Ifl Season Opener Preview
IFL Season Opener Preview
By Steven Marocco
With a ring freshly anointed by the California State Athletic Commission, the International Fight League kicks off their first evening of team competition at Oakland’s Oracle Arena on Friday, January 19th. Having extended their stay at Fox Sports Net for several more years, and announced further programming for 2007 with MyNetworkTV, this show will set the pace for the IFL promotion and affirm or deny the team concept.
Coming off one of the most disappointing losses of his career, Jeremy Horn gives it another go as he faces Falaniko Vitale, who upset Horn’s last foe, Matt Lindland, at UFC 43, on June 6th, 2003, before losing decisively in a rematch at UFC 45 on November 21st of that same year. Both fighters are highly skilled at submission, but Horn’s depth of experience should give him the edge in a war on the ground, which is likely to happen after the two exchange on their feet. Horn’s focus and technique will definitely have to be present to avoid getting caught with one of Vitale’s powerful punches.
Seattle Tigersharks vs. Southern California Condors
Lightweights: Adam Lynn vs. Shad Lierley
Lierley personifies the inexperience of the Condor team as he makes his pro fighting debut against the tough Next Generation fighter Lynn. Lynn is a solid competitor who has fought many upper level fighters before joining the IFL. When FCF last spoke to him, he was contemplating his next move after a hard loss to the Armory’s Rich Crunkilton. Since then, he has gotten back to the win column after defeating Mark Moreno in Extreme Wars 5.
Welterweights: Brad Blackburn vs. Rodrigo Ruas
When we last saw Brad Blackburn, he outlasted the extremely tough Chris Wilson for a unanimous decision victory in last season’s IFL Portland. Blackburn is well rounded and has great conditioning, a characteristic that gave him the edge over Wilson. Facing him is the coach Marco Ruas’ nephew, Rodrigo, who has also had a truly mixed record in MMA. Ruas is coming off a two and a half year layoff, so ring rust will ultimately be one of the most pressing obstacles he faces.
Middleweights: Bristol Marunde vs. Jeremy Williams
Marunde gave the Portland Wolfpack’s Matt Horwich all he could handle in a relentless three round battle. The toughness he showed in that fight impressed many and he will face yet another relentless fighter in Williams. A King of the Cage veteran, Williams has one extremely notable win, beating Yves Edwards by decision at KOTC 7. There is a strong sense that one fighter is going to get caught with a big punch, as both love to stand and bang.
Light Heavyweights: Reese Andy vs. Justin Levens
Andy is coming off a big win over the Pitbull’s Jamal Patterson, handing the strong newcomer his first loss in the IFL. Though his performance was less than impressive last season’s semi-finals, a focused and aggressive Andy could present his more experienced opponent many problems. Levens, an extremely quick and talented fighter, recently got back into the win column after a tough string of losses on the most public of stages in the UFC. How did he do it? By knocking his last two opponents into another zip code. If Levens brings his A game, it could be a short night for Andy.
Heavyweights: Curtis Crawford vs. Antoine Jaoude
Both fighters are coming off extended vacations from fighting, with Crawford having been absent for nearly five years after a submission loss to the currently dominant IFL heavyweight Ben Rothwell. Jaoude has a far greater wealth of experience in the ring despite his layoff, and will looking to make an example of Crawford.
Northern California Lions vs. San Jose Razorclaws
Lightweights: John Gunderson vs. Josh Odom
The tough veteran Gunderson is on a six fight win streak, including a win over Charles Bennett at Gladiator Challenge. An early candidate for the Portland Wolfpack, his inclusion on the Lions represents some intriguing match-ups for the present and future. Facing him is Odom, who made his debut last September, mangling Rob Di Cenzo’s eye on his way to a TKO victory. Though he was impressive in that bout, Gunderson’s wealth of experience should lead him to victory in this bout.
Welterweights: Patrick Healy vs. Ray Steinbeiss
Healy has fought a small who’s who of current MMA talent on the scene and makes his IFL debut with Ken Shamrock’s team tonight. Healy loves to stand and trade, a characteristic that has both helped him and hurt him in his five-year history. Interestingly enough, he helped shepherd Tigershark Brad Blackburn into MMA, knocking him out in the first 39 seconds of the fight. Arizona’s Steinbeiss is coming off a tough 2006, where he dropped two losses to Claude Patrick and Nick Diaz respectively. Prior to that, he was undefeated in MMA.
Middleweights: Dan Molina vs. Brian Foster
Gladiator Challenge and KOTC veteran Molina has most of his wins by submission and a big victory over Kengo Ura at Valor Fighting. Fellow King of the Cage vet Brian Foster has fought some of the top names in the business, but has come up short and will look to pull ahead in victories in the IFL.
Light Heavyweights: Vernon White vs. Raphael Davis
This fight was scrapped by the CSAC’s Armando Garcia yesterday over the apparent "unfair advantage" in experience White has over Davis. Exactly how they justified Lightweights Adam Lynn and Shad Lierley is puzzling, given that Lynn has 15 pro fights and Lierley is making his debut.
Replacing them are Lightweights Joe Martin, member of the Lion’s Den, and Clint Coronel.
Heavyweights: Roy Nelson vs. Vince Lucero
After a two year absence from competition, Nelson picked up where he left off, winning three straight fights in 2006, taking his undefeated record to 6 and 0. Facing him is Rage in the Cage regular Vince Lucero, making his IFL debut after two recent losses to Eric Pele and Ruben Villareal.