Resurrection Fighting Alliance was one of the big mixed martial arts success stories of 2013. Since its humble beginnings just 15 months ago, RFA has catapulted its way to the forefront of regional MMA. Its success has come from staging a solid mix of veteran fighters and ascending new talent.

Based out of Kearney, Neb., the promotion has featured household names like Brock Larson, Tyson Griffin, Efrain Escudero, Joe Stevenson and Gilbert Yvel. In its short lifespan, RFA has also engendered several major prospects including James Krause, Jordan Downing, Mark Dickman and UFC recruit Tim Elliott. At one point, RFA even made a bid to purchase veteran promotion Titan FC.

This weekend, RFA will continue its run at the regional title with a high-density prospect card chock full of aggressive, high-octane fighters. RFA 7 will feature a welterweight main event between Grudge Training Center standout Brandon Thatch and undefeated Roufusport fighter Mike Rhodes. The co-main event will involve a catchweight showdown between Chidi Njokuani and Jeremy Kimball.

Two featherweight tilts also appear on the card: Mirsad Bektic squares off with Nick Macias, and Tommy Thompson takes the cage with Joey Banks. Three of these four fighters remain undefeated in their MMA careers. Rounding out the main card are a middleweight fight between Vinnie Lopez and Billy Colon and a bantamweight affair between Danny Mainus and Zac Chavez.

The six-fight main card will be broadcast live on AXS TV. Several amateur bouts make up the non-televised preliminary card.

As a solid band of rising prospects prepares to battle its way onto the radar in Denver, here is our complete breakdown of the card from top to bottom.

WW: Brandon “Rukus” Thatch (8-1) vs. Mike “Biggie” Rhodes (4-0)

Heavy hands, aggressive high-low combinations, brilliant Muay Thai and quick-transition grappling give Denver’s Brandon Thatch a devastating overall game. Thatch was handpicked to help a man by the name of Georges St-Pierre train for his title fight with Carlos Condit last fall. Since that time, Thatch has made a second home at the Tristar Gym in Montreal, training again with St-Pierre for the Nick Diaz title fight as well as Thatch’s upcoming fight at RFA 7. Holding notable victories over Chidi Njokuani and Patrick Vallee, Thatch has finished his last seven opponents—five of them in under a minute.

Given these things, opponent Mike Rhodes is going to want to brace for impact. Rhodes is a strong, athletic, showy striker with a fair wrestling game. However, he often relies on his opponents making mistakes upon which he can capitalize. Thatch isn’t likely to oblige. Rhodes will need a couple good front kicks early on to establish respect and keep Thatch at a distance. If the fight goes to the clinch, Thatch’s superior Muay Thai will make short work of Rhodes.

Rhodes will also want to keep the fight off the ground. Although he’s a decent wrestler, Thatch has nice grappling skills and solid wrestling of his own. With his added experience, Thatch will quickly lock in a submission if the fight goes to the canvas. Basically, Rhodes will need to dictate a rangey stand-up fight in order to have any chance against Thatch. But when it comes down to it, Rhodes is outclassed in every area of the game and won’t likely see the second round.

Thatch is probably the biggest welterweight prospect in the world right now. Expect to see him in the cage with his newfound training partner at some future point.

Catchweight (177 pounds): Chidi Njokuani (9-3) vs. Jeremy Kimball (8-3)

RFA 7 features another welterweight Muay Thai wizard in Chidi Njokuani. In preparation for his fight with Jeremy Kimball, Njokuani has been training with his older brother, Anthony, who is himself moving toward a confrontation with Roger Bowling at UFC on Fox 7. The younger of the siblings will be looking to stand and trade with Kimball in hopes of finding the one soft spot in Kimball’s steel jaw. Prognosis: negative.

Kimball is more than just a great chin; he’s an explosive and creative striker. In this fight, he’ll want to use his dexterous striking to keep Njokuani off balance and secure a couple key takedowns which can be used to further wear down his opponent.

The key for Njokuani will be to keep it standing and do what he does best. If he can keep Kimball at bay and control the stand-up for three rounds, he’ll have a good chance of winning the decision. However, Njokuani’s only decision victory to date came against a much smaller opponent, Bobby Cooper.

The big question mark for Kimball will be the weight cut. He’s never fought below 185, and the extra eight pounds he’s asked to drop could make a difference in stamina, depending on how early he began his cut. However, the altitude factor will favor Kimball, evening the odds.

Njokuani is on a four-fight tear with notable victories over Cooper and Phil Dace. Kimball is coming off back-to-back wins over UFC veterans Drew McFedries and Tom Speer. This may be the most intriguing match-up on the card and will likely end with “Fight of the Night” honors. Look for the more seasoned Kimball to take control late in the fight and finish Njokuani via TKO.

FW: Mirsad Bektic (5-0) vs. Nick Macias (6-2)

American Top Team’s Mirsad Bektic was destined to be a fighter. Just months after his birth, a full-scale war broke out in his native country of Bosnia. Bektic spent most of his childhood years in a German refugee camp, an experience he would later describe as being “caged in.” In 1999, he joined a wave of refugees that landed in eastern Nebraska and has since been scrapping his way to MMA prominence. Bektic’s professional record remains flawless, but the hype leveled off after a lackluster decision victory over a gritty Doug Jenkins in his last outing.

Nick Macias doesn’t possess the same serendipitous upbringing. He does, however, hold a brown belt in jiu-jitsu. Add to that some nice wrestling and a solid stand-up game. Macias remains unfinished across eight professional fights and will look to catch the eye of a major promotion with a victory over the better-spotlighted Bektic.

Bektic, a full-on brawler, will look to make a statement early in this fight. If he can get a takedown and deliver some of his signature ground-and-pound, he’ll probably maintain the advantage throughout the fight. But if he gets overconfident and fails to respect the submission game of Macias, it could spell trouble.

Macias must stay poised and use footwork and counter-striking to keep Bektic in check early on. If he can frustrate Bektic and impose his own wrestling skills at opportune moments, he might be able to squeeze out a decision victory.

Although both fighters have decent stand-up, this one will come down to who rules the mat. Macias has a more refined (and stickier) ground game, whereas Bektic is stronger and more aggressive. It’s a fight that could go either way, but look for Bektic to ward off a couple early submission attempts and overwhelm Macias in the second round, restoring his hype train via TKO.

MW: Vinnie Lopez (5-3) vs. Billy Colon (5-4)

Knockout artist Vinnie Lopez is on a five-fight winning streak with four stoppages. Billy Colon has dropped his last two fights and has suffered multiple T/KO losses. On paper, Lopez should easily take this one, yet don’t be surprised if you see him tap early in the fight.

Lopez, a failed boxer, looks more like a streetfighter in the cage than a mixed martial artist. He’s been padding his record with stoppages against subpar fighters, none of whom are close to having a .500 record. Lopez’s best chance here is to catch Colon with a winging haymaker early in the fight.

Colon, on the other hand, is a skilled, crafty submission artist. Despite his suspect chin, he should be able to weather an early onslaught from Lopez and get the fight to the ground, even if it means pulling guard. From there, Colon should have little trouble locking in his choice of submissions.

Colon will derail Lopez’s one-dimensional game plan and tap him out late in the first round, marking a welcome early completion to a fight that’s by far the weakest link on the card.

FW: Tommy Thompson (4-0) vs. Joey Banks (2-0)

Tommy Thompson, who trains alongside Bellator’s Ryan Martinez at Infinite MMA, has an inspiring story and is a prospect to watch in the coming months. He is a rookie fireball with some nifty judo and a well-honed ground game. He uses laser-fast striking to set up takedowns where he can then go to work on his opponent. A recent decision victory over fellow submission artist Prentice Ingram earned Thompson a spot on the radar.

Joey Banks had a lengthy and successful amateur career before going pro last year. His only two professional fights have ended by way of TKO in under a minute. However, like Lopez, Banks has been fighting opponents of a questionable skill level. Thompson will no doubt be too much for him and force a tapout in the first round before Banks has a chance to find his rhythm.

BW: Danny Mainus (1-0) vs. Zac Chavez (1-0)

Danny Mainus went undefeated in his amateur career and has so far kept his run alive in the pros. He will fight Lafayette, Colorado’s Zac Chavez, who had a less successful but respectable amateur career.

Limited information is available on these two rookies, but Mainus would appear to be the fighter to beat here. Chavez once lost to Joe Kelso, who is currently 1-7 in his professional career. However, based on the way he fought Mirsad Bektic, Chavez won’t go down without a fight. Mainus via unanimous decision.

Preliminary Card
BW: Toby Lopez (4-3) vs. Josh Smith (2-0)

Undefeated submission artist Josh Smith will look to go 3-0 as he takes on Toby Lopez, who hopes to rise back above .500 in his amateur career. Given that both of Lopez’s losses are via submission, Smith should have a relatively easy night.

Catchweight (130 pounds): Shannon Culpepper (3-0) vs. Gina Begley (2-1)

Gina Begley has reverted to her amateur career after a tough go in Xtreme Fighting Championship’s open tryouts. She travels from Kentucky to hostile territory in hopes of getting back into the win column against undefeated Strictly Boxing standout Shannon Culpepper. Altitude could be a factor in this one, leading to a unanimous decision for Culpepper.

FW: Jose Keven Hernandez (6-0) vs. Allen Washington (5-4)

Undefeated featherweight Jose Keven Hernandez has recorded four first-round submission victories and will look to add one more when he battles Denver’s Allen Washington. Washington will have a slight height advantage, but will play mostly defense in this one until tapping out mid-fight.

WW: Jared Deaguero (3-0) vs. William Gravely (4-3)

Undefeated Jared Deaguero will meet 23-year-old Will Gravely in a welterweight battle. Deaguero has finished all three of his opponents in the first round via TKO and will likely be adding number four to his record against the inconsistent Gravley.

BW: Carlos Huerta (6-0) vs. Jason Huntley (2-0)

Jason Huntley will trek all the way from Ramsey, Minn., to tussle with Denver’s Carlos Huerta. Huerta has finished all of his non-exhibition bout opponents in the first round, and it looks very much like another local boy will have his arm raised at the end of this long-distance affair. Blame it on the altitude, Mr. Huntley.

Photo: Resurrection Fighting Alliance Logo (RFAFighting.com)

About The Author

Robby Collins

Robby Collins considers himself a johnny-come-lately to the sport of MMA. He was introduced to it less than three years ago but has since delved into the sport at all levels. As an aspiring fiction writer, Robby adapted his skills to promote his latest passion and landed with The MMA Corner by way of personal initiative and auspicious timing. Robby has dabbled in karate and wrestling, and is currently learning to kickbox.

  • Shannon Culpepper

    Thank you for the preview. I just have 1 correction. I haven’t been at fusboxe for months. I appreciate Michael Sullivan for all his teachings and have nothing but respect for him but I am fighting out of Strictly Boxing in Brighton and think they should be noticed as my gym.
    Thank you.

    • Robby Collins

      My apologies, I will improve my research in the future. And I hope you make me look bad (again) Friday night by going out and getting the finish. Best of luck in your fight.

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