Every Thursday, The MMA Corner will take a look at three regional or international cards, previewing from each a single fight to which people should pay close attention. We will also list other significant bouts from the card, as well as information on how to follow each promotion and watch the events.
Let’s discover those prospects that fight in the obscurity of the regional and international circuits, waiting for their shot at the bright lights and big stage of the UFC, and those veterans looking for one more chance at stardom. It all begins here, in the small convention centers and high school gymnasiums. It all begins with promotions such as these…
Corey Hill (6-4) vs. Mike Bronzoulis (14-5-1)
The Ultimate Fighter 5 veteran Corey Hill will always be remembered for the gruesome leg injury he suffered in a 2008 UFC bout. However, the former lightweight is now trying to put together a resume that will make people remember him more for his fight skills than his leg snapping in half. Now competing at welterweight, Hill will attempt to extend his winning streak to three fights.
He’ll have a tough task ahead of him, however. Standing on the opposite side of the cage on Friday night will be Strikeforce veteran Mike Bronzoulis. The former Legacy FC welterweight champion will be making his XFC debut.
Hill seemed lengthy and tall at lightweight, and he has retained some of that in the move to 170 pounds. He’s four inches taller than Bronzoulis and most likely will enjoy the reach advantage as well. Despite having a build more commonly associated with basketball players, Hill actually competed as a wrestler in high school and college. He won multiple state championships at the high school level and was a two-time National Finalist at the collegiate level.
Bronzoulis comes from the opposite end of the spectrum. He fights out of the Main Street Boxing Gym, and it shows. “The Greek” has posted ten of his victories via some form of knockout. Bronzoulis was slated to fight Jay Hieron in early July at Legacy FC 12, but was forced to withdraw due to a knee injury.
Hill is the name most people know in this match-up, but Bronzoulis’ record suggests that he’s the bigger prospect. The one troubling thing for both fighters, though, is their inability to beat the tougher competition they’ve faced. Despite Bronzoulis’ high mark, this really stands as a fairly even battle.
Bronzoulis’ knee injury has to be a lingering concern coming into this fight. It’s even worse considering that the Strikeforce vet is a boxer facing an opponent with decent wrestling chops. Hill will be best served to utilize his wrestling and take this fight to the mat. There, Hill has the skills to control position and work for a submission.
Hill impressed in his welterweight debut, which came under the XFC banner against Charlie Rader. He looked more aggressive, and more importantly, he didn’t look like the stick figure that we saw when he competed at 155. As a bigger, stronger fighter now that he’s moved to welterweight, Hill will be able to better engage Bronzoulis with his wrestling. Hill will take the striker to the mat and soften him up with some ground-and-pound before sinking in a fight-ending submission.
Other key bouts: Felice Herrig (6-4) vs. Simona Soukupova (2-1), Nick Newell (7-0) vs. David Mays (3-3), Lawson McClure (8-2) vs. Keith Richardson (5-3), Roger Carroll (11-5) vs. Nicolae Cury (6-3)
Lance Palmer (3-0) vs. Jon Washington (5-2)
The Ohio-based Ultimate Victory Challenge promotion has stacked its latest effort with a pair of championship affairs. The Ultimate Fighter 7 alum Luke Zachrich takes on up-and-comer Nick Kraus for the middleweight crown, but the even more intriguing pairing comes in the featherweight title tilt, where Team Alpha Male’s top prospect, Lance Palmer, locks horns with Buckeye MMA product Jon Washington.
Palmer is the latest in a line of top wrestlers to transition to mixed martial arts. While attending Ohio State University, Palmer was a four-time NCAA Division I All-American and captured the 2010 Big Ten Championship. He’s also experienced nothing but success in his MMA career thus far, with an undefeated record through three professional fights. Training in California alongside fighters such as Urijah Faber and Chad Mendes undoubtedly has helped Palmer develop in quick fashion.
Washington only holds a 5-2 mark as a professional, but he has also notched six wins and a championship as an amateur competitor. His preferred method of attack is the choke, usually of the rear-naked variety. He has scored four of his pro wins via submission, not to mention securing chokes on three of his amateur foes.
Palmer has the elite wrestling as well as the elite training partners, but Washington has size on his side. Washington walks around at more than 170 pounds and cuts a significant amount to make the 145-pound mark. Meanwhile, Palmer walks around much closer to the featherweight limit. Will it make a difference? It’s possible. Palmer could have problems taking Washington down or holding him there. However, don’t count on the weight differential hampering Palmer’s wrestling in the end. He’ll get Washington to the mat eventually and should be able to control positioning, it might just mean making adjustments as the fight progresses.
The bigger factor is Washington’s own submission prowess. Palmer is a wrestler, and there’s no denying that wrestlers sometimes forget that jiu-jitsu is also a part of this game and that they must defend against it. To Palmer’s credit, he has been rather active in seeking submissions of his own. He also trains with Team Alpha Male, a camp well known for their defense against chokes.
Palmer has been in combat with a varying degree of opponents, from a fighter who still has yet to taste victory on up to a 20-plus fight veteran who has shared the cage with a number of UFC, Strikeforce and Bellator veterans. Palmer has always emerged with his hand raised. Veteran Chris David did push Palmer to a decision, so look for more of the same here. This fight should feature a bevy of takedowns and plenty of exciting scrambles on the mat. In the end, Palmer’s top-notch wrestling skills will be the difference as he battles his way to a unanimous nod.
Other key bouts: Luke Zachrich (10-2) vs. Nick Kraus (6-1) for the middleweight title
Jon Shores (10-1) vs. Guy DeLumeau (16-6-3)
When Pancrase or Shooto host an event, the list of names features almost exclusively Japanese talent. However, anyone following the organizations for any stretch of time should be familiar with Jon Shores and Guy DeLumeau. The two fighters both hail from the United States, but have long been fixtures in Japan.
Shores, who came to Japan via the U.S. Navy, recently challenged for the featherweight King of Pancrase crown, succumbing to champion Takumi Nakayama via rear-naked choke in the third round. It was the first loss of Shores’ career, a career that started less than two years ago. Shores has knockout power, as evidenced by a six-second knockout in his professional debut, but he has also performed well on the mat, with three victories by way of submission. Shores trains at the Rodeo Style gym with a roster of talent that competes at bantamweight, featherweight and lightweight. Shores admits that the weakest aspects of his game are his kickboxing and wrestling.
DeLumeau is definitely the more experienced combatant in this contest, and he’s seeking his shot at the same crown that Shores failed to capture. His game is much more striking oriented, though he has submitted two opponents. The bad news for Shores is that DeLumeau relies heavily on his wrestling to take down opponents and then launch a ground-and-pound assault.
With Shores’ power and DeLumeau’s wins by (T)KO, it might seem like these two are headed for a slugfest. Although that is a possibility, the more likely scenario is that DeLumeau will seek the early takedown and look to bombard his opponent with strikes from the top position. Shores is a skilled grappler, but the question will be whether or not he can defeat DeLumeau while fighting from his back.
Shores might want to look for the early knockout, but he’ll be better off focusing all of his attention on stuffing DeLumeau’s takedowns. While he might be successful at first, Shores will eventually end up on his back. There, he’ll have to defend against DeLumeau’s strikes while attempting to find openings to snag a submission. In the end, this should be a complete war, but DeLumeau’s experience and wrestling will provide him with a route to victory, either via decision or ground-and-pound stoppage.
Other key bouts: Akihiro Murayama (12-5-6) vs. Sojiro Orui (11-6-6), Kazuki Tokudome (10-3-1) vs. Kengo Ura (9-7-2)
Photo: Guy Delumeau (R) battles Wataru Miki (Taro Irei/Sherdog)