fell apart, many wondered if we would see Heatherly fighting locally again until the bout with Highfill was announced much to the delight of local fight fans.

Both Heatherly and Highfill were recently featured in this Shamrock FC pre-interview.

"He's a very tough opponent," Heatherly said. "He knows what I do, I know what he comes out to do. Who ever executes the game plan to the best of the ability is going to win the fight."

"Coming into this fight I'm probably seen as the underdog," Highfill said. "He's a UFC veteran, but I've been around a long time and fought a lot of tough guys as well. A win over him would be big for me for sure."

With the dissolution of Berger's MMA, Heatherly has found himself on the mats at Pedigo Submission Fighting, training alongside BJJ world champion Andrew Wiltse and the other trained killers at Heath Pedigo's jiu-jitsu academy. Expect to see a much-improved submission game from Heatherly who's always relied on his wrestling to control fights in the past.

For the fight with Heatherly, Highfill has gotten his old gang together recruiting training partners Jeff Crotty and Ryan Cox to put him through the paces. Highfill has also been seen putting in rounds at the newly re-tooled Hit Squad alongside Sal Woods, Jordan Dowdy, and under the instruction of UFC-vet Luigi Fioravanti.

Coltin Cole hopes to erase the memory of a January fight when he faces former TUF contestant Adam Cella in a middleweight co-main event. Cole will hope to capture a little bit of that River City magic when he faces Cella almost one year to the day when he landed a spinning wheel kick KO of Brad Jones.

Cella toyed with the idea of hanging up the gloves after a June loss to Kyle Kurtz but has looked to reinvent himself as a middleweight in his comeback fight against Cole, who is also coming up a weight class. The sharp, technical striking of Cella will be a nice contrast to the more wild offense of Cole. If Cella can control the flow of the fight and keep it standing, he should be able to chip away at Cole who will almost certainly look to take the fight to the ground.

Charismatic featherweight Cort Wahle gets the golden opportunity to take Ryan Shamrock the son of UFC legend Ken Shamrock. When it was announced in December that Shamrock was signed to a bout in March, speculation began to grow over who would get the opportunity for a fight, which could draw some national attention. Wahle will welcome Shamrock back to the cage after a near seven-year layoff from competition.

In a battle of two tough, athletic big men, Lee Burns will face Mike Wasem in a heavyweight feature match. Burns won the award for 2016's St. Louis Pro Fight of the Year in an epic clash with Byron Stevens at Bellator 157. Although the fight didn't go his way, Burns earned a lot of fans with the heart and determination he showed in the fight. He rebounded in September with a first round triangle submission victory over Anthony Grant. Both of these fighters move exceptionally well on their feet despite their size, and it could come down to who connects with the first big punch.

Rounding out the main card is a featherweight bout between Brandon Lowe taking on Hahn MMA's Auhston Midkiff. Midkiff was the winner of the Shamrock FC one-night amateur tournament, defeating two fighters to claim a SFC pro contract last fall, this will mark his professional debut. Lowe (1-1) rebounded from a Bellator pro-debut loss to even his record with a victory over hard-hitting Montuelle Prater last April.

Highlighting the all-amateur undercard is a re-match between Isaac Purnell and Derik Scott. Purnell defeated Scott last September by split-decision in a close fight that could easily have gone either way. This time the two will compete for a Shamrock FC amateur title, and pro contract. Both fighters were recently featured in our Young Guns prospect preview and this fight is certainly one to watch. (http://knucklejunkies.com/articles/Young_Guns_2017_Prospect_Preview.php)

Kris Craig will look to derail the Corbin Howard express, and take home a Shamrock FC amateur title. Craig defeated Erik Newman last November in a bout nominated for amateur fight of the year to earn a shot at the title. Howard has run through the local competition to notch a perfect, 5-0 record, most recently defeating Steven Coleman in January.

The third amateur title bout on the evening will be contested between Kevin Mueller and Jace Burcham. Since returning to active competition in the fall of 2015, Mueller has won four out of five, all stoppages. Burcham (3-0) will be a stiff test for Mueller who has also never gone to a decision.

Also, one to watch out for is a match-up between undefeated Elmar Umarov (5-0) and a 2016 nominee for 2016 Amateur Fight of the Year, Nathan Stearns (6-2). It will be interesting to see if Stearns' bread and butter (his jiu-jitsu,) can counter Umarov's smothering style.


Full card (Subject to change):

Aaron Highfill vs Chris Heatherly
Adam Cella vs Coltin Cole
Cort Wahle vs Ryan Shamrock
Lee Burns vs Mike Wasem
Brandon Lowe vs Auhston Midkiff

*Isaac Purnell vs Derik Scott
*Kris Craig vs Corbin Howard
*Jace Burcham vs Kevin Mueller
Elmar Umarov vs Nathan Stearns
Izzie Robinson vs TBD
Fahrudin Freddy Kostjerevac vs Toby Gvillo
Kickboxing- Colin Parr vs Mark Kirkland
Oscar Ahuatzi vs Carl Jefferson
Bob Hinchcliffe vs Jake Willyard
Bryan Hancock vs Elijah Brockman

*Amateur Title Bouts

Shamrock FC: 286 - Highfill vs Heatherly
Friday, March 24
River City Casino, St. Louis, MO

UFC Fight Night 124 | Sun, January 14th
Scottrade Center, St. Louis, MO

Gateway FS (MMA) | Fri, January 19th
Lamborghini Gold Coast Center, St. Charles, MO

Shamrock FC 301 | Sat, January 20th
Ameristar Casino, St. Charles, MO

Shamrock FC 302 | Sat, February 3rd
Ameristar Casino, Kansas City, MO