Shamrock FC: Fuel - Notebook
The region's top MMA promotion is raising the bar and positioning itself to attract the national spotlight.
Shamrock Fighting Championships is having a rare Friday night of fights this week at the River City Casino. SFC: Fuel will have a slew titles up for grabs, including a pair of high-stakes bouts with Bellator contracts awaiting the winners.
In the main event, Jordan Howard makes a return trip to River City when he faces Illinois' Daniel Aguirre (9-3). Howard will put his SFC bantamweight strap on the line. Aguirre has a sound ground game, earning six submission wins, and has won four of his last five outings.
Howard (8-3) has been on a tear, winning seven straight with only one of those fights going to a decision. Howard has steadily gained attention by winning three fights in 2013 and two more last year, including an eye-catching second-round TKO win against Owen Evinger. His lone win in 2015 so far came over DeAndruw Jones, a last-minute replacement at SFC: Showdown.
"I don't think this one will hit the ground," SFC matchmaker Rob Donaker said. "Danny has a Muay Thai and boxing background and Jordan has a karate background. Either one can knock out the other. It could take a round to feel each other out but we expect them to go after each other."
Two hard hitters will take part in the co-main event for the SFC Women's Flyweight championship and a Bellator contract. Pacific's Rebecca Ruth (4-1) will be going for her third win in 2015. Ruth is a blistering striker but hasn't faced the toughest competition. Her opponents have frequently backed out, leaving promoters scrambling to find replacements. All of her career wins are via TKO. She fights out of 21st Century MMA under the eye of Benny Voyles, one of the best striking coaches in the area.
Ruth will face Alice Yauger (2-3), a pro boxer who has made the switch to MMA. Yauger, out of Texas, has done plenty of cross-training in the Lone Star state, most notably with Team Takedown and Mohler MMA. She has gone the distance in all but one of her pro fights.
"They both like to stand and go," Donaker said. "They have worked on their wrestling and I know Alice had some nice takedowns in her last fight. Everyone knows Becky likes to stand in there and throw punches."
Also on the main card is a matchup of two of the top local prospects in St. Louis, Joaquin Buckley against Kyle Kurtz. Look for more on the match-up later this week at knucklejunkies.com.
Class in and out of the cage
There are some folks who love the trash talk and heightened animosity between two fighters. Others prefer a more sportsman, martial arts approach to their favorite form of combat.
Jason Powell and Yohance Flager definitely fall into the latter.
Powell and Flager meet on the main card in a featherweight bout. This will be just Powell's second pro fight while Flager will be making his 13th pro appearance. The two have known each other for some time, even helping each other cut weight in the past.
"We're both professionals," Flager said. "It's just a fight. I've known Jay for a long time and have never had any problems with him. I would rather fight someone I don't like but he and I are both above and better than any trash talk. I'm sure we'll have a drink afterwards."
Powell relocated in the spring and is now training at Combat Xtreme MMA in Waynesville headed up by two veterans of the sport, Enrique Watson and Luigi Fioravanti.
Though Powell and Flager have been around the St. Louis fight scene for some time, this will be the first time they are touching gloves under the house lights.
"We were two of the best ammy 45ers around," Powell said. "We were supposed to fight once or twice but it never happened. This is going to be a fun fight. There's no animosity. It should be a good competitive fight."
Flager has navigated both ends of the spectrum to an even 6-6 record with four of his victories coming via submission.
"He's crafty," Powell said. "He's very long and tall and pretty slick on the ground. I am going to have to watch out for the submissions."
Powell is a 5-foot-6 spark plug.
"Like always, I'm going to be the stronger fighter," Powell said. "Not many 45ers can match me. Our ground games are pretty close and I think I am the better striker. I'm thinking he is going to try to drag me into deep waters. He has good cardio and will try to out-point me for a while."
Powell was a die-hard member of the St. Charles MMA team before relocating to Combat Xtreme MMA due to family reasons. But he has found brothers in arms in Watson, who fought on this summer's Bellator card, and Fioravanti, a multiple UFC vet who has fought internationally as of late.
"Luigi and I like to throw," Powell said. "It's a lot of fun to spar with Luigi. Everybody at the gym is way bigger than me but it doesn't bother me."
It has been close to a year since Powell (0-1) made his pro debut and he has fought just twice in the last two years.
Powell grew up at Ft. Leonard Wood, just south of Rolla. He was a standout baseball player in high school who entered the Army after graduation. He did two tours of duty in Iraq and also a tour in Afghanistan. Returning from service, Powell dove into MMA, racking up over 25 amateur fights. When given the opportunity to fight on September 11th, his response was immediate.
"When they offered me September 11th I said, 'hell yes,'" he said. "I'm pretty pumped about it."
Flager is not quite sure what to expect.
"(Powell) has been fighting a long time and has good stand up and really good Muay Thai," he said. "I don't know if he's that good on the ground. I know he's worked with St. Charles MMA but how great is he? I'm not sure where I have the advantage other than pure athleticism."
Flager is coming off a three-round decision loss to William Joplin in November. He does the bulk of his training at Berger's MMA/Fit or Fight as well as Cahokia MMA and is 100-percent injury free for the first time in awhile.
"I expect a good, technical fight," Flager said. "We're both very smart at what we do. He's game, he brings it, it is going to be fireworks."
The promo King
Marc Godeker was set to welcome Kevin Hahn back into the cage. Hahn, one of the best-known coaches and gym owners in area, pulled out of the fight last week.
"I don't know the reasoning behind it," Godeker said. "I don't think my promo's were that intimidating. I thought they were entertaining and a great way to sell the fight."
For those who have missed them, Godeker filled up social media the past few weeks with posts, pics, and videos of everything from rhymes, to alligator wrestling, punching brick walls and living everyday life, like brushing his teeth and hanging out on his couch, all while wearing his MMA gloves. It's the type of creative promoting and selling of a fight that no St. Louis-area fighter has ever done before.
"In the past I never thought they would allow me to do stuff like this," Godeker said. "They gave me the green light and being creative is what I love to do. I have had these ideas for years."
Godeker is no stranger to the world of sports entertainment. He moved to Missouri from Nebraska in 2001 where he enrolled in The Harley Race Wrestling Academy. There, students were trained in the proper techniques needed in the world of professional wrestling. Godeker spent a significant amount of time (2001-2004) in the world of professional wrestling with the World League Wrestling promotion company founded by Race as an independent wrestling promotions company that promoted young prospects in the states and in Japan. Godeker also spent time performing in Japan and has participated in roughly a dozen shows for World Wrestling Entertainment (WWE) with majority owner and CEO Vince McMahon.
In 2010 he had his first amateur fight and after eight fights in two years, went pro in 2012. Godeker is currently a private strength and conditioning trainer at Power Play Personal Training where he works primarily with the St Louis University High School hockey team.
"(Fighting) is not my life," he said. "I'm not looking to make it to the UFC or Bellator. It's fun for me. It's not my career. I have a family and a nice career and that comes first. This is just a hobby I enjoy doing."
Zach Gerullis, a protegee of Hahn's, has stepped in to make his pro debut against Godeker (2-4) at a catchweight of 210. Gerullis is 6-foot-6 with good hands and kicks and is a solid athlete who previously competed at heavyweight and in fact won the SFC amateur heavyweight title this spring.
"I have respect for him stepping up when his trainer backed out," Godeker said. "I know nothing about him and I don't prepare for a particular fighter anyway. Everything is reaction inside the cage. I'm not going to change my game plan for anyone and this fight will end as soon as it gets to the ground."
The 33-year-old Godeker was going to fight Hahn at 205 and was in the process of cutting down from 255.
"If I can cut 45 pounds in six weeks, any pro fighter can do that," he said. "The extra five pounds now will mean a lot. I feel great. This is probably the biggest and strongest I have ever been at this weight."
Fighter vs. grappler?
Jordan Dowdy, out of Steve Knogl's Grantie City 's CMMA, faces Michael Gaston in an intriguing welterweight bout.
Gaston is out of Pedigo Submission Fighting in Mt. Vernon, Il. Pedigo Submission Fighting is quickly building an impressive reputation, churning out multiple BJJ world champions and some of the top amateur fighters in the area.
Dowdy and Gaston both won their pro debuts and each stands at 1-0.
"I'm the more well-rounded fighter," Dowdy said. "I'm taller and more comfortable in the cage. I have more ways to win."
Dowdy is well aware of the Pedigo crew and its reputation.
"Those guys are a united team," he said. "They're a really good competition BJJ team but Friday night is not going to be an easy road for (Gaston)."
Dowdy last fought in April when he defeated Calvin Cunningham in the first round via TKO. Returning to action on a card like this one was the perfect opportunity for him and with so many names and titles up for grabs, he likes being a little incognito.
"This looks like the biggest card of the year that is not Bellator or RFA," Dowdy said. "It's going to be fun to fight on. I like being under the radar a little on this one. I can do my own thing and get myself under control."
The 31-year-old Gaston grew up wrestling, taking karate and had early aspirations to be a pro boxer. But after watching the first Randy Couture/Chuck Liddell fight, things quickly changed.
"I was like, 'I have to do this,'" Gaston said.
Gaston racked up 11 amateur fights before finally going pro in June. On two weeks notice he defeated Jay White via first round TKO at SFC: Opposition.
"I feel like I do everything better than (Dowdy)," Gaston said. "He's not fought anyone like me."
Dowdy and Gaston will meet right before the Buckley/Kurtz battle and the two title bouts.
"I kinda like being in the middle of the main card," Gaston said. "The crowd is going to be amped for the big fights and I will get a chance to show what I can do."
As an amateur, Dowdy was set to fight one of the Gaston's teammates, Brandon Karcher, but that fight never materialized.
"He and Brandon were supposed to fight a couple of times but it didn't work out," said Gaston's coach, Heath Pedigo. "When this opportunity came up, we felt we owed him a little bit."
Pedigo has been impressed with what Dowdy can put together.
"He's always prepared and he's hungry," Pedigo said.
With the rise of amateurs like Karcher, Andrew Wiltse, and Miguel Lisboa, Pedigo Submission Fighting is quickly shaking the handle of just being a jiu-jitsu school.
"Contrary to what some people may think and see us as just a jiu-jitsu team, we are starting to see equal success standing," Pedigo said. "People will be surprised about our team as a whole."
Only a handful of standing room only tickets remain for SFC: Fuel. You can also watch it live via pay-per-view stream on the Shamrock FC website: shamrockfightingchampionships.com.
Jordan Howard vs Danny Aguirre
(135 title and Bellator Contract)
Rebecca Ruth vs Alice Yauger
(125 Title and Bellator Contract)
Joaquin Buckley vs Kyle Kurtz
Jordan Dowdy vs Mike Gaston
Yohance Flager vs Jason Powell
Mark Godecker vs Zach Gerullis
Jason Christeson vs Shaun Scott (185 Title)
Garrett wells vs Montrel James (155 Title)
Cort Wahle vs Jonny Cox (145 Title)
Rachel Stockham vs Jessica Middleton (135 Title)
Patrick Sparks vs Jake Willyard
Lee Burns vs Dusty Chandler
Shamrock FC: Fuel
Saturday, September 11th
River City Casino - St. Louis, MO